Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 2/The private view

2670443Once a Week, Series 1, Volume II — The private view
1859-1860Shirley Brooks



Dearest Jane,
I am sure you’ll be happy to know
We had cards, Rose and me, for this year’s Private Show,—
Private View, dear, I mean, of the Pictures, and, Jane,
The Simpsons had none—which will give you much pain.

Charles wished to go early, but that seem’d to me
All nonsense: who dresses for no one to see?
We appointed at one, but you need not be told
That watches will stop, or that husbands will scold.

But we kept him in pretty good temper till two,
With nice little messages—here are a few:
“We were just coming down.” “Had he seen the new Punch?"
And “I hoped he was taking some sherry and lunch.”

At last he grew fatal, and sent us up word
That losing the morning was worse than absurd;
And my lord has a will—and by this time I know
To a frown, my dear Jenny, how far I may go.

I don’t think his haste made us dawdle the more,
But three struck as we reached the Academy door;
Such a number of visitors, all the best class,
How I wish’d that the Simpsons had happen’d to pass.

The place looks so bright, and the carpet so clean,
And there’s room to turn round; and one’s dress can be seen;
And the feeling is pleasant—though naughty, no doubt—
That you’ve been let in where your friends are shut out.

Rose insists upon telling you how we were dressed,
How we like the Spring fashions, and which are the best,
But I must say, myself, and I think you’ll agree,
The new Paris bonnet’s not suited to me.

Because, just consider, although you’ve nice hair,
Which one brings rather forward, one’s forehead is square,
And it must stand to reason, the bonnet

(Six verses removed, as not exactly relevant to an Art-Exhibition.)

But to come to the pictures, (and you may suppose
How Charles got so cross at our not minding those)
I’m no critic, of course, and I don’t make a boast
(Like Maud Simpson) of taste—these impressed me the most.

The loveliest picture this season, I say,
ls the darling Princess, with the bridal array,
Such sweet pretty faces surround the young pair,
And as for the dresses and jewels—well, there!

There’s one by Sir Edwin, exceedingly grand,
The Deluge, or something—I don’t understand:
Some people are perch’d on the top of a house,
And a love of a cat, and a dear little mouse.

Then there’s one of that Queen—what’s her name—Antoinette,
Abused by French hags, such a horrible set!
One longs for the soldiers to rush in between,
And shoot every wretch that’s insulting the Queen.

Mr. Frith’s Claude Duval we all knew at a glance:
The robber’s compelling a lady to dance:
To meet such a highwayman really was luck,
And she ought to forgive him, he looks such a duck.

There’s a soldier in black, O, so stern and upright!
Taking leave of his bride on the eve of the fight.
Such satin, my dear, O, it’s exquisite, Jane,
And a ribbon so rich you will not see again.

There’s Katharine—I mean the ridiculous Shrew;
She is frowning like death, but she’s beautiful, too:
Petruchio is looking uncommonly wroth,
And spilling the gravy all over the cloth.

You remember—I’m sure that you do—Pegwell Bay,
Where Charles took us all for a lunch that hot day.
There’s a picture of that, cut as sharp as a knife,
With the ladies’ red petticoats done to the life.

One picture’s remarkably good, I declare.
There’s a boy without trousers; he has but one pair,
Which his mother is mending, he is full of distress
At being deprived of his dignity dress.

There’s a splendid great sailor, all courage and hope,
Preparing to swim from a wreck with a rope;
The scene is all terror, the vessel’s aground,
But a dear little baby is sleeping so sound.

An artist called Hook has some lovely green seas;
Charles says they’re designed to set wives on the tease.
Those waves made one eager to pack and away,
And I talked about Lowestoft and Hastings all day.

There’s one very noble, they all of them said,
But I think very sad—a poor shepherd is dead,
His dog must have crawled on his bosom to die,
And his wife bends in sorrow—I wanted to cry.

But one that I thought was exceedingly fine,
Was that scene where Peg Woffington comes with the wine,
And cheers the poor author, and puts a fresh life
In the pale pretty face of his heartbroken wife.

That’s all I remember just now, dearest Jane,
If I think of some more I will scribble again:
But you write to Maud Simpson—now do, Jenny, do,
And take it for granted they went to the View.

Shirley Brooks.