MRS. HENRY Siddons, a neighbour and intimate friend of the late Lord Jeffrey, who had free licence to enter his house at all hours unannounced and come and go as she listed, opened his library door one day very gently to look if he was there, and saw enough at a glance to convince her that her visit was ill-timed. The hard critic of the `Edinburgh' was sitting in his chair, with his head on the table, in deep grief. As Mrs. Siddons was delicately retiring, in the hope that her entrance had been unnoticed, Jeffrey raised his head, and kindly beckoned her back. Perceiving that his cheek was flushed, and his eyes suffused with tears, she apologized for her intrusion, and begged permission to withdraw. When he found that she was seriously intending to leave him, he rose from his chair, took her by both hands, and led her to a seat.
Lord Jeffrey (loq. )`Don't go, my dear friend. I shall be right again in another minute.'
Mrs. H. Siddons. `I had no idea that you had had any bad news or cause for grief, or I would not have come. Is anyone dead?'
Lord Jeffrey `Yes, indeed. I'm a great goose to have given way so; but I could not help it. You'll be sorry to hear that little Nelly, Boz's little Nelly, is dead.'
The fact was, Jeffrey had just received the last number then out of The Old Curiosity Shop, and had been thoroughly overcome by its pathos.
From Young, Memoir, ii. 111
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