Sometimes Carmen Sylva would sally forth in a mountaineering dress of green velvet, and feast her poet's soul amidst the wilds of Nature. And after the death of her only child, the little Princess Marie, in 1874, Queen Elizabeth was able to find solace in literary work alone, and very beautiful work it is. Her books have rightly won for her fame and a world-wide reputation. She is an indefatigable worker, often devoting the midnight and early morning hours to writing, so as not to encroach upon the public and social duties of her position. Poems, dramas, romances, and fairy tales have come from her pen, and collec-t i o ns of Roumanian legends and folklore.
Some of her best -known books are: "Thoughts of a Queen," Edleen Vaughan." "Shadows on Life's Dial," "A Real Queen'sfairy Book," and "Pilgrim Sorrow," an allegory, in which she describes her own life-story. Sorrow and tragedy appeal much to the genius of Carmen Sylva.
Photo, C. Chusseau-flaviens
I do not wish to be anything more than a voice which clothes truth in acceptable forms, and takes all its harshness from it. Thus I can ease many a heart of its burden, and what happiness it is to show the beauties of truth and to utilise and represent the beautiful! "
" The Thoughts of a Queen," on its translation, was awarded a prize by the
French Academy. Carmen Sylva is a member of the Academy of Sciences of Bucharest.
In her " Tales of the Dumbovitza,"
Carmen Sylva has a theme which particularly appeals to her. They are founded on stories which, aided by her favourite lady-in-waiting, Mademoiselle Vacaresco, she has gathered by word of mouth from the Roumanian peasants. Professor Max Miiller paid a high tribute to the charm and value of the collection. The dramatic element is intensely strong in the poet-queen's work, and above all else.probably, she most desired to be a playwright. She gave some ten years' hard study to the writing of plays before she produced her chief dramatic work, the "M e i s t e r Manole." It is based upon a Roumanian legend of a highly sensational and arresting character, and deals with the restoration of a wonderful cathedral which was only completed after twelve years of labour. As soon as it was built it fell to ruins, and again and again after its being rebuilt the same thing happened. Then it occurred to the people that the evil spirits who repeatedly wrought the destruction must be exorcised and the terrible course was resorted to of immuring alive a person condemned by the law within its walls. After this human sacrifice had been made the evil spirits were charmed away and the church remained.
Carmen Sylva was fascinated by the weird story, and, by adding historical characters and inventing fictitious ones she made the legend the subject of her play. During a visit to London in 1890 the author read it to a notable gathering of friends and admirers, which included Professor Max Miiller, Sir Henry Irving, and Miss Ellen Terry.
Those who have enjoyed the privilege of coming in contact with the poet-queen in the privacy of her study, when duties of state are for the time being laid aside, and she can give free play to her powers, marvel at the exuberance of her genius. Her mind is a rich mint, ever coining some fresh expression of artistic feeling.
Throughout her life she has delighted to gather poets, authors, painters, and musicians about her, and during her sojourns at Castle Pelesch she has generally a circle of congenial and artistic people around her. She is particularly fond of French literature, and many French authors have been her guests. It was during a visit paid to her by Pierre Loti that she suggested a translation of his novel, " Les Pecheurs d'island," which she subsequently made with great sympathy and skill. The novelist wrote a delightful account of his visit, describing Carmen Sylva, with her court of ladies dressed in Roumanian costumes, leading an Arcadian existence in the castle amidst the Carpathians.
Her Links with Our Country
It was while she was still only Princess of Roumania that Carmen Sylva paid her first visit to this country. She stayed with Professor and Mrs. Max Miiller at Oxford, and under their guidance explored the ancient seat of learning. Its colleges, halls, and library, and the whole atmosphere of the University afforded her the greatest pleasure.
She again visited this country some years after she had become queen, and travelled to Wales and Ireland and other parts of the British Isles. She was a much feted visitor at the Eisteddfod in Wales, a form of national celebration which particularly appealed to her. Carmen Sylva also spent two days with Queen Victoria at Osborne when she read aloud her tragedy of "Ulranda." Queen Victoria was much moved by its pathos and dramatic power, and subsequently sent the author the Order of Victoria and Albert.
The poet-queen later visited Queen Victoria at Balmoral, and was delighted with the Highland castle and the old Scottish customs which she there saw observed. Highland games were arranged in her honour, and she was so fascinated that she insisted on getting as near to the dancers as possible. Amidst those rugged mountains and glens one can well understand that the weird scene of the kilted Highlanders dancing in the torchlight to the skirl of the bagpipes would be a novel and enthralling scene to Carmen Sylva. She charmed all who had the privilege of meeting her, and love of music proved a mutual interest between herself and Queen Victoria. Queen Alexandra was in the Highlands at this time, and was also much charmed with the poet-queen.
A further link between the Queen of Roumania and our own Royal House exists in the Crown Princess of Roumania, nee Princess Marie of Edinburgh, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, who was married to Prince Ferdinand, nephew and heir of the King of Roumania, in 1893. Her charming children are a great joy to their great-aunt, Queen Elizabeth. The Crown Princess is one of the most beautiful and accomplished Royal ladies in Europe, and the right hand of the Queen at court functions.
A Modern Saint Elizabeth
It is not possible to enumerate all the societies and charities which enlist the interest of the Queen of Roumania. Schools, hospitals, and various philanthropic works have grown up and flourished under her fostering care. She visits the educational institutions in Bucharest, and sometimes distributes the prizes, and keeps up her old interest in the hospital patients A good musician herself, the Queen has done much to keep alive the old Roumanian love of music and preserve the national folk songs, and has encouraged the formation of singing classes and musical societies. One may picture her seated at the organ in the music Toom at Castle Pelesch, while a band of four hundred orphan children sing Gounod's chorus, "The Ant and the Grasshopper."
The Queen's desire to keep alive national handicraft is seen in her embroidery school, Scola Elisabetha Doamna, where some twenty poor girls are taught to read and write and to embroider from old designs preserved in ecclesiastical vestments. Another of her special charities is the Societe Elisabetha, for distributing wood to the poor. The Queen has also founded a school for the training of the daughters of poor gentlemen.
During late years, Queen Elizabeth has given absorbing attention to providing work for the blind, of whom there are a great number in Roumania. She has established the Vatra Lumincasa, where the blind are taught trades. Charming little cottages have been provided for the inmates of the institution, and the Queen has built a cottage for herself, so that she may pass some time amongst her "dear blind."