“How shall we describe the features of this queen? This is a delicate, a difficult task, for the ordinary expressions one would use are immediately rejected as irreverent, so instinct with respect is the feeling she arouses within the soul. The light of eternal youth is in her smile, on her velvet-pink cheeks, shining and dancing in the laughter of her beauteous lips. Her magnificent tresses, however, visible through the silver-spangled veil, are almost white! …
‘White foams,’ she wrote in her Thoughts, ‘are the foam-topped waves which ride upon the sea after a storm.’
And what words could express the unrivalled charm of her glance, of those clear grey eyes, somewhat overshadowed by the broad open forehead: the charm of a lofty intelligence, a discreet, sympathetic power of penetration, habitual suffering, and a wide-embracing pity? […]
As I have said, the queen’s voice was pure music, – music as delightful and fresh as it was instinct with youth! I do not think I ever heard the sound of a voice that could compare with hers, that I ever listened to any one reading with like charm.
On the morrow of my arrival, Her Majesty had expressed curiosity as to what I thought of a certain German poem, unknown to me. In the course of a private conversation, her secretary put me on my guard: ‘If the queen reads it to you herself’, he said, ‘you will be unable to judge; no matter what the queen reads, it always appears delightful, – like the songs she sings, – but if you take up the book afterwards, to read alone, it is not at all the same thing and you are often completely disillusioned.’
Subsequently I discovered how true this warning was; being privileged to listen whilst Her Majesty was reading to the ladies of the Court, certain chapters from a book of mine, I actually failed to recognise my own work, so embellished and transfigured did it appear.”
Pierre Loti: “Carmen Sylva” (New York, 1912)