The Life And Letters Of Maria Edgeworth, Vol. 1
by Maria Edgeworth
THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF
AUGUSTUS J.C. HARE
In her later years Miss Edgeworth was often asked to write a
biographical preface to her novels. She refused. “As a woman,” she
said, “my life, wholly domestic, can offer nothing of interest to the
public.” Incidents indeed, in that quiet happy home existence, there
were none to narrate, nothing but the ordinary joys and sorrows which
attend every human life. Yet the letters of one so clear-sighted and
sagacious—one whom Macaulay considered to be the second woman of her
age—are valuable, not only as a record of her times, and of many who
were prominent figures in them: but from the picture they naturally
give of a simple, honest, generous, high-minded character, filled from
youth to age with love and goodwill to her fellow-creatures, and a
desire for their highest good. An admirable collection of Miss
Edgeworth's letters was printed after her death by her stepmother and
lifelong friend, but only for private circulation. As all her
generation has long since passed away, Mr. Edgeworth of Edgeworthstown
now permits that these letters should be read beyond the limits of the
family circle. An editor has had little more to do than to make a
selection, and to write such a thread of biography as might unite the
links of the chain.
AUGUSTUS J.C. HARE.
In the flats of the featureless county of Longford stands the large
and handsome but unpretentious house of Edgeworthstown. The scenery
here has few natural attractions, but the loving care of several
generations has gradually beautified the surroundings of the house, and
few homes have been more valued or more the centre round which a large
family circle has gathered in unusual sympathy and love. In his
Memoirs, Mr. Edgeworth tells us how his family, which had given a
name to Edgeworth, now Edgeware, near London, came to settle in Ireland
more than three hundred years ago. Roger Edgeworth, a monk, having
taken advantage of the religious changes under Henry VIII., had married
and left two sons, who, about 1583, established themselves in Ireland.
Of these, Edward, the elder, became Bishop of Down and Connor, and died
without children; but the younger, Francis, became the founder of the
family of Edgeworthstown. Always intensely Protestant, often intensely
extravagant, each generation of the Edgeworth family afterwards had its
own picturesque story, till Richard Edgeworth repaired the broken
fortunes of his house, partly by success as a lawyer, partly by his
marriage, in 1732, with Jane Lovell, daughter of a Welsh judge.
Their eldest son, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, was born in 1744, and
educated in his boyhood at Drogheda School and Dublin University.
Strong, handsome, clever, ingenious, and devoted to sports of every
kind, he was a general favourite. But his high spirits often led him
into scrapes. The most serious of these occurred during the festivities
attendant on his eldest sister's marriage with Mr. Fox of Fox Hall, at
which he played at being married to a young lady who was present, by
one of the guests dressed up in a white cloak, with a door-key for a
ring. This foolish escapade would not deserve the faintest notice, if
it had not been seriously treated as an actual marriage by a writer in
the Quarterly Review.
In 1761 Richard Edgeworth was removed from Dublin to Corpus Christi
College at Oxford. There he arrived, regretting the gaieties of Dublin,
and anxious to make the most of any little excitements which his new
life could offer. Amongst the introductions he brought with him was one
to Mr. Paul Elers, who, himself of German extraction, had made a
romantic marriage with Miss Hungerford, the heiress of Black Bourton in
Oxfordshire. Mr. Elers honourably warned Mr. Edgeworth, who was an old
friend of his, that he had four daughters who were very pretty, and
that his friend had better be careful, as their small fortunes would
scarcely fit one of them to be the wife of his son. But the elder Mr.
Edgeworth took no notice—Richard was constantly at Black Bourton; and
in 1763, being then only nineteen, he fled with Miss Anna Maria Elers
to Gretna Green, where they were married. Great as was Mr. Edgeworth's
displeasure, he wisely afterwards had the young couple remarried by
The union turned out unhappily. “I soon felt the inconveniences of
an early and hasty marriage,” wrote the bridegroom; “but, though I
heartily repented my folly, I determined to bear with firmness and
temper the evil which I had brought on myself.” His eldest child,
Richard, was born before he was twenty; his second, Maria, when he was
twenty-four. Though he became master of Edgeworthstown by the death of
his father in 1769, he for some years lived chiefly at Hare Hatch, near
Maidenhead. Here he already began to distract his attention from an
ungenial home by the endless plans for progress in agriculture and
industry, and the disinterested schemes for the good of Ireland, which
always continued to be the chief occupation of his life. It was his
inventive genius which led to his paying a long visit to Lichfield to
see Dr. Darwin. There he lingered long in pleasant intimacy with the
doctor and his wife, with Mr. Wedgwood, Miss Anna Seward—“the Swan of
Lichfield”—and still more, with the eccentric Thomas Day, author of
Sandford and Merton, who became his most intimate friend, and who
wished to marry his favourite sister Margaret, though she could not
make up her mind to accept him, and eventually became the wife of Mr.
Ruxton of Black Castle. With Mrs. Seward and her daughters lived at
that time—partly for educational purposes—Honora Sneyd, a beautiful
and gifted girl, who had rejected the addresses of the afterwards
famous Major Andre, and who now also refused those of Mr. Day. “In
Honora Sneyd,” wrote Mr. Edgeworth, “I saw for the first time in my
life a woman that equalled the picture of perfection existing in my
imagination. And then my not being happy at home exposed me to the
danger of being too happy elsewhere.” When he began to feel as if the
sunshine of his life emanated from his friendship with Miss Sneyd, he
was certain flight was the only safety. So leaving Mrs. Edgeworth and
her little girls with her mother, he made his escape to France, only
taking with him his boy, whom he determined to educate according to the
system of Rousseau. Then, for two years, he remained at Lyons,
employing his inventive and mechanical powers in building bridges.
Meantime, the early childhood of Maria Edgeworth, who was born, 1st
January 1767, in the house of her grandfather, Mr. Elers, at Black
Bourton, was spent almost entirely with relations in Oxfordshire, or
with her maternal great-aunts, the Misses Blake, in Great Russell
Street in London. It was in their house that her neglected and unloved
mother—always a kind and excellent, though a very sad woman—died
after her confinement of a third daughter (Anna) in 1773. On hearing of
what he considered to be his release, Mr. Edgeworth hurried back at
once to England, and, before four months were over, he was married to
Miss Honora Sneyd, whose assent to so hasty a marriage would scarcely
prepare those who were unacquainted with her for the noble, simple, and
faithful way in which she ever fulfilled the duties of a wife and
stepmother. The son of the first marriage, Richard Edgeworth, went, by
his own choice, to sea, but the three little girls, Maria, Emmeline,
and Anna, returned with their father and stepmother to Edgeworthstown,
where they had a childhood of unclouded happiness.
In 1775 Maria Edgeworth, being then eight years old, was sent to a
school at Derby, kept by Mrs. Lataffiere, to whom she always felt much
indebted, though her stepmother, then in very failing health, continued
to take part in her education by letter.
MRS. HONORA EDGEWORTH to
BEIGHTERTON, NEAR SHIFFNALL,
Oct. 10, 1779.
I have received your letter, and I thank you for it, though I assure
you I did not expect it. I am particularly desirous you should be
convinced of this, as I told you I would write first. It is in
vain to attempt to please a person who will not tell us what they do
and what they do not desire; but as I tell you very fully what I
think may be expected from a girl of your age, abilities, and
education, I assure you, my dear Maria, you may entirely depend upon
me, that as long as I have the use of my understanding, I shall not be
displeased with you for omitting anything which I had before told you I
did not expect. Perhaps you may not quite understand what I mean, for I
have not expressed myself clearly. If you do not, I will explain myself
to you when we meet; for it is very agreeable to me to think of
conversing with you as my equal in every respect but age, and of my
making that inequality of use to you by giving you the advantage of the
experience I have had, and the observations I have been able to make,
as these are parts of knowledge which nothing but time can bestow.
* * * * *
In the spring of 1780 Mrs. Honora Edgeworth died of consumption,
leaving an only son, Lovell, and a daughter, Honora. Mr. Edgeworth
announced this—which to her was a most real sorrow—to his daughter
Maria in a very touching letter, in which he urges her to follow her
lost stepmother's example, especially in endeavouring to be “amiable,
prudent, and of use;“ but within eight months he married again.
Mrs. Honora Edgeworth, when dying, had been certain that he would do
so, and had herself indicated her own sister Elizabeth as the person
whose character was most likely to secure a happy home to him and his
children. So, with his usual singularity, though he liked her less than
any of her other sisters, and though he believed her utterly unsuited
to himself, he followed the advice which had been given, and in spite
of law and public opinion, Elizabeth Sneyd became the third Mrs.
Edgeworth within eight months of her sister's death.
* * * * *
Nothing (wrote Mr. Edgeworth) is more erroneous than the common
belief that a man who has lived in the greatest happiness with one wife
will be the most averse to take another. On the contrary, the loss of
happiness which he feels when he loses her necessarily urges him to
endeavour to be again placed in the situation which constituted his
I felt that Honora had judged wisely and from a thorough knowledge
of my character, when she advised me to marry again as soon as I could
meet with a woman who would make a good mother to my children, and an
agreeable companion to me. She had formed an idea that her sister
Elizabeth was better suited to me than any other woman, and thought I
was equally suited to her. But, of all Honora's sisters, I had seen the
least of Elizabeth.
* * * * *
Mrs. Elizabeth Edgeworth proved herself worthy of her sister's
confidence. She was soon adored by her stepchildren, and her conduct to
them was in all respects maternal. Maria at this time was removed from
Bath to the school of Mrs. Davis, in Upper Wimpole Street, London,
where she had excellent masters. Here her talent as an improvisatrice
was first manifested in the tales she used to tell to her companions in
their bedroom at night. She also, by his desire, frequently wrote
stories and sent them for her father's criticism and approval. During
holidays which she often spent with his old friend Mr. Day at
Anningsly, she benefited by an admirable library and by Mr. Day's
advice as to her reading.
In 1782 Mr. and Mrs. Edgeworth returned to Ireland, taking the whole
family with them. Maria was now fifteen, and was old enough to be
interested in all the peculiarities of the Irish as contrasted with the
English character, soon showing such natural aptitude for dealing with
those around her, that her father entrusted her with all his accounts,
and practically employed her as his agent for many years. Thus she
obtained an insight into the lives and characters of her humbler
neighbours, which was of inestimable value to her, when afterwards
writing her sketches of Irish life. She already began to plan many
stories, most of which were never finished. But Mr. Edgeworth
discouraged this. In the last year of her life Miss Edgeworth wrote: “I
remember a number of literary projects, if I may so call them, or
apercus of things which I might have written if I had time or
capacity so to do. The word apercu my father used to object to.
'Let us have none of your apercus, Maria: either follow a thing
out clearly to a conclusion, or do not begin it: begin nothing without
Building and planting, alterations and improvements of every kind at
Edgeworthstown were at once begun by Mr. Edgeworth, but always within
his income. He also made two rules: he employed no middlemen, and he
always left a year's rent in his tenants' hands. “Go before Mr.
Edgeworth, and you will surely get justice,” became a saying in the
* * * * *
Some men live with their families without letting them know their
affairs (wrote Miss Edgeworth), and, however great may be their
affection and esteem for their wives and children, think that they have
nothing to do with business. This was not my father's way of thinking.
On the contrary, not only his wife, but his children, knew all his
affairs. Whatever business he had to do was done in the midst of his
family, usually in the common sitting-room; so that we were intimately
acquainted, not only with his general principles of conduct, but with
the minute details of their everyday application. I further enjoyed
some peculiar advantages: he kindly wished to give me habits of
business; and for this purpose allowed me, during many years, to assist
him in copying his letters of business, and in receiving his rents.
* * * * *
With the younger children Mr. Edgeworth's educational system was of
the most cheerful kind; they were connected with all that was going on,
made sharers in all the occupations of their elders, and not so much
taught as shown how best to teach themselves. “I do not think one tear
per month is shed in this house, nor the voice of reproof heard, nor
the hand of restraint felt,” wrote Mr. Edgeworth to Dr. Darwin. Both in
precept and practice he was the first to recommend what is described by
Bacon as the experimental mode of education. “Surely,” says Miss
Edgeworth, “it would be doing good service to bring into a popular form
all that metaphysicians have discovered which can be applied to
practice in education. This was early and long my father's object. The
art of teaching to invent—I dare not say, but of awakening and
assisting the inventive power by daily exercise and excitement, and by
the application of philosophic principles to trivial occurrences—he
believed might be pursued with infinite advantage to the rising
Maria Edgeworth found very congenial society in the family of her
relation, Lord Longford, at Pakenham, which was twelve miles from
Edgeworthstown, and in that of Lord Granard, at Castle Forbes, nine
miles distant. Lady Granard's mother, Lady Moira, full of wit and
wisdom, and with great nobility of character, would pour out her rich
stores of reminiscence for the young girl with ceaseless kindness. But
more than any other was her life influenced, helped, cheered, and
animated by the love of her father's sister Margaret, Mrs. Ruxton, the
intimate friend and correspondent of forty-two years, whose home, Black
Castle, was within a long drive of Edgeworthstown. Mrs. Ruxton's three
children—Richard, Sophy, and Margaret—were Maria Edgeworth's dearest
companions and friends.
The great love which Miss Edgeworth always felt for children was
tried and developed to its fullest extent in the ever increasing family
circle. Mrs. Elizabeth Edgeworth added nine more brothers and sisters
to the group of six which already existed; the eldest of them, Henry,
born in 1782, was entrusted to Maria's especial care.
* * * * *
MARIA to MISS CHARLOTTE SNEYD.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Dec. 9, 1787.
I think, my dear Aunt Charlotte, I did not know till Henry returned
to us after his six weeks' absence, how very agreeable even a child of
his age can make himself, but I am sure that his journey has been
productive of so much pleasure to me from the kindness and approbation
you have shown, and has left on my mind so full a conviction of your
skill in the art of education, that I should part with Henry again
to-morrow with infinitely more security and satisfaction than I did two
months ago. I was really surprised to see with what ease and alacrity
little Henry returned to all his former habits and occupations, and the
very slight change that appeared in his manner or mind; nothing seemed
strange to him in anything, or anybody about him. When he spoke of you
to us he seemed to think that we were all necessarily connected in all
our commands and wishes, that we were all one whole—one great
polypus soul. I hope my father will tell you himself how much he liked
your letter, “the overflowings of a full mind, not the froth of an
* * * * *
In 1790 the family group was first broken by the death from
consumption, at fifteen, of Honora, the beautiful only daughter of Mrs.
* * * * *
MARIA EDGEWORTH to MRS. RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Feb. 11, 1790.
Your friendship, my dear Aunt Ruxton, has, I am sure, considerably
alleviated the anguish of mind my father has had to feel, and your
letter and well-deserved praise of my dear mother's fortitude and
exertion were a real pleasure to her. She has indeed had a great deal
to bear, and I think her health has suffered, but I hope not
materially. In my father's absence, she ordered everything, did
everything, felt everything herself. Unless, my dear aunt, you had been
present during the last week of dear Honora's sufferings, I think you
could not form an idea of anything so terrible or so touching. Such
extreme fortitude, such affection, such attention to the smallest
feelings of others, as she showed on her deathbed!
My father has carefully kept his mind occupied ever since his
return, but we cannot help seeing his feelings at intervals. He has not
slept for two or three nights, and is, I think, far from well to-day.
He said the other day, speaking of Honora, “My dear daughters, I
promise you one thing, I never will reproach any of you with Honora. I
will never reproach you with any of her virtues.” There could not be a
kinder or more generous promise, but I could not help fearing that my
father should refrain from speaking of her too much, and that it would
hurt his mind. He used to say it was a great relief to him to talk of
my mother Honora.
* * * * *
In the summer of 1791 Mr. and Mrs. Edgeworth went to England,
leaving Maria in sole charge of the large family at home. She used to
amuse her young sisters at this time by stories, which she would write
on a slate during the leisure moments her many occupations permitted,
and which she would read aloud to them in the evening. By their
interest or questions she estimated the stories, which became the
foundation of The Parent's Assistant. When her father was with
her she always wrote a sketch of an intended story, and submitted it to
his approval, being invariably guided by his advice. In October Maria
was desired to follow her parents to Clifton, bringing nearly all the
children with her, a formidable undertaking for a young girl in those
days of difficult travelling.
* * * * *
MARIA to MRS. RUXTON, AFTER RETURNING FROM A VISIT TO BLACK
EDGEWORTHSTOWN. October 1791.
My dear mother is safe and well, and a fine new sister, I suppose
you have heard. My very dear aunt, since the moment I came home till
this instant my hands have trembled, and my head whirled with business,
but the delightful hope of seeing my dear father and mother at Bristol
is in fine perspective at the end. My father has just written the
kindest letter possible, and Emmeline is transcribing his directions
about our journey. We are to set off as soon as we can—on Tuesday
morning next, I believe, for my father is extremely impatient for us to
come over. I write by this night's post to Mr. Hanna, to take lodgings
for us in Dublin, and we are, as you will see, to go by Holyhead. As to
coming round by Black Castle, it is out of the question. For
everybody's sake but my own, I regret this: for my own I do not, the
few hours I should have to spend in your company would not, my dearest
aunt, balance the pain of parting with you all again, which I did feel
thoroughly, and if I had not had the kindest friends and the fullest
occupation the moment I came home, I should have been in the
lamentables a long time. Tell my dear uncle I never shall forget the
kindness of his manner towards me during the whole of my stay at Black
Castle, and the belief that he thinks well of his little niece adds
much to her happiness, perhaps to her vanity, which he will say there
was no occasion to increase. And now, dear Sophy, for your roaring
blade, Thomas Day, Esq., [Footnote: This little brother was born
the day before the Edgeworth family received the news of the sudden
death of their old friend Mr. Day in 1789.] he is in readiness to wait
upon you whenever you can, and will have the charity to receive him.
Name the day, my dear aunt, which will be the least inconvenient if you
can, and Molly or John Langan shall bring him in the old or new chaise
to your door, where I hope he will not salute you with a cry, but if he
does do not be surprised.
You see, my dear aunt, that I am in a great hurry by my writing, but
no hurry, believe me, can drive out of my mind the remembrance of all
the kindness I received at Black Castle. Oh, continue to love your
niece; you cannot imagine the pleasure she felt when you kissed her,
and said you loved her a thousand times better than ever you did
MR. SMITH'S, HOLYHEAD,
We are this instant arrived, my dear aunt, after a thirty-three
hours' passage; all the children safe and well, but desperately sick;
poor little Sneyd especially. The packet is just returning, and my head
is so giddy that I scarcely know what I write, but you will only expect
a few shabby lines to say we are not drowned. Mr. Ussher Edgeworth
[Footnote: Brother to the Abbe Edgeworth, who resided in Dublin.] and
my Aunt Fox's servant saw us on board, and Mr. E. was so very good to
come in the wherry with us and see us into the ship. We had the whole
cabin to ourselves; no passenger, except one gentleman, son-in-law to
Mr. Dawson, of Ardee, he was very civil to us, and assisted us much in
landing, etc. I felt, besides, very glad to see one who knew anything
even of the name of Ruxton. Adieu, my dear aunt; all the sick pale
figures around me with faint voices send their love to you and my
MARIA to MR. RUXTON.
PRINCE'S BUILDINGS, CLIFTON,
Dec. 29, 1791.
My Dear Uncle—If you are going to the canal put this letter in your
pocket, and do not be troubled in your conscience about reading it, but
keep it till you are perfectly at leisure: for I have nothing strange
or new to tell you. We live just the same kind of life that we used to
do at Edgeworthstown; and though we move amongst numbers, are not moved
by them, but feel independent of them for our daily amusement. All the
phantasmas I had conjured up to frighten myself, vanished after I
had been here a week, for I found that they were but phantoms of my
imagination, as you very truly told me. We live very near the Downs,
where we have almost every day charming walks, and all the children go
bounding about over hill and dale along with us. My aunt told me that
once when you were at Clifton, when full dressed to go to a ball at
Bath, you suddenly changed your mind, and undressed again, to go out a
walking with her, and now that I see the walks, I am not surprised,
even if you were not to have had the pleasure of my aunt's company. My
father has got a transfer of a ticket for the Bristol library,
which is an extremely fine one; and what makes it appear ten times
finer is, that it is very difficult for strangers to get into. From
thence he can get almost any book for us he pleases, except a few of
the most scarce, which are by the laws of the library immovable. No
ladies go to the library, but Mr. Johns, the librarian, is very civil,
and my mother went to his rooms and saw the beautiful prints in
Boydell's Shakespear. Lavater is to come home in a coach to-day. My
father seems to think much the same of him that you did when you saw
him abroad, that to some genius he adds a good deal of the mountebank.
My father is going soon to Bath, Madame de Genlis is there, and he
means to present the translation of Adele and Theodore to her:
[Footnote: Maria Edgeworth, by her father's advice, had made a
translation of Adele et Theodore in 1782, but the appearance of
Holcroft's translation prevented its publication.] he had intended to
have had me introduced to her, but upon inquiry he was informed that
she is not visited by demoiselles in England.
For some time I kept a Bristol journal, which I intended to send to
Black Castle in form of a newspaper, but I found that though every
day's conversation and occurrences appeared of prodigious importance
just at the moment they were passing, yet afterwards they seemed so
flat and stale as not to be worth sending. I must however tell you that
I had materials for one brilliant paragraph about the Duchess of York.
Mr. Lloyd had seen the wondrous sight. “When she was to be presented to
the Queen, H.R.H. kept Her Majesty waiting nearly an hour, till at last
the Queen, fearing that some accident had happened, sent to let the
Duchess know that she was waiting for her. When the Duchess at length
arrived, she was so frightened—for a Royal Duchess can be frightened
as well as another—that she trembled and tottered in crossing the
presence chamber so that she was obliged to be supported. She is very
timid, and never once raised her eyes, so that our correspondent cannot
speak decidedly as to the expression of her countenance, but if we may
be allowed to say so, she is not a beauty, and is very low. She was
dressed in white and gold,” etc. etc.
The children all desire their love: they were playing the other day
at going to Black Castle, and begged me to be Aunt Ruxton, which I
assured them I would if I could; but they insisted on my being
Sophy, Letty, and Margaret at the same time, and were not quite
contented at my pleading this to be out of my power.
To MISS SOPHY RUXTON.
CLIFTON, March 9, 1792.
I wish, my dear Sophy, that you could know how often I think of you
and wish for you, whenever we see or hear anything that I imagine you
would like. How does your ward go on? My mother desires me to say the
kindest things to you, and assure yourself, my dear Sophy, that when my
mother says the kindest, they are always at the same time the truest.
She is not a person ever to forget a favour, and the care and trouble
you are now bestowing on little Thomas Day will be remembered probably
after you have forgotten it. But my father interrupts me at this
moment, to say that if I am writing to Sophy I must give him some room
at the end, so I shall leave off my fine speeches. We spend our time
very agreeably here, and have in particular great choice of books. I
don't think the children are quite as happy here as they used to be at
home, it is impossible they should be, for they have neither the same
occupations nor liberty. It is however “restraint that sweetens
liberty,” and the joy they show when they run upon the Downs, hunting
fossils, and clambering, is indeed very great. Henry flatters himself
that he shall some time or other have the pleasure of exhibiting his
collection to Cousin Sophy, and rehearses frequently in the character
of showman. Dr. Darwin has been so good as to send him several fossils,
etc., with their names written upon them, and he is every day adding to
his little stock of larning. There is a very sensible man here
who has also made him presents of little things which he values much,
and he begins to mess a great deal with gums, camphor, etc. He
will at least never come under Dr. Darwin's definition of a fool. “A
fool, Mr. Edgeworth, you know, is a man who never tried an experiment
in his life.” My father tells me that Henry has acquired a taste for
improving himself, and that all he has now to fear is my taste for
We went the other day to see a collection of natural curiosities at
a Mr. Broderip's, of Bristol, which entertained us very much. My father
observed he had but very few butterflies, and he said, “No, sir, a
circumstance which happened to me some time ago, determined me never to
collect any more butterflies. I caught a most beautiful butterfly,
thought I had killed it, and ran a pin through its body to fasten it to
a cork: a fortnight afterward I happened to look in the box
where I had left it, and I saw it writhing in agony: since that time I
have never destroyed another.”
My father has just returned from Dr. Darwin's, where he has been
nearly three weeks: they were extremely kind, and pressed him very much
to take a house in or near Derby for the summer. He has been, as Dr.
Darwin expressed it, “breathing the breath of life into the brazen
lungs of a clock” which he had made at Edgeworthstown as a present for
him. He saw the first part of Dr. Darwin's Botanic Garden; L900
was what his bookseller gave him for the whole! On his return from
Derby, my father spent a day with Mr. Keir, the great chemist, at
Birmingham: he was speaking to him of the late discovery of fulminating
silver, with which I suppose your ladyship is well acquainted, though
it be new to Henry and me. A lady and gentleman went into a laboratory
where a few grains of fulminating silver were lying in a mortar: the
gentleman, as he was talking, happened to stir it with the end of his
cane, which was tipped with iron,—the fulminating silver exploded
instantly, and blew the lady, the gentleman, and the whole laboratory
to pieces! Take care how you go into laboratories with gentlemen,
unless they are like Sir Plume skilled in the “nice conduct” of their
Have you seen any of the things that have been lately published
about the negroes? We have just read a very small pamphlet of about ten
pages, merely an account of the facts stated to the House of Commons.
Twenty-five thousand people in England have absolutely left off eating
West India sugar, from the hope that when there is no longer any demand
for sugar the slaves will not be so cruelly treated. Children in
several schools have given up sweet things, which is surely very
benevolent; though whether it will at all conduce to the end proposed
is perhaps wholly uncertain, and in the meantime we go on eating apple
pies sweetened with sugar instead of with honey. At Mr. Keir's,
however, my father avers that he ate excellent custards sweetened with
honey. Will it not be rather hard upon the poor bees in the end?
Mrs. Yearsly, the milkwoman, whose poems I daresay my aunt has seen,
lives very near us at Clifton: we have never seen her, and probably
never shall, for my father is so indignant against her for her
ingratitude to her benefactress, Miss Hannah More, that he thinks she
deserves to be treated with neglect. She was dying, absolutely
expiring with hunger, when Miss More found her. Her mother was a
washerwoman, and washed for Miss More's family; by accident, in a
tablecloth which was sent to her was left a silver spoon, which Mrs.
Yearsly returned. Struck with this instance of honesty, which was
repeated to her by the servants, Miss More sent for her, discovered her
distress and her genius, and though she was extremely eager in
preparing some of her own works for the press, she threw them all aside
to correct Mrs. Yearsly's poems, and obtained for her a subscription of
L600. In return, Mrs. Yearsly accused her of having defrauded her, of
having been actuated only by vanity in bringing her abilities to
light—a new species of vanity from one authoress to another—in short,
abused her in the basest and most virulent manner. Would you go to see
Lo! I have almost filled the Bristol Chronicle, and have yet much
that I wish to say to you, dear Sophy, and that I could tell you in one
half-hour, talking at my usual rate of nine miles an hour: when that
will be, it is impossible to tell. My mother is now getting better. All
the children are perfectly well: Bessy's eyes are not inflamed:
Charlotte est faite a peindre et plus encore a aimer, if that
* * * * *
Little Thomas Day Edgeworth died at the age of three, whilst he was
in the care of the Ruxtons, and about the same time Maria Edgeworth's
own brother Richard, who had paid a long visit to his family at
Clifton, returned to North Carolina, where he had married and was
already a father.
* * * * *
MARIA EDGEWORTH to MISS RUXTON.
ASHTON BOWER, CLIFTON, August 14, 1792.
Last Saturday my poor brother Richard took leave of us to return to
America. He has gone up to London with my father and mother, and is to
sail from thence. We could not part with him without great pain and
regret, for he made us all extremely fond of him. I wish my dear aunt
could have seen him; he was very sensible of her kindness, and longed
to have a letter from her. He is to come over in '95. Emmeline is still
with Lady Holt and Mrs. Bracebridge, at Atherstone, in Warwickshire.
Miss Bracebridge, grand-daughter to Lady Holt, is a very agreeable
companion to my sister, though some years younger, and she enjoys the
society at Atherstone very much. They are most unwilling to part with
her; but now she has been absent two months, and we all begin to
growl for her return, especially now that my brother is gone, who
was “in himself a host.”
I am engaged to go in October to pay a visit to Mrs. Charles Hoare.
I believe you may remember my talking to you of this lady, and my
telling you that she was my friend at school,[Footnote: Miss Robinson.]
and had corresponded with me since. She was at Lisbon when we first
came to England, and I thought I had little prospect of seeing her, but
the moment she returned to England she wrote to me in the kindest and
most pressing manner to beg I would come to her. Immediately after
this, I dare not add that she is a most amiable and sensible woman,
lest Sophy should exclaim, “Ah! vanity! because she likes you,
My uncle, William Sneyd, whom I believe you saw at Edgeworthstown,
has just been with us for three weeks, and in that time filled five
quires of paper with dried plants from the neighbouring rocks. He says
there is at Clifton the richest harvest for botanists. How I wish you
were here to reap it. Henry and I will collect anything that we are
informed is worthy of your Serene Highness's collection. There is a
species of cistus which grows on S. Vincent's rock, which is not, I am
told, to be found in any other part of England. Helpless as I am and
scoffed at in these matters, I will contrive to get some of it for you.
A shoemaker showed us a tortoise shell which he had for sale. I wished
to have bought it for La Sophie, but upon inquiry I found it could not
be had for less than a guinea; now I thought at the utmost it would not
give Sophy above half a crown's worth of pleasure, so I left the
shoemaker in quiet possession of his African tortoise. He had better
fortune with two shells, admirals, which he sold to Lady Valentia for
We begin to be hungry for letters. The children all desire their
love to you; Charlotte is very engaging, and promises to be handsome;
Sneyd is and promises everything; Henry will, I think, through
life always do more than he promises; little Honora is a sprightly
blue-eyed child, at nurse with a woman who is the picture of health and
simplicity, in a beautiful romantic cottage, just such a cottage as you
would imagine for the residence of health and simplicity. Lovell is
perfectly well, and desires his kind love to you. Dr. Darwin has paid
him very handsome compliments in his lines on the Barbarini vase, in
the first part of the Botanic Garden, which my father has just
Has my aunt seen the Romance of the Forest? It has been the
fashionable novel here, everybody read and talked of it; we were much
interested in some parts of it. It is something in the style of the
Castle of Otranto, and the horrible parts are we thought well
worked up, but it is very difficult to keep Horror breathless with his
mouth wide open through three volumes.
Adieu, my dear Sophy: do not let my aunt forget me, for I love her
very much; and as for yourself, take care not to think too highly of
Cousin Maria, but see her faults with indulgence, and you will I think
find her a steady and affectionate friend.
To MISS S. RUXTON.
FLEET STREET, LONDON,
October 17, 1792.
I have been with Mrs. Charles Hoare a week, and before I left
Clifton had a budget in my head for a letter to you, which I really had
not a moment's time to write. I left them all very well, just going to
leave Ashton Bower, which I am not sorry for, though it has such a
pretty romantic name; it is not a fit Bower to live in in winter, it is
so cold and damp. They are going to Prince's Place again, and I daresay
will fix there for the winter, though my father has talked of Bath and
I find in half-rubbed-out notes in my pocket-book,
“Sophy—Slave-ship: Sophy—Rope-walk: Sophy—Marine acid:
Sophy—Earthquake: Sophy—Glasshouse,” etc.: and I intended to tell you
a la longue of these.
We went on board a slave-ship with my brother, and saw the
dreadfully small hole in which the poor slaves are stowed together, so
that they cannot stir. But probably you know all this.
Mrs. Hoare was at Lisbon during two slight shocks of an earthquake;
she says the night was remarkably fine, there was no unwholesome
feeling that she can remember in the air, immediately preceding the
shock: but they were sitting with the windows open down to the ground,
looking at the clearness of the sky, when they felt the shock. The
doors and windows, and all the furniture in the room shook for a few
instants: they looked at one another in silent terror. But in another
instant everything was still, and they came to the use of their voices.
Numbers of exaggerated accounts were put into the public papers, and
she received vast numbers of terrified letters from her friends in
England. So much for the earthquake. The marine acid I must leave till
I have my father at my elbow, lest in my great wisdom I should set you
About the glasshouse: there is one Stephens, an Englishman, who has
set up a splendid glasshouse at Lisbon, and the Government have granted
him a pine wood sixteen miles in extent to supply his glasshouse with
fuel. He has erected a theatre for his workmen, supplied them with
scenes, dresses, etc.; and they have acquired such a taste for
theatrical amusements, that it has conquered their violent passion for
drinking which formerly made them incapable of work three days in the
week; now they work as hard as possible, and amuse themselves for one
day in the week.
Of the beauty of the Tagus, and its golden sands, and the wolves
which Mrs. Hoare had the satisfaction of seeing hunted, I must speak
when I see you. Mrs. Hoare is as kind as possible to me, and I spend my
time at Roehampton as I like: in London that is not entirely possible.
We have only come up to town for a few days. Mr. Hoare's house at
Roehampton is an excellent one indeed: a library with nice books, small
tables upon castors, low sofas, and all the other things which make
rooms comfortable. Lady Hoare, his mother, is said to be a very
amiable, sensible woman: I have seen her only once, but I was much
entertained at her house at Barnelms, looking at the pictures. I saw
Zeluco's figure in Le Brun's “Massacre of the Innocents.” My aunt will
laugh, and think that I am giving myself great airs when I talk of
being entertained looking at pictures; but assure her that I remember
what she used to say about taste, and that without affectation I have
endeavoured to look at everything worth seeing.
To MRS. RUXTON.
STANHOPE STREET, LONDON,
Nov. 6, '92.
I left Roehampton yesterday, and took leave of my friend Mrs.
Charles Hoare, with a high opinion of her abilities, and a still higher
opinion of her goodness. She was exceedingly kind to me, and I spent
most of my time with her as I liked: I say most, because a good deal of
it was spent in company where I heard of nothing but chariots and
horses, and curricles and tandems. Oh, to what contempt I exposed
myself in a luckless hour by asking what a tandem was! I am going in a
few days to meet Mrs. Powys at Bath. Since I have been away from home I
have missed the society and fondness of my father, mother, and sisters
more than I can express, and more than beforehand I should have thought
possible: I long to see them all again. Even when I am most amused I
feel a void, and now I understand what an aching void is, perfectly
well. You know they are going back to Prince's Buildings to the nice
house we had last winter; and Emmeline writes me word that the great
red puddle which we used to call the Red Sea, and which we were forced
to wade through before we could get to the Downs, will not this winter
be so terrible, for my father has made a footpath for his “host.”
CLIFTON, Dec. 13, '92.
(The day we received yours.)
The day of retribution is at hand, my dear aunt: the month of May
will soon come, and then, when we meet face to face, and voucher to
voucher, it shall be truly seen whose letter-writing account stands
fullest and fairest in the world. Till then, “we'll leave it all to
your honour's honour.” But why does my dear aunt write, “I can have but
little more time to spend with my brother in my life,” [Footnote: Mrs.
Ruxton lived thirty-nine years after this letter was written.] as if
she was an old woman of one hundred and ninety-nine and upwards? I
remember, the day I left Black Castle, you told me, if you recollect,
that “you had one foot in the grave;” and though I saw you standing
before me in perfect health, sound wind and limb, I had the weakness to
feel frightened, and never to think of examining where your feet really
were. But in the month of May we hope to find them safe in your shoes,
and I hope that the sun will then shine out, and that all the black
clouds in the political horizon will be dispersed, and that “freemen"
will by that time eat their puddings and hold their tongues. Anna and I
stayed one week with Mrs. Powys [Footnote: The most intimate friend of
Mrs. Honora Edgeworth.] at Bath, and were very thoroughly occupied all
the time with seeing and—I won't say with being seen; for though we
were at three balls, I do not believe any one saw us. The Upper Rooms
we thought very splendid, and the playhouse pretty, but not so good as
the theatre at Bristol. We walked all over Bath with my father, and
liked it extremely: he showed us the house where he was born.
GLOUCESTER ROW, CLIFTON,
July 21, 1793.
My father is just returned to us from Mr. Keir's.... Come over to
us, since we cannot go to you. “Ah, Maria, you know I would come if I
could.” But can't you, who are a great woman, trample upon
impossibilities? It is two years since we saw you, and we are tired of
recollecting how kind and agreeable you were. Are you the same Aunt
Ruxton? Come and see whether we are the same, and whether there are any
people in the world out of your own house who know your value better.
During the hot weather the thermometer was often 80, and once 88.
Mr. Neville, a banker, has taken a house here, and was to have been my
father's travelling companion, but left him at Birmingham: he has a
fishing-stool and a wife. We like the fishing-stool and the wife, but
have not yet seen the family. My father last night wrote a letter of
recommendation to you for a Mr. Jimbernat, a Spanish gentleman, son to
the King of Spain's surgeon, who is employed by his Court to travel for
scientific purposes: he drank tea with us, and seems very intelligent.
Till I saw him I thought a Spaniard must be tall and stately: one may
Adieu, for there are matters of high import coming, fit only for the
pen of pens.
R.L. EDGEWORTH in continuation.
The matters of high importance, my dear sister, have been already
communicated to you in brief, and indeed cannot be detailed by any but
the parties. Dr. Beddoes, the object of Anna's vows,[Footnote: Dr.
Thomas Beddoes, the celebrated physician and chemist, followed the
Edgeworth family to Ireland, where he was married to Anna Edgeworth,
Maria's youngest own sister.] is a man of abilities, and of
great name in the scientific world as a naturalist and chemist:
good-humoured, good-natured, a man of honour and virtue, enthusiastic
and sanguine, and very fond of Anna.
MARIA to MRS. RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Nov. 18, 1793.
This evening my father has been reading out Gay's Trivia to
our great entertainment. I wished very much, my dear aunt, that you and
Sophy had been sitting round the fire with us. If you have Trivia, and if you have time, will you humour your niece so far as to look at
it? I think there are many things in it which will please you,
especially the “Patten and the Shoeblack,” and the old woman hovering
over her little fire in a hard winter. Pray tell me if you like it. I
had much rather make a bargain with any one I loved to read the same
book with them at the same hour, than to look at the moon like
Rousseau's famous lovers. “Ah! that is because my dear niece has no
taste and no eyes.” But I assure you I am learning the use of my eyes
main fast, and make no doubt, please Heaven I live to be sixty, to see
as well as my neighbours.
I am scratching away very hard at the Freeman Family.[Footnote:
i.e. Patronage, which, however, was laid aside, and not published
* * * * *
In November 1793 the Edgeworth family returned to Ireland, where Mr.
Edgeworth's inventive genius became occupied with a system of
telegraphy on which he expended much time and money. It was offered to
the Government, but declined. Maria Edgeworth was occupied at this time
with her Letters for Literary Ladies, as well as with “Toys and
Tasks” which formed one of her chapters on Practical Education.
* * * * *
To MISS SOPHY RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Feb 23, 1794.
Thank my aunt and thank yourself for kind inquiries after Letters
for Literary Ladies. [Footnote: Published in 1795—an early plea in
favour of female education.] I am sorry to say they are not as well as
can be expected, nor are they likely to mend at present: when they are
fit to be seen—if that happy time ever arrives—their first visit
shall be to Black Castle. They are now disfigured by all manner of
crooked marks of papa's critical indignation, besides various abusive
marginal notes, which I would not have you see for half a crown
sterling, nor my aunt for a whole crown as pure as King Hiero's; with
which crown I am sure you are acquainted, and know how to weigh it as
Honora did at eight years old, though Mr. Day would not believe it. I
think my mother is better this evening, but she is so very cheerful
when she has a moment's respite, that it deceives us. She calls Lovell
the Minute Philosopher at this instant, because he is drawing with the
assistance of a magnifying glass with a universal joint in his mouth;
so that one eye can see through it while he draws a beautifully small
drawing of the new front of the house. I have just excited his envy
even to clasping his hands in distraction, by telling him of a man I
met with in the middle of Grainger's Worthies of England, who
drew a mill, a miller, a bridge, a man and horse going over the bridge
with a sack of corn, all visible, upon a surface that would just cover
To MRS. RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, May 8, 1794.
My father is perfectly well, and very busy out of doors and indoors.
He brought back certain books from Black Castle, amongst which I was
glad to see the Fairy Tales; and he has related, with various
embellishments suited to the occasion, the story of Fortunatus, to the
great delight of young and old, especially of Sneyd, whose eyes and
cheeks expressed strong approbation, and who repeated it afterwards in
a style of dramatic oratory, which you would have known how to admire.
We are reading a new book for children, Evenings at Home,
which we admire extremely. Has Sophy seen them? And has she seen the
fine Aurora Borealis which was to be seen last week, and which my
father and Lovell saw with ecstasies? The candles were all put out in
the library, and a wonderful bustle made, before I rightly comprehended
what was going on.
I will look for the volume of the Tableau de Paris which you
think I have; and if it is in the land of the living, it shall be
coming forth at your call. Do you remember our reading in it of the
garcon perruquier who dresses in black on a Sunday, and leaves his
everyday clothes, white and heavy with powder, in the middle of the
room, which he dares not peep into after his metamorphosis? I like to
read as well as to talk with you, my dear aunt, because you mix the
grave and gay together, and put your long finger upon the very passages
which my short, stumpy one was just starting forward to point out, if
it could point.
You are very good indeed to wish for “Toys and Tasks,” but I think
it would be most unreasonable to send them to you now. We are a very
small party, now that my father, Anna, and Lovell are gone; but I hope
we shall be better when you come.
To MRS. ELIZABETH EDGEWORTH.
All's well at home; the chickens are all good and thriving, and
there is plenty of provender, and of everything that we can want or
wish for: therefore we all hope that you will fully enjoy the pleasures
of Black Castle without being anxious for your bairns.
Pray tell my dear aunt that I am not ungrateful for all the kindness
she showed to me while I was with her: it rejoiced my heart to hear her
say, when she took leave of me, that she did not love me less for
knowing me better.
Kitty wakened me this morning saying, “Dear, ma'am, how charming you
smell of coals! quite charming!” and she snuffed the ambient air.
[Footnote: The coal burnt at Black Castle was naturally more agreeable
to Mrs. Billamore (a faithful servant) than the bog turf used at
To MISS SOPHY RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, July 2, 1794,
having the honour to be the fair
day of Edgeworthstown, as is well
proclaimed to the neighbourhood
by the noise of pigs squeaking,
men bawling, women brawling,
and children squealing, etc.
I will tell you what is going on, that you may see whether you like
your daily bill of fare.
There are, an' please you, ma'am, a great many good things here.
There is a balloon hanging up, and another going to be put on the
stocks: there is soap made, and making from a receipt in Nicholson's
Chemistry: there is excellent ink made, and to be made by the same
book: there is a cake of roses just squeezed in a vice, by my father,
according to the advice of Madame de Lagaraye, the woman in the black
cloak and ruffles, who weighs with unwearied scales, in the
frontispiece of a book, which perhaps my aunt remembers, entitled
Chemie de gout et de l'odorat. There are a set of accurate weights,
just completed by the ingenious Messrs. Lovell and Henry Edgeworth,
partners: for Henry is now a junior partner, and grown an inch and a
half upon the strength of it in two months. The use and ingenuity of
these weights I do, or did, understand; it is great, but I am afraid of
puzzling you and disgracing myself attempting to explain it; especially
as, my mother says, I once sent you a receipt for purifying water with
charcoal, which she avers to have been above, or below, the
comprehension of any rational being.
My father bought a great many books at Mr. Dean's sale. Six volumes
of Machines Approuves, full of prints of paper mills, gunpowder
mills, machines pour remonter les batteaux, machines pour—a
great many things which you would like to see I am sure over my
father's shoulder. And my aunt would like to see the new staircase, and
to see a kitcat view of a robin redbreast sitting on her nest in a
sawpit, discovered by Lovell, and you would both like to pick
Emmeline's fine strawberries round the crowded oval table after dinner,
and to see my mother look so much better in the midst of us.
If these delights thy soul can move,
Come live with us and be our love.
To MRS. RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Aug. 11, 1794.
Nothing wonderful or interesting, nothing which touches our hopes or
fears, which either moves us to laugh or to be doleful, can happen
without the idea of Aunt Ruxton immediately arising. This, you will
think, is the preface to at least either death or marriage; but it is
only the preface to a history of Defenders.
There have been lately several flying reports of Defenders, but we
never thought the danger near till to-day. Last night a party of
forty attacked the house of one Hoxey, about half a mile from us, and
took, as usual, the arms. They have also been at Ringowny, where there
was only one servant left to take care of the house; they took the arms
and broke all the windows. To-day Mr. Bond, our high sheriff, paid us a
pale visit, thought it was proper something should be done for the
internal defence of the town of Edgeworthstown and the County of
Longford, and wished my father would apply to him for a meeting of the
county. My father first rode over to the scene of action, to inquire
into the truth of the reports; found them true, and on his return to
dinner found Mr. Thompson of Clonfin, and Captain Doyle, nephew to the
general and the wounded colonel, who is now at Granard. Captain Doyle
will send a sergeant and twelve to-morrow; to-night a watch is to sit
up, but it is supposed that the sight of two redcoats riding across the
country together will keep the evil sprites from appearing to mortal
eyes “this watch.” My father has spoken to many of the householders,
and he imagines they will come here to a meeting to-morrow, to consider
how best they can defend their lands and tenements; they bring their
arms to my father to take care of. You will be surprised at our making
such a mighty matter of a visit from the Defenders, you who have had
soldiers sitting up in your kitchen for weeks; but you will consider
that this is our first visit.
The arts of peace are going on prosperously. The new room is almost
built, and the staircase is completed: long may we live to run up and
To MISS RUXTON.
I will treat you, my dear Letty, like a lady for once, and write to
you upon blue-edged paper, because you have been ill: if you should be
well before you receive this, I shall repent of the extravagance of my
friendship. I believe it was you—or my aunt, the teller of all good
things—who told me of a lady who took a long journey to see her
sister, who she heard was very ill; but, unfortunately, the sister was
well before she got to her journey's end, and she was so provoked, that
she quarrelled with her well sister, and would never have anything more
to do with her.
You will look very blank when you come back from the sea, and find
what doings there have been at Black Castle in your absence. Anna was
extremely sorry that she could not see you again before she left
Ireland; but you will soon be in the same kingdom again, and that is
one great point gained, as Mr. Weaver, a travelling astronomical
lecturer, who carried the universe about in a box, told us. “Sir,” said
he to my father, “when you look at a map, do you know that the east is
always on your right hand, and the west on your left?”—“Yes,” replied
my father, with a very modest look, “I believe I do.”—“Well,” said the
man of learning, “that's one great point gained.“
To MRS. RUXTON.
My father returned late on Friday night, bringing with him a very
bad and a very good thing; the bad thing was a bad cold—the good is
Aunt Mary Sneyd. Emmeline was delayed some days at Lichfield by the
broken bridges, and bad roads, floods and snows, which have stopped
man, and beast, and mail coaches. Mr. Cox, the man who sells camomile
drops under the title of Oriental Pearls, wrote an apology to my Aunt
Mary for neglecting to send the Pearls in the following elegant phrase:
“That the mistake she mentioned he could no ways account for but by
presuming that it must have arisen from impediments occasioned by the
inclemencies of the season!”
When my father went to see Lord Charlemont, he came to meet him,
saying, “I must claim relationship with you, Mr. Edgeworth. I am
related to the Abbe Edgeworth, who is I think an honour to the
kingdom—I should say to human nature.”
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, April 11, 1795.
My father and Lovell have been out almost every day, when there are
no robbers to be committed to jail, at the Logograph.[Footnote: A name
invented to suit the anti-Gallican prejudices of the day.] This is the
new name instead of the Telegraph, because of its allusion to the
logographic printing press, which prints words instead of letters.
Phaenologue was thought of, but Logograph sounds better. My father will
allow me to manufacture an essay on the Logograph, he furnishing the
solid materials and I spinning them. I am now looking over, for this
purpose, Wilkins's Real Character, or an Essay towards a Universal
Philosophical Language. It is a scarce and very ingenious book;
some of the phraseology is so much out of the present fashion, that it
would make you smile: such as the synonym for a little man, a
Dandiprat. Likewise two prints, one of them a long sheet of men with
their throats cut, so as to show the windpipe whilst working out the
different letters of the alphabet. The other print of all the birds and
beasts packed ready to go into the ark.
Sir Walter James has written a very kind and sensible letter to my
father, promising all his influence with his Viceregal brother-in-law
about the telegraph. My father means to get a letter from him to Lord
Camden, and present it himself, though he rather doubts whether, all
things taken together, it is prudent to tie himself to Government. The
raising the militia has occasioned disturbances in this county. Lord
Granard's carriage was pelted at Athlone. The poor people here are
robbed every night. Last night a poor old woman was considerably
roasted: the man, who called himself Captain Roast, is committed to
jail, he was positively sworn to here this morning. Do you know what
they mean by the White Tooths? Men who stick two pieces of broken
tobacco pipes at each corner of the mouth, to disguise the face and
Here is a whirlwind in our county, and no angel to direct it, though
many booted and spurred desire no better than to ride in it.
There is indeed an old woman in Ballymahon, who has been the guardian
angel of General Crosby; she has averted a terrible storm, which was
just ready to burst over his head. The General, by mistake, went into
the town of Ballymahon, before his troops came up; and while he was in
the inn, a mob of five hundred people gathered in the street. The
landlady of the inn called General Crosby aside, and told him, that if
the people found him they would certainly tear him to pieces. The
General hesitated, but the abler general, the landlady, sallied forth
and called aloud in a distinct voice, “Bring round the chaise-and-four
for the gentleman from Lanesborough, who is going to
Athlone.” The General got into the chaise incog., and returning towards
Athlone met his troops, and thus effected a most admirable retreat.
Richard [Footnote: His last visit to Ireland. He returned to
America, and died there in 1796.] and Lovell are at the Bracket Gate. I
hope you know the Bracket Gate, it is near Mr. Whitney's, and so
called, as tradition informs me, from being painted red and white like
a bracket cow. I am not clear what sort of an animal a bracket cow is,
but I suppose it is something not unlike a dun cow and a gate joined
together. Richard and Lovell have a nice tent, and a clock, and white
lights, and are trying nocturnal telegraphs, which are now brought to
I am finishing “Toys and Tasks;” I wish I might insert your letter
to Sneyd, [Footnote: Mrs. Elizabeth Edgeworth's second boy.] with the
receipt for the dye, as a specimen of experiments for children. Sneyd
with sparkling eyes returns you his sincere thanks, and my mother with
her love sends you the following lines, which she composed to-day for
To give me all that art can give,
My aunt and mother try:
One teaches me the way to live,
The other how to dye.
But though she makes epigrams, my mother is far from well.
* * * * *
This year Letters for Literary Ladies, Miss Edgeworth's first
published work, was produced by Johnson. In 1796 she published the
collection of stories known as The Parent's Assistant. In these,
in the simplest language, and with wonderful understanding of children,
and what would come home to their hearts, she continued to illustrate
the maxims of her father. The “Purple Jar” and “Lazy Laurence” are
perhaps the best-known stories of the first edition. To another was
added “Simple Susan,” of which Sir Walter Scott said, “That when the
boy brings back the lamb to the little girl, there is nothing for it
but to put down the book and cry.” Most of these stories were written
in the excitement of very troubled times in Ireland.
* * * * *
MARIA EDGEWORTH to MRS. RUXTON.
Saturday Night, Jan. 1796.
My father is gone to a Longford committee, where he will I suppose
hear many dreadful Defender stories: he came home yesterday fully
persuaded that a poor man in this neighbourhood, a Mr. Houlton, had
been murdered, but he found he was only kilt, and “as well as
could be expected,” after being twice robbed and twice cut with a
bayonet. You, my dear aunt, who were so brave when the county of Meath
was the seat of war, must know that we emulate your courage; and I
assure you in your own words, “that whilst our terrified neighbours see
nightly visions of massacres, we sleep with our doors and windows
I must observe though, that it is only those doors and windows which
have neither bolts nor bars, that we leave unbarred, and these are more
at present than we wish, even for the reputation of our valour. All
that I crave for my own part is, that if I am to have my throat cut, it
may not be by a man with his face blackened with charcoal. I shall look
at every person that comes here very closely, to see if there be any
marks of charcoal upon their visages. Old wrinkled offenders I should
suppose would never be able to wash out their stains; but in others a
very clean face will in my mind be a strong symptom of guilt—clean
hands proof positive, and clean nails ought to hang a man.
To MISS S. RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Feb. 27, 1796.
Long may you feel impatient to hear from your friends, my dear
Sophy, and long may you express your impatience as agreeably. I have a
great deal bottled, or rather bundled up for you. Though I most
earnestly wish that my father was in that situation [Footnote: M.P. for
the County of Longford.] which Sir T. Fetherstone now graces, and
though my father had done me the honour to let me copy his Election
letters for him, I am not the least infected with the electioneering
rage. Whilst the Election lasted we saw him only a few minutes in the
course of the day, then indeed he entertained us to our hearts'
content; now his mind seems relieved from a disagreeable load, and we
have more of his company.
You do not mention Madame Roland, therefore I am not sure whether
you have read her; if you have only read her in the translation which
talks of her Uncle Bimont's dying of a “fit of the gout translated
to his chest,” you have done her injustice. We think some of her
memoirs beautifully written, and like Rousseau: she was a great woman
and died heroically, but I don't think she became more amiable, and
certainly not more happy by meddling with politics; for—her
head is cut off, and her husband has shot himself. I think if I had
been Mons. Roland I should not have shot myself for her sake, and I
question whether he would not have left undrawn the trigger if he could
have seen all she intended to say of him to posterity: she has painted
him as a harsh, stiff, pedantic man, to whom she devoted herself from a
sense of duty; her own superiority, and his infinite obligations to
her, she has taken sufficient pains to blazon forth to the world. I do
not like all this, and her duty work, and her full-length portrait
of herself by herself. The foolish and haughty Madame de
Boismorrel, who sat upon the sofa, and asked her if she ever wore
feathers, was probably one of the remote causes of the French
Revolution: for Madame Roland's Republican spirit seems to have
retained a long and lively remembrance of this aristocratic visit.
As soon as the blind bookseller [Footnote: A pedlar who travelled
through the country, and sometimes picked up at sales curious books new
and old.] can find them for us, we shall read Miss Williams's
Letters. I am glad we both prefer the same parts in Dr. Aikin's
Letters: I liked that on the choice of a wife, but I beg to except
the word helper, which is used so often and is associated with a
helper in the stables. Lovell dined with Mr. Aikin at Mr. Stewart's, at
Edinburgh, and has seen the Comte d'Artois, who he says has rather a
silly face, especially when it smiles. Sneyd is delighted with the four
volumes of Evenings at Home, which we have just got, and has
pitched upon the best stories, which he does not, like M. Dalambert,
spoil in the reading—“Perseverance against Fortune,” “The Price of a
Victory,” and “Capriole.” We were reading an account of the pinna the
other day, and very much regretted that your pinna's brown silk tuft
had been eaten by the mice—what will they not eat?—they have eaten my
thimble case! I am sorry to say that, from these last accounts of the
pinna and his cancer friend, Dr. Darwin's beautiful description is more
poetic than accurate. The cancer is neither watchman nor market-woman
to the pinna, nor yet his friend: he has free ingress to his house, it
is true, and is often found there, but he does not visit on equal
terms, or on a friendly footing, for the moment the pinna gets him in
he shuts the door and eats him; or if he is not hungry, kills the poor
shrimp and keeps him in the house till the next day's dinner. I am
sorry Dr. Darwin's story is not true.
I do not know whether you ever heard of a Mr. Pallas, who lives at
Grouse Hall. He lately received information that a certain Defender was
to be found in a lone house, which was described to him; he took a
party of men with him in the night, and got to the house very early in
the morning: it was scarcely light. The soldiers searched the house,
but no man was to be found. Mr. Pallas ordered them to search again,
for that he was certain the man was there: they searched again, in
vain. They gave up the point, and were preparing to mount their horses
when one man who had stayed a little behind his companions, saw
something moving at the end of the garden behind the house: he looked
again, and beheld a man's arm come out of the ground. He ran towards
the spot and called his companions, but the arm had disappeared; they
searched, but nothing was to be seen, and though the soldier persisted
in his story he was not believed. “Come,” said one of the party, “don't
waste your time here looking for an apparition among these
cabbage-stalks, come back once more to the house.” They went to the
house, and there stood the man they were in search of, in the middle of
Upon examination, it was found that a secret passage had been
practised from the kitchen to the garden, opening under an old meal
chest with a false bottom, which he could push up and down at pleasure.
He had returned one moment too soon.
I beg, dear Sophy, that you will not call my little stories by the
sublime title of “my works,” I shall else be ashamed when the little
mouse comes forth. The stories are printed and bound the same size as
Evenings at Home, but I am afraid you will dislike the title; my
father had sent The Parent's Friend, [Footnote: Mr. Edgeworth
had wished the book to bear this title.] but Mr. Johnson has degraded
it into The Parent's Assistant, which I dislike particularly,
from association with an old book of arithmetic called The Tutor's
* * * * *
This was the first appearance of The Parent's Assistant, in
one small volume, with the “Purple Jar,” which afterwards formed part
* * * * *
To MRS. RUXTON.
We heard from Lovell [Footnote: Gone to London with Mr. Edgeworth's
telegraphic invention.] last post. He had reached London, and waited
immediately on Colonel Brownrigg, who was extremely civil, and said he
would present him any day he pleased to the Duke of York. He was
delighted with the telegraphic prospect in his journey: from Nettlebed
to Long Compton, a distance of fifty miles, he saw plainly. He was
afraid that the motion of the stage would have been too violent to
agree with his model telegraph—“his pretty, delicate little telly,” as
Lovell calls it. He therefore indulged her all the way with a seat in a
post-chaise, “which I bestowed upon her with pleasure, because I am
convinced that, when she comes to stand in the world upon ground of her
own, she will be an honour to her guardian, her parents, and her
* * * * *
Miss Edgeworth now began to write some of the stories which were
afterwards published under the title of Moral Tales, but which
she at first intended as a sequel to The Parent's Assistant; and
she began to think of writing Irish Bulls.
* * * * *
To MISS SOPHY RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Oct. 1797.
I do not like to pour out the gratitude I feel for your unremitting
kindness to me, my dear Sophy, in vain thanks; but I may as well pour
it out in words, as I shall probably never be able to return the many
good turns you have done me. I am not nearly ready yet for Irish
Bulls. I am going directly to Parent's Assistant. Any good
anecdotes from the age of five to fifteen, good latitude and longitude,
will suit me; and if you can tell me any pleasing misfortunes of
emigrants, so much the better. I have a great desire to draw a picture
of an anti-Mademoiselle Panache, a well-informed, well-bred French
governess, an emigrant.
By the blind bookseller my father will send you some books, and I
hope that we shall soon have finished Godwin, that he may set out for
Black Castle. There are some parts of his book [Footnote: Essays, by the author of Caleb Williams.] that I think you will like
much—“On Frankness,” and “Self-taught Genius;” but you will find much
to blame in his style, and you will be surprised that he should have
written a dissertation upon English style. I think his essay on Avarice
and Profusion will please you, even after Smith: he has gone a step
farther. I am going to write a story for boys, [Footnote: The Good
Aunt.] which will, I believe, make a volume to follow the Good
French Governess. My father thinks a volume of trials and a volume
of plays would be good for children. He met the other day with two men
who were ready to go to law about a horse which one had bought from the
other, because he had one little fault. “What is the fault?” said my
father. “Sir, the horse was standing with us all the other day in our
cabin at the fire, and plump he fell down upon the middle of the fire
and put it out; and it was a mercy he didn't kill my wife and children
as he fell into the midst of them all. But this is not all, sir; he
strayed into a neighbour's field of oats, and fell down in the midst of
the oats, and spoiled as much as he could have eaten honestly in a
week. But that's not all, sir; one day, please your honour, I rode him
out in a hurry to a fair, and he lay down with me in the ford, and I
lost my fair.”
* * * * *
For the last few years Mrs. Elizabeth Edgeworth's sisters, Charlotte
and Mary Sneyd, had lived entirely at Edgeworthstown, not only beloved
and honoured by the children of their two sisters, but tenderly
welcomed and cherished by the children of their predecessor, especially
by Maria, to whom no real aunts could have been more dear. During the
seventeen years through which her married life lasted, Mrs. Elizabeth
Edgeworth had become increasingly the centre of the family circle, to
which she had herself added five sons and four daughters. In every
relation of life she was admirable. Through the summer of 1797 her
health rapidly declined, and in November she died.
Mr. Edgeworth, then past fifty, had truly valued his third wife, of
whom he said that he had “never seen her out of temper, and never
received from her an unkind word or an angry look.” Yet, when he lost
her, after his peculiar fashion, he immediately began to think of
Dr. Beaufort, Vicar of Collon, was an agreeable and cultivated man,
and had long been a welcome guest at Mrs. Ruxton's house of Black
Castle. His eldest daughter, who was a clever artist, had designed and
drawn some illustrations for Maria Edgeworth's stories. With these Mr.
Edgeworth found fault, and the good-humour and sense with which his
criticisms were received charmed him, and led to an intimacy. Six
months after his wife's death he married Miss Beaufort.
It may sound strange, but it is nevertheless true, that, in Miss
Beaufort, even more than in her predecessors, he gave to his children a
wise and kind mother, and a most entirely devoted friend.
* * * * *
MISS EDGEWORTH to MISS BEAUFORT.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, May 16, 1798.
Whilst you, my dear Miss Beaufort, have been toiling in Dublin, my
father has been delighting himself in preparations for June. The little
boudoir looks as if it intends to be pretty. This is the only room in
the house which my father will allow to be finished, as he wishes that
your taste should finish the rest. Like the man who begged to have the
eclipse put off, we have been here praying to have the spring put off,
as this place never looks so pretty as when the lilacs and laburnums
are in full flower. I fear, notwithstanding all our prayers, that their
purple and yellow honours will be gone before your arrival. There is
one other flower which I am sure will not be in blow for you, “a little
western flower called love in idleness.” Amongst the many kindnesses my
father has shown me, the greatest, I think, has been his permitting me
to see his heart a decouverte; and I have seen, by your kind
sincerity and his, that, in good and cultivated minds, love is no
idle passion, but one that inspires useful and generous energy. I
have been convinced by your example of what I was always inclined to
believe, that the power of feeling affection is increased by the
cultivation of the understanding. The wife of an Indian yogii (if a
yogii be permitted to have a wife) might be a very affectionate woman,
but her sympathy with her husband could not have a very extensive
sphere. As his eyes are to be continually fixed upon the point of his
nose, hers in duteous sympathy must squint in like manner; and if the
perfection of his virtue be to sit so still that the birds (vide
Sacontala) may unmolested build nests in his hair, his wife cannot
better show her affection than by yielding her tresses to them with
similar patient stupidity. Are there not European yogiis, or men whose
ideas do not go much further than le bout du nez? And how
delightful it must be to be chained for better for worse to one of this
species! I should guess—for I know nothing of the matter—that the
courtship of an ignorant lover must be almost as insipid as a marriage
with him; for “my jewel” continually repeated, without new setting,
must surely fatigue a little.
You call yourself, dear Miss Beaufort, my friend and companion: I
hope you will never have reason to repent beginning in this style
towards me. I think you will not find me encroach upon you. The
overflowings of your kindness, if I know anything of my own heart, will
fertilise the land, but will not destroy the landmarks. I do not know
whether I most hate or despise the temper which will take an ell where
an inch is given. A well-bred person never forgets that species of
respect which is due to situation and rank: though his superiors in
rank treat him with the utmost condescension, he never is “Hail fellow
well met” with them; he never calls them Jack or Tom by way of
increasing his own consequence.
I flatter myself that you will find me gratefully exact en belle
fille. I think there is a great deal of difference between that
species of ceremony which exists with acquaintance, and that which
should always exist with the best of friends: the one prevents the
growth of affection, the other preserves it in youth and age. Many
foolish people make fine plantations, and forget to fence them; so the
young trees are destroyed by the young cattle, and the bark of the
forest trees is sometimes injured. You need not, dear Miss Beaufort,
fence yourself round with very strong palings in this family, where all
have been early accustomed to mind their boundaries. As for me, you see
my intentions, or at least my theories, are good enough: if my Practice
be but half as good, you will be content, will you not? But Theory was
born in Brobdingnag, and Practice in Lilliput. So much the better for
me. I have often considered, since my return home, as I have seen
all this family pursuing their several occupations and amusements, how
much you will have it in your power to add to their happiness. In a
stupid or indolent family, your knowledge and talents would be thrown
away; here, if it may be said without vanity, they will be the certain
source of your daily happiness. You will come into a new family, but
you will not come as a stranger, dear Miss Beaufort: you will not lead
a new life, but only continue to lead the life you have been used to in
your own happy, cultivated family.
* * * * *
Mr. Edgeworth and Miss Beaufort were married 31st May 1798 at St.
Anne's Church in Dublin. Mrs. Edgeworth writes:
When we set off from the church door for Edgeworthstown, the
rebellion had broken out in many parts of Ireland.
Soon after we had passed the second stage from Dublin, one of the
carriage wheels broke down. Mr. Edgeworth went back to the inn, then
called the Nineteen-mile House, [Footnote: Now Enfield: a railway
station.] to get assistance. Very few people were to be found, and a
woman who was alone in the kitchen came up to him and whispered, “The
boys (the rebels) are hid in the potato furrows beyond.” He was rather
startled at this intelligence, but took no notice. He found an ostler
who lent him a wheel, which they managed to put on, and we drove off
without being stopped by any of the boys. A little farther on I
saw something very odd on the side of the road before us. “What is
that?”—“Look to the other side—don't look at it!” cried Mr.
Edgeworth; and when we had passed he said it was a car turned up,
between the shafts of which a man was hung—murdered by the rebels.
We reached Edgeworthstown late in the evening. The family at that
time consisted of the two Miss Sneyds, Maria, Emmeline, Bessy,
Charlotte (Lovell was then at Edinburgh), Henry, Sneyd, Honora, and
William. Sneyd was not twelve years old, and the other two were much
younger. All agreed in making me feel at once at home, and part of the
family; all received me with the most unaffected cordiality: but from
Maria it was something more. She more than fulfilled the promise of her
letter; she made me at once her most intimate friend; and in all the
serious concerns of life, and in every trifle of the day, treated me
with the most generous confidence.
MARIA to MISS SOPHY RUXTON IN
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, June 20, '98.
Hitherto all has been quiet in our county, and we know nothing of
the dreadful disturbances in other parts of the country but what we see
in the newspapers. I am sorry my uncle and Richard were obliged to
leave you and my dear aunt, as I know the continual state of suspense
and anxiety in which you must live while they are away. I fear that we
may soon know by experience what you feel, for my father sees in
to-night's paper that Lord Cornwallis is coming over here as
Lord-Lieutenant; and he thinks it will be his duty to offer his
services in any manner in which they can be advantageous. Why cannot we
be left in peace to enjoy our happiness? that is all we have the
conscience to ask! We are indeed happy: the more I see of my friend and
mother, the more I love and esteem her, and the more I feel the truth
of all that I have heard you say in her praise. I do not think I am
much prejudiced by her partiality for me, though I do feel most
grateful for her kindness. I never saw my father at any period of his
life appear so happy as he does, and has done for this month past; and
you know that he tastes happiness as much as any human being
can. He is not of the number of those qui avalent leurs plaisirs, il
sait les gouter. So little change has been made in the way of
living, that you would feel as if you were going on with your usual
occupations and conversation amongst us. We laugh and talk, and enjoy
the good of every day, which is more than sufficient. How long this may
last we cannot tell. I am going on in the old way, writing stories. I
cannot be a captain of dragoons, and sitting with my hands before me
would not make any of us one degree safer. I know nothing more of
Practical Education: it is advertised to be published. I have
finished a volume of wee, wee stories, about the size of the “Purple
Jar,” all about Rosamond. “Simple Susan” went to Foxhall a few days
ago, for Lady Anne to carry to England.
My father has made our little room so nice for us; they are all
fresh painted and papered. O rebels! O French! spare them! We have
never injured you, and all we wish is to see everybody as happy as
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Aug. 29, '98.
We have this moment learned from the sheriff of this county, Mr.
Wilder, who has been at Athlone, that the French have got to Castlebar.
They changed clothes with some peasants, and so deceived our troops.
They have almost entirely cut off the carbineers, the Longford militia,
and a large body of yeomanry who opposed them. The Lord-Lieutenant is
now at Athlone, and it is supposed that it will be their next object of
attack. My father's corps of yeomanry are extremely attached to him,
and seem fully in earnest; but, alas! by some strange negligence their
arms have not yet arrived from Dublin. My father this morning sent a
letter by an officer going to Athlone, to Lord Cornwallis, offering his
services to convey intelligence or reconnoitre, as he feels himself in
a most terrible situation, without arms for his men, and no power of
being serviceable to his country. We who are so near the scene of
action cannot by any means discover what number of the French
actually landed: some say 800, some 1800, some 18,000, some 4000. The
troops march and countermarch, as they say themselves, without knowing
where they are going, or for what.
Poor Lady Anne Fox! [Footnote: Wife of Mr. Edgeworth's nephew.] she
is in a dreadful situation; so near her confinement she is unable to
move from Foxhall to any place of greater safety, and exposed every
moment to hear the most alarming reports. She shows admirable calmness
and strength of mind. Francis and Barry [Footnote: Brothers of the
fourth Mrs. Edgeworth.] set out to-morrow morning for England: as they
do not go near Conway, my father advises me not to send by them “Simple
Susan” and sundry other little volumes which I wish were in your kind
GOD send the French may soon go, and that you may soon come.
To MRS. RUXTON.
MRS. FALLON'S INN, LONGFORD,
Sept. 5, '98.
We are all safe and well, my dearest aunt, and have had two most
fortunate escapes from rebels and from the explosion of an ammunition
cart. Yesterday we heard, about ten o'clock in the morning, that a
large body of rebels, armed with pikes, were within a few miles of
Edgeworthstown. My father's yeomanry were at this moment gone to
Longford for their arms, which Government had delayed sending. We were
ordered to decamp, each with a small bundle: the two chaises full, and
my mother and Aunt Charlotte on horseback. We were all ready to move,
when the report was contradicted: only twenty or thirty men were now,
it was said, in arms, and my father hoped we might still hold fast to
our dear home.
Two officers and six dragoons happened at this moment to be on their
way through Edgeworthstown, escorting an ammunition cart from Mullingar
to Longford: they promised to take us under their protection, and the
officer came up to the door to say he was ready. My father most
fortunately detained us: they set out without us. Half an hour
afterwards, as we were quietly sitting in the portico, we heard—as we
thought close to us—a clap of thunder, which shook the house. The
officer soon afterwards returned, almost speechless; he could hardly
explain what had happened. The ammunition cart, containing nearly three
barrels of gunpowder, packed in tin cases, took fire and burst, halfway
on the road to Longford. The man who drove the cart was blown to
atoms—nothing of him could be found; two of the horses were killed,
others were blown to pieces and their limbs scattered to a distance;
the head and body of a man were found a hundred and twenty yards from
the spot. Mr. Murray was the name of the officer I am speaking of: he
had with him a Mr. Rochfort and a Mr. Nugent. Mr. Rochfort was thrown
from his horse, one side of his face terribly burnt, and stuck over
with gunpowder. He was carried into a cabin; they thought he would die,
but they now say he will recover. The carriage has been sent to take
him to Longford. I have not time or room, my dear aunt, to dilate or
tell you half I have to say. If we had gone with this ammunition, we
must have been killed.
An hour or two afterwards, however, we were obliged to fly from
Edgeworthstown. The pikemen, three hundred in number, actually were
within a mile of the town. My mother, Aunt Charlotte, and I rode;
passed the trunk of the dead man, bloody limbs of horses, and two dead
horses, by the help of men who pulled on our steeds: we are all safely
lodged now in Mrs. Fallon's inn.
* * * * *
Mrs. Edgeworth narrates:
Before we had reached the place where the cart had been blown up,
Mr. Edgeworth suddenly recollected that he had left on the table in his
study a list of the yeomanry corps, which he feared might endanger the
poor fellows and their families if it fell into the hands of the
rebels. He galloped back for it—it was at the hazard of his life—but
the rebels had not yet appeared. He burned the paper, and rejoined us
The landlady of the inn at Longford did all she could to make us
comfortable, and we were squeezed into the already crowded house. Mrs.
Billamore, our excellent housekeeper, we had left behind for the return
of the carriage which had taken Mr. Rochfort to Longford; but it was
detained, and she did not reach us till the next morning, when we
learned from her that the rebels had not come up to the house. They had
halted at the gate, but were prevented from entering by a man whom she
did not remember to have ever seen; but he was grateful to her for
having lent money to his wife when she was in great distress, and we
now, at our utmost need, owed our safety and that of the house to his
gratitude. We were surprised to find that this was thought by some to
be a suspicious circumstance, and that it showed Mr. Edgeworth to be a
favourer of the rebels! An express arrived at night to say the French
were close to Longford: Mr. Edgeworth undertook to defend the gaol,
which commanded the road by which the enemy must pass, where they could
be detained till the King's troops came up. He was supplied with men
and ammunition, and watched all night; but in the morning news came
that the French had turned in a different direction, and gone to
Granard, about seven miles off; but this seemed so unlikely, that Mr.
Edgeworth rode out to reconnoitre, and Henry went to the top of the
Court House to look out with a telescope. We were all at the windows of
a room in the inn looking into the street, when we saw people running,
throwing up their hats and huzzaing. A dragoon had just arrived with
the news that General Lake's army had come up with the French and the
rebels, and completely defeated them at a place called Ballinamuck,
near Granard. But we soon saw a man in a sergeant's uniform haranguing
the mob, not in honour of General Lake's victory, but against Mr.
Edgeworth; we distinctly heard the words, “that young Edgeworth ought
to be dragged down from the Court House.” The landlady was terrified;
she said Mr. Edgeworth was accused of having made signals to the French
from the gaol, and she thought the mob would pull down her house; but
they ran on to the end of the town, where they expected to meet Mr.
Edgeworth. We sent a messenger in one direction to warn him, while
Maria and I drove to meet him on the other road. We heard that he had
passed some time before with Major Eustace, the mob seeing an officer
in uniform with him went back to the town, and on our return we found
them safe at the inn. We saw the French prisoners brought in in the
evening, when Mr. Edgeworth went after dinner with Major Eustace to the
barrack. Some time after, dreadful yells were heard in the street: the
mob had attacked them on their return from the barrack—Major Eustace
being now in coloured clothes, they did not recognise him as an
officer. They had struck Mr. Edgeworth with a brickbat in the neck, and
as they were now, just in front of the inn, collaring the major, Mr.
Edgeworth cried out in a loud voice, “Major Eustace is in danger.”
Several officers who were at dinner in the inn, hearing the words
through the open window, rushed out sword in hand, dispersed the crowd
in a moment, and all the danger was over. The military patrolled the
streets, and the sergeant who had made all this disturbance was put
under arrest. He was a poor, half-crazed fanatic.
The next day, the 9th of September, we returned home, where
everything was exactly as we had left it, all serene and happy, five
days before—only five days, which seemed almost a lifetime, from the
dangers and anxiety we had gone through.
MARIA EDGEWORTH to MISS SOPHY
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Sept. 9, '98.
You will rejoice, I am sure, my dear Sophy, to see by the date of
this letter that we are safe back at Edgeworthstown. The scenes we have
gone through for some days past have succeeded one another like the
pictures in a magic-lantern, and have scarcely left the impression of
reality upon the mind. It all seems like a dream, a mixture of the
ridiculous and the horrid. “Oh ho!” says my aunt, “things cannot be
very bad with my brother, if Maria begins her letters with
magic-lantern and reflections on dreams.”
When we got into the town this morning we saw the picture of a
deserted, or rather a shattered village—many joyful faces greeted us
at the doors of the houses—none of the windows of the new houses in
Charlotte Row were broken: the mob declared they would not meddle with
them because they were built by the two good ladies, meaning my aunts.
Last night my father was alarmed at finding that both Samuel and
John, [Footnote: John Jenkins, a Welsh lad; both he and Samuel thought
better of it and remained in the service.] who had stood by him with
the utmost fidelity through the Longford business, were at length
panic-struck: they wished now to leave him. Samuel said: “Sir, I would
stay with you to the last gasp, if you were not so foolhardy,” and here
he cried bitterly; “but, sir, indeed you have not heard all I have
heard. I have heard about two hundred men in Longford swear they would
have your life.” All the town were during the whole of last night under
a similar panic, they were certain the violent Longford yeomen would
come and cut them to pieces. Last night was not pleasant, but this
morning was pleasant—and why it was a pleasant morning I will tell you
in my next.
I forgot to tell you of a remarkable event in the history of our
return; all the cats, even those who properly belong to the stable, and
who had never been admitted to the honours of the sitting in the
kitchen, all crowded round Kitty with congratulatory faces, crawling up
her gown, insisting upon caressing and being caressed when she
reappeared in the lower regions. Mr. Gilpin's slander against cats as
selfish, unfeeling animals is thus refuted by stubborn facts.
When Colonel Handfield told the whole story of the Longford mob to
Lord Cornwallis, he said he never saw a man so much astonished. Lord
Longford, Mr. Pakenham, and Major Edward Pakenham, have shown much
warmth of friendship upon this occasion.
Enclosed I send you a little sketch, which I traced from one my
mother drew for her father, of the situation of the field of battle at
Ballinamuck, it is about four miles from The Hills. My father, mother,
and I rode to look at the camp; perhaps you recollect a pretty turn in
the road, where there is a little stream with a three-arched bridge: in
the fields which rise in a gentle slope, on the right-hand side of this
stream, about sixty bell tents were pitched, the arms all ranged on the
grass; before the tents, poles with little streamers flying here and
there; groups of men leading their horses to water, others filling
kettles and black pots, some cooking under the hedges; the various
uniforms looked pretty; Highlanders gathering blackberries. My father
took us to the tent of Lord Henry Seymour, who is an old friend of his;
he breakfasted here to-day, and his plain English civility, and quiet
good sense, was a fine contrast to the mob, etc. Dapple, [Footnote:
Maria Edgeworth's horse.] your old acquaintance, did not like all the
sights at the camp as well as I did.
Oct 3, '98.
My father went to Dublin the day before yesterday, to see Lord
Cornwallis about the Court of Enquiry on the sergeant who harangued the
mob. About one o'clock to-day Lovell returned from the Assizes at
Longford with the news, met on the road, that expresses had come an
hour before from Granard to Longford, for the Reay Fencibles, and all
the troops; that there was another rising and an attack upon
Granard: four thousand men the first report said, seven hundred the
second. What the truth may be it is impossible to tell, it is certain
that the troops are gone to Granard, and it is yet more certain that
all the windows in this house are built halfway up, guns and bayonets
dispersed by Captain Lovell in every room. The yeomanry corps paraded
to-day, all steady: guard sitting up in house and in the town to-night.
All alive and well. A letter from my father: he stays to see Lord
Cornwallis on Friday. Deficient arms for the corps are given by Lord
* * * * *
Mrs. Edgeworth writes:
The sergeant was to have been tried at the next sessions, but he was
by this time ashamed and penitent, and Mr. Edgeworth did not press the
trial, but knowing the man was, among his other weaknesses, very much
afraid of ghosts, he said to him as he came out of the Court House, “I
believe, after all, you had rather see me alive than have my ghost
* * * * *
In 1798 Practical Education was published in two large octavo
volumes, bearing the joint names of Richard and Maria Edgeworth upon
their title-page. This was the first work of that literary partnership
of father and daughter which Maria Edgeworth describes as “the joy and
pride of my life.”
* * * * *
MARIA to MISS SOPHY RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Nov. 19, '98.
You have, I suppose, or are conscious that you ought to have,
whitlows upon your thumb and all your four fingers for not writing to
me! Tell me what you are saying and doing, and above all where you are
going. My father has taken me into a new partnership—we are writing a
comedy: will you come and see it acted? He is making a charming theatre
in the room over his study: it will be twice as large as old Poz's
little theatre in the dining-room. My aunt's woollen wig for old Poz is
in high estimation in the memory of man, woman, and child here. I give
you the play-bill:
Mrs. Fangle (a rich and whimsical widow) Emmeline.
Caroline (a sprightly heiress) Charlotte.
Jemima (Mrs. Fangle's waiting-maid) Bessy.
Sir Mordant Idem (in love with Mrs. Fangle,
and elderly, and hating anything new) Henry.
Opal (nephew to Sir Mordant, and hating
everything old, in love with Caroline,
and wild for illuminatism) Sneyd.
Count Babelhausen (a German illuminatus,
trying to marry either Mrs. Fangle or
Heliodorus and Christina (Mrs. Fangle's } William
children, on whom she tries strange } and
experiments) } Honora.
To explain illuminatism I refer you
to Robinson's book called Proofs of a Conspiracy. It was from
this book, which gives a history of the cheats of Freemasonry and
Illuminatism, that we took the idea of Count Babelhausen. The book is
tiresome, and no sufficient proofs given of the facts, but parts of it
will probably interest you.
Lovell has bought a fine apparatus and materials for a course of
chemical lectures which he is going to give us. The study is to be the
laboratory: I wish you were in it.
In the Monthly Review for October there is this anecdote.
After the King of Denmark, who was somewhat silly, had left Paris, a
Frenchman, who was in company with the Danish Ambassador, but did not
know him, began to ridicule the King—“Ma foi! il a une tete! une
tete—” “Couronnee,” replied the Ambassador, with presence of mind and
politeness. My father, who was much delighted with this answer, asked
Lovell, Henry, and Sneyd, without telling the right answer, what they
would have said.
Lovell: “A head—and a heart, sir.”
Henry: “A head—upon his shoulders.”
Sneyd: “A head—of a King.”
Tell me which answer you like best. Richard will take your
Practical Education to you.
* * * * *
The play mentioned in the foregoing letter was twice acted in
January 1799, with great applause, under the title of Whim for Whim.
Mr. Edgeworth's mechanism for the scenery, and for the experiments
tried on the children, were most ingenious. Mrs. Edgeworth painted the
scenery and arranged the dresses.
The day after the last performance of Whim for Whim, the
family went to Dublin for Mr. Edgeworth to attend Parliament, the last
Irish Parliament, he having been returned for the borough of St. John's
Town, in the County of Longford. In the spring Mrs. Edgeworth and Maria
accompanied him to England.
* * * * *
To MISS CHARLOTTE SNEYD.
DUBLIN, April 2, 1799.
In the paper of to-night you will see my father's farewell speech on
the Education Bill.
Some time ago, amongst some hints to the Chairman of the Committee
of Education, you sent one which I have pursued: you said that the
early lessons for the poor should speak with detestation of the spirit
of revenge: I have just finished a little story called “Forgive and
Forget,” upon this idea. I am now writing one on a subject recommended
to me by Dr. Beaufort, on the evils of procrastination; the title of it
is “By-and-Bye.” [Footnote: The title was afterwards changed to
“To-morrow.”] I am very much obliged to Bessy and Charlotte for copying
the Errata of Practical Education for me, and should be
extremely obliged to the whole Committee of Education and Criticism
at Edgeworthstown, if they would send corrections to me from their own
brains; the same eye (if I may judge by my own) can only see the same
things in looking over the book twenty times. Tell Sneyd that there is
a political print just come out, of a woman, meant for Hibernia,
dressed in orange and green, and holding a pistol in her hand to oppose
MRS. EDGEWORTH to MRS.
RICHMOND PLACE, CLIFTON,
May 26, '99.
We are very well settled here, and this house is quite retired and
quite quiet. The prospects are very beautiful, and we have charming
green fields in which we walk, and in which dear Sophy could botanise
at her ease.
A young man, a Mr. Davy,[Footnote: Sir Humphry Davy, the
distinguished chemist and philosopher, born 1778, died 1829.] at Dr.
Beddoes', who has applied himself much to chemistry, has made some
discoveries of importance, and enthusiastically expects wonders will be
performed by the use of certain gases, which inebriate in the most
delightful manner, having the oblivious effects of Lethe, and at the
same time giving the rapturous sensations of the Nectar of the Gods!
Pleasure even to madness is the consequence of this draught. But faith,
great faith, is I believe necessary to produce any effect upon the
drinkers, and I have seen some of the adventurous philosophers who
sought in vain for satisfaction in the bag of Gaseous Oxyd, and
found nothing but a sick stomach and a giddy head.
Our stay at Clifton was made very agreeable (writes Mrs. Edgeworth)
by the charm of Dr. and Mrs. Beddoes' society; [Footnote: Dr. Beddoes,
described by Sir Humphry Davy as “short and fat, with nothing
externally of genius or science,” was very peculiar. One of his
hobbies was to convey cows into invalids' bedrooms, that they might
“inhale the breath of the animals,” a prescription which naturally gave
umbrage to the Clifton lodging-house-keepers, who protested that they
had not built or furnished their rooms for the hoofs of cattle. Mrs.
Beddoes had a wonderful charm of wit and cheerfulness.] her grace,
genius, vivacity, and kindness, and his great abilities, knowledge, and
benevolence, rendered their house extremely pleasant. We met at Clifton
Mr. and Mrs. Barbauld. He was an amiable and benevolent man, so eager
against the slave-trade, that when he drank tea with us, he always
brought some East India sugar, that he might not share our wickedness
in eating that made by the negro slave. Mrs. Barbauld, whose
Evenings at Home had so much delighted Maria and her father, was
very pretty, and conversed with great ability in admirable language.
MARIA to MRS. RUXTON.
CLIFTON, June 5, 1799.
Good news, my dearest aunt, my mother is fast asleep: she has a fine
little daughter, who has just finished eating a hearty supper. At nine
minutes before six this evening, to my great joy, my little sister
Fanny came into the world.
We are impatient for dear Sophy's arrival. My father sends his
kindest love to his dear sister, who has been always the sharer of his
pains and pleasures. I said my mother was asleep, and though my father
and I talk in our sleep, all people do not; if she did, I am sure she
would say, “Love to my Sister Ruxton, and my friend Letty.”
* * * * *
During this summer the Edgeworths visited Dr. Darwin, whom Maria
Edgeworth considered not only a first-rate genius, but one of the most
benevolent, as well as wittiest of men. He stuttered, but far from this
lessening the charm of his conversation, Miss Edgeworth used to say
that the hesitation and slowness with which his words came forth added
to the effect of his humour and shrewd good sense. Dr. Darwin's sudden
death, 17th April 1802, whilst he was writing to Mr. Edgeworth, was a
great sorrow to his Irish friends.
The family returned home in September 1799.
* * * * *
MARIA to MISS RUXTON, LIVING AT ARUNDEL IN SUSSEX.
Jan, 29, 1800.
More precious to us than Arundelian marbles are letters from
Arundel, and after an interval of almost three months dear Sophy's
letter was most welcome. I have no complaints to make of you—sorrow
bit of right have I to complain of you. Some time ago we took a walk to
see the old castle of Cranalagh, from which in the last Rebellion (but
one) Lady Edgeworth was turned out: part of it, just enough to swear
by, remains to this day, and with a venerable wig of ivy at top cuts a
very respectable figure; and, moreover, there are some of the finest
laurels and hollies there that I ever saw, and as fine a smell of a
pigsty as ever I smelt, and an arbor-vitae tree, of which I gathered a
leaf, and thought that I and my gloves should never for the remainder
of our lives get rid of the smell of bad apples, of which this same
tree of life smells. But I have not yet come to the thing I was going
to say about the castle of Cranalagh, viz.—for I love old-fashioned
viz.—when we got near the ruined castle, out comes a barking dog, just
such another as assailed us at the old castle near Black Castle, to
which we walked full fifteen years ago; the first walk I ever took with
Sophy, and how she got home without her shoe, to this hour I cannot
comprehend. It was this barking dog which brought you immediately to my
mind, and if I have given you too much of it you must forgive me. Now
we are upon the subject of old castles, do you remember my retailing to
you, at second hand, a description of my father's visit to the Marquis
de la Poype's old chateau in Dauphiny, with the cavern of bats and
stalactites? A little while ago my father received a letter in a
strange hand, which I copy for my aunt and you, as I think it will
please you as it did us, to see that this old friend of my father's
remembers him with so much kindness through all the changes and chances
that have happened in France. The letter is from the Marquis de la
Poype, who addressed it to the Abbe Edgeworth, in hopes that the Abbe
could transmit it to my father—the lines at the end are in the Abbe's
own hand—the handwriting of so great and good a man is a curiosity.
Before this reaches you my father will be in Dublin, he goes on
Saturday next to the call of the House for the grand Union business.
Tell my aunt that he means to speak on the subject on Monday. His
sentiments are unchanged: that the Union would be advantageous to all
the parties concerned, but that England has not any right to do to
Ireland good against her will.
Will you tell me what means you have of getting parcels from London
to Arundel? because I wish to send to my aunt a few “Popular Tales,”
which I have finished, as they cannot be wanted for some months by Mr.
Johnson. We have begged Johnson to send Castle Rackrent,
[Footnote: Published without the author's name in 1800]. I hope it has
reached you: do not mention to any one that it is ours. Have you seen
Minor Morals, by Mrs. Smith? There is in it a beautiful little
botanical poem called the “Calendar of Flora.”
* * * * *
Castle Rackrent, the story of an Irish estate, as told by
Thady, the old steward, was first published anonymously in 1800. Its
combination of Irish humour and pathos, and its illustration of the
national character, first led Walter Scott to try his own skill in
depicting Scottish character in the same way. “If I could,” he said to
James Ballantyne, “but hit Miss Edgeworth's wonderful power of
vivifying all her persons, and making them live as beings in
your mind, I should not be afraid.” With the publication of Castle
Rackrent, which was intended to depict the follies of fashionable
life, and was speedily followed by Belinda [Footnote: There is
no doubt that Belinda was much marred by the alterations made by
Mr. Edgeworth, in whose wisdom and skill his far cleverer daughter had
unlimited and touching confidence.] the Edgeworths immediately became
famous, and the books were at once translated into French and German.
* * * * *
MARIA EDGEWORTH to MISS SOPHY RUXTON.
Oct. 20, 1800.
This morning dear Henry [Footnote: Eldest son of Mrs. Elizabeth
Edgeworth.] took leave of home, and set out for Edinburgh. “God prosper
him,” as I in the language of a fond old nurse keep continually saying
Mr. Chenevix, a famous chemist, was so good as to come here lately
to see my father upon the faith of Mr. Kirwan's assurance that he would
“like Mr. Edgeworth.” I often wished for you, my dear Sophy, whilst
this gentleman was here, because you would have been so much
entertained with his conversation about bogs, and mines, and airs, and
acids, etc. etc. His history of his imprisonment during the French
Revolution in Paris, I found more to my taste. When he was thrown into
prison he studied Chaptal and Lavoisier's Chemistry with all his
might, and then represented himself as an English gentleman come over
to study chemistry in France, and M. Chaptal got him released, and
employed him, and he got acquainted with all the chemists and
scientific men in France. Mr. Chenevix has taken a house in Brook
Street, London, and turned the cellar into a laboratory; the people
were much afraid to let it to him, they expected he would blow it up.
Dec. 2, 1800.
My mother has had a sore throat, and Aunt Charlotte and Honora have
had feverish attacks, and John Jenkins has had fever, so that my father
was obliged to remove him to his own house in the village. There has
been and is a fever in the lanes of Edgeworthstown, and so quickly does
ill news fly, that this got before us to Collon, to the Speaker's,
where we were invited, and had actually set out last week to spend a
few days there. When we got to Allenstown, we were told that a servant
from the Speaker's had arrived with a letter, and had gone on to
Edgeworthstown with it: we waited for his return with the letter, which
was to forbid our going to Collon, as Mrs. Foster, widow of the Bishop,
was there with her daughters, and was afraid of our bringing infection!
We performed quarantine very pleasantly for a week at Allenstown. Mrs.
Waller's inexhaustible fund of kindness and generosity is like
Aboulcasin's treasure, it is not only inexhaustible, but take what you
will from it it cannot be perceptibly diminished. Harriet Beaufort
[Footnote: Sister of Mrs. Edgeworth.] is indeed a charming excellent
girl; I love and esteem her more and more as I know her better: she has
been at different times between three and four months in the house with
us, and I have had full opportunities of seeing down to the kitchen,
and up to the garret of her mind.
You are so near Johnson, [Footnote: The bookseller.] that you must
of course know more of Maria's sublime works than Maria knows of them
herself; and besides Lovell, who thinks of them ten times more than
Johnson, has not let you rest in ignorance. An octavo edition of
Practical Education is to come out at Christmas: we have seen a
volume, which looks as well as can be expected. The two first parts of
Early Lessons, containing Harry and Lucy, two wee, wee volumes,
have just come over to us. Frank and Rosamond will, I suppose, come
after with all convenient speed. How Moral Tales are arranged,
or in what size they are to appear, I do not know, but I guess they
will soon be published, because some weeks ago we received four
engravings for frontispieces; they are beautifully engraved by Neagle,
and do justice to the designs, two of which are by my mother, and two
by Charlotte. I hope you will like them. There are three stories which
will be new to you, “The Knapsack,” “The Prussian Vase,” and
Now, my dear friend, you cannot say that I do not tell you what I am
doing. My father is employed making out Charts of History and
Chronology, such as are mentioned in Practical Education. He has
just finished a little volume containing Explanations of Poetry for
children: it explains “The Elegy in a Country Churchyard,” “L'Allegro,”
“Il Penseroso,” and “The Ode to Fear.” It will be a very useful
schoolbook. It goes over to-night to Johnson, but how long it will
remain with him before you see it in print I cannot divine.
* * * * *
Mrs. Edgeworth narrates:
Belinda was published in 1801. Maria was at Black Castle when
the first copy reached her; she contrived, before her aunt saw it, to
tear out the title-pages of the three volumes, and her aunt read it
without the least suspicion of who was the author, and excessively
entertained and delighted, she insisted on Maria's listening to passage
after passage as she went on. Maria affected to be deeply interested in
some book she held in her hand, and when Mrs. Ruxton exclaimed, “Is not
that admirably written?” Maria coldly replied, “Admirably read, I
think.” And then her aunt, as if she had said too much, added, “It may
not be so very good, but it shows just the sort of knowledge of high
life which people have who live in the world.” Then again and again she
called upon Maria for her sympathy, till quite provoked at her faint
acquiescence, she at last accused her of being envious: “I am sorry to
see my little Maria unable to bear the praises of a rival author.”
At this Maria burst into tears, and showing her aunt the title-page
she declared herself the author. But Mrs. Ruxton was not pleased—she
never liked Belinda afterwards, and Maria had always a painful
recollection of her aunt's suspecting her of the meanness of envy.
In 1801 a second edition of Castle Rackrent was published,
“By Maria Edgeworth,” as its success was so triumphant that some one—I
heard his name at the time but do not now remember it, and it is better
forgotten—not only asserted that he was the author, but actually took
the trouble to copy out several pages with corrections and erasures, as
if it was his original MS.!
The Essay on Irish Bulls was published in 1802, “By R.L.
Edgeworth and Maria Edgeworth, author of Castle Rackrent.” A
gentleman, much interested in improving the breed of Irish cattle,
sent, on seeing the advertisement, for this work on Irish Bulls; he was
rather confounded by the appearance of the classical bull at the top of
the first page, which I had designed from a gem, and when he began to
read the book he threw it away in disgust: he had purchased it as
Secretary to the Irish Agricultural Society.
* * * * *
Of the partnership in this book, Miss Edgeworth writes long
* * * * *
The first design of the essay was my father's; under the semblance
of attack, he wished to show the English public the eloquence, wit, and
talents of the lower classes of people in Ireland. Working zealously
upon the ideas which he suggested, sometimes what was spoken by him was
afterwards written by me; or when I wrote my first thoughts, they were
corrected and improved by him; so that no book was ever written more
completely in partnership. On this, as on most subjects, whether light
or serious, when we wrote together, it would now be difficult, almost
impossible, to recollect which thoughts were originally his and which
The notes on the Dublin shoeblacks' metaphorical language are
chiefly his. I have heard him tell that story with all the natural,
indescribable Irish tones and gestures of which written language can
give but a faint idea. He excelled in imitating the Irish, because he
never overstepped the modesty or the assurance of nature. He marked
exquisitely the happy confidence, the shrewd wit of the people, without
condescending to produce effect by caricature. He knew not only their
comic talents, but their powers of pathos; and often when he had just
heard from me some pathetic complaint, he has repeated it to me while
the impression was fresh. In his chapter on Wit and Eloquence in
Irish Bulls, there is a speech of a poor free-holder to a candidate
who asked for his vote: this speech was made to my father when he was
canvassing the county of Longford. It was repeated to me a few hours
afterwards, and I wrote it down instantly without, I believe, the
variation of a word.
To MISS RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Aug. 1, 1802.
You are a goose or a gosling, whichever you like best, for I
perceive you are in great anxiety lest my poor little imagination
should not have been completely set to rights. Now set your heart at
ease, for I, putting my left hand upon my heart, because I could not
conveniently put my right, which holds the pen, though I acknowledge
that would be much more graceful, do hereby declare that I perfectly
understood and understand the explanation contained in your last, and
am fully satisfied, righted, and delighted therewith.
I have been much interested by the Letters from Lausanne; I
think them in some parts highly pathetic and eloquent, but as to the
moral tendency of the book I cannot find it out, turn it which way I
will. I think the author wrote merely with the intention of showing how
well he could paint passion, and he has succeeded. The Savage of
Aveyron [Footnote: A little history of a boy found in France, “a wild
man of the woods.” He was brought to Paris, and the philosophers
disputed much on his mental powers; but he died before they came to any
conclusion.] is a thousand times more interesting to me than Caliste. I
have not read anything for years that interested me so much. Mr.
Chenevix will be here in a few days, when we will cross-question him
about this savage, upon whom the eyes of civilised Europe have been
fixed. Mr. Chenevix and his sister, Mrs. Tuite, and with them Mrs.
Jephson, spent a day here last week: she is clever and agreeable. What
did you think of M. Pictet's account of Edgeworthstown?
* * * * *
Professor Marc-Auguste Pictet, of Geneva, visited the Edgeworths
this summer, coming over from Mr. Tuite's, of Sonna, where he was
staying with Mr. Chenevix. He afterwards published an interesting
account of his visit to Edgeworthstown in the Bibliotheque
Britannique, as well as in his Voyage de trois mots en
Angleterre, which was published at Geneva in 1802. Of Maria
Edgeworth he says:
* * * * *
I had persuaded myself that the author of the work on Education, and
of other productions, useful as well as ornamental, would betray
herself by a remarkable exterior. I was mistaken. A small figure, eyes
nearly always lowered, a profoundly modest and reserved air, with
expression in the features when not speaking: such was the result of my
first survey. But when she spoke, which was too rarely for my taste,
nothing could have been better thought, and nothing better said, though
always timidly expressed, than that which fell from her mouth.
* * * * *
M. Pictet's account of the society at Paris induced Mr. Edgeworth to
determine on going there. He set out in the middle of September, with
Mrs. Edgeworth, Maria, Emmeline, and Charlotte. Emmeline left the rest
of the family at Conway, and went to stay with Mrs. Beddoes at Clifton,
where she was married to Mr. King (or Konig, a native of Berne), a
In London Mr. Edgeworth purchased a roomy coach, in which his family
travelled very comfortably.
* * * * *
MARIA EDGEWORTH to MISS SOPHY RUXTON.
LOUGHBOROUGH, Sept. 25, 1802.
I calculate, my dear Sophy, that you have accused me at least a
hundred times of being lazy and good-for-nothing, because I have not
written since we left Dublin; but do not be angry, I was not well
during the time we were in Dublin, nor for two or three days after we
landed: but three days' rest at Bangor Ferry recovered me completely,
and thanks to Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet, and Dr. Merryman, I am now in
perfectly good plight.
To take up things at the beginning. We had a tedious passage, but
Charlotte and I sat upon deck, and were well enough to be much amused
with all the manoeuvring of the sails, etc. The light reflected upon
the waters from the lighthouse contracted instead of diverging: I
mention this, because there was an argument held upon the subject
either at Black Castle or at Collon. As we were all sitting upon deck
drinking tea in the morning, a large, very large, woman who was reading
opposite to us, fell from her seat with a terrible noise. We all
thought she had fallen down dead: the gentlemen gathered round her, and
when she was lifted up, she was a shocking spectacle, her face covered
with blood, she had fallen upon one of the large nails in the deck. She
recovered her senses, but when she was carried down to the cabin she
fainted again, and remained two hours senseless. “She has a mother,
ma'am,” said the steward, “who is lying a-dying at Holyhead, and she
frets greatly for her.” We were told afterwards that this lady has for
twenty years crossed the sea annually to visit her mother, though she
never could make the passage without swooning. She was a coarse,
housekeeper-looking woman, without any pretence to sentimentality, but
I think she showed more affection and real heroism than many who have
been immortalised by the pen or pencil.
Nothing new or entertaining from Holyhead to Bangor. A delightful
day at Bangor, pleasant walk: Charlotte drew some Welsh peasants and
children: we tried to talk to them, but Dumsarzna, or words to
that effect, “I don't understand English,” was the constant answer, and
the few who could speak English seemed to have no wish to enter into
conversation with us: the farmers intrenched themselves in their houses
and shut their doors as fast as they could when we approached. From
Bangor Ferry we took a pleasant excursion to Carnarvon—do not be
afraid, I shall not give you a long description of the castle—I know
you have seen it, but I wish I knew whether you and I saw it with the
same ideas. I could not have conceived that any building or ruin could
have appeared to me so sublime. The amazing size! the distinctness of
the parts! the simplicity of the design, the thickness of the walls,
the air of grandeur even in decay! In the courtyard of the castle an
old horse and three cows were grazing, and beneath the cornices on the
walls two goats, half black half white, were browsing. I believe that
old castles interest one by calling up ideas of past times, which are
in such strong contrast with the present. In the courtyard of this
castle were brewing vessels in vaults which had formerly perhaps been
dungeons, and pitched sails stretched upon the walls to dry: the spirit
of old romance and modern manufactures do not agree.
Mr. Waitman, the landlord of the Carnarvon Hotel, accompanied us to
the castle, and he was indeed a glorious contrast to the enthusiastic
old man who showed the ruins. This old man's eyes brightened when he
talked of the Eagle Tower, and he seemed to forget that he had a
terrible asthma whilst he climbed the flights of stone stairs. Our
landlord, a thorough Englishman, in shrewd, wilful independence,
entertained my father by his character and conversation, and pleased
him by his praises of Lovell, of whom he spoke with much gratitude. We
returned at night to Bangor Ferry. Early next morning my father and
mother, on two Welsh ponies, trotted off to see Lord Penrhyn's slate
quarries. We had orders to follow them in a few hours. In the meantime
who do you think arrived? Mr. and Mrs. Saunderson, with all their
children. They seemed as glad to see me as I was to see them. They had
intended to go another road, but went on to Conway on purpose to spend
the day with us. A most pleasant day we did spend with them. They were
going to Bristol to see their son, and when they found that Emmeline
was going there, they offered in the kindest and most polite manner to
take her with them. We parted with Emmeline and with them the next
morning; they went to Keniogy, which I can't spell, and we went to
Holywell, and saw the copper works, a vast manufactory, in which there
seemed to be no one at work. We heard and saw large wheels turning
without any visible cause, “instinct with spirit all.” At first nothing
but the sound of dripping water, then a robin began to sing amongst the
rafters of the high and strange roof. The manufactory in which the men
were at work was a strong contrast to this desolate place, a stunning
noise, Cyclops with bared arms dragging sheets of red-hot copper, and
thrusting it between the cylinders to flatten it; while it passed
between these, the flame issued forth with a sort of screeching noise.
When I first heard it I thought somebody was hurt: the flame was
occasioned by the burning of the grease put between the rollers. There
were a number of children employed drawing straight lines on the sheets
of copper, ready for a man with a large pair of shears to cut. The
whole process was simple.
Saw the famous well, in which the spring supplies a hundred tuns a
minute. Went on to Chester and Newcastle, in hopes of finding Jos.
Wedgwood at Etruria: were told he was not in the country, but just as
our chaise whips up, papa espied Wedgwood's partner, who told him Jos.
was at Etruria: came last night, would stay but one day. Went to
Etruria, Jos. received us as you would expect, and all the time I was
with him I had full in my recollection the handsome manner in which you
told me he spoke of my father. The mansion-house at Etruria is
excellent; but, alas! the Wedgwoods have bought an estate in
Dorsetshire, and are going to leave Etruria. I do not mean that they
have given up their share in the manufactory. Saw a flint mill worked
by a steam-engine just finished, cannot stay to describe it—for two
reasons, because I cannot describe it intelligibly, and because I want
to get on to the Priory to Mrs. and the Miss Darwins. Poor Dr. Darwin!
[Footnote: Dr. Darwin died 17th April 1802.] It was melancholy to go to
that house to which, in the last lines he ever wrote, he had invited
us. The servants in deep mourning: Mrs. Darwin and her beautiful
daughters in deep mourning. She was much affected at seeing my father,
and seemed to regret her husband as such a husband ought to be
regretted. I liked her exceedingly; there was so much heart, and so
little constraint or affectation in all she said and did, or looked.
There was a charming picture of Dr. Darwin in the room, in which his
generous soul appeared and his penetrating benevolent genius. How
unlike the wretched misanthropic print we have seen! While I am writing
this at Loughborough, my father is a few miles off at Castle
Donnington. I forgot to tell you that we spent a delightful day, or
remnant of a day, on our return from the Priory, at Mr. Strutt's.
To MRS. MARY SNEYD.
LONDON, NEROT'S HOTEL, Sept. 27, 1802.
We have been here about an hour, and next to the pleasure of washing
face and hands, which were all covered with red Woburn sand and
Dunstable chalk, and London dust, comes the pleasure of writing to you,
my dear good Aunt Mary. How glad I should be to give you any proof of
gratitude for the many large and little kindnesses you have shown to
me. There is no one in the world who can deserve to be thought of more
at all times, and in all situations, than you; for there is no one
thinks so much of others. As long as there is any one worth your loving
upon earth, you cannot be unhappy. I think you would have been very apt
to make the speech attributed to St. Theresa: “Le pauvre Diable! comme
je le plains! Il ne peut rien aimer. Ah! qu'il doit etre malheureux!”
But whilst I am talking sentiment you may be impatient for news. The
first and best news is, that my father is extremely well. Travelling,
he says, has done him a vast deal of good, and whoever looks at him
believes him. It would be well for all faces if they had that effect on
the spectators, or rather perhaps it would be ill for the credulous
spectators. Isabella of Aragon, or Lord Chesterfield, or both,
call a good countenance the best letter of recommendation. Whenever
Nature gives false letters of recommendation, she swindles in the most
abominable manner. Where she refuses them where they are best deserved,
she only gives additional motive for exertion (vide Socrates or
his bust).[Footnote: An alabaster bust of Socrates, which stood on the
chimney-piece in the drawing-room at Black Castle.] And after all,
Nature is forced out of her letters of recommendation sooner or later.
You know that it is said by Lavater, that the muscles of
Socrates' countenance are beautiful, and these became so by the play
given to them by the good passions, etc. etc. etc.
Charlotte tells me she carried you in her last as far as
Loughborough and Castle Donnington, will you be so good to go on to
Leicester with me? But before we set out for Leicester, I should like
to take you to Castle Donnington, “the magnificent seat of the Earl of
Moira.” But then how can I do that, when I did not go there myself? Oh!
I can describe after a description as well as my betters have done
before me in prose and verse, and a description of my father's is
better than the reality seen with my own eyes. The first approach to
Donnington disappointed him; he looked round and saw neither castle,
nor park, nor anything to admire till he came to the top of a hill,
when in the valley below suddenly appeared the turrets of a castle,
surpassing all he had conceived of light and magnificent in
architecture: a real castle! not a modern, bungling imitation. The
inside was suitable in grandeur to the outside; hall, staircase,
antechambers; the library fitted up entirely with books in plain
handsome mahogany bookcases, not a frippery ornament, everything grand,
but not gaudy; marble tables, books upon the tables; nothing littered,
but sufficient signs of living and occupied beings. At the upper end of
the room sat two ladies copying music: a gentleman walking about with a
book in his hand: neither Lord Moira nor Lady Charlotte Rawdon in the
room. The gentleman, Mr. Sedley, not having an instinct like
Mademoiselle Panache for a gentleman, did not, till Lord Moira entered
the room and received my father with open arms, feel sure that he was
worthy of more than monosyllable civility. Lord Moira took the utmost
pains to show my father that he was pleased with his visit, said he
must have the pleasure of showing him over the house himself, and
finished by giving him a letter to the Princess Joseph de Monaco, who
is now at Paris. She was Mrs. Doyle. He also sent to Mrs. Edgeworth the
very finest grapes I ever beheld. I wished the moment I saw them, my
dear aunt, that you had a bunch of them.
We proceeded to Leicester. Handsome town, good shops: walked whilst
dinner was getting ready to a circulating library. My father asked for
Belinda, Bulls, etc., found they were in good repute—Castle
Rackrent in better—the others often borrowed, but Castle
Rackrent often bought. The bookseller, an open-hearted man, begged
us to look at a book of poems just published by a Leicester lady, a
Miss Watts. I recollected to have seen some years ago a specimen of
this lady's proposed translation of Tasso, which my father had highly
admired. He told the bookseller that we would pay our respects to Miss
Watts, if it would be agreeable to her. When we had dined, we set out
with our enthusiastic bookseller. We were shown by the light of a
lanthorn along a very narrow passage between high walls, to the door of
a decent-looking house: a maid-servant, candle in hand, received us.
“Be pleased, ladies, to walk upstairs.” A neatish room, nothing
extraordinary in it except the inhabitants. Mrs. Watts, a tall,
black-eyed, prim, dragon-looking woman in the background. Miss Watts, a
tall young lady in white, fresh colour, fair thin oval face, rather
pretty. The moment Mrs. Edgeworth entered, Miss Watts, mistaking her
for the authoress, darted forward with arms, long thin arms,
outstretched to their utmost swing, “OH, WHAT AN HONOUR THIS IS!!” each
word and syllable rising in tone till the last reached a scream.
Instead of embracing my mother, as her first action threatened, she
started back to the farthest end of the room, which was not light
enough to show her attitude distinctly, but it seemed to be intended to
express the receding of awestruck admiration—stopped by the wall.
Charlotte and I passed by unnoticed, and seated ourselves by the old
lady's desire: she after many twistings of her wrists, elbows, and
neck, all of which appeared to be dislocated, fixed herself in her
armchair, resting her hands on the black mahogany splayed
elbows. Her person was no sooner at rest than her eyes and all her
features began to move in all directions. She looked like a nervous and
suspicious person electrified. She seemed to be the acting partner in
this house to watch over her treasure of a daughter, to supply her with
worldly wisdom, to look upon her as a phoenix, and—scold her. Miss
Watts was all ecstasy and lifting up of hands and eyes, speaking always
in that loud, shrill, theatrical tone with which a puppet-master
supplies his puppets. I all the time sat like a mouse. My father asked,
“Which of those ladies, madam, do you think is your sister
authoress?”—“I am no physiognomist”—in a screech—“but I do imagine
that to be the lady,” bowing as she sat almost to the ground, and
pointing to Mrs. Edgeworth. “No, guess again.”—“Then that must be
she” bowing to Charlotte. “No.”—“Then this lady,” looking forward
to see what sort of an animal I was, for she had never seen me till
this instant. To make me some amends, she now drew her chair close to
me, and began to pour forth praises: “Lady Delacour, O! Letters for
Literary Ladies, O!”
Now for the pathetic part. This poor girl sold a novel in four
volumes for ten guineas to Lane. My father is afraid, though she has
considerable talents, to recommend her to Johnson, lest she should not
answer. Poor girl, what a pity she had no friend to direct her
talents; how much she made me feel the value of mine!
To MISS SOPHY RUXTON.
BRUSSELS, Oct. 15, 1802.
After admiring on the ramparts of Calais the Poissardes with their
picturesque nets, ugly faces, and beautiful legs, we set out for
Gravelines, with whips clacking in a manner which you certainly cannot
forget. The stillness and desolation of Gravelines was like the city in
the Arabian Tales where every one is turned into stone. Fortifications
constructed by the famous Vauban, lunes, and demi-lunes, and curtains,
all which did not prevent the French from trotting through it.
We left Gravelines with an equipage at which Sobriety herself could
not have forborne to laugh: to our London coach were fastened by long
rope traces six Flemish horses of different heights, but each large and
clumsy enough to draw an English waggon. The nose of the foremost horse
was thirty-five feet from the body of the coach, their hoofs all
shaggy, their manes all uncombed, and their tails long enough to please
Sir Charles Grandison himself. These beasts were totally disencumbered
of every sort of harness except one strap which fastened the saddle on
their backs; and high, high upon their backs, sat perfectly
perpendicular, long-waisted postillions in jack-boots, with pipes in
their mouths. The country appeared one vast flat common, without
hedges, or ditches, or trees, tiled farmhouses of equal size and
similar form at even distances. All that the power of monotony can do
to put a traveller to sleep is here tried; but the rattling and jolting
on the paved roads set Morpheus and monotony both at defiance. To
comfort ourselves we had a most entertaining Voyage dans les Pays
Bas par M. Breton to read, and the charming story of Mademoiselle
de Clermont in Madame de Genlis's Petits Romans. I never read a
more pathetic and finely written tale.
Dunkirk is an ugly, bustling town. Strange-looking charettes,
driven by thin men in cocked hats,—the window-shutters turned out to
the streets and painted by way of signs with various commodities. A
variety of things, among them little shifts, petticoats, and corsets,
were fairly spread upon the ground on the bridges and in the streets.
The famous basin, about which there have been such disputes, is little
worth. Voltaire wonders at the English and French waging war “for a few
acres of snow”; he might with equal propriety have laughed at them for
fighting about a slop-basin. The pont-tournant is well
worth seeing, and for those who have strong legs and who have
breakfasted, it is worth while to climb the two hundred and sixty-four
steps of the tower. Whilst we were climbing the town clock struck, and
the whole tower vibrated, and the vibration communicated itself to our
ears and heads in a most sublime and disagreeable manner.
At Dunkirk we entered what was formerly called L'ancien Brabant, and
all things and all persons began to look like Dutch prints and Dutch
toys, especially the women with their drop earrings, and their
necklaces like the labels of decanters, their long-waisted,
long-flapped jackets of one colour, and stiff petticoats of another.
Even when moving the people all looked like wooden toys set in motion
by strings—the strings in Flanders must be of gold: the Flemings seem
to be all a money-making, money-loving people: they are fast recovering
their activity after the Revolution.
The road to Bruges, fifty feet broad, solidly paved in the middle,
seems, like all French and Flemish roads, to have been laid out by some
inflexible mathematician: they are always right lines, the shortest
possible between two points. The rows of trees on each side of these
never-ending avenues are of the ugliest sort and figure possible: tall
poplars stripped almost to the top, as you would strip a pen, and
pollarded willows: the giant poplar and the dwarf willow placed side by
side alternately, knight and squire. The postillions have badges like
the badges of charity schools, strapped round their arms; these are
numbered and registered, and if they behave ill, a complaint may be
lodged against them by merely writing their names on the register,
which excludes them from a pension, to which they would be entitled if
they behaved well for a certain number of years. The post-houses are
often lone, wretched places, one into which I peeped, a grenier,
like that described by Smollett, in which the murdered body is
concealed. At another post-house we met with a woman calling herself a
servante, to whom we took not only an aversion, but a horror;
Charlotte said that she should be afraid, not of that woman's cutting
her throat, but that she would take a mallet and strike her head flat
at one blow. Do you remember the woman in Caleb Williams, when
he wakens and sees her standing over him with an uplifted hatchet? Our
servante might have stood for this picture.
Bruges is a very old, desolate-looking town, which seems to have
felt in common with its fellow-towns the effects of the Revolution. As
we were charged very high at the Hotel d'Angleterre, at Dunkirk, my
father determined to go to the Hotel de Commerce at Bruges, an old
strange house which had been a monastery: the man chamber-maid led us
through gallery after gallery, up stairs and down stairs, turning all
manner of ways, with a bunch of keys in his hand, each key ticketed
with a pewter ticket. There were twenty-eight bed-chambers: thank
heaven we did not see them all! I never shall forget the feeling I had
when the door of the room was thrown open in which we were to sleep. It
was so large and so dark, that I could scarcely see the low bed in a
recess in the wall, covered with a dark brown quilt. I am sure Mrs.
Radcliffe might have kept her heroine wandering about this room for six
good pages. When we meet I will tell Margaret of the night Charlotte
and I spent in this room, and the footsteps we heard overhead—just a
room and just a night to suit her taste.
In the morning we went to see the Central School; it is in what was
an old monastery, and the church belonging to it is filled with
pictures collected from all the suppressed convents, monasteries, and
churches. Buonaparte has lately restored some of their pictures to the
churches, but those by Rubens and Raphael are at Paris. In the cabinet
of natural history there is the skeleton and the skin of a man who was
guillotined, as fine white leather as ever you saw. The preparations
for these Ecoles Centrales are all too vast and ostentatious: the
people are just beginning to send their children to them. Government
finds them too expensive, and their number is to be diminished. The
librarian of this Ecole Centrale at Bruges is an Englishman, or rather
a Jamaica man, of the name of Edwards. Brian Edwards was his great
friend, and he was well acquainted with Johnson the bookseller, and Dr.
Aikin, and Mr. and Mrs. Barbauld. Mr. Edwards and his son had often met
Lovell at Johnson's, and spoke of him quite with affection. The two
sons spent the evening with us, and they and their father accompanied
us next morning part of our way to Ghent. We went by the canal barque,
as elegant as any pleasure-boat I ever was in. My father entertained
the Edwards with the history of his physiognomical guesses in a
stage-coach. The eldest son piques himself upon telling character from
handwriting. He was positive that mine could not be the hand of a
woman, and then he came off by saying it was the writing of a manly
character! We had an extremely fine day, and the receding prospect of
Bruges, with its mingled spires, shipping, and windmills, the tops of
their giant vanes moving above the trees, gave a pleasing example of a
Flemish landscape, recalling the pictures of Teniers and the prints of
Le Bas. We had good and agreeable company on board our barque, the
Mayor of Bruges and his lady; her friend, a woman of good family; and
an old Baron Triste, of a sixteen-quartering family. At the name of
Mayor of Bruges, you probably represent to yourself a fat, heavy,
formal, self-sufficient mortal—tout au contraire: our Mayor was
a thin gentleman, of easy manners, literature, and amusing
conversation: Madame, a beautiful Provinciale. M. Lerret, the Mayor,
found us out to be the Edgeworths described by M. Pictet in the
Journal Britannique. Since we came to France we have found M.
Pictet's account very useful, for at every public library, and in every
Ecole Centrale, the Journal Britannique is taken, and we have
consequently received many civilities. It was Sunday, and when we
arrived at Ghent, all the middling people of the town in their holiday
clothes were assembled on the banks of the canal according to custom to
see the barque arrive: they made the scene very cheerful. The old Baron
de Triste, though he had not dined, and though he had, as he said of
himself, “un faim de diable,” stayed to battle our coach and trunks
through an army of custom-house officers. We stayed two days at Ghent,
and saw pictures and churches without number. Here were some fine
pictures by that Crayer of whom Rubens said, “Crayer! personne ne te
surpassera!” Do not be afraid, my dear Sophy, I am not going to
overwhelm you with pictures, nor to talk of what I don't understand;
but it is extremely agreeable to me to see paintings with those who
have excellent taste and no affectation. At the Ecole Centrale was a
smart little librarian, to whom we were obliged for getting the doors
of the cathedral opened to us at night: we went in by moonlight,
the appearance was sublime; lights burning on the altar veiled from
sight, and our own monstrous shadows cast on the pillars, added to the
effect. The verger took one of the tall candles to light us to some
monuments in white marble of exquisite sculpture. There were no
pictures, but the walls were painted in the manner of the Speaker's
room at the Temple, and by the master who taught De Gray. This kind of
painting seems to suit churches, and to harmonise well with sculpture
My dear friend, I have not room to say half I intended, but let me
make what resolutions I please, I never can get all I want to say to
you into a letter.
To MISS CHARLOTTE SNEYD.
CHANTILLY, Oct. 29, 1802.
I last night sent a folio sheet to Sophy, giving the history of
ourselves as far as Brussels, where we spent four days very much to our
satisfaction: it is full of fine buildings, charming public walks, the
country about it beautiful. In the Place Royale are two excellent
hotels, Hotel d'Angleterre and Hotel de Flandres, to which we went, and
found that Mr. Chenevix and Mr. Knox were in the other.
My father thought it would be advantageous to us to see inferior
pictures before seeing those of the best masters, that we might have
some points of comparison; and upon the same principle we went to two
provincial theatres at Dunkirk and Brussels: but unluckily, I mean
unluckily for our principles, we saw at Brussels two of the best
Paris actors, M. and Madame Talma. The play was Racine's Andromaque
(imitated in England as the Distressed Mother). Madame Talma
played Andromaque, and her husband Orestes: both exquisitely well. I
had no idea of fine acting till I saw them, and my father, who had seen
Garrick, and Mrs. Siddons, and Yates, and Le Kain, says he never saw
anything superior to Madame Talma. We read the play in the morning, an
excellent precaution, otherwise the novelty of the French mode of
declamation would have set my comprehension at defiance. There was a
ranting Hermione, who had a string too tight round her waist, which
made her bosom heave like the bellows of a bagpipe whenever she worked
with her clasped hands against her heart to pump out something like
passion. There was also a wretched Pyrrhus, and an old Phoenix, whose
gray wig I expected every moment to fall off.
Next to this beautiful tragedy, the thing that interested and amused
me most at Brussels were the dogs: not lap-dogs, but the dogs that draw
carts and heavy hampers. Every day I beheld numbers of these
traineaux, often four, harnessed abreast, and driven like horses. I
remember in particular seeing a man standing upright on one of these
little carriages, and behind him two large hampers full of mussels, the
whole drawn by four dogs. And another day I saw a boy of about ten
years old driving four dogs harnessed to a little carriage; he crossed
our carriage as we were going down a street called La Montagne de la
Cour, without fearing our four Flemish horses. La Montagne de la Cour
is a very grand name, and you may perhaps imagine that it means a
MOUNTAIN, but be it known to you, my dear aunt, that in Le Pays Bas, as
well as in the County of Longford, they make mountains of molehills.
The whole road from Calais to Ghent is as flat and as straight as the
road to Longford. We never knew when we came to what the innkeeper and
postillions call mountains, except by the postillions getting off their
horses with great deliberation and making them go a snail's walk—a
snail's gallop would be much too fast. Now it is no easy thing for a
French postillion to walk himself when he is in his boots: these boots
are each as large and as stiff as a wooden churn, and when the man in
his boots attempts to walk, he is more helpless than a child in a
go-cart: he waddles on, dragging his boots after him in a way that
would make a pig laugh. As Lord Granard says, “A pig can whistle,
though he has a bad mouth for it,” [Footnote: A long argument on genius
and education, between Lady Moira and Mr. Edgeworth, had been ended by
Lord Granard wittily saying, “A pig may be made to whistle, but he has
a bad mouth for it.”] I presume that by a parity of reasoning a
pig may laugh. But I must not talk any more nonsense.
We left Brussels last Sunday (you are looking in your pocket-book,
dear Aunt Mary, for the day of the month; I see you looking). The first
place of any note we went to was Valenciennes, where we saw houses and
churches in ruins, the effect of English wars and French revolutions.
Though Valenciennes lace is very pretty we bought none, recollecting
that though Coventry is famous for ribbons, and Tewkesbury for
stockings, yet only the worst ribbons, and the worst stockings are to
be had at Coventry and Tewkesbury. Besides, we are not expert at
counting Flemish money, which is quite different from French, and
puzzling enough to drive the seven sages of Greece mad. Even the
natives cannot count it without rubbing their foreheads, and counting
in their hands, and repeating c'a fait, cela fait. For my part I
fairly gave the point up, and resolved to be cheated rather than go
distracted. But indeed the Flemish are not cheats, as far as I have
seen of them. They would go to the utmost borders of honesty for a
couronne de Brabant, or a demi-couronne, or a double escalin, or a
single escalin, or a plaquet, or a livre, or a sous, or a liard, or for
any the vilest denomination of their absurd coin, yet I do not believe
they would go beyond the bounds of honesty with any but an English
Milor: they are privileged dupes. A maid at the hotel at Dunkirk said
to me, “Ah! Madame, nous autres nous aimons bien de voir rouler les
Anglais.” Yes, because they think the English roll in gold.
Now we will go to Cambray, famous for its cambric and its
archbishop. Buonaparte had so much respect for the memory of Fenelon,
that he fixed the seat of the present Archbishopric at Cambray instead
of at Lille, as had been proposed. We saw Fenelon's head here,
preserved in a church. But to return from archbishops to cambrics. Our
hostess at Cambray was a dealer in cambrics, and in her bale of
baptistes she seemed literally to have her being. She was, in spite
of cambric and Valenciennes lace—of which she had a dirty superfluity
on her cap lined with pink—the very ugliest of the female species I
had ever beheld. We were made amends for her by a most agreeable family
who kept the inn at Roye: their ancestors had kept this inn for a
hundred and fifty years; the present landlord and his wife are about
sixty-eight and sixty, and their daughter, about twenty, of a slight
figure, vast vivacity in her mind and in all her motions; she does
almost all the business of the house, and seems to love papa et
maman better than anything in the world, except talking. My father
formed a hundred good wishes for her: first, when he heard her tell a
story, she used such admirable variety of action, that he wished her on
the stage: then when she waited at supper, with all the nimbleness and
dexterity of a female harlequin, he wished that she was married to Jack
Langan, that she might keep the new inn at Edgeworthstown: but his last
and best wish for her was that she should be waiting-maid to you and
Aunt Mary. He thought she would please you both particularly: for my
part, I thought she would talk a great deal too much for you. However,
her father and mother would not part with her for Pitt's diamond.
We saw to-day the residence of the Prince de Conde, and of a long
line of princes famous for virtue and talents—the celebrated palace of
Chantilly, made still more interesting to us by having just read the
beautiful tale by Madame de Genlis, “Mademoiselle de Clermont;” it
would delight my dear Aunt Mary, it is to be had in the first volume of
the Petits Romans, and those are to be found by Darcy, if he be
not drunk, at Archer's, Dublin. After going for an hour and a half
through thick, dark forest, in which Virginia might have lived secure
from sight of mortal man, we came into open day and open country, and
from the top of a hill beheld a mass of magnificent building, shaded by
wood. I imagined this was the palace, but I was told that these
buildings were only the stables of Chantilly. The Palace, alas! is no
more! it was pulled down by the Revolutionists. The stables were saved
by a petition from the War Minister, stating that they would make
stabling for troops, and to this use they are now applied. As we drove
down the hill we saw the melancholy remains of the Palace: only the
white arches on which it was built, covered with crumbled stone and
mortar. We walked to look at the riding-house, built by the Prince de
Conde, a princely edifice! Whilst we were looking at it, we heard a
flute played near us, and we were told that the young man who played it
was one of the poor Prince de Conde's chasseurs. The person who showed
the ruins to us was a melancholy- looking man, who had been employed
his whole life to show the gardens and Palace of Chantilly: he is about
sixty, and had saved some hundred pounds in the Prince's service. He
now shows their ruins, and tells where the Prince and Princess once
slept, and where there were fine statues, and charming walks.
We have had but one day's rain since we left you; if we had picked
the weather we could not have had finer. The country through which we
came from Brussels was for the most part beautiful, planted in
side-scenes, after my father's manner, you know. The English who can
see nothing worth seeing in this country, must certainly pass through
it with huge blinkers of prejudice.
We arrived about three o'clock, and are lodged for a few days at the
Hotel de Courlande. I forgot to tell you that we saw an officer with
furred waistcoat, and furred pockets, and monstrous moustache; he
looked altogether very like the Little Gibbon in Shaw's Zoology,
only the Little Gibbon does not look as conceited as this man did.
We are now, my dear Aunt Mary, in a magnificent hotel in the fine
square, formerly Place Louis Quinze, afterwards Place de la Revolution,
and now Place de la Concorde. Here the guillotine was once at work
night and day; and here died Louis Seize, and Marie Antoinette, and
Madame Roland: opposite to us is the Seine and La Lanterne. On
one side of this square are the Champs Elysees.
To MRS. MARY SNEYD.
PARIS, RUE DE LILLE,
Oct. 31, 1802.
I left off at the Hotel de Courlande. We were told there was a fine
view of Paris from the leads; and so indeed there is, and the first
object that struck us was the Telegraph at work! The first voiture
de remise (job-coach in plain English) into which we got, belonged
to—whom do you think?—to the Princess Elizabeth. The Abbe Edgeworth
had probably been in this very coach with her. The master of this house
was one of the King's guards, a Swiss. Our apartments are all on one
floor. The day after our arrival M. Delessert, he whom M. Pictet
describes as a French Rumford, invited us to spend the evening with his
mother and sister. We went: found an excellent house, a charming
family, with whom we felt we were perfectly acquainted after we had
been in the room with them for five minutes. Madame Delessert,
[Footnote: The benevolence of the generous Madame Delessert is said to
be depicted in one of the stories in Berquin's Ami des Enfans.]
the mother, an elderly lady of about sixty, has the species of
politeness and conversation that my Aunt Ruxton has: I need not say how
much I like her. Her daughter, Madame Gautier, has fine large black
eyes, very obliging and sensible, well dressed, not at all naked:
people need not be naked here unless they choose it. Rousseau's
Letters on Botany were written for this lady; he was a friend of
the family. She has two fine children of eight and ten, to whose
education she devotes her time and talents. Her second brother,
Francois Delessert, about twenty, was educated chiefly by her, and does
her great credit, and what is better for her, is extremely fond of her:
he seems the darling of his mother, Francois mon fils she calls
him every minute. In his countenance and manners he is something like
Henry; he has that sober kind of cheerfulness, that ingenuous openness,
and that modest, gentlemanlike ease which pleases without effort, and
without bustle. Madame Gautier does not live at Paris, but at a country
house at Passy, the Richmond of Paris, about two miles out of town. She
invited us to spend a day there, and a most pleasant day we passed. The
situation beautiful, the house furnished with elegance and good sense,
the society most agreeable. M. Delessert pere, an old sensible
man, the rest of the family, and Madame de Pastoret, [Footnote: Madame
de Pastoret is the “Madame de Fleury” of Miss Edgeworth's story. She
first established infant schools in France.] a literary and fashionable
lady, with something of Mrs. Saunderson's best style of conversation:
M. de Pastoret, her husband, a man of diplomatic knowledge; Lord Henry
Petty, son of Lord Lansdowne, with whom my father had much
conversation; the Swiss Ambassador, whose name I will not attempt to
spell; M. Dumont, [Footnote: M. Pierre Etienne Louis Dumont, tutor to
Lord Henry Petty (afterwards the famous second Marquis of Lansdowne),
had translated Bentham's Traites sur la Legislation, and
Theorie des Peines et des Recompenses. He became an intimate friend
and much-valued critic of Miss Edgeworth.] a Swiss gentleman,
travelling with Lord Henry Petty, very sensible and entertaining, I am
sorry that he has since left Paris; M. d'Etaing, of whom I know
nothing; and last, but indeed not least, the Abbe Morellet, [Footnote:
The author of several works on political economy and statistics; born
1727, died 1819.] of whom you have heard my father speak. O! my dear
Aunt Mary, how you would love that man, and we need not be afraid of
loving him, for he is near eighty. But it is impossible to believe that
he is so old when one either hears him speak, or sees him move. He has
all the vivacity, and feeling, and wit of youth, and all the gentleness
that youth ought to have. His conversation is delightful, nothing too
much or too little; sense, and gaiety, and learning, and reason, and
that perfect knowledge of the world which mixes so well but so seldom
with a knowledge of books. He invited us to breakfast, and this morning
we spent with him. My dearest Aunt Mary, I do wish you had been with
us; I know that you would have been so much pleased. The house so
convenient, so comfortable, so many inventions the same as my father's.
He has a sister living with him, Madame de Montigny, an amiable,
sensible woman: her daughter was married to Marmontel, who died a few
years ago: she alas! is not at Paris.
My father did not present any of his letters of introduction till
yesterday, because he wished that we should be masters and mistresses
of our own time to see sights before we saw people. We have been to
Versailles—melancholy magnificence—La petite Trianon: the poor Queen!
and at the Louvre, or as it is now called, La Musee, to see the
celebrated gallery of pictures. I was entertained, but tired with
seeing so many pictures, all to be admired, and all in so bad a light,
that my little neck was almost broken, and my little eyes almost
strained out, trying to see them. We were all extremely interested
yesterday seeing what are called Les Monuments Francais—all the
statues and monuments of the great men of France, arranged according to
their dates in the apartments of the ancient Monastery des Augustins.
Here we saw old Hugh Capet, with his nose broken, and King Pepin, with
his nose flattened by time, and Catherine de Medicis, in full dress,
but not in full beauty, and Francis I., and dear Henry IV.
We have been to the Theatre Francais and to the Theatre Feydau, both
fine houses: decorations, etc., superior to English: acting much
superior in comedy; in tragedy they bully, and rant, and throw
themselves into Academy attitudes too much.
R.L. EDGEWORTH to MISS
PARIS, Nov. 18, 1802.
Maria told you of M. and Madame de Pastoret; in the same house on
another floor—for different families here have entire “apartments,”
you observe the word, in one house—we met M. and Madame Suard:
[Footnote: M. Suard was editor of the Publiciste.] he is
accounted one of the most refined critics of Paris, and has for many
years been at the head of newspapers of different denominations; at
present he is at the head of La Publiciste. He is prudent,
highly informed, not only in books, but in the politics of different
states and the characters of men in all the different countries of
Europe. Madame Suard has the remains of much beauty, a belle esprit, and aims at singularity and independence of sentiment. Would you
believe it, Mr. Day paid his court to her thirty years ago? She is very
civil to us, and we go to their house once a week: literati frequent
it, and to each of them she has something to say.
At Madame de Pastoret's we met M. Degerando [Footnote: Marie Joseph
Degerando, writer on education and philosophy, 1772-1842.] and M.
Camille Jordan. Not Camille de Jourdan, the assassin, nor Camille
Desmoulins, another assassin, nor General Jourdan, another assassin,
but a young man of agreeable manners, gentle disposition, and much
information; he lives near Paris, with his Pylades Degerando, who is
also a man of much information, married to a pretty sprightly domestic
woman, who nurses her child in earnest. Camille Jordan has written an
admirably eloquent pamphlet on the choice of Buonaparte as first consul
for life; it was at first forbidden, but the Government wisely
recollected that to forbid is to excite curiosity. We three have had
profound metaphysical conferences in which we have avoided contest and
have generally ended by being of the same opinion. We went, by
appointment, to Madame Campan's—she keeps the greatest boarding-school
in France—to meet Madame Recamier, the beautiful lady who had been
nearly squeezed to death in London. How we liked the school and its
conductress, who professes to follow Practical Education, I
leave to Maria to tell you. How we like Madame Recamier is easily told;
she is certainly handsome, but there is nothing noble in her
appearance; she was very civil. M. de Prony, [Footnote: Gaspard Clair
Francois Marie Riche, baron de Prony, the great mathematician,
1755-1839.] who is at the head of the Engineers des Ponts et
Chaussees—civil engineers—was introduced to us by Mr. Watt. I forgot
to speak of him; he has just left Paris. M. de Prony showed us models
and machines which would have delighted William. M. l'Abbe Morellet's
niece next engaged our attention; she and her husband came many leagues
to see us; and we met also Madame de Vergennes, Madame de Remusat, and
Madame Nansoutit, all people of knowledge and charming manners. Madame
Lavoisier and the Countess Massulski, General Kosciusko, Prince
Jablounsk_i, and Princess Jablounsk_a, and two other Princesses, I
leave to Maria. Mons. Edelcrantz, private secretary to the King of
Sweden; Mons. Eisenman, a German; Mons. Geofrat, the guardian from
Egypt of the Kings of Chaldea and seven Ibises; Mons. de
Montmorenci—that great name: the Abbe Sicard, who dines here
to-morrow; Mons. Pang, Mons. Bertrant, Mons. Milan, Mons. Dupont, Mons.
Bareuil the illuminati man, and Mr. Bilsbury, I leave to her and
MRS. EDGEWORTH to MRS. MARY
PARIS, Nov. 21, 1802.
Mr. Edgeworth's summary of events closed, I believe, last Thursday.
Friday we saw beauty, riches, fashion, luxury, and numbers at Madame
Recamier's; she is a charming woman, surrounded by a group of adorers
and flatterers in a room where are united wealth and taste, all of
modern execution and ancient design that can contribute to its
ornament—a strange melange of merchants and poets, philosophers
and parvenus—English, French, Portuguese, and Brazilian, which formed
the company; we were treated with distinguished politeness by our
hostess, who concluded the evening by taking us to her box at the
Opera, where, besides being in company with the most fashionable women
in Paris, we were seen by Buonaparte himself, who sat opposite
to us in a railed box, through which he could see, but not be seen.
Saturday we saw the magnificent Salle of the Corps Legislatif, and
in the evening passed some hours in the agreeable society of Madame de
Vergennes and her daughters. Sunday we were very happy at home. Monday
morning, just as we were going out, M. Pictet was announced; we neither
heard his name nor distinctly recollected his looks, he is grown so fat
and looks so well, more friendly no man can be. I hope he perceives we
are grateful to him. The remainder of that day was spent in the gallery
of pictures, where we met Mr. Rogers, the poet, and Mr. Abercrombie.
The evening was spent with M. Pictet at his sister's, an agreeable,
well-informed widow, with three handsome daughters. Tuesday we went to
the National Library, where we were shown a large number of the finest
cameos, intaglios, and Roman and Greek medals, and many of the
antiquities brought from Egypt; and in the evening we had again the
pleasure of M. Pictet's company, and of the charming Madame de
Pastoret, who was so obliging as to drink tea with us. Yesterday we had
the pleasure of being at home, when several learned and ingenious men
called on us, and consequently heard one of the most lively and
instructive conversations on a variety of topics for three hours: as I
think it is Mr. Edgeworth's plan to knock you down with names, I will
just enumerate those of our visitors, Edelcrantz, a Swede, Molard,
Eisenman, Dupont, and Pictet the younger. After they went, we paid a
short visit to the pictures and saw the Salle du Tribunat and the
Consul's apartments at the Tuileries: on the dressing-table there were
the busts of Fox and Nelson. At our return home we saw the good
Francois Delessert and another man, who was the man who took
Robespierre prisoner, and who has since made a clock which is wound up
by the action of the air on mercury, like that which Mr. Edgeworth
invented for the King of Spain. He told us many things that made us
stare, and many that made us shiver, and many more that made us wish
never to see him again.
In the evening we went to Madame Suard's. Don't imagine that these
ladies are all widows, for they have husbands, and in many instances
the husband vaut mieux que la femme. At Madame Suard's we met
the famous Count Lally Tolendal and the Duc de Crillon. This morning
Maria has gone with the Pictets to see the Abbe Sicard's deaf and dumb.
Mr. Edgeworth has not yet seen Buonaparte: he goes to-morrow to wait
on Lord Whitworth as a preliminary step. It is a singular circumstance
that Lord Whitworth, the new Ambassador, has brought to Paris the same
horses, and the same wife, and lives in the same house as the last
Ambassador did eleven years ago: he has married the widow of the Duke
of Dorset, who was here then.
In England many are the tales of scandal that have been related of
the Consul and all his family: I don't believe them. A lady told me it
was “vraiment extraordinaire qu'un jeune homme comme lui ait de moeurs
si exemplaires—et d'ailleurs on ne s'attend pas qu'un homme soit
fidele a une femme qui est plus agee que lui: mais si agee aussi! Il
aime la soumission plus que la beaute: s'il lui dit de se coucher a
huit heures, elle se couche: s'il faut se lever a deux heures, elle se
leve! Elle est une bonne femme, elle a sauve bien des vies.”
Has Maria told you that she has had her Belinda translated
into French by the young Count de Segur, an amiable young man of one of
the most ancient families of France, married to a grand-daughter of the
Chancellor d'Aguesseau? Many people support themselves by writing for
journals, and by translating English books, yet the price of literature
seems very low, and the price of all the necessaries of life very high.
The influx of English has, they say, doubled the price of lodgings and
of all luxuries.
MARIA EDGEWORTH to MRS.
PARIS, Dec. 1, 1802.
I have been treasuring up for some time everything I have seen and
heard which I think would interest you; and now my little head is so
full that I must empty it, or it would certainly burst. All that I have
seen and heard has tended to attach me more firmly to you by the double
effect of resemblance and of contrast. Every agreeable person recalls
you; every disagreeable, makes me exclaim, how different, etc.
I wish I could paint the different people we have seen in little
William's magic-lanthorn, and show them to you. At Madame Delessert's
house there are, and have been for years, meetings of the most
agreeable and select society in Paris: she has the courage absolutely
to refuse to admit either man or woman of whose conduct she cannot
approve; at other houses there is sometimes a strange mixture. To
recommend Madame Delessert still more powerfully to you, I must tell
you that she was the benefactress of Rousseau; he was, it is said,
never good or happy except in her society: to her bounty he owed his
retreat in Switzerland. She is nobly charitable, but if it were not for
her friends no one would find out half the good she does. One of her
acts of beneficence is recorded in Berquin's Ami des Enfans, but
even her own children cannot tell in which story it is. Her daughter,
Madame Gautier, gains upon our esteem every day.
Turn the handle of the magic-lanthorn: who is this graceful figure,
with all the elegance of court manners, and all the simplicity of
domestic virtue? She is Madame de Pastoret. She was chosen preceptress
to the Princess in the ancien regime in opposition to the wife
of Condorcet, and M. de Pastoret had I forget how many votes more than
Condorcet when it was put to the vote who should be preceptor to the
Dauphin at the beginning of the Revolution. Both M. and Madame de
Pastoret speak remarkably well; each with that species of eloquence
which becomes them. He was President of the First Assembly, and at the
head of the King's Council: the four other ministers of that council
all perished! He escaped by his courage. As for her, the Marquis de
Chastelleux's speech describes her: “Elle n'a point d'expression sans
grace et point de grace sans expression.”
Turn the magic-lanthorn. Here comes Madame Suard and Monsieur, a
member of the Academy: very good company at their house. Among others
Lally Tolendal, who is exceedingly like Father Tom, and whose real name
of Mullalagh he softened into Lally, said to be more eloquent than any
man in France; M. de Montmorenci, worthy of his great name.
Push on the magic-lanthorn slide. Here comes Boissy d'Anglas: a fine
head! Such a head as you may imagine the man to have who, by his single
courage, restrained the fury of one of the National Assemblies when the
head of one of the deputies was cut off and set on the table before
Next comes Camille Jordan, with great eloquence of pen, not of
tongue; [Footnote: Orator and statesman, 1771-1821.] and M. de Prony, a
great mathematician, of whom you don't care to know more, but you would
if you heard him.
Who comes next? Madame Campan, mistress of the first boarding-school
here, who educated Madame Louis Buonaparte, and who professes to keep
her pupils entirely separate from servants, according to Practical
Education, and who paid us many compliments. Teaches drawing in a
manner superior to anything I had any idea of in English schools: she
gave me a drawing in a gilt frame, which I shall show to you. At Madame
Campan's, as my father told you, we met the beautiful Madame Recamier,
and at her dinner we met the most fashionable tragic and comic poet,
and the richest man in Paris sat beside Charlotte. We went to the Opera
with Madame Recamier, who produces a great sensation whenever she
appears in public. She is certainly handsome, very handsome, but there
is much of the magic of fashion in the enthusiasm she creates.
There is a Russian Princess here, who is always carried in and out
of her carriage by two giant footmen, and a Russian Prince, who is so
rich that he is never able to spend his fortune, and asks advice how he
shall do it. He never thinks, it seems, of giving it away.
Who comes next? Kosciusko, [Footnote: The Polish patriot and leader,
1756-1817.] cured of his wounds, simple in his manners, like all truly
great men. We met him at the house of a Polish Countess, whose name I
Who comes next? M. de Leuze, who translated the Botanic Garden
as well as it could be translated into Fenelon prose; and M. and Madame
de Vinde, who have a superb gallery of paintings, and the best concerts
in Paris, and a library of eighteen thousand volumes well counted and
well arranged; and what charms me more than either the books or the
pictures, a little grand-daughter of three years old, very like my
sweet Fanny, with stockings exactly the same as those Aunt Mary knitted
for her, and listing shoes precisely like what Fanny used to wear: she
sat on my knee, and caressed me with her soft, warm little hands, and
looked at me with her smiling intelligent eyes.
Dec. 3. Here I am at the brink of the last page, and I have
said nothing of the Apollo, the Invalides, or Les Sourds et Muets. What
shall I do? I cannot speak of everything at once, and when I speak to
you so many things crowd upon my mind.
Here, my dear aunt, I was
interrupted in a manner that will surprise you as much as it surprised
me, by the coming in of Monsieur Edelcrantz, a Swedish gentleman, whom
we have mentioned to you, of superior understanding and mild manners:
he came to offer me his hand and heart!!
My heart, you may suppose, cannot return his attachment, for I have
seen but very little of him, and have not had time to have formed any
judgment, except that I think nothing could tempt me to leave my own
dear friends and my own country to live in Sweden.
My dearest aunt, I write to you the first moment, as next to my
father and mother no person in the world feels so much interest in all
that concerns me. I need not tell you that my father,
Such in this moment as in all the past,
is kindness itself; kindness far superior to what I deserve, but I
am grateful for it.
To MISS SOPHY RUXTON.
PARIS, RUE DE LILLE, No. 525,
Dec. 8, 1802.
I take it for granted, my dear friend, that you have by this time
seen a letter I wrote a few days ago to my aunt. To you, as to her,
every thought of my mind is open. I persist in refusing to leave my
country and my friends to live at the Court of Stockholm, and he tells
me (of course) that there is nothing he would not sacrifice for me
except his duty: he has been all his life in the service of the King of
Sweden, has places under him, and is actually employed in collecting
information for a large political establishment. He thinks himself
bound in honour to finish what he has begun. He says he should not fear
the ridicule or blame that would be thrown upon him by his countrymen
for quitting his country at his age, but that he should despise himself
if he abandoned his duty for any passion. This is all very reasonable,
but reasonable for him only, not for me; and I have never felt anything
for him but esteem and gratitude.
* * * * *
Mrs. Edgeworth, however, writes:
* * * * *
Maria was mistaken as to her own feelings. She refused M.
Edelcrantz, but she felt much more for him than esteem and admiration;
she was exceedingly in love with him. Mr. Edgeworth left her to decide
for herself; but she saw too plainly what it would be to us to lose
her, and what she would feel at parting from us. She decided rightly
for her own future happiness and for that of her family, but she
suffered much at the time and long afterwards. While we were at Paris,
I remember that in a shop where Charlotte and I were making some
purchases, Maria sat apart absorbed in thought, and so deep in reverie,
that when her father came in and stood opposite to her she did not see
him till he spoke to her, when she started and burst into tears. She
was grieved by his look of tender anxiety, and she afterwards exerted
herself to join in society, and to take advantage of all that was
agreeable during our stay in France and on our journey home, but it was
often a most painful effort to her. And even after her return to
Edgeworthstown, it was long before she recovered the elasticity of her
mind. She exerted all her powers of self-command, and turned her
attention to everything which her father suggested for her to write.
But Leonora, which she began immediately after our return home,
was written with the hope of pleasing the Chevalier Edelcrantz; it was
written in a style which he liked, and the idea of what he would think
of it was, I believe, present to her in every page she wrote. She never
heard that he had even read it. From the time they parted at Paris
there was no sort of communication between them, and beyond the chance
which brought us sometimes into company with travellers who had been in
Sweden, or the casual mention of M. Edelcrantz in the newspapers or
scientific journals, we never heard more of one who had been of such
supreme interest to her, and to us all at Paris, and of whom Maria
continued to have all her life the most romantic recollection. I do not
think she repented of her refusal, or regretted her decision; she was
well aware that she could not have made him happy, that she would not
have suited his position at the Court of Stockholm, and that her want
of beauty might have diminished his attachment. It was better perhaps
that she should think so, as it calmed her mind, but from what I saw of
M. Edelcrantz I think he was a man capable of really valuing her. I
believe that he was much attached to her, and deeply mortified at her
refusal. He continued to reside in Sweden after the abdication of his
master, and was always distinguished for his high character and great
abilities. He never married. He was, except very fine eyes, remarkably
plain. Her father rallied Maria about her preference of so ugly a man;
but she liked the expression of his countenance, the spirit and
strength of his character, and his very able conversation. The
unexpected mention of his name, or even that of Sweden, in a book or a
newspaper, always moved her so much that the words and lines in the
page became a mass of confusion before her eyes, and her voice lost all
I think it right to mention these facts, because I know that the
lessons of self-command which she inculcates in her works were really
acted upon in her own life, and that the resolution with which she
devoted herself to her father and her family, and the industry with
which she laboured at the writings which she thought were for the
advantage of her fellow-creatures, were from the exertion of the
highest principle. Her precepts were not the maxims of cold-hearted
prudence, but the result of her own experience in strong and romantic
feeling. By what accident it happened that she had, long before she
ever saw the Chevalier Edelcrantz, chosen Sweden for the scene of
The Knapsack I do not know, but I remember his expressing his
admiration of that beautiful little piece, and his pleasure in the fine
characters of the Swedish gentleman and peasants.
CHARLOTTE EDGEWORTH to MRS.
RUE DE LILLE, CHEZ LE CITOYEN VERBER,
Dec. 8, 1802.
MY DEAR AUNT CHARLOTTE—One of the great objects of a visit to Paris
was, you know, to see Buonaparte; the review is, as you see by the
papers, over, and my father has not spoken to the great man—no, he did
not wish it. All of our distant friends will be I am afraid
disappointed, but some here think that my father's refusal to be
presented to him shows a proper pride. All the reasons for this mode of
conduct will serve perhaps for debate, certainly for conversation when
Madame Suard says that those societies are most agreeable where
there are fewest women: if there were not women superior to her I
should not hesitate to assent to her proposition, and I should with
pleasure read Madame de Stael's book called Le Malheur d'etre femme.
If, on the contrary, all women were Madame de Pastorets, or Madame
Delesserts, or Madame Gautiers, I think I should take up the book with
the intention not to be convinced.
Some of the most horrible revolutionists were the most skilled in
the sciences, and are held in the utmost detestation by numbers of
sensible men who admire their ingenuity and talents. We saw one of
these, a teacher at one of the chief Academies, and my father, who was
standing near him, heard him, after having been talking on several most
amusing and interesting subjects, give one of the deepest sighs he ever
The Abbe de Lille reads poetry particularly well, his own verses in
a superior manner: we heard him, and were extremely pleased. He is very
old, and so blind that his wife, whom he calls “Mon Antigone,” is
obliged to lead him.
As you may suppose, we go as often as we can to the Gallery. I thank
my dear Aunt Mary for thinking of the pleasure I should have in seeing
the Venus de Medicis; she has not yet arrived, but I have seen the
Apollo, who did surprise me! On our way here we had seen many casts of
him, and I have seen with you some prints: I could not have believed
that there could have been so much difference between a copy and the
10th. You see I am often interrupted. I will introduce you to
our company last night at the Delesserts'. All soirees here begin at
“Madame Edgeworth” is announced:—room full without being
crowded—enough light and warmth. M. Delessert pere at a
card-table with a gentleman who is a partner in his bank, and an
elderly lady. There is a warm corner in the room, which is always large
enough to contain Madame Delessert and two or three ladies and
gentlemen. Madame Delessert advances to receive Madame Edgeworth, and
invites her to sit beside her with many kind words and looks. Madame
Gautier expresses her joy at seeing us. Now we are seated. M. Benjamin
Delessert advances with his bow to the ladies. Madame Gautier, my
father, and Maria, get together. M. Pictet, nephew to our dear Pictet,
makes his bow and adds a few words to each. “Mademoiselle Charlotte,”
says Madame Delessert to me, “I was just speaking of you.” I forget now
what she had been saying, I have only the agreeable idea. Madame Grivel
enters, a clever, good-natured little woman, wife to the partner who is
at cards. Enter M. Francois Delessert and another gentleman. How the
company divides and changes itself I am not at present supposed to
know, for young M. Pictet has seated himself between my mother and me,
and has a long conversation with me, in which Madame Grivel now and
then joins: she is on the other side of me. Mademoiselle Lullin, our
friend Pictet's sister, and his and her virtues are discussed. Physics
and meta-physics ensue; harmony, astonishing power of chords in music,
glass broken by vibration, dreams, Spain—its manners and government.
Young M. Pictet has been there: people there have little to do, because
their wants are easily supplied.
Here come tea and cakes, sweetmeats, grapes, cream, and all the
goods of life. The lady who was playing at cards now came and sat
beside me, amusing me for a long time with a conversation on—what do
you think?—Politics and the state of France! M. Francois repeats some
good lines very well. Laughter and merriment. Now we are obliged to go,
and with much sorrow we part.
I see I never told you that we saw the Review, and we saw a
man on a white horse ride down the ranks; we saw that he was a
little man with a pale face, who seemed very attentive to what he was
about, and this was all we saw of Buonaparte.
MARIA EDGEWORTH to MISS SOPHY
PARIS, Dec. 1802.
I add to the list of remarkables and agreeables the Count and
Countess de Segur, father and mother to our well-bred translator;
[Footnote: Of Belinda] she a beautiful grandmother, he a
nobleman of the old school, who adds to agreeable manners a great deal
of elegant literature. Malouet, the amiable and able councillor of the
King, must also be added to your list: we met him yesterday, a fine
countenance and simple manners; he conversed freely with my father, not
at all afraid of committing himself. In general I do not see
that prodigious fear of committing themselves, which makes the company
of some English men of letters and reputation irksome even to their
admirers. Mr. Palmer, the great man of taste, who has lived for many
years in Italy, is here, and is very much provoked that the French can
now see all the pictures and statues he has been admiring, without
stirring out of Paris. The Louvre is now so crowded with pictures, that
many of them are seen to disadvantage. The Domenichino, my Aunt
Ruxton's favourite, is not at present visible. Several of the
finest pictures are, as they say, sick, and the physicians are
busy restoring them to health and beauty. May they not mar instead of
mending! A Raphael which has just come out of their hospital has the
eyes of a very odd sort of modern blue. The Transfiguration is now in a
state of convalescence; it has not yet made its appearance in public,
but we were admitted into the sick-room.
Half Paris is now stark mad about a picture by Guerin of Phedre and
Hippolyte, which they actually think equal to Raphael.
Of the public buildings Les Invalides appears to me the finest; here
are all the flags and standards used in battle, or won from foreign
nations,—a long-drawn aisle of glory that must create ambition in the
rising generation of military in France. We saw here a little boy of
nine years old with his tutor, looking at Turenne's monument, which has
been placed with great taste, alone, with the single word TURENNE upon
the sarcophagus. My father spoke to the little boy and his tutor, who
told him he had come to look at a picture in which the heroic action of
one of the boy's ancestors is portrayed. We went into the hospital
library, and found a circle of old soldiers, sitting round a stove all
reading most comfortably. It was a very pleasing and touching sight.
One who had lost both his hands, and who had iron hooks at the end of
his wrists, was sitting at a table reading Telemaque with great
attention; he turned over the leaves with these hooks.
My aunt asks me what I think of French society? All I have seen of
it I like extremely, but we hear from all sides that we see only the
best of Paris,—the men of literature and the ancienne noblesse.
Les nouveaux riches are quite a different set. My father has seen
something of them at Madame Tallien's (now Cabarus), and was disgusted.
Madame Recamier is of quite an opposite sort, though in the first
fashion, a graceful and decent beauty of excellent character.
Madame de Souza, the Portuguese Ambassadress, is a pretty and pleasing
woman, authoress of Adele de Senanges, which she wrote in
England. Her friends always proclaim her title as author before her
other titles, and I thought her a pleasing woman before I was told that
she had pronounced at Madame Lavoisier's an eloquent eulogium on
Belinda. I have never heard any person talk of dress or fashions
since we came to Paris, and very little scandal. A scandalmonger would
be starved here. The conversation frequently turns on the new
petites pieces and little novels which come out every day, and are
talked of for a few days with as much eagerness as a new fashion in
other places. They also talk a vast deal about the little essays of
criticism. In yesterday's Journal des Debats, after a flaming
panegyric on Buonaparte, “Et apres avoir parle de l'univers de qui
peut-on parler? Des plus grandes des Poetes—de Racine”: then follows a
criticism on Phedre.
We saw the grand Review the day before yesterday from a window that
looked out on the court of the Louvre and Place de Carousal. Buonaparte
rode down the lines on a fine white Spanish horse. Took off his hat to
salute various generals, and gave us a full view of his pale, thin,
woebegone countenance. He is very little, but much at ease on
horseback: it is said he never appears to so much advantage as on
horseback. There were about six thousand troops, a fine show, well
appointed, and some, but not all, well mounted. On those who had
distinguished themselves in the battle of Marengo all eyes were fixed.
While I was looking out of the window a gentleman came in who had
passed many years in Spain: he began to talk to me about Madrid, and
when he heard my name, he said a Spanish lady is translating
Practical Education from the French. She understands English, and
he gave us her address that we may send a copy of the book to her.
Mr. Knox, who was presented to Buonaparte, and who saw all the
wonderful presentations, says that it was a huddled business, all the
world received in a very small room. Buonaparte spoke more to officers
than to any one else, affected to be gracious to the English. He said,
“L'Angleterre est une grande nation, aussi bien que la France,
il faut que nous soyons amis!” Great men's words, like little men's
dreams, are sometimes to be interpreted by the rule of contraries.
To MRS. MARY SNEYD.
PARIS, Jan. 10, 1803.
Siecle reparateur, as Monge has christened this century.
I will give you a journal of yesterday: I know you love journals.
Got up and put on our shoes and stockings and cambric muslin gowns,
which are in high esteem here, fur-tippets and fur-clogs,—GOD
bless Aunt Mary and Aunt Charlotte for them,—and were in coach by nine
o'clock, drove to the excellent Abbe Morellet's, where we were invited
to breakfast to meet Madame d'Ouditot, the lady who inspired Rousseau
with the idea of Julie. Julie is now seventy-two years of age, a thin
woman in a little black bonnet: she appeared to me shockingly ugly; she
squints so much that it is impossible to tell which way she is looking;
but no sooner did I hear her speak, than I began to like her; and no
sooner was I seated beside her, than I began to find in her countenance
a most benevolent and agreeable expression. She entered into
conversation immediately: her manner invited and could not fail to
obtain confidence. She seems as gay and open-hearted as a girl of
fifteen. It has been said of her that she not only never did any harm,
but never suspected any. She is possessed of that art which Lord Kames
said he would prefer to the finest gift from the queen of the
fairies,—the art of seizing the best side of every object. She has had
great misfortunes, but she has still retained the power of making
herself and her friends happy. Even during the horrors of the
Revolution, if she met with a flower, a butterfly, an agreeable smell,
a pretty colour, she would turn her attention to these, and for the
moment suspend her sense of misery, not from frivolity, but from real
philosophy. No one has exerted themselves with more energy in the
service of her friends. I felt in her company the delightful influence
of a cheerful temper, and soft attractive manners,—enthusiasm which
age cannot extinguish, and which spends but does not waste itself on
small but not trifling objects. I wish I could at seventy-two be such a
woman! She told me that Rousseau, whilst he was writing so finely on
education, and leaving his own children in the Foundling Hospital,
defended himself with so much eloquence that even those who blamed him
in their hearts, could not find tongues to answer him. Once at dinner,
at Madame d'Ouditot's, there was a fine pyramid of fruit. Rousseau in
helping himself took the peach which formed the base of the pyramid,
and the rest fell immediately. “Rousseau,” said she, “that is what you
always do with all our systems; you pull down with a single touch, but
who will build up what you pull down?” I asked if he was grateful for
all the kindness shown to him? “No, he was ungrateful: he had a
thousand bad qualities, but I turned my attention from them to his
genius and the good he had done mankind.”
After an excellent breakfast, including tea, chocolate, coffee,
buttered and unbuttered cakes, good conversation, and good humour, came
M. Cheron, husband of the Abbe Morellet's niece, who is translating
Early Lessons, French on one side and English on the other. Didot
has undertaken to publish the Rational Primer, which is much
approved of here for teaching the true English pronunciation.
Then we went to a lecture on Shorthand, or Passigraphy, and
there we met Mr. Chenevix, who came home to dine with us, and stayed
till nine, talking of Montgolfier's belier for throwing water to
a great height. We have seen it and its inventor: something like Mr.
Watt in manner, not equal to him in genius. He had received from M. de
la Poype a letter my father wrote some years ago about the method of
guiding balloons, and as far as he could judge he thought it might
We went with Madame Recamier and the Russian Princess Dalgourski to
La Harpe's house, to hear him repeat some of his own verses. He lives
in a wretched house, and we went up dirty stairs, through dirty
passages, where I wondered how fine ladies' trains and noses could go,
and were received in a dark small den by the philosopher, or rather
devot, for he spurns the name of philosopher: he was in a dirty reddish
night-gown, and very dirty nightcap bound round the forehead with a
superlatively dirty chocolate-coloured ribbon. Madame Recamier, the
beautiful, the elegant, robed in white satin trimmed with white fur,
seated herself on the elbow of his armchair, and besought him to repeat
his verses. Charlotte has drawn a picture of this scene. We met at La
Harpe's Lady Elizabeth Foster and Lady Bessborough: very engaging
We were a few days ago at a Bal d'Enfants; this you would translate
a children's ball, and so did we, till we were set right by the
learned:—not a single child was at this ball, and only half a dozen
unmarried ladies: it is a ball given by mothers to their grown-up
children. Charlotte appeared as usual to great advantage, and was much
admired for her ease and unaffected manners. She danced one English
country dance with M. de Crillon, son of the Gibraltar Duke: when she
stood up, a gentleman came to me and exclaimed, “Ah, Mademoiselle votre
soeur va danser, nous attendons le moment ou elle va paraitre.“
She appeared extremely well from not being anxious to appear at all.
To-day we stayed at home to gain time for letters, etc., but thirteen
visitors, besides the washerwoman, prevented our accomplishing all our
great and good purposes. The visitors were all, except the washerwoman,
so agreeable, that even while they interrupted us, we did not know how
to wish them gone.
* * * * *
On the 27th January Mr. Edgeworth received a peremptory order from
the French Government to quit Paris immediately. He went with Maria to
the village of Passy. Their friend, Madame Gautier, generously offered
to them the use of her house there, but they would not compromise her.
M. de Pastoret and M. Delessert visited Mr. Edgeworth the next morning,
fearless of Buonaparte and his orders, and the day after M. Pictet and
M. Le Breton came to say that he could return to Paris. There had been
some misapprehension from Mr. Edgeworth having been supposed to be
brother to the Abbe Edgeworth. He wrote to Lord Whitworth that he would
never deny or give up the honour of being related to the Abbe. Lord
Whitworth advised him to state the exact degree of relationship, which
he did, and we heard no more of the matter. [Footnote: The Abbe
Edgeworth (who called himself M. de Firmont, from the estate possessed
by his branch of the family) was first cousin once removed to Mr.
Edgeworth, being the son of Essex, fifth son of Sir John Edgeworth, and
brother to Mr. Edgeworth's grandfather, Colonel Francis Edgeworth of
MISS CHARLOTTE EDGEWORTH to
C.S. EDGEWORTH. PARIS, Feb. 21, 1803.
We went yesterday to see the consecration of a Bishop at Notre Dame,
and here I endured with satisfaction most intense cold for three hours,
and saw a solemn ridiculous ceremony, and heard music that went through
me: I could not have believed that sounds could have been so fine: the
alternate sounds of voices and the organ, or both together, and then
the faint, distant murmur of prayers: each peal so much in harmony as
to appear like one note beginning softly, rising, rising, rising,—then
dying slowly off. There was one man whose voice was so loud, so full
and clear, that it was equal to the voices of three men. The church
itself is very fine: we were placed so as to see below us the whole
ceremony. The solemnity of the manner in which they walked, their all
being dressed alike, and differently from the rest of the people,
rendered these priests a new set of beings. The ceremony appeared
particularly ridiculous, as we could not hear a word that was said,
because the church is so large, and we were at too great a distance,
and all we could see was a Bishop dressing or undressing, or lying on
the ground! The Archbishop of Paris, who performed the chief part of
the ceremony, is a man about eighty years of age, yet he had the
strength to go through the fatigue which such a ceremony requires for
three hours together in very great cold, and every action was performed
with as much firmness as a man of fifty could do it, and there was but
one part which he left out,—the walking round along with the other
bishops with the cross borne before them. We were told that he has
often gone through similar fatigue, and in the evening, or an hour
after, amused a company at dinner with cheerful, witty conversation: he
is not a man of letters, but he has abilities and knowledge of the
world. All these men were remarkably tall and fine-looking, some very
venerable: there were about sixty assembled. It appears extraordinary
that there should not be one little or mean-looking among a set of
people who are not like soldiers chosen for their height, and as they
must have come from different parts of France. I think there is a
greater variety of sizes among the French than among us: if all the
people who stand in the street of Edgeworthstown every Sunday were
Frenchmen, you would see ten remarkably little for one that you see
there, and ten remarkably tall. I think there are more remarkably tall
men in Ireland than in England. Maria is writing a story, [Footnote:
Miss Edgeworth made a sketch for the story of Madame de Fleury
about this time, but did not finish it till long afterwards. The
incident of the locked-up children was told to her by Madame de
Pastoret, to whom it happened, and Maria took the name De Fleury from
M. de Pastoret's country house, the Chateau de Fleury.] and has a
little table by the fire, at which she sits as she used to do at
Edgeworthstown for half an hour together without stirring, with her pen
in her hand; then she scribbles on very fast. My father intends to
present his lock, with a paper giving some account of it, by way of
introduction to the society of which he is a member, La Societe pour
encourager les arts et metiers. I suppose you see in the newspapers
that the ancient Academy is again established under the name of the
MRS. EDGEWORTH to MRS. MARY
PARIS, Feb. 22, 1803.
The cough you mention has been epidemic here. The thermometer as low
as 9 deg. on the morning of the 15th; next day 40 deg., and the most
charming weather has succeeded: the streets have been so well washed by
the rain and scraped by the snow-cleaners, that they are actually dry
and clean for the first time since October, which is fortunate, as the
streets are crowded with people for the carnival, some in masks, some
disguised as apothecaries, old women, harlequins, and knights-errant,
followed by hundreds and thousands of men, women, and children, to whom
they say what they can, generally nonsense devoid of wit.
Last Thursday, jeudi-gras, we dined at two, and were at St.
Germain at six, at Madame Campan's, where we had been invited to see
some plays acted by her pupils. The little theatre appeared already
full when we entered. We stood a few seconds near the door, when Madame
Campan cried out from above, “Placez Madame Edgeworth, faites monter
Madame et sa compagnie.” So we went up to the gallery, where we had
very good places next to a Polish Princess and half a dozen of her
countrywomen, who are all polite and well-bred. The crowd increased,
many more than there was room for. The famous Madame Visconti and Lady
Yarmouth sat behind us. Lady Elizabeth Foster and Lady Bessborough not
far from us; and below there were a number of English, the Duchess of
Gordon and her beautiful daughter, Lady Georgiana. Madame Louis
Buonaparte, who had been one of Madame Campan's eleves, was the
principal Frenchwoman. The piece, Esther, was performed
admirably; the singing of the choir of young girls charming, and the
petite piece, La Rosiere de Salency, was better still: you know it
is a charming thing, and was made so touching as to draw tears from
* * * * *
Mrs. Edgeworth writes:
At the time this letter was written rumours that war would break out
with England began to be prevalent in Paris. Mr. Edgeworth inquired
among his friends, who said they feared it was true. He decided to set
out immediately, and we began to pack up. Other friends contradicted
this fear. We were anxious on another account to leave Paris, from the
bad state of Henry Edgeworth's health, his friends at Edinburgh urging
us to go there to see him. Better news of him, and the hope that the
rumours of war were unfounded, made us suspend our packing. M. Le
Breton called, and said he was sure of knowing before that evening the
truth as to Buonaparte's warlike intentions, and that if Mr. Edgeworth
met him at a friend's that night, he would know by his suddenly putting
on his hat that war was imminent. He was unable to visit us again, and
afraid if he wrote that his letter might be intercepted, and still more
was he afraid of being overheard if he said anything at the party where
they were to meet. Mr. Edgeworth went, and saw M. Le Breton, who did
suddenly put on his hat, and on Mr. Edgeworth's return to us he said we
The next day was spent in taking leave of our kind friends, from
whom we found it so painful to part, and who expressed so much regret
at losing us, and so much doubt as to the probability of war, that Mr.
Edgeworth promised that if on his arrival in London, his Paris friends
wrote to say Peace, he would return to them, and bring over the rest of
his family from Ireland for a year's residence.
MARIA EDGEWORTH to MRS. MARY
CALAIS, March 4, 1803.
At last, my dear Aunt Mary, we have actually left Paris. Perhaps we
may be detained here for some days, as the wind is directly against us;
but we have no reason to lament, as we are in Grandsire's excellent
house, and have books and thoughts enough to occupy us. Thoughts of
friends from whom we have parted, and of friends to whom we are going.
How few people in this world are so rich in friends! When I reflect
upon the kindness which has been shown to us abroad, and upon the
affection that awaits us at home, I feel afraid that I shall never be
able to deserve my share of all this happiness.
Charlotte is perfectly well: I believe no young woman was ever more
admired at Paris than she has been, and none was ever less spoiled by
DOVER, March 6.
All alive and merry: just landed, after a fine passage of six hours.
* * * * *
Mrs. Edgeworth narrates:
On our arrival in London, we found the expected letter from M. Le
Breton. It had been agreed that if there was to be peace, he was to
conclude his letter with “Mes hommages a la charmante Mademoiselle
Charlotte”: if war, the charmante was to be omitted. He ended
his letter, which made not the smallest allusion to politics or public
events, with “Mes hommages a Mademoiselle Charlotte,” and we set out
On the first rumours of war, while we were in France, Mr. Edgeworth
wrote to warn his son Lovell, who was on his way from Geneva to Paris,
but he never received the letter: he was stopped on his journey, made
prisoner, and remained among the detenus for eleven years, till
the end of the war in 1814.
MARIA EDGEWORTH to MRS. MARY
EDINBURGH, March 19, 1803.
Just arrived in Edinburgh, all four in perfect health, and I cannot
employ myself better than in bringing up the history of our last
week at Paris. The two most memorable events were Madame Campan's play
and the visit to Madame de Genlis. The theatre at Madame Campan's was
not much larger than our own; the dresses “magnificent beyond
description”; the acting and the dancing infinitely too good for any
but young ladies intended for the stage. The play was Racine's
Esther, and it interested me the next day to read Madame de
Sevigne's account of its representation by the young ladies of St. Cyr,
under the patronage of Madame de Maintenon. Madame de Genlis's
beautiful Rosiere de Salency was acted after Esther, and
the scene where the mother denounces her daughter, and pushes her from
her, was so admirably written and so admirably played, that it made me
forget the stage, the actors, and the spectators,—I could not help
thinking it real.
Full of the pleasure I had received from the Rosiere de Salency, I was impatient to pay a visit to Madame de Genlis. A few days
afterwards we dined with Mr. and Mrs. Scotto, rather a stupid party of
gentlemen. After dinner my father called me out of the room and said,
“Now we will go to see Madame de Genlis.” She had previously written to
say she would be glad to be personally acquainted with Mr. and Miss
Edgeworth. She lives—where do you think?—where Sully used to live, at
the Arsenal. Buonaparte has given her apartments there. Now I do not
know what you imagined in reading Sully's Memoirs, but I always
imagined that the Arsenal was one large building, with a facade to it
like a very large hotel or a palace, and I fancied it was somewhere in
the middle of Paris. On the contrary, it is quite in the suburbs. We
drove on and on, and at last we came to a heavy archway, like what you
see at the entrance of a fortified town: we drove under it for the
length of three or four yards in total darkness, and then we found
ourselves, as well as we could see by the light of some dim lamps, in a
large square court, surrounded by buildings: here we thought we were to
alight; no such thing; the coachman drove under another thick archway,
lighted at the entrance by a single lamp, we found ourselves in another
court, and still we went on, archway after archway, court after court,
in all which reigned desolate silence. I thought the archways, and the
courts, and the desolate silence would never end: at last the coachman
stopped, and asked for the tenth time where the lady lived. It is
excessively difficult to find people in Paris: we thought the names of
Madame de Genlis and the Arsenal would have been sufficient, but the
whole of this congregation of courts, and gateways, and houses, is
called the Arsenal, and hundreds and hundreds of people inhabit it who
are probably perfect strangers to Madame de Genlis. At the doors where
our coachman inquired, some answered that they knew nothing of her,
some that she lived in the Fauxbourg St. Germain, others believed that
she might be at Passy, others had heard that she had apartments given
to her by Government somewhere in the Arsenal, but could not tell
where; while the coachman thus begged his way, we anxiously looking out
at him, from the middle of the great square where we were left,
listened for the answers that were given, and which often from the
distance escaped our ears. At last a door pretty near to us opened, and
our coachman's head and hat were illuminated by the candle held by the
person who opened the door, and as the two figures parted with each
other we could distinctly see the expression of their countenances and
their lips move: the result of this parley was successful: we were
directed to the house where Madame de Genlis lived, and thought all
difficulties ended. No such thing, her apartments were still to be
sought for. We saw before us a large, crooked, ruinous stone staircase,
lighted by a single bit of candle hanging in a vile tin lantern in an
angle of the bare wall at the turn of the staircase—only just light
enough to see that the walls were bare and old, and the stairs
immoderately dirty. There were no signs of the place being inhabited
except this lamp, which could not have been lighted without hands. I
stood still in melancholy astonishment, while my father groped his way
into a kind of porter's lodge, or den, at the foot of the stairs, where
he found a man who was porter to various people who inhabited this
house. You know the Parisian houses are inhabited by hordes of
different people, and the stairs are in fact streets, and dirty streets
to their dwellings. The porter, who was neither obliging nor
intelligent, carelessly said that “Madame de Genlis logeait au seconde
a gauche, qu'il faudrait tirer sa sonnette,” he believed she was at
home, if she was not gone out. Up we went by ourselves, for this
porter, though we were strangers, and pleaded that we were so, never
offered to stir a step to guide or to light us. When we got to the
second stage, we faintly saw by the light from the one candle at the
first landing-place, two dirty large folding-doors, one set on the
right and one on the left, and hanging on each a bell, no larger than
what you see in the small parlour of a small English inn. My father
pulled one bell and waited some minutes—no answer: pulled the other
bell and waited—no answer: thumped at the left door—no answer: pushed
and pulled at it—could not open it: pushed open one of the right-hand
folding-doors—utter darkness: went in, as well as we could feel, there
was no furniture. After we had been there a few seconds we could
discern the bare walls and some strange lumber in one corner. The room
was a prodigious height, like an old playhouse. We retreated, and in
despair went down again to the stupid or surly porter. He came upstairs
very unwillingly, and pointed to a deep recess between the stairs and
the folding-doors: “Allez, voila la porte et tirez la sonnette.” He and
his candle went down, and my father had but just time to seize the
handle of the bell, when we were again in darkness. After ringing this
feeble bell we presently heard doors open, and little footsteps
approaching nigh. The door was opened by a girl of about Honora's size,
holding an ill-set-up, wavering candle in her hand, the light of which
fell full upon her face and figure: her face was remarkably
intelligent: dark sparkling eyes, dark hair, curled in the most
fashionable long cork-screw ringlets over her eyes and cheeks. She
parted the ringlets to take a full view of us, and we were equally
impatient to take a full view of her. The dress of her figure by no
means suited the head and the elegance of her attitude: what her
“nether weeds” might be we could not distinctly see, but they seemed to
be a coarse short petticoat, like what Molly Bristow's children would
wear—not on Sundays, a woollen gray spencer above, pinned with a
single pin by the lapels tight across the neck under the chin, and open
all below. After surveying us, and hearing that our name was Edgeworth,
she smiled graciously, and bid us follow her, saying, “Maman est chez
elle.” She led the way with the grace of a young lady who has been
taught to dance, across two antechambers, miserable-looking, but
miserable or not, no house in Paris can be without them. The girl, or
young lady, for we were still in doubt which to think her, led us into
a small room, in which the candles were so well screened by a green tin
screen that we could scarcely distinguish the tall form of a lady in
black, who rose from her armchair by the fireside as the door opened: a
great puff of smoke issuing from the huge fireplace at the same moment.
She came forward, and we made our way towards her as well as we could
through a confusion of tables, chairs and work-baskets, china,
writing-desks and ink-stands, and bird-cages, and a harp. She did not
speak, and as her back was now turned to both fire and candle, I could
not see her face, or anything but the outline of her form, and her
attitude; her form was the remains of a fine form, and her attitude
that of a woman used to a better drawing-room. I, being foremost, and
she silent, was compelled to speak to the figure in darkness: “Madame
de Genlis nous a fait l'honneur de nous mander qu'elle voulait bien
nous permettre de lui rendre visite, et de lui offrir nos respects,”
said I, or words to that effect: to which she replied by taking my hand
and saying something in which charmee was the most intelligible
word. Whilst she spoke she looked over my shoulder at my father, whose
bow I presume told her he was a gentleman, for she spoke to him
immediately as if she wished to please, and seated us in fauteuils near
I then had a full view of her face and figure: she looked like the
full-length picture of my great-great-grandmother Edgeworth you may
have seen in the garret, very thin and melancholy, but her face not so
handsome as my great-grandmother's; dark eyes, long sallow cheeks,
compressed thin lips, two or three black ringlets on a high forehead, a
cap that Mrs. Grier might wear,—altogether an appearance of fallen
fortunes, worn-out health, and excessive, but guarded irritability. To
me there was nothing of that engaging, captivating manner which I had
been taught to expect by many even of her enemies; she seemed to me to
be alive only to literary quarrels and jealousies: the muscles of her
face as she spoke, or as my father spoke to her, quickly and too easily
expressed hatred and anger whenever any not of her own party were
mentioned. She is now you know devote acharnement. When I
mentioned with some enthusiasm the good Abbe Morellet, who has written
so courageously in favour of the French exiled nobility and their
children, she answered in a sharp voice,
“Oui, c'est un homme de beaucoup d'esprit, a ce qu'on dit, a ce que
je crois meme, mais il faut vous apprendre qu'il n'est pas des NOTRES.”
My father spoke of Pamela, Lady Edward Fitzgerald, and explained how he
had defended her in the Irish House of Commons; instead of being
pleased or touched, her mind instantly diverged into an elaborate and
artificial exculpation of Lady Edward and herself, proving, or
attempting to prove, that she never knew any of her husband's plans,
that she utterly disapproved of them, at least of all she suspected of
them. This defence was quite lost upon us, who never thought of
attacking: but Madame de Genlis seems to have been so much used to be
attacked, that she has defences and apologies ready prepared, suited to
all possible occasions. She spoke of Madame de Stael's Delphine
with detestation, of another new and fashionable novel, Amelie,
with abhorrence, and kissed my forehead twice because I had not read
it, “Vous autres Anglaises vous etes modestes!” Where was Madame de
Genlis's sense of delicacy when she penned and published Les
Chevaliers du Cygne? Forgive me, my dear Aunt Mary, you begged me
to see her with favourable eyes, and I went to see her after seeing her
Rosiere de Salency with the most favourable disposition, but I
could not like her; there was something of malignity in her countenance
and conversation that repelled love, and of hypocrisy which annihilated
esteem, and from time to time I saw, or thought I saw through the gloom
of her countenance a gleam of coquetry. But my father judges much more
favourably of her than I do; she evidently took pains to please him,
and he says he is sure she is a person over whose mind he could gain
great ascendency: he thinks her a woman of violent passions, unbridled
imagination, and ill-tempered, but not malevolent: one who has
been so torn to pieces that she now turns upon her enemies, and longs
to tear in her turn. He says she has certainly great powers of
pleasing, though I neither saw nor felt them. But you know, my dear
aunt, that I am not famous for judging sanely of strangers on a first
visit, and I might be prejudiced or mortified by Madame de Genlis
assuring me that she had never read anything of mine except Belinda, had heard of Practical Education, and heard it much praised,
but had never seen it. She has just published an additional volume of
her Petits Romans, in which there are some beautiful stories,
but you must not expect another “Mademoiselle de Clermont:” one such
story in an age is as much as one can reasonably expect.
I had almost forgotten to tell you that the little girl who showed
us in is a girl whom she is educating, “Elle m'appelle maman, mais
elle n'est pas ma fille.” The manner in which this little girl
spoke to Madame de Genlis, and looked at her, appeared to me more in
her favour than anything else. She certainly spoke to her with freedom
and fondness, and without any affectation. I went to look at what the
child was writing, she was translating Darwin's Zoonomia. I read
some of her translation, it was excellent; she was, I think she said,
ten years old. It is certain that Madame de Genlis made the present
Duke of Orleans such an excellent mathematician, that when he was
during his emigration in distress for bread, he taught mathematics as a
professor in one of the German Universities. If we could see or
converse with one of her pupils, and hear what they think of her, we
should be able to form a better judgment than from all that her books
and enemies say for or against her. I say her books, not her
friends and enemies, for I fear she has no friends to plead for
her, except her books. I never met any one of any party who was her
friend: this strikes me with real melancholy; to see a woman of the
first talents in Europe, who lived and has shone in the gay court of
the gayest nation in the world, now deserted and forlorn, living in
wretched lodgings, with some of the pictures and finery, the wreck of
her fortunes, before her eyes, without society, without a single
friend, admired—and despised: she lives literally in spite, not in
pity. Her cruelty in drawing a profligate character of the Queen after
her execution, in the Chevaliers du Cygne, her taking her pupils
at the beginning of the Revolution to the revolutionary clubs, her
connection with the late Duke of Orleans and her hypocrisy about it,
her insisting upon being governess to his children when the Duchess did
not wish it, and its being supposed that it was she who instigated the
Duke in all his horrible conduct; and more than all the rest, her own
attacks and apologies, have brought her into all this isolated
state of reprobation. And now, my dear aunt, I have told you all I
know, or have heard, or think about her; and perhaps I have tired you,
but I fancied that it was a subject particularly interesting to you,
and if I have been mistaken you will with your usual good-nature
forgive me and say, “I am sure Maria meant it kindly.”
Now to fresh fields.—In London you know that we had the pleasure of
meeting Mr. and Mrs. Sneyd, and Emma: there is such a general likeness
between her and Charlotte, that they might pass for sisters. Mrs. Sneyd
bribed us to like her by her extreme kindness. We went to Covent Garden
Theatre and saw the new play of John Bull: some humour, and some
pathos, and one good character of an Irishman, but the contrast between
the elegance of the French theatre and the grossierete of the
English struck us much. But this is the judgment of a disappointed
Now, Aunt Mary, scene changes to York, where we stayed a day to see
the Minster; and as we had found a parcel of new books for us at
Johnson's, from Lindley Murray, we thought ourselves bound to go and
see him. We were told that he lived about a mile from York, and in the
evening we drove to see him. A very neat-looking house: door opened by
a pretty Quaker maidservant: shown into a well-furnished parlour,
cheerful fire, everything bespeaking comfort and happiness. On the sofa
at the farther end of the room was seated, quite upright, a
Quaker-looking man in a pale brown coat, who never attempted to rise
from his seat to receive us, but held out his hand, and with a placid,
benevolent smile said, “You are most welcome—I am heartily glad to see
you; it is my misfortune that I cannot rise from my seat, but I must be
as I am, as I have been these eighteen years.” He had lost the use of
one arm and side, and cannot walk—not paralytic, but from the effects
of a fever. Such mild, cheerful resignation, such benevolence of
manners and countenance I never saw in any human being. He writes
solely with the idea of doing good to his fellow-creatures. He wants
nothing in this life, he says, neither fortune nor fame—he seems to
forget that he wants health—he says, “I have so many blessings.” His
wife, who seemed to love and admire “my husband” as the first and best
of human beings, gave us excellent tea and abundance of good cake.
I have not room here under the seal for the Minster, nor for the
giant figures on Alnwick Castle, nor for the droll man at the beautiful
town of Durham; but I or somebody better than me will tell of them, and
of Mrs. Green's drawings and painted jessamine in her window, and Mr.
Wellbeloved and his charming children, and Mr. Horner, [Footnote:
Francis Horner.] at Newcastle, and Dr. Trotter, at ditto. My father
says, “I hope you have done;” and so perhaps do you.
To MRS. RUXTON.
EDINBURGH, March 30, 1803.
In a few days I hope we shall see you. I long to see you again, and
to hear your voice, and to receive from you those kind looks and kind
words, which custom cannot stale. I believe that the more variety
people see, the more they become attached to their first and natural
friends. I had taken a large sheet of paper to tell you some of the
wonders we have seen in our nine days' stay in Edinburgh, but my father
has wisely advised me to content myself with a small sheet, as I am to
have the joy of talking to you so soon, and may then say volumes in the
same time that I could write pages. I cannot express the pleasure we
have felt in being introduced to Henry's delightful society of friends
here, both those he has chosen for himself and those who have chosen
him. Old and young, grave and gay, join in speaking of him with a
degree of affection and esteem that is most touching and gratifying.
Mr. and Mrs. Stewart [Footnote: Mr. and Mrs. Dugald Stewart. As
Professor at the University of Edinburgh, Mr. Stewart gave those
lectures which Sir James Mackintosh said “breathed the love of virtue
into whole generations of pupils.”] surpassed all that I had expected,
and I had expected much. Mr. Stewart is said to be naturally or
habitually grave and reserved, but towards us he has broken through his
habits or his nature, and I never conversed with any one with whom I
was more at ease. He has a grave, sensible face, more like the head of
Shakespear than any other head or print that I can remember. I have not
heard him lecture; no woman can go to the public lectures here, and I
don't choose to go in men's or boys' clothes, or in the pocket of the
Irish giant, though he is here and well able to carry me. Mrs. Stewart
has been for years wishing in vain for the pleasure of hearing one of
her husband's lectures. She is just the sort of woman you would like,
that you would love. I do think it is impossible to know her without
loving her; indeed, she has been so kind to Henry, that it would be
doubly impossible (an Irish impossibility) to us. Yet you know people
do not always love because they have received obligations. It is an
additional proof of her merit, and of her powers of pleasing, that she
makes those who are under obligations to her forget that they
are bound to be grateful, and only remember that they think her good
To MISS HONORA EDGEWORTH (the
second sister in the family of the name).
GLASGOW, April 4, 1803.
I have not forgotten my promise to write to you, and I think I can
give you pleasure by telling you that Henry is getting better every
day, [Footnote: Henry was only better for a time: he was never really
restored to health, though he lived till 1813.] and that we have all
been extremely happy in the company of several of his friends in
Edinburgh and Glasgow. He has made these friends by his own good
qualities, and good conduct, and we hear them speak of him with the
greatest esteem and affection. This morning Dr. Birkbeck, one of
Henry's friends, took us to see several curious machines, in a house
where he gives lectures on mechanical and chemical subjects. He is
going to give a lecture on purpose for children, and he says he took
the idea for doing so from Practical Education. He opened a
drawer and showed to me a little perspective machine he had made from
the print of my father's; and we were also very much surprised to sec
in one of his rooms a large globe of silk, swelled out and lighted by a
lamp withinside, so that when the room was darkened we could plainly
see the map of the world painted on it, as suggested in Practical
Education. My father mentioned to this gentleman my Aunt
Charlotte's invention of painting the stars on the inside of an
umbrella: he was much pleased with it, and I think he will make such an
umbrella.... Tell Sneyd that we saw at Edinburgh his old friend the
Irish giant. I suppose he remembers seeing him at Bristol? he is so
tall that he can with ease lean his arm on the top of the room door. I
stood beside him, and the top of my head did not reach to his hip. My
father laid his hand withinside of the giant's hand, and it looked as
small as little Harriet's would in John Langan's. This poor giant looks
very sallow and unhealthy, and seemed not to like to sit or stand all
day for people to look at him.
* * * * *
After the return of the family to Edgeworthstown, Miss Edgeworth at
once began to occupy herself with preparing for the press Popular
Tales, which were published this year. She also began Emilie de
Coulanges, Madame de Fleury, and Ennui, and wrote Leonora
with the romantic purpose already mentioned.
In 1804 she found time to write Griselda, which she amused
herself with at odd moments in her own room without telling her father
what she was about. When finished, she sent it to Johnson, who had the
good-nature, at her request, to print a title-page for a single copy
without her name to it: he then sent it over to Mr. Edgeworth as a new
novel just come out. Mr. Edgeworth read it with surprise and
admiration. He could not believe Maria could have had the actual time
to write it, and yet it was so like her style; he at last exclaimed,
“It must be Anna's. Anna has written this to please me. It is by some
one we are interested in, Mary was so anxious I should read it.” Miss
Sneyd was in the secret, and had several times put it before him on the
table: at last she told him it was Maria's. He was amused at the trick,
and delighted at having admired the book without knowing its author.
* * * * *
MISS EDGEWORTH to MRS. CHARLOTTE SNEYD. BLACK CASTLE,
Though Henry will bring you all the news of this enchanted castle,
and though you will hear it far better from his lips than from my pen,
I cannot let him go without a line. I need not tell you I am perfectly
happy here, and only find the day too short. Pray make Henry give you
an account of the grand dinner we were at, and the Spanish priest who
called Rousseau and Voltaire vagabones, and the gentleman who
played the “Highland Laddie” on the guitar, and of Mr. Grainger, who
was present at one of the exhibitions of that German
spectre-monger celebrated in Wraxall.
The cottages are improving here, the people have paved their yards,
and plant roses against their walls. My aunt likes Ennui. I had
thoughts of finishing it here, but every day I find some excuse for
To MISS HONORA EDGEWORTH.
BLACK CASTLE, Jan. 1805.
I have thought of you often when I heard things that would entertain
you, and thought I had collected a great store, but when I rummage in
my head, for want of having had, or taken time to keep the drawers of
my cabinet of memory tidy, I cannot find one single thing that I want,
except that it is said that plants raised from cuttings do not bear
such fine flowers as those raised from seeds.—That a lady, whose
parrot had lost all its feathers, made him a flannel jacket. . . . I
will bring a specimen of the silk spun by the Processionaires,
of whom my aunt gave you the history. There is a cock here who is as
great a tyrant in his own way as Buonaparte, and a poor Barbary cock
who has no claws, has the misfortune to live in the same yard with him;
he will not suffer this poor defenceless fellow to touch a morsel or
grain of all the good things Margaret throws to them till he and all
his protegees are satisfied.
To MISS RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Feb. 26, 1805.
I have been reading a power of good books: Montesquieu sur
la Grandeur et Decadence des Romains, which I recommend to you as a
book you will admire, because it furnishes so much food for thought, it
shows how history may be studied for the advantage of mankind, not for
the mere purpose of remembering facts and repeating them.
Sneyd [Footnote: Second son of Mrs. Elizabeth Edgeworth.] has come
home to spend a week of vacation with us. He is now full of logic, and
we perpetually hear the words syllogisms, and predicates,
majors and minors, universals and particulars,
affirmatives and negatives, and BAROK and BARBARA, not
Barbara Allen or any of her relations: and we have learnt by logic that
a stone is not an animal, and conversely that an animal is not a stone.
I really think a man talking logic on the stage might be made as
diverting as the character of the Apprentice who is
arithmetically mad; pray read it: my father read it to us a few nights
ago, and though I had a most violent headache, so that I was forced to
hold my head on both sides whilst I laughed, yet I could not refrain.
Much I attribute to my father's reading, but something must be left to
Murphy. I have some idea of writing in the intervals of my severer
studies for Professional Education, a comedy for my father's
birthday, but I shall do it up in my own room, and shall not produce it
till it is finished. I found the first hint of it in the strangest
place that anybody could invent, for it was in Dallas's History of
the Maroons, and you may read the book to find it out, and ten to
one you miss it. At all events pray read the book, for it is extremely
interesting and entertaining: it presents a new world with new manners
to the imagination, and the whole bears the stamp of truth. It is not
well written in general, but there are particular parts admirable from
truth of description and force of feeling.
Your little goddaughter Sophy is one of the most engaging little
creatures I ever saw, and knows almost all the birds and beasts in
Bewick from the tom-tit to the hip-po-pot-a-mus, and names them in a
sweet little droll voice.
To HENRY EDGEWORTH, AT
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, March 1805.
It gives me the most sincere pleasure to see your letters to my
father written just as if you were talking to a favourite friend of
your own age, and with that manly simplicity characteristic of your
mind and manner from the time you were able to speak. There is
something in this perfect openness and in the courage of daring to be
always yourself, which attaches more than I can express, more than all
the Chesterfieldian arts and graces that ever were practised.
The worked sleeves are for Mrs. Stewart, and you are to offer them
to her,—nobody can say I do not know how to choose my ambassadors
well! If Mrs. Stewart should begin to say, “O! it is a pity Miss
Edgeworth should spend her time at such work!” please to interrupt her
speech, though that is very rude, and tell her that I like work very
much, and that I have only done this at odd times, after breakfast you
know, when my father reads out Pope's Homer, or when there are
long sittings, when it is much more agreeable to move one's fingers
than to have to sit with hands crossed or clasped immovably. I by no
means accede to the doctrine that ladies cannot attend to anything else
when they are working: besides, it is contrary, is not it, to all the
theories of Zoonomia? Does not Dr. Darwin show that certain
habitual motions go on without interrupting trains of thought? And do
not common sense and experience, whom I respect even above Dr. Darwin,
show the same thing?
To MISS SOPHY RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, March 25, 1805.
To-morrow we all, viz. Mr. Edgeworth, two Miss Sneyds, and Miss
Harriet Beaufort, and Miss Fanny Brown, and Miss Maria, and Miss
Charlotte, and Miss Honora, and Mr. William Edgeworth, go in one coach
and one chaise to Castle Forbes, to see a play acted by the Ladies
Elizabeth and Adelaide Forbes, Miss Parkins, Lord Rancliffe, Lord
Forbes, and I don't know how many grandees with tufts on their heads,
for every grandee man must now you know have a tuft or ridge of hair
upon the middle of his pate. Have you read Kotzebue's Paris?
Some parts entertaining, mostly stuff. We have heard from Lovell, still
a prisoner at Verdun, but in hopes of peace, poor fellow.
To C. SNEYD EDGEWORTH, AT
TRINITY COLLEGE, DUBLIN.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, May 4, 1805.
We are all very happy and tolerably merry with the assistance of
William and the young tribe, who are always at his heels and in full
chorus with him. Charlotte cordials me twice a day with
Cecilia, which she reads charmingly, and which entertains me as
much at the third reading as it did at the first.
We are a little, but very little afraid of being swallowed up by the
French: they have so much to swallow and digest before they come to us!
They did come once very near to be sure, but they got nothing by it.
To MISS S. RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, June 1, 1805.
My father's birthday was kept yesterday, much more agreeably than
last year, for then we had company in the house. Yesterday Sneyd, now
at home for his vacation, who is ever the promoter of gaiety, contrived
a pretty little fete champetre, which surprised us all most
agreeably. After dinner he persuaded me that it was indispensably
necessary for my health that I should take an airing; accordingly the
chaise came to the door, and Anne Nangle, and my mother, with little
Lucy in her arms, and Maria were rolled off, and after them on
horseback came rosy Charlotte, all smiles, and Henry, with eyes
brilliant with pleasure—riding again with Charlotte after eight
months' absence. It was a delightful evening, and we thought we were
pleasing ourselves sufficiently by the airing, so we came home
thinking of nothing at all, when, as we drove round, our ears were
suddenly struck with the sound of music, and as if by enchantment, a
fairy festival appeared upon the green. In the midst of an amphitheatre
of verdant festoons suspended from white staffs, on which the scarlet
streamers of the yeomen were flying, appeared a company of youths and
maidens in white, their heads adorned with flowers, dancing; while
their mothers and their little children were seated on benches round
the amphitheatre. John Langan sat on the pier of the dining-room steps,
with Harriet on one knee and Sophy on the other, and Fanny standing
beside him. In the course of the evening William danced a reel with
Fanny and Harriet, to the great delight of the spectators. Cakes and
syllabubs served in great abundance by good Kitty, formed no
inconsiderable part of the pleasures of the evening. William, who is at
present in the height of electrical enthusiasm, proposed to the dancers
a few electrical sparks, to complete the joys of the day. All—men,
women, and children—flocked into the study after him to be shocked, and their various gestures and expressions of surprise and terror
mixed with laughter, were really diverting to my mother, Anne Nangle,
and me, who had judiciously posted ourselves in the gallery. Charlotte
and Sneyd, as soon as it was dark, came to summon us, and we found the
little amphitheatre on the grass-plat illuminated, the lights mixed
with the green boughs and flowers were beautiful, and boys with
flambeaux waving about had an excellent effect. I do wish you could
have seen the honest, happy face of George, as he held his flambeau
bolt upright at his station, looking at his own pretty daughter Mary. O
my dear aunt, how much our pleasure would have been increased if you
had been sitting beside us at the dining-room window.
To MISS MARGARET RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, June 21, 1805.
I had a most pleasant long letter from my father to-day. He has
become acquainted with Mrs. Crewe—“Buff and blue and Mrs. Crewe”—and
gives an account of a dejeuner at which he assisted at
her house at Hampstead as quite delightful. Miss Crewe charmed him by
praising “To-morrow,” and he claimed, he says, remuneration on the
spot—a song, which it is not easy to obtain: she sang, and he thought
her singing worthy of its celebrity. He was charmed with old Dr.
Burney, who at eighty-two was the most lively, well-bred, agreeable man
in the room. Lord Stanhope begged to be presented to him, and he
thought him the most wonderful man he ever met.
Tell my aunt Leonora is in the press.
To MRS. RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Sept 6, 1805.
Thank you, thank you. Unless you could jump into that skin out of
which I was ready to jump when your letter was read, you could not tell
how very much I am obliged by your so kindly consenting to come.
I have been at Pakenham Hall and Castle Forbes: at Pakenham Hall I
was delighted with “that sweetest music,” the praises of a friend, from
a person of judgment and taste. I do not know when I have felt so much
pleasure as in hearing sweet Kitty Pakenham speak of your Sophy; I
never saw her look more animated or more pretty than when she was
speaking of her.
Lady Elizabeth Pakenham has sent to me a little pony, as quiet and
almost as small as a dog, on which I go trit-trot, trit-trot; but I
hope it will never take it into its head to add
When we come to the stile,
Skip we go over.
To MISS SOPHY RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Feb. 7, 1806.
I am ashamed to tell you I have been so idle that I have not yet
finished Madame de Fleury. You will allow that we have gadded
about enough lately: Sonna, Pakenham Hall, Farnham, and Castle Forbes.
I don't think I told you that I grew quite fond of Lady Judith Maxwell,
and I flatter myself she did not dislike me, because she did not keep
me in the ante-chamber of her mind, but let me into the boudoir at
So Lord Henry Petty is Chancellor of the Exchequer—at twenty-four
on the pinnacle of glory!
Sneyd and Charlotte have begun Sir Charles Grandison: I
almost envy them the pleasure of reading Clementina's history for the
first time. It is one of those pleasures which is never repeated in
To MRS. EDGEWORTH.
ROSSTREVOR, March 21, 1806.
I have spent a very happy week at Collon; [Footnote: Dr. Beaufort,
father of the fourth Mrs. Edgeworth, was Vicar of Collon.] I never saw
your mother in such excellent spirits. She and Dr. Beaufort were so
good as to bring me to Dundalk, where my aunt had appointed to meet me;
but her courage failed her about going over the Mountain road, and she
sent Mr. Corry's chaise with hired horses. I foresaw we should have a
battle about those horses, and so we had—only a skirmish, in which I
came off victorious! Your father, who, next to mine, is, I think, the
best and most agreeable traveller in the world, walked us about Dundalk
and to the Quay, etc., whilst the horses were resting, and we ate black
cherries and were very merry. They pitied me for the ten-mile stage I
was to go alone, but I did not pity myself, for I had Sir William
Jones's and Sir William Chambers's Asiatic Miscellany. The
metaphysical poetry of India, however, is not to my taste; and though
the Indian Cupid, with his bow of sugar-cane and string of bees and
five arrows for the five senses, is a very pretty and very ingenious
little fellow, I have a preference in favour of our own Cupid, and of
the two would rather leave orders with “my porter” to admit the
“well-known boy.” [Footnote: From an Address to Cupid, by the Duc de
Nivernois, translated by Mr. Edgeworth.]
Besides the company of Sir William Jones, I had the pleasure of
meeting on the road Mr. Parkinson Ruxton and Sir Chichester Fortescue,
who had been commissioned by my aunt to hail me; they accordingly did
so, and after a mutual broadside of compliments, they sheered off. The
road to Newry is like Wales—Ravensdale, three miles of wood, glen, and
My aunt and Sophy were on the steps of the inn at Newry to receive
me. The road from Newry to Rosstrevor is both sublime and beautiful.
The inn at Rosstrevor is like the best sort of English breakfasting
inn. But to proceed with my journey, for I must go two miles and a half
from Rosstrevor to my aunt's house. Sublime mountains and sea—road, a
flat gravelled walk, walled on the precipice side. You see a slated
English or Welsh-looking farmhouse amongst some stunted trees,
apparently in the sea; you turn down a long avenue of firs, only three
feet high, but old-looking, six rows deep on each side. The two former
proprietors of this mansion had opposite tastes—one all for straight,
and the other all for serpentine lines; and there was a war between
snug and picturesque, of which the traces appear every step you
proceed. You seem driving down into the sea, to which this avenue
leads; but you suddenly turn and go back from the shore, through
stunted trees of various sorts scattered over a wild common, then a
dwarf mixture of shrubbery and orchard, and you are at the end of the
house, which is pretty. The front is ugly, but from it you look upon
the bay of Carlingford—Carlingford Head opposite to you—vessels under
sail, near and distant—little islands, sea-birds, and landmarks
standing in the sea. Behind the house the mountains of Morne. I saw all
this with admiration, tired as I was, for it was seven o'clock. In the
parlour is a surprising chimney-piece, as gigantic as that at
Grandsire's at Calais, with wonderful wooden ornaments and a tablet
representing Alexander's progress through India, he looking very pert,
driving four lions.
After dinner I was so tired, that in spite of all my desire to see
and hear, I was obliged to lie down and refit. After resting, but not
sleeping, I groped my way down the broad old staircase, felt my
road, passed two clock-cases on the landing-place, and arrived
in the parlour, where I was glad to see candles and tea, and my dear
aunt, and Sophy, and Margaret's illumined, affectionate faces. Tea.
“Come, now,” says my aunt, “let us show Maria the wonderful passage; it
looks best by candlelight.” I followed my guide through a place that
looks like Mrs. Radcliffe in lower life—passage after passage, very
low-roofed, and full of strange lumber; came to a den of a bed-chamber,
then another, and a study, all like the hold of a ship, and fusty; but
in this study were mahogany bookcases, glass doors, and well-bound,
excellent books. All kinds of tables, broken and stowed on top of each
other, and parts of looking-glasses, looking as if they had been there
a hundred years, and jelly glasses on a glass stand, as if somebody had
supped there the night before. Turn from the study and you see a
staircase, more like a step-ladder, very narrow, but one could squeeze
up at a time, by which we went into a place like that you may remember
at the post-house in the Low Countries—two chambers, if chambers they
could be called, quite remote from the rest of the house, low ceilings,
strange scraps of many-coloured paper on the walls, an old camp bed, a
feather bed with half the feathers out; one window, low, but wide.
“Out of that window,” said my aunt, “as Isabella told us, the corpse
“Who is Isabella?” cried I; but before my aunt could answer I was
struck with new wonder at the sight of two French looking-glasses, in
gilt frames, side by side, reaching from the ceiling to the floor, and
placed exactly opposite the bed! [Footnote: This mysterious apartment
had belonged to a poor crazed lady who died there, and who had, as
Isabella, the gardener's wife, related, a passion for fine papers,
different patterns of which were put on the walls to please her, and
also the French mirrors, on which she delighted to look from her bed.
And when she died her coffin was, to avoid the crooked passages, taken
out of the window.]
I was now so tired that I could neither see, hear, nor understand,
imagine, or wonder any longer. Sophy somehow managed to get my clothes
off, and literally put me into bed. The images of all these people and
things flitted before my eyes for a few seconds, and then I was fast
Mrs. and Miss Fortescue came in the morning, and among other things
mentioned the fancy ball in Dublin. Mrs. Sheridan [Footnote: Mrs. Tom
Sheridan.] was the handsomest woman there. The Duchess of Bedford was
dressed as Mary Queen of Scots, and danced with Lord Darnley. At supper
the Duchess motioned to Lady Darnley to come to her table; but
Lady Darnley refused, as she had a party of young ladies. The Duchess
reproached her rather angrily. “Oh,” said Lady Darnley, “when the Queen
of Scots was talking to Darnley, it would not have done for me to have
been too near them.”
MRS. EDGEWORTH to MISS SOPHY
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, April 3, 1806.
We were at Gaybrook when your letter came, and when the good news of
Miss Pakenham's happiness arrived: [Footnote: Catherine, second
daughter of the second Lord Longford, married, 10th April 1806, Sir
Arthur Wellesley, afterwards the first and great Duke of Wellington. He
had, at this time, just returned from India, after a stay of eleven
years.] it was announced there in a very pleasant, sprightly letter
from your friend Miss Fortescue. Your account of the whole affair is
really admirable, and is one of those tales of real life in which the
romance is far superior to the generality of fictions. I hope the
imaginations of this hero and heroine have not been too much exalted,
and that they may not find the enjoyment of a happiness so long wished
for inferior to what they expected. Pray tell dear good Lady Elizabeth
we are so delighted with the news, and so engrossed by it, that, waking
or sleeping, the image of Miss Pakenham swims before our eyes. To make
the romance perfect we want two material documents—a description of
the person of Sir Arthur, and a knowledge of the time when the
interview after his return took place.
MARIA to MRS. EDGEWORTH.
ALLENSTOWN, May-day, 1806.
Dr. Beaufort, tell Charlotte, saw Sir Arthur Wellesley at the
Castle: handsome, very brown, quite bald, and a hooked nose. He could
not travel with Lady Wellesley; he went by the mail. He had overstayed
his leave a day. She travelled under the care of his brother, the
To MISS MARGARET RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, May 23, 1806.
I have been laughed at most unmercifully by some of the phlegmatic
personages round the library table for my impatience to send you The
Mine. “Do you think Margaret cannot live five minutes longer
without it? Saddle the mare, and ride to Dublin, and thence to Black
Castle or Chantony with it, my dear!”
I bear all with my accustomed passiveness, and am rewarded by my
father's having bought it for me; and it is now at Archer's for you.
Observe, I think the poem, as a drama, tiresome in the extreme, and
absurd, but I wish you to see that the very letters from the man in the
quick-silver mine which you recommended to me have been seized upon by
a poet of no inferior genius. Some of the strophes of the fairies are
most beautifully poetic.
Lady Elizabeth Pakenham told us that when Lady Wellesley was
presented to the Queen, Her Majesty said, “I am happy to see you at my
court, so bright an example of constancy. If anybody in this world
deserves to be happy, you do.” Then Her Majesty inquired, “But did you
really never write one letter to Sir Arthur Wellesley during his
long absence?”—“No, never, madam.”—“And did you never think of him?
”—“Yes, madam, very often.”
I am glad constancy is approved of at courts, and hope “the bright
example” may be followed.
To MISS SOPHY RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, July 12, 1806.
This is the third sheet of paper in the smallest hand I could write
I have had the honour within these three days to spoil in your service,
stuffed full of geological and chemical facts, which we learned from
our two philosophical travellers, Davy and Greenough; but when finished
I persuaded myself they were not worth sending. Many of the facts I
find you have in Thomson and Nicholson, which, “owing to my ignorance,”
as poor Sir Hugh Tyrold would say, “I did not rightly know.”
Our travellers have just left us, and my head is in great danger of
bursting from the multifarious treasures that have been stowed and
crammed into it in the course of one week. Mr. Davy is wonderfully
improved since you saw him at Bristol: he has an amazing fund of
knowledge upon all subjects, and a great deal of genius. Mr. Greenough
has not, at first sight, a very intelligent countenance, yet he is
very intelligent, and has a good deal of literature and anecdote,
foreign and domestic, and a taste for wit and humour. He has travelled
a great deal, and relates well. Dr. Beddoes is much better, but my
father does not think his health safe. I am very well, but shamefully
idle: indeed, I have done nothing but hear; and if I had had a dozen
pair extraordinary of ears, and as many heads, I do not think I could
have heard or held all that was said.
To MISS RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Feb. 1807.
While Charlotte [Footnote: Charlotte Edgeworth, the idol and beauty
of the family, died, after a long illness, 7th April 1807.] was pretty
well we paid our long-promised visit to Coolure, and passed a few very
pleasant days there. Admiral Pakenham is very entertaining, and appears
very amiable in the midst of his children, who doat on him. He spoke
very handsomely of your darling brother, and diverted us by the mode in
which he congratulated Richard on his marriage: “I give you joy, my
good friend, and I am impatient to see the woman who has made an honest
man of you.”
Colonel Edward Pakenham burned his instep by falling asleep before
the fire, out of which a turf fell on his foot, and so he was, luckily
for us, detained a few days longer and dined and breakfasted at
Coolure. He is very agreeable, and unaffected, and modest, after all
the flattery he has met with. [Footnote: Colonel, afterwards Sir Edward
Pakenham, distinguished in the Peninsular War, fell in action at New
Orleans, 8th January 1815.]
To MRS. RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Sept. 1807.
My beloved aunt and friend—friend to my least fancies as well as to
my largest interests,—thank you for the six fine rose-trees, and thank
you for the little darling double-flowering almond tree. Sneyd asked if
there was nothing for him? so I very generously gave him the
polyanthuses and planted them with my own hands at the corners of his
Mr. Hammond may satisfy himself as to the union of commerce and
literature by simply reading the history of the Medici, where commerce,
literature, and the arts made one of the most splendid, useful, and
powerful coalitions that ever were seen in modern times. Here is a fine
sentence! Mr. Hammond once, when piqued by my raillery, declared that
he never in his life saw, or could have conceived, till he saw me, that
a philosopher could laugh so much and so heartily.
Enclosed I send a copy of an epitaph written by Louis XVIII., on the
Abbe Edgeworth; I am sure the intention does honour to H.M. heart, and
the critics here say the Latin does honour to H.M. head. William
Beaufort, who sent it to my father, says the epitaph was communicated
to him by a physician at Cork, who being a Roman Catholic of learning
and foreign education, maintains a considerable correspondence in
To HENRY EDGEWORTH, IN
Christmas Day, 1807.
A Merry Christmas to you, my dear Henry and Sneyd! I wish you were
here at this instant, and you would be sure of one; for this is really
the most agreeable family and the pleasantest and most comfortable
castle I ever was in.
We came here yesterday—the we being Mr. and Mrs. Edgeworth,
Honora, and me. A few minutes after we came, arrived Hercules
Pakenham—the first time he had met his family since his return from
Copenhagen. My father has scarcely ever quitted his elbow since he
came, and has been all ear and no tongue.
Lady Wellesley was prevented by engagements from joining this party
at Pakenham Hall; both the Duke and Duchess of Richmond are so fond of
her as no tongue can tell. The Duke must have a real friendship for Sir
Arthur; for while he was at Copenhagen his Grace did all the business
of his office for him.
To C. SNEYD EDGEWORTH, IN
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Jan. 1, 1808.
A Happy New Year to you, my dear Sneyd. It is so dark, I can hardly
see to write, and it has been pouring such torrents of rain, hail, and
snow, that I began to think, with John Langan, that the “old prophecies
found in a bog” were all accomplishing, and that Slievegaulry was
beginning to set out [Footnote: An old woman had, before Christmas,
gone about the neighbourhood saying that, on New Year's Day,
Slievegaulry, a little hill about five miles from Edgeworthstown, would
come down with an earthquake, and settle on the village, destroying
everything.] on its proposed journey. My mother has told you about
these predictions, and the horror they have spread through the country
entirely. The old woman who was the cause of the mischief is, I
suppose, no bigger than a midge's wing, as she has never been found,
though diligent search has been made for her. Almost all the people in
this town sat up last night to receive the earthquake.
We have had the same physiognomical or character-telling fishes
that you described to Honora. Captain Hercules Pakenham brought them
from Denmark, where a Frenchman was selling them very cheap. Those we
saw were pale green and bright purple. They are very curious: my father
was struck with them as much, or more, than any of the children; for
there are some wonders which strike in proportion to the knowledge,
instead of the ignorance, of the beholders. Is it a leaf? Is it
galvanic? What is it? I wish Henry would talk to Davy about it. The
fish lay more quiet in my father's hand than could have been expected;
only curled up their tails on my Aunt Mary's; tolerably quiet on my
mother's; but they could not lie still one second on William's, and
went up his sleeve, which I am told their German interpreters say is
the worst sign they can give. My father suggested that the different
degrees of dryness or moisture in the hands cause the emotions of these
sensitive fish, but after drying our best, no change was
perceptible. I thought the pulse was the cause of their motion, but
this does not hold, because my pulse is slow, and my father's very
quick. It was ingenious to make them in the shape of fish, because
their motions exactly resemble the breathing, and panting, and
floundering, and tail-curling of fish; and I am sure I have tired you
with them, and you will be sick of these fish. [Footnote: It was
afterwards ascertained that these conjuring fish had been brought from
Japan by the Dutch, and were made of horn cut extremely thin. Their
movements were occasioned, as Mr. Edgeworth supposed, from the warm
moisture of the hand, but depended upon the manner in which they were
placed. If the middle of the fish was made to touch the warmest part of
the hand, it contracted, and set the head and tail in motion.]
To MISS RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, April 1808.
We have just had a charming letter from Mrs. Barbauld, in which she
asks if we have read Marmion, Mr. Scott's new poem: we have not.
I have read Corinne with my father, and I like it better than he
does. In one word, I am dazzled by the genius, provoked by the
absurdities, and in admiration of the taste and critical judgment of
Italian literature displayed through the whole work. But I will not I
dilate upon it in a letter; I could talk of it for three hours to you
and my aunt. I almost broke my foolish heart over the end of the third
volume, and my father acknowledges he never read anything more
Pray remember my garden when the Beauforts come to us. It adds very
much to my happiness, especially as Honora and all the children have
shares in it, and I assure you it is very cheerful to see the merry,
scarlet-coated, busy little workwomen in their territories, sowing, and
weeding, and transplanting hour after hour.
Lady Elizabeth Pakenham and Mrs. Stewart and her son Henry, a fine
intelligent boy, and her daughter Kitty, who promises to be as gentle
as her mother, have been here. I liked Mrs. Stewart's conversation
much, and thought her very interesting.
My father and mother have gone to the Hills to settle a whole clan
of tenants whose leases are out, and who expect that because
they have all lived under his Honour, they and theirs these hundred
years, that his Honour shall and will contrive to divide the land that
supported ten people amongst their sons and sons' sons, to the number
of a hundred. And there is Cormac with the reverend locks, and Bryan
with the flaxen wig, and Brady with the long brogue, and Paddy with the
short, and Terry with the butcher's-blue coat, and Dennis with no coat
at all, and Eneas Hosey's widow, and all the Devines, pleading and
quarrelling about boundaries and bits of bog. I wish Lord Selkirk was
in the midst of them, with his hands crossed before him; I should like
to know if he could make them understand his Essay on Emigration.
My father wrote to Sir Joseph Banks to apply through the French
Institute for leave for Lovell to travel as a literate in
Germany, and I have frequently written about him to our French friends;
and those passages in my letters were never answered. All their letters
are now written, as Sir Joseph Banks observed, under evident constraint
* * * * *
Mrs. Edgeworth writes:
This summer of 1808 Mr. and Mrs. Ruxton and their two daughters
passed some time with us. My father, mother, and sister came also, and
Maria read out Ennui in manuscript. We used to assemble in the
middle of the day in the library, and everybody enjoyed it. One evening
when we were at dinner with this large party, the butler came up to Mr.
Edgeworth. “Mrs. Apreece, sir; she is getting out of her carriage.” Mr.
Edgeworth went to the hall door, but we all sat still laughing, for
there had been so many jokes about Mrs. Apreece, who was then
travelling in Ireland, that we thought it was only nonsense of Sneyd's,
who we supposed had dressed up some one to personate her; and we were
astonished when Mr. Edgeworth presented her as the real Mrs. Apreece.
She stayed some days, and was very brilliant and agreeable. She
continued, as Mrs. Apreece and as Lady Davy, to be a kind friend and
correspondent of Maria's.
MARIA to C. SNEYD EDGEWORTH,
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Dec. 30, 1808.
How little we can tell from day to day what will happen to us or our
friends. I promised you a merry frankful of nonsense this day, and
instead of that we must send you the melancholy account of poor Dr.
Beddoes' death. [Footnote: Dr. Beddoes, who had married Anna Edgeworth,
was the author of almost innumerable books. His pupil, Sir Humphry
Davy, says: “He had talents which would have exalted him to the
pinnacle of philosophical eminence, if they had been applied with
discretion.”] I enclose Emmeline's letter, which will tell you all
better than I can. Poor Anna! how it has been possible for her weak
body to sustain her through such trials and such exertions, GOD only
knows. My father and mother have written most warm and pressing
invitations to her to come here immediately, and bring all her
children. How fortunate it was that little Tom [Footnote: Thomas Lovell
Beddoes, 1803-1849, author of The Bride's Tragedy, and of
Death's Jest-Book.] came here last summer, and how still more
fortunate that the little fellow returned with Henry to see his poor
father before he died.
To MRS. RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Jan. 1809.
On Friday we went to Pakenham Hall. We sat down thirty-two to
dinner, and in the evening a party of twenty from Pakenham Hall went to
a grand ball at Mrs. Pollard's. Mrs. Edgeworth and I went, papa and
Aunt Mary stayed with Lady Elizabeth. Lord Longford acted his part of
Earl Marshal in the great hall, sending off carriage after carriage, in
due precedence, and with its proper complement of beaux and belles. I
was much entertained: had Mrs. Tuite, and mamma, and Mrs. Pakenham, and
the Admiral to talk and laugh with: saw abundance of comedy. There were
three Miss ——s, from the County of Tipperary, three degrees of
comparison—the positive, the comparative, and the superlative;
excellent figures, with white feathers as long as my two arms joined
together, stuck in the front of what were meant for Spanish hats. How
they towered above their sex, divinely vulgar, with brogues of true
Milesian race! Supper so crowded that Caroline Pakenham and I agreed to
use one arm by turns, and thus with difficulty found means to reach our
mouths. Caroline grows upon me every time I see her; she is as quick as
lightning, understands with half a word literary allusions as well as
humour, and follows and leads in conversation with that playfulness and
good breeding which delight the more because they are so seldom found
together. We stayed till between three and four in the morning. Lord
Longford had, to save our horses which had come a journey, put a pair
of his horses and one of his postillions to our coach: the postillion
had, it seems, amused himself at a club in Castle Pollard while
we were at the ball, and he had amused himself so much that he did not
know the ditch from the road: he was ambitious of passing Mr. Dease's
carriage—passed it: attempted to pass Mr. Tuite's, ran the wheels on a
drift of snow which overhung the ditch, and laid the coach fairly down
on its side in the ditch. We were none of us hurt. The us were
my mother, Mr. Henry Pakenham, and myself. My mother fell undermost; I
never fell at all, for I clung like a bat to the handstring at my side,
determined that I would not fall upon my mother and break her arm. None
of us were even bruised. Luckily Mrs. Tuite's carriage was within a few
yards of us, and stopped, and the gentlemen hauled us out immediately.
Admiral Pakenham lifted me up and carried me in his arms, as if I had
been a little doll, and set me down actually on the step of Mrs.
Tuite's carriage, so I never wet foot or shoe. And now, my dear aunt, I
have established a character for courage in overturns for the rest of
my life! The postillion was not the least hurt, nor the horses; if they
had not been the quietest animals in the world we should have been
undone: one was found with his feet level with the other's head. The
coach could not be got out of the deep ditch that night, but Lord
Longford sent a man to sleep in it, that nobody else might, and that no
one might steal the glasses. It came out safe and sound in the morning,
not a glass broken. Miss Fortescue, Caroline, and Mr. Henry Pakenham
went up, just as we left Pakenham Hall, to town or to the Park to Lady
Wellesley, who gives a parting ball, and then follows Sir Arthur to
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Feb. 2, 1809. .
This minute I hear a carman is going to Navan, and I hasten to send
you the Cottagers of Glenburnie, [Footnote: By Miss Elizabeth
Hamilton, with whom Miss Edgeworth had become intimate at Edinburgh in
1803.] which I hope you will like as well as we do. I think it will do
a vast deal of good, and besides it is extremely interesting, which all
good books are not: it has great powers, both comic and tragic. I
write in the midst of Fortescues and Pakenhams, with dear Miss Caroline
P., whom I like every hour better and better, sitting on the sofa
beside me, reading Mademoiselle Clairon's Memoirs, and talking
so entertainingly, that I can scarcely tell what I have said, or am
going to say.
I like Mrs. Fortescue's conversation, and will, as Sophy desires,
converse as much as possible with obliging and ever-cheerful Miss
Fortescue. But indeed it is very difficult to mind anything but
Three of the most agreeable days I ever spent we have enjoyed in the
visit of our Pakenham Hall friends to us. How delightful it is to be
with those who are sincerely kind and well-bred: I would not give many
straws for good breeding without sincerity, and I would give at any
time ten times as much for kindness with politeness as for
kindness without it. There is something quite captivating in Lady
Longford's voice and manners, and the extreme vivacity of her
countenance, and her quick change of feelings interested me
particularly: I never saw a woman so little spoiled by the world. As
for Caroline Pakenham, I love her. They were all very polite about the
reading out of Emilie de Coulanges, and took it as a mark of
kindness from me, and not as an exhibition. Try to get and read the
Life of Dudley, Lord North, of which parts are highly interesting.
I am come to the Ambition in Marie de Menzikoff, which I like
much, but the love is mere brown sugar and water. The mother's
blindness is beautifully described. My father says “Vivian” will stand
next to “Mrs. Beaumont” and “Ennui”; I have ten days' more work at it,
ten days' more purgatory at other corrections, and then, huzza! a
heaven upon earth of idleness and reading, which is my idleness. Half
of Professional Education is printed.
To MRS. RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, March 1809.
Indeed you are quite right in thinking that the expressions of
affection from my uncle and you are more delightful to me than all the
compliments or admiration in the world could be. It is no new thing for
me to be happy at Black Castle, but I think I was particularly happy
there this last time. You both made me feel that I added to the
pleasures of your fireside, which after all, old-fashioned or not, are
the best of all pleasures. How I did laugh! and how impossible it is
not to laugh in some company, or to laugh in others. I have often
wondered how my ideas flow or ebb without the influence of my will;
sometimes when I am with those I love, flowing faster than tongue can
utter, and sometimes ebbing, ebbing, till nought but sand and sludge
We have been much entertained with Le petit Carilloneur. I
would send it to you, only it is a society book; but I do send by a
carman two volumes of Alfieri's Life and Kirwan's Essay on
Happiness, and the Drogheda edition of Parent's Assistant,
which, with your leave, I present to your servant Richard.
The Grinding Organ [Footnote: Afterwards published in 1827 in a
small volume, entitled Little Plays.] went off on Friday night
better than I could have expected, and seemed to please the spectators.
Mrs. Pakenham brought four children, and Mr. and Mrs. Thompson two
sons, Mr. and Mrs. Keating two daughters, which, with the Beauforts,
Molly, George, and the rest of the servants, formed the whole audience.
I am sure you would have enjoyed the pleasure the Bristows showed on
seeing and hearing Mary Bristow perform her part, which she did with
perfect propriety. Sophy and Fanny were excellent, but as they were
doomed to be the good children, they had not ample room and
verge enough to display powers equal to the little termagant heroine of
the night. William in his Old Man (to use the newspaper style) was
correct and natural. Mr. Edgeworth as the English Farmer evinced much
knowledge of true English character and humour. Miss Edgeworth as the
Widow Ross, “a cursed scold,” was quite at home. It is to be regretted
that the Widow Ross has no voice, as a song in character was of course
expected; the Farmer certainly gave “a fair challenge to a fair lady.”
His Daniel Cooper was given in an excellent style, and was loudly
The Primate [Footnote: William Stuart, Archbishop of Armagh, fifth
son of the third Earl of Bute.] was very agreeable during the two days
he spent here. My father travelled with him from Dublin to Ardbraccan,
and this reputed silent man never ceased talking and telling
entertaining anecdotes till the carriage stopped at the steps at
Ardbraccan. This I could hardly credit till I myself heard his Grace
burst forth in conversation. The truth of his character gives such
value to everything he says, even to his humorous stories. He has two
things in his character which I think seldom meet—a strong taste for
humour, and strong feelings of indignation. In his eye you may often
see alternately the secret laughing expression of humour, and the
sudden open flash of indignation. He is a man of the warmest feelings,
with the coldest exterior I ever saw—a master mind. I could not but be
charmed with him, because I saw that he thoroughly appreciated my
* * * * *
Tales of Fashionable Life were published in June 1809, and
greatly added to the celebrity of their authoress. “Almeria” is the
best, and full of admirable pictures of character. In all, the object
is to depict the vapid and useless existence of those who live only for
society. Sometimes the moralising becomes tiresome. “Vraiment Miss
Edgeworth est digne de l'enthousiasme, mais elle se perd dans votre
triste utilite,” said Madame de Stael to M. Dumont when she had read
the Tales. In that age of romantic fiction an attempt to depict life as
it really was took the reading world by surprise.
“As a writer of tales and novels,” wrote Lord Dudley in the
Quarterly Review, “Miss Edgeworth has a very marked peculiarity. It
is that of venturing to dispense common sense to her readers, and to
bring them within the precincts of real life and natural feeling. She
presents them with no incredible adventures or inconceivable
sentiments, no hyperbolical representations of uncommon characters, or
monstrous exhibitions of exaggerated passion. Without excluding love
from her pages, she knows how to assign to it its just limits. She
neither degrades the sentiment from its true dignity, nor lifts it to a
burlesque elevation. It takes its proper place among the passions. Her
heroes and heroines, if such they may be called, are never miraculously
good, nor detestably wicked. They are such men and women as we see and
converse with every day of our lives, with the same proportional
mixture in them of what is right and what is wrong, of what is great
and what is little.”
Lord Jeffrey, writing in the Edinburgh Review, said: “The
writings of Miss Edgeworth exhibit so singular an union of sober sense
and inexhaustible invention, so minute a knowledge of all that
distinguishes manners, or touches on happiness in every condition of
human fortune, and so just an estimate both of the real sources of
enjoyment, and of the illusions by which they are so often obstructed,
that we should separate her from the ordinary manufacturers of novels,
and speak of her Tales as works of more serious importance than much of
the true history and solemn philosophy that comes daily under our
inspection.... It is impossible, I think, to read ten pages in any of
her writings without feeling, not only that the whole, but that every
part of them, was intended to do good.”
* * * * *
MARIA EDGEWORTH to MISS RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, June 1809.
A copy of Tales of Fashionable Life [Footnote: The first set
containing “Ennui,” “Madame de Fleury,” “Almeria,” “The Dun,” and
“Manoeuvring,” in three volumes.] reached us yesterday in a Foster
frank: they looked well enough,—not very good paper, but better than
Popular Tales. I am going to write a story called “To-day,”
[Footnote: Never written.] as a match for “To-morrow,” in which I mean
to show that Impatience is as bad as Procrastination, and the desire to
do too much to-day, and to enjoy too much at present, is as bad as
putting off everything till to-morrow. What do you think of this plan?
Write next post, as, while my father is away, I am going to write a
story for his birthday. My other plan was to write a story in which
young men of all the different professions should act a part, like the
“Contrast” in higher life, [Footnote: “Patronage.”] or the “Freeman
Family,” only without princes, and without any possible allusion to our
own family. I have another sub-plan of writing “Coelebina in search of
a Husband,” without my father's knowing it, and without reading
Coelebs, that I may neither imitate nor abuse it.
I daresay you can borrow Powell's Sermons from Ardbraccan or
Dr. Beaufort; the Primate lent them to my father. There is a charge on
the connection between merit and preferment, and one discourse on the
influence of academical studies and a recluse life, which I
particularly admire, and wish it had been quoted in Professional
Mr. Holland, a grand-nephew of Mr. Wedgwood's, and son to a surgeon
at Knutsford, Cheshire, and intended for a physician, came here in the
course of a pedestrian tour—spent two days—very well informed. Ask my
mother when she goes to you to tell you all that Mr. Holland told us
about Mr. and Mrs. Barbauld and Mrs. Marcet, who is the author of
Conversations on Chemistry—a charming woman, by his account.
To MISS RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Aug. 22, 1809.
I have just been reading Carleton's Memoirs, and am in love
with the captain and with his general, Lord Peterborough; and I have
also been reading one of the worst-written books in the language, but
it has both instructed and entertained me—Sir John Hawkins's Life
of Johnson. He has thrown a heap of rubbish of his own over poor
Johnson, which would have smothered any less gigantic genius.
M. Dumont writes from Lord Henry Petty's: “Nous avons lu en societe
a Bounds, Tales of Fashionable Life. Toute societe est un petit
theatre. 'Ennui' et 'Manoeuvring' ont eu un succes marque, il a ete
tres vif. Nous avons trouve un grand nombre des dialogues du meilleur
comique, c'est a dire ceux ou les personnages se developpent sans le
vouloir, et sont plaisants sans songer a l'etre. Il y a des scenes
charmantes dans 'Madame de Fleury.' Ne craignez pas les difficultes,
c'est la ou vous brillez.”
To MISS HONORA EDGEWORTH.
We have had a bevy of wits here—Mr. Chenevix, Mr. Henry Hamilton,
Leslie Foster, and his particular friend Mr. Fitzgerald. Somebody asked
if Miss White [Footnote: The then well-known Miss Lydia White, for many
years a central figure in London literary society.] was a bluestocking.
“Oh yes, she is; I can't tell you how blue. What is bluer than
blue?”—“Morbleu,” exclaimed Lord Norbury. Miss White herself
comes next week.
Among other things Miss White entertained my father with was a
method of drawing the human figure, and putting it into any attitude
you please: she had just learned it from Lady Charleville—or rather
not learned it. A whole day was spent in drawing circles all over the
human figure, and I saw various skeletons in chains, and I was told the
intersections of these were to show where the centres of gravity were
to be; but my gravity could not stand the sight of these ineffectual
conjuring tricks, and my father was out of patience himself. He seized
a sheet of paper and wrote to Lady Charleville, and she answered in one
of the most polite letters I ever read, inviting him to go to
Charleville Forest, and he will go and see these magical incantations
performed by the enchantress herself.
To MISS RUXTON.
I have spent five delightful days at Sonna and Pakenham Hall. Mrs.
Tuite's kindness and Mr. Chenevix's various anecdotes, French and
Spanish, delighted us at Sonna; and you know the various charms both
for the head and heart at Pakenham Hall.
I have just been reading, for the fourth time, I believe, The
Simple Story, which I intended this time to read as a critic, that
I might write to Mrs. Inchbald about it; but I was so carried away by
it that I was totally incapable of thinking of Mrs. Inchbald or
anything but Miss Milner and Doriforth, who appeared to me real persons
whom I saw and heard, and who had such power to interest me, that I
cried my eyes almost out before I came to the end of the story: I think
it the most pathetic and the most powerfully interesting tale I ever
read. I was obliged to go from it to correct Belinda for Mrs.
Barbauld, who is going to insert it in her collection of novels, with a
preface; and I really was so provoked with the cold tameness of that
stick or stone Belinda, that I could have torn the pages to pieces: and
really, I have not the heart or the patience to correct her. As
the hackney coachman said, “Mend you! better make a new one.”
To MRS. RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Jan. 1810.
I have had a very flattering and grateful letter from Lydia White;
she has sent me a comedy of Kelly's—A Word to the Wise. She
says the Heiress is taken from it. Just about the same time I
had a letter from Mrs. Apreece: [Footnote: Afterwards Lady Davy.] she
is at Edinburgh, and seems charmed with all the wits there; and, as I
hear from Mr. Holland, [Footnote: Afterwards Sir Henry Holland.] the
young physician who was here last summer, she is much admired by them.
Mrs. Hamilton and she like one another particularly; they can never
cross, for no two human beings are, body and mind, form and substance,
more unlike. We thought Mr. Holland, when he was here, a young man of
abilities—his letter has fully justified this opinion: it has excited
my father's enthusiastic admiration. He says Walter Scott is going to
publish a new poem; I do not augur well of the title, The Lady of
the Lake. I hope this lady will not disgrace him. Mr. Stewart has
not recovered, nor ever will recover, the loss of his son: Mr. Holland
says the conclusion of his lectures this season was most pathetic and
impressive—“placing before the view of his auditors a series of
eight-and-thirty years, in which he had zealously devoted himself to
the duties of his office; and giving the impression that this year
would be the period of his public life.”
I have had a most agreeable letter from my darling old Mrs.
Clifford; she sent me a curiosity—a worked muslin cap, which cost
sixpence, done in tambour stitch, by a steam-engine. Mrs. Clifford
tells me that Mrs. Hannah More was lately at Dawlish, and excited more
curiosity there, and engrossed more attention, than any of the
distinguished personages who were there, not excepting the Prince of
Orange. The gentleman from whom she drew Caelebs was there, but
most of those who saw him did him the justice to declare that he was a
much more agreeable man than Caelebs. If you have any curiosity to know
his name, I can tell you that—young Mr. Harford, of Blaise Castle.
My father has just had a letter from your good friend Sir Rupert
George, who desires to be affectionately remembered to you and my
uncle. His letter is in answer to one my father wrote to him about his
clear and honourable evidence on this Walcheren business. Sir Rupert
says: “I must confess I feel vain in receiving commendations from such
a quarter. The situation in which I was placed was perfectly new to me,
and I had no rule for the government of my conduct but the one which
has, I trust, governed all my actions through life—to speak the truth,
and fear not. Allow me on this occasion to repeat to you an expression
of the late Mrs. Delany's to me a few years before she died: 'The
Georges, I knew, would always prosper, from their integrity of conduct.
Don't call this flattery: I am too old to flatter any one, particularly
a grand-nephew; and to convince you of my sincerity, I will add—for
which, perhaps, you will not thank me—that there is not an ounce of
wit in the whole family.'“
“Oh how my sister would like to see this letter of Sir Rupert's!”
said my father; and straightway he told, very much to Sophy and Lucy's
edification, the history of his dividing with sister Peg the first
peach he ever had in his life.
Have you any commands to Iceland? My young friend Mr. Holland
proposes going there from Edinburgh in April. Sir George Mackenzie is
the chief mover of the expedition.
This epigram or epitaph was written by Lord I-don't-know-who, upon
Doctor Addington—Pitt's Addington—in old French:
Cy dessous reposant
Le sieur Addington git:
Medecin malgre lui.
The other day we had a visit from a Mrs. Coffy—no relation, she
says, to your Mrs. Coffy. She looked exactly like one of the pictures
of the old London Cries. She came to tell us that she had been at
Verdun, and had seen Lovell. From her description of the place and of
him, we had no doubt she had actually seen him. She came over to
Ireland to prove that some man who is a prisoner at Verdun, and who is
a life in a lease, is not dead, but “all alive, ho!” and my father
certified for her that he believed she had been there. She knew nothing
of Lovell but that he was well, and fat, and a very merry gentleman two
years ago. She had been taken by a French privateer as she was going to
see her sons in Jersey, and left Verdun at a quarter of an hour's
notice, as the women were allowed to come home, and she had not time to
tell this to Lovell, or get a letter from him to his friends. She was,
as Kitty said, “a comical body,” but very entertaining, and acted a
woman chopping bread and selling un liv'—deux liv'—trois liv'—Ah,
bon, bon, as well as Molly Coffy [Footnote: Mrs. Molly Coffy, for
fifty years Mrs. Ruxton's housekeeper.] herself acted the elephant. She
was children's maid to Mr. Estwick, and Mr. Estwick is, my father says,
son to a Mr. Estwick who used to be your partner and admirer at Bath in
To C. SNEYD EDGEWORTH, IN
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, April 1810.
I do not like Lord Byron's English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, though, as my father says, the lines are very strong, and worthy of
Pope and The Dunciad. But I was so much prejudiced against the
whole by the first lines I opened upon about the “paralytic muse” of
the man who had been his guardian, and is his relation, and to whom he
had dedicated his first poems, that I could not relish his wit. He may
have great talents, but I am sure he has neither a great nor good mind;
and I feel dislike and disgust for his Lordship.
To MISS RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, May 1810.
Now I have to announce the safe arrival of my aunts and Honora in
good looks and good spirits. My father went to Dublin to meet them. I
am sorry he did not see the Count de Salis, [Footnote: The Count de
Salis, just then going to be married to Miss Foster, daughter of Mr.
Edgeworth's old friend and schoolfellow, the Bishop of Clogher.] but he
was much pleased with Harriet Foster, which I am glad of; for I love
To MRS. RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, June 21, 1810.
When shall we two meet again? This is a question which occurs to me
much oftener than even you think, and it always comes into my mind when
I am in any society I peculiarly like, or when I am reading any book
particularly suited to my taste and feelings; and now it comes a
propos to the Bishop of Meath and Mrs. O'Beirne and The Lady of
the Lake. By great good fortune, and by the good-nature of Lady
Charlotte Rawdon, we had The Lady of the Lake to read just when
the O'Beirnes were with us. A most delightful reading we had; my
father, the Bishop, and Mr. Jephson reading it aloud alternately. It is
a charming poem: a most interesting story, generous, finely-drawn
characters, and in many parts the finest poetry. But for an old
prepossession—an unconquerable prepossession—in favour of the old
minstrel, I think I should prefer this to either the Lay or
Marmion. Our pleasure in reading it was increased by the sympathy
and enthusiasm of the guests.
Have you read, or tried to read, Mademoiselle de l'Espinasse's three
volumes of Letters? and have you read Madame du Deffand? [Footnote: The
blind friend and correspondent of Horace Walpole.] Some of the letters
in her collection are very entertaining; those of the Duchesse de
Choiseul, the Comte de Broglie, Sir James Macdonald, and a few of
Madame du Deffand's: the others are full of fade compliments and
tiresome trifling, but altogether curious as a picture of that
profligate, heartless, brilliant, and ennuyed society. There is
in these letters, I think, a stronger picture of ennui than in
Alfieri's Life. Was his passion for the Countess of Albany, or
for horses, or for pure Tuscan, the strongest? or did not he love
NOTORIETY better than all three?
Sir Thomas and Lady Ackland spent a day here: he is nephew to my
friend Mrs. Charles Hoare. He says he is twenty-three, but he looks
To MISS RUXTON.
We have had a visit from Captain Pakenham, the Admiral's son, this
week: I like him. I was particularly pleased with his respectful manner
to my father. He has some of his father's quickness of repartee, but
with his own manner—no affectation of his father's style. We
were talking of a Mrs. ——. “What,” said I, “is she alive still? The
last time I saw her she seemed as if she had lived that one day longer
by particular desire.”—“I am sure, then,” said Captain Pakenham, in a
slow, gentle voice,—“I am sure, then, I cannot tell at whose
I have been hard at work at Mrs. Leadbeater: I fear my notes are
* * * * *
Mrs. Edgeworth writes:
Mrs. Leadbeater, the Quaker lady who lived at Ballitore, whose
father had been tutor to Edmund Burke, and whose Letters have been
published, wrote to Maria this year, asking her advice about a book she
had written, Cottage Dialogues, and sent the MS. to her. Mr.
Edgeworth was so much pleased with it, that Maria offered, at Mr.
Edgeworth's suggestion, to add a few notes to give her name to the
book; and it was published by Johnson's successor with great success.
Mr. Edgeworth, Maria, and I went this autumn to Kilkenny to see the
amateur theatricals, with which we were much delighted. Mr. Edgeworth,
who remembered Garrick, said he never saw such tragic acting as Mr.
Rothe, in Othello: how true to nature it was, appeared from the
observation of our servant, Pat Newman, who had never seen a play
before, when Mr. Edgeworth asked him if he did not pity the poor woman
smothered in bed: “It was a pity of her, but I declare I pitied the man
the most.” The town was full to overflowing, but we were most
hospitably received, though our friends the O'Beirnes were their
guests, by Doctor and Mrs. Butler. He had been a friend of Mr.
Edgeworth's when he lived in the county of Longford, and she had been,
when Miss Rothwell, a Dublin acquaintance of mine. This visit to
Kilkenny was rich in recollections for Maria: the incomparable acting,
the number of celebrated people there assembled, the supper in the
great gallery of old grand Kilkenny Castle, the superb hospitality, the
number of beautiful women and witty men, the gaiety, the spirit, and
the brilliancy of the whole, could have been seen nowhere else.
MISS EDGEWORTH to MISS
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Nov. 1810.
We are to set out for Dublin on the 13th, to hear Davy's Lectures.
Lord Fingal was so kind as to come here yesterday with Lady Teresa
Dease, and he told me that my uncle is gone to Dublin. Tell me
everything about it clearly. Honora, Fanny, and William go with us.
* * * * *
Mrs. Edgeworth interpolates:
We spent a few weeks in Dublin. Davy's Lectures not only opened a
new world of knowledge to ourselves and to our young people, but were
especially gratifying to Mr. Edgeworth and Maria, confirming, by the
eloquence, ingenuity, and philosophy which they displayed, the high
idea they had so early formed of Mr. Davy's powers.
MARIA EDGEWORTH to MISS
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, April 1811.
I think Hardy's Life of Lord Charlemont interesting, and many
parts written in a beautiful style; but I don't think he gives a clear,
well-proportioned history of the times. There is a want of keeping
and perspective in it. The pipe of the man smoking out of the window is
as high as the house. Mr. Hardy is more a portrait than a history
If you have any curiosity to know the names of the writers of some
of the articles in the Edinburgh Review, I can tell you, having
had to-day, from my literary intelligencer, Mr. Holland, two huge
sheets, very entertaining and sensible. Jeffrey wrote the article on
Parliamentary Reform and that on the Curse of Kehama, Sydney Smith that
on Toleration, and Malthus that on Bullion; and if you have any
curiosity, I can also tell you those in the Quarterly, among
whom Canning is one. Thank my aunt for her information about Walter
Scott; my father will write immediately to ask him here. I wish we
lived in an old castle, and had millions of old legends for him. Have
you seen Campbell's poem of O'Connor's Child? it is beautiful.
In many parts I think it is superior to Scott.
This being May-day, one of the wettest I have ever seen, I have been
regaled, not with garlands of May flowers, but with the legal
pleasures of the season; I have heard of nothing but giving notices
to quit, taking possession, ejectments, flittings, etc. What do you
think of a tenant who took one of the nice new houses in this town, and
left it with every lock torn off the doors, and with a large stone,
such as John Langan could not lift, driven actually through the boarded
floor of the parlour? The brute, however, is rich, and if he does not
die of whisky before the law can get its hand into his pocket, he will
pay for this waste.
I have had another [Footnote: No less than five letters were
received by Miss Edgeworth at different times, from different young
people, asking for a description of the dresses in the “Contrast.”] odd
letter signed by three young ladies—Clarissa Craven, Rachel Biddle,
and Eliza Finch, who, after sundry compliments in very pretty language,
and with all the appearance of seriousness, beg that I will do them the
favour to satisfy the curiosity they feel about the wedding dresses of
the Frankland family in the “Contrast.” I have answered in a way that
will stand for either jest or earnest; I have said that, at a sale of
Admiral Tipsey's smuggled goods, Mrs. Hungerford bought French cambric
muslin wedding gowns for the brides, the collars trimmed in the most
becoming manner, as a Monmouth milliner assured me, with Valenciennes
lace, from Admiral Tipsey's spoils. I have given all the particulars of
the bridegrooms' accoutrements, and signed myself the young ladies'
“obedient servant and perhaps dupe.“
I am going on with “Patronage,” and wish I could show it to you.
Do get O'Connor's Child, Campbell's beautiful poem.
Last Saturday there was the most violent storm of thunder and
lightning I ever saw in Ireland, and once I thought I felt the ground
shake under me, for which thought I was at the time laughed to scorn;
but I find that at the same time the shock of an earthquake was felt
in the country, which shook Lissard House to its foundations. I
tell it to you in the very words in which it was told to me by Sneyd,
who had it from Councillor Cummin. A man was certainly killed by the
lightning near Finac, for the said councillor was knocked up at
six o'clock in the morning, to know if there was to be a
To MRS. RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Aug. 30, 1811.
I have written a little play for our present large juvenile
audience, [Footnote: Mrs. Beddoes and her three children were now at
Edgeworthstown.] not for them to act, but to hear; I read it out last
night, and it was liked. The scene is in Ireland, and the title “The
Absentee.” When will you let me read it to you? I would rather read it
to you up in a garret than to the most brilliant audience in
Anna's children are very affectionate. Henry is beautiful, and the
most graceful creature I ever saw. The eight children are as happy
together as the day is long, and give no sort of trouble.
What book do you think Buonaparte was reading at the siege of
Acre?—Madame de Stael sur l'influence des Passions! His opinion
of her and of her works has wonderfully changed since then. He does not
follow Mazarin's wise maxim, “Let them talk provided they let me
act.” He may yet find the recoil of that press, with which he
meddles so incautiously, more dangerous than those cannon of which he
well knows the management.
Note Physical and Economical
I am informed from high authority, that if you give Glauber's salts
to hens, they will lay eggs as fast as you please!
* * * * *
To MISS RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, October 1811.
Davy spent a day here last week, and was as usual full of
entertainment and information of various kinds. He is gone to
Connemara, I believe, to fish, for he is a little mad about fishing;
and very ungrateful it is of me to say so, for he sent to us from Boyle
the finest trout! and a trout of Davy's catching is, I presume, worth
ten trouts caught by vulgar mortals. Sneyd went with him to Boyle, saw
Lord Lorton's fine place, and spent a pleasant day. Two of Mr. Davy's
fishing friends have since called upon us: Mr. Solly, a great
mineralogist, and Mr. Children, a man of Kent.
I am working away at “Patronage,” but cannot at all come up to my
idea of what it should be.
To MRS. MARY SNEYD.
ARDBRACCAN HOUSE, Nov. 1811.
Nothing worthy of note occurred on our journey to Pakenham Hall,
where we found to our surprise dear Lady Longford and Lord Longford,
who had come an hour before on one of his flying visits, and a whole
tribe of merry laughing children, Stewarts and Hamiltons. Lady Longford
showed us a picture of Lady Wellington and her children; they are
beautiful, and she says very like—Lady Wellington is not like: it is
absurd to attempt to draw Lady Wellington's face; she has no face, it is all countenance. My father and Lady Elizabeth played at
cribbage, and I was looking on: they counted so quickly fifteen two,
fifteen four, that I was never able to keep up with them, and made a
sorry figure. Worse again at some genealogies and intermarriages, which
Lady Elizabeth undertook to explain to me, till at last she threw her
arms flat down on each side in indignant despair, and exclaimed, “Well!
you are the stupidest creature alive!”
When Lord Longford came in I escaped from cribbage and heard many
entertaining things: one was of his meeting a man in the mail coach,
who looked as if he was gouty, and seemed as if he could not stir
without great difficulty, and never without the assistance of a
companion, who never moved an inch from him. At last Lord Longford
discovered that this gentleman's gouty overalls covered
fetters; that he was a malefactor in irons, and his companion a Bow
Street officer, who treated his prisoner with the greatest politeness.
“Give me leave, sir—excuse me—one on your arm and one on mine, and
then we are sure we can't leave one another.”
A worse travelling companion this than the bear, whom Lord Longford
found one morning in the coach when day dawned, opposite to him—the
gentleman in the fur cloak, as he had all night supposed him to be!
* * * * *
A second series of Tales of Fashionable Life appeared in
1812. Of these “The Absentee” was a masterpiece, and contains one scene
which Macaulay declared to be the best thing written of its kind since
the opening of the twenty-second book of the Odyssey. Yet Mrs.
Edgeworth tells that the greater part of “The Absentee” was “written
under the torture of the toothache; it was only by keeping her mouth
full of some strong lotion that Maria could allay the pain, and yet,
though in this state of suffering, she never wrote with more spirit and
rapidity.” Mr. Edgeworth advised the conclusion to be a Letter from
Larry, the postillion: he wrote one, and she wrote another; he much
preferred hers, which is the admirable finale to “The Absentee.”
* * * * *
MARIA EDGEWORTH to MISS MARGARET RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, July 20, 1812.
I am heartily obliged to my dear Sophy—never mind, you need not
turn to the direction, it is to Margaret, my dear, though it
begins with thanks to Sophy—for being in such haste to relieve my mind
from the agony it was in that Fashionable Tales should reach my
aunt. I cannot by any form of words express how delighted I am that you
are none of you angry with me, and that my uncle and aunt are pleased
with what they have read of “The Absentee.” I long to hear whether
their favour continues to the end and extends to the catastrophe, that
dangerous rock upon which poor authors, even after a prosperous voyage,
are wrecked, sometimes while their friends are actually hailing them
from the shore. I have the Rosamond vase [Footnote: A glass vase
which Miss Edgeworth painted for Mrs. Ruxton, in brown, from Flaxman's
designs for the Odyssey.] madness so strong upon me, that I am
out of my dear bed regularly at half-past seven in the morning, and
never find it more than half an hour till breakfast time, so happy am I
daubing. On one side I have Ulysses longing to taste Circe's cakes, but
saying, “No, thank you,” like a very good boy: and on the other side I
have him just come home, and the old nurse washing his feet, and his
queen fast asleep in her chair by a lamp, which I hope will not set her
on fire, though it is, in spite of my best endeavours, so much out of
the perpendicular that nothing but a miracle can keep it from falling
on Penelope's crown.
Little Pakenham is going on bravely (not two months old), and I am
just beginning to write again, and am in “Patronage,” and
have corrected all the faults you pointed out to me; and Susan, who was
a fool, is now Rosamond and a wit.
I suppose you have heard various jeux d'esprit on the
marriage of Sir Humphry Davy and Mrs. Apreece? I scarcely think any of
them worth copying: the best idea is stolen from the bon mot
on Sir John Carr, “The Traveller be_k_nighted.”
“When Mr. Davy concluded his last Lecture by saying that we were but
in the Dawn of Science, he probably did not expect to be so soon
I forget the lines: the following I recollect better:—
To the famed widow vainly bow
Church, Army, Bar, and Navy;
Says she, I dare not take a vow,
But I will take my Davy.
Another my father thinks is better:
Too many men have often seen
Their talents underrated;
But Davy owns that his have been
I enclose a copy of Lovell's letter, which will give my dear aunt
exquisite pleasure. His request to my father to pass him over, a
prisoner and of precarious health, and make his next brother his heir,
shows that if he has suffered he has at least had an opportunity of
showing what he is. We shall do all we can to get at Talleyrand or some
friend for his exchange. How happy Lady Wellington must be at this
glorious victory. Had you in your paper an account of her running
as fast as she could to Lord Bury at Lord Bathurst's when he alighted,
to learn the first news of her husband! Vive l'enthousiasme!
Without it characters may be very snug and comfortable in the world,
but there is a degree of happiness which they will never taste, and of
which they have no more idea than an oyster can have.
To MRS. EDGEWORTH.
BLACK CASTLE, Oct. 1812.
After a most delightful journey with Mr. and Mrs. Henry Hamilton,
laughing, singing, and talking, we dined with them. [Footnote: Mr. and
Mrs. Hamilton were paying a visit at Edgeworthstown, when the papers
announced Mr. Sadler's intention of crossing the Channel in a balloon
from Dublin. Mr. Edgeworth proposed to Mr. Hamilton that they should go
to Dublin together to see the ascent, and he and Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton,
Maria, Sneyd, William, and two little sisters formed the party.] Dear
old Mr. Sackville Hamilton dined with us, fresh from London:
intellectual and corporeal dainties in abundance. The first morning was
spent in cursing Mr. Sadler for not going up, and in seeing the Dublin
Society House. A charming picture of Mr. Foster, by Beachey, with plans
in his hand, looking full of thought and starting into life and action.
Spent an hour looking over the books of prints in the library—Fanny
particularly pleased with a Houbracken: Harriet with Daniel's Indian
Antiquities: my father with Sir Christopher Wren's and Inigo Jones's
designs. After dinner Richard Ruxton came in, and said my aunt and
uncle had thoughts of coming up to see the balloon. In the evening at
Astley's. The second day to see the elephant: how I pitied this noble
animal, cooped up under the command of a scarcely human creature, who
had not half as much reason as himself. Went on to see the Panorama of
Edinburgh: I never saw a sight that pleased me more; Edinburgh was
before me—Princes Street and George Street—the Castle—the bridge
over dry land where the woman met us and said, “Poor little things they
be.” At first a mistiness, like what there is in nature over a city
before the sun breaks out; then the sun shining on the buildings,
trees, and mountains.
Thursday morning, to our inexpressible joy, was fine, and the flag,
the signal that Sadler would ascend, was, to the joy of thousands,
flying from the top of Nelson's Pillar. Dressed quickly—breakfasted I
don't know how—job coach punctual: crowds in motion even at nine
o'clock in the streets: tide flowing all one way to Belvidere Gardens,
lent by the proprietor for the occasion: called at Sneyd's lodgings in
Anne Street: he and William gone: drove on; when we came near Belvidere
such strings of carriages, such crowds of people on the road and on the
raised footpath, there was no stirring: troops lined the road at each
side: guard with officers at each entrance to prevent mischief; but
unfortunately there were only two entrances, not nearly enough for such
a confluence of people. Most imprudently we and several others got out
of our carriages upon the raised footpath, in hopes of getting
immediately at the garden door, which was within two yards of us, but
nothing I ever felt was equal to the pressure of the crowd: they closed
over our little heads, I thought we must have been flattened, and the
breath squeezed out of our bodies. My father held Harriet fast, I
behind him held Fanny with such a grasp! and dragged her on with a
force I did not know I possessed. I really thought your children would
never see you again with all their bones whole, and I cannot tell you
what I suffered for ten minutes. My father, quite pale, calling with a
stentor voice to the sentinels. A fat woman nearly separated me from
Fanny. My father fairly kicked off the terrace a man who was intent
upon nothing but an odious bag of cakes which he held close to his
breast, swearing and pushing. Before us were Mrs. Smyley and Mr.
Smyley, with a lady he was protecting. Unable to protect anybody, he
looked more frightened than if he had lost a hundred causes: the lady
continually saying, “Let me back! let me back! if I could once get to
The tide carried us on to the door. An admirable Scotch officer, who
was mounting guard with a drawn sword, his face dropping perspiration,
exclaimed at the sight of Harriet, “Oh the child! take care of that
child! she will be crushed to death!” He made a soldier put his musket
across the doorway, so as to force a place for her to creep under:
quick as lightning in she darted, and Fanny and I and my father after
her. All was serene, uncrowded, and fresh within the park.
We instantly met Sneyd and William, and the two Mr. Foxes. Music and
the most festive scene in the gardens: the balloon, the beautiful
many-coloured balloon, chiefly maroon colour, with painted eagles, and
garlands, and arms of Ireland, hung under the trees, and was filling
fast from pipes and an apparatus which I leave for William's scientific
description: terrace before Belvidere House—well-dressed groups
parading on it: groups all over the gardens, mantles, scarves, and
feathers floating: all the commonalty outside in fields at half-price.
We soon espied Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton, and joined company, and were
extremely happy, and wished for you and dear Honora. Sun shining, no
wind. Presently we met the Solicitor-General: he started back, and made
me such a bow as made me feel my own littleness; then shook my hands
most cordially, and in a few moments told me more than most men could
tell in an hour: just returned from Edinburgh—Mrs. Bushe and daughters
too much fatigued to come and see the balloon.
The Duke and Duchess of Richmond, and Sir Charles Vernon, and Sir
Charles Saxton. The Miss Gunns seated themselves in a happily
conspicuous place, with some gentlemen, on the roof of Belvidere House,
where, with veils flying and telescopes and opera-glasses continually
veering about, they attracted sufficient attention.
Walking on, Sneyd exclaimed, “My Uncle Ruxton!” I darted to him: “Is
my aunt here?”—“Yes, and Sophy, and Margaret, but I have lost them;
I'm looking for them.”—“Oh, come with me and we'll find them.” Soon we
made our way behind the heels of the troopers' horses, who guarded a
sacred circle round the balloon: found my aunt, and Sophy, and
Mag—surprise and joy on both sides: got seats on the pedestal of some
old statue, and talked and enjoyed ourselves: the balloon filling
gradually. Now it was that my uncle proposed our returning by Black
The drum beats! the flag flies! balloon full! It is moved from under
the trees over the heads of the crowd: the car very light and
slight—Mr. Sadler's son, a young lad, in the car. How the horses stood
the motion of this vast body close to them I can't imagine, but they
did. The boy got out. Mr. Sadler, quite composed, this being his
twenty-sixth aerial ascent, got into his car: a lady, the Duchess of
Richmond, I believe, presented to him a pretty flag: the balloon gave
two majestic nods from side to side as the cords were cut. Whether the
music continued at this moment to play or not, nobody can tell. No one
spoke while the balloon successfully rose, rapidly cleared the trees,
and floated above our heads: loud shouts and huzzas, one man close to
us exclaiming, as he clasped his hands, “Ah, musha, musha, GOD bless
you! GOD be wid you!” Mr. Sadler, waving his flag and his hat, and
bowing to the world below, soon pierced a white cloud, and disappeared;
then emerging, the balloon looked like a moon, black on one side,
silver on the other; then like a dark bubble; then less and less, and
now only a speck is seen; and now the fleeting rack obscures it. Never
did I feel the full merit of Darwin's description till then.
Next day, at eight in the morning, my father and William (who
proceed to the Bishop of Derry's) and Fanny went to Collon. Sneyd,
Harriet, and I came here.
To MRS. RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Oct. 26, 1812.
Elections have been the order of the day with us as well as with
you. I am glad to tell you that Lord Longford's troubles are over; he
is now here, and has just been telling us that his victory for Colonel
Hercules was as complete as his heart could wish. There would have been
a duel but for Admiral Pakenham. One gentleman in his speech said that
another had made the drummer of his corps play “Protestant Boys.” The
other said, “That's a lie;” and both were proceeding to high words,
when the Admiral stepped between them, and said, very gravely,
“Gentlemen, I did not know this meeting was a music meeting, but since
you appeal to us electors to decide your cause by your musical merits,
let the past be past; and now for the present give us each of you a
song, and here's the sheriff,”—who has no more ear than a post—“shall
be judge between you.” Everybody laughed, and the two angry gentlemen
had to laugh off their quarrel.
Another gentleman said to the Admiral, after the election was over,
“Do you know, I had a mind to have stood myself; if I had, what would
you have said?”—“That it was all a game of brag, and that, as you had
the shuffling of the pack, there was no knowing what knave might turn
Lord Longford told us of Colonel Hercules Pakenham, at the siege of
Badajos, walking with an engineer. A bomb whizzed over their heads and
fell among the soldiers, as they were carrying off the wounded. When
the Colonel expressed some regret, the engineer said, “I wonder you
have not steeled your mind to these things. These men are carried to
the hospital, and others come in their place. Let us go to the depot.”
Here the engineer had his wheelbarrows all laid out in nice order, and
his pickaxes arranged in stars and various shapes; but, just as they
were leaving the depot, a bomb burst in the midst of them. “Oh,
heavenly powers, my picks!” cried the engineer, with clasped hands, in
To C. SNEYD EDGEWORTH, IN
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Feb. 10, 1813.
Rokeby is, in my opinion—and let every soul speak for
themselves—most beautiful poetry: the four first cantos and half the
fifth are all I have yet read. I think it a higher and better, because
less Scotch, more universal style of poetry than any Walter Scott has
yet produced, though not altogether perfect of its kind. It has more
discrimination of character, more knowledge of human nature, more
generalised reflection, much more moral aim.
* * * * *
In March, Miss Edgeworth accompanied her father and stepmother to
* * * * *
MARIA to MRS. MARY SNEYD.
BANGOR FERRY, March 31, 1813.
“I will go and write a few lines of a letter to my dear Aunt Mary.”
“Oh! why should you write now, my dear? You have nothing new to tell
“Nothing new, but I love her, and wish to write to her; if I did not
love her, I should be worse than Caliban.”
“Well, write only a few lines.”
“That is just what I mean to do, and go on with my letter at any odd
place where we stop the night.“
You have heard of all we saw at Howth, so I go on from Holyhead.
Breakfasted in company with Mr. Grainger: he has lived in very good
company abroad, and told us a variety of entertaining anecdotes:
Caulaincourt, now Due de Vincennes, was brought up in the family of the
Prince de Conde, l'enfant de la Maison, the playfellow of the
Due d'Enghien. Buonaparte employed Caulaincourt to seize the Due
d'Enghien; the wretch did so, and has been repaid by a dukedom.
We asked how the present Empress was liked in France. “Not at all by
the Parisians; she is too haughty, has the Austrian scornful lip, and
sits back in her carriage when she goes through the streets.” The same
complaint was made against Marie Antoinette. On what small things the
popularity of the high and mighty depends!
Josephine is living very happily, amusing herself with her gardens
and her shrubberies. This ci-devant Empress and Kennedy and Co.,
the seedsmen, are, as Mr. Grainger says, in partnership; she has a
licence to send to him what shrubs and seeds she chooses from France,
and he has licence to send cargoes in return to her. Mr. Grainger will
carry over my box to Madame Recamier.
At the inn door at Bangor Ferry we saw a most curiously packed
curricle, with all manner of portmanteaus and hat-boxes slung in
various ingenious ways, and behind the springs two baskets, the size
and shape of Lady Elizabeth Pakenham's basket. A huge bunch of white
feathers was sticking out from one end of one of these baskets; and as
we approached to examine it, out came the live head of a white
peacock—a Japan peacock and peahen. The gentleman to whom the carriage
belonged appeared next, carrying on a perch a fine large macaw. This
perch was made to fasten behind the carriage. The servant who was
harnessing the horses would not tell to whom the carriage belonged. He
replied to all inquiries, “It belongs to that there gentleman.”
We have enjoyed this fine day: had a delightful walk before dinner
in a hanging wood by the water-side—pretty sheep-paths, wood anemonies
in abundance, with their white flowers in full blow. Two ploughs going
in the field below the wood: very cheerful the sound of the Welshmen's
voices talking to their horses. The ploughing, giving the idea of
culture and civilisation, contrasted agreeably with the wildness of the
wood and mountains. Good-night.
This morning we set out for the slate quarries; we took our time,
full time to see everything at leisure. The railways are above six
miles long; they are very narrow. I had formed an idea of their being
much more magnificent, but in this country canals and railways are made
as useful and as little splendid as possible. I was surprised to see
these railways winding round the rocks, and going over heaps of rubbish
where you would think no wheelbarrow even could go.
From the slate-cutting we went to the slate quarries. We had been
admiring the beauty of the landscape. My father did not say anything to
raise my expectations, but when we arrived near the place, he took me
by the hand, and led me over a heap of rubbish, on the top of which
there was a railway. We walked on until we came between two slate
mountains, and found ourselves in the midst of the quarries. It was the
most sublime sight of all the works of man I ever beheld. The men
looked like pigmies. There is a curious cone of grayish-coloured slate
standing alone, which the workmen say is good for nothing; but it is
good for its picturesque appearance. A heavy shower of hail came on,
which, falling between the rifts of the rocks, and blown by the high
wind, added to the sublimity of the scene: we were comfortably
sheltered in one of the sheds.
Finding that Mr. Worthington was at Liverpool, my father determined
to go there, and we have come on to Conway. During a storm of wind,
thunder, and lightning last night it snowed just enough to cover the
tops of the mountains with white, to increase the beauty of the
prospect for us: they appeared more majestic from the strong contrast
of bright lights and broad shades: the leaves of the honeysuckles all
green in the hedges, fine hollies, primroses in abundance: it was
literally spring in the lap of winter. Penmanmawr has, my father says,
considerably altered its appearance, since he knew it first, from the
falling of masses of rock, and the crumbling away of the mighty
substance. Cultivation has crept up its sides to a prodigious height. A
little cottage nestled just under the mountain's huge stone cap. The
fragments of rock that have rolled down, some of them across the road,
are ten times the size of the rock in Mr. Keating's lawn, [Footnote: A
curious isolated stone, about ten feet by four, which stood in the
Vicarage lawn at Edgeworthstown, said to have been aimed at the church
by a Pagan giant from the Hill of Ardagh. It is now destroyed.] and in
contrast with this idea of danger are sheep and lambs feeding quietly;
the lambs looking not larger than little Francis's deceased kittens
Muff and Tippet.
We reached Conway at six o'clock. The landlady of the Harp Inn knew
my father, and recollected Lovell and my Aunt Ruxton. The boy to whom
Lovell used to be so good, and who stopped my father on Penmanmawr to
tell him that Lovell had given him Lazy Lawrence, was drowned with many
others crossing the Ferry in a storm. The old harper who used to be the
delight of travellers is now in a state of dotage. There was no harper
at Bangor: the waiter told us “they were no profit to master, and was
always in the way in the passage; so master never lets them come now.”
In the midst of all the sublime and beautiful I had a happy mixture
of the comic, for we had a Welsh postillion who entertained us much by
his contracted vocabulary, and still more contracted sphere of ideas.
He and my father could never understand one another, because my father
said “qu_a_rry,” and the Welshman said “qu_e_rry”; and the burthen of
all he said was continually asking if we would not like to be “driven
Friday morning, seven o'clock, dressed, and ready to go on
with my scribbling. I assure you, my dear kind Aunt Mary, it is a great
pleasure to me to write this letter at odd minutes while the horses are
changing, or after breakfast or dinner for a quarter of an hour at a
time, so that it is impossible that it should tire me. I owe all my
present conveniencies for writing to various Sneyds: I use Emma Sneyd's
pocket-inkstand; my ivory-cutter penknife was the gift of my Aunt
Charlotte, and my little Sappho seal a present of Aunt Mary's.
For miles we have had beautiful hollies in the hedges; I wish my
Aunt Charlotte would be so kind as to have a few small hollies out of
Wilkinson's garden planted in the new ditch between Wood's and Duffy's;
also some cuttings of honeysuckles and pyracanthus—enough can be had
from my garden. I must finish abruptly.
To MRS. RUXTON.
LIVERPOOL, April 6, 1813.
Many times—a hundred times within this week—have I wished, my
dearest aunt, to talk over with you the things and people I have seen.
I am very well, very happy, and much entertained and interested.
Liverpool is very fine and very grand, and my father soon found out
Mr. Roscoe; he was so good as to come to see us, and invited us to his
house, Allerton Hall, about seven miles from Liverpool. He is a
benevolent, cheerful, gentlemanlike old man; tall, neither thin nor
fat, thick gray hair. He is very like the prints you have seen of him;
his bow courteous, not courtly; his manner frank and prepossessing,
without pretension of any kind. He enters into conversation readily,
and immediately tells something entertaining or interesting, seeming to
follow the natural course of his own thoughts, or of yours, without
effort. Mrs. Roscoe seems to adore her husband, and to be so fond of
her children, and has such a good understanding and such a warm heart,
it is impossible not to like her. Mr. Roscoe gave himself up to us the
whole day. Allerton Hall is a spacious house, in a beautiful situation:
fine library, every room filled with pictures, many of them presents
from persons in Italy who admired his Leo the Tenth. One of Tasso has a
sort of mad vigilance in the eyes, as if he that instant saw the genius
that haunted him. Mr. Roscoe has arranged his collection admirably, so
as to show, in chronological order, in edifying gradation, the progress
of painting. The picture which he prized the most was by one of
Raphael's masters, not in the least valuable in itself, but for a
frieze below it by Michael Angelo, representing the destruction of the
Oracles; it is of a gray colour. Mr. Roscoe thinks it one of Michael
Angelo's earliest performances, and says it is conceded to be
the only original Michael Angelo in England. Of this I know nothing,
but I know that it struck me as full of genius, and I longed for you
and Margaret when we looked at a portfolio full of Michael Angelo's
sketches, drawings, and studies. It is admirable to see the pains that
a really great man takes to improve a first idea. Turning from these
drawings to a room full of Fuseli's horribly distorted figures, I could
not help feeling astonishment, not only at the bad taste, but at the
infinite conceit and presumption of Fuseli. How could this man make
himself a name! I believe he gave these pictures to Mr. Roscoe, else I
suppose they would not be here sprawling their fantastic lengths, like
misshapen dreams. Instead of le beau, they exhibit le laid
At dinner Darwin's poetry was mentioned, and Mr. Roscoe neither ran
him down nor cried him up. He said exactly the truth, that he was
misled by a false theory of poetry—that everything should be
picture—and that therefore he has not taken the means to touch the
feelings; and Mr. Roscoe made what seemed to me a new and just
observation, that writers of secondary powers, when they are to
represent either objects of nature or feelings of the human mind,
always begin by a simile: they tell you what it is like, not what it
I finish this at Mr. Holland's, at Knutsford. We spent a delightful
day at Manchester, where we owed our chief pleasure to Dr. Ferrier and
* * * * *
To MISS HONORA EDGEWORTH.
DERBY, April 25, 1813.
We have been now five days at Mr. Strutt's. We have been treated
with so much hospitality and kindness by him, and he showed such a high
esteem, and I may say affection for my father, that even if he had not
the superior understanding he possesses, it would be impossible for me
not to like him. From the moment we entered his house he gave up his
whole time to us, his servants, his carriage; everything and everybody
in his family were devoted to us, and all was done with such simplicity
of generosity, that we felt at ease even while we were loaded with
favours. This house is indeed, as Sneyd and William described it, a
palace; and it is plain that the convenience of the inhabitants has
everywhere been consulted: the ostentation of wealth nowhere appears.
Seven hours of one day Mr. Strutt and his nephew Jedediah gave up to
showing us the cotton mills, and another whole morning he gave up to
showing to us the infirmary; he built it—a noble building; hot air
from below conveyed by a cockle all over the house. The whole
institution a most noble and touching sight; such a GREAT thing,
planned and carried into successful execution in so few years by one
We dined at Mr. Joseph Strutt's, and were in the evening at Mr.
George Strutt's; and I will name some of the people we met, for Sneyd
and William will like to know whom we saw:—Dr. Forrester, Mr. French,
Miss French, who has good taste, as she proved by her various
compliments to Sneyd; Miss Broadhurst, not my heiress, though she says
that, after the publication of the Absentee, people used to turn
their heads when she was announced, and ask if that was Miss
Edgeworth's Miss Broadhurst! She met Sneyd in Dublin; has been lately
at Kilkenny, and admired Mr. Rothe's acting of Othello. We saw a good
deal of Mr. Sylvester, [Footnote: The inventor of the Cockle or
Sylvester stove.] who is, I think, a man of surprising abilities, of a
calm and fearless mind: an original and interesting character. Edward
Strutt is indeed all that Sneyd and William described—a boy of great
abilities, affectionate, and with a frank countenance and manner which
win at once. One of our greatest pleasures has been the hearing
everybody, from Edward upwards, speak of Sneyd and William with such
affection, and with such knowledge of their characters. We all like
We have been at the Priory: Mrs. Darwin at first much out of
spirits. Besides the death of her son, she had lost a grandchild, and
her daughter Harriet, Mrs. Maling, had just sailed with her husband for
the Mediterranean. The Priory is a beautiful place, and Emma Darwin
We breakfasted at Markeaton with Mr. Mundy: he is a charming old
gentleman, lively, polite, and playful as if he was twenty. He was
delighted to see my father, and they talked over their school days with
great zest. My father was, you know, at school, Mr. Mundy's horse,
My mother will tell you the history of our night travels over the
bad road between Leicester and Kettering; my father holding the lantern
stuck up against one window, and my mother against the other the bit of
wax candle Kitty gave me. I don't think we could have got on without
it. Pray tell her, for she laughed when I put it in my box and said it
might be of vast use to us at some odd place.
Mr. Smedley has just called: tell Sneyd we think him very pleasing.
I enclose the “Butterfly's Ball” for Sophy, and a letter to the King
written by Dr. Holland when six years old: his father found him going
with it to the post. Give it to Aunt Mary.
* * * * *
This letter was an offer from Master Holland to raise a regiment. He
and some of his little comrades had got a drum and a flag, and used to
go through the manual exercise. It was a pity the letter did not reach
the King: he would have been delighted at it.
* * * * *
To C. SNEYD EDGEWORTH.
LONDON, May 1, 1813.
Please to take this in small doses, but not fasting.
Let us go back, if you please, to Cambridge. Thursday morning we
went to breakfast with Mr. Smedley. It had been a dreadful rainy night,
but luckily the rain ceased in the morning, and the streets were dried
by the wind on purpose for us. In Sidney College we found your friend
in neat, cheerful rooms, with orange-fringed curtains, pretty drawings,
and prints: breakfast-table as plentifully prepared as you could have
had it—tea, coffee, tongue, cold beef, exquisite bread, and many
inches of butter. I suppose you know, but no one else at home can
guess, why I say inches of butter. All the butter in Cambridge
must be stretched into rolls a yard in length and an inch in diameter,
and these are sold by inches, and measured out by compasses, in a truly
mathematical manner, worthy of a university.
Mr. Smedley made us feel at home at once: my mother made tea, I
coffee; he called you “Sneyd,” and my father seemed quite pleased.
After having admired the drawings and pictures, and Fanny's
kettle-holder, we sallied forth with our friendly guide. It was quite
fine and sunshiny, and the gardens and academic shades really
beautiful. We went to the University Hall—the election of a new
Professor to the Chemical Professorship was going on. Farish was one of
the candidates: the man of whom Leslie Foster used to talk in such
raptures when he first came from Cambridge; the man who lectured on
arches, and whose paradox of the one-toothed wheel William will
recollect. My father was introduced to him, and invited him to dine
with us: Mr. Farish accepted the invitation. We sat on a bench with a
few ladies. A number of Fellows, with black tiles on their heads,
walked up and down the hall, whispering to one another; and in five
minutes Mr. Smedley said, “The election is over: I must go and
congratulate Mr. Professor Farish.”
We next proceeded to the University Library, not nearly so fine as
the Dublin College Library. Saw Edward the Sixth's famous little MS.
exercise book: hand good, and ink admirable; shame to the modern
chemists, who cannot make half as good ink now! Saw Faustus' first
printed book and a Persian letter to Lord Wellesley, and an Indian
idol, said to be made of rice, looking like, and when I lifted it
feeling as heavy as, marble. Mr. Smedley smiled at my being so taken
with an idol, and I told him that I was curious about this rice-marble,
because we had lately seen at Derby a vase of similar substance, about
which there had been great debates. Mr. Smedley then explained to me
that the same word in Persian expresses rice and the composition of
which these idols are made.
We saw the MS. written on papyrus leaves: I had seen the papyrus at
the Liverpool Botanic Garden, and had wondered how the stiff bark could
be rolled up; and here I saw that it is not rolled up, but cut in
strips and fastened with strings at each end.
In this library were three casts, taken after death—how or why they
came there I don't know, but they were very striking—one of Charles
XII., with the hole in the forehead where the bullet entered at the
siege of Fredericks-hall; that of Pitt, very like his statue from the
life, and all the prints of him; and that of Fox, shocking! no
character of greatness or ability—nothing but pain, weakness, and
imbecility. It is said to be so unlike what he was in health, that none
would know it. One looks at casts taken after death with curiosity and
interest, and yet it is not probable that they should show the real
natural or habitual character of the person: they can often only mark
the degree of bodily pain or ease felt in the moment of death. I think
these casts made me pause to reflect more than anything else I saw this
Went next to Trinity College Library: beautiful! I liked the glass
doors opening to the gardens at the end, and trees in full leaf. The
proportions of this room are excellent, and everything but the ceiling,
which is too plain. The busts of Bacon and Newton excellent; but that
of Bacon looks more like a courtier than a philosopher: his ruff is
elegantly plaited in white marble. By Cipriani's painted window, with
its glorious anachronisms, we were much amused; and I regret that it is
not recorded in Irish Bulls. It represents the presentation of Sir
Isaac Newton to His Majesty George the Third, seated on his
throne, and Bacon seated on the steps of the said throne
writing! Cipriani had made the King, Henry VIII., but the Fellows of
the College thought it would be pretty to pay a compliment to His
Gracious Majesty George III., so they made Cipriani cut off Henry
VIII.'s head, and stick King George in his place: the junction is still
to be seen in the first design of the picture, covered with a pasted
paper cravat! like the figure that changes heads in the Little Henry
Saw Milton's original MSS. of his lesser poems, and his letters and
his plan of a tragedy on the subject of Paradise Lost, which
tragedy I rejoice he did not write. I have not such delight in seeing
the handwriting of great authors and great folk as some people have;
besides by this time I had become very hungry, and was right glad to
accept Mr. Smedley's proposal that we should repair to his rooms and
take some sandwiches.
Rested, ate, talked, looked at the engravings of Clarke's marbles,
and read the account of how these ponderous marbles had been
transported to England. We saw the marbles themselves. The famous
enormous head of Ceres must have belonged to a gigantic statue, and
perhaps at a great height may have had a fine effect. It is in a sadly
mutilated condition; there is no face; the appearance of the head in
front is exactly like that of Sophy's doll, whose face has peeled off,
yet Clarke strokes it and talks of its beautiful contour. The
hair is fine, and the figure, from its vast size, may be sublime.
After having recruited our strength, we set out again to the
Vice-Chancellor Davis's, to see a famous picture of Cromwell. As we
knocked at his Vice-Chancellorship's door, Mr. Smedley said to me,
“Now, Miss Edgeworth, if you would but settle in Cambridge! here is our
Vice-Chancellor a bachelor ... do consider about it.”
We went upstairs; found the Vice-Chancellor's room empty; had
leisure before he appeared to examine the fine picture of Cromwell, in
which there is more the expression of greatness of mind and
determination than his usual character of hypocrisy. This portrait
seems to say, “Take away that bauble,” not “We are looking for the
The Vice-Chancellor entered, and such a wretched, pale, unhealthy
object I have seldom beheld! He seemed crippled and writhing with
rheumatic pains, hardly able to walk. After a few minutes had passed,
Mr. Smedley came round to me and whispered, “Have you made up your
mind?” “Yes, quite, thank you.”
Now for the beauty of Cambridge—the beauty of beauties—King's
College Chapel! On the first entrance I felt silenced by admiration. I
never saw anything at once so beautiful and so sublime. The prints give
a good idea of the beauty of the spandrilled ceiling, with its rich and
light ornaments; but no engraved representation can give an idea of the
effect of size, height, and continuity of grandeur in the whole
building. Besides, the idea of DURATION, the sublime idea of having
lasted for ages, is more fully suggested by the sight of the real
building than it can be by any representation or description: for which
reason I only tell you the effect it had upon my mind.
The organ began to play an anthem of Handel's while we were in the
chapel: I wished for you, my dear Sneyd, particularly at that moment!
Your friend took us up the hundred stairs to the roof, where he was
delighted with the sound of the organ and the chanting voices rising
from the choir below. My father was absorbed in the mechanical wonders
of the roof: that stone roof, of which Sir Christopher Wren said, “Show
me how the first stone was laid, and I will show you how the second is
Mr. Smedley exclaimed, “Is not the sound of the organ fine?” To
which my father, at cross purposes, answered, “Yes, the iron was
certainly added afterwards.”
Mr. Smedley at once confessed that he had no knowledge or taste for
mechanics, but he had the patience and good-nature to walk up and down
this stone platform for three-quarters of an hour. He stood observing
my mother's very eager examination with my father of the defects in the
wooden roof, and pointing out where it had been cut away to admit the
stone, as a proof that the stone roof had been an afterthought; and at
last turned to me with a look of astonishment. “Mrs. Edgeworth seems to
have this taste for mechanics too.” He spoke of it as a kind of
mania. So I nodded at him very gravely, and answered, “Yes, you will
find us all tinctured with it, more or less.” At last, to Mr. Smedley's
great joy, he got my father alive off this roof, and on his way to
Downing, the new college of which Leslie Foster talked so much, and
said was to be like the Parthenon. Shockingly windy walk: thought my
brains would have been blown out. Passed Peter House, and saw the rooms
in which Gray lived, and the irons of his fire-escape at the window.
Warned Mr. Smedley of the danger of my father being caught by a
coachmaker's yard which we were to pass. My father overheard me,
laughed, and contented himself with a side glance at the springs of
gigs, and escaped that danger. I nearly disgraced myself, as the
company were admiring the front of Emmanuel College, by looking at a
tall man stooping to kiss a little child. Got at last, in spite of the
wind and coachmakers' yards, within view of Downing College, and was
sadly disappointed. It will never bear comparison with King's College
Home to dinner: Mr. Farish and Mr. Smedley were very agreeable and
entertaining, and did very well together, though such different
persons. Mr. Farish is the most primitive, simple-hearted man I ever
The bells were ringing in honour of Professor Farish's election, or,
as Mr. Smedley said, at the Professor's expense.
Farish insisted upon it very coolly that they were not ringing for
him, but for a shoulder of mutton.
“A shoulder of mutton! what do you mean?”
“Why, a man left to the University a shoulder of mutton for every
Thursday, on condition that the bells should always ring for him on
that day: so this is for the shoulder of mutton.”
Mr. Farish paid us no compliments in words, but his coming to spend
the evening with us the day of his election, when I suppose he might
have been feasted by all the grand and learned in the University, was,
I think, the greatest honour my father has received since he came to
England; and so he felt it.
I suppose you know that Mr. Smedley has published minutes of the
trial of that Mr. Kendal who was accused of having set fire to Sidney
College, and who, though brought off by the talents of Garrow, was so
generally thought to be guilty, and to have only escaped by a quirk of
the law, that he has been expelled the University. What a strange thing
that this trial at Cambridge and that in Dublin, of incendiaries,
[Footnote: The trial in Dublin was that of “Moscow Cavendish.”] should
take place within so short a time of each other! It seems as if the
fashion of certain crimes prevailed at certain times.
“Good-bye, Mr. Smedley! I hope you like us half as well as we liked
you.” We thought it well worth our while to have come thirty miles out
of our way to see him and Cambridge, and you, Sneyd, have the thanks of
the whole party for your advice.
In passing through the village of Trumpington, and just as we came
within sight of Dr. Clarke's house, [Footnote: Edward Daniel Clarke,
1769-1822, one of the most distinguished travellers of the eighteenth
century, was Professor of Mineralogy at Cambridge.] I urged my father
to call upon him.
“Without an introduction, and two ladies with me! No, with all my
impudence, my dear Maria, I cannot do that.”
“Oh, do! you will repent afterwards if you do not: we shall never
have another opportunity of seeing him.”
“Well, at your peril, then, be it.”
He let down the glass, and ordered the postillion to drive up to Dr.
Clarke's house. I quailed in the corner the moment I heard the order
given, but said nought. Out jumped my father, and during two or three
minutes whilst he was in the house, and my mother and I waiting in the
carriage at the door, I was in an agony. But it was soon over; for out
came little Dr. Clarke flying to us, all civility, and joy, and
gratitude, and honour, and pleasure, “ashamed and obliged,” as he
handed us up the steps and into a very elegant drawing-room.
I do not know whether you have seen him, but from the print I had
imagined he was a large man, with dark eyes and hair, and a penetrating
countenance. No such thing: he is a little, square, pale, flat-faced,
good-natured-looking, fussy man, with very intelligent eyes, yet great
credulity of countenance, and still greater benevolence. In a moment he
whisked about the different rooms upstairs and down, to get together
books, sketches, everything that could please us; and Angelica's
drawings—she draws beautifully.
Angelica herself, Mrs. Clarke, is a timid, dark, soft-eyed woman,
with a good figure. I am told it is rude to say a person is very clean,
but I may praise Angelica for looking elegantly clean, brilliantly
white, with a lace Mary Queen of Scots cap, like that which I am sure
you remember on Lady Adelaide Forbes. She received us with timid
courtesy, but her timidity soon wore off, and the half-hour we spent
here made us wish to have spent an hour. Dr. Clarke seemed highly
gratified that his travels in Greece had interested us so much: showed
us the original drawings of Moscow, and a book of views of the ruins at
Athens by the draughtsman who went out with the Duc de Choiseul
Gouffier—beautifully done; mere outlines, perfectly distinct, and
giving, I think, better architectural ideas than we have from more
finished and flattered drawings.
We were sorry not to see more, and glad we had seen so much, of Dr.
Clarke and his Angelica, and his fine little boy about five years old.
A tall, dark-eyed, fine fashionable-looking man, Dr. Clarke introduced
to us as Mr. Walpole. My father entered into conversation with him, and
found he had known Captain Beaufort in the Mediterranean.
When we were going away, Dr. Clarke, between my mother and me,
seemed puzzled how to get us both into the carriage at once; but he
called to Mr. Walpole. “Walpole, put this lady into the carriage.”
And with a “Meadows” air he obeyed.
Now we are again on the London road, and nothing interrupted our
perusal Pride and Prejudice for the rest of the morning. I am
desired not to give you my opinion of Pride and Prejudice, but
desire you to get it directly, and tell us yours.
To MISS RUXTON.
LONDON, May 1813.
I fear Madame de Stael's arrival may be put off till after we leave
town. The Edinburgh review of her book has well prepared all the world
for her. The first persons who came to see us were Sir Humphry and Lady
Davy, who have been uniformly and zealously kind and attentive to us.
We have been frequently at their dinners and parties, and I should fill
a roll as long as that genealogy Foote unrolled across the stage, if I
were to give you a list of the names of all the people we have met at
their house. Of Lord Byron I can tell you only that his appearance is
nothing that you would remark. The Miss Berrys are all that you have
heard of them from people of various tastes; consequently you know that
they are well bred, and have nice tact in conversation. Miss Catharine
Fanshaw I particularly like; she has delightful talents. Her drawings
have charmed my mother, full of invention as well as taste; her
“Village School” and “Village Children at Play” are beautiful
compositions, and her drawings for the Bath Guide are full of humour
Lady Crewe has still the remains of much beauty. Except her dress,
which happened to be blue, there appeared to be nothing else blue
about her. The contrast between her really fashionable air and manners
and that of the strugglers and imitators struck me much: Lady
Elizabeth Whitbread is, in one word, delightful. Miss Fox very
agreeable—converses at once, without preface or commonplace: Lady
Charlotte Lindsay ditto: Lady Darnley has been very polite in her
attentions: both Lord and Lady Hardwicke peculiarly gracious. Lord
Somerville I cannot help being charmed with, for he says he is charmed
with Lady Delacour and Lady Geraldine, whom he pronounces to be perfect
women of fashion, and says they are in high repute in the equerry's
room at Court. He was quite indignant against certain pretenders to
fashion. I told him the remark of a friend of ours, that a gentleman or
gentlewoman cannot be made under two generations. “In less than five, madam, I think it scarcely possible,” said he.
Lady Lansdowne, taking in beauty, character, conversation, talents,
and manners, I think superior to any woman I have seen; perfectly
natural, daring to be herself, gentle, sprightly, amiable, and
engaging. Lydia Whyte has been very kind to us, and eager to bring
together people who would suit and please us: very agreeable dinner at
her house; she conducts these bel esprit parties well; her
vivacity breaks through the constraint of those who stand upon great
reputations, and are afraid of committing themselves.
Charming, amiable Lady Wellington! As she truly said of herself, she
is always “Kitty Pakenham to her friends.” After comparison with crowds
of others, beaux esprits, fine ladies and fashionable
scramblers for notoriety, her dignified graceful simplicity rises
in one's opinion, and we feel it with more conviction of its
superiority. She showed us her delightful children. Lord Longford, just
come to town, met us yesterday at the Exhibition of Sir Joshua
Reynolds's pictures. Some of these are excellent: his children, from
the sublime Samuel to the arch Gipsy, are admirable.
We hope to see Mrs. Siddons act on the 25th; it was thought
impossible to get a box, but the moment my father pronounced the name
Edgeworth, Mr. Brandon, the box-keeper, said he should have one. Lady
Charleville, who is a very clever woman, goes with us with her daughter
and Lord Tullamore. We have been to a grand night at Mrs. Hope's—the
rooms really deserve the French epithet of superbe—all of
beauty, rank, and fashion that London can assemble, I may say, in the
newspaper style, were there. The Prince Regent stood one-third of the
night holding converse with Lady Elizabeth Monk, she leaning gracefully
on a bronze ornament in the centre of the room, in the midst of the
sacred but very small circle etiquette could keep round them. About 900
people were at this assembly; the crowd of carriages were so great,
that after sitting waiting in ours for an hour, the coachman told us
there was no chance of our reaching the door unless we got out and
walked. Another good-natured coachman backed his horses, and we bravely
crossed the line and got into the house and up the staircase, but no
power of ours could have got us on, but for the gloriously large body
and the good-natured politeness of the Archbishop of Tuam, who
fortunately met us at the door, recognised us just as he would have
done at Mrs. Bourke's, in the county of Longford, and made way for us
through the crowd, and, in the wake of his greatness, we sailed on
prosperously, and never stopped till he presented us to his beautiful
daughter, who received us with a winning smile. I asked Mr. Hope who
some one was? “I really don't know; I don't know half the people here,
nor do they know me or Mrs. Hope even by sight. Just now I was behind a
lady who was making her speech, as she thought, to Mrs. Hope,
but she was addressing a stranger.” Among the old beauties the Duchess
of Rutland held her pre-eminence and looked the youngest.
A few days after we came to town we were told by Mr. Wakefield that
there was to be at the Freemasons' tavern a meeting on the Lancasterian
schools, at which the reports of the Irish Education Committee were to
be alluded to, and that the Dukes of Kent and Sussex, Lord Lansdowne,
Sir James Macintosh, and Mr. Whitbread were all to speak. We went; fine
large hall, ranged with green benches like a lecture room: raised
platform at one end for the performers: arm-chairs for the Royal
Dukes, and common chairs for common men. Waited an hour, and were
introduced to various people, among others, to Mr. Allen, who is famous
for his generous benevolence, living most economically and giving
thousands as easily as others would give pence. Dumont came and seated
himself between my mother and me, and the hour's waiting was so filled
with conversation that it seemed but five minutes.
Enter, on the platform, the Royal Dukes preceded by stewards with
white staves; gentlemen of the Committee ranged at the back of the
theatre, one row in front on each side of the Dukes, Lord Lansdowne,
Mr. Whitbread, Mr. Lancaster, two or three others, and Mr. Edgeworth.
The object of the meeting was to effect a junction between the Bell and
Lancasterian parties. It had been previously agreed that Lancaster
should have his debts paid, and should retire and give up his schools.
Lord Lansdowne spoke extremely well, matter and manner; when he
adverted to the Board of Education he turned to my father and called
upon him to support his assertion, that the dignified clergy in Ireland
among those commissioners had acted with liberality. It had been
previously arranged that my father was to move the vote of thanks to
the ladies, but of this we knew nothing; and when he rose and when I
heard the Duke of Kent in his sonorous voice say “Mr. Edgeworth,” I was
so frightened I dared not look up, but I was soon reassured. My
father's speaking was, next to Lord Lansdowne's, the best I heard, and
loud plaudits convinced me that I was not singular in this opinion. The
Duke of Kent speaks well and makes an excellent chairman.
Yesterday my father was invited to a Lancasterian dinner; for an
account of it I refer you to Lord Fingal, next to whom my father sat,
but as you may not see him immediately I must tell you that my father's
health was drunk, and that when his name was mentioned, loud applause
ensued, and the Duke of Bedford, after speaking of the fourteenth
report of the Irish Board of Education, pronounced a eulogium on “the
excellent letter which is appended to that report, full of liberality
and good sense, on which indeed the best part of the report seems
founded. I mean the letter by Mr. Edgeworth, to whom this country as
well as Ireland is so much indebted.”
Yesterday I had a good hour in comfort to write to you before
breakfast, which was scarcely ended when Mr. Wakefield came in with a
letter from the Duke of Bedford, who is anxious to see my father's
experiments on the draft of wheel-carriages tried. Then came Lord
Somerville, who sat and talked and invited us to his country-house, but
all this did not forward my letter. Then came Lady Darnley; and then my
father walked off with Lord Somerville, and we gave orders no one
should be let in; so we only heard vain thunders at the door, and I got
on half a page, but then came poor Peggy Langan, [Footnote:
Grand-daughter to the original of Thady, in Castle Rackrent. Her
sister was the original of Simple Susan.] and her we admitted; she is
in an excellent place, with Mrs. Haldimand, Mrs. Marcet's
sister-in-law, and she, Peggy, sat and talked and told of how happy she
was, and how good her mistress was, and we liked her simplicity and
goodness of heart, but as I said before, all this did not forward my
letter. Coach at the door. “Put on your hat, Maria, and come out and
To save myself trouble, I send a list of the visits we made just as
my mother marked them on the card by which we steered. GOD knows how I
should steer without her. The crosses mark the three places where we
were let in. Lady Milbanke is very agreeable, and has a charming
well-informed daughter. Mrs. Weddell is a perfectly well-bred, most
agreeable old lady, sister to Lady Rockingham, who lived in the Sir
Joshua Reynolds set: tells anecdotes of Burke, Fox, and
Windham—magnificent house—fine pictures. We spoke of having just seen
the exhibition of Sir Joshua Reynolds's pictures. “Perhaps if you are
fond of paintings you would take the trouble of walking into the next
room, and I will show you what gives me a particular interest in Sir
Joshua Reynolds's pictures.” Large folding-doors opened—large room
full of admirable copies from Sir Joshua Reynolds in crayons, done by
Mrs. Weddell herself. My mother says they are quite astonishing. Her
conversation, as good as her painting, passed through many books
lightly with touch-and-go ease. I mentioned a curious anecdote of
Madame d'Arblay: that when she landed at Portsmouth, a few months ago,
and saw on a plate at Admiral Foley's a head of Lord Nelson, and the
word Trafalgar, she asked what Trafalgar meant! She actually, as Lady
Spencer told me, who had the anecdote from Dr. Charles Burney, did not
know that the English had been victorious, or that Lord Nelson was
dead! This is the mixed effect of the recluse life she led, and of the
care taken in France to keep the people ignorant of certain events. I
mentioned a similar instance in Thiebault's Memoirs, of the
Chevalier Mason, living at Potsdam, and not knowing anything of the
Seven Years' War. Then Mrs. Weddell went through Thiebault and Madame
de Bareith's Memoirs, and asked if I had ever happened to meet
with an odd entertaining book, Madame de Baviere's Memoirs. How
little I thought, my dear Aunt Ruxton, when you gave me that book, that
it would stand me in stead at Mrs. Weddell's—we talked it over
and had a great deal of laughing and diversion.
Came home: found my father dressing to go to Sir Samuel
Romilly's—we two were to dine at Lady Levinge's; while we were
dressing a long note from Miss Berry, sent by her own maid, to
apologise for a mistake of her servants who had said “not at home,” and
to entreat we would look in on her this evening—much hurried. Lady
Levinge's dinner, which was not on the table till eight o'clock, was
very entertaining, because quite a new set of people. Called in the
evening at Miss Berry's—quite like French society, most agreeable—had
a great deal of conversation with Lady Charlotte Lindsay. Mr. Ward was
there, but I did not hear him. Went, shamefully late, to Mrs.
Sneyd's—then home: found my father in bed—stood at the foot of it,
and heard his account of his dinner. Dr. Parr, Dumont, Malthus, etc.,
but I have not time to say more. I have been standing in my
dressing-gown writing on the top of a chest of drawers, and now I must
dress for a breakfast at Lady Davy's, where we are to meet Lord Byron:
but I must say, that at the third place where we were let in yesterday,
Lady Wellington's, we spent by far the most agreeable half-hour of the
* * * * *
Mrs. Edgeworth continues:
One day, coming late to dinner at Mr. Horner's, we found Dr. Parr
very angry at our having delayed, and then interrupted dinner, but he
ended by giving Maria his blessing. One of our pleasantest days was a
breakfast at Mr. and Mrs. Carr's, at Hampstead, where we met General
and Mrs. Bentham, just come from Russia, full of interesting
information. Maria also spent a day in the country with Sir Samuel and
Lady Romilly—who was so beautiful and so engaging; and to this day's
happiness Maria often recurred. We met one evening at Lady
Charleville's Mrs. Abington, with whom Maria was much entertained; she
recited two epilogues for us with exquisite wit and grace—she spoke
with frankness and feeling of her career, when often after the triumph
of success in some brilliant character, splendidly dressed, in the
blaze of light, with thunders of applause, she quitted the theatre for
her poor little lonely lodging—and admirably described her
disenchanted, dispirited sensations.
One morning Maria and I went to Westminster Abbey with some friends,
among whom was Sir James Macintosh—only one morning; days might have
been spent without exhausting the information he so easily, and with
such enjoyment to himself, as well as to his hearers, poured forth with
quotations, appropriate anecdotes, and allusions historical, poetical,
and biographical, as we went along.
We unfortunately missed seeing Madame d'Arblay, and we left London
before the arrival of Madame de Stael. We went on the 16th of June to
Clifton, where we spent some days with Mr. and Mrs. King. [Footnote:
Mr. Edgeworth's second daughter Emmeline.]
From Clifton we went to Gloucester, where Maria took up a link of
her former life, paying a visit to Mrs. Chandler, from whom she had
received much kindness at Mr. Day's when her eyes were inflamed. We
then went on to Malvern, where Mrs. Beddoes [Footnote: The third
daughter—Anna Edgeworth.] was then living.
MARIA to MRS. RUXTON.
MALVERN LINKS, June 1813.
How good you have been, my dear aunt, in sparing Sophy to
Edgeworthstown, and since you have been so good it is in encroaching
human nature to expect that you will be still better, and that you and
my uncle and Mag will come to Edgeworthstown for her; we shall be home
in a fortnight. What joy, what delight to meet you among the dear faces
who will welcome us there. The brilliant panorama of London is over,
and I have enjoyed more pleasure and have had more amusement,
infinitely more than I expected, and received more attention, more
kindness than I could have thought it possible would be shown to me; I
have enjoyed the delight of seeing my father esteemed and honoured by
the best judges in England: I have felt the pleasure of seeing my true
friend and mother, for she has been a mother to me, appreciated in the
best society, and now with the fulness of content I return home, loving
my own friends and my own mode of life preferably to all others, after
comparison with all that is fine and gay, and rich and rare.
We spent four days at Clifton with Emmeline, and if our journey to
England had been productive of no other good, I should heartily rejoice
at our having accomplished this purpose. My father was pleased and
happy, and liked all his three grandchildren very much. You may imagine
how much pleasure this gave me.
We came here the day before yesterday, and have spent our time
delightfully with Anna and her children, and now the carriage is at the
door to take us to Mrs. Clifford's. Yesterday we went to see Samuel
Essington, [Footnote: The servant who was so faithful and so frightened
at the time of the rebellion. He had saved some money and quitted the
service of the Edgeworths in 1800.] at the Essington Hotel. He thought
it was a carriage full of strangers and was letting down the steps when
he beheld my father; his whole face glowed with delight, and the tears
stood in his projecting eyes. “Master! Master, I declare! O sir, ma'am,
miss, Mrs. Beddoes, Miss Edgeworth: how glad I am!”
He showed us his excellent house, and walked us round his beautiful
little lawn and shrubberies, all his own making; and cut moss roses and
blush roses for us with such eagerness and delight. “And all, all owing
to you, sir, that first taught me.”
* * * * *
Mrs. Edgeworth writes:
At Mrs. Clifford's we stayed some days—a beautiful country, not far
from Ross which we visited, and Maria was delighted to see all the
scenes of the Man of Ross. At Mrs. Clifford's we had one day of most
brilliant conversation between Maria, her father, and Sir James
Macintosh, who had just come into that neighbourhood. He joined us,
unexpectedly, one morning as we were walking out, and touching a shawl
Mrs. Clifford wore, “A thousand looms,” he said, “are at work in
Cashmere at this instant providing these for you.”
MARIA to MRS. MARY SNEYD AT
MRS. CLIFFORD'S, June 1813.
Received Sneyd's letter. [Footnote: Announcing his engagement to
Miss Broadhurst. It was singular that this was the name of the heroine
in Miss Edgeworth's Absentee, who selected from her lovers the
one who united worth and wit, in reminiscence of an epigram of
Mr. Edgeworth on himself, concluding—
There's an edge to his wit and there's worth in his heart.]
Astonishment! Dear Sneyd, I hope he will be as happy as love and
fortune can make him. All my ideas are thrown into such confusion by
this letter that I can no more. We go to Derby on Tuesday.
To MRS. RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, July 26, 1813.
I have delayed a few days writing to you in the expectation of the
arrival of two frankers to send an extract from Dr. Holland's last
letter, which will, I hope, entertain you as much as it entertained us.
I shall long to hear of our good friend Mrs. Elizabeth Hamilton's visit
to Black Castle.
We have every reason to be in great anxiety at this moment about a
certain trunk containing all our worldly duds, and “Patronage"
to boot, but still I have not been able to work myself into any fears
about it, though it is a month since we ought to have seen it, nor have
we heard any news of it. In the meantime, as I cannot set about
revising “Patronage,” I have begun a new series of Early Lessons
[Footnote: The second parts of Frank, Rosamond, and Harry and
Lucy.] for which many mothers told me they wished. I feel that I
return with fresh pleasure to literary work from having been so long
idle, and I have a famishing appetite for reading. All that we saw in
London, I am sure I enjoyed while it was passing as much as possible,
but I should be very sorry to live in that whirling vortex, and I find
my taste and conviction confirmed on my return to my natural friends
and my dear home.
I am glad that some of those who showed us hospitality and kindness
in England should have come so soon to Ireland, that we may have some
little opportunity of showing our sense of their attentions. Lord
Carrington, who franks this, is most amiable and benevolent, without
any species of pretension, thinking the best that can be thought of
everything and everybody. Mr. Smith, his son, whom we had not seen in
London, accompanies him, and his tutor, Mr. Kaye, a Cambridge man, and
Lord Gardner, Lord Carrington's son-in-law, suffering from the gouty
rheumatism, or rheumatic gout—he does not know or care which: but
between the twitches of his suffering he is entertaining and agreeable.
We have just seen a journal by a little boy of eight years old, of a
voyage from England to Sicily: the boy is Lord Mahon's son, Lord
Carrington's grandson. [Footnote: Philip Henry, afterwards fifth Earl
Stanhope, the historian.] It is one of the best journals I ever read,
full of facts: exactly the writing of a child, but a very clever child.
It is peculiarly interesting to us from having seen Dr. Holland's
letters from Palermo. Lord Mahon says that the alarm about the plague
at Malta is much greater than it need be—its progress has been
stopped: it was introduced by a shoemaker having, contrary to law and
reason, surreptitiously brought some handkerchiefs from a vessel that
had not performed quarantine. You will nevertheless rejoice that Dr.
Holland did not go to Malta. How you will regret the loss of the
portmanteau of which that vile Ali Pasha robbed him.
Mr. Fox dined with us to-day, and was very agreeable. Lord
Carrington and his travelling companions were at Farnham, where they
were most hospitably received. They had no letters of introduction or
intention of going there; but, finding a horrid inn at Cavan, they
applied for charity to a gentleman for lodging. The gentleman took them
to walk in Lord Farnham's grounds. Lord and Lady Farnham saw and
invited them to the house, and they are full of admiration and almost
affection, I think, for Lord and Lady Farnham: they are so charmed by
their hospitality, their goodness to the poor, their care of the young
Foxes, their magnificent establishment, their neat cottages for their
tenants, and, as Lord Gardner sensibly said, “their judicious economy
in the midst of magnificence.”
I like Mrs. Elizabeth Hamilton better than ever upon further
acquaintance. She is what the French would call bonne a vivre:
so good-humoured, so cheerful, so little disposed to exact attention or
to take an authoritative tone in conversation, so ready to give
everybody their merits, so indulgent for the follies and frailties, and
so hopeful of the reformation of even the faults and vices of the
world, that it is impossible not to respect and love her. She wins upon
us daily, and mixes so well with this family, that I always forget she
is a stranger.
Lady Davy is in high glory at this moment, introducing Madame de
Stael everywhere, enjoying the triumph and partaking the gale. They
went down, a delightful party, to Cobham—Madame de Stael, Lady Davy,
Lord Erskine, Rogers, etc.
Have you heard that Jeffrey, the reviewer, is gone to America in
pursuit of a lady, or, as some say, to take possession of an estate
left to him by an uncle: he is to be back in time for the Edinburgh
Review in September!
Lord and Lady Lansdowne came to us on Tuesday. Mr. Greenough comes
on Saturday, and after that I think we shall get to Black Castle. Lord
Longford came yesterday, and though he is not, you know, exuberant in
praise, truly says Lord and Lady Lansdowne are people who must be
esteemed and liked the more they are known.
Mr. Forbes, just returned from Russia, has this moment come, and is
giving a most interesting account of Petersburgh and Moscow: give me
credit for retiring to finish this letter. My father is calling,
Last night a letter came from Lady Farnham, announcing Francis Fox's
marriage, and naming next Monday for us to go to Farnham. We went last
Monday to a play at Castle Forbes, or rather to three
farces—“Bombastes Furioso,” “Of Age To-morrow,” and “The Village
Lawyer,” taken from the famous Avocat Patelin: the cunning
servant-boy shamming simplicity was admirably acted by Lord Rancliffe.
Tell me whether you have seen Madame de Stael's Essai sur la
Fiction, prefixed to Zulma, Adelaide, and Pauline—the essay is
excellent: I shall be curious to know whether you think as I do of
Pauline. Madame de Stael calls Blenheim “a magnificent tomb: splendour
without, and the deathlike silence of ennui within.” She says she is
very proud of having made the Duke of Marlborough speak four words. At
the moment she was announced he was distinctly heard to utter these
words: “Let me go away.” We have just got her Allemagne. We have
had great delight in Mrs. Graham's India,—a charming woman,
writing, speaking, thinking, or feeling.
A letter from Lady Romilly—so easy, so like her conversation. All
agree that Madame de Stael is frankness itself, and has an excellent
heart. During her brilliant fortnight at Bowood—where, besides Madame
de Stael, her Albertine, M. de Stael, and Count Palmella, there were
the Romillys, the Macintoshes, Mr. Ward, Mr. Rogers, and M. Dumont—if
it had not been for chess-playing, music, and dancing between times,
poor human nature never could have borne the strain of attention and
Jan. 1, 1814.
Hunter has sent a whole cargo of French translations—Popular
Tales, with a title under which I should never have known them,
Conseils a mon Fils! Manoeuvring: La Mere Intrigante; Ennui—what
can they make of it in French? Leonora will translate better
than a better thing. Emilie de Coulanges, I fear, will never
stand alone. L'Absent, The Absentee,—it is impossible that a
Parisian can make any sense of it from beginning to end. But these
things teach authors what is merely local and temporary. Les deux
Griseldis de Chaucer et Edgeworth; and, to crown all, two works
surreptitiously printed in England under our name, and which are no
better than they should be.
Pray read Letters to Sir James Macintosh on Madame de Stael's
Allemagne. My mother says it is exactly what you would have
written: we do not know who is the author.
To-day it began to thaw, and thawed so rapidly that we were in
danger of being flooded, wet pouring in at all parts, and tubs, and
jugs, and pails, and mops running about in all directions, and voices
calling, and avalanches of snow thrown by arms of men from gutters and
roofs on all sides, darkening windows, and falling with thundering
We have been charmed with a little French play, Les deux Gendres.
I wish you could get it, and get Mr. Knox to read it to you: he is
still blocked up by the snow at Pakenham Hall.
We have had an entertaining letter, giving an account of a gentleman
who is now in England, a native of Delhi. He practised as an advocate
in the native courts of Calcutta, from Calcutta to Prince of Wales'
Island, and thence to London, and is now Professor of Oriental
Languages at Addiscombe. He was at Dr. Malkins': Mrs. Malkin offered
him coffee: he refused, and backed. “Not coffee in the house of
Madam-Doctor. I take coffee to keep awake; no danger of being drowsy in
the house of Madam-Doctor.” He was at a great ball where Lord
Cornwallis was expected, and he said he would go to him and “bless his
father's memory for his conduct in India.”
Poor old Robin Woods is very ill, and he has a tame robin that sits
on his foot, and hops up for crumbs. One day that I went in, when they
were at dinner with a bowl of potatoes between them, I said “How happy
you two look!” “Yes, miss, we were that every day since we married.”
To MRS. RUXTON.
15 BAGGOT STREET, [Footnote: Mr. and Mrs. Sneyd Edgeworth's house in
Here we are: arrived at three o'clock: found Henrica looking very
well. Such a nice, pretty, elegant house! and they have furnished it so
comfortably. It is delightful to see my father here; he enjoys himself
so much in his son's house, and Sneyd and Henrica are so happy seeing
him pleased with everything. Lady Longford has been here this morning;
told us Sir Edward Pakenham was so fatigued by riding an uneasy horse
at the battle of Vittoria, he was not able to join for four days. A
buckle of Lord Wellington's sword-belt saved him: he wrote four times
in one week to Lady Wellington, without ever mentioning his wound. I
long for you to see Henrica; she is so kind, and so well-bred and easy
in her manners.
* * * * *
In April Mr. Edgeworth had a dangerous illness. He was just out of
danger, when, late at night on the 10th of May, his son Lovell arrived
from Paris, liberated by the peace after eleven years' detention.
* * * * *
MARIA EDGEWORTH to MRS. RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, May 16, 1814/.
My father's contentment at Lovell's [Footnote: The only son of Mr.
Edgeworth's second marriage, with Miss Honora Sneyd.] return has done
him more good than all the advice of all the surgeons, I do believe,
now that the danger is over. If you have suffered from suspense in
absence, yet, my dear aunt, you have been spared the torturing terrors
we have felt at the sight of the daily, hourly changes, so rapid, so
unaccountable: one day, one hour, all hope, the next all despair! The
lamp of life, now bright, starting up high and brilliant, then sinking
suddenly almost to extinction; the flame flitting, flickering,
starting, leaping, as it were, on and off by fits. Some day we
shall talk it over in security; now I can hardly bear to look back to
All that has passed in France in the last few weeks! a revolution
without bloodshed! Paris taken without being pillaged! the Bourbons,
after all hope and reason for hope had passed, restored to their
capital and their palaces! With what mixed sensations they must enter
those palaces! I daresay it has not escaped my aunt that the Venus de
Medicis and Apollo Belvidere are both missing together: I make no
remarks. I hate scandal—at least I am not so fond of it as the lady of
whom it was said she could not see the poker and tongs standing
together without suspecting something wrong! I wonder where our ideas,
especially those of a playful sort, go at some times? and how it is
that they all come junketing back faster than there is room for them at
other times? How is it that hope so powerfully excites, and fear so
absolutely depresses all our faculties?
Sneyd has received a very polite letter from the Marquis de Bonay,
who is now ambassador at the Court of Denmark. Mrs. O'Beirne and the
Bishop, who like Mons. de Bonay so much, and who have not heard of him
for such a length of time, will be delighted to hear of his emerging
into light and life. What is more to our purpose is, that he says he
can furnish Sneyd with some notes for the Abbe Edgeworth's life, which
he had once intended to write himself: he did put a short notice of his
life into the foreign papers at Mittau. He says he never knew so
perfect a human creature as the Abbe.
I had a letter from Dr. Holland this morning saying at the beginning
I should be surprised at its contents; and so I was. The Princess of
Wales has invited him to accompany her abroad as her physician! After
consulting with his friends he accepted the invitation.
To MRS. RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Oct 13, 1814.
I had a letter from the Duchess of Wellington the day before
yesterday, dated from Deal, just when she was going to embark for
France. The whole of the letter was full of her children and of sorrow
for quitting them.
Two days ago came a young gentleman, Mr. James Gordon, a nephew of
Lady Elizabeth Whitbread's, with a very polite introductory note from
Lady Elizabeth. He has a great deal of anecdote and information. He has
just come from Paris, and he has given me a better account of Paris,
and more characteristic, well-authenticated anecdotes than I have heard
from anybody else. He mentioned some instances of the gratitude which
Louis XVIII. has shown to people of inferior note in England from whom
he had received kindness, especially to the innkeeper's wife at
Berkhampstead. I am glad for the honour of human nature that this is
What do you think Walter Scott says is the most poetical performance
he has read for years? That account of the battle of Leipsic which
Richard lent to us.
We went to Coolure and had a pleasant day. Waverley was in
everybody's hands. The Admiral does not like it: the hero, he says, is
such a shuffling fellow. While he was saying this I had in my pocket a
letter from Miss Fanshawe, received that morning, saying it was
delightful. Lady Crewe tells me that Madame d'Arblay cannot settle in
England because the King of France has lately appointed M. d'Arblay to
some high situation in consequence of his distinguished services.
Shall I tell you what they, my father and all of them, are doing at
this moment? Sprawling on the floor looking at a new rat-trap. Two
pounds of butter vanished the other night out of the dairy; they had
been put in a shallow pan with water in it, and it is averred the rats
ate it, and Peggy Tuite, the dairymaid, to make the thing more
credible, gives the following reason for the rats' conduct. “Troth,
ma'am, they were affronted at the new rat-trap, they only licked the
milk off it, and that occasioned them to run off with the butter!”
Mr. and Mrs. Pollard have spent a day here, and brought with them
Miss Napier. My father is charmed with her beauty, her voice, and her
manners. We talked over Waverley with her. I am more delighted
with it than I can tell you: it is a work of first-rate genius.
To the AUTHOR of “WAVERLEY.”
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Oct. 23, 1814.
Aut Scotus, Aut Diabolus!
We have this moment finished Waverley. It was read aloud to
this large family, and I wish the author could have witnessed the
impression it made—the strong hold it seized of the feelings both of
young and old—the admiration raised by the beautiful descriptions of
nature—by the new and bold delineations of character—the perfect
manner in which character is ever sustained in every change of
situation from first to last, without effort, without the affectation
of making the persons speak in character—the ingenuity with which each
person introduced in the drama is made useful and necessary to the
end—the admirable art with which the story is constructed and with
which the author keeps his own secrets till the proper moment when they
should be revealed, whilst in the meantime, with the skill of
Shakspear, the mind is prepared by unseen degrees for all the changes
of feeling and fortune, so that nothing, however extraordinary, shocks
us as improbable: and the interest is kept up to the last moment. We
were so possessed with the belief that the whole story and every
character in it was real, that we could not endure the occasional
addresses from the author to the reader. They are like Fielding: but
for that reason we cannot bear them, we cannot bear that an author of
such high powers, of such original genius, should for a moment stoop to
imitation. This is the only thing we dislike, these are the only
passages we wish omitted in the whole work: and let the unqualified
manner in which I say this, and the very vehemence of my expression of
this disapprobation, be a sure pledge to the author of the sincerity of
all the admiration I feel for his genius.
I have not yet said half we felt in reading the work. The characters
are not only finely drawn as separate figures, but they are grouped
with great skill, and contrasted so artfully, and yet so naturally as
to produce the happiest dramatic effect, and at the same time to
relieve the feelings and attention in the most agreeable manner. The
novelty of the Highland world which is discovered to our view
powerfully excites curiosity and interest: but though it is all new to
us it does not embarrass or perplex, or strain the attention. We never
are harassed by doubts of the probability of any of these modes of
life: though we did not know them, we are quite certain they did exist
exactly as they are represented. We are sensible that there is a
peculiar merit in the work which is in a measure lost upon us, the
dialects of the Highlanders, and the Lowlanders, etc. But there is
another and a higher merit with which we are as much struck and as much
delighted as any true-born Scotchman could be: the various gradations
of Scotch feudal character, from the high-born chieftain and the
military baron, to the noble-minded lieutenant Evan Dhu, the robber
Bean Lean, and the savage Callum Beg. The Pre—the Chevalier, is
A prince: ay, every inch a prince!
His polished manners, his exquisite address, politeness, and
generosity, interest the reader irresistibly, and he pleases the more
from the contrast between him and those who surround him. I think he is
my favourite character: the Baron Bradwardine is my father's. He thinks
it required more genius to invent, and more ability uniformly to
sustain this character than any other of the masterly characters with
which the book abounds. There is indeed uncommon art in the manner in
which his dignity is preserved by his courage and magnanimity, in spite
of all his pedantry and his ridicules, and his bear and
bootjack, and all the raillery of M'Ivor. M'Ivor's unexpected “bear and
bootjack” made us laugh heartily.
But to return to the dear good baron: though I acknowledge that I am
not as good a judge as my father and brothers are of his recondite
learning and his law Latin, yet I feel the humour, and was touched to
the quick by the strokes of generosity, gentleness, and pathos in this
old man, who is, by the bye, all in good time worked up into a very
dignified father-in-law for the hero. His exclamation of “Oh! my son!
my son!” and the yielding of the fictitious character of the baron to
the natural feelings of the father is beautiful. (Evan Dhu's fear that
his father-in-law should die quietly in his bed made us laugh almost as
much as the bear and bootjack.)
Jinker, in the battle, pleading the cause of the mare he had sold to
Balmawhapple, and which had thrown him for want of the proper bit, is
truly comic: my father says that this and some other passages
respecting horsemanship could not have been written by any one who was
not master both of the great and little horse.
I tell you without order the great and little strokes of humour and
pathos just as I recollect, or am reminded of them at this moment by my
companions. The fact is that we have had the volumes—only during the
time we could read them, and as fast as we could read—lent to us as a
great favour by one who was happy enough to have secured a copy before
the first and second editions were sold in Dublin. When we applied, not
a copy could be had; we expect one in the course of next week, but we
resolved to write to the author without waiting for a second perusal.
Judging by our own feeling as authors, we guess that he would rather
know our genuine first thoughts, than wait for cool second thoughts, or
have a regular eulogium or criticism put in the most lucid manner, and
given in the finest sentences that ever were rounded.
Is it possible that I have got thus far without having named Flora
or Vich Ian Vohr—the last Vich Ian Vohr! Yet our minds were
full of them the moment before I began this letter: and could you have
seen the tears forced from us by their fate, you would have been
satisfied that the pathos went to our hearts. Ian Vohr from the first
moment he appears, till the last, is an admirably-drawn and
finely-sustained character—new, perfectly new to the English
reader—often entertaining—always heroic—sometimes sublime. The gray
spirit, the Bodach Glas, thrills us with horror. Us! What
effect must it have upon those under the influence of the superstitions
of the Highlands! This circumstance is admirably introduced: this
superstition is a weakness quite consistent with the strength of the
character, perfectly natural after the disappointment of all his hopes,
in the dejection of his mind, and the exhaustion of his bodily
Flora we could wish was never called Miss MacIvor, because in
this country there are tribes of vulgar Miss Macs, and this
association is unfavourable to the sublime and beautiful of your
Flora—she is a true heroine. Her first appearance seized upon the mind
and enchanted us so completely, that we were certain she was to be your
heroine, and the wife of your hero—but with what inimitable art, you
gradually convince the reader that she was not, as she said of herself,
capable of making Waverley happy. Leaving her in full possession of
our admiration, you first make us pity, then love, and at last give our
undivided affection to Rose Bradwardine—sweet Scotch Rose! The last
scene between Flora and Waverley is highly pathetic—my brother wishes
that bridal garment were shroud: because when the heart
is touched we seldom use metaphor, or quaint alliteration-bride-favour,
There is one thing more we could wish changed or omitted in Flora's
character. I have not the volume, and therefore cannot refer to the
page; but I recollect in the first visit to Flora, when she is to sing
certain verses, there is a walk, in which the description of the place
is beautiful, but too long, and we did not like the preparation
for a scene—the appearance of Flora and her harp was too like a
common heroine, she should be far above all stage effect or novelist's
These are, without reserve, the only faults we found, or can
find in this work of genius. We should scarcely have thought them worth
mentioning, except to give you proof positive that we are not
flatterers. Believe me, I have not, nor can I convey to you the full
idea of the pleasure, the delight we have had in reading Waverley, nor of the feeling of sorrow with which we came to the end of the
history of persons whose real presence had so filled our minds—we felt
that we must return to the flat realities of life, that our
stimulus was gone, and we were little disposed to read the “Postscript,
which should have been a Preface.”
“Well, let us hear it,” said my father, and Mrs. Edgeworth read on.
Oh! my dear sir, how much pleasure would my father, my mother, my
whole family, as well as myself have lost, if we had not read to the
last page! And the pleasure came upon us so unexpectedly—we had been
so completely absorbed that every thought of ourselves, of our own
authorship, was far, far away.
Thank you for the honour you have done us, [Footnote: Walter Scott,
in his “Postscript,” said that it had been his desire in Waverley
“in some distant degree to emulate the admirable Irish portraits drawn
by Miss Edgeworth.”] and for the pleasure you have given us, great in
proportion to the opinion we had formed of the work we had just
perused—and believe me, every opinion I have in this letter expressed,
was formed before any individual in the family had peeped to the end of
the book, or knew how much we owed you.—Your obliged and grateful
To MISS RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Dec. 26, 1814.
“A merry Christmas and a happy New Year” to you, my dear Sophy, and
to my aunt, and uncle, and Margaret. I have just risen from my bed,
where I had been a day and a half with a violent headache and pains, or
as John Langan calls them, pins in my bones. We have been much
entertained with Mansfield Park. Pray read Eugene et
Guillaume, a modern Gil Blas; too much of opera intrigues,
but on the whole it is a work of admirable ability. Guillaume's
character beautiful, and the gradual deterioration of Eugene's
character finely drawn; but the following it out becomes at last as
disgusting and horrible as it would be to see the corruption of the
body after the spirit had fled.
I send you some beautiful lines to Lord Byron, by Miss Macpherson,
daughter of Sir James Macpherson. As soon as my father hears from the
Dublin Society we shall go to Dublin.
To MISS RUXTON.
15 BAGGOT STREET, DUBLIN,
Our time here has been much more agreeably spent than I had any
hopes it would be. My father has been pleased at some dinners at Mr.
Knox's, Mr. Leslie Foster's, and at the Solicitor-General's. Mrs.
Stewart is admirable, and Caroline Hamilton the most entertaining and
agreeable good person I ever saw; she is as good as any saint,
and as gay, and much gayer, than any sinner I ever happened to see,
male or female.
The Beauforts are at Mrs. Waller's: they came up in a hurry,
summoned by a Mrs. Codd, an American, or from America, who has come
over to claim a considerable property, and wants to be identified. She
went a journey when she was thirteen, with Doctor and Mrs. Beaufort and
my mother, and they are the only people in this country who can and
will swear to her and for her. I will tell you when we
meet of her entree with Sir Simon Bradstreet,—and I will tell you of
Honora's treading on the parrot at Mrs. Westby's party,—and I will
tell you of Fenaigle and his ABC. I think him very stupid. Heaven grant
me the power of forgetting his Art of Memory.
To C.S. EDGEWORTH.
BLACK CASTLE, May 10, 1815.
We, that is my father, mother, little Harriet, and I, went on Sunday
last to Castletown—the two days we spent there, delightful. Lady
Louisa Connolly is one of the most respectable, amiable, and even at
seventy, I may say, charming persons I ever saw or heard. Having known
all the most worthy, as well as the most celebrated people who have
lived for the last fifty years, she is full of characteristic anecdote,
and fuller of that indulgence for human creatures which is consistent
with a thorough knowledge of the world, and a quick perception of all
the foibles of human nature—with a high sense of religion, without the
slightest tincture of ostentation, asperity, or bigotry. She is all
that I could have wished to represent in Mrs. Hungerford, and her
figure and countenance gave me back the image in my mind.
Her niece, Miss Emily Napier, is graceful, amiable, and very
My father went home with Harriet direct from Castletown, but begged
my mother and me to return to Dublin for a fancy ball. We did not go to
the Rotunda, but saw enough of it at Mrs. Power's. Lady Clarke (Lady
Morgan's sister), as “Mrs. Flannigan, a half gentlewoman, from
Tipperary,” speaking an admirable brogue, was by far the best
character, and she had presence of mind and a great deal of real
humour—her husband attending her with kitten and macaw.
Next to her was Mrs. Robert Langrishe, as a Frenchwoman, admirably
dressed. Mrs. Airey was a Turkish lady, in a superb dress, given to her
by Ali Pasha. There were thatched “Wild Men from the North,”
dancing and stamping with whips and clumping of the feet, from which
Mrs. Bushe and I fled whenever they came near us. Having named Mrs.
Bushe, I must mention that whenever I have met her, she has been my
delight and admiration from her wit, humour, and variety of
To MISS RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Aug. 1815.
I send a note from Lady Romilly, and one from Mr. Whishaw: the four
travellers mentioned in that note called upon us yesterday,—Mr. and
Mrs. Smith, of Easton Grey, Miss Bayley, and Mr. Fuller. Mrs. Smith is
stepdaughter to a certain Mrs. Chandler, who was very kind to me at
Mrs. Day's, and I was heartily glad to see her daughter, even
stepdaughter, at Edgeworthstown, and my kind, dear, best of
stepmothers seconded my intentions to my very heart's wish: I am sure
they went away satisfied. I gave them a note to Lady Farnham, which
will I think produce a note of admiration! While these visitors were
with us Mrs. Moutray came over from Lissard, and we rejoiced in pride
of soul to show them our Irish Madame de Sevigne. Her Madame de
Grignan is more agreeable than ever. Mrs. Moutray told me of a curious
debate she heard between Lady C. Campbell, Lady Glenbervie, and others,
on the Modern Griselda, with another lady, and a wager laid that she
would not read it out to her husband. Wager lost by skipping.
To MRS. RUXTON.
I send you a letter of Joanna Baillie's; her simple style is so
different from the fine or the gossip style.
Did you ever hear this epigram, a translation from Martial?
Their utmost power the gods have shown,
In turning Niobe to stone:
But man's superior power you see,
Who turns a stone to Niobe.
Here is an epigram quite to my taste, elegant and witty, without
ill-nature or satire.
Barry Fox has come home with his regiment,[Footnote: Captain Fox had
been serving in Canada. On Buonaparte's return from Elba, his regiment,
the 97th, was summoned home. When the transport entered Plymouth
harbour, and the officers were told that Buonaparte was in the vessel
they had just sailed past, they thought it an absurd jest.] and is very
January 10, 1816.
The authoress of Pride and Prejudice has been so good as to
send to me a new novel just published, Emma. We are reading
France in 1814 and 1815, by young Alison and Mr. Tytler: the first
volume good. We are also reading a book which delights us all, though
it is on a subject which you will think little likely to be interesting
to us, and on which we had little or no previous knowledge. I bought it
on Mr. Brinkley's recommendation, and have not repented—Cuvier's
Theory of the Earth. It is admirably written, with such perfect
clearness as to be intelligible to the meanest, and satisfactory to the
I have enlarged my plan of plays, which are not now to be for young
people merely, but rather Popular Plays, [Footnote: Published in
1817, in one volume, containing “Love and Law.”] for the same class as
Popular Tales. Excuse huddling things together. Mrs. O'Beirne, of
Newry, who has been here, told us a curious story. A man near Granard
robbed a farmer of thirty guineas, and hid them in a hole in the church
wall. He was hurried out of the country by some accident before he
could take off his treasure, and wrote to the man he had robbed and
told him where he had hid the money: “Since it can be of no use to me
you may as well have it.” The owner of the money set to work
grouting under the church wall, and many of the good people of
Granard were seized with Mr. Hill's fear there was a plot to undermine
the church, and a great piece of work about it.
I send a letter of Mrs. O'Beirne's, telling of Archdeacon de Lacy's
[Footnote: It happened that when Albertine de Stael was to be married
to M. de Broglie, at Florence, the only Protestant clergyman to be had
was Archdeacon de Lacy, son-in-law to Mrs. Moutray, the friend of
Nelson and Collingwood.] marrying Madame de Stael's daughter to the Duc
de Broglie! My father is pretty well to-day, and has been looking at a
fine bed of crocuses in full blow in my garden, and is now gone out in
the carriage, and I must have a scene ready for him on his
I have been ever since you were here mending up the little plays;
cobbling work, which takes a great deal of time, and makes no show.
* * * * *
It was in January 1816 that Maria Edgeworth received a letter from
Miss Rachael Mordecai, of Richmond, Virginia, gently reproaching her
with having so often made Jews ridiculous in her writings, and asking
her to give a story with a good Jew. This was the origin of
Harrington, and the commencement of a correspondence with Miss
Mordecai, and of a friendship with her family.
* * * * *
To MRS. RUXTON.
Mr. Strutt and his son have within these few minutes arrived here.
He wrote only yesterday to say that being at Liverpool, he would not be
so near Ireland without going to Edgeworthstown; I hope my father may
be able to enjoy their company, but he was very ill all last night and
I lose not a moment, my dearest aunt, in communicating to you a
piece of intelligence which I am sure will give you pleasure: Lord
Longford is going to be married—to Lady Georgiana Lygon, daughter of
Lord Beauchamp. You will be glad to see the letter Lord Longford wrote
upon the occasion.
Everybody is writing and talking about Lord Byron, but I am tired of
the subject. The all for murder, all for crime system of poetry
will now go out of fashion; as long as he appeared an outrageous mad
villain he might have ridden triumphant on the storm, but he has now
shown himself too base, too mean, too contemptible for anything like an
heroic devil. Pray, if you have an opportunity, read Haygarth's poem of
“Greece.” I like it much, I like the mind that produced it; the poetry
is not always good, but there is a spirit through the whole that
sustains it and that elevates and invigorates the mind of the reader.
You know, my dear aunt, it is a favourite opinion of my father's
that things come in bundles: that people come in bundles
is, I think, true, as, after having lived, without seeing a creature
but our own family for months, a press of company comes all at once.
The very day after the Brinkleys had come to us, and filled every nook
in the house, the enclosed letter was brought to me. I was in my own
little den, just beginning to write for an hour, as my father had
requested I would, “let who would be in the house.” On opening the
letter and seeing the signature of Ward, I was in hopes it was the Mr.
Ward who made the fine speech and wrote the review of Patronage
in the Quarterly, and of whom Madame de Stael said that he was
the only man in England who really understood the art of conversation.
However, upon re-examining the signature, I found that our gentleman
who was waiting at the gate for an answer was another Ward, who is
called “the great R. Ward”—a very gentlemanlike, agreeable man, full
of anecdotes, bon-mots, and compliments. I wish you had been here, for
I think you would have been entertained much, not only by his
conversation, but by his character; I never saw a man who had lived in
the world so anxious about the opinions which are formed of him by
those with whom he is conversing, so quick at discovering, by the
countenance and by implication, what is thought of him, or so
incessantly alert in guarding all the suspected places in your opinion.
He disclaimed memory, though he has certainly the very best of memories
for wit and bon-mots that man was ever blessed with. Mr. Ward was
Under-secretary of State during a great part of Pitt's administration,
and has been one of the Lords of the Admiralty, and is now Clerk of the
Ordnance, and has been sent to Ireland to reform abuses in the
Ordnance. He speaks well, and in agreeable voice. He told me that he
had heard in London that I had a sort of Memoria Technica, by which I
could remember everything that was said in conversation, and by certain
motions of my fingers could, while people were talking to me, note down
all the ridiculous points!! He happened to have passed some time in his
early life at Lichfield, and knew Miss Seward, and Dr. Darwin, and
various people my father and aunts knew; so this added to his power of
making himself agreeable. Of all the multitude of good things he told
us, I can only at this moment recollect the lines which he repeated, by
Dr. Mansel, the Bishop of Bristol, on Miss Seward and Mr. Hayley's
flattery of each other:—
“Prince of poets, England's glory,
Mr. Hayley, that is you!”
“Ma'am, you carry all before you,
Lichfield swan, indeed you do!”
“In epic, elegy, or sonnet,
Mr. Hayley, you're divine!”
“Madam, take my word upon it,
You yourself are all the Nine.”
Some of his stories at dinner were so entertaining, that even old
George's face cut in wood could not stand it; and John Bristow and the
others were so bewildered, I thought the second course would never be
on the table.
We are reading one of the most entertaining and interesting and NEW
books I ever read in my life—Tully's Residence in Tripoli,
written by the sister of the consul, who resided there for ten years,
spoke the language, and was admitted to a constant intercourse with the
ladies of the seraglio, who are very different from any seraglio ladies
we ever before heard of. No Arabian tale is equal in magnificence and
entertainment; no tragedy superior in strength of interest to the
tragedy recorded in the last ten pages of this incomparable book. Some
people affect to disbelieve, and say it is manufactured; but it would
be a miracle that it was invented with such consistency.
Mr. Knox has come and gone: two of the plays were read to him. My
father gave him a sketch of each, and desired him to choose: he chose
the genteel comedy, “The Two Guardians,” and I read it; and those who
sat by told me afterwards that Mr. Knox's countenance showed he was
much amused, and that he had great sympathy. For my part, I had a
glaze before my eyes, and never once saw him while I was reading.
He made some good criticisms, and in consequence I altered one scene,
and dragged out Arthur Onslow by the head and heels—the good boy of
the piece; and we found he was never missed, but the whole much
lightened by throwing this heavy character overboard. Next night “The
Rose, Thistle, and Shamrock”: Mr. Knox laughed, and seemed to enjoy it
* * * * *
Mr. Edgeworth was now failing rapidly, though as much interested as
ever in all that was going on around. “How I do enjoy my existence!” he
often exclaimed. His daughter, however, says that “he did not for his
own sake desire length of life: he only prayed that his mind might not
decay before his body,” and it did not; his mental powers were as
bright and vigorous as ever to the last.
On the 16th of February Maria Edgeworth read out to her father the
first chapter of Ormond in the carriage going to Pakenham Hall
to see Lord Longford's bride. It was the last visit that Mr. Edgeworth
paid anywhere. He had expressed a wish to his daughter that she should
write a story as a companion to Harrington, and in all her
anguish of mind at his state of health, she, by a remarkable effort of
affection and genius, produced the earlier gay and brilliant pages of
Ormond—some of the gayest and most brilliant she ever composed.
The interest and delight which her father, ill as he was, took in this
beginning, encouraged her to go on, and she completed the story.
Harrington, written as an apology for the Jews, had dragged with
her as she wrote it, and it dragged with the public. But in Ormond
she was on Irish ground, where she was always at her very best. Yet the
characters of King Corny and Sir Ulick O'Shane, and the many scenes
full of wit, humour, and feeling, were written in agony of anxiety,
with trembling hand and tearful eyes. As she finished chapter after
chapter, she read them out—the whole family assembling in her father's
room to listen to them. Her father enjoyed these readings so
exceedingly, that she was amply rewarded for the efforts she made.
* * * * *
MARIA to MISS RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, May 31, 1817.
This day, so anxiously expected, has arrived—the only birthday of
my father's for many, many years which has not brought unmixed feelings
of pleasure. He had had a terrible night, but when I went into his room
and stood at the foot of his bed, his voice was strong and cheerful, as
usual. I put into his hand the hundred and sixty printed pages of
Ormond which kind-hearted Hunter had successfully managed to get
ready for this day. How my dear father can, in the midst of such
sufferings, and in such an exhausted state of body, take so much
pleasure in such things, is astonishing. Oh, my dear Sophy, what must
be the fund of warm affection from which this springs! and what
infinite, exquisite pleasure to me! “Call Sneyd directly,” he said, and
swallowed some stir-about, and said he felt renovated. Sneyd was seated
at the foot of his bed. “Now, Maria, dip anywhere, read on.” I began:
“King Corny recovered.” Then he said, “I must tell Sneyd the story up
And most eloquently, most beautifully did he tell the story. No
mortal could ever have guessed that he was an invalid, if they had only
heard him speak. Just as I had here stopped writing my
father came out of his room, looking wretchedly, but ordered the
carriage, and said he would go to Longford to see Mr. Fallon about
materials for William's bridge. He took with him his three sons, and
“Maria to read Ormond”—great delight to me. He was much
pleased, and this wonderful father of mine drove all the way to
Longford: forced our way through the tumult of the most crowded market
I ever saw—his voice heard clear all the way down the street—stayed
half an hour in the carriage on the bridge talking to Mr. Fallon; and
we were not home till half-past six. He could not dine with us, but
after dinner he sent for us all into the library. He sat in the
arm-chair by the fire; my mother in the opposite arm-chair, Pakenham in
the chair behind her, Francis on a stool at her feet, Maria beside
them; William next, Lucy, Sneyd; on the sofa opposite the fire, as when
you were here, Honora, Fanny, Harriet, and Sophy; my aunts next to my
father, and Lovell between them and the sofa. He was much pleased at
Lovell and Sneyd's coming down for this day.
* * * * *
Mr. Edgeworth died on the 13th of June, in his seventy-second year.
He had been—by his different wives—the father of twenty-two children,
of whom thirteen survived him. The only son of his second marriage,
Lovell Edgeworth, succeeded to Edgeworthstown, but persuaded his
stepmother and his numerous brothers and sisters still to regard it as
To enable the reader to understand the relationships of the large
family circle, it may be well to give the children of Mr. Edgeworth.
1st marriage with Anna Maria Elers.
Richard, b. 1765; d. s.p. 1796.
Maria, b. 1767; d. unmarried, 1849.
Emmeline married, 1802, John King, Esq.
Anna, married, 1794, Dr. Beddoes.
2nd marriage with Honora Sneyd.
Lovell, b. 1776; d. unmarried, 1841.
Honora, d. unmarried, 1790.
3rd marriage with Elizabeth Sneyd.
Henry, b. 1782; d. unmarried, 1813.
Charles Sneyd, b. 1786; d .s.p. 1864.
William, b. 1788; d. 1792.
Thomas Day, b. 1789; d. 1792.
William, b. 1794; d. s.p. 1829.
Elizabeth, d. 1800.
Caroline, d. 1807.
Sophia, d. 1785.
Honora, married, 1831, Admiral Sir J. Beaufort, and died,
his widow, 1858.
4th marriage with Frances Anna Beaufort.
Francis Beaufort, b. 1809; married, 1831, Rosa Florentina
and had four sons and a daughter. The second son, Antonio
eventually succeeded his uncle Sneyd at Edgeworthstown.
Michael Pakenham, b. 1812; married, 1846, Christina Macpherson,
and had issue.
Frances Maria (Fanny), married, 1829, Lestock P. Wilson, Esq.,
and died, 1848.
Harriet, married, 1826, Rev. Richard Butler, afterwards Dean of
Sophia, married, 1824, Barry Fox, Esq. and d. 1837.
Lucy Jane, married, 1843, Rev. T.R. Robinson, D.D.
During the months which succeeded
her father's death, Maria wrote scarcely any letters; her sight caused
great anxiety. The tears, she said, felt in her eyes like the cutting
of a knife. She had overworked them all the previous winter, sitting up
at night and struggling with her grief as she wrote Ormond; and
she was now unable to use them without pain.
In October she went to Black Castle, and remained there till January
1818, having the strength of mind to abstain almost entirely from
reading and writing.
It required all Maria Edgeworth's inherited activity of mind, and
all her acquired command over herself, to keep up the spirits of her
family on their return to Edgeworthstown: from which the master-mind
was gone, and where the light was quenched. But, notwithstanding all
the depression she felt, she set to work immediately at what she now
felt to be her first duty—the fulfilment of her father's wish that she
should complete the Memoirs of his life, which he had himself begun.
Yet her eyes were still so weak that she seldom allowed herself what
had been her greatest relaxation—writing letters to her friends.
* * * * *
MARIA to MRS. RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Jan. 24, 1818.
My dearest aunt and friend—friend of my youth and age, and beloved
sister of my father, how many titles you have to my affection and
gratitude, and how delightful it is to me to feel them all! Since I
have parted from you, I have felt still more than when I was with you
the peculiar value to me of your sympathy and kindness. I find my
spirits sink beyond my utmost effort to support them when I leave you,
and they rise involuntarily when I am near you, and recall the dear
trains of old associations, and the multitude of ideas I used to have
with him who is gone for ever. Thank you, my dear aunt, for your most
kind and touching letter. You have been for three months daily and
hourly soothing, and indulging, and nursing me body and mind, and
making me forget the sense of pain which I could not have felt
suspended in any society but yours. My uncle's opinion and hints about
the Life I have been working at this whole week. Nothing can be kinder
than Lovell is to all of us.
I have read two-thirds of Bishop Watson's life. I think he bristles
his independence too much upon every occasion, and praises himself too
much for it, and above all complains too much of the want of preferment
and neglect of him by the Court. I have Madame de Stael's Memoirs of
her father's private life: I have only read fifty pages of it—too much
of a French Eloge—too little of his private life. There is a Notice
by Benjamin Constant of Madame de Stael's life prefixed to this work,
which appears to me more interesting and pathetic than anything Madame
de Stael has yet said of her father.
I must and will write to my Aunt Ruxton to-day, if the whole College
of Physicians, and the whole conclave of cardinal virtues, with
Prudence primming up her mouth at the head of them, stood before me. I
entirely agree with you, my dearest aunt, on one subject, as indeed I
generally do on most subjects, but particularly about Northanger
Abbey and Persuasion. The behaviour of the General in
Northanger Abbey, packing off the young lady without a servant or
the common civilities which any bear of a man, not to say gentleman,
would have shown, is quite outrageously out of drawing and out of
nature. Persuasion— excepting the tangled, useless histories of
the family in the first fifty pages—appears to me, especially in all
that relates to poor Anne and her lover, to be exceedingly interesting
and natural. The love and the lover admirably well drawn: don't you see
Captain Wentworth, or rather don't you in her place feel him taking the
boisterous child off her back as she kneels by the sick boy on the
sofa? And is not the first meeting after their long separation
admirably well done? And the overheard conversation about the nut? But
I must stop: we have got no farther than the disaster of Miss
Musgrave's jumping off the steps.
I am going on, but very slowly, and not to my satisfaction with my
To MRS. SNEYD EDGEWORTH.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, March 27.
I agree with you in thinking the MS. de Sainte-Helene a
magnificent performance. My father was strongly of opinion that it was
not written by Buonaparte himself, and he grounded this opinion chiefly
upon the passages relative to the Duc d'Enghien: c'etait plus qu'un
crime, c'etait une faute; no man, he thought, not even Nero, would,
in writing for posterity say that he had committed a crime instead of a
fault. But it may be observed that in the Buonaparte system of morality
which runs through the book, nothing is considered what we call a
crime, unless it be what he allows to be a fault. His proof that he did
not murder Pichegru is, that it would have been useless. Le cachet
de Buonaparte is as difficult to imitate as le cachet de
Voltaire. I know of but three people in Europe who could have
written it: Madame de Stael, Talleyrand, or M. Dumont. Madame de Stael,
though she has the ability, could not have got so plainly and shortly
through it. Talleyrand has l'esprit comme un demon, but he could
not for the soul of him have refused himself a little more wit and
wickedness. Dumont has not enough audacity of mind.
To MRS. STARK. [Footnote:
Daughter of Mr. Bannatyne, of Glasgow.]
SPRING FARM, N.T. MOUNT KENNEDY, June 1818.
I am, and have been ever since I could any way command my attention,
intent upon finishing those Memoirs of himself which my father left me
to finish and charged me to publish. Yet I have accepted an invitation
to Bowood, from Lady Lansdowne, whom I love, and as soon as I have
finished I shall go there. As to Scotland, I have no chance of getting
there at present, but if ever I go there, depend upon it, I shall go to
see you. Never, never can I forget those happy days we spent with you,
and the warmhearted kindness we received from you and yours: those were
“sunny spots” in my life.
To MRS. EDGEWORTH.
BOWOOD, Sept. 1818.
I will tell you how we pass our day. At seven I get up—this morning
at half-past six, to have the pleasure of writing to you, my dearest
mother, be satisfied I never write a word at night: breakfast is at
half after nine, very pleasant: afterwards we all stray into the
library for a few minutes, and settle when we shall meet again for
walking, etc.: then Lady Lansdowne goes to her dear dressing-room and
dear children, Dumont to his attic, Lord Lansdowne to his out-of-door
works, and we to our elegant dressing-room, and Miss Carnegy to hers.
Between one and two is luncheon: happy time! Lady Lansdowne is so
cheerful, polite, and easy, just as she was in her walks at
Edgeworthstown: but very different walks are the walks we take here,
most various and delightful, from dressed shrubbery and park walks to
fields with inviting paths, wide downs, shady winding lanes, and happy
cottages—not dressed, but naturally well placed, and with
evidence in every part of their being suited to the inhabitants.
After our walk we dress and make haste for dinner. Dinner is always
pleasant, because Lord and Lady Lansdowne converse so agreeably—Dumont
also—towards the dessert. After dinner, we find the children in the
drawing-room: I like them better and better the more I see of them.
When there is company there is a whist table for the gentlemen. Dumont
read out one evening one of Corneille's plays, “Le Florentin,” which is
beautiful, and was beautifully read. We asked for one of Moliere, but
he said to Lord Lansdowne that it was impossible to read Moliere aloud
without a quicker eye than he had pour de certains propos:
however, they went to the library and brought out at last as odd a
choice as could well be made, with Mr. Thomas Grenville as auditor, “Le
vieux Celibataire,” an excellent play, interesting and lively
throughout, and the old bachelor himself a charming character. Dumont
read it as well as Tessier could have read it; but there were things
which seemed as if they were written on purpose for the Celibataire who
was listening, and the Celibataire who was reading.
Lord Lansdowne, when I asked him to describe Rocca [Footnote: Second
husband of Madame de Stael.] to me, said he heard him give an answer to
Lord Byron which marked the indignant frankness of his mind. Lord Byron
at Coppet had been going on abusing the stupidity of the good people of
Geneva: Rocca at last turned short upon him—“Eh! milord, pourquoi donc
venez-vous vous fourrer parmi ces honnetes gens?”
Madame de Stael—I jumble anecdotes together as I recollect
them—Madame de Stael had a great wish to see Mr. Bowles, the poet, or
as Lord Byron calls him, the sonneteer; she admired his sonnets, and
his Spirit of Maritime Discovery, and ranked him high as an English
genius. In riding to Bowood he fell, and sprained his shoulder, but
still came on. Lord Lansdowne alluded to this in presenting him to
Madame de Stael before dinner in the midst of the listening circle. She
began to compliment him and herself upon the exertion he had made to
come and see her: “O ma'am, say no more, for I would have done a great
deal more to see so great a curiosity!“
Lord Lansdowne says it is impossible to describe the shock in
Madame de Stael's face—the breathless astonishment and the total
change produced in her opinion of the man. She afterwards said to Lord
Lansdowne, who had told her he was a simple country clergyman, “Je vois
bien que ce n'est qu'un simple cure qui n'a pas le sens commun, quoique
Lady Lansdowne, just as I was writing this, came to my room and paid
me half an hour's visit. She brought back my father's MS., which I had
lent to her to read: she was exceedingly interested in it: she says,
“It is not only entertaining but interesting, as showing how such a
character was formed.”
To MISS RUXTON.
BOWOOD, Sept. 19, 1818.
You know our history up to Saturday last, when Lord and Lady
Grenville left Bowood: there remained Mr. Thomas Grenville, Le vieux
Celibataire, two Horts, Sir William and his brother, Mr. Gally Knight,
and Lord and Lady Bathurst, with their two daughters. Mr. Grenville
left us yesterday, and the rest go to-day. Mr. Grenville was very
agreeable: dry, quiet humour: grave face, dark, thin, and
gentlemanlike: a lie-by manner, entertained, or entertaining by turns.
It is curious that we have seen within the course of a week one of the
heads of the ministerial, and one of the ex-ministerial party. In point
of ability, Lord Grenville is, I think, far superior to any one I have
seen here. Lord Lansdowne, with whom I had a delightful tete-a-tete
walk yesterday, told me that Lord Grenville can be fully known only
when people come to do political business with him: there he excels.
You know his preface to Lord Chatham's Letters. His manner of
speaking in the House is not pleasing, Lord Lansdowne says: from being
very near-sighted he has a look of austerity and haughtiness, and as he
cannot see all he wants to see, he throws himself back with his chin
up, determined to look at none. Lord Lansdowne gave me an instance—I
may say a warning—of the folly of judging hastily of character at
first sight from small circumstances. In one of Cowper's letters there
is an absurd character of Lord Grenville, in which he is represented as
a petit-maitre. This arose from Lord Grenville taking up his
near-sighted glass several times during his visit. There cannot, in
nature or art, be a man further from a petit-maitre.
Lady Bathurst is remarkably obliging to me: we have many subjects in
common—her brother, the Duke of Richmond, and all Ireland; her aunt,
Lady Louisa Connolly, and Miss Emily Napier, and all the Pakenhams, and
the Duchess of Wellington. The Duke lately said to Mrs. Pole, “After
all, home is what we must look to at last.”
Lady Georgiana is a very pretty, and I need scarcely say,
fashionable-looking young lady, easy, agreeable, and quite unaffected.
This visit to Bowood has surpassed my expectation in every respect.
I much enjoy the sight of Lady Lansdowne's happiness with her husband
and her children: beauty, fortune, cultivated society, in short,
everything that the most reasonable or unreasonable could wish. She is
so amiable and so desirous to make others happy, that it is impossible
not to love her; and the most envious of mortals, I think, would have
the heart opened to sympathy with her. Then Lord and Lady Lansdowne are
so fond of each other, and show it, and don't show it, in the
most agreeable manner. His conversation is very various and natural,
full of information, given for the sake of those to whom he speaks,
never for display. What he says always lets us into his feelings and
character, and therefore is interesting.
To MRS. EDGEWORTH
THE GROVE, EFFING, Oct. 4, 1818.
I mentioned one day at dinner at Bowood that children have very
early a desire to produce an effect, a sensation in company. “Yes,”
said Lord Lansdowne, “I remember distinctly having that feeling, and
acting upon it once in a large and august company, when I was a young
boy, at the time of the French Revolution, when the Duke and Duchess de
Polignac came to Bowood, and my father was anxious to receive these
illustrious guests with all due honour. One Sunday evening, when they
were all sitting in state in the drawing-room, my father introduced me,
and I was asked to give the company a sermon. The text I chose was,
quite undesignedly, 'Put not your trust in princes.' The moment I had
pronounced the words, I saw my father's countenance change, and I saw
changes in the countenances of the Duke and Duchess, and of every face
in the circle. I saw I was the cause of this; and though I knew my
father wanted to stop me, I would go on, to see what would be the
effect. I repeated my text, and preached upon it, and as I went on,
made out what it was that affected the congregation.”
Afterwards Lord Shelburne desired the boy to go round the circle and
wish the company good-night; but when he came to the Duchesse de
Polignac, he could not resolve to kiss her; he so detested the patch of
rouge on her cheek, he started back. Lord Shelburne whispered a bribe
in his ear—no, he would not; and they were obliged to laugh it off.
But his father was very much vexed.
HAMPSTEAD, Oct. 13.
We had a delightful drive here yesterday from Epping. Joanna Baillie
and her sister, most kind, cordial, and warm-hearted, came running down
their little flagged walk to welcome us. Mrs. Hunter, widow of John
Hunter, dined here yesterday; she wrote “The son of Alnomac shall never
complain,” and she entertained me exceedingly; and both Joanna and her
sister have most agreeable and new conversation—not old, trumpery
literature over again, and reviews, but new circumstance worth telling,
apropos to every subject that is touched upon: frank observations on
character, without either ill-nature or the fear of committing
themselves: no blue-stocking tittle-tattle, or habits of worshipping,
or being worshipped: domestic, affectionate, good to live with, and,
without fussing continually, doing what is most obliging, and whatever
makes us feel most at home. Breakfast is very pleasant in this house,
and the two good sisters look so neat and cheerful.
We went to see Mrs. Barbauld at Stoke Newington. She was gratified
by our visit, and very kind and agreeable.
BOWOOD, Nov. 3, 1818.
We have just returned to dear Bowood. We went to Wimbledon, where
Lady Spencer was very attentive and courteous: she is, I may say, the
cleverest person I have seen since I came to England. At parting she
“GOD blessed” me. We met there Lady Jones, widow of Sir William—thin,
dried, tall old lady, nut-cracker chin, penetrating, benevolent,
often—smiling, black eyes; and her nephew, young Mr. Hare; [Footnote:
Augustus William Hare, one of the authors of Guesses on Truth.]
and, the last day, Mr. Brunel. [Footnote: Afterwards Sir Mark Isambard
Brunel, engineer of the Thames Tunnel, Woolwich Arsenal, etc.,
This moment Mrs. Dugald Stewart, who was out walking, has come
in—the same dear woman! I have seen Mr. Stewart—very, very weak—he
cannot walk without an arm to lean on.
BOWOOD, Nov. 4, 1818.
The newspapers have told you the dreadful catastrophe—the death,
and the manner of the death, of that great and good man, Sir Samuel
Romilly. My dearest mother, there seems no end of horrible calamities.
There is no telling how it has been felt in this house. I did not know
till now that Mr. Dugald Stewart had been so very intimate with Sir
Samuel, and so very much attached to him—forty years his friend: he
has been dreadfully shocked. He was just getting better, enjoyed seeing
us, conversed quite happily with me the first evening, and I felt
reassured about him; but what may be the consequence of this stroke
none can tell. I rejoice that we came to meet him here: they say that I
am of use conversing with him. Lord Lansdowne looks wretchedly, and can
hardly speak on the subject without tears, notwithstanding all his
To MISS WALLER. [Footnote:
Miss Waller was aunt of Captain Beaufort and the fourth Mrs.
BYRKELY LODGE, Nov. 24, 1818.
In the gloom which the terrible and most unexpected loss of Sir
Samuel Romilly cast over the whole society at Bowood during the last
few days we spent there, I recollect some minutes of pleasure. When I
was consulting Mrs. Dugald Stewart about my father's MS., I mentioned
Captain Beaufort's opinion on some point; the moment his name had
passed my lips, Mr. Stewart's grave countenance lighted up, and he
exclaimed, “Captain Beaufort! I have the very highest opinion of
Captain Beaufort ever since I saw a letter of his, which I consider to
be one of the best letters I ever read. It was to the father of a young
gentleman who died at Malta, to whom Captain Beaufort had been the best
of friends. The young man had excellent qualities, but some frailties.
Captain Beaufort's letter to the father threw a veil over the son's
frailties, and without departing from the truth, placed all his good
qualities in the most amiable light. The old man told me,” continued
Mr. Stewart, “that this letter was the only earthly consolation he ever
felt for the loss of his son; he spoke of it with tears streaming from
his eyes, and pointed in particular to the passage that recorded the
warm affection with which his son used to speak of him.”
It is delightful to find the effect of a friend's goodness thus
coming round to us at a great distance of time, and to see that it has
raised him in the esteem of those we most admire.
Mr. Stewart has not yet recovered his health; he is more alarmed, I
think, than he need to be by the difficulty he finds in recollecting
names and circumstances that passed immediately before and after his
fever. This hesitation of memory, I believe, everybody has felt more or
less after any painful event. In every other respect Mr. Stewart's mind
appears to me to be exactly what it ever was, and his kindness of heart
even greater than we have for so many years known it to be.
We are now happy in the quiet of Byrkely Lodge. We have not had any
visitors since we came, and have paid only one visit to the Miss
Jacksons. Miss Fanny is, you know, the author of Rhoda; Miss
Maria, the author of a little book of advice about A Gay Garden.
I like the Gay Garden lady best at first sight, but I will suspend my
judgment prudently till I see more.
I have just heard a true story worthy of a postscript even in the
greatest haste. Two stout foxhunters in this neighbourhood who happened
each to have as great a dread of a spider as ever fine lady had or
pretended to have, chanced to be left together in a room where a spider
appeared, crawling from under a table, at which they were sitting.
Neither durst approach within arm's length of it, or touch it even with
a pair of tongs; at last one of the gentlemen proposed to the other,
who was in thick boots, to get on the table and jump down upon his
enemy, which was effected to their infinite satisfaction.
To MRS. RUXTON.
BYRKELY LODGE, Jan. 20, 1819.
I see my little dog on your lap, and feel your hand patting his
head, and hear your voice telling him that it is for Maria's sake he is
there. I wish I was in his place, or at least on the sofa beside you at
this moment, that I might in five minutes tell you more than my letters
could tell you in five hours.
I have scarcely yet recovered from the joy of having Fanny actually
with me, and with me just in time to go to Trentham, on which I had set
my foolish heart. We met her at Lichfield. We spent that evening
there—the children of four different marriages all united and happy
together. Lovell took Francis [Footnote: Son of the fourth Mrs.
Edgeworth, who was going to the Charter-house, and who had accompanied
his sister Fanny, with Lovell, from Edgeworthstown.] on with him to
Byrkely Lodge, and we went to Trentham.
When Honora and I had Fanny in the chaise to ourselves, ye gods! how
we did talk! We arrived at Trentham by moonlight, and could only just
see outlines of wood and hills: silver light upon the broad water, and
cheerful lights in the front of a large house, with wide-open hall
door. Nothing could be more polite and cordial than the reception given
to us by Lady Stafford, and by her good-natured, noblemanlike lord.
During our whole visit, what particularly pleased me was the manner in
which they treated my sisters: not as appendages to an authoress, not
as young ladies merely permitted, or to fill up as
personnages muets in society; on the contrary, Lady Stafford
conversed with them a great deal, and repeatedly took opportunities of
expressing to me how much she liked and valued them for their own sake.
“That sister Fanny of yours has a most intelligent countenance: she is
much more than pretty; and what I so like is her manner of answering
when she is asked any question—so unlike the Missy style. They have
both been admirably well educated.” Then she spoke in the handsomest
manner of my father—“a master-mind: even in the short time I saw him
that was apparent to me.”
Lady Elizabeth Gower is a most engaging, sensible, unaffected,
sweet, pretty creature. While Lady Stafford in the morning was in the
library doing a drawing in water colours to show Honora her manner of
finishing quickly, Fanny and I sat up in Lady Elizabeth's darling
little room at the top of the house, where she has all her drawings,
and writing, and books, and harp. She and her brother, Lord Francis,
have always been friends and companions: and on her table were bits of
paper on which he had scribbled droll heads, and verses of his, very
good, on the “Expulsion of the Moors from Spain”—Lady Elizabeth knew
every line of these, and had all that quick feeling, and colouring
apprehension, and slurring dexterity, which those who read out
what is written by a dear friend so well understand.
Large rooms filled with pictures, most of them modern—Reynolds,
Moreland, Glover, Wilkie; but there are a few ancient: one of Titian's,
that struck me as beautiful—“Hermes teaching Cupid to read.” The chief
part of the collection is in the house in town. After a happy week at
Trentham we returned here.
Mercy on my poor memory! I forgot to tell you that Lady Harrowby and
her daughter were at Trentham, and an exquisite, or tiptop
dandy, Mr. Standish, and young Mr. Sneyd, of Keil—very fashionable.
Lady Harrowby deserves Madame de Stael's good word, she calls her “
compagne spirituelle”—a charming woman, and very quick in
The morning after Mr. Standish's arrival, Lady Stafford's maid told
her that she and all the ladies' maids had been taken by his
gentleman to see his toilette—“which, I assure you, my lady, is
the thing best worth seeing in this house, all of gilt plate, and I
wish, my lady, you had such a dressing box.” Though an exquisite, Mr.
Standish is clever, entertaining, and agreeable. One day that he sat
beside me at dinner, we had a delightful battledore and shuttlecock
conversation from grave to gay as quick as your heart could wish: from
L'Almanac des Gourmandes and Le Respectable Porc, to
Dorriforth and the Simple Story.
My letter has been detained two days for a frank. My aunts
[Footnote: The Miss Sneyds were now living for a time at Byrkely
Lodge.] are pretty well, and we feel that we add to their cheerfulness.
Honora plays cribbage with Aunt Mary, and I read Florence Macarthy; I
like the Irish characters, and the Commodore, and Lord Adelm—that is
Lord Byron; but Ireland is traduced in some of her representations.
“Marriage” is delightful.
To MRS. EDGEWORTH.
BYRKELY LODGE, Feb 8, 1819.
Mrs. Sneyd took me with her to-day to Lord Bagot's to return Lady
Dartmouth's visit; she is a charming woman, and appears most amiable,
taking care of all those grandchildren. Lord Bagot very melancholy,
gentlemanlike, and interesting. Fine old cloistered house, galleries,
painted glass, coats of arms, and family pictures everywhere. It was
the first time Lord Bagot had seen Mrs. Sneyd since his wife's death;
he took both her hands and was as near bursting into tears as ever man
was. He was very obliging to me, and showed me all over his house, and
gave me a most sweet bunch of Daphne Indica.
TETSWORTH INN, March 4.
On Tuesday morning we left dear, happy, luxurious, warm Byrkely
Lodge. At taking leave of me, Mr. Sneyd began thanking me as if I had
been the person obliging instead of obliged, and when I got up from the
breakfast table and went round to stop his thanks by mine, he took me
in his arms and gave me a squeeze that left me as flat as a pancake,
and then ran out of the room absolutely crying.
We arrived at tea-time at Mrs. Moilliet's, [Footnote: Daughter of
Mr. Keir, Mrs. Edgeworth's old friend.] Smethwick, near Birmingham,
much pleased with our reception, and with Mr. Moilliet and their five
children. He has purchased a delightful house on the banks of the Lake
of Geneva, where they go next summer, and most earnestly pressed us to
visit them there.
Mr. Moilliet told us an anecdote of Madame la Comtesse de Rumford
and her charming Count; he, one day in a fit of ill-humour, went to the
porter and forbad him to let into his house any of the friends of
Madame la Comtesse or of M. Lavoisier's—all the society which you and
I saw at her house: they had been invited to supper; the old porter,
all disconsolate, went to tell the Countess the order he had received.
“Well, you must obey your master, you must not let them into the house,
but I will go down to your lodge, and as each carriage comes, you will
let them know what has happened, and that I am there to receive them.”
They all came; and by two or three at a time went into the porter's
lodge and spent the evening with her; their carriages lining the street
all night to the Count's infinite mortification.
Mr. Moilliet also told Fanny of a Yorkshire farmer who went to the
Bank of England, and producing a Bank of England note for L30,000,
asked to have it changed. The clerk was surprised and hesitated, said
that a note for so large a sum was very uncommon, and that he knew
there never had been more than two L30,000 bank notes issued. “Oh yes!”
said the farmer, “I have the other at home.”
We went to see dear old Mr. Watt: eighty-four, and in perfect
possession of eyes, ears, and all his comprehensive understanding and
warm heart. Poor Mrs. Watt is almost crippled with rheumatism, but as
good-natured and hospitable as ever, and both were heartily glad to see
us. So many recollections, painful and pleasurable, crowded and pressed
upon my heart during this half-hour. I had much ado to talk, but I did,
[Footnote: Mr. Watt had been one of Mr. Edgeworth's most intimate
friends.] and so did he,—of forgeries on bank notes, no way can he
invent of avoiding such but by having an inspecting clerk in every
country town. Talked over the committee report—paper-marks,
vain—Tilloch—“I have no great opinion of his abilities—Bramah—yes,
he is a clever man, but set down this for truth; no man is so
ingenious, but what another may be found equally ingenious. What one
invents, another can detect and imitate.”
Watt is at this moment himself the best encyclopedia extant; I dare
not attempt to tell you half he said: it would be a volume. Chantrey
has made a beautiful, mean an admirable, bust of him. Chantrey and
Canova are now making rival busts of Washington.
I must hop, skip, and jump as I can from subject to subject. Mr. and
Mrs. Moilliet took us in the evening to a lecture on poetry, by
Campbell, who has been invited by a Philosophical Society of Birmingham
gentlemen to give lectures; they give tickets to their friends. Mr.
Corrie, one of the heads of this society, was proud to introduce
us. Excellent room, with gas spouting from tubes below the gallery.
Lecture good enough. Mr. Campbell introduced to me after lecture; asked
very kindly for Sneyd; many compliments. Mr. Corrie drank tea, after
the lecture, at Mr. Moilliet's—very agreeable benevolent countenance,
most agreeable voice. We liked particularly his enthusiasm for Mr.
Watt; he gave a history of his inventions, and instances of Watt's
superiority both in invention and magnanimity when in competition with
Mr. and Mrs. Moilliet have pressed us to come again. Mr. and Mrs.
Watt, ditto, ditto. Mr. Watt almost with tears in his eyes; and I was
ashamed to see that venerable man standing bareheaded at his door to do
us the last [Footnote: It was the last. Mr. Watt died a few months
afterwards.] honour, till the carriage drove away.
I beg your pardon for going backward and forward in this way in my
hurry-skurry. I leave the Stratford-upon-Avon, and Blenheim, and
Woodstock adventures, and Oxford to Honora and Fanny, whose pens have
been going a l'envie l'une de l'autre; we are writing so
comfortably. I at my desk with a table to myself, and the most
comfortable little black stuffed arm-chair. Fanny and Ho. at their
desks and table near the fire.
“We must have two pairs of snuffers.”
“Yes, my lady, directly.”
So now, my lady, good-night; for I am tired, a little, just enough
to pity the civilest and prettiest of Swiss-looking housemaids, who
says in answer to my “We shall come to bed very soon,” “Oh dear, my
lady, we bees no ways particular in this house about times o' going to
To MRS. RUXTON.
GROVE HOUSE, KENSINGTON GORE,
We arrived here on Saturday last; found Lady Elizabeth Whitbread
more kind and more agreeable than ever. Her kindness to us is indeed
unbounded, and would quite overwhelm me but for the delicate and polite
manner in which she confers favours, more as if she received than
conferred them. Her house, her servants, her carriage, her horses, are
not only entirely at my disposal, but she had the good-natured
politeness to go down to the door to desire the coachman to have George
Bristow always on the box with him, as the shaking would be too much
for him behind.
Yesterday we spent two hours at Lady Stafford's. I had most
agreeable conversation with her and Lord Stafford, while Lady Elizabeth
Gower showed the pictures to Honora and Fanny.
Mr. Talbot [Footnote: Son of Lady Talbot de Malahide, a lawyer] is
often here, l'ami de la maison and very much ours. Lady Grey,
Lady Elizabeth's mother, is a fine amiable old lady. Mr. Ellice, the
brother-in-law, very good-humoured and agreeable. Mr. and Mrs. Lefevre,
the son-in-law and daughter, very agreeable, good, and happy. I am more
and more convinced that happiness depends upon what is in the head and
heart more than on what is in the purse or the bank, or on the back or
in the stomach. There must be enough in the stomach, but the sauce is
of little consequence. By the bye, Lady Elizabeth's cook is said
to be the best in England; lived with her in the days of her
prosperity, as she says, and has followed her here.
KENSINGTON CORE, March 24, 1819.
I have a moment to write to you, and I will use it. We are going on
just as when I last wrote to you. We began by steadily settling that we
would not go out to any dinner or evening parties, because we could not
do so without giving up Lady Elizabeth's society; she never goes out
but to her relations. The mornings she spends in her own apartments,
and when we had refused all invitations to dinner our friends were so
kind as to contrive to see us at our own hours: to breakfast or
luncheon. Twice with Lady Lansdowne—luncheon; found her with her
children just the same as at Bowood. Miss Fanshawe's—breakfast; Lord
Glenbervie there, very agreeable; much French and Italian
literature—beautiful drawings, full of genius—if there be such a
thing allowed by practical education?
Three breakfasts at dear Mrs. Marcet's; the first quite private; the
second literary, very agreeable; Dr. Holland, Mr. Wishaw, Captain
Beaufort, Mr. Mallet, Lady Yonge; third, Mr. Mill—British India—was
the chief figurante; not the least of a figurante though,
excellent in sense and benevolence.
Twice at Mr. Wilberforce's; he lives next door to Lady Elizabeth
Whitbread; there we met Mr. Buxton—admirable facts from him about
Newgate and Spitalfields weavers. One fact I was very sorry to learn,
that Mrs. Fry, that angel woman, was very ill.
Breakfast with Mr. and Mrs. Hope—quite alone—he showed the house
to Honora and Fanny while I sat with Mrs. Hope.
On St. Patrick's Day, by appointment to the Duchess of Wellington,
nothing could be more like Kitty Pakenham; a plate of shamrocks on the
table, and as she came forward to meet me, she gave a bunch to me,
pressing my hand and saying in a low voice with her sweet smile,
Vous en etes digne. She asked individually for all her Irish
friends. I showed to her what was said in my father's life, and by me,
of Lord Longford, and the drawing of his likeness, and asked if his
family would be pleased; she spoke very kindly: “would do her father's
memory honour; could not but please every Pakenham.” She was obliging
in directing her conversation easily to my sisters as well as to
myself. She said she had purposely avoided being acquainted with Madame
de Stael in England, not knowing how she might be received by the
Bourbons, to whom the Duchess was to be Ambassadress. She found that
Madame de Stael was well received at the Bourbon Court, and
consequently she must be received at the Duke of Wellington's. She
arrived, and walking up in full assembly to the Duchess, with the fire
of indignation flashing in her eyes.
“Eh! Madame la Duchesse, vous ne voulez pas donc faire ma
connaissance en Angleterre?”
“Non, Madame, je ne le voulais pas.”
“Eh! comment, Madame? Pourquoi donc?”
“C'est que je vous craignais, Madame.”
“Vous me craignez, Madame la Duchesse?”
“Non, Madame, je ne vous crains plus.”
Madame de Stael threw her arms round her, “Ah! je vous adore!”
I must end abruptly. No; I have one minute more. While we were at
the Duchess of Wellington's a jeweller's man came in with some
bracelets, one was a shell like your Roman shell cameo, of the Duke's
head, of which she was correcting the profile. She showed us pictures
of her sons, and Fanny sketched from them while we sat with her. We saw
in the hall, or rather in the corner of the staircase, Canova's
gigantic “Apollo-Buonaparte,” which was sent from France to the Regent
who gave it to the Duke. It is ten feet high, but I could not judge of
it where it is cooped up—shockingly ill-placed.
Sunday—Lady Harrowby's by invitation, as it is Lord Harrowby's only
holiday. Mr. Ellis, a young man, just entered Parliament, from whom
great things are expected. Mr. Wilmot, and Mr. Frere—Lady Ebrington
and Lady Mary Ryder—Lord Harrowby, most agreeable conversation.
Folding doors thrown open. The Duke of——. Post—letter must go.
To MISS RUXTON.
DUCHESS STREET, MRS. HOPE'S,
April 2, 1819.
I left off abruptly just as the folding doors were thrown open, and
the Duke of Wellington was announced in such an unintelligible manner
that I did not know what Duke it was, nor did I know till we got into
the carriage who it was—he looks so old and wrinkled. I never should
have known him from likeness to bust or picture. His manner is very
agreeable, perfectly simple and dignified. He said only a few words,
but listened to some literary conversation that was going on, as if he
was amused, laughing once very heartily. Remind me to tell you some
circumstances about Adele de Senange which Lord Harrowby told me, and
two expressions of Madame de Stael's—“On depose fleur a fleur la
couronne de la vie,” [Footnote: Miss Edgeworth had quoted this
expression with admiration to Lord Harrowby, objecting to a criticism
of it by M. Dumont, “d'abord la vie n'a pas de couronne.” To which Lord
Harrowby replied by quoting Johnson's
Year follows year, decay pursues decay,
Still drops from life some withering joy away.
It was to this conversation that the Duke of Wellington listened
with smiling attention.] and “Le silence est l'antichambre de la mort.”
Mr. Hope is altered, and he has in his whole appearance the marks of
having suffered much. The contrast between his and Mrs. Hope's
depression of spirits and the magnificence of everything about them
speaks volumes of moral philosophy.
They were even more kind than I expected in their manner of
receiving us. One large drawing-room Mr. Hope gave us for the reception
of our friends. Mrs. Hope had not since her coming to town had a dinner
party, but she assembled all the people she thought we might like to
see. One day Miss Fanshawe; another day the Duke and Duchess of
Bedford, Lord Palmerston, Lord and Lady Darnley, and Mr. Ellis; Lady
Darnley was very kind, just what she was when I saw her before. Lady
Jersey is particularly agreeable, and was particularly obliging to us,
and gave us tickets for the French play, now one of the London objects
of curiosity. The Duchess of Bedford talked much to me, and very
agreeably of her travels.
Mrs. Hope was so exhausted by the effort of seeing all these people
that she could not sleep, and looked wretchedly the next day, when
nobody was at dinner but her own sister and Captain Beaufort. Next day,
Lady Tankerville and her daughter, Lady Mary Bennet, came and sat half
To MRS. RUXTON.
KENSINGTON GORE, April 28, 1819.
We spent ten days delightfully with the kind Hopes at Deepdene, and
a most beautiful place it is. The valley of Dorking is so beautiful
that even Rasselas would not have desired to escape from that happy
valley. Fanny was well enough to enjoy everything, especially some
rides on a stumbling pony with Henry Hope, a fine boy of eleven, well
informed, and very good-natured. We went to see Norbury Park, Mr.
Locke's place, and Wotton, Mr. Evelyn's, and a beautiful cottage of
Mrs. Hibbert's, of all which I shall have much to say to you on my own
little stool at your feet.
We were received on our return here with affectionate kindness by
Lady Elizabeth Whitbread.
Remember that I don't forget to tell you of Lady Bredalbane's having
been left in her carriage fast asleep, and rolled into the coach-house
of an hotel at Florence and nobody missing her for some time, and how
they went to look for her, and how ever so many carriages had been
rolled in after hers, and how she wakened, and—I must sign and seal.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, July 7, 1819.
At Longford last Sunday we heard an excellent sermon by a Mr.
M'Lelland, the first he ever preached; a terrible brogue, but full of
sense and spirit. Some odd faults—quoting the Quarterly Review
—citing “Hogarth's Idle Apprentice”—“the Roman poet tells us,” etc.;
but it was altogether new and striking, and contained such a fine
address to the soldiers present on the virtues of peace, after the
triumphs of war, as touched every heart. The soldiers all with one
accord looked up to the preacher at the best passages.
To MRS. SNEYD EDGEWORTH, AT
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Sept. 15, 1819.
I rejoice that you and Sneyd are well enough to enjoy the pleasures
of Paris. I do not know what Sneyd can have done to make Madame
Recamier laugh; in my time she never went beyond the smile prescribed
by Lord Chesterfield as graceful in beauty.
This last week we have had the pleasure of having our kind friends
Mrs. and Miss Carr. Except the first day, which was Irish rainy, every
day has been sunshiny, and my mother has taken advantage of the
shrievalty four horses and two yellow jackets to drive about. They went
to Baronston, where there is a link of connection with the Carrs
through an English friend, Mrs. Benyon. Lady Sunderlin and Miss
Catherine Malone did the joint honours of their house most amiably, and
gave as fine a collation of grapes, nectarines, and peaches as France
Another morning we took a tour of the tenants. Hugh Kelly's house
and parlour and gates and garden, and all that should accompany a
farm-house, as nice as any England could afford. James Allen, though
grown very old, and in a forlorn black shag wig, looked like a
respectable yeoman, “the country's pride,” and at my instance brought
out as fine a group of grandchildren as ever graced a cottage lawn.
In driving home at the cross-roads by Corbey we had the good fortune
to come in for an Irish dance, the audience or spectators seated on
each side of the road on opposite benches; all picturesque in the
sunshine of youth and age, with every variety of attitude and
expression of enjoyment. The dancers, in all the vivacity and graces of
an Irish jig, delighted our English friends; and we stood up in the
landau for nearly twenty minutes looking at them.
To MISS RUXTON.
We have been much interested in the life and letters of that most
excellent, amiable, and unpretending Lady Russell. [Footnote: Lady
Rachel Wriothesley, second daughter of Thomas Earl of Southampton, who
married (1) Francis Lord Vaughan; (2) William Lord Russell, the
patriot, beheaded July 21, 1683.] There are touches in these letters
which paint domestic happiness, and the character of a mother and a
wife with beautiful simplicity. I even like Miss Berry much the better
for the manner in which she has edited this book.
Have you the fourth number of Modern Voyages and Travels
which contains Chateauvieux's travels in Italy? I have been so much
delighted with it, and feel so sure of its transporting my aunt,
that I had hardly read the last words before I was going to pack it off
post-haste to Black Castle, but Prudence, in the shape of Honora, in a
lilac tabinet gown, whispered, “Better wait till you hear whether they
have read it.”
Have I mentioned to you Bassompierre's Memoirs? a new
edition, with notes by Croker, which make the pegs on which they hang
gay and valuable. What an extraordinary collection of strange facts and
strange thoughts are dragged together in the Quarterly Review of
the Cemeteries and Catacombs of Paris; the Jewish House of the
Living; the excommunicated skeletons coming into the church to
parley with the Bishop; and the Parisian sentimentalist in the country
who sent for barrels of ink from Paris to put his trees in mourning for
the death of his mother; and the fountain, called the weeping eye, for the death of his wife, by the Dane. I hope, my dear friends, that
you have been reading these things, and that they have struck you as
they did me; there are few things pleasanter than these “jumping
Now that I have a little time, and eyes to read again, I find it
delightful, and I have a voracious appetite, and a relish for food,
good, bad, and indifferent, I am afraid, like a half-famished,
Such a scene of lying and counter-lying as we have had with the cook
and her accuser, the kitchen-maid! The cook was dismissed on the spot.
One expression of Peggy Tuite's I must tell you—with her indignant
figure of truth defending herself against falsehood—when Rose, the
vile public accuser, said, in part of her speech, recollecting from
Peggy Tuite's dress, who came clean from chapel, that it was Sunday,
“And it's two masses I have lost by you already!” to which Peggy
replied, “Oh, Rose, the mass is in the heart, not in the chapel! only
speak the truth.”
* * * * *
Miss Edgeworth's steadiness in resting her eyes, neither reading nor
writing for nearly two years, was rewarded by their complete recovery;
and she was able to read, write, and work with ease and comfort all the
rest of her life.
This autumn of 1819 she was made happy by the return of the two Miss
Sneyds [Footnote: Sisters of her two former stepmothers, the second and
third wives of Mr. R. L. Edgeworth.] from England to Edgeworthstown,
where with short intervals, they continued to reside as long as they
* * * * *
MARIA to MISS RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Jan. 1, 1820.
Have you seen a life of Madame de Stael by that Madame Neckar de
Saussure, of whom Madame de Stael said, when some one asked, “What sort
of woman is she?” “Elle a tous les talents qu'on me suppose, et toutes
les vertus qui me manquent.” Is not that touching and beautiful?
Poor Kitty Billamore breathed her last this morning at one o'clock.
A more faithful, warm-hearted, excellent creature never existed. How
many successions of children of this family she has nursed, and how
many she has attended in illness and death, regardless of her own
health! I am glad that sweet, dear little feeling Francis, her darling,
was spared being here at her death. Harriet, who, next to him,
[Footnote: Francis and Harriet, children of the fourth Mrs. Edgeworth.]
had always been a great favourite, was with her to the last. All the
poor people loved her, and will long feel her loss. Lovell [Footnote:
Lovell, only surviving child of the second Mrs. Edgeworth (Honora
Sneyd), who had succeeded to the property.] intends that she should be
buried in the family vault, as she deserves, for she was more a friend
than a servant, and he will attend her funeral himself.
* * * * *
Having finished the memoirs of her father's life, and settled that
they should be published at Easter, Maria determined to indulge herself
in what she had long projected—a visit to Paris with two of her young
sisters, Fanny and Harriet. They set out on the 3rd of April.
* * * * *
MARIA to MISS LUCY EDGEWORTH.
DUBLIN, April 10, 1820.
In my letter to my mother of the 8th I forgot—no, I had not time to
say that we had a restive mare at Dunshaughlin, who paid me for all I
ever wrote about Irish posting, and put me in the most horrible and
reasonable apprehension that she would have broken my aunt's carriage
to pieces against the corner of a wall. The crowd of people that
assembled, the shouts, the “never fears,” the scolding of the landlord
and postillions, and the group surveying the scene, was beyond anything
I could or can paint. The stage coach drove to the door in the midst of
it, and ladies and bandboxes stopped, and all stood to gaze.
There was also a professional fool in his ass cart with two dogs,
one a white little curly dog, who sat upon the ass's head behind his
ears, and another a black shaggy mongrel, with longish ears, who sat up
in a begging attitude on the hinder part of the ass, and whom the
fool-knave had been tutoring with a broken crutch, as he sat in his
covered cart. Fanny made a drawing of him, and he and his dogs sat
for a fivepenny, which I honestly gave him for his and his dogs'
* * * * *
Steamboats had only begun to ply between Dublin and Holyhead in
1819, and Maria Edgeworth's first experience of a steamboat was in
crossing now to Holyhead. She disliked the jigging motion, which
she said was like the shake felt in a carriage when a pig is scratching
himself against the hind wheel while waiting at an Irish inn door.
* * * * *
MARIA to MISS HONORA EDGEWORTH.
MRS. WATT'S, HEATHFIELD,
I was much surprised at finding that the postillion who drove us
from Wolverhampton could neither tell himself, nor learn from any one
up the road, along the heath, at the turnpike, or even in the very
suburbs of Birmingham, the way to Mr. Watt's! I was as much surprised
as we were at Paris in searching for Madame de Genlis; so we went to
Mr. Moilliet's, and stowed ourselves next day into their travelling
landau, as large as our own old, old delightful coach, and came here.
Oh, my dear Honora, how melancholy to see places the same—persons,
and such persons gone! Mrs. Watt, in deep mourning, coming forward to
meet us alone in that gay trellice, the same books on his table, his
picture, his bust, his image everywhere, himself nowhere upon
this earth. Mrs. Watt has, in that poor little shattered frame, a
prodigiously strong mind; indeed she could not have been so loved by
such a man for such a length of time if she had not superior qualities.
She was more kind than I can express, receiving Fanny and Harriet as if
they had been of her own family.
In the morning I fell to penning this letter, as we were engaged to
breakfast at Mr. James Watt's, at Aston Hall. You remember the fine old
brick palace? Mr. Watt has fitted up half of it so as to make it
superbly comfortable: fine hall, breakfast room, Flemish pictures,
Boulton and Watt at either end. After breakfast, at which was Mr.
Priestly, an American, son of Dr. Priestly, we went over all the
habitable and uninhabitable parts of the house: the banqueting room,
with a most costly, frightful ceiling, and a chimneypiece carved up to
the cornice with monsters, one with a nose covered with scales, one
with human face on a tarantula's body. Varieties of little staircases,
and a garret gallery called Dick's haunted gallery; a blocked-up room
called the King's room; then a modern dressing-room, with fine tables
of Bullock's making, one of wood from Brazil—Zebra wood—and no more
to be had of it for love or money.
But come on to the great gallery, longer than that at
Sudbury,—about one hundred and thirty-six feet long,—and at the
farthest end we came to a sort of oriel, separated from the gallery
only by an arch, and there the white marble bust of the great Mr. Watt
struck me almost breathless. What everybody went on saying I do not
know, but my own thoughts, as I looked down the closing lines of this
superb gallery, now in a half-ruined state, were very melancholy, on
life and death, family pride, and the pride of wealth, and the pride of
genius, all so perishable.
To MRS. EDGEWORTH.
CANTERBURY, April 21.
I wrote to your dear father the history of our visit to Mr. Wren's
at Wroxall Abbey, and Kenilworth, and Warwick, and Stratford-upon-Avon,
and our pleasant three hours at Oxford. When we were looking at the
theatre, Mr. Biddulph told us, that when all the Emperors and Kings
came with the Regent, the theatre was filled in every part; but such
was the hush you could have heard a pin drop till the Prince put his
foot upon the threshold, when the whole assembly rose with a tremendous
shout of applause. The Prince was supremely gratified, and said to the
Emperor of Russia, “You heard the London mob hoot me, but you see how I
am received by the young gentlemen of England!”
When Lord Grenville was installed as chancellor, he was, the instant
he look his seat, assailed with loud hisses and groans. Mr. Biddulph
said he admired the dignity with which Lord Grenville behaved, and the
presence of mind of the Bishop of Peterborough (Parsons), who said in
Latin, “Either this disturbance must instantly cease, or I dismiss you
from this assembly!” Dead silence ensued.
PARIS, PLACE DU PALAIS BOURBON,
One moment of reward for two days of indescribable hurry I have at
this quiet interval after breakfast, and I seize it to tell you that
Fanny is quite well: so far for health. For beauty, I have only to say
that I am told by everybody that my sisters are lovely in
English, and charmantes in French. Last night was their debut
at Lady Granard's—a large assembly of all manner of lords, ladies,
counts, countesses, princes, and princesses, French, Polish, and
Italian: Marmont and Humboldt were there. I was told by several persons
of rank and taste—Lady Rancliffe, the Countess de Salis, Lady Granard,
Mrs. Sneyd Edgeworth, and a Polish Countess, that my sister's
dress, the grand affair at Paris, was perfection, and I believed
it! Humboldt is excessively agreeable, but I was twice taken from him
to be introduced to grandeurs, just as we had reached the most
interesting point of conversation.
On Sunday we went with the Comtesse de Salis and the Baronne de
Salis, who is also Chanoinesse, but goes into the world in roses and
pink ribbons nevertheless, and is very agreeable, moreover, and with M.
Le Baron, an officer in the Swiss Guards, an old bachelor, to St.
Sulpice, to hear M. Fressenus. He preached in the Kirwan style, but
with intolerable monotony of thumping eloquence, against les
Liberaux, Rousseau, etc.; it seemed to me old stuff, ill
embroidered, but it was much applauded. Mem.: the audience
were not half so attentive or silent at St. Sulpice as they were at the
Theatre Francais the night before.
After church a visit to Madame de Pastoret. Oh, my dear mother,
think of my finding her in that very boudoir, everything the same!
Fanny and Harriet were delighted with the beauty of the house till they
saw her, and then nothing could be thought of but her manner and
conversation. They are even more charmed with her than I expected: she
is little changed.
After a ball at the Polish Countess Orlowski's (the woman who is
charmed with Early Lessons, etc.), where Fanny and Harriet were
delighted with the children's dancing—they waltzed like angels, if
angels waltz—after this ball I went with the Count and Countess de
Salis and La Baronne—I was told that the first time it must be without
my sisters—to the Duchesse d'Escars, who receives for the King
at the Tuileries: mounting a staircase of one hundred and forty steps.
I thought the Count's knees would have failed while I leaned on his
arm; my own ached. A long gallery, well lighted, opened into a suite of
little low apartments, most beautifully hung, some with silk and
some with cashmere, some with tent drapery, with end ottomans, and
lamps in profusion. These rooms, with busts and pictures of kings,
swarmed with old nobility, with historic names, stars, red ribbons, and
silver bells at their button-holes: ladies in little white satin hats
and toques, with a profusion of ostrich or, still better,
marabout powder-puff feathers; and the roofs were too low for such
After a most fatiguing morning at all the impertinent and pertinent
dressmakers and milliners, we finished by the dear delight of dining
with Madame Gautier at Passy. The drive there was delicious: we found
her with her Sophie, now a matron mother with her Caroline, like what
Madame Gautier and her Sophie were in that very room eighteen years
ago. All the Delessert family that remain were assembled except
Benjamin, who was detained by business in Paris. Madame Benjamin is
very handsome, nearer the style of Mrs. Admiral Pakenham than anybody I
know; Francois the same as you saw him, only with the additional
crow's-feet of eighteen years, sobered into a husband and father, the
happiest I ever saw in France. They have three houses, and the whole
three terraces form one long pleasure-ground. Judas-tree, like a
Brobdingnag almond-tree, was in full flower; lilacs and laburnums in
abundance. Alexandre Delessert takes after the father—good, sensible,
commercial conversation. He made a panegyric on the Jews of Hamburgh,
who received him at their houses with the utmost politeness and
liberality. This was a propos of Walter Scott's Jewess, and,
vanity must add, my own Jew and Jewess, who came in for more than their
Bank-notes were talked of: Francois tells me that the forging of
bank-notes is almost unknown at Paris: the very best artists—my
father's plan—are employed.
Tuesday we were at the Louvre: many fine pictures left. Dined at
home: in the evening to Madame de Pastoret's, to meet the Duchesse de
Broglie: very handsome, little, with large soft dark eyes: simple
dress, winning manner, soft Pastoret conversation: speaks English
better than any foreigner I ever heard: not only gracious, but quite
tender to me.
After Madame de Pastoret's we went to the Ambassador's and were
received in the most distinguished manner. We saw crowds of fine people
and conversed with Talleyrand, but he said nought worth hearing.
Paris is wonderfully embellished since we were here in 1803. Fanny
and Harriet are quite enchanted with the beauty of the Champs Elysees
and the Tuileries gardens: the trees are out in full leaf, and the deep
shade under them is delightful. I had never seen Paris in summer, so I
enjoy the novelty. Some of our happiest time is spent in driving about
in the morning, or returning at night by lamp or moonlight.
Lady Elizabeth Stuart has been most peculiarly civil to “Madame
Maria Edgeworth et Mesdemoiselles ses soeurs,” which is the form on our
visiting tickets, as I was advised it should be. The Ambassador's hotel
is the same which Lord Whitworth had, which afterwards belonged to the
Princess Borghese. It is delightful! opening into a lawn-garden, with
terraces and conservatories, and a profusion of flowers and shrubs. The
dinner was splendid, but not formal; and nobody can represent
better than Lady Elizabeth. She asked us to go with her and Mrs.
Canning to the opera, but we were engaged to Madame Recamier; and as
she is no longer rich and prosperous, I could not break the engagement.
We went to Madame Recamier's, in her convent—L'Abbaye aux Bois, up
seventy-eight steps; all came in with the asthma: elegant room, and she
as elegant as ever. Matthieu de Montmorenci, the ex-Queen of Sweden,
Madame de Boigne—a charming woman, and Madame la Marechale de
Moreau—a battered beauty, smelling of garlic, and screeching in vain
to pass for a wit.
Yesterday we had intended to have killed off a great many visits,
but the fates willed it otherwise. Mr. Hummelaur, attached to the
Austrian Embassy, came; and then Mr. Chenevix, who converses
delightfully, but all the time holding a distorting magnifying glass
over French character, and showing horrible things where we thought
everything was delightful. While he was here came Madame de Villeneuve
and Madame de Kergolay. Scarcely were they all gone, when I desired
Rodolphe to let no other person in, as the carriage had been ordered at
eleven, and it was now near two. “Miladi!” cried Rodolphe,
running in with a card, “voila une dame qui me dit de vous faire voir
It was “Madame de Roquefeuille,” with her bright, benevolent eyes:
and much agreeable conversation. There is a great deal of difference
between the manners, tone, pronunciation, and quietness of demeanour of
Madame de Pastoret, Madame de Roquefeuille, and the little old Princess
de Broglie Revel, who are of the old nobility, and the striving,
struggling of the new, with all their riches and titles, who can never
attain this indescribable, incommunicable charm. But to go on with
Saturday: Madame de Roquefeuille took leave, and we caparisoned
ourselves, and went to Lady de Ros. She was at her easel, copying very
well a portrait of Madame de Grignan, and it was a very agreeable
half-hour. Lady de Ros and her daughter are very agreeable people. She
has asked Fanny to meet her three times a week, at the Riding-House,
where she goes to take exercise.
We were engaged to Cuvier's in the evening, and went first to M.
Jullien's, in the Rue de l'Enfer, not far from the Jardin des
Plantes, and there we saw one of the most extraordinary of all the
extraordinary persons we have seen—a Spaniard, squat, black-haired,
black-browed, and black-eyed, with an infernal countenance, who has
written the History of the Inquisition, and who related to us
how he had been sent en penitence to a monastery by the
Inquisition, and escaped by presenting a certain number of kilogrammes
of good chocolate to the monks, who represented him as very penitent.
But I dare not say more of this man, lest we should never get to
Cuvier's, which, in truth, I thought we never should accomplish alive.
Such streets! such turns! in the old, old parts of the city: lamps
strung at great distances: a candle or two from high houses, making
darkness visible: then bawling of coach or cart-men, “Ouais! ouais!”
backing and scolding, for no two carriages could by any possibility
pass in these narrow alleys. I was in a very bad way, as you may guess,
but I let down the glasses, and sat as still as a frightened mouse:
once I diverted Harriet by crying out, “Ah, mon cher cocher,
arretez;” like Madame de Barri's “Un moment, Monsieur le
Bourreau.” It never was so bad with us that we could not laugh. At last
we turned into a porte-cochere, under which the coachman bent
literally double: total darkness: then suddenly trees, lamps, and
buildings; and one, brighter than the rest by an open portal,
illuminating large printed letters, “College de France.”
Cuvier came down to the very carriage door to receive us, and handed
us up narrow, difficult stairs into a smallish room, where were
assembled many ladies and gentlemen of most distinguished names and
talents. Prony, as like an honest water-dog as ever; Biot (et moi
aussi je suis pere de famille), a fat, double volume of himself—I
could not see a trace of the young pere de famille we
knew—round-faced, with a bald head and black ringlets, a fine-boned
skull, on which the tortoise might fall without cracking it. When he
began to converse, his superior ability was immediately apparent. Then
Cuvier presented Prince Czartorinski, a Pole, and many compliments
passed; and then we went to a table to look at Prince Maximilian de
Neufchatel's Journey to Brazil, magnificently printed in
Germany, and all tongues began to clatter, and it became wondrously
agreeable; and behind me I heard English well spoken, and this was Mr.
Trelawny, and I heard from him a panegyric on the Abbe Edgeworth, whom
he knew well, and he was the person who took the first letter and news
to the Duchesse d'Angouleme at Mittau, after she quitted France. She
came out in the dead of the night in her nightgown to receive the
Tea and supper together: only two-thirds of the company could sit
down, but the rest stood or sat behind, and were very happy, loud, and
talkative: science, politics, literature, and nonsense in happy
proportions. Biot sat behind Fanny's chair, and talked of the parallax
and Dr. Brinkley. Prony, with his hair nearly in my plate, was telling
me most entertaining anecdotes of Buonaparte; and Cuvier, with his head
nearly meeting him, talking as hard as he could: not striving to
show learning or wit—quite the contrary; frank, open—hearted genius,
delighted to be together at home, and at ease. This was the most
flattering and agreeable thing to me that could possibly be. Harriet
was on the off-side, and every now and then he turned to her in the
midst of his anecdotes, and made her completely one of us; and there
was such a prodigious noise nobody could hear but ourselves. Both
Cuvier and Prony agreed that Buonaparte never could bear to have any
answer but a decided answer. “One day,” said Cuvier, “I nearly
ruined myself by considering before I answered. He asked me, 'Faut-il
introduire le sucre de betrave en France?' 'D'abord, Sire, il faut
songer si vos colonies——' 'Faut-il avoir le sucre de betrave en
France?' 'Mais, Sire, il faut examiner——' 'Bah! je le demanderai a
This despotic, laconic mode of insisting on learning everything in
two words had its inconveniences. One day he asked the master of the
woods at Fontainebleau, “How many acres of wood are here?” The master,
an honest man, stopped to recollect. “Bah!” and the under-master came
forward and said any number that came into his head. Buonaparte
immediately took the mastership from the first, and gave it to the
second. “Qu'arrivait-il?” continued Prony; “the rogue who gave the
guess answer was soon found cutting down and selling quantities of the
trees, and Buonaparte had to take the rangership from him, and
reinstate the honest hesitater.”
Prony is, you know, one of the most absent men alive. “Once,” he
told me, “I was in a carriage with Buonaparte and General Caffarelli:
it was at the time he was going to Egypt. He asked me to go. I said, I
could not; that is, I would not; and when I had said those words I fell
into a reverie, collecting in my own head all the reasons I could for
not going to Egypt. All this time Buonaparte was going on with some
confidential communication to me of his secret intentions and views;
and when it was ended, le seul mot, Arabie, m'avait frappe l'oreille.
Alors, je voudrais m'avoir arrache les cheveux,” making the motion so
to do, “pour pouvoir me rapeller ce qu'il venait de me dire. But I
never could recall one single word or idea.”
“Why did you not ask Caffarelli afterwards?”
“I dared not, because I should have betrayed myself to him.”
Prony says that Buonaparte was not obstinate in his own opinion with
men of science about those things of which he was ignorant; but he
would bear no contradiction in tactics or politics.
Madame Recamier has no more taken the veil than I have, and is as
little likely to do it. She is still beautiful, still dresses herself
and her little room with elegant simplicity, and lives in a convent
[Footnote: The Abbaye aux Bois.] only because it is cheap and
respectable. M. Recamier is living; they have not been separated by
anything but misfortune.
We have at last seen a comedy perfectly well acted—the first
representation of a new piece, Les Folliculaires: it was
received with thunders of applause, admirably acted in every character
to the life. It was in ridicule of journalists and literary young men.
LA CELLE, M. DE VINDE'S COUNTRY
Is it not curious that, just when you wrote to us, all full of Mrs.
Strickland at Edgeworthstown, we should have been going about
everywhere with Mr. Strickland at Paris? I read to him what you said
about his little girl and Foster as he was going with us to a breakfast
at Cuvier's, and he was delighted even to tears.
We breakfasted at Passy on our way here: beautiful views of Paris
and its environs from all the balconied rooms; and Madame Francois
showed us all their delightful comfortable rooms—the bed in which
Madame Gautier and Madame Francois had slept when children, and where
now her little Caroline sleeps. There is something in the duration of
these family attachments which pleases and touches one, especially in
days of revolution and change.
We arrived here in good time. La Celle [Footnote: La Celle St.
Cloud, built by Bachelier, first valet de chambre of Louis XIV.,
afterwards sold to Madame de Pompadour, who sold it again in two
years.] is as old as Clotwold, the son of Clovis, who came here to make
a hermitage for himself—La Cellule. Wonderfully changed and enlarged,
it became the residence of Madame de Pompadour. The rooms are
wainscotted: very large croissees open upon shrubberies, with
rose acacias and rhododendrons in profuse flower: the garden is
surrounded by lime-trees thick and high, and cut, like the beech-walk
at Collon, at the end into arches through the foliage, and the stems
left so as to form rows of pillars, through which you see, on one side,
fine views of lawn and distant country, while on the other the
lime-grove is continued in arcades, eight or nine trees deep.
To each bedroom and dressing-room there are little dens of closets
and ante-chambers, which must have seen many strange exits and
entrances in their day. In one of these, ten feet by six, the white
wainscot—now very yellow—is painted in gray, with monkeys in men's
and women's clothes in groups in compartments, the most grotesque
figures you can imagine. I have an idea of having read of this cabinet
of monkeys, and having heard that the principal monkey who figures in
it was some real personage.
The situation of La Celle is beautiful, and the country about it.
The grounds, terraces, orchards, farmyard, dairy, etc., would lead me
too far, so I shall only note that, to preserve the hayrick from the
incursion of rats, the feet of the stand, which is higher than that in
our back yard, are not only slated, but at the part next the hay
covered with panes of glass: this defies climbing reptiles.
M. and Madame de Vinde are exactly what you remember them; and her
grand-daughter, Beatrice, the little girl you may remember, is as kind
to Fanny and Harriet as M. and Madame de Vinde were to their sister.
Mr. Hutton wrote to me about a certain Count Brennar, a German or
Hungarian—talents, youth, fortune—assuring me that this
transcendental Count had a great desire to be acquainted with us. I
fell to work with Madame Cuvier, with whom I knew he was acquainted,
and he met us at breakfast at Cuvier's; and I asked Prony if M. and
Madame de Vinde would allow me to ask the Count to come here; and so
yesterday Prony came to dinner, and the Count at dessert, and he ate
cold cutlets and good salad, and all was right; and whenever any of our
family go to Vienna, he gave me and mine, or yours, a most pressing
invitation thither—which will never be any trouble to him.
I have corrected before breakfast here all of the second volume of
Rosamond, [Footnote: The sequel, or last part of Rosamund.]
which accompanies this letter. We have coffee brought to us in our
rooms about eight o'clock, and the family assemble at breakfast in the
dining-room about ten: this breakfast has consisted of mackerel stewed
in oil; cutlets; eggs, boiled and poached, au jus; peas stewed;
lettuce stewed, and rolled up like sausages; radishes; salad; stewed
prunes; preserved gooseberries; chocolate biscuits; apricot
biscuits—that is to say, a kind of flat tartlet, sweetmeat between
paste; finishing with coffee. There are sugar-tongs in this house,
which I have seen nowhere else except at Madame Gautier's. Salt-spoons
never to be seen, so do not be surprised at seeing me take salt and
sugar in the natural way when I come back.
Carriages come round about twelve, and we drive about seeing places
in the neighbourhood—afterwards go to our own rooms or to the salon, or play billiards or chess. Dinner is at half-past five; no luncheon
and no dressing for dinner. I will describe one dinner—Bouilli de
boeuf—large piece in the middle, and all the other dishes round
it—rotie de mouton—ris de veau pique—maquereaux—pates de
cervelle—salad. 2nd service; oeufs aux jus—petits pois—lettuce
stewed—gateaux de confitures—prunes. Dessert; gateaux, cerises,
confiture d'abricot et de groseille.
Hands are washed at the side-table; coffee is in the saloon: men and
women all gathering round the table as of yore. But I should observe,
that a great change has taken place; the men huddle together now in
France as they used to do in England, talking politics with their backs
to the women in a corner, or even in the middle of the room, without
minding them in the least, and the ladies complain and look very
disconsolate, and many ask, “If this be Paris?” and others scream
ultra nonsense or liberal nonsense, to make themselves of
consequence and to attract the attention of the gentlemen.
But to go on with the history of our day. After coffee, Madame de
Vinde sits down at a round table in the middle of the room, and out of
a work-basket, which is just the shape of an antediluvian work-basket
of mine, made of orange-paper and pasteboard, which lived long in the
garret, she takes her tapestry work: a chair-cover of which she works
the little blue flowers, and M. Morel de Vinde, pair de France, ancien
Conseiller de Parlement, etc., does the ground! He has had a cold, and
wears a black silk handkerchief on his head and a hat over it in the
house; three waistcoats, two coats, and a spencer over all. Madame de
Vinde and I talk, and the young people play billiards.
When it grows duskish we all migrate at a signal from Madame de
Vinde, “Allons, nous passerons chez M. de Vinde;” so we all cross the
billiard-room and dining-room, and strike off by an odd passage into M.
de Vinde's study, where, almost in the fire, we sit round a small table
playing a game called Loto, with different-coloured pegs and collars
for these pegs, and whoever knows the game of Loto will understand what
it is, and those who have never heard of it must wait till I come home
to make them understand it. At half-past ten to bed; a dozen small
round silver-handled candlesticks, bougeoirs, with wax candles, ready
for us. Who dares to say French country-houses have no comforts? Let
all such henceforward except La Celle.
The three first days we were here M. de Prony and Count de Brennar
were the only guests, the Count only for one day. M. de Prony is enough
without any other person to keep the most active mind in conversation
of all sorts, scientific, literary, humorous. He is less changed than
any of our friends. His humour and good-humour are really delightful;
he is, as Madame de Vinde says, the most harmless good creature that
ever existed; and he has had sense enough to stick to science and keep
clear of politics, always pleading “qu'il n'etait bon qu'a cela.” He
accompanied us in our morning excursions to Malmaison and St. Germain.
Malmaison was Josephine's, and is still Beauharnais's property, but
is now occupied only by his steward. The place is very
pretty—profusion of rhododendrons, as under-wood in the groves, on the
grass, beside the rivers, everywhere, and in the most luxuriant flower.
Poor Josephine! Do you remember Dr. Marcet telling us that when he
breakfasted with her, she said, pointing to her flowers: “These are my
subjects; I try to make them happy.”
The grounds are admirably well taken care of, but the solitude and
silence and the continual reference to the dead were strikingly
melancholy, even in the midst of sunshine and flowers, and the song of
nightingales. In one pond we saw swimming in graceful desolate dignity
two black swans, which, as rare birds, were once great favourites. Now
they curve their necks of ebony in vain.
The grounds are altogether very small, and so is the house, but
fitted up with exquisite taste. In the saloon is the most elegant white
marble chimney-piece my eyes ever did or ever will behold, a present
from the Pope to Beauharnais. The finest pictures have been taken from
the gallery; the most striking that remains is one of General Dessain,
reading a letter, with a calm and absorbed countenance—two mamelukes
eagerly examining his countenance. In the finely parqueted floor great
holes appear; the places from which fine statues of Canova's were, as
the steward told us, dragged up for the Emperor of Russia. This the man
told under his breath, speaking of his master and of the armies without
distinctly naming any person, as John Langan used to talk of the
robbles (rebels). You may imagine the feelings which made us walk in
absolute silence through the library, which was formerly Napoleon's:
the gilt N's and J's still in the arches of the ceiling: busts and
portraits all round—that of Josephine admirable.
At St. Germain, that vast palace which has been of late a barrack
for the English army, our female guide was exceedingly well informed;
indeed, Francis I., Henry IV., Mary de Medicis, Louis XIV., and Madame
de la Valliere seem to have been her very intimate acquaintances. She
was in all their secrets: showed us Madame de la Valliere's room, poor
soul! all gilt—the gilding of her woe. This gilding, by accident,
escaped the revolutionary destruction. In the high gilt dome of this
room, the guide showed us the trap-door through which Louis XIV. used
to come down. How they managed it I don't well know: it must have been
a perilous operation, the room is so high. But my guide, who I am clear
saw him do it, assured me his Majesty came down very easily in his
arm-chair; and as she had great keys in her hand, and is as large
nearly as Mrs. Liddy, I did not hazard a contradiction or doubt.
Did you know that it was Prony who built the Pont Louis XVI.?
Perronet was then eighty-four, and Prony worked under him. One night,
when he had supped at Madame de Vinde's, he went to look at his bridge,
when he saw—but I have not time to tell you that story.
During Buonaparte's Spanish War he employed Prony to make logarithm,
astronomical, and nautical tables on a magnificent scale. Prony found
that to execute what was required would take him and all the
philosophers of France a hundred and fifty years. He was very unhappy,
having to do with a despot who would have his will executed,
when the first volume of Smith's Wealth of Nations fell into his
hands. He opened on the division of Labour, our favourite pin-making:
“Ha, ha! voila mon affaire; je ferai mes calcules comme on fait les
epingles!” And he divided the labour among two hundred men, who knew no
more than the simple rules of arithmetic, whom he assembled in one
large building, and there these men-machines worked on, and the tables
are now complete.
All is quiet here now, but while we were in the country there have
been disturbances. Be assured that, if there is any danger, we shall
decamp for Geneva.
We have spent a day and a half delightfully with M. and Madame Mole
at Champlatreux, their beautiful country place. He is very sensible,
and she very obliging. Madame de Ventimille was there, and very
agreeable and kind, also Madame de Nansouti and Madame de Bezancourt,
grand-daughter of Madame d'Houtitot: all remember you most kindly.
You ask for Dupont de Fougeres—alas! he has been dead some years. I
went to see Camille Jordan, who is ill, and unable to leave his sofa;
but he is fatter and better-looking than when we knew him—no
alteration but for the better. He has got rid of all that might be
thought a little affected—his vivacity being elevated into energy, and
his politeness into benevolence; his pretty little good wife was
sitting beside him.
Everybody, of every degree of rank or talent, who has read the
Memoirs, speaks of them in the most gratifying and delightful
manner. Those who have fixed on individual circumstances have always
fixed on those which we should have considered as most curious. Mr.
Malthus this morning spoke most highly of it, and of its useful
tendency both in a public and private light. Much as I dreaded hearing
it spoken of, all I have yet heard has been what best compensates for
all the anxiety I have felt.
To MRS. MARY AND MRS.
PARIS, July 7, 1820.
It is a greater refreshment to me, my dearest Aunt Mary and
Charlotte, to have a quiet half hour in which to write to you, while
Fanny and Harriet are practising with M. Deschamp, their
dancing-master, in the next room.
We had a delightful breakfast at Degerando's, in a room hung round
with some very valuable pictures: one in particular, which was sent to
Degerando by the town of Pescia, as a proof of gratitude for his
conduct at the time when he was in Italy under Buonaparte—sent to him
after he was no longer in power. There was an Italian gentleman,
Marchese Ridolfi, of large fortune and benevolent mind, intent on
improving his people. We also met Madame de Villette, Voltaire's “
belle et bonne:” she has still some remains of beauty, and great
appearance of good-humour. It was delightful to hear her speak of
Voltaire with the enthusiasm of affection, and with tears in her eyes
beseeching us not to believe the hundred misrepresentations we may have
heard, but to trust her, the person who had lived with him long, and
who knew him best and last. After breakfast she took us to her house,
where Voltaire had lived, and where we saw his chair and his writing
desk turning on a pivot on the arm of the chair: his statue smiling,
keen-eyed, and emaciated, said to be a perfect resemblance. In one of
the hands hung the brown and withered crown of bays, placed on his head
when he appeared the last time at the Theatre Francais. Madame de
Villette showed us some of his letters—one to his steward, about
sheep, etc., ending with, “Let there be no drinking, no rioting, no
beating of your wife.” The most precious relic in this room of
Voltaire's is a little piece carved in wood by an untaught genius, and
sent to Voltaire by some peasants, as a proof of gratitude. It
represents him sitting, listening to a family of poor peasants, who are
pleading their cause: it is excellent.
Two of the Miss Lawrences are at Paris. They are very sensible,
excellent women. They brought a letter from Miss Carr, begging me to
see them; and I hope I have had some little opportunity of obliging
them, for which they are a thousand times more greatful than I deserve.
Indeed, next to the delight of seeing my sisters so justly appreciated
and so happy at Paris, my greatest pleasure has been in the power of
introducing to each other people who longed to meet, but could not
contrive it before. We took Miss Lawrence to one of the great schools
established here on the Lancasterian principles, and we also took her
to hear a man lecture upon the mode of teaching arithmetic and geometry
which my father has recommended in Practical Education: the
sight of the little cubes was at once gratifying and painful.
I have just heard from Hunter that he is printing Rosamond,
and that my friends at home will correct the proofs for me: GOD bless
them! We spent a very pleasant day at dear Madame de Roquefeuille's, at
Versailles; and, returning, we paid a latish visit to the
Princess Potemkin. What a contrast the tone of conversation and the
whole of the society from that at Versailles!
Certainly, no people can have seen more of the world than we have
done in the last three months. By seeing the world I mean seeing
varieties of characters and manners, and being behind the scenes of
life in many different societies and families. The constant chorus of
our moral as we drive home together at night is, “How happy we are to
be so fond of each other! How happy we are to be independent of all we
see here! How happy that we have our dear home to return to at last!”
But to return to the Princess Potemkin: she is Russian, but she has
all the grace, softness, and winning manners of the Polish ladies, and
an oval face, pale, with the finest, softest, most expressive
chestnut dark eyes. She has a sort of politeness which pleases
peculiarly—a mixture of the ease of high rank and early habit with
something that is sentimental without affectation. Madame Le Brun is
painting her picture: Madame Le Brun is sixty-six, with great vivacity
as well as genius, and better worth seeing than her pictures; for
though they are speaking, she speaks, and speaks uncommonly well.
Madame de Noisville, dame d'honneur to the Princess Potemkin,
educated her and her sisters: the friendship of the pupil and the
preceptress does honour to both. Madame de Noisville is a very
well-bred woman, of superior understanding and decided character, very
entertaining and agreeable. She told us that Rostopchin, speaking of
the Russians, said he would represent their civilisation by a naked man
looking at himself in a gilt-framed mirror.
The Governor of Siberia lived at Petersburgh, and never went near
his government. One day the Emperor, in presence of this governor and
Rostopchin, was boasting of his farsightedness. “Commend me,” said
Rostopchin, “to M. le Gouverneur, who sees so well from Petersburgh to
* * * * *
An evening which Miss Edgeworth spent at Neuilly en famille
impressed her with the unaffected happiness of the Orleans family. The
Duke showed her the picture of himself teaching a school in America:
Mademoiselle d'Orleans pointed to her harp, and said she superintended
the lessons of her nieces; both she and her brother acknowledging how
admirably Madame de Genlis had instructed them. The Duchess sat at a
round table working, and in the course of the evening the two eldest
little boys ran in from an Ecole d'enseignement mutuel which they
attended in the neighbourhood, with their schoolbooks in their hands,
and some prizes they had gained, eager to display them to their mother.
It was a happy, simple family party.
* * * * *
MARIA to MRS. RUXTON.
PARIS, July 1820.
From what I have seen of the Parisians, I am convinced that they
require, if not a despot, at least an absolute monarch to reign over
them; but, leaving national character to shift for itself, I will go on
with what will interest you more—our own history. We have been much
pleased, interested, and instructed at Paris by all that we have seen
of the arts, have heard of science, and have enjoyed of society. The
most beautiful work of art I have seen at Paris, next to the facade of
the Louvre, is Canova's “Magdalene.” The prettiest things I have
seen are Madame Jacotot's miniatures, enamelled on porcelain—La
Valliere, Madame de Maintenon, Moliere, all the celebrated people of
that time; and next to these, which are exquisite, I should name a
porcelain table, with medallions all round of the marshals of France,
by Isabey, surrounding a full-length of Napoleon in the centre. This
table is generally supposed to have been broken to pieces, but by the
favour of a friend we saw it in its place of concealment.
We have twice dined at the Duchesse Douairiere d'Orleans' [Footnote:
Louise Marie Adelaide de Bourbon Conde, widow of Louis Philippe Joseph,
Duc d'Orleans, daughter of the Duc de Penthievre. Born March 13, 1783.
Died June 23, 1821.] little Court at Ivry, and we shall bring Mr.
William Everard there, as you may recollect he knew her at Port Mahon.
She has a benevolent countenance, and good-natured, dignified manners,
and moves with the air of a princess. Her striking likeness to Louis
XIV. favours this impression. One of her dames d'honneur,
la Marquise de Castoras, a Spaniard, is one of the most interesting
persons I have conversed with.
Yesterday William Everard went with us to the Chapelle Royale, where
we saw Monsieur, the Duchesse d'Angouleme and all the court. In the
evening we were at a fete de village at La Celle, to which
Madame de Vinde had invited us, as like an Irish pattern as
possible, allowing for the difference of dress and manner. The scene
was in a beautiful grove on each side of a romantic road leading
through a valley. High wooded banks: groups of gaily-dressed village
belles and beaux seen through the trees, in a quarry, in the
sand-holes, everywhere where there was space enough to form a
quadrille. This grove was planted by Gabrielle d'Estrees, for whom
Henry IV. built a lodge near it. Fanny and Harriet danced with two
gentlemen who were of our party, and they all danced on till dewfall,
when the lamps—little glasses full of oil and a wick suspended to the
branches of the trees—were lighted, and we returned to La Celle, where
we ate ice and sat in a circle, playing trouvez mon ami—mighty
like “why, when, and where”—and then played loto till twelve. Rose at
six, had coffee, and drove back to Paris in the cool of the delicious
morning. To-day we are going to dine again at Neuilly with the other
Duchess of Orleans, daughter-in-law of the good old Duchess, who by the
bye spoke of Madame de Genlis in a true Christian spirit of
forgiveness, but in a whisper, and with a shake of her head, allowed
qu'elle m'avait causee bien des chagrins.
Among some of the most agreeable people we have met are some
Russians and Poles. Madame Swetchine, a Russian, is one of the
cleverest women I ever heard converse. At a dinner at the young and
pretty Princess Potemkin's, on entering the dining-room, we saw only a
round table covered with fruit and sweetmeats, as if we had come in at
the dessert; and so it remained while, first, soup, then cutlets, then
fish, one dish at a time, ten or twelve one after another, were handed
round, ending with game, sweet things, and ice.
A few days ago I saw, at the Duchesse d'Escar's, Prince Rostopchin,
the man who burned Moscow, first setting fire to his own house. I never
saw a more striking Calmuck countenance. From his conversation as well
as from his actions, I should think him a man of great strength of
character. This soiree at Madame d'Escar's was not on a public
night, when she receives for the King, but one of those
petits comites, as they call their private parties, which I am told
the English seldom see. The conversation turned, of course, first on
the Queen of England, then on Lady Hester Stanhope, then on English
dandies. It was excessively entertaining to hear half a dozen
Parisians all speaking at once, giving their opinions of the English
dandies who have appeared at Paris, describing their manners and
imitating their gestures, and sometimes by a single gesture giving an
idea of the whole man; then discussing the difference between the
petit marquis of the old French comedy and the present dandy. After
many attempts at definition, and calling in Madame d'Arblay's Meadows,
with whom they are perfectly acquainted, they came to “d'ailleurs c'est
inconcevable ca.” And Madame d'Escar, herself the cleverest person in
the room, summed it up: “L'essentiel c'est que notre dandy il veut
plaire aux femmes s'il le peut; mais votre dandy Anglais ne le
voudrait, meme s'il le pourrait!”
Pray tell Mrs. General Dillon I thank her for making us acquainted
with the amiable family of the Creeds, who have been exceedingly kind,
and who, I hope, like us as much as we like them. The Princess de
Craon, too, I like in another way, and Mademoiselle d'Alpy: they have
introduced us to the Mortemars—Madame de Sevigne's Esprit de
To MISS RUXTON.
PASSY, July 19.
Most comfortably, most happily seated at a little table in dear
Madame Gautier's cabinet, with a view of soft acacias seen through
half-open Venetian blinds, with a cool breeze waving the trees of this
hanging garden, and the song of birds and the cheerful voices of little
Caroline Delessert and her brother playing with bricks in the next room
to me, I write to you, my beloved friend. I must give you a history of
one of our last days at Paris—
Here entered Madame Gautier with a sweet rose and a sprig of verbena
and mignonette—so like one of the nose-gays I have so often received
from dear Aunt Ruxton, and bringing gales of Black Castle to my heart.
But to go on with my last days at Paris.
Friday, July 14.—Dancing-master nine to ten; and while Fanny
and Harriet were dancing, I paid bills, saw tradespeople, and cleared
away some of that necessary business of life which must be done behind
the scenes. Breakfasted at Camille Jordan's: it was half-past twelve
before the company assembled, and we had an hour's delightful
conversation with Camille Jordan and his wife in her spotless white
muslin and little cap, sitting at her husband's feet as he lay on the
sofa, as clean, as nice, as fresh, and as thoughtless of herself as my
mother. At this breakfast we saw three of the most distinguished of
that party who call themselves Les Doctrinaires—and say they
are more attached to measures than to men. Camille Jordan himself has
just been deprived of his place of Conseiller d'Etat and one thousand
five hundred francs per annum, because he opposed government in the law
of elections. These three Doctrinaires were Casimir Perier, Royer
Collard, and Benjamin Constant, who is, I believe, of a more violent
party. I do not like him at all: his countenance, voice, manner, and
conversation are all disagreeable to me. He is a fair, whithky
-looking man, very near-sighted, with spectacles which seem to pinch his
nose. He pokes out his chin to keep the spectacles on, and yet looks
over the top of his spectacles, squinching up his eyes so that
you cannot see your way into his mind. Then he speaks through his nose,
and with a lisp, strangely contrasting with the vehemence of his
emphasis. He does not give me any confidence in the sincerity of his
patriotism, nor any high idea of his talents, though he seems to have a
mighty high idea of them himself. He has been well called Le hero
des brochures. We sat beside one another, and I think felt a mutual
antipathy. On the other side of me was Royer Collard, suffering with
toothache and swelled face; but, notwithstanding the distortion of the
swelling, the natural expression of his countenance and the strength
and sincerity of his soul made their way, and the frankness of his
character and plain superiority of his talents were manifest in five
minutes' conversation. Excellent Degerando [Footnote: A friend whom the
Edgeworths had constantly met in Mme. de Pastoret's salon in
1802.] gave me an account of all he had done in one district in Spain,
where he succeeded in employing the poor and inspiring them with a
desire to receive the wages of industry, instead of alms from
hospitals, etc. At Rome he employed the poor in clearing away many feet
of earth withinside the Colosseum, and discovered beneath a beautiful
pavement; but when the Pope returned the superstition of the people
took a sudden turn, and conceiving that this earth had been
consecrated, and ought not to have been removed, they set to work and
filled in all the rubbish again over the pavement!
After this breakfast we went to the Duchesse d'Uzes—a little,
shrivelled, thin, high-born, high-bred old lady, who knew and admired
the Abbe Edgeworth, and received us with distinction as his relations.
Her great-grandfather was the Duc de Chatillon, and she is
great-granddaughter, or something that way, of Madame de Montespan, and
her husband grand-nephew straight to Madame de la Valliere: their
superb hotel is filled with pictures of all sizes, from miniatures by
Petitot to full-lengths by Mignard, of illustrious and interesting
family pictures—in particular, Mignard's “La Valliere en Madeleine;"
we returned to it again and again, as though we could never see it
enough. A full-length of Madame de Montespan was prettier than I
wished. After a view of these pictures and of the garden, in which
there was a catalpa in splendid flower, we departed.
This day we dined with Lord Carrington and his daughter, Lady
Stanhope: [Footnote: Catherine Lucy, wife of the fourth Earl Stanhope.]
the Count de Noe, beside whom I sat, was an agreeable talker. In the
evening we received a note from Madame Lavoisier—Madame de Rumford, I
mean—telling us that she had just arrived at Paris, and warmly begging
to see us. Rejoiced was I that my sisters should have this glimpse of
her, and off we drove to her; but I must own that we were disappointed
in this visit, for there was a sort of chuffiness, and a sawdust
kind of unconnected cutshortness in her manner, which we could not
like. She was almost in the dark with one ballooned lamp, and a
semicircle of black men round her sofa, on which she sat cushioned up,
giving the word for conversation—and a very odd course she gave to
it—on some wife's separation from her husband; and she took the wife's
part, and went on for a long time in a shrill voice, proving that,
where a husband and wife detested each other, they should separate, and
asserting that it must always be the man's fault when it comes to this
pass! She ordered another lamp, that the gentlemen might, as she said,
see my sisters' pretty faces; and the light came in time to see the
smiles of the gentlemen at her matrimonial maxims. Several of the
gentlemen were unknown to me. Old Gallois sat next to her, dried, and
in good preservation, tell my mother; M. Gamier (Richesses des
Nations) was present, and Cuvier, with whom I had a comfortable
dose of good conversation. Just as we left the room Humboldt and the
Prince de Beauveau arrived, but we were engaged to Madame Recamier.
15th.—We breakfasted with Madame de l'Aigle, sister to the
Due de Broglie. (Now Madame Gautier is putting on her bonnet, to take
us to La Bagatelle.) I forgot to tell you that Prince Potemkin is
nephew to the famous Potemkin. He has just returned from
England, particularly pleased with Mr. Coke, of Norfolk, and struck by
the noble and useful manner in which he spends his large fortune. This
young Russian appears very desirous to apply all he has seen in foreign
countries to the advantage of his own.
After our breakfast at Madame de l'Aigle's, we went home, and met
Prince Edmond de Beauveau by appointment, and went with him to the
Invalides; saw the library, and plans and models of fortifications, for
which the Duc de Coigny, unasked, had sent us tickets, and there we met
his secretary, a warm Buonapartist, whom we honoured for his gratitude
and attachment to his old master.
We dined at Passy, and met Mrs. Malthus, M. Garnier, and M.
Chaptal—the great Chaptal—a very interesting man. In the evening we
were at the Princesse de Beauveau's and Lady Granard's.
Sunday with the Miss Byrnes to Notre Dame, and went with them to
introduce them to Lady (Sidney) Smith; charming house, gardens, and
pictures. To Madame de Rumford's, and she was very agreeable this
morning. Dined at Mr. Creed's under the trees in their garden, with Mr.
and Mrs. Malthus, and Mrs. and Miss Eyre, fresh from Italy—very
Now we have returned from a very pleasant visit to La Bagatelle.
What struck me most there was the bust of the Duc d'Angouleme, with an
inscription from his own letter during the Cent Jours, when he was
detained by the enemy: J'espere—j'exige meme—que le Roi ne fera
point de sacrifice pour me revoir; je crains ni la prison ni la mort.
Yesterday we went to Sevres—beautiful manufacture of china,
especially a table, with views of all the royal palaces, and a vase six
feet and a half high, painted with natural flowers.
Louis XV. was told that there was a man who had never been out of
Paris; he gave him a pension, provided he never went out of town; he
quitted Paris the year after! I have not time to make either prefaces
or moral. We breakfast at Mr. Chenevix's on Monday, and propose to be
at Geneva on Saturday.
To MISS LUCY EDGEWORTH.
PASSY, July 23, 1820.
I hope this will find you under the tree in my garden, with Sophy
Ruxton near you, and my mother and Sophy and Pakenham, who will run and
call my aunts, for whom Honora will set chairs; and Lovell will, I
hope, be at home too; so I picture you to myself all happily assembled,
and you have had a good night, and all is right, and Honora has placed
my Aunt Mary with her back to the light—AND Maria is very like Mr.
Fitzherbert, who always tells his friends at home what they are
doing, instead of what he is doing, which is what they want to know.
Yesterday we dined—for the last time, alas! this season—with
excellent Benjamin Delessert. The red book which you will receive with
this letter was among the many other pretty books lying on the table
before dinner, and I was so much delighted with it, and wished so much
that Pakenham was looking at it with me, that dear Francois Delessert
procured a copy of Les Animaux savants for me the next morning.
We never saw Les Cerfs at Tivoli, but we saw a woman walk down a rope
in the midst of the fireworks, and I could not help shutting my eyes.
As I was looking at the picture of the stag rope-dancer in this book,
and talking of the wonderful intelligence and feeling of animals, an
old lady who was beside me told me that some Spanish horses she had
seen were uncommonly proud-spirited, always resenting an insult more
than an injury. One of these, who had been used to be much caressed by
his master, saw him in a field one day talking to a friend, and came
up, according to his custom, to be caressed. The horse put his head in
between the master and his friend, to whom he was talking; the master,
eager in conversation, gave him a box on the ear; the horse withdrew
his head instantly, took it for an affront, and never more would he
permit his master to caress or mount him again.
The little dessert directed for Pakenham [Footnote: Her
youngest brother.] was picked out for him from a dish of bonbons at the
last dessert at Benjamin's. It is impossible to tell you all the little
exquisite instances of kindness and attention we have received from
this excellent family. The respect, affection, and admiration with
which, a propos to everything great and small, they remember my
father and mother, is most touching and gratifying.
Yesterday morning we had been talking of Mrs. Hofland's Son of a
Genius, which is very well translated under the name of
Ludovico. I told Madame Gautier the history of Mrs. Hofland, and
then went to look for the lines which she wrote on my father's
birthday. Madame Gautier followed me into this cabinet to read them. I
then showed to her Sophy's lines, which I love so much.
Sophy! I see your colour rising; but trust to me! I will never do
you any harm.
Madame Gautier was exceedingly touched with them. She pointed to the
Those days are past which never can return,
and said in English, “This is the day on which we all used to
celebrate my dear mother's birthday, but I never keep days now,
except that, according to our Swiss custom, we carry flowers early in
the morning to the grave. She and my father are buried in this garden,
in a place you have not seen; I have been there at six o'clock this
morning. You will not wonder, then, my dear friend, at my being touched
by your sister Sophy's verses. I wish to know her; I am sure I shall
love her. Is she most like Fanny or Harriet?” This led to a
conversation on the difference between our different sisters and
brothers; and Madame Gautier, in a most eloquent manner, described the
character of each of her brothers, ending with speaking of Benjamin.
“Men have often two kinds of consideration in society; one derived from
their public conduct, the other enjoyed in their private capacity. My
brother Benjamin has equal influence in both. We all look up to him; we
all apply to him as to our guardian friend. Besides the advantage of
having such a friend, it gives us a pleasure which no money can
purchase—the pleasure of feeling the mind elevated by looking up to a
character we perfectly esteem, and that repose which results from
I find always, when I come to the end of my paper, that I have not
told you several entertaining things I had treasured up for you. I had
a history of a man and woman from Cochin China, which must now be
squeezed almost to death. Just before the French Revolution a French
military man went out to India, was wrecked, and with two or three
companions made his way, LORD knows how, to Cochin China. It happened
that the King of Cochin China was at war, and was glad of some hints
from the French officer, who was encouraged to settle in Cochin China,
married a Cochin Chinese lady, rose to power and credit, became a
mandarin of the first class, and within the last month has arrived in
France with his daughter. When his relations offered to embrace her,
she drew back with horror. She is completely Chinese, and her idea of
happiness is to sit still and do nothing, not even to blow her nose. I
hope she will not half change her views and opinions while she is in
France, or she would become wholly unhappy on her return to China. Her
father is on his word of honour to return in two years.
I send by Lord Carrington a cutting of cactus, for my mother, from
this garden: it is carefully packed, and will, I think, grow in the
To MRS. RUXTON.
AT MR. MOILLIET'S, PREGNY, GENEVA,
August 5, 1820.
Whenever I feel any strong emotion, especially of pleasure, you,
friend of my youth and age,—you, dear resemblance of my father,—are
always present to my mind; and I always wish and want immediately to
communicate to you my feelings.
I did not conceive it possible that I should feel so much pleasure
from the beauties of nature as I have done since I came to this
country. The first moment when I saw Mont Blanc will remain an era in
my life—a new idea, a new feeling, standing alone in the mind.
We are most comfortably settled here: Dumont, Pictet, Dr. and Mrs.
Marcet, and various others, dined and spent two most agreeable evenings
here; and the fourth day after our arrival we set out on our expedition
to Chamouni with M. Pictet, as kind, as active, and as warm-hearted as
ever. Mrs. Moilliet was prevented, by the indisposition of Susan, from
accompanying us; but Mr. Moilliet and Emily came with us at five
o'clock in the morning in Mr. Moilliet's landau: raining
desperately—great doubts—but on we went: rain ceased—the sun came
out, the landau was opened, and all was delightful.
My first impression of the country was that it was like Wales; but
snow-capped Mont Blanc, visible everywhere from different points of
view, distinguished the landscape from all I had ever seen before. Then
the sides of the mountains, quite different from Wales indeed—
cultivated with garden care, green vineyards, patches of ble de
Turquie, hemp, and potatoes, all without enclosure of any kind,
mixed with trees and shrubs: then the garden-cultivation abruptly
ceasing—bare white rocks and fir above, fir measuring straight to the
eye the prodigious height. Between the foot of the mountain and the
road spread a border-plain of verdure, about the breadth of the lawn at
Black Castle between the trellis and Suzy Clarke's, rich with chestnut
and walnut trees, and scarlet barberries enlivening the green.
The inns on the Chamouni roads are much better than those on the
road from Paris; we grew quite fond of the honest family of the hotel
at Chamouni. Pictet knows all the people, and wherever we stopped they
all flocked round him with such cordial gratitude in their faces, from
the little children to the gray-headed men and women; all seemed to
love “Monsieur le Professeur.” The guides, especially Pierre Balmat and
his son, are some of the best-informed and most agreeable men I ever
conversed with. Indeed for six months of the year they keep company
with the most distinguished travellers of Europe. With these guides,
each of us armed with a long pole with an iron spike, such as my uncle
described to me ages ago, and which I never expected to wield, we came
down La Flegere, which we mounted on mules. In talking to an old woman
who brought us strawberries, I was surprised to hear her pronounce the
Italian proverb, “Poco a poco fa lontano nel giorno.” I thought
she must have been beyond the Alps—no, she had never been out of her
own mountains. The patois of these people is very agreeable—a mixture
of the Italian fond diminutives and accents on the last syllable—
Our evening walk was to the arch of ice at the source of the
Arveron, and we went in the dusk to see a manufactory of cloth, made by
a single individual peasant—the machinery for spinning, carding,
weaving, and all made, woodwork and ironwork, by his own hands. He had
in his youth worked in some manufactory in Dauphine. The workmanship
was astonishing, and the modesty and philosophy of the man still more
astonishing. When I said, “I hope all this succeeds in making money for
you and your family,” he answered, “Money was not my object: I make
just enough for myself and my family to live by, and that is all I
want; I made it for employment for ourselves in the long winter
evenings. And if it lasts after me, it may be of service to some of
them; but I do not much look to that. It often happens that sons are of
a different way of thinking from their fathers: mine may think little
of these things, and if so, no harm.”
The table-d'hote at Chamouni—thirty people—was very
entertaining. We had a most agreeable addition to our party in M. and
Madame Arago: he was very civil to us at Paris, and very glad to meet
us again. As we were walking to a cascade, he told me most romantic
adventures of his in Spain and Algiers, which I will tell you
hereafter; but I must tell you now a curious anecdote of Buonaparte.
When he had abdicated after the battle of Waterloo, he sent for Arago,
and offered him a considerable sum of money if he would accompany him
to America. He had formed the project of establishing himself in
America, and of carrying there in his train several men of science!
Madame Bertrand was the person who persuaded him to go to England.
Arago was so disgusted at his deserting his troops, he would have
nothing more to do with him.
We returned by the beautiful valley of Sallenches and St. Gervais to
Geneva. I forgot to mention about a dozen cascades, one more beautiful
than the other, and I thought of Ondine, which you hate, and mon
Oncle Friedelhausen. We had left our carriage at St. Martin, and
travelled in char-a-bancs, with which you and Sophy made me long
ago acquainted—cousin-german to an Irish jaunting-car. We were well
drenched by the rain; and as we had imprudently lined our great straw
hats with green, we arrived at St. Gervais with chins and shoulders
dyed green. The hotel at St. Gervais is the most singular-looking house
I ever saw. You drive through a valley, between high pine-covered
mountains that seem remote from human habitation—when suddenly in a
scoop-out in the valley you see a large, low, strange wooden building
round three sides of a square, half Chinese, half American-looking,
with galleries, and domes, and sheds—the whole of unpainted wood.
Under the projecting roof of the gallery stood a lady in a purple silk
dress, plaiting straw, and various other figures in shawls, and caps,
and flowered bonnets, some looking very fine, others deadly sick—all
curious to see the new-comers. M. Goutar, the master, reminded me of
Samuel Essington: [Footnote: An old servant.] full of gratitude to M.
Pictet, who had discovered these baths for him, he whisked about with
his round perspiring face, eager to say a hundred things at once, with
a tongue too large for his mouth and a goitre which impeded his
utterance, and showed us his douches and contrivances, and spits turned
by water—very ingenious. Dinner was in a long, low, narrow room—about
fifty people; and after dinner we were ushered into a room with calico
curtains, very smart—a select party let in. Many unexpected
compliments on Patronage from a Dijon Marquise, who was at the
baths to get rid of a redness in her nose. Enter, a sick but very
gentlewomanlike Prussian Countess, Patronage again: Walter
Scott's novels, as well known as in England, admirably criticised. She
promised me a letter to Madame de Montolieu.
At Chamouni there is a little museum of stones and crystals, etc.,
where MM. Moilliet and Pictet contrived to treat their geological souls
to seven napoleons' worth of specimens. An English lady was buying some
baubles, when her husband entered: “God bless my soul and body,
another napoleon gone!”
At the inn at Bonneville—shackamarack gilt dirt,
Irish-French. Pictet bought a sparrow some boys in the street threw up
at the window, and said he would bring it home for his little grandson.
It was ornamented with a topping made of scarlet cloth. He put it in
his hat, and tied a handkerchief over it; and hatless in the burning
sun he brought it to Geneva.
The day after our return we dined at Mrs. Marcet's with M. Dumont,
M. and Madame Prevost, M. de la Rive, M. Bonstettin, and M. de
Candolle, the botanist, a particularly agreeable man. He told us of
many experiments on the cure of goitres. In proportion as the land has
been cultivated in some districts the goitres have disappeared. M.
Bonstettin told us of some cretins, the lowest in the scale of human
intellect, who used to assemble before a barber's shop and laugh
immoderately at their own imitations of all those who came to the shop,
ridiculing them in a language of their own.
To MRS. EDGEWORTH.
PREGNY, Aug. 10, 1820.
I wrote to my Aunt Ruxton a long—much too long an account of our
Chamouni excursion, since which we have dined at Pictet's with his
daughters, Madame Prevost Pictet and Madame Vernet, agreeable,
sensible, and the remains of great beauty; but the grandest of all his
married daughters is Madame Enard. M. Enard is building a magnificent
house, the admiration, envy, and scandal of Geneva; we have
called it the Palais de la Republique.
Dumont, tell Honora, is very kind and cordial; he seems to enjoy
universal consideration here, and he loves Mont Blanc next to Bentham,
above all created things: I had no idea till I saw him here how much he
enjoyed the beauties of nature. He gave us a charming anecdote of
Madame de Stael when she was very young. One day M. Suard, as he
entered the saloon of the Hotel Necker, saw Madame Necker going out of
the room, and Mademoiselle Necker standing in a melancholy attitude
with tears in her eyes. Guessing that Madame Necker had been lecturing
her, Suard went towards her to comfort her, and whispered, “Un
caresse du papa vous dedommagera bien de tout ca.” She immediately,
wiping the tears from her eyes, answered, “Eh! oui, Monsieur, mon
pere songe a mon bonheur present, maman songe a mon avenir.” There
was more than presence of mind, there was heart and soul and greatness
of mind, in this answer.
Dumont speaks to me in the kindest, most tender, and affectionate
manner of our Memoirs; he says he hears from England, and from
all who have read them, that they have produced the effect we wished
and hoped; the MS. had interested him, he said, so deeply that with all
his efforts he could not then put himself in the place of the
M. Vernet, Pictet's son-in-law, mentioned a compliment of a
Protestant cure at Geneva to the new Catholic Bishop which French
politeness might envy, and which I wish that party spirit in Ireland
and all over the world could imitate. “Monseigneur, vous etes dans
un pays ou la moitie du peuple vous ouvre leurs coeurs, et l'autre
moitie vous tende les bras.”
We have taken a pretty and comfortable caleche for our three weeks'
tour with the Moilliets. But I must tell you of our visit to M. and
Madame de Candolle; we went there to see some volumes of drawings of
flowers which had been made for him. I will begin from the beginning;
Joseph Buonaparte, who has been represented by some as a mere drunkard,
did, nevertheless, some good things; he encouraged a Spaniard of
botanical skill to go over to Mexico and make a Mexican flora; he
employed Mexican artists, and expended considerable sums of money upon
it; the work was completed, but the engraving had not been commenced
when the revolution drove Joseph from his throne. The Spaniard withdrew
from Spain, bringing with him his botanical treasure, and took refuge
at Marseilles, where he met De Candolle, who, on looking over his
Mexican flora, said it was admirably well done for Mexicans, who had no
access to European books, and he pointed out its deficiencies; they
worked at it for eighteen months, when De Candolle was to return to
Geneva, and the Spaniard said to him, “Take the book—as far as I am
concerned, I give it to you, but if my government should reclaim it,
you will let me have it.” De Candolle took it and returned to Geneva,
where he became not only famous but beloved by all the inhabitants.
This summer he gave a course of lectures on botany, which has been the
theme of universal admiration. Just as the lectures finished, a letter
came from the Spaniard, saying he had been unexpectedly recalled to
Spain, that the King had offered to him the Professorship he formerly
held, that he could not appear before the King without his book; and
that, however unwilling, he must request him to return it in eight
days. One of De Candolle's young-lady pupils was present when he
received the letter and expressed his regret at losing the drawings:
she exclaimed, “We will copy them for you.” De Candolle said it was
impossible—1500 drawings in eight days! He had some duplicates,
however, and some which were not peculiar to Mexico he threw aside;
this reduced the number to a thousand, which were distributed among the
volunteer artists. The talents and the industry shown, he says, were
astonishing; all joined in this benevolent undertaking without vanity
and without rivalship; those who could not paint drew the outlines;
those who could not draw, traced; those who could not trace made
themselves useful by carrying the drawings backwards and forwards. One
was by an old lady of eighty. We saw thirteen folio volumes of these
drawings done in the eight days! Of course some were much worse than
others, but even this I liked: it showed that individuals were ready to
sacrifice their own amour propre in a benevolent undertaking.
De Candolle went himself with the original Flora to the frontier; he
was to send it by Lyons. Now the custom-house officers between the
territory of Geneva and France are some of the most strict and
troublesome in the universe, and when they saw the book they said, “You
must pay 1500 francs for this.” But when the chief of the Douane heard
the story, he caught the enthusiasm, and with something like a tear in
the corner of his eye, exclaimed, “We must let this book pass. I hazard
my place; but let it pass.”
To MISS LUCY EDGEWORTH.
PREGNY, Aug 13, 1820.
Ask to see Lettres Physiques et Morales sur l'Histoire de la
Terre et de l'Homme, adressees a la Reine d'Angleterre. Par M. de Luc.
Ask your mother to send a messenger forthwith to Pakenham Hall to
borrow this book; and if the gossoon does not bring it from Pakenham
Hall, next morning at flight of night send off another or the same to
Castle Forbes, and to Mr. Cobbe, who, if he has not the book, ought to
be hanged, and if he has, drawn and quartered if he does not send it to
you. But if, nevertheless, he should not send it, do not rest satisfied
under three fruitless attempts; let another—not the same boy, as I
presume his feet are weary—gossoon be off at the flight of night for
Baronstown, and in case of a fourth failure there, order him neither to
stint nor stay till he reaches Sonna, where I hope he will at last find
it. Now if, after all, it should not amuse you, I shall be much
mistaken, that's all. Skip over the tiresome parts, of which there are
many, and you will find an account of the journey we are going to make,
and of many of the feelings we have had in seeing glaciers, seas of ice
I believe I mentioned in some former letter that we had become
acquainted with M. Arago, who, in his height and size, reminded us of
our own dear Dr. Brinckley, but I am sure I did not tell what I kept
for you, my dear Lucy, that you might have the pleasure of telling it
to your mother and all the friends around you.
When M. Arago was with us in our excursion to Chamouni, he was
speaking of the voyage of Captain Scoresby to the Arctic regions, which
he had with him and was reading with great delight. As I found he was
fond of voyages and travels, and from what he said of this book
perceived that he was an excellent judge of their merits, I asked if he
had ever happened to meet with a book called Karamania, by a
Captain Beaufort. He knew nothing of our connection with him, and I
spoke with a perfect indifference from which he could not guess that I
felt any interest about the book, or the person, but the sort of
lighting up of pleasure which you have seen in Dr. Brinckley's face
when he hears of a thing he much approves, immediately appeared in
Monsieur Arago's face, and he said Karamania was, of all the
books of travels he had seen, that which he admired the most: that he
had admired it for its clearness, its truth, its perfect freedom from
ostentation. He said it contained more knowledge in fewer words than
any book of travels he knew, and must remain a book of reference—a
standard book. Then he mentioned several passages that he recollected
having liked, which proved the impression they had made; the Greek
fire, the amphitheatre at Side, etc. He knew the book as well as we do,
and alluded to the parts we all liked with great rapidity and delight
in perceiving our sympathy. He pointed out the places where an ordinary
writer would have given pages of amplification. He was particularly
pleased with the manner in which the affair of the sixty Turks is told,
and said, “That marked the character of the man and does honour to his
I then told him that Captain Beaufort was uncle to the two young
ladies with me!
He told me he had read an article in the Journal des Scavans
in which Karamania is mentioned and parts translated. I have
recommended it to many at Paris who wanted English books to translate,
but I am sorry to say that little is read there besides politics and
novels. Science has, however, a better chance than literature.
Whenever any one in your Book Society wants to bespeak a book,
perhaps you could order Recueil des Eloges, par M. Cuvier. They
contain the Lives, not merely the Eloges, of all the men
of science since 1880, written, and with an excellent introduction. The
lives of Priestley and Cavendish are written with so much candour
towards the English philosophers that even Mr. Chenevix cannot have
anything to complain of.
To MISS HONORA EDGEWORTH.
August 19, 1820.
The day we set out from Pregny we breakfasted at Coppet; from some
misunderstanding M. de Stael had not expected us and had breakfasted,
but as he is remarkably well-bred, easy, and obliging in his manners he
was not put out, and while our breakfast was preparing he showed
us the house. All the rooms once inhabited by Madame de Stael we could
not think of as common rooms—they have a classical power over the
mind, and this was much heightened by the strong attachment and respect
for her memory shown in every word and look, and silence by her
son and by her friend, Miss Randall. He is correcting for the press
Les dix Annees d'Exil. M. de Stael after breakfast took us a
delightful walk through the grounds, which he is improving with good
taste and judgment. He told me that his mother never gave any work to
the public in the form in which she originally composed it; she changed
the arrangement and expression of her thoughts with such facility, and
was so little attached to her own first views of the subject that often
a work was completely remodelled by her while passing through the
press. Her father disliked to see her make any formal preparation for
writing when she was young, so that she used to write often on the
corner of the chimney-piece, or on a pasteboard held in her hand, and
always in the room with others, for her father could not bear her to be
out of the room—and this habit of writing without preparation she
preserved ever afterwards.
M. de Stael told me of a curious interview he had with Buonaparte
when he was enraged with his mother, who had published remarks on his
government—concluding with “Eh! bien vous avez raison aussi. Je
concois qu'un fils doit toujours faire la defense de sa mere, mais
enfin, si Monsieur veut ecrire des libelles, il faut aller en
Angleterre. Ou bien, s'il cherche la gloire, c'est en Angleterre qu'il
faut aller. C'est l'Angleterre, ou la France—il n'y a que ces deux
pays en Europe—dans le monde.”
Before any one else at Paris, Miss Randall told me, had the MS.
de Sainte-Helene, a copy had been sent to the Duke of Wellington,
who lent it to Madame de Stael; she began to read it eagerly, and when
she had read about half, she stopped and exclaimed, “Where is Benjamin
Constant? we will wait for him.” When he came, she began to give him an
account of what they had been reading; he listened with the
indifference of a person who had already seen the book, and when she
urged him to read up to them, he said he would go on where they were.
When it was criticised, he defended it, or writhed under it as if the
attack was personal. When accused of being the author, he denied it
with vehemence, and Miss Randall said to him, “If you had simply denied
it I might have believed you, but when you come to swearing, I am sure
that you are the author.”
M. de Stael called his little brother, Alphonse Rocca, to introduce
him to us; he is a pleasing, gentle-looking, ivory-pale boy with
dark-blue eyes, not the least like Madame de Stael. M. de Stael speaks
English perfectly, and with the air of an Englishman of fashion. After
our walk he proposed our going on the lake—and we rowed for about an
hour. The deep, deep blue of the water, and the varying colours as the
sun shone and the shadows of the clouds appeared on it were beautiful.
When we returned and went to rest in M. de Stael's cabinet, Dumont, who
had quoted from Voltaire's “Ode on the Lake of Geneva,” read it to us.
Read it and tell me where you think it ought to begin.
We slept at Morges on Tuesday, and arrived late and tired at
Yverdun. Next morning we went to see Pestalozzi's establishment; he
recognised me and I him; he is, tell my mother, the same wild-looking
man he was, with the addition of seventeen years. The whole
superintendence of the school is now in the hands of his masters; he
just shows a visitor into the room, and reappears as you are going away
with a look that pleads irresistibly for an obole of praise.
While we were in the school, and while I was stretching my poor
little comprehension to the utmost to follow the master of mathematics,
I saw enter a benevolent-looking man with an open forehead and a clear,
kind eye. He was obviously an Englishman, and from his manner of
standing I thought he was a captain in the navy. My attention was
called away, and I was intent upon an account of a school for deaf and
dumb, which I was interested in on account of William Beaufort, when a
lady desired to be introduced to me; she said she had been talking to
Mrs. Moilliet, taking her for Miss Edgeworth—she was “the wife of
Captain Hillyar, Captain Beaufort's friend.” What a revolution in all
our ideas! We almost ran to Captain Hillyar, my benevolent—looking
Englishman, and most cordially did he receive us, and insisted upon our
all coming to dine with him. When I presented Fanny and Harriet to him
as Captain Beaufort's nieces he did look so pleased, and all the way
home he was praising Captain Beaufort with such delight to himself.
“But I never write to the fellow, faith! I'll tell you the truth; I
can't bring myself to sit down and write to him, he is such a superior
being; I can't do it; what can I have to say worth his reading? Why,
look at his letters, one page of them contains more sense than I could
write in a volume.”
At dinner, turning to Fanny and Harriet, he drank “Uncle Francis's
health;” and when we took leave he shook us by the hand at the carriage
door. “You know we sailors can never take leave without a hearty shake
of the hand. It comes from the heart, and I hope will go to it.”
From Yverdun our evening drive by the lake of Neufchatel was
beautiful, and mounting gradually we came late at night to Paienne, and
next day to Fribourg, at the dirtiest of inns, as if kept by chance,
and such a mixture of smells of onions, grease, dirt, and dunghill!
But, never mind! I would bear all that, and more, to see and hear Pere
Gerard. But this I keep for Lovell, as I shall tell him all about
Pestalozzi, Fellenburg, and Pere Gerard's schools. You shall not even
know who Pere Gerard is.
So we go on to Berne. The moment we entered this canton we perceived
the superior cultivation of the land, the comfort of the cottagers, and
their fresh-coloured, honest, jolly, independent, hard-working
appearance. Trees of superb growth, beech and fir, beautifully mixed,
grew on the sides of the mountains. On the road here we had the finest
lightning I ever saw flashing from the horizon. Berne is chiefly built
of a whitish stone, like Bath stone, and has flagged walks arched over,
like Chester. A clear rivulet runs through the middle of each street:
there are delightful public walks. On Sunday we saw the peasants in
their holiday costume, very pretty, etc.
I have kept to the last that M. de Stael and Miss Randall spoke in
the most gratifying terms of praise of my father's life.
SUMMARY OF VOLUME I
Childhood of Maria Edgeworth—Death of her mother and marriage of
her father to Miss Honora Sneyd—Death of Mrs. Honora Edgeworth and
marriage of Mr. Edgeworth to Miss Elizabeth Sneyd—Life at
Letters from Maria Edgeworth from Edgeworthstown, Clifton, and
London to Miss Charlotte Sneyd, Mr. and Mrs. Ruxton, and Miss Sophy
Journey to Clifton—Dr. Darwin, Mrs. Yearsly, and Hannah More—Visit
to Mrs. Charles Hoare—Dr. Beddoes—Return to Ireland.
Letters from Edgeworthstown to Miss Sophy Ruxton, Mrs. Ruxton, Mrs.
Literary occupations of Maria Edgeworth: Letters for Literary
Ladies, Practical Education—Disturbances in Ireland: Lord Granard,
the “White Tooths,” General Crosby's adventure.
Letters from Edgeworthstown to Mrs. Ruxton, Miss S. Ruxton, Miss
Publication of Letters for Literary Ladies and The
Parent's Assistant—Mr. Edgeworth's election to the Irish
Parliament—Literary work and study: Moral Tales, Irish Bulls
—Madame Roland's Memoirs—Death of Mrs. Edgeworth, and marriage of Mr.
Edgeworth to Miss Beaufort.
Letters from Edgeworthstown, Longford, and Dublin to Miss Sophy
Ruxton, Mrs. Ruxton, Miss Charlotte Sneyd.
The Irish Rebellion: Lord Cornwallis, Lady Anne Fox—Flight from
Edgeworthstown to Longford—Return to Edgeworthstown—Publication of
Practical Education—Theatricals: Whim for Whim—At Dublin.
Letters from Clifton, Edgeworthstown, and Loughborough to Mrs.
Ruxton, Miss Ruxton.
At Clifton: Sir Humphry Davy, Dr. Beddoes, Mrs. Barbauld—Death of
Dr. Darwin—Literary work at Edgeworthstown: Castle Rackrent,
Belinda, Early Lessons, Moral Tales, Essay on Irish Bulls—Visits
of Mr. Chenevix and Professor Pictet—Journey to London.
Letters from London, Brussels, Chantilly, Paris, Calais, Edinburgh
to Miss Sneyd, Miss Sophy Ruxton, Mrs. Mary Sneyd, Mrs. Ruxton, C.S.
A visit to Miss Watts at Leicester—Journey to Paris: Calais,
Dunkirk, Bruges, Ghent—Madame Talma in Andromaque at
Brussels—Palace of Chantilly—Paris: Madame Delessert, Madame Gautier,
Madame de Pastoret, M. Dumont, Abbe Morellet, M. Suard, Marquis of
Lansdowne, M. Degerando, M. Camille Jordan, Madame Campan, Madame
Recamier, Baron de Prony, Rogers, M. Pictet, Kosciusko—Monsieur
Edelcrantz proposes to Maria Edgeworth; her feelings towards
him—Buonaparte—Madame d'Ouditot and Rousseau—Rumours of war—The
Edgeworths return to England—Account of a visit to Madame de Genlis.
Letters from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Black Castle, Edgeworthstown,
Rosstrevor, Allenstown, Pakenham Hall to Mrs. Ruxton, Miss Honora
Edgeworth, Miss Charlotte Sneyd, Miss Ruxton, Henry Edgeworth, C. Sneyd
Edgeworth, Mrs. Edgeworth.
Visit to Lindley Murray at Newcastle—Dugald Stewart at
Edinburgh—Return to Edgeworthstown—Literary work: Popular Tales,
Leonora, Griselda—Marriage of Miss Pakenham to Sir Arthur
Wellesley (Duke of Wellington)—Death of Dr. Beddoes.
Letters from Edgeworthstown, Black Castle, Bangor Ferry, Liverpool,
Derby, Cambridge, London to Miss Ruxton, Miss Honora Edgeworth, Mrs.
Ruxton, C. Sneyd Edgeworth, Miss Sneyd, Mrs. Edgeworth.
Publication of Tales of Fashionable Life: Madame de Stael,
Lord Dudley, Lord Jeffrey upon—Life at Edgeworthstown: Mr. Chenevix,
Miss Lydia White, Sir Henry Holland, Mrs. Inchbald, Mrs. Barbauld,
Hannah More, Lady Wellington—Marriage of Sir Humphry Davy—Literary
pursuits: Byron's English Bards, Scott's Lady of the Lake
and Rokeby, Campbell: Patronage, Tales of Fashionable Life
(second series), The Absentee—Balloon ascent of Sadler—Journey
to London: Roscoe, Dr. Ferrier, Sir Henry Holland—Visit to Cambridge
and to Dr. Clarke at Trumpington.
Letters from London, Malvern Links, Ross, Edgeworthstown, Dublin,
Black Castle to Miss Ruxton, Mrs. Ruxton, Sir Walter Scott, C.S.
Visit to London: Madame de Stael, Davy, Byron, Miss Berry's, Lord
Lansdowne, Lady Wellington, Mrs. Siddons, the Prince Regent, Lady
Elizabeth Monk, Dukes of Kent and Sussex, Sir James Macintosh, Dumont,
Sir Samuel Romilly, Dr. Parr, Malthus, Madame d'Arblay, Rogers—Return
to, and life at Edgeworthstown: Early Lessons, Popular Plays,
Harrington, Ormond—Waverley—Illness and Death of Mr. Edgeworth.
Letters from Edgeworthstown, Mount Kennedy, Bowood, Epping,
Hampstead, Byrkely Lodge, Tetsworth, London, Dublin, Heathfield,
Canterbury to Mrs. Ruxton, Mrs. Stark, Mrs. Edgeworth, Miss Ruxton,
Miss Waller, Miss Lucy Edgeworth, Miss Honora Edgeworth.
Literary pursuits at Edgeworthstown: Miss Austen—Visits to Bowood:
Lord Lansdowne, Dumont, Lord Grenville, Mr. Hare, Dugald Stewart—Death
of Sir Samuel Romilly—Joanna Baillie, Watt, Campbell—London: Mill,
Wilberforce, Duke and Duchess of Wellington, Lord Palmerston—Visit to
Ireland—Journey to Paris.
Letters from Paris, La Celle, Passy, Geneva, Pregny, Berne to Mrs.
Edgeworth, Mrs. Ruxton, Miss Ruxton, Miss Lucy Edgeworth, Miss Honora
Paris: Duchesse de Broglie, Madame Recamier, Camille Jordan,
Cuvier—Prony's anecdotes of Buonaparte—Visit to M. de Vinde's
country-house—A visit to the Duke of Orleans at Neuilly—Duchesse
d'Angouleme, Casimir Perier, Duchesse d'Uzes, Humboldt,
Malthus—Journey through Switzerland: Dumont, M. de Stael.
END OF VOL. I