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Lady Morgan by Kate A. Sanborn

 

With her wit and vanity, poor French and fine clothes, good common sense and warm Irish heart, Lady Morgan was a most entertaining and original character—a spirited, versatile, spunky little woman, whose whole life was a grand social success. She was also one of the most popular and voluminous writers of her day; but, with all her sparkle and dash, ambition and industry, destined in a few generations more to be almost unknown, vanishing down that doleful "back entry" where Time sends so many bright men and women. As the founder of Irish fiction—for the national tales of Ireland begin with her—and the patron of Irish song (she stimulated Lover to write "Rory O'More," and "Kate Kearney" is her own), always laboring for liberty and the interests of her oppressed countrymen, and preserving her name absolutely untouched by scandal through a long and brilliant career, she deserves a place among distinguished women. She evidently had no idea of being forgotten, and completed twenty chapters of autobiography—its florid egotism at once its fault and its charm—besides keeping a diary in later years, and preserving nearly all the letters written to her, and even cards left at her door. But on those cards were the names of Humboldt, Cuvier, Talma and the most celebrated men of that epoch, down to Macaulay, Douglas Jerrold and Edward Everett, while she could count among her intimates the noted men and women of three countries. La Fayette declared he was proud to be her friend; Byron praised her writings, and always expressed regret that he had not made her acquaintance in Italy; Sydney Smith coupled her name with his own as "the two Sydneys;" Leigh Hunt celebrated her in verse; Sir Thomas Lawrence, Ary Scheffer and other famous artists begged for the honor of painting her portrait. Was it strange after all this, and being told for half a century that she was an extraordinarily gifted and fascinating woman, that (being a woman) she should believe it?

She was extremely sensitive in regard to her age, and if forced to state it on the witness-stand would doubtless have whispered it to the judge in a bewitching way, as did a pretty but slightly passé French actress under similar embarrassing circumstances. She pleads: "What has a woman to do with dates—cold, false, erroneous, chronological dates—new style, old style, precession of the equinox, ill-timed calculation of comets long since due at their station and never come? Her poetical idiosyncrasy, calculated by epochs, would make the most natural points of reference in woman's autobiography. Plutarch sets the example of dropping dates in favor of incidents; and an authority more appropriate, Madame de Genlis, who began her own memoirs at eighty, swept through nearly an age of incident and revolution without any reference to vulgar eras signifying nothing (the times themselves out of joint), testifying to the pleasant incidents she recounts and the changes she witnessed. I mean to have none of them!"

Sydney Owenson was born in "ancient ould Dublin" at Christmas: the year is a little uncertain. The encyclopædias say about 1780: 1776 has been suggested as more correct, but we will not pry into so delicate a matter. A charming woman never loses her youth. Doctor Holmes tells us that in travelling over the isthmus of life we do not ride in a private carriage, but in an omnibus—meaning that our ancestors or their traits take the trip with us; and in studying a character it is interesting to note the combinations that from generations back make up the individual. Sydney's father was the child of an ill-assorted marriage. "At a hurling-match long ago the Queen of Beauty, Sydney, granddaughter of Sir Maltby Crofton, lost her heart, like Rosalind, to the victor of the day, Walter McOwen (anglicized Owenson), a young farmer, tall and handsome, graceful and daring, and allowed him to discover that he had 'wrestled well and overthrown more than his enemies.' Result, an elopement and mésalliance never to be forgiven—the husband a jolly, racketing Irish lad, unable to appreciate his high-toned, accomplished wife, a skilful performer on the Irish harp, a poetess and a genius, called by the admiring neighbors 'the Harp of the Valley.'" Their only child, the father of Lady Morgan, was a tolerable actor, of loose morals and tight purse, who could sing a good song or tell a good story, and who was always in debt.

Sydney was a winsome little rogue, quite too much for her precise and stately mother, who was ever holding up as a model a child, in her grave fifty years agone, who had read the Bible through twice before she was five years old, and knitted all the stockings worn by the coachmen! All in vain: Sydney was not fated to die early or figure as a young saint in a Sunday-school memoir. She took a deep interest in chimney-sweeps from observing a den of little imps who swarmed in a cellar near her home, and on one occasion actually scrambled up a burning chimney, followed by this sooty troop. Her pets were numerous, the prime favorite being a cat named Ginger, from her yellow coat. Her mother, who was shocked by Sydney adding to her nightly petition, "God bless Ginger the cat!" did not share this partiality, as is seen in the young lady's first attempt at authorship, which has been preserved:

My dear pussy-cat,
Were I a mouse or a rat,
Sure I never would run off from you,
You're so funny and gay
With your tail when you play,
And no song is so sweet as your mew.
But pray keep in your press,
And don't make a mess,
When you share with your kittens our posset,
For mamma can't abide you,
And I cannot hide you
Unless you keep close in your closet.

Her voice was remarkable, but her father, knowing too well the temptations that beset a public singer, refused to cultivate her talent for music, saying, "If I were to do this, it might induce her some day to go on the stage, and I would prefer to buy her a sieve of black cockles from Ring's End to cry about the streets of Dublin to seeing her the first prima donna of Europe." A genuine talent for music will assert itself in spite of neglect, and one evening at the house of Moore, where with her sister Olivia she listened in tearful enthusiasm to some of his melodies, sung as only the poet could sing them, was an important event in her life. She tells us that after this treat they went home in almost delirious ecstasy, actually forgetting to undress themselves before going to bed. This experience developed a longing to know more of the early Irish ballads, and roused a literary ambition. If the grocer's son could so distinguish himself, she could surely relieve her dear father from his embarrassments; and she began at once to write with this noble object. Her unselfish and unwavering devotion to her rather worthless father is the most attractive and touching point in her character. After her mother's death she was sent to boarding-school, where she studied well, scribbled verses, accomplished herself in dancing, and furnished bright home-letters for her less brilliant mates.

She next figures as a governess in the family of a Mrs. Featherstone of Bracklin Castle. There was a merry dance for adieu the night she was to leave, but, like Cinderella, she danced too long: the hour sounded, and Sydney was hurried into the coach in a white muslin dress, pink silk stockings and slippers of the same hue, while Molly, the faithful old servant, insisted on wrapping her darling in her own warm cloak and ungainly headgear. Being ushered in this plight into a handsome drawing-room, there was a general titter at her grotesque appearance, but she told her story in her own captivating way until they screamed with laughter—not at her now, but with her—and she was "carried off to an exquisite suite of rooms—a study, bedroom and bath-room, with a roaring turf fire, open piano and lots of books;" and after dinner, where she was toasted, she sang several songs, which had an immense effect, and the evening ended with a jig, her hosts regretting that they had no spectators besides the servants. This, her first jig out of the school-room, she contrasts with her last one in public, when invited by the duchess of Northumberland to dance with Lord George Hill. She accepted the challenge from the two best jig-dancers in the country, Lord George and Sir Philip Crampton, and had the triumph of flooring them both.

Her first novel, St. Clair, was now completed. She had kept the writing of it a profound secret, and one morning the young author, full of ambitious dreams, borrowed the cook's market-bonnet and cloak and sallied out to seek her fortune. Before going far she saw over a shop-door "T. Smith, Printer and Bookseller," and ventured in. It was some minutes before T. Smith made his appearance, and when he did so he had a razor in one hand, a towel in the other, and only one side of his face shaved. After hearing her errand he told her, good-naturedly, that he did not publish novels, and sent her to Brown. Brown wanted his breakfast, and was not anxious for a girl's manuscript; but his wife persuaded him to promise to look it over; and, elated with success, Sydney ran back, forgetting to leave any address, and never heard of her first venture till, taking up a book in a friend's parlor, it proved to be her own. It had a good sale, and was translated into German, with a biographical notice which stated that the young author had strangled herself with an embroidered handkerchief in an agony of despair and unrequited love. The Sorrows of Werther was her model, but with a deal of stuff and sentimentality there was the promise of better things. "In all her early works her characters indulge in wonderful digressions, historical, astronomical and metaphysical, in the midst of terrible emergencies where danger, despair and unspeakable catastrophes are imminent and impending. No matter what laceration of their finest feelings they may be suffering, they always have their learning at command, and never fail to make quotations from favorite authors appropriate to the occasion."

The Novice of St. Dominick was Miss Owenson's second novel, and she went alone to London to make arrangements for its publication. In those days a journey from Ireland to that great city was no small undertaking, and when the coach drove into the yard of the Swan with Two Necks the enterprising young lady was utterly exhausted, and, seating herself on her little trunk in the inn-yard, fell fast asleep. But, as usual, she found friends, and good luck was on her side. The novel was cut down from six volumes to four, and with her first literary earnings, after assisting her father, she bought an Irish harp and a black mode cloak, being always devoted to music and dress. At this time her strongest ambition was to be every inch a woman. She gave up serious studies, to which she had applied herself, and cultivated even music as a mere accomplishment, fearful lest she should be considered a pedant or an artiste.

Next came The Wild Irish Girl, her first national story, which gave her more than a national fame, and three hundred pounds from her fascinated publisher. It contains much curious information about the antiquities and social condition of Ireland, and a passionate pleading against the wrongs of its people. It made the piquant little governess all the rage in fashionable society, and until her marriage she was known by the name of her heroine, Glorvina. As a story the book is not worth reading at the present day.

In The Book of the Boudoir, a sort of literary ragbag, she gives, under the heading "My First Rout in London," a graphic picture of an evening at Lady Cork's: "A few days after my arrival in London, and while my little book, The Wild Irish Girl, was running rapidly through successive editions, I was presented to the countess-dowager of Cork, and invited to a rout at her fantastic and pretty mansion in New Burlington street. Oh, how her Irish historical name tingled in my ears and seized on my imagination, reminding me of her great ancestor, 'the father of chemistry and uncle to the earl of Cork'! I stepped into my job carriage at the hour of ten, and, all alone by myself, as the song says, 'to Eden took my solitary way.' What added to my fears and doubts and hopes and embarrassments was a note from my noble hostess received at the moment of departure: 'Everybody has been invited expressly to meet the Wild Irish Girl; so she must bring her Irish harp. M.C.O.' I arrived at New Burlington street without my harp and with a beating heart, and I heard the high-sounding titles of princes and ambassadors and dukes and duchesses announced long before my poor plebeian name puzzled the porter and was bandied from footman to footman. As I ascended the marble stairs with their gilt balustrade, I was agitated by emotions similar to those which drew from a frightened countryman his frank exclamation in the heat of the battle of Vittoria: 'Oh, jabbers! I wish some of my greatest enemies was kicking me down Dame street.' Lady Cork met me at the door: 'What! no harp, Glorvina?'—'Oh, Lady Cork!'—'Oh, Lady Fiddlestick! You are a fool, child: you don't know your own interests.—Here, James, William, Thomas! send one of the chairmen to Stanhope street for Miss Owenson's harp.'"

After a stand and a stare of some seconds at a strikingly sullen-looking, handsome creature who stood alone, and whom she heard addressed by a pretty sprite of fashion with a "How-do, Lord Byron?" she says: "I was pushed on, and on reaching the centre of the conservatory I found myself suddenly pounced upon a sort of rustic seat, a very uneasy pre-eminence, and there I sat, the lioness of the night, shown off like the hyena of Exeter 'Change, looking almost as wild and feeling quite as savage. Presenting me to each and all of the splendid crowd which an idle curiosity, easily excited and as soon satisfied, had gathered round us, she prefaced every introduction with a little exordium which seemed to amuse every one but its object: 'Lord Erskine, this is the Wild Irish Girl whom you are so anxious to know. I assure you she talks quite as well as she writes.—Now, my dear, do tell my Lord Erskine some of those Irish stories you told us the other evening. Fancy yourself among your own set, and take off the brogue. Mrs. Abingdon says you would make a famous actress: she does indeed. You must play the short-armed orator with her: she will be here by and by. This is the duchess of St. Albans: she has your novel by heart. Where is Sheridan?—Do, my dear Mr. T—— (This is Mr. T——, my dear: geniuses should know each other)—do, my dear Mr. T——, find me Mr. Sheridan. Oh! here he is!—What! you know each other already? So much the better.—This is Lord Carysford.—Mr. Lewis, do come forward.—That is Monk Lewis, my dear, of whom you have heard so much, but you must not read his works: they are very naughty.' Lewis, who stood staring at me through his eye-glasses, backed out after this remark, and disappeared. 'You know Mr. Gell,' her ladyship continued, 'so I need not introduce you: he calls you the Irish Corinne. Your friend Mr. Moore will be here by and by: I have collected all the talent for you.—Do see, somebody, if Mr. Kemble and Mrs. Siddons are come yet, and find me Lady Hamilton.—Now, pray tell us the scene at the Irish baronet's in the rebellion.'

"Lord L—— volunteered his services. The circle now began to widen—wits, warriors, peers and ministers of state. The harp was brought forward, and I tried to sing, but my howl was funereal. I was ready to cry, but endeavored to laugh, and to cover my real timidity by an affected ease which was both awkward and impolitic. At last Mr. Kemble was announced. Lady Cork reproached him as the late Mr. Kemble, and then, looking significantly at me, told him who I was. Kemble acknowledged me by a kindly nod, but the stare which succeeded was not one of mere recognition: it was the glazed, fixed look so common to those who have been making libations to altars which rarely qualify them for ladies' society. Mr. Kemble was evidently much preoccupied and a little exalted. He was seated my vis-à-vis at supper, and repeatedly raised his arm and stretched it across the table for the purpose, as I supposed, of helping himself to some boar's head in jelly. Alas! no! The bore was that my head happened to be the object which fixed his tenacious attention, which, dark, cropped and curly, struck him as a particularly well-organized brutus, and better than any in his repertoire of theatrical perukes. Succeeding at last in his feline and fixed purpose, he actually stuck his claws in my locks, and, addressing me in the deepest sepulchral tones, asked, 'Little girl, where did you get your wig?' Lord Erskine came to the rescue and liberated my head, and all tried to retrieve the awkwardness of the scene. Meanwhile, Kemble, peevish, as half-tipsy people generally are, drew back muttering and fumbling in his pocket, evidently with some dire intent lowering in his eyes. To the amusement of all, and to my increased consternation, he drew forth a volume of the Wild Irish Girl, and reading with his deep, emphatic voice one of the most high-flown of its passages, he paused, and patting the page with his fore finger, with the look of Hamlet addressing Polonius, he said, 'Little girl, why did you write such nonsense? and where did you get all those damned hard words?' Thus taken by surprise, and smarting with my wounds of mortified authorship, I answered unwittingly and witlessly the truth: 'Sir, I wrote as well as I could, and I got the hard words from—Johnson's Dictionary.' He was soon carried off to prevent any more attacks on my head, inside or out."

Glorvina was now very much the fashion, visiting in the best Dublin society and making many friends, whom she had the tact to retain through life. When articles of dress or ornament are named for one, it is an unfailing sign that they have attained notoriety, if not fame, and the bodkin used for fastening the "back hair" was called "Glorvina" in her honor. Like many attractive women of decided character, she had her full share of faults and foibles. Superficial, conceited, sadly lacking in spirituality and refinement, a cruel enemy, a toady to titles, a blind partisan of the Liberal party,—that is her picture in shadow. Her style was open to severe criticism, and Richard Lovell Edgeworth suggests mildly that Maria, in reading her novel aloud in the family circle, was obliged to omit some superfluous epithets.

In this first flush of celebrity she never gave up work, holding fast to industry as her sheet-anchor. Soon appeared two volumes of patriotic tales. Ida of Athens was Novel No. 3, but written in confident haste, and not well received. The names of her books would make a list rivalling that of the loves of Don Giovanni (nearly seventy volumes), and any extended analysis or criticism would be impossible in this rapid sketch. "Every day in my life is a leaf in my book" was a motto literally carried out, and she tried almost every department of literature, succeeding best in describing the broad characteristics of her own nation. "Her lovers, like her books, were too numerous to mention," yet her own heart seemed untouched. She coquetted gayly, but her adorers were always the sufferers.

Sir Jonah Barrington wrote her at this time a complimentary and witty letter, in which he says of her heroine Glorvina, "I believe you stole a spark from heaven to give animation to your idol." He thought the inferiority of Ida was owing to its author's luxurious surroundings. "I cannot conceive why the brain should not get fat and unwieldy, as well as any other part of the human frame. Some of our best poets have written in paroxysms of hunger, and I really believe that Addison would have had more point if he had had less victuals; and if you do not restrict yourself to a sheep's trotter and spruce beer, your style will betray your luxury." But soon came an increase of the very thing feared for her fame, in the form of an invitation from Lady Abercorn and the marquis to pass the chief part of every year with them. This was accepted, and thus she met her fate. Lord Abercorn kept a physician in his house, Doctor Morgan, a handsome, accomplished widower, whom the marchioness was anxious to provide with a second wife. She had fixed upon Sydney as a suitable person, but the retiring and reticent doctor had heard so much of her wit, talents and general fascination that he disliked the idea of meeting her. He was sitting one morning with the marchioness when a servant threw open the door, announcing "Miss Owenson," who had just arrived. Doctor Morgan sprang to his feet, and, there being no other way of escape, leaped through the open window into the garden below. This was too fair a challenge for a girl of spirit to refuse, and she set to work to captivate him, succeeding more effectually than she desired, for she had dreamed of making a brilliant match. Soon a letter was written to her father asking his leave to marry the conquered doctor, yet she does not seem to have been one bit in love. He was too grave and good, though as devoted a lover as could be asked for. It was a queer match and a dangerous experiment, but after a while their mutual qualities adjusted themselves. He kept her steady, and she roused him from indolent repose. As a critic of that time says: "She was as bustling, restless, energetic and pushing as he was modest, retiring and unaffected." Lover gives this picture of them: "There was Lady Morgan, with her irrepressible vivacity, her humor that indulged in the most audacious illustrations, and her candor which had small respect for time or place in its expression, and who, by the side of her tranquil, steady, contemplative husband, suggested the notion of a Barbary colt harnessed to a patient English draught-horse."

She had a certain light, jaunty air peculiarly Irish, celebrated by Leigh Hunt in verses which embody a faithful portrait:

And dear Lady Morgan, see, see where she comes,
With her pulses all beating for freedom like drums,
So Irish, so modish, so mixtish, so wild,
So committing herself, as she talks, like a child;
So trim, yet so easy, polite, yet high-hearted,
That Truth and she, try all she can, won't be parted.
She'll put on your fashions, your latest new air,
And then talk so frankly, she'll make you all stare.
Mrs. Hall may say "Oh!" and Miss Edgeworth say "Fie!"
But my lady will know the what and the why.
Her books, a like mixture, are so very clever
That Jove himself swore he could read them for ever,
Plot, character, freakishness, all are so good,
And the heroine herself playing tricks in a hood.

After a happy year with her patrons Glorvina married and moved to a home of her own in Kildare street, Dublin, whence she writes to Lady Stanley: "With respect to authorship, I fear it is over. I have been making chair-covers instead of periods, hanging curtains instead of raising systems, and cheapening pots and pans instead of selling sentiment and philosophy." But even during this first busy year of housekeeping she was working upon O'Donnel, another national tale, for which she was paid five hundred and fifty pounds. It was highly praised by Sir Walter Scott, and sold with rapidity, but her Liberal politics made her unpopular with the leading Tory journalism of England. In point of pitiless invective the criticism of the Quarterly and Blackwood has perhaps never been exceeded. Her books were denounced as pestilent, and the public advised against maintaining her acquaintance. Miss Martineau, an impartial critic, if impartiality consists in punching almost every one she passed, did not fail to give our heroine a black eye, speaking of her as "in that set to which Mrs. Jameson belonged, who make women blush and men grow insolent."

Sir Charles and his wife next visited Paris with the intention of writing a book. Their letters carried them into every circle of Parisian society, and in each the popularity of Lady Morgan was unbounded. Madame Jerome Bonaparte wrote to her: "The French admire you more than any one who has appeared here since the battle of Waterloo in the form of an Englishwoman." When France appeared the clamor of abuse in England was enough to appall a very stout heart. John Wilson Croker was one of her most bitter assailants, and attempted to annihilate her in the Quarterly. She balanced matters by caricaturing him as "Counsellor Crawley" in her next novel, in a way that hit and hurt, and by a witticism which lives, while his envenomed sentences are forgotten. Some one was telling her that Croker was among the crowd who thought they could have managed the battle of Waterloo much better than Wellington, whose success, in their estimation, was only a fortunate mistake. She exclaimed, "Oh, I can believe it. He had his secret for winning the battle: he had only to put his Notes on Boswell's Johnson in front of the British lines, and all the Bonapartes that ever existed could never have got through them!" Maginn, in Blackwood, gave unmerciful cuts at her superficial opinions, ultra sentiments and chambermaid French. Fraser's Magazine complimented her sardonically on her simple style, being happy to observe that she had reduced the number of languages used, as the Sibyl did her books, to three, wisely discarding German, Spanish, the dead and Oriental languages. But she received the cannonade, which would have crushed some women, with perfect equanimity. As a compensation, she was the toast of the day, and at some grand reception had a raised dais only a little lower than that provided for the duchess de Berri. At a dinner at Baron Rothschild's, Carême, the Delmonico of those times, surprised her with a column of ingenious confectionery architecture on which was inscribed her name spun in sugar. It was a more equivocal compliment when Walter Scott christened two pet donkeys Hannah More and Lady Morgan.

Florence Macarthy, another novel, attacking the social and political abuses in Irish government, was her next work. Colburn, her publisher, who had just presented her with a beautiful parure of amethysts, now proposed that she and her husband should go to Italy. "Do it, and get up another book—the lively lady to sketch men and manners, the metaphysical balance-wheel contributing the solid chapters on laws, politics, science and education." They accepted the offer, and received the same extraordinary attentions as in their former tour. This may be accounted for by the fact that it was well known that they were to prepare a book on Italy. It was equally well known that Lady Morgan had a sharp tongue and still sharper pen; so that people who lived in glass houses, as did many of the magnates, were remarkably civil to "Miladi," even those who regarded her tour among them as an unjustifiable invasion. Byron pronounced this book an excellent and fearless work. During her sojourn in Italy Lady Morgan became enthusiastic about Salvator Rosa, and began to collect material for writing the history of his life and times, which was her own favorite of all her writings.

In 1825 the Diary is started, chatty, full of gossip and incident. She writes, October 30th: "A ballad-singer was this morning singing beneath my window in a strain most unmusical and melancholy. My own name caught my ear, and I sent Thomas out to buy the song. Here is a stanza:

Och, Dublin City, there's no doubting,
Bates every city upon the say:
'Tis there you'll hear O'Connell spouting,
And Lady Morgan making tay;
For 'tis the capital of the foinest nation,
Wid charming pisantry on a fruitful sod,
Fighting like divils for conciliation,
An' hating one another for the love o' God."

The O'Briens and O'Flahertys was published in 1827, and proved more popular than any of her previous novels. There is an allusion to it in the interesting account which Lord Albemarle gives us of his acquaintance with Lady Morgan: "A number of pleasant people used to assemble of an evening in Lady Morgan's 'nut-shell' in Kildare street. When I first met her she was in the height of her popularity. In her new novel she tells me I am to figure as a certain count, a great traveller who made a trip to Jerusalem for the sole object of eating artichokes in their native country. The chief attraction in the Kildare street 'at homes' was her sister Olivia (Lady Clark), who used to compose and sing charming Irish songs, for the most part squibs on the Dublin society of the day. One of the verses ran thus:

We're swarming alive,
Like bees in a hive,
With talent and janius and beautiful ladies:
We've a duke in Kildare,
And a Donnybrook Fair;
And if that wouldn't plaze, why nothing would plaze yez.
We've poets in plenty,
But not one in twenty
Will stay in ould Ireland to keep her from sinking:
They say they can't live
Where there's nothing to give.
Och, what business have poets with ating or dhrinking?"

Justly proud of her sister, Lady Morgan was in the habit of addressing every new-comer with, "I must make you acquainted with my Livy." She once used this form of words to a gentleman who had just been worsted in a fierce encounter of wit with the fascinating lady. "Yes, madam," he replied, "I happen to know your Livy, and I only wish 'your Livy' was Tacitus."

Few of Lady Morgan's bon-mots have been preserved, but one is given which shows that she occasionally indulged in a pun. Some one, speaking of a certain bishop who was rather lax in his observance of Lent, said he believed he would eat a horse on Ash-Wednesday. "Very suitable diet," remarked her ladyship, "if it were a fast horse."

The Diary progresses slowly by fitful jerks. Here is a characteristic entry: "April 3, 1834. My journal is gone to the dogs. I am so fussed and fidgeted by my dear, charming world that I cannot write: I forget days and dates. Ouf! Last night, at Lady Stepney's, met the Milmans, Mrs. Norton, Rogers, Sydney Smith and others—among them poor, dear Jane Porter. She told me she was taken for me the other night, and talked to as such by a party of Americans! She is tall, lank and lean and lackadaisical, dressed in the deepest black, with rather a battered black gauze hat and the air of a regular Melpomene. I am the reverse of all this, and without vanity the best-dressed woman wherever I go. Last night I wore a blue satin trimmed fully with magnificent point lace—light-blue velvet hat and feather, with an aigrette of sapphires and diamonds. Voilà! Lord Jeffrey came up to me, and we had such a flirtation! When he comes to Ireland we are to go to Donnybrook Fair together: in short, having cut me down with his tomahawk as a reviewer, he smothers me with roses as a man. I always say of my enemies before we meet, 'Let me at them!'" Of the same soirée she writes again: "There was Miss Jane Porter, looking like a shabby canoness. There was Mrs. Somerville in an astronomical cap. I dashed in in my blue satin and point lace, and showed them how an authoress should dress."

Her conceit was fairly colossal. The reforms in legislation for Ireland were, in her estimation, owing to her novel of Florence Macarthy. She professed to have taught Taglioni the Irish jig: of her toilette, made largely by her own hands, she was comically vain. In The Fraserians, a charming off-hand description of the contributors to that magazine, Lady Morgan is depicted trying on a big, showy bonnet before a mirror with a funny mixture of satisfaction and anxiety as to the effect.

Chorley, the feared and fearless critic of the Athenæum, speaks of Lady Morgan as one of the most peculiar and original literary characters he ever met. After a long and searching analysis he adds: "However free in speech, she never shocked decorum—never had to be appealed or apologized for as a forlorn woman of genius under difficulties."

An American paper, the Boston Literary Gazette, gave a personal description which was not sufficiently flattering, and roused the lady's indignant comments. It dared to state that she was "short, with a broad face, blue, inexpressive eyes, and seemed, if such a thing may be named, about forty years of age." Imagine the sensations this paragraph produced! She at once retorted, exclaiming in mock earnest, "I appeal! I appeal to the Titian of his age and country—I appeal to you, Sir Thomas Lawrence. Would you have painted a short, squat, broad-faced, inexpressive, affected, Frenchified, Greenland-seal-like lady of any age? Would any money have tempted you to profane your immortal pencil, consecrated by Nature to the Graces, by devoting its magic to such a model as this described by the Yankee artist of the Boston Literary? And yet you did paint the picture of this Lapland Venus—this impersonation of a Dublin Bay codfish!... Alas! no one could have said that I was forty then; and this is the cruelest cut of all! Had it been thirty-nine or fifty! Thirty-nine is still under the mark, and fifty so far beyond it, so hopeless; but forty—the critical age, the Rubicon—I cannot, will not, dwell on it. But, O America! land of my devotion and my idolatry! is it from you the blow has come? Let Quarterlys and Blackwoods libel, but the Boston Literary! Et tu Brute!"

In 1837 she received a pension of three hundred pounds a year in recognition of her literary merits. In 1839 she published a book entitled Woman and her Master, as solid and solemn and dull as if our vivacious friend had put herself into a strait-jacket and swallowed a dose of starch and valerian.

The closing chapter of any life must of necessity be sad, friends falling to the grave like autumn leaves. First her beloved husband died, then her darling sister Olivia; and her journal she now calls her "Doomsday Book." Yet in 1850 she thoroughly enjoyed a sharp pen-encounter with Cardinal Wiseman on a statement about St. Peter's chair made in her work on Italy. She writes: "Lots of notes and notices of my letter to Cardinal Wiseman. It has had the run of all the newspapers. The little old woman lives still." December 25, 1858, was her last birthday. She assembled a few old friends at dinner, and did the honors with all the brilliancy of her brightest days. She told a variety of anecdotes with infinite drollery, and after dinner sang a broadly comic song of Father Prout's—

The night before Larry was stretched,
The boys they all paid him a visit.

It was a custom in Ireland to "wake" a man who was to be hung, the night before the execution, so that the poor fellow might enjoy the whiskey drunk in his honor. There was one book more, "positively the last," but she never gave up her pen, "her worn-out stump of a goosequill," until her physician literally took it from her feeble fingers. She had grown old gracefully, showing great kindness to young authors, enduring partial blindness and comparative neglect with true dignity and cheerfulness, her heart always young. She met death patiently and with unfailing courage on the evening of the 16th of April, 1859.

Kate A. Sanborn.