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´╗┐Title: Richard Lovell Edgeworth - A Selection From His Memoir
Author: Edgeworth, Richard Lovell, 1744-1817
Language: English
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Richard Lovell Edgeworth






Engelberg, and Other Verses. With Frontispiece. Crown 8vo. 6s.

Jonquille, or, The Swiss Smuggler. Translated from the French of
MADAME COMBE. Crown 8vo. 6s.

Grisons Incidents in Olden Times. Crown 8vo. 2s. 6d.



THERE is an inn where many a guest
 May enter, tarry, take his rest.
 When he departs there's nought to pay,
 Only he carries nought away.

'Not so,' I cried, 'for raiment fine,
 Sweet thoughts, heart-joys, and hopes that shine,
 May clothe anew his flitting form,
 As wings that change the creeping worm.

His toil-worn garb he casts aside,
 And journeys onward glorified.'

B. L. T.



Some years ago, I came across the Memoirs of Richard Lovell
Edgeworth in a second-hand bookshop, and found it so full of
interest and amusement, that I am tempted to draw the attention of
other readers to it. As the volumes are out of print, I have not
hesitated to make long extracts from them. The first volume is
autobiographical, and the narrative is continued in the second
volume by Edgeworth's daughter Maria, who was her father's constant
companion, and was well fitted to carry out his wish that she should
complete the Memoirs.

Richard Lovell Edgeworth was born at Bath in
1744. He was a shining example of what a good landlord can do for
his tenants, and how an active mind will always find objects of
interest without constantly requiring what are called amusements;
for the leisure class should be like Sundays in a week, and as the
ideal Sunday should be a day when we can store up good and beautiful
thoughts to refresh us during the week, a day when there is no
hurry, no urgent business to trouble us, a day when we have time to
rise above the sordid details of life and enjoy its beauties; so it
seems to me that those who are not obliged to work for their living
should do their part in the world by adding to its store of good and
wise thoughts, by cultivating the arts and raising the standard of
excellence in them, and by bringing to light truths which had been
forgotten, or which had been hidden from our forefathers.

Richard Edgeworth was eminently a practical man, impulsive, as we
learn from his imprudent marriage at nineteen, but with a strong
sense of duty. His mother, who was Welsh, brought him up in habits
of thrift and industry very unlike those of his ancestors, which he
records in the early pages of his Memoirs. His great-grandmother
seems to have been a woman of strong character and courage in spite
of her belief in fairies and her dread of them, for he writes that
'while she was living at Liscard, she was, on some sudden alarm,
obliged to go at night to a garret at the top of the house for some
gunpowder, which was kept there in a barrel. She was followed
upstairs by an ignorant servant girl, who carried a bit of candle
without a candlestick between her fingers. When Lady Edgeworth had
taken what gunpowder she wanted, had locked the door, and was
halfway downstairs again, she observed that the girl had not her
candle, and asked what she had done with it; the girl recollected,
and answered that she had left it "stuck in the barrel of black
salt." Lady Edgeworth bid her stand still, and instantly returned by
herself to the room where the gunpowder was, found the candle as the
girl had described, put her hand carefully underneath it, carried it
safely out, and when she got to the bottom of the stairs dropped on
her knees, and thanked God for their deliverance'

When we remember that it was Richard Edgeworth, the father of Maria,
who trained and encouraged her first efforts in literature, we feel
that we owe him a debt of gratitude; but our interest is increased
when we read his Memoirs, for we then find ourselves brought into
close contact with a very intelligent and vigorous mind, keen to
take part in the scientific experiments of the day, while his
upright moral character and earnest and well-directed efforts to
improve his Irish property win our admiration; and when we remember
that he married in succession four wives, and preserved harmony
among the numerous members of his household, our admiration becomes
wonder, and we would fain learn the secret of his success. One
element in his success doubtless was that he kept every one around
him usefully employed, and in the manner most suited to each. He
knew how to develop innate talent, and did not crush or overpower
those around him. He owed much to the early training of a sensible
mother, and he gives an anecdote of his early childhood, which I
will quote:--

'My mother was not blind to my faults. She saw the danger of my
passionate temper. It was a difficult task to correct it; though
perfectly submissive to her, I was with others rebellious and
outrageous in my anger. My mother heard continual complaints of me;
yet she wisely forbore to lecture or punish me for every trifling
misdemeanour; she seized proper occasions to make a strong
impression upon my mind.

'One day my elder brother tom, who, as I have said, was almost a man
when I was a little child, came into the nursery where I was
playing, and where the maids were ironing. Upon some slight
provocation or contradiction from him, I flew into a violent
passion; and, snatching up one of the boxirons which the maid had
just laid down, I flung it across the table at my brother. He
stooped instantly; and, thank God! it missed him. There was a redhot
heater in it, of which I knew nothing until I saw it thrown out, and
until I heard the scream from the maids. They seized me, and dragged
me downstairs to my mother. Knowing that she was extremely fond of
my brother, and that she was of a warm indignant temper, they
expected that signal vengeance would burst upon me. They all spoke
at once. When my mother heard what I had done, I saw she was struck
with horror, but she said not one word in anger to me. She ordered
everybody out of the room except myself, and then drawing me near
her, she spoke to me in a mild voice, but in a most serious manner.
First, she explained to me the nature of the crime which I had run
the hazard of committing; she told me she was sure that I had no
intention seriously to hurt my brother, and did not know that if the
iron had hit my brother, it must have killed him. While I felt this
first shock, and whilst the horror of murder was upon me, my mother
seized the moment to conjure me to try in future to command my
passions. I remember her telling me that I had an uncle by the
mother's side who had such a violent temper, that in a fit of
passion one of his eyes actually started out of its socket. "You,"
said my mother to me, "have naturally a violent temper; if you grow
up to be a man without learning to govern it, it will be impossible
for you then to command yourself; and there is no knowing what crime
you may in a fit of passion commit, and how miserable you may, in
consequence of it, become. You are but a very young child, yet I
think you can understand me. Instead of speaking to you as I do at
this moment, I might punish you severely; but I think it better to
treat you like a reasonable creature. My wish is to teach you to
command your temper--nobody can do that for you so well as you can
do it for yourself."

'As nearly as I can recollect, these were my mother's words; I am
certain this was the sense of what she then said to me. The
impression made by the earnest solemnity with which she spoke never,
during the whole course of my life, was effaced from my mind. From
that moment I determined to govern my temper.'

Acting upon the old adage that example is better than precept, his
mother taught him at an early age to observe the good and bad
qualities of the persons he met. The study of character she justly
felt to be most important, and yet it is not one of the subjects
taught in schools except by personal collision with other boys, and
incidentally in reading history. When sent to school at Warwick, he
learned not only the first rudiments of grammar, but 'also the
rudiments of that knowledge which leads us to observe the difference
of tempers and characters in our fellow-creatures. The marking how
widely they differ, and by what minute varieties they are
distinguished, continues, to the end of life, an inexhaustible
subject of discrimination.'

May not Maria have gained much valuable training in the art of
novel-writing from a father who was so impressed with the value of
the study of character?

The Gospel precept which we read as 'Judge not,' should surely be
translated 'Condemn not,' and does not forbid a mental exercise
which is necessary in our intercourse with others.

Among the circumstances which had considerable influence on his
character, he mentions: 'My mother was reading to me some passages
from Shakespeare's plays, marking the characters of Coriolanus and
of Julius Caesar, which she admired. The contempt which Coriolanus
expresses for the opinion and applause of the vulgar, for "the
voices of the greasyheaded multitude," suited well with that disdain
for low company with which I had been first inspired by the fable of
the Lion and the Cub.* It is probable that I understood the speeches
of Coriolanus but imperfectly; yet I know that I sympathised with my
mother's admiration, my young spirit was touched by his noble
character, by his generosity, and, above all, by his filial piety
and his gratitude to his mother.' He mentions also that 'some traits
in the history of Cyrus, which was read to me, seized my
imagination, and, next to Joseph in the Old Testament, Cyrus became
the favourite of my childhood. My sister and I used to amuse
ourselves with playing Cyrus at the court of his grandfather
Astyages. At the great Persian feasts, I was, like young Cyrus, to
set an example of temperance, to eat nothing but watercresses, to
drink nothing but water, and to reprove the cupbearer for making the
king, my grandfather, drunk. To this day I remember the taste of
those water-cresses; and for those who love to trace the characters
of men in the sports of children, I may mention that my character
for sobriety, if not for water-drinking, has continued through

* In Gay's Fables.

When Richard Edgeworth encouraged his daughter Maria's literary
tastes, he was doubtless mindful how much pleasure and support his
own mother had derived from studying the best authors; and when we
read later of the affectionate terms on which Maria stood with her
various stepmothers and their families, we cannot help thinking that
she must have inherited at least one of the beautiful traits in her
grandmother's character which Richard Edgeworth especially dwells
on: 'She had the most generous disposition that I ever met with; not
only that common generosity, which parts with money, or money's
worth, freely, and almost without the right hand knowing what the
left hand doeth; but she had also an entire absence of selfish
consideration. Her own wishes or opinions were never pursued merely
because they were her own; the ease and comfort of everybody about
her were necessary for her well-being. Every distress, as far as her
fortune, or her knowledge, or her wit or eloquence could reach, was
alleviated or removed; and, above all, she could forgive, and
sometimes even forget injuries.'

Richard's taste for science early showed itself, when at seven years
old his curiosity was excited by an electric battery which was
applied to his mother's paralysed side. He says:--

'At this time electricity was but little known in Ireland, and its
fame as a cure for palsy had been considerably magnified. It, as
usual, excited some sensation in the paralytic limbs on the first
trials. One of the experiments on my mother failed of producing a
shock, and Mr. Deane seemed at a loss to account for it. I had
observed that the wire which was used to conduct the electric fluid,
had, as it hung in a curve from the instrument to my mother's arm,
touched the hinge of a table which was in the way, and I had the
courage to mention this circumstance, which was the real cause of

It was when he was eight years old, and while travelling with his
father, that his attention was caught by 'a man carrying a machine
five or six feet in diameter, of an oval form, and composed of
slender ribs of steel. I begged my father to inquire what it was. We
were told that it was the skeleton of a lady's hoop. It was
furnished with hinges, which permitted it to fold together in a
small compass, so that more than two persons might sit on one seat
of a coach--a feat not easily performed, when ladies were
encompassed with whalebone hoops of six feet extent. My curiosity
was excited by the first sight of this machine, probably more than
another child's might have been, because previous agreeable
associations had given me some taste for mechanics, which was still
a little further increased by the pleasure I took in examining this
glittering contrivance. Thus even the most trivial incidents in
childhood act reciprocally as cause and effect in forming our

It was in 1754 that Mrs. Edgeworth, continuing much out of health,
resolved to consult a certain Lord Trimblestone, who had been very
successful in curing various complaints. Lord Trimblestone received
Mr. and Mrs. Edgeworth most cordially and hospitably, and though he
could not hope to cure her, recommended some palliatives. He had
more success with another lady whose disorder was purely nervous.
His treatment of her was so original that I must quote it at

'Instead of a grave and forbidding physician, her host, she found,
was a man of most agreeable manners. Lady Trimblestone did
everything in her power to entertain her guest, and for two or three
days the demon of ennui was banished. At length the lady's vapours
returned; everything appeared changed. Melancholy brought on a
return of alarming nervous complaints--convulsions of the limbs
--perversion of the understanding--a horror of society; in short,
all the complaints that are to be met with in an advertisement
enumerating the miseries of a nervous patient. In the midst of one
of her most violent fits, four mutes, dressed in white, entered her
apartment; slowly approaching her, they took her without violence in
their arms, and without giving her time to recollect herself,
conveyed her into a distant chamber hung with black and lighted with
green tapers. From the ceiling, which was of a considerable height,
a swing was suspended, in which she was placed by the mutes, so as
to be seated at some distance from the ground. One of the mutes set
the swing in motion; and as it approached one end of the room, she
was opposed by a grim menacing figure armed with a huge rod of
birch. When she looked behind her, she saw a similar figure at the
other end of the room, armed in the same manner. The terror,
notwithstanding the strange circumstances which surrounded her, was
not of that sort which threatens life; but every instant there was
an immediate hazard of bodily pain. After some time, the mutes
appeared again, with great composure took the lady out of the swing,
and conducted her to her apartment. When she had reposed some time,
a servant came to inform her that tea was ready. Fear of what might
be the consequence of a refusal prevented her from declining to
appear. No notice was taken of what had happened, and the evening
and the next day passed without any attack of her disorder. On the
third day the vapours returned--the mutes reappeared--the menacing
flagellants again affrighted her, and again she enjoyed a remission
of her complaints. By degrees the fits of her disorder became less
frequent, the ministration of her tormentors less necessary, and in
time the habits of hypochondriacism were so often interrupted, and
such a new series of ideas was introduced into her mind, that she
recovered perfect health, and preserved to the end of her life
sincere gratitude for her adventurous physician.'

Three years were spent by Richard at Corpus Christi College, Oxford,
while his vacations were often passed at Bath by the wish of his
father, who was anxious that his son should be introduced to good
society at an early age. It was there that Richard saw Beau Nash,'
the popular monarch of Bath,' and also 'the remains of the
celebrated Lord Chesterfield. I looked in vain for that fire, which
we expect to see in the eye of a man of wit and genius. He was
obviously unhappy, and a melancholy spectacle.' Of the young ladies
he says: 'I soon perceived that those who made the best figure in
the ballroom were not always qualified to please in conversation; I
saw that beauty and grace were sometimes accompanied by a frivolous
character, by disgusting envy, or despicable vanity. All this I had
read of in poetry and prose, but there is a wide difference,
especially among young people, between what is read and related, and
what is actually seen. Books and advice make much more impression in
proportion as we grow older. We find by degrees that those who lived
before us have recorded as the result of their experience the very
things that we observe to be true.'

It was while still at college that he married Miss Elers without
waiting for his father's consent; he soon found that his young wife
did not sympathise with his pursuits; but he adds, 'Though I
heartily repented my folly, I determined to bear with firmness and
temper the evil, which I had brought upon myself. Perhaps pride had
some share in my resolution.'

He had a son before he was twenty, and soon afterwards took his wife
to Edgeworth Town to introduce her to his parents; but a few days
after his arrival his mother, who had long been an invalid, felt
that her end was approaching, and calling him to her bedside, told
him, with a sort of pleasure, that she felt she should die before
night. She added: 'If there is a state of just retribution in
another world, I must be happy, for I have suffered during the
greatest part of my life, and I know that I did not deserve it by my
thoughts or actions.'

Her dying advice to him was,'"My son, learn how to say No." She
warned me further of an error into which, from the vivacity of my
temper, I was most likely to fall. "Your inventive faculty," said
she, "will lead you eagerly into new plans; and you may be dazzled
by some new scheme before you have finished, or fairly tried what
you had begun. Resolve to finish; never procrastinate."'


It was in 1765, while stopping at Chester and examining a mechanical
exhibition there, that Edgeworth first heard of Dr. Darwin, who had
lately invented a carriage which could turn in a small compass
without danger of upsetting. Richard on hearing this determined to
try his hand on coach building, and had a handsome phaeton
constructed upon the same principle; this he showed in London to the
Society for the Encouragement of Arts, and mentioned that he owed
the original idea to Dr. Darwin. He then wrote to the latter
describing the reception of his invention, and was invited to his
house. The doctor was out when he arrived at Lichfield, but Mrs.
Darwin received him, and after some conversation on books and prints
asked him to drink tea. He discovered later that Dr. Darwin had
imagined him to be a coachmaker, but that Mrs. Darwin had found out
the mistake. 'When supper was nearly finished, a loud rapping at the
door announced the doctor. There was a bustle in the hall, which
made Mrs. Darwin get up and go to the door. Upon her exclaiming that
they were bringing in a dead man, I went to the hall: I saw some
persons, directed by one whom I guessed to be Dr. Darwin, carrying a
man, who appeared motionless. "He is not dead," said Dr. Darwin. "He
is only dead drunk. I found him," continued the doctor, "nearly
suffocated in a ditch; I had him lifted into my carriage, and
brought hither, that we might take care of him to-night." Candles
came, and what was the surprise of the doctor and of Mrs. Darwin to
find that the person whom he had saved was Mrs. Darwin's brother!
who, for the first time in his life, as I was assured, had been
intoxicated in this manner, and who would undoubtedly have perished
had it not been for Dr. Darwin's humanity.

'During this scene I had time to survey my new friend, Dr. Darwin.
He was a large man, fat, and rather clumsy; but intelligence and
benevolence were painted in his countenance. He had a considerable
impediment in his speech, a defect which is in general painful to
others; but the doctor repaid his auditors so well for making them
wait for his wit or his knowledge, that he seldom found them

At Lichfield he met Mr. Bolton of Snow Hill, Birmingham, who asked
him to his house, and showed him over the principal manufactories of
Birmingham, where he further improved his knowledge of practical
mechanics. His time was now principally devoted to inventions; he
received a silver medal in 1768 from the Society of Arts for a
perambulator, as he calls it, an instrument for measuring land. This
is a curious instance of the changed use of a word, as we now
associate perambulators with babies. In 1769 he received the
Society's gold medal for various machines, and about this time
produced what might have been the forerunner of the bicycle, 'a huge
hollow wheel made very light, withinside of which, in a barrel of
six feet diameter, a man should walk. Whilst he stepped thirty
inches, the circumference of the large wheel, or rather wheels,
would revolve five feet on the ground; and as the machine was to
roll on planks, and on a plane somewhat inclined, when once the vis
inertia of the machine should be overcome, it would carry on the man
within it as fast as he could possibly walk. ... It was not
finished; I had not yet furnished it with the means of stopping or
moderating its motion. A young lad got into it, his companions
launched it on a path which led gently down hill towards a very
steep chalk-pit. This pit was at such a distance as to be out of
their thoughts when they set the wheel in motion. On it ran. The lad
withinside plied his legs with all his might. The spectators who at
first stood still to behold the operation were soon alarmed by the
shouts of their companion, who perceived his danger. The vehicle
became quite ungovernable; the velocity increased as it ran down
hill. Fortunately, the boy contrived to jump from his rolling prison
before it reached the chalk-pit; but the wheel went on with such
velocity as to outstrip its pursuers, and, rolling over the edge of
the precipice, it was dashed to pieces.

'The next day, when I came to look for my machine, intending to try
it upon some planks, which had been laid for it, I found, to my no
small disappointment, that the object of all my labours and my hopes
was lying at the bottom of a chalk-pit, broken into a thousand
pieces. I could not at that time afford to construct another wheel
of that sort, and I cannot therefore determine what might have been
the success of my scheme.'

He goes on to say: 'I shall mention a sailing carriage that I tried
on this common. The carriage was light, steady, and ran with amazing
velocity One day, when I was preparing for a sail in it with my
friend and schoolfellow, Mr. William Foster, my wheel-boat escaped
from its moorings just as we were going to step on board. With the
utmost difficulty we overtook it; and as I saw three or four
stage-coaches on the road, and feared that this sailing chariot
might frighten their horses, I, at the hazard of my life, got into
my carriage while it was under full sail, and then, at a favourable
part of the road, I used the means I had of guiding it easily out of
the way. But the sense of the mischief which must have ensued if I
had not succeeded in getting into the machine at the proper place,
and stopping it at the right moment, was so strong, as to deter me
from trying any more experiments on this carriage in such a
dangerous place.'

I have already given the changed use of the word perambulator. As an
example of the different use of a word in the last century, I may
mention telegraph, by which he means signalling either by moving
wooden arms or by showing lights. This mode of conveying a message
he first applied in order to win a wager: 'A famous match was at
that time pending at Newmarket between two horses that were in every
respect as nearly equal as possible. Lord March, one evening at
Ranelagh, expressed his regret to Sir Francis Delaval that he was
not able to attend Newmarket at the next meeting. "I am obliged,"
said he, "to stay in London; I shall, however, be at the Turf
Coffee-house; I shall station fleet horses on the road to bring me
the earliest intelligence of the event of the race, and I shall
manage my bets accordingly."

'I asked at what time in the evening he expected to know who was
winner. He said about nine in the evening. I asserted that I should
be able to name the winning horse at four o'clock in the afternoon.
Lord March heard my assertion with so much incredulity, as to urge
me to defend myself; and at length I offered to lay five hundred
pounds that I would in London name the winning horse at Newmarket at
five o'clock in the evening of the day when the great match in
question was to be run.'

The wager was however given up when Edgeworth told Lord March that
he did not depend upon the fleetness or strength of horses to carry
the desired intelligence.

His friend, Sir Francis Delaval, immediately put up under his
directions an apparatus between his house and part of Piccadilly. He
adds: 'I also set up a night telegraph between a house which Sir
Francis Delaval occupied at Hampstead, and one to which I had access
in Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury. This nocturnal telegraph
answered well, but was too expensive for common use.' Later on he
writes to Dr. Darwin:

'I have been employed for two months in experiments upon a telegraph
of my own invention. By day, at eighteen or twenty miles distance, I
show, by four pointers, isosceles triangles, twenty feet high, on
four imaginary circles, eight imaginary points, which correspond
with the figures 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, so that seven thousand
different combinations are formed, of four figures each, which refer
to a dictionary of words. By night, white lights are used.'

Dr. Darwin in reply says: 'The telegraph you described, I dare say,
would answer the purpose. It would be like a giant wielding his long
arms and talking with his fingers: and those long arms might be
covered with lamps in the night.'

It is curious now to read Mr. Edgeworth's words: 'I will venture to
predict that it will at some future period be generally practised,
not only in these islands, but that it will in time become a means
of communication between the most distant parts of the world,
wherever arts and sciences have civilised mankind.'

It was some years later, in 1794, when Ireland was in a disturbed
state, and threatened by a French invasion, that Edgeworth laid his
scheme for telegraphs before the Government, and offered to keep
open communication between Dublin and Cork if the Government would
pay the expense. He made a trial between two hills fifteen miles
apart, and a message was sent and an answer received in five
minutes. The Government paid little attention to his offer, and
finally refused it. Two months later the French were on the Irish
coasts, and great confusion and distress was occasioned by the want
of accurate news. 'The troops were harassed with contradictory
orders and forced marches for want of intelligence, and from that
indecision, which must always be the consequence of insufficient
information. Many days were spent in terror, and in fruitless wishes
for an English fleet. ... At last Ireland was providentially saved
by the change of the wind, which prevented the enemy from effecting
a landing on her coast.'

Another of Edgeworth's inventions was a one-wheeled carriage adapted
to go over narrow roads; it was made fast by shafts to the horse's
sides, and was furnished with two weights or counterpoises that hung
below the shafts. In this carriage he travelled to Birmingham and
astonished the country folk on the way.

I must now give a sketch of Edgeworth's matrimonial adventures. They
began after a strange fashion, when, at fifteen, he and some young
companions had a merry-making at his sister's marriage, and one of
the party putting on a white cloak as a surplice, proposed to marry
Richard to a young lady who was his favourite partner. With the door
key as a ring the mock parson gabbled over a few words of the
marriage service. When Richard's father heard of this mock marriage
he was so alarmed that he treated it seriously, and sued and got a
divorce for his son in the ecclesiastical court.

It was while visiting Dr. Darwin at Lichfield that Edgeworth made
some friendships which influenced his whole life. At the Bishop's
Palace, where Canon Seward lived, he first met Miss Honora Sneyd,
who was brought up as a daughter by Mrs. Seward. He was much struck
by her beauty and by her mental gifts, and says: 'Now for the first
time in my life, I saw a woman that equalled the picture of
perfection which existed in my imagination. I had long suffered much
from the want of that cheerfulness in a wife, without which marriage
could not be agreeable to a man with such a temper as mine. I had
borne this evil, I believe, with patience; but my not being happy at
home exposed me to the danger of being too happy elsewhere.' He
describes in another place his first wife as 'prudent, domestic, and
affectionate; but she was not of a cheerful temper. She lamented
about trifles; and the lamenting of a female with whom we live does
not render home delightful.'

His friend, Mr. Day,* was also intimate at the Palace, but did not
admire Honora at that time (1770) as much as Edgeworth did. Mr. Day
thought 'she danced too well; she had too much an air of fashion in
her dress and manners; and her arms were not sufficiently round and
white to please him.'

* The author of Sandford and Merton.

He was at this time much preoccupied with an orphan, Sabrina Sydney,
whom he had taken from the Foundling Hospital, and whom he was
educating with the idea of marrying her ultimately. Honora, on the
other hand, had received the addresses of Mr. Andre, afterwards
Major Andre, who was shot as a spy during the American War. But want
of fortune caused the parents on both sides to discourage this
attachment, and it was broken off.

It was in 1771 that Mr. Day, having placed Sabrina at a
boarding-school, became conscious of Honora's attractions, and began
to think of marrying her. 'He wrote me one of the most eloquent
letters I ever read,' says Edgeworth, 'to point out to me the folly
and meanness of indulging a hopeless passion for any woman, let her
merit be what it might; declaring at the same time that he "never
would marry so as to divide himself from his chosen friend. Tell
me," said he, "have you sufficient strength of mind totally to
subdue love that cannot be indulged with peace, or honour, or

'I answered that nothing but trial could make me acquainted with the
influence which reason might have over my feelings; that I would go
with my family to Lichfield, where I could be in the company of the
dangerous object; and that I would faithfully acquaint him with all
my thoughts and feelings. We went to Lichfield, and stayed there for
some time with Mr. Day. I saw him continually in company with Honora
Sneyd. I saw that he was received with approbation, and that he
looked forward to marrying her at no very distant period. When I saw
this, I can affirm with truth that I felt pleasure, and even
exultation. I looked to the happiness of two people for whom I had
the most perfect esteem, without the intervention of a single
sentiment or feeling that could make me suspect I should ever repent
having been instrumental to their union.'

Later on Mr. Day wrote a long letter to Honora, describing his
scheme of life (which was very peculiar), and his admiration for
her, and asking whether she could return his affections and be
willing to lead the secluded life which was his ideal. This letter
he gave to Edgeworth to deliver. 'I took the packet; my friend
requested that I would go to the Palace and deliver it myself. I
went, and I delivered it with real satisfaction to Honora. She
desired me to come next morning for an answer. ... I gave the answer
to Mr. Day, and left him to peruse it by himself. When I returned, I
found him actually in a fever. The letter contained an excellent
answer to his arguments in favour of the rights of men, and a clear,
dispassionate view of the rights of women.

'Miss Honora Sneyd would not admit the unqualified control of a
husband over all her actions. She did not feel that seclusion from
society was indispensably necessary to preserve female virtue, or to
secure domestic happiness. Upon terms of reasonable equality she
supposed that mutual confidence might best subsist. She said that,
as Mr. Day had decidedly declared his determination to live in
perfect seclusion from what is usually called the world, it was fit
she should decidedly declare that she would not change her present
mode of life, with which she had no reason to be dissatisfied, for
any dark and untried system that could be proposed to her. . . . One
restraint, which had acted long and steadily upon my feelings, was
now removed; my friend was no longer attached to Miss Honora Sneyd.
My former admiration of her returned with unabated ardour. . . .
This admiration was unknown to everybody but Mr. Day; ... he
represented to me the danger, the criminality of such an attachment;
I knew that there is but one certain method of escaping such dangers
--flight. I resolved to go abroad.'


Mr. Day and Edgeworth went to France, and the latter spent nearly
two years at Lyons, where his wife joined him. Here he found
interest and occupation in some engineering works by which the
course of the Rhone was to be diverted and some land gained to
enlarge the city, which lies hemmed in between the Rhone and the
Saone. When the works were nearly completed, an old boatman warned
Edgeworth 'that a tremendous flood might be expected in ten days
from the mountains of Savoy. I represented this to the company, and
proposed to employ more men, and to engage, by increased wages,
those who were already at work, to continue every day till it was
dark, but I could not persuade them to a sudden increase of their
expenditure. . . . At five or six o'clock one morning, I was
awakened by a prodigious noise on the ramparts under my windows. I
sprang out of bed, and saw numbers of people rushing towards the
Rhone. I foreboded the disaster! dressed myself, and hastened to the
river. . . When I reached the Rhone, I beheld a tremendous sight!
All the work of several weeks, carried on daily by nearly a hundred
men, had been swept away. Piles, timber, barrows, tools, and large
parts of expensive machinery were all carried down the torrent, and
 thrown in broken pieces upon the banks. The principal part of the
machinery had been erected upon an island opposite the rampart; here
there still remained some valuable timber and engines, which might,
probably, be saved by immediate exertion. The old boatman, whom I
have mentioned before, was at the water-side; I asked him to row me
over to the island, that I might give orders how to preserve what
remained belonging to the company. My old friend, the boatman,
represented to me, with great kindness, the imminent danger to which
I should expose myself. "Sir," he added, "the best swimmer in Lyons,
unless he were one of the Rhone-men, could not save himself if the
boat overset, and you cannot swim at all."

'"Very true," I replied, "but the boat will not overset; and both my
duty and my honour require that I should run every hazard for those
who have put so much trust in me." My old boatman took me over
safely, and left me on the island; but in returning by himself, the
poor fellow's little boat was caught by a wave, and it skimmed to
the bottom like a slate or an oyster-shell that is thrown obliquely
into the water. A general exclamation was uttered from the shore;
but, in a few minutes, the boatman was seen sitting upon a row of
piles in the middle of the river, wringing his long hair with great

'I have mentioned this boatman repeatedly as an old man, and such
he was to all appearance; his hair was grey, his face wrinkled, his
back bent, and all his limbs and features had the appearance of
those of a man of sixty, yet his real age was but twenty-seven
years. He told me that he was the oldest boatman on the Rhone; that
his younger brothers had been worn out before they were twenty-five
years old.'

The French society at Lyons included many agreeable people; but
Edgeworth singles out from among them, as his special friend, the
Marquis de la Poype, who understood English, and was well acquainted
with English literature. He pressed Edgeworth to pay him a visit at
his Chateau in Dauphiny, and the latter adds: 'I promised to pass
with him some of the Christmas holidays. An English gentleman went
with me. We arrived in the evening at a very antique building,
surrounded by a moat, and with gardens laid out in the style which
was common in England in the beginning of the last century. These
were enclosed by high walls, intersected by canals, and cut into
parterres by sandy walks. We were ushered into a good drawing-room,
the walls of which were furnished with ancient tapestry. When dinner
was served, we crossed a large and lofty hall, that was hung round
with armour, and with the spoils of the chase; we passed into a
moderate-sized eating-room, in which there was no visible fireplace,
but which was sufficiently heated by invisible stoves. The want of
the cheerful light of a fire cast a gloom over our repast, and the
howling of the wind did not contribute to lessen this dismal effect.
But the dinner was good, and the wine, which was produced from the
vineyard close to the house, was excellent. Madame de la Poype, and
two or three of her friends, who were on a visit at her house,
conversed agreeably, and all feeling of winter and seclusion was

'At night, when I was shown into my chamber, the footman asked if I
chose to have my bed warmed. I inquired whether it was well aired;
he assured me, with a tone of integrity, that I had nothing to fear,
for "that it had not been slept in for half a year." The French are
not afraid of damp beds, but they have a great dread of catching
some infectious disease from sleeping in any bed in which a stranger
may have recently lain.

'My bedchamber at this chateau was hung with tapestry, and as the
footman assured me of the safety of my bed, he drew aside a piece of
the tapestry, which discovered a small recess in the wall that held
a grabat, in which my servant was invited to repose. My servant was
an Englishman, whose indignation nothing but want of words to
express it could have concealed; he deplored my unhappy lot; as for
himself, he declared, with a look of horror, that nothing could
induce him to go into such a pigeon-hole. I went to visit the
accommodations of my companion, Mr. Rosenhagen. I found him in a
spacious apartment hung all round with tapestry, so that there was
no appearance of any windows. I was far from being indifferent to
the comfort of a good dry bed; but poor Mr. Rosenhagen, besides
being delicate, was hypochondriac. With one of the most rueful
countenances I ever beheld, he informed me that he must certainly
die of cold. His teeth chattered whilst he pointed to the tapestry
at one end of the room, which waved to and fro with the wind; and,
looking behind it, I found a large, stone casement window without a
single pane of glass, or shutters of any kind. He determined not to
take off his clothes; but I, gaining courage from despair,
undressed, went to bed, and never slept better in my life, or ever
awakened in better health or spirits than at ten o'clock the next

'After breakfast the Marquis took us to visit the Grotto de la
Baume, which was at the distance of not more than two leagues from
his house. We were most hospitably received at the house of an old
officer, who was Seigneur of the place. His hall was more amply
furnished with implements of the chase and spoils of the field than
any which I have ever seen, or ever heard described. There were nets
of such dimensions, and of such strength, as were quite new to me;
bows, cross-bows, of prodigious power; guns of a length and weight
that could not be wielded by the strength of modern arms; some with
old matchlocks, and with rests to be stuck into the ground, and
others with wheel-locks; besides modern fire-arms of all
descriptions; horns of deer, and tusks of wild boars, were placed in
compartments in such numbers, that every part of the walls was
covered either with arms or trophies.

'The master of the mansion, in bulk, dress, and general appearance,
was suited to the style of life which might be expected from what we
had seen at our entrance. He was above six feet high, strong, and
robust, though upwards of sixty years of age; he wore a leather
jerkin, and instead of having his hair powdered, and tied in a long
queue, according to the fashion of the day, he wore his own short
grey locks; his address was plain, frank, and hearty, but by no
means coarse or vulgar. He was of an ancient family, but of a
moderate fortune.' Here Edgeworth adds a long description of the
grotto and its stalactites. They returned to dine with the old
officer at his castle.

'Our dinner was in its arrangement totally unlike anything I had
seen in France, or anywhere else. It consisted of a monstrous, but
excellent, wild boar ham; this, and a large savoury pie of different
sorts of game, were the principal dishes; which, with some common
vegetables, amply satisfied our hunger. The blunt hospitality of
this rural baron was totally different from that which is to be met
with in remote parts of the country of England. It was more the
open-heartedness of a soldier than the roughness of a squire.'

During the winter of 1772 Edgeworth was busy making plans for
flour-mills to be erected on a piece of land gained from the river.
But his stay in Lyons was cut short as the news reached him in March
1773 that Mrs. Edgeworth, who had returned to England for her
confinement, had died after giving birth to a daughter. He travelled
home with his son through Burgundy and Paris, and on reaching
England arranged to meet Mr. Day at Woodstock. His friend greeted
him with the words,' Have you heard anything of Honora Sneyd ?'

Mr. Edgeworth continues: 'I assured him that I had heard nothing but
what he had told me when he was in France; that she had some disease
in her eyes, and that it was feared she would lose her sight.' I
added that I was resolved to offer her my hand, even if she had
undergone such a dreadful privation.

'"My dear friend," said he, "while virtue and honour forbade you to
think of her, I did everything in my power to separate you; but now
that you are both at liberty, I have used the utmost expedition to
reach you on your arrival in England, that I might be the first to
tell you that Honora is in perfect health and beauty, improved in
person and in mind; and, though surrounded by lovers, still her own

'At this moment I enjoyed the invaluable reward of my steady
adherence to the resolution which I had formed on leaving England,
never to keep up the slightest intercourse with her by letter,
message, or inquiry. I enjoyed also the proof my friend gave me of
his generous affection. Mr. Day had now come several hundred miles
for the sole purpose of telling me of the fair prospects before me.
. . .

'A new era in my life was now beginning. ... I went directly to
Lichfield, to Dr. Darwin's. The doctor was absent, but his sister,
an elderly maiden lady, who then kept house for him, received me

'"You will excuse me," said the good lady, "for not making tea for
you this evening, as I am engaged to the Miss Sneyds; but perhaps
you will accompany me, as I am sure you will be welcome."

'It was summer--We found the drawing-room at Mr. Sneyd's filled by
all my former acquaintances and friends, who had, without concert
among themselves, assembled as if to witness the meeting of two
persons, whose sentiments could scarcely be known even to the
parties themselves.

'I have been told that the last person whom I addressed or saw, when
I came into the room, was Honora Sneyd. This I do not remember; but
I am perfectly sure that, when I did see her, she appeared to me
most lovely, even more lovely than when we parted. What her
sentiments might be it was impossible to divine.

'My addresses were, after some time, permitted and approved; and,
with the consent of her father, Miss Honora Sneyd and I were married
(1773), by special licence, in the ladies' choir, in the Cathedral
at Lichfield. Immediately after the marriage ceremony we left
Lichfield, and went to Ireland.'

Now followed what was perhaps the happiest period of Mr. Edgeworth's
life, but it was uneventful. The young couple saw little society
while living at Edgeworth Town; and after a three years' residence
in Ireland, they visited England to rub off the rust of isolation in
contact with their intellectual friends. He says: 'We certainly
found a considerable change for the better as to comfort,
convenience, and conversation among our English acquaintance. So
much so, that we were induced to remain in England. . . . My mind
was kept up to the current of speculation and discovery in the world
of science, and continual hints for reflection and invention were
suggested to me. . . . My attention was about this period turned to
clockwork, and I invented several pieces of mechanism for measuring
time. These, with the assistance of a good workman, I executed
successfully. I then (in 1776) finished a clock on a new
construction. Its accuracy was tried at the Observatory at Oxford
. . . and it is now (in 1809) going well at my house in Ireland.'

Edgeworth now enjoyed the pleasure of having an intelligent
companion, and says: 'My wife had an eager desire for knowledge of
all sorts, and, perhaps to please me, became an excellent theoretic
mechanic. Mechanical amusements occupied my mornings, and I
dedicated my evenings to the best books upon various subjects. I
strenuously endeavoured to improve my own understanding, and to
communicate whatever I knew to my wife. Indeed, while we read and
conversed together during the long winter evenings, the clearness of
her judgment assisted me in every pursuit of literature in which I
was engaged; as her understanding had arrived at maturity before she
had acquired any strong prejudices on historical subjects, she
derived uncommon advantage from books.

'We had frequent visitors from town; and as our acquaintance were
people of literature and science, conversation with them exercised
and arranged her thoughts upon whatever subject they were employed.
Nor did we neglect the education of our children: Honora had under
her care, at this time, two children of her own, and three of mine
by my former marriage.'

Edgeworth and his friend Mr. Day were both great admirers of
Rousseau's Emile and of his scheme of bringing up children to be
hardy, fearless, and independent. Edgeworth brought up his eldest
boy after this fashion; but though he succeeded in making him hardy,
and training him in 'all the virtues of a child bred in the hut of a
savage, and all the knowledge of things which could well be acquired
at an early age by a boy bred in civilised society,' yet he adds:
'He was not disposed to obey; his exertions generally arose from his
own will; and, though he was what is commonly called good-tempered
and good-natured, though he generally pleased by his looks,
demeanour, and conversation, he had too little deference for others,
and he showed an invincible dislike to control.'

In passing through Paris, Edgeworth and Mr. Day went to see
Rousseau, who took a good deal of notice of Edgeworth's son; he
judged him to be a boy of abilities, and he thought from his answers
that 'history can be advantageously learned by children, if it be
taught reasonably and not merely by rote.' 'But,' said Rousseau, 'I
remark in your son a propensity to party prejudice, which will be a
great blemish in his character.'

'I asked how he could in so short a time form so decided an opinion.
He told me that, whenever my son saw a handsome horse, or a handsome
carriage in the street, he always exclaimed, "That is an English
horse or an English carriage!" And that, even down to a pair of
shoe-buckles, everything that appeared to be good of its kind was
always pronounced by him to be English. "his sort of party
prejudice," said Rousseau, "if suffered to become a ruling motive in
his mind, will lead to a thousand evils; for not only will his own
country, his own village or club, or even a knot of his private
acquaintance, be the object of his exclusive admiration; but he will
be governed by his companions, whatever they may be, and they will
become the arbiters of destiny."'

It was while at Lyons that Edgeworth realised thaf Rousseau's system
of education was not altogether satisfactory. He says: 'I had begun
his education upon the mistaken principles of Rousseau; and I had
pursued them with as much steadiness, and, so far as they could be
advantageous, with as much success as I could desire. Whatever
regarded the health, strength, and agility of my son had amply
justified the system of my master; but I found myself entangled in
difficulties with regard to my child's mind and temper. He was
generous, brave, good-natured, and what is commonly called
goodtempered; but he was scarcely to be controlled. It was difficult
to urge him to anything that did not suit his fancy, and more
difficult to restrain him from what he wished to follow. In short,
he was self-willed, from a spirit of independence, which had been
inculcated by his early education, and which he cherished the more
from the inexperience of his own powers.

'I must here acknowledge, with deep regret, not only the error of a
theory, which I had adopted at a very early age, when older and
wiser persons than myself had been dazzled by the eloquence of
Rousseau; but I must also reproach myself with not having, after my
arrival in France, paid as much attention to my boy as I had done
in England, or as much as was necessary to prevent the formation of
those habits, which could never afterwards be eradicated.'

Edgeworth, finding that the tutor he had brought from England was
not able to control his son, resolved to send young Richard to
school at Lyons. The Jesuits had lately been dismissed, but the
Peres de L'Oratoire had taken charge of their Seminary, and to them
Edgeworth resolved to intrust his son, having been first assured by
the Superior that he would not attempt to convert the boy, and would
forbid the under-masters to do so. A certain Pere Jerome, however,
desired to make the boy a good Catholic; and the Superior frankly
told Edgeworth the circumstance, saying,'One day he took your boy
between his knees, and began from the beginning of things to teach
him what he ought to believe. "My little man," said he, "did you
ever hear of God?"


'"You know that, before He made the world, His Spirit brooded over
the vast deep, which was a great sea without shores, and without
bottom. Then He made this world out of earth."

'"Where did He find the earth ?" asked the boy.

'"At the bottom of the sea," replied Father Jerome.

'"But," said the boy, "you told me just now that the sea had no bottom!"'

The Superior of the College des Oratoires concluded, 'You may, sir,
I think, be secure that your son, when capable of making such a
reply, is in no great danger of becoming a Catholic from the
lectures of such profound teachers as these.'

This son, having no turn for scholarship, ultimately went to sea, a
life which his hardihood and fearlessness of danger peculiarly
fitted him for. Some years afterwards he married an American lady
and settled in South Carolina.

It was, perhaps, a failure in this first experiment in education
which made Edgeworth devote so much care to the training of his
younger children.


After six years of happiness Honora's health gave way, and
consumption set in; some months of anxious nursing followed
before  she died, to the great grief of her husband. She left
several children, and her dying wish was that he should marry
her sister Elizabeth.

Mr. Edgeworth was, at first, benumbed by grief, and unable to
take an interest in his former pursuits; but in the society of
his wife's family he gradually recovered cheerfulness, and
began to consider his wife's dying advice to marry her sister.
He remarks: 'Nothing 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
a situation which has constituted his former felicity.

'I felt that Honora had judged wisely, and from a thorough
knowledge of my character, when she had advised me to marry

After these observations it is not surprising to hear that
Edgeworth became engaged to Elizabeth Sneyd in the autumn of
1780. They were staying for the marriage at Brereton Hall in
Cheshire, and their banns were published in the parish church;
but on the very morning appointed for the marriage, the
clergyman received a letter which roused so many scruples in
his mind as to make Edgeworth think it cruel to press him to
perform the ceremony. The Rector of St. Andrew's, Holborn, was
less scrupulous, and they were married there on Christmas Day

The following summer Mr. and Mrs. Edgeworth rented Davenport
Hall in Cheshire, where they lived a quiet retired life,
spending a good deal of their time with their friends Sir
Charles and Lady Holte at Brereton. Edgeworth amused himself
by making a clock for the steeple at Brereton, and a chronometer of
a singular construction, which, he says,'I intended to present to
the King ... to add to His Majesty's collection of uncommon clocks
and watches which I had seen at St. James's.'

The autobiography from which I have been quoting was begun by
Edgeworth when he was about sixty-three, and it breaks off
abruptly at the date of 1781. The illness which interrupted
his task did not, however, prove fatal, for he lived nearly
ten years afterwards.

His daughter Maria takes up the narrative, and in her
introduction she says, 'In continuing these Memoirs, I shall
endeavour to follow the example that my father has set me of
simplicity and of truth.'

The following memorandum was found in Edgeworth's handwriting:
'In the year 1782 I returned to Ireland, with a firm determination
to dedicate the remainder of my life to the improvement of my
estate, and to the education of my children; and farther, with the
sincere hope of contributing to the amelioration of the inhabitants
of the country from which I drew my subsistence.'

When in the spring of 1768 Edgeworth visited Ireland with his
friend Mr. Day, the latter was surprised and disgusted by the
state of Dublin and of the country in general. He found 'the
streets of Dublin were wretchedly paved, and more dirty than
can be easily imagined.' Edgeworth adds: 'As we passed through
the country, the hovels in which the poor were lodged, which
were then far more wretched than they are at present, or than
they have been for the last twenty years, the black tracts of
bog, and the unusual smell of the turf fuel, were to him
never-ceasing topics of reproach and lamentation. Mr. Day's
deep-seated prejudice in favour of savage life was somewhat
shaken by this view of want and misery, which philosophers of
a certain class in London and Paris chose at that time to
dignify by the name of simplicity. The modes of living in the
houses of the gentry were much the same in Ireland as in
England. This surprised my friend. He observed, that if there
was any difference, it was that people of similar fortune did
not restrain themselves equally in both countries to the same
prudent economy; but that every gentleman in Ireland, of two
or three thousand pounds a year, lived in a certain degree of
luxury and show that would be thought presumptuous in persons
of the same fortune in England.

'On our journey to my father's house, I had occasion to vote
at a contested election in one of the counties through which
we passed. Here a scene of noise, riot, confusion, and
drunkenness was exhibited, not superior indeed in depravity
and folly, but of a character or manner so different from what
my friend had even seen in his own country, that he fell into
a profound melancholy.'

It was to remedy this wretched state of things in Ireland that
Edgeworth resolved in 1782 to devote his energies.

It is curious to read his account of the relations between landlord
and tenant in Ireland at this date. He soon learned that firmness
was required in his dealings with his tenants as well as kindness.
'He omitted a variety of old feudal remains of fines and penalties;
but there was one clause, which he continued in every lease with a
penalty attached to it, called an alienation fine--a fine of so much
an acre upon the tenant's reletting any part of the devised land.'

He wisely resolved to receive his rents himself, and to avoid the
intervention of any agent or driver ('a person who drives and
impounds cattle for rent or arrears'). 'In every case where the
tenant had improved the land, or even where he had been industrious,
though unsuccessful, his claim to preference over every new
proposer, his tenanfs right, as it is called, was admitted. But the
mere plea of "I have lived under your Honour, or your Honour's
father or grandfather" or "I have been on your Honour's estate so
many years" he disregarded. Farms, originally sufficient for the
comfortable maintenance of a man, his wife, and family, had in many
cases been subdivided from generation to generation, the father
giving a bit of the land to each son to settle him. It was an
absolute impossibility that the land should ever be improved if let
in these miserable lots. Nor was it necessary that each son should
hold land, or advantageous that each should live on his "little
potato garden" without further exertion of mind or body.

'There was a continual struggle between landlord and tenant upon the
question of long and short leases. . . . The offer of immediate high
rent, or of fines to be paid down directly, tempted the landlord's
extravagance, or supplied his present necessities, at the expense of
his future interests. . . . Many have let for ninety-nine years;
and others, according to a form common in 'Ireland, for three lives,
renewable for ever, paying a small fine on the insertion of a new
life at the failure of each. These leases, in course of years, have
been found extremely disadvantageous to the landlord, the property
having risen so much in value that the original rent was absurdly

'The longest term my father ever gave,' says his daughter Maria,
'was thirty-one years, with one or sometimes two lives. He usually
gave one life, reserving to himself the option of adding another
--the son, perhaps, of the tenant--if he saw that the tenant
deserved it by his conduct. This sort of power to encourage and
reward in the hands of a landlord is advantageous in Ireland. It
acts as a motive for exertion; it keeps up the connection and
dependence which there ought to be between the different ranks,
without creating any servile habits, or leaving the improving tenant
insecure as to the fair reward of his industry.

'Edgeworth's plan was to take not that which, abstractedly viewed,
is the best possible course, but that which is the best the
circumstances will altogether allow.

'When the oppressive duty-work in Ireland was no longer claimed, and
no longer inserted in Irish leases, there arose  a difficulty to
gentlemen in getting labourers at certain times of  the year, when
all are anxious to work for themselves; for instance,  at the
seasons for cutting turf, setting potatoes, and getting home  the

'To provide against this difficulty, landlords adopted a system of
taking duty-work, in fact, in a new form. They had cottiers
(cottagers), day-labourers established in cottages, on their estate,
usually near their own residence. Many of these cabins were the
poorest habitations that can be imagined; and these were given rent
free, that is, the rent was to be worked out on whatever days, or on
whatever occasions, it was called for. The grazing for the cow, the
patch of land for flax, and the ridge or ridges of potato land were
also to be paid for in days' labour in the same manner. The
uncertainty of this tenure at will, that is, at the pleasure of the
landlord, with the rent in labour and time, variable also at his
pleasure or convenience, became rather more injurious to the tenant
than the former fixed mode of sacrificing so many days' duty-work,
even at the most hazardous seasons of the year.

'My father wished to have entirely avoided this cottager system; but
he was obliged to adopt a middle course. To his labourers he gave
comfortable cottages at a low rent, to be held at will from year to
year; but he paid them wages exactly the same as what they could
obtain elsewhere. Thus they were partly free and partly bound. They
worked as free labourers; but they were obliged to work, that they
might pay their rent. And their houses being better, and other
advantages greater, than they could obtain elsewhere, they had a
motive for industry and punctuality; thus their services and their
attachment were properly secured. . . . My father's indulgence as to
the time he allowed his tenantry for the payment of their rent was
unusually great. He left always a year's rent in their hands: this
was half a year more time than almost any other gentleman in our
part of the country allowed. . . . He was always very exact in
requiring that the rents should not, in their payments, pass beyond
the half-yearly days--the 25th of March and 29th of September. In
this point they knew his strictness so well that they seldom
ventured to go into arrear, and never did so with impunity. . . .
They would have cheated, loved, and despised a more easy landlord,
and his property would have gone to ruin, without either permanently
bettering their interests or their morals. He, therefore, took
especial care that they should be convinced of his strictness in
punishing as well as of his desire to reward.

'Where the offender was tenant, and the punisher landlord, it rarely
happened, even if the law reached the delinquent, that public
opinion sided with public justice. In Ireland it has been, time
immemorial, common with tenants, who have had advantageous bargains,
and who have no hopes of getting their leases renewed, to waste the
ground as much as possible; to break it up towards the end of the
term; or to overhold, that is, to keep possession of the land,
refusing to deliver it up.

'A tenant, who held a farm of considerable value, when his lease
was out, besought my father to permit him to remain on the farm for
another year, pleading that he had no other place to which he could,
at that season, it being winter, remove his large family. The
permission was granted; but at the end of the year, taking advantage
of this favour, he refused to give up the land. Proceedings at law
were immediately commenced against him; and it was in this case that
the first trial in Ireland was brought, on an act for recovering
double rent from a tenant for holding forcible possession after
notice to quit.

'This vexatious and unjust practice of tenants against landlords
had been too common, and had too long been favoured by the party
spirit of juries; who, being chiefly composed of tenants, had made
it a common cause, and a principle, if it could in any way be
avoided, never to give a verdict, as they said, against themselves.
But in this case the indulgent character of the landlord, combined
with the ability and eloquence of' his advocate, succeeded in moving
the jury--a verdict was obtained for the landlord. The double rent
was paid; and the fraudulent tenant was obliged to quit the country
unpitied. Real good was done by this example.'

Edgeworth objected strongly to a practice common among the gentry,
'to protect their tenants when they got into any difficulties by
disobeying the laws. Smuggling and illicit distilling seemed to be
privileged cases, where, the justice and expediency of the spirit of
the law being doubtful, escaping from the letter of it appeared but
a trial of ingenuity or luck. In cases that admitted of less doubt,
in the frequent breach of the peace from quarrels at fairs, rescuing
of cattle drivers for rent, or in other more serious outrages,
tenants still looked to their landlord for protection; and hoped,
even to the last, that his Honour's or his Lordship's interest would
get the fine taken off, the term of imprisonment shortened, or the
condemned criminal snatched from execution. He [Edgeworth] never
would, on any occasion, or for the persons he was known to like
best, interfere to protect, as it is called, that is, to screen, or
to obtain pardon for any one of his tenants or dependants, if they
had really infringed the laws, or had deserved punishment. . . . He
set an example of being scrupulous to the most exact degree as a
grand juror, both as to the money required for roads or for any
public works, and as to the manner in which it was laid out.

'To his character as a good landlord was soon added that he was a
real gentleman. This phrase, pronounced with well-known emphasis,
comprises a great deal in the opinion of the lower Irish. They seem
to have an instinct for the real gentleman, whom they distinguish,
if not at first sight, infallibly at first hearing, from every
pretender to the character. They observe that the real gentleman
bears himself most kindly, is always the most civil in speech, and
ever seems the most tender of the poor. . . .

'They soon began to rely upon his justice as a magistrate. This is
a point where, their interest being nearly concerned, they are
wonderfully quick and clearsighted; they soon discovered that Mr.
Edgeworth leaned neither to Protestant nor Catholic, to Presbyterian
nor Methodist; that he was not the favourer nor partial protector
of his own or any other man's followers. They found that the law of
the land was not in his hands an instrument of oppression, or
pretence for partiality. They discerned that he did even justice;
neither inclining to the people, for the sake of popularity; nor to
the aristocracy, for the sake of power. This was a thing so unusual,
that they could at first hardly believe that it was really what they

'Soon after his return to Ireland he set about improving a
considerable tract of land, reletting it at an advanced rent, which
gave the actual monied measure of his skill and success.' He also
wrote a paper on the draining and planting of bogs, in which he
gives minute directions for carrying out the work, for he was no
mere theorist, but experimented on his own property; and he was not
ashamed to own when he had made a mistake, but was constantly
learning from experience.

He had for a while to turn from peaceful occupations and take his
share in patriotic efforts for parliamentary refortn; this reform
was pressed on the parliament sitting in Dublin by a delegation from
a convention of the Irish volunteers. They were raised in 1778
during the American War, when England had not enough troops for the
defence of Ireland. The principal Irish nobility and gentry enrolled
themselves, and the force at length increased, till it numbered
50,000 men, under the command of officers of their own choosing. The
Irish patriots now felt their power, and used it with prudence and
energy. They obtained the repeal of many noxious laws--one in
particular was a penal statute passed in the reign of William III.
against the Catholics ordaining forfeiture of inheritance against
those Catholics who had been educated abroad.' At the pleasure of
any informer, it confiscated their estates to the next Protestant
heir; that statute further deprived Papists of the power of
obtaining any legal property by purchase; and, simply for
officiating in the service of his religion, any Catholic priest was
liable to be imprisoned for life. Some of these penalties had fallen
into disuse; but, as Mr. Dunning stated to the English House of
Commons, "many respectable Catholics still lived in fear of them,
and some actually paid contributions to persons who, on the strength
of this act, threatened them with prosecutions." Lord Shelburne
stated in the House of Lords "that even the most odious part of this
statute had been recently acted upon in the case of one Moloury, an
Irish priest, who had been informed against, apprehended, convicted,
and committed to prison, by means of the lowest and most despicable
of mankind, a common informing constable. The Privy Council used
efforts in behalf of the prisoner; but, in consequence of the
written law, the King himself could not give a pardon, and the
prisoner must have died in jail if Lord Shelburne and his colleagues
had not released him at their own risk."'

This law was repealed by the English House of Commons without a
negative, and only one Bishop opposed its repeal in the House of

Having won this victory, the Irish patriots continued their
campaign, and now sought to win general emancipation from the
legislative and commercial restrictions of England. It was in 1781
that the first convention of volunteer delegates met, and some
months after Mr. Grattan moved an address to the throne asserting
the legislative independence of Ireland. 'The address passed; the
repeal of a certain act, empowering England to legislate for
Ireland, followed; and the legislative independence of this country
was acknowledged.'

Edgeworth sympathised with the enthusiasm which prevailed throughout
Ireland at this time; but he was shrewd enough to see that what was
further required for the real benefit of the country was 'an
effectual reformation of the Irish House of Commons.'

The counties were insufficiently represented, and the boroughs were
venal. The Irish parliament was, in fact, an Oligarchy, and
Edgeworth realised this danger. He, however, wished the reform to be
carried on 'through the intervention of parliament,' while the more
extreme party insisted on sending delegates from the volunteers to a
convention in Dublin. This military convention 'met at the Royal
Exchange in Dublin, November the 9th, 1783--Parliament was then
sitting. An armed convention assembled in the capital, and sitting
at the same time with the Houses of Lords and Commons, deliberating
on a legislative question, was a new and unprecedented spectacle.

'In this convention, as in all public assemblies, there was a
violent and a moderate party. Lord Charlemont, the president of the
assembly, was at the head of the moderate men. Though not convinced
of the strict legality of the meeting, he thought a reform in
parliament so important and desirable an object, that to the
probability or chance of obtaining this great advantage it was the
wisdom of a true patriot to sacrifice punctilio, and to hazard all,
but, what he was too wise and good to endanger, the peace of the
country. Lord Charlemont accepted the office of president, specially
with the hope that he and his friends might be able to influence the
convention in favour of proceedings at once temperate and firm. The
very sincerity of his desire to attain a reform rendered him
clear-sighted as to the means to be pursued; and while he wished
that the people should be allowed every degree of liberty consistent
with safety, no man was less inclined to democracy, or could feel
more horror at the idea of involving his country in a state of civil

'The Bishop of Deny (Lord Bristol), wishing well to Ireland, but of
a far less judicious character than Lord Charlemont, was at the head
of the opposite party. . . . Lord Charlemont, foreseeing the danger
of disagreement between the parliament and convention, if at this
time any communication were opened between them, earnestly
deprecated the attempts. It was his desire that the convention,
after declaring their opinion in favour of a parliamentary reform,
should adjourn without adopting a specific plan; and that they
should refer it to future meetings of each county, to send to
parliament, in the regular constitutional manner, their petitions
and addresses. Mr. Flood, however, whose abilities and eloquence had
predominant influence over the convention, and who wished to
distinguish himself in parliament as the proposer of reform,
prevailed upon the convention, on one of the last nights of their
meeting, to send him, accompanied by other members of parliament
from among the volunteer delegates, directly to the House of
Commons then sitting. There he was to make a motion on the question of
parliamentary reform, introducing to the House his specific plan
from the convention. The appearance of Mr. Flood, and of the
delegates by whom he was accompanied, in their volunteer uniforms,
in the Irish House of Commons, excited an extraordinary sensation.
Those who were present, and who have given an account of the scene
that ensued, describe it as violent and tumultuous in the
extreme. On both sides the passions were worked up to a dangerous
height. The debate lasted all night. "The tempest, for, towards
morning, debate there was none, at last ceased." The question was
put, and Mr. Flood's motion for reform in parliament was negatived
by a very large majority. The House of Commons then entered into
resolutions declaratory of their fixed determination to maintain
their just rights and privileges against any encroachments whatever,
adding that it was at that time indispensably necessary to make such
a declaration. Further, an address was moved, intended to be made
the joint address of Lords and Commons to the throne, expressing
their satisfaction with His Majesty's Government, and their
resolution to support that government, and the constitution, with
their lives and fortunes. The address was carried up to the Lords,
and immediately agreed to. This was done with the celerity of
passion on all sides.

'Meantime an armed convention continued sitting the whole night,
waiting for the return of their delegates from the House of Commons,
and impatient to learn the fate of Mr. Flood's motion. One step
more, and irreparable, fatal imprudence might have been committed.
Lord Charlemont, the president of the convention, felt the danger;
and it required all the influence of his character, all the
assistance of the friends of moderation, to prevail upon the
assembly to dissolve, without waiting longer to hear the report from
their delegates in the House of Commons. The convention had, in
fact, nothing more to do, or nothing that they could attempt without
peril; but it was difficult to persuade the assembly to dissolve the
meeting, and to return quietly to their respective counties and
homes. This point, however, was fortunately accomplished, and early
in the morning the meeting terminated.'

Miss Edgeworth adds: 'I have heard my father say that he ever
afterwards rejoiced in the share he had in preserving one of the
chiefs of this volunteer convention from a desperate resolution, and
in determining the assembly to a temperate termination.'

Writing of this convention many years afterwards, Edgeworth says:
'There never was any assembly in the British empire more in earnest
in the business on which they were convened, or less influenced by
courtly interference or cabal But the object was in itself unattainable.

'The idea of admitting Roman Catholics to the right of voting for
representatives was not urged even by the most liberal and most
enlightened members of the convention; and the number,  and wealth,
and knowledge of Protestant voters in Ireland could not decently be
considered as sufficient to elect an adequate and fair
representation of the people.'

The reforms were never carried, though fresh efforts, equally
unsuccessful, were made when Pitt became minister.


It was in 1786 that Edgeworth had a severe fall from a scaffolding,
the result of which was, as his friend Dr Darwin prophesied, an
attack of jaundice. When the workmen brought him home, he tried to
reassure his family by telling them the story of a French Marquis,'
who fell from a balcony at Versailles, and who, as it was court
politeness that nothing unfortunate should ever be mentioned in the
King's presence, replied to His Majesty's inquiry if he wasn't hurt
by his fall, "Tout au contraire, Sire"' To all our inquiries whether
he was hurt, my father replied, 'Tout au contraire, mes aimes.'

His friendship for Mr. Day, which had existed for many years, was
now interrupted by Mr. Day's sudden death from a fall from his horse
in 1789. Edgeworth thought of writing his life, as he considered him
to have been a man of such'original an and noble character as to
deserve a public eulogium. He goes on to say: 'To preserve a
portrait to posterity, it must either be the likeness of some
celebrated individual, or it must represent a face which,
independently of peculiar associations, corresponds with the
universal ideas of beauty. So the pen of the biographer should
portray only those who by their public have interested us in their
private characters; or who, in a superior degree, have possessed the
virtues and mental endowments which claim the general love and
admiration of mankind.' This biography, however, was never finished,
as Edgeworth found another friend, Mr. Keir, had undertaken it; he
therefore sent the materials to him, but some of them are
incorporated in the Memoirs, Sabrina, whom Mr. Day had educated, and
intended to marry (though he gave up the idea when he doubted her
docility and power of adaptiveness to his strange theories of life),
ultimately married his friend, Mr. Bicknel, while Mr. Day married
Miss Milne, a clever and accomplished lady, who had sufficient tact
to fall in with his wishes, and a wifely devotion which made up to
her for their seclusion from general society. In her widowhood she
found Mr. Edgeworth a most faithful and helpful friend; he offered
to come over and aid in the search which was made at Mr. Day's death
for a large sum of money which was not forthcoming, and which it was
thought he might, after his eccentric fashion, have concealed; as he
took this measure when, 'at the time of the American War, he had
apprehended that there would have been a national bankruptcy, and
under this dread he had sold out of the Stocks. ... A very
considerable sum had been buried under the floor of the study in his
mother's house. This he afterwards took up, and placed again in the
public funds at the return of peace.'

Mr. Day had, before his marriage, promised to leave his library to
his friend Edgeworth, but no mention was made of this in the will;
he left almost everything to Mrs. Day. She, however, hearing of Mr.
Day's promise, offered his library to his friend; but Edgeworth, in
the same generous spirit, refused it, and Mrs. Day then wrote to him
as follows:

'MY DEAR MR. EDGEWORTH,--I will ingenuously own, that of all the
bequests Mr. Day could have made, the leaving his whole library from
me would have mortified me the most--indeed, more than if he had
disposed of all his other property, and left me only that. My ideas
of him are so much associated with his books, that to part with them
would be, as it were, breaking some of the last ties which still
connect me with so beloved an object. The being in the midst of
books he has been accustomed to read, and which contain his marks
and notes, will still give him a sort of existence with me.
Unintelligible as such fond chimeras may appear to many people, I am
persuaded they are not so to you.'

Maria Edgeworth adds: 'Generous people understand each other. Mrs
Day, of a noble disposition herself, always distinguished in my
father the same generosity of disposition. She had, she said, ever
considered him as "the most purely disinterested and proudly
independent of Mr. Day's friends."'

Edgeworth was a devoted father; and the loss of his daughter Honora,
a gifted girl of fifteen, was a great blow to him. She was the child
of his beloved wife Honora, and he had taken great pleasure in
guiding her studies and watching the development of her character.
Ever since he had settled in his Irish home one of Edgeworth's chief
interests had been the education of his large family; Maria records
with pride that at the age of seven Honora was able to answer the
following questions:

'If a line move its own length through the air so as to produce a
surface, what figure will it describe?'

She answered, 'A square!

She was then asked:

'If that square be moved downwards or upwards in the air the space
of the length of one of its own sides, what figure will it, at the
end of its motion, have described in the air?'

After a few minutes' silence she answered, 'A cube.'

Edgeworth was careful to train not only the reasoning powers, but
also the imaginative faculty of his children; he delighted in good
poetry and fiction, and read aloud well, and his daughter writes:
'From the Arabian Tales to Shakespeare, Milton, Homer, and the Greek
tragedians, all were associated in the minds of his children with
the delight of hearing passages from them first read by their

He was an enthusiastic admirer of the ancient classics--Homer and
the Greek tragedians in particular. From the best translations of
the ancient tragedies he selected for reading aloud the most
striking passages, and Pope's 'Iliad' and 'Odyssey' he read
several times to his family, in certain portions every day.

In his grief for his child, Edgeworth turned to his earliest friend,
his sister, the favourite companion of his childhood, and from her
he received all the consolation that affectionate sympathy could
give; but, as he said, 'for real grief there is no sudden cure; all
human resource is in time and occupation.'

It was about this time that Darwin published the now forgotten poem,
'The Botanic Garden,' and Edgeworth wrote to his friend expressing
his admiration for it; but Maria adds: 'With as much sincerity as he
gave praise, my father blamed and opposed whatever he thought was
faulty in his friend's poem. Dr. Darwin had formed a false theory,
that poetry is painting to the eye; this led him to confine his
attention to the language of description, or to the representation
of that which would produce good effect in picture. To this one
mistaken opinion he sacrificed the more lasting and more extensive
fame, which he might have ensured by exercising the powers he
possessed of rousing the passions and pleasing the imagination.

'When my father found that it was in vain to combat a favourite
false principle, he endeavoured to find a subject which should at
once suit his friend's theory and his genius. He urged him to write
a "Cabinet of Gems." The ancient gems would have afforded a subject
eminently suited to his descriptive powers. . . . The description of
Medea, and of some of the labours of Hercules, etc., which he has
introduced into his "Botanic Garden," show how admirably he would
have succeeded had he pursued this plan; and I cannot help
regretting that the suggestions of his friend could not prevail upon
him to quit for nobler objects his vegetable loves.'

Edgeworth's prediction has not yet come true, nor does it seem
likely that it ever will, 'that in future times some critic will
arise, who shall re-discover the "Botanic Garden,"' and build his
fame upon this discovery.

Dr. Darwin did not follow his friend's advice, to choose a better
subject for his next poem; nor did Edgeworth do what his friend
wished, which was to publish a decade of inventions with neat maps.

In the education of his children, he had already learned the value
of the observation of children's ways and mental states. Having
found that Rousseau's system was imperfect, he was groping after
some better method. His daughter writes: 'Long before he ever
thought of writing or publishing, he had kept a register of
observations and facts relative to his children. This he began in
the year 1798. He and Mrs. Honora Edgeworth kept notes of every
circumstance which occurred worth recording. Afterwards Mrs
Elizabeth Edgeworth and he continued the same practice; and in
consequence of his earnest exhortations, I began in 1791 or 1792 to
note down anecdotes of the children whom he was then educating.
Besides these, I often wrote for my own amusement and instruction
some of his conversation-lessons, as we may call them, with his
questions and explanations, and the answers of the children. . . .
To all who ever reflected upon education it must have occurred that
facts and experiments were wanting in this department of knowledge,
while assertions and theories abounded. I claim for my father the
merit of having been the first to recommend, both by example and
precept, what Bacon would call the experimental method in education.
If I were obliged to rest on any single point my father's credit as
a lover of truth, and his utility as a philanthropist and as a
philosophical writer, it should be on his having made this first
record of experiments in education. ... In noting anecdotes of
children, the greatest care must be taken that the pupils should not
know that any such register is kept. Want of care in this particular
would totally defeat the object in view, and would lead to many and
irremediable bad consequences, and would make the children affected
and false, or would create a degree of embarrassment and constraint
which must prevent the natural action of the understanding or the
feelings. ... In the registry of such observations, considered as
contributing to a history of the human mind, nothing should be
neglected as trivial. The circumstances which may seem most trifling
to vulgar observers may be most valuable to the philosopher; they
may throw light, for example, on the manner in which ideas and
language are formed and generalised.'

Edgeworth and his daughter Maria brought out their joint work,
Practical Education, in 1798. Maria adds: 'So commenced that
literary partnership, which for so many years was the pride and joy
of my life.' We who were born in the first half of the nineteenth
century can remember the delight of reading about Frank and
Rosamund, and Harry and Lucy, and feel a debt of gratitude to the
writers who gave us so many pleasant hours.

Edgeworth's patience in teaching was surprising, as Maria remarks,
in a man of his vivacity. 'He would sit quietly while a child was
thinking of the answer to a question without interrupting, or
suffering it to be interrupted, and would let the pupil touch and
quit the point repeatedly; and without a leading observation or
exclamation, he would wait till the steps of reasoning and invention
were gone through, and were converted into certainties. . . . The
tranquillising effect of this patience was of great advantage. The
pupil's mind became secure, not only of the point in question, but
steady in the confidence of its future powers. It was his principle
to excite the attention fully and strongly for a short time, and
never to go to the point of fatigue. ... In the education of the
heart, his warmth of approbation and strength of indignation had
powerful and salutary influence in touching and developing the
affections. The scorn in his countenance when he heard of any base
conduct; the pleasure that lighted up his eyes when he heard of any
generous action; the eloquence of his language, and vehemence of his
emphasis, commanded the sympathy of all who could see, hear, feel,
or understand. Added to the power of every moral or religious
motive, sympathy with the virtuous enthusiasm of those we love and
reverence produces a great and salutary effect.

'It often happens that a preceptor appears to have a great influence
for a time, and that this power suddenly dissolves. This is, and
must be the case, wherever any sort of deception has been used. My
father never used any artifice of this kind, and consequently he
always possessed that confidence, which is the reward of plain
dealing--a confidence which increases in the pupil's mind with age,
knowledge, and experience.'

The readers of the second part of 'Harry and Lucy' will remember
the driving tour through England, which they took with their
parents, who were careful to point out to them all that was of
interest, and to rouse their powers of observation. And in the same
manner Edgeworth, 'at the time when he was building or carrying on
experiments, or work of any sort, constantly explained to his
children whatever was done, and by his questions, adapted to their
several ages and capacities, exercised their powers of observation,
reasoning, and invention.

'It often happened that trivial circumstances, by which the
curiosity of the children had been excited, or experiments obvious
to the senses, by which they had been interested, led afterwards to
deeper reflection or to philosophical inquiries, suited to others in
the family of more advanced age and knowledge. The animation spread
through the house by connecting children with all that is going on,
and allowing them to join in thought or conversation with the
grown-up people of the family, was highly useful, and thus both
sympathy and emulation excited mental exertion in the most agreeable

In 1794 he wrote of his son Lovell: 'He has been employed in
building and other active pursuits, which seldom fall to the share
of young men, but which seem as agreeable to him as the occupations
of a mail-coachman, a groom, or a stable-boy are to some youths. I
am every day more convinced of the advantages of good education.' He
adds: 'One of my younger boys is what is called a genius--that is
to say, he has vivacity, attention, and good organs. I do not think
one tear per month is shed in the house, nor the voice of reproof
heard, nor the hand of restraint felt. To educate a second race
costs no trouble. Ce n'est que le premier pas qui coute!

The result of this watchful and tender interest in his children's
education may be judged by a passage in the later part of the
Memoirs, where his daughter says: 'When I was writing this page
(July 1818), this brother was with me; and when I stopped to make
some inquiry from him as to his recollection of that period of his
life, he reminded me of many circumstances of my father's kindness
to him, and brought to me letters written on his first entrance into
the world, highly characteristic of the warmth of my father's
affections, and of the strength of his mind. . . . The conviction is
full and strong on my own mind, that a father's confiding kindness,
and plain sincerity to a young man, when he first sets out in the
world, make an impression the most salutary and indelible. When his
sons first quitted the paternal roof, they were all completely at
liberty; he never took any indirect means to watch over or to
influence them; he treated them on all occasions with entire
openness and confidence. In their tastes and pursuits, joys and
sorrows, they were sure of their father's sympathy; in all
difficulties or disappointments, they applied to him, as their best
friend, for counsel, consolation, or support; and the delight that
he took in any exertion of their talents, or in any instance of
their honourable conduct, they felt as a constant generous

Edgeworth had no ambition on his own account to be an author; but
his wish to supply wholesome literature for the young led him into
writing, conjointly with his daughter, several books. Besides these
was one which had a different object, in the Essay on Irish Bulls he
'wished' (his daughter writes) 'to show the English public the
eloquence, wit, and talents of the lower classes of people in
Ireland. . . . 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 them some pathetic complaint, he has repeated
it to me while the impression was fresh. In the chapter on Wit and
Eloquence in Irish Bulls, there is a speech of a poor freeholder 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.

'In the same chapter there is the complaint of a poor widow against
her landlord, and the landlord's reply in his own defence. This
passage was quoted, I am told, by Campbell in one of his celebrated
lectures on Eloquence. It was supposed by him to have been a
quotation from a fictitious narrative, but, on the contrary, it is
an unembellished fact. My father was the magistrate before whom the
widow and her landlord appeared, and made that complaint and
defence, which he repeated, and I may say acted, for me. The
speeches I instantly wrote word for word, and the whole was
described exactly from the life of his representation.'

Edgeworth was anxious that his children should have no unpleasant
associations with their first steps in reading; he therefore took
great pains to find out the easiest way of teaching them to read,
and wrote for this purpose A Rational Primer. Maria adds: 'Nothing
but the true desire to be useful could have induced any man of
talents to choose such inglorious labours; but he thought no labour,
however humble, beneath him, if it promised improvement in
education. . . . His principle of always giving distinct marks for
each different sound of the vowels has been since brought into more
general use. It forms the foundation of Pestalozzi's plan of
teaching to read. But one of the most useful of the marks in the
Rational Primer, the mark of obliteration, designed to show what
letters are to be omitted in pronouncing words, has not, I believe,
been adopted by any public instructor.'

Among the calls on Edgeworth's time about 1790 was the management of
the embarrassed affairs of a relation; he had some difficulties with
the creditors, but in trying to collect arrears of rent he found
himself not only in difficulty, but in actual peril.

There existed in Ireland at this time a class of persons calling
themselves gentlemen tenants--the worst tenants in the world
--middlemen, who relet the lands, and live upon the produce, not
only in idleness, but in insolent idleness.

This kind of half gentry, or mock gentry, seemed to consider it as
the most indisputable privilege of a gentleman not to pay his debts.
They were ever ready to meet civil law with military brag of war.
Whenever a swaggering debtor of this species was pressed for
payment, he began by protesting or confessing that 'he considered
himself used in an ungentlemanlike manner;' and ended by offering
to give, instead of the value of his bond or promise, 'the
satisfaction of a gentleman, at any hour or place. . . . My father,'
says Maria, 'has often since rejoiced in the recollection of his
steadiness at this period of his life. As far as the example of an
individual could go, it was of service in his neighbourhood. It
showed that such lawless proceedings as he had opposed could be
effectually resisted; and it discountenanced that braggadocio style
of doing business which was once in Ireland too much in fashion.'


It was in 1792 that Edgeworth left Ireland, and he and his family
spent nearly two years at Clifton for the health of one of his sons.
Maria writes: 'This was the first time I had ever been with him in
what is called the world; where he was not only a useful, but a most
entertaining guide and companion. His observations upon characters,
as they revealed themselves by slight circumstances, were amusing
and just. He was a good judge of manners, and of all that related to
appearance, both in men and women. Believing, as he did, that young
people, from sympathy, imitate or catch involuntarily the habits and
tone of the company they keep, he thought it of essential
consequence that on their entrance into the world they should see
the best models. "No company or good company," was his maxim. By
good he did not mean fine. Airs and conceit he despised, as much as
he disliked vulgarity. Affectation was under awe before him from an
instinctive perception of his powers of ridicule. He could not
endure, in favour of any pretensions of birth, fortune, or fashion,
the stupidity of a formal circle, or the inanity of commonplace
conversation. . .. Sometimes, perhaps, he went too far, and at this
period of his life was too fastidious in his choice of society; or
when he did go into mixed company, if he happened to be suddenly
struck with any extravagance or meanness of fashion, he would
inveigh against these with such vehemence as gave a false idea of
his disposition. His auditors . . . were provoked to find that one,
who could please in any company, should disdain theirs; and that he,
who seemed made for society, should prefer living shut up with his
own friends and family. An inconvenience arose from this, which is
of more consequence than the mere loss of popularity, that he was
not always known or understood by those who were really worthy of
his acquaintance and regard.' His daughter says later: 'The whole
style and tone of society (in Ireland) are altered.--The fashion has
passed away of those desperately long, formal dinners, which were
given two or three times a year by each family in the country to
their neighbours, where the company had more than they could eat,
and twenty times more than they should drink; where the gentlemen
could talk only of claret, horses, or dogs; and the ladies, only of
dress or scandal; so that in the long hours, when they were left to
their own discretion, after having examined and appraised each
other's finery, many an absent neighbour's character was torn to
pieces, merely for want of something to say or to do in the stupid
circle. But now the dreadful circle is no more; the chairs, which
formerly could only take that form, at which the firmest nerves must
ever tremble, are allowed to stand, or turn in any way which may
suit the convenience and pleasure of conversation. The gentlemen and
ladies are not separated from the time dinner ends till the midnight
hour, when the carriages come to the door to carry off the bodies
of the dead (drunk).

'A taste for reading and literary conversation has been universally
acquired and diffused. Literature has become, as my father long ago
prophesied that it would become, fashionable; so that it is really
necessary to all, who would appear to advantage, even in the
society of their country neighbours.'

Referring to her father's conversational powers, Maria adds: 'His
style in speaking and writing were as different as it is possible to
conceive. In writing, cool and careful, as if on his guard against
his natural liveliness of imagination; he was so cautious to avoid
exaggeration, that he sometimes repressed enthusiasm. The character
of his writings, if I mistake not, is good sense; the characteristic
of his conversation was genius and vivacity--one moment playing on
the surface, the next diving to the bottom of the subject. When
anything touched his feelings, exciting either admiration or
indignation, he poured forth enthusiastic eloquence, and then
changed quickly to reasoning or wit. His transitions from one
thought and feeling, or from one subject and tone to another, were
so frequent and rapid, as to surprise, and sometimes to bewilder
persons of slow intellect; but always to entertain and delight those
of quick capacity. . . .

'His openness in conversation went too far, almost to imprudence,
exposing him not only to be misrepresented, but to be misunderstood.
 . . . Whenever he perceived in any of his friends, or in one of his
children, an error of mind, or fault of character, dangerous to
their happiness; or when he saw good opportunity of doing them
service, by apposite and strong remark or eloquent appeal in
conversation, he pursued his object with all the boldness of truth,
and with all the warmth of affection. . . .

'I will not deny, what I have heard from some whose truth and sense
I cannot question, that his manner, somewhat unusual, of drawing
people out, however kindly intended, often abashed the timid, and
alarmed the cautious; but, in the judgments to be formed of the
understandings of all with whom he conversed, he was uncommonly
indulgent. He allowed for the prejudices or for the deficiencies of
education; and he foresaw, with the prophetic eye of benevolence,
what the understanding or character might become if certain
improvements were effected. In discerning genius or abilities of any
kind, his penetration was so quick and just that it seemed as if he
possessed some mental divining rod revealing to him hidden veins of
talent, and giving him the power of discovering mines of
intellectual wealth, which lay unsuspected even by the possessor.

'To young persons his manner was most kind and encouraging. I have
been gratified by the assurance that many have owed to the
instruction and encouragement received from him in casual
conversation their first hopes of themselves, their resolution to
improve, and a happy change in the colour and fortune of their
future lives. . . . Time mellowed but did not impair his vivacity;
so that seeming less connected with high animal spirits, it acquired
more the character of intellectual energy. Still in age, as in
youth, he never needed the stimulus of convivial company, or of new
auditors; his spirits and conversation were always more delightful
in his own family and in everyday life than in company, even the
most literary or distinguished.'

The relations between Edgeworth and his daughter Maria were
peculiarly close, and she gratefully acknowledges how much she owed
to his suggestions and criticisms. He did not share his friend Mr.
Day's objections to literary ladies, and was a great admirer of Mrs.
Barbauld's writings:

'Ever the true friend and champion of female literature, and zealous
for the honour of the female sex, he rejoiced with all the
enthusiasm of a warm heart when he found, as he now did, female
genius guided by feminine discretion. He exulted in every instance
of literary celebrity, supported by the amiable and respectable
virtues of private life; proving by example that the cultivation of
female talents does not unfit women for their domestic duties and
situation in society.'

When Maria began to write she always told her father her rough plan,
and he, 'with the instinct of a good critic, used to fix immediately
upon that which would best answer the purpose.--"Sketch that and
show it to me!"--These words' (she adds), 'from the experience of
his sagacity, never failed to inspire me with hopes of success. It
was then sketched. Sometimes, when I was fond of a particular part,
I use to dilate on it in the sketch; but to this he always objected
--"I don't want any of your painting--none of your drapery!--I can
imagine all that--let me see the bare skeleton." . . .

'After a sketch had his approbation, he would not see the filling it
up till it had been worked upon for a week or a fortnight, or till
the first thirty or forty pages were written; then they were read to
him; and if he thought them going on tolerably well, the pleasure in
his eyes, the approving sound of his voice, even without the praise
he so warmly bestowed, were sufficient and delightful excitements to
"go on and finish." When he thought that there was spirit in what
was written, but that it required, as it often did, great
correction, he would say, "Leave that to me; it is my business to
cut and correct--yours to write on." His skill in cutting, his
decision in criticism, was peculiarly useful to me. His ready
invention and infinite resource, when I had run myself into
difficulties or absurdities, never failed to extricate me at my
utmost need. . . .

'Independently of all the advantages, which I as an individual
received from my father's constant course of literary instruction,
this was of considerable utility in another and less selfish point
of view. My father called upon all the family to hear and judge of
all we were writing. The taste for literature, and for judging of
literary composition, was by this means formed and exercised in a
large family, including a succession of nine or ten children, who
grew up during the course of these twenty-five years. Stories of
children exercised the judgment of children, and so on in proportion
to their respective ages, all giving their opinions, and trying
their powers of criticism fearlessly and freely. . . .

'He would sometimes advise me to lay by what was done for several
months, and turn my mind to something else, that we might look back
at it afterwards with fresh eyes. . . .

'I may mention, because it leads to a general principle of
criticism, that, in many cases, the attempt to join truth and
fiction did not succeed: for instance, Mr. Day's educating Sabrina
for his wife suggested the story of Virginia and Clarence Hervey in
"Belinda." But to avoid representing the real character of Mr. Day,
which I did not think it right to draw, I used the incident with
fictitious characters, which I made as unlike the real persons as I
possibly could. My father observed to me afterwards that, in this
and other instances, the very circumstances that were taken from
real life are those that have been objected to as improbable or
impossible; for this, as he showed me, there are good and sufficient
reasons. In the first place, anxiety to avoid drawing the characters
that were to be blameable or ridiculous from any individuals in real
life, led me to apply whatever circumstances were taken from reality
to characters quite different from those to whom the facts had
occurred; and consequently, when so applied, they were unsuitable
and improbable: besides, as my father remarked the circumstances
which in real life fix the attention, because they are out of the
common course of events, are for this very reason unfit for the
moral purposes, as well as for the dramatic effect of fiction. The
interest we take in hearing an uncommon fact often depends on our
belief in its truth. Introduce it into fiction, and this interest
ceases, the reader stops to question the truth or probability of the
narrative, the illusion and the dramatic effect are destroyed; and
as to the moral, no safe conclusion for conduct can be drawn from
any circumstances which have not frequently happened, and which are
not likely often to recur. In proportion as events are
extraordinary, they are useless or unsafe as foundations for
prudential reasoning.

'Besides all this, there are usually some small concurrent
circumstances connected with extraordinary facts, which we like and
admit as evidences of the truth, but which the rules of composition
and taste forbid the introducing into fiction; so that the writer is
reduced to the difficulty either of omitting the evidence on which
the belief of reality rests, or of introducing what may be contrary
to good taste, incongruous, out of proportion to the rest of the
story, delaying its progress or destructive of its unity. In short,
it is dangerous to put a patch of truth into a fiction, for the
truth is too strong for the fiction, and on all sides pulls it

To live with Edgeworth must have been to enjoy a constant mental
stimulus; he could not bear his companions to use words without
attaching ideas to them; he did not want talk to consist of a fluent
utterance of second-hand thoughts, but always encouraged the
expression of genuine opinion.

To show how willing Edgeworth was to help a child in understanding a
word which was new to it, I will quote from one of his letters to

'Give my love to little F, and tell her that I had not time to
explain a section to her. I therefore beg that, with as little
explanation as possible, you will bisect a lemon before her, and
point out the appearance of the rind, of the cavities, and seeds;
and afterwards, at your leisure, get a small cylinder of wood turned
for her, and cut it into a transverse section and into a
longitudinal section.'

It is curious to note the difference in tone which there is between
the children's books written by him and Maria and those of the
second half of the nineteenth century. Our duty to our neighbour is
the Edgeworth watchword, while our duty to God is the watchword of
Miss Yonge and her school of writers. The swing of the pendulum is
constantly passing from morality to religion and back again, because
both are required for the perfect life.

Among the experiments which Edgeworth made in the management of his
children was that: 'Formerly' (Maria writes)' from having observed
how apt children are to dispute and quarrel when they are left much
together, and from fear of the strong becoming tyrants, and the weak
slaves, it had been thought prudent to separate them a good deal. It
was believed that they would consequently grow fonder of each
other's company, and that they would enjoy it more as they grew more
reasonable, from not having the recollection of anything
disagreeable in each other's tempers. But my father became
thoroughly convinced that the separation of children in a family may
lead to evils greater than any partial good that can result from it.
The attempt may induce artifice and disobedience on the part of the
children; the separation can scarcely be effected; and, if it were
effected, would tend to make the children miserable. He saw that
their little quarrels, and the crossings of their tempers and
fancies, are nothing in comparison with the inestimable blessings of
that fondness, that family affection which grows up among children,
who have with each other an early and constant community of
pleasures and pains. Separation as a punishment, as a just
consequence of children's quarrelling, and as the best means of
preventing their disputes, he always found useful. But, except in
extreme cases, he had rarely recourse to it, and such seldom
occurred. . . . The greatest change, which twenty years further
experience made in his practice and opinions in education, was to
lessen rather than to increase regulations and restrictions. He saw
that, where there is liberty of action, one thing balances another;
that nice calculations lead to false results in practice, because we
cannot command all the necesssary circumstances of the data. . . .

'For many years of his life he had, I think, been under one
important mistake, in his expectations relative to the conduct of
his fellow-creatures, and of the effects of cultivating the human
understanding. He had believed that, if rational creatures could be
made clearly to see and understand that virtue will render them
happy, and vice will render them miserable, either in this world or
in the next, they would afterwards, in consequence of this
conviction, follow virtue, and avoid vice. . . .

'Hence, both as to national and domestic education, he formerly
dwelt principally upon the cultivation of the understanding, meaning
chiefly the reasoning faculty as applied to the conduct. But to see
the best, and to follow it, are not, alas! necessary consequences of
each other. Resolution is often wanting where conviction is perfect.
--Resolution is most necessary to all our active, and habit most
essential to all our passive virtues. Probably nine times out of ten
the instances of imprudent or vicious conduct arise, not from want
of knowledge of good and evil, or from want of conviction that the
one leads to happiness, and the other to misery; but from actual
deficiency in the strength of resolution, deficiency arising from
want of early training in the habit of self control.'

Maria adds: 'The silence which has been observed in Practical
Education on the subject of religion has been misunderstood by some,
and misrepresented by others. ... To those who, with upright and
benevolent intentions, from a sense of public duty, and in a spirit
of Christian charity, made remonstrances on this subject, he thought
it due to give all the explanation in his power;' and he writes:
'The authors continue to preserve the silence upon this subject,
which they before thought prudent; but they disavow, in explicit
terms, the design of laying down a system of education founded upon
morality, exclusive of religion. . . . We most earnestly deprecate
the imputation of disregarding religion in Education. . . . We are
convinced that religious obligation is indispensably necessary in
the education of all descriptions of people in every part of the

'We dread fanaticism and intolerance, whilst we wish to hold
religion in a higher point of view than as a subject of seclusive
possession, or of outward exhibition. To introduce the awful ideas
of God's superintendence upon puerile occasions, we decline. ... I
hope I shall obtain the justice due to me on the subject, and that
it will appear that I consider religion, in the large sense of the
word, to be the only certain bond of society.

'You have turned back our thoughts to this most important subject
(education), upon which, next to a universal reverence for religion,
we believe the happiness of mankind to depend.' Maria adds: 'I have
often been witness of the care with which he explained the nature
and enforced the observance of that great bond of civil society,
which rests upon religion. The solemnity of the manner in which he
administered an oath can never leave my memory; and I have seen the
salutary effect this produced on the minds of those of the lower
Irish, who are supposed to be the least susceptible of such
impressions. But it was not on the terrors of religion he chiefly
dwelt. No man could be more sensible than he was of the consolatory,
fortifying influence of the Christian religion in sustaining the
mind in adversity, poverty, and age. No man knew better its power to
carry hope and peace in the hour of death to the penitent criminal.
When from party bigotry it has happened that a priest has been
denied admittance to the condemned criminal, my father has gone to
the county gaol to soothe the sufferer's mind, and to receive that
confession on which, to the poor Catholic's belief, his salvation
depended. . . . Nor did he ever weaken in any heart in which it ever
existed that which he considered as the greatest blessing that a
human creature can enjoy--firm religious faith and hope.'

The following extract from a letter written to the Roman Catholics
of the County of Longford will show that Edgeworth was no bigoted
Protestant, but was in advance of his time in the broad views he
took of religious liberty: 'Ever since I have taken any part in the
politics of Ireland, I have uniformly thought that there should be
no civil distinctions between its inhabitants upon account of their
religious opinions. I concurred with a great character at the
national convention, in endeavouring to persuade our Roman Catholic
brethren to take a decided part in favour of parliamentary reform.
They declined it; and it then became absurd and dangerous for
individuals to demand rights in the name of a class of citizens who
would not avow their claim to them. . . . I wish ... to declare
myself in favour of a full participation of rights amongst every
denomination of men in Ireland; and if I can, by my personal
interference at any public meeting of our county, serve your cause,
I shall think it my duty to attend.'


DURING Edgeworth's stay in England in 1792 and 1793 he paid
frequent visits to London, and he used to describe to his children a
curious meeting which he had in a coffee-house with an old
acquaintance whom he had not seen for thirty years:' He observed a
gentleman eyeing him with much attention, who at last exclaimed, "It
is he. Certainly, sir, you are Mr. Edgeworth?"

'"I am, sir."

'"Gentlemen," said the stranger, with much importance, addressing
himself to several people who were near him, "here is the best
dancer in England, and a man to whom I am under infinite
obligations, for I owe to him the foundation of my fortune. Mr.
Edgeworth and I were scholars of the famous, Aldridge; and once when
we practised together, Mr. Edgeworth excelled me so much, that I sat
down upon the ground, and burst out a-crying; he could actually
complete an entrechat of ten distinct beats, which I could not
accomplish! However, I was well consoled by him; for he invented,
for Aldridge's benefit, The Tambourine Dance, which had uncommon
success. The dresses were Chinese. Twelve assistants held small
drums furnished with bells; these were struck in the air by the
dancer's feet when held as high as their arms could reach. This
Aldridge performed, and improved upon by stretching his legs
asunder, so as to strike two drums at the same time. Those not being
the days of elegant dancing, I afterwards," continued the stranger,
"exhibited at Paris the tambourine dance, to so much advantage, that
I made fifteen hundred pounds by it."

'The person who made this singular address and eulogium was the
celebrated dancer, Mr. Slingsby His testimony proves that my father
did not overrate his powers as a dancer; but it was not to boast of
a frivolous excellence that he told this anecdote to his children;
it was to express his satisfaction at having, after the first
effervescence of boyish spirits had subsided, cultivated his
understanding, turned his inventive powers to useful objects, and
chosen as the companions of his maturer years men of the first order
of intellect.'

He also took the opportunity while in England of visiting his
scientific friends--Watt, Darwin, Keir, and Wedgwood; and it was now
that his friendship began with Mr. William Strutt of Derby, with
whom he became acquainted by means of Mr. Darwin.

It was about this time that he lost his old friend Lord Longford.
Maria says of him: 'His services in the British navy, and his
character as an Irish senator, have been fully appreciated by the
public. His value in private life, and as a friend, can be justly
estimated only by those who have seen and felt how strongly his
example and opinions have, for a long course of years, continued to
influence his family, and all who had the honour of his friendship.
The permanence of this influence after death is a stronger proof of
the sincerity of the esteem and admiration felt for the character of
the individual than any which can be given during his lifetime. I
can bear witness that, in one instance, it never ceased to operate.
I know that on every important occasion of my father's life, where
he was called upon to judge or act, long after Lord Longford was no
more, his example and opinions seemed constantly present to him; he
delighted in the recollection of instances of his friend's sound
judgment, honour, and generosity; these he applied in his own
conduct, and held up to the emulation of his children.'

Doubtless Edgeworth felt, as Charles Lamb expresses it: 'Deaths
overset one, and put one out long after the recent grief. Two or
three have died within the last two twelvemonths, and so many parts
of me have been numbed. One sees a picture, reads an anecdote,
starts a casual fancy, and thinks to tell of it to this person in
preference to every other; the person is gone whom it would have
peculiarly suited. It won't do for another. Every departure destroys
a class of sympathies. There's Captain Burney gone! What fun has
whist now? What matters it what you lead if you can no longer fancy
him looking over you? One never hears anything but the image of the
particular person occurs with whom alone almost you would care to
share the intelligence. Thus one distributes oneself about, and now
for so many parts of me I have lost the market.'

The departure of Edgeworth and his family from Clifton in the autumn
of 1793 was hastened by the news that disturbances were breaking out
in Ireland. Dr. Beddoes of Clifton, who was courting Edgeworth's
daughter Anna, had to console himself with the permission to follow
her to Ireland in the spring, where they were married at Edgeworth
Town in April 1794.

It was not till the autumn of 1794 that the disturbances in Ireland
became alarming; and in a letter to Dr. Darwin, Edgeworth writes:
'Just recovering from the alarm occasioned by a sudden irruption of
defenders into this neighbourhood, and from the business of a county
meeting, and the glory of commanding a squadron of horse, and from
the exertion requisite to treat with proper indifference an
anonymous letter sent by persons who have sworn to assassinate me; I
received the peaceful philosophy of Zoonomia; and though it has been
in my hands not many minutes, I found much to delight and instruct
me. . . .

'We were lately in a sad state here--the sans culottes (literally
so) took a very effectual way of obtaining power; they robbed of
arms all the houses in the country, thus arming themselves and
disarming their opponents. By waking the bodies of their friends,
the human corpse not only becomes familiar to the sans culottes of
Ireland, but is associated with pleasure in their minds by the
festivity of these nocturnal orgies. An insurrection of such people,
who have been much oppressed, must be infinitely more horrid than
anything that has happened in France; for no hired executioners need
be sought from the prisons or the galleys. And yet the people here
are altogether better than in England. . . . The peasants, though
cruel, are generally docile, and of the strongest powers, both of
body and mind.

'A good government may make this a great country, because the raw
material is good and simple. In England, to make a carte-blanche fit
to receive a proper impression, you must grind down all the old rags
to purify them.'

His daughter adds: 'The disturbances in the county of Longford were
quieted for a time by the military; but again in the autumn of the
ensuing year (September 1796), rumours of an invasion prevailed, and
spread with redoubled force through Ireland, disturbing commerce,
and alarming all ranks of well-disposed subjects.'


It was in 1797 that sorrow again visited the happy circle at
Edgeworth Town, and Edgeworth wrote thus of his wife to Dr. Darwin:
'She declines rapidly. But her mind suffers as little as possible. I
am convinced from all that I have seen, that good sense diminishes
all the evils of life, and alleviates even the inevitable pain of
declining health. By good sense, I mean that habit of the
understanding which employs itself in forming just estimates of
every object that lies before it, and in regulating the temper and
conduct. Mrs. Edgeworth, ever since I knew her, has carefully
improved and cultivated this faculty; and I do not think I ever saw
any person extract more good, and suffer less evil, than she has,
from the events of life. . . .'

Mrs. Edgeworth died in the autumn of the year 1797. Maria adds: 'I
have heard my father say, that during the seventeen years of his
marriage with this lady, he never once saw her out of temper, and
never received from her an unkind word or an angry look,'

Edgeworth paid the same compliment to his third wife which he had
done to his second--he quickly replaced her. His fourth wife was
the daughter of Dr. Beaufort, a highly qultivated man, whose family
were great friends of Mrs. Ruxton, Edgeworth's sister. Edgeworth
wrote a long letter about scientific matters to Darwin, and kept his
most important news to the last: 'I am going to be married to a
young lady of small fortune and large accomplishments,--compared
with my age, much youth (not quite thirty), and more prudence--some
beauty, more sense--uncommon talents, more uncommon temper,--liked by
my family, loved by me. If I can say all this three years hence,
shall not I have been a fortunate, not to say a wise man?'

Maria adds: 'A few days after the preceding letter was written, we
heard that a conspiracy had been discovered in Dublin, that the city
was under arms, and its inhabitants in the greatest terror. Dr.
Beaufort and his family were there; my father, who was at Edgeworth
Town, set out immediately to join them.

'On his way he met an intimate friend of his; one stage they
travelled together, and a singular conversation passed. This friend,
who as yet knew nothing of my father's intentions, began to speak of
the marriage of some other person, and to exclaim against the folly
and imprudence of any man's marrying in such disturbed times. "No
man of honour, sense or feeling, would incumber himself with a wife
at such a time!" My father urged that this was just the time when a
man of honour, sense, or feeling would wish, if he loved a woman, to
unite his fate with hers, to acquire the right of being her

'The conversation dropped there. But presently they talked of public
affairs--of the important measure expected to be proposed, of a
union between England and Ireland--of what would probably be said
and done in the next session of Parliament: my father, foreseeing
that this important national question would probably come on, had
just obtained a seat in Parliament. His friend, not knowing or
recollecting this, began to speak of the imprudence of commencing a
political career late in life.

'"No man, you know," said he, "but a fool, would venture to make a
first speech in Parliament, or to marry, after he was fifty."

'My father laughed, and surrendering all title to wisdom, declared
that, though he was past fifty, he was actually going in a few days,
as he hoped, to be married, and in a few months would probably make
his "first speech in Parliament."

'He found Dublin as it had been described to him under arms, in
dreadful expectation. The timely apprehension of the heads of the
conspiracy at this crisis prevented a revolution, and saved the
capital. But the danger for the country seemed by no means over,
--insurrections, which were to have been general and simultaneous,
broke out in different parts of the kingdom. The confessions of a
conspirator, who had turned informer, and the papers seized and
published, proved that there existed in the country a deep and
widely spread spirit of rebellion. . . .

'Instead of delaying his marriage, which some would have advised, my
father urged for an immediate day. On the 31st of May he was
married to Miss Beaufort, by her brother, the Rev. William Beaufort,
at St. Anne's Church in Dublin. They came down to Edgeworth Town
immediately, through a part of the country that was in actual
insurrection. Late in the evening they arrived safe at home, and my
father presented his bride to his expecting, anxious family.

'Of her first entrance and appearance that evening I can recollect
only the general impression, that it was quite natural, without
effort or pretension. The chief thing remarkable was, that she, of
whom we were all thinking so much, seemed to think so little of
herself. . . .

'The sisters of the late Mrs. Edgeworth, those excellent aunts (Mrs.
Mary and Charlotte Sneyd), instead of returning to their English
friends and relations, remained at Edgeworth Town. This was an
auspicious omen to the common people in our neighbourhood, by whom
they were universally beloved--it spoke well, they said, for the new
lady. In his own family, the union and happiness she would secure
were soon felt, but her superior qualities, her accurate knowledge,
judgment, and abilities, in decision and in action, appeared only as
occasions arose and called for them. She was found always equal to
the occasion, and superior to the expectation.'

Maria had not at first been in favour of her father's marrying Miss
Beaufort, but she soon changed her opinion after becoming intimate
with her, and writing of her father's choice of a wife says: 'He did
not late in life marry merely to please his own fancy, but he chose
a companion suited to himself, and a mother fit for his family.
This, of all the blessings we owe to him, has proved the greatest.'

The family at Edgeworth Town passed the summer quietly and happily,
but (Maria continues) 'towards the autumn of the year 1798, this
country became in such a state that the necessity of resorting to
the sword seemed imminent. Even in the county of Longford, which had
so long remained quiet, alarming symptoms appeared, not immediately
in our neighbourhood, but within six or seven miles of us, near
Granard. The people were leagued in secret rebellion, and waited
only for the expected arrival of the French army to break 'out. In
the adjacent counties military law had been proclaimed, and our
village was within a mile of the bounds of the disturbed county of
Westmeath. Though his own tenantry, and all in whom he put trust,
were as quiet, and, as far as he could judge, as well-disposed as
ever, yet my father was aware, from information of too good
authority to be doubted, that there were disaffected persons in the

'Numbers held themselves in abeyance, not so much from disloyalty,
as from fear that they should be ultimately the conquered party.
Those who were really and actually engaged, and in communication
with the rebels and with the foreign enemy, were so secret and
cunning that no proofs could be obtained against them.

'One instance may be given. A Mr. Pallas, who lived at Growse Hall,
lately received information that a certain offender 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 he got to the house very early in the
morning. It was scarcely light. The soldiers searched, but no man
was to be found. Mr. Pallas ordered them to search again, for that
he was certain the man was in the house; they searched again, but 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, or thought he saw, something move at the end of the garden
behind the house. He looked, and beheld a man's arm come out of the
ground: he ran to the spot and called to his companions; but the arm
disappeared; they searched, but nothing was to be seen; and though
the soldier still persisted in his story, he was not believed
"Come," cries one of the party, "don't waste your time here looking
for an apparition among these cabbage-stalks--go back once more to
the house!" They went to the house, and lo! there stood the man they
were in search of in the middle of the kitchen.

'Upon examination it was found that from his garden to his house
there had been practiced a secret passage underground: a large
meal-chest in the kitchen had a false bottom, which lifted up and
down at pleasure, to let him into his subterraneous dwelling.

'Whenever he expected the house to be searched, down he went; the
moment the search was over, up he came; and had practised this with
success, till he grew rash, and returned one moment too soon. . . .

'Previous to this time, the principal gentry in the county had
raised corps of yeomanry; but my father had delayed doing so,
because, as long as the civil authority had been sufficient, he was
unwilling to resort to military interference, or to the ultimate law
of force, of the abuse of which he had seen too many recent
examples. However, it now became necessary, even for the sake of
justice to his own tenantry, that they should be put upon a footing
with others, have equal security of protection, and an opportunity
of evincing their loyal dispositions. He raised a corps of infantry,
into which he admitted Catholics as well as Protestants. This was so
unusual, and thought to be so hazardous a degree of liberality, that
by some of an opposite party it was attributed to the worst motives.
Many who wished him well came privately to let him know of the odium
to which he exposed himself.

'The corps of Edgeworth Town infantry was raised, but the arms were,
by some mistake of the ordnance officer, delayed. The anxiety for
their arrival was extreme, for every day and every hour the French
were expected to land.

'The alarm was now so general that many sent their families out of
the country. My father was still in hopes that we might safely
remain. At the first appearance of disturbance in Ireland he had
offered to carry his sisters-in-law, the Mrs. Sneyd, to their
friends in England, but this offer they refused. Of the domestics,
three men were English and Protestant, two Irish and Catholic; the
women were all Irish and Catholic excepting the housekeeper, an
Englishwoman who had lived with us many years. There were no
dissensions or suspicions between the Catholics and the Protestants
in the family; and the English servants did not desire to quit us at
this crisis.

'At last came the dreaded news. The French, who landed at Killala,
were, as we learned, on their march towards Longford. The touch of
Ithuriel's spear could not have been more sudden or effectual than
the arrival of this intelligence in showing people in their real
forms. In some faces joy struggled for a moment with feigned sorrow,
and then, encouraged by sympathy, yielded to the natural expression.
Still my father had no reason to distrust those in whom he had
placed confidence; his tenants were steady; he saw no change in any
of the men of his corps, though they were in the most perilous
situation, having rendered themselves obnoxious to the rebels and
invaders by becoming yeomen, and yet standing without means of
resistance or defence, their arms not having arrived.

'The evening of the day when the news of the success and approach of
the French came to Edgeworth Town all seemed quiet; but early next
morning, September 4th, a report reached us that the rebels were up
in arms within a mile of the village, pouring in from the county of
Westmeath hundreds strong.

'This much being certain, that men armed with pikes were assembled,
my father sent off an express to the next garrison town (Longford)
requesting the commanding officer to send him assistance for the
defence of this place. He desired us to be prepared to set out at a
moment's warning. We were under this uncertainty, when an escort
with an ammunition cart passed through the village on its way to
Longford. It contained several barrels of powder, intended to blow
up the bridges, and to stop the progress of the enemy. One of the
officers of the party rode up to our house and offered to let us
have the advantage of his escort. But, after a few minutes'
deliberation, this friendly proposal was declined: my father
determined that he would not stir till he knew whether he could have
assistance; and as it did not appear as yet absolutely necessary
that we should go, we stayed--fortunately for us.

'About a quarter of an hour after the officer and the escort had
departed, we, who were all assembled in the portico of the house,
heard a report like a loud clap of thunder. The doors and windows
shook with some violent concussion; a few minutes afterwards the
officer galloped into the yard, and threw himself off his horse into
my father's arms almost senseless. The ammunition cart had blown up,
one of the officers had been severely wounded, and the horses and
the man leading them killed; the wounded officer was at a farmhouse
on the Longford road, at about two miles' distance. The fear of the
rebels was now suspended in concern for this accident; Mrs.
Edgeworth went immediately to give her assistance; she left her
carriage for the use of the wounded gentleman, and rode back At the
entrance of the village she was stopped by a gentleman in great
terror, who, taking hold of the bridle of her horse, begged her not
to attempt to go farther, assuring her that the rebels were coming
into the town. But she answered that she must and would return to
her family. She rode on, and found us waiting anxiously for her. No
assistance could be afforded from Longford; the rebels were
reassembling, and advancing towards the village; and there was no
alternative but to leave our house as fast as possible. One of our
carriages having been left with the wounded officer, we had but one
at this moment for our whole family, eleven in number. No mode of
conveyance could be had for some of our female servants; our
faithful English housekeeper offered to stay till the return of the
carriage, which had been left with the officer; and as we could not
carry her, we were obliged, most reluctantly, to leave her behind to
follow, as we hoped, immediately. As we passed through the village
we heard nothing but the entreaties, lamentations, and objurations
of those who could not procure the means of carrying off their goods
or their families; most painful when we could give no assistance.

'Next to the safety of his own family, my father's greatest anxiety
was for his defenceless corps. No men could behave better than they
did at this first moment of trial. Not one absented himself, though
many, living at a distance, might, if they had been so inclined,
have found plausible excuses for non-appearance.

'He ordered them to march to Longford. The idea of going to
Longford could not be agreeable to many of them, who were Catholics.
There was no reluctance shown, however, by the Catholics of this
corps to go among those who called themselves Orangemen.

'We expected every instant to hear the shout of the rebels entering
Edgeworth Town. When we had got about half-a-mile out of the
village, my father suddenly recollected that he had left on his
table a paper containing a list of his corps, and that, if this
should come into the hands of the rebels, it might be of dangerous
consequence to his men; it would serve to point out their houses for
pillage, and their families for destruction. He turned his horse
instantly and galloped back for it. The time of his absence appeared
immeasurably long, but he returned safely after having destroyed the
dangerous paper.

'Longford was crowded with yeomanry of various corps, and with the
inhabitants of the neighbourhood, who had flocked thither for
protection. With great difficulty the poor Edgeworth Town infantry
found lodgings. We were cordially received by the landlady of a
good inn. Though her house was, as she said, fuller than it could
hold, as she was an old friend of my father's, she did contrive to
give us two rooms, in which we eleven were thankful to find
ourselves. All our concern now was for those we had left behind. We
heard nothing of our housekeeper all night, and were exceedingly
alarmed; but early the next morning, to our great joy, she
arrived. She told us that, after we had left her, she waited hour
after hour for the carriage; she could hear nothing of it, as
it had gone to Longford with the wounded officer. Towards evening,
a large body of rebels entered the village; she heard them at the
gate, and expected that they would have broken in the next instant;
but one, who seemed to be a leader, with a pike in his hand, set his
back against the gate, and swore that, if he was to die for it the
next minute, he would have the life of the first man who should open
that gate or set enemy's foot withinside of that place. He said the
housekeeper, who was left in it, was a good gentlewoman, and had
done him a service, though she did not know him, nor he her. He had
never seen her face, but she had, the year before, lent his wife,
when in distress, sixteen shillings, the rent of flax-ground, and he
would stand her friend now.

'He kept back the mob: they agreed to send him to the house with a
deputation of six, to know the truth, and to ask for arms. The six
men went to the back door and summoned the housekeeper; one of them
pointed his blunderbuss at her, and told her that she must fetch all
the arms in the house; she said she had none. Her champion asked her
to say if she remembered him. "No," to her knowledge she had never
seen his face. He asked if she remembered having lent a woman money
to pay her rent of flaxground the year before. "Yes," she remembered
that, and named the woman, the time, and the sum. His companions
were thus satisfied of the truth of what he had asserted. He bid her
not to be frighted, for that no harm should happen to her, nor any
belonging to her; not a soul should get leave to go into her
master's house; not a twig should be touched, nor a leaf harmed. His
companions huzzaed and went off. Afterwards, as she was told, he
mounted guard at the gate during the whole time the rebels were in
the town.

'When the carriage at last returned, it was stopped by the rebels,
who filled the street; they held their pikes to the horses and to
the coachman's breast, accusing him of being an Orangeman, because,
as they said, he wore the orange colours (our livery being yellow
and brown). A painter, a friend of ours, who had been that day at
our house, copying some old family portraits, happened to be in the
street at that instant, and called out to the mob, "Gentlemen, it
is yellow! Gentlemen, it is not orange!" In consequence of this
happy distinction they let go the coachman; and the same man who had
mounted guard at the gate, came up with his friends, rescued the
carriage, and surrounding the coachman with their pikes brought him
safely into the yard. The pole of the carriage having been broken in
the first onset, the housekeeper could not leave Edgeworth Town till
morning. She passed the night in walking up and down, listening and
watching, but the rebels returned no more, and thus our house was
saved by the gratitude of a single individual.

'We had scarcely time to rejoice in the escape of our housekeeper
and safety of our house, when we found that new dangers arose even
from this escape. The house being saved created jealousy and
suspicion in the minds of many, who at this time saw everything
through the mist of party prejudice. The dislike to my father's
corps appeared every hour more strong. He saw the consequences that
might arise from the slightest breaking out of quarrel. It was not
possible for him to send his men, unarmed as they still were, to
their homes, lest they should be destroyed by the rebels; yet the
officers of the other corps wished to have them sent out of the
town, and to this effect joined in a memorial to government. Some
of these officers disliked my father, from differences of
electioneering interests; others, from his not having kept up an
acquaintance with them; and others, not knowing him in the least,
were misled by party reports and misrepresentations.

'These petty dissensions were, however, at one moment suspended and
forgotten in a general sense of danger. An express arrived late one
night with the news that the French, who were rapidly advancing,
were within a few miles of the town of Longford. A panic seized the
people. There were in the town eighty of the carabineers and two
corps of yeomanry, but it was proposed to evacuate the garrison. My
father strongly opposed this measure, and undertook, with fifty men,
if arms and ammunition were supplied, to defend the gaol of
Longford, where there was a strong pass, at which the enemy might be
stopped. He urged that a stand might be made there till the King's
army should come up. The offer was gladly accepted--men, arms, and
ammunition, all he could want or desire, were placed at his
disposal. He slept that night in the gaol, with everything prepared
for its defence; but the next morning fresh news came, that the
French had turned off from the Longford Road, and were going towards
Granard; of this, however, there was no certainty. My father, by the
desire of the commanding officer, rode out to reconnoitre, and my
brother went to the top of the courthouse with a telescope for the
same purpose. We (Mrs. Edgeworth, my aunts, my sisters, and myself)
were waiting to hear the result in one of the upper sitting-rooms of
the inn, which fronted the street. We heard a loud shout, and going
to the window, we saw the people throwing up their hats, and heard
huzzas. An express had arrived with news that the French and the
rebels had been beaten; that General Lake had come up with them at a
place called Ballynamuck, near Granard; that 1500 rebels and French
were killed, and that the French generals and officers were

'We were impatient for my father, when we heard this joyful news;
he had not yet returned, and we looked out of the window in hopes of
seeing him; but we could see only a great number of people of the
town shaking hands with each other. This lasted a few minutes, and
then the crowd gathered in silence round one man, who spoke with
angry vehemence and gesticulation, stamping, and frequently wiping
his forehead. We thought he was a mountebank haranguing the
populace, till we saw that he wore a uniform. Listening with
curiosity to hear what he was saying, we observed that he looked up
towards us, and we thought we heard him pronounce the names of my
father and brother in tones of insult. We could scarcely believe
what we heard him say. Pointing up to the top of the court-house, he
exclaimed, "That young Edgeworth ought to be dragged down from the
top of that house."

'Our housekeeper burst into the room, so much terrified she could
hardly speak.

'"My master, ma'am!--it is all against my master. The mob say they
will tear him to pieces, if they catch hold of him. They say he 's
a traitor, that he illuminated the gaol to deliver it up to the

'No words can give an idea of our astonishment. "Illuminated!" What
could be meant by the gaol being illuminated? My father had
literally but two farthing candles, by the light of which he had
been reading the newspaper late the preceding night. These, however,
were said to be signals for the enemy. The absurdity of the whole
was so glaring that we could scarcely conceive the danger to be
real, but our pale landlady's fears were urgent; she dreaded that
her house should be pulled down.

'We wrote immediately to the commanding officer, informing him of
what we had heard, and requesting his advice and assistance. He came
to us, and recommended that we should send a messenger to warn Mr.
Edgeworth of his danger, and to request that he would not return to
Longford that day. The officer added that, in consequence of the
rejoicings for the victory, his men would probably be all drunk in a
few hours, and that he could not, answer for them. This officer, a
captain of yeomanry, was a good-natured but inefficient man, who
spoke under considerable nervous agitation, and seemed desirous to
do all he could, but not to be able to do anything. We wrote
instantly, and with difficulty found a man who undertook to convey
the note. It was to be carried to meet him on one road, and Mrs.
Edgeworth and I determined to drive out to meet him on the other. We
made our way down a back staircase into the inn yard, where the
carriage was ready. Several gentlemen spoke to us as we got into the
carriage, begging us not to be alarmed: Mrs. Edgeworth answered that
she was more surprised than alarmed. The commanding officer and the
sovereign of Longford walked by the side of the carriage through the
town; and as the mob believed that we were going away not to return,
we got through without much molestation. We went a few miles on the
road toward Edgeworth Town, till at a tenant's house we heard that
my father had passed half an hour ago; that he was riding in company
with an officer, supposed to be of Lord Cornwallis's or General
Lake's army; that they had taken a short cut, which led into
Longford by another entrance:--most fortunately, not that at which
an armed mob had assembled, expecting the object of their fury.
Seeing him return to the inn with an officer of the King's army,
they imagined, as we were afterwards told, that he was brought back
a prisoner, and they were satisfied.

'The moment we saw him safe, we laughed at our own fears, and again
doubted the reality of the danger, more especially as he treated the
idea with the utmost incredulity and scorn.

'Major (now General) Eustace was the officer who returned with him.
He dined with us; everything appeared quiet. The persons who had
taken refuge at the inn were now gone to their homes, and it was
supposed that, whatever dispositions to riot had existed, the news
of the approach of some of Lord Cornwallis's suite, or of troops who
were to bring in the French prisoners, would prevent all probability
of disturbance. In the evening the prisoners arrived at the inn; a
crowd followed them, but quietly. A sun-burnt, coarse-looking man,
in a huge cocked hat, with a quantity of gold lace on his clothes,
seemed to fix all attention; he was pointed out as the French
General Homberg, or Sarrazin. As he dismounted from his horse, he
threw the bridle over its neck, and looked at the animal as being
his only friend.

'We heard my father in the evening ask Major Eustace to walk with
him through the town to the barrack-yard to evening parade; and we
saw them go out together without our feeling the slightest
apprehension. We remained at the inn. By this time Colonel
Handfield, Major Cannon, and some other officers, had arrived, and
they were at the inn at dinner in a parlour on the ground-floor,
under our room. It being hot weather, the windows were open. Nothing
now seemed to be thought of but rejoicings for the victory. Candles
were preparing for the illumination; waiters, chambermaids,
landlady, were busy scooping turnips and potatoes for candlesticks,
to stand in every pane of every loyal window.

'In the midst of this preparation, half an hour after my father had
left us, we heard a great uproar in the street. At first we thought
the shouts were only rejoicings for victory, but as they came nearer
we heard screechings and yellings indescribably horrible. A mob had
gathered at the gates of the barrack-yard, and joined by many
soldiers of the yeomanry on leaving parade, had followed Major
Eustace and my father from the barracks. The Major being this
evening in coloured clothes, the people no longer knew him to be an
officer, nor conceived, as they had done before, that Mr. Edgeworth
was his prisoner. The mob had not contented themselves with the
horrid yells that they heard, but had been pelting them with hard
turf, stones, and brickbats. From one of these my father received a
blow on the side of his head, which came with such force as to
stagger and almost to stun him; but he kept himself from falling,
knowing that if he once fell he would be trampled under foot. He
walked on steadily till he came within a few yards of the inn, when
one of the mob seized hold of Major Eustace by the collar. My father
seeing the windows of the inn open, called with a loud voice, "Major
Eustace is in danger!"

'The officers, who were at dinner, and who till that moment had
supposed the noise in the street to be only drunken rejoicings,
immediately ran out and rescued Major Eustace and my father. At the
sight of British officers and drawn swords, the populace gave way,
and dispersed in different directions.

'The preparation for the illumination then went on as if nothing had
intervened. All the panes of our windows in the front room were in a
blaze of light by the time the mob returned through the street. The
night passed without further disturbance.

'As early as we could the next morning we left Longford, and
returned homewards, all danger from rebels being now over, and the
Rebellion having been terminated by the late battle.

'When we came near Edgeworth Town, we saw many well-known faces at
the cabin doors looking out to welcome us. One man, who was digging
in his field by the roadside, when he looked up as our horses
passed, and saw my father, let fall his spade and clasped his hands;
his face, as the morning sun shone upon it, was the strongest
picture of joy I ever saw. The village was a melancholy spectacle;
windows shattered and doors broken. But though the mischief done was
great, there had been little pillage. Within our gates we found all
property safe; literally "not a twig touched, nor a leaf harmed."
Within the house everything was as we had left it--a map that we had
been consulting was still open upon the library table, with pencils,
and slips of paper containing the first lessons in arithmetic, in
which some of the young people had been engaged the morning we had
driven from home; a pansy, in a glass of water, which one of the
children had been copying, was still on the chimney-piece. These
trivial circumstances, marking repose and tranquillity, struck us at
this moment with an unreasonable sort of surprise, and all that had
passed seemed like an incoherent dream. The joy of having my father
in safety remained, and gratitude to Heaven for his preservation.
These feelings spread inexpressible pleasure over what seemed to be
a new sense of existence. Even the most common things appeared
delightful; the green lawn, the still groves, the birds singing, the
fresh air, all external nature, and all the goods and conveniences
of life, seemed to have wonderfully increased in value from the fear
into which we had been put of losing them irrevocably.

'The first thing my father did, the day we came home, was to draw
up a memorial to the Lord-Lieutenant, desiring to have a
court-martial held on the sergeant who, by haranguing the populace,
had raised the mob at Longford; his next care was to walk through
the village, to examine what damage had been done by the rebels, and
to order that repairs of all his tenants' houses should be made at
his expense. A few days after our return, Government ordered that
the arms of the Edgeworth Town infantry should be forwarded by the
commanding-officer at Longford. Through the whole of their hard
week's trial the corps had, without any exception, behaved perfectly
well. It was perhaps more difficult to honest and brave men
passively to bear such a trial than any to which they could have
been exposed in action.

'When the arms for the corps arrived, my father, in delivering them
to the men, thanked them publicly for their conduct, assuring them
that he would remember it whenever he should have opportunities of
serving them, collectively or individually. In long-after years, as
occasions arose, each who continued to deserve it found in him a
friend, and felt that he more than fulfilled his promise. . . .
Before we quit this subject, it may be useful to record that the
French generals who headed this invasion declared they had been
completely deceived as to the state of Ireland. They had expected to
find the people in open rebellion, or at least, in their own phrase,
organised for insurrection; but to their dismay they found only
ragamuffins, as they called them, who, in joining their standard,
did them infinitely more harm than good. It is a pity that the lower
Irish could not hear the contemptuous manner in which the French,
both officers and soldiers, spoke of them and of their country. The
generals described the stratagems which had been practised upon them
by their good allies--the same rebels frequently returning with
different tones and new stories, to obtain double and treble
provisions of arms, ammunition, and uniforms--selling the ammunition
for whisky, and running away at the first fire in the day of battle.
The French, detesting and despising those by whom they had been thus
cheated, pillaged, and deserted, called them beggars, rascals, and
savages. They cursed also without scruple their own Directory for
sending them, after they had, as they boasted, conquered the world,
to be at last beaten on an Irish bog. Officers and soldiers joined
in swearing that they would never return to a country where they
could find neither bread, wine, nor discipline, and where the people
lived on roots, whisky, and lying.'

Maria ends this exciting chapter of the Memoirs with these moral
reflections: 'At all times it is disadvantageous to those who have
the reputation of being men of superior abilities, to seclude
themselves from the world. It raises a belief that they despise
those with whom they do not associate; and this supposed contempt
creates real aversion. The being accused of pride or singularity may
not, perhaps, in the estimation of some lofty spirits and
independent characters, appear too great a price to pay for liberty
and leisure; they will care little if they be misunderstood or
misrepresented by the vulgar; they will trust to truth and time to
do them justice. This may be all well in ordinary life, and in
peaceable days; but in civil commotions the best and the wisest, if
he have not made himself publicly known, so as to connect himself
with the interests and feelings of his neighbours, will find none to
answer for his character if it be attacked, or to warn him of the
secret machinations of his enemies; none who on any sudden emergency
will risk their own safety in his defence: he may fall and be
trampled upon by numbers, simply because it is nobody's business or
pleasure to rally to his aid. Time and reason right his character,
and may bring all who have injured, or all who have mistaken him, to
repentance and shame, but in the interval he must suffer--he may

Chapter 9.

The British Government seem to have thought it best at this time to
pursue a laissez faire policy in Ireland, in order to convince the
Irish of their weakness, and to show them that, although a bundle
of sticks when loosened allows each stick to be used for beating,
and it may therefore be argued that sticks, being meant for
fighting, should never be bound in a bundle, yet each single stick
may easily get broken. Of course the Government intended to
intervene before it was too late, and to suggest to the Irish that
it was time to think of a union with their stronger neighbours.

On this subject, Maria remarks: 'It is certain that the combinations
of the disaffected at home and the advance of foreign invaders, were
not checked till the peril became imminent, and till the purpose of
creating universal alarm had been fully effected. As soon as the
Commander-in-Chief and the Lord-Lieutenant (at the time joined in
the same person) exerted his full military and civil power, the
invaders were defeated, and the rebellion was extinguished. The
petty magisterial tyrants, who had been worse than vain of their
little brief authority, were put down, or rather, being no longer
upheld, sank to their original and natural insignificance. The laws
returned to their due course; and, with justice, security and
tranquillity, were restored.

'My father honestly, not ostentatiously, used his utmost endeavours
to obliterate all that could tend to perpetuate ill-will in the country.
Among the lower classes in his neighbourhood he endeavoured to
discourage that spirit of recrimination and retaliation which the
lower Irish are too prone to cherish, and of which they are proud.
"Revenge is sweet, and I'll have it" were words which an old
beggar-woman was overheard muttering to herself as she tottered
along the road. . . .

'The lower Irish are such acute observers that there is no deceiving
them as to the state of the real feelings of their superiors. . . .

'It was soon seen by all of those who had any connection with him,
that my father was sincere in his disdain of vengeance--of this they
had convincing proof in his refusing to listen to the tales of
slander, which so many were ready to pour into his ear, against
those who had appeared to be his enemies.

'They saw that he determined to have a public trial of the man who
had instigated the Longford mob, but that, for the sake of justice,
and to record what his own conduct had been, he did not seek this
trial from any petty motives of personal resentment.

'During the course of the trial, it appeared that the sergeant was a
mere ignorant enthusiast, who had been worked up to frenzy by some,
more designing than himself. Having accomplished his own object of
publicly proving every fact that concerned his own honour and
character, my father felt desirous that the poor culprit, who was
now ashamed and penitent, should not be punished. The evidence was
not pressed against him, and he was acquitted. As they were leaving
the courthouse my father saw, and spoke in a playful tone to the
penitent sergeant, who, among his other weaknesses, happened to be
much afraid of ghosts. "Sergeant, I congratulate you," said he,
"upon my being alive here before you--I believe you would rather
meet me than my ghost!" Then cheering up the man with the assurance
of his perfect forgiveness, he passed on.

'The malevolent passions 'my father always considered as the
greatest foes to human felicity--they would not stay in his mind--he
was of too good and too happy a nature. He forgot all, but the moral
which he drew for his private use from this Longford business. He
kept ever afterwards the resolution he had made, to mix more with
general society.

'His thoughts were soon called to that most important question, of
the Union between England and Ireland, which it was expected would
be discussed at the meeting of Parliament.

'It was late in life to begin a political career--imprudently so,
had it been with the common views of family advancement or of
personal fame; but his chief hope, in going into Parliament, was to
obtain assistance in forwarding the great object of improving the
education of the people: he wished also to assist in the discussion
of the Union. He was not without a natural desire, which he candidly
avowed, to satisfy himself how far he could succeed as a
parliamentary speaker, and how far his mind would stand the trial of
political competition or the temptations of ambition.

'On the subject of the Union he had not yet been able, in
parliamentary phrase, to make up his mind: and he went to the House
in that state in which so many profess to find themselves, and so
few ever really are--anxious to hear the arguments on both sides,
and open to be decided by whoever could show him that which was best
for his country.

'The debate on the first proposal of the Union was protracted to an
unusual length, and when he rose to speak, it was late at night, or
rather it was early in the morning--two o'clock--the House had been
so wearied that many of the members were asleep. It was an
inauspicious moment. No person present, not even the Speaker, who
was his intimate friend, could tell on which side he would vote.
Curiosity was excited: some of the outstretched members were roused
by their neighbours, whose anxiety to know on which side he would
vote prompted them to encourage him to proceed. This curiosity was
kept alive as he went on; and when people perceived that it was not
a set speech, they became interested. He stated his doubts, just as
they had really occurred, balancing the arguments as he threw them
by turns into each scale, as they had balanced one another in his
judgment; so that the doubtful beam nodded from side to side, while
all watched to see when its vibrations would settle. All the time he
kept both parties in good humour, because each expected to have him
their own at last. After stating many arguments in favour of what
appeared to him to be the advantages of the Union, he gave his vote
against it, because, he said, he had been convinced by what he had
heard in that House this night, that the Union was at this time
decidedly against the wishes of the great majority of men of sense
and property in the nation. He added that if he should be convinced
that the opinion of the country changed at the final discussion of
the question, his vote would be in its favour.

'One of the anti-Unionists, who happened not to know my father
personally, imagined from his accent, style, and manner of speaking,
that he was an Englishman, and accused the Government of having
brought a new member over from England, to impose him upon the
House, as an impartial country gentleman, who was to make a
pretence of liberality by giving a vote against the Union, while, by
arguing in its favour, he was to make converts for the measure. Many
on the Ministerial bench, who had still hopes that, on a future
occasion, Mr. Edgeworth might be convinced and brought to vote with
them, complimented him highly, declaring that they were completely
surprised when they learned how he voted; for that undoubtedly the
best arguments on their side of the question had been produced in
his speech. Lord Castlereagh found the measure so much against the
sense of the House that he pressed it no further at that time.

'This session my father had the satisfaction of turning the
attention of the House to a subject which he considered to be of
greater and more permanent importance than the Union, or than any
merely political measure could prove to his country, the education
of the people. By his exertions a select committee was appointed,
and they adopted the resolutions drawn up by him. When the report of
this committee was brought up to the House, my father spoke at large
upon the subject.

'In his speech he said: It was impossible, when moral principles are
instilled into the human mind, when people are regularly taught
their duty to God and man, that abominable tenets can prevail to the
subversion of subordination and society. He would venture to assert,
though the power of the sword was great, that the force of education
was greater. It was notorious that the writings of one man, Mr.
Burke, had changed the opinions of the whole people of England
against the French Revolution. ... If proper books were circulated
through the country, and if the public mind was prepared for the
reception of their doctrines, it would be impossible to make the
ignorance of the people an instrument of national ruin.

'There is, he contended, a fund of goodness in the Irish as well as
in the English nature. Did God give different minds to different
countries? No, the difference of mind arose from education. It
therefore became the duty of Parliament to improve as much as
possible the public understanding--for the misfortunes of Ireland
were owing not to the heart, but the head: the defect was not from
nature, but from want of culture.

'During this session my father spoke again two or three times, on
some questions of revenue regulations and excise laws: of little
consequence separately considered, but of importance in one respect,
in their effect on the morality of the people. He pointed out that
nothing could with more certainty tend to increase the crime of
perjury than the multiplying custom-house oaths, and what are termed
oaths of office. ... In Ireland the habits of the common people are
already too lax with regard to truth. The difference of religion,
and the facilities of absolution, present difficulties so formidable
to their moral improvement as to require all the counteracting
powers of education, example, public opinion, and law. . . .
Multiplying oaths injures the revenue, by increasing incalculably
the means of evading the very laws and penalties by which it is
attempted to bind the subject. Experience proves that this is a
danger of no small account to the revenue; though trifling when
compared with the importance of the general effect on national
morality, and on the safety and tranquillity of the State, all which
must ultimately rest, at all times and in all countries, upon
religious sanctions. "It was not," my father observed, "by
increasing pains and penalties, or by any severity of punishment,
that the observance of laws can be secured; on the contrary, small
but certain punishments, and few but punctually executed laws, are
most likely to secure obedience, and to effect public prosperity."'

He writes to Darwin in March 1800: 'The fatigue of the session was
enormous. I am a Unionist, but I vote and speak against the union
now proposed to us--as to my reasons, are they not published in the
reports of our debates? It is intended to force this measure down
the throats of the Irish, though five-sixths of the nation are
against it. Now, though I think such union as would identify the
nations, so as that Ireland should be as Yorkshire to Great Britain,
would be an excellent thing: yet I also think that the good people
of Ireland ought to be persuaded of this truth, and not be
dragooned into the submission.

'The Minister avows that seventy-two boroughs are to be compensated
--i.e. bought by the people of Ireland with one million and a half
of their own money; and he makes this legal by a very small
majority, made up chiefly by these very borough members. When
thirty-eight country members out of sixty-four are against the
measure, and twenty-eight counties out of thirty-two have petitioned
against it, this is such abominable corruption that it makes our
parliamentary sanction worse than ridiculous.

'I had the honour of offering, for myself, and for a large number of
other gentlemen, that, if a minister could by any means win the
nation to the measure, and show us even a small preponderance in his
favour, we would vote with him.

'So far for politics. I had a charming opportunity of advancing
myself and my family, but I did not think it wise to quarrel with
myself, and lose my good opinion at my time of life. What did lie in
my way for a vote I will not say, but I stated in my place in the
House, that I had been offered three thousand guineas for my seat
during the few remaining weeks of the session.'

In 1817 he writes:--'The influence of the Crown was never so
strongly exerted as upon this occasion. It is but justice, however,
to Lord Cornwallis and Lord Castlereagh to give it as my opinion,
that they began this measure with sanguine hopes that they could
convince the reasonable part of the community that a cordial union
between the two countries would essentially advance the interests of
both. When, however, the ministry found themselves in a minority,
and that a spirit of general opposition was rising in the country, a
member of the House, who had been long practised in parliamentary
intrigues, had the audacity to tell Lord Castlereagh from his place,
that "if he did not employ the usual means of persuasion on the
members of the House, he would fail in his attempt, and that the
sooner he set about it the better."

'This advice was followed; and it is well known what benches were
filled with the proselytes that had been made by the convincing
arguments which had obtained a majority.

'He went in the spring of 1799 to England, and visited his old
friends, Mr. Keir, Mr. Watt, Dr. Darwin, and Mr. William Strutt of
Derby. In passing through different parts of the country he saw, and
delighted in showing us, everything curious and interesting in art
and nature. Travelling, he used to say, was from time to time
necessary, to change the course of ideas, and to prevent the growth
of local prejudices.

'He went to London, and paid his respects to his friend Sir Joseph
Banks, attended the meetings of the Royal Society, and met various
old acquaintances whom he had formerly known abroad.'

Maria writes:--'In his own account of his earlier life he has never
failed to mark the time and manner of the commencement of valuable
friendships with the same care and vividness of recollection With
which some men mark the date of their obtaining promotion, places,
or titles. I follow the example he has set me.

'My father's and Mrs. Edgeworth's families were both numerous, and
among such numbers, even granting the dispositions to be excellent
and the understandings cultivated, the chances were against their
suiting; but, happily, all the individuals of the two families,
though of various talents, ages, and characters, did, from their
first acquaintance, coalesce. . . . After he had lost such a friend
as Mr. Day . . . who could have dared to hope that he should ever
have found another equally deserving to possess his whole confidence
and affection? Yet such a one it pleased God to give him--and to
give him in the brother of his wife. And never man felt more
strongly grateful for the double blessing. To Captain Beaufort he
became as much attached as he had ever been to Lord Longford or to
Mr. Day.

'His father-in-law, Dr. Beaufort, was also particularly agreeable
to him as a companion, and helpful as a friend.'

Consumption again carried off one of Edgeworth's family: his
daughter Elizabeth died at Clifton in August 1800.

The Continent, which had been practically closed for some years to
travellers, was open in 1802 at the time of the short peace, and
Edgeworth gladly availed himself of the opportunity of mixing in the
literary and scientific society in Paris, and of showing his wife
the treasures of the Louvre--treasures increased by the spoil of
other countries. The tour was arranged for the autumn, and Edgeworth
was looking forward to visiting Dr. Darwin on the way, when he
received a letter begun by the doctor, describing his move from
Derby to the Priory, a few miles out of the town, and sending a
playful message to Maria: 'Pray tell the authoress that the water
nymphs of our valley will be happy to assist her next novel.'

A few lines after, the pen had stopped; another hand added the sad
news that Dr. Darwin had been taken suddenly ill with fainting fits:
he revived and spoke, but died that morning. The sudden death of
such an old and valued friend was a great shock to Edgeworth.

Some months later, his daughter mentions that, 'in passing through
England, we went to Derby, and to the Priory, to which we had been
so kindly invited by him who was now no more. The Priory was all
stillness, melancholy, and mourning. It was a painful visit, yet not
without satisfaction; for my father's affectionate manner seemed to
soothe the widow and daughters of his friend, who Were deeply
sensible of the respect and zealous regard he showed for Dr.
Darwin's memory.'


Mr. and Mrs. Edgeworth, with their daughters Maria and Charlotte,
travelled through the Low Countries--'a delightful tour,' Maria
writes--and at length reached Paris, where they spent the winter
1802-3. They soon got introductions, through the Abbe Morellet, into
that best circle of society, 'which was composed of all that
remained of the ancient men of letters, and of the most valuable of
the nobility; not of those who had accepted of places from
Buonaparte, nor yet of those emigrants who have been wittily and too
justly described as returning to France after the Revolution, sans
avoir rien appris, ou rien oublie.' . . . 'We felt,' Maria writes,
'the characteristic charms of Parisian conversation, the polish and
ease which in its best days distinguished it from that of any other

'During my father's former residence in France, at the time when he
was engaged in directing the works of the Rhone and Saone at Lyons,
as he mentions in his Memoirs, he wrote a treatise on the
construction of mills. He wished that D'Alembert should read it, to
verify the mathematical calculations, and for this purpose he had
put it into the hands of Morellet. D'Alembert approved of the essay;
and my father became advantageously known to Morellet as a man of
science, and as one who had gratuitously and honourably conducted a
useful work in France. His predominating taste thus continued, as in
former times, its influence, was still a connecting link between him
and old and new friends. On this and many other occasions he proved
the truth of what has been asserted, that no effort is ever lost:
his exertions at Lyons in 1772, after an interval of thirty years,
now becoming of unexpected advantage to him and to his family at
Paris. . . .

'In Paris there is an institution resembling our London Society of
Arts, La Societe d'Encouragement pour VIndustrie Nationale: of this
my father was made a member, and he presented to it the model of a
lock of his invention. In getting this executed, he became
acquainted with some of the working mechanics in Paris, and had an
opportunity of observing how differently work of this kind is
carried on there and in Birmingham. Instead of the assemblage of
artificers in manufactories, such as we see in Birmingham, each
artisan in Paris, working out his own purposes in his own domicile,
must in his time "play many parts," and among these many to which
he is incompetent, either from want of skill or want of practice: so
that, in fact, even supposing French artisans to be of equal ability
and industry with English competitors, they are at least a century
behind, by thus being precluded from all the miraculous advantages
of the division of labour. . . . 'My father had left England with a
strong desire to see Buonaparte, and had procured a letter from the
Lord Chamberlain (Lord Essex), and had applied to Lord Whitworth,
our Ambassador at Paris, who was to present him. But soon after our
arrival at Paris, he learned that Buonaparte was preparing the way
for becoming Emperor, contrary to the wishes and judgment of the
most enlightened part of the French nation. . . .

'My father could no longer consider Buonaparte as a great man,
abiding by his principles, and content with the true glory of being
the first citizen of a free people; but as one meditating
usurpation, and on the point of overturning, for the selfish love of
dominion, the liberty of France. With this impression, my father
declared that he would not go to the court of a usurper. He never
went to his levees, nor would he be presented to him.

'My father had not the presumption to imagine that in a cursory
view, during a slight tour, and a residence of four or five months
at Paris, he could become thoroughly acquainted with France.
Besides, his living chiefly with the select society which I have
described precluded the possibility of seeing much of what were
called les nouveaux riches.

'The few general observations he made on French society at this time
I shall mention. He observed that, among the families of the old
nobility, domestic happiness and virtue had much increased since the
Revolution, in consequence of the marriages which, after they lost
their wealth and rank, had been formed, not according to the usual
fashion of old French alliances, but from disinterested motives,
from the perception of the real suitability of tempers and
characters. The women of this class in general, withdrawn from
politics and political intrigue, were more domestic and
amiable. . . .

'With regard to literature^he observed that it had considerably
degenerated. For the good taste, wit, and polished style which had
characterised French literature before the Revolution there was no
longer any demand, and but few competent judges remained. The
talents of the nation had been forced by circumstances into
different directions. At one time, the hurry and necessity of the
passing moment had produced political pamphlets and slight works of
amusement, formed to catch the public revolutionary taste. At
another period, the contending parties, and the real want of freedom
in the country, had repressed literary efforts. Science, which
flourished independently of politics, and which was often useful and
essential to the rulers, had meanwhile been encouraged, and had
prospered. The discoveries and inventions of men of science showed
that the same positive quantity of talent existed in France as in
former times, though appearing in a new form.'

The charms of Paris and its society were rudely broken by Edgeworth
receiving one morning a visit from a police officer requiring him
immediately to attend at the Palais de Justice. Edgeworth was in bed
with a cold when this summons came. He writes to Miss Charlotte
Sneyd:--'My being ill was not a sufficient excuse; I got up and
dressed myself slowly, to gain time for thinking--drank one dish of
chocolate, ordered my carriage, and went with my exempt to the
Palais de Justice. There I was shown into a parlour, or rather a
guard-room, where a man like an under-officer was sitting at a desk.
In a few minutes I was desired to walk upstairs into a long narrow
room, in different parts of which ten or twelve clerks were sitting
at different tables. To one of these I was directed--he asked my
name, wrote it on a printed card, and demanding half a crown,
presented the card to me, telling me it was a passport. I told him I
did not want a passport; but he pressed it upon me, assuring me that
I had urgent necessity for it, as I must quit Paris immediately.
Then he pointed out to me another table, where another clerk was
pleased to place me in the most advantageous point of view for
taking my portrait, and he took my written portrait with great
solemnity, and this he copied into my passport. I begged to know who
was the principal person in the room, and to him I applied to learn
the cause of the whole proceeding. He coolly answered that if I
wanted to know I must apply to the Grand Juge. To the Grand Juge I
drove, and having waited till the number ninety-three was called,
the number of the ticket which had been given to me at the door, I
was admitted, and the Grand Juge most formally assured me that he
knew nothing of the affair, but that all I had to do was to obey. I
returned home, and, on examining my passport, found that I was
ordered to quit Paris in twenty-four hours. I went directly to our
Ambassador, Lord Whitworth, who lived at the extremity of the town:
he was ill--with difficulty I got at his secretary, Mr. Talbot, to
whom I pointed out that I applied to my Ambassador from a sense of
duty and politeness, before I would make any application to private
friends, though I believed that I had many in Paris who were willing
and able to assist me. The secretary went to the Ambassador, and in
half an hour wrote an official note to Talleyrand, to ask the why
and the wherefore. He advised me in the  meantime to quit Paris, and
to go to some village near it--Passy or Versailles. Passy seemed
preferable, because it is the nearest to Paris--only a mile and a
half distant. Before I quitted Paris I made another attempt to
obtain some explanation from the Grand Juge. I could not see him, or
even his secretary, for a considerable time; and when at length the
secretary appeared, it was only to tell me that I could not see the
Grand Juge. "Cannot I write," said I, "to your Grand Juge?" He
answered hesitatingly, "Yes." A huissier took in my note, and
another excellent one from the friend who was with me, F. D. The
huissier returned presently, holding my papers out to me at arm's
length--"The Grand Juge knows nothing of this matter."

'I returned home, dined, ordered a carriage to be ready to take me
to Passy, wrote a letter to Buonaparte, stating my entire ignorance
of the cause of my deportation, and asserting that I was unconnected
with any political party. F. D. engaged that the letter should be
delivered; and Mrs. E. and Charlotte remaining to settle our affairs
at Paris, I set off for Passy with Maria, where my friend F. D. had
taken the best lodging he could find for me in the village. Madame
G. had offered me her country house at Passy; but though she pressed
that offer most kindly we would not accept of it, lest we should
compromise our friends. Another friend, Mons. de P, offered his
country house, but, for the same reason, this offer was declined. We
arrived at Passy about ten o'clock at night, and though a deporte, I
slept tolerably well. Before I was up, my friend Mons. de P. was
with me--breakfasted with us in our little oven of a parlour
--conversed two hours most agreeably. Our other friend, F. D, came
also before we had breakfasted, and just as I had mounted on a table
to paste some paper over certain deficiencies in the window, enter
M. P. and Le B h.

'"Mon ami, ce n'est pas la peine!" cried they both at once, their
faces rayonnant de joie. "You need not give yourself so much
trouble; you will not stay here long. We have seen the Grand Juge,
and your detention arises from a mistake. It was supposed that you
are brother to the Abbe Edgeworth--we are to deliver a petition from
you, stating what your relationship to the Abbe really is. This
shall be backed by an address signed by all your friends at Paris,
and you will be then at liberty to return."

'I objected to writing any petition, and at all events I determined
to consult my Ambassador, who had conducted himself well towards me.
I wrote to Lord Whitworth, stating the facts, and declaring that
nothing could ever make me deny the honour of being related to the
Abbe Edgeworth. Lord Whitworfh advised me, however, to state the
fact that I was not the Abbe's brother. . . .

'No direct answer was received from the First Consul; but perhaps
the revocation of the order of the Grand Juge came from him. We were
assured that my father's letter had been read by him, and that he
declared he knew nothing of the affair; and so far from objecting to
any man for being related to the Abbe Edgeworth, he declared that he
considered him as a most respectable, faithful subject, and that he
wished that he had many such.'

Before this unpleasant occurrence Edgeworth had thought of taking a
house in Paris for two years and sending for his other children; but
he now, in spite of the entreaties of his French friends, altered
his plans and resolved to return home. Maria writes:--'He was
prudent and decided--had he been otherwise, we might all have been
among the number of our countrymen who were, contrary to the law of
nations, and to justice and reason, made prisoners in France at the
breaking out of the war. We were fortunate in getting safe to free
and happy England a short time before war was declared, and before
the detention of the English took place.

'My eldest brother had the misfortune to be among those who were
detained. His exile was rendered as tolerable as circumstances would
permit by the indefatigable kindness of our friends the D' s. But it
was an exile of eleven years--from 1803 to 1814--six years of that
time spent at Verdun!'


Instead of returning at once to Ireland, the Edgeworths went to
Edinburgh to visit Henry Edgeworth, whose declining health caused
his father much anxiety. Maria writes:--'He mended rapidly while we
were at Edinburgh; and this improvement in his health added to the
pleasure his father felt in seeing the interest his son had excited
among the friends he had made for himself in Edinburgh--men of the
first abilities and highest characters, both in literature and
science--whom we knew by their works, as did all the world; with
some of whom my father had had the honour of corresponding, but to
whom he was personally unknown. Imagine the pleasure he felt at
being introduced to them by his son, and in hearing Gregory, Alison,
Playfair, Dugald Stewart, speak of Henry as if he actually belonged
to themselves, and with the most affectionate regard. . . .

'On our journey homewards, in passing through Scotland, we met with
much hospitality and kindness, and much that was interesting in the
country and in its inhabitants But the circumstance that remains the
most fixed in my recollection, and that which afterwards influenced
my father's life the most, happened to be the books we read during
our last day's journey. These were the lives of Robertson the
historian, and of Reid, which had been just given to us by Mr.
Stewart. In the life of Reid there are some passages which struck my
father particularly. I recollect at the moment when I was reading to
him, his stretching eagerly across from his side of the carriage to
mine, and marking the book with his pencil with strong and
reiterated marks of approbation. The passages relate to the means
which Dr. Reid employed to prevent the decay of his faculties as he
advanced in years; to remedy the errors and deficiencies of one
failing sense by the increased activity of another, and by the
resources of reasoning and ingenuity to resist, as far as possible,
or to render supportable, the infirmities of age . . . My father
never forgot this passage, and acted on it years afterwards.'

It was not Henry who was taken first, but Charlotte, who was 'fresh
as a rose' on her first tour abroad. In April 1807 she died of the
same disease as her sisters, and about two years after her brother
Henry followed her to the grave.

It needed a brave heart to bear up under such sorrows, but
Edgeworth, though he felt them keenly, would not sink into the
lethargy of grief, but roused himself to work for the public good.
He was on the board appointed to inquire into the education of the
people of Ireland, and two of his papers on the subject were printed
in the reports of the Commissioners; he also drew up the plan of a
school for Edgeworth Town, which was afterwards carried into
execution by his son, Lovell; and at this time he was writing his
Memoirs, a task which was interrupted by a severe illness in 1809.
He had hardly recovered from this before he was engaged in the
Government survey of bogs, and Maria writes:--'It was late in the
year, and the weather unfavourable. In laying out and verifying the
work of the surveyors employed, he was usually out from daybreak to
sunset, often fifteen hours without food, traversing on foot, with
great bodily exertion, wastes and deserts of bog, so wet and
dangerous as to be scarcely passable at that season, even by the
common Irish best used to them. In these bogs there frequently occur
great holes, filled with water of the same colour as the bog, or
sometimes covered over with a slight surface of the peat heath or
grass, called by the common people a shakingscraw. 'In traversing
these bogs a man must pick his way carefully, sometimes wading,
sometimes leaping from one landing place to another, choosing these
cautiously, lest they should not sustain his weight: avoiding
certain treacherous green spots on which the unwary might be tempted
to set foot, and would sink, never to rise again.'

The work was fatiguing, but the open air life seemed to give him new
vigour, and his health was reestablished.

The work had interested him much, and he believed that an immense
tract of bog might be reclaimed. The obstacles he foresaw were want
of capital and the danger of litigation. As long as the bogs were
unprofitable there was no incitement to a strict definition of
boundaries, but if the land was reclaimed many lawsuits would
follow. Maria thus describes the difficulties encountered by her
father:--'He wished to undertake the improvement of a large tract of
bog in his neighbourhood, and for this purpose desired to purchase
it from the proprietor; but the proprietor had not the power or the
inclination to sell it. My father, anxious to try a decisive
experiment on a large scale, proposed to rent it from him, and
offered a rent, till then unheard of, for bogland. The proprietor
professed himself satisfied to accept the proposal, provided my
father would undertake to indemnify him for any expense to which he
might be put by future lawsuits concerning the property or
boundaries of this bog. He was aware that if he were to give a lease
for a long term, even for sixty years, this would raise the idea
that the bog would become profitable; and still further, if ever it
should be really improved and profitable, it would become an object
of contention and litigation to many who might fancy they had
claims, which, as long as the bog was nearly without value, they
found it not worth while to urge. It was impossible to enter into
the \ insurance proposed, and, consequently, he could not obtain
this tract of bog, or further prosecute his plan. The same sort of
difficulty must frequently recur. Parts of different estates pass
through extensive tracts of bog, of which the boundaries are
uncertain. The right to cut the turf is usually vested in the
occupiers of adjoining farms; but they are at constant war with each
other about boundaries, and these disputes, involving the original
grants of the lands, hundreds of years ago, with all subsequent
deeds and settlements, appear absolutely interminable. . . .

'It may not be at present a question of much interest to the British
public, because no such large decisive experiment as was proposed
has yet been tried as to the value and attainableness of the object;
but its magnitude and importance are incontestable, the whole extent
of peat soil in Ireland exceeding, as it is confidently pronounced,
2,830,000 acres, of which about half might be converted to the
general purposes of agriculture.'

It was in 1811 that Edgeworth constructed, 'upon a plan of his own
invention, a spire for the church of Edgeworth Town. This spire was
formed of a skeleton of iron, covered with slates, painted and
sanded to resemble Portland stone. It was put together on the ground
within the tower of the church, and when finished it was drawn up at
once, with the assistance of counterbalancing weights, to the top of
the tower, and there to be fixed in its place.

'The novelty of the construction of this spire, even in this its
first skeleton state, excited attention, and as it drew towards its
completion, and near the moment when, with its covering of slates,
altogether amounting to many tons weight, it was to move, or not to
move, fifty feet from the ground to the top of the tower, everybody
in the neighbourhood, forming different opinions of the probability
of its success or failure, became interested in the event.

'Several of my father's friends and acquaintances, in our own and
from adjoining counties, came to see it drawn up. Fortunately, it
happened to be a very fine autumn day, and the groups of spectators
of different ranks and ages, assembled and waging in silent
expectation, gave a picturesque effect to the whole. A bugle sounded
as the signal for ascent. The top of the spire appearing through the
tower of the church, began to move upwards; its gilt ball and arrow
glittered in the sun, while with motion that was scarcely
perceptible it rose majestically. Not one word or interjection was
uttered by any of the men who worked the windlasses at the top of
the tower.

'It reached its destined station in eighteen minutes, and then a
flag streamed from its summit and gave notice that all was safe. Not
the slightest accident or difficulty occurred.' Maria adds:--'The
conduct of the whole had been trusted to my brother William (the
civil engineer), and the first words my father said, when he was
congratulated upon the success of the work, were that his son's
steadiness in conducting business and commanding men gave him
infinitely more satisfaction than he could feel from the success of
any invention of his own.'

Towards the close of 1811 Edgeworth was requested, as he understood,
by a committee of the House of Commons on Broad Wheels, to look over
and report on a mass of evidence on the subject. This he did, but
then found that it was a private request of the chairman, Sir John
Sinclair, who begged that the report might be given to the Board of
Agriculture. This Edgeworth declined, but wrote instead and
presented An Essay on Springs applied to Carts; and in 1813 he
published an essay on Roads, and Wheel Carriages. His daughter
writes:--'In the course of the drudgery which he went through he
received a great counterbalancing pleasure from the following
passage, which he chanced to meet with in a letter to the committee,
written by a gentleman to whom he was personally a stranger:

'"Mr. Edgeworth was the first who pointed out the great benefit of
springs in aiding the draught of horses. The subject deserves more
attention than it has hitherto met with. No discovery relative to
carriages has been made in our time of equal importance; and the
ingenious author of it deserves highly of some mark of public

Maria adds:--'Those ingenious ideas, which had been but the
amusement of youth, as he advanced in life, he turned to public
utility: for instance, the mode of conveying secret and swift
intelligence, which he had suggested at first only to decide a
trifling wager between him and some young nobleman, he afterwards
improved into a national telegraph, and through all difficulties and
disappointments persevered till it was established. In the same
manner, his juvenile amusements with the sailing chariot led to
experiments on the resistance of the air, which in more mature years
he pursued in the patient spirit of philosophical investigation, and
turned to good account for the real business of life, and for the
advancement of science.

'On this subject, in the year 1783, he published in the Transactions
of the Royal Society (vol. 73) "An Essay on the Resistance of the
Air," of which the object, as he states, is to determine the force
of the wind upon surfaces of different size and figure, or upon the
same surface, when placed in different directions, inclined at
different angles, or curved in different arches. . . . After trying
several experiments on surfaces of various shapes, he ascertained
the difference of resistance in different cases, suggested the
probable cause of these variations, and opened a large field for
future curious and useful speculation; useful it may be called, as
well as curious, because such knowledge applies immediately to the
wants and active business of life, to the construction of wind- and
water-mills, and to the extensive purposes of navigation. The theory
of philosophers and the practice of mechanics and seamen were, and
perhaps are still, at variance as to the manner in which sails of
wind-mills and of ships should be set. Dr. Hooke, in his day,
expressed "his surprise at the obstinacy of seamen in continuing,
after what appeared the clearest demonstration to the contrary, to
prefer what are called bellying or bunting sails, to such as are
hauled tight." The doctor said that he would, at some future time,
add the test of experiment to mathematical investigation in support
of his theory.

'It is remarkable that this test of experiment, when at length it
was applied, confirmed the truth of what the philosopher had
reprobated as an obstinate vulgar error. My father, in his Essay on
the Resistance of the Air, gives the result of his experiments on a
flat and curved surface of the same dimensions, and explains the
cause of the error into which Dr. Hooke, M. Parent, and other
mathematicians had fallen in their theoretic reasonings. . . .

'It is remarkable that a man of naturally lively imagination and of
inventive genius should not, in science, have ever followed any
fanciful theory of his own, but that all he did should have been
characterised by patient investigation and prudent experiment. . . .

'In science, it is not given to man to finish; to persevere, to
advance a step or two, is all that can be accomplished, and all that
will be expected by the real philosopher.

'"We will endeavour" is the humble and becoming motto of our
philosophical society.'


In his seventy-first year Edgeworth had a dangerous illness, and
though he seemed to recover from it for a time, he never regained
his former strength. One great privation was that, from the failure
of his sight, he became dependent on others to read and write for
him. But his cheerful fortitude did not fail, though he felt that
his days were numbered. He had promised to try some private
experiments for the Dublin Society, and with the help of his son
William he carried out a set of experiments on wheel carriages in
April 1815 and in May 1816.

Almost his last literary effort was to dictate some pages which he
contributed to his daughter Maria's novel Ormond, and he delighted
in having the proofsheets read to him and in correcting them. Mrs.
Ritchie has given some touching details of his last days in her
Introduction to a new edition of Ormond.

Maria writes:--'The whole of Moriaty's history, and his escape from
prison, were dictated without any alteration, or hesitation of a
word, to Honora and me. This history Mr. Edgeworth heard from the
actual hero of it, Michael Dunne, whom he chanced to meet in the
town of Navan, where he was living respectably. He kept a shop where
Mr. Edgeworth went to purchase some boards, and observing something
very remarkable about the man's countenance, he questioned him as
they were looking at the lumber in his yard, and Dunne readily told
his tale almost in the very words used by Moriaty. . . . Mr.
Edgeworth also wrote the meeting between Moriaty and his wife when
he jumps out of the carriage the moment he hears her voice.'

Edgeworth kept his intellectual faculties to the last. 'To the last
they continued clear, vigorous, energetic; and to the last were
exerted in doing good, and in fulfilling every duty, public and
private. . . .

'In the closing hours of his life his bodily sufferings subsided,
and in the most serene and happy state, he said, before he sank to
that sleep from which he never wakened:

'"I die with the soft feeling of gratitude to my friends and
submission to the God who made me."'

He died the 13th of June 1817.

It may be thought to be an easy task to make an abridgment of a
biography, but in some ways it is almost as difficult as it is for
the sketcher to choose what he will put into his picture and yet
preserve a due proportion and give a faithful idea of the whole
scene before him. I have tried to give such portions of the Memoirs
as will present the many-sided character of R. L. Edgeworth in
relation to his scientific, literary, and educational work, and in
relation to his position as a landlord, a father, and a friend. He
was a singular instance of great mental activity with little
ambition; of a genial nature in his own family circle and among his
friends, he withdrew from the multitude, and refused to lower his
standard of cultivated intercourse in order to win favour with
coarser natures. He is chiefly remembered now as an educational
reformer and as the guide of Maria Edgeworth in the earlier stages
of her literary career. What she achieved was in great part due to
her father's judicious training and encouragement.

A little more ambition and the spur of poverty might have made
Edgeworth better known as an inventor of useful machines: it is
curious to remark how nearly he invented the bicycle. He saw the
advantage that light railways would be to Ireland, but the breath of
mechanical life, steam, as a power, he did not foresee.

He might have written a book on 'The Domestic Life,' so fully had
he mastered the secrets of a happy home. He was naturally
passionate, but had trained himself to be on his guard against his
temper, and was always anxious to improve and to correct any bad
habit or fault: even in old age he was constantly on the watch lest
bodily infirmities should lead to moral deterioration. He was not
too proud to own when he had made mistakes, but used the experience
he had gained, and carefully studied his own character and the
circumstances which had been most beneficial in forming it. He
controlled his expenses as prudently as his temper, and would not
allow his inventive faculties to lead him into unjustifiable
outlays. His daughter mentions that 'when he was a youth of
nineteen, an old gentleman, who saw him passing by his window, said
of him, judging by the liveliness of his manner and appearance,
"There goes a young fellow who will in a few years dissipate all the
fortune his prudent father has been nursing for him his whole life."

'The prophecy was, by a kind neighbour, repeated to him, and, as I
have heard him say, it made such an impression as tended
considerably to prevent its own accomplishment.

'He acquired the habit of calculating and forming estimates most
accurately. He not only estimated what every object of fancy and
taste would cost, but he accustomed himself to consider what the
actual enjoyment of the indulgence would be. ... He upon all
occasions carefully separated the idea of the pleasure of possession
from that of contemplating any object of taste.'

She also mentions that 'he observed, that the happiness that people
derive from the cultivation of their understandings is not in
proportion to the talents and capacities of the individual, but is
compounded of the united measure of these, and of the use made of
them by the possessor; this must include good or ill temper, and
other moral dispositions. Some with transcendent talents waste these
in futile projects; others make them a source of misery, by
indulging that overweening anxiety for fame which ends in
disappointment, and excites too often the powerful passions of envy
and jealousy; others, too humble, or too weak, fret away their
spirits and their life in deploring that they were not born with
more abilities. But though so many lament the want of talents, few
actually derive as much happiness as they might from the share of
understanding which they possess. My father never wasted his time in
deploring the want of that which he could by exertion acquire. Nor
did he suffer fame in any pursuit to be his first object.'

We feel that we are in the moral atmosphere of Paley and Butler when
she adds:--'Far beyond the pleasures of celebrity, or praise in any
form, he classed self-approbation and benevolence: these he thought
the most secure sources of satisfaction in this world.' This is the
spirit of the Eighteenth Century, the clear cold tone of the moral
philosopher, not the enthusiastic impulse of the fervid theologian,
of Pusey, Keble, or Newman. One star does indeed differ from another
in glory, but all give brilliance to our firmament and raise our
thoughts from earth.

Such a life as Richard Edgeworth's seems to me to be more
instructive than even that excellent moral guide-book written by Sir
John Lubbock, The Uses of Life, because abstract maxims take less
hold of uncultivated or unanalytical minds than the portrait of a
man of flesh and blood. Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress reaches many
hearts which are unmoved by an ordinary sermon, and Edgeworth's life
was indeed a progress, a constant striving not only to improve
himself but to help others onward in the right way. He showed what a
good landlord could do in Ireland, and what a good father can do in
binding a family in happy union.

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