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Title: Maria Edgeworth
Author: Zimmern, Helen, 1846-1934
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Maria Edgeworth" ***

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Famous Women.


MARIA EDGEWORTH.


_The next volumes in the Famous Women Series will be_:

SARAH AND ANGELINA GRIMKE. By Mrs. Birney.

ANNE BRADSTREET. By Helen Campbell.


_Already published_:

GEORGE ELIOT. By Miss Blind.

EMILY BRONTË. By Miss Robinson.

GEORGE SAND. By Miss Thomas.

MARY LAMB. By Mrs. Gilchrist

MARGARET FULLER. By Julia Ward Howe.

MARIA EDGEWORTH. By Miss Zimmern.

[Illustration: FAMOUS WOMEN]



MARIA EDGEWORTH.

BY

HELEN ZIMMERN.


BOSTON:
ROBERTS BROTHERS.
1884.



_Copyright, 1883_, BY ROBERTS BROTHERS.


UNIVERSITY PRESS: JOHN WILSON AND SON, CAMBRIDGE.



PREFACE.


Though many notices of Miss Edgeworth have appeared from time to time,
nothing approaching to a Life of her has been published in this country.
As I have had the good fortune to have access to an unpublished memoir
of her, written by her stepmother, as well as to a large number of her
private letters, I am enabled to place what I hope is at least an
authentic biography before the reader. Besides much kindness received
from the members of Miss Edgeworth's family, I have also to acknowledge
my obligations for help afforded in the preparation of this little book
to Mrs. George Ticknor and Miss Ticknor of Boston, U. S. A., Mrs. Le
Breton, Sir Henry Holland, Bart., the Rev. Canon Holland, the Rev. Dr.
Sadler and Mr. F. Y. Edgeworth.

H. Z.

LONDON, August, 1883.



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER I.

                                               PAGE

INTRODUCTORY                                      9

CHAPTER II.

EARLY YEARS                                      17

CHAPTER III.

GIRLHOOD                                         28

CHAPTER IV.

WOMANHOOD                                        42

CHAPTER V.

"PRACTICAL EDUCATION"--CHILDREN'S BOOKS          52

CHAPTER VI.

IRISH AND MORAL TALES                            73

CHAPTER VII.

IN FRANCE AND AT HOME                            88

CHAPTER VIII.

FASHIONABLE AND POPULAR TALES                   116

CHAPTER IX.

VISIT TO LONDON--MR. EDGEWORTH'S DEATH          144

CHAPTER X.

LATER NOVELS--GENERAL ESTIMATE                  161

CHAPTER XI.

VISITS ABROAD AND AT HOME                       193

CHAPTER XII.

MR. EDGEWORTH'S MEMOIRS PUBLISHED--1821
TO 1825                                         214

CHAPTER XIII.

1826 TO 1834                                    237

CHAPTER XIV.

LAST YEARS                                      269



MARIA EDGEWORTH.



CHAPTER I.

INTRODUCTORY.


Too many memoirs begin with tradition; to trace a subject _ab ovo_ seems
to have a fatal attraction for the human mind. It is not needful to
retrace so far in speaking of Miss Edgeworth; but, for a right
understanding of her life and social position, it is necessary to say
some words about her ancestry. Of her family and descent she might well
be proud, if ancestry alone, apart from the question whether those
ancestors of themselves merit the admiration of their descendants, be a
legitimate source of pride. The Edgeworths, originally established, it
is believed, at Edgeworth, now Edgeware, in Middlesex, would appear to
have settled in Ireland in the sixteenth century. The earliest of whom
we have historical record is Roger Edgeworth, a monk, who followed in
the footsteps of his sovereign, Henry VIII., both by being a defender
of the faith and by succumbing to the bright eyes of beauty, for whose
sake he finally renounced Catholicism and married. His sons, Edward and
Francis; went to Ireland. The elder brother, Edward, became Bishop of
Down and Connor, and died without issue. It was the younger, Francis,
who founded the house of Edgeworth of Edgeworthstown; and ever since
Edgeworthstown, in the county of Longford, Ireland, has remained in the
possession of the family whence it derived its name. The Edgeworths soon
became one of the most powerful families in the district, and
experienced their full share of the perils and vicissitudes of the
stormy period that apparently ended with the victories of William III.
Most members of the family seem to have been gay and extravagant, living
in alternate affluence and distress, and several of Maria Edgeworth's
characters of Irish squires are derived from her ancestors. The family
continued Protestant--the famous Abbé Edgeworth was a convert--and Maria
Edgeworth's great-grandfather was so zealous in the reformed cause as to
earn for himself the sobriquet of "Protestant Frank." His son married a
Welsh lady, who became the mother of Richard Lovell Edgeworth, a man who
will always be remembered as the father of his daughter. He was,
however, something more than this; and as the lives of the father and
daughter were throughout so intimately interwoven, a brief account of
his career is needful for a comprehension of hers.

Richard Lovell Edgeworth was born at Bath in 1744, and spent his early
years partly in England, partly in Ireland, receiving a careful
education. In his youth he was known as "a gay philosopher," in the days
when the word philosopher was still used in its true sense of a lover of
wisdom. Light-hearted and gay, good-humored and self-complacent;
possessed of an active and cultivated mind, just and fearless, but
troubled with neither loftiness nor depth of feeling, Richard Lovell
Edgeworth was nevertheless a remarkable personage, when the time at
which he lived is taken into account. He foresaw much of the progress
our own century has made, clearly indicated some of its features, and
actually achieved for agriculture and industry a multitude of
inventions, modest as far as the glory of the world attaches to them,
but none the less useful for the services they render. Many of his
ideas, rejected as visionary and impracticable when he first promulgated
them, have now become the common property of mankind. He was no mere
theorist; when he had established a theory he loved to put it into
practice, and as his theories ranged over many and wide fields, so did
his experiments. Even in late life, when most persons care only to
cultivate repose, he threw himself, with all the ardor of youth, into
schemes of improvement for the good of Ireland; for he was sincerely
devoted to her true welfare, and held in contempt the mock patriotism
that looks only to popularity. In early life he sowed a certain quantity
of wild oats, the result of the super-abundant animal spirits that
distinguished him, and at the age of sixteen contracted a mock-marriage,
which his father found needful to have annulled by a process of law.
After this escapade he was entered at Corpus Christi, Oxford, as a
gentleman commoner. During his residence he became intimate with the
family of Mr. Elers, a gentleman of German descent, who resided at Black
Bourton, and was father to several pretty girls. Mr. Elers had
previously warned the elder Edgeworth against introducing into his home
circle the gay and gallant Richard, remarking that he could give his
daughters no fortunes that would make them suitable matches for this
young gentleman. Mr. Edgeworth, however, turned a deaf ear to the
warning, and the result was that the collegian became so intimate at the
house, and in time so entangled by the court he had paid to one of the
daughters, that, although he had meanwhile seen women he liked better,
he could not honorably extricate himself. In later life he playfully
said: "Nothing but a lady ever did turn me aside from my duty." He
certainly was all his days peculiarly susceptible to female charms, and,
had opportunity been afforded him, might have rivalled Henry VIII. in
the number of his wives. This second marriage gave as little
satisfaction to his father as the first, but the elder Edgeworth wisely
recognized the fact that he was himself not wholly blameless in the
matter. He, therefore, a few months after the ceremony had been
performed at Gretna Green, gave his consent to a formal re-marriage by
license. Thus, before he was twenty, Richard Lovell Edgeworth was a
husband and a father. The marriage entered upon so hastily proved
unfortunate; the pair were totally unsuited to one another; and though
Mrs. Edgeworth appears to have been a worthy woman, to judge from the
few and somewhat ungenerous allusions her husband makes to her in his
biography, they did not sympathize intellectually--a point he might have
discovered before marriage. The consequence was that he sought sympathy
and pleasure elsewhere. He divided his time between Ireland, London and
Lichfield. The latter city was the centre of a somewhat prim,
self-conscious, exclusive literary coterie, in which Dr. Darwin, the
singer of the _Botanic Garden_, Miss Anna Seward, the "Swan of
Lichfield," and the eccentric wife-trainer, Thomas Day, the author of
_Sanford and Merton_, were conspicuous figures. They were most of them
still in their youthful hey-day, unknown to fame, and, as yet, scarcely
aspiring towards it. Here, in this, to him, congenial circle of eager
and ardent young spirits, Richard Lovell Edgeworth loved to disport
himself; now finding a sympathetic observer of his mechanical inventions
in Mr. Watt, Dr. Darwin or Mr. Wedgwood; now flirting with the fair
Anna. He must have posed as a bachelor, for he relates how, on one
occasion, when paying compliments to Miss Seward, Mrs. Darwin took the
opportunity of drinking "Mrs. Edgeworth's health," a name that caused
manifest surprise to the object of his affections. Here, too, he became
imbued with the educational theories of Rousseau, which clung to him, in
a modified degree, throughout his life, and according to which, in their
most pronounced form, he educated his eldest son. Here, further, at the
age of twenty-six, he met the woman he was to love most deeply. From the
moment he saw Miss Honora Sneyd, Mr. Edgeworth became enamored, and in
his attentions to her he does not seem to have borne in mind the fact
that he was a married man.

"I am not a man of prejudices," he complacently wrote in later life; "I
have had four wives.[1] The second and third were sisters, and I was in
love with the second in the life-time of the first."

The man who could make this public statement, and who could, moreover,
leave to his daughter the task of publishing the record of his
ill-assorted union with the woman who was her mother, was certainly one
in whom good taste and good feeling were not preëminent. The birth of
this daughter, who was destined to be his companion and friend, is an
event he does not even note in his memoirs, which are more occupied with
his affection for Miss Sneyd, from whose fascinations he at last felt it
would be prudent to break away. He left England for a lengthened stay in
France, taking with him his son, whose Rousseau education was to be
continued, and accompanied by Mr. Day, who, to please Miss Elizabeth
Sneyd, was about to put himself through a course of dancing and
deportment, with a view to winning her consent to a marriage if he could
succeed in taming his savage limbs and ideas into proper social
decorum. The death of his wife recalled Mr. Edgeworth to England. With
all possible speed he hastened to Lichfield, proposed to Honora Sneyd,
was accepted, and married her within four months of his wife's demise.
Mr. Edgeworth, the elder, had died some time previously; the son was
now, therefore, master of Edgeworthstown. Immediately after his marriage
he set out for Ireland, taking with him his bride and four little
children. From that date forward a new era in his life commenced. It was
not to run any longer in a separate course from that of his family.



CHAPTER II.

EARLY YEARS.


MARIA EDGEWORTH was born January 1st, 1767, in the house of her
grandfather, Mr. Elers. Thus this distinguished authoress was an
Englishwoman by birth, though Irish and German by race. At Black Bourton
her earliest years were spent. Her father, who had taken in hand his
little son to train according to the principles enunciated in _Emile_,
took little notice of her, leaving her to the care of a fond,
soft-hearted mother and doting aunts. The result was that the vivacity
of her early wit was encouraged and the sallies of her quick temper
unrepressed. Of her mother she retained little remembrance beyond her
death, and how she was taken into the room to receive her last kiss.
Mrs. Edgeworth had died in London at the house of some aunts in Great
Russell street, and there Maria remained until her father's second
marriage. Of her new mother Maria at first felt great awe, which soon
gave place to sincere regard and admiration. Her father had been to her
from babyhood the embodiment of perfection, and the mere fact that he
required love from her for his new wife was sufficient to insure it. But
she also learnt to love her for her own sake, and, indeed, if the
statement of so partial a witness as Mr. Edgeworth can be accepted, she
must have been a woman of uncommon power and charm.

Of her first visit to Ireland Maria recollected little except that she
was a mischievous child. One day, when no one heeded her, she amused
herself with cutting out the squares in a checked sofa-cover. Another
day she trampled through a number of hot-bed frames that had just been
glazed and laid on the grass. She could recall her delight at the
crashing of the glass; but most immorally, and in direct opposition to
her later doctrines, did not remember either cutting her feet or being
punished for this freak. It was probably her exuberant spirits, added to
the fact that Mrs. Honora Edgeworth's health began to fail after her
removal to the damp climate of Ireland, that caused Maria to be sent to
school. In 1775 she was placed at Derby with a Mrs. Latffiere, of whom
she always spoke with gratitude and affection. Though eight years old,
she would seem to have known very little, for she was wont to record
that on the first day of her entrance into the school she felt more
admiration at a child younger than herself repeating the nine parts of
speech, than she ever felt afterwards for any effort of human genius.
The first letter extant from her pen is dated thence, and though of no
intrinsic merit, but rather the ordinary formal letter of a child under
such circumstances, it deserves quotation because it is the first.

     DERBY, March 30, 1776.

     DEAR MAMMA:

     It is with the greatest pleasure I write to you, as I flatter
     myself it will make you happy to hear from me. I hope you and my
     dear papa are well. School now seems agreeable to me. I have begun
     French and dancing, and intend to make ["great" was written, but a
     line was drawn through it] improvement in everything I learn. I
     know that it will give you great satisfaction to hear that I am a
     good girl. My cousin Clay sends her love to you; mine to father and
     sisters, who I hope are well. Pray give my duty to papa, and accept
     the same from, dear mamma,

     YOUR DUTIFUL DAUGHTER.

It was at Derby that Maria learnt to write the clear, neat hand that
never altered to the end of her life; and here too she acquired her
proficiency in embroidery, an art she also practiced with success. As
her parents shortly after came to reside in England for the benefit of
Mrs. Edgeworth's health, Maria spent her holidays with them. Her
stepmother appears to have taken great pains with her, conversing with
her as an equal in every respect but age.

Her father had already commenced with her his system of educating the
powers of the young mind by analytical reflection. He soon saw that hers
was of no ordinary capacity. In 1780 he writes to her:--

     It would be very agreeable to me, my dear Maria, to have letters
     from you FAMILIARLY: I wish to know what you like and what you
     dislike; I wish to communicate to you what little knowledge I have
     acquired, that you may have a tincture of every species of
     literature, and form your taste by choice and not by chance. Adieu!
     enjoy the pleasure of increasing the love and esteem of your
     excellent mother and of your

     AFFECTIONATE FATHER.

     Your poor mother continues extremely ill.

Less than a month afterwards Mr. Edgeworth had to announce the death of
his wife. The letter in which he does so throws light on the
relationship of father, daughter and stepmother:--

     MY DEAR DAUGHTER:

     At six o'clock on Thursday morning your excellent mother expired in
     my arms. She now lies dead beside me, and I know I am doing what
     would give her pleasure if she were capable of feeling anything, by
     writing to you at this time to fix her excellent image in your
     mind.

     As you grow older and become acquainted with more of my friends,
     you will hear from every mouth the most exalted character of your
     incomparable mother. You will be convinced, by your own reflections
     upon her conduct, that she fulfilled the part of a mother towards
     you and towards your sisters, without partiality for her own or
     servile indulgence towards mine. Her heart, conscious of rectitude,
     was above the fear of raising suspicions to her disadvantage in the
     mind of your father or in the minds of other relatives. And though
     her timely restraint of you, and that steadiness of behavior,
     yielding fondness towards you only by the exact measure of your
     conduct, at first alarmed those who did not know her, yet now, my
     dearest daughter, every person who has the least connection with my
     family is anxious to give sincere testimony to their admiration of
     those very circumstances which they had too hastily, and from a
     common and well-grounded opinion, associated with the idea of a
     second wife.

     Continue, my dear daughter, the desire which you feel of becoming
     amiable, prudent and of USE. The ornamental parts of a character
     with such an understanding as yours necessarily ensue; but true
     judgment and sagacity in the choice of friends, and the regulation
     of your behavior, can be had only from reflection and from being
     thoroughly convinced of what experience teaches, in general too
     late, that to be happy we must be good.

     God bless you and make you ambitious of that valuable praise which
     the amiable character of your dear mother forces from the virtuous
     and the wise. My writing to you in my present situation will, my
     dearest daughter, be remembered by you as the strongest proof of
     the love of

     YOUR APPROVING AND AFFECTIONATE FATHER.

This letter, written at such a time, conveyed the impression intended,
and thenceforward, even more than previously, the will to act up to the
high opinion her father had formed of her character constituted the
key-note of Maria Edgeworth's life, the exciting and controlling power.

At school as well as at home Maria distinguished herself as an
entertaining story-teller. She soon learnt, with all the tact of an
_improvisatrice_, to know which tale was most successful. Many of these
were taken from books, but most were original. While entertaining her
companions Maria studied their characters. It was at school she
developed her keen penetration into the motives that sway actions. Here
also she saw numbers, though on a small scale, and could estimate the
effect of the voice on the multitude and the ease with which a mass can
be governed. Very early indeed her father encouraged her to put her
imaginings on paper; a remarkable proof of his enlightenment, for those
were the days when female authorship was held in slight esteem, when for
a woman to use her pen was regarded as a dangerous stepping beyond her
boundary, which exposed her to suspicion and aversion. Soon after Mrs.
Honora Edgeworth's death Mr. Edgeworth wrote:--

     I also beg that you will send me a tale, about the length of a
     _Spectator_, upon the subject of GENEROSITY. It must be taken from
     history or romance, and must be sent the day se'nnight after you
     receive this, and I beg you will take some pains about it.

The same subject was given to a lad at Oxford, and Mr. Sneyd was chosen
as umpire. He pronounced Maria's far the best. "An excellent story," he
said, "and extremely well written, but where is the generosity?"--a
saying which became a household proverb. This first story is not
preserved, but Miss Edgeworth used to say that there was in it a
sentence of inextricable confusion between a saddle, a man and his
horse.

The same year Maria was removed from her unpretentious school to a
fashionable establishment in London. Here she was to learn deportment
and the showy accomplishments that in those days constituted the chief
branches of a young lady's education. She was duly tortured on
blackboards, pinioned in iron collars, made to use dumb-bells, and some
rather stringent measures were taken to draw out her muscles and
increase her stature. In vain; by nature she was a small woman, and
small she remained. She also learnt to dance with grace in the days when
dancing was something more dignified than a tearing romp, but music she
failed in utterly. She had no taste for this art, and her music master,
with a wisdom unhappily too rare, advised her to abandon the attempt to
learn. She had been so well grounded in French and Italian, that when
she came to do the exercises set her, she found them so easy that she
wrote out at once those intended for the whole quarter, keeping them
strung together in her desk, and unstringing them as required. The spare
time thus secured was employed in reading for her own pleasure. Her
favorite seat during play-time was under a cabinet which stood in the
school-room, and here she often remained so absorbed in her book as to
be deaf to all uproar. This early habit of concentrated attention was to
stand her in good stead through life.

While his daughter was thus acquiring culture, Mr. Edgeworth was once
more engaged in courtship. Mrs. Honora Edgeworth, recognizing her
husband's nature, had recommended him on her death-bed to marry her
sister Elizabeth, whose proposed marriage to Mr. Day had long ago fallen
through. Though neither Elizabeth nor Mr. Edgeworth thought themselves
suited to one another, Honora's advice prevailed, and within eight
months after his last wife's death Mr. Edgeworth was once more married.
It does not appear what Maria, now old enough to judge, thought of this
new marriage, contracted so precipitately after the loss of one to whom
Mr. Edgeworth was so devoted; but she doubtless held it right, as she
held all done by her father, and she became to her new mother a warm
and helpful friend.

Soon after this marriage Maria's eyes grew inflamed, and a leading
physician pronounced in her hearing that she would infallibly lose her
sight. The physical and mental sufferings hereby induced were keen, but
they were borne with fortitude and patience. The summer holidays were
spent as she had spent some previous ones--at Mr. Day's. This eccentric
person had at last found a wife to his mind, and was settled in Surrey.
The contrast between the mental atmosphere of her school, where
externals were chiefly considered, and that at Mr. Day's, where these
were scorned, did not fail to exercise an influence. She was deeply
attached to her host, whose lofty mind and romantic character she
honored. His metaphysical inquiries carried her into another world.
Forbidden to use her eyes too much, she learnt in conversation with him.
The icy strength of his system came at the right moment for annealing
her principles, his severe reasoning and uncompromising love of truth
awakened her powers, and the questions he put to her, the necessity of
perfect accuracy in her answers, suited the bent of her mind. Though
such strictness was not always agreeable, she even then perceived its
advantages, and in after-life was deeply grateful to Mr. Day. The
direction he gave her studies influenced her, as his friendship had in
earlier days influenced her father. Mr. Day further plied her with
tar-water, then deemed a sovereign remedy for all complaints. Either
owing to this or the change of air, her eyes certainly grew better and
her general health improved, although she remained delicate, subject to
headaches, and unequal to much bodily exertion.

The following year (1782) her father resolved to return to Ireland to
reside. He had seen on his brief visits the mischievous results of
absenteeism, and felt that if it were in the power of any man to serve
the country which gave him bread, he ought to sacrifice every inferior
consideration and reside where he could be most useful. As, however,
Mrs. Honora Edgeworth's health could not be pronounced an "inferior
consideration," Mr. Edgeworth had been forced to live in England. Now,
though his new wife had even before marriage shown consumptive symptoms,
her constitution had so much strengthened that it seemed possible to
inhabit the family house. Mr. Edgeworth therefore returned to Ireland
with a firm determination to dedicate the remainder of his life to the
education of his children, the improvement of his estate, and the
endeavor to contribute to the amelioration of its inhabitants. He took
Maria with him, and there now began for her the tranquil current of
existence that was diversified by no remarkable events outside the
domain of friendship and kindred. The home she now entered, the social
and domestic duties she now undertook, continued the same for life. Her
return to Ireland marks an epoch in her history.



CHAPTER III.

GIRLHOOD.


Ireland is not among those countries that arouse in the hearts of
strangers a desire to pitch their tents, and to judge from the readiness
with which her own children leave her, we cannot suppose that they find
her a fascinating land. And little wonder, when we consider the state of
ferment and disorder which, in a greater or less degree, has always
prevailed there. Yet Miss Edgeworth says:--

     Things and persons are so much improved in Ireland of latter days,
     that only those who can remember how they were some thirty or forty
     years ago can conceive the variety of domestic grievances which, in
     those times, assailed the master of a family immediately upon his
     arrival at his Irish home. Wherever he turned his eyes, in or out
     of his house, damp, dilapidation, waste appeared. Painting,
     glazing, roofing, fencing, furnishing, all were wanting. The back
     yard, and even the front lawn round the windows of the house, were
     filled with loungers, "followers" and petitioners; tenants,
     under-tenants, drivers, sub-agent and agent, were to have audience;
     and they all had grievances and secret informations, accusations,
     reciprocating and quarrels each under each interminably.
     Alternately as landlord and magistrate, the proprietor of an estate
     had to listen to perpetual complaints, petty wranglings and
     equivocations, in which no human sagacity could discover the truth
     or award justice.

Returning to the country at the age of sixteen,[2] Maria Edgeworth
looked at everything with fresh eyes. She was much struck with the
difference between England and Ireland; the tones and looks, the
melancholy and gaiety of the people, were new and extraordinary to her.
A deep impression was made upon her observant mind, and she laid the
foundations for those acute delineations of Irish character with which
she afterwards delighted the world. It was her good fortune and ours
that at an age when the mind is most impressionable she came into these
novel scenes in lieu of having lived in their midst from childhood, when
it is unlikely that she would so well have seized their salient traits.

It was June when the family arrived at Edgeworthstown, and though
nominally summer, there was snow on the roses Maria ran out to gather.
She felt as if transported into a novel and curious world. Unfortunately
neither the situation nor the house of Edgeworthstown were beautiful;
there was nothing here to arouse romance in the girl's nature. The
country of Longford is in general flat, consisting of large districts of
bog; only on the northern boundaries are there some remarkably sterile
mountains. The house was an old-fashioned mansion, built with no
pretensions to beauty. It needed much alteration and enlargement to suit
the requirements of a growing family, and to accommodate his seven
children suitably, Mr. Edgeworth saw himself forced to build. His
extreme good sense guarded him from the usual errors committed by the
Irish squires of that period, who were either content to live in
wretched houses, out of repair, or to commence building on a scale as
though they had the mines of Peru at their command, and then abandoning
their plans as though they had not sixpence. The house at
Edgeworthstown, without ever having pretensions to architecture, was
simply made habitable. From the very commencement they began the even
tenor of life that was to distinguish the family. The father was the
centre of this remarkably united household. Miss Edgeworth says:--

     Some men live with their family without letting them know their
     affairs; and, however great may be their affection and esteem for
     their wives and children, think that they have nothing to do with
     business. This was not my father's way of thinking. Whatever
     business he had to do was done in the midst of his family, usually
     in the common sitting-room, so that we were intimately acquainted,
     not only with his general principles of conduct, but with the most
     minute details of their every-day application. I further enjoyed
     some peculiar advantages: he kindly wished to give me habits of
     business; and for this purpose allowed me, during many years, to
     assist him in copying his letters of business, and in receiving his
     rents.

Indeed, from their arrival the eldest daughter was employed as her
father's agent, for it was Mr. Edgeworth's conviction that to remedy
some of the worst evils of his unhappy country, it was needful to get
rid of the middle-men. On his own estate he was resolved not to let
everything go wrong for the good old Irish reason that it had always
been so. He labored with zeal, justice, forbearance. He received his
rents direct, he chose his tenants for their character, he resisted
sub-division of holdings, and showed no favor to creed or nationality.
Miss Edgeworth proved herself his worthy daughter. She exhibited
acuteness and patience in dealing with the tenants, admiring their
talents while seeing their faults; generous, she was not to be duped;
and just, she was not severe. Thus in a brief time, thanks to this firm
but kindly government, their estate came to be one of the best managed
in the county. The work it induced was certainly fortunate for Maria;
besides teaching her habits of business, it made her familiar with the
modes of thought and expression of the Irish. She learnt to know them
thoroughly and truly at their best and at their worst.

But Maria's entire time was not occupied with the tenantry. It was a
part of her father's system that young children should not be left to
servants, from whom he deemed, not without justice, that they learnt
much that was undesirable. He therefore committed to the charge of each
of his elder girls one of their younger brothers and sisters, and little
Henry, Mrs. Elizabeth Edgeworth's child, fell to Maria's lot. She
devoted herself with ardor to the boy, and was fondly attached to him.
But it was, of course, the father who superintended the general
education, following the lines afterwards laid down in _Practical
Education_. His system certainly succeeded with his numerous children,
though it might, as a rule, incline to make the pupils somewhat
presumptuous, self-sufficient and pragmatical. The animation spread
through the house by connecting the children with all that was going on
was highly useful; it awakened and excited mental exertion, and braced
the young people to exercise independence of thought. Mr. Edgeworth made
no empty boast when he wrote to Mr. Darwin:--

"I do not think one tear per month is shed in this house, nor the voice
of reproof heard, nor the hand of restraint felt."

How primitive was the state of Ireland in those days can be gathered
from the fact that, except bread and meat, all articles of food and
household requirement were to be had only in Dublin, and not always even
there. Neither was there much congenial society. The Edgeworths had no
liking for the country gentlemen who spent their lives in shooting,
hunting and carousing,--booby squires who did not even know that their
position put duties upon them. Formal dinners and long sittings, with
the smallest of small talk, were the order of the day and night. They
were, however, fortunate in finding in this social wilderness some few
persons really worth knowing, chief among whom were the families
resident at Pakenham Hall and Castle Forbes. The former house, the
residence of Lord Longford, was only twelve miles distant, but it was
separated from Edgeworthstown by a vast bog, a bad road, an awkward
ferry and an ugly country. Nevertheless, these obstacles were braved,
and at Pakenham Hall Maria met many people of literary and political
distinction. At Castle Forbes, some nine miles distant, by a more
practicable road, there was also to be met society varied and agreeable,
more especially so when Lady Granard's mother, Lady Moira, was in the
country. Lady Moira was a woman of noble character, much conversational
talent and general knowledge. As daughter to the Countess of Huntingdon
she had seen much strange society, and had been in the very midst of the
evangelical revival. Besides this she was a person of great influence in
Ireland. Her house in Dublin was the resort of the wise and witty of the
day, hence she was able to initiate Maria into a new and larger world,
to expand her ideas, and to increase her insight into character. It was
indeed fortunate for Miss Edgeworth that this old lady took a special
fancy to her. She was in those days very reserved in manner and little
inclined to converse--a contrast to after years, when her conversation
delighted all listeners. It was, perhaps, partly weak health that made
her silent, but probably yet more the consciousness of great powers
which were under-rated or misunderstood by her youthful contemporaries.
She had no frivolous small society talk to offer them. Lady Moira,
however, recognized the capacity of this timid, plain, inoffensive young
girl. She talked to her, drew her out, plied her with anecdotes of her
own experiences in life, and gave her the benefit of her riper wisdom.

Thus Miss Edgeworth early lived with and learnt to understand the
fashionable society of which she wrote so much. It is always fortunate
for a novelist to be born, as she was, amid the advantages of refinement
and breeding, without being elevated out of reach of the interests and
pleasures which dwell in the middle ranks. For want of this, many, even
amongst the most eminent writers of fiction, have suffered shipwreck.

While thus reserved in society, Maria relaxed with her father. She knew
he appreciated her powers, and his approbation was sufficient at all
times to satisfy her. One of her pleasures was to ride out with him--not
that she was a good horsewoman, for she was constitutionally timid, but
because it afforded her the opportunity of uninterrupted exchange of
talk. It was on these rides that most of their writings were planned.

In the autumn of their return to Ireland (1782) Miss Edgeworth began, at
her father's suggestion, to translate Madame de Genlis' _Adèle et
Théodore_. It was her first work intended for publication. The
appearance of Holcroft's translation prevented its execution, but
neither she nor her father regarded the time bestowed on it as misspent;
it gave her that readiness and choice of words which translation
teaches. Mr. Day, who had a horror of female authorship, remonstrated
with Mr. Edgeworth for having ever allowed his daughter to translate,
and when he heard that the publication was prevented, wrote a
congratulatory letter on the event. It was from the recollection of the
arguments he used, and from her father's replies, that five years
afterwards Miss Edgeworth wrote her _Letters to Literary Ladies_, though
they were not published till after the death of Mr. Day. Indeed, it is
possible that had he lived Maria Edgeworth would have remained unknown
to fame, so great was her father's deference to his judgment, though
sensible that there was much prejudice mixed with his reasons. "Yet,"
adds Miss Edgeworth, "though publication was out of our thoughts, as
subjects occurred, many essays and tales were written for private
amusement."

The first stories she wrote were some of those now in the _Parent's
Assistant_ and _Early Lessons_. She wrote them on a slate, read them
out to her sisters and brothers, and, if they approved, copied them.
Thus they were at once put to the test of childish criticism; and it is
this, and living all her life among children, that has made Miss
Edgeworth's children's stories so inimitable. She understood children,
knew them, sympathized with them. Her father's large and ever-increasing
family, in which there were children of all ages, gave her a wide and
varied audience of youthful critics, among the severest in the world.
Many of her longer tales and novels were also written or planned during
these years. Her father had, however, imbued her with the Horatian
maxim, _novumque prematur in annum_, so that many things lay by for
years to be considered by her and her father, recorrected, revised, with
the result that nothing was ever given to the world but the best she
could produce.

Thus, contented, busy, useful, the even course of her girlhood flowed on
and merged into early womanhood, with no more exciting breaks than the
arrival of a box of new books from London, an occasional visit to her
neighbors, or, best of all, to Black Castle, a few hours' drive from
Edgeworthstown, where lived her father's favorite sister, Mrs. Ruxton,
her aunt and life-long friend. For forty-two years aunt and niece
carried on an uninterrupted correspondence, while their meetings were
sources of never-failing delight.

In 1789 the sudden death of Mr. Day deprived Mr. Edgeworth of a valued
friend. This man, who, for a person not actually insane, was certainly
one of the oddest that ever walked this earth, with his mixture of
_mauvaise honte_ and savage pride, misanthropy and philanthropy, had
exercised a great influence on both their lives. They felt his loss
keenly. Another sorrow quickly followed. Honora, the only daughter of
Mrs. Honora Edgeworth, a girl of fifteen, endowed with beauty and
talents, fell a victim to the family disease. The next year Lovell, the
now only surviving child of Honora, also showed signs of consumption. It
became needful to remove him from Ireland, and Mr. and Mrs. Edgeworth
therefore crossed to England, leaving Maria in charge of the other
children. A house was taken at Clifton, and here Miss Edgeworth and her
charges rejoined their parents. The conveying so large a party so long a
journey in those days was no small undertaking for a young woman of
twenty-four. The responsibility was terrible to her, though she
afterwards dwelt only on the comic side. At one of the inns where they
slept, the landlady's patience was so much tried by the number of
little people getting out of the carriage and the quantity of luggage,
that she exclaimed: "Haven't you brought the kitchen grate too?"

At Clifton the Edgeworths resided for two years. Miss Edgeworth writes
to her Uncle Ruxton:--

     We live just the same kind of life that we used to do at
     Edgeworthstown, and though we move amongst numbers, are not moved
     by them, but feel independent of them for our daily amusement. All
     the _phantasmas_ I had conjured up to frighten myself vanished
     after I had been here a week, for I found that they were but
     phantoms of my imagination, as you very truly told me. We live very
     near the Downs, where we have almost every day charming walks, and
     all the children go bounding about over hill and dale along with
     us.

In a later letter she says that they are not quite as happy here as at
home, but have a great choice of books which they enjoy. While at
Clifton the eldest son visited them. His Rousseau education had turned
him out an ungovernable child of nature; he neither could nor would
learn, so there remained no alternative but to allow him to follow his
inclinations, which happily led him towards nothing more mischievous
than a sailor's life. At Clifton, too, they became acquainted with Dr.
Beddoes, who soon after married Maria's sister Anna, and became the
father of Thomas Lovell Beddoes, the poet of Death. A baby child also
died within those two years, which thus embraced meetings, partings,
courtships, much pleasant social intercourse, and much serious study.
For Maria it also included a visit to an old school-fellow in London:--

     She was exceeding kind to me, and I spent most of my time with her
     as I liked. I say most, because a good deal of it was spent in
     company, where I heard of nothing but chariots and horses, and
     curricles and tandems. Oh, to what contempt I exposed myself in a
     luckless hour, by asking what a tandem was! Since I have been away
     from home I have missed the society and fondness of my father,
     mother and sisters, more than I can express, and more than
     beforehand I could have thought possible; I long to see them all
     again. Even when I am most amused I feel a void, and now I
     understand what an aching void is perfectly well.

A letter written from Clifton is a charming specimen of Miss Edgeworth's
easy, warm-hearted family missives, which, like most family letters,
contain little of intrinsic value, and yet throw much light upon the
nature of their writer:--

     CLIFTON, Dec. 13, 1792.

     The day of retribution is at hand, my dear aunt. The month of May
     will soon come, and then when we meet face to face, and voucher to
     voucher, it shall be truly seen whose letter-writing account stands
     fullest and fairest in the world. Till then "we'll leave it all to
     your honor's honor." But why does my dear aunt write, "I can have
     but little more time to spend with my brother in my life," as if
     she was an old woman of one hundred and ninety-nine and upwards? I
     remember the day I left Black Castle you told me, if you recollect,
     that "you had one foot in the grave;" and though I saw you standing
     before me in perfect health, sound wind and limb, I had the
     weakness to feel frightened, and never to think of examining where
     your feet really were. But in the month of May we hope to find them
     safe in your shoes, and I hope that the sun will then shine out,
     and that all the black clouds in the political horizon will be
     dispersed, and that "freemen" will, by that time, eat their
     puddings and hold their tongues. Anna and I stayed one week with
     Mrs. Powys, at Bath, and were very thoroughly occupied all the time
     with seeing and--I won't say with being seen; for though we were at
     three balls, I do not believe any one saw us. The upper rooms we
     thought very splendid and the play-houses pretty, but not so good
     as the theatre at Bristol. We walked all over Bath with my father,
     and liked it extremely: he showed us the house where he was born.

The day of retribution was indeed nearer at hand than she anticipated.
In the autumn of 1793 the news of Irish disturbances grew so alarming
that Mr. Edgeworth thought it his duty to return immediately. The
caravan was therefore once more transported to Edgeworthstown.



CHAPTER IV.

WOMANHOOD.


On their return the Edgeworths at first inclined to think that the
English papers had exaggerated the Irish disturbances. Accustomed to a
condition of permanent discontent, they were relieved to find that
though there were alarms of outrages committed by "Hearts of Oak Boys"
and "Defenders," though there were nightly marauders about
Edgeworthstown, though Mr. Edgeworth had been threatened with
assassination, still, all things considered, "things in their
neighborhood were tolerably quiet." In this matter as in others, of
course, the basis of comparison alone constitutes the value of the
inference deduced. In any case the family resumed their quiet course of
existence; Mr. Edgeworth busy with the invention of a telegraph, Miss
Edgeworth writing, helping to educate the little ones, visiting and
being visited by her Aunt Ruxton. In the evenings the family gathered
round the fireside and the father read aloud. Late in 1793 Miss
Edgeworth writes:--

     This evening my father has been reading out Gay's _Trivia_, to our
     great entertainment. I wished very much, my dear aunt, that you and
     Sophy had been sitting round the fire with us. If you have
     _Trivia_, and if you have time, will you humor your niece so far as
     to look at it? I had much rather make a bargain with any one I
     loved to read the same book with them at the same hour, than to
     look at the moon like Rousseau's famous lovers. "Ah! that is
     because my dear niece has no taste and no eyes." But I assure you I
     am learning the use of my eyes main fast, and make no doubt, please
     Heaven I live to be sixty, to see as well as my neighbors. I am
     scratching away very hard at the _Freeman Family_.[3]

That Miss Edgeworth was not affected by the current sentimentalism of
the period, the above remark shows. Indeed, her earliest letters evince
her practical, straightforward common sense. Romance had no place in her
nature. In 1794 she was engaged upon her _Letters to Literary Ladies_.
She wrote to her cousin:--

     Thank my aunt and thank yourself for kind inquiries after _Letters
     to Literary Ladies_. I am sorry to say they are not as well as can
     be expected, nor are they likely to mend at present; when they are
     fit to be seen--if that happy time ever arrives--their first visit
     shall be to Black Castle. They are now disfigured by all manner of
     crooked marks of papa's critical indignation, besides various
     abusive marginal notes, which I would not have you see for
     half-a-crown sterling, nor my aunt for a whole crown as pure as
     King Hiero's.

The arts of peace, as she herself expresses it, were going on
prosperously side by side with those of war; the disturbances, of which
Miss Edgeworth continues to write quite lightly, having become
sufficiently serious to require military intervention.

In 1795 the _Letters to Literary Ladies_ were published. Considering the
time when the work was written it showed much independence and advance
of thought, though to-day it would be stigmatized as somewhat
retrograde. It is nothing more than a plea in favor of female education,
repeating arguments that of late years have been well worn, and of which
the world, for some time past convinced of the wisdom of according
education to women, no longer stands in need. The book is interesting
to-day merely as another proof of how much Mr. Edgeworth and his
daughter were advanced in thought. They could not be brought to the
common opinion then prevalent that ignorance was a woman's safeguard,
that taste for literature was calculated to lead to ill conduct, though
even a thinker so enlightened in many respects as Mr. Day indorsed Sir
Anthony Absolute's dictum that the extent of a woman's erudition should
consist in her knowing her letters, without their mischievous
combinations.

Not even the honors of first authorship could cause Miss Edgeworth's
private letters, then any more than afterwards, to be occupied with
herself. "I beg, dear Sophy," she writes to her cousin, "that you will
not call my little stories by the sublime title of 'my works;' I shall
else be ashamed when the little mouse comes forth." It is the affairs of
others, the things that it will please or amuse her correspondents to
hear, that she writes about. The tone is always good-humored and kindly.

Ever and again the noiseless tenor of her way was disturbed by the
insurgents. She writes, January, 1796:--

     You, my dear aunt, who were so brave when the county of Meath was
     the seat of war, must know that we emulate your courage; and I
     assure you, in your own words, "that whilst our terrified neighbors
     see nightly visions of massacres, we sleep with our doors and
     windows unbarred." I must observe, though, that it is only those
     doors and windows that have neither bolts nor bars that we leave
     unbarred, and these are more at present than we wish even for the
     reputation of our valor. All that I crave for my own part is that
     if I am to have my throat cut, it may not be by a man with his face
     blackened with charcoal. I shall look at every person that comes
     here very closely, to see if there be any marks of charcoal upon
     their visages. Old wrinkled offenders, I should suppose, would
     never be able to wash out their stains, but in others a _very_
     clean face will, in my mind, be a strong symptom of guilt--clean
     hands proof positive, and clean nails ought to hang a man.

In 1796 appeared the first volume of the _Parent's Assistant_. It is
agreeable to learn from a letter of hers that she was not responsible
for this clumsy title:--

     My father had sent the _Parent's Friend_, but Mr. Johnson has
     degraded it into _Parent's Assistant_, which I dislike particularly
     from association with an old book of arithmetic called the _Tutor's
     Assistant_.

The book was so successful that the publisher expressed a wish for more
volumes, to be brought out with illustrations. Miss Beaufort, the
daughter of a neighboring clergyman, was entrusted with the artistic
commission, which led to an intimacy between the families. Meanwhile
Miss Edgeworth, stimulated by success, continued to write new stories,
and to correct and revise old ones. The _Moral Tales_ were conceived at
this time, and the idea of writing on Irish Bulls had occurred to her.
She was also busy upon _Practical Education_. At the same time Mrs.
Elizabeth Edgeworth's health, that had long been precarious, gave way,
and in November, 1797, to the sorrow of all the circle, she fell a
victim to consumption. As before, Mr. Edgeworth was soon consoled. It
was in the direction of Miss Beaufort that he turned his eyes. There
must certainly have been something attractive in this man, now past
fifty, three times a widower, with a numerous family by different wives,
that could induce a young girl to regard him as a wooer. Miss Edgeworth
frankly owns that when she first knew of this attachment she did not
wish for the marriage. But her father, with his persuasive tongue,
overcame her objections.

Mr. Edgeworth himself announced his intending nuptials to Dr. Darwin, at
the end of a long letter dealing with the upas tree, frogs, agriculture,
hot-water pipes, and so forth:--

     And now for my piece of news, which I have kept for 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 30)
     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?

He was able to say so not only three years after, but to the end of his
life. Whatever may be thought of Mr. Edgeworth's many and hasty
marriages, it must be admitted that they all turned out to the happiness
of himself and his children. Miss Edgeworth wrote a long letter to her
future stepmother, characteristic both of her amiable disposition, her
filial piety and her method of regarding love. "Miss Edgeworth's Cupid,"
as Byron observed, "was always something of a Presbyterian." In it she
assures Miss Beaufort (who was her junior) that she will find her
"gratefully exact _en belle fille_;" a promise she fulfilled beyond the
letter.

Within seven months of his late wife's death, just as public affairs
were assuming a still stormier aspect, and the nation about to burst
into the rebellion of 1798, Mr. Edgeworth was once more a bridegroom.
The wedding trip of the couple took them through the disturbed
districts; they beheld rebels hidden in the potato furrows, and passed a
car between whose shafts the owner had been hanged--a victim to the
"Defenders." But in the house of Edgeworthstown there was, as ever,
peace and concord; and the trying situation upon which the new wife was
called to enter was smoothed for her even by the children of the woman
whom she had so quickly displaced in their father's affection.

In an incredibly short time all things and people found themselves in
their proper places, and the new Mrs. Edgeworth soon proved herself a
fitting person to hold the reins of household government. Only a month
after the marriage Miss Edgeworth can tell her cousin:--

     We are indeed happy. The more I see of my friend and mother, the
     more I love and esteem her, and the more I feel the truth of all
     that I have heard you say in her praise. So little change has been
     made in the way of living, that you would feel as if you were going
     on with your usual occupations and conversation amongst us. We
     laugh and talk and enjoy the good of every day, which is more than
     sufficient. How long this may last we cannot tell. I am going on in
     the old way, writing stories. I cannot be a captain of dragoons,
     and sitting with my hands before me would not make any of us one
     degree safer. I have finished a volume of wee-wee stories about the
     size of the _Purple Jar_, all about Rosamond. My father has made
     our little rooms so nice for us; they are all fresh painted and
     papered. Oh, rebels! oh, French! spare them. We have never injured
     you, and all we wish is to see everybody as happy as ourselves.

The summer passed with immunity from open insurrection in County
Longford; but it shortly appeared that the people were secretly leagued
with the rest of their countrymen, and only waited the arrival of the
French to break into rebellion. Soon the whole district about
Edgeworthstown was disturbed, and in September it was needful for the
family to beat a precipitate retreat from home, leaving it in the hands
of the rebels. Happily it was spared from pillage, thanks to one of the
invaders, to whom Mr. Edgeworth had once shown kindness. The family were
only away five days. A battle had speedily settled the rebels and
dispersed the French, whom their own allies had deserted at the first
volley. But those days, although only five days, seemed a life-time to
Miss Edgeworth, from the dangers and anxieties the family underwent in
their course.

By November all disturbances had so far subsided around Edgeworthstown
as to allow the family to busy themselves with private theatricals, Miss
Edgeworth writing the play, the children acting it, the father building
the stage. At the end of the year Mr. Edgeworth was returned for the
last Irish Parliament, and the family went with him to Dublin. The Union
was then the hot theme of debate, the Irish having incontestably shown
themselves incapable of home rule. Mr. Edgeworth very characteristically
spoke for the Union and voted against it, declaring "that England has
not any right to do Ireland good against her will."

In the spring of 1799 Mr., Mrs. and Miss Edgeworth went to England and
renewed their acquaintance with Mr. Watt, Dr. Darwin and Mr. William
Strutt of Derby. They also came into contact with many literary
celebrities, Mr. Edgeworth now posing as an author upon the strength of
_Practical Education_, written in partnership with his daughter, who was
ever not only willing but anxious that he should bear off all the honor
and glory. Among their acquaintance was Mrs. Barbauld, for whom both
father and daughter conceived a genuine regard, and whom Mr. Edgeworth
liked the more because she was a proof of the soundness of his belief
that the cultivation of literary tastes does not necessarily unfit a
woman for her domestic duties. In London they also visited their
publisher, Mr. Johnson, an intelligent, generous, but most dilatory man,
who was then confined in King's Bench Prison on account of some
publication held treasonable. Of this English visit there are,
unfortunately, only two letters preserved: one announcing the birth of
another baby into this already huge family, the other treating of "a
young man, Mr. Davy,[4] who has applied himself much to chemistry, has
made some discoveries of importance, and enthusiastically expects
wonders will be performed by the use of certain gases."

With the dissolution of the last Irish Parliament, Mr. Edgeworth's
public duties came to an end, and the quiet, happy life at
Edgeworthstown recommenced its even course, marked only by the
publication of Miss Edgeworth's works, and by births and deaths in the
family circle.



CHAPTER V.

"PRACTICAL EDUCATION."--CHILDREN'S BOOKS.


Two circumstances must never be lost sight of in speaking of Miss
Edgeworth's writings: the one, that she did not write from the inner
prompting of genius, but rather because it had been suggested by her
father; the other, that she wrote throughout with a purpose in view, and
by no means only for the sake of affording amusement. To blame her,
therefore, as has been so often done, for being utilitarian in her aim,
is to blame her for having attained her goal. A minor consideration, but
one that often proves of no minor weight, was the fact that Miss
Edgeworth never needed to follow authorship as a profession; its
pecuniary results were of no moment to her, and hence she was spared all
the bitterness and incidental anxieties of an author's life, the working
when the brain should rest, the imperative need to go on, no matter
whether there be aught to say or not. Her path, in this respect, as in
all others, traversed the high-roads of life. Fame at once succeeded
effort; the heart-sickness of hope deferred was never hers; she was
therefore neither soured nor embittered by feeling within herself powers
which the world was unwilling or slow to acknowledge.

It was in 1798 that were published two large octavo volumes, called
_Practical Education_, bearing upon the title-page the joint names of
Richard Lovell and Maria Edgeworth. This was the first partnership work
of father and daughter, that literary partnership "which for so many
years," says Miss Edgeworth, "was the joy and pride of my life." The
book was the outcome of a series of observations and facts relative to
children, not originally intended for publication, registered first by
Mr. Edgeworth and his wife Honora, and afterwards continued by Mrs.
Elizabeth Edgeworth. In consequence of Mr. Edgeworth's exhortations,
Miss Edgeworth also began in 1791 to note down anecdotes of the children
around her, and to write out some of her father's conversation lessons.
The reason for giving all this to the world was that though assertions
and theories on education abounded, facts and experiments were wanting.
Undaunted by the fear of ridicule or the imputation of egotism, Mr.
Edgeworth bade his daughter work the raw materials into shape, blending
with anecdotes and lessons the principles of education that were
peculiarly his. For this work Miss Edgeworth claims for her father the
merit of having been the first to recommend, both by practice and
precept, what Bacon called the experimental method in education. Mr.
Edgeworth, as we know, was a disciple of the crude, mechanical school of
Rousseau; and though, owing to his failure with his eldest son, he had
seen the necessity of some modification, he had never wholly abandoned
it, and had imbued his daughter with the same ideas. Happily for her,
however, her earliest training had been less rigid than that of her
brothers and sisters. She thus obtained elbow-room for that development
which her father's formal and overloading system might have crushed. But
of this she was unconscious, and she was ready to echo his opinions,
believe in them blindly and propagate them.

The book, though prolix, dull and prosy in part, containing much
repetition, many paltry illustrations, many passages, such as the
chapter on servants, that might be omitted with advantage, was, as a
whole, of value, and would not even now be quite out of date. But its
chief and abiding merit is that it was a step in the right direction;
and its worth must on that account be emphasized, although this was
exaggerated by Miss Edgeworth's filial fondness. There were in those
days no text-books for the first principles of knowledge for the young;
and though education had been a favorite theme with all the
philosophers, from Aristotle to Locke, their systems were too remote for
practical application. The inevitable but lamentable consequence was,
that theories of education were disregarded just by those very persons
who had the training of the young in their hands. They were pleased to
sneer at them as metaphysics. So much space was given in works of this
nature to speculation, so little to practical application of proved and
admitted truths, that the mere word metaphysics sounded to the majority
of readers as a name denoting something perplexing and profound, but
useless as a whole. Yet, as Miss Edgeworth pertinently observed in her
preface to _Harry and Lucy_, after being too much the fashion,
metaphysics had been thrown aside too disdainfully, and their use and
abuse confounded. Without an attentive examination of the operations of
the mind, especially as developed at an early age, every attempt at
systematic education is mere working at random. The great merit of Mr.
and Miss Edgeworth's works may be stated in her own words:--

     Surely it would be doing good service to bring into popular form
     all that metaphysicians have discovered which can be applied to
     practice in education. This was early and long my father's object.
     The art of teaching to invent--I dare not say, but of awakening and
     assisting the inventive power by daily exercise and excitement, and
     by the application of philosophic principles to trivial
     occurrences,--he believed might be pursued with infinite advantage
     to the rising generation.

The authors of _Practical Education_ did not seek to appeal to grave and
learned persons, like the former writers on these themes, but to the
bulk of mankind, in whose hands, after all, lies their application. In
this series of somewhat rambling essays, of the most miscellaneous
description, there are no abstruse or learned disquisitions, there is
nothing like a process of reasoning from beginning to end; it is
essentially a treatise for the mass. On every page there are remarks for
which previous authorities can be found; original ideas are rare;
nevertheless the whole is expressed so lucidly and familiarly, the
entire work is so crowded with illustrations of the simplest and most
obvious kind, that "the unwary reader can easily be entrapped into the
belief that he is perusing nothing more serious than a lively and
agreeable essay upon the tempers and capacities of children, written by
two good-natured persons who are fond of amusing themselves with young
people." Mr. Edgeworth believed according to the proverb, "that youth
and white paper can take all impressions," that everything could be
achieved by education; that, given the individual, it was possible to
make of him whatever the instructor pleased. Of course our present more
scientific mode of thought, our superior scientific knowledge, shows us
the untenability of so dogmatic a persuasion; but it was characteristic
of the eighteenth century, forms the key-note to many of their
educational experiments, and furnishes the reason of their failures. The
times when Mr. Edgeworth wrote and devised his doctrines were "the good
old days when George the Third was King," when education was at a
discount, when to have a taste for literature was to be held a pedant or
a prig. If Mr. Edgeworth went too far in his earnest advocacy of careful
training for the young of both sexes, in his belief in the result, our
modern school has perhaps, in the latter respect, erred on the other
side. We know now that it is out of the power of education to change
nature. Yet our scientific knowledge has inclined us, perhaps unduly, to
under-rate the value of training, and to allow too much play to the
doctrine of _laissez-faire_. As ever, the truth lies in the middle; and
in any case, because we are at present going through a period of
reaction, we should refrain from sneering at those perhaps over-earnest
men, of whom Mr. Edgeworth was a type, who, in a frivolous age, rebelled
against their unthinking contemporaries. It is too much the fashion to
stigmatize these men as prigs; pragmatic no doubt they were, conceited
and self-confident, and, like all minorities, over-ardent. Still it
cannot be enough borne in mind that the people of that period who
thought, thought more and read more thoroughly than those of to-day.
They came to original conclusions; they did not imbibe so much at
second-hand by means of criticism and ready-made opinions. Of this, Miss
Edgeworth and her father were notable examples; to this, her letters
bear abundant testimony.

In the preface to _Practical Education_ the respective shares of father
and daughter in the work are stated. He wrote all relating to the art of
teaching in the chapter on tasks, grammar, classical literature,
geography, chronology, arithmetic and mechanics; the rest, considerably
more than half, was by her.

"The firm of Edgeworth & Co.," as Sydney Smith named them, had now
attained literary notoriety. Their book, on its appearance, was praised
and abused enough to render its authors speedily famous. Mr. Edgeworth,
with his enormous family, had, of course, had good opportunities of
observation and experiment in the domain of education. It was conceded
that there was much that was wise and useful in his pages, mixed with
much that was absurd and dogmatic. But the real life and animation for
his tenets was to come from his daughter, who was to carry them further
than they would undoubtedly otherwise have gone, and the fact that quite
two generations of English men and women were instilled into
Edgeworthian doctrines is due entirely and alone to her. She made it the
business of her life to illustrate the pedantic maxims of her father,
and it has been ably remarked that between these narrow banks her genius
flowed through many and diverse volumes of amusing tales. It was with
this aim in view that _The Parent's Assistant_, _Harry and Lucy_, _Frank
and Rosamond_, and _Early Lessons_, those companions of the nursery,
were penned. Though not all published at this time--the continuation of
_Harry and Lucy_ not, indeed, until many years later--it is convenient
to treat of them all together, as they are one in unity of thought and
design.

Fully to estimate what Miss Edgeworth did for the children of her time,
and that immediately succeeding it, it is needful to point out the wide
contrast between those days and ours. To-day the best authors do not
think it beneath their dignity to write for children--quite otherwise;
while formerly few persons of any literary ability condescended to write
children's books. In those days, therefore, nursery libraries were not,
as now, richly stocked, and children either did not read at all, or, if
they were of a reading disposition, read the works intended for their
elders, often, it must be admitted, with the good result that a solid
foundation of knowledge of the English classics was laid. Still it was
only exceptional children who attempted these tougher tasks; most either
did not read at all or read such poor literature as was at hand. In a
series of able articles published some years ago, Miss Yonge has traced
the history of children's books. For a long time there were no such
things; then came some tales translated from the French and judiciously
trimmed, besides a few original stories of more or less merit, to which
latter category belonged _Goody Two-Shoes_. This was followed by the
reign of didactic works which began with Mrs. Trimmer, whose original
impulse came from Rousseau. It was his _Emile_ that had aroused the
school which produced Madame de Genlis in France, Campe in Germany, and
in England the Aikens, Hannah More, the Taylors of Norwich, and Mr.
Day. It was a famine that had to be met, and much stodgy food was
devoured, many long, hard words were laboriously spelt out, the pabulum
offered was but too often dull and dreary. Realism had invaded the
nursery, strong, high purpose was the first aim in view, and
entertainment was held a secondary consideration. As for the poor dear
fairies, they had been placed under a ban by the followers of Jean
Jacques. Fairy tales were treated as the novels of childhood, and held
by this school to cultivate the heart and imagination unduly, and to
arouse disgust with the assigned lot in life, which is rarely romantic,
but consists rather of common-place pleasure and pain.

The Edgeworths' ambition was to write the history of realities in an
entertaining manner; they held that it was better for purposes of
education, and more suited to the tastes of children, than improbable
fiction. The first proposition may, perhaps, be conceded, the second
scarcely. In any case, however, Mr. Edgeworth, who had a special leaning
to the _jejune_, had a particular dislike to this form of fiction.
"Why," he asked, "should the mind be filled with fantastic visions? Why
should so much valuable time be lost? Why should we vitiate their taste
and spoil their appetite by suffering them to feed upon sweetmeats?"
Even poetical allusions, he thought, should be avoided in books for
children. On the other hand, with the happy intuition he often
displayed, he recognized that the current children's books of his time
erred in introducing too much that was purely didactic, too many general
reflections. He urged his daughter to avoid these errors, to bear action
in view, and that whether in morals or in science, the thing to be
taught should seem to arise from the circumstances in which the little
persons of the drama were placed. He saw that in order to prevent
precepts from tiring the eye and mind, it was necessary to make the
stories in which they were introduced dramatic, to keep alive hope, fear
and curiosity by some degree of intricacy.

Admirably did his daughter carry out the precepts he thus laid down. It
was Miss Edgeworth who really inaugurated for England the reign of
didactic fiction. Though never losing sight of her aim, she also never
lost sight of the amusement of her young readers. She rightly
comprehended that only by captivating their senses could she conquer and
influence their reason. Her children's tales, written with motion and
spirit, were told in the simple language of the young. She went straight
to the hearts of her little readers because they could understand her;
they needed no grown person to explain to them sesquipedalian words.
There is a freshness about her stories that children are quick to
respond to, and it arises from the fact that the children she depicts
for her readers are real. Miss Edgeworth knew what children were like;
she saw them not only from without but from within; she had lived all
her life among little people. Their world never became a paradise from
which she was shut out. The advantages she thus enjoyed were as rare as
they are important for the due comprehension of the needs of childhood,
and she utilized them to the utmost. The chief charm of her tales, that
which makes them _sui generis_ both now and then, is that she not only
wrote in the language of children, but, what is even rarer, from the
child's point of view.

There are yet among us those who owe their earliest pleasures to Miss
Edgeworth, and if of late she has been somewhat jostled out of the
nursery and school-room because it is the tendency of the modern child
to revolt against all attempts to teach it unawares, we are far from
sure that the change is wholly for the better. It was a just perception
of this that caused Miss Yonge to say in _The Stokesley Secret_ that her
heroes "would read any books that made no pretensions to be instructive,
but even a fact about a lion or an elephant made them detect wisdom in
disguise, and throw it aside." The modern child finds, it is said, Miss
Edgeworth's tales dry; American books of a semi-novelistic character,
rattling stories of wild adventure, are preferred.

This may be so, but we cannot help thinking that, just in these days,
when the ethical standard held up to children is not too high, a
judicious admixture of these works with Miss Edgeworth's high-minded
stories, inculcating self-sacrifice, unselfishness, obedience, and other
neglected virtues, might be of great advantage. There are sundry of Miss
Edgeworth's children's tales that are truly engrossing, veritable
masterpieces of style and execution. Who is there, no matter how
advanced his age, who cannot read with pleasure the tales of _Lazy
Lawrence_, _Tarlton_, _The Bracelets_, _Waste Not Want Not_, _Forgive
and Forget_, _e tutti quanti_? Who is there whom it much disturbs that
the account of Eton Montem is not accurate, and that perhaps there could
have been nothing more unfortunate than to lay the scene of action of
_The Little Merchants_ in Naples, the one spot in all the earth where
the events therein described could not have happened? Change the name of
the locality, the charm of the tale remains and the absurdity is
removed. Nor must it be forgotten that children, less well read than
their elders, are less alive to these blemishes, which are, after all,
of no real import. Of _Simple Susan_, so great a person as Sir Walter
Scott said that "when the boy brings back the lamb to the little girl,
there is nothing for it but to put down the book and cry." Then as to
_Rosamond_, who does not feel a true affection for that impetuous,
impulsive little girl, and who is there (so greatly have our ideas of
morality changed) that does not think that in the matter of the famous
_Purple Jar_, an unjustifiable trick was played upon her by her mother?
It was a part of the Edgeworth system to make misdirected or mistaken
desires stultify themselves; but the child should have been informed of
the nature of the jar, and if then she still persisted in her choice,
she would have been fairly treated, which now she is not. _Frank_
remains a capital book for little people, and if, occasionally, Miss
Edgeworth's juvenile tales reflect too much of the stiff wisdom of her
age, these are matters which children, not morally _blasé_, hardly
remark. On the other hand, there is never anything mawkish in her pages,
she never fills the mind with yearnings for the impossible, she never
works too much upon the susceptibilities, which modern child-literature
so often does. Her writings for children are certainly _sui generis_,
not because she has attempted what has never been attempted before, but
because she succeeded where others failed. She made even her youngest
reader comprehend that virtue is its own reward, while avoiding the
error invariably fallen into by writers for the young, of representing
virtues as always triumphant, vice as uniformly punished--a fallacy even
children are quick to detect. It has been objected to her that she
checks enthusiasm, the source of some of the noblest actions of mankind.
This is true; she has somewhat erred on the repressive side, but her
purpose was right and good. She saw plainly that enthusiasm, generous in
its origin, is but too often the source of misfortune, ill-judged
effort, and consequent disappointment. Moderation, the duties of
contentment and industry, are what she loves to uphold; the lower,
humbler, but no less effective virtues of existence.

On the other hand it is clear, from her letters, that she herself was
not devoid of enthusiasm, and here, again, it was probably her father's
influence that made her exclude it from her writings. In one of her
letters she says:--

     _Vive l'enthousiasme!_ Without it characters may be very snug and
     comfortable in the world, but there is a degree of happiness which
     they will never taste, and of which they have no more idea than an
     oyster can have.

_Harry and Lucy_ falls sharply into two parts. The earlier portion was
intended to be read before _Rosamond_, and after _Frank_; the latter was
the last of the juvenile series. The work had been begun by Mr.
Edgeworth and his wife Honora, from the need of a book to follow Mrs.
Barbauld's lessons, and as a story to be inserted in this work Mr. Day
had originally written _Sandford and Merton_. _Harry and Lucy_ was
printed, but not published. It was kept, as originally meant, only for
the Edgeworth children; but after more than twenty years Mr. Edgeworth
passed the work on to his daughter, and bade her complete it and prepare
it for publication. The first portion thus came out early in the
century, while the last part did not appear till 1825.

_Harry and Lucy_ is unquestionably heavy in parts, especially the latter
half, yet first principles are well explained and popularized, and
instruction and tale so skillfully blended that the young reader cannot
skip the one and read the other. The main idea and the chief merit of
these volumes, not at once perhaps obvious, is that of enforcing in a
popular form the necessity of exercising the faculties of children, so
that they should be, in part, their own instructors, and of adding to
those more common incentives to study, which consist of rewards and
punishments, the far surer, nobler and more effective stimulus of
curiosity kept alive by variety and the pleasure of successful
invention. It was the desire of the authors to show with what ease the
faculty of thinking may be cultivated in children, a point on which Miss
Edgeworth insists in other of her tales. In _Harry and Lucy_ are
explained simply and familiarly, sometimes in conversations between the
children and their parents and friends, sometimes in dialogue between
the children themselves, the rudiments of science, principally of
chemistry and physics, and the application of these to the common
purposes of life. And herein we again encounter one of the grand merits
of the Edgeworths, which we can to-day better appreciate than their
contemporaries. They saw clearly what in their day was apprehended only
by very few, the importance that the study of science was to acquire in
the future. Miss Edgeworth says:--

     My father long ago foresaw that the taste for scientific as well as
     literary knowledge, which has risen so rapidly and spread so
     widely, would render it necessary to make some provision for the
     early instruction of youth in science, in addition to the great and
     successful attention paid to classical literatures.

And even apart from the immense importance of science in our daily life,
science is, of all studies, that best suited to the growth of a child's
mental powers. Novelty and variety are the spells of early life, and to
work these well and helpfully is the greatest good that can be done to
young people. Miss Edgeworth, in _Harry and Lucy_, as a whole succeeds
in rousing her reader's curiosity without making them suspect design,
and avoids all idea of a task. Thus the leading principles of science
are unfolded in familiar experiments which give young learners the
delight they would have in playing some interesting game, exercising
their ingenuity without tiring them. Then, having once felt the
pleasures of success, a permanent incentive to knowledge is induced,
which it remains with the parents or tutors to improve. The books are
obviously not such as are meant to be read at a sitting, and therefore
can only be put into the hands of young people with judicious care. But
in the Edgeworths' time neither old nor young devoured books after the
manner of to-day. The apparently desultory and accidental plan of the
book was really designed, purpose and moral being more skillfully
disguised than is the case with Miss Edgeworth's tales for her equals.
One of its great charms lies in the characters of the principal
_dramatis personæ_, whose temperaments are exquisitely sketched,
maintained and contrasted. Lucy, the lively, playful girl, who often
allows her imagination to go rambling far afield from her judgment, a
little inclined to be volatile, loving a joke, is cousin german to
Rosamond, and, like this little girl, truly lovable. She supplies the
lighter element, while the sterner is supplied by Harry, the brother she
idolizes, who is partly her companion, partly her teacher. He has a sure
and steady rather than a brilliant and rapid intellect, great mental
curiosity and great patience in acquiring information. He is more apt to
discern differences than to perceive resemblances, and therefore he does
not always understand the wit and fun of Lucy, which at times even
provoke him. In the conversations between them there is much judicious
sprinkling of childish banter and nonsense, "an alloy necessary to make
sense work well," to use Miss Edgeworth's own expressive words. A pity
that the ever-delightful "Great Panjandrum" therein introduced is not
her own, but only a quotation from a little-known nonsense genius.

This sequel to _Harry and Lucy_ was far from finding universal favor.
Sir Walter Scott wrote of it to Joanna Baillie:--

     I have not the pen of our friend Miss Edgeworth, who writes all the
     while she laughs, talks, eats and drinks, and I believe, though I
     do not pretend to be so far in the secret, all the time she sleeps
     too. She has good luck in having a pen which walks at once so
     unweariedly and so well. I do not, however, quite like her last
     book on education (_Harry and Lucy_), considered as a general work.
     She should have limited the title to _Education in Natural
     Philosophy_, or some such term, for there is no great use in
     teaching children in general to roof houses or build bridges,
     which, after all, a carpenter or a mason does a great deal better
     at 2s. 6d. a day. Your ordinary Harry should be kept to his
     grammar, and your Lucy of most common occurrence would be kept
     employed on her sampler, instead of wasting wood and cutting their
     fingers, which I am convinced they did, though their historian says
     nothing of it.

That both she and her father exacted much from their pupils and readers
is beyond question, but they regarded this as a wholesome effort, and
they were probably right. One thing is certain: that whatever their
shortcomings, Miss Edgeworth's children's tales exercised a wide, deep
and lasting influence over a long range of time, and nothing of equal or
even approximate importance arose coeval with them. It was she who first
brought rational morality to the level of the comprehension of
childhood, who taught the language of virtue and truth in the alphabet
of the young, thus forestalling the teaching of schools by her rare
power of combining ethics with entertainment. Miss Edgeworth can still
with advantage and pleasure hold her own even upon the present
well-stocked nursery book-shelves, and it might be well for the next
generation if we saw her there a little oftener. Better Miss Edgeworth
any day, with all her arid utilitarianism, her realism, than the sickly
sentimental unrealities of a far too popular modern school.



CHAPTER VI.

IRISH AND MORAL TALES.


In 1800 was published anonymously a small book called _Castle Rackrent_.
It professed to be a Hibernian tale, taken from facts and from the
manners of the Irish squires before the year 1782. It proved to be a
most entertaining, witty history of the fortunes of an Irish estate,
told professedly by an illiterate, partial old steward, who recounted
the story of the Rackrent family in his vernacular with the full
confidence that the affairs of Sir Patrick, Sir Murtagh, Sir Kit and Sir
Condy were as interesting to all the world as they were to himself.
_Honest_ Thaby, as this curious but characteristic specimen of Irish
good humor, fidelity and wrong-headedness was pleased to call himself,
having no conception of the true application of this epithet, had
certainly shown literary perception, or rather his creator for him. For
this was no other than Maria Edgeworth, who stood confessed upon the
title-page of the second edition that was clamorously demanded within a
few months of issue. The confession was wrung from her because some one
had not only asserted that he was the author, but had actually taken the
trouble to copy out several pages with corrections and erasures, as if
it were his original manuscript. It was in this work that Miss Edgeworth
first struck her own peculiar vein, and had she never written anything
but _Castle Rackrent_ her fame could not have died. It is a page torn
from the national history of Ireland, inimitable, perennially
delightful, equally humorous and pathetic, holding up with shrewd wit
and keen perception, mingled with sympathetic indulgence, the follies
and vices that have caused, and in a modified degree still cause, no
small proportion of the social miseries that have afflicted and still
afflict that unhappy land.

Here are portrayed a series of Irish landlords with their odd
discrepancies and striking individualities, alternately drunken,
litigious, pugilistic, slovenly and densely ignorant; or else easy,
extravagant and good-natured to the point of vice; all, however, of one
mind in being profoundly indifferent to their own or their tenants'
welfare. The sharp contrasts of the magnificent and paltry that
characterized their state of living, with the mixed confidence in a
special Providence and their own good luck that distinguished their
muddle-headed mode of thought, is forcibly held up to view. No
conclusions are drawn; the narrative, which never flags or drags, is
rattled off with spirit, the abundant anecdotes are poured forth with
true Irish exuberance, while the humor of the story arises in great
measure from the sublime unconsciousness of the story-teller to the wit,
naïvete or absurdity of his remarks. We are held spell-bound, we laugh
and weep in a breath, we are almost over-persuaded by loyal old Thady to
pardon the errors of the family, "one of the most ancient in the
kingdom, related to the kings of Ireland, but that was before my time."

If there was an ulterior end in view in this story beyond that of
recording national characteristics which she had had peculiarly good
opportunities for observing, and which she here reproduced from the life
with broad, full strokes, Miss Edgeworth has masked it so happily that
it does not obtrude itself. The society and manners of the Irish are
painted as equally provoking and endearing. The book is an epitome of
the Irish character, "fighting like devils for conciliation, and hating
one another for the love of God." Never did laughter and tears, sympathy
and repugnance, lie more closely together than in this tale. It is
curious to read the author's prefatory apology when there are still
alive, in every exasperated form, the very conditions she thinks belong
to a state of things rapidly passing away, "owing to the probable loss
of Irish identity after the union with England." The supposed "obsolete
prejudices and animosities of race" are unhappily still extant. Perhaps
it is partly this fact that makes Miss Edgeworth's Irish tales so fresh
to this day. But only in part; on their own account alone they are
delightful, and _Castle Rackrent_ even more than the rest.

We have Mrs. Barbauld's testimony that Miss Edgeworth wrote _Castle
Rackrent_ unassisted by her father, and judging how infinitely superior
in spontaneity, flexibility, and nervousness of style, force, pith and
boldness, it is to those of her writings with which he meddled, it is
forcibly impressed upon us that Mr. Edgeworth's literary tinkering of
his daughter's works was far from being to their advantage. Her next
published book was her first attempt to deal with the novel proper. In
_Belinda_ she strove to delineate the follies and hollowness of
fashionable life. The heroine is rather a lifeless puppet; but the more
truly prominent figure, Lady Delacour, is drawn with power and keen
intuition. A woman of gay and frivolous antecedents, striving to rise
into a higher atmosphere under the ennobling influences of a pure
friendship, and finding the task a difficult one, was no easy character
to draw or to sustain. Had Lady Delacour died heroically, as Miss
Edgeworth had planned, and as the whole course of the story leads the
reader to expect, the book would have been a success. But to allow her
to recover, to cause her to evolve a reformed character after a type
psychologically impossible to one of her temperament, weakened the force
of the foregoing pages and rendered them untrue. Again, it is on Miss
Edgeworth's spoken testimony to Mrs. Barbauld that we learn that she
meant to make Lady Delacour die, but that it was her father who
suggested the alteration; and since it was a part of the Edgeworthian
creed to believe in such simple and sudden reformations, she accepted
his counsel, to the artistic injury of her tale. It was Mr. Edgeworth,
too, who wrote and interpolated the worthless and high-flown Virginia
episode, in which Clarence Harvey takes to the freak of wife-training
after the pattern of Mr. Day. This incident is quite out of keeping with
the character of Clarence, who is depicted a wooden dandy, but not a
romantic fool. These changes, willingly submitted to by Miss Edgeworth,
who had the most unbounded belief in her father's superior wisdom on all
points whatsoever, also mark his idiosyncracy, for Mr. Edgeworth was a
most rare and curious compound of utilitarianism and wild romance.

It is almost possible, in Miss Edgeworth's works, to venture to point
out the passages that have been tampered with and those where she has
been allowed free play. Thus there are portions of _Belinda_ in which
she is as much at her best as in _Castle Rackrent_, or other of her
masterpieces. Who but she could have penned the lively description given
by Sir Philip Baddeley of the fêtes at Frogmore? How exquisitely is this
ill-natured fool made to paint himself, how truthful is the picture,
free from any taint of exaggeration! Sir Philip's endeavor to disgust
Belinda with Clarence Harvey, his manner of attempting it, and his final
proposal, is a very masterpiece of caustic humor.

_Belinda_ was no favorite with Miss Edgeworth. Writing to Mrs. Barbauld
some years later, she says:--

     Belinda is but an uninteresting personage after all.... I was not
     either in _Belinda_ or _Leonora_ sufficiently aware that the
     _goodness_ of a heroine interests only in proportion to the perils
     and trials to which it is exposed.

And again, after revising it for republication, she says:--

     I really was so provoked with the cold tameness of that stick or
     stone, Belinda, that I could have torn the pages to pieces; really
     I have not the heart or the patience to _correct_ her. As the
     hackney coachman said, "Mend _you_! Better make a new one."

Miss Edgeworth was therefore capable of self-criticism. Indeed, at no
time did she set even a due value on her own work, still less an
exaggerated one. To the day of her death she sincerely believed that all
the honor and glory she had reaped belonged of right to her father
alone. But there was yet another reason why Miss Edgeworth never liked
_Belinda_. She was staying at Black Castle when the first printed copy
reached her. Before her aunt saw it she contrived to tear out the
title-pages of the three volumes, and Mrs. Ruxton thus read it without
the least suspicion as to its authorship. She was much delighted, and
insisted on reading out to her niece passage after passage. Miss
Edgeworth pretended to be deeply interested in some book she was herself
reading, and when Mrs. Ruxton exclaimed, "Is not that admirably
written?" replied, "Admirably read, I think." "It may not be so very
good," added Mrs. Ruxton, "but it shows just the sort of knowledge of
high life which people have who live in the world." But in vain she
appealed to Miss Edgeworth for sympathy, until, provoked by her faint
acquiescence, Mrs. Ruxton at last accused her of being envious. "I am
sorry to see my little Maria unable to bear the praises of a rival
author." This remark made Miss Edgeworth burst into tears and show her
aunt the title-pages of the book. But Mrs. Ruxton was not pleased; she
never wholly liked _Belinda_ afterwards, and Miss Edgeworth had always a
painful recollection that her aunt had suspected her of the meanness of
envy.

In 1802 was published the _Essay on Irish Bulls_, bearing on its
title-page the names of father and daughter. Its title appears to have
misled even the Irish: at least it is related that an Irish gentleman,
secretary to an agricultural society, who was much interested in
improving the breed of Irish cattle, sent for it, expecting to find a
work on live stock. We have Miss Edgeworth's own account of the genesis
of the book:--

     The first design of the essay was my father's: under the semblance
     of attack, he wished to show the English public the eloquence, wit
     and talents of the lower classes of people in Ireland. Working
     zealously upon the ideas which he suggested, sometimes what was
     spoken by him was afterwards written by me; or when I wrote my
     first thoughts, they were corrected and improved by him; so that no
     book was ever written more completely in partnership. On this, as
     on most subjects, whether light or serious, when we wrote together,
     it would now be difficult, almost impossible, to recollect which
     thoughts originally were his and which were mine. All passages in
     which there are Latin quotations or classical allusions must be his
     exclusively, because I am entirely ignorant of the learned
     languages. The notes on the Dublin shoe-black's metaphorical
     language I recollect are chiefly his.

     I have heard him tell that story with all the natural,
     indescribable Irish tones and gestures, of which written language
     can give but a faint idea. He excelled in imitating the Irish,
     because he never overstepped the modesty or the assurance of
     nature. He marked exquisitely the happy confidence, the shrewd wit
     of the people, without condescending to produce effect by
     caricature. He knew not only their comic talents, but their powers
     of pathos; and often when he had just heard from 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.

The complaint of a poor widow against her landlord, and his reply, were
quoted by Campbell in his _Lectures on Eloquence_, as happy specimens,
under the conviction that they were fictitious. Miss Edgeworth assures
us that they are "unembellished facts," that her father was the
magistrate before whom the complaint and defense were made, and that she
wrote down the speeches word for word as he repeated them to her. This
_Essay on Irish Bulls_, though a somewhat rambling and discursive
composition, is a readable one, full of good stories, pathetic and
humorous. Besides giving critical and apt illustrations, the authors did
justice to the better traits of the Irish character. It was an earnest
vindication of the national intellect from the charge of habitual
blundering, showing how blundering is common to all countries, and is no
more Irish than Persian. They further proved that most so-called bulls
are no bulls at all, but often a poetic license, a heart-spoken
effusion, and that thus the offense became a grace beyond the reach of
art.

_Moral Tales_ also saw the light in 1801. They too were written to
illustrate _Practical Education_, but aimed at readers of a more
advanced age than the children's tales; in fact, both here and elsewhere
Miss Edgeworth strove to do on a larger scale what was achieved by the
ancient form of parable, to make an attractive medium for the
instruction and conviction of minds. It was a fancy of hers, and perhaps
a characteristic of her age, when female authorship was held in somewhat
doubtful repute, that she invariably insisted on appearing before the
public under cover of her father's name. He therefore wrote for _Moral
Tales_, as afterwards for all her works, one of his ludicrously
bombastic prefaces, which, whatever they may have done in his own time,
would certainly to-day be the most effective means of repelling readers.
The stories are six in number: _Forester_, _The Prussian Vase_, _The
Good Aunt_, _Angelina_, _The Good French Governess_, and _Mademoiselle
Panache_. Of these the plots are for the most part poorly contrived, the
narrative hammered out _invita Minerva_, and, owing to their aim,
nothing capricious or accidental is permitted. Too obviously they are
the mature fruits of purpose and reflection, not happy effusions of the
fancy, and hence also not always successful. Sometimes the fault lay
with the subject that afforded too little scope, sometimes the moral
striven after did not admit of the embellishments requisite for a work
of amusement. One thing, however, is certain: that Miss Edgeworth
honestly endeavored to combine entertainment with instruction, and that,
taken as a whole, she succeeded. She did not shelter herself behind the
saying that _Il est permis d'ennuyer en moralités d'ici jusqu'à
Constantinople_. But it is the key to her writings, to their excellences
and their defects, that the duty of a moral teacher was always uppermost
in her mind. Her aim was not to display her own talents, but to make her
readers substantially better and happier, to show how easy and
agreeable to practice are high principles. Again and again she insists,
with irrefragable force, that it is the ordinary and attainable
qualities of life rather than the lofty and heroic ones on which our
substantial happiness depends, an insistance new in the domain of
fiction, which as a rule preaches other doctrines. With this end in view
she had necessarily to sacrifice some freedom and grace of invention to
illustrate her moral aphorisms, her salutary truths, and she yielded to
the temptation to exaggerate in order to make her work more impressive.
Her _Moral Tales_ are a series of climaces of instances, an enlargement
of La Bruyère's idea, a method allowable to creations of fancy, but not
quite justifiable when applied to the probable. Moreover, it was a
feature of the eighteenth century, to which in many respects Miss
Edgeworth belonged, that its tales and novels were not analytic.
Psychology based upon biology was as yet unknown, or in so empirical a
stage as to be remote from practical application. The writers of those
days depict their characters not as the complex bundles of good and bad
qualities and potentialities that even the veriest scribbler paints them
to-day, but as sharply good or bad, so that one flaw of character, one
vice, one folly, was made to be the origin of all their disasters. It
is, of course, always dangerous when the author plays the part of
Providence, and can twist the narrative to suit the moral; but this
censure applies to all moral tales, by no matter whom. Miss Edgeworth
strove to civilize and instruct by the rehearsal of a tale, and if we
all, from the perversity of human nature, rather revolt against being
talked to for our good, it must ever be added in her praise that she
generally allures us and makes us listen to her maxims of right living.
Her self-imposed task was neither humble nor easy, but one that required
judgment, patience and much knowledge of the world; her moral
wholesomeness cannot be rated too highly or be too much commended. If
she ascribed too large a share of morality to the head instead of the
heart, this was the result of the doctrines with which her father had
imbued her.

The most successful of the _Moral Tales_ is beyond question _Angelina_.
Its moral is not obtrusive, its fable is well constructed, the tale is
told with point, spirit, gentle but incisive satire. The sentimental
young lady, a female Don Quixote, roaming the world in search of an
unknown friend whose acquaintance she has made solely through the medium
of her writings, is a genus that is not extinct. Never has Miss
Edgeworth been happier than here, when she combats her heroine's errors,
not by serious arguments, but with the shafts of ridicule. The tale is a
gem. _Forester_, on the other hand, for which Mr. Edgeworth claims that
it is a male version of the same character, does not strike us in that
light, nor is it as perfect in conception or execution. The character of
the eccentric youth who scorns the common forms of civilized society,
and is filled with visionary schemes of benevolence and happiness, was
based, it would seem, upon that of Mr. Day, and, as a portrait, was
doubtless a happy one. But the hero fails to interest, his aberrations
are simply foolish, the means whereby he is redeemed too mechanical and
crude, the whole both too detailed and too much condensed to hold our
attention or to seem probable. _The Good French Governess_ embodies the
Edgeworthian mode of giving lessons, which was to make them pleasures,
not tasks, to the pupils; maxims now universally recognized and
practiced, but new in the days when for little children there were no
pleasant roads to learning in the shape of _kindergärten_. _The Good
Aunt_ insists upon the necessity of home example and instruction, the
lack of which no school training can supply. It is the weakest of all
the tales, and verges dangerously upon the namby-pamby. _Mademoiselle
Panache_, according to Mr. Edgeworth, is "a sketch of the necessary
consequences of imprudently trusting the happiness of a daughter to the
care of those who can teach nothing but accomplishments;" but which,
according to most readers, will be pronounced the melancholy result of
an ignorance that could mistake an illiterate French milliner for an
accomplished French governess. It is unjust to lay the results of the
tuition of such a personage to the charge of that favorite
scape-goat--the frivolity of the French nation. _The Prussian Vase_, a
tale, again according to Mr. Edgeworth, "designed principally for young
gentlemen who are intended for the bar," is a pretty but apocryphal
anecdote attributed to Frederic the Great, of a nature impossible to the
mental bias of that enlightened despot. It is, moreover, an eulogium of
the English mode of trial by jury.

Taken as a whole, these tales may be said to enforce the doctrine that
unhappiness is more often the result of defects of character than of
external circumstances. Like all Miss Edgeworth's writings, they found
instant favor and were translated into French and German. With no desire
to detract from their merits, we cannot avoid the inference that this
circumstance points to a great lack of contemporary foreign fiction of a
pure and attractive kind.



CHAPTER VII.

IN FRANCE AND AT HOME.


The peace, or rather the truce, of Amiens had induced many travellers to
visit France. They all returned enraptured with what they had seen of
society in Paris, and with the masterpieces of art dragged thither, as
the spoils of military despotism. Letters from some of these tourists
awakened in Mr. Edgeworth a wish to revisit France. The desire took
shape as resolve after the visit to Edgeworthstown of M. Pictet, of
Geneva, who promised the family letters of introduction to, and a
cordial welcome among, the thinkers of the land. As translator of
_Practical Education_, and as the editor of the _Bibliothéque
Britannique_,[5] in which he had published most of Miss Edgeworth's
_Moral Tales_, and detailed criticisms of both father and daughter, he
had certainly prepared the way for their favorable reception. The tour
was therefore arranged for the autumn of 1802, a roomy coach was
purchased, and in September Mr., Mrs., Miss and Miss Charlotte Edgeworth
started for their continental trip.

The series of letters Miss Edgeworth wrote home during this time are
most entertaining, unaffected, sprightly and graphic. She often sketches
a character, a national peculiarity, with a touch, while on the other
hand she does not shirk detail if only she can succeed in presenting a
vivid picture of all she is beholding to those dear ones at home who are
debarred from the same enjoyment. Carnarvon, Bangor, Etruria and
Leicester were visited on the way out. At Leicester Miss Edgeworth had
an amusing adventure:--

     Handsome town, good shops. Walked, whilst dinner was getting ready,
     to a circulating library. My father asked for _Belinda_, _Bulls_,
     etc.: found they were in good repute; _Castle Rackrent_ in
     better--the others often borrowed, but _Castle Rackrent_ often
     bought. The bookseller, an open-hearted man, begged us to look at a
     book of poems just published by a Leicester lady, a Miss Watts. I
     recollected to have seen some years ago a specimen of this lady's
     proposed translation of Tasso, which my father had highly admired.
     He told the bookseller that we would pay our respects to Miss Watts
     if it would be agreeable to her. When we had dined we set out with
     our enthusiastic bookseller. We were shown by the light of a
     lantern along a very narrow passage between high walls, to the
     door of a decent-looking house: a maid-servant, candle in hand,
     received us. "Be pleased, ladies, to walk up stairs." A neatish
     room, nothing extraordinary in it except the inhabitants: Mrs.
     Watts, a tall, black-eyed, prim, dragon-looking woman, in the
     background; Miss Watts, a tall young lady in white, fresh color,
     fair, thin, oval face, rather pretty. The moment Mrs. Edgeworth
     entered, Miss Watts, taking her for the authoress, darted forward
     with arms, long thin arms, outstretched to their, utmost swing.
     "Oh, what an honor this is!" each word and syllable rising in tone
     till the last reached a scream. Instead of embracing my mother, as
     her first action threatened, she started back to the farthest end
     of the room, which was not light enough to show her attitude
     distinctly, but it seemed to be intended to express the receding of
     awestruck admiration--stopped by the wall. Charlotte and I passed
     by unnoticed, and seated ourselves, by the old lady's desire; she,
     after many twistings of her wrists, elbows and neck, all of which
     appeared to be dislocated, fixed herself in her arm-chair, resting
     her hands on the black mahogany splayed elbows. Her person was no
     sooner at rest than her eyes and all her features began to move in
     all directions. She looked like a nervous and suspicious person
     electrified. She seemed to be the acting partner in this house, to
     watch over her treasure of a daughter, to supply her with wordly
     wisdom, to look upon her as a phoenix, and--scold her.

     Miss Watts was all ecstasy and lifting up of hands and eyes,
     speaking always in that loud, shrill, theatrical tone with which a
     puppet-master supplies his puppets. I all the time sat like a
     mouse. My father asked, "Which of those ladies, madam, do you think
     is your sister-authoress?" "I am no physiognomist"--in a
     screech--"but I do imagine that to be the lady," bowing, as she
     sat, almost to the ground, and pointing to Mrs. Edgeworth. "No;
     guess again." "Then that must be she," bowing to Charlotte. "No."
     "Then this lady," looking forward to see what sort of an animal I
     was, for she had never seen me till this instant. To make me some
     amends, she now drew her chair close to me and began to pour forth
     praises: "Lady Delacour, oh! _Letters for Literary Ladies_, oh!"

     Now for the pathetic part. This poor girl sold a novel in four
     volumes for ten guineas to Lane. My father is afraid, though she
     has considerable talents, to recommend her to Johnson, lest she
     should not answer! Poor girl! what a pity she had no friend to
     direct her talents! How much she made me feel the value of mine!

After a trip through the Low Countries, the travellers entered France
and received many civilities in all the towns they passed through,
thanks to the fact that the _Bibliothéque Britannique_ was taken in
every public library. At Paris the Edgeworths were admitted into the
best society of the period, which consisted of the remains of the French
nobility, and of men of letters and science. The old Abbé Morellet,
"respected as one of the most _reasonable_ of all the wits of France,"
the _doyen_ of French literature, was a previous acquaintance. By his
introductions and those of M. Pictet, added to the prestige of their own
names and their relationship to the Abbé Edgeworth, the most exclusive
houses were opened to the family, and they thus became acquainted with
every one worth knowing, among whom were La Harpe, Madame de Genlis,
Kosciusko, Madame Récamier, the Comte de Ségur, Dumont, Suard, Camille
Jordan. In all circles the subject of politics was carefully avoided;
the company held themselves aloof, and wilfully ignored the important
issues that were surging around them; their conversation turned chiefly
on new plays, novels and critical essays. As is usual in such small
circles with limited interests, a good deal of mutual admiration was
practiced, and the Edgeworths received their due share.

At the Abbé Morellet's Miss Edgeworth met Madame d'Oudinot, Rousseau's
"Julie." This is her impression:--

     Julie is now seventy-two years of age, a thin woman in a little
     black bonnet; she appeared to me shockingly ugly; she squints so
     much that it is impossible to tell which way she is looking; but no
     sooner did I hear her speak than I began to like her, and no sooner
     was I seated beside her than I began to find in her countenance a
     most benevolent and agreeable expression. She entered into
     conversation immediately; her manner invited and could not fail to
     obtain confidence. She seems as gay and open-hearted as a girl of
     fifteen. It has been said of her that she not only never did any
     harm, but never suspected any. She is possessed of that art which
     Lord Kaimes said he would prefer to the finest gift from the queen
     of the fairies: the art of seizing the best side of every object.
     She has had great misfortunes, but she has still retained the power
     of making herself and her friends happy. Even during the horrors
     of the Revolution, if she met with a flower, a butterfly, an
     agreeable smell, a pretty color, she would turn her attention to
     these, and for a moment suspend the sense of misery--not from
     frivolity, but from real philosophy. No one has exerted themselves
     with more energy in the service of her friends. I felt in her
     company the delightful influence of a cheerful temper and soft,
     attractive manners--enthusiasm which age cannot extinguish, and
     which spends, but does not waste itself on small but not trifling
     objects. I wish I could at seventy-two be such a woman! She told me
     that Rousseau, whilst he was writing so finely on education, and
     leaving his own children in the Foundling Hospital, defended
     himself with so much eloquence that even those who blamed him in
     their hearts could not find tongues to answer him. Once at dinner
     at Madame d'Oudinot's there was a fine pyramid of fruit. Rousseau
     in helping himself took the peach which formed the base of the
     pyramid, and the rest fell immediately. "Rousseau," said she, "that
     is what you always do with all our systems; you pull down with a
     single touch; but who will build up what you pull down?" I asked if
     he was grateful for all the kindness shown to him. "No, he was
     ungrateful; he had a thousand bad qualities, but I turned my
     attention from them to his genius and the good he had done
     mankind."

La Harpe was visited in his own home:--

     He lives in a wretched house, and we went up dirty stairs, through
     dirty passages, where I wondered how fine ladies' trains and noses
     could go; and were received in a dark, small den by the
     philosopher, or rather _dévot_, for he spurns the name of
     philosopher. He was in a dirty, reddish night-gown, and very dirty
     night-cap bound round the forehead with a superlatively dirty,
     chocolate-colored ribbon. Madame Récamier, the beautiful, the
     elegant, robed in white satin, trimmed with white fur, seated
     herself on the elbow of his arm-chair, and besought him to repeat
     his verses. Charlotte has drawn a picture of this scene.

An interesting visit was also paid to Madame de Genlis:--

     She had previously written to say she would be glad to be
     personally acquainted with Mr. and Miss Edgeworth. She lives--where
     do you think?--where Sully used to live, at the Arsenal. Bonaparte
     has given her apartments there. Now, I do not know what you imagine
     in reading Sully's memoirs, but I always imagined that the Arsenal
     was one large building with a façade to it, like a very large hotel
     or a palace, and I fancied it was somewhere in the middle of Paris.
     On the contrary, it is quite in the suburbs. We drove on and on,
     and at last we came to a heavy archway, like what you see at the
     entrance to a fortified town. We drove under it for the length of
     three or four yards in total darkness, and then we found ourselves,
     as well as we could see by the light of some dim lamps, in a large
     square court surrounded by buildings: here we thought we were to
     alight. No such thing: the coachman drove under another thick
     archway, lighted at the entrance by a single lamp. We found
     ourselves in another court, and still we went on, archway after
     archway, court after court, in all which reigned desolate silence.
     I thought the archways and the courts and the desolate silence
     would never end. At last the coachman stopped, and asked for the
     tenth time where the lady lived. It is excessively difficult to
     find people in Paris; we thought the names of Madame de Genlis and
     the Arsenal would have been sufficient; but the whole of this
     congregation of courts and gateways and houses is called the
     Arsenal; and hundreds and hundreds of people inhabit it who are
     probably perfect strangers to Madame de Genlis. At the doors where
     our coachman inquired, some answered that they knew nothing of her;
     some that she lived in the Faubourg St. Germain; others believed
     that she might be at Passy; others had heard that she had
     apartments given to her by the Government somewhere in the Arsenal,
     but could not tell where. While the coachman thus begged his way,
     we, anxiously looking out at him from the middle of the great
     square where we were left, listened for the answers that were
     given, and which often from the distance escaped our ears. At last
     a door pretty near to us opened, and our coachman's head and hat
     were illuminated by the candle held by the person who opened the
     door; and as the two figures parted from each other, we could
     distinctly see the expression of the countenances and their lips
     move. The result of this parley was successful; we were directed to
     the house where Madame de Genlis lived, and thought all
     difficulties ended. No such thing; her apartments were still to be
     sought for. We saw before us a large, crooked, ruinous stone
     staircase, lighted by a single bit of candle hanging in a vile tin
     lantern, in an angle of the bare wall at the turn of the
     staircase--only just light enough to see that the walls were bare
     and old, and the stairs immoderately dirty. There were no signs of
     the place being inhabited except this lamp, which could not have
     been lighted without hands. I stood still in melancholy
     astonishment, while my father groped his way into a kind of
     porter's lodge or den at the foot of the stairs, where he found a
     man who was porter to various people who inhabited this house. You
     know the Parisian houses are inhabited by hordes of different
     people, and the stairs are in fact streets, and dirty streets, to
     their dwellings. The porter, who was neither obliging nor
     intelligent, carelessly said that "_Madame de Genlis logeait au
     seconde à gauche, qu'il faudrait tirer sa sonnette_"--he believed
     she was at home if she was not gone out. Up we went by ourselves,
     for this porter, though we were strangers and pleaded that we were
     so, never offered to stir a step to guide or to light us. When we
     got to the second stage, we finally saw, by the light from the one
     candle at the first landing-place, two dirty, large folding doors,
     one set on the right and one on the left, and having on each a bell
     no larger than what you see in the small parlor of a small English
     inn. My father pulled one bell and waited some minutes--no answer;
     pulled the other bell and waited--no answer; thumped at the left
     door--no answer; pushed and pulled at it--could not open it; pushed
     open one of the right-hand folding doors--utter darkness; went in
     as well as we could feel--there was no furniture. After we had been
     there a few seconds we could discern the bare walls and some
     strange lumber in one corner. The room was a prodigious height,
     like an old play-house, and we went down again to the stupid or
     surly porter. He came up stairs very unwillingly, and pointed to a
     deep recess between the stairs and the folding doors: "_Allez!
     voilà la porte; tirez la sonnette._" He and his candle went down,
     and my father had just time to seize the handle of the bell, when
     we were again in darkness. After ringing this feeble bell, we
     presently heard doors open and little footsteps approaching nigh.
     The door was opened by a girl of about Honora's size, holding an
     ill-set-up, wavering candle in her hand, the light of which fell
     full upon her face and figure. Her face was remarkably
     intelligent, dark, sparkling eyes, dark hair, curled in the most
     fashionable long corkscrew ringlets over her eyes and cheeks. She
     parted the ringlets to take a full view of us, and we were equally
     impatient to take a full view of her. The dress of her figure by no
     means suited the head and the elegance of her attitude. What her
     "nether weeds" might be we could not distinctly see, but they
     seemed to be a coarse, short petticoat, like what Molly Bristow's
     children would wear, not on Sundays; a woolen gray spencer above,
     pinned with a single pin by the lapels tight across the neck under
     the chin, and open all below. After surveying us and hearing that
     our name was Edgeworth, she smiled graciously and bid us follow
     her, saying, "_Maman est chez elle._" She led the way with the
     grace of a young lady who has been taught to dance, across two
     ante-chambers, miserable-looking, but miserable or not, no house in
     Paris can be without them. The girl or young lady, for we were
     still in doubt which to think her, led us into a small room, in
     which the candles were so well screened by a green tin screen that
     we could scarcely distinguish the tall form of a lady in black who
     rose from her arm-chair by the fireside as the door opened; a great
     puff of smoke came from the huge fireplace at the same moment. She
     came forward, and we made our way towards her as well as we could
     through a confusion of tables, chairs and work-baskets, china,
     writing-desks and inkstands, and bird-cages and a harp. She did not
     speak, and as her back was now turned to both fire and candle I
     could not see her face, nor anything but the outline of her form
     and her attitude. Her form was the remains of a fine form, and her
     attitude that of a woman used to a better drawing-room. I, being
     foremost, and she silent, was compelled to speak to the figure in
     darkness: "_Madame de Genlis nous a fait l'honneur de nous mander
     qu'elle voulait bien nous permettre de lui rendre visite, et de lui
     offrir nos respects_," said I, or words to that effect; to which
     she replied by taking my hand, and saying something in which
     "_charmée_" was the most intelligible word. Whilst she spoke she
     looked over my shoulder at my father, whose bow, I presume, told
     her he was a gentleman, for she spoke to him immediately as if she
     wished to please, and seated us in fauteuils near the fire. I then
     had a full view of her face and figure. She looked like the
     full-length picture of my great-grandmother Edgeworth you may have
     seen in the garret, very thin and melancholy, but her face not so
     handsome as my grandmother's; dark eyes, long sallow cheeks,
     compressed thin lips, two or three black ringlets on a high
     forehead, a cap that Mrs. Grier might wear--altogether an
     appearance of fallen fortunes, worn-out health, and excessive but
     guarded irritability. To me there was nothing of that engaging,
     captivating manner which I had been taught to expect by many even
     of her enemies. She seemed to me to be alive only to literary
     quarrels and jealousies; the muscles of her face as she spoke, or
     my father spoke to her, quickly and too easily expressed hatred and
     anger whenever any not of her own party were mentioned. She is now,
     you know, _dévote acharnée_. When I mentioned with some enthusiasm
     the good Abbé Morellet, who has written so courageously in favor of
     the French exiled nobility and their children, she answered in a
     sharp voice: "_Oui, c'est un homme de beaucoup d'esprit, à ce qu'on
     je crois même, mais il faut apprendre qu'il n'est pas des Nôtres._"
     My father spoke of Pamela, Lady Edward Fitzgerald, and explained
     how he had defended her in the Irish House of Commons. Instead of
     being pleased and touched, her mind instantly diverged into an
     elaborate and artificial exculpation of Lady Edward and herself,
     proving, or attempting to prove, that she never knew any of her
     husband's plans; that she utterly disapproved of them, at least of
     all she suspected of them.

     This defense was quite lost upon us, who never thought of
     attacking; but Madame de Genlis seems to have been so much used to
     be attacked that she has defenses and apologies ready prepared,
     suited to all possible occasions. She spoke of Madame de Staël's
     _Delphine_ with detestation; of another new and fashionable novel,
     _Amélie_, with abhorrence, and kissed my forehead twice because I
     had not read it; "_Vous autres Anglaises, vous êtes modestes!_"
     Where was Madame de Genlis' sense of delicacy when she penned and
     published _Les Chevaliers du Cigne?_ Forgive, my dear Aunt Mary.
     You begged me to see her with favorable eyes, and I went to see her
     after seeing her _Rosière de Salency_, with the most favorable
     disposition, but I could not like her. There was something of
     malignity in her countenance and conversation that repelled love,
     and of hypocrisy which annihilated esteem; and from time to time I
     saw, or thought I saw, through the gloom of her countenance, a
     gleam of coquetry.[6] But my father judges much more favorably of
     her than I do. She evidently took pains to please him, and he says
     he is sure she is a person over whose mind he could gain great
     ascendancy. He thinks her a woman of violent passions, unbridled
     imagination and ill-tempered, but not malevolent; one who has been
     so torn to pieces that she now turns upon her enemies, and longs to
     tear in her turn. He says she has certainly great powers of
     pleasing, though I certainly neither saw nor felt them. But you
     know, my dear aunt, that I am not famous for judging sanely of
     strangers on a first visit, and I might be prejudiced or mortified
     by Madame de Genlis assuring me that she had never read anything of
     mine except _Belinda_, had heard of _Practical Education_, and
     heard it much praised, but had never seen it. She has just
     published an additional volume of her _Petits Romans_, in which
     there are some beautiful stories; but you must not expect another
     _Mademoiselle de Clermont_--one such story in an age is as much as
     one can reasonably expect.

     I had almost forgotten to tell you that the little girl who showed
     us in is a girl whom she is educating. "_Elle m'appelle Maman, mais
     elle n'est pas ma fille._" The manner in which this little girl
     spoke to Madame de Genlis, and looked at her, appeared to me more
     in her favor than anything else. She certainly spoke to her with
     freedom and fondness, and without any affectation. I went to look
     at what the child was writing. She was translating Darwin's
     _Zoonomia_. I read some of the translation; it was excellent. She
     was, I think she said, ten years old. It is certain that Madame de
     Genlis made the present Duke of Orleans[7] such an excellent
     mathematician, that when he was, during his emigration, in distress
     for bread, he taught mathematics as a professor in one of the
     German universities. If we could see or converse with one of her
     pupils, and hear what they think of her, we should be able to form
     a better judgment than from all that her books and her enemies say
     for or against her. I say her books, not her friends and enemies,
     for I fear she has no friends to plead for her except her books. I
     never met any one of any party who was her friend. This strikes me
     with real melancholy, to see a woman of the first talents in
     Europe, who had lived and shone in the gay court of the gayest
     nation in the world, now deserted and forlorn, living in wretched
     lodgings, with some of the pictures and finery--the wreck of her
     fortunes--before her eyes; without society, without a single
     friend, admired--and despised. She lived literally in spite, not in
     pity. Her cruelty in drawing a profligate character of the queen,
     after her execution, in _Les Chevaliers du Cigne_; her taking her
     pupils at the beginning of the Revolution to the revolutionary
     clubs; her connection with the late Duke of Orleans, and her
     hypocrisy about it; her insisting on being governess to his
     children when the duchess did not wish it, and its being supposed
     that it was she who instigated the duke in all his horrible
     conduct; and, more than all the rest, her own attacks and
     apologies, have brought her into all this isolated state of
     reprobation. And now, my dear aunt, I have told you all I know, or
     have heard or think about her; and perhaps I have tired you, but I
     fancied that it was a subject particularly interesting to you; and
     if I have been mistaken you will, with your usual good nature,
     forgive me and say, "I am sure Maria meant it kindly."

While at Paris, at the mature age of thirty-six, there happened to Miss
Edgeworth what is said to be the most important episode in a woman's
life--she fell in love. The object of her affections was a M.
Edelcrantz, a Swede, private secretary to the King, whose strong,
spirited character and able conversation attracted her greatly. She had
not, however, reasoned concerning her feelings, and never realized
either how strong they were, or dreamed that they would be reciprocated.
Knowing herself to be plain and, as she deemed, unattractive, and being
no longer young, it did not occur to her that any man would wish to
marry her. While writing a long, chatty letter to her aunt one day in
December, she was suddenly interrupted by his visit and proposal:--

     Here, my dear aunt, I was interrupted in a manner that will
     surprise you as much as it surprised me, by the coming in of
     Monsieur Edelcrantz, a Swedish gentleman, whom we have mentioned to
     you, of superior understanding and mild manners; he came to offer
     me his hand and heart!!

     My heart, you may suppose, cannot return his attachment, for I have
     seen very little of him, and have not had time to form any
     judgment, except that I think nothing could tempt me to leave my
     own dear friends and my own country to live in Sweden. My dearest
     aunt, I write to you the first moment, as, next to my father and
     mother, no person in the world feels so much interest in all that
     concerns me. I need not tell you that my father,

    "Such in this moment as in all the past,"

     is kindness itself--kindness far superior to what I deserve, but I
     am grateful for it.

A few days later she writes to her cousin:--

     I take it for granted, my dear friend, that you have by this time
     seen a letter I wrote a few days ago to my aunt. To you, as to
     her, every thought of my mind is open. I persist in refusing to
     leave my country and friends to live at the court of Stockholm. And
     he tells me (of course) that there is nothing he would not
     sacrifice for me except his duty; he has been all his life in the
     service of the King of Sweden, has places under him, and is
     actually employed in collecting information for a large political
     establishment. He thinks himself bound in honor to finish what he
     has begun. He says he should not fear the ridicule or blame that
     would be thrown upon him by his countrymen for quitting his country
     at his age, but that he would despise himself if he abandoned his
     duty for any passion. This is all very reasonable, but reasonable
     for him only, not for me, and I have never felt anything for him
     but esteem and gratitude.

Mrs. Edgeworth supplements these letters in the unpublished memoir of
her stepdaughter, which she wrote for her family and nearest friends.
She says:--

     Even after her return to Edgeworthstown it was long before Maria
     recovered the elasticity of her mind. She exerted all her powers of
     self-command, and turned her attention to everything which her
     father suggested for her to write. But _Leonora_, which she began
     immediately after our return home, was written with the hope of
     pleasing the Chevalier Edelcrantz; it was written in a style which
     he liked, and the idea of what he would think of it was, I believe,
     present to her in every page she wrote. She never heard that he had
     even read it. From the time they parted at Paris there was no sort
     of communication between them; and beyond the chance which brought
     us sometimes into company with travellers who had been in Sweden,
     or the casual mention of M. Edelcrantz in the newspapers or the
     scientific journals, we never heard more of one who had been of
     such supreme interest to her, as to us all at Paris, and of whom
     Maria continued to have all her life the most romantic
     recollection.

Miss Edgeworth's self-control was manifested at once. In none of her
other letters does the matter recur; they are as chatty and lively as
ever; but the incident throws much light both upon her character and the
precepts of repression of feelings she loved to inculcate. She had not
merely preached, but practiced them.

In January, 1803, Mr. Edgeworth suddenly received a peremptory order
from the French Government to quit Paris in twenty-four hours and France
in fifteen days. Much amazed, he went to Passy, taking Miss Edgeworth
with him, and quietly awaited the solution of the riddle. It proved that
Bonaparte believed him to be brother to the Abbé Edgeworth, the devoted
friend of Louis XVI., and not till it was explained to him that the
relationship was more distant was Mr. Edgeworth allowed to return. The
cause for the order, as for its withdrawal, was petty. The Edgeworths'
visit was, however, after all, brought to an abrupt conclusion. Rumors
of imminent hostilities began to be heard, and though the reports
circulated were most contradictory, Mr. Edgeworth thought it wise to be
ready for departure. It was decided that M. Le Breton, who was well
informed about Bonaparte's plans, should, at a certain evening party,
give Mr. Edgeworth a hint, and, as he dared neither speak nor write, he
was suddenly to put on his hat if war were probable. The hat was put on,
and Mr. Edgeworth and his family hurried away from Paris. They were but
just in time. Mr. Lovell Edgeworth, who was on his way from Geneva, and
never received his father's warning letter, was stopped on his journey,
made prisoner, and remained among the _détenus_ till 1814.

After a short stay in London the family went to Edinburgh to visit Henry
Edgeworth, who had shown signs of the family malady. Here they spent an
agreeable time, seeing the many men of learning who in those days made
Edinburgh a delightful residence. Warm friendships were formed with the
Alisons, the Dugald Stewarts, and Professor Playfair.

Returned to Edgeworthstown, Miss Edgeworth set to work industriously to
prepare for the press her _Popular Tales_, and write _Leonora_ and
several of the _Tales of Fashionable Life_. She exerted all her powers
of self-command to throw her energy into her writing, and to follow up
every suggestion made by her father; but it was clear to those who
observed her closely that she had not forgotten the man of whom, all her
life, she retained a tender memory. It was long before she thoroughly
recovered her elasticity of spirits, and the mental struggle did not
pass over without leaving its mark. Early in 1805 Miss Edgeworth fell
seriously ill with a low, nervous fever; it was some while before she
could leave her room, read, or even speak. As she got better she liked
to be read to, though scarcely able to express her thanks. The first day
she was really convalescent was destined to mark an era in her life.
While she was lying on the library sofa her sister Charlotte read out to
her _The Lay of the Last Minstrel_, then just published. It was the
beginning of Miss Edgeworth's enthusiastic admiration of Scott, which
resulted in a warm friendship between the two authors.

From the time of the Edgeworths' return Ireland had been agitated with
the fears of a French invasion, and Mr. Edgeworth once more exerted
himself to establish telegraphic communication across the country. As
usual, his family joined him in his pursuits, and Miss Edgeworth, with
the rest, was kept employed in copying out the vocabularies used in
conversations. The year 1804 was almost engrossed by this. Nevertheless
she found time to write _Griselda_ at odd moments in her own room. Her
father knew nothing either of the plan of the book or of its execution,
and she sent it on her own account to her publisher, Johnson, with the
request to print the title-page of a single copy without her name, and
to send it over to Mr. Edgeworth as a new novel just come out. Miss
Sneyd, who was in the secret, led him to peruse it quickly. He read it
with surprise and admiration, and feeling convinced that Miss Edgeworth
had not had the actual time to write it, and yet seeing it was like her
style, he fancied his daughter Anna (Mrs. Beddoes) must have written it
to please him. When at last he was told that it was by his favorite
daughter, he was amused at the trick, and delighted at having admired
the book without knowing its author. This was one of the many little
ways in which the Edgeworths loved to please one another. A happier,
more united household it would be hard to find among circumstances
fraught with elements of domestic discord--the children and relatives of
four wives, of the most diverse characters and tastes, living peaceably
under one roof. Vitality, unwearying activity free from restlessness,
distinguished most of its members, and especially the father and eldest
daughter. Nor was there anything prim or starched in the home
atmosphere; though ethically severe and maintained at a high level of
thought, gaiety, laughter and all the lighter domestic graces prevailed.
Miss Edgeworth's letters reflect a cheerful, united home of the kind she
loves to paint. Like many united families, the Edgeworths were strong in
a belief in their own relations; they had the clan feeling well
developed. Not a member went forth from the paternal nest but was held
in constant remembrance, in constant intercourse with home, and it was
usually Miss Edgeworth's ready pen that kept the link well knit. Hence
the large number of her family letters extant, many of which have no
separate interest for the world, but which, taken as a whole, reflect
both her own unselfish personality and the busy life of young and old
around her. In her letters she never dwells on troubles; they overflow
with spirits, life and hope. As they are apt to be long and diffuse, it
is not easy to quote from them; but every one presents a nature that
beat in unison with all that is noble and good. She was alive to
everything around her, full of generous sympathies, enthusiastic in her
admiration of all that had been achieved by others. Her praises came
fresh and warm from a warm and eloquent Irish heart. That these
utterances are toned down and tamed in her books, is yet another proof
how the need to illustrate her father's ulterior aims cramped her in the
expression of her feelings. His mind, though she knew it not, was
inferior to hers, and though it was in some respects like her own, it
yet hung heavy on the wings of her fancy. In later life she wrote more
letters to acquaintances than at this time. In these years she says to a
friend who upbraided her for not writing oftener:--

     I do not carry on what is called a regular correspondence with
     anybody except with one or two of my very nearest relations. And it
     is best to tell you the plain truth, that my father particularly
     dislikes to see me writing letters; therefore I write as few as I
     possibly can.

Of herself she speaks least of all, of her writings seldom, and when she
does, but incidentally. Without certainly intending it, she painted
herself when she writes of Mrs. Emma Granby ("the modern Griselda"):--

     All her thoughts were intent upon making her friends happy. She
     seemed to live in them more than in herself, and from sympathy rose
     the greatest pleasure and pain of her existence. Her sympathy was
     not of that useless kind which is called forth only by the elegant
     fictitious sorrows of a heroine of romance; hers was ready for all
     the occasions of real life; nor was it to be easily checked by the
     imperfections of those to whom she could be of service.

It is one of the most delightful features in Miss Edgeworth, that in her
the dignity of the author is sustained by the moral worth of the
individual--a combination unhappily not common.

Visits to and from neighbors or friends, more or less eminent, visits
from nephews and nieces, letters from all quarters of the globe,
prevented the life at Edgeworthstown from ever becoming stagnant, even
if a home so full of young people could be devoid of life. Then, too,
though the Edgeworths kept themselves aloof from politics, the course of
public affairs did not always hold aloof from them, and at various times
the disturbed state of Ireland caused them discomfort and fears. Sorrows
and sickness, too, did not refrain from entering that happy home. There
were the usual juvenile illnesses, there were births, there were
sicknesses among the elder branches. In 1807 Charlotte, the darling of
the family, died after much suffering, a victim to hereditary
consumption. In 1809 Mr. Edgeworth himself was seriously ill, and
Henry's health, too, became so precarious that it was needful to send
him to Madeira. For a long time it seemed likely that Miss Edgeworth
would go out to nurse him, but the project fell to the ground; and a few
years later this brother, her especial nursling, also died of pulmonary
disease.

The sorrow for Charlotte's death cast a cloud over all the year 1807.
During its course Miss Edgeworth's greatest pleasure was the planting of
a new garden her father had laid out for her near her own room, that had
been enlarged and altered, together with some alterations to the main
building. She was at all times an enthusiastic gardener, finding
pleasure and health in the pursuit. "My garden adds very much to my
happiness, especially as Honora and all the children have shares in it."
Then, too, Miss Edgeworth was kept constantly employed attending to the
affairs of the tenants; no rapid, easy or routine task in Ireland. Thus
she writes on one occasion:--

     This being May day, one of the wettest I have ever seen, I have
     been regaled, not with garlands of May flowers, but with the legal
     pleasures of the season. I have heard nothing but giving notices to
     quit, taking possession, ejectments, flittings, etc. What do you
     think of a tenant who took one of the nice new houses in this town,
     and left it with every lock torn off the doors, and with a large
     stone, such as John Langan[8] could not lift, driven actually
     through the boarded floor of the parlor? The brute, however, is
     rich; and if he does not die of whiskey before the law can get its
     hand into his pocket, he will pay for this waste.

No wonder she once sighs, "I wish I had time to write some more _Early
Lessons_, or to do half the things I wish to do." With the calls on her
time, domestic, philanthropic and social, it is only amazing that she
wrote so much. Her method of working is described by herself in some
detail. From its very nature it could not fail to induce a certain
stiffness and over-anxious finish. She says:--

     Whenever I thought of writing anything I always told my father my
     first rough plans; and always, with the instinct of a good critic,
     he used to fix immediately upon that which would best answer the
     purpose. "Sketch that, and show it to me." The words, from the
     experience of his sagacity, never failed to inspire me with hope of
     success. It was then sketched. Sometimes, when I was fond of a
     particular part, I used 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."

     It seemed to me sometimes impossible that he could understand the
     very slight sketches I made; when, before I was conscious that I
     had expressed this doubt in my countenance, he always saw it.

     "Now, my dear little daughter, I know, does not believe that I
     understand her." Then he would, in his own words, fill up my
     sketch, paint the description, or represent the character intended,
     with such life, that I was quite convinced he not only seized the
     ideas, but that he saw with the prophetic eye of taste the utmost
     that could be made of them. After a sketch had his approbation, he
     would not see the filling up till it had been worked upon for a
     week or 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 incitements 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, never failed to extricate
     me at my utmost need. It was the happy experience of this, and my
     consequent reliance on his ability, decision and perfect honesty,
     that relieved me from the vacillation and anxiety to which I was so
     much subject, that I am sure I should not have written or finished
     anything without his support. He inspired in my mind a degree of
     hope and confidence, essential in the first instance to the full
     exertion of the mental powers, and necessary to insure perseverance
     in any occupation. Such, happily for me, was his power over my
     mind, that no one thing I ever began to write was ever left
     unfinished.

That such a process was calculated to check inspiration is obvious. To
suffer one hand to chisel and clip the productions of another, to insert
into a finished frame-work incongruous episodes intended to work out a
pet idea, was as inartistic as it was pernicious. The method could not
fail to induce a certain self-consciousness on the part of the writer
fatal to spontaneity, a certain complacent, careful laying out of plans,
apt to disturb if not to distract the reader by drawing his attention
from the fabric to the machinery. It was this that laid Miss Edgeworth
open to the charge, so often made, of a mechanical spirit in her
writings. For our own part, after reading her letters, with which her
father certainly did not meddle, we are inclined to lay most of her
faults to the charge of the monitor and guide whose assistance she so
much over-rated. He, on the other hand, saw other dangers in their
system. Writing to Mrs. Inchbald, he says:--

     Maria has one great disadvantage in this house--she has eight or
     nine auditors who are no contemptible judges of literature, to whom
     she reads whatever she intends to publish. Now, she reads and acts
     so admirably well, that she can make what is really dull appear to
     be lively.

Indeed, everything was done in public in that family. All Miss
Edgeworth's works were written in the common sitting-room, with the
noise of playing children about her. Her early habits of abstraction
stood her in good stead, and, at her little table by the fire, she would
sit for half an hour together, without stirring, with her pen in her
hand, or else scribble away very fast in the neat writing that never
altered to the end. A certain occasional want of closeness in her
reasoning may perhaps, however, have resulted from this habit of writing
in public, since the effort of abstraction made by the brain must of
necessity absorb some of its power. Considering how large was the family
continually around her, it is sufficiently astonishing that she could do
it at all. Once when such surprise was expressed, Mrs. Edgeworth said:
"Maria was always the same; her mind was so rightly balanced, everything
was so honestly weighed, that she suffered no inconvenience from what
would disturb or distract any ordinary writer."



CHAPTER VIII.

FASHIONABLE AND POPULAR TALES.


When the literary history of the nineteenth century is written, its
historians will be amazed to find how important a part the contributions
of women have played therein. At the meeting-point of the two centuries
it was Miss Edgeworth in Ireland, Miss Austen in England, and Miss
Ferrier in Scotland, who for Great Britain inaugurated an era of female
authorship that stood and sought to stand simply upon its own merits,
neither striving to be masculine nor addressing itself exclusively to
women. Fielding, Smollett and the older novelists were not solicitous
about virtue. They wrote for men readers only, and if they amused, their
end was attained. But when women became readers a new need arose, and
with the need came a new supply. The finer ethical instincts of women
were revolted by the grossness of the Tom Joneses, the Tristram Shandys
of literature; and as society became purer, manners less coarse, men
too asked for mental food that should be less gross in texture. Miss
Burney had led the way to a new era, a new style, both in fictitious
literature and in female authorship. It was in her footsteps that Miss
Edgeworth trod; but while Miss Burney aimed at amusement only, Miss
Edgeworth inaugurated the novel with a purpose.

Perhaps no phrase has been more misunderstood than this of "a novel with
a purpose."

Obviously it is not only right but imperative that a novel, or any work
of art, should have a leading idea, an aim; but this is markedly
different from a didactic purpose, which is implied by the phrase.
Readers of novels demand before all else to be entertained, and are
justified in that demand, and they merely submit to such instruction or
moralizing as can be poured into their minds without giving them too
much trouble. Miss Edgeworth lost sight of this too often; indeed, it
was a point of view that did not enter into her philosophy, narrowed as
her experience was by the boundaries of home and the all-pervading
influence of her father's passion for the didactic. The omission proved
the stumbling-block that hindered her novels from attaining the highest
excellence. A moral was ever uppermost in Miss Edgeworth's mind, and for
its sake she often strained truth and sacrificed tenderness. She was
forever weighted by her purpose; hence her imagination, her talents, had
not free play, and hence the tendency in all her writings to make things
take a more definite course than they do in real life, where purpose and
results are not always immediately in harmony, nor indeed always
evident. Miss Kavanagh has aptly said, "Life is more mysterious than
Miss Edgeworth has made it." Having said this, however, we have laid our
finger upon the weak point of her novels, in which there is so much to
praise, such marked ability, such delicious humor, such exuberant
creative fancy and variety, that the general public does very ill to
have allowed them to sink so much into oblivion.

Between the years 1804 and 1813 Miss Edgeworth published _Leonora_,
_Griselda_, and the stories of various length that were issued under the
collective titles of _Tales front Fashionable Life_ and _Popular Tales_.
_Leonora_ was the first work she wrote after her return from France,
where she had enlarged the sphere of her mind and heart. It is a marked
improvement upon _Belinda_, the fable is better contrived, the language
flows more easily. It was penned with a view to please M. Edelcrantz,
and in respect of being written for one special reader, _Leonora_
recalls that curious work by Madame Riccoboni, _Lettres de Fanni
Butlerd à Milord Charles Alfred_, published as a fiction, but in reality
only the collection of the writer's love-letters to the Englishman who
had wronged and deserted her. "Mistris Fanni to one reader," was the
significant heading to the preface of that book.

Miss Edgeworth's purpose in _Leonora_ certainly led her into an entirely
new path. To use her own words, no one would have believed that she
could have been such an expert in the language of sentimental logic. For
her doubly romantic purpose she was able to argue with all the sophistry
and casuistry, of false, artificial and exaggerated feeling that can
make vices assume the air of virtues, and virtues those of vices, until
it is impossible even to know them asunder. The story itself rests upon
a narrow and not very probable foundation. Its great fault is that it is
too long drawn out for its base. The principal characters are a
virtuous, outwardly cold and precise, inwardly warm-hearted English
wife, and a well-bred English husband, led astray by the machinations of
a Frenchified coquette who sets upon him from pure _désoeuvrement_,
and for whom any other person who had come into her path at that moment
would have been equally acceptable game. The work is thrown into the
form of letters, which gives to Miss Edgeworth an opportunity,
inimitably carried out, of making all the personages paint themselves
and speak in the language that is most natural to them. These letters
are excellently varied. Lady Olivia's teem with French and German
sentiment and metaphysics of self-deception; Leonora's are as candid and
generous as herself--yet though her motives are lofty, we discern a
certain air of aristocratic hauteur; while the good sense in General
B---- 's is bluntly expressed.

The fault of the story is that the husband's conversion ought to have
been brought about by purely moral means, and not by the accidental
interception of his false mistress' letters. Thus the value of the whole
moral is destroyed by its creator. That _Delphine_ in a manner suggested
this story, that but for this romance _Leonora_ might not have assumed
its peculiar shape, may be taken almost for granted. A certain notion of
refuting this corrupt story, then at the high tide of its popularity,
may also have been present in Miss Edgeworth's mind, who at no time was
so much self-absorbed as to lose sight of the ultimate aim in all her
writings. Those were the days of excessive sensibility, when to yearn
after elective affinities was the fashion. From such a state of feeling
Miss Edgeworth's temperament and training secured her, and for very
fear of it she erred in an opposite extreme. But with the true artist's
instinct she recognized that it was in the air, and she makes it the
theme of a romance that holds it up not only to ridicule, but shows with
relentless force into what abysms it may lead its votaries. Over this
novel Miss Edgeworth expended much time and care; it was subjected to
frequent revision, while her father "cut, scrawled and interlined
without mercy." It is certainly polished _ad unguem_, as he rightly
deemed that a book of this nature, devoid of regular story, must be; but
it might have been cut down still more with advantage.

It is the peculiarity of Miss Edgeworth's novels, and may be accepted as
their key-note, that she systematically addressed herself to the
understanding rather than to the heart of her readers, and that she
rarely forgot her educational aim. After having striven to instruct
children and young men and women, she tried, in a series of tales
selected from fashionable life, "to point out some of the errors to
which the higher classes of society are disposed." It is an open
question whether it is possible to correct society, or whether that is a
hopeless task because society is too vain and silly to listen to words
of wisdom. "England," said Mr. Pecksniff, "England expects every man to
do his duty. England will be disappointed." Miss Edgeworth, however, who
never doubted the value of tuition, attempted the task, and she was
certainly right in so far that if it were possible to open the eyes of
this class of persons, it would be by means of entertaining stories. Of
course she only appealed to those who, though not gifted with enough
good sense to go right of their own accord, are yet not past teaching,
or too devoid of sense to be teachable, and she took immense pains to
show how the greater part of our troubles in life arise from ignorance
rather than from vice and incapacity. To teach the art of living, the
science of being happy, is her one endeavor; and thus her fancy, her
wit, her strictures, are all made to bend to her main purpose, that of
being the vehicles of her practical philosophy. Yet to regard Miss
Edgeworth as a mere teaching machine is to do her gross injustice. Like
most people, she was better than her creed. Despite her doctrines, her
genius was too strong for her, and it is thanks to this that sundry of
these tales from _Fashionable Life_ are among her highest and most
successful efforts. They are also as a whole more powerful and varied
than any of her previous productions.

The first series consisted of four stories: _Ennui_, _The Dun_,
_Manoeuvring_, and _Almeria_, of which the first is by far the
longest. As is too often the case with Miss Edgeworth, the plot is
clumsily and coldly contrived, the proportions not well maintained; but
the work abounds with masterly delineations of character, and is a
striking picture of the satiety induced by being born, like the hero,
Lord Glenthorne, on the pinnacle of fortune, so that he has nothing to
do but to sit still and enjoy the barrenness of the prospect, or to eat
toffee, like the duke in _Patience_. He tries all amusements, but finds
them wanting, and he would probably have been ruined mentally and bodily
if a convenient catastrophe had not precipitated him temporarily into
indigence and aroused all those better qualities of his nature and
excellent abilities that lay buried and inert. It is not the least
skillful part of this clever tale that it is told as an autobiography,
the hero himself both consciously and unconsciously dissecting his
foibles. Much of the scene is laid in Ireland, and gives Miss Edgeworth
scope for those amusing collateral incidents, those racy delineations of
the various classes of Irish society, in which she is still unsurpassed.
She knew how to hit off to the life the several peculiarities of
respective stations and characters, and we know not whom most to admire
and delight in: the Irish pauper who officiates as postilion, and who
assures Lord Glenthorne that his crazy chaise is the best in the
country--"we have two more, to be sure, but one has no top and the other
no bottom;" the warm-hearted, impulsive, happy-go-lucky Irish nurse, who
has no scruple about committing a crime for the sake of those she loves;
or Lady Geraldine, the high-born, high-bred Irish peeress, who speaks
with an Irish accent, uses Irish idioms, and whose language is more
interrogative, more exclamatory, more rhetorical, accompanied with more
animation of countenance and demonstrative gesture, than that of the
English ladies with whom she is contrasted. With inimitable skill we are
made to see that there is something foreign in this lady's manner,
something rather French than English, and yet not French either, but
indigenous. Of course, rebels play a part in the story--it would not be
a true Irish story without them, but, as usual, Miss Edgeworth dwells by
preference upon the milder, more engaging aspects of the Irish
character, upon their strange, pathetic life; and while not ignoring,
brings into as little prominence as may be the frequent perjuries, the
vindictive passions, the midnight butcheries, the lawless ferocity, the
treacherous cruelty, of her half-savage compatriots.

_The Dun_ is a short tale in Miss Edgeworth's most didactic and least
happy style, dealing with a theme that should be more often emphasized
and brought into view; namely, the unfeeling thoughtlessness of the
rich, that withholds from the poor the result of their earnings, one of
the most frequent and serious injuries perpetrated by the wealthy upon
their indigent brethren.

_Manoeuvring_ is a detailed account of the machinations of a certain
Mrs. Beaumont, a country lady, who expends a great deal of Machiavelism,
left-handed wisdom and intrigue upon the projects of her children's
marriages, and also upon securing to her family the fortune of an old
gentleman who never had a thought of disposing of it otherwise. The
mortification and defeats to which her circuitous policy constantly
exposes her constitute the plot and the moral of the tale, which is not
ill-conceived, and yet for some cause fails to interest us long.

In _Almeria_, Miss Edgeworth's admirable story-telling powers, her grace
and shrewdness, are once more seen at their very best. It is the history
of a woman who has sacrificed all the happiness of life, all the better
instincts of her nature, for the empty ambition of being admitted into
the charmed circle of fashionable society; and who, though she finds out
in time that it is Dead Sea apples she has sought, has become so
immeshed that she cannot break away, but leads an existence of
pleasure-hunting, ever seeking, never finding that commodity, a warning
example of

    How the world its veterans rewards--
    A youth of folly, an old age of cards.

The moral is not insisted on, but is allowed to speak for itself, and is
on that account far more eloquent.

Except when dealing with Irish scenes, Miss Edgeworth is never happier
than when painting the perverse or intriguing fine ladies of society,
who, having no real troubles or anxieties to occupy them, shielded from
the physical evils of existence, make to themselves others, and find
occupation for their empty heads and hours, with results put before us
so simply, and devoid of euphemism, by Dr. Watts. Well indeed has the
proverb said, "An empty mind is the devil's house." In her kindly way
Miss Edgeworth can be scathing, and she exercises this power upon women
of mere fashion. The ladies of the period were less occupied with public
and philanthropic schemes than they are now, and hence had more time to
expend on follies and frivolities. The whole pitiful system of unreal
existence led by these women is exposed with an almost remorseless
hand, for Miss Edgeworth had no tenderness for foolish failings.
Inimitably, too, we are made to see how then, as now, there was
tolerated in fashionable society a degree of vulgarity which would
neither be suffered nor attempted in lower life. It was just because
Miss Edgeworth's lines were cast among the rich and idle that she was
able to understand all the misery and heartlessness of the lives of a
large section of this community. We see how their petty cravings, their
preposterous pursuits, bring positive misery on themselves if not on
others; how their dispositions are sophisticated, their tempers warped,
their time and talents wasted, in their restless chase after social
distinction, after the craze of being in the fashion. "The scourges of
the prosperous;" thus happily have these giant curses of mere
fashionable life been defined. Miss Edgeworth certainly understood fully
the nature of the disorder of her patients, the _ennui_, the stagnation
of life and feeling that devoured them and sunk many of them at last to
a depth at which they no longer merited the name of rational human
beings. At the same time (and this is a point which must be insisted
upon) there is no sourness about Miss Edgeworth's pictures of good
society; her pen, in speaking of it, is not dipped in vinegar and
wormwood, as was the pen of Thackeray, and sometimes even that of George
Eliot. Without snobbishness, without envy, she writes quite simply, and
absolutely objectively, of that which surged around her whenever she
left the quiet of Edgeworthstown and visited in some of the many noble
houses of Ireland, Scotland and England, in which she was a familiar
friend. That her pictures of contemporary society were correct has never
been disputed. She reproduced faithfully not only its coarser and silly
side, but also the more brilliant conversational features, that make it
contrast so favorably with that of our own day, in which the art of
talking has been lost. Lord Jeffrey, an authority, and one not given to
flattery, says that Miss Edgeworth need not be afraid of being excelled
in "that faithful but flattering representation of the spoken language
of persons of wit and politeness--in that light and graceful tone of
raillery and argument, and in that gift of sportive but cutting
_médisance_ which is sure of success in those circles where success is
supposed to be most difficult and desirable." In support of his
statement he points to the conversation of Lady Delacour (_Belinda_),
Lady Dashfort (_Absentee_) and Lady Geraldine (_Ennui_).

The first series of _Tales from Fashionable_ _Life_ met with so much
favor that the publisher clamored for more. Some were lying ready,
others had to be written, but in 1812 Miss Edgeworth was able to issue a
second series, containing three stories, of which one, _The Absentee_,
ranks worthily beside _Castle Rackrent_ as a masterpiece. The evils this
story sought to expose came daily under Miss Edgeworth's observation;
she beheld the Irish landed gentry forsake their homes and their duties
in order to go to London and cut a figure in fashionable society,
spending beyond their means, oblivious of the state of home affairs, and
merely regarding their properties as good milch kine. How their
unfortunate tenants were ground down in order to meet these claims they
neither knew nor cared. Lord and Lady Clonbrony, the absentees, are
drawn with vivid touches: she is devoured by ambition to shine in a
society for which she is not fitted, and voluntarily submits to any
humiliations and rebuffs, any sacrifices, to attain this end; he,
uprooted from his wonted surroundings, cannot acclimatize himself to new
ones, and, merely to pass his time, sinks into the vices of gaming and
betting. Lady Clonbrony affects a contempt for her native land and
pretends she is not Irish. As, however, she cannot rid herself of an
Irish pronunciation and Irish phrases, she is constantly placed in the
dilemma of holding her tongue and appearing yet more foolish than she
is; or, by mistaking reverse of wrong for right, so caricaturing the
English pronunciation that thus alone she betrayed herself not to be
English. In vain, too, this lady struggles to school her free,
good-natured Irish manner into the cold, sober, stiff deportment she
deems English. The results to which all this gives rise are delineated
with consummate skill and good-humored satire. The scenes that occur in
London society are highly diverting, but the story gains in deeper
interest when it shifts to Ireland, whither Lady Clonbrony drives her
only son, Lord Colambre, whom she has sought to marry against his will
to an English heiress. Unknown to his tenants, from whom he has so long
been absent, and further purposely disguised in order to elicit the
truth concerning certain unfavorable rumors that have reached his ears,
Lord Colambre is a witness of the oppressions under which his tenants
labor from an unscrupulous and rapacious agent, who feels secure in his
master's absence, and in that master's indifference to all but the money
result of his estate. Charmingly is the Irish character here described;
we see it in its best phases, with all its kindliness, wit, generosity.
There are elements of simple pathos scattered about this story. With
delicate and playful humor we are shown the heroic and imaginative side
of the Irish peasantry. We quite love the kindly old woman who kills her
last fowl to furnish supper to the stranger, whom she does not know to
be her landlord. On the other hand we are amused beyond measure with
Mrs. Rafferty, the Dublin grocer's wife and _parvenue_, who, in the
absence of those who should have upheld Irish society, is able to make
that dash that Lady Clonbrony vainly seeks to make in London. Her
mixture of taste and incongruity, finery and vulgarity, affectation and
ignorance, is delightful. The dinner-party scene at her house would make
the reputation of many a modern novelist. It was a dinner of profusion
and pretension, during which Mrs. Rafferty toiled in vain to conceal the
blunders of her two untrained servants, who were expected to do the work
of five accomplished waiters, talking high art meanwhile to her lordly
guest, and occasionally venting her ill humor at the servants' blunders
upon her unfortunate husband, calling out so loud that all the table
could hear, "Corny Rafferty, Corny Rafferty, you're no more _gud_ at the
_fut_ of my table than a stick of celery!" As for the scene in which
Lord Colambre discovers himself to his tenantry and to their oppressor,
Macaulay has ventured to pronounce it the best thing written of its kind
since the opening of the twenty-second book of the Odyssey. No mean
authority and no mean praise! As a story it is certainly one of the best
contrived, and the end is particularly happy. Instead of a tedious moral
there is a racy letter from the post-boy who drove Lord Colambre, and
who paints, with true Hibernian vivacity and some delicious malaprops,
the ultimate return of the Clonbrony family to their estate, which, to
the optimistic Irish mind, represents the end of all their troubles and
the inauguration of a new era of prosperity and justice. For one thing,
it is so much more in keeping that an uncultured peasant, rather than a
thoughtful and philosophical mind, should believe in so simple a
solution to evils of long standing; that what we should have felt an
error in Miss Edgeworth becomes right and natural in Larry. The
suggestion for this conclusion came from Mr. Edgeworth, and he wrote a
letter for the purpose. Miss Edgeworth, however, wrote one too, and her
father so much preferred hers that it was chosen to form the admirable
finale to the _Absentee_.

What perfect self-control Miss Edgeworth possessed may be judged from
the fact that the whole of the _Absentee_, so full of wit and spirit,
was written in great part while she was suffering agonies from
toothache. Only by keeping her mouth full of some strong lotion could
she in any way allay the pain, yet her family state that never did she
write with more rapidity and ease. Her even-handed justice, her stern
love of truth, are markedly shown in this novel. She does not exaggerate
for the sake of strengthening her effects; thus, for example, she does
not make all her agents bad, as some writers would have done; indeed,
one is a very model middle-man. She is always far more careful to be
true than to be effective, she uses the sober colors of reality, she
paints with no tints warmer than life. The chief and abiding merit of
her Irish scenes is not that of describing what had not been described
before, but of describing well what had been described ill.

_Vivian_ was written with extreme care and by no means with the same
rapidity, yet it cannot be compared to the _Absentee_. Here Miss
Edgeworth was once more clogged by her purpose and unable for a moment
to lose sight of it. "I have put my head and shoulders to the business,"
she writes to her cousin, "and if I don't make a good story of it, it
shall not be for want of pains." It proved no easy task, and only the
fact that her father so much approved it, upheld her. "My father says
_Vivian_ will stand next to _Mrs. Beaumont_ and _Ennui_. I have ten
days' more work on it, and then huzza! ten days' more purgatory at
other corrections, and then a heaven upon earth of idleness and
reading, which is my idleness." _Vivian_ is a particularly aggravating
story, so excellent that it is hard to comprehend why it is not of that
first-class merit which it just seems to miss. Its aim is to illustrate
the evils and perplexities that arise from vacillation and infirmity of
purpose, and it is rather a series of incidents than one well-rounded
plot. Miss Edgeworth loves to paint, not an episode in life, but the
history of a whole life-career. This permits her to trace out those
gradual evolutions of some fault of character in which she displays such
consummate ability, such precision and metaphysical subtlety. The hero,
Vivian, a man of good disposition, but lacking firmness of purpose,
cannot say "no," while at the same time he has all the spirit of
opposition which seems to go hand in hand with weak characters, and is
by them mistaken for resolution. The faults, the errors, the griefs,
this trait of character leads him into are the staple of the story,
which ends mournfully, since Vivian's inability to cure himself of his
fault finally leads to his own death in a duel. He has not inaptly been
named "a domestic Hamlet." Like Hamlet, he is neither able to
accommodate himself to life as it is, nor strong enough to strike out a
new life on his own account. The tale abounds in clever pictures of
aristocratic and political society, and is full of the intrigues, the
petty meannesses of social leaders. As usual, the moral instances are
both striking and amusing, reason and ridicule being mixed in those just
proportions that Miss Edgeworth knew how to blend so happily. A serious
defect is undoubtedly the fact that it is not possible to care for the
hero, and hence we grow rather indifferent to his good or ill fortune,
and after a while are weary of the undoubted skill and perverted
ingenuity with which he apologizes for his vacillation. On the other
hand, as ever with Miss Edgeworth, the subordinate characters are
throughout excellent, drawn with force and life-like power. Lord
Glistonbury alone would redeem the book from the possibility of being
dull. This talkative, conceited man, of neither principle nor
understanding, who chatters adopted opinions and original nonsense, who
loves to hear himself speak, and believes he is uttering great things,
is a distinct creation.

The story of _Madame de Fleury_ is slight in texture. It relates the
experience of a rich and benevolent French lady who conducts a school
for poor children after the Edgeworth type, and is rather a transcript
from real life than a tale. Formal and conventional though it is,
however, it was never wholly possible to Miss Edgeworth to belie her
genius. Invariably she introduces some character, trait or observation
that redeems even a dull tale from condemnation. In this case it is the
delicate skill with which is depicted the gradual decline in character
of Manon, who from an unconscientious child becomes a bold, unscrupulous
woman. It was in penning _Madame de Fleury_ that Miss Edgeworth
encountered the difficulty she had observed of making truth and fiction
mix well together. _Emilie de Coulanges_ is the too correctly virtuous
and rather colorless daughter of a refugee French countess, whose
provoking character is deftly depicted with its selfishness, its
self-absorption, that renders her both ungrateful and regardless of the
comfort of the English lady who has most generously entertained her at
no little personal inconvenience. Unfortunately an irritable temper mars
Mrs. Somers' good, generous nature, and causes her to weary out even the
affections of those who have most cause to love her. It also renders her
suspicious of the probity, the good intentions of her friends. She loves
to arouse sentimental quarrels; the bickerings and ultimate
reconciliation give her real pleasure, as a form of mental titillation,
and she fails to see that, though with her it is all surface, as her
real feelings are not aroused, this may not be the case with her
victims. Mrs. Somers, who may rank as the true heroine, is a bold yet
highly-finished portrait, conceived and executed in Miss Edgeworth's
best manner. The countess is little less happy. Miss Edgeworth possessed
in a high degree that intuitive judgment of character which is more
common in women than in men, and which, when properly exercised,
balanced by judgment and matured by experience, explains the success
they have met with in the domain of fictitious literature.

Again and again Miss Edgeworth proved the fecund creativeness with which
she could delineate the moral and intellectual anatomy of the most
varied and various characters. Her personages are animate with life and
brightness. Above all else she was an artist in detail, and never more
felicitous than when furnishing studies of foible in female form. Of
this the _Modern Griselda_ is a notable instance--a brilliant
performance, almost too brilliant, for it scintillates with wit and
epigrammatic wisdom; it never fails or flags for one little moment, so
that at last the reader's attention is in danger of being surfeited by a
feast of good things. The fable is the direct opposite to that of the
old story of Griselda. In the words of Milton we are shown how it
befalls the man

          Who to worth in woman over-trusting,
    Lets her will rule: restraint she will not brook;
    And left to herself, if evil thence ensue,
    She first his weak indulgence will accuse.

This the modern Griselda does to her husband's cost and her own. The
story is a remarkable evidence of Miss Edgeworth's independence of
genius. She showed no weak sympathy with the failings of her sex just
because it was her sex, but, like a true friend, held them up to view
and pointed them out for correction. Her objectiveness did not insure
her, however, from misconstruction. Mrs. Barbauld wrote to her:--

     I became very impatient for your _Griselda_ before Johnson thought
     proper to produce it; need I add we have read it with great
     pleasure? It is charming, like everything you write, but I can tell
     you the gentlemen like it better than the ladies, and if you were
     to be tried by a jury of your own sex I do not know what punishment
     you might be sentenced to for having betrayed their cause. "The
     author is one of your own sex; we men have nothing to do but to
     stand by and laugh," was the remark of a gentleman, no less candid
     a man than Dr. Aiken: and then the moral (a general moral if I
     understand it right) that a man must not indulge his wife too much!
     If I were a new-married woman I do not know whether I would forgive
     you till you had made the _amende honorable_ by writing something
     to expose the men. All, however, are unanimous in admiring the
     sprightliness of the dialogue and the ingenious and varied
     perverseness of the heroine.

To this letter Miss Edgeworth replied:--

     Let me assure you that the little tale was written in playfulness,
     not bitterness of heart. Not one of the female committee who sat
     upon it every day whilst it was writing and reading ever imagined
     that it should be thought a severe libel upon the sex, perhaps
     because their attention was fixed upon Mrs. Granby, who at least is
     as much a panegyric as Mrs. Bolingbroke is a satire upon the sex.

_Popular Tales_ were issued, and also in great part written, before the
two series of _Fashionable Tales_, and, taken as a whole, do not
approach them in merit. They are more crude in conception, more didactic
in manner; the moral is too obviously thrust into view, and at times
even the very philosophy the author strives to inculcate is halting. The
intensity and severe restraint of her purpose had blinded her vision,
perverted her logic; and thus the value of some of these ingenious
apologues is lowered. There is a character of childishness and poorness
about many of these tales that detracts seriously from the really
accurate observation and acute knowledge of human nature that they
inclose. Further, too, there is always such a sober, practical,
authentic air about all Miss Edgeworth's narratives, that glaring
inconsistencies and forced catastrophes strike us with double force as
ludicrous and unnatural when introduced by her. We certainly incline to
think that the result of perusing at one sitting the two volumes of Miss
Edgeworth's _Popular Tales_ could lead to that outburst of pharisaical
pride:--

    Said I then to my heart, "Here's a lesson for me!
    That man's but a picture of what I might be;
    But thanks to my friends for their care in my breeding,
    Who have taught me, betimes, to love working and reading."

_Popular Tales_ were devised with a view to correct the errors and
temptations of middle-class life, and were intended for a class which in
those days was not much in the habit of reading.

Mr. and Miss Edgeworth, though advanced and liberal thinkers in many
ways, were conservative in others, and, curiously enough, carried the
idea of class distinction into the domain of reading. They deemed that
to reach the middle classes a different character of story must be
conceived from that destined for persons of rank. There is a naïvete, a
gentle absurdity, about this simple fancy that we cannot help
attributing to Mr. Edgeworth's unimaginative mind. In a brief but
bombastic preface this worthy personage sets forth the pretension of the
writer of these stories, and gives a list of the classes for which they
are adapted. Why did he not also devise some method, by which to insure
that none of the tales should be read or bought save by persons of a
certain social standard? It would have been equally reasonable. To make
a distinction between tales for children and for adults is proper and
right; to draw a fine distinction between classes, unfit and childish.
The process of natural selection will of its own accord effect the
result that no one will read that which is tedious. Yet even when
hampered by the illustration of copy-book morality, Miss Edgeworth could
not hide her power. She never repeats herself; every story is unlike the
other. She does not angrily apply herself to the correction of the vices
and abuses she holds peculiar to the class she addresses; neither does
she magnify, even though she emphasizes. We only behold them shorn of
the indulgences and palliations they too often meet with. She was
neither a Utopian purist nor a sentimental innocent; nor can she belie a
natural tendency to make her ethics rather a code of high-minded
expediency than of high principle for its own sake only. Throughout her
writings she shows that from low as well as high motives, good actions
are the best; but she never suffers her characters to rest in the reward
of a quiet conscience. Her supreme good sense was always mingled with a
regard for the social proprieties; she never loses these quite from
sight; her idea of right is as much to preserve these as for right
itself. For, after all, Miss Edgeworth's life revolved amid the
fashionable world, and lofty as her aims are, she was not wholly
untainted by her surroundings. She accounts it no crime in her heroines
if they look out for a good establishment, money, horses, carriages;
provided always that the man they marry be no dunce, she will overlook
any little lack of affection. But, after all, she was teaching only in
accordance with the superficial philosophy of the last century, which
led people to found their doctrines entirely upon self-interest.

Still, a tone of rationality and good sense was so new in the tales of
Miss Edgeworth's period, that to this alone a large share of the
undoubted success and popularity of the _Popular Tales_ may be ascribed.
Lord Jeffrey, criticising them at the time of their appearance, remarked
that "it required almost the same courage to get rid of the jargon of
fashionable life, and the swarms of peers, foundlings and seducers, as
it did to sweep away the mythological persons of antiquity and to
introduce characters who spoke and acted like those who were to peruse
these adventures." Miss Edgeworth was certainly the first woman to make
domestic fiction the vehicle of great and necessary truths, and on this
account alone she must ever take high rank, and be forgiven if that
which has been said of her in general be specially true of _Popular
Tales_, that: "She walks by the side of her characters as Mentor by the
side of Telemachus, keeping them out of all manner of pleasant mischief,
and wagging the monitory head and waving the remonstrating finger,
should their breath come thick at approaching adventures."



CHAPTER IX.

VISIT TO LONDON.--MR. EDGEWORTH'S DEATH.


Busily, happily, uneventfully time flowed on at Edgeworthstown, while
abroad Miss Edgeworth's fame was steadily on the increase. But whatever
the world might say, however kind, nay flattering, its verdict, this
preëminently sensible woman did not suffer herself to be deluded by
success. That she knew precisely and gauged correctly the extent and
limits of her power, is proved by a letter written to Mr. Elton Hammond,
who had over-zealously defended her from criticism:--

     I thank you for your friendly zeal in defense of my powers of
     pathos and sublimity, but I think it carries you much too far, and
     you imagine that I refrain from principle or virtue from displaying
     powers which I really do not possess. I assure you that I am not in
     the least degree capable of writing a dithyrambic ode, or any other
     kind of ode. Therefore it would be the meanest affectation in me to
     pretend to refrain from such efforts of genius. In novel-writing I
     certainly have from principle avoided all exaggerated sentiment;
     but I am well aware that many other writers possess in a much
     higher degree than I do the power of pathos and the art of
     touching the passions. As to how I should use these powers if I had
     them, perhaps I cannot fairly judge, but all I am at present sure
     of is that I will not depreciate that which I do not possess.

Another letter to the same correspondent deserves quotation, as giving
her views on authorship. Mr. Hammond had consulted her as to the
advisability of his adventuring on that career. Miss Edgeworth
replied:--

     If everybody were to wait till they could write a book in which
     there should not be a single fault or error, the press might stand
     still for ages yet unborn. Mankind must have arrived at the summit
     of knowledge before language could be as perfect as you expect
     yours to be. Till ideas are exact, just and sufficient, how can
     words which represent them be accurate? The advantage of the art of
     printing is that the mistakes of individuals in reasoning and
     writing will be corrected in time by the public--so that the cause
     of truth cannot suffer, and I presume you are too much of a
     philosopher to mind the trifling mortification to your vanity which
     the detection of a mistake might occasion. You know that some
     sensible person has observed, only in other words, that we are
     wiser to-day than we were yesterday.... I think that only little or
     weak minds are so dreadfully afraid of being ever in the wrong.
     Those who feel that they have resources, that they have means of
     compensating for errors, have never this horror of being found in a
     mistake.

In the spring of 1813 Mr., Mrs. and Miss Edgeworth visited London, where
they were much lionized. According to contemporaries it was the
daughter for whom the attentions were mainly meant, though she, of
course, deemed them intended for her father. Crabb Robinson said that
Miss Edgeworth gained the good will of every one during this visit. Not
so her father; his "cock-sureness," dictatorial and dogmatic manner gave
much offense in society.

They met every one worth meeting during their brief stay, and many
famous names glint across the pages of the one letter that has been
preserved treating of this London visit. Perhaps it was the only one
written, for she describes themselves as being, from morning till night,
in a whirl of gaiety and sight-seeing, "that how we got through the day
and night with our heads on our shoulders is a matter of astonishment to
me.... But I trust we have left London without acquiring any taste for
dissipation or catching the rage for finery and fine people." In this
one letter there are, unfortunately, none of those delightfully detailed
descriptions of persons and events that she gave from France. Among the
distinguished persons she met, Lord Byron is mentioned. Singularly
enough she dismisses him with just the last remark that one would have
expected concerning the poet, about whose good looks, at least, the
world was unanimous: "Of Lord Byron, I can only tell you that his
appearance is nothing that you would remark." He, on his part, was more
favorably impressed. He writes in his journal:--

     I had been the lion of 1812. Miss Edgeworth and Mme. de Staël with
     _The Cossack_, towards the end of 1813, were the exhibitions of the
     succeeding year. I thought Edgeworth a fine old fellow, of a
     clarety, elderly, red complexion, but active, brisk and restless.
     He was seventy, but did not look fifty, no, nor forty-eight even. I
     had seen poor Fitz-Patrick not very long before--a man of pleasure,
     wit and eloquence, all things. He tottered, but still talked like a
     gentleman, though feebly; Edgeworth bounced about and talked loud
     and long; but he seemed neither weakly nor decrepit, and hardly
     old.

Byron then remarks that he heard Mr. Edgeworth boast of having put down
Dr. Parr, a boast which Byron took leave to think not true. He adds:--

     For the rest, he seemed intelligent, vehement, vivacious and full
     of life. He bids fair for a hundred years. He was not much admired
     in London, and I remember a "ryghte merrie" and conceited jest
     which was rife among the gallants of the day, viz.: a paper had
     been presented for the _recall of Mrs. Siddons to the stage_, to
     which all men had been called to subscribe; whereupon Thomas Moore,
     of profane and poetical memory, did propose that a similar paper
     should be _sub_scribed and _circum_scribed for the recall of Mr.
     Edgeworth to Ireland. The fact was, everybody cared more about
     _her_. She was a nice little unassuming "Jeanie Deans" looking
     body, as we Scotch say, and if not handsome, certainly not
     ill-looking. Her conversation was as quiet as herself. One would
     never have guessed she could write her name; whereas her father
     talked, not as if he could write nothing else, but as if nothing
     else was worth writing.

     To turn from them to their works, I admire them; but they excite no
     feeling and they leave no love, except for some Irish steward or
     postilion. However, the impression of intellect and prudence is
     profound, and may be useful.

To the Edgeworths' regret they left London before the arrival of Madame
de Staël, for whom all the world was eagerly looking. The poet Rogers,
noted for malicious sayings, asserted at a dinner-party that this was
not accident, but design; that Madame de Staël would not arrive till
Miss Edgeworth had gone. "Madame de Staël would not like two stars
shining at the same time." Fortunately, for once, he was reproved; for
it happened that, unknown to him, Madame de Staël's son was of the
company, who indignantly repelled the insinuation that his mother could
be capable of such meanness.

As always, Miss Edgeworth was glad to get home again:--

     The brilliant panorama of London is over, and I have enjoyed more
     pleasure and have had more amusement, infinitely more than I
     expected, and received more attention, more kindness, than I could
     have thought it possible would be shown to me; I have enjoyed the
     delight of seeing my father esteemed and honored by the best judges
     in England; I have felt the pleasure of seeing my true friend and
     mother--for she has been a mother to me--appreciated in the best
     society; and now, with the fullness of content, I return home,
     loving my own friends and my own mode of life preferably to all
     others, after comparison with all that is fine and gay, and rich
     and rare.

            *       *       *       *       *

     I feel that I return with fresh pleasure to literary work from
     having been so long idle, and I have a famishing appetite for
     reading. All that we saw in London I am sure I enjoyed, while it
     was passing, as much as possible; but I should be sorry to live in
     that whirling vortex, and I find my taste and conviction confirmed
     on my return to my natural friends and my dear home.

Seeing _Patronage_ through the press, and writing the continuations of
_Frank_, _Rosamond_, and _Harry and Lucy_, were Miss Edgeworth's
immediate occupations on her return.

Early in 1814 Mr. Edgeworth showed the first infirmities of age, which
resulted in a long and painful illness. During its course Miss
Edgeworth's letters were only bulletins of his health. The anxiety the
family had so long felt concerning Lovell Edgeworth, on whom, on Mr.
Edgeworth's death, all his duties would devolve, and who was still a
prisoner, was heightened by this event. It was, therefore, an increased
joy when, upon the entrance of the Allies into Paris, after a forcible
detention of eleven years, Lovell Edgeworth was at last released and
able to hasten home. The pleasure of seeing him helped to restore his
father's health; but it was evident that Mr. Edgeworth's constitution
had received a shock, and he himself never swerved from the opinion that
his existence might be prolonged a year, or even two, but that permanent
recovery was out of all question. This did not depress him. As before,
he continued to be actively employed, interested in all new things, in
all the life about him, and repeatedly exclaimed, "How I enjoy my
existence!" "He did not for his own sake desire length of life," says
his daughter, "but it was his prayer that his mind might not decay
before his body." He assured his friends that as far as this might be
allowed to depend on his own watchful care over his understanding and
his temper, he would preserve himself through the trials of sickness and
suffering to the last, such as they could continue to respect and love.
This assurance he faithfully redeemed, by dint of a self-control and a
regard for the comfort of others that cannot be too much commended, and
which of itself alone would win pardon for many of his irritating
faults.

_Waverley_ had just appeared, and every one was reading and discussing
it. Scott, who had always been an ardent admirer of Miss Edgeworth, and
who said in after-years that he should in all likelihood never have
thought of a Scotch novel had he not read Maria Edgeworth's exquisite
pieces of Irish character, had desired his publisher to send her a copy
on its first appearance, inscribed, "From the Author." She had, however,
not yet received this copy when late one night, after having finished
hearing the story read aloud to her family, in all the first fervor of
her admiration, she sat down to write to the unknown author. Mrs.
Edgeworth, who had been the reader, relates that as she closed the
volume Mr. Edgeworth exclaimed, "_Aut Scotus, aut Diabolus_," and with
these words Miss Edgeworth began her long and ardently-appreciative
letter to the nameless novelist. All Miss Edgeworth's ready, generous,
truly Irish enthusiasm breaks forth in this epistle, which is too
laudatory, too much written _à la volée_ to be truly critical. But Miss
Edgeworth never was critical when her feelings came into play, or were
allowed their course unchecked. She narrates to Scott how the story was
read aloud, how when ended they all felt depressed to think that they
must return to the flat realities of life, and how little disposed they
were to read the "Postscript, which should have been a Preface." While
she was writing her letter Mrs. Edgeworth opened the book again and
noticed this chapter.

     "Well, let us hear it," said my father. Mrs. Edgeworth read on. Oh!
     my dear sir, how much pleasure would my father, my mother, my whole
     family, as well as myself, have lost if we had not read to the last
     page! And the pleasure came upon us so unexpectedly--we had been so
     completely absorbed, that every thought of ourselves, of our own
     authorship, was far, far away. I thank you for the honor you have
     done us and for the pleasure you have given us, great in proportion
     to the opinion we had formed of the work we had just perused, and,
     believe me, every opinion I have in this letter expressed was
     formed before any individual in the family had peeped to the end of
     the book, or knew how much we owed you.

     Your obliged and grateful

     MARIA EDGEWORTH.

To this letter Ballantyne replied; thus, even towards Miss Edgeworth,
Scott kept up his anonymity. A little later she tells a friend: "Scott
says upon his honor that he had nothing to do with _Guy Mannering_,
though he had a little to do, he says, with _Waverley_."

The following winter was spent by the family at Dublin, for the sake of
first-class medical advice for Mr. Edgeworth. That indefatigable,
active-minded old man meantime, though far from well, made experiments
on wheel carriages and published a report. There was much gaiety and
some interesting society to enliven the winter, but nothing worthy of
note is recorded by Miss Edgeworth. Anxiety on account of her beloved
father was uppermost in her mind, yet she continued to write, and was
busy upon some plays and upon preparing a third edition of _Patronage_.
In this third edition she made some important alterations, changing the
_dénouement_ to gratify remonstrances that had reached her. She did not
like this alteration, and doubted the propriety of making it after a
work had gone through two editions. Her father, however, approved, and
the public was more satisfied. There was certainly much that was
unnatural in the previous course of the tale, in which the newly-married
wife refuses to go abroad with her adored husband, but lets him go alone
and remains with her father, who, it is true, was in grief, but who had
another daughter to console him. This might be Edgeworthian, but it was
not human nature; and the incident gave universal offense.

Every new book of value found its way to Edgeworthstown, and was eagerly
read and discussed by the family. Miss Austen was soon an established
favorite, while Mrs. Inchbald had long been valued. An occasional
correspondence was maintained with her. Writing of the _Simple Story_,
Miss Edgeworth says:--

     By the force that is necessary to repress feelings we judge of the
     intensity of the feeling, and you always contrive to give us by
     intelligible but simple signs the measure of this force. Writers of
     inferior genius waste their words in describing feeling, in making
     those who pretend to be agitated by passion describe the effects of
     that passion and talk of the _rending of their hearts_, etc.--a
     gross blunder, as gross as any Irish blunder; for the heart cannot
     feel and describe its own feelings at the same moment. It is
     "_being like a bird in two places at once_." ... Did you really
     draw the characters from life, or did you invent them? You excel, I
     think, peculiarly, in avoiding what is commonly called _fine
     writing_--a sort of writing which I detest, which calls the
     attention away from the _thing_ to the _manner_, from the feeling
     to the language, which sacrifices everything to the sound, to the
     mere rounding of a period, which mistakes _stage effect_ for
     _nature_. All who are at all used to writing know and detect the
     _trick of the trade_ immediately, and, speaking for myself, I
     _know_ that the writing which has the least appearance of literary
     _manufacture_ almost always pleases me the best. It has more
     originality in narration of fictitious events: it most surely
     succeeds in giving the idea of reality and in making the biographer
     for the time pass for nothing. But there are few who can in this
     manner bear the _mortification_ of staying behind the scenes. They
     peep out, eager for applause, and destroy all illusion by crying,
     "_I_ said it! _I_ wrote it! _I_ invented it all! Call me to the
     stage and crown me directly!"

Mrs. Inchbald had written praising _Patronage_, but she had also found
some faults. To this Miss Edgeworth replied:--

     MY DEAR MRS. INCHBALD:

     Nobody living but yourself could or would have written the letter I
     have just received from you. I wish you could have been present
     when it was read at our breakfast-table, that you might have seen
     what hearty entertainment and delight it gave to father, mother,
     author, aunts, brothers and sisters, all to the number of twelve.
     Loud laughter at your utter detestation of poor Erasmus "as
     nauseous as his medicines," and your impatience at all the variety
     of impertinent characters who distract your attention from Lord
     Oldborough. Your clinging to him quite satisfied us all. It was on
     this character my father placed his dependence, and we all agreed
     that if you had not liked him there would have been no hope for us.
     We are in the main of your opinion, that Erasmus and his letters
     are tiresome; but then please recollect that we had our moral to
     work out, and to show to the satisfaction or dissatisfaction of the
     reader how in various professions young men may get on without
     patronage. To the good of our moral we were obliged to sacrifice;
     perhaps we have sacrificed in vain. Wherever we are tiresome we may
     be pretty sure of this, and after all, as Madame de Staël says,
     "good intentions go for nothing in works of art"--much better in
     French, "_La bonne intention n'est de rien en fait d'esprit_."

     You will make me foreswear truth altogether, for I find whenever I
     meddle with the least bit of truth I can make nothing of it, and it
     regularly turns out ill for me. Three things to which you object
     are facts, and that which you most abhor is most true. A nobleman
     whom I never saw and whose name I have forgotten, else I should
     not have used the anecdote--the word which you thought I could not
     have written and ought not to have known how to spell. But pray
     observe, the _fair_ authoress does not say this odious word in her
     own proper person. Why impute to me the characteristic
     improprieties of my characters? I meant to mark the contrast
     between the niceness of his grace's pride and the coarseness of his
     expression. I have now changed the word _severe_ into _coarse_ to
     mark this to the reader. But I cannot alter without spoiling the
     fact. I tried if saliva would do, but it would not. So you must
     bear it as well as you can and hate His Grace of Greenwich as much
     as you will, but don't hate me. Did you hate Cervantes for drawing
     Sancho Panza eating behind the door?

     My next fact, you say, is an old story. May be so, and may be it
     belonged to your writer originally, but I can assure you it
     happened very lately to a gentleman in Ireland, and only the
     parting with the servant was added. I admit the story is ill told
     and not worth telling, and you must admit that it is very natural
     or it would not have happened twice.

     The sixpence under the seal is my third fact. This happened in our
     own family. One of my own grandfather's uncles forged a will, and
     my grandfather recovered the estate my father now possesses by the
     detection of the forgery of a sixpence under the seal.

     Thank you, thank you, thank you, for liking the two Clays. But pray
     don't envelop _all_ the country gentlemen of England in English
     Clay.

     Thank you, thank you, thank you, says my father, for liking Lady
     Jane Grandville. Her ladyship is his favorite, but nobody has ever
     mentioned her in their letters but you. I cannot believe that you
     ever resembled that selfish, hollow Lady Angelica. Would you ever
     have guessed that the character of Rosamond is like--M. E.? All who
     know me intimately say it is as like as possible. Those who do not
     know me intimately would never guess it.

_Harrington_ came next. The idea of writing a story of which the hero
should be a Jew was not her own, but suggested by an unknown
correspondent in the United States, a Jewish lady, who gently reproached
her for having so often made Jews ridiculous, and begged she would write
a story that should treat of a good Jew. Scarcely was it finished than
she began _Ormond_. In February, 1817, she read the first chapter to her
father as they were driving out to pay a visit, the last Mr. Edgeworth
ever paid. His health had become a source of grave anxiety, and though
he masked all his sufferings with cheerfulness and touching
unselfishness, it was too evident that his case was serious. The
interest and delight he took in Ormond, and his desire to see the story
finished, encouraged Miss Edgeworth to go on.

Her stepmother writes:--

     In all her anguish of mind at the state of his health, Maria, by a
     wonderful effort of affection and genius, produced those gay and
     brilliant pages, some of the gayest and most brilliant she ever
     composed.... The admirable characters of King Corny and Sir Ulick
     O'Shane, and all the wonderful scenes full of wit, humor and
     feeling, were written in agony of anxiety, with trembling hand and
     tearful eyes. As she finished chapter after chapter, she read them
     out, the whole family assembling in their father's room to listen
     to them. Her father enjoyed these readings so exceedingly as to
     reward her for the wonderful efforts she made.

Enfeebled as he was by illness, and often while enduring pain, Mr.
Edgeworth nevertheless continued as before to revise his daughter's
manuscript with "an acuteness, a perseverance of attention of which I
cannot bear to think," she writes in after years. "He would work at it
in his bed for hours together, once at an end for six hours, during an
interval of sickness and exquisite pain."

Thanks to the kindness of her publisher, she was able on Mr. Edgeworth's
birthday (May, 1817) to put the printed volumes into his hands. It was
the last book of hers to which he was to write a preface, and it was
characteristic, like his others:--

     In my seventy-fourth year I have the satisfaction of seeing another
     work of my daughter brought before the public. This was more than I
     could have expected from my advanced age and declining health. I
     have been reprehended by some of the public critics for the notices
     which I have annexed to my daughter's works. As I do not know their
     reasons for this reprehension, I cannot submit even to their
     respectable authority. I trust, however, the British public will
     sympathize with what a father feels for a daughter's literary
     success, particularly as this father and daughter have written
     various works in partnership. The natural and happy confidence
     reposed in me by my daughter puts it in my power to assure the
     public that she does not write negligently. I can assert that twice
     as many pages were written for these volumes as are now printed.

     And now, indulgent reader, I beg you to pardon this intrusion, and
     with the most grateful acknowledgments I bid you farewell forever.

     RICHARD LOVELL EDGEWORTH.

This preface was dated May 31st, 1817. On June 13th Mr. Edgeworth died,
retaining to the last, as he had prayed, his intellectual faculties. His
death was an acute grief to the whole family, a terrible, an irreparable
blow to his eldest daughter. She was almost overwhelmed by sorrow, and
during the first months that followed her father's death she wrote
scarcely any letters. She had not the heart to do so; besides, her
eyesight had been so injured by weeping, as well as by overwork the
previous winter, when she had been sitting up at night, struggling with
her grief and writing _Ormond_, that it caused real alarm to her
friends. She was unable to use her eyes without pain; "the tears," she
said, "felt like the cutting of a knife." On this account, as well as
from her sorrow, the rest of the year is a blank in her life. In the
late autumn she went to stay at Black Castle with Mrs. Ruxton, who
cheered and nursed her. With rare strength of mind she followed the
medical directions to abstain from reading and writing. Needlework, too,
of which she was fond, was forbidden to her; she therefore learned to
knit in order to employ herself. With patience, fortitude and cheerful
disregard of self she bore the mental and physical sufferings that
marked the year 1817 a black one in her life.



CHAPTER X.

LATER NOVELS.--GENERAL ESTIMATE.


Few of Miss Edgeworth's stories were written quickly. In her case,
however, the Horatian maxim was scarcely justified, for her best tales
are almost without exception those written with a running pen.
_Patronage_ was one that was longest in hand, having originated in 1787
from a story told by Mr. Edgeworth to amuse his wife when recovering
from her confinement. From her frequent mention of it, quite contrary to
her usual custom, one may conclude she did not find it an easy task. In
1811 she writes: "I am working away at _Patronage_, but cannot at all
come up to my idea of what it should be." We do not know whether it ever
did, but whatever her verdict may finally have been, it is certain that
_Patronage_, though one of the longest and most ambitious of her
stories, is as a story one of the least successful. It is labored; art
and design are too apparent; the purpose has too fatally hampered the
invention. There is no denying that, while containing many excellent
scenes, much shrewd observation of character, _Patronage_ drags, and the
reader is weary ere he has done. It is both artificial and common-place,
and what is more unfortunate still, the whole fabric is built upon a
confusion of premises. Its purpose is to demonstrate the evils that
result from patronage, and to show how much more successful are those
who rely only upon their own exertions. Both premises involve a _petitio
principii_. A capable person helped at the outset may have cause
eternally to bless the patron who enabled him to start at once in his
proper groove, instead of wasting strength and time after the
endeavor--often vain--to find it unassisted. Had she attempted to prove
that it was better for each person to fight his way alone, because this
was better for the moral development of his character, it would have
been another matter. But this is not the line she pursues. There are no
such subtle psychic problems worked out. The whole question is treated
from the surface only, and the two families chosen to "point the moral"
are not fairly contrasted. The Percys, the good people who shrink from
help so nervously that they would rather do themselves harm than accept
a helping hand, possess every virtue and capacity under the sun, while
their rivals and relatives, the Falconers, have no resources but those
of cringing falsehood. They are absolutely incapable, have learnt
nothing, do not care to learn, and depend entirely upon finding a
patron. They further rely upon their luck that, when settled in their
various posts, no untoward accident may reveal their inability to fill
them. Thus sound morality, good sense and an independent spirit are
contrasted with meanness, folly and ignorance. As an eminent critic has
well remarked: "The rival families are so unequal that they cannot be
handicapped for the race. The one has all the good qualities, the other
almost all the bad. Reverse the position; encumber the Percys (to borrow
a Johnsonian phrase) with any amount of help; leave the Falconers
entirely to their own resources; and the sole difference in the result
under any easily conceivable circumstances will be that the Percys will
rise more rapidly and the Falconers will never rise at all."

The materials of the fable, therefore, are not happy; neither, such as
they are, are they artfully managed. The working out is bald, the moral
bluntly enforced. Never was Miss Edgeworth more weighted by her aim,
never were the fallacies of her cut-and-dried theories better
illustrated. In this, her longest work, it is specially evident that her
manner was not adapted to what the French call _ouvrages de longue
haleine_. But if we at once dismiss from our minds the idea of deriving
instruction from the fable, if we judiciously skip the dull pages of
rhetoric or moral preachings that are interspersed, we can gain much
real enjoyment from this book, whose characters are excellently planned
and consistently carried out. _Patronage_ contains some of Miss
Edgeworth's finest creations. The Percys as a whole are

            Too bright and good
    For human nature's daily food;

but even in their family had grown up a character whom we can love, with
whom we can sympathize--the warm-hearted, generously impulsive,
sprightly Rosamond, who, according to her own testimony, resembled her
creator. Caroline Percy is one of the very wise, self-contained and
excellent young persons who so often appear under different disguises in
Miss Edgeworth's tales. She is exactly one of those heroines to whom
applies the wickedly witty remark put by Bulwer into the mouth of
Darrell in _What Will He Do with It?_ "Many years since I read Miss
Edgeworth's novels, and in conversing with Miss Honoria Vipont methinks
I confer with one of Miss Edgeworth's heroines--so rational, so prudent,
so well-behaved, so free from silly romantic notions, so replete with
solid information, moral philosophy and natural history; so sure to
regulate her watch and her heart to the precise moment, for the one to
strike and the other to throb, and to marry at last a respectable,
steady husband, whom she will win with dignity, and would love
with--decorum! a very superior girl indeed."[9]

There is also a certain family likeness in the good fathers of her
books. They are, as a rule, preternaturally wise, circumspect, and apt
to resemble Mr. Edgeworth. It has been well remarked that though we are
told that a just man sins seven times a day, Miss Edgeworth's just
heroes and heroines never fall. Undoubtedly there is a want of variety
as well as of human nature in her good characters, but not so in her
bad. There she ranges over so wide a field that we can but wonder whence
she gathered all this vast experience. She owned a perfect mine of
social satire, and the skill with which she drew upon it and shaped her
various characters, so as to give them a positive personal interest and
vitality, is astounding. She is equally happy in her villains, her
fools, her fops; indeed, in painting these latter species Miss Edgeworth
is unrivalled. She seemed to know every weakness and absurdity of which
human nature is capable. The manner in which she holds this up to view
is sometimes almost remorseless, as from the altitude of one who has
absolutely nothing in common with such creatures. In _Patronage_ we have
several such. Inimitable are the two Clays, brothers, men of large
fortunes, which they spend in all manner of extravagance and profligacy,
not from inclination, but merely to purchase admission into fine
company. They are known respectively as French and English Clay; the one
affecting a preference for all that is French; the other, a cold,
reserved, dull man, as affectedly denouncing everything foreign,
boasting loudly that everything about him is English, that only what is
English is worthy attention; "but whether this arises from love of his
country or contempt of his brother" does not appear. If there is
anything to choose between these two capital creations, English Clay is
perhaps the better. His slow, surly reserve, supercilious silence and
solemn self-importance are wonderfully sustained; but hardly less
excellent is his brother, with his affected tones, his foreign airs, and
quick, talkative vanity. Lord William is another remarkably well-drawn
picture. He is an upright, honorable and enlightened nobleman, who
constantly fails to do himself justice, because he labors under that
morbid shyness known as _mauvaise honte_, so common in England, so rare
out of her borders. The patron, Lord Oldborough, a high-minded, austere,
but absorbingly ambitious man, is elaborated with much care and
penetration. Very skillfully are we made to feel that his vices are
rather those of his position than of his heart. Nor must Buckhurst
Falconer be passed over, the only member of the Falconer family who has
one redeeming feature. He once had a heart, and, though weak as water,
and swayed by the low principles that prevail in his family, he cannot
succeed in stifling every good or noble feeling, though he has striven
hard to compass this end. These will crop forth occasionally, though
they cannot stay his descent down the path of corruption. But they
permit us to feel for him, to pity him; he is no cut-and-dried
mechanical knave.

A book that contains so many fine conceptions cannot be called a
failure, even to-day, and since Miss Edgeworth's contemporaries admitted
her premises, it is no wonder that on its appearance _Patronage_
achieved a great success. In those days, when novel-writing had not
become so much of an art as now, the rapid downfall of the whole
Falconer family within the space of a few weeks presented nothing
ludicrous. Such incidents were familiar in romance, and held allowable
there, even if known to be untrue to life. We now judge from the latter
standard only, and reject, even in fiction, the improbable. In
_Patronage_, Miss Edgeworth's fondness for poetical justice has
certainly carried her very far. Here, as in other of her stories,
difficulties are not allowed to develop and be overcome gradually, but
the knot is cut in the most ludicrously childish and awkward manner, a
summary catastrophe is imagined, so that the modern reader cannot
forbear a smile. Still, _Patronage_ remains a remarkable book, replete
with sound sense, acute observation and rapid graphic illustrations of
character.

Scarcely so _Harrington_. Here, as in _Patronage_, Miss Edgeworth had
set herself to work out a moral, this time an apology for Jews. It was
written to suggestion, and was on a theme that lay entirely outside the
domain of her experience. She had to evolve a Jew out of her moral
consciousness, and her delineation is as little successful as that of
other writers who have set themselves the same task. Her zeal outran her
judgment; her elaborate apology is feeble; and if the Jews needed
vindication they could hardly be flattered by one of this nature, for
she does not introduce us to a true Jew at all. Her ideas were based
upon that rare and beautiful character, Moses Mendelssohn, a character
as little typical of the Jewish as of any other race or religious creed,
but common to all men who think and feel philosophically and have raised
themselves above the petty prejudices of mankind. This was as much as to
say that only a Jew who was no Jew was admirable and estimable. And even
his daughter Berenice, whom we are led to regard throughout as a Jewess,
is finally discovered to have been born of a Christian mother and
christened in her youth, so that her lover, Harrington, can marry her
without any sacrifice to his social and racial prejudices. This is weak
indeed, since the whole purpose of the story was to overcome the
baseless dislike Harrington had from childhood entertained for the mere
name of Jew. It would, therefore, have been far more to the purpose had
his prejudices been really, and not apparently, overcome. The truth is
that Miss Edgeworth herself was a lady not free from prejudices; and a
regard for the opinion of the world, for birth and social station, was
one of these. At the eleventh hour she probably could not reconcile
herself to letting her hero, a man of good society, marry a Spanish
Jewess; and since he had shown himself willing to do so, carried away by
his deep and sincere feeling, she doubtless held that he had done
enough, and so terrible a fate must be averted from his head.

The story could not and did not satisfy Miss Mordecai's requirements,
though she accepted it as an attempt at making amends. But the authoress
herself recognized in later life that her friend "had no reason to be
satisfied with it, as the Jewess turns out to be a Christian. Yet she
was good enough to accept it as a peace-offering, and to consider that
this was an Irish blunder, which, with the best intentions, I could not
avoid."

Contemporary opinion certainly treated _Harrington_ as not one of the
happiest of their favorite novelist's stories. Yet with all its palpable
defects there is such an admixture of excellence that _Harrington_
should not be left unread, even though we may regret that such capital
figures, painted with such nice skill and delicate discrimination,
should be imbedded in so puerile a tale. The characters are keenly and
lightly drawn, standing out boldly and clearly. The jargon of society is
once more successfully reproduced, as well as those fashionable ladies
who hide the claws of a tigress under a velvet paw, and whose complex
and shifting nature Miss Edgeworth understood so well and reproduced so
faithfully. How she, with her simple, direct character, came to
comprehend them so fully, is almost a marvel. But intuition of character
was a forte with Miss Edgeworth and the grand secret of her novelistic
success. Her truth of touch was remarkable. Lady Anne Mowbray is a
perfect model of that mixture of feline grace and obstinate silliness
which the world so much admires in its young ladies; while her mother's
insignificance, which is not disguised by a stately, formal manner, is
delineated and sustained to perfection. Lord Mowbray is yet another of
Miss Edgeworth's marvelously acute portraits of a true man of the world,
of an evil nature. This is concealed by a fair semblance and good
manners, so that it is needful to know him well to guess at the villain
that is hidden under this attractive disguise.

Miss Edgeworth is at her ease and at her happiest in _Ormond_. Here she
is on Irish ground, always for her the best, where she moves with most
_abandon_; where she casts aside for a time some of her cold philosophy,
and allows herself to appear as the vivacious Irishwoman, which at heart
she was. Ireland, with its long history of bloodshed and social
disorder, had none of those romantic incidents to offer to the novelist
that were to be found in the equally wild but more noble and chivalric
history of Scotland. Hence Sir Walter Scott had an easier task to
perform than Miss Edgeworth. The history of which he treated allowed of
judicious and poetic gilding. It lifted into more romantic regions.
Irish history has, unfortunately, never been elevating, soul-ennobling.
It is too much the record of rebellious seditions and foolish intrigues,
lightly entered upon, inconsistently carried out. Such a history could
scarcely kindle romantic ideas and desires in the hearts of youth, as
did Scott's pictures; and Miss Edgeworth did wisely in her Irish tales
to leave history carefully on one side, and to deal only with the
Hibernian character and the delineation of social manners. For many
years the mere name of Irishman had been regarded in England as a term
of reproach, and they figured as buffoons in all the novels and plays of
the period. It was Miss Edgeworth who first came to the rescue of her
countrymen, and she did this by no exaggerated praises, but by
sympathetic yet true presentment. Her national story of _Castle
Rackrent_ had established for her a reputation as a relentlessly
truthful writer. She had invested the tale with none of the poetical
glamor employed by most historical novelists, who seek to hide from
sight the ugly sores that exist in the society they depict, and thus
endeavor to make us deem that those good old times of which they write
had, despite their lawlessness, some power and strength of goodness
unknown to us. Miss Edgeworth was too realistic a portrait painter to
employ such methods; hence, where Sir Walter Scott's rich imagination
led him at times astray, she, on her part, was often hampered for want
of that faculty. Still, her very reserve was fortunate, considering the
theme on which it was exercised, as matters Irish have for some cause
never been treated with judicial calmness. Hence to no writer are the
Irish so much indebted. Their less judicious friends were satisfied with
indignantly repelling the charges made against them, while national
partiality magnified all their gifts. Miss Edgeworth felt with them,
loved them, but she was not blinded by her affection. Starting from the
assumption that the prejudices which existed against her countrymen
arose from imperfect acquaintance with them, she candidly presented them
just as they were, with both their virtues and vices unvarnished.

After _Castle Rackrent_, _Ormond_ was certainly the finest effort of
Miss Edgeworth's genius, and it is scarcely fanciful to believe that it
owes some of its excellence to the influence exerted upon her mind by
_Waverley_. Had she but had Scott's eye for nature, and introduced us
to some of the beautiful scenery in which her story occurs, the book
might worthily rank beside any of the Scotch Waverley novels. Was it
owing to Scott's influence, also, that we have in this case a less
obtrusive moral?

The story of _Ormond_ is in some respects the reverse of _Vivian_. The
hero possesses innate force of character, and we watch in his career the
progress of a mind that has not been cultivated, but shows itself
capable of being educated by circumstances. Ormond is one of those
persons in whom native intuition takes the place of instruction, and who
of their proper strength are equal to all emergencies. The complications
of the story arise from these inward propensities of his nature and the
contending influences from without with which he has to grapple. He was
an orphan who had been adopted by Sir Ulick O'Shane, but had not been
educated, because Sir Ulick deemed that there was no use giving him the
education of a landed gentleman when he was not likely to have an
estate. An unfortunate difference with Sir Ulick's wife obliged Ormond
to leave his guardian's roof and avail himself of the hospitality of a
cousin, Cornelius O'Shane, who called himself King of the Black Islands,
after his estate. More familiarly this original is spoken of as King
Corny. Besides being one of the most delightful creations in romantic
literature, he is an instructive study towards the comprehension of the
Irish character. Macaulay pointed out, in speaking of the aboriginal
aristocracy of Ireland, that Miss Edgeworth's King Corny belonged to a
later and much more civilized generation, but added that "whoever has
studied that admirable portrait can form some notion of what King
Corny's great-grandfather must have been like." King Corny is a most
genuine character; there is no nonsense, no false reticence about him;
he is hasty and violent at times, but he is not ashamed to show it,
neither does he hide his warm, kind heart. His frank and unsuspecting
nature makes him adored by all his tenantry, none of whom would wrong
their king. There is not a page in which he figures that does not
furnish charming reading, and there is not a reader but will resent that
King Corny is made to die so early in the book. It is all the more
vexatious to have the most original and attractive figure thus removed,
because it was needless for the due development of the story. That the
interest, which certainly flags after his demise, is sustained at all is
a proof that the story, as a story, is above Miss Edgeworth's average.
And indeed, attention is well maintained to the end, notwithstanding a
few most marvelously unnatural incidents that occur in the latter
portion and stagger belief. They once more reveal Miss Edgeworth's
curious clumsiness in getting her brain-children out of the difficulties
in which she has involved them. The quick alternation of laughter and
tears that is a marked feature of her Irish tales recurs in the earlier
portions of the book, where the scene is laid in the Black Islands, of
which Harry Ormond becomes "prince presumptive." The famous postilion's
letter in the _Absentee_ is hard run by the letter King Corny writes to
Ormond when offering him his hospitality. Admirable, too, is the account
of his reception by the single-hearted, generous, though eccentric
monarch. This reception scene is characteristic of the primitive and
somewhat dissolute manners of the time. Indeed, the whole of Harry
Ormond's residence in the Black Islands affords Miss Edgeworth
opportunities for exercising her peculiar felicity in displaying manners
and customs. She does not present these by merely a few prominent and
striking traits, but with delicate skill she insinuates little touches
here and there that give local color and perfume to the whole. It is
quite true that Miss Edgeworth's books bear reading twice; once for the
general impression, the second time to see how cunningly this
impression is produced.

Miss Edgeworth not having in the case of _Ormond_ weighted herself with
a text, we have hardly any of her "unco' gude" characters, but many of
those mixtures that are truer to poor humanity. The exceptions are Lady
and Miss Annaly, some of her monotonously similar pattern women, and Dr.
Cambray, one of her dull and wooden immaculate men. Happily they appear
but little in the story. The most able character, after King Corny, is
Sir Ulick O'Shane, the political schemer and trimmer. A more vulgar or
common-place writer would have represented him as an offensive
hypocrite. Miss Edgeworth does not paint him in repellent colors, but
lets him reveal his baseness little by little, and rather against his
will, until the final catastrophe presents him in all his native
vileness. His easy and agreeable social manners, his gentlemanly mode of
feeling and acting, due, no doubt, to a long inheritance of gentlemanly
traditions, are shown with profound penetration. It is a part of Miss
Edgeworth's power to evince how "great effects from trivial causes
spring;" she makes us vividly realize all the circumstances under which
her events occur. Thus we witness their development, instead of being
only presented with the final results. This was rather a new departure
in her day, when events finished, cut and dried, were alone considered
worthy of note. In her conversations she shows considerable dramatic
skill: they are enlivened not only by looks and gestures, but by what is
often as significant, by moments of silence, by changes of countenance,
by all the minor matters that distinguish spoken from written words.
Neither in dramatic presentation of incident, nor in picturesqueness and
vividness of character-drawing, has Miss Edgeworth ever touched a higher
standard than in _Ormond_. The fact that it was written and sent to
press so quickly, in order to gratify her sick father, proved in its
favor. The result was that it was penned with more spontaneity, was less
carefully worked up than either _Patronage_ or _Belinda_, or even the
_Absentee_, and consequently it reads more natural. There are fewer
forced sentences, fewer attempts at pointed and epigrammatic writing.
These epigrammatic sentences, which, with but few exceptions, are but
half epigrams, are somewhat aggravating, especially if too constantly
repeated, since they thus picture neither common nor uncommon talk. It
is this tendency, carried to its highest expression in the _Modern
Griselda_, that makes Miss Edgeworth's personages, while acting and
thinking like real people, not always talk as men and women would. As a
rule, however, her style is easy, finished, flexible, and at times racy,
and while seldom rising to eloquence, never sinking to tameness. Now and
then it is a trifle cold, and she is too fond of erudite or far-fetched
illustrations. The conversation of her day was, to use the language of
the day, "polite;" that is to say, slightly stilted, prim, and confined
within narrow bounds, and that she reflected it is a matter of course,
but, as a whole, she managed to keep herself singularly free from its
worst features. Indeed, her work was really of first-rate quality, and
if we read it without troubling ourselves about her ethical designs or
expecting to find a cleverly-told plot, we cannot fail to derive
enjoyment from it, or to comprehend why her contemporaries rated her so
highly, though they, on their part, perhaps, valued her moral teaching
more than the present generation, which does not believe in mere sermons
as panaceas. Indeed, now-a-days, the fashion is too much to divorce art
from didactic intention. In those days it was the fashion to over-rate
the service works of imagination can render virtue.

It would be easy to bring forward testimony regarding the fervent
admiration bestowed on Miss Edgeworth by her contemporaries. She
certainly missed, but she only just missed, the highest greatness. Did
Madame de Staël put her sure finger on the cause when she said, after
reading _Fashionable Tales_ and expressing her great admiration, "_Que
Miss Edgeworth était digne de l'enthousiasme, mais qu'elle s'est perdue
dans la triste utilité?_" Yet to preach utility was held by Miss
Edgeworth as a duty; but for this she might perhaps never have written
at all, since no pecuniary needs drove her to authorship. And allowing
for this moral strain in her works, and the blemishes that result
thence, which compared with all she achieved are but trivial, in
estimating her work as a whole, we may well afford to change what
Chateaubriand called "the petty and meagre criticism of defects for the
comprehensive and prolific criticism of beauties." We must not look for
features such as she cannot furnish, any more than we should seek for
figs upon an apple-tree. There are certain things Miss Edgeworth can do,
and do inimitably; there are others entirely foreign to her sphere. Her
novels have been described as a sort of essence of common sense, and
even more happily it has been said that it was her genius to be wise. We
must be content to take that which she can offer; and since she offers
so much, why should we not be content? Miss Edgeworth wrote of ordinary
human life, and not of tremendous catastrophes or highly romantic
incidents. Hers was no heated fancy. She had no comprehension of those
fiery passions, those sensibilities that burn like tinder at contact
with the feeblest spark; she does not believe in chance, that favorite
of so many novelists; neither does she deal in ruined castles,
underground galleries nor spectres, as was the fashion in her day. In
her stories events mostly occur as in sober and habitual fact. In
avoiding the stock-in-trade of her contemporaries she boldly struck out
a line of her own which answers in some respects to the modern realistic
novel, though devoid, of course, of its anatomical and physiological
character. She used materials which her predecessors had scorned as
worthless. She endeavored to show that there is a poetry in
self-restraint as well as in passion, though at the very time she wrote
it was the fashion to sneer at this, and to laud as fine that
self-forgetfulness, that trampling down of all obstacles, no matter of
what nature, sung by Byron and Shelley. She permitted just that amount
of tenderness which the owner could keep under due control. She had no
taste for what was named the grandeur, beauty and mystery of crime. She
seldom devoted her attention to crimes at all, but gave it to those
minor virtues and vices that contribute more largely to our daily
sufferings or enjoyments. The novels of her day were too apt to bring
forward angels or monsters, and though she also erred at times in the
former respect, yet on the whole she departed from it, and was among the
first to strike out that path since so successfully trodden, especially
by female novelists, and notably by George Eliot--that of interesting us
in persons moving in the common walks of men. In her _Popular_ and
_Moral Tales_ she was encumbered like a clergyman in his sermon, and
hence a too solemn and rather stifling air of moral reflection is apt to
pervade. That she overcame it as much as she did, that her novels are as
attractive and readable as they are, is to the credit of her genius,
which not even Mr. Edgeworth could wholly overlay and stifle, and she
thus with few exceptions triumphed over that tendency to the "goody,"
from which it seems so difficult for works intended for edification to
keep themselves exempt. Next to her children's and Irish tales she is
most excellent in her studies from fashionable life. Her heroes and
heroines moving in the dismal round of inanities, miscalled diversions,
are portraits touched up with nice care in detail, with a keen eye for
subtleties and demi-tints. She loved to expose the false and mawkish
doctrines thought fit for women. Her fashionable heroines followed the
sentimental teachings of Rousseau and Mrs. Chapone, and held that the
highest mission of woman is to please, and that she should be not only
excused but commended if she employed every art to compass that end.
High-mindedness was a factor unknown or at least unadmitted in their
philosophy; fashion governed all; to be in the fashion was the main
object of their lives. Miss Edgeworth did not condemn this too
mercilessly or from too lofty a platform. Her morality, though
unexceptionable, is never austere; she allows and even sanctions worldly
wisdom within certain limits; she was too much a woman of the world
herself to set up Utopian or ascetic standards. To make conscience agree
with the demands of polite opinion was admitted to be a desirable and
important factor. After all, we are all more or less affected by the
mental atmosphere in which we live; none of us can wholly get outside
the spiritual air that environs us, and see things from different points
of view; and Miss Edgeworth could do so less than many, because she was
less highly endowed with sympathetic imagination. Thus her shortcomings
are, in her case, more than in that of many others, the fault of her
surroundings and education. For, placed immediately under Mr.
Edgeworth's personal influence, his powers of suasion and plausible
presentment, it was not easy to escape, and his daughter never
questioned his final wisdom or desired such escape. In a critical
reading of her books it is amusing to note how ever and again her father
crops forth. Thus her heroes constantly ask what manner of education the
young lady of their choice has received, because as "prudent men" they
feel that only on this can they base their future hopes of happiness.
And yet, strangely enough, with this absolute faith in the power of
education is combined a belief that nothing, not even this almighty
thing, can overcome the fact that if a girl be the daughter of a woman
who has at any time forgotten herself, no matter how good the education
may have been, no matter that this parent may have died at her birth or
the child never lived beside her, Miss Edgeworth's heroes regard her as
necessarily lost--consider that it is impossible she should continue in
the straight path. They will stifle their strongest feelings; make
themselves and the girl miserable rather than marry her. A special
instance of this occurs in the _Absentee_, where Lord Colambre prefers
to break off his engagement with his adored cousin, the charming and
high-spirited Grace Nugent, rather than wed her after he hears a rumor
that her mother has not been legally married to her father. Hence a
_deus ex machina_ has to be evoked, who, like all such gods, cuts the
Gordian knot in bungling fashion. After attributing all possibilities to
education, there is quite a comic inconsistency in this method of
visiting the offenses of the wrong-doer upon the victim. But Miss
Edgeworth, or rather her father, appeared to have no comprehension of
the fact that misfortunes of birth most frequently act on the children
as a deterrent; so that they make, as it were, hereditary expiation. But
here appears the want of tenderness in Miss Edgeworth's work--a quantity
she owned as a woman and lacked as an author. The two were certainly
curiously different at times. But though not tender, she is always
amiable and kindly, even though she does not look far beneath the
surface and never deals with the soul. Unknown to her were its silent
tragedies, its conflicts, hopes and fears. Those feelings that did not
manifest themselves in life or action were beyond her range of
comprehension. She had a genius for observing such things as can be
observed; the lower depths are never stirred by herself or her
characters. But it was her genius for observation, her power for
reproducing what she had seen, that made her greatness--a greatness
limited in its extent, but none the less greatness of its kind. Her
works fully merit the admiration they have so long enjoyed.

An amusing summing-up of Miss Edgeworth's novels is given by Leigh Hunt
in his poem, _Blue Stocking Revels_. Apollo gives a ball to all the
eminent contemporary authoresses, and criticises his guests as they
enter.

At the sight of Miss Edgeworth he says:

                                  "Here comes one
    As sincere and kind as lives under the sun;
    Not poetical, eh? nor much given to insist
    On utilities not in utility's list.
    (Things nevertheless without which the large heart
    Of my world would but play a poor husk of a part.)
    But most truly within her own sphere sympathetic,
    And that's no mean help towards the practic-poetic."
    Then smiling, he said a most singular thing--
    He thanked her for making him "saving of string!"
    But for fear she should fancy he did not approve her in
    Matters more weighty, praised her _Manoeuvring_.
    A book which, if aught could pierce craniums so dense,
    Might supply cunning folks with a little good sense.
    "And her Irish" (he added), "poor souls! so impressed him,
    He knew not if most they amused or distressed him."

And now finally we are confronted with the question, will Miss
Edgeworth's works live, or will they be left to grow dusty upon the
library-shelves, in company with many names much respected in their
day? Who shall say? The novel is, of its very essence, the most
ephemeral style of literature, since it deals with the ever-shifting
pictures of its time. Nor is this unjust. The novelist of worth
receives, as a rule, his meed of recognition in his life-time, which is
not the lot of writers in all branches of literature. On the other hand,
to the student of manners, novels have a value no historian can outvie,
and on this account alone Miss Edgeworth's should not be left unread.
But not only on this account, for it is perhaps just in this direction
that they err somewhat; for though no doubt true pictures of one section
of society, there is no denying that Miss Edgeworth's outlook is not
catholic; that the world, as she saw it, was prescribed almost
exclusively within the bounds of so-called "good society"--a circle in
which the heights and depths of life and feeling are rarely touched,
because of the conventional boundaries within which its inmates are
cooped.

Whence, then, the undeniable fact that Miss Edgeworth has gradually
grown to join that band of authors known as standard, who are more
spoken of than read? There is so much in her mode of life-conception
that is entirely modern, so much that is in keeping rather with the
advanced school of utilitarian ethicists than with the more sentimental
school of her day, that it certainly does appear puzzling why she has
not better maintained her place; for it would be idle to pretend that
she has maintained it such as it was in her life-time. It cannot be
because her plots are ill-constructed. When at her best she holds
attention notwithstanding. Nor does an author's power to engross us at
all depend on his constructive faculty. Indeed, some of those writers
who most hold their readers have distinctly lacked this gift, which
often exists independently of fine novelistic qualities. In portions of
her work Miss Edgeworth need fear no rivals. Why is it, then, that in
attempting an estimate of her powers, while allowing to her first-class
excellences, we have to deny her a first-class place, thus condoning, to
some extent, those who leave her unread to turn to less edifying and
admirable writers? Is it not because there is absent from Maria
Edgeworth's writings that divine spark of the ideal that alone allows
works to live for all time--that spark which it is given to many an
inferior author to own, while it is here denied to a woman of great
intellectual power? While preëminently upright, high-principled and
virtuous, Miss Edgeworth's ethics are pervaded by a certain coldness
and self-consciousness that irresistibly give to her good people a
pharisaical character; an impression from which it is always difficult
and at times impossible for the reader to shake himself free. Her heroes
and heroines act with too little spontaneity; they seem to calculate and
know too surely the exact sum total of ultimate gain that will, in a
justly-ordered world, accrue to them for their good actions, their
self-sacrifice and devotion. Her heroes are almost as calculating as her
villains.

It is a severe test to which to put an author, to read all his works
consecutively; but it is one that more surely than aught else enables us
to mark his place of merit. If he can stand this trial he is decidedly
above the average; if he issue thence triumphant he may without
hesitation be pronounced among the great. Miss Edgeworth weathers this
test very respectably; indeed it, more than all else, enforces upon the
reader the great versatility she displays in character and situation.
Yet it is just after such a perusal that the absolute lack of the ideal
element is so strongly borne in upon us. As the thirsty mountaineer
drinks eagerly from the first clear streamlet that meets him trickling
down from the heights, so Miss Edgeworth's readers eagerly turn from her
to some more spontaneous writer to quench the drought that this
continuous perusal has engendered. Even in this prosaic and
materialistic age the belief in blue roses is happily not wholly dead;
and though we will not suffer the garden of a novelist to grow no other
plant, because we know that one filled with blue roses only is out of
nature in this terrestrial globe, yet, in a well-ordered parterre, we do
require that the blue rose should also have its place. It is to novelist
and poet that the cultivation of this rare and heaven-born plant has
been entrusted. Miss Edgeworth knew it not. Neither by hereditary
tendency nor by training had she made acquaintance with this
wonder-flower, for whose botanical analysis Mr. Edgeworth would have
searched a Flora in vain, and whose existence he would therefore stoutly
have denied.

With "little stores of maxims," like Tennyson's faithless love, Miss
Edgeworth, acting from the very highest motives, after careful and
philosophic deliberation, at personal suffering to herself, in her
printed words, preached down the instincts of the heart. She knew not
that excellent as utilitarianism is in its place and sphere, there is
something more, something beyond, that is needed to form the basis upon
which human actions are set in motion. For the spiritual and divine
element in man she made no allowance, and it was this that drew down on
her, from shallow contemporary critics, that condemnation of want of
religion, flung in a narrow, dogmatic spirit, that wounded her so
deeply. Outwardly the Edgeworths conformed to the established faith, and
though liberal in the sense of being wide-minded, they were not in
religious matters advanced in thought. Indeed, they thought little, if
at all, of the next world, finding full occupation for their minds in
this. Miss Edgeworth was hemmed in by the visible; she did not seek to
justify the ways of God to man; life was to her no riddle; if man would
but act rightly, all would be well; she deemed that it is given into his
own hands to do good or evil, to be happy or the reverse. There was in
her nothing of the poet and the seer; and by so much as she fails to
speak to humanity in all its aspects, by so much she fails to take rank
among the greatest teachers of our race. But with wisdom and good sense
she recognized her limitations; she set herself a humbler but no less
useful task; she carried out her aim faithfully and conscientiously, and
by so much she too must be ranked among the good and faithful servants
who do the work appointed by their Lord. And after all, is not the
harmony of humanity best served by the free emission of the most diverse
notes? Miss Edgeworth set herself to preach utilitarianism and the
minor virtues. She succeeded; and in so far as she succeeded in that
which she set herself to do, life was for her successful, and she was
great.



CHAPTER XI.

VISITS ABROAD AND AT HOME.


Life at Edgeworthstown underwent no outward change owing to the death of
its master. His place was taken by his eldest and unmarried son, Lovell,
who sought to the best of his abilities to keep the house a home for his
father's widow and his numerous brothers and sisters, an endeavor in
which he was successful. Miss Edgeworth describes herself at this time
as "quite absorbed in low domestic interests, of which only those who
love home and love us can possibly bear to hear."

For some years after her father's death all she did was done as an
effort, and more from a high sense of duty and from the thought that it
would have pleased him who was gone, than from any inner desire to act.
When the family after a short absence reassembled at Edgeworthstown, it
required all her inherited activity of mind, all her acquired
self-command, to enable her to keep up her spirits on reëntering that
house in which for her the light was quenched. It was well for her not
only that work was the purpose in life of all that family, that no
drones were suffered in that household, but that her work had been
planned for her by her father, and that in settling down to it she was
obeying his commands.

It had been not only his darling wish, but his dying injunction, that
she should complete the memoir of his life which he had begun and
abandoned ten years previously. Why Mr. Edgeworth had written his life
is not made clear, even by the preface, in which he attempts to explain
the reasons that impelled him. The real reason was probably the
excessive importance he attached to himself and his actions. It had
always been his intention that Miss Edgeworth should revise and complete
this memoir; but when he was dying he emphatically enjoined that it
should be published without any change. This complicated her task, which
she felt a heavy one. Excepting a few passages, he had never shown what
he had written even to his own family; and when he was urged by them to
continue it, he used to say he "would leave the rest to be finished by
his daughter Maria." Almost before her eyes were recovered she set to
work upon her pious duty. Her anxiety lest she should not do justice to
the theme weighed upon her so greatly that she could hardly speak of
the memoirs even to her most intimate friends. It is reflected in the
touchingly helpless preface she prefixed to the second volume:--

     Till now I have never on any occasion addressed myself to the
     public alone, and speaking in the first person. This egotism is not
     only repugnant to my habits, but most painful and melancholy.
     Formerly I had always a friend and father who spoke and wrote for
     me; one who exerted for me all the powers of his strong mind, even
     to the very last. Far more than his protecting kindness I regret,
     at this moment, the want of his guiding judgment now, when it is
     most important to me--where _his_ fame is at stake.

To save her eyesight her sisters assisted her in copying or in writing
from her dictation; but even so she was forced to use her own vision,
and while busy with the memoirs she allowed herself little of what was
now her greatest relaxation, writing letters to her friends:--

     We are looking to the bright side of every object that remains to
     us, and many blessings we have still. I am now correcting what I
     had written of my father's life, and shall be for some months, so
     shall not write any letters of such length as this.

Bear up and struggle as she would, bitterly and painfully she missed the
always kind and ready adviser, the sympathetic intellectual companion,
who had stood by her side till now and aided her in every difficult
task. She felt like "drifting over an unknown sea without chart or
compass." Nor were her spirits or those of the family raised by outward
events. Wet seasons had induced famine and typhus fever, and the tenants
were suffering from disease and distress. Then, too, the family had
their own private anxieties in the illness of William, Lovell and Fanny.
They were all more or less delicate; most of them had inherited
consumptive tendencies, and many months rarely passed without Miss
Edgeworth having to record cases of sickness in those about her. These
illnesses always absorbed her whole attention, called forth all her
kindliness and unselfishness. She was ever the ready, willing nurse, the
writer of bulletins to those away, the cheerer of long, sad hours of
suffering. They were weary months, those early ones of 1818, and only in
her affections did she find comfort. She writes:--

     I was always fond of being loved, but of late I am become more
     sensible of the soothing power of affectionate expressions. Indeed,
     I have reason, although much has been taken from me, to be heartily
     grateful for all I have left of excellent friends, and for much,
     much unexpected kindness which has been shown to me and mine, not
     only by persons unconnected by any natural ties with me or them,
     but from mere acquaintance become friends.

In June she was able to announce: "I am now within two months' work of
finishing all I mean to write; but the work of revision and
consideration--O! most anxious consideration." She was still desirous of
having the opinion of friends, and more especially she desired the
opinion of M. Dumont. Hearing he was to stay with Lord Lansdowne, at
Bowood, she yielded to the importunities of these friends and went there
to meet him, taking with her her sister Honora. She was soon able to
tell Mrs. Edgeworth that Dumont "has been very much pleased with my
father's manuscript; he has read a good deal and likes it. He hates Mr.
Day in spite of all his good qualities; he says he knows he could not
bear that sort of man, who has such pride and misanthropies about
trifles, raising a great theory of morals upon an _amour propre
blessé_."

The change of scene was clearly beneficial to her. Once more her letters
were filled with the anecdotes, the interesting talk she hears, accounts
of which she knows will give pleasure to those at home. To give pleasure
to others was always the one thought uppermost in her mind. "I am a vile
correspondent when I have nothing to say; but at least I do write in
some sort of way when I know I have something to say that will give
pleasure to my friends." The whole character of the woman is revealed
in these simple words. Among the good stories she tells from Bowood is
one concerning Madame de Staël:--

     Madame de Staël--I tumble anecdotes together as I recollect
     them--Madame de Staël had a great wish to see Mr. Bowles, the poet,
     or as Lord Byron calls him, the sonneteer; she admired his sonnets
     and his _Spirit of Maritime Discovery_, and ranked him high as an
     English genius. In riding to Bowood he fell and sprained his
     shoulder, but still came on. Lord Lansdowne alluded to this in
     presenting him to Madame de Staël, before dinner, in the midst of
     the listening circle. She began to compliment him and herself upon
     the exertion he had made to come and see her. "O, ma'am, say no
     more, for I would have done a great deal more to see so great a
     curiosity!" Lord Lansdowne says it is impossible to describe the
     shock in Madame de Staël's face--the breathless astonishment and
     the total change produced in her opinion of the man. She said
     afterwards to Lord Lansdowne, who had told her he was a simple
     country clergyman, "_Je vois bien que ce n'est qu'un simple curé
     qui n'a pas le sens commun quoique grand poëte!_"

From Bowood Miss Edgeworth paid some other visits, seeing many old
friends, and among them Mrs. Barbauld and the Misses Baillie:--

     Joanna Baillie and her sister, most kind, cordial and warm-hearted,
     came running down their little flagged walk to welcome us. Both
     Joanna and her sister have such agreeable and new
     conversation--not old trumpery literature over again, and reviews,
     but new circumstances worth telling apropos to every subject that
     is touched upon; frank observations on character without either ill
     nature or the fear of committing themselves; no blue-stocking
     tittle-tattle or habits of worshipping or being worshipped;
     domestic, affectionate, good to live with and without fussing,
     continually doing what is most obliging and whatever makes us feel
     most at home. Breakfast is very pleasant in this house, the two
     good sisters look so neat and cheerful.

Although she had met with much encouraging criticism in the matter of
her father's life, she still hesitated to publish. "The result of all I
see, think and feel," she tells her stepmother, "is that we should be in
no haste." Down to the very business arrangements the book weighed on
her. She had hitherto left all such details to her father; and her kind
friend Johnson being also dead, she felt yet more undecided how to act.
At every moment, in every detail of her life, she missed her father; but
she was too brave a woman not to struggle with her grief, or not to
adapt herself to altered conditions. Her eyes still caused her much
trouble, and for nearly two years she was obliged to give them almost
entire rest.

But for her patience and fortitude in following the doctor's
injunctions, it seems possible she might have entirely lost her sight.
As it was, a complete recovery took place; and though at times her eyes
were weak, she was able to the end of her life to read, write and work
with ease. At the end of the year 1819 she is able gleefully to tell her
cousin that she must now make up for lost time and read.

"Now that I have eyes to read again, I find it delightful, and I have a
voracious appetite and a relish for food; good, bad and indifferent, I
am afraid, like a half-famished, shipwrecked wretch."

She read all the new literature of the day, and eagerly inquired among
all her friends what they commended. Byron's _Don Juan_ had caused much
talk, but this did not attract her:--

     After what you have told me, and after all I hear from every good
     judge of _Don Juan_, I never desire to see it. The only regret I
     feel upon the subject is that any pearls should be found, as I am
     told they may be found, in this intellectual dung-hill. How can the
     public allow this drunken, flagitious actor to appear before them,
     disgracing genius and the taste of his country? In Scott's last
     tales there are all the signs of a master mind, but now and then
     all the spasms in the stomach, for which I pity him. I am glad he
     is going to try some new scheme, for he has, I think, exhausted
     every variety of Scotch character.

It was not till early in 1820 that the memoirs of Mr. Edgeworth were
completed. Having arranged that they should appear at Easter, Miss
Edgeworth resolved to carry out a long-cherished plan, that of visiting
Paris in company with her two young sisters, Fanny and Harriet. At one
time it seemed as if political events were too unsettled to make this
project advisable, on which account she asked her good friend, Dr.
Holland, of Knutsford, to propose some other plans. Very significant is
the remark she makes: "Observe that Fanny and I both prefer society,
good society, even to fine landscapes or even to volcanoes." Finally
Paris was pronounced safe, and they set out thither. It was on this
occasion, when crossing to Holyhead, that she made her first
acquaintance with a steamboat. She disliked what she called the "jigging
motion," which, she said, was like the shake felt in a carriage when a
pig is scratching himself behind the hind wheel while waiting at an
Irish inn door. Her letters to her stepmother and sisters during this
trip are frequent and detailed. At Paris they stayed some months,
establishing themselves domestically in apartments in the Place du
Palais Bourbon. "_Madame Maria Edgeworth et Mademoiselles ses soeurs_"
ran their visiting-cards, which were soon left at the best Parisian
houses. Many new friends were added to those they had previously made,
and under the changed régime the connection of Miss Edgeworth with the
Abbé Edgeworth became a passport to the homes of the old nobility. The
circumstance that Miss Edgeworth was a most accomplished French scholar,
speaking the language with as much ease as if it were her own, enabled
her thoroughly to enter into and enjoy the society that was offered her.
Her knowledge of French classic literature charmed her hosts and brought
out all their best powers of conversation. Her ready sympathy and real
interest won their hearts and induced many of them to tell her the sad
stories of their adventures in the revolutionary days. But her
intercourse was not confined to the aristocracy. Her hereditary taste
for science brought her in contact with most of the distinguished
scientific men of France, while literary society was, of course, thrown
open to her. She noticed a great alteration in manners since their last
visit:--

     I should observe that a great change has taken place: the men
     huddle together now in France as they used to do in England,
     talking politics with their backs to the women in a corner, or even
     in the middle of the room, without minding them in the least, and
     the ladies complain and look very disconsolate, and many ask "If
     this be Paris?" and others scream Ultra nonsense or Liberal
     nonsense to make themselves of consequence and to attract the
     attention of the gentlemen. In 1803, under the First Consul's
     reign, when all freedom of discussion on public affairs was
     dangerous, and when all parties were glad to forget the horrors of
     the revolutionary days, conversation was limited to literary or
     scientific subjects, and was therefore much more agreeable to
     foreigners; now in 1820 the verb _politiquer_, to talk politics,
     had been invented.

As a foreigner Miss Edgeworth was enabled to visit at the houses of all
factions, and she found much entertainment in hearing their opinions and
diametrically opposite views. The Emigrants spoke of the Liberals with
the bitterest detestation as revolutionary monsters; the Liberals spoke
of the Ultras as bigoted idiots. One of these said of a lady celebrated
in 1803 as a brilliant talker: "_Autrefois elle avait de l'esprit, mais
elle est devenue Ultra, dévote et bête._" While not sympathizing with
the insolence of either party, Miss Edgeworth extracted some diversion
and yet more moral reflection from all she saw. Writing to Dr. Holland
after she had been an observer for some time, she says:--

     Upon the whole, after comparing the society in Paris and London, I
     far prefer the London society, and feel a much stronger desire to
     return to London than ever to revisit Paris. There is scarcely any
     new literature or any taste for old literature in Paris. In London
     the production of a single article in the _Edinboro'_ or _Quarterly
     Review_, the lustre, however evanescent, it casts on the reviewer
     or the author, is a proof of the importance of literature in
     fashionable society. No such thing in Paris. Even the Parisian men
     of science, many of them equal, some superior to ours, are obliged
     or think themselves obliged to turn statesmen, and sorry statesmen
     they make. Everything in Parisian society is, as it were, tainted
     by politics, and the politicians themselves seem to be mere actors.
     I could forgive all their violence and the noise they make,
     screaming always all at a time, if they were really actuated by
     patriotism, but it seemed all for effect. A few exceptions, of
     course, to prove the rule.

The more she saw of Parisian life, the more convinced she felt that the
French required, if not a despot, at least an absolute monarch to reign
over them. A brilliant and ready talker, Miss Edgeworth was also an able
listener, and hence her society was much sought after, while the beauty,
intelligence and excellent dressing of her sisters caused them also to
be regarded as acquisitions in days when the Continent was not swamped
with tourists, as it is now, and natives were therefore able to open
their doors. A galaxy of brilliant and historical names pass across the
pages of Miss Edgeworth's letters, and many a reminiscence she has
preserved of them. Her accounts of the various parties to which they
went are so vivacious and graphic that those for whom they were written
must have felt as if they had been present too, and had listened to all
the talk in which science, politics, literature and nonsense were mixed
in happy proportions. Here is an account of an evening at Cuvier's:--

     Prony, with his hair nearly in my plate, was telling me most
     entertaining anecdotes of Bonaparte; and Cuvier, with his head
     nearly meeting him, talking as hard as he could, not striving to
     show learning or wit--quite the contrary; frank, open-hearted
     genius, delighted to be together at home and at ease. This was the
     most flattering and agreeable thing to me that could possibly be.
     Harriet was on the off side, and every now and then he turned to
     her in the midst of his anecdotes and made her so completely one of
     us; and there was such a prodigious noise, nobody could hear but
     ourselves. Both Cuvier and Prony agreed that Bonaparte never could
     bear to have any but a decided answer. "One day," said Cuvier, "I
     nearly ruined myself by considering before I answered. He asked me,
     '_Faut il introduire le sucre de bettetrave en France?' 'D'abord,
     Sire, il faut songer si vos colonies'--'Faut il avoir le sucre de
     bettetrave en France?' 'Mais, Sire, il faut examiner'--'Bah! je le
     demanderai à Berthollet._'" This despotic, laconic mode of
     insisting on learning everything in two words had its
     inconveniences. One day he asked the master of the woods at
     Fontainebleau, "How many acres of wood here?" The master, an honest
     man, stopped to recollect. "Bah!" and the under-master came forward
     and said any number that came into his head. Bonaparte immediately
     took the mastership from the first and gave it to the second.
     "_Qu'arrivait il?_" continued Prony; "the rogue who gave the guess
     answer was soon found cutting down and selling quantities of the
     trees, and Bonaparte had to take the rangership from him and
     reinstate the honest hesitator."

Many of her good stories had to be cut short or omitted for lack of time
to tell them. "I find always that when I come to the end of my paper I
have not told you half the entertaining things I had treasured up for
you," she tells her stepmother. As in London, they lived in a constant
whirl of gaiety. But Miss Edgeworth never forgot others amid the
distinctions paid to herself. She was constantly thinking either what
would please those left behind or what kind act she could do for those
around her; and if it were nothing more than helping other English
visitors to gain a glimpse of French society, she set herself with all
ardor to accomplish it:--

     Next to the delight of seeing my sisters so justly appreciated and
     so happy at Paris, my greatest pleasure has been in the power of
     introducing people to each other, who longed to meet, but could not
     contrive it before.

Social success did not turn her head:--

     Certainly no people can have seen more of the world than we have
     done in the last three months. By seeing the world I mean seeing
     varieties of characters and manners, and being behind the scenes of
     life in many different societies and families. The constant chorus
     of our moral as we drive home together at night is, "How happy we
     are to be so fond of each other! How happy we are to be independent
     of all we see here! How happy that we have our dear home to return
     to at last!"

Her sisters told on their return how readily Miss Edgeworth would quit
the company of the greatest people of the day, to superintend their
dress or arrange some pleasure for them. "We often wondered," they said,
"what her admirers would say, after all the profound remarks and
brilliant witticisms they had listened to, if they heard all her
delightful nonsense with us."

The sisters' gay life continued without intermission, only varied now
and then by visits to French country houses. Among the most agreeable
people they met Miss Edgeworth numbered some Russians and Poles. At the
house of the Princess Potemkin she first made wondering acquaintance
with, what is now fortunately a matter of course, the more refined mode
of serving dinner known as _à la Russe_. She met, too, Prince
Rostopchin, the man who burned Moscow by first setting fire to his own
house:--

     I never saw a more striking Calmuck countenance. From his
     conversation as well as from his actions I should think him a man
     of great strength of character. Speaking of the Russians, he
     compared their civilization to a naked man looking at himself in a
     gilt-framed mirror, and he told an anecdote that illustrated the
     perfunctory method of government. The Governor of Siberia lived at
     Petersburg and never went near his Government. One day the Emperor,
     in presence of this Governor and Rostopchin, was boasting of his
     far-sightedness. "Commend me," said Rostopchin, "to M. le
     Gouverneur, who sees so well from Petersburg to Siberia."

At a breakfast at Camille Jordain's were assembled three of the most
distinguished of the party who called themselves _Les Doctrinaires_, and
alleged that they were more attached to measures than to men:--

     These three doctrinaires were Casimir Perier, Royer Collard and
     Benjamin Constant, who is, I believe, of a more violent party. I do
     not like him at all; his countenance, voice, manner and
     conversation are all disagreeable to me. He is a fair, "whithky"
     looking man, very near-sighted, with spectacles which seemed to
     pinch his nose. He pokes out his chin to keep his spectacles on,
     and yet looks over the top of his spectacles, _squinching_ up his
     eyes, so that you cannot see your way into his mind. Then he speaks
     through his nose and with a lisp, strangely contrasting with the
     vehemence of his emphasis. He does not give me any confidence in
     the sincerity of his patriotism, nor any high idea of his talents,
     though he seems to have a mighty high idea of them himself. He has
     been well called _Le Héros des Brochures_. We sat beside one
     another, and I think felt a mutual antipathy. On the other side of
     me was Royer Collard, suffering with toothache and swelled face;
     but notwithstanding the distortion of the swelling, the natural
     expression of his countenance and the strength and sincerity of
     his soul made their way, and the frankness of his character and
     plain superiority of his talents were manifest in five minutes'
     conversation.

In June Miss Edgeworth and her sisters left Paris for a tour in
Switzerland, visiting their friends the Moilliets, who lived at Pregny,
near Geneva. Their house, which had formerly belonged to Josephine,
commanded a superb view of the lake and of Mont Blanc. It was a surprise
to Miss Edgeworth to find how much she was impressed with the beauty of
the scenery about her:--

     I did not conceive it possible that I should feel so much pleasure
     from the beauties of nature as I have done since I came to this
     country. The first moment when I saw Mont Blanc will remain an era
     in my life--a new idea, a new feeling, standing alone in the mind.

Geneva was at that time enjoying what has been termed its Augustan age.
An unusual number of distinguished persons resided there, and it was
besides largely resorted to by eminent men and women from all lands,
most of whom Miss Edgeworth met at the house of her host. Besides,
Monsieur Pictet and Monsieur Dumont, these old, faithful friends, were
also domiciled at Geneva, and strove to do the honors of the place.
Among temporary residents were such men and women as Dr. and Mrs.
Marcet, Arago, De Candolle, the botanist, Freiherr von Stein, Madame
Necker de Saussure, and Sismondi. They also met Bonstetten, the poet
Gray's youthful friend, then an old man, who spoke with enthusiasm of
Madame de Staël.

This mixture of persons from all parts of the world gave a piquancy to
the reunions that were held at Geneva. Sometimes the guests met in the
evening at a house in town, sometimes at breakfast in the different
country villas in all the freshness of the sweet Swiss morning,
sometimes by moonlight on lawns sloping down to the lake; when they
would sit under trees or stroll about, while tea and ices and the famous
varieties of Geneva cakes were handed round. It was at one of these
evening assemblies that Miss Edgeworth, while talking to De Candolle in
her most brilliant strain, attracted a crowd five deep.

Several short excursions into the lower Alpine regions were made from
Geneva by the sisters and their friends; but though Miss Edgeworth
enjoyed the beauties of nature beyond her expectations, she yet, as
before in her letters, mentions persons and matters of intellectual
interest more frequently than scenery. It was a keen gratification to
her that M. Dumont spoke well of the now published memoirs. She cared
more for this than for the many compliments that were paid to herself,
only a few of which she modestly records, and then only because she
knows they will please the dear ones at home. At Coppet the party
breakfasted with M. de Staël, who showed them all the rooms once
inhabited by his mother, which Miss Edgeworth "could not regard as
common rooms; they have a classical power over the mind." M. de Staël
told her--

     That his mother never gave any work to the public in the form in
     which she had originally composed it. She changed the arrangement
     and expression of her thoughts with such facility, and was so
     little attached to her own first views of the subject, that often a
     work was completely remodeled by her while passing through the
     press. Her father disliked to see her make any formal preparation
     for writing when she was young, so that she used to write often on
     the corner of the chimney-piece or on a pasteboard held in her
     hand, and always in the room with others, for her father could not
     bear her to be out of the room, and this habit of writing without
     preparation she preserved ever afterwards.

     M. de Staël told me of a curious interview he had with Bonaparte
     when he was enraged with his mother, who had published remarks on
     his government, concluding with "_Eh bien! vous avez raison aussi.
     Je conçois qu'un fils doit toujours faire la defense de sa mère,
     mais enfin, si monsieur veut écrire des libelles, il faut aller en
     Angleterre. Ou bien s'il cherche la gloire c'est en Angleterre
     qu'il faut aller. C'est l'Angleterre, ou la France--il n'y a que
     ces deux pays en Europe--dans le monde._"

During her absence abroad Miss Edgeworth had revised the manuscript of
the latter portion of _Rosamond_ and sent it home to press. At the
eleventh hour her publisher discovered that there was not enough
material to complete two volumes, and urged her to supply more copy
without delay. "I was a little provoked," she writes on first hearing
the news, "but this feeling lasted but a moment, and my mind fixed on
what is to be done. It is by no means necessary for me to be at home or
in any particular place to invent or to write." Instantly she set to
work, and in the midst of all social attractions and distractions around
her she wrote the two additional chapters called _The Bracelet of
Memory_ and _Blind Kate_.

Late in October the Misses Edgeworth left Switzerland for Paris,
visiting Lyons on their way. The town had a special interest for Miss
Edgeworth because of her father's early residence there. By the end of
October they were once more settled at Paris in a floor to themselves,
with a _valet de place_ and a _femme de chambre_. Another gay three
months followed, seeing old friends and making new ones:--

     We have seen Mademoiselle Mars twice, or thrice rather, in the
     _Mariage de Figaro_, and in the little pieces of _Le jaloux sans
     amour_ and _La jeunesse de Henri Cinq_, and admire her
     exceedingly. _En petit comité_ the other night at the Duchesse
     d'Escars, a discussion took place between the Duchesse de la Force,
     Marmont and Pozzo di Borgo on the _bon et mauvais ton_ of different
     expressions; _bonne société_ is an expression bourgeoise. You may
     say _bonne compagnie_ or _la haute société_. "_Violà des nuances_,"
     as Madame d'Escars said. Such a wonderful jabbering as these
     grandees made about these small matters! It puts me in mind of a
     conversation in the _World_ on good company, which we all used to
     admire.

In December the travellers were back again in London, but several more
visits were paid before they returned to Ireland. Thus they halted at
Clifton to see Miss Edgeworth's sister Emmeline, who was married there,
and stayed at Bowood, Easton Grey, Badminton and various other houses,
in all of which they met with a warm welcome. Beloved Aunt Ruxton, too,
had to be seen on the way home. It was March before the sisters reached
Edgeworthstown, after not quite a year's absence; a year that seemed to
Miss Edgeworth like a delightful dream, full of Alps and glaciers and
cascades and Mont Blanc, and "troops of acquaintances in splendid
succession and visionary confusion"--a dream of which the sober
certainty of happiness remained, assuring her that all that had passed
had been no dream, but a reality.



CHAPTER XII.

THE MEMOIRS PUBLISHED.--1821 TO 1825.


The _Memoirs of Richard Lovell Edgeworth_ had been published during Miss
Edgeworth's stay on the Continent. After all the anxiety she had felt
while preparing the work for the press, she was now able to write to her
friends at home:--

     You would scarcely believe, my dear friends, the calm of mind and
     the sort of satisfied resignation I feel as to my father's life. I
     suppose the two years of doubt and extreme anxiety that I felt
     exhausted all my power of doubting. I know that I have done my very
     best, I know that I have done my duty, and I firmly believe that if
     my dear father could see the whole, he would be satisfied with what
     I have done.

Still she was sensitive to what those said who had known and loved him;
and though Mrs. Ruxton had gone through the manuscript, it was a
satisfaction to her to hear that on seeing the work in print she had not
altered her views on it. She wrote:--

     The irremediable words once past the press, I knew that the
     happiness of my life was at stake. Even if all the rest of the
     world had praised it and you had been dissatisfied, how miserable I
     should have been!

The world was not so lenient in its criticism. It failed to see what
right the work had to exist; it acquiesced in what Miss Edgeworth had
felt, that she of all persons was the least fitted to be the biographer
of the man she so blindly adored.

The first volume is entirely Mr. Edgeworth's own writing, the second is
hers; she takes up the narrative on his final removal to Ireland.
Although written in his heavy-footed, stilted style, that broke forth
now and again into comic pomposity, of the two his is the more
entertaining, for he tells many stories that do not concern himself
alone. Thus, though he is by no means a graphic writer, we can gather
from his pages some notion of the little provincial Mutual Admiration
Society that was gathered together at Lichfield under the ægis of Dr.
Darwin; of the nature of society in Ireland during his youth; of the
state of mechanical science in England. But there is also much that is
puerile, some few things that are in bad taste; and the book contains,
besides, some really careless blunders with regard to events for which
the data were within the reach of all. In Miss Edgeworth's portion it is
easily seen that she does not write freely. Even her style, usually
more flexible and spontaneous, has caught a reflection from his, while
the position in which she stood to the object of her work hindered her
from exercising that keen, critical judgment which she possessed, and
which would certainly have come to the fore had the subject of her work
been a stranger to her. Only while writing about such events as do not
immediately deal with her father is she herself. Probably the very
anxiety she felt regarding the book was a dim, unformulated
consciousness that she had not made it all she desired. The press spoke
but coolly. The _Quarterly Review_ published a somewhat savage article;
indeed, with so much bitterness was it written, that though one is at
all times inclined to deprecate the theory of personal enmity, so dear
to the wounded vanity of authors, it does suggest the possibility of
having been the outcome of malice. But more likely still is it that Mr.
Edgeworth's boastful egotism so irritated the writer that he wrote what
certainly could not fail to be cruelly wounding to a family who regarded
their hero as perfect in all respects. After every allowance has been
made for this acrimonious tone (no rare feature in either of the
quarterlies in the days of their bumptious youth), the attack certainly
contained much that was warranted by circumstances. The writer had not
impugned thoughtlessly or ignorantly. He put a sure finger on the
contradictions and inaccuracies that occurred in Mr. Edgeworth's
narrative, and he gave chapter and verse for his objections. Such
criticism, though severe, could not be called wholly unjust. The
article, however, raised a perfect storm of indignation among the
Edgeworths' Friends. Some called it wicked, others only denounced it as
silly. Miss Edgeworth, being in France, was out of the way of seeing the
_Quarterly_, and after what she had heard, she simply and wisely
resolved never to read it. Indeed, she took the whole matter more
philosophically than her friends, and hastened to beg her dearest Aunt
Ruxton never to lose another night's sleep or another moment's thought
on the _Quarterly Review_. And certainly, whatever the reviewers might
say, Miss Edgeworth had the satisfaction before the year was out of
preparing a second edition, and in her seventy-seventh year a third was
called for. For this third edition she re-wrote nearly the whole of her
portion. With her habitual modesty she assumed that it was her part of
the work that had been found long and heavy. Nothing is more touching,
more lovable, than the modesty of this woman, so lauded, honored and
praised by all her generation that she could not remain ignorant of her
fame. But simplicity was the very foundation of her character, and the
woman always went before the author.

On her return from France Miss Edgeworth resumed the quiet, dearly-loved
routine of home-life. She was always glad to get home again, even now,
and to be with the stepmother, sisters and brothers she loved so
tenderly. Here is a pretty picture of the daily course of their
existence:--

     So you like to hear of all our little doings; so I will tell you
     that, about eight o'clock, Fanny being by that time up and dressed,
     and at her little table, Harriet comes and reads to me Madame de
     Sevigné's letters, of which I never tire; and I almost envy Fanny
     and Harriet the pleasure of reading them for the first time. After
     breakfast I take my little table into Lucy's room and write there
     for an hour: she likes to have me in her room, though she only
     hears the scribble, scribble; she is generally reading at that hour
     or doing Margaret's delight--algebra. I am doing the sequel to
     _Frank_. Walking, reading and talking fill the rest of the day. I
     do not read much; it tires my eyes, and I have not yet finished the
     _Life of Wesley_. I think it a most curious, entertaining and
     instructive book. A life of Pitt by the Bishop of Winchester is
     coming out; he wrote to Murray about it, who asked his friends,
     "Who is George Winton, who writes to me about publishing Pitt's
     life?"

Soon after his return from enforced exile Lovell Edgeworth had
established a school at Edgeworthstown, after a plan proposed by his
father, in which boys of all classes and creeds should be educated
together. It succeeded admirably, and was a source of interest and
occupation not only to its founder, but to Miss Edgeworth, who always
threw herself with ardor into everything that interested those about
her.

The lives of women are rarely eventful, and Miss Edgeworth's was perhaps
less so than that of most. Her existence moved in the quiet circle of
home, and like most women she was much and often occupied with what she
happily calls "the necessary business of life, which must be done behind
the scenes." The monotony of her existence was only broken by visits to
and from friends, and by receiving letters, events in those days of few
newspapers, when letters were longer, more detailed than they are now,
when they were sent round to a whole circle for perusal, when those who
were abroad penned long descriptions of all they saw in what are now
beaten tracks familiar to most persons as Piccadilly. The even course of
life at Edgeworthstown certainly did not furnish much material for
letters except to those interested in the well-being of the numerous
members of the household; and Miss Edgeworth's are mostly filled with
domestic details of this nature. In August, 1821, she writes:--

     What do you think is my employment out of doors, and what it has
     been this week past? My garden? No such elegant thing; but making a
     gutter! a sewer and a pathway in the street of Edgeworthstown; and
     I do declare I am as much interested about it as I ever was in
     writing anything in my life. We have never here yet found it
     necessary to have recourse to public contribution for the poor, but
     it is necessary to give some assistance to the laboring class; and
     I find that making the said gutter and pathway will employ twenty
     men for three weeks.

In the late autumn she yielded to the invitations of her many English
friends to spend some time among them. She took with her her former
travelling companions, for without some of her family Miss Edgeworth
felt as if she had left too many pieces of herself behind, and could not
enjoy anything thoroughly. Once more the sisters passed some interesting
and agreeable months, visiting at the houses of various friends; and
during the spring and winter months hiring a house of their own in
London, where they entertained and were entertained. They lived in a
whirl of town dissipation, knowing six different and totally independent
sets: "scientific, literary, political, travelled, artist, and the fine
fashionable of various shades." Miss Edgeworth found the different
styles of conversation very entertaining, and sent home bright pictures
of the various things she saw and heard.

     In the hurried life we have led for some weeks past, and among the
     great variety of illustrious and foolish people we have seen pass
     in rapid panoramas before us, some remain forever fixed in the
     memory and some few touch the heart.

At one house Mrs. Somerville was met and thus described:--

     Mrs. Somerville--little, slightly made, fair hair, pink color;
     small, gray, round, intelligent, smiling eyes; very pleasing
     countenance; remarkably soft voice, strong but well-bred Scotch
     accent; timid, not disqualifying timid, but naturally modest, yet
     with a degree of self-possession through it which prevents her
     being in the least awkward, and gives her all the advantages of her
     understanding, at the same time that it adds a prepossessing charm
     to her manner and takes off all dread of her superior scientific
     learning.

Some days were happily spent visiting Mr. Ricardo, with whose fairness
in argument Miss Edgeworth was struck. While her sisters danced, acted
charades or played round games, Miss Edgeworth conversed with the elders
of the company; but she was ever ready to turn from grave to gay, and
often the first to improvise a masquerade or to arrange an impromptu
charade. Wherever there was laughter and young people, there she was a
favorite and sought-for companion. Her life during these months in
England certainly did not lack outward variety, and she was happy for
herself, and yet happier because she saw her sisters pleased and
beloved. A few extracts from her London letters best reflect her life:--

     Yesterday we went, the moment we had swallowed our breakfast, by
     appointment to Newgate. The private door opened at sight of our
     tickets, and the great doors and the little doors, and the thick
     doors and doors of all sorts, were unbolted and unlocked, and on we
     went through dreary but clean passages, till we came to a room
     where rows of empty benches fronted us, and a table, on which lay a
     large Bible. Several ladies and gentlemen entered and took their
     seats on benches at either side of the table, in silence.

     Enter Mrs. Fry in a drab-colored silk cloak, and plain, borderless
     Quaker cap; a most benevolent countenance--Guido Madonna
     face--calm, benign. "I must make an inquiry: Is Maria Edgeworth
     here, and where?" I went forward: she bade us come and sit beside
     her. Her first smile as she looked upon me I can never forget. The
     prisoners came in, and in an orderly manner ranged themselves on
     the benches. All quite clean faces, hair, caps and hands. On a very
     low bench in front little children were seated and settled by their
     mothers. Almost all these women, about thirty, were under sentence
     of transportation; some few only were there for imprisonment. One
     who did not appear was under sentence of death--frequently women
     when sentenced to death became ill and unable to attend Mrs. Fry;
     the others came regularly and voluntarily.

     She opened the Bible and read in the most sweetly solemn, sedate
     voice I ever heard, slowly and distinctly, without anything in the
     manner that could distract attention from the matter. Sometimes
     she paused to explain, which she did with great judgment,
     addressing the convicts: "_We_ have felt; _we_ are convinced." They
     were very attentive, unexpectedly interested, I thought, in all she
     said, and touched by her manner. There was nothing put on in their
     countenances, not any appearance of hypocrisy. I studied their
     countenances carefully, but I could not see any which, without
     knowing to whom they belonged, I should have decided was bad; yet
     Mrs. Fry assured me that all of those women had been of the worst
     sort. She confirmed what we have read and heard, that it was by
     their love of their children that she first obtained influence over
     these abandoned women. When she first took notice of one or two of
     their fine children, the mothers said that if she could but save
     their children from the misery they had gone through in vice, they
     would do anything she bid them. And when they saw the change made
     in their children by her schooling, they begged to attend
     themselves. I could not have conceived that the love of their
     children could have remained so strong in hearts in which every
     other feeling of virtue had so long been dead. The Vicar of
     Wakefield's sermon in prison is, it seems, founded on a deep and
     true knowledge of human nature; the spark of good is often
     smothered, never wholly extinguished. Mrs. Fry often says an
     extempore prayer, but this day she was quite silent, while she
     covered her face with her hands for some minutes; the women were
     perfectly silent with their eyes fixed upon her, and when she said,
     "You may go," they went away _slowly_. The children sat quite still
     the whole time; when one leaned, her mother behind sat her upright.
     Mrs. Fry told us that the dividing the women into classes has been
     of the greatest advantage, and putting them under the care of
     monitors. There is some little pecuniary advantage attached to the
     office of monitor, which makes them emulous to obtain it. We went
     through the female wards with Mrs. Fry, and saw the women at
     various works, knitting, rug-making, etc. They have done a great
     deal of needlework very neatly, and some very ingenious. When I
     expressed my foolish wonder at this to Mrs. Fry's sister, she
     replied, "We have to do, recollect, ma'am, not with fools, but with
     rogues."

            *       *       *       *       *

     Far from being disappointed with the sight of what Mrs. Fry has
     effected, I was delighted. We emerged again from the thick, dark,
     silent walls of Newgate to the bustling city, and thence to the
     elegant part of the town; and before we had time to arrange our
     ideas, and while the mild Quaker face and voice, and wonderful
     resolution and successful exertion of this admirable woman, were
     fresh in our minds, morning visitors flowed in and common life
     again went on.

At Almack's, that exclusive paradise of fashion to which they were
admitted, Lord Londonderry came up and talked to Miss Edgeworth about
_Castle Rackrent_ and Ireland generally. He expressed himself as having
been dying with impatience to be introduced to her. She naïvely says:--

     It surprised me very much to perceive the rapidity with which a
     minister's having talked to a person spread through the room.
     Everybody I met afterwards that night and the next day observed to
     me that they had seen Lord Londonderry talking to me a great while.

Mrs. Siddons was among the persons whose acquaintance they formed.

     She gave us the history of her first acting of Lady Macbeth, and of
     her resolving, in the sleep scene, to lay down the candlestick,
     contrary to the precedent of Mrs. Pritchard and all the traditions,
     before she began to wash her hands and say, "Out, vile spot!"
     Sheridan knocked violently at her door during the five minutes she
     had desired to have entirely to herself to compose her spirits
     before the play began. He burst in and prophesied that she would
     ruin herself forever if she persevered in this resolution to lay
     down the candlestick! She persisted, however, in her resolution,
     succeeded, was applauded, and Sheridan begged her pardon. She
     described well the awe she felt, and the power of the excitement
     given to her by the sight of Burke, Fox, Sheridan and Sir Joshua
     Reynolds in the pit.

Morning, dinner, evening parties, succeeded one another. Miss Edgeworth
had not even time to note them. In June (1822) the sisters at last
returned home, Miss Edgeworth by no means loth to resume the thread of
her domestic affairs. She set to work upon the _Sequel to Harry and
Lucy_, which was one among the duty-tasks she deemed it right to do,
because her father had wished it to be completed. "I could never be easy
writing anything for my own amusement till I had done this, which I know
my father wished to have finished."

Portions of Ireland were suffering from famine that summer. The
deplorable state of the south in especial aroused all Miss Edgeworth's
sympathies. But she feared that as one source of grievance was removed
another would spring up.

     The minds bent on mischief are unconquered. In fact it is almost
     the avowed object of the people to drive the remaining resident
     gentry from the country. I do not think the hatred is between
     Protestant and Catholic, but between landlord and tenant. I should
     say, between tenant and landlord. The landlords are the greatest
     sufferers. Observe, what I have said applies only to the south. The
     north is in good condition. The neighborhood of Scotland and
     imported grafted habits of industry have made that part of Ireland
     almost Scotch. Our tenantry pay comparatively well.

She proceeded to show, however, that they were all at least a year
behind-hand with their rent, and that Lovell let them pay just when they
liked, not insisting upon a rent-day.

In the spring of 1823 Miss Edgeworth and her sisters, Sophy and Harriet,
paid some visits in Scotland. At Edinburgh they settled into lodgings
near their friends, the Alisons; but the very first evening was spent
with Scott, who desired that they should hear some Highland boat-songs
at his house. Of this introduction to Scott, and the first evening spent
with him, Miss Edgeworth penned a most vivid account.

The next day Scott insisted on showing them the sights of Edinburgh,
about whose beauties he was enthusiastic.

     His conversation all the time better than anything we could see,
     full of apropos anecdote, historic, serious or comic, just as
     occasion called for it, and all with a _bonhommie_ and an ease that
     made us forget it was any trouble even to his lameness to mount
     flights of eternal stairs.

Indeed, Scott almost took forcible possession of the Misses Edgeworth,
so anxious was he to show honor to the author whom he regarded as the
most distinguished of contemporary novelists.

     How Walter Scott can find time to write all he writes, I cannot
     conceive. He appears to have nothing to think of but to be amusing,
     and he never tires, though he is so entertaining. He far surpasses
     my expectations.

Their delight in each other's society was mutual. Scott wrote to a
friend at the time:--

     I have very little news to send you. Miss Edgeworth is at present
     the great lioness of Edinburgh, and a very nice lioness. She is
     full of fun and spirit; a little slight figure, very active in her
     motions, very good-humored and full of enthusiasm.

Many of the "Northern Lights" were absent at the time of Miss
Edgeworth's visit, but she made the acquaintance of Jeffrey, renewed
many old friendships and formed new ties. It was a feature of Miss
Edgeworth, as it had been of her father, and it is one that speaks
eloquently in favor of their characters, that they never lost a friend
or dropped connection with those in whom they had once been interested.
Friends once made were friends for life, and were sure of a warm welcome
if they came to Ireland, or of a ready answer to any call they might
make upon time or heart. Miss Edgeworth's amiable character won for her
a far larger circle of friends than her father ever possessed; she had
none of those angles in her character which repelled so many from him.
Wherever she went she expressed her gratified surprise at the cordiality
which people showed towards her, and she met no less of it in Scotland
than elsewhere.

After a few weeks spent at Edinburgh William Edgeworth joined his
sisters in a tour through the Highlands. Loch Katrine had, of course,
special interest to her because of its connection with Scott. She does
not think it more beautiful than Killarney: "But where is the lake of
our own or any other times that has such delightful power over the
imagination by the recollection it raises?"

This Highland tour afforded her great pleasure. "The 'felicity-hunters'
have found more felicity than such hunters usually meet with."
Unfortunately it ended badly. She caught cold, and was taken ill with a
very severe attack of erysipelas that laid her up for ten days in a
small Scotch inn. She had been ailing more or less for some months past,
and this attack was probably only a climax. As soon as she could move,
some friends took her into their house and nursed her tenderly, but she
was weak for some time after. But almost before it was true, she tells
her stepmother that she is off the invalid list. Scott was anxious to
have her at Abbotsford, and promised to nurse her carefully. At the end
of July she and her sisters yielded to his friendly entreaties, and
spent a fortnight with him in his home. Lockhart speaks of the time of
her visit as one of the happiest in Scott's life. Until the Misses
Edgeworth arrived the season had been wet. It was a great joy to Sir
Walter that with her appearance summer appeared too. On his expressing
this, Miss Sophy Edgeworth mentioned the Irish tune, "You've brought the
summer with you," and repeated the first line of the words Moore had
adapted to it. "How pretty!" said Sir Walter; "Moore's the man for
songs. Campbell can write an ode and I can write a ballad, but Moore
beats us all at a song."

Miss Edgeworth was charmed with Scott and his home, with the excursions
he took with them, with the drives she had with him in his little
carriage, during which the flow of his anecdotes, wit and wisdom never
ceased. His joyous manner and life of mind, his looks of fond pride in
his children, the pleasantness of his easy manners, his keen sense of
humor, enchanted her. She also liked Lady Scott, a liking that was
returned. Miss Edgeworth considered her

     A most kind-hearted, hospitable person, who had much more sense and
     more knowledge of character and discrimination than many of those
     who ridiculed her. I know I never can forget her kindness to me
     when I was ill at Abbotsford. Her last words at parting were: "God
     bless you! we shall never meet again." At that time it was much
     more likely that I should have died, I thought, than she.

This was not Miss Edgeworth's first visit to Edinburgh, and Lady Scott
expressed her surprise that Sir Walter and she had not met earlier.
"Why," said Sir Walter, with one of his queer looks, "you forget, my
dear, Miss Edgeworth was not a lion then, and my mane, you know, was not
grown at all."

Sir Walter was as sorry to part with his guests as Miss Edgeworth was to
go, but she felt that the longer she lingered the more difficult it
would be to depart.

After paying some more Scotch visits and a few Irish ones, the Misses
Edgeworth returned home in September, and life once more became
uneventful. Even to Mrs. Ruxton there was nothing to tell.

     It is a long time since I have written to you, always waiting a day
     longer for somebody's coming or going, or sailing or launching. You
     ask what I am doing. Nothing but reading and idling, and paving a
     gutter and yard to Honora's pig-sty and school-house. What have I
     been reading? The _Siege of Valencia_, by Mrs. Hemans, which is an
     hour too long, but it contains some of the most beautiful poetry I
     have read for years.

Sickness, deaths, marriages and births were of frequent occurrence in
that large family. Miss Edgeworth's heart was capacious and could answer
to all calls made upon it. Whether it was to rejoice with those that
rejoiced, or to weep with those that wept, she always responded.

     It is the condition, the doom of advancing, advanced age, to see
     friend after friend go, for so much it detaches one from life; yet
     it still more makes us value the friends we have left. And
     continually, at every fresh blow, I really _wonder_, and am
     thankful, most truly thankful, that I have so many, so much left.

A young sister who had ailed for years, and was obliged to lie flat on a
couch, was a constant source of solicitude. What could be done to divert
her, to comfort her, or alleviate her sufferings, was always in Miss
Edgeworth's mind. Lucy's name often occurs in her letters, and whenever
she is absent and there is anything especially amusing to relate, the
letter is always addressed to her. In 1824 Miss Edgeworth lost her
sister, Mrs. Beddoes. A few months before, Sophy was married to a
Captain Fox. She was grieved to lose this sister and the marriage
affected her deeply.

Though Miss Edgeworth was now past fifty, she showed neither bodily nor
mental signs of advancing years. Indeed, mentally she was as fresh and
as young as ever, and her letters reflect the same pleasure in life and
all it offers that they evinced throughout. Only on New Year's day,
which was also her birthday, does she indulge in any reflections
concerning the flight of time. Here is a letter written in 1825:--

     A happy new year to you, my dearest aunt, to you to whom I now
     look, as much as I can to any one now living, for the rays of
     pleasure that I expect to gild my bright evening of life. As we
     advance in life, we become more curious, more fastidious in gilding
     and gilders. We find to our cost that all that glitters is not
     gold, and your every-day bungling carvers and gilders will not do.
     Our evening gilders must be more skillful than those who flashed
     and daubed away in the morning of life, and gilt with any tinsel
     the weathercock for the morning sun. You may perceive, my dear
     aunt, by my having got so finely to the weathercock and the rising
     sun, that I am out of the hands of my dear apothecaries, and
     playing away again with a superfluity of life. (N. B.--I am
     surprisingly prudent.) Honora's cough has almost subsided, and
     Lucy can sit upright the greater part of the day. "God bless the
     mark!" as Molly Bristow would say, if she heard me; "don't be
     bragging."

Not many days later, when her stepmother and some friends, "poor souls
and full-dress bodies," had gone out to dinner, she penned another long
letter to the same correspondent, a letter delightfully fresh in tone
and full of her personality:--

     In a few days I trust--you know I am a great truster--you will
     receive a packet franked by Lord Bathurst, containing only a little
     pocket-book--_Friendship's Offering for 1825_, dizened out. I fear
     you will think it too fine for your taste, but there is in it, as
     you will find, the old _Mental Thermometer_, which was once a
     favorite of yours. You will wonder how it came there. Simply thus:
     Last autumn came by the coach a parcel containing just such a book
     as this for last year, and a letter from Mr. Lupton Relfe--a
     foreigner settled in London--and he prayed in most polite
     bookseller strain that I would look over my portfolio for some
     trifle for this book for 1825. I might have looked over "my
     portfolio" till doomsday, as I have not an unpublished scrap,
     except _Taken for Granted_. But I recollected the _Mental
     Thermometer_, and that it had never been _out_, except in the
     _Irish Farmer's Journal_, not known in England. So I routed in the
     garret, under pyramids of old newspapers, with my mother's
     prognostics that I never should find it, and loud prophecies that I
     should catch my death, which I did not; but dirty and dusty and
     cobwebby, I came forth, after two hours' groveling, with my object
     in my hand; cut it out, added a few lines of new end to it, and
     packed it off to Lupton Relfe, telling him that it was an old thing
     written when I was sixteen. Weeks elapsed, and I heard no more,
     when there came a letter exuberant in gratitude, and sending a
     parcel containing six copies of the new memorandum-book, and a most
     beautiful twelfth edition of Scott's poetical works, bound in the
     most elegant manner, and with most beautifully engraved
     frontispieces and vignettes, and a £5 note. I was quite
     ashamed--but I have done all I could for him by giving the
     _Friendship's Offering_ to all the fine people I could think of.
     The set of Scott's works made a nice New Year's gift for Harriet;
     she had seen this edition at Edinburgh and particularly wished for
     it. The £5 note I have sent to Harriet Beaufort to be laid out in
     books for Fanny Stewart. Little did I think the poor old
     _Thermometer_ would give me so much pleasure. Here comes the
     carriage rolling round. I feel guilty. What will my mother say to
     me--so long a letter at this time of night? Yours affectionately,
     in all the haste of guilt, conscience-stricken; that is, found out.

     No: all safe, all innocent--because not found out.

     FINIS.

     By the author of _Moral Tales_ and _Practical Education_.

In 1825 Scott paid his long-promised visit to Edgeworthstown. He came in
August, bringing with him his daughter, Lockhart and Mr. Crampton, a
surgeon friend of the Edgeworths, "who equally gratified both the
novelists by breaking the toils of his great practice to witness their
meeting on his native soil." Miss Edgeworth writes:--

     I am glad that kind Crampton had the reward of this journey; though
     frequently hid from each other by clouds of dust in their open
     carriage, they had, as they told us, never ceased talking They like
     each other as much as two men of so much genius and so much
     benevolence should, and we rejoice to be the bond of union.

            *       *       *       *       *

     Sir Walter delights the heart of every creature who sees, hears and
     knows him. He is most benignant as well as most entertaining; the
     noblest and the gentlest of lions, and his face, especially the
     lower part of it, is excessively like a lion; he and Mr. Crampton
     and Mr. Jephson were delighted together. The school band after
     dinner by moonlight playing Scotch tunes, and the boys at
     leap-frog, delighted Sir Walter. Next day we went to the school for
     a very short time and saw a little of everything, and a most
     favorable impression was left. It being Saturday, religious
     instruction was going on when we went in. Catholics with their
     priests in one room; Protestants with Mr. Keating in the other.
     More delightful conversation I have seldom in my life heard than we
     have been blessed with these three days. What a touch of sorrow
     must mix with the pleasures of all who have had great losses.
     Lovell, my mother and I, at twelve o'clock at night, joined in
     exclaiming, "How delightful! O! that he had lived to see and hear
     this!"

Of the details of this visit, Lockhart, in his _Life of Scott_, has
furnished an account. He draws attention to the curious coincidence that
Goldsmith and Maria Edgeworth should both have derived their early love
and knowledge of Irish character from the same district, Pallesmore
being indeed the property of the Edgeworths.

After a week's stay Sir Walter and his friends departed to visit
Killarney; and Miss Edgeworth, her sister Harriet and brother William
were easily persuaded to be of the party. The journey was a delightful
one to all concerned; and though a few little mishaps occurred, such as
the difficulties of finding post-horses to convey so large a party,
everything was turned to enjoyment. Sir Walter and Miss Edgeworth shared
this faculty of looking on the bright side of the necessary discomforts
of a journey, and extracting amusement from every incident--a faculty
for want of which so many travellers fail to enjoy themselves. They
charmed all with whom they came in contact, down to the very boatman who
rowed them on the lake of Killarney, and who, rowing Lord Macaulay
twenty years afterwards, told him that the circumstance had made him
amends for missing a hanging that day! On Sir Walter Scott's birthday a
large gathering of the clans Edgeworth and Scott took place at Dublin.
"Sir Walter's health was drunk with more feeling than gaiety," and on
that same evening he and Miss Edgeworth parted, never to meet again.



CHAPTER XIII.

1826 TO 1834.


It was in 1825 that the second part of _Harry and Lucy_ was published,
completing the labors planned for Miss Edgeworth by her father. The good
reception it met with caused her to contemplate writing some more short
tales, but she missed the guiding friend that had so long directed her.
A story called _Taken for Granted_ had long been on the stocks. Though
never finished, she was occupied with it for some time, and began to see
clearly where her difficulties lay.

     Your observations about the difficulties of _Taken for Granted_ are
     excellent; I "take for granted" I shall be able to conquer them. If
     only one instance were taken, the whole story must turn upon that,
     and be constructed to bear on one point; and that pointing to the
     moral would not appear natural. As Sir Walter said to me in reply
     to my observing, "It is difficult to introduce the moral without
     displeasing the reader": "The rats won't go into the trap if they
     smell the hand of the rat-catcher."

The opening of the year 1826 was one of general financial depression.
This was, of course, felt yet more acutely in Ireland, where money
affairs are never too flourishing. Even the estate of Edgeworthstown,
that had as yet safely weathered all storms, was affected, and it was in
consequence of this that, at her brother Lovell's desire, Miss Edgeworth
once more resumed the rent-receiving and general management, which since
her father's death she had abandoned. With consummate skill and energy
she managed so that her family escaped the flood that swamped so many.
For Miss Edgeworth had keen business faculties, though, except in the
matter of the estate, they had never been called into play. Her
stepmother tells how--

"The great difficulty was paying everybody when rents were not to be
had; but Maria, resolutely avoiding the expense and annoyance of
employing a solicitor, undertook the whole, borrowing money in small
sums, paying off encumbrances, and repaying the borrowed money as the
times improved; thus enabling her brother to keep the land which so many
proprietors were then obliged to sell. While never distressing the
tenants, she at last brought the whole business to a triumphant
conclusion."

Yet at no time was Miss Edgeworth absorbed in one thing only; her wide
and universal interests could not slumber. Thus, with all the work of a
large estate on her hands, she still found time to read extensively. The
letters published by Sir Walter Scott under the pseudonym of Sir Malachy
Malagrowther had just appeared. They interested her strangely.

     Lord Carrington was so kind as to frank to me these extraordinary
     performances, which shall reach you through Lord Rosse, if you
     please. It is wonderful that a poet could work up such an
     enthusiasm about one-pound notes; wonderful that a lawyer should
     venture to be so violent on the occasion as to talk of brandishing
     claymores, and passing the fiery cross from hand to hand; and yet
     there is the Chancellor of the Exchequer answering it from his
     place in Parliament as a national concern! If Pat had written it,
     the Attorney-General would, perhaps, have noticed it; but "Up with
     the shillalah!" in Pat's mouth, and "Out with the claymore!" in Sir
     Malachy's, are different quite.

A visit from Sir Humphrey Davy during the summer was a great delight.
Miss Edgeworth speaks of the range and pitch of his mind with high
praise, and relates besides an amusing anecdote that he told:--

     Sir Humphrey repeated to us a remarkable criticism of Bonaparte's
     on Talma's acting: "You don't play Nero well; you gesticulate too
     much; you speak with too much vehemence. A despot does not need all
     that; he need only _pronounce_. _Il sait qu'il se suffit._ And,"
     added Talma, who told this to Sir Humphrey, "Bonaparte, as he said
     this, folded his arms in his well-known manner, and stood as if his
     attitude expressed the sentiment."

A little later another sister was taken from the family circle by
marriage; this time it was Miss Edgeworth's travelling companion and
friend Harriet, who married Mr. Butler, a clergyman. The home party was
thinning, and Miss Edgeworth, who liked to have a large number of her
loved ones about her, felt this keenly. But happily young nephews and
nieces were springing up to take the places of those who were gone, and
fill the house with that sunshine of child-life and child-laughter that
had seldom been absent from its walls.

She wrote to her brother about a little nephew:--

     How you will like that child and make it see "upper air!" How long
     since those times when you used to show its mother and Harriet
     upper air! Do you remember how you used to do it to frighten me,
     and how I used to shut my eyes when you threw them up, and how you
     used to call me to look? _Ah! le bon temps!_ But we are all very
     happy now, and it is delightful to hear a child's voice cooing or
     even crying again in this house.

She was devoted to children, and never happier than when surrounded by
them. They in their turn loved the kind little old lady--for she was
getting an old lady now--who played with them so merrily, who entered
into all their fun, who told them such pretty stories, who plied them
with pennies and all manner of good and pretty things. She never lost
the power of speaking their language; her letters to children are among
some of the most genial she wrote. She was pleased and gratified when
the little ones liked her or her stories.

Visits to Mrs. Ruxton at Black Castle, to married brothers and sisters,
or to friends, formed more and more frequent interludes in her
home-life; but each time she returns, Miss Edgeworth records her
excessive happiness to find herself at Edgeworthstown again, with her
beloved stepmother and those who still were left.

After one such visit to Mrs. Ruxton, she writes to her:--

     After spending four months with you, it is most delightful to me to
     receive from you such assurances that I have been a pleasure and a
     comfort to you. I often think of William's most just and
     characteristic expression, that you have given him a desire to live
     to advanced age, by showing him how much happiness can be felt and
     conferred in age, where the affections and intellectual faculties
     are preserved in all their vivacity. In you there is a peculiar
     habit of allowing constantly for the _compensating_ good qualities
     of all connected with you, and never unjustly expecting impossible
     perfections. This, which I have so often admired in you, I have
     often determined to imitate; and in this my sixtieth year, to
     commence in a few days, I will, I am resolved, make great
     progress. "Rosamond at sixty," says Margaret. We are all a very
     happy party here, and I wish you could see at this moment, sitting
     opposite to me on a sofa and in an arm-chair, the mother and
     daughter and grandchild.

The outward course of existence at home was one of quiet routine. Habits
of order had been early impressed upon Miss Edgeworth by Mrs. Honora
Edgeworth, and though naturally impetuous, she had curbed herself to act
with method. It was thanks to these acquired habits that she was able to
accomplish daily such a surprising amount of multifarious work. It was
her custom to get up at seven, take a cup of coffee, read her letters,
and then walk out about three-quarters of an hour before breakfast. So
punctual and regular was she that for many years a lady residing in the
village used to be roused by her maid with the words, "Miss Edgeworth's
walking, ma'am; it's eight o'clock." She generally returned with her
hands full of roses or other flowers that she had gathered, and taking
her needlework or knitting, would sit down at the family breakfast, a
meal that was a special favorite of hers, though she rarely partook of
anything. But while the others were eating she delighted to read out to
them such extracts from the letters she had received as she thought
would please them. She listened, too, while the newspaper was read
aloud, although its literary and scientific contents always attracted
her more than its political; for in politics, except Irish, she took
little interest.

This social meal ended, she would sit down to write, penning letters,
attending to business, or inditing stories if any such were in progress.
She almost always wrote in the common sitting-room, as she had done
during her father's life-time, and for many years on a little desk he
had made for her, and on which, shortly before his death, he had
inscribed the words:--

     On this humble desk were written all the numerous works of my
     daughter, Maria Edgeworth, in the common sitting-room of my family.
     In these works, which were chiefly written to please me, she has
     never attacked the personal character of any human being, or
     interfered with the opinions of any sect or party, religious or
     political; while endeavoring to inform and instruct others, she
     improved and amused her own mind and gratified her heart, which I
     do believe is better than her head.

     R. L. E.

After her father's death she used a writing-desk that had been his, and
which accompanied her whenever she went away. At home it was placed on a
table he had made, and to which she, inheriting some of his faculty for
mechanical inventions, had attached some ingenious contrivances of her
own, such as brackets, fire-screens and paper-rests. In summer time
this little table was generally rolled into a recess behind the pillars
of the library; in winter it stood near the fire. She wrote on folio
sheets, which she sewed together in chapters, and her manuscripts were
wonderfully neat, clean and free from erasures. At luncheon-time she
ceased writing, and since she made this her chief meal in the day, she
was obliged, often most unwillingly, to forego her desire to return to
her desk. But she knew that to write directly after eating was bad for
her, and she submitted instead to doing some needlework. It was while
working with her needle, however, that most of her stories were
conceived and developed.

Sometimes she would drive out in the afternoon. She was rather nervous
about horses, and always sat with her back to them, that she might not
see them. When quite at ease on the score of coachman and steeds, she
greatly enjoyed a drive in an open carriage, talking and laughing all
the time, and amusing her companions with her endless flow of anecdotes
and fun. With her habitual indifference to nature she rarely knew and
still less cared whither the drive had been directed. Most commonly she
wrote again till dinner-time. In her later years she would retire and
sleep for an hour after this meal, rejoining the family circle at the
tea-table. The evenings were usually spent in reading aloud; sometimes
Miss Edgeworth was the reader, sometimes she would work and listen while
others read. The enjoyment she felt in literature was imparted to those
about her; she would manage to extract something, either knowledge or
amusement, out of the dullest book. Her stepmother says that she would
often linger after the usual bed-time, to talk over what she had heard,
when bright, deep or solid observations would alternate with gay
anecdotes apropos of the work or its author. For Miss Edgeworth's best
talk was not reserved for abroad, but was rather poured forth at its
best when surrounded by those she loved. That her conversation was at
all times delightful there is abundant testimony. Mr. Ticknor says of
it: "There was a life and spirit about her conversation, she threw
herself into it with such _abandon_, she retorted with such brilliant
repartee, and, in short, she talked with such extraordinary flow of
natural talent, that I don't know whether anything of the kind could be
finer."

It is said that even those who came to pay a mere morning call would
often remain for hours, loth to terminate the conversation. Nor was her
talk by any means uniformly grave; she knew most happily how to blend
the grave and gay; she loved to laugh herself and arouse laughter in
others, and when she laughed she did so with all the exuberant enjoyment
of an Irishwoman. Indeed, there was far more of the light-hearted, merry
Irishwoman in Miss Edgeworth than her writings, especially her moral
tales, would lead the world to suppose. In her, Irish good qualities
were mingled with practical wisdom, judgment and good sense, and
produced a combination both rare and charming. She said of herself that
she was ugly, remarking that she was the last ugly person left; the rest
of the world were no longer anything but plain; but those who knew her
did not subscribe to this verdict. She was not, and never had been,
good-looking;[10] but a face that beamed such kindliness, reflected such
intelligence, could never be really plain. In form she was _petite_; her
well-made, almost elegant figure, that remained slight to the last, was
enhanced by a scrupulously trim appearance. She was very neat and
particular in her dress, and was not only always tidy, but well attired
and in accordance with the fashion. She maintained throughout her life
that a woman should not be above attending to her dress. Ostentation of
any kind was foreign to her nature. When a relative died, leaving her a
pair of valuable diamond ear-rings and pearl bracelets, her instant
thought was, what good could she do with them? They were sold at once,
and with the proceeds she built a village market-house and a room for
the magistrate's petty sessions. Her generosity, both in giving money,
time and labor for others, was boundless; and her kindnesses were made
doubly kind by the thoughtfulness with which they were executed. Thus,
for example, many of her tenants and neighbors had relations or friends
who had emigrated to the United States. These poor people often found
that letters they wrote to America miscarried, a frequent reason being
of course insufficient or illegible addresses. To obviate this, Miss
Edgeworth caused them to send her all their letters, which she then
forwarded once a month. This labor often gave her no small trouble, but
she grudged neither this nor the time spent in making up the monthly
packet. Her poor neighbors, she deemed, repaid her only too richly by
their gratitude. She was certainly one of the few people who practice
what they preach; she exemplified in her own person all those judicious
plans and rules for helping the needy which she had brought forward in
her works. When it is further remembered that Miss Edgeworth retained
to the very last, until her eighty-second year, that faculty, which is
judged the exclusive gift of youth, of admitting new interests into her
life, and that she further made them to run side by side with those she
had held of yore, in this mode enriching and widening her mental and
emotional horizon, it is little wonder that her old age was one of
serene felicity.

The marriage of Fanny Edgeworth, Miss Edgeworth's favorite among all her
younger sisters, was a real grief to her for the moment, though, with
her usual unselfishness, she upbraided herself for feeling such a
"shameful, weak, selfish sorrow at parting with this darling child." A
pleasure of a very different kind came to her shortly after in the shape
of Sir Walter Scott's introduction to his collected _Waverley Novels_.
The sheets, while passing through the press, had been sent to her, and
she felt that Scott had, in the most delightful and kind manner, said
everything that could gratify her "as an author, friend and human
creature."

     You might well say that I should be "ill to please"--you might have
     said impossible to please--if what you sent me had not pleased,
     gratified, delighted me to the top of my bent; saturated me head
     and heart with the most grateful sense of the kindness of my most
     admired friend, and with the unspeakable gratification of such a
     testimony of his esteem and affection. I know full well, most
     sincerely I feel, that he over-values infinitely what I have
     written; but of this I am proud, because it proves to me that
     private friendship of his which I value above all, even his public
     praise....

     Believe me, my dear sir, I feel it all; and if I could, as you say,
     flatter myself that Sir Walter Scott was in any degree influenced
     to write and publish this novel from seeing my sketches of Irish
     character, I should indeed triumph in the thought of having been
     the proximate cause of such happiness to millions.

Among the many advanced movements that Mr. Edgeworth had advocated was
the cause of Catholic emancipation. In such public measures as her
father had felt an interest, Miss Edgeworth felt one too; and it was a
great joy to her that not only she, but her father's sister, had lived
to see this measure carried. It is amusing to learn that it was a
grievance of O'Connell's against Miss Edgeworth that she never directly
espoused this cause by means of her pen. This was, in real fact, a
compliment, as showing what a power her writings had become.

In the summer, the "reaper whose name is Death" reappeared amidst that
united family, carrying off this time the able engineer, William
Edgeworth, who also succumbed to the fatal family malady. It was a shock
and a grief to his devoted sister, who sorrowed the more when she saw
her juniors go before her, and the grief told on her own health. She was
ailing until autumn, often confined to the sofa and forbidden her pen,
though, happily for her, neither her needle nor her books. Her idle
fancy began once more to weave romances, and she planned the story of
_Helen_ and made some notes for it. Contrary to her previous custom, she
did not draw up a complete sketch, as she had done while writing under
her father's guidance. She jotted down the rough outlines, and trusted
to spontaneous promptings to fill in the details. But she was not even
certain at all whether she should attempt to write it; and although
encouraged by the success of _Harry and Lucy_, she was nervous about
grappling with higher work, deprived of the guide who had been her
life-long stay.

For years she had rejected all suggestions to turn her attention once
more to novel-writing, and but for the encouragement of her sister
Harriet (Mrs. Butler), _Helen_ would probably never have seen the light.
It was first seriously thought of in 1830, but proceeded slowly. Life
brought more interruptions to her than it had done in youth--family
events, visits of kindness and pleasure, absorbed much time. Then, too,
she was greatly engrossed by her agency business, to which all else was
made to defer. She was punctual, we are told, not only to the day, but
to the hour, of her payments; and her exertions to have the rents paid
and the money ready for these payments were unvarying. She herself
looked after the repairs, the letting of the village houses, the drains,
gutters and pathways, the employment of the poor,--in short, all the
hundred and one duties that devolve upon the steward of landed property.
It was considered by her family that all this exertion was in no wise
too much for her; that, on the contrary, it was good for her health,
inducing her to walk out and take more exercise than she would have done
without an object in view. Even the very drudgery of accounts and
letters of business, says her stepmother, "though at times almost too
much for her bodily strength, invigorated her mind; and she went from
the rent-book to her little desk and the manuscript of _Helen_ with
renewed vigor. She never wrote fiction with more life and spirit than
when she had been for some time completely occupied with the hard
realities of life."

Nevertheless, _Helen_ progressed slowly, and was several times in danger
of being thrust aside. She wrote to her sister:--

     My dear Harriet, can you conceive yourself to be an old lamp at the
     point of extinction, and dreading the smell you would make at going
     out, and the execrations which in your dying flickerings you might
     hear? And then you can conceive the sudden starting up again of the
     flame when fresh oil is poured into the lamp. And can you conceive
     what that poor lamp would feel returning to light and life? So felt
     I when I had read your letter on reading what I sent to you of
     _Helen_. You have given me new life and spirit to go on with her. I
     would have gone on from principle, and the desire to do what my
     father advised--to finish whatever I began; but now I feel all the
     difference between working for a dead or a live horse.

To the day of her death Miss Edgeworth never became the prudent, staid,
self-contained person we should imagine her from her books, did we
possess them only as guides to her character. _Rosamond_ remained as
generously impulsive as ever. On one occasion she writes to Mrs.
Ruxton:--

     It is very happy for your little niece that you have so much the
     habit of expressing to her your kind feelings. I really think that
     if my thoughts and feelings were shut up completely within me, I
     should burst in a week, like a steam engine without a
     snifting-clack, now called by the grander name of a safety-valve.
     You want to know what I am doing and thinking of: of ditches,
     drains and sewers, of dragging quicks from one hedge and sticking
     them down into another, at the imminent peril of their green lives;
     of two houses to let, one tenant promised from the Isle of Man,
     another from the Irish Survey; of two bullfinches, each in his cage
     on the table--one who would sing if he could, and the other who
     could sing, I am told, if he would. Then I am thinking for three
     hours a day of _Helen_, to what purpose I dare not say.

Before the year 1830 was ended Miss Edgeworth had lost this aunt, whom
she had loved so long and fondly. It was the severing of a life-long
friendship, the heaviest blow that had befallen her since her father's
death. She was in London when the event took place, and it was some
comfort to her to find herself so kindly welcomed by those whom she had
liked best in years gone by. She says sadly:--

     It is always gratifying to find old friends the same after long
     absence, but it has been particularly so to me now, when not only
     the leaves of the pleasures of life fall naturally in its winter,
     but when the great branches on whom happiness depended are gone.

During this visit she kept out of all large parties, but renewed many
old ties. One of the things she enjoyed most was a children's party at
Mrs. Lockhart's. She was in her element among the young ones. "If Mrs.
Lockhart had invented forever she could not have found what would please
me more." This London visit extended over some months:--

     Old as I am, and imaginative as I am thought to be, I have really
     always found that the pleasures I have expected would be great,
     have actually been greater in the enjoyment than in the
     anticipation. This is written in my sixty-fourth year. The pleasure
     of being with Fanny has been far, far greater than I had expected.
     The pleasures here altogether, including the kindness of old
     friends and the civilities of acquaintances, are still more
     enhanced than I had calculated upon by the home and the quiet
     library and easy-chair morning retreat I enjoy.

On her return to Edgeworthstown she wrote:--

     My last visit to universal London confirms to my own feelings your
     eulogium. I never was so happy there in my life, because I had,
     besides all the external pleasures, the solid satisfaction of a
     home there, and domestic pleasures, without which I should soon
     grow aweary of the world, and wish the business of the town were
     done. It is most gratifying to me, at such a distance, to hear and
     to believe that such kind and cultivated friends as you miss my
     company and wish for my future return. I should be very sorry if I
     were told this minute that I was never to see London again, and yet
     I am wondrous contented and happy at home.

It is a curious circumstance, but a fact of frequent observation, that
large families are often more united than small ones. The Edgeworths
were a case in point. They had that devoted affection, that blind belief
in one another, that often distinguishes a clan. They preferred each
other's society to that of strangers; they regarded themselves as beings
apart; what one did, the others approved; harmony and good will reigned
supreme. With so many different families living under one roof, it was a
rare and curious fusion, this home party, of which one of the brothers
said that "each star is worthy of separate observation for its serenity,
brilliancy or magnitude; but it is as a constellation they claim most
regard, linked together by strong attachment and moving in harmony
through their useful course."

It was as a star of the first magnitude in this constellation that Miss
Edgeworth loved to move and have her being, and she chose to be set
there rather than shine in brilliancy alone. Miss Edgeworth, the woman,
must always be thought of in connection with her home and home
attachments. To love, shrouded in the quiet obscurity of domestic life,
was the secret of existence to this simple-minded nature.

That _Helen_ was liked by the home circle was a real pleasure to its
author. She was anxious for criticism and took all she received in good
part. "I am a creature," she once said, "that can take advice, can be
the better for it, and am never offended by it." The family approval
given, the manuscript was despatched to London with more confidence than
she had ever expected to feel again in a literary work. Lockhart managed
the business arrangements, for to this she did not feel equal, and when
asked if the book should be in two or three volumes, replied:--

     I have satisfied my own conscience, which is my point, as I know
     that far from having stretched a single page, or a single sentence,
     to _make out_ a third volume, I have cut as much as ever I
     could--cut it to the quick; and now it matters not whether it be
     printed in three or in two volumes. If tiresome to the ear in
     three, it would be equally so in two, and would look worse to the
     eye.

The reason why her new story was not an Irish one she gives in a letter
to a brother in India:--

     I should tell you beforehand that there is no humor in it and no
     Irish character. It is impossible to draw Ireland as she now is in
     a book of fiction--realities are too strong, party passions too
     violent to bear to see, or care to look at their faces in the
     looking-glass. The people would only break the glass and curse the
     fool who held the mirror up to nature--distorted nature, in a
     fever. We are in too perilous a case to laugh: humor would be out
     of season, worse than bad taste. Whenever the danger is passed, as
     the man in the sonnet says, "We may look back on the hardest part
     and laugh." Then I shall be ready to join in the laugh. Sir Walter
     Scott once said to me, "Do explain to the public why Pat, who gets
     forward so well in other countries, is so miserable in his own." A
     very difficult question; I fear above my power. But I shall think
     of it continually, and listen, and look, and read.

Things were once more in a bad way in that unhappy country, and Miss
Edgeworth saw great distress all around her. A letter written at that
time might almost be written to-day:--

     I fear we have much to go through in this country before we come to
     quiet, settled life, and a ready obedience to the laws. There is
     literally no rein of law at this moment to hold the Irish; and
     through the whole country there is what I cannot justly call a
     spirit of _reform_, but a spirit of _revolution_, under the name of
     reform; a restless desire to overthrow what _is_, and a hope--more
     than a hope--an expectation of gaining liberty or wealth, or both,
     in the struggle; and if they do gain either, they will lose both
     again and be worse off than ever--they will afterwards quarrel
     amongst themselves, destroy one another, and be again enslaved with
     heavier chains. I am and have been all my life a sincere friend to
     moderate measures, as long as reason can be heard; but there comes
     a time, at the actual commencement of uproar, when reason cannot be
     heard, and when the ultimate law of force must be resorted to, to
     prevent greater evils. _That time was lost in the beginning of the
     French Revolution_--I hope it may not be lost in Ireland. It is
     scarcely possible that this country can now be tranquilized without
     military force to reestablish law; the people _must_ be made to
     obey the laws or they cannot be ruled after any concessions. Nor
     would the mob be able to rule if they got all they desire; they
     would only tear each other to pieces, and die _drunk_ or famish
     _sober_. The misfortune of this country has been that England has
     always yielded to _clamor_ what should have been granted to
     justice.

As Miss Edgeworth advanced in life she often spoke of "my poor Ireland,"
showing that hopelessness with regard to the problem had dawned on her.
She was a patriot, but belonged to no party; and was blind neither to
the nation's wrongs, follies nor crimes. She grew more and more to
advocate the _laissez-faire_ system. She contended that her
observations, which extended over so long a period of time, had shown
her steady progression in Ireland, and she believed that the land would
ultimately do well if people would only not force their political
nostrums upon it. What she did demand from England was equality of
legislation, but no more; and this accorded, she believed Ireland would
rise from her state of degradation, though of necessity the rise would
be slow, since the length of time of recovery must be in proportion to
the length and force of the infliction. Mrs. Hall very rightly remarked
that Miss Edgeworth's affection for Ireland was "philosophic." Yet
another change Miss Edgeworth observed in the Irish, and one that made
them less useful to her for literary purposes:--

     The modern peasantry imagine they have a part to play in the
     organization of their country; their heads are fuller of politics
     than fun; in fact, they have been drilled into thinking about what
     they cannot understand, and so have become reserved and
     suspicious--that is, to what they used to be.

After _Helen_ had passed through the press, Miss Edgeworth accompanied
her friends Sir Culling and Lady Smith in a trip through Connemara. Of
the adventures they had on this journey--real Irish adventures, with
innumerable sloughs to traverse, with roads that imperilled life, with
inns whose dirt and discomfort passed belief, with roadside hospitality
from kindly but eccentric gentlefolks--Miss Edgeworth wrote a letter
some forty pages long to a brother in India. For fun and graphic
vivacity it is not surpassed by the best of her printed Irish scenes.
After her return "rents and odious accounts" kept her mind from running
too much upon _Helen_, about which she was more anxious than about any
book she had ever sent into the world. It soon proved as great a success
as her earlier works, and a second edition was demanded after a few
weeks. Her own feelings about the matter are expressed in a letter she
wrote to Mr. Bannatyne, who had congratulated her on its public
reception:--

     MY DEAR MR. BANNATYNE:

     I thank you with all my heart for the "nervousness" you felt about
     my venturing again before the public, and it is a _heart_-felt as
     well as a _head_-felt satisfaction to me that you do not think I
     have lowered what my father took such pains to raise for me. You
     cannot conceive how much afraid I was myself to venture what had
     not his corrections and his sanction. For many, many years that
     feeling deterred me from any attempt in this line. Of what
     consequence, then, to my happiness it is to be assured, by friends
     on whose sincerity and judgment I can depend, that I have not done
     what I ought to repent or to be ashamed of.

Concerning _Helen_ contemporary public opinion was much divided; some
regarded it as a falling-off in power, others as an advance, but all
agreed that there was a change. The change is one of tone and feeling,
induced in part, no doubt, by the fact that it was the emanation of her
own brain only; in part that years had caused Miss Edgeworth, as it
causes all of us, to regard life from a different standpoint. Experience
had taught her to

    Gentler scan her brother man

than she did in earlier life. _Helen_ is so much superior in ease,
nature and poetry, that it makes us deplore that Miss Edgeworth's
talents had not been allowed unchecked sway. Not only is the fable more
skillfully framed, but the whole shows greater passion and finer insight
into the more subtle moods of humanity. Too often when men and women go
on writing far into their latter years we are apt to wish that, like
Prospero, they had buried their wand before it had lost its power. This
is not the case with Miss Edgeworth. _Helen_, her last novel, which
appeared after so long a silence, is in some respects the most charming
of her tales--a fact doubtless due in some measure to the time that had
elapsed since the cessation of her father's active influence. The old
brilliancy, the quick humor, the strong sense of justice and truth
which is the moral backbone of her work, are there as before; but
through the whole tale there breathes a new spirit of wider tenderness
for weak, struggling human nature, and a gentleness towards its foibles,
which her earlier writings lacked. Years had taught her a wider
toleration, had shown her, too, how large a part quick, unreasoning
instincts and impulses play in the lives of men and women, even of those
whose constant struggle it is to subdue act and thought to the rule of
duty. _Helen_ is more of a romance than any of its predecessors, perhaps
because the chief interest of the tale is concentrated in the heroine,
who is the central figure round which the other persons of the story
revolve, while in Miss Edgeworth's earlier novels the subsidiary
characters are the most interesting and amusing. We wish Belinda well,
but she does not move our feelings as does Lady Delacour, and Sir Philip
Baddeley is infinitely more diverting than Clarence Harvey is
fascinating. And it is the same in all the others, while the centre of
_Helen_ is the girl herself. Yet the other characters are no less
admirably drawn, with the old delicacy and firmness of touch, the
occasional quaint gleams of humor. In its way Miss Edgeworth never
limned a finer portrait than that of Lady Davenant, the large-brained,
large-hearted woman of the world, endowed with strong principle, keen
sense and real vigor of character, mingled with prejudice, impulsive
likes and dislikes, an imperfect adherence in practice to her own
theories of right and wrong, and a stern power of self-judgment. There
is nothing exaggerated in this admirable and vigorous piece of work. We
comprehend Cecilia's nervous fear of the mother whose unswerving truth
cows her, while it attracts the answering truth of nature of her truer
and stronger friend. Equally good is the character of Lady Cecilia,
through whose duplicity and cowardice arise all Helen's troubles; her
husband, General Clarendon, who held

          All fraud and cunning in disdain,
    A friend to truth, in speech and action plain;

the malicious Lady Beatrice and her silly, pretty sister; while Horace
Churchill, the man about town, who is more modern in tone than Miss
Edgeworth's earlier portraits of the same class, loses nothing by
comparison with them. Despite his restless egotism, his spitefulness,
his generally unpleasant character, he is a gentleman in all outside
seeming, the old-fashioned, perfect tone of high breeding marks him, and
he is even capable of a certain generosity that seems more an inherited
instinct than a part of his individual nature. Esther, the general's
sister, is one of the quaintest and most delightful characters in the
book, drawn with kindliness and humor--a girl with the power of a noble
woman hidden under the crust of a gruff and abrupt exterior, which
springs half from shyness, half from a defiant love of truth and hatred
of conventional chains. The purpose of _Helen_ is to show how much the
sufferings and dissensions of social life arise from the prevailing
digressions from truth, often due in the first instance to small society
politenesses. Its key-note lies in the ejaculation of Miss Clarendon: "I
wish that word _fib_ was out of the English language, and _white lie_
drummed out after it. Things by their right names, and we should all do
much better. Truth must be told, whether agreeable or not." Most
perfectly and naturally is the imbroglio brought to pass, the
entanglement caused by the love-letters, the way in which every fresh
deceit on the part of Cecilia, meant to be harmless, tells in her
husband's mind against the friend behind whom she is basely hiding her
own fault. With Cecilia, whose failings were of the kind with which Miss
Edgeworth had least mercy, she is singularly gentle. For once she lets
us pity the offender while we condemn the crime. Life had probably
taught her that consequences are so surely unpitying that she no longer
felt the need to insist on this, as she had done in former years, when
she would probably have sketched for us the whole course of Cecilia's
punishment, whose nature she now only indicates. Helen is a charming
heroine; no wax doll of impossible perfection, but a very woman, wayward
and weak sometimes, but true, high-spirited, impulsively generous,
staunch in her friendship and her love, with deep and passionate
feelings controlled, not crushed, by duty.

Another marked change is shown in the manner in which Helen and
Granville Beauclerc fall in love. Miss Edgeworth had always protested
against the doctrine that love is a mere matter of personal beauty; she
showed how it may enslave for a moment, but that a preference resting on
so precarious a foundation was but a paltry tribute to her sex. Love,
she rightly preached, must be founded on higher motives; but her heroes
and heroines were too apt to fall in love in an edifying and instructive
manner; they know too well why they succumbed to the tender passion.
Until now she had almost denied the existence of romantic love,
agreeing, it would seem, with her own Mrs. Broadhurst: "Ask half the men
you are acquainted with why they are married, and their answer, if they
speak the truth, will be: 'Because I met Miss Such-a-one at such a
place, and we were continually together.'" "'Propinquity, propinquity,'
as my father used to say--and he was married five times, and twice to
heiresses." That amiable and respectable Bluebeard, Miss Edgeworth's
father, had hitherto held final sway over her characters. Was it the
removal of this influence that allowed Helen and Granville to fall in
love in a more rational manner? Helen does not now wait to see whether
Beauclerc has every virtue under the sun before she ventures to love
him; indeed, she sees his foibles clearly, and it is just when she
believes that he has shown a lack of honor and sincerity that in her
burst of grief she discovers that she loves him; loves him whatever he
is, whatever he does. As for Granville, he falls in love in a
thorough-going, earnest manner, which increases our feeling of his
reality. It has been objected to Miss Edgeworth's love-making that it is
stiff as compared with that of the present day. It certainly presents a
contrast to that of the Broughton school; but the loves of Helen and
Granville, as told by her in so real and human a manner, reveal their
feelings to be none the less tender that they are not hysterical, or any
the less deep for their power of modesty, reverence and reserve.

_Helen_ was suggested by Crabbe's tale, _The Confidant_, but that
feeling which is sinfully gratified and severely punished in Crabbe's
story becomes refined and reformed in Miss Edgeworth's crucible. It is,
however, interesting to compare her romance with the rapid sketch of the
stern original. Another new feature in _Helen_ is a tendency to describe
natural objects. Until now there had never been in Miss Edgeworth's
writings a description of scenery or a sign of delight in it. She had,
as we know, a contempt for the mere pleasures of the senses, and so
little appreciation of the beautiful that she once condemns a character
who buys something to gratify the eye, not recognizing that the eye, as
well as the body and mind, must be fed. Yet in _Helen_, to our surprise,
we encounter some lovingly detailed scenic bits; we even find her citing
Wordsworth. It is clear she had not remained wholly untouched by the new
influences surging around her. Another feature of _Helen_ is the lack of
a didactic tone. Speaking of Scott's novels, she remarks that his
morality is not in purple patches, ostentatiously obtrusive, but woven
in through the very texture of the stuff. She knew that her faults lay
in the opposite direction, and it is evident she had striven to avoid
them. A writer who can learn from criticism and experience, who can
adopt a new method of writing when past the age of sixty, is a
remarkable writer indeed.

The fears that Miss Edgeworth had felt concerning _Helen_ were truly
uncalled for, but the eagerness with which she listened to criticisms
upon it showed how little confident she felt of it herself. To her
friend Dr. Holland she wrote after its appearance:--

     DEAR SIR:

     I am very glad that you have been pleased with _Helen_--far above
     my expectations! And I thank you for that warmth of kindness with
     which you enter into all the details of the characters and plan of
     the story. Nothing but regard for the author could have made you
     give so much importance to my tale. It has always been my fault to
     let the moral end I had in view appear too soon and too clearly,
     and I am not surprised that my old fault, notwithstanding some
     pains which I certainly _thought_ I took to correct it, should
     still abide by me. As to Lady Davenant's loving Helen better than
     she did her daughter--I can't help it, nor could she. It is her
     fault, not mine, and I can only say it was very natural that, after
     having begun by mistake and neglect in her early education, she
     should feel afterwards disinclined to one who was a constant object
     of self-reproach to her. Lady Davenant is not represented as a
     perfect character. All, then, that I have to answer for is, whether
     her faults are natural to the character I drew, and tend in their
     representation to the moral I would _enforce_ or _insinuate_.

     Oh, thank you for telling me of my blunder in making the dean die
     of _apoplexy_ with his eyes fixed on Helen. Absurd! How shall I
     kill him in the next edition, if ever I am allowed an opportunity?
     Would palsy do? May there not be a partial power of _will_
     surviving a stroke of palsy, which would permit the poor old man to
     die with his eyes directed to his niece? Please to answer this
     question; and if palsy will not do my business, please to suggest
     something that will, and with as little alteration of the text as
     maybe. Not because I am unwilling to take the trouble of
     correcting, but that I don't think it worth while to make
     alterations, even emendations, of great length. Better make a new
     one, according to Pope's hackney coachman's principle. (The
     punctuation shall be mended.)



CHAPTER XIV.

LAST YEARS.


More and more Miss Edgeworth's life revolved round home and friends. "In
this world, in which I have lived nearly three-quarters of a century, I
have found nothing one-quarter so well worth living for as old friends,"
she said. In her person old age was seen in its most attractive form.
Her lively interests remained undimmed. At seventy she even set herself
to learn a new language, Spanish, while her impulsiveness never became
extinct, though she playfully hoped that, provided she lived so long,
she might perhaps at eighty arrive at years of discretion. It was in
1835 that Mr. Ticknor, the American historian of Spanish literature,
visited Edgeworthstown. He has recorded in his journal a pleasing and
vivid picture of his visit. He describes Miss Edgeworth as small, short
and spare, with frank and kind manners, always looking straight into the
face of those she spoke to with a pair of mild, deep gray eyes. Her
kindness and vivacity instantly put her visitors at ease. Mr. Ticknor
was also impressed with the harmony that existed in a family composed of
the most heterogeneous relationships. What struck him about Miss
Edgeworth herself was her uncommon quickness of perception, her
fertility of allusion, and the great resources of fact which a
remarkable memory supplied to her. He likens her conversation to that of
her own Lady Davenant. Mr. Ticknor observed that though she would talk
freely about herself and her works, she never introduced the subject,
and never seemed glad to continue it. Indeed, though he watched
carefully for it, he could not detect either any of the mystification or
the vanity of authorship. He was struck with her good nature and desire
to defend everybody, even Lady Morgan, as far as she could, though never
so far as to be unreasonable.

"In her intercourse with her family she was quite delightful, referring
constantly to Mrs. Edgeworth, who seems to be the authority in all
matters of fact, and most kindly repeating jokes to her infirm aunt,
Mrs. Sneyd, who cannot hear them, and who seems to have for her the most
unbounded affection and admiration."

The dispersion of so many members of her family imposed much
letter-writing on Miss Edgeworth, for all turned to her graphic pen for
news of the dear old home. And, as before when she was away, those she
left behind had to share in her pleasures, or they would be but sorry
pleasures to her. Death, as well as marriages, had thinned the family
ranks. Tenacious and warm in her affections as she was, Miss Edgeworth
never took a morbid view concerning those who were gone. Everything
morbid was foreign to her nature.

     There is something mournful, yet pleasingly painful, in the sense
     of the ideal presence of the long-loved dead. Those images people
     and fill the mind with unselfish thoughts, and with the salutary
     feeling of responsibility and constant desire to be and to act in
     this world as the superior friend would have wished and approved.

And there were so many still left to love, young and old. "Who would not
like to live to be old if they could be so happy in friends as I am?"
The enthusiastic affection in her peculiar family relations, which she
kept unimpaired, cannot be better shown than by quoting one of the
countless letters she wrote concerning those dear to her:--

     EDGEWORTHSTOWN, NOV. 1, 1838.

     MY DEAR MR. AND MRS. TICKNOR:

     I know so well your kind feelings towards all this family, that I
     am sure you will be pleased with the intelligence which I am going
     to communicate to you.

     My sister Honora is going to be happily married to a person every
     way suited to her (and that is saying a great deal), as you who
     most kindly and justly appreciated her will readily join with me in
     thinking. The gentleman's name, Captain Beaufort, R. N., perhaps
     you may be acquainted with, as he is in a public situation, and not
     unknown to literary and scientific fame. He is a naval officer. (I
     hope you like this officer's name?) He made some years ago a survey
     of the coast of Caramania, and wrote a small volume on that survey,
     which has obtained for him a good reputation. He has been for some
     years Hydrographer Royal.... In one word, he is a person publicly
     esteemed; and privately he is beloved and esteemed by all who know
     him best. He is and has been well known to us ever since the
     present Mrs. Edgeworth's marriage with my father. Captain Beaufort
     is Mrs. Edgeworth's youngest brother. As Mrs. E. is Honora's
     _step_mother, you see that he is no relation whatever to Honora.
     But the nearness of the connection has given us all the best means
     of knowing him thoroughly. He was my dear father's most beloved
     pupil and friend; by pupil I only mean that his being so much
     younger made him look up to my father with reverence, and learn
     from him in science and literature with delight. Thus has he been
     long connected with all I love. He has been a widower two years. He
     has three sons and four daughters.... The youngest daughter, Emily,
     is a delightful child. Captain Beaufort lives in London, 11
     Gloucester place; has a very comfortable house, and sufficient
     fortune for all their moderate wishes. Honora's fortune, which is
     ample, will give them affluence.

     My dear Mrs. Ticknor, I know you particularly liked Honora, and
     that you will be interested in hearing all these particulars,
     though it seems impertinent to detail them across the Atlantic to
     one who will, I fear, never see any one of the persons I have
     mentioned. Yet affections such as yours keep warm very long and at
     a great distance.

     I feel that I have got into a snug little corner in both your
     hearts, and that you will excuse a great deal from me; therefore I
     go on without scruple drawing upon your sympathy, and you will not
     protest my draft.

     You saw how devoted Honora was to her aunt, Mrs. Mary Sneyd, whom
     you liked so much; and you will easily imagine what a struggle
     there has been in Honora's mind before she could consent to a
     marriage with even such a man as Captain Beaufort, when it must
     separate her from her aunt. Captain Beaufort himself felt this so
     much that he never would have pressed it. He once thought that she
     might be prevailed upon to accompany them to London and to live
     with them. But Mrs. Mary Sneyd could not bear to leave Mrs.
     Edgeworth, and this place which she has made her heart's home. She
     decided Captain Beaufort and her niece to make her happy by
     completing their union, and letting her feel that she did not
     prevent the felicity of the two persons she loves best now in the
     world. She remains with us.

     The marriage is to take place next Tuesday or Thursday, and my Aunt
     Mary will go to the church with her niece and give her away. I must
     tell you a little characteristic trait of this aunt, the least
     selfish of all human beings. She has been practicing getting up
     early in the morning, which she has not done for two years--has
     never got up for breakfast. But she has trained herself to rising
     at the hour at which she must rise on the wedding-day, and has
     walked up and down her own room the distance she must walk up and
     down the aisle of the church, to insure her being accustomed to
     the exertion and able to accomplish it easily. This she did for a
     long time without our knowing it, till Honora found it out. Mrs.
     Mary Sneyd is quite well and in excellent spirits.

     A younger sister of mine, Lucy, of whom you have heard us speak as
     an invalid, who was at Clifton with that dear Sophy whom we have
     lost, is now recovered, and has returned home to take Honora's
     place with her Aunt Mary; and Aunt Mary likes to have her, and Lucy
     feels this a great motive to her to overcome a number of nervous
     feelings, which formed part of her illness. A regular course of
     occupations and duties, and feeling herself essential to the
     happiness and the holding together of a family she so loves, will
     be the best strengthening medicine for her. She arrived at home
     last night. My sister Fanny and her husband, Lestock Wilson, are
     with us. My sister has much improved in health; she is now able to
     walk without pain, and bore her long journey and voyage here
     wonderfully. I have always regretted, and always shall regret, that
     this sister Fanny of mine had not the pleasure of becoming
     acquainted with you. You really must revisit England. My sister
     Harriet Butler, and Mr. Butler, and the three little dear Foxes,
     are all around me at this instant. Barry Fox, their father, will be
     with us in a few days, and Captain Beaufort returns from London on
     Monday. You see what a large and happy family we are!!!

     Do I not give you some proof, my dear Mr. and Mrs. Ticknor, of my
     affection in writing to you at this moment? and if I write without
     much sense or connection you will not be surprised.

     My head is really upside down, and my feelings so divided between
     joy and sorrow--joy for Honora's happiness, but sorrow for the
     parting that must be!

     It will all settle down under the hand of strong necessity and of
     lenient time. My sisters Fanny and Harriet will stay with us some
     weeks after the marriage; this will be a great comfort.

     Mr. Butler will perform the happy, awful ceremony. How people who
     do not love can ever dare to marry, to approach the altar to
     pronounce that solemn vow, I cannot conceive.

     My thoughts are so engrossed by this subject that I absolutely
     cannot tell you of anything else. You must tell me of everything
     that interests you, else I shall not forgive myself for my egotism.

     I am most sincerely and affectionately, my dear Mrs. Ticknor, with
     affectionate remembrances to your engaging daughter, not forgetting
     your little darling,

     Yours most sincerely,

     MARIA EDGEWORTH.

     Mention Lockhart's _Memoirs of Scott_, of which my head and heart
     were full before this present all-engrossing subject overcame me.

     I shall be quite rational again, I am sure, by the time your answer
     reaches me, so pray do not treat me as quite a hopeless person to
     write rationally to.

     Mrs. Edgeworth desires me to send you her very affectionate
     remembrances.

     I believe, I am almost sure, that I wrote to you, my dear Mr.
     Ticknor, some months ago while you were on the Continent, to thank
     you for the present you sent me, through Mr. Norton's means, of an
     American edition of my works. I thought it beautifully printed and
     bound, and the engravings excellent, particularly that for _Helen_,
     and the vignette for _Helen_, which we have not in the English
     edition. I have another American copy of this edition, and I have
     left yours for life with my brother Francis and my Spanish sister
     Rosa, who live in a little cottage near Windsor, and have not
     money to indulge themselves in the luxury of books. I hope you will
     not be angry with me for so doing; no, I think you will be glad
     that I made your present give me the greatest possible sum of
     pleasure. Take into account the pride I felt in saying, _Mr.
     Ticknor sent me these books_.

     I am ashamed to see that I have come so far in a second sheet, and
     in spite of all the wonderings at what can Maria _be about_?

     _Sense in my next._

In answer to a letter from Mr. Ticknor, describing to her his library,
in which the only picture was one of Sir Walter Scott, Miss Edgeworth
wrote a reply, of which a portion has been published, but which contains
besides an able parallel, or rather contrast, between Washington and
Napoleon, worthy of preservation for its own sake, and as a testimony to
her unimpaired powers:--

     TRIM, NOV. 19TH, 1840.

     "Who talks of '_Boston_' in a voice so sweet?" Who wishes to see me
     there? and to show me their home, their family, their country? I
     have been there--at Boston! "Yes, and in Mr. and Mrs. Ticknor's
     happy, beautiful home." I have been up "the slope of the Boston
     hillside," have seen "the fifty acres of public park" in all its
     verdure, with "its rich and venerable trees," its graveled
     promenade surrounding it, with those noble rows of venerable elms
     on either side. I have gone up the hillside and the steps profusely
     decked with luxuriant creepers; I have walked into Mr. and Mrs.
     Ticknor's house, as I was desired--have seen the three rooms
     opening into one another, have sat in the library, too, and
     thought--and thought it all charming. Looking into the country, as
     you know the windows all do, I saw down through "the vista of
     trees" to the quiet bay and the "beautiful" hills beyond, and I
     "watched the glories of the setting sun" lighting up country and
     town, "trees, turf and water!"--an Italian sun not more gorgeously
     attended than this "New England luminary" setting or rising. I met
     Sir Walter Scott in Mr. Ticknor's library with all his benign, calm
     expression of countenance, his eye of genius and his mouth of
     humor--such as he was before the life of life was gone, such as
     genius loved to see him, such as American genius has _given_ him to
     American friendship, immortalized in person as in mind. His very
     self I see feeling, thinking and about to speak--and to a friend to
     whom he loved to speak; and well placed and to his liking he seems
     in this congenial library, presiding and sympathizing. But my dear
     madam, ten thousand books, "about ten thousand books," do you say
     this library contains? My dear Mrs. Ticknor! Then I am afraid you
     must have double rows--and that is a plague. But you may ask why do
     I conceive you have double rows? Because I cannot conceive how else
     the book-cases could hold the ten thousand. Your library is 34 by
     22, you say. But to be sure you have not given me the height, and
     that height may make out room enough. Pray have it measured for me,
     that I may drive this odious notion of _double rows_ out of my
     head--"and what a head," you may say, "that must be that could
     calculate in such a place and at such a time!" It was not my poor
     head, I assure you, my dear Mrs. Ticknor, but Captain Beaufort's
     ultra-accurate head. I gave him through Honora the description of
     your library, and he (jealous, I am clear, for the magnitude and
     number of his own library and volumes) set to work at 22 by
     34--and there I leave him--till I have _the height_ to confound him
     completely. You see, my dear friends, that you need not again ask
     me _to go_ to see you--for I have seen and I know everything about
     your home; full as well I know Boston and your home as you know
     ours at Edgeworthstown. It is your turn now to come and see us
     again. But I am afraid to invite you, lest you should be
     disenchanted, and we should lose the delightful gratification we
     enjoy in your glamor of friendship. Aunt Mary, however, is really
     all you think and saw her, and in her ninety-first year still a
     proof as you describe her--and a remarkable proof--of the power of
     mind over time, suffering and infirmities; and an example of
     Christian virtues making old age lovely and interesting.

     Your prayer, that she might have health and strength to enjoy the
     gathering of friends round her, has been granted. Honora and her
     husband, and Fanny and her husband, have all been with us this
     summer for months; and we have enjoyed ourselves as much as your
     kind heart could wish. Especially "_that beautiful specimen of a
     highly-cultivated gentlewoman_" as you so well called Mrs. E., has
     been blest with the sight of all her children round her, all her
     living daughters and their husbands, and her grandchildren. Francis
     will settle at home and be a good country gentleman and his own
     agent--to Mrs. E.'s and all our inexpressible comfort and support,
     also for the good of the country, as a resident landlord and
     magistrate _much_ needed. As _he_ is at home I can be spared from
     the rent-receiving business, etc., and leaving him with his mother,
     Aunt Mary and Lucy, I can indulge myself by accepting an
     often-urged invitation from my two sisters Fanny and Honora, to
     spend some months with them in London. I have chosen to go at this
     quiet time of year, as I particularly wish not to encounter the
     bustle and dissipation and lionizing of London. For tho' I am such
     a minnikin lion now, and so old, literally without teeth or claws,
     still there be, that might rattle at the grate to make me get up
     and come out and stand up to play tricks for them--and this I am
     not able or inclined to do. I am afraid I should growl--I never
     could be as good-humored as Sir Walter Scott used to be, when
     rattled for and made to "come out and stand on his hind legs," as
     he used to describe it, and then go quietly to sleep again.

     I shall use my privilege of seventy-two--rising seventy-three--and
     shall keep in my comfortable den: I will not go out. "Nobody asked
     you, ma'am," to play Lion, may perhaps be said or sung to me, and I
     shall not be sorry nor mortified by not being asked to exhibit, but
     heartily happy to be with my sisters and their family and family
     friends--_all_ for which I go. Knowing my own mind very well, I
     speak the mere plain truth. I shall return home to Edgeworthstown
     before the London _season_, as it is called, commences, _i.e._, by
     the end of March or at the very beginning of April.

     This is all I have for the present to tell you of my dear self, or
     of our family doings or plannings. You see I depend _enough_ on the
     sincerity of your curiosity and sympathy, and I thank you in kind
     for all you have been so affectionately good to tell me of
     yourselves.

     I have been lately reading Thibeaudeau's ten volumes of the History
     of Napoleon--_Le Consulat et l'Empire_--immediately after having
     read the life of Washington by Sparks, a book which I think I
     mentioned to you had been sent to me by an American Jewess of
     Philadelphia, Miss Gratz. A most valuable present--a most
     interesting work it is. The comparison between the characters,
     power, deeds, fortune and fate of Washington and Napoleon
     continually pressed on my mind as I read their lives; and
     continually I wished that some modern Plutarch with more of
     religious, if not more of moral and political knowledge and
     philosophy than the ancient times afforded, would draw a
     parallel--no, not a _parallel_, for that could not be--but a
     comparison between Napoleon and Washington. It would give in the
     result a comparison between moral and intellectual power on the
     highest scale, and with the fullest display in which they have ever
     been seen in two national heroes. The superior, the universal
     abilities of Bonaparte, his power of perseverance, of transition of
     resource, of comprehensiveness, of adaptation of means to ends, and
     all tending to his own aggrandizement, and his appetite for
     dominion growing with what it fed upon, have altogether been most
     astonishingly displayed in the Frenchman's history of Napoleon. The
     integrity, disinterestedness, discretion, persevering adherence to
     one great purpose, marking the character and the career of
     Washington, are all faithfully portrayed by his American
     biographer, and confirmed by state papers and by the testimony of
     an independent world. The comparison between what Napoleon and
     Washington did living, and left dying, of the fruits and
     consequences of their deeds, would surely be a most striking and
     useful moral and political lesson on true and false glory, and
     further, would afford the strongest illustrations of the difference
     in human affairs of what is called the power of fortune and the
     influence of _prestige_, and the power of moral character and
     virtue. See Napoleon deserted at his utmost need by those his
     _prosperous_ bounty gorged. See Napoleon forced to abdicate his
     twice-snatched imperial sceptre!--and compare this with your
     Washington laying down his dictatorship, his absolute dominion,
     _voluntarily_, the moment he had accomplished his great purpose of
     making his beloved country, the New World, free and independent.
     Then the deep, silent attachment shown to him when he retired from
     the army, parted from military power, took leave of public life, is
     most touching--quite sublime in its truth and simplicity, in as
     strong contrast as possible with all the French acclamations,
     inconstancy, frivolity, desertion, treachery, insult, toward their
     prostrate idol of an Emperor. I felt while I read, and I feel while
     I reflect, how much of the difference between Napoleon and
     Washington must be ascribed to the different times, nations,
     circumstances in which they were placed. But independent of all
     these, the comparison ably and clearly drawn would lie between the
     individual characters--between moral and religious power and
     influence, and intellectual powers even supported by military glory
     and political despotism. The comparison would ultimately lie
     between success and merit, and between their transient and durable
     effects--their worldly and never-dying consequences.

     Forgive me, my dear Mrs. Ticknor, for my having been actually run
     away with thus, and forgetting what I was going to say when I
     began. I was going to say that I wish Mr. Ticknor would draw the
     comparison between these two heroes of false and true
     glory--between real patriotism, true and great to the last, and
     ambition using patriotism as a mask, and having it struck from his
     hand powerless at the last. There is no one more able, better
     fitted to draw this than your husband. Channing has said well of
     the character of Napoleon as far as he went. But Mr. Ticknor, I
     conceive, has wider views, more means of information, and a less
     rhetorical style than Channing: and Sparks, having been the
     biographer of Washington, might be considered as a party too much
     concerned to be quite impartial. I am ashamed to have written so
     much that must seem common-place to him. But I will not tear the
     pages, as I am tempted to do, because there is a possibility that
     when you read them to him it might turn his mind to the
     subject--and no matter for the rest.

            *       *       *       *       *

     I do not know whether I was most interested, dear Mrs. Ticknor, in
     your picture of your domestic life and happy house and home, or by
     the view you gave me of your public festivity and celebration of
     your American day of days--your national festival in honor of your
     Declaration of Independence.

     It was never, I suppose, more joyously, innocently and
     advantageously held than on the day you describe so delightfully
     with the accuracy of an eye-witness. I think I too have seen all
     this, and thank you for showing it to me. It is a picture that will
     never leave the memory of my heart. I only wish that we could ever
     hope to have in Ireland any occasion or possibility of such happy
     and peaceable meetings, with united sympathy and for the keeping
     alive a feeling of national patriotism. No such point of union
     _can_ be found, alas! in Ireland--no subject upon which sects and
     parties could coalesce for one hour, or join in rejoicing or
     feeling for their country. Father Mathew, one might have hoped,
     considering the good he has effected for all Ireland, and
     considering his own unimpeachable character and his real
     liberality, admitting all sects and all parties to take his pledge
     and share his benevolent efforts, _might_ have formed a central
     point round which all might gather. But no such hope! for as I am
     _just now assured_, his very Christian charity and liberality are
     complained of by his Catholic brethren, priests and laity, who now
     begin to abuse him for giving the pledge to PROTESTANTS and say,
     "What good our fastings, our temperance, our being of the true
     faith, if Father Mathew treats _heretics all as one_, as Catholics
     themselves! and would have 'em saved in this world and the next
     too?" Then I would not doubt but at the last he'd _turn tail!_ aye,
     turn Protestant himself ENTIRELY. I have written so much to Mr.
     Ticknor about Father Mathew that I must here stop, or take care
     lest I run on with him again. Once set a-running, you see how I go
     on. You having encouraged me, and I from having conversed with you
     even for a few days, we have so much knowledge of each other's
     minds that it is as easy and pleasant to me to write as to speak to
     you. I will send you some Irish tales newly published by Mrs. Hall,
     which I think you will like, both from their being well-written and
     interesting portraitures of Irish life and manners, and from the
     conciliating, amiable and truly _feminine_ (not meaning _feeble_)
     tone in which they are written.

            *       *       *       *       *

     I have not yet thanked you enough, I feel, for _Rollo_. Our
     children all, and we ourselves, delight in him at play and at work,
     and every way, and we wish to see more of him. If there be any more
     of him, pray pack him up bag and baggage and send him off by first
     steamer, steam-haste. By the by, are you or your children
     acquainted with the elephant who in his haste forgot to pack up his
     trunk?

     If you are not acquainted with him, I shall have the pleasure of
     introducing him to you and yours.

     Meantime, if you wish to be amused, and with what is new and what
     is true, read Mrs. Wilmot's _Memoirs of the Princess Dashkoff_, and
     her own residence in Russia. We know enough of the author to
     warrant the whole to be true. I do not say that she tells the whole
     truth, but that all she does tell is true, and what she does not
     tell she was bound in honor and friendship, and by the tacit,
     inviolable compact between confidence shown and accepted, never to
     reveal, much less to publish. Both in the Princess Dashkoff's own
     memoirs (very able and curious) and in Mrs. Wilmot's continuation
     (very amusing and new) there are from time to time great gaps, on
     coming to which the reader cries _Ha! Ha!_ and feels that he must
     skip over. These gaps are never covered over; and when we come even
     to dangerous ground we see that we must not turn that way, or hope
     to get on in utter darkness and our guide deserting--or, if not
     _deserting_, standing stock still, obstinately dumb. These memoirs
     are not a book on which history could absolutely be founded, but a
     book to which the judicious historian might safely _refer
     illustrations_, and even for materials, all which it affords being
     sound and solid. Much more, in short, may these memoirs be depended
     upon than any or many of the French varnished and vamped-up
     _Memoires pour servir à l'Histoire_.

     After reading the book I wrote to Mrs. Wilmot, and after homage due
     to her talents and her truth, I ventured to express, what I am sure
     you will feel if you read the volume, some horror, towards the
     close, at the Princess Dashkoff's accepting for herself or her
     sister, or for whoever it was, a ball from Orloff, the
     murderer--that Orloff who with his own hand strangled his Emperor.

     Mrs. Wilmot made me but a lame apology for her dear princess, I
     think, and an odd answer for herself. In the first place, she said,
     it was so long ago. As if such a murder could be a by-gone tale! or
     as if thirty or forty or any number of years could purify or
     cleanse a murderer in the eyes and sense of humanity or justice! In
     the next place she pleaded that she was so much pleased by Orloff's
     angel daughter who stood beside him, and then with his parental
     delight in her beauty, simplicity and elegance in the dance.

     Mrs. Wilmot was sure I should have felt as she did, and have
     forgotten the murderer in the father. But, on the contrary, I am
     afraid I should have forgotten the father in the murderer; I fear I
     should have seen only "_the vile spot_" which would never _out_ of
     that hand! And oh! that horrible knee--I see it pressing on the
     body of the breathless Peter; and, through all the music of the
     ball-room band, methinks I hear "shrieks of an agonizing king."

     Possibly in Russia "murder is lawful made by the excess," and may
     be palliated by the impartial historian's observing, "_It was then
     necessary that the Emperor should_ CEASE TO BE"--soft synonym for
     assassination.

     I ought not to leave Mrs. Wilmot and the Princess Dashkoff, however
     this may be, with a tragical and unmerited impression on your mind.
     I am quite convinced the princess had nothing to do with this
     horrid affair, or that our countrywoman never would have gone or
     never would have staid with her.

     I can also assure you that when you read these memoirs you will be
     convinced, as I am, that the Princess Dashkoff was quite pure from
     all the Empress Catherine's libertine intrigues (I can use no
     softer phrase). This is proved by facts, not words, for no word
     does she say on the subject. But the fact is that during Orloff,
     the favorite Orloff's reign and his numerous successors, the
     Princess Dashkoff was never at court, banished herself on her
     travels or at her far-distant _territories_; she over-rated,
     idolized Catharine, but was her real friend, not flatterer.

     It is scarcely worth telling you, but I will for your diversion
     mention that I asked Mrs. Wilmot whether the Princess Dashkoff
     evermore went about in the costume, which she described, of a man's
     great-coat, with stars and strings over it, at _the ball_, and with
     the sentimental old souvenir silk handkerchief about her throat.
     Yes. But Mrs. Wilmot would not let me laugh at her friend, and I
     liked her all the better. She defended the oddity by the kindness
     of the motive. It was not affectation of singularity, but
     privilege of originality, that should be allowed to a being so
     feeling and so educated by circumstances and so isolated--so let
     the ragged handkerchief and the old gloves museumized pass, and
     even the old overall of the man's coat on a woman and a
     princess--so be it.

     But from the time of Cardinal Chigi and his one stump of a
     twenty-years-old pen on which he piqued himself, I quite agree with
     Cardinal Mazarin[11] that these petty singularities are proofs of a
     little mind, instead of an originality of genius.

     And now, my dear Mrs. Ticknor, "Bisogna levar l'incommodità"--to
     use the parting phrase of a vulgar Italian who feels that she has
     made an unconscionable visit: or, as the cockney would say as she
     got up to depart from a morning _visitation_, "Time for me to be
     going, I think." And if you do not think so, or have not thought so
     ten pages ago, you are more indulgent and fonder of me than I had
     any right or reason to expect, even after all I have heard _from_
     and seen _of_ you.

     I promise you that you shall not be so tried again for a
     twelvemonth to come, at the least. Give my kind remembrances to
     your eldest daughter, who so kindly remembers me, and give a kiss
     for me to your youngest, that dear little plaything who cannot
     remember me, but whom I shall never forget; nor her father's fond
     look at her, when the tear was forgotten as soon as shed.

     Ever affectionately, dear Mrs. Ticknor,

     Your obliged friend,

     MARIA EDGEWORTH.

     Turn over, and as the children's fairy-boards say, "you shall see
     what you shall see."

     N. B.--Among the various scratchifications and scarifications in
     this volume, you may remark that there have been reiterated
     scratches at Mrs. and Miss Wilmot, and attempts alternately to turn
     the lady into _Mrs._ and Miss.

     Be it now declared and understood that the lady is not either Mrs.
     or Miss Wilmot, but Mrs. Bradford--born _Wilmot_, daughter of a Mr.
     and Mrs. Wilmot of Cork--went over to Russia to _better herself_ at
     the invitation of the Princess Dashkoff, who had, in a visit to
     Ireland, become acquainted with some of her family. What motives
     induced her to go to Russia, except the general notion of bettering
     her fortune, I cannot tell. But she did better her fortune, for the
     princess gave her pearls in strings, and diamonds in necklaces and
     rings, and five thousand solid pounds in her pocket, for all which
     she had like to have been poisoned before she could clear away with
     them out of Russia.

     When she came back she married, or was married to, Mr. Bradford, a
     clergyman, and now lives in Sussex, England.

     Now, in consideration of my having further bored you with all this,
     be pleased whenever you see _Mrs._ or _Miss Wilmot_ in the
     foregoing pages to read _Mrs. Bradford_, and you will save me
     thereby the trouble and danger of scratching Mrs. or Miss Wilmot
     into ten or eleven holes.

The visit to London referred to was paid. Part of the time was spent
agreeably visiting friends, seeing sights and reading new books, among
them Darwin's _Voyage in the Beagle_, which delighted Miss Edgeworth.
But the larger portion of her stay was occupied in nursing her sister
Fanny through a weary illness, with the added mental anxiety of knowing
that Mrs. Edgeworth was ill at home. Both invalids, however, happily
recovered, yet Miss Edgeworth was to find an empty chair on her return;
her aunt, Mary Sneyd, had been taken away at the advanced age of ninety.
As often before, she felt the sorrow keenly, but rallied bravely from
its effects for the sake of those who were left and who depended on her
yet more.

During the summer of 1842 Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall visited Ireland. They
spent some days at Edgeworthstown, with the avowed purpose of writing of
its occupants, and we have from their pen also a pleasant picture of the
family home-life:--

"The library at Edgeworthstown" (say the writers) "is by no means the
reserved and solitary room that libraries are in general. It is large
and spacious and lofty; well stored with books, and embellished with
those most valuable of all classes of prints--the suggestive; it is also
picturesque, having been added to so as to increase its breadth; the
addition is supported by square pillars, and the beautiful lawn seen
through the windows, embellished and varied by clumps of trees
judiciously planted, imparts much cheerfulness to the exterior. An
oblong table in the centre is a sort of rallying-point for the family,
who group around it, reading, writing or working; while Miss Edgeworth,
only anxious upon one point--that all in the house should do exactly as
they like, without reference to her--sits quietly and abstractedly in
her own peculiar corner on the sofa, her desk--upon which lies Sir
Walter Scott's pen, given to her by him when in Ireland--placed before
her upon a little quaint table, as unassuming as possible. Miss
Edgeworth's abstractedness would puzzle the philosophers: in that same
corner, and upon that table, she has written nearly all that has
enlightened and delighted the world. There she writes as eloquently as
ever, wrapt up to all appearance in her subject, yet knowing, by a sort
of instinct, when she is really wanted in dialogue; and, without laying
down her pen, hardly looking up from her page, she will, by a judicious
sentence wisely and kindly spoken, explain and elucidate in a few words,
so as to clear up any difficulty; or turn the conversation into a new
and more pleasing current. She has the most harmonious way of throwing
in explanations--informing without embarrassing. A very large family
party assemble daily in this charming room, young and old bound alike to
the spot by the strong cords of memory and love. Mr. Francis Edgeworth,
the youngest son of the present Mrs. Edgeworth, and of course Miss
Edgeworth's youngest brother, has a family of little ones who seem to
enjoy the freedom of the library as much as their elders. To set these
little people right if they are wrong; to rise from her table to fetch
them a toy, or even to save a servant a journey; to mount the steps and
find a volume that escapes all eyes but her own, and, having done so, to
find exactly the passage wanted--are hourly employments of this most
unspoiled and admirable woman. She will then resume her pen, and, what
is more extraordinary, hardly seem to have even frayed the thread of her
ideas; her mind is so rightly balanced, everything is so honestly
weighed, that she suffers no inconvenience from what would disturb and
distract an ordinary writer."

Miss Edgeworth wrote of this notice:--

     Mrs. Hall has sent to me her last number, in which she gives
     Edgeworthstown. All the world here are pleased with it, and so am
     I. I like the way in which she has mentioned my father
     particularly. There is an evident kindness of heart and care to
     avoid everything that could hurt any of our feelings, and at the
     same time a warmth of affectionate feeling, unaffectedly expressed,
     that we all like in spite of our dislike to that sort of thing.

Early in 1843 Miss Edgeworth was taken seriously ill with bilious fever,
from the effects of which she recovered but slowly. In late autumn she
once more went to London to pass the winter with her sister. It was to
be her last visit. She enjoyed it with all the freshness of youth,
sight-seeing and visiting without fatigue, even attending an opening of
Parliament, which she protested had not tired her more than if she had
been eighteen. Her prayer and hope was, as it had been her father's,
that her body might not survive her mind, and that she might leave a
tender and not unpleasing recollection of herself in the hearts of her
friends. Her letters certainly showed no falling-off in power, as is
amply proved by one written during this visit to her Boston friends:--


                  LONDON, 1 North Audley street,}
              Grosvenor square, January 1, 1844.}

     MY DEAR FRIENDS MR. AND MRS. TICKNOR:

     I cannot begin this new year better, or more to my own heartfelt
     satisfaction, than by greeting you with my best wishes for many,
     many happy years to you of your domestic felicity and public
     estimation--_estimation_ superior to celebrity, you know, Mr.
     Ticknor, disdaining _notoriety_, which all low minds run after and
     all high minds despise. How I see this every day in this London
     world, and _hear_ it from all other worlds--loudly from your New
     World across the great Atlantic, where those who make their boast
     of independence and equality are struggling and quarreling for
     petty preëminence and "vile trash."

     I have been here with my sister, Mrs. Wilson, in a peaceful, happy
     home these six weeks, and the rattle of Grosvenor square, at the
     corner of which her house is, never disturbs the quiet of her
     little library, which is at the back of the house, and looks out
     upon gardens and trees (such as they are!)....

     Among the pleasantest days I have enjoyed in London society, among
     friends of old standing and acquaintance of distinguished talents,
     I spent two days at my very good old friend Dr. Holland's, where I
     heard your name and your letter to your countrymen on Sydney
     Smith's memorial spoken of in the highest terms of just estimation!
     You know that Dr. Holland is married to Sydney Smith's daughter. I
     hope you know Dr. Holland's book, _Medical Notes_, which, though
     the title might seem exclusively professional, is full of such
     general and profound views of the human mind as well as body, that
     it could not but be interesting to you, and would prove to you for
     my present purpose that he is a person whose estimation and whose
     praise is worthy of you....

     I do not know whether you made acquaintance, when you were in
     London, with Sydney Smith's brother, Mr. Robert S., or, as he is
     strangely cognomened (or nicknamed) Bobus Smith. He is well known
     as one of the celebrities of Holland House, where he has been
     figuring this half-century. But he no longer figures as a
     diner-out, and indeed, I believe from that notoriety he always
     seceded. He is now old and blind, but nevertheless has a most
     intelligent, energetic countenance, and I should almost say
     penetrating eye. When he turns and seems to look at me, I feel as
     if he looked into my face, and am glad so to feel, as he encourages
     me to open my mind to him by opening his own at once to me. I saw
     him for the first time a few evenings ago at Dr. Holland's, and sat
     between him and your American ambassador, Mr. Everett. I was much
     pleased by their manner towards each other, and by all they said
     of the letter of which I spoke. Mr. R. Smith has, in the opinion of
     all who know him and his brother, the strongest and highest and
     deepest powers of the two; not so much wit, but a more sound,
     logical understanding--superior might in the reasoning faculty. If
     the two brothers' hands grasped and grappled for mastery, with
     elbows set down upon the table, in the fashion in which schoolboys
     and others try strength, Robert Smith's hand would be uppermost,
     and Sydney must give way, _laughing_ perhaps, and pretending that
     he only gave way to fight another day. But independently of victory
     or trials of strength, the earnestness for truth of the blind
     brother would decide my interest and sympathy in his favor.

     Mr. Everett and Mr. R. Smith seemed to me properly to esteem each
     other, and to speak with perfect courtesy and discretion upon the
     most delicate national questions, on which, in truth, they
     liberally agreed more than could have been or was expected by the
     bystanders of different parties. Oh, Party Spirit! Party Spirit!
     how many follies, how many outrages are committed in thy name, even
     in common conversation!

     Mr. Everett did me the honor to come to visit us a few mornings
     after I had first met him at Dr. Holland's, and sat a good hour
     conversing as if we had been long known to each other. It is to me
     the most gratifying proof of esteem to be thus let at once into the
     real mind, the _sanctum sanctorum_, instead of being kept with
     ceremonials and compliments on the steps, in the ante-chamber, or
     even in the _salle de reception_, doing _Kotoo_ Chinese or any
     other fashion.

     We went over vast fields of thought in our short hour, from America
     to France, and to England and to Ireland, Washington, Lafayette,
     Bonaparte, O'Connell. You may guess it could only be a _vue
     d'oiseau_, flying too, but still a pounce down upon a true point
     now and then, and agreeing in our general unchangeable view that
     moral excellence is essential to make the man really great; that
     the highest intellectual superiority that can be given by
     Omnipotence to mortal ought not and does not, even in human
     opinion, entitle him without moral worth to the character of great.
     Mr. Everett tells me that Washington Irving is going to publish
     another life of Washington. I fear his workmanship will be too fine
     and delicate for the main matter. Boldness, boldness, boldness--and
     brevity. Oh, the strength of brevity! Brevity keeps fast hold of
     the memory, and more fast hold of the judgment; the whole process,
     _en petit compris_, goes in a few words with the verdict to "_long
     posterity_," while elegance only charms the taste, accords with the
     present fashion of literature, and passes away, gliding gracefully
     into "mere oblivion."

     Lecture upon brevity well exemplified by present correspondent.

A severe attack of erysipelas laid her low this summer; but if it
weakened her body it did not depress her mental faculties. She writes to
her cousin with all the buoyancy of youth:--

     I am right glad to look forward to the hope of seeing you again,
     and talking all manner of nonsense and sense, and laughing myself
     and making you laugh, as I used to do, though I am six years beyond
     the allotted age and have had so many attacks of illness within the
     last two years; but I am, as Bess Fitzherbert and poor dear Sophy
     used to say, like one of those pith puppets that you knock down in
     vain; they always start up the same as ever.... Sir Henry Marsh
     managed me with skill, and let me recover slowly, as nature
     requires at advanced age. I am obliged to repeat myself, "advanced
     age," because really and truly neither my spirits nor my powers of
     locomotion and facility of running up and down stairs would put me
     in mind of it. I do not find either my love for my friends or my
     love of literature in the least failing. I enjoyed, even when
     flattest in my bed, hearing Harriet Butler reading to me till
     eleven o'clock at night.

Her interest in the current literature was sustained; and though she had
little sympathy with the romantic school of poetry and fiction that had
arisen, her criticisms were both fair and acute. Of the modern French
writers she said:--

     All the fashionable French novelists will soon be reduced to
     advertising for a _new vice_, instead of, like the Roman Emperor,
     simply for a new pleasure. It seems to me with the Parisian
     novelists a first principle now that there is no pleasure without
     vice, and no vice without pleasure, but that the Old World vices
     having been exhausted, they must strain their genius to invent new;
     and so they do, in the most wonderful and approved bad manner, if I
     may judge from the few specimens I have looked at.

_Henrietta Temple_ she condemns as "trash," "morally proving that who
does wrong should be rewarded with love and fortune." Indeed, so eager
was she over books, so ardently did she still enter into all adventures
and details, that when she was ill her doctor found it needful to
prescribe that her reading must be confined to some old, well-known
work, or else something that should entertain and interest her without
over-exciting her or straining her attention.

During the whole of 1846 the long illness and death of her brother
Francis absorbed all Miss Edgeworth's interest. Next year came the
terrible potato famine. She strained every nerve to help the sufferers;
her time, her thoughts, her purse, her whole strength, were devoted to
the poor. She could hardly feel or think on any other theme; plans to
relieve the distress, petitions for aid, filled her letters. She even
turned her attention once more to writing, in order to get more money
for her starving countrymen. The result was _Orlandino_, a tale for
children, relating the fortunes and reformation of a graceless truant.
It was the last work she published--her literary career thus ending, as
it began, with a tale to give gladness to childhood. She had her reward
in a great pleasure that came to her from America. The children of
Boston, hearing what pains their kind friend in Ireland was taking for
her unhappy compatriots, as a recognition of their love for her and her
writings, organized a subscription. At the end of a few weeks they were
able to send her one hundred and fifty barrels of flour and rice. They
came with the simple address, worth more to her than many phrases: "To
Miss Edgeworth, for her poor."

She was deeply touched and grateful. It touched her also that the
porters, who carried the grain down to the shore, refused to be paid;
and with her own hands she knitted a woolen comforter for each man and
sent them to a friend for distribution. Before they reached their
destination the hands that had worked them were cold, and the beating of
that warm, kind heart stilled forever.

For scarcely was the famine over, and before Miss Edgeworth's over-taxed
strength had time to recoup, another and yet heavier blow was to befall
her. Indeed, many deaths and sorrows as she had known, in some respects
this was the severest that had for some years come upon her. It was
natural to see the old go before her, but not so the young, and when in
1848 her favorite sister Fanny died rather suddenly, Miss Edgeworth felt
that the dearest living object of her love had gone.

The shock did not apparently tell on her health, as she continued to
employ herself with her usual interest and sympathy in all the weal and
woe of her family and many friends, but the life-spring had snapped,
unknown perhaps even to her, certainly unknown to those around her. For
she bore up bravely, cheerfully, and was to all appearances as bright as
ever. Next to doing good, reading was still her greatest pleasure:--

     Our pleasures in literature do not, I think, decline with age. Last
     1st of January was my eighty-second birthday, and I think that I
     had as much enjoyment from books as ever I had in my life.

History gave her particular delight:--

     I am surprised to find how much more history interests me now than
     when I was young, and how much more I am now interested in the same
     events recorded, and their causes and consequences shown, in this
     history of the French Revolution, and in all the history of Europe
     during the last quarter of a century, than I was when the news came
     fresh and fresh in the newspapers. I do not think I had sense
     enough to take in the relations and proportions of the events. It
     was like moving a magnifying glass over the parts of a beetle, and
     not taking in the whole.

Macaulay's history charmed her, and in all her first enthusiasm she
wrote a long letter about it to her old friend, Sir Henry Holland. He
showed it to Macaulay, who was so struck with its discrimination and
ability that he begged to be allowed to keep it. Among all the incidents
connected with the publication of his book, nothing, it is said,
pleased Macaulay more than the gratification he had contrived to give
Miss Edgeworth as a small return for the enjoyment which, during more
than forty years, he had derived from her writings:--

     TRIM, April 2nd, 1849.

     MY DEAR DR. HOLLAND:

     I have just finished Macaulay's two volumes of the _History of
     England_ with the same feeling that you expressed--regret at coming
     to the end, and longing for another volume--the most uncommon
     feeling, I suppose, that readers of two thick octavo volumes of the
     history of England and of times so well known, or whose story has
     been so often written, ever experienced. In truth, in the whole
     course of reading or hearing it read I was sorry to stop and glad
     to go on. It bears peculiarly well that severe test of being read
     aloud; it never wearies the ear by the long resounding line, but
     keeps the attention alive by the energy shown. It is the perfection
     of style so varied, and yet the same in fitness, in propriety, in
     perspicuity, in grace, in dignity and eloquence, and, whenever
     naturally called forth, in that just indignation which makes the
     historian as well as the poet. If Voltaire says true that "the
     style is the man," what a man must Macaulay be! But the man is in
     fact as much more than the style, as the matter is more than the
     manner. It is astonishing with what ease Macaulay wields, manages,
     arranges his vast materials collected far and near, and knows their
     value and proportions so as to give the utmost strength and force
     and light and life to the whole, and sustains the whole. Such new
     lights are thrown upon historic facts and historic characters that
     the old appear new, and that which had been dull becomes bright
     and entertaining and interesting. Exceedingly interesting he has
     made history by the happy use and aid of biography and anecdote. A
     word brings the individual before us, and shows not only his
     character, but the character of the times, and at once illustrates
     or condemns to everlasting fame. Macaulay has proved by example how
     false Madame de Staël's principle was that biography and
     biographical anecdotes were altogether inadmissible in
     history--below the dignity or breaking the proportion or unity, I
     suppose she thought. But whatever might be her reasons, she gave
     this opinion to Dumont, who told it to me. Much good it did her!
     How much more interesting historical _précis_ in painting or in
     writing, which is painting in word, are made by the introduction of
     portraits of celebrated individuals! Either as actors or even as
     spectators, the bold figures live, and merely by their life further
     the action and impress the sense of truth and reality. I have
     pleasure, my dear Dr. Holland, in pointing out to you, warm as it
     first comes, the admiration which this work has raised to this
     height in my mind. I know this will give you sympathetic pleasure.

     And now, my good friend, in return I require from you prompt and
     entire belief in an assertion which I am about to make, which may
     appear to you at first incredible. But try-try; at all events the
     effort will give you occasion to determine a question which
     perhaps, excellent metaphysician as you have shown yourself, you
     never settled whether you can or cannot believe at will.

     That which I require you to believe [the figure of a hand pointing
     right appears here] is that all the admiration I have expressed of
     Macaulay's work is quite uninfluenced by the self-satisfaction,
     vanity, pride, surprise, delight, I had in finding my own name in a
     note!!!!!

     Be assured, believe it or not as you may or can, that neither my
     vanity nor my gratitude weighed with my judgment in the slightest
     degree in the opinion I formed, or in that warmth with which it was
     poured out. In fact, I had formed my opinion, and expressed it with
     no less warmth to my friends round me, reading the book to me,
     before I came to that note; moreover, there was a mixture of shame
     and twinge of pain with the pleasure, the pride I felt in having a
     line in his immortal history given to _me_, when the historian
     makes no mention of Sir Walter Scott throughout the work, even in
     places where it seems impossible that genius could resist paying
     the becoming tribute which genius owes and loves to pay to genius.
     I cannot conceive how this could be. I cannot bring myself to
     imagine that the words Tory or Whig, or Dissenter or Churchman, or
     feeling of party or natural spirit, could bias such a man as
     Macaulay. Perhaps he reserves himself for the forty-five, and I
     hope in heaven it is so, and that you will tell me I am very
     impetuous and prematurely impertinent. Meanwhile, be so good to
     make my grateful and deeply-felt thanks to the great author for the
     honor which he has done me. When I was in London some years ago,
     and when I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Macaulay, I took the
     liberty of expressing a wish that he would visit Ireland, and that
     if he did we might have the honor of seeing him at our house. I am
     very glad to find that the Battle of the Boyne will bring him here.
     He must have now so many invitations from those who have the
     highest inducement to offer, that I hardly dare to repeat my
     request. But will you, my dear friends, do whatever you can with
     propriety for us, and say how much Mrs. Edgeworth and myself and
     our whole family would be gratified by his giving us even a call on
     his way to some better place, and even an hour of his conversation.
     I am now at Trim with my sister and dear brother. Trim and its
     ruins, and the tower, and where kings and generals and poets have
     been, would perhaps, he may think, be worth his seeing. Dean Butler
     and my sister feel as I do how many claims Mr. Macaulay must have
     upon his time in his visit to Ireland; but they desire me to say
     that if anything should bring him into this neighborhood, they
     should think themselves highly honored by receiving him. I am sure
     he would be interested by Mr. Butler's conversation and remarks on
     various parts of Macaulay's history, and _I_ should exceedingly
     like to hear it commented and discussed. Little _i_ must come in,
     you see, at every close. You will observe that, in speaking of
     Macaulay's work, I have spoken only of the style, the only point of
     which I could presume to think my opinion could be of any value. Of
     the great attributes, of the essential qualities of the historian,
     accuracy, fidelity, impartiality, I could not, even if I thought
     myself qualified to judge, attempt to speak in this letter.

     But I am sensible that I have neither the knowledge nor the
     strength, much less the coolness of judgment, necessary to make
     opinion valuable on such subjects. I could easily give my own
     opinion, but--of no use. The less I am inclined to speak when I do
     not know, the more I am anxious to hear; and most delightful and
     profitable would it be to me to hear the great historian himself
     speak on many points which I hear discussed by my learned brother,
     Dean Butler, and others (on Clarendon's character, etc., etc.,
     etc.) We have not yet seen any of the public reviews of Macaulay's
     history. No doubt the stinging, little, ephemeral insects will come
     out in swarms to buzz and fly-blow in the sunshine. The warmer, the
     brighter, the thicker the swarm will be to prick. I hope you will
     read this unconscionable lengthy letter when you are in your
     carriage, rolling about from patient to patient, and be patient
     yourself then, my dear doctor. You are always so very good and
     kind to me that I encroach. I seldom write such long epistles. As
     the most impudent beggar-woman in our town says to Mrs. E., "Ma'am,
     your ladyship, I never beg from any one so much as your ladyship;
     troth, never from any but you." ...

     Give my most kind and affectionate remembrances to Mrs. Holland and
     your daughters and sons, and

     Believe me most garrulously and sincerely yours,

     MARIA EDGEWORTH.

This letter, so characteristic in its humility and generous admiration,
shows no sign of old age or impaired faculties, neither is there any
trace of this in one of the last she ever wrote, addressed to her sister
Harriet:--

     I am heartily obliged and delighted by your being such a goose and
     Richard such a gander, as to be frightened out of your wits at my
     going up the ladder to take off the top of the clock! Know, then,
     that I am quite worthy of that most unmerited definition of man, "A
     creature that looks before and after." Before I _let on_ to anybody
     my doubts of my own capability of reaching the nail on which to
     hang the top, I called Shaw, and made her stand at the foot of the
     ladder while I went up, and found I could no more reach the nail
     than I could reach the moon, Exit Shaw!

     Prudence of M. E., Act 2: Summoned Cassidy, and informed him that I
     was to wind up the clock, and that he was promoted to take off the
     top for me; and then up I went and wound the clock, and wound it as
     I had done before you was born, as there is nothing easier, only to
     see that it is not going to _maintain_ at the very instant, which
     is plainly to be noted by the position of the maintaining pin on
     the little outer wheel relative to the first deep tooth. You see I
     am not quite a nincompoop. I send my lines:--

          "Ireland, with all thy faults, thy follies too,
      I love thee still: still with a candid eye must view
      Thy wit too quick, still blundering into sense;
      Thy reckless humor; sad improvidence;
      And even what sober judges follies call--
      I, looking at the heart, forget them all."

        MARIA E., May, 1849.


Miss Edgeworth had been staying with Mr. and Mrs. Butler in the spring.
When taking leave she was unusually agitated and depressed, but said as
she went away: "At Whitsuntide I shall return." On the very day before
she was to redeem this promise, she drove out in apparent good health,
when a sudden feeling of weakness overcame her and made her return to
the house. Severe pains in the region of the heart set in, and after a
few hours' illness Maria Edgeworth died--died as she had fondly wished,
at home, in the arms of her stepmother. Yet another of her wishes was
granted: she had spared her friends the anguish of seeing her suffer
from protracted illness. May 22d, 1849, she rose from the banquet of
life, where, in her own words, she had been a happy guest.

       *       *       *       *       *

In her latter years Miss Edgeworth had been asked to furnish prefaces
of a biographical character to her novels. She refused, saying she had
nothing personal to tell. "As a woman, my life, wholly domestic, cannot
afford anything interesting to the public; I am like the 'needy
knife-grinder'--I have no story to tell."

Was she right? or is not the story of so loving and lovable a life worth
telling?



MESSRS. ROBERTS BROTHERS' PUBLICATIONS.

Famous Women Series.


GEORGE ELIOT.

BY MATHILDE BLIND.

One vol. 16mo. Cloth. Price, $1.00.

"Messrs. Roberts Brothers begin a series of Biographies of Famous Women
with a life of George Eliot, by Mathilde Blind. The idea of the series
is an excellent one, and the reputation of its publishers is a guarantee
for its adequate execution. This book contains about three hundred pages
in open type, and not only collects and condenses the main facts that
are known in regard to the history of George Eliot, but supplies other
material from personal research. It is agreeably written, and with a
good idea of proportion in a memoir of its size. The critical study of
its subject's works, which is made in the order of their appearance, is
particularly well done. In fact, good taste and good judgment pervade
the memoir throughout."--_Saturday Evening Gazette._

"Miss Blind's little book is written with admirable good taste and
judgment, and with notable self-restraint. It does not weary the reader
with critical discursiveness, nor with attempts to search out high-flown
meanings and recondite oracles in the plain 'yea' and 'nay' of life. It
is a graceful and unpretentious little biography, and tells all that
need be told concerning one of the greatest writers of the time. It is a
deeply interesting if not fascinating woman whom Miss Blind presents,"
says the New York _Tribune_.

"Miss Blind's little biographical study of George Eliot is written with
sympathy and good taste, and is very welcome. It gives us a graphic if
not elaborate sketch of the personality and development of the great
novelist, is particularly full and authentic concerning her earlier
years, tells enough of the leading motives in her work to give the
general reader a lucid idea of the true drift and purpose of her art,
and analyzes carefully her various writings, with no attempt at profound
criticism or fine writing, but with appreciation, insight, and a clear
grasp of those underlying psychological principles which are so closely
interwoven in every production that came from her pen."--_Traveller._

"The lives of few great writers have attracted more curiosity and
speculation than that of George Eliot. Had she only lived earlier in the
century she might easily have become the centre of a mythos. As it is,
many of the anecdotes commonly repeated about her are made up largely of
fable. It is, therefore, well, before it is too late, to reduce the true
story of her career to the lowest terms, and this service has been well
done by the author of the present volume."--_Philadelphia Press._

Sold by all booksellers, or mailed, post-paid, on receipt of price, by
the publishers,

ROBERTS BROTHERS, BOSTON.


_Messrs. Roberts Brothers' Publications._

FAMOUS WOMEN SERIES.


MARY LAMB.

BY ANNE GILCHRIST.

One volume. 16mo. Cloth. Price, $1.00.

"The story of Mary Lamb has long been familiar to the readers of Elia,
but never in its entirety as in the monograph which Mrs. Anne Gilchrist
has just contributed to the Famous Women Series. Darkly hinted at by
Talfourd in his Final Memorials of Charles Lamb, it became better known
as the years went on and that imperfect work was followed by fuller and
franker biographies,--became so well known, in fact, that no one could
recall the memory of Lamb without recalling at the same time the memory
of his sister."--_New York Mail and Express._

"A biography of Mary Lamb must inevitably be also, almost more, a
biography of Charles Lamb, so completely was the life of the sister
encompassed by that of her brother; and it must be allowed that Mrs.
Anne Gilchrist has performed a difficult biographical task with taste
and ability.... The reader is at least likely to lay down the book with
the feeling that if Mary Lamb is not famous she certainly deserves to
be, and that a debt of gratitude is due Mrs. Gilchrist for this
well-considered record of her life."--_Boston Courier._

"Mary Lamb, who was the embodiment of everything that is tenderest in
woman, combined with this a heroism which bore her on for a while
through the terrors of insanity. Think of a highly intellectual woman
struggling year after year with madness, triumphant over it for a
season, and then at last succumbing to it. The saddest lines that ever
were written are those descriptive of this brother and sister just
before Mary, on some return of insanity, was to leave Charles Lamb. 'On
one occasion Mr. Charles Lloyd met them slowly pacing together a little
foot-path in Hoxton Fields, both weeping bitterly, and found, on joining
them, that they were taking their solemn way to the accustomed asylum.'
What pathos is there not here?"--_New York Times._

"This life was worth writing, for all records of weakness conquered, of
pain patiently borne, of success won from difficulty, of cheerfulness in
sorrow and affliction, make the world better. Mrs. Gilchrist's biography
is unaffected and simple. She has told the sweet and melancholy story
with judicious sympathy, showing always the light shining through
darkness."--_Philadelphia Press._

Sold by all Booksellers. Mailed, post-paid, on receipt of the price, by
the Publishers,

ROBERTS BROTHERS, BOSTON.


_Messrs. Roberts Brothers' Publications._

FAMOUS WOMEN SERIES.


GEORGE SAND.

BY BERTHA THOMAS.

One volume. 16mo. Cloth. Price, $1.00.

"Miss Thomas has accomplished a difficult task with as much good sense
as good feeling. She presents the main facts of George Sand's life,
extenuating nothing, and setting naught down in malice, but wisely
leaving her readers to form their own conclusions. Everybody knows that
it was not such a life as the women of England and America are
accustomed to live, and as the worst of men are glad to have them
live.... Whatever may be said against it, its result on George Sand was
not what it would have been upon an English or American woman of
genius."--_New York Mail and Express._

"This is a volume of the 'Famous Women Series,' which was begun so well
with George Eliot and Emily Brontë. The book is a review and critical
analysis of George Sand's life and work, by no means a detailed
biography. Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, the maiden, or Mme. Dudevant,
the married woman, is forgotten in the renown of the pseudonym George
Sand.

"Altogether, George Sand, with all her excesses and defects, is a
representative woman, one of the names of the nineteenth century. She
was great among the greatest, the friend and compeer of the finest
intellects, and Miss Thomas's essay will be a useful and agreeable
introduction to a more extended study of her life and works."--_Knickerbocker._

"The biography of this famous woman, by Miss Thomas, is the only one in
existence. Those who have awaited it with pleasurable anticipation, but
with some trepidation as to the treatment of the erratic side of her
character, cannot fail to be pleased with the skill by which it is done.
It is the best production on George Sand that has yet been published.
The author modestly refers to it as a sketch, which it undoubtedly is,
but a sketch that gives a just and discriminating analysis of George
Sand's life, tastes, occupations, and of the motives and impulses which
prompted her unconventional actions, that were misunderstood by a narrow
public. The difficulties encountered by the writer in describing this
remarkable character are shown in the first line of the opening chapter,
which says, 'In naming George Sand we name something more exceptional
than even a great genius.' That tells the whole story. Misconstruction,
condemnation, and isolation are the penalties enforced upon the great
leaders in the realm of advanced thought, by the bigoted people of their
time. The thinkers soar beyond the common herd, whose soul-wings are not
strong enough to fly aloft to clearer atmospheres, and consequently they
censure or ridicule what they are powerless to reach. George Sand, even
to a greater extent than her contemporary, George Eliot, was a victim to
ignorant social prejudices, but even the conservative world was forced
to recognize the matchless genius of these two extraordinary women, each
widely different in her character and method of thought and writing....
She has told much that is good which has been untold, and just what will
interest the reader, and no more, in the same easy, entertaining style
that characterizes all of these unpretentious biographies."--_Hartford
Times._

_Sold everywhere. Mailed, post-paid, on receipt of price, by the
publishers,_

ROBERTS BROTHERS, Boston.


_Messrs. Roberts Brothers' Publications._

FAMOUS WOMEN SERIES.


EMILY BRONTË.

BY A. MARY F. ROBINSON.

One vol. 16mo. Cloth. Price, $1.00.

"Miss Robinson has written a fascinating biography.... Emily Brontë is
interesting, not because she wrote 'Wuthering Heights,' but because of
her brave, baffled, human life, so lonely, so full of pain, but with a
great hope shining beyond all the darkness, and a passionate defiance in
bearing more than the burdens that were laid upon her. The story of the
three sisters is infinitely sad, but it is the ennobling sadness that
belongs to large natures cramped and striving for freedom to heroic,
almost desperate, work, with little or no result. The author of this
intensely interesting, sympathetic, and eloquent biography, is a young
lady and a poet, to whom a place is given in a recent anthology of
living English poets, which is supposed to contain only the best poems
of the best writers."--_Boston Daily Advertiser._

"Miss Robinson had many excellent qualifications for the task she has
performed in this little volume, among which may be named, an
enthusiastic interest in her subject and a real sympathy with Emily
Brontë's sad and heroic life. 'To represent her as she was,' says Miss
Robinson, 'would be her noblest and most fitting monument.' ... Emily
Brontë here becomes well known to us and, in one sense, this should be
praise enough for any biography."--_New York Times._

"The biographer who finds such material before him as the lives and
characters of the Brontë family need have no anxiety as to the interest
of his work. Characters not only strong but so uniquely strong, genius
so supreme, misfortunes so overwhelming, set in its scenery so forlornly
picturesque, could not fail to attract all readers, if told even in the
most prosaic language. When we add to this, that Miss Robinson has told
their story _not_ in prosaic language, but with a literary style
exhibiting all the qualities essential to good biography, our readers
will understand that this life of Emily Brontë is not only as
interesting as a novel, but a great deal more interesting than most
novels. As it presents most vividly a general picture of the family,
there seems hardly a reason for giving it Emily's name alone, except
perhaps for the masterly chapters on 'Wuthering Heights,' which the
reader will find a grateful condensation of the best in that powerful
but somewhat forbidding story. We know of no point in the Brontë
history--their genius, their surroundings, their faults, their
happiness, their misery, their love and friendships, their
peculiarities, their power, their gentleness, their patience, their
pride,--which Miss Robinson has not touched upon with conscientiousness
and sympathy."--_The Critic._

"'Emily Brontë' is the second of the 'Famous Women Series,' which
Roberts Brothers, Boston, propose to publish, and of which 'George
Eliot' was the initial volume. Not the least remarkable of a very
remarkable family, the personage whose life is here written, possesses a
peculiar interest to all who are at all familiar with the sad and
singular history of herself and her sister Charlotte. That the author,
Miss A. Mary F. Robinson, has done her work with minute fidelity to
facts as well as affectionate devotion to the subject of her sketch, is
plainly to be seen all through the book."--_Washington Post._

Sold by all Booksellers, or mailed, post-paid, on receipt of price, by
the Publishers,

ROBERTS BROTHERS, BOSTON.


A SELECTION FROM

Messrs. ROBERTS BROTHERS'

LATEST NEW PUBLICATIONS.

FIGURES OF THE PAST. From the Leaves of Old Journals. By Josiah Quincy
(Class of 1821, Harvard College). 16mo. Price $1.50


"There are chapters on life in the Academy at Andover, on Harvard Sixty
Years Ago, on Commencement Day in 1821, the year of the author's
graduation, and on visits to and talks with John Adams, with
reminiscences of Lafayette, Judge Story, John Randolph, Jackson and
other eminent persons, and sketches of old Washington and old Boston
society. The kindly pen of the author is never dipped in gall--he
remembers the pleasing aspects of character, and his stories and
anecdotes are told in the best of humor and leave no sting. The book is
of a kind which we are not likely to have again, for the men of Mr.
Quincy's generation, those at least who had his social opportunities,
are nearly all gone. These pictures of old social and political
conditions are especially suggestive as reminding us that a single life,
only lately closed, linked us with days, events and men that were a part
of our early history and appear remote because of the multitude of
changes that have transformed society in the interval."--_Boston
Journal._

WHIST, OR BUMBLEPUPPY? By Pembridge. From the Second London Edition.
16mo. Cloth. Price .50

DEFINITION OF BUMBLEPUPPY.--Bumblepuppy is persisting to play whist,
either in utter ignorance of all its known principles, or in defiance of
them, or both.

"'Whist, or Bumblepuppy?' is one of the most entertaining, and at the
same time one of the soundest books on whist ever written. Its drollery
may blind some readers to the value of its advice; no man who knows
anything about whist, however, will fail to read it with interest, and
few will fail to read it with advantage. Upon the ordinary rules of
whist, Pembridge supplies much sensible and thoroughly amusing comment.
The best player in the world may gain from his observations, and a
mediocre player can scarcely find a better counsellor. There is scarcely
an opinion expressed with which we do not coincide."--_London Sunday
Times._

RECOLLECTIONS OF DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. By T. Hall Caine. With
Portrait. One vol. 8vo. Cloth, gilt. Price $3.00

"Mr. Caine's 'Recollections of Rossetti' throws light upon many events
in Rossetti's life over which there hung a veil of mystery.... A book
that must survive."--_London Athenæum._


* * * Our publications are for sale by all booksellers, or will
be sent post-paid on receipt of advertised price.

ROBERTS BROTHERS, Boston.

PEARLS OF THE FAITH; or, Islam's Rosary; being the "Ninety-nine
Beautiful Names of Allah." By Edwin Arnold. 16mo. Cloth. Uniform with
"The Light of Asia." Price, $1.00

"Mr. Edwin Arnold has finished his Oriental trilogy. The first part is
'The Light of Asia.' The second part is 'The Indian Song of Songs.' The
trilogy is completed by 'Pearls of the Faith,' in which the poet tells
the beads of a pious Moslem. The Mohammedan has a chaplet of three
strings, each string containing 33 beads, each bead representing one of
the 'Ninety-nine beautiful names of Allah.' These short poems have no
connection; they vary in measure, but are all simple and without a touch
of obscurity. All the legends and instructions inculcate the gentle
virtues that make life lovely--courtesy, humility, hospitality, care for
the poor and the ill, kindness to dumb animals, perfect manners in
social intercourse. Many of the poems are suitable for Christian
Sunday-schools.... The view of Mohammedanism given by these poems is
very pleasant; the precepts for life here are sweet and noble; the
promises for heaven are definite; they appeal directly to the love of
what is known as pleasure in this life, and that must be renounced in
this life, but in the next it may be enjoyed to the uttermost without
evil consequences."--_Boston Daily Advertiser._

ART AND NATURE IN ITALY. By Eugene Benson. 16mo. Cloth. Price, $1.00

"Mr. Benson's long residence in that country has operated to imbue his
mind with the spirit of the region. He treats _con amore_ of its art in
its historical and in its modern aspects, and he presents its scenes of
nature in their most fascinating form. Mr. Benson is not only one of the
most appreciative of students and observers, but he has a rare grace of
manner as well. He writes little of late, but his productions are always
acceptable to cultivated people."--_Saturday Evening Gazette._

"This book is a record of impressions and reflections on art and nature
in Italy. The great beauty and the historic associations of the country
are set forth in very pleasing language by one who fully appreciates
them. He particularly describes those portions of that beautiful land in
which its most distinguished artists have lived, showing how its natural
features, its enchanting scenery, must have had a molding influence upon
their tastes and their works. His estimates of art and artists and his
criticisms are, in the main, just and satisfactory."--_Western Christian
Advocate._


NORSE STORIES, RETOLD FROM THE EDDAS. By Hamilton W. Mabie. 16mo. Cloth.
Price, $1.00


"Is one of the most charming little books for children I have ever seen.
The myths are splendidly told, and every household in America ought to
have a copy of the book."--_Prof. R. B. Anderson._

"The old Norse stories bear being told again and again. Mr. Mabie keeps
their freshness, fascination and simplicity in his new version of them,
and one reads with unabated pleasure of Odin's search for wisdom, of the
wooing of Gerd, and of all the strange adventures of Thor, of the
beautiful Balder, of the wicked Loke and, best of all, of the new earth
that was created after long years of darkness, in which there was no
sun, no moon, no stars, no Asgard, no Hel, no Jotunheim; in which gods,
giants, monsters and men were all dead--the earth upon which the gods
look lovingly, upon which men are industrious and obedient, and know
that the All-Father helps them."--_Boston Daily Advertiser._


* * * Our publications are for sale by all booksellers, or will
be sent post-paid on receipt of advertised price.


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A LITTLE PILGRIM. Reprinted from Macmillan's Magazine. 16mo. Cloth. Red
edges. Price, $.75


"An exquisitely written little sketch is found in that remarkable
production, 'The Little Pilgrim,' which is just now attracting much
attention both in Europe and America. It is highly imaginative in its
scope, representing one of the world-worn and weary pilgrims of our
earthly sphere as entering upon the delights of heaven after death. The
picture of heaven is drawn with the rarest delicacy and refinement, and
is in agreeable contrast in this respect to the material sketch of this
future home furnished in Miss Stuart Phelps's well-remembered 'Gates
Ajar.' The book will be a balm to the heart of many readers who are in
accord with the faith of its author; and to others its reading will
afford rare pleasure from the exceeding beauty and affecting simplicity
of its almost perfect literary style."--_Saturday Evening Gazette._

"The life beyond the grave, when the short life in this world is ended,
is to many a source of dread--to all a mystery. 'A Little Pilgrim' has
apparently solved it, and, indeed, it seems on reading this little book
as if there were a great probability about it. A soft, gentle tone
pervades its every sentence, and one cannot read it without feeling
refreshed and strengthened."--_The Alta California._


THE GREAT EPICS OF MEDIÆVAL GERMANY. An Outline of their Contents and
History. By George Theodore Dippold, Professor at Boston University and
Wellesley College. 16mo. Cloth. Price, $1.50


Professor Francis J. Child, of Harvard College, says: "It is an
excellent account of the chief German heroic poems of the Middle Ages,
accompanied with spirited translations. It is a book which gives both a
brief and popular, and also an accurate, account of this important
section of literature, and will be very welcome here and at other
colleges."

"No student of modern literature, and above all no student who aims to
understand the literary development of Europe in its fullest range, can
leave this rich and ample world of early song unexplored. To all such
Professor Dippold's book will have the value of a trustworthy guide....
It has all the interest of a chapter in the growth of the human mind
into comprehension of the universe and of itself, and it has the
pervading charm of the vast realm of poetry through which it
moves."--_Christian Union._


MY HOUSEHOLD OF PETS. By Theophile Gautier. Translated from the French
by Susan Coolidge. With illustrations by Frank Rogers. 16mo. Cloth.
Price, $1.25


"This little book will interest lovers of animals, and the quaint style
in which M. Gautier tells of the wisdom of his household pets will
please every one. The translator, too, is happy in her work, for she has
succeeded in rendering the text into English without loss of the French
tone, which makes it fascinating. These household pets consisted of
white and black cats, dogs, chameleons, lizards, magpies, and horses,
each of which has a character and story of its own. Illustrations and a
pretty binding add to the attractions of the volume."--_Worcester Spy._

"The ease and elegance of Theophile Gautier's diction is wonderful, and
the translator has preserved the charm of the French author with far
more than the average fidelity. 'My Household of Pets' is a book which
can be read with pleasure by young and old. It is a charming
volume."--_St. Louis Spectator._

* * * Our publications are for sale by all booksellers, or will
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CHRISTIAN HISTORY IN ITS THREE GREAT PERIODS. By JOSEPH HENRY ALLEN,
late lecturer on ecclesiastical history in Harvard University.

SECOND PERIOD. "The Middle Age." Topics.--1. The Ecclesiastical System.
2. Feudal Society. 3. The Work of Hildebrand. 4. The Crusades. 5.
Chivalry. 6. The Religious Orders. 7. Heretics. 8. Scholastic Theology.
9. Religious Art. 10. Dante. 11. The Pagan Revival. Also a new edition
of the

FIRST PERIOD. "Early Christianity." Originally published under the title
of "Fragments of Christian History." The two volumes uniformly bound.
16mo. Price each, $1.25

"Whatever may be said or thought of Professor Joseph Henry Allen's
'Christian History,' which will be completed by the publication of a
third volume, it is the first and foremost work of the kind ever
attempted in this country. Even in our theological schools, the history
of the Church is usually taught on the basis of some foreign manual, of
which Guericke may be mentioned as the most favorable example, although
the book is clumsy and exceedingly narrow-minded. The history of the
Church, written for the use of educated men and women, has never been so
much as attempted in this country. Our theologians have never been
partial to ecclesiastical history, and in most cases they have been
satisfied with accepting the statements of so-called standard
authorities. Professor Allen's two volumes, covering the early Church
and the middle age, are distinctly a new departure, for they rest in
good part on original research.... There can be no reasonable doubt that
in Professor Allen's work we have the most considerable attempt at the
history of the Church ever made in the United States."--_Boston Daily
Advertiser._

THIRD PERIOD. "Modern Phases." (In press.)


A NEW LIFE OF SWEDENBORG. The Life and Mission of Emanuel Swedenborg. By
BENJAMIN WORCESTER. With an Introductory Chapter on Swedenborg's Place
in History, an Appendix giving a complete list of Swedenborg's Writings,
and a fine steel-engraved portrait and facsimile of his handwriting. One
large 12mo volume. Cloth, gilt top. Price, $2.00.

"It is a large 12mo volume of towards five hundred pages, in which the
author has collected, with great care, the leading facts relating to the
Swedish seer, and has woven them into a biography prepared with
scrupulous fidelity, though of course marked by the most reverent
admiration for its subject. Mr. Worcester holds to the reality of the
visions of Swedenborg, and believes the revelations which his works
furnish as the result to be supplementary in the quality of inspiration
to the Bible. The work is not one of the most attractively written
pieces of biography; but its subject is interesting, and there are
characteristics of Swedenborg which, aside from any supernatural
endowment, plainly stamp him as one of the great minds of his time. His
followers, if they are not as large as those of many of the religious
sects of the day, are people of the purest minds and most intelligent
perceptions, without a tendency to credulity or a tinge of fanaticism in
their natures. This book will be welcomed by them as a repository of
much that is valuable in the founder of their religion. It contains a
portrait of Swedenborg. Many extracts from his writings are also given
as incidental to the biography."--_Gazette._

* * * Our publications are for sale by all booksellers, or will
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GEORGE ELIOT. Famous Women Series. By MATHILDE BLIND. One volume, 16mo.
Cloth. Price, $1.00

"The first volume in the 'Famous Women' series just begun by Roberts
Brothers is a life of 'George Eliot,' by Mathilde Blind. It is a clear,
concise and masterly sketch, from a woman's point of view, of the career
and work of the most remarkable figure in current English literature. It
has a peculiar value, in that its author, in its preparation, collected
her material from private and living sources. She had the assistance and
countenance of Mr. Isaac Evans, a brother of George Eliot, from whom she
obtained much valuable information, and a large mass of unpublished
correspondence was placed at her disposal by such friends of the dead
author as C. L. Lewes, W. M. Rosetti and James Thomson. By thus having
her material at first hand, Miss Blind is enabled to correct certain
mistakes which have found place in every memoir of George Eliot until
now published."--_Boston Transcript._

"Miss Blind's little book is written with admirable good taste and
judgment, and with notable self-restraint. It does not weary the reader
with critical discursiveness, nor with attempts to search out high-flown
meanings and recondite oracles in the plain 'yea' and 'nay' of life. It
is a graceful and unpretentious little biography, and tells all that
need be told concerning one of the greatest writers of the time. It is a
deeply interesting, if not fascinating, woman whom Miss Blind presents,"
says the _N. Y. Tribune._


HESTER STANLEY AT ST. MARK'S. By HARRIET PRESCOTT SPOFFORD. With
illustrations. Small 4to. Cloth. Price, $1.25

"For the first time Mrs. Spofford has tried her hand at a juvenile.
'Hester Stanley' is emphatically a girl's book, a story of school-day
life 'at St. Mark's,' which will be read with great interest."

"This book is, we believe, the first attempt that Mrs. Harriet Prescott
Spofford has made to write a story for girls, but it is written with so
delicate a touch and in such a pleasing style that most girl readers who
chance upon it will hope that it may not be the last. It is a story of a
life in a girl's boarding-school, and the young heroine of it comes
almost as near to the ideal of what is winning and womanly as Tom Brown
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       *       *       *       *       *

FOOTNOTES:

[1] It was his habit, and that of his family, to drop all mention of the
earlier marriage.

[2] Miss Edgeworth, in her father's Life, states that she was but twelve
years old when she returned to Ireland. The date she gives, however, and
that afterwards given by her stepmother, show that she must have been
sixteen when the removal took place. It can, therefore, have been a mere
_lapsus calami_ on her part, as this eminently sensible woman was
incapable of the silly weakness of concealing her age.

[3] Afterwards changed into _Patronage_.

[4] Afterwards Sir Humphrey Davy.

[5] Miss Edgeworth erroneously, but persistently, speaks of this
publication as the _Journal Britannique_.

[6] A contemporary epigram ran thus:--

    "La Genlis se consume en efforts superflus,
     La vertu n'en veut pas; le vice n'en veut plus."


[7] Afterwards King Louis Philippe. It was at a Swiss school that he
taught, not at a German university.

[8] John Langan was the steward; in face and figure the prototype of
Thady in _Castle Rackrent_.

[9] It is but fair to add that Bulwer in a note disclaims the excessive
severity and sweeping character of this criticism.

[10] She always refused to have her portrait taken, and all published
so-called portraits of Maria Edgeworth are purely fancy productions.

[11] This anecdote, attributed by Miss Edgeworth to Mazarin, is told by
De Retz, and is to be found in his memoirs.





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