The Life and Letters of Maria Edgeworth, Vol. 2
by Maria Edgeworth
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We are reading Reginald Dalton, and like it very much, the second volume especially, which will be very useful, I think, and is very interesting. I am sure Mr. Lockhart describes his own wife's singing when he describes Ellen's.

We hope to reach King's House to-night, and at Inverness we hope to find letters from home. We are all well and happy, and this I am sure is the most agreeable thing I can end with.



I sent a shabby note to my aunt some days ago, merely to tell her that we had seen Roslin; and Sophy wrote from Fort William of our visit to Fern Tower: good house, fine place; Sir David Baird a fine old soldier, without an arm, but with a heart and a head: warm temper, as eager about every object, great or small, as a boy of fifteen. He swallows me, though an authoress, wonderful well.

Our Highland tour has afforded me and my companions great pleasure; Sophy has enjoyed it thoroughly. William has had a number of objects in his own line to interest him. From Fort William, which is close to Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain, we went to see a natural or artificial curiosity called the Parallel Roads. On each side of a valley called Glenroy, through which the river Roy runs, there appear several lines of terraces at different heights, corresponding to each other on each side of the valley at the same height. These terrace-roads are not quite horizontal; they slope a little from the mountains. The learned are at this moment fighting, in writing, much about these roads. Some will have it that, in the days of Fingal, the Fingalians made them for hunting-roads, to lie in ambush and shoot the deer from these long lines. Others suppose that the roads were made by the subsiding of a lake, which at different periods sank in this valley, and at last made its way out. The roads, however made, are well worth seeing. We had a most agreeable guide, not a professed guide, but a Highlander of the Macintosh clan, an enthusiast for the beauties of his own country, and, like the Swiss Chamouni guides, quite a well-informed and, moreover, a fine-looking man, with an air of active, graceful independence; of whom it might be said or sung, "He's clever in his walking." He spoke English correctly, but as a foreign language, with book choice of expressions; no colloquial or vulgar phrases. He often seemed to take time to translate his thoughts from the Gaelic into English. He knew Scott's works, Rob Roy especially, and knew all the theories about the Parallel Roads, and explained them sensibly; and gave us accounts of the old family feuds between his own Macintosh clan and the Macdonalds, pointing to places where battles were fought, with a zeal which proved the feudal spirit still lives in its ashes. When he found we were Irish, he turned to me, and all reserve vanishing from his countenance, with brightening eyes he said, as he laid his hand on his breast, "And you are Irish! Now I know that, I would do ten times as much for you if I could than when I thought you were Southerns or English. We think the Irish have, like ourselves, more spirit." He talked of Ossian, and said the English could not give the force of the original Gaelic. He sang a Gaelic song for us, to a tune like "St. Patrick's Day in the Morning." He called St. Patrick Phaedrig, by which name I did not recognise him; and our Highlander exclaimed, "Don't you know your own saint?" Sophy sang the tune for him, with which he was charmed; and when he heard William call her Sophy, he said to himself, "Sophia Western."

The next day we took a beautiful walk to the territory and near the residence of Lochiel, through a wood where groups of clansmen and clanswomen were barking trees that had been cut down; and the faggoting and piling the bark was as picturesque as heart could wish.

This day's journey was through fine wild Highland scenery, where rocks and fragments of rocks were tumbled upon each other, as if by giants in a passion, and now and then by giants playing at bowls with huge round bowls. These roads—some of them for which we "lift up our eyes and bless Marshal Wade," and some made by Telford, the vast superiority in the laying out of which William has had the pleasure of pointing out to his sisters—beautifully wind over hill and through valley, by the sides of streams and lakes. We saw the eight locks joining together on the Caledonian Canal, called Neptune's Stairs; and at another place on the canal William, who had been asleep, instinctively wakened just in time to see a dredging machine at work: we stopped the carriage, and walked down to look at it: took a boat and rowed round the vessel, and went on board and saw the machinery. A steam-engine works an endless chain of buckets round and round upon a platform with rollers. The buckets have steel mouthpieces, some with quite sharp projecting lips, which cut into the sand and gravelly bottom, and scoop up what fills each bucket. At the bottom of each are cullender holes, through which the water drains off as the buckets go on and pass over the platform and empty themselves on an inclined plane, down which the contents fall into a boat, which rows away when full, and deposits the contents wherever wanted. If you ever looked at a book at Edgeworthstown called Machines Approuves, you would have the image of this machine. It brought my father's drawings of the Rhone machine before my eyes.

The whole day's drive was delightful—mountains behind mountains as far as the eye could reach, in every shade, from darkest to palest Indian-ink cloud colour; an ocean of mountains, with perpetually changing foreground of rocks, sometimes bare as ever they were born, sometimes wooded better than ever the hand of mortal taste clothed a mountain in reality or in picture, with oak, aspen, and the beautiful pendant birch.

At Fort Augustus the house was painting, and the beds looked wretched; but all was made plausible with the help of fires and fair words, and we slept as well, or better, than kings and queens. As to any real inconvenience at Highland inns, we have met with none; always good fish, good eggs, good butter, and good humour.

Next day we had another delightful drive: saw the Fall of Foyers: fine scrambling up and down to a rock, and on this rock such huge tumbledown stones, like Druids' temples, half-fallen, half-suspended. The breath was almost taken away and head dizzy looking at them above and the depth below; one could hardly believe we stood safe. Yet here we are safe and sound at Inverness, the Capital of the North, as Scott calls it. This Bennet's Hotel, where we are lodged, is as good as any in London or Edinburgh, and cleaner than almost any I ever was in, with a waiter the perfection of intelligence. We are going to see a place called the Dream, the name translated from the Gaelic.

I forgot to tell you that, when at Edinburgh, we went to see Sir James and Lady Foulis's friends, the Jardines, who were also friends of Henry's. They are in a very pretty house, Laverock Bank, a few miles from Edinburgh. We "felicity hunters" have found more felicity than such hunters usually meet with.


KINROSS, July 23, 1823.

I left off in my yesterday's letter to my mother just as we were changing horses at Dunkeld, at six o'clock in the evening, to go on to Perth; but I had in that note arrived prematurely at Dunkeld, and had not time to fill up the history of our day. Be pleased, therefore, to go back to Moulinan, and see us eat luncheon; for, in spite of Mr. Grant's contempt of these bon-vivant details, habit will not allow me to depart from my Swiss, Parisian, and English practice of giving the bill of fare.

First course, cold: two roast chickens, better never were; a ham, finer never seen, even at my mother's luncheons; pickled salmon, and cold boiled round.

Second course, hot: a large dish of little trout from the river; new potatoes, and, as I had professed to be unable to venture on new potatoes, a dish of mashed potatoes for me; fresh greens, with toast over, and poached eggs.

Then, a custard pudding, a gooseberry tart, and plenty of Highland cream—highly superior to Lowland—and butter, ditto.

And for all this how much did we pay? Six shillings.

Our drive in evening sunshine from Moulinan to Dunkeld was delightful, along the banks, no longer of the dear little, sparkling, foaming, fretting Garry, but of the broad, majestic, quiet, dark bottle-green coloured Tay; the road a perfect gravel walk; the bank, all the way down between us and the river, copsewood, with now and then a clump of fine tall larch, or a single ash or oak, with spreading branches showing the water beneath; the mountain side chiefly oak and alder, a tree which I scarcely knew till Sophy mentioned it to me; sometimes the wood broken with glades of fern, heath, and young stubble oaks, all the way up to white rocks on the summit; the young shoots of these stubble oaks tinted with pink, so as to have in the evening sun the appearance of autumn rich tints; and between these oaks and the green fern and broom a giant race of foxglove, which I verily believe, from the root to the spike, would measure four good feet, all rich in bells of brightest crimson, so bright that they crimsoned the whole bank.

All these ten miles of wooded road run, I understand, through the territory of the Duke of Athol. Now I see his possessions, I am sure I do not wonder the lady left her lack-gold lover in the lurch for "Athol's duke." Along the whole road he has raised a footpath, beautifully gravelled. Oh! how I wish our walks had one inch off the surface of this footpath, or that the African magician, or the English equally potent magician of steam, could convey to my mother's elbow in the Dingle one yard of one bank of the gravel which here wastes its pebbles on the mountain side! How in a trice she would summon round her her choice spirits, Briny Duffy, Micky Mulheeran, and Mackin, and how they would with shovel and loy fall to!

Through the wood at continual openings we saw glimpses of beautiful paths or gravelled walks, which this munificent duke has made through his woods for the accommodation of the public. I forgive him for being like an over-ripe Orleans plum, and for not saying a word, good or bad, the day we met him at Mr. Morrit's.

At Dunkeld, alas! we bade adieu to the dear Highlands. I have not time now to tell you of Killiecrankie and Dundee's Stone.

Arrived at Perth at nine o'clock: tea, with silver urn and silver candlesticks, and all luxurious: cold chicken, ham, and marmalade inclusive.

The drive from Perth this morning to Kinross is beautiful, but in a more civilised and less romantic way than our Highland scenery. We are now within view of Lochleven, Queen Mary's island.

During this morning's drive, Sophy sang "In April, when primroses blow" most charmingly. Her singing was much admired in Edinburgh by Sir Walter Scott, etc., but still more at Mrs. Macpherson's. One day, she sang several of Moore's melodies, and some Scotch songs. Mrs. Macpherson, who is excessively fond of music, was so charmed, she told me afterwards she never heard a voice she thought so sweet and clear, and unaffected. She rejoiced to hear it without music, or any accompaniment that could drown it, or spoil its distinct simplicity. She observed what a charm there is in her distinct pronunciation of the words, in her just emphasis, and in her never forgetting the words, or keeping you in any anxiety for her, or requiring to be pressed. "How delightful," said she, "to have such an accomplishment, such a power to please always with her, without requiring instruments, or music-books, or any preparation." I was afraid her singing of Scotch might not suit the Scotch, and she never ventured it till we were at Mrs. Macpherson's, who was quite charmed with it. Indeed, her soft voice is very different from the screeching some songstresses make, with vast execution. I am particularly full of the pleasure of Sophy's singing at present, because I felt so much delight from it when I was just recovering from my illness. I did not think it was in the nature of my body or soul to feel so much pleasure from singing or music; but the fact is as I tell you. After three nights of pulse at ninety-six and delirium, in which I one night saw the arches of Roslin Chapel, with roses of such brilliant light crowning them that I shut my eyes to avoid the blaze; and another night was haunted with the words "a soldier [Footnote: Miss Edgeworth had been reading Stewart's History of Highland Regiments the day before she was taken ill with an attack of erysipelas.] of the forty-second has lost his portmanteau," and continual marching and countermarching, and rummaging of Highland officers and privates in search of it, and an officer laughing at me and saying, "Don't you know this is a common Highland saying, A soldier of the forty-second has lost his portmanteau? It means"—but he never could or would tell me what it meant, when another officer said, "Madam, there is a Lowland saying to match it"; and this also I could never hear. Another night the words of a song called the "Banks of Aberfeldy" crossed my imagination, and a fat, rubicund man stood before me, continually telling me that he was "John Aberfeldy, the happy." I cannot tell you how this John Aberfeldy tormented me. After these three horrible nights, when I awoke with my tongue so parched I could not speak till a spoonful of lemon-juice was inserted, I asked Sophy to sing, and she directly sang, "Dear harp of my country." I never shall forget the sort of pleasure; it soothed, it "rapt my" willing not my "imprisoned soul in elysium," and I was so happy to feel I could again follow a rational chain of ideas, and comprehend the words of the beautiful poetry, to which music added such a charm and force. She sang, "Believe me, if all those endearing young charms," and "Farewell, but whenever you welcome the hour," and "Oh, Nanny, wilt thou gang wi' me?" and "Vive Henri Quatre!" which I love for the sake of Mrs. Henry Hamilton, and for the sake of Lady Longford's saying to me, with a mother's pride and joy in her enthusiastic eyes, "My Caroline will sing to me at any time, in any inn, or anywhere." I am sure I may say the same of my sister Sophy, who will sing for me at an inn by my sick bed, and with more power of voice than all the stimulus of company and flattery can draw from other young ladies. I never wish to hear a fine singer; I always agree with Dr. Johnson in wishing that the difficulties had been impossibilities, with all their falsettos and tortures of affectation to which they put themselves. How I hate them, and all the aimings at true Italian pronunciation and true Italian manner, which after all is, nine times out of ten, quite erroneous, and such as the Italians themselves would laugh at, or most probably no more comprehend than I did De Leuze repeating the "Botanic Garden": I was just going to ask what language it was, when my mother, good at need, saved me from the irreparable blunder by whispering, "It is English." The words were, I believe, all right, but the accents were all thrown wrong. As Lady Spencer said, "It is wonderful that foreigners never by accident throw the accents right." Milton says:

For eloquence the soul, song moves the sense;

but if he had heard Moore's poetry sung by Sophy, he would have acknowledged that song moved not only the sense, but the soul.

I have dilated upon this to you, my dear Lucy, because you have at times felt the same about Sophy's singing. During my illness, day and night, whenever pain and delirium allowed me rational thought, you and your admirable patience recurred to my mind. I said to myself, "How can she bear it so well, and in her young days, the spring-time of life? how admirable is her resignation and cheerfulness! never a cross word, or cross look, or impatient gesture, and for four years; when I, with all my strength of experience and added philosophy from education, moan and groan aloud, and can scarce bear ten days' illness, with two really angel sisters to nurse me, and watch my 'asking eye'!" You have at least the reward of my perfect esteem and admiration, after comparison with myself, the only true standard by which I can estimate your worth.

* * * * *

Miss Edgeworth and her sisters spent a most happy fortnight with Sir Walter Scott and his family. "Never," writes his son-in-law, "did I see a brighter day at Abbotsford than that on which Miss Edgeworth first arrived there: never can I forget her look and accent when she was received by him at his archway, and exclaimed: 'Everything about you is exactly what one ought to have had wit enough to dream!'"

Sir Walter delighted in Miss Sophy Edgeworth's singing, especially of Moore's Irish melodies. "Moore's the man for songs," he said. "Campbell can write an ode, and I can make a ballad; but Moore beats us all at a song." Sir Walter was then at the height of his fame and "in the glory of his prime," surrounded by his family; both his sons were at home, and his daughter Anne; and he had then staying with him his nephew, "Little Walter." Mr. and Mrs. Lockhart were living at Chiefswood, but they were continually at Abbotsford, or some of the party were continually at Chiefswood; and Sir Walter's joyous manner and life of mind, his looks of fond pride in his children, the pleasantness of his easy manners, the gay walks, the evening conversations, and the drives in the sociable, enchanted Miss Edgeworth. In these drives the flow of story, poetry, wit, and wisdom never ceased; Sir Walter sitting with his dog Spicer on his lap, and Lady Scott with her dog Ourisk on her lap.

Lady Scott one day expressed her surprise that Scott and Miss Edgeworth had not met when the latter was in Edinburgh in 1803. "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." [Footnote: Life of George Ticknor.]

* * * * *


ABBOTSFORD, July 31, 1823.

I take a pen merely to say that I will not write! I have so much to say, that I dare not trust myself, as I am still so far from strong, I must not venture to play tricks with that health which it cost my dear, kind nurses so much to preserve. I am as careful of myself as any creature can be without becoming an absolute, selfish egotist. Lady Scott is really so watchful and careful of me, that even when my own family guardian angels are not on either or both sides of me, I can do no wrong, and can come to no harm.

It is quite delightful to see Scott in his family in the country: breakfast, dinner, supper, the same flow of kindness, fondness, and genius, far, far surpassing his works, his letters, and all my hopes and imagination. His castle of Abbotsford is magnificent, but I forget it in thinking of him.


ABBOTSFORD, Aug. 9, 1823.

I remember that you requested one of our party to write a few lines from Abbotsford. I think I mentioned to my aunt or Sophy the impression which I first experienced from Sir Walter Scott's great simplicity of manner, joined to his wonderful superiority of intellect. This impression has been strengthened by all I have seen of him since. In living with him in the country, I have particularly liked his behaviour towards his variety of guests, of all ranks, who come to his hospitable castle. Many of these are artists, painters, architects, mechanists, antiquarians, people who look up to him for patronage—none of them permitted to be hangers on or parasites; his manners perfectly kind and courteous, yet such as to command respect; and I never heard any one attempt to flatter him. I never saw an author less of an author in his habits. This I early observed, but have been the more struck with it the longer I have been with him. He has, indeed, such variety of occupations, that he has not time to think of his own works: how he has time to write them is the wonder. You would like him for his love of trees; a great part of his time out of doors is taken up in pruning his trees. I have within this hour heard a gentleman say to him, "You have had a good deal of experience in planting, Sir Walter; do you advise much thinning, or not?"—"I should advise much thinning, but little at a time. If you thin much at a time, you let in the wind, and hurt your trees."

I hope to show you a sketch of Abbotsford Sophy has made—better than any description. Besides the Abbey of Melrose, we have seen many interesting places in this neighbourhood. To-day we have been a delightful drive through Ettrick Forest, and to the ruins of Newark—the hall of Newark, where the ladies bent their necks of snow to hear the Lay of the Last Minstrel. Though great part of Ettrick Forest was cut down years ago, yet much of it has grown up again to respectable height, and many most beautiful oak, ash, and alder trees remain. We had a happy walk by the river, and after refreshing ourselves with a luncheon in a summer-house beautifully situated, we went to look at the ruins of Newark. It was a pity that this fine old building was let to go to ruin, which it has done only within the last seventy years. The late Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch, to whom it belonged, had in their youth lived abroad, and were so ignorant about their own estate in Scotland, that when they first came to live here they supposed there were no trees, and no wood they thought could be had, and brought with them, among other things, a barrel full of skewers for the cook.

It is very agreeable to observe how many friends of long standing Scott has in this neighbourhood: they have been here, and we have been at their houses: very good houses, and the style of living excellent. Except one Prussian prince and one Swiss baron, no grand foreign visitors have been here; indeed, this house is in such a state of painting and papering, and carpenters finishing new rooms and chasing the inhabitants out of the old, that it was impossible to have much company.

Sir Walter's eldest son was here for some days—now gone back to Sandhurst; he is excessively shy, very handsome, not at all literary, but he has sense and honourable principle, and is very grateful to those who were kind to him in Ireland. His younger brother, Charles, who is now at home, has more easy manners, is more conversible, and has more of his father's literary taste. I am sorry to say we are to leave Abbotsford the day after to-morrow; but the longer we stay the more sorry we shall feel to go. We had intended to have paid a visit to Lady Selkirk at St. Mary's Isle, but this would be a hundred miles out of our way, and I have no time for it, which I regret, as I liked very much the little I saw of Lady Selkirk in London.

* * * * *

After visits at Glasgow and Dalwharran, Miss Edgeworth and her sisters returned to Ireland.

* * * * *


EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Nov. 20, 1823.

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 landing. You ask what I am doing: nothing, but reading and idling, and paving a gutter and yard to Honora's pig-stye, 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. I have read Quin's letters from Spain, entertaining; the review of it in the Quarterly is by Blanco White. Dr. Holland's letters continue to be as full of information and interest as ever, though he is a married man. Tell Sophy that the subject of electricity and electro-magnetism is every day affording new facts, and all the philosophers on the Continent are busy about it. Sir Humphry Davy had a narrow escape of breaking his neck by a fall down stairs, but he is not hurt, tout an contraire. I had a letter, written in very good English, the other day from M. de Stael; he is now in London, and tells me the French and the Holy Alliance are tyrannising sadly at Geneva, and have ordered all the Italian patriots who had taken refuge there to decamp. There is one of these, Count Somebody or other, whose name I cannot persuade myself to get up to look for, whom M. de Stael wishes I would take by the hand in London, and what I am to do with him when I have him by the hand I don't know.

I had a letter from Walter Scott, who has been delighted with the history of Caraboo, [Footnote: Caraboo is alluded to in St. Roman's Well, published in the autumn of this year. Sir Walter had never heard of her till Miss Edgeworth told her history to him at Abbotsford.] which I sent to him: a pamphlet published at the time. He says that nobody with a reasonable head could attempt to calculate the extent of popular credulity, and observes that she, like all the great cheats who have imposed upon mankind, was touched with insanity, half knave, half mad, at last the dupe of her own acting of enthusiasm.

Prince Hohenlohe and the pamphlets, pro and con, occupy us much. Crampton's second edition of his I think excellent. Some very curious facts have been brought out of the effect of the imagination upon the bodily health. And while Scott is writing novels to entertain the world, and the philosophers in France trying experiments on electro-magnetism, Davy tumbling down stairs, and Denham and Co. in Africa looking for the Niger, here is all London rushing out to look at the cottage in which a swindler lived who murdered another swindler, and buying bits of the sack in which the dead body was put! Have your newspapers given what we have had in the Morning Chronicle? views of Roberts's cottage and the pond with Thurtell and Hunt dragging the body out of it? Shakespear understood John Bull right well, and always gave him plenty of murders and dead bodies. I am glad there are no Irishmen in this base as well as savage gang.



We, my mother, Lovell, Fanny, and I, came here yesterday, glad to see Lord Longford surrounded by his friends in old Pakenham Hall hospitable style,—he always cordial, unaffected, and agreeable. The house has been completely new-modelled, chimneys taken down from top to bottom, rooms turned about from lengthways to broad-ways, thrown into one another, and out of one another, and the result is that there is a comfortable excellent drawing-room, dining-room, and library, and the bedchambers are admirable. Mrs. Smyth, of Gaybrook, and her daughter are here, and Mr. Knox; and I have been so lucky as to be seated next to him at dinner yesterday, and at breakfast this morning; he is very agreeable when he speaks, and when he is silent it is "silence that speaks."

Lady Longford [Footnote: Georgiana, daughter of the first Earl Beauchamp.] has been very attentive to us. She has the finest and most happy open-faced children I ever saw—not the least troublesome, yet perfectly free and at their case with the company and with their parents.

A box will be left in Dublin for you on Monday morning. There is no telling you how happy I have been getting ready and packing and fussing about the said box for you, flying about the house from the library to the garret. And all for what? When Sophy, whom I beg to be the unpacker, opens it, you will see a certain dabbed-up crooked pasteboard tray in which are four frills for you: I hemmed every inch of them myself, to give them the only value they could have in your eyes.


EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Feb. 16, 1824.

My dear Mr. and Mrs. Bannatyne—my dear Mrs. Starke and Miss Bannatyne, and Andrew and Dugald, and all of you kind friends, put your heads close together to hear a piece of intelligence which will, I know, rejoice your kind hearts.

Our dear Sophy and your dear Sophy is going to be married to a person whom her mother, and every one of her own family completely approve, who has been tenderly attached to her for some time, whose principles, understanding, manners, and honourable manly character are such as to deserve such a wife as I may proudly say he will have in Sophy. His birth, family connections, and fortune are all such as we could wish. The gentleman is a cousin of our own Captain Barry Fox; he is an officer, but will probably leave the army, and settle in his own country; we hope within reach of us. He has been so kind and considerate about poor Lucy, so anxious not to deprive her too suddenly of her beloved, and best of nurses, that he has endeared himself the more to us all.


EDGEWORTHSTOWN, March 18, 1824.

The indissoluble knot is tied! What an awful ceremony it is! What an awful deed! How can parents bear to be at the weddings of their children where it is not a marriage of their own free choice? and how can a woman herself pronounce that solemn vow when she is marrying for money, or for grandeur, or from any earthly motive but the pure heart?—a purer heart than my sister Sophy's I do believe never approached the altar, nor was the hand ever given more entirely with the free heart. There was no one at the wedding but our own family, Mr. Fox, Francis Fox, and William Beaufort. We six ladies went in the carriage immediately after breakfast to the church, where the gentlemen were waiting for us. The churchyard, and church of course, crowded with the poor people of the village, but as we drove out of our own lawn into Mr. Keating's, there was as little annoyance from starers as possible. William Beaufort married them, as had been Sophy's particular wish. The sun shone out with a bright promise at the moment her marriage was completed. Barry handed her into his chaise, the most commodious, prettiest, and plainest carriage I ever saw, and away they drove.

To MRS. O'BEIRNE. [Footnote: The Bishop of Meath died in 1823; and Mrs. O'Beirne and her daughters went to reside in England.]

BLACK CASTLE, July 6, 1824.

In the little drawing-room at Black Castle, where we have been so often happy together; in the little drawing-room to which you have so often brought me to see my dear aunt, I now write to you, my dear friend, to tell you how much I miss you. I feel a perpetual want of that part of my happiness in this dear place which I owed to its neighbourhood to another dear place to which I cannot now bear to go. Once, and but once, in the two months I have been here have I been there; when the indispensable civility of returning a formal visit required it, and then I felt it to be as much, if not more, than I was able to do, with the composure I felt to be proper. The sitting in that red drawing-room and missing everything I had so loved—the saloon, the lawn—I really could not speak, and heartily glad I was when I got away.

My plans of going to England this summer have been all broken up: you know how, as you have heard of the death of my dear sister Anna, [Footnote: Anna Edgeworth, Maria's whole sister, had married Dr. Beddoes in 1794.] at Florence; the account of her loss reached me just when I was joyfully expecting an answer to a letter full of projects which she never lived to read. GOD'S will be done. We expect my nieces, Anna and Mary, at Edgeworthstown as soon as they return from Italy.


EDGEWORTHSTOWN, July 17, 1824.

I hope this will find you at Cheltenham with Barry and Sophy, and Fanny; my mother and Margaret set off this fine morning for Black Castle, and Lucy is now in the dining-room, her bed aslant across the open middle window, the grass plot new-mown, and a sweet smell of fresh hay. They are drawing home the hay, and men are driving past the windows on empty cars, or leading loaded ones. The roses are still in full blow on the trellis. Aunt Bess sitting by Lucy talking of the beautiful thorns in the Phoenix Park, and I am sitting on the other side of Lucy's bed by the pillar.

Margaret Ruxton when here was eager to pay her compliments to Peggy Tuite; her husband has written for her to go to him, and she is now "torn almost in two between the wish to go to her husband and her lothness to leave her old mother." She gave Margaret and me the history of her losing and finding her wedding ring. "Sure I knew my luck would change when I found my wedding ring that I lost four years ago—down in the quarry. I went across the fields to feed the pig, and looked and looked till I was tired, and then concluded I had given it to the pig mixed up and that he had swallowed it for ever—it was a real gold ring. But the men that was clearing out the rubbage in the quarry found it and adjourned to the public house to share the luck of it. My brother got scent of it and went directly to inform the man that found it whose the ring was, and demanded it; he wouldn't hear of giving it back, and sold it to a pensioner there above; my brother set off with himself to the priest and told all, and the priest summoned the man and the pensioner, and my brother, and in the presence of an honest man, Mr. Sweeny, warned the pensioner to restore the wedding ring, since my brother could tell the tokens on it. 'It's the woman's wedding ring to remind her of her conjugal duties, and it's sacrilege to take it.' But the man that sold it was hardened, and the pensioner said he had paid for it, and so says the priest to Keegan, that's the master of the quarry men, 'Turn this man out of the work, he is a bad man and he will corrupt the rest. And, Peggy Tuite, I advise you and your brother to go straight to Major Bond and summon these men.'" Then she described the trial, when Tuite "swore to the tokens where it had been crushed by a stone, and the goldsmith's mark, and the Major held it between him and the light and plainly noticed the crush and the battered marks, and handing me the ring said, 'Peggy Tuite, this is your ring sure enough.'"


EDGEWORTHSTOWN, August 16, 1824.

We have heard from Sophy Fox, who tells us that they have been delighted with their journey to Aberystwith, especially the devil's bridge. Can you tell me why the devil has so many bridges, sublime and beautiful, in every country of the habitable world? Ingenieur des Ponts et Chaussees to his Satanic majesty would be a place of great business, profit and glory, and would require a man of first-rate abilities. Lucy has painted a beautiful portrait of her bullfinch, picking at a bunch of white currants—the currants would, I am sure, be picked by any live bird.

Tell me how you like Haji Baba.


EDGEWORTHSTOWN, August 28, 1824.

I am impatient to set my dear Aunt Mary's [Footnote: After the death of her sister Charlotte in 1822, Mrs. Mary Sneyd resided occasionally with her brother in England till 1828, when she returned finally to Edgeworthstown, where she remained for the rest of her life, deeply attached to all the family, but regarding her niece Honora as peculiarly her own child.] mind free from the anxiety I am sure she feels about her decision to stay in England this winter; whatever disappointment and regret I felt was mitigated by her beautifully kind and tender note.

Your entertaining account of the archery meeting at Lord Bagot's came yesterday evening. What a magnificent entertainment, and in what good taste! It was a delightful house for a fete champetre.

The Roman Catholic Bishop, M'Gaurin, held a confirmation the day before yesterday, and dined here on a God-send haunch of venison. Same day Mr. Hunter arrived, and Mr. Butler came with young Mr. Hamilton, an "admirable Crichton" of eighteen; a real prodigy of talents, who Dr. Brinkley says may be a second Newton—quite gentle and simple. Mr. and Mrs. Napier arrived on Wednesday, and spent two most agreeable days with us; he is an extremely well-informed man, and both are perfectly well-bred. Mr. Butler and Mr. Hamilton suited them delightfully. Mr. Butler and Mr. Napier found they were both Oxford men, and took to each other directly. Mr. Napier's conversation is quite superior and easy. Those two days put me in mind of former times. Hunter is very happy here in spite of his cockney prejudices; he says Harry and Lucy must be ready by October.


Jan. 1, 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 everyday bungling carvers and gilders will not do. Our evening-gilders must be more skilful than those who flashed and daubed away in the morning of life, and gilt with any tinsel, the weather-cock for the morning sun.

You may perceive, my dear aunt, by my having got so finely to the weather-cock, and the rising sun, that I am out of the hands of all 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."

Jan. 6.

I have to give you the most cheering accounts of Honora and Lucy. Honora is now on the sofa opposite to me, working with her candle beside her on a bracket—my new year's gift to the sofas, a mahogany bracket on each side of the chimney-piece to fold up or down, and large enough to hold a candlestick and a teacup or work-box. Mary Beddoes and I are on the sofa next the door; Honora and Anna on the other, and somebody sitting in the middle talking by turns to each sofa. Who can that be? Not Harriet, for tea is over and she has seceded to Lucy's room—not my mother, nor William, nor Mrs. Beaufort, nor Louisa, for the carriage has carried them away some hours ago, poor souls, and full-dressed bodies, to dine at Ardagh. But who can this Unknown be? A gentleman it must be to constitute the happiness of two sofas of ladies.

My nephew, Henry Beddoes! and the joy of ladies he certainly will be, not merely of aunts and sisters, but of all who can engage or be engaged by prepossessing manners and appearance, and the promise of all that is amiable and intelligent. I am delighted with him, and he would charm you.

Lady Bathurst has done me another good turn for Fanny Stewart, that is, for her husband; there was a charming letter from Fanny Stewart a few days ago. I send for your amusement the famous little Valoe in its elegantissimo binding, and Lady Bathurst's letter about it, elegantissima also. You remember, I hope, the story of its publication, written by a governess of the Duchess of Beaufort's, assisted by all the conclave of quality young-lady-governesses, with little traits of character of their pupils. The authoress sent it to the Duchess of Beaufort, asking permission to publish and dedicate it to her Grace. The Duchess never read it, and returned it to the Governess with a compliment, and, "publish it by all means, and dedicate it to me." Out came the publication; and though each young lady was flattered, yet all quarrelled with the mode of compliment, and in many there was a little touch of blame, which moved their or their mothers' anger, and with one accord they attacked the Duchess of Beaufort for her permission to publish, and the edition was all bought up in a vast hurry.

In a few days I trust—you know I am a great truster—that you will receive a packet franked by Lord Bathurst, containing only a little pocket-book—Friendships 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 favourite 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 "Take for Granted." [Footnote: "Take for Granted" was an idea which Maria never worked out into a story, though she had made many notes for it.] 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' grovelling 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 L5 note. I was quite ashamed—but I have done all I could for him by giving the Friendship's Offerings 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 L5 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.


By the author of Moral Tales and Practical Education.

Feb. 16_.

I hope my dearest aunt will not disdain the work of my little bungling hands. The vandykes of this apron are such as Vandyke would scorn; poor little pitiful things they be! and will be in rags in a fortnight no doubt. But if you knew the pains I have taken with them, and what pleasure I have had in doing them, even all wrong, you would hang them round you with satisfaction. By the time it is completely roved away I shall be with you and bind it over to its good behaviour, so that it shall never rove again me. Love me and laugh at me as you have done many is the year.

The crocuses and snowdrops in my garden are beautiful; my green-board-edged beds and green trellis make it absolutely a wooden paradise.

I forgot to boast that I was up for three mornings at seven vandyking.

Henry Beddoes told us that Lord Byron was extremely beloved and highly thought of by all whom he heard speak of him at Missolonghi, both Greeks and his own country-men. He had regained public esteem by his latter conduct. The place in which he died was not the worst inn's worst room, but an absolute hovel, without any bed of any kind; he was lying on a sack.

March 15.

You have probably seen in the papers the death of our admirable friend Mrs. Barbauld. I have copied for you her last letter to me and some beautiful lines written in her eightieth year. There is a melancholy elegance and force of thought in both. Elegance and strength—qualities rarely uniting without injury to each other, combine most perfectly in her style, and this rare combination, added to their classical purity, form, perhaps, the distinguishing characteristics of her writings. England has lost a great writer, and we a most sincere friend.


BLACK CASTLE, May 10, 1825.

Your list of presentation copies of Harry and Lucy, and your reasons for giving each, diverted me very much. Sophy and Margaret and I laughed over it and agreed that every reason was like Mr. Plunket's speech, "unanswerable."



With my whole soul I thank you for your most touching letter [Footnote: On the death of Mr. Ruxton.] to my mother, so full of true resignation to GOD'S will, and of those feelings which He has implanted in the human heart for our greatest happiness and our greatest trials. "Fifty-five years!" How much is contained in those words of yours! I loved him dearly, and well I might, most kind he ever was to me, and I felt all his excellent qualities, his manners, his delightful temper. How little did I think when last I saw his kind looks bent upon me that it was for the last time!


Sir Walter Scott, punctual to his promise, arrived on Friday in good time for dinner; he brought with him Miss Scott and Mr. Crampton. 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.

Scarcely had Crampton shaken the dust from his shoes when he said, "Before I eat, and what is more, before I wash my hands, I must see Lucy." He says that he has now no doubt that, please GOD, and in all the humility of hope and gratitude I repeat it, she will perfectly recover.

Captain and Mrs. Scott and Mr. Lockhart were detained in Dublin, and did not come till eleven o'clock, and my mother had supper, and fruit, and everything refreshing for them. Mrs. Scott is perfectly unaffected and rather pretty, with a sweet confiding expression of countenance and fine mild most loving eyes.

Sir Walter delights the hearts 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 delightful 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 favourable impression was left. It being Saturday, religious instruction was going on when we went in. Catholics, with their priest, 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!"

* * * * *

Maria Edgeworth and her sister Harriet accompanied Sir Walter and Miss Scott, Mr. Lockhart and Captain and Mrs. Scott to Killarney. They travelled in an open caleche of Sir Walter's, and Captain Scott's chariot, changing the combination from one carriage to another as the weather or accident suggested. When some difficulty occurred about horses Sir Walter said, "Swift, in one of his letters, when no horses were to be had, says, 'If we had but had a captain of horse to swear for us we should have had the horses at once;' now here we have the captain of horse, but the landlord is not moved even by him."

The little tour was most enjoyable, and greatly was it enjoyed. Neither Sir Walter nor Miss Edgeworth were ever annoyed with the little discomforts of travel, and they found amusement in everything, shaming all with whom they came in contact. Their boatman on the lake of Killarney told Lord Macaulay twenty years afterwards that the pleasure of rowing them had made him amends for missing a hanging that day!

Mrs. Edgeworth relates:

* * * * *

The evening of the day they left Killarney, Sir Walter was unwell, and Maria was much struck by the tender affectionate attention of his son and Mr. Lockhart and their great anxiety. He was quite as usual, however, the next day, and on their arrival in Dublin, the whole party dined at Captain Scott's house in Stephen's Green; he and Mrs. Scott most hospitably inviting, besides Maria and Harriet, my two daughters, Fanny and Mrs. Barry Fox, who had just returned from Italy, and my two sons, Francis and Pakenham, who were coming home for the holidays. It happened to be Sir Walter's birthday, the 15th of August, and his health was drunk with more feeling than gaiety. He and Maria that evening bade farewell to each other, never to meet again in this world.

* * * * *

Twenty-five years later we find Miss Edgeworth writing to Mr. Ticknor, how, in imagination, she could still meet Sir Walter, "with all his benign, calm expression of countenance, his eye of genius, and his mouth of humour—such as genius loved to see him. His very self I see, feeling, thinking, and about to speak."

* * * * *


BLACK CASTLE, August 30, 1825.

I calculate that there can be no use in my writing to Dr. Holland, Killarney, at this time of day, because he must have departed that life. However, I write to Mr. Hallam [Footnote: Mr. Hallam was detained at Killarney by breaking his leg, and Dr. Holland had been staying with him.] this day with a message to Dr. Holland, if there. If you learn that Dr. Holland can come to Edgeworthstown, you will of course tell me, if it be within the possibility of time and space; I would go home even for the chance of spending an hour with him; therefore be prepared for the shock of seeing me. I do hope he will in his great kindness—which is always beyond what any one ought to hope—I do hope he will contrive to go to Edgeworthstown. How delightful to have Lucy sitting up like a lady beside you!

The Lords Bective and Darnley, and Sir Marcus Somerville, and LORD knows who, are all at this moment broiling in Navan at a Catholic meeting, saying and hearing the same things that have been said and heard 100,000,000 times; one certain good will result from it that I shall have a frank for you and save you sevenpence. I will send a number of the New Monthly Magazine as old as the hills to Fanny, with a review of Tremaine, which will interest her, as she will find me there, like Mahomet's coffin, between heaven and earth. My Aunt Sophy and Mag are all reading Harry and Lucy, and all reading it bit by bit, the only way in which it can be fairly judged. My aunt's being really interested and entertained by it, as I see she is, quite surpasses my hopes. Feelings of gratitude to Honora should have made me write this specially to her, only that I was afraid she might think that I thought that she thought of nothing but Harry and Lucy, which, upon the word of a reasonable creature, I do not. My aunt is entertained with Clarke's Life, though he says that all literary ladies are horse godmothers. In the Evening Mail of Monday last there are extracts from some speculations of Dr. Barry, an English physician at Paris, on the effect of atmospheric pressure in causing the motion of the blood in the veins. If you see Dr. Holland, ask him about this and its application in preventing the effect of poison.

In Bakewell's Travels in Switzerland there is an account apropos to ennui being the cause of suicide, of the death of Berthollet's son, who shut himself up in a room with a brasier of charcoal; a paper was found on the table with an account of his feelings during the operation of the fumes of the charcoal upon him to the last moment that he could make his writing intelligible.


EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Nov. 27, 1825.

Our two boys were at home in August, and the happiest of the happy with two ponies and four sisters. Francis's poem of "Saul" won a medal, and Pakenham's "Jacob," a miniature Horace.

You may have seen in the papers the account of the burning of Castle Forbes, in the county of Longford. Lord Forbes was wakened by his dog, or he would have been suffocated and burned in his bed. He showed great presence of mind: carried out, first, a quantity of gunpowder which was in a closet into which the flames were entering; and next, the family papers and pictures. A valuable collection of prints and books were lost: key not to be found in the scuffle, and servants and other ignoramuses, conceiving the biggest volumes must be the most valuable, wasted their energies upon folios of Irish House of Commons Journals and Statutes. The castle was in three hours' time reduced to the bare walls. I am forgetting a fact for which I began this story. A gentleman was, by the force of motive, endued with such extraordinary strength in the midst of that night's danger, that he wrenched from its iron spike and pedestal a fine marble bust of Cromwell, carried it downstairs, and threw it on the grass. Next morning he could not lift it! and no one man who tried could stir it.


EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Dec. 19, 1825.

I wish you to have a letter from Dr. Holland before it gets stale: therefore you must forgive me for writing on this thin paper, for no other would waft it to you free.

Your observations about the difficulties of "Taking 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 ratcatcher."

* * * * *

"Taking for Granted" was laid aside by Miss Edgeworth for ten years after this. When Mr. Ticknor was at Edgeworthstown in 1835, he says:

* * * * *

Miss Edgeworth was anxious to know what instances I had ever witnessed of persons suffering from "taking for granted" what proved false, and desired me quite earnestly, and many times, to write to her about it; "for," she added, "you would be surprised if you knew how much I pick up in this way." "The story," she said, "must begin lightly, and the early instances of mistake might be comic, but it must end tragically." I told her I was sorry for this. "Well," said she, "I can't help it, it must be so. The best I can do for you is, to leave it quite uncertain whether it is possible the man who is to be my victim can ever be happy again or not."

* * * * *

On her father's death, Miss Edgeworth had resigned the management of his estates to their new owner, her half-brother Lovell, but, in the universal difficulties which affected the money market in 1826, she was induced to resume her post, acting in everything as her brother's agent, but taking the entire responsibility. By consummate care and prudence she weathered the storm which swamped so many in this financial crisis. The great difficulty was paying everybody when rents were not to be had; but she 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, and yet never distressing the tenants.

The second part of Harry and Lucy was published this year, having been written at various intervals since 1813. Like its predecessor, it had as its object to induce children to become their own instructors.

* * * * *


EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Jan. 27, 1826.

These last three weeks I have had multitudes of letters to write, but not one of them have I written with the least pleasure, except that sort of pleasure which we have in doing what we think a duty. Lovell has put the management of his affairs into my hands, and the receiving of his rents; and this is, except one letter which I wrote to the author of Granby, as soon as we had finished that delightful book, the only letter of pleasure in which I have indulged myself.

SONNA, April 6.

Most grateful am I, my dearest aunt, for your wonderful preservation after such a terrible fall! Often and often as I have gone down those three steep stairs have I feared that some accident would occur. Thank GOD that you are safe! I really have but this one idea. We have had agreeable letters from Harriet E. and Sophy Fox, who are very happy at Cloona: the accounts of their little daily employments and pleasures are the most cheering thoughts I can call up at this moment. Happy in the garden looking at crocuses, contriving new beds, etc.; happy in the house, when Harriet reads out, while Sophy works, Granby at night and Peel's and Robinson's speeches by day.

May 27.

You have seen in the papers the death of Lady Scott. In Sir Walter's last letter he had described her sufferings from water on the chest, but we had no idea the danger was so immediate. She was a most kind-hearted, hospitable person, and 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 the time it was much more likely that I should have died, I thought, than she. Sir Walter said he had been interrupted in his letter by many domestic distresses. The first two pages had been begun two months ago, and were in answer to a letter of mine inquiring about the truth of his losses, etc. Of these he spoke with cheerful fortitude, but with no bravado. He said that his losses had been great, but that he had enough left to live on; that he had had many gratifying offers of assistance, but that what he had done foolishly he would bear manfully; that he would take it all upon his own shoulders, and that he had great comfort in knowing that Lady Scott was not a person who cared about money, and that "Beatrice," as he calls Anne Scott, bore her altered prospects with cheerfulness. "She is of a very generous disposition, and poor Janie proffered her whole fortune as if it had been a gooseberry."

After writing this much the letter appeared to have been thrown aside and forgotten to be sent, till he was roused again by a letter from me about poor Mr. Jephson. The domestic distresses which had interrupted the course of his thoughts were, the illness of his dear little grandson Lockhart, one of the finest and most engaging children I ever saw; and then Lady Scott's illness and death. He says that the letters of Malachy Malagrowther cost him but a day apiece.

July 10.

Sir Humphry Davy has been with us since Thursday, and his visit has been delightful; he has always been kind and constant in his friendship to us. I had expressed a great wish to see the "Discourses" which he annually addressed to the Royal Society, as President, on the presentation of the medals. He has been urged to publish them, but to this he has never yet consented. I had the courage—indeed, I thought at the time the rashness—to ask him to let me see the MS. of one which I was particularly anxious to see, as it related to Dr. Brinkley: Sir Humphry was so very kind to have a copy made for me of all his Discourses. I found them fully equal to my expectations, quite worthy of the genius and reputation of Sir Humphry Davy, and becoming the President of the Royal Society of England; giving a complete view of the discoveries and progress of science in England within the last six years, compressed into the smallest compass compatible with clearness, written with all the dignity of perfect simplicity and candour, like one sensible to national glory, but free from national jealousy; whose great object as a philosopher is the general advancement of science over the whole world, and whose great pleasure is in conferring well-earned praise. His addresses to those to whom he presents the medals are NOBLE—always appreciating the past with generous satisfaction, yet continually exciting to future exertion. In each new discovery he opens views beyond what the discoverer had foreseen, and from each new invention shows how fresh combinations present themselves, so that in the world of science there must be room enough for the exertions of all: the best and truest moral against envy, and all those petty jealousies which have disgraced scientific as well as literary men.

Travelling, and his increased acquaintance with the world, has enlarged the range without lowering the pitch of Sir Humphry's mind—an allusion I have borrowed from an entertaining essay on training hawks sent to me by Sir John Sebright. Do you know that there is at this moment a gentleman in Ireland, near Belfast, who trains hawks and goes a-hawking—a Mr. Sinclair?

Sir Humphry repeated to us a remarkable criticism of Buonaparte'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 Humphry, "Buonaparte, as he said this, folded his arms in his well-known manner, and stood as if his attitude expressed the sentiment."

Sir Humphry thinks that, of all of royal race he has seen, legitimate or illegitimate, noble par l'epee, or noble by "just hereditary sway," the late Emperor of Russia was the most really noble-minded and the least ostentatious. A vast number of his munificent gifts to men of letters are known only to those by whom they were received. He has frequently sent tokens of approbation to scientific men in various foreign countries for inventions in arts and sciences which he had found useful in his dominions. A caisse arrived from Russia for Sir Humphry, which he thought were some mineralogical specimens which had been promised to him; but on opening it there appeared a superb piece of plate, with a letter from the Emperor of Russia presenting it to him, as a mark of gratitude for the safety lamp. The design on the plate, the Emperor adds, was his own: it represents the genius of fire, with his bow and arrows broken.

Among other good things which Sir Humphry accomplished in his travels was the abolition of the corda, of ancient use in Naples,—an instrument of torture by which the criminal was hung up by a cord tied round his joined wrists, and then pulled down and let fall from a height, dislocating his wrists to a certainty, and giving a chance of breaking his arms and legs. This instrument chanced to be set up near the hotel where Sir Humphry and Lady Davy resided: they could not bear the sight, and changed their lodgings. The next time Sir Humphry was at Court the King asked why he had changed his residence. Sir Humphry explained, and expressed himself so strongly, that he awakened dormant Royal feeling, and this instrument of torture was abolished. Sir Humphry had previously represented to our Queen Caroline, then at Naples, that here was an opportunity of doing good, and of rendering herself deservedly popular. She was struck with the idea at the time, but forgot it; and then Sir Humphry took it up, and with the assistance of the public opinion of all the English, it was accomplished.

Yesterday, when I came down to breakfast, I found Sir Humphry with a countenance radiant with pleasure, and eager to tell me that Captain Parry is to be sent out upon a new Polar expedition.

August 14.

This day, my dearest aunt, our wishes have been accomplished—the sacred, awful vow has been pronounced, and Harriet and Mr. Butler drove from the church door to Cloona. [Footnote: Harriet, second daughter of the fourth Mrs. Edgeworth, married the Rev. Richard Butler, Rector of Trim, and afterwards Dean of Clonmacnoise.]

Lucy bore the trials of the day wonderfully well. She was at the wedding, and much agitated when it came to the conclusion and the parting; but there was, fortunately, something to be done immediately afterwards—Sophy's [Footnote: Mrs. Barry Fox.] child to be christened; a very nice, pretty little child it is—Maxwell.

William Beaufort alarmed us by a sudden illness on Saturday: however, he was able to appear today and perform both ceremonies, and does not seem to have suffered by the double exertion.


BLACK CASTLE, Sept. 3, 1826.

Thank you for wishing to be with me, but I am sure it will be better for you to be at the sea. Here, though I am obliged to think of actual business between-times, I have every motive and means for diversion for myself, both on my own account and on my aunt's. We run in and out, and laugh and talk nonsense; and every little thing amuses us together: the cat, the dog, the hog, Mr. Barry, or a parachute blown from the dandelion.

Nov. 19.

Bess Fitzherbert has written an entertaining letter to Mrs. Barry, in which she mentions one of the dishes they had just had at dinner at Pozzo, between Modena and Bologna: cold boiled eels, with preserved pears, a toothpick or skewer stuck in each to take them up by, instead of a fork. My aunt's friend, Madame Boschi, near Bologna, offered to send a garden-chair drawn by bullocks for Bess, the road not being passable for common cattle.


EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Dec. 26, 1826.

I send your account, and have done my best. I have not read Boyne Water, but have got Lindley Murray's Memoir, and thank you for mentioning it. Harriet and Mr. Butler come to-morrow. Sophy Fox and Barry, and their beautiful and amiable little Maxwell, are here. 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 you used to call to 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. Never did infant cry less than Maxwell: in short, it is the most charming little animal I ever saw. "Animal yourself, sir!" [Footnote: Mr. Edgeworth, admiring a baby in a nurse's arms, called it "a fine little animal." To which the nurse indignantly replied, "Animal yourself, sir!"]

Pakenham ornamented the library yesterday with holly, and crowned plaster-of-Paris Sappho with laurels, and Mrs. Hope's picture with myrtle (i.e. box), and perched a great stuffed owl in an ivy bush on the top of a great screen which shades the sofa by the fire from the window at its back. I am excessively happy to be at home again, after my four months' absence at Black Castle.


EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Dec. 28, 1826.

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 sofa and in arm-chair the mother and daughter and grand-child.


EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Feb. 26, 1827.

By some strange chance I was taken away from home just after the time when Colonel Stewart's pamphlet on India, which you were so kind as to send me, arrived; in short, I never read it till a few days ago. I am in admiration of it; it is beautifully written, with such clearness, lucid order, simplicity, dignity, strength, and eloquence—eloquence resulting from strong feeling. The views of its vast subject are comprehensive and masterly; the policy sound, both theoretically and practically considered; the morality as sound as the policy, indeed no policy can be sound unless joined with morality. The sensibility and philanthropy that not only breathe but live and act in this book are of the true, manly, enduring sort—not the affected, sickly, spurious kind, which is displayed only for the trick of the poet or orator. It is a book which a good and wise man must ever rejoice in having written, and which will be satisfactory to him even to the last moment of his life.

Have you seen the Tales of the O'Hara Family—the second series? They are of unequal value; one called the "Nowlans" is a work of great genius. Another book has much amused us, Captain Head's Rough Sketches, most animated and masterly sketches of his journey across the Pampas. There is much information and much good political economy condensed in his three chapters on speculators.


EDGEWORTHSTOWN, March 4, 1827.

I went with Pakenham to meet my mother at Castle Pollard, and we had such a nice long talk in the carriage coming back, our tongues never intermitting one single second, I believe. I am glad you liked my graceful gentleman-like bear, and his graceful gentleman-like Italian leader. [Footnote: A travelling showman and bear.] We have had a succession of actors and actresses, as I may call them, personating beggars, all at the last gasp of distress; so perfect, too, was one Englishwoman that she set at defiance all the combined ingenuity of the Library in cross-questioning her, and after writing a long letter for her to a Rev. Mr. Strainer, of Athlone, I was quite at a loss to decide whether she was a cheat or not, when one of the Longford police officers chanced to dine with us, I mentioned her, and out came the truth; she had imposed on him and every one at Longford, and had borrowed a child to pass for her own. We sent for our distressed lady, who was very "sick and weak with a huge blister on her chest," and low voice and delicate motions. Oh! if you had seen her when the police officer came into the room and charged her with the borrowed child. Her countenance, voice, and motions all at once changed; her voice went up at once to scold-pitch, and turning round on her chair she faced the chief; but words in writing cannot do justice to the scene. I must act it for you.

We are now reading the Voyage of the "Blonde" to the Sandwich Islands, with the remains of the King and the Queen. [Footnote: King Kamehameha II., of the Sandwich Islands, and his Queen, who died of the measles in John Street, Adelphi, in 1824.] Pray get this book, it will delight you. Of the Blonde, you know the present Lord Byron is commander—the name strikes the ear continually—new fame, new associations; reverting, too, to the old Commodore Byron's sort of fame. How curious, how fleeting "this life in other's breath!"

A little box of curiosities from my most amiable American Jewess my mother presented to me this morning at the breakfast table: I was in an ecstasy, but shortlived was my joy, for I was thunderstruck the next instant by my mother's catching my arm and stopping my hand with the vehement exclamation, "Stop, stop, child, you don't know what you are doing."—"No, indeed, ma'am, I don't—what am I doing?" She took the wreath of cotton wool from my passive hand and showed me, wrapped up in it, a humming-bird, luckily unhurt, unsquelched. The humming-bird's nest is more beautiful than the creature itself. Poor Lord Liverpool—no one can wish his existence prolonged.

The painful family of death More hideous than their queen.

April 8.

I am quite well and in high good-humour and good spirits in consequence of having received the whole of Lovell's half-year's rents in full, with pleasure to the tenants, and without the least fatigue or anxiety to myself.

We are reading the second part of Vivian Grey, which we like better than the first. There is a scene of gamesters and swindlers wonderfully well done. I know who wrote Almack's. Lady de Ros tells me it is by Mrs. Purvis, sister to Lady Blessington; this accounts for both the knowledge of high, and the habits of low, life which appear in the book. "Poor dear Almack's," Lady de Ros says, is not what it was—when people were poor in London, and there were few private balls, Almack's was all in all. Her sailor son is going to publish a Journal of a Tour, including the United States and Niagara.


EDGEWORTHSTOWN, April 12, 1827.

Now I have done all my agent business, I will tell you what Mr. Hope, in a letter I had from him this morning, says of Almack's. "It might have been a pretty thing, but I think it but a poor one. Of all slangs, that of fashion is easiest overdone. People do not hold forth about what is with them a matter of course. Willis, or his waiters, might have furnished all the characteristic materials. The author ever and anon makes up for want of wit by stringing together common French milliner phrases, which have no merit but that of being exotics in England. The point consists in his italics. Besides, he only describes the proceedings, not the spirit of the institution of Almack's. It was rather a bold thing in London to put FEASTING out of fashion, and to make a seven-shilling ball the thing to which all aspired to be admitted, and many without the least hope of succeeding. It was the triumph of aristocracy over mere wealth. It put down the Grimes's of former days, with their nectarines and peaches at Christmas, and in so far it improved society."

All this is very true, but I do not think he does justice to the author. I particularly like the dialogue in the third volume, where Lady Anne Norbury debits and credits her hopes of happiness with her two admirers: no waiting-maid could have written that. In the second volume, also, I think there is a scene between Lord and Lady Norbury in their dressing-room, about getting rid of their guests and making room for others, which is nicely touched: the Lord and Lady are politely unfeeling; it is all kept within bounds.

Mr. Hope begs me to read Truckleborough Hall. Of late novels he says it is that which has amused him most. "Both sides of the political question are reviewed most impartially; both quizzed a little, and the reader left in doubt to which the author leans. The transition in the hero from rank Radicalism to a seat on the Treasury Bench, while persuading himself all the time that he remains consistent, is exceedingly well managed. Interest in the story there is none, because the subject admits not of it. Like the high-finished Dutch pictures, mere truth, well and minutely told, makes all its merit."

Then follows a sentence so complimentary to myself that I cannot copy it, and perhaps you have had enough. I trust you will give me credit, dear Harriet and Sneyd, for copying for you other people's letters, when I have nothing in my own but stupid pounds, shillings, and pence.

In a letter from my friend Mr. Ralston, from Philadelphia, he tells me that seven volumes of Sir Walter Scott's Life of Napoleon have been already printed there, and reviewed in the North American Review. Scott sends his MS. at the same time to London and to America. I tremble for this publication. Anne Scott writes to Harriet that her father is so busy writing, that she scarcely sees anything of him, though they are alone together at Abbotsford. Lockhart is much admired in London for his beauty.

To CAPTAIN BASIL HALL [Footnote: Who had lent a volume of his London Journal to Miss Edgeworth to read.]

EDGEWORTHSTOWN, April 25, 1827.

I really cannot express to you how much you have gratified me by the proof of confidence you have given me. No degree of praise or admiration could flatter me so much: confidence implies something much higher—real esteem for the character. I thank you; you shall not find your confidence misplaced. I trust you will not think I have gone beyond your permission in considering my own family now with me—viz. Mrs. Edgeworth, my sisters, and my brother—as myself. The Journal was read aloud in our library: not a line or a word of it has been copied; and though some passages have, I know, sunk indelibly into the memories of those present, you may rest perfectly secure that they will never go out beyond ourselves. No vanity will ever tempt any one of us to boast of what we have been allowed to read; we shall strictly adhere to your terms, and never mention or allude to the book. It is delightful, most interesting, and entertaining. You may, perhaps, imagine, by conceiving yourself in my place, remote in the middle of Ireland, how entertaining and interesting it must be to be thus suddenly transported into the midst of the best company in London, scientific, political, and fashionable; and not merely into the midst of them, but behind the scenes with you, and after seeing and hearing and knowing your private opinion of all. Considering all this, and further, that numbers of the persons you mention in your Journal we were well acquainted with when we were in London, you may, perhaps, comprehend how much pleasure, of various kinds, we enjoyed while we read on.

The first page I opened upon was the character of Captain Beaufort. Do not shrink at the notion of his most intimate friend, or his sister Mrs. Edgeworth, or his nieces Fanny and Sophy, having seen this character. You need not: we all agree that it does him perfect justice.

Your manner of mentioning Lydia White was quite touching, as well as just. She was all you say of her, and her house and society were the most agreeable of the sort in London, since the time of Lady Crewe. Lydia White, besides being our kind friend, was a near connection of ours by the marriage of her nephew to a cousin of ours; and we have had means of knowing her solid good qualities, as well as those brilliant talents which charmed in society. You may guess, then, how much we were pleased by all you said of her. Of all the people who ever sold themselves to the world, I never knew one who was so well paid as Lydia White, or any one but herself who did not, sooner or later, repent the bargain; but she had strength of mind never to expect more than the world can give, and the world in return behaved to the last remarkably well to her.

All you say of the ill-managed dinner of wits and scientific men I have often felt. There must be a mixture of nonsense with sense, or it will not amalgamate: all wits and no fools, all actors and no audience, make dinners dull things. The same men in their boots, as you say, are quite other people. "Two or three ladies, too"—we were delighted with your finding them useful as well as agreeable on such occasions.

Your account of Sidney Smith's conversation is excellent, and the manner in which you took his criticism showed how well you deserved it. He will be your friend in all the future, and I do not know any man whom I should wish more to make my friend: supereminent talents and an excellent heart, which in my opinion almost always go together. His remarks on the views you should take of America, to work out your own purpose in softening national animosities, are excellent; also all he says of American egotism and nationality. But I should be as ready to forgive vanity in a nation as in an individual, and to make it turn to good account. I have always remarked that little and envious minds are the most acute in detecting vanity in others, and the most intolerant of it. Having nothing to be proud or vain of, they cannot endure that others should enjoy a self-complacency they cannot have.

There is a sentence in one of Burke's letters, which, as far as England is concerned, might do for a motto for your intended travels: "America and we are no longer under the same crown; but if we are united by mutual goodwill and reciprocal good offices, perhaps it may do almost as well."

Will you, my dear sir, trust me with more of your Journals? I think you must see, by the freedom of this letter, that you have truly pleased and obliged me: I have no other plea to offer. It is a common one in this country of mine—common, perhaps, to human nature in all places as well as Ireland—to expect that, when you have done much, you will do more; and you will, won't you? If I could get your little Eliza to say this in a coaxing voice for us, we should be sure of your compliance.



I get up every morning at seven o'clock, and walk out, and find that this does me a vast deal of good. After three-quarters of an hour's walk, [Footnote: Miss Edgeworth continued her early walks for many years. A lady who lodged in the village used to be roused by her maid in the morning with "Miss Edgeworth's walking, ma'am; it's eight o'clock."] I come in to the delight of hearing Fanny read the oddest book I ever heard—a Chinese novel translated into French; a sort of Chinese Truckleborough Hall; politicians and courtiers, with mixture of love and flowers, and court intrigue, and challenging each other to make verses upon all occasions.

My garden is beautiful, and my mother is weeding it for me at this moment. A seedswoman of Philadelphia, to whom Mr. Ralston applied to purchase some seeds for me, as soon as she heard the name, refused to take any payment for a parcel of forty different kinds of seeds. She said she knew my father, as she came from Longford: her name was Hughes.



The day before yesterday we were amusing ourselves by telling who, among literary and scientific people, we should wish to come here next day. Francis said Coleridge; I said Herschel. Yesterday morning, as I was returning from my morning walk at half-past eight, I saw a bonnet-less maid on the walk, with letter in hand, in search of me. When I opened the letter, I found it was from Mr. Herschel! and that he was waiting for an answer at Mr. Briggs's inn. I have seldom been so agreeably surprised; and now that he has spent twenty-four hours here, and that he is gone, I am confirmed in my opinion; and if the fairy were to ask me the question again, I should more eagerly say, "Mr. Herschel, ma'am, if you please." It was really very kind of him to travel all night in the mail, as he did, to spend a few hours here. He is not only a man of the first scientific genius, but his conversation is full of information on all subjects, and he has a taste for humour and playful nonsense, though with a melancholy exterior.

His companion, Mr. Babbage, and he, saw the Giant's Causeway on a stormy day, when the foamy waves beat high against the rocks, and added to the sublimity of the scene. Then he went from the great sublime of Nature to the sublime of Art. He arrived at the place where Colonel Colby is measuring the base line, just at the time when they had completed the repetition of the operation; and he saw, by the instrument, which had not been raised from the spot, that the accuracy of the repetition was within half a dot—the twelve-thousandth part of an inch.

Mr. Herschel has travelled on the Continent. He was particularly pleased with the character of the Tyrolese—their national virtue founded on national piety. One morning, wakening in a cottage inn, he rose, and called in vain in kitchen and parlour: not a body was to be seen, not a creature in yard or stable. At last he heard a distant sound: listening more attentively, and following the sound, he came to a room remote from that in which he had slept, where he found all the inhabitants joining in a hymn, with beautiful voices.

You may remember having seen in the newspapers an account of a philosopher in Germany who made caterpillars manufacture for him a veil of cobweb. The caterpillars were enclosed in a glass case, and, by properly-disposed conveniences and impediments, were induced to work their web up the sides of the glass case. When completed it weighed four-fifths of a grain. Herschel saw it lying on a table, looking like the film of a bubble. When it collapsed a little, and was in that state wafted up into the air, it wreathed like fine smoke. Chantrey, who was present, after looking at it in silent admiration, exclaimed, "What a fool Bernini was to attempt transparent draperies in stone!"

Have you heard of the live camelopard, "twelve foot high, if he is an inch, ma'am?" Herschel is well acquainted with him, and was so fortunate as to see the first interview between him and a kangaroo: it stood and gazed for one instant, and the next leaped at once over the camelopard's head, and he and his great friend became hand and glove.


EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Nov. 14, 1827.

I send the letter you wished for—not to Clery, who is dead, but to Louis Bousset, who was the Abbe Edgeworth's servant, and after his death was taken into Louis XVIII.'s household, accompanied the Royal family to Hartwell, returned with them to France, and now lives on a pension from the French Government and his wife's income; she was widow to the King's saddler. They showed much respect, my brother Sneyd says, to our pious cousin the Abbe Edgeworth's memory, and he was much edified by their manner of living together, Bousset and his wife—he a Catholic, and she a German Protestant, "perfect Christian happiness thoroughly existing between two persons of different Churches, but of the same faith."

Though I admire the instance and exception to general rules, I should not wish a similar experiment to be often repeated, being very much of Dr. Johnson's opinion, that there are so many causes naturally of disagreement between people yoked together, that there is no occasion to add another unnecessarily.



I am very glad to hear that the author of Cyril Thornton is Mrs. Bannatyne's nephew. I have just finished reading it, and had made up my opinion of it, and so had all my family, before we knew that the author was any way connected with you. I am not weary of repeating that I think, and that we all think it the most interesting novel we have read for years; indeed, we could not believe it to be fiction. We read it with all the intense interest which the complete belief in reality commands. Officers of our acquaintance all speak to the reality and truth of the scenes described. Military men and gentlemen are delighted with Cyril Thornton, because he is a gentleman, ay, every inch a gentleman; and with the cut in his face, and all the hashing and mashing he met with in the wars, we are firmly and unanimously of opinion that he must be very engaging. We hope that the author is like his hero in all saving these scars and the loss of his arm; but were the likeness exact even in these, he would be sure of interesting at Edgeworthstown; and we hope that, if ever he comes to Ireland, you and Mrs. Bannatyne will do us the favour to persuade him to come to see us, and to bring his charming wife. We hear she is charming; and, from the good taste and good feeling of his writings, we can readily take it for granted that his choice must be charming, in the best sense of that hackneyed, but still comprehensive word. There is a peculiar delicacy in this book, which delights from being accompanied, as it is, with the strongest evidence of deep sensibility.

* * * * *

Mrs. Mary Sneyd, sister of the second and third Mrs. Edgeworths, who had partially lived with her brother in Staffordshire after the death of her sister Charlotte, returned in 1828 to spend the rest of her life at Edgeworthstown. Here the beautiful and venerable old lady was a central figure in the family home, where all the family vied in loving attentions to her. Mrs. Farrar [Footnote: Author of The Children's Robinson Crusoe, etc.] describes her there:—

"It was a great pleasure to me to see the sister of two of Mr. Edgeworth's wives,—one belonging to the same period, and dressed in the same style as the lovely Honora. She did not appear till lunch-time, when we found her seated at the table in a wheel-chair, on account of her lameness. She reminded me of the pictures of the court beauties of Louis XIV. Her dress was very elaborate. Her white hair had the effect of powder, and the structure on it defies description. A very white throat was set off to advantage by a narrow black velvet ribbon, fastened by a jewel. The finest lace ruffles about her neck and elbows, with a long-waisted silk dress of rich texture and colour, produced an effect that was quite bewitching. She was wonderfully well preserved for a lady over eighty years of age, and it was pleasant to see the great attention paid her by all the family. She was rather deaf, so I was seated by her side and requested to address my conversation to her. When lunch was over she was wheeled into the library, and occupied herself in making a cotton net to put over the wall-fruit to keep it from the birds. It was worth a journey to Edgeworthstown to see this beautiful specimen of old age."

* * * * *



We had a serious alarm this morning, and serious danger, but it is perfectly over now, and no damage done but what a few days' work of plasterer and carpenter can repair. At seven o'clock this morning a roaring was heard in the servants' hall, and Mulvanny, [Footnote: Mulvanny, the knife boy.] who had put on the blower, found the chimney on fire, and Anne [Footnote: Anne, ladies'-maid.] saw dreadful smoke breaking out in the passage going from the anteroom of my aunt's dressing-room. Barney Woods, [Footnote: The steward.] perceiving that it was no common affair of a chimney on fire, had the sense to ring the workman's bell. I was dressed, heard it, and Anne met me coming from my room to inquire what was the matter, and told me—indeed her face told me! Lovell was up and ready—most active and judicious. Thirty men were assembled; water in abundance. Frank Langan indefatigable and most courageous. The long ladder was put up against the house near the pump; up the men went, and bucket after bucket poured down, Mulvanny standing on the top of the chimney. Meantime the great press, next the maid's room, was torn down by men working for life and death, for the smoke was bursting through, and the whole wall horribly hot. The water poured into the chimney would not, for half an hour, go down to the bottom; something stopped it. A terrible smell of burning wood. The water ran through all manner of flues and places and flooded the whole ceiling of the hall. Holes were made to let it through, or the whole ceiling would have come down en masse; the water poured through in floods on the floor; Margaret [Footnote: The housemaid.] and boys sweeping it out of the hall door continually. While the men were at work under Lovell's excellent orders, Honora and I were having all papers and valuables carried out, for we knew that if the flames reached the garrets nothing could save the house. All the title-deed boxes, and lease presses, and all Lovell's, and all your papers, and my grandfather's books, and my father's picture, were safe on the grass in less than one hour. It took three hours before the fire was extinguished, or, I should say, got under. The pump was pumped dry, but Lovell had sent long before a cart with barrels for water to the river—tons of water were used, pouring, pouring incessantly, and this alone could have saved us.

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