The Life and Letters of Maria Edgeworth, Vol. 2
by Maria Edgeworth
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Meanwhile we were to cross Lough Corrib; and well for us that we had the prudence to declare, early in the morning, that we would not take a sail-boat, for a sail-boat is dangerous in the sudden squalls which rise in these mountain regions and on these lakes, very like the Swiss lakes for that matter. For instance, on the Lake de Lucerne, I have seen sunshine and glassy surface change in five minutes to storm and cloud so black and thick, that Mont Pilate himself could not be discerned through it more than if he never stood there in all his sublimity.

Our day had changed, and very rough was the lake; and the boatmen, to comfort us and no doubt amuse themselves, as we rose up and down on the billows, told us stories of boats that had been lost in these storms, and of young Mr. Brown last year, that was drowned in a boat within view of his brother standing on that island, which we were just then to pass. "And when so near he could almost have reached him, you'd have thought."

"And why didn't he, then?" said I.

"Oh, bless you, ma'am, he couldn't; for," said the boatman, dropping his oar, which I did not like at all, "for, mind you, ma'am, it was all done in the clap of one's hand," and he clapped his hands.

"Well, take up your oar," cried I; which he did, and rowed amain, and we cleared Brown's Island, and I have no more dangers, fancied or other, to tell you; and after two hours' hard rowing, which may give you the measure of the width of Lough Corrib at this place, we landed, and were right glad to eat Mrs. O'Flaherty's ready dinner, Lough Corrib trout—not the White Lady trout.

Sir Culling had intended to pursue his road this evening and reach Lough Corrib Lodge to sleep, but before we got the first mouthful of dinner into our mouths it was stone-dark, whatever kind of darkness that is, and we agreed on old George's excellent principle to leave it till "morning, ma'am, if you please."

So the morning came, and a fine morning still it was; and we set out, leaving Mrs. O'Flaherty curtseying and satisfied. I cannot make out any wonders, or anything like an adventure between Outerard and Corrib Lodge; only the road was rough and the country like the Isle of Anglesea, as if stones and fragments of rock had showered down on the earth and tracts of bog-heath such as England never saw and Scotland seldom sees, except in the Highlands. We were only about twice the time that Sir Culling had calculated on getting over this part of the road with our powerful Galway horses and steady drivers, and reaching Corrib Lodge Sir Culling said: "These roads are not so very bad, we shall get on, Miss Edgeworth, very well, you will see."

Corrib Lodge is a neat bleak-looking house, which Mr. Nimmo built for his own residence when he was overseer of the roads, now turned into an inn, kept by his Scotch servant, who used to come with him to Edgeworthstown, and he gave us bread and butter and milk, and moreover, hare-soup, such as the best London tavern might have envied. For observe, that hares abound in these parts, and there is no sin in killing them, and how the cook came to be so good I cannot tell you, but so it certainly was. Invigorated and sanguine, we were ready to get into the carriage again, purposing to reach Clifden this evening—it was now three o'clock; we had got through half our thirty-six miles; no doubt we could easily, Sir Culling argued, manage the other half before dark. But our wary Scotch host shook his head and observed, that if his late master Mr. Nimmo's road was but open so we might readily, but Mr. Nimmo's new road was not opened, and why, because it was not finished. Only one mile or so remained unfinished, and as that one mile of unmade unfinished road was impassable by man, boy, or Connemara pony, what availed the new road for our heavy carriage and four horses? There was no possibility of going round, as I proposed; we must go the old road, if road it could be called, all bog and bog-holes, as our host explained to us: "It would be wonderful if we could get over it, for no carriage had ever passed, nor ever thought of attempting to pass, nothing but a common car these two years at least, except the Marquis of Anglesea and suite, and his Excellency was on horseback." As for such a carriage as Sir Culling's, the like, as men and boys at the door told us, had never been seen in these parts.

Sir Culling stood a little daunted. We inquired—I particularly, how far it was to Ballinahinch Castle, where the Martins live, and which I knew was some miles on this side of Clifden. I went into Corrib Lodge and wrote with ink on a visiting ticket with "Miss Edgeworth" on it, my compliments, and Sir Culling and Lady Smith's, a petition for a night's hospitality, to use in case of our utmost need.

The Scotchman could not describe exactly how many bad steps there were, but he forewarned us that they were bad enough, and as he sometimes changed the words bad steps into sloughs, our Galway postillions looked graver and graver, hoped they should get their horses over, but did not know; they had never been this road, never farther than Outerard, but they would do all that men and beasts could do.

The first bad step we came to was indeed a slough, but only a couple of yards wide across the road. The horses, the moment they set their feet upon it, sank up to their knees, and were whipped and spurred, and they struggled and floundered, and the carriage, as we inside passengers felt, sank and sank. Sir Culling was very brave and got down to help. The postillions leaped off, and bridles in hand gained the shore, and by dint of tugging, and whipping, and hallooing, and dragging of men and boys, who followed from Corrib Lodge, we were got out and were on the other side.

Farther on we might fare worse from what we could learn, so in some commotion we got out and said we would rather walk. And when we came to the next bad step, the horses, seeing it was a slough like the first, put back their ears and absolutely refused to set foot upon it, and they were, the postillions agreed, quite right; so they were taken off and left to look on, while by force of arms the carriage was to be got over by men and boys, who shouting, gathered from all sides, from mountain paths down which they poured, and from fields where they had been at work or loitering; at the sight of the strangers they flocked to help—such a carriage had never been seen before—to help common cars, or jaunting cars over these bad steps they had been used. "This heavy carriage! sure it was impossible, but sure they might do it." And they talked and screamed together in English and Irish equally unintelligible to us, and in spite of all remonstrance about breaking the pole—pole, and wheels, and axle, and body, they seized of the carriage, and standing and jumping from stone to stone, or any tuft of bog that could bear them, as their practised eyes saw; they, I cannot tell you how, dragged, pushed, and screamed the carriage over. And Sir Culling got over his way, and Lady Smith would not be carried, but leaping and assisted by men's arms and shouts, she got to the other side. And a great giant, of the name of Ulick Burke, took me up in his arms as he might a child or a doll, and proceeded to carry me over—while I, exceedingly frightened and exceedingly civil, and (as even in the moment of most danger I could not help thinking and laughing within me at the thought) very like Rory in his dream on the eagle's back, in his journey to the moon, I kept alternately flattering my giant, and praying—"Sir, sir, pray set me down; do let me down now, sir, pray."

"Be asy; be quite, can't you, dear, and I'll carry you over to the other side safely, all in good time," floundering as he went.

"Thank you, sir, thank you. Now, sir, now set me down, if you will be so very good, on the bank."

Just as we reached the bank he stumbled and sank knee-deep, but threw me, as he would a sack, to shore, and the moment I felt myself on terra firma, I got up and ran off, and never looked back, trusting that my giant knew his own business; and so he did, and all dirt and bog water, was beside me again in a trice. "Did not I carry you over well, my lady? Oh, it's I am used to it, and helped the Lord Anglesea when he was in it."

So as we walked on, while the horses were coming over, I don't know how, Ulick and a tribe of wild Connemara men and boys followed us, all talking at once, and telling us there were twenty or thirty such bad steps, one worse than another, farther and farther on. It was clear that we could not walk all the twelve miles, and the men and Sir Culling assuring us that they would get us safe over, and that we had better get into the carriage again, and in short that we must get in, we submitted.

I confess, Pakenham, I was frightened nearly out of my wits. At the next trial Lady Culling Smith was wonderfully brave, and laughed when the carriage was hauled from side to side, so nearly upset, that how each time it escaped I could not tell; but at last, when down it sank, and all the men shouted and screamed, her courage fell, and she confessed afterwards she thought it was all over with us, and that we should never be got out of this bog-hole. Yet out we were got; but how? what with the noise, and what with the fright, far be it from me to tell you. But I know I was very angry with a boy for laughing in the midst of it: a little dare-devil of a fellow, as my giant Ulick called him; I could with pleasure have seen him ducked in bog water! but forgot my anger in the pleasure of safe landing, and now I vowed I could and would walk the whole ten miles farther, and would a thousand times rather.

My scattered senses and common sense returning, it now occurred to me that it would be desirable to avail myself of the card I had in my bag, and beg a night's lodging at our utmost need. It was still broad daylight, to be sure, and Sir Culling still hoped we should get on to Clifden before dark. But I did request he would despatch one of these gossoons to Ballinahinch Castle with my card immediately. It could do no harm I argued, and Lady Smith seconded me with, "Yes, dear Culling, do," and my dear giant Ulick backed me with, "Troth, you're right enough, ma'am. Troth, sir, it will be dark enough soon, and long enough before you're clean over them sloughs, farthest on beyant where we can engage to see you over. Sure, here's my own boy will run with the speed of light with the lady's card."

I put it into his hand with the promise of half a crown, and how he did take to his heels!

We walked on, and Ulick, who was a professional wit as well as a giant, told us the long-ago tale of Lord Anglesea's visit to Connemara, and how as he walked beside his horse this gentleman-lord, as he was, had axed him which of his legs he liked best.

Now Ulick knew right well that one was a cork leg, but he never let on, as he told us, and pretended the one leg was just the same as t'other, and he saw no differ in life, "which pleased my lord-liftenant greatly, and then his lordship fell to explaining to me why it was cork, and how he lost it in battle, which I knew before as well as he did, for I had larned all about it from our Mr. Martin, who was expecting him at the castle, but still I never let on, and handled the legs one side of the horse and t'other and asy found out, and tould him, touching the cork, 'sure this is the more honourable.'"

Which observation surely deserved, and I hope obtained half a crown. Our way thus beguiled by Ulick's Irish wit, we did not for some time feel that we could not walk for ever. Lady Culling Smith complained of being stiff and tired, and we were compelled to the carriage again, and presently heavy dews of evening falling, we were advised to let down those fairy-board shutters I described to you, which was done with care and cost of nails. I did it at last, and oh! how I wished it up again when we were boxed up, and caged in without the power of seeing more than glimpses of our danger—glimpses heightening imagination, and, if we were to be overturned, all this glass to be broken into our eyes and ears.

Well! well! I will not wear your sympathy and patience eighteen times out, with the history of the eighteen sloughs we went, or were got, through at the imminent peril of our lives. Why the carriage was not broken to pieces I cannot tell, but an excellent strong carriage it was, thank Heaven, and the builder whoever he was.

I should have observed to you that while we yet could look about us, we had continually seen, to increase our sense of vexation, Nimmo's new road looking like a gravel walk running often parallel to our path of danger, and yet for want of being finished there it was, useless and most tantalising.

Before it grew quite dark, Sir Culling tapped at our dungeon window, and bid us look out at a beautiful place, a paradise in the wilds. "Look out? How?"—"Open the little window at your ear, and this just before you—push the bolt back."—"But I can't."

With the help of an ivory cutter lever, however, I did accomplish it, and saw indeed a beautiful place belonging, our giant guide told us, to Dean Mahon, well wooded and most striking in this desert.

It grew dark, and Sir Culling, very brave, walking beside the carriage, when we came to the next bad step, sank above his knees; how they dragged him out I could not see, and there were we in the carriage stuck fast in a slough, which, we were told, was the last but one before Ballinahinch Castle, when my eyes were blessed with a twinkling light in the distance—a boy with a lantern. And when, breathless, he panted up to the side of the carriage and thrust up lantern and note (we still in the slough), how glad I was to see him and it! and to hear him say, "Then Mr. Martin's very unaasy about yees—so he is."

"I am very glad of it—very glad indeed," said I. The note in a nice lady's hand from Mrs. Martin greeted us with the assurance that Miss Edgeworth and her English friends should be welcome at Ballinahinch Castle.

Then from our mob another shout! another heave! another drag, and another lift by the spokes of the wheels. Oh! if they had broken!——but they did not, and we were absolutely out of this slough. I spare you the next and last, and then we wound round the Lake-road in the dark, on the edge of Ballinahinch lake on Mr. Martin's new road, as our dear giant told us, and I thought we should never get to the house, but at last we saw a chimney on fire, at least myriads of sparks and spouts of flame, but before we reached it, it abated, and we came to the door without seeing what manner of house or castle it might be, till the hall door opened and a butler—half an angel he appeared to us—appeared at the door. But then in the midst of our impatience I was to let down and buckle up these fairy boards—at last swinging and slipping it was accomplished, and out we got, but with my foot still on the step we all called out to tell the butler we were afraid some chimney was on fire. Without deigning even to look up at the chimney, he smiled and motioned us the way we should go. He was as we saw at first view, and found afterwards, the most imperturbable of men.

And now that we are safely housed, and housed in a castle too, I will leave you, my dear Pakenham, for the present.

March 12.

What became of the chimney on fire, I cannot tell—the Imperturbable was probably right in never minding it; he was used to its ways of burning out, and being no more thought of.

He showed us into a drawing-room, where we saw by firelight a lady alone—Mrs. Martin, tall and thin, in deep mourning. Though by that light, but dimly visible, and by our eyes dazed as they were just coming out of the dark, but imperfectly seen, yet we could not doubt at first sight that she was a lady in the highest sense of the word, perfectly a gentlewoman. And her whole manner of receiving us, and the ease of her motions, and of her conversation, in a few moments convinced me that she must at some time of her life have been accustomed to live in the best society—the best society in Ireland; for it was evident from her accent that she was a native—high-life Dublin tone of about forty years ago. The curls on her forehead, mixed with gray, prematurely gray, like your mother's, much older than the rest of her person.

She put us at ease at once, by beginning to talk to us, as if she was well acquainted with my family—and so she was from William, who had prepossessed her in our favour, yet she did not then allude to him, though I could not but understand what she meant to convey—I liked her.

Then came in, still by firelight, from a door at the farther end of the room, a young lady, elegantly dressed in deep mourning. "My daughter—Lady Culling Smith—Miss Edgeworth:" slight figure, head held up and thrown back. She had the resolution to come to the very middle of the room and make a deliberate and profound curtsey, which a dancing-master of Paris would have approved; seated herself upon the sofa, and seemed as if she never intended to speak. Mrs. Martin showed us up to our rooms, begging us not to dress unless we liked it before dinner; and we did not like it, for we were very much tired, and it was now between eight and nine o'clock. Bedchambers spacious. Dinner, we were told, was ready whenever we pleased, and, well pleased, down we went: found Mr. Martin in the drawing-room—a large Connemara gentleman, white, massive face; a stoop forward in his neck, the consequence of a shot in the Peninsular War.

"Well! will you come to dinner? dinner's ready. Lady Culling Smith, take my arm; Sir Culling, Miss Edgeworth."

A fine large dining-room, and standing at the end of the table an odd-looking person, below the middle height, youngish, but the top and back of his head perfectly bald, like a bird's skull, and at each temple a thick bunch of carroty red curly hair, thick red whiskers and light blue eyes, very fair skin and carnation colour. He wore a long green coat, and some abominable coloured thing round his throat, and a look as if he could not look at you, and would. I wondered what was to become of this man, and he looked as if he wondered too. But Mr. Martin, turning abruptly, said, "M'Hugh! where are you, man? M'Hugh, sit down man, here!"

And M'Hugh sat down. I afterwards found he was an essential person in the family: M'Hugh here, M'Hugh there; very active, acute, and ready, and bashful, a daredevil kind of man, that would ride, and boat, and shoot in any weather, and would at any moment hazard his life to save a fellow-creature's. Miss Martin sat opposite to me, and with the light of branches of wax candles full upon her, I saw that she was very young, about seventeen, very fair, hair which might be called red by rivals and auburn by friends, her eyes blue-gray, prominent, like pictures I have seen by Leonardo da Vinci.

But Miss Martin must not make me forget the dinner, and such a dinner! London bon vivants might have blessed themselves! Venison such as Sir Culling declared could not be found in England, except from one or two immense parks of noblemen favoured above their peers; salmon, lobsters, oysters, game, all well cooked and well served, and well placed upon the table: nothing loaded, all in good taste, as well as to the taste; wines, such as I was not worthy of, but Sir Culling knew how to praise them; champagne, and all manner of French wines.

In spite of a very windy night, I slept admirably well, and wakened with great curiosity to see what manner of place we were in. From the front windows of my room, which was over the drawing-room, I looked down a sudden slope to the only trees that could be seen, far or near, and only on the tops of them. From the side window a magnificent but desolate prospect of an immense lake and bare mountains.

When I went down, and to the hall door at which we had entered the night before, I was surprised to see neither mountains, lake, nor river—all flat as a pancake—a wild, boundless sort of common, with showers of stones; no avenue or regular approach, no human habitation within view: and when I walked up the road and turned to look at the castle, nothing could be less like a castle. From the drawing I send you (who it was done by I will tell you by and by), you would imagine it a real castle, bosomed high in trees. Such flatterers as those portrait-painters of places are! And yet it is all true enough, if you see it from the right point of view. Much I wished to see more of the inhabitants of this castle, but we were to pursue our way to Clifden this day; and with these thoughts balancing in my mind of wish to stay, and ought to go, I went to breakfast—coffee, tea, hot rolls, ham, all luxuries.

Isabella did not make her appearance, but this I accounted for by her having been much tired. She had complained of rheumatic pains, but I had thought no more about them. Little was I aware of all that was to be. "L'homme propose: Dieu dispose." Lady Culling Smith at last appeared, hobbling, looking in torture, leaning on her husband's arm, and trying to smile on our hospitable hosts, all standing up to receive her. Never did I see a human creature in the course of one night so changed. When she was to sit down, it was impossible: she could not bend her knees, and fell back in Sir Culling's arms. He was excessively frightened. His large powerful host carried her upstairs, and she was put to bed by her thin, scared-looking, but excellent and helpful maid; and this was the beginning of an illness which lasted above three weeks. Little did we think, however, at the beginning how bad it would be. We thought it only rheumatism, and I wrote to Honora that we should be detained a few days longer—from day to day put off. Lady Culling Smith grew alarmingly ill. There was only one half-fledged doctor at Clifden: the Martins disliked him, but he was sent for, and a puppy he proved, thinking of nothing but his own shirt-buttons and fine curled hair. Isabella grew worse and worse—fainting-fits; and Mrs. and Miss Martin, both accustomed to prescribe for the country-people in want of all medical advice in these lone regions, went to their pharmacopoeias and medicine-chest, and prescribed various strong remedies, and ran up and down stairs, but could not settle what the patient's disease was, whether gout or rheumatism; and these required quite different treatment: hands and lips were swelled and inflamed, but not enough to say it was positively gout, then there was fear of drawing the gout to the stomach, and if it was not gout!—All was terror and confusion; and poor Sir Culling, excessively fond of Isabella, stood in tears beside her bed. He had sat up two nights with her, and was now seized with asthmatic spasms himself in his chest. It was one of the worst nights you can imagine, blowing a storm and raining cats and dogs. Mr. and Mrs. Martin and Sir Culling thought Lady Smith so dangerously ill that it was necessary to send a man on horseback thirty miles to Outerard for a physician: and who could be sent such a night? one of the Galway postillions on one of the post-horses (you will understand that we were obliged to keep these horses and postillions at Ballinahinch, as no other horses could be procured). The postillion was to be knocked up, and Sir Culling and Mr. Martin went to some den to waken him.

Meanwhile I was standing alone, very sorrowful, on the hearth in the great drawing-room, waiting to hear how it could be managed, when in came Mr. M'Hugh, and coming quite close up to me, said, "Them Galway boys will not know the way across the bogs as I should: I'd be at Outerard in half the time. I'll go, if they'll let me, and with all the pleasure in life."

"Such a night as this! Oh no, Mr. M'Hugh!"

"Oh yes; why not?" said he. And this good-hearted, wild creature would have gone that instant, if we would have let him!

However, we would not, and he gave instructions to the Galway boy how to keep clear of the sloughs and bog-holes; observing to me that "them stranger horses are good for little in Connemara—nothing like a Connemara pony for that!" As Ulick Burke said, "The ponies are such knowing little creatures, when they come to a slough they know they'd sink in, and their legs of no use to them, they lie down till the men that can stand drag them over with their legs kneeling under them."

The Galway boy got safe to Outerard, and next morning brought back Dr. Davis, a very clever, agreeable man, who had had a great deal of experience, having begun life as an army surgeon: at any rate, he was not thinking of himself, but of his patient. He thought Isabella dangerously ill—unsettled gout. I will not tire you with all the history of her illness, and all our terrors; but never would I have left home on this odd journey if I could have foreseen this illness. I cannot give you an idea of my loneliness of feeling, my utter helplessness, from the impossibility of having the advantage of the sympathy and sense of any of my own family. We had not, for one whole week, the comfort of even any one letter from any of our distant friends. We had expected to be by this time at Castlebar, and we had desired Honora to direct our letters there. Sir Culling with great spirit sent a Connemara messenger fifty miles to Castlebar for the letters, and when he came back he brought but one!

No mail-coach road comes near here: no man on horseback could undertake to carry the letters regularly. They are carried three times a week from Outerard to Clifden, thirty-six miles, by three gossoons, or more properly bog-trotters, and very hard work it is for them. One runs a day and a night, and then sleeps a day and a night, and then another takes his turn; and each of these boys has L15 a year. I remember seeing one of these postboys leaving Ballinahinch Castle, with his leather bag on his back, across the heath and across the bog, leaping every now and then, and running so fast! his bare, white legs thrown up among the brown heath. These postboys were persons of the greatest consequence to us: they brought us news from home, and to poor Lady Culling Smith accounts of her baby, and of her friends in England. We began to think we should never see any of them again.

I cannot with sufficient gratitude describe to you the hospitality and unvaried kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Martin during all these trials. Mr. Martin, rough man as he seemed outside, was all soft and tender within, and so very considerate for the English servants. Mrs. Martin told me that he said to her, "I am afraid that English man and maid must be very uncomfortable here—so many things to which they have been used, which we have not for them! Now we have no beer, you know, my dear, and English servants are always used to beer." So Mr. Martin gave them cider instead, and every day he took to each of them himself a glass of excellent port wine; and to Isabella, as gout-cordial, he gave Bronte, the finest, Sir Culling said, he ever tasted. And never all the time did Mr. and Mrs. Martin omit anything it was in their power to do to make us comfortable, and to relieve us from the dreadful feeling of being burthensome and horrible intruders! They did succeed in putting me completely at ease, as far as they were concerned. I do not think I could have got through all the anxiety I felt during Lady Culling Smith's illness, and away from all my own people, and waiting so shockingly long for letters, if it had not been for the kindness of Mrs. Martin, and the great fondness I soon felt for her. She is not literary; she is very religious—what would be called VERY GOOD, and yet she suited me, and I grew very fond of her, and she of me. Little things that I could feel better than describe inclined me to her, and our minds were open to one another from the first day. Once, towards the end, I believe, of the first week, when I began some sentence with an apology for some liberty I was taking, she put her hand upon my arm, and with a kind, reproachful look exclaimed, "Liberty! I thought we were past that long since: are not we?"

She told me that she had actually been brought up with a feeling of reverence for my father, and particularly for me, by a near relation of hers, old Mr. Kirwan, the President of the Royal Irish Academy, who was a great friend of my father's and puffer of me in early days. Then her acquaintance afterwards with Mr. Nimmo carried on the connection. She told me he showed her that copy of Harry and Lucy which you had in making the index, and showed her the bridge which he helped me over when Harry was building it. But what touched and won me first and most in Mrs. Martin was the manner in which she spoke of William—her true feeling for his character. "Whenever he could get me alone," she said, "he would talk to me of Honora or Mrs. Edgeworth and his aunt Mary and you."

Some of the expressions she repeated I could not but feel sure were his, and they were so affectionate towards me, I was much touched. Too besides Mrs. Martin made herself very agreeable by her quantity of anecdotes, and her knowledge of the people with whom she had lived in her youth, of whom she could, with great ability and admirable composed drollery, give the most characteristic traits.

Miss Martin—though few books beyond an Edinburgh or Quarterly Review or two appeared in the sitting-room—has books in quantities in a closet in her own room, which is within her mother's; and "every morning," said Mrs. Martin, "she comes in to me while I am dressing, and pours out upon me an inundation of learning, fresh and fresh, all she has been reading for hours before I am up. Mary has read prodigiously."

I found Mary one of the most extraordinary persons I ever saw. Her acquirements are indeed prodigious: she has more knowledge of books, both scientific and learned, than any female creature I ever saw or heard of at her age—heraldry, metaphysics, painting and painters' lives, and tactics; she had a course of fortification from a French officer, and of engineering from Mr. Nimmo. She understands Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and I don't know how many modern languages. French she speaks perfectly, learned from the French officer who taught her fortification, M. Du Bois, who was one of Buonaparte's legion of honour, and when the Emperor was ousted, fled from France, and earned his bread at Ballinahinch by teaching French, which Miss Martin talks as if she had been a native, but not as if she had been in good Parisian society; with an odd mixture of a ton de garnison which might be expected from a pupil of one of Buonaparte's officers. She imbibed from him such an admiration, such an enthusiasm for Buonaparte, that she cannot bear a word said to his disparagement; and when Sir Culling sometimes offended in that way, Miss Martin's face and neck grew carnation colour, and down to the tips of her fingers she blushed with indignation.

Her father the while smiled and winked at me. The father as well as the mother dote upon her; and he has a softened way of always calling her "my child" that interested me for both. "My child, never mind; what signifies about Buonaparte?"

One morning we went with Miss Martin to see the fine green Connemara marble-quarries. Several of the common people gathered round while we were looking at the huge blocks: these people Miss Martin called her TAIL. Sir Culling wished to obtain an answer to a question from some of these people, which he desired Miss Martin to ask for him, being conscious that, in his English tone, it would be unintelligible. When the question had been put and answered, Sir Culling objected: "But, Miss Martin, you did not put the question exactly as I requested you to state it."

"No," said she, with colour raised and head thrown back, "No, because I knew how to put it so that people could understand it. _Je sais mon metier de reine."

This trait gives you an idea of her character and manner, and of the astonishment of Sir Culling at her want of sympathy with his really liberal and philanthropic views for Ireland, while she is full of her tail, her father's fifty-miles-long avenue, and Aeschylus and Euripides, in which she is admirably well read. Do think of a girl of seventeen, in the wilds of Connemara, intimately acquainted with all the beauties of Aeschylus and Euripides, and having them as part of her daily thoughts!

There are immense caves on this coast which were the free-traders' resort, and would have been worth any money to Sir Walter. "Quite a scene and a country for him," as Miss Martin one day observed to me; "don't you think your friend Sir Walter Scott would have liked our people and our country?"

It is not exactly a feudal state, but the tail of a feudal state. Dick Martin, father of the present man, was not only lord of all he surveyed, but lord of all the lives of the people: now the laws of the land have come in, and rival proprietors have sprung up in rival castles. Hundreds would still, I am sure, start out of their bogs for Mr. Martin, but he is called Mister, and the prestige is over. The people in Connemara were all very quiet and submissive till some refugee Terry-alts took asylum in these bog and mountain fastnesses. They spread their principles, and soon the clan combined against their chief, and formed a plan of seizing Ballinahinch Castle, and driving him and all the Protestant gentry out of the country. Mr. Martin is a man of desperate courage, some skill as an officer, and prodigious bodily strength, which altogether stood him in stead in time of great danger. I cannot tell you the whole long story, but I will mention one anecdote which will show you how like the stories in Walter Scott are the scenes that have been lately passing in Connemara. Mr. Martin summoned one of his own followers, who had he knew joined the Terry-alts, to give up a gun lent to him in days of trust and favour: no answer to the summons. A second, a third summons: no effect. Mr. Martin then warned the man that if he did not produce the gun at the next sessions he would come and seize it. The man appeared at the house where Mr. Martin holds his sessions—about the size of Lovell's schoolroom, and always fuller than it can hold: Mr. Martin espied from his end of the room his friend with the gun, a powerfully strong man, who held his way on, and stood full before him.

"You sent for my gun, your honour, did you?"

"I did—three times; it is well you have brought it at last; give it to me."

The man kneeled down on one knee, and putting the gun across the other knee, broke it asunder, and throwing the pieces to Mr. Martin, cried, "There it is for you. I swore that was the only way you should ever have it, dead or alive. You have warned me, and now I warn you; take care of yourself."

He strode out of the crowd. But he was afterwards convicted of Terry-alt practices and transported. Now all is perfectly quiet, and Mr. Martin goes on doing justice in his own peculiar fashion every week. When the noise, heat, and crowd in his sessions court become beyond all bearing, he roars with his stentorian voice to clear the court; and if that be not done forthwith, he with his own two Herculean arms seizes the loudest two disputants, knocks their heads together, thrusts them bawling as they go out of the door and flings them asunder.

In his own house there never was a more gentle, hospitable, good-natured man, I must say again and again, or else I should be a very ungrateful woman.

Miss Martin has three ponies, which she has brought every day to the great Wyatt window of the library, where she feeds them with potatoes. One of them is very passionate; and once the potato being withheld a moment too long at the hall door he fell into a rage, pushed in at the door after her, and she ran for her life, got upstairs and was safe.

I asked what he would have done if he had come up to her?

"Set his two feet on my shoulders, thrown me down, and trampled upon me."

The other day the smith hurt his foot in shoeing him, and up he reared, and up jumped the smith on the raised part of his forge—the pony jumped after him, and if the smith had not scrambled behind his bellows, "would have killed him to be sure."

After hearing this I declined riding this pony, though Miss Martin pressed me much, and assured me he was as quiet as a lamb—provided I would never strike him or look cross. Once she got me up on his back, but I looked so miserable, she took me down again. She described to me her nursing of one of these ponies; "he used to stand with his head over my shoulder while I rubbed his nose for an hour together; but I suppose I must throw off these Bedouin habits before I go to London."

They are now spending the season in town. I had an opportunity of seeing her perfect freedom from coquetry in company with a Mr. Smith—no relation of Sir Culling's—a very handsome fine gentleman who came here unexpectedly.

All this time poor Isabella has been left by me in torture in her bed. At the end of three weeks she was pronounced out of danger, and in spite of the kind remonstrances of our hospitable hosts, not tired of the sick or the well, on a very wet odious day away we went. As there are no inns or place where an invalid could pass the night, I wrote to beg a night's lodging at Renvyle, Mr. Blake's. He and Mrs. Blake, who wrote Letters from the Irish Highlands, were not at home, in Galway on a visit, but they answered most politely that they begged me to consider their house as my own, and wrote to their agent who was at Renvyle to receive us.

Captain Bushby, of the Water Guard—married to a niece of Joanna Baillie's—was very kind in accompanying us on our first day's journey. "I must see you safe out," said he. "Safe out" is the common elision for safe out of Connemara. And really it was no easy matter to get us safe out; but I spare you a repetition of sloughs; we safely reached Renvyle, where the agent received us in a most comfortable well-furnished, well-carpeted, well-lighted library, filled with books—excellent dining-room beyond, and here Lady Smith had a day's rest, without which she could not have proceeded, and well for her she had such a comfortable resting-place.

Next day we got into Joyce's Country, and had hot potatoes and cold milk, and Renvyle cold fowl at The Lodge, as it is styled, of Big Jacky Joyce—one of the descendants of the ancient proprietors, and quite an original Irish character. He had heard my name often, he said, from Mr. Nimmo, and knew I was a writing lady, and a friend to Ireland, and he was civil to me, and I was civil to him, and after eyeing Sir Culling and Lady Smith, and thinking, I saw, that she was affecting to be languishing, and then perceiving that she was really weak and ill, he became cordial to the whole party, and entertained us for two hours, which we were obliged to wait for the going out of the tide before we could cross the sands. Here was an arm of the sea, across which Mr. Nimmo had been employed to build a bridge, and against Big Jack Joyce's advice, he would build it where Jack prophesied it would be swept away in the winter, and twice the bridge was built, and twice it was swept away, and still Nimmo said it was the fault of the masons; the embankment and his theory could not be wrong, and a third time he built the bridge, and there we saw the ruins of it on the sands—all the embankments swept away and all we had for it was to be dragged over the sand by men—the horses taken off. We were pushed down into a gully-hole five feet deep, and thence pulled up again; how it was I cannot tell you, for I shut my eyes and resigned myself, gave up my soul and was much surprised to find it in my body at the end of the operation: Big Jacky Joyce and his merry men having somehow managed it.

There was an end of our perils by gullies, sloughs, and bog-holes. We now got on Mr. Nimmo's and Mr. Killalla's really good roads, and now our four horses began to tell, and that night we reached Westport, and in consequence of Mrs. Martin's introduction to her friend Lord Sligo were received by him and Lady Sligo most courteously.

Westport is a beautiful place, with a town, a port, industrious people all happy, and made so by the sense and energy of a good landlord and a good agent. We regretted that we could stay only this night and the next morning to breakfast; it was so delightful and extraordinary to us again to see trees and shrubberies, and to find ourselves again in the midst of flowers from green-house and conservatory. Isabella said she was so delighted, she could hardly forbear, with her crippled, gouty hands, embracing every tree she met. Lord Sligo, himself a martyr to the gout, and with a son at Eton just then attacked with gout, had great compassion for her: he and all his family high-bred and cordial.

The next morning we pursued our journey, and at the next stage came upon a real mail-coach road, where we had post-horses again, and dismissed our Galway horses. This night brought us to Lough Glyn, where Mr. Strickland received us very kindly, and we had the joy of finding letters waiting for us from home; but we found that the cholera had been for the last ten days killing the poor people at Edgeworthstown—Condy Keegan's son-in-law, M'Glaughlin the carpenter, and a great many more. How dreadfully anxious Honora must have been with the charge of baby, and this cholera close to our gates!

The last day's journey was the longest of all, from the suspense, though all was smooth upon the road. When we saw the lights in the windows at home, you may guess how our hearts went pit-a-pat. We found all WELL; and glad we all were to meet again, and to have Isabella safe with her child: not in her arms, poor crippled creature—it was not possible for her to hold the infant; she could but just hobble about, and was a quarter of an hour going upstairs. Aunt Mary and Honora, after all the warnings my letters had given, were surprised and shocked at the first sight of her. For ten days after her arrival she was unable to travel, impatient as they both were to be at home again. They did reach it, baby and all, safely at last, and you may imagine how relieved we were when we heard of her being safe with her own family again, and with London physicians: five months since then and she is not yet quite re-established. We feel now how very serious her illness was.

But now that it is all over, and I can balance pains and pleasures, I declare that, upon the whole, I had more pleasure than pain from this journey; the perils of the road were far overbalanced by the diversion of seeing the people, and the seeing so many to me perfectly new characters and modes of living. The anxiety of Isabella's illness, terrible as it was, and the fear of being ill myself and a burthen upon their hands, and even the horrid sense of remoteness and impossibility of communication with my own friends, were altogether overbalanced by the extraordinary kindness, and tenderness, and generous hospitality of the Martins. It will do my heart good all the days of my life to have experienced such kindness, and to have seen so much good in human nature as I saw with them—red M'Hugh included. I am sure I have a friend in Mrs. Martin: it is an extraordinary odd feeling to have made a friend at sixty-six years of age! You, my dear young Pakenham, can't understand this; but you will live, I hope, to understand it, and perhaps to say, "Now I begin to comprehend what Maria, poor old soul! meant by that odd feeling at the end of her Connemara journey."

When we were regretting to Lord Sligo that we had missed seeing so many persons and places on our tour whom we had at first setting out made it our object to see—Clifden, the Barony of Erris, and the wonderful Major Bingham—Lord Sligo comforted us by saying, "Depend upon it, you have seen more really of Connemara than any strangers who have ever travelled through it, exactly because you remained in one place and in one family, where you had time to see the habits of the people, and to see them nearly and familiarly, and without their being shown off, or thinking of showing themselves off to you."

March 29.

I have been so busy at rents and odious accounts, that I have never been able to go on to you. Your mother returned home a few days ago, after seven months' absence! You may guess how happy we were to have her again, and how we have been talking and hearing. Lucy bore the parting with her wonderfully well; indeed, she was anxious that her mother should return to us.

Young Walter—now Sir Walter—Scott has been quartered at Longford, and is now going to Dublin: he dined here on Saturday, and was just the same as when we saw him in 1825. Sophy and her three children round her must have surprised him not a little. [Footnote: Mrs. Fox, as Sophy Edgeworth, had been with her sister at Abbotsford in 1823.] It is a pity Maxwell was not in the group. Little fair-haired Willy, nothing daunted by the nearly seven-feet-high major in full uniform, marched up to him and patted his knee, and in return the major patted his head. His soft Scotch voice, and often the kind and playful turns in his conversation, reminded me both pleasurably and painfully of his father. Sophy wished that her children should hear the band of the regiment, and he promised that he would halt at Tuite's gate, as a select party with the band were to go by Castle Pollard; and this morning, when I opened my eyes, I saw it was snowing so bitterly, I gave up all hopes of our being able to take the children to hear the band; but between seven, when I wakened, and half after nine, the appointed hour, many changes of the sky took place, and at the right moment the sun shone out, the clouds blew over the beech-trees, and Sophy was drawn in Willy Waller's little carriage, with him in her lap; Honora, Mary Anne, Charlotte, and I accompanying. We had to wait some time, and went into what you would call Tuite's house, but it is now Jem Newman's; and there was his nice little wife, with her mouth full of the last potato she had eaten for breakfast; and she put away the half-full potato basket, and the boy with his can of milk retreated from the stool by the fire, and she welcomed us with Irish heart's welcome in lip and eye; and the children were delighted watching the pig and the chickens feeding at the door.

At last the music was heard, and very pretty it was, and mother and children were happy; and Sir Walter stopped on his fine gray horse, and said, "You see, I have kept my word," and then galloped off. A sergeant then came up to me with a slip of paper in his hand, saying, "Can you read write?" I said, I believed I could, and made out for him the route to Castle Pollard: the sound of the music died away, and we returned to breakfast. "Sire, il n'y a de circonstance ou on ne prend pas de dejeuner," as the man said to Buonaparte.

You will have seen in the newspapers the court-martial about Lord Brudenell and the 15th Hussars: Lord Forbes, in giving me an account of the matter, said, "Walter Scott, by his conduct, and the way in which he gave his testimony, covered himself with glory,"—told the truth like a man and a gentleman.

You may have also seen mentioned the murder of Captain Skyring, of the Aetna, of which Henry Beddoes was second lieutenant, off the coast of Africa. He wrote a few lines to Fanny after the catastrophe; happily for him he was kept by some duty on board. It was imprudent of Captain Skyring to attempt to land, and take observations, without having his ship near enough to defend him. The natives, all with arms, came round him, and began by stealing everything they could lay their hands on. Captain Skyring drew a circle round his circle, forbidding the thieves to pass it; but they passed it, and one was seizing the instrument in his hand, when the captain fired and killed the man; and then they all fell upon him, stabbed him with their pikes and knives, stripped the body, and left it with seventeen wounds. Our people afterwards got it back. We know no more as yet, but that Captain Beaufort was extremely shocked and grieved.

I have no domestic occurrence to tell you, except that a robin, who for several seasons has frequented this house, and Lucy's room particularly, has this spring grown so familiar, that he began to build his nest in Lucy's old bonnet, laid a great heap of leaves in it, which we used to see him bringing in his bill, the leaves often as large as his body. Yesterday morning Betty the housemaid said to your mother, "Ma'am, when I opened the hall door this morning, the robin flew in over my head, and knowing his way wherever he wanted to go through the doors, just as if he was master of the house, ma'am! And he sits down before a door, and looks to have it opened for him." Dear little, impudent fellow! This packet concludes my chronicle of Connemara.


EDGEWORTHSTOWN, March 14, 1834.

Having now done with business I may turn to a little pleasure; a great deal you have given me, my dear Sneyd, by your friend Mr. Smedley's approbation of Helen. His polite playful allusion to the names of the horses, which names at this moment I forget, reminds me of a similar touch of the Duchess of Wellington in describing one of the Duke's battles, she quoted from the Knapsack, "Let the sugar basin be my master."

I have written to Fanny about Lady Charlotte Fitzgerald's death. I was very much shocked at it: I loved her; she was one of my earliest friends—"Leaf by leaf drops away."


EDGEWORTHSTOWN, March 22, 1834.

With all my heart I congratulate you on being in possession of your cottage. [Footnote: Dunmoe Cottage, at the end of the Black Castle demesne, about two miles from the house.] Harriet Butler told us how happy the people of Black Castle and Navan were, when they heard you were coming to live amongst them again. You are now as busy as possible arranging your things and considering how all and each of your friends will like what you do, and I am—very conceited—sure that you often think of Maria among the number, and that you have even already thought of a footstool for her. Emmeline has, by the bye, invented and executed, and given to my mother, the most ingenious footstool I ever saw, which folds up and can be put into a work-bag. She has also sent the nicest most agreeable presents to the little Foxes—a kaleidoscope, a little watering-pot, and a pair of little tin scales with weights; they set about directly weighing everything that could be put into them, ending with sugar-plums and sugar-candy.

We have been much amused with The Kuzzilbash and by Bubbles from the Brunnen, by Captain Head.


EDGEWORTHSTOWN, July 29, 1834.

I cannot, my dear Lady of Dunmoe, tell when I can be with you; go I will before autumn runs away with all your leaves, but I am afraid I must let autumn turn them of a sober hue, though I will not let it go to the sear and yellow. In plain prose I am tied down now by rents and business.

We have been dining at Mrs. Blackall's, and there met her pretty sister, Mrs. Johnstone, and very intelligent Captain Johnstone, a Berkshire man from near Hare Hatch, and had a very agreeable day, and much conversation on books and authors, and found that the Diary of an Ennuyee and Female Characters of Shakespeare, both very clever books, are by a lady who was governess to Mrs. Blackall and her sisters. Mrs. Rolle, her mother, read the Diary of an Ennuyee, and wondered when she saw "Mr. and Mrs. R.," and all the places and people they had seen abroad, till she came to the name of Laura, and some lines to her by which she discovered that the author must be their former governess, Miss Murphy, now married to a very clever lawyer. [Footnote: Mrs. Jameson.] All the woes and heart-breakings are mere fable in the Diary. Her last book, Visits and Sketches at Home and Abroad, I like; there is a great deal of thought and feeling in it.

* * * * *

Miss Edgeworth's Helen would never have been finished but for the encouragement shown by her sister Harriet, and her interest in the story. It is more of a "novel" than any of its predecessors, has more imagination, and its interest centres more around one person. Its object is to show how many of the troubles of social life arise from want of absolute truthfulness. Its principle is depicted in the explanation of one of its characters: "I wish that the word fib was out of the English language, and white lie drummed after it. Things by their right names, and we should all do much better. Truth must be told, whether agreeable or not."

Helen was well received by the public, but Miss Edgeworth had great diffidence about it. To Dr. Holland she wrote:

* * * * *

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 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.

To MRS. STARK. [Footnote 1: Who had sent Miss Edgeworth a long criticism from her cousin, Colonel Matthew Stewart (son of Dugald Stewart), on her Helen.]

EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Sept. 6, 1834.

Some of my friends, knowing the timidity, not to say cowardice, of my nature, have feared that I should be daunted by Colonel Stewart's most just observations upon the defects and deficiencies of my past manner and principles of novel-writing; but, on the contrary, I, who know myself better, feel that, in spite of my timidity, I am, instead of being daunted, encouraged by such criticism. Such a writer and such a noble mind as Colonel Stewart's having bestowed so much thought and time upon me and my fictions, raises both them and myself in my own opinion far more than could the largest "draught of unqualified praise" [Footnote: Quoted from Mr. Croker, who said that nothing ever satisfied an author, but large draughts of unqualified praise.] from any common critic. From feeling that he does justice in many points to the past, I rely upon his prophecies as to the future, and I feel my ambition strongly excited by his belief that I CAN, and his prognostic that I shall do better hereafter. Boileau says, "Trust a critic who puts his finger at once upon what you know to be your infirm part." I had often thought and said to myself some of those things which Colonel Stewart has written, but never so strongly expressed, so fully brought home: my own rod of feathers did not do my business. I had often and often a suspicion that my manner was too Dutch, too minute; and very, very often, and warmly, admired the bold, grand style of the master hand and master genius. I know I feel how much more is to be done, ought to be done, by suggestion than by delineation, by creative fancy than by facsimile copying,—how much more by skilful selection and fresh and consistent combination—than can be effected by the most acute observation of individuals, or diligent accumulation of particulars.

But where I have erred or fallen short of what it is thought I might have done, it has not been from "drawing from the life, or from individuals, or from putting together actions or sayings noted in commonplace books from observation or hearsay in society." I have seldom or ever drawn any one character—certainly not any ridiculous or faulty character, from any individual. Wherever, in writing, a real character rose to my view, from memory or resemblance, it has always been hurtful to me, because, to avoid that resemblance, I was tempted by cowardice or compelled by conscience to throw in differences, which often ended in making my character inconsistent, unreal.

At the hazard of talking too much of myself, which people usually do when once they begin, I must tell my penetrating critic exactly the facts, as far as I know them, about my habits of composition. He will at least see, by my throwing open my mind thus, that he has not made me afraid of him, but has won my confidence, and made me look for his future sympathy and assistance. I have no "vast magazine of a commonplace book." In my whole life, since I began to write, which is now, I am concerned to state, upwards of forty years, I have had only about half a dozen little note-books, strangely and irregularly kept, sometimes with only words of reference to some book, or fact I could not bring accurately to mind. At first I was much urged by my father to note down remarkable traits of character or incidents, which he thought might be introduced in stories; and he often blamed that idleness or laziness, as he thought it in me, which resisted his urgency. But I was averse to noting down, because I was conscious that it did better for me to keep the things in my head, if they suited my purpose; and if they did not, they would only encumber me. I knew that, when I wrote down, I put the thing out of my care, out of my head; and that, though it might be put by very safe, I should not know where to look for it; that the labour of looking over a note-book would never do when I was in the warmth and pleasure of inventing; that I should never recollect the facts or ideas at the right time, if I did not put them up in my own way in my own head: that is, if I felt with hope or pleasure "that thought or that fact will be useful to me in such a character or story, of which I have now a first idea, the same fact or thought would recur, I knew, when I wanted it, in right order for invention." In short, as Colonel Stewart guessed, the process of combination, generalisation, invention, was carried on always in my head best. Wherever I brought in bodily unaltered, as I have sometimes done, facts from real life, or sayings, or recorded observations of my own, I have almost always found them objected to by good critics as unsuited to the character, or in some way de trop. Sometimes, when the first idea of a character was taken from life from some ORIGINAL, and the characteristic facts noted down, or even noted only in my head, I have found it necessary entirely to alter these, not only from propriety, to avoid individual resemblance, but from the sense that the character would be only an EXCEPTION to general feeling and experience, not a rule. In short, exactly what Colonel Stewart says about "the conical hills" being the worst subjects for painters. As an instance I may mention King Corny, who is, I believe, considered more of a fancy piece, more as a romantic character than my usual common-life Dutch figures: the first idea of him was taken from the facts I heard of an oddity, a man, I believe, like no other, who lived in a remote part of Ireland, an ingenious despot in his own family, who blasted out of the rock on which his house was built half a kitchen, while he and family and guests were living in the house; who was so passionate, that children, grown-up sons, servants and all, ran out of the house at once when he fell into a passion with his own tangled hair; a man who used, in his impatience and rages, to call at the head of the kitchen stairs to his servants, "Drop whatever you have in your hand, and come here and be d——d!" He was generous and kind-hearted, but despotic, and conceited to the most ludicrous degree: for instance, he thought he could work gobelin tapestry and play on the harp or mandolin better than any one living.

One after another, in working out King Corny, from the first wrong hint I was obliged to give up every fact, except that he propped up the roof of his house and built downwards, and to generalise all; to make him a man of expedients, of ingenious substitutes, such as any clever Irishman in middle life is used to. I was obliged to retain, but soften, the despotism, and exalt the generosity, to make it a character that would interest. Not one word I ever heard said by the living man, or had ever heard repeated of his saying, except "Drop what you have," etc., went into my King Corny's mouth—would not have suited him. I was obliged to make him according to the general standard of wit and acuteness, shrewd humour and sarcasm, of that class of unread natural geniuses, an overmatch for Sir Ulick, who is of a more cultivated class of acute and roguish Irish gentlemen. Colonel Stewart sees from this how far he has guessed rightly as to several points, but I think I have always aimed more at making my characters representatives of classes than he conceives. It is plain that I have not attained my aim.

I never could use notes in writing Dialogues; it would have been as impossible to me to get in the prepared good things at the right moment in the warmth of writing conversation, as it would be to lug them in in real conversation, perhaps more so—for I could not write dialogues at all without being at the time fully impressed with the characters, imagining myself each speaker, and that too fully engrosses the imagination to leave time for consulting note-books; the whole fairy vision would melt away, and the warmth and the pleasure of invention be gone. I might often, while writing, recollect from books or life what would suit, and often from note-book, but then I could not stop to look, and often quoted therefore inaccurately. I have a quick recollective memory and retentive for the sort of things I particularly want; they will recur to me at the moment I want them years and years after they have lain dormant, but alas! my memory is inaccurate, has hold of the object only by one side—the side or face that struck my imagination, and if I want more afterwards I do not know even where to look for it. I mention this because Dugald Stewart once was curious to know what sort of memory I had, whether recollective or retentive.

I understand what Colonel Stewart so admirably says about parable, apologue, and fables being general truths and morals which cannot be conveyed or depended upon equally when we come to modern novels, where Lady B. or Lord D. are not universal characters like Fox or Goose. I acknowledge that even a perfectly true character absolutely taken as a fac-simile from real life would not be interesting in a fiction, might not be believed, and could not be useful. The value of these odd characters depends, I acknowledge, upon their being actually known to be true. In history, extraordinary characters always interest us with all their inconsistencies, feeling we thus add to our actual knowledge of human nature. In fiction we have not this conviction, and therefore not this sort or source of pleasure even if ever so well done; if it be quite a new inconsistency we feel doubtful and averse; but we submit when we know it is true: we say, "don't therefore tell me it is not in human nature."

I am not sure that I agree with Colonel Stewart about particular morals to stories, but this point might lead to long and intricate discussion.

I feel and admire all he says so eloquently, I am sure from his own heart, touching the advantage of raising the standard of our moral ambition; and the higher this standard can be raised by works of fiction the better. I feel and understand how many poets and novelists have raised in the mind that sort of enthusiasm which exalts and purifies the soul. Happy and gifted with heaven's best gift must be the poet, the inventor of any sort of fiction that can raise this enthusiasm. I recollect Mrs. Barbauld's lines describing—

Generous youth that feeds On pictured tales of vast heroic deeds.

How I wish I could furnish, as Scott has, some of those pictured tales coloured to the life; but I fear I have not that power, therefore it is perhaps that I strive to console myself for my deficiencies by flattering myself that there is much, though not such glorious use, in my own lesser manner and department. The great virtues, the great vices excite strong enthusiasm, vehement horror, but after all it is not so necessary to warn the generality of mankind against these, either by precept or example, as against the lesser faults; we are all sufficiently aware that we must not break the commandments, and the reasons against all vices all feel even to the force of demonstration, but demonstration does not need and cannot receive additional force from fiction. The Old Bailey trials, Les Causes Celebres, come with more force, as with the force of actual truth, than can any of the finest fictions producing what Colonel Stewart calls "momentary belief in the reality of a fictitious character or event." Few readers do or can put themselves in the places of great criminals, or fear to yield to such and such temptations; they know that they cannot fall to the depth of evil at once, and they have no sympathy, no fear; their spirits are not "put in the act of falling." But show them the steep path, the little declivity at first, the step by step downwards, and they tremble. Show them the postern gates or little breaches in their citadel of virtue, and they fly to guard these; in short, show to them their own little faults which may lead on to the greatest, and they shudder; that is, if this be done with truth and brought home to their consciousness. This is all, which by reflection on my own mind and comparison with others and with records in books full as much as observations on living subjects, I feel or fancy I have sometimes done or can do.

But while I am thus ladling out praise to myself in this way, I do not flatter myself that I deserve the quantity of praise which Colonel Stewart gives me for laborious observation, or for steadiness and nicety of dissection. My father, to whose judgment I habitually refer to help out my own judgment of myself, and who certainly must from long acquaintance, to say no more, have known my character better than any other person can, always reproached me for trusting too much to my hasty glances, apercus, as he called them, of character or truths; and often have I had, and have still (past my grand climacteric) to repent every day my mistaken conclusions and hasty jumps to conclusions. Perhaps you wish I should jump to conclusion now, and so I will.


DUNMOE COTTAGE, Nov. 8, 1834.

I hope, my dear mother, that you have been wondering every day, and wondering greatly that you have never yet heard from Maria. I like that you should wonder and be provoked at not hearing from me, because when a letter comes it is opened with much more appetite than if you had not been kept famishing.

I have not told you how very nice and comfortable Sophy and Margaret Ruxton have made this cottage, and the situation is charming, and the view beautiful. I am reading Hannah More's Letters, and am entertained with them. I found at Black Castle four volumes of Madame d'Abrantes, which I had never read: the eleventh volume begins with her going to Portugal, and though half may be lies well dressed, yet almost all are entertaining.


DUNMOE COTTAGE, Nov. 28, 1834.

I have got the cushions, and am sitting on one of them, and Sophy and Margaret like them, and think how happy I am, though it is pouring rain, which affects my happiness very little, except for the boy's sake who is to carry this. I have some boy-anity.

The glorious orb the day refines, The gossoon warms his shins and dines.


EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Jan. 27, 1835.

We have been amusing ourselves with Lady Morgan's Princess, exceedingly amusing, both by its merits and its absurdities,—that harlequin princess in her blouse is wonderfully clever and preposterous,—a Belgian Corinna. Mr. Butler has detected various errors in her historical remarks and allusions, but that it is excessively entertaining nobody can deny. The hero is like one of the seven sleepers not quite awakened, or how could he avoid finding out who this woman is who pursues him in so many forms? But we must grant a romance writer a few impossibilities.

* * * * *

Mrs. Edgeworth adds:

* * * * *

Maria was always so much interested in a story that she would not stop to reason upon it. I remember when Lady Morgan's O'Donnell was being read out in the year 1815, at the scene of M'Rory's appearance in the billiard room, when Mr. Edgeworth said, "This is quite improbable;" Maria exclaimed, "Never mind the improbability, let us go on with the entertainment."


EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Jan. 28, 1835.

The other night Harriet stood beside my bed before tea-time, and when I started up and said, "Tea is ready, I suppose," she told me that Mr. and Mrs. Danvers Butler and Miss Taylor were coming to tea. I thought it was a dream, but she explained,—they had come to Briggs's inn on their way to the County of Cavan, and could get no beds. Luckily we had two unoccupied rooms. Honora managed it all exceedingly well, and Barry took Mr. Danvers Butler in hand while he had dinner; the ladies preferred tea and coffee. They seemed much pleased by their reception. Mrs. Danvers Butler was a Miss Freemantle, and when I mentioned Lady Culling Smith and our Connemara adventures, she said she knew her very well and the Carrs, "all musical, highly accomplished, and such a united family." How oddly these little feltings of society go on in this way, working into one another little fibres of connection so strangely!

In the morning Briggs's four horses were put to their heavy chaise, and with main difficulty it was got through the yard and to the door, but not all the power of all the servants and four or five people besides could prevail upon these half-flayed-alive beasts to stir from the door—they would only back. So at last Barry was so kind as to send his man Philip with our black horses with them to Granard. We had as many thanks as well-bred people could give, and a cordial invitation to Leicestershire, if that could do us any good. Mr. Danvers Butler is handsome and gentleman-like, and she is charming: she had with her a favourite little Italian greyhound, with a collar of little gilt bells round her neck, which delighted the children, and she in return admired the children, Willy especially.

Lady Stafford—or the Countess-Duchess of Sutherland's magnificent memoir of her Duke, bound in morocco, with a beautiful engraving of him, reached me yesterday, but I have been in such a bother of tenants and business, I have had time only to look at the engraving and the kind inscription to myself.

* * * * *

Mrs. Edgeworth writes:

* * * * *

At the time of the general election in 1835, Maria was placed in a painful position as her brother's agent. The tenants were forced by the priests to vote against their landlord, and in his absence my son-in-law, Captain Fox, who had been much interested for the defeated candidate, wished to punish the refractory tenants by forcing them to pay up what is called the hanging gale of rent. Maria was grieved at any proceeding which would interrupt the long-continued friendship between these tenants and their landlord, and she was also anxious that there should be no misunderstanding between her brother and her brother-in-law. Captain Fox wrote to Sneyd to explain his views, and upon receiving Sneyd's letter in reply Maria writes to him of her sentiments on the occasion.


EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Feb. 12, 1835.

I feel your kindness now most particularly in giving me your full opinion, and desiring mine without one word of reproach on not having heard from me. I had written a long letter, but thinking it better Barry should write to you himself, I determined to burn and burnt what I had written to you, and scribbled a page in its stead of I know not what—nonsense I believe. And now what remains to do? My sense, if I have any, is quite as much at your service as my nonsense has been. And first for General Principles, to those independently of the particular case we should recur. I quite agree with you, as you do with my father, in the general principle that according to the British Constitution the voters at elections should be free, that the landlords should not force their tenants to vote. But a landlord must and should and ever will have influence, and this is one way in which property is represented and the real balance of the constitution preserved. My father in fact always did use the influence of being a good kind landlord, as well as the favour of leaving a hanging half-year in their hands. I never knew him in any instance revenge a tenant's voting against him, but I have heard him say, and I know it was his principle, that he was not bound to show favour or affection to any tenant who voted what is called against his landlord. The calling for the hanging-gale may, in this point of view, come under his principles, as it is only the withdrawing of a favour—the resumption of a landlord's right; it may be said not to be the infliction of an injury or the going one tittle beyond the law; nor even putting yourself in the power of Parliament to notice it as unconstitutional. This is literally true—so far—and further I admit, for I say candidly the whole on both sides that occurs to me—I admit, that I believe if my father were at this moment living, and knew how shamefully the priests have conducted themselves at the last election, how they had forced his tenants and all others whom they could bully to vote against their own will, full as much as against their landlord, he might himself be inclined to depart from his principle and to use force over his tenants to balance the brutal force and violence on the other side.

I say, my father might be so inclined, and his first warmth of temper and indignation doubtless would so urge him, but still,

The golden curb discretion sets on bravery,

would act and rein in his temper in the first instance, and his reason would rally and represent that it is never either morally lawful or politically wise to do evil that good may come of it. Because the priests have used force and intimidation, such as their situation and means put in their power, are landlords to do likewise? and are the poor tenants in this world and the next to be ruined and excommunicated between them? Are we to recriminate and revenge because the priests and the people have done so? beaten or beating as brutal force decides?

The honest constitutional means of resisting the horrible wrong the priests have been guilty of in the last election is by publishing the facts, bringing them as they now must be brought in all their enormity before Parliament. As far as every private individual can assist in bringing these truths to light and in influencing public opinion by the eloquence of tongue or pen he does right, as a man and as a gentleman, and a good member of society, and wisely in the present times, to stop, if possible, the power of democracy. And this, I am sure, my dear brother, is what you have done, and I do not wish you to do more or less.

With respect to Charles Fox, I think he will certainly stand the first opportunity. I am not sure that it will be for his happiness to be in Parliament; but I think he will make an honest and moderate member and will do well in Committees, and I think you may support him fairly; he will not be bitter Orange; he has good sense and temper. I hate the term I have just used—Orange, and I would avoid saying Whig or Tory if I could, and consider only what is right and best to be done in our time. I think the late Ultra-Reform Liberalists went too far, and had they continued in power, would have overturned everything, both in England and Ireland, would have let in upon us the ragamuffin democracy, cried havoc, etc.

I think that nothing less than the decided, perhaps despotic hand of the Duke of Wellington, could prevent this catastrophe, and the sense of Mr. Peel will aid, I trust. The Duke has been a stander-by and has had leisure to repent the error which turned him out before, viz. of declaring that he would have no reform. Mr. Peel has well guarded against this in his address on his return. What we must pray for is, that the hands of the present Government may be strengthened sufficiently to enable them to prevent the mischiefs prepared by the last Administration, and that, having seen the error, they may be wise in time.

* * * * *

Innumerable were the improvements which were effected by Mrs. and Miss Edgeworth for the advantage of their poorer neighbours in the immediate vicinity of their home. Cottagers' houses were rebuilt or made comfortable, schools built, and roads improved. A legacy of diamonds from a relation was sold by Miss Edgeworth that she might build a market house in the village, with a room over it for the magistrates' Petty Sessions. She endeavoured to be on the best terms with the Catholic priests, to whom she showed constant kindness and hospitality. Her poorer neighbours were made sharers in all her interests or pleasures, and all those she employed were treated as friends rather than servants. All her sympathies were in behalf of Ireland. Yet she met with no return of affection or sympathy. In 1836 we find Mrs. Farrar writing of Edgeworthstown:

* * * * *

It was market-day: so the main street was full of the lower order of Irish, with their horses and carts, asses and panniers, tables and stands full of eatables and articles of clothing. Sometimes the cart or car served as a counter on which to display their goods. The women, in bright-coloured cotton gowns and white caps with full double borders, made a very gay appearance. But as we passed through the crowd to the schoolhouse the enmity of the Papists to Protestant landholders was but too evident.

Though Mrs. Edgeworth had been the Lady Bountiful of the village for many years, there were no bows for her or her friends, no making way before her, no touching of hats, no pleasant looks. A sullen expression and a dogged immovability were on every side of us.




How provoking, how chilling a feeling it gives of the distance between us, my dear Pakenham, that we must wait twelve months for an answer to any question the most important or the most trivial! But, thank heaven, letters and journals—bating this year between—do bring us happily together, almost face to face and smile to smile. I have often admired the poor Irishman's oratorical bull when he exclaimed, as he looked through a telescope for the first time and saw the people at a cottage door, miles off, brought near, "Then I heard 'em speak quite plain, I think." I think I sometimes hear you speaking and hear the people call you Sahib.

You have seen in the papers the death of our amiable friend, Mr. Malthus. How well he loved you! His lectureship on Political Economy has been filled up by a very able and deserving friend of mine, Mr. Jones, whose book on Rents you have just been reading, and whose book and self I had the pleasure of first introducing to Lord Lansdowne, under whose Administration this appointment was made. The pupils at Haileybury must now learn from Jones's lectures the objections he made to Malthus's system! I remember once hearing the answer of a sceptic in Political Economy, when reproached with not being of some Political Economy Club. "Whenever I see any two of you gentlemen agree, I shall be happy to agree with you."

I hope your box of seeds will come safe and will grow. I daresay Harriet will have told you of the Cornish gentleman she met at Black Castle, who told of the blue hydrangea fifteen feet high, and bearing such a profusion of flowers that they were counted, 2352 bunches, each bunch as large as his head! We endeavoured to correct, and said florets for bunches, presuming he so meant, but he distinctly said bunches—so make what you can of it.

March 19.

Yesterday I am sure you recollected and honoured as Barry and Sophy's wedding day. Honora had the breakfast table covered with flowers, primroses, violets, polyanthus, and laurustinus, and some of Sophy's own snowdrops, double and single, which obligingly lingered on purpose to celebrate the day.

Did you see how Lord Darnley cut his foot with an axe while he was hewing the root of a tree, and died in consequence of lock-jaw! Harriet, who knew him and all the good he did in their neighbourhood, is very sorry for him.

I have not, I believe, mentioned to you any books except my own; but we have been amused with the Invisible Gentleman. You must swallow one monstrous magical absurdity at the beginning, and the rest will go down glibly—that is, amusing.

Instructive and entertaining: Burne's Mission to Lahore and Bokhara.

Instructive, interesting, and entertaining: Roget on Physiology, with reference to Theology—one of the Bridgewater Treatises, full of facts the most curious, arranged in the most beautifully luminous manner. The infinitely large, and the infinitely small in creation, admirably displayed.

Hannah More's Letters: many of them entertaining—many admirable for manner and matter, altogether too much; two volumes would have been better than four.

Inglis's Ireland: I think he is an honest writer, a man of great observation and ability, and a true admirer of the beauties of nature. He exaggerates and makes some mistakes, as all travellers do.

Still drops from life some withering joy away.

Year after year, we must witness these sad losses. Aunt Alicia gone! and Aunt Bess Waller, of whom you were so fond. What an amiable and highly cultivated mind she had, and so hospitable and kind.


EDGEWORTHSTOWN, March 31, 1835.

Harriet told me, my dear Sophy, that she found you in bed, reading Popular Tales, or some of my old things—thank you, thank you, my dear, for loving them. I hope that this will find you better, and that your Black Castle walks, leaning on that kind Isabella's arm, will have quite restored you.

I have been reading Roget's most admirable Bridgewater Treatise—admirable in every way, scientific, moral, and religious, in the most deep and exalted manner—religious, raising the mind through nature's works up to nature's GOD, which must increase and exalt piety where it exists, and create and confirm the devotional feelings where they have lain dormant. All his facts are most curious, and the exclamation, "how fearfully and wonderfully we are made," may be extended to the ugliest tadpole that wabbles in a ditch till he is a frog, and the microscope invented by that creature man endowed with—

Luckily a hair in my pen stopped me, or I might have gone on to another page, in my hot fit of enthusiasm.



Have you seen in the papers reports about the marriage of Lord John Russell to Lady R.? All true—Lady Ribblesdale, ci-devant Adelaide Lister, Aunt Mary's niece, a young widow with a charming little boy; this morning Aunt Mary had a letter from Lady Ribblesdale herself. If she was to marry again she could not have made a more suitable match. He is a very domestic man, and, save his party violence and folly, very amiable and sensible.

* * * * *

Mr. George Ticknor [Footnote: The well-known Professor of Modern Literature at Harvard University, author of the History of Spanish Literature, etc. Born 1791, died 1871.] and his family visited Edgeworthstown in August 1835, and remained there several days, which were a very interesting and happy time to Miss Edgeworth. Mr. Ticknor describes his visit at great length in his journals, and the first appearance of Miss Edgeworth:

* * * * *

A small, short, spare lady of about sixty-seven, with extremely frank and kind manners, and who always looks straight into your face with a pair of mild deep gray eyes whenever she speaks to you. Her conversation, always ready, is as full of vivacity and variety as I can imagine. It is also no less full of good-nature. She is disposed to defend everybody, as far as she can, though never so far as to be unreasonable. And in her intercourse with her family she is quite delightful, referring constantly to Mrs. Edgeworth, who seems to be the authority for all matters of fact, and most kindly repeating jokes to her infirm aunt, Miss Sneyd, who cannot hear them, and who seems to have for her the most unbounded affection and admiration.

About herself as an author she seems to have no reserve or secrets.... But, though she talks freely about herself and her works, she never introduces the subject, and never seems glad to continue it. She talks quite as well, and with quite as much interest, on everything else.

It is plain that the family make a harmonious whole, and by those who visited Edgeworthstown when it was much larger, and were proud of the children of all the wives of Mr. Edgeworth, with their connections produced by marriage, so as to prove the most heterogeneous relationships, I am told there was always the same striking union and agreeable intercourse among them all, to the number of sometimes fifteen or twenty.

...The house, and many of its arrangements—the bells, the doors, etc.—bear witness to that love of mechanical trifling of which Mr. Edgeworth was so often accused. But things in general are very convenient and comfortable through the house, though, as elsewhere in Ireland, there is a want of English exactness and finish. However, all such matters, even if carried much farther than they are, would be mere trifles in the midst of so much kindness, hospitality, and intellectual pleasures of the highest order as we enjoyed under their roof, where hospitality is so abundant that they have often had twenty or thirty friends come upon them unexpectedly, when the family was much larger than it is now.

* * * * *

Maria Edgeworth was now the real owner of Edgeworthstown. Her half-brother Lovell's embarrassments had obliged him to sell his paternal inheritance, and Miss Edgeworth gladly expended the fortune which had come to her through literature in preserving it from falling into the hands of strangers. She only stipulated that she herself should remain as much "a background figure" as before. Lovell Edgeworth was still the apparent owner of Edgeworthstown. Mrs. Edgeworth was still the mistress of the house, consulted and deferred to in everything. In her note of invitation to Mr. and Mrs. Ticknor she says: "The sooner you can come to us the better, because Mrs. Edgeworth is now at home with us ... as you would find this house much more agreeable when she is at home; and in truth you never could see it to advantage, or see things as they really are in this family, unless when she makes part of it, and when she is at the head of it." [Footnote: Life of George Ticknor.] Maria Edgeworth unconsciously depicted herself when describing Miss 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.

* * * * *

Amongst those who visited Edgeworthstown about this time was the American authoress, Mrs. Farrar, who writes:

* * * * *

When shown to our bedroom we found such an extraordinary lock to the door [Footnote: One of Mr. Edgeworth's inventions.] that we dared not shut it for fear of not being able to open it again. That room, too, was unlike any I ever saw. It was very large, with three huge windows, two of them heavily curtained, and the third converted into a small wardrobe, with doors of pink cotton on a wooden frame. It had two very large four-post bedsteads, with full suits of curtains, and an immense folding-screen that divided the room in two, making each occupant as private as if in a separate room, with a dressing-table and ample washing conveniences on each side. A large grate filled with turf, and all ready for lighting, with a peat basket lined with tin, and also filled with the same fuel, reminded us strongly that we were in Ireland. Large wax candles were on the mantelpiece, and every convenience necessary to our comfort.

Miss Edgeworth was very short, and carried herself very upright, with a dapper figure and quick movements. She was the remains of a blonde, with light eyes and hair; she was now gray, but wore a dark frisette, whilst the gray hair showed through her cap behind. In conversation we found her delightful. She was full of anecdotes about remarkable people, and often spoke from her personal knowledge of them. Her memory, too, was stored with valuable information, and her manner of narrating was so animated that it was difficult to realise her age. In telling an anecdote of Mirabeau, she stepped out before us, and, extending her arms, spoke a sentence of his in the impassioned manner of a French orator, and did it so admirably that it was quite thrilling.

* * * * *

Another American visitor, in the same year of 1836, the Rev. William B. Sprogue, writes: [Footnote: European Celebrities, 1855.]

* * * * *

The Edgeworth house is a fine spacious old mansion, with a splendid lawn stretching before it, and everything to indicate opulence and hereditary distinction.... Miss Edgeworth was the first person to meet me; and she immediately introduced me to her mother, Mrs. Edgeworth, her father's fourth wife, and her sister, Miss Honora Edgeworth. Miss Edgeworth, in her personal appearance, was below middle size; her face was exceedingly plain, though strongly indicative of intellect; and though she seemed to possess great vigour of body as well as of mind, it was, after all, the vigour of old age. I supposed her to be about sixty-five, but I believe she was actually on the wrong side of seventy. Her stepmother, Mrs. Edgeworth, must have been, I think, rather younger than Maria, and was not only a lady of high intelligence, but of great personal attractions, and withal of a very serious turn of mind. As Miss Edgeworth knew that my visit was to be limited to a single day, she told me almost immediately that she wished to know in what way she could contribute most to my gratification,—whether by remaining in the house or walking over the grounds. She talked upon a great variety of subjects, but there was nothing about her that had ever any affinity to showing off or trying to talk well: she evidently did not know how to talk otherwise. Circumstances led her to speak of her experience with some of her publishers. She mentioned that one of them had repeatedly requested her to abate from the amount which he had engaged to pay her, and that she had done so; but at length, after she had told him explicitly to make proposals he would abide by, he wrote her a letter, saying that he wished another abatement, and that he found that on the whole he had lost by her works; and she then wrote him in reply, that in consequence of the loss he had sustained, she would transfer her publications to other hands. He afterwards earnestly requested that she would excuse him for having thus written, and desired to retain the works; but she was inflexible, and he very angry. Her former publisher, she said, when he found himself dying, called for a letter to her which was then unfinished, and requested that there should be inserted a promise of ten or twelve hundred pounds more than he had engaged to give her for one of her works; for it had been so much more profitable to him than he expected, that he could not die in peace till he had done justly by her. And his heirs executed his will in accordance with this dying suggestion.

* * * * *

Home interests, home cares, and home sorrows were henceforth increasingly to occupy Miss Edgeworth's life.

* * * * *


LOUGH GLYN, Sept. 16, 1836.

You may suppose how I felt the kindness of your note. You are now my friend of longest standing and dearest parentage in this world; and 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.

We go to Moore Hall to-morrow. We had here yesterday a party at dinner, all exquisite in their way; Lord and Lady Dillon and Miss Dillon, Lord Oranmore and his son, Mr. Brown, and two Miss Stricklands and their brothers; and coloured fireworks in the evening: of all of which you shall hear more when we meet. Breakfast-bell ringing in my ears.

March 5, 1837.

The last accounts will have prepared you—more prepared, perhaps, than I was, for hope had lived in spite of reason when life was gone—your beloved and most amiable, angelic-tempered goddaughter [Footnote: Her sister Sophy. Mrs. Barry Fox, who died March 1.] is gone. She preserved her charming mind quite clear all through, and had her mother with her, and the comfort of knowing that her children were in the care of Mr. Butler and Harriet.

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