To MISS MARGARET RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Dec. 17, 1837.
We are very anxious indeed to hear of Sophy: [Footnote: Miss Ruxton, Miss Edgeworth's cousin and dearest friend, died at Black Castle, December 30.] the last account Harriet gave was quite alarming. I see Richard going about the house with his watch in his hand to feel Sophy's pulse, and looking so anxious. How glad he must be that he had returned home, and to Sophy what a comfort it must be, to have the certainty of his affection, and to have the earliest companion of her childhood and her manly friend beside her now! I will go to her instantly if she desires it.
I long to hear that you have had, and that you like, the Memoirs of Mr. Smedley. I am sure that, when Sophy is well enough to hear or to read anything, that book will be the very thing for her.
To MRS. EDGEWORTH.
TRIM, July 25, 1838.
Mrs. Lazarus's [Footnote: Formerly Miss Mordecai.] death did indeed shock and grieve me. But it is, as you say, the condition, the doom of advancing, advanced age, to see friend after friend go; but in proportion as it detaches one from life, it still more makes us value the friends we have left. And continually, at every fresh blow, I really wonder, and am thankful, most truly thankful, that I have so many, so much left.
To MISS MARGARET RUXTON.
Oct. 10, 1838.
I am sure, my dear Margaret, you were pleased at Honora's communication: you wrote a most kind and pleasant letter of congratulation.[Footnote: On the engagement of her sister Honora to Captain Beaufort, her stepmother's brother.] She has hitherto been most fortunate in pleasing all her friends, both as to the fact and as to the time and manner of telling. Do you remember a conversation we had standing upon the hearth in my room one night, between eleven and twelve, the witching hour, and what you asked me about Captain Beaufort? The secret had then been confided to me; and I hope you will do me the justice to acknowledge that, open-hearted and open-mouthed as I am, I can keep a secret WONDERFUL well.
* * * * *
To MR. AND MRS. TICKNOR.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Nov. 1, 1838.
. . . My sister Honora is going to be married to a person every way suited to her, and that is saying a great deal, as you, who most kindly and justly appreciated her, will readily join with me in thinking. The gentleman's name, Captain Beaufort, R.N., perhaps you may be acquainted with, as he is in a public situation, and not unknown to literary and scientific fame. He is a naval officer (I hope you like this officer's name?). He made some years ago a survey of the coast of Karamania, and wrote a small volume on that survey, which has obtained for him a good reputation. He has been for some years Hydrographer-Royal ... in one word, he is a person publicly esteemed, and privately he is beloved and esteemed by all who know him, most by those who love him best. He is and has been well known to us ever since the present Mrs. Edgeworth's marriage with my father; Captain Beaufort is Mrs. Edgeworth's youngest brother. As Mrs. E. is Honora's stepmother, you see that he is no relation whatever to Honora. But the nearness of the connection has given us all the best means of knowing him thoroughly. He was my dear father's most beloved pupil and friend; by pupil I mean that being so much younger made him look up to my father with reverence, and learn from him in science and literature with delight. Thus he has been long connected with all I love. He has been a widower two years. He has three sons and four daughters.... The youngest daughter, Emily, is a delightful child. Captain Beaufort lives in London, 11 Gloucester Place: has a very comfortable house and sufficient fortune for all their moderate wishes. Honora's fortune, which is ample, will give them affluence.
My dear Mrs. Ticknor, I know you particularly liked Honora, and that you will be interested in hearing all these particulars, though it seems impertinent to detail them across the Atlantic to one who will, I fear, never see any one of the persons I have mentioned. Yet affections such as yours keep warm very long and at a great distance.
I feel that I have got into a snug little corner in both your hearts, and that you will excuse a great deal from me, therefore I go on without scruple drawing upon your sympathy, and you will not protest my draft.
You saw how devoted Honora was to her aunt, Mrs. Mary Sneyd, whom you liked so much; and you will easily imagine what a struggle there has been in Honora's mind before she would consent to a marriage with even such a man as Captain Beaufort, when it must separate her from her aunt. Captain Beaufort himself felt this so much that he would never have pressed it. He once thought that she might be prevailed upon to accompany them to London, and to live with them. But Mrs. Mary Sneyd could not bear to leave Mrs. Edgeworth, and this place which she has made her heart's home. She decided Captain Beaufort and her niece to make her happy by completing their union, and letting her feel that she did not prevent the felicity of the two persons she loves best now in the world. She remains with us.
The marriage is to take place next Tuesday or Thursday, and my Aunt Mary will go to church with her niece and give her away. I must tell you a little characteristic trait of this aunt, the least selfish of all human beings. She has been practising getting up early in the morning, which she has not done for two years—has never got up for breakfast. But she has trained herself to rising at the hour at which she must rise on the wedding day, and has walked up and down her own room the distance she must walk up and down the aisle of the church, to ensure her being accustomed to the exertion, and able to accomplish it easily. This she did for a long time without our knowing it, till Honora found it out. Mrs. Mary Sneyd is quite well and in excellent spirits.
A younger sister of mine, Lucy, of whom you have heard us speak as an invalid, who was at Clifton with that dear Sophy whom we have lost, is now recovered, and has returned home to take Honora's place with her Aunt Mary; and Aunt Mary likes to have her, and Lucy feels this a great motive to her to overcome a number of nervous feelings which formed part of her illness. A regular course of occupations and duties, and feeling herself essential to the happiness and the holding together of a family she so loves, will be the best strengthening medicine for her. She arrived at home last night. My sister Fanny and her husband, Lestock Wilson, are with us. My sister has much improved in health: she is now able to walk without pain, and bore her long journey and voyage here wonderfully. I have always regretted, and always shall regret, that this sister Fanny of mine had not the pleasure of becoming acquainted with you. You really must revisit England. My sister Harriet Butler, and Mr. Butler, and the three dear little Foxes, are all round me at this instant. Barry Fox, their father, will be with us in a few days, and Captain Beaufort returns from London on Monday. You see what a large and happy family we are!
Mr. Butler will perform the happy, awful ceremony. How people who do not love can even dare to marry, to approach the altar to pronounce that solemn vow, I cannot conceive.
My thoughts are so engrossed by this subject that I absolutely cannot tell you of anything else. You must tell me of everything that interests you, else I shall not forgive myself for my egotism.
To MISS MARGARET RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Nov. 8, 1838.
You are the first person I write to upon returning from church after the accomplishment of Honora and Captain Beaufort's marriage. Captain Beaufort was affected more than any man I ever saw in the same circumstances, yet in the most manly manner. Aunt Mary went to church, as she had intended: they had both received her blessing, kneeling as to a mother, the evening before in her own room. Lestock and Barry were at the church door, to hand her up the aisle. Old Mr. Keating was there, excellent, warm-hearted man; and Mr. Butler performed the ceremony. The bride and bridegroom went off from the church door, and are, I suppose, by this time, five o'clock, at Trim.
To MRS. EDGEWORTH, IN LONDON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Aug. 25, 1839.
You will, I am sure, give me credit for having so well and pleasantly performed our visits—Rosa, Lucy, and Francis with me—to the Pakenhams and Pollards. Francis found Mr. Pollard very agreeable, and was charmed with Mrs. Pollard's manners and conversation. We called on Mrs. Dease on our return, and walked in her garden, in which, in all my seventy years, I never walked before, and saw huge bunches of crimson Indian pinks, some of which are now in my garden, and well doing there.
In the morning, before we went to Kinturk, came a note from a gentleman at the White Hart, Edgeworthstown, waiting for an answer: an American medical professor, Dr. Gibson. It was very unlucky that I was engaged to go out—irrevocably settled: however, I sat two hours and a half with Dr. Gibson, and very clever and agreeable I found him.
To MRS. EDGEWORTH.
TRIM, Nov. 1, 1840.
I am perfect, dearest mother, so no more about it, and thank you from my heart and every component part of my precious self for all the care and successful care you have taken of me, your old petted nursling. Thank you and Mrs. Mitchell for the potted meat luncheon, and Mr. Tuite for his grapes,—Mary Anne and Charlotte had some. I was less tired than I could have expected when I reached Trim, and there was Mr. Butler on the steps ready to welcome us, and candles and firelight in the drawing-room so cheerful. I slept like a sleeping top. Harriet read out Ferdinand and Isabella, which, with all its chivalresque interest, I do like very much. I am sure Rosa's [Footnote: Mrs. Francis Edgeworth.] Spanish interest in the book will grow by that it feeds upon, and I am very glad that she who has such fresh genuine pleasure in literature should have this book, which is so beautifully written, because it is so well felt by the author. Poor kind man. I will write to Mr. Ticknor as soon as I come to Finis.
The birds got home well; but travelling, Harriet tells me, does not agree with them, because they cannot stick upon their perch, and it is a perpetual struggle between cling and jolt.
I enclose a note of Miss Crampton's and two notes of Lady Normanby's. I never read more unaffected, affectionate, wife-like letters. How gratifying they must be to Crampton, and it raises one's opinion of Lord Normanby himself to find he can so attach a woman and a wife.
The History of a Flirt, which Harriet is reading to me, is rather entertaining but not interesting—a new and ingenious idea of a flirt, who is not looking for establishment or match-making, and therefore her disinterestedness charms all the lords and gentlemen who have been used to match-making mothers and young-lady-hunters for titles, and under favour of this disinterestedness her insolence and faithlessness is passed over, while all the time she is in love with a captain with "soft Venetian eyes," as Mrs. Thrale used to say of Piozzi.
The ear-comforter or earwig is beautiful and comfortable, and is, I hear, as becoming to me as was the Chancellor's wig to Francis Forbes when he acted Of Age To-morrow. I am acting of age to-day, and very gay, and perhaps may arrive at years of discretion at eighty, if I live so long. I certainly wish to live till next month that I may see you all at home again. You know the classic distich, which my father pointed out and translated for me, which was over the entrance door of the Cross Keys inn, near Beighterton:
If you are told you will die to-morrow you smile: If you are told you will die a month hence you will sigh.
I do not know where this may be in a book, but I know it is in human nature.
To MR. TICKNOR.
TRIM, Nov. 19, 1840.
... I am afraid to invite you to come and see us again, lest you should be disenchanted, and we should lose the delightful gratification we enjoy in your glamour of friendship. Aunt Mary, however, is really all you think and saw her; and in her good years still a proof, as you describe her—and a remarkable proof—of the power of mind over time, suffering, and infirmities, and an example of Christian virtues, making old age lovely and interesting.
Your prayer, that she might have health and strength to enjoy the gathering of friends round her has been granted. Honora and her husband, and Fanny and her husband, have been with us all this summer for months; and we have enjoyed ourselves as much as your kind heart could wish. Especially "that beautiful specimen of a highly cultivated gentlewoman," as you so well called Mrs. Edgeworth, has been blest with the sight of all her children round her, all her living daughters and their husbands, and her grandchildren. Francis will settle at home, and be a good country gentleman and his own agent, to Mrs. Edgeworth's and all our inexpressible comfort and support, also for the good of the county, as a resident landlord and magistrate much needed. As he is at home I can be spared from the rent-receiving business, etc., and leaving him with his mother, Aunt Mary, and Lucy, I can indulge myself by accepting an often-urged invitation from my two sisters, Fanny and Honora, to spend some months with them in London. I have chosen to go at this quiet time of year, as I particularly wish not to encounter the bustle and dissipation and lionising of London. For though I am such a minnikin lion now, and so old, literally without teeth or claws, still there be, that might rattle at the grate to make me get up and come out, and stand up to play tricks for them, and this I am not able or inclined to do. I am afraid I should growl; I never could be as good-natured as Sir Walter Scott used to be, when rattled for and made to "come out and stand on his hind legs," as he used to describe it, and then go quietly to sleep again.
I shall use my privilege of seventy-two—rising seventy-three—and shall keep in my comfortable den; I will not go out. "Nobody asked you, ma'am," to play lion, may perhaps be said or sung to me, and I shall not be sorry nor mortified by not being asked to exhibit, but heartily happy to be with my sisters and their family and family friends—all for which I go—knowing my own mind very well I speak the plain truth. I shall return to Edgeworthstown before the London season, as it is called, commences, i.e. by the end of March, or at the very beginning of April.
This is all I have, for the present, to tell you of my dear self, or of our family doings or plannings.
... I do not know whether I was most interested, dear Mrs. Ticknor, in your picture of your domestic life and happy house and home, or in the view you gave me of your public festivity and celebration of your American day of days—your national festival in honour of your Declaration of Independence. It was never, I suppose, more joyously, innocently, and advantageously held than on the day you describe so delightfully with the accuracy of an eye-witness. I think I too have seen all this, and thank you for showing it to me. It is a picture that will never leave the memory of my heart. I only wish that we could ever hope to have in Ireland any occasion or possibility of such happy and peaceable meetings, with united sympathy and for the keeping alive a feeling of national patriotism. No such point of union can be found, alas! in Ireland; no subject upon which sects and parties could coalesce for an hour, or join in rejoicing or feeling for their country! Father Matthews, one might have hoped, considering the good he has effected for all Ireland, and considering his own unimpeachable character and his great liberality, admitting all sects and all parties to take his pledge and share his benevolent efforts, might have formed a central point round which all might gather. But no such hope! for I am just now assured his very Christian charity and liberality are complained of by his Catholic brethren, priests and laity, who now begin to abuse him for giving the pledge to Protestants, and say, "What good our fastings, our temperance, our being of the true faith, if Father Matthews treat heretics all as one, as Catholics themselves! and would have them saved in this world and the next too! Then I would not doubt but at the last he'd turn tail! aye, turn Protestant himself entirely."
To MRS. R. BUTLER.
1 NORTH AUDLEY STREET, Dec. 26.
While Francis is pro-ing and con-ing with Fanny about alterations in his house at Clewer, I may go on with my scribbling, and tell you that Honora luncheoned here, and then off we went to Mrs. Debrizey's, Mrs. Darwin's, Mrs. Hensleigh Wedgewood, Mrs. Guillemard, and Mrs. Marcet—at Mrs. Edward Romilly's.
Mrs. Darwin is the youngest daughter of Jos. Wedgewood, and is worthy of both father and mother; affectionate, and unaffected, and—young as she is, full of old times, she has her mother's radiantly cheerful countenance, even now, debarred from all London gaieties and all gaiety but that of her own mind by close attendance on her sick husband.
Mrs. Marcet was ill in bed, but Mr. and Mrs. Edward Romilly were pleasing and willing to be pleased, and he talked over his father's Memoirs candidly and sensibly, and like a good son and a man of sense.
"I had like to have forgotten "—strange expression! can Mr. Butler explain it? I had like to have forgotten and must tell Aunt Mary about Mrs. Lister calling.
To MRS. EDGEWORTH.
January 2, 1841.
Thank you for your birthday good wishes. How many birthdays have brought me the same never-failing kindness.
A very pleasant meeting we had yesterday at your brother's. [Footnote: Recently married to Honora Edgeworth.] Honora, dear Honora, was so nice and kind, nobody but ourselves. At second course appeared the essential trifle, [Footnote: A trifle always appeared on Maria Edgeworth's birthday, because once on New Year's Day when a trifle had been ordered and the dish was placed on the table there was found under the flowers, not cake and cream, but a little story Maria had written, "A Trifle." The young folk had a real trifle afterwards.] and, trifle as it was, it was quite delightful to me with Honora's smile.
Did you ever taste figs stuffed with almonds? I hope you never may taste them! very bad, I assure you, but how the almonds got in puzzled me; all tight and closed as the outer skin looks without ridge or joining.
Did you ever taste Imperial Tokay? Your brother gave me some of the best ever tasted, I am told; and what do you think I said?
"Why, this cannot be Tokay!"
"Did you ever taste Tokay before?" said he.
"O yes, very often; but this is not Tokay."
"Be pleased to tell us what it is then," quoth Lestock.
"I don't know; but not Tokay, or a different sort from what I ever tasted, for that was sour and always drunk in green glasses."
Suddenly I recollected that I meant Hock!
Do you recollect the history of the Irishman, who declared that he had seen anchovies growing on the walls at Gibraltar? Challenged a gentleman for doubting him, met, and fired, and hit his man, and when the man who was hit, sprang up as he received the shot, and the second observed—"How he capers!"
"By the powers! It was capers I meant 'stead of anchovies."
To MRS. R. BUTLER.
1 NORTH AUDLEY STREET, Jan. 10, 1841.
A propos du pluie, a propos du beau temps—I think of you and ten thousand times a week. ("I hate exaggeration.") I wish for you when I am in want of some unremembered or disremembered name. I do love that Irish verb disremember, and I conjugate it daily from the infinitive to the preterpluperfect. Last week I preterpluperfectly disremembered when talking to Morris of Fortunio's gifted men, whether the legs of him who outrunneth the hare were tied with green or red? Parties run high for green and for red—please to settle the question.
Fanny has been reading to me Darwin's Voyage; delightful it is.
To MRS. EDGEWORTH.
1 NORTH AUDLEY STREET, Jan. 13, 1841.
Most agreeable dinner here yesterday; the convives were: Dr. Lushington, Mr. Andrews; Mrs. Andrews at the last sent a regret—ill in bed with a headache. Honora came in her stead. Mr. Macintosh and Miss Carr; Dr. Lushington beside Fanny, and carving remarkably well and most entertaining and agreeable; he raised the heart's laugh frequently, and the head's by fresh, not old-faded-London-diner-out bon-mots, anecdotes, and facts worth knowing, all with the assistance of Mr. Andrews, so remarkably agreeable and gentlemanly a gentleman; they played into each other's hands and mine delightfully, and Fanny's, and Honora's, and the ball came to everybody pat, in turn. The ball did I say? Boomerang I should have said, for it came back always nicely to the thrower.
I must tell you an anecdote I heard yesterday from Mr. Kenyon, brother of Lord Kenyon's, a saying of Mrs. Brooke, sister of Baron Garrow, who, notwithstanding his bullying manner in court, was a man easily swayed in private, always influenced by the last thing said by the last person in his company—all which was compressed by Mrs. Brooke into: "With my brother presence is power."
To MRS. R. BUTLER.
1 NORTH AUDLEY STREET, Feb. 24, 1841.
My ultimate intention and best hope for my own selfish satisfaction is to go with you and Mr. Butler to that poor uncentred [Footnote: Mrs. Mary Sneyd died at the age of ninety, on the 10th of February 1841.] desolate home at Edgeworthstown.
What an inexpressible comfort that you were with your mother, Lucy, and Honora, and my dear lost aunt to the last.
To MRS. EDGEWORTH.
March 14, 1841.
Here I am, like a Sybarite, but with luxuries such as a Sybarite or Sybaritess never dreamed of: a cup of good coffee and some dry toast and butter, a good coal fire on my right, a light window on my left, dressing-table opposite, with large looking-glass, which reflects, not my face, which for good reasons of my own I never wish to see, but a beautiful green lawn and cedars of Lebanon; and on my mantelpiece stand jars of Nankin china, and shells from—Ocean knows where. And where do you think I am? At Heathfield Lodge, Croydon, the seat of Gerard Ralstone, Esq.; and met here at a large dinner yesterday Mr. Napier, and he comes for me to-morrow, and takes me to Forest Hill. At this dinner were two celebrated American gentlemen—Mr. Sparkes, who wrote Washington's Life; and Mr. Clisson, a man of fortune, and benevolently enthusiastic about colonisation in Liberia.
After luncheon I saw march by to church a whole regiment of youths from Addiscombe, which is near here.
But now I must retrograde to tell you, as I have a few minutes more than I expected, of a visit I had an hour before I set out, from a man fresh from Africa—a Scotchman by birth, a missionary by vocation, who had been twenty years abroad, almost all that time in Africa: sent to the Hottentots in the first place, and he converted many. They were taught to sow and to reap, and the women to sew in the other way, all by this indefatigable Mr. Moffatt; and they taught him on their part how to do the CLUCK, and Mr. Moffatt did it for me. It is indescribable and inimitable. It is not so loud as a hen's cluck to her chickens, but more quick and abrupt.
He said that when he was ordered to return home, he felt it as a sentence of banishment. "I had lived so long in Africa, I felt it my home, and I had almost forgotten how to speak English. I almost dreaded to be among white faces again."
1 NORTH AUDLEY STREET.
Mr. Napier brought me here by half after twelve.
I had a delightful drive with him in his little pony phaeton from Croydon to Forest Hill. Mr. and Mrs. Napier are more and more delightful to me in conversation and manners the more I see of them. A brother, Captain Napier, very conversable, and full of humour; he has a charming daughter, and has been in all parts of the world, and loves Ireland and the Irish.
To MRS. R. BUTLER.
1 NORTH AUDLEY STREET, April 1841.
I must tell you now of my visit to Warfield Lodge. Henrietta and Wren met me at the station, and all the way, when they spoke, it seemed as if I had parted from them but yesterday. When I saw Miss O'Beirne, there was, opposite to me, that fine, full-coloured, full of life, speaking picture of Mrs. O'Beirne. The place is as pretty as ever, and it was impossible for the most hospitable luxury to do more for me, and with the most minute recollective attention to all my olden-times habits and ways. I would not for anything that could be given or done for me, not have paid this visit.
One evening Miss O'Beirne invited some friends I was particularly glad to see—three daughters of my dear Sir John Malcolm, all very fine young women, with fine souls, and vast energy and benevolence, worthy of him.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Sept. 27.
I send you some Spanish books which I bought, with one eye upon you and one upon Rosa. I sat up till past one o'clock a few nights ago, and caught cold, looking through the whole of Hudibras, for what at last could not be found in it, though I still am confident it is there—
Murder is lawful made by the excess.
In the middle of my hunt my mind misgave me that it was in the Fable of the Bees, and I went through it line by line, and for my pains can swear it is not there. It is wonderful that, at seventy-four, I can be so ardent in the chase, certainly not for the worth of the game, nor yet for the triumph of finding; for I care not whether I am the person to find it or not, so it is found. Pray find it for me.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, March 10, 1842.
We have been much entertained and interested in Macaulay's "Life of Hastings," in the Edinburgh; but some of it is too gaudily written, and mean gaudiness, unsuited to the subject—such as the dresses of the people at Westminster Hall; and I think Macaulay's indignation against Gleig for his adulation of Hastings, and his not feeling indignation against his crimes, is sometimes noble, and sometimes mean and vituperative.
To MRS. BEAUFORT.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, March 12.
Mr. Creed, my dear good Mr. Creed, has been most kind in taking into his employment one of the young Gerrards who behaved so gallantly in recovering their father's arms from robbers. The poor people are seldom rewarded when they do right, yet surely, in the government of human creatures, Hope and Reward are strong and elevating powers, while Fear and Punishment can at best only restrain from crime. Hope can produce the finest and most permanent springs of action.
We have not been able to go on with our reading for some days. The more I live I see more and more the misery of uncultivated minds, and the happiness of the cultivated, when they can keep themselves free from literary and scientific jealousies and party spirit.
To MRS. R. BUTLER.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, March 1842.
I am surprised to find how much more history interests me now than when I was young, and how much more I am now interested in the same events recorded, and their causes and consequences shown, in this History of the French Revolution, and in all the History of Europe during the last quarter of a century, than I was when the news came fresh and fresh in the newspapers. I do not think I had sense enough to take in the relations and proportions of the events. It was like moving a magnifying glass over the parts of a beetle, and not taking in the whole.
To MISS MARGARET RUXTON, then residing at HYERES.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, April 16, 1842.
It seems such an immense time since I have heard from you, so now I sit down to earn a letter.
And first I have to tell you that, on the 14th, between the hours of eleven and twelve, a new cousin of yours was brought into this world, a monstrous large boy: Rosa doing well: house very full, [Footnote: All the family had assembled to meet Pakenham Edgeworth on his return, on leave, from India.] but all as quiet as mice. We breakfast in the study, to keep all noise from Rosa in the plume room.
It is time to tell you that Pakenham is here, and Fanny, and Honora, and Harriet, and Mary Anne, and Charlotte; and we are as happy as ever we can be. Pakenham's tastes are all domestic, yet he has the most perfect knowledge of business, great penetration of eye, and cool, self-possessed manners, like one used to judgment and command, yet not proud of doing either. He has brought with him such proofs of his industry as are quite astonishing; such collections of drawings, both botanical and sketches of country. How he found time to do all this, and spend six hours per day at Cucherry—all as one as sessions—and to write his journal of every day for eleven years, I really cannot comprehend; but so it is.
To MRS. R. BUTLER.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, June 17, 1842.
It is now five o'clock, and Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall have not come. It is Lestock's last day, and he and Fanny and Lucy are so busy and so happy putting the transit instrument to rights, and setting black spotted and yellow backed spinning spiders at work to spin for the meridian lines. I have just succeeded in catching the right sort by descending to the infernal regions, and setting kitchenmaid and housemaid at work. I was glad Mr. and Mrs. Hall did not arrive just at the crisis of the operation—all completed now.
Ask Mr. Butler if there is any subscription necessary or expected from me, now that I have been so honourably made an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy? I would not for the world omit anything that ought to be done now that I am M.R.I.A.
I am going literally to beg my bread and lodging at your door on my way to Dublin, and I do so sans phrase. I remember that, when I used to write to offer myself to Aunt Ruxton, I regularly added, "You know, my dear aunt, I can sleep in a drawer;" and she used to answer, "I know you can, my dear, and you are welcome; but write a day beforehand, that I may have the drawer ready."
To MRS. FRANCIS BEAUFORT.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Oct. 27, 1842.
Most kind and most judiciously kind Honora, you have written the very thing I had been thinking as I lay awake last night, I would write to you, but scrupled. I certainly will take your advice, and spend my Christmas at home with Pakenham, although I cannot, nor do I wish to, fill up his feeling of the blanks in this house. There is something mournful, yet pleasingly painful, in the sense of the ideal presence of the long-loved dead. Those images people and fill the mind with unselfish thoughts, and with the salutary feeling of responsibility and constant desire to be and to act in this world as the superior friend would have wished and approved.
There is such difficulty this season for the poor tenants to make up their rents; cattle, oats, butter, potatoes, all things have so sunk in price. In these circumstances it is not only humane, but absolutely necessary, that landlords should give more time than usual. Some cannot pay till after certain fairs in the beginning of November—that I must have stayed for, at all events. Indeed, they have shown so much consideration for me, and striven so to make up the money that they might not detain me, that I should be a brute and a tyrant if I did not do all I could on my part to accommodate them.
To MRS. R. BUTLER.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Dec. 1842.
Mrs. Hall has sent to me her last number, in which she gives Edgeworthstown. All the world here are pleased with it, and so am I. I like the way in which she has mentioned my father particularly. There is an evident kindness of heart, and care to avoid everything that could hurt any of our feelings, and at the same time a warmth of affectionate feeling unaffectedly expressed, that we all like it, in spite of our dislike to "that sort of thing."
* * * * *
Mrs. S.C. Hall's is perhaps the best picture extant of the family life at Edgeworthstown. She says:
* * * * *
Our principal object, in Longford County, was to visit Edgeworthstown, and to spend some time in the society of Miss Edgeworth. We entered the neat, nice, and pretty town at evening; all around us bore—as we had anticipated—the aspect of comfort, cheerfulness, good order, prosperity, and their concomitant, contentment. There was no mistaking the fact that we were in the neighbourhood of a resident Irish family, with minds to devise, and hands to effect improvement everywhere within reach of their control.
Edgeworthstown may almost be regarded as public property. From this mansion has emanated so much practical good to Ireland, and not alone to Ireland, but the civilised world.... The demesne is judiciously and abundantly planted, and the dwelling-house of Edgeworthstown is large and commodious. We drove up the avenue at evening. It was cheerful to see the lights sparkle through the windows, and to feel the cold nose of the house-dog thrust into our hands as an earnest of welcome; it was pleasant to receive the warm greeting of Mrs. Edgeworth, and it was a high privilege to meet Miss Edgeworth in the library, the very room in which had been written the works that redeemed a character for Ireland, and have so largely promoted the truest welfare of human-kind. We had not seen her for some years—except for a few brief moments—and rejoiced to find her in nothing changed; her voice as light and happy, her laughter as full of gentle mirth, her eyes as bright and truthful, and her countenance as expressive of goodness and loving-kindness, as they have ever been.
Edgeworthstown was, and is, a large country mansion, to which additions have been from time to time made, but made judiciously. An avenue of venerable trees leads to it from the public road. It is distant about seven miles from the town of Longford. The only room I need specially refer to is the library; it belonged more peculiarly to Maria, although the general sitting-room of the family. It was the room in which she did nearly all her work; not only that which was to gratify and instruct the world, but that which, in a measure, regulated the household—the domestic duties that were subjects of her continual thought: for the desk at which she usually sat was never without memoranda of matters from which she might have pleaded a right to be held exempt. It is by no means a stately, solitary room, but large, spacious, and lofty, well stored with books, and furnished with suggestive engravings. Seen through the window is the lawn, embellished by groups of trees. If you look at the oblong table in the centre, you will see the rallying-point of the family, who are usually around it, reading, writing, or working; while Miss Edgeworth, only anxious that the inmates of the house shall each do exactly as he or she pleases, sits in her own peculiar corner on the sofa; a pen, given her by Sir Walter Scott while a guest at Edgeworthstown (in 1825), is placed before her on a little, quaint, unassuming table, constructed, and added to, for convenience. She had a singular power of abstraction, apparently hearing all that was said, and occasionally taking part in the conversation, while pursuing her own occupation, and seemingly attending only to it. In that corner, and on that table, she had written nearly all her works. Now and then she would rise and leave the room, perhaps to procure a toy for one of the children, to mount the ladder and bring down a book that could explain or illustrate some topic on which some one was conversing; immediately she would resume her pen, and continue to write as if the thought had been unbroken for an instant. I expressed to Mrs. Edgeworth surprise at this faculty, so opposed to my own habit. "Maria," she said, "was always the same; her mind was so rightly balanced, everything so honestly weighed, that she suffered no inconvenience from what would disturb and distract an ordinary writer."
She was an early riser, and had much work done before breakfast. Every morning during our stay at Edgeworthstown she had gathered a bouquet of roses, which she placed beside my plate on the table, while she was always careful to refresh the vase that stood in our chamber; and she invariably examined my feet after a walk, to see that damp had not induced danger; popping in and out of our room with some kind inquiry, some thoughtful suggestion, or to show some object that she knew would give pleasure. Maria Edgeworth never seemed weary of thought that could make those about her happy.
A wet day was a "god-send" to us. She would enter our sitting-room and converse freely of persons whose names are histories; and once she brought us a large box full of letters—her correspondence with many great men and women, extending over more than fifty years, authors, artists, men of science, social reformers, statesmen, of all the countries of Europe, and especially of America, a country of which she spoke and wrote in terms of the highest respect and affection.
Although we had known Miss Edgeworth in London, it will be readily understood how much more to advantage she was seen in her own house; she was the very gentlest of lions, the most unexacting, apparently the least conscious of her right to prominence. In London she did not reject, yet she seemed averse to the homage accorded her. At home she was emphatically at home!
In person she was very small—she was "lost in a crowd!" Her face was pale and thin, her features irregular; they may have been considered plain, even in youth, but her expression was so benevolent, her manners were so perfectly well-bred, partaking of English dignity and Irish frankness, that one never thought of her with reference either to beauty or plainness. She ever occupied, without claiming attention, charming continually by her singularly pleasant voice, while the earnestness and truth that beamed from her bright blue—very blue—eyes increased the value of every word she uttered. She knew how to listen as well as to talk, and gathered information in a manner highly complimentary to those from whom she sought it; her attention seemed far more the effect of respect than of curiosity. Her sentences were frequently epigrammatic; she more than once suggested to me the story of the good fairy from whose lips dropped diamonds and pearls whenever they were opened. She was ever neat and particular in her dress, her feet and hands were so delicate and small as to be almost childlike. In a word, Maria Edgeworth was one of those women who do not seem to require beauty.
Miss Edgeworth has been called "cold"; but those who have so deemed her have never seen, as I have, the tears gather in her eyes at a tale of suffering or sorrow, nor heard the genuine, hearty laugh that followed the relation of a pleasant story. Never, so long as I live, can I forget the evenings spent in her library in the midst of a family highly educated and self-thinking, in conversation unrestrained, yet pregnant with instructive thought.
* * * * *
In January 1843 Miss Edgeworth was dangerously ill with a fever. Afterwards she wrote to a friend:
* * * * *
And, now that it is over, I thank God not only for my recovery, but for my illness. In very truth, and without the least exaggeration or affectation or sentiment, I declare that, on the whole, my illness was a source of more pleasure than pain to me, and that I would willingly go through all the fever and weakness to have the delight of the feelings of warm affection, and the consequent unspeakable sensations of gratitude. When I felt that it was more than probable that I should not recover, with a pulse above a hundred and twenty, and at the entrance of my seventy-sixth year, I was not alarmed. I felt ready to rise tranquil from the banquet of life, where I had been a happy guest; I confidently relied on the goodness of my Creator.
MARIA to MISS MARGARET RUXTON at HYERES.
TRIM, March 20, 1843.
Thank you, thank you, my dear Margaret, for all your anxiety about me. [Footnote: In her severe illness during January.] I am strengthening. We have no news or events; we live very happily here. On Friday last, being St. Patrick's Day, there were great doings here, and not drunken doings, not drowning the shamrock in whisky, but honouring the shamrock with temperance rejoicings and music, that maketh the heart glad without making the head giddy or raising the hand against law or fellow-creatures. Leave was asked by the Temperance Band and company to come into Mr. Butler's lawn to play a tune or two, as they were pleased to express it, for Miss Edgeworth. The gates were thrown open, and in came the band, a brass band, with glittering horns, etc., preceded by Priest Halligan, whom you may recollect, in a blue and white scarf floating graceful, and a standard flag in his hand. A numerous crowd of men, women, and children came flocking after, kept in order by some Temperance Society staff officers with blue ensigns.
I, an invalid, was not permitted to go out to welcome them, but I stood at my own window, which I threw open, and thanked them as loud as I could, and curtseyed as low as my littleness and my weakness would allow, and was bowed to as low as saddle-bow by priests on horseback and musicians and audience on foot: Harriet on the steps welcoming and sympathising with these poor people; and delightful it was to see Mr. Butler bareheaded shaking hands with the priest, who almost threw himself from his horse to give him his hand.
Mr. Tuite, that dear good old gentleman, died a few days ago at Sonna, in his ninety-seventh year; his good son, in his note to my mother announcing the event, says, "It is a comfort to think that to the very last he had all the comfort, spiritual and earthly, that he could need or desire."
Miss Bremer, of Stockholm, has published a novel, translated by Mary Howitt, which is one of the most interesting, new, and truly original books I have seen this quarter-century. Its title does not do it justice. Our Neighbours: which might lead you to expect a gossiping book, or at best something like Annals of my Parish—tout au contraire; it is sketches of family life, a romantic family, admirably drawn—some characters perhaps a little overstrained, but in the convulsions of the overstraining giving evidence of great strength—beg, buy, or borrow it, if you can, and if not, envy us who have it.
Envy us, also, La Vie du Grand Conde, written in French, by Lord Mahon, not published, only a hundred copies struck off, and he has honoured me with a present of a copy. Of the style and correctness of the French I am not so presumptuous as to pretend to be a competent judge, but I can say that in reading it I quite forgot it was by an Englishman, and never stopped to consider this or that expression, and I wish, dear Margaret, that you had the satisfaction of reading this most interesting, entertaining book.
Dickens's America is a failure; never trouble yourself to read it; nevertheless, though the book is good for little, it gives me the conviction that the man is good for much more than I gave him credit for; a real desire for the improvement of the lower classes, and this reality of feeling is, I take it, the secret, joined to his great power of humour, of his ascendant popularity.
To MISS BANNATYNE.
TRIM, April 1843.
I am eager, with my own hand, to assure you that I am quite recovered. I have been so nursed and tended by all my friends that I really can think of nothing but myself; nevertheless, I am sometimes able to think of other things and persons. During my convalescence Harriet has read to me many entertaining and interesting books: none to me so interesting, so charming, as the Life and Letters of your countryman, that honour to your country and to all Britain, and to human nature—Francis Horner: a more noble, disinterested character could not be; in the midst of temptations with such firm integrity, in the midst of party spirit as much superior to its influence as mortal man could be! and if sympathy with his friends, and the sense that public men must pull together to effect any purpose may, as Lord Webb Seymour asserts, have swayed Horner, or biased him a little from his original theoretic course, still it never was from any selfish or in the slightest degree corrupt or unworthy motive. I much admire Lord Webb Seymour's letter to Horner, and not less Horner's candid, honest, and temperate answer. What friends he made for himself of the best and most able of the land, not only admired but trusted and consulted by them all, and not only trusted and consulted, but beloved. This book really makes one think better of human nature. Of all his friends I think more highly than I ever thought or knew before I read his letters to them and theirs to him. There never was such a unanimous tribute to integrity in a statesman as was paid to Horner by the British Senate at his death: I remember it at the time, and I am glad to see it recorded in this book. It will waken or keep alive the spirit of public and private virtue in many a youthful mind. I see with pleasure your father's name in the book, and the names and characters of many of our dear Scotch friends. My head and heart are so full of it that I really know not how to stop in speaking of it.
I am just going to write to Lady Lansdowne how much I was delighted by seeing her and Lord Henry Petty, but especially herself, mentioned exactly in the manner in which I thought of her and of him, when we first became acquainted with them, which was just at the very time of which Mr. Horner speaks. Lady Lansdowne gave me a drawing of Little Bounds, which is now hanging up in our library unfaded. It is a gratification to me to feel that I appreciated both her talents and her character as Horner did, before all the world found out that she was a SUPERIOR person.
My brother Pakenham was delighted with his tour in Scotland, and with his renewal of personal intercourse with his dear Scotch friends: all steady as Scotch friends ever are and kind and warm—the warmth once raised in them never cooling—anthracite coal—layer after layer, hot to the very inside kernel. Pakenham is now in London with my sisters Fanny and Honora—Fanny has wonderfully recovered her health. She has several Scotch friends in London, of whom she is very fond, from Joanna Baillie to her young friends, Mrs. Andrews and her sisters. Mr. Andrews is a very agreeable, sensible, conversable man; I saw something of him when I was last in London, and hope to see more when I return there. If I continue as well as I am now I intend, please God, to make my promised visit to London some time this autumn, when the hurly-burly of the fashionable season is over.
* * * * *
While at Trim, Maria received the announcement of her youngest sister Lucy's engagement to Dr. Robinson, which gave her exquisite pleasure: "never," as she wrote at the time, "never was a marriage hailed with more family acclaim of universal joy." The marriage took place on June 8.
* * * * *
MARIA to MRS. R. BUTLER.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, August 1, 1843.
I have just wakened and risen from the sofa rejoicing, like a dwarf, "to run my course." I was put to sleep, not by magnetism, but by the agreeable buzz of dear Pakenham's voice reading out a man's peregrinations from Egypt to Australia—"the way was long, the road was dark," and the reader declares I was asleep before we got to Egypt.
Mr. Maltby is wondrous tall, and Pakenham has had the diversion long-looked-for of seeing "Maltby hand Maria in to dinner." Mr. Maltby is a very gentlemanlike man, every inch of him, many as they are, and very conversable—really conversable, he both hears and talks, and follows and leads.
To MRS. BEAUFORT.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, _Sept. 14, 1843._ "_Choisissez, mon enfant, mais prenez du veau." Choose, my dear Honora, whichever pattern you please, but take this which I enclose. We have had a very pleasant visit to Newcastle, where we met Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton Gray, and I liked both very much. I thought her perfectly unpretending and unaffected; slight figure, a delicate woman, pretty dark hair and dark eyes, and pleasing expression of countenance. I never should have suspected her of being so learned or so laborious and persevering as she is.
* * * * *
In November 1843 Miss Edgeworth went to London, and spent the winter with her sister Harriet, Mrs. Wilson.
* * * * *
MARIA to MRS. R. BUTLER.
NORTH AUDLEY STREET, Dec. 3, 1843.
We dined at Dr. Lushington's last Thursday—the dinner was very merry and good-humoured. Mr. Richardson was there, and delighted I was to see him, and he talked so affectionately of Sir Walter and auld lang syne times; and Mr. Bentham, the botanist, too, was there, Pakenham's friend, a very agreeable man. After dinner too was to me very entertaining, for I found that a lady, introduced to me as Mrs. Hawse, was daughter to Brunel, and she told me all the truth of her brother and the half-guinea in his throat, and the incision in his windpipe, and his coughing it up at last, and Brodie seeing and snatching it from between his teeth, and driving over all London to show it.
And now we are going to tea at Dr. Holland's.
That we had a very pleasant evening I need scarcely say, but to Boswell Sydney Smith would out-Boswell Boswell. He talked of course of Ireland and the Priests, and I gave good, and I trust true testimony to their being, before they took to politics—excellent parish priests, and he talked of Bishop Higgins and Repeal agitations, and I told him of "Don't be anticipating," and laughing at brogue (how easy!) led him to tell me of a conversation of his with Bishop Doyle in former days—beginning with "My lord," propitiously and propitiatingly, "My lord, don't you think it would be a good plan to have your clergy paid by the State?"
Bishop Doyle assured him it would never be accepted. "But, suppose every one of your clergy found, L150 lodged in the bank for them, and at 5 per cent for arrears?"
"Ah! Mr. Smith, you have a way of putting things!"
* * * * *
Sydney Smith, on his side, was enchanted with Maria Edgeworth—"Miss Edgeworth was delightful, so clever and sensible. She does not say witty things, but there is such a perfume of wit runs through all her conversation as makes it very brilliant."
* * * * *
MISS EDGEWORTH to MRS. R. BUTLER.
A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
With the addition which Lestock has just been telling to Waller—
With your pockets full of money and your cellars full of beer.
Yesterday, Sunday, your kind friends, the Andrews', took Waller with us to the Temple church—it has been, you know, all new painted and dressed since I saw it last, and the knights in dark bronze-coloured marble repaired. The tiled floor is too new, not like Mr. Butler's most respectable reverend old tiles. Mr. Andrews took us all over the church after service, and in particular pointed out one old window of painted glass, in which the bright red colour is so bright in such full freshness as is inimitable in modern art.
We went from church to luncheon at Mrs. Andrews', and such a luncheon; I refrain from a whole page which might be spent on it. Then Mrs. Andrews took Waller and me a drive three times round the park, a most pleasant drive in such a bright sunshiny day. So many happy little children under the trees and on the pathways.
To MRS. EDGEWORTH.
1 NORTH AUDLEY STREET, Jan. 1844.
Thank you, and pray do you thank for me all the dear kind brothers, sisters, nephews, and nieces, all round you, their centre and spring of good, for all the pleasure they, on my seventy-seventh birthday, from Barry's to dear little Mary's, all gave me—pleasure such as cannot be bought for money. Who would not like to live to be old if they could be so happy in friends as I am? I cannot help enclosing to you Lucy's and Dr. Robinson's greeting, as you will feel with me the pleasure both gave me.
Dumb Francis was here on that happy first of January and assured me on his slate that he was very happy and grateful. I never see him without my Francis's sonnet repeating itself, "The soul of honour," etc.
To MRS. R. BUTLER.
1 NORTH AUDLEY STREET, Jan. 5, 1844.
I have been reading and am reading Bentham's Memoirs; he could write plain English before he invented his strange lingo, and the account of his childhood and youth is exceedingly entertaining. Fanny reads to us at night, much to Waller's interest and entertainment, Lieutenant Eyre's account of that horrid Cabul expedition—what a disgrace to the British arms and name in India. Mr. Pakenham and his nice wife came in while I was writing this, and when I asked him if the prestige of British superiority would be destroyed in India, he said, "No: we have redeemed ourselves so nobly."
Waller is occupied every spare moment perfecting a Leyden phial, coated and chained properly, and giving quite large and grand sparks and pretty sharp shocks.
To MRS. EDGEWORTH.
1 NORTH AUDLEY STREET, Jan. 1844.
The day before yesterday Fanny and I walked to see Mrs. Napier, all in black for Lady Clare—the suddenness of whose death, scarcely a moment's interval between the bright flash of life and the dark silence of death, was most striking and awful.
Yesterday we went to see dear Lady Elizabeth Whitbread, all as it used to be, beautiful camellias, but she herself so sad—Miss Grant is dying. Nothing can surpass her true tenderness to this faithful, gentle, sincere old friend. All these illnesses and deaths are the more striking I think in a bustling capital city, than they would be in the country surrounded by one's family. There is something shocking in seeing the bustling, struggling crowd who care nothing for one another dead or alive: and they may say, so much the better, we are spared unavailing thought and anguish, and yet I would rather have the thought and even the anguish—for without pain there is no pleasure for the heart no prayer for Indifference for me! Every memento mori comes with some force to me at seventy-seven, and I do pray most earnestly and devoutly to God, as my father did before me, that my body may not survive my mind, and that I may leave a tender not unpleasing recollection in their hearts.
Though I have written this, my dear mother, and feel it truly, I am not the least melancholy, or apprehensive or afraid of dying, and as to the rest I am truly resigned, and trust to the goodness of my Creator living or dying.
Thursday evening at Rogers's—the party was made for us and as small as possible, Lady Charlotte Lindsay, Lady Davy, Mr. and Mrs. Empson, and Mr. Compton and Lord Northampton. Mr. Empson is very little altered in twelve years: the same affectionate heart and the same excellent head. Lord Northampton is very conversable; and Mr. Compton brought me sugared words from troops of children.
HALF-PAST SIX P.M.
Just returned from Mrs. Drummond's—beautiful house and two pretty children—and we went to see Anna Carr's beautiful drawings of Ceylon, and no time for more.
Miss Fox's illness detained Lord and Lady Lansdowne at Bowood—she is rather better. We went to Lansdowne House yesterday, and saw Lady Shelburne for the first time, handsome, and very amiable in countenance. Lady Louisa was most charming in her attention to me, and she has a most sensible, deep-thinking face.
Snowing and fogging, as white and as dark and disagreeable as ever it can be. Thank heaven, to-day was not yesterday, which was dry, bright sunshine, on purpose to grace the Queen, and to pleasure us three in particular. Fanny ended yesterday by telling you how fortunate, or rather how kind, people had been in working out three tickets for me, at the last hour, at the last moment; for Lord Lovelace came himself between eleven and twelve at night with a ticket, which he gave me, at Lady Byron's request. You may guess how happy I was to have the third ticket for Honora, and we were all full dressed, punctual to the minute, in Fanny's carriage, and with my new-dressed opossum cloak covering our knees, as warm as young toasts.
I spare you all that you will see in the newspapers. The first view of the House did not strike me as so grand as the old House, but my mouth was stopped by "Pro tempore only, you know." We went up an ignominiously small staircase, and the man at the bottom, piteously perspiring, cried out, "On, on, ladies! don't stop the way! room enough above!" But there was one objection to going on, that there were no seats above: however, we made ourselves small—no great difficulty—and, taking to the wall, we left a scarcely practicable pass for those who, less wary and more obedient than ourselves, went up one by one to the highmost void. Fanny feared for me that I should never be able to stand it, when somehow or another my name was pronounced and heard by one of the Miss Southebys, who stretched her cordial hand. "Glad—proud—glad—we'll squeeze—we'll make room for you between me and my friend Miss Fitzhugh;" and so I was bodkin, but never touched the bench till long after. I cast a lingering look at my deserted sisters twain. "No, no, we can't do that!" so, that hope killed off, I took to make the best of my own selfish position, and surveyed all beneath me, from the black heads of the reporter gentlemen, with their pencils and papers before them in the form and desk immediately below me, to the depths of the hall, in all its long extent; and sprawling and stretching in the midst—with the feathered and lappeted and jewelled peeresses on their right, and their foreign excellencies on the left—were the long-robed, ermined judges, laying their wigs together and shaking hands, their wigs' many-curled tails shaking on their backs. And the wigs jointly and severally looked like so many vast white and gray birds'-nests from Brobdingnag, with a black hole at the top of each, for the birds to creep out or in. More and more scarlet-ermined dignitaries and nobles swarmed into the hall, and then, in at the scarlet door, came, with white ribbon shoulder-knots and streamers flying in all directions, a broad scarlet five-row-ermined figure, with high, bald forehead, facetious face, and jovial, hail-fellow-well-met countenance, princely withal, H.R.H. the Duke of Cambridge, and the sidelong peeress benches stretched their fair hands, and he his ungloved royal hand hastily here and there and everywhere, and chattering so loud and long, that even the remote gallery could hear the "Ha, ha, haw!" which followed ever and anon; and we blessed ourselves, and thought we should never hear the Queen; but I was told he would be silent when the Queen came, and so it proved.
The guns were heard: once, twice, and at the second all were silent: even His Royal Highness of Cambridge ceased to rustle and flutter, and stood nobly still.
Enter the crown and cushion and sword of state and mace—the Queen, leaning on Prince Albert's arm. She did not go up the steps to the throne well—caught her foot and stumbled against the edge of the footstool, which was too high. She did not seat herself in a decided, queenlike manner, and after sitting down pottered too much with her drapery, arranging her petticoats. That footstool was much too high! her knees were crumpled up, and her figure, short enough already, was foreshortened as she sat, and her drapery did not come to the edge of the stool: as my neighbour Miss Fitzhugh whispered, "Bad effect." However and nevertheless, the better half of her looked perfectly ladylike and queenlike; her head finely shaped, and well held on her shoulders with her likeness of a kingly crown, that diadem of diamonds. Beautifully fair the neck and arms; and the arms moved gracefully, and never too much. I could not at that distance judge of her countenance, but I heard people on the bench near me saying that she looked "divinely gracious."
Dead silence: more of majesty implied in that silence than in all the magnificence around. She spoke, low and well: "My lords and gentlemen, be seated." Then she received from the lord-in-waiting her speech, and read: her voice, perfectly distinct and clear, was heard by us ultimate auditors; it was not quite so fine a voice as I had been taught to expect; it had not the full rich tones nor the varied powers and inflections of a perfect voice. She read with good sense, as if she perfectly understood, but did not fully or warmly feel, what she was reading. It was more a girl's well-read lesson than a Queen pronouncing her speech. She did not lay emphasis sufficient to mark the gradations of importance in the subjects, and she did not make pauses enough. The best-pronounced paragraphs were those about France and Ireland, her firm determination to preserve inviolate the legislative union; and "I am resolved to act in strict conformity with this declaration" she pronounced strongly and well. She showed less confidence in reading about the suspension of the elective franchise, and in the conclusion, emphasis and soul were wanting, when they were called for, when she said, "In full confidence of your loyalty and wisdom, and with an earnest prayer to Almighty GOD," etc.
Her Majesty's exit I was much pleased to look at, it was so graceful and so gracious. She took time enough for all her motions, noticing all properly, from "my dear uncle"—words I distinctly heard as she passed the Duke of Cambridge—to the last expectant fair one at the doorway. The Queen vanished: buzz, noise, the clatter rose, and all were in commotion, and the tide of scarlet and ermine flowed and ebbed; and after an immense time the throngs of people bonneted and shawled, came forth from all the side niches and windows, and down from the upper galleries, and then places unknown gave up their occupants, and all the outward halls were filled with the living mass: as we looked down upon them from the back antechamber, one sea of heads. We sat down on a side seat with Mrs. Hamilton Grey and her sister, and we made ourselves happy criticising or eulogising all that passed down the centre aisle: not the least chance of getting to our carriage, for an hour to come. One of the blue and silver officials of the House, at a turn in one of the passages, had loudly pronounced, pointing, rod in hand, to an outer vestibule and steps, "All who are not waiting for carriages, this way, be pleased;" and vast numbers, ill pleased, were forced to make their exit. We went farther and fared worse. While we were waiting in purgatory, several angelic wigs passed that way who noticed me, most solemnly, albeit cordially: my Lord Chief Justice Tindal, Baron Alderson, Mr. Justice Erskine, the Bishop of London—very warm indeed; had never cooled since I had met him the night before at Sir Robert Inglis's.
Harriet de Salis, very well dressed and very unaffected and warm-hearted, actually left her chaperon, and sat down on the steps, and talked and laughed the heart's laugh. Honora and Fanny had gone on a voyage of discovery through the sea of heads, and had found that most excellent and sensible John stuck close to the door; but as to getting the carriage up, impracticable. We had only to wait and be ready instantly, as it would have to drive off as soon as called. Workmen, bawling to one another, were hauling and hoisting out all the peeresses' benches, stripped of their scarlet; and the short and the very long of it is that we did at last hear "Mrs. Wilson's carriage," and in we ran, and took Mrs. Hamilton Grey in too: Fanny sat on Honora's lap, and all was right and happy; and even little I not at all tired.
When I had got thus far, Sir Thomas Acland came in; I had met him at Sir Robert Inglis's. He was full of Edgeworthstown and your kindness to him, my dear mother. He repeated to me all the good advice he received from you forty years ago, and says that you made him see Ireland, and have common-sense. You put him in the way, and he has made his way. He is very good, very enthusiastic, and wonderfully fond of me and of Castle Rackrent.
To MRS. R. BUTLER.
WARFIELD LODGE, April 3, 1844.
I am so glad I came here, and I am so glad I have my own dear Fanny with me; and she was rewarded for coming by Miss O'Beirne's most cordial reception of her; so kindly well-bred. Dear Miss Wren! for dear she has always been to me for her own merits, which are great, and from her perfect love for Mrs. O'Beirne, in which I sympathise.
I am as well as I am happy, and not the least tired, thank you, my dear ma'am, after having seen and heard and done enough yesterday morning to have tired a young body of seventeen, instead of one in her seventy-eighth year.
We went a charming drive through this smiling, well-wooded, well-cottaged country, to the Malcolms: met Colonel Malcolm and his eldest sister Olympia on horseback at the door, just returned from their ride, and straight Fanny fell in love with Olympia's horse—"such a beautiful animal!" But I care much more for the Colonel! charming indeed, unaffected, polite, and kind. Never had I so kind a reception! and if I were to give you a catalogue raisonnee of all we saw in their rich and rare, as well as happy home, it would reach from this to Trim.
To MRS. EDGEWORTH.
COLLINGWOOD, April 8, 1844.
Fine sunshiny day, and from my window I see a beautiful lawn, and two children rolling on the grass, and I hear their happy voices and their father's with them. I should have told you that on Friday Lestock took me and Emmeline, and Emmeline Gibbons and her little girl, to the Zoological Gardens, and we all were mightily delighted; but of the beasts and birds when I return.
Here are Lord and Lady Adair—she is grateful to Sophy Palmer for her kindness when she was ill at Oxford—and Sir Edward Ryan, and one whom I was right glad to meet, "Jones on Rent;" and I have attacked, plagued, and gratified him by urging him to write a new volume. Jones and Herschel are very fond of one another, often differing, but always agreeing to differ, like Malthus and Ricardo, who hunted together in search of Truth, and huzzaed when they found her, without caring who found her first: indeed, I have seen them both put their able hands to the windlass to drag her up from the bottom of that well in which she so strangely delights to dwell.
I must go back to the 23rd, which was a full and well-filled day. In the morning Rogers kindly determined to catch us: came before luncheon-time, and was very agreeable and very good-natured about a drawing I showed to him by a niece of Mrs. Holland's, a young girl of fifteen, who has really an inventive genius. I suggested to her, among the poems it is now the fashion to illustrate, Parnell's fairy tale: she has sketched the first scene—the old castle, lighted up: fairies dancing in the hall: Edwin crouching in the corner. Rogers praised it so warmly, that I regretted the girl could not hear him; it would so encourage her. He got up, dear, good-natured old man, from his chair as I spoke, and went immediately to Lower Brook Street with the drawing to the young lady.
Luncheon over, we drove to the city, to see an old gentleman of ninety-three, Mr. Vaughan, whom I am sure you remember so kindly showing the London Docks to us in 1813, with his understanding and all his faculties as clear and as fresh now as they were then; and after returning from Mr. Vaughan's, we went to the bazaar, where I wanted to buy a churn, and other toys that shall be nameless, for the children; and after all this I lay down and slept for three-quarters of an hour, before time to dress for dinner. This dinner was at Lambeth: arrived exactly in time: found Mrs. Howley ready in her beautiful drawing-room, and I had the pleasure of five minutes' conversation alone with her. Oddly, it came out that she had a fine picture in the room, given to her by Mr. Legge, who inherited Aston Hall, which Mr. Legge I used to hear of continually ages ago as a sort of bugbear, being the heir-at-law to Sir Thomas Holte and Lady Holte's property. "Very natural they could never bear the name of Legge," said Mrs. Howley, "but he was my relative and excellent friend;" and she pointed to an inscription in grateful honour of him under the picture. How oddly connections come out, and between people one should never have thought had heard of each other, and at such distant times.
This dinner and evening at Lambeth proved very agreeable to me. At the dinner were Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton Grey, Dean Milman, the Bishop of Lichfield, Sir Thomas Sinclair, and some others whose names I do not remember—fourteen altogether. I was on the Archbishop's right hand, Mrs. Hamilton Grey on his left. Dear, simple, dignified, yet playful Archbishop, who talked well of all things, from nursery rhymes to deep metaphysics and physics. Apropos to dreams and acting in character in the strangest circumstances, I mentioned Dr. Holland's Medical Notes, and the admirable chapter on Reverie and Dreaming. He had not seen the book, but seemed interested, and said he would read it directly—a great pleasure to me (goose!). I must not go further into the conversation with Milman, and the Archbishop's remarks upon Coleridge; it was all very agreeable, and—early hours being the order of the day and night there—I came away at ten; and as I drew up the glass, and was about to draw up Steele's opossum cloak, I felt a slight resistance—Fanny! dear, kind Fanny, so unexpected, come in the carriage for me; and a most delightful drive we had home.
1 NORTH AUDLEY STREET, April 15.
"Slip on, for Time's Time!" said a man, coming forth with a pipe in his mouth from an inn door, exhorting men and horses of railroad omnibus. "Slip on, Time's Time!" I have been saying to myself continually; and now I am coming to the last gasp, and Time slips so fast, that Time is not Time—in fact, there's no Time.
Rosa's note to Fanny about glass shall be attended to, and I shall paste on the outside, "GLASS—NOT TO BE THROWN DOWN;" for Lord Adair had a bag thrown down the other day by reckless railway porters, in which was a bottle of sulphuric acid, which, breaking and spilling, stained, spoiled, and burned his Lordship's best pantaloons. I have packed up my bottles with such elastic skill, that I trust my petticoats will not share that sad fate.
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Miss Edgeworth now left London for the last time. This was her last visit to her happy London home in North Audley Street, and in this last visit she had enjoyed much with all the freshness of youth, though the health of her sister and hostess often caused her anxiety. Mrs. L.H. Sigourney, who had been a frequent visitor, writes: [Footnote: Pleasant Memories of Pleasant Lands, by Mrs. L.H. Sigourney (1791-1865).]
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To have repeatedly met and listened to Miss Edgeworth, seated familiarly with her by the fireside, may seem to her admirers in America a sufficient payment for the hazards of crossing the Atlantic. Her conversation, like her writings, is varied, vivacious, and delightful. Her forgetfulness of self and happiness in making others happy are marked traits in her character. Her person is small and delicately proportioned, and her movements full of animation. The ill-health of the lovely sister, much younger than herself, at whose house in London she was passing the winter, called forth such deep anxiety, untiring attention, and fervent gratitude for every favourable symptom, as seemed to blend features of maternal tenderness with sisterly affection.
MARIA to MRS. R. BUTLER.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, May 2, 1844.
Not the least tired with my journey. Francis read to me indefatigably through Australia. [Footnote: Hood's Letters from Australia.] There is an excellent anecdote of an old Scotch servant meeting his master unexpectedly in Australia after many years' absence: "I was quite dung down donnerit when I saw the laird, I canna' conceit what dooned me—I was raal glad to see him, but I dinna ken hoo I couldna' speak it."
If anybody can conceive anything much more absurd than my copying this out of a printed book of your own which you will have back in seven days,—let them call aloud.
"I canna' speak it" how happy I was yesterday, at the tender, warm reception I had from your dear mother, and all young and old.
To MISS MARGARET RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Aug. 21, 1844.
I am right glad to look forward to the hope of seeing you again and talking all manner of nonsense and sense, and laughing myself and making you laugh, as I used to do, though I am six years beyond the allotted age and have had so many attacks of illness within the last two years; but I am, as Bess Fitzherbert and poor dear Sophy used to say, like one of those pith puppets that you knock down in vain, they always start up the same as ever. I was particularly fortunate in my last attack of erysipelas in all the circumstances, just having reached Harriet and Louisa's comfortable home, and happy in having Harriet Butler coming to me the very day she heard I was in this condition. Crampton had set out for Italy the day before, but Sir Henry Marsh managed me with skill, and let me recover slowly, as nature requires at advanced age. I am obliged to repeat to myself, "advanced age," because really and truly neither my spirits nor my powers of locomotion and facility of running up and down stairs would put me in mind of it. I do not find either my love for my friends or my love of literature in the least failing. I enjoyed even when flattest in my bed hearing Harriet Butler reading to me till eleven o'clock at night. Sir Henry Marsh prescribed some book that would entertain and interest me without straining my attention or over-exciting me, and Harriet chose Madame de Sevigne's Letters, which perfectly answered all the conditions, and was as delightful at the twentieth reading as at the first. Such lively pictures of the times and modes of living in country, town, and court, so interesting from their truth, simplicity, and elegance; the language so polished, and not the least antiquated even at this day. Madame de Sevigne's reply to Madame de Grignan, having called Les Rochers "humide"—"Humide! humide vous-meme!" I should not have thought it French; I did not know they had that turn of colloquial drollery. But she has every good turn and power of expression, and is such an amiable, affectionate, good creature, loving the world too and the court, and all its sense and nonsense mixed delightfully. Harriet often stopped to say, "How like my mother! how like Aunt Ruxton!" At Trim, during the two delightfully happy months I was there, during my convalescence and perfect recovery, she read to me many other books, and often I wished that you had been as you used to be with us, and Mr. Butler, who is very fond of you and appreciates you, joined in the wish. One book was the Journal of the Nemesis,—of breathless interest, from the great danger they were in from the splitting of the iron vessel, and all the exertions and ingenuity of the officers; and Prescott's Mexico I found extremely interesting. After these true, or warranted true histories, we read a novel not half so romantic or entertaining, the Widow Barnaby in America, and then we tried a Swedish story,—not by Miss Bremer,—of smugglers and murderers, and a self-devoted lady, and an idiot boy, the best drawn and most consistent character in the book. After—no, I believe it was before—the Rose of Tisleton, we read Ellen Middleton, by Lady Georgiana Fullerton, grand-daughter of the famous Duchess-Beauty of Devonshire, and whatever faults that Duchess had she certainly had genius. Do you recollect her lines on William Tell? or do you know Coleridge's lines to her, beginning with
O lady nursed in pomp and pleasure, Where learned you that heroic measure?
Look for them, and get Ellen Middleton, it is well worth your reading. Lady Georgiana certainly inherits her grandmother's genius, and there is a high-toned morality and religious principle through the book (where got she "that heroic measure"?) without any cant or ostentation: it is the same moral I intended in Helen, but exemplified in much deeper and stronger colours. This is—but you must read it yourself.
To MRS. R. BUTLER.
OBSERVATORY, ARMAGH, Sept. 15, 1844.
As well and as happy as the day is short—too short here for all that is to be seen, felt, heard, and understood. It is more delightful to me than I can express, but you can understand how delightful it is to see Lucy so happy and to see her mother see it all. I sleep in the same room with her, and fine talking we have, and we care not who hears us, we say no harm of anybody, we have none to say.
Lucy has certainly made good use of her time and so improved the house I should hardly have known it. In the dining-room is a fine picture of Dr. Robinson when a boy, full of genius and romance, seated on a rock. It is admirable and delicious to see how well and how completely Lucy has turned her mind to all that can make her house and houseband, and all belonging to him, happy and comfortable—omitting none of those smaller creature comforts which, if not essential, are very desirable for all human creatures learned or unlearned.
Robinson at home is not less wonderful and more agreeable even than Robinson abroad,—his abondance in literature equal to Macintosh,—in science you know out of sight superior to anybody. In home life his amiable qualities and amicable temper appear to the greatest advantage, and I cannot say too much about the young people's kind and affectionate manner to Lucy.
The Primate [Footnote: Lord John George Beresford, Archbishop of Armagh.] and the Lady Beresfords were so kind and gracious as to come to see us; and I have enjoyed a very agreeable luncheon-dinner at Caledon. Lady Caledon is a real person, doing a great deal of good sensibly. Lord Caledon [Footnote: James Du Pre, third Earl of Caledon, was then unmarried. His mother, Catherine, daughter of the third Earl of Hardwicke, lived with him when he was in Ireland.] gave me a history of his life in the backwoods of America, and gave me a piece of pemmican, and I enclose a bit, and I hope it will not have greased everything! and when I said that after a youth in the backwoods it was well to have such a place as Caledon to fall back upon, there was a glance at his mother that spoke volumes.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Aug. 7, 1845.
How characteristic Joanna Baillie's letter is, so perfectly simple, dignified, and touching.
To MISS MARGARET RUXTON.
August 7, 1845.
No pen or hand but my own shall answer your most affectionate letter, my dear own Margaret, or welcome you again to your native country—damp as it is—warm and comfortable with good old,—and young, friends—and young, for your young friends Mary Anne and Charlotte were heartily glad to see you. As to the old, I will yield to no mortal living. In the first place is the plain immovable fact that I am the OLDEST friend you have living, and as to actual knowledge of you I defy any one to match me, ever since you were an infant at Foxhall, and through the Black Castle cottage times with dear Sophy and all. What changes and chances, and ups and downs, we have seen together!
To MISS MARGARET RUXTON.
TRIM, March 1, 1846.
Pakenham and Christina [Footnote: In February, Pakenham Edgeworth had married Christina, daughter of Dr. Hugh Macpherson of Aberdeen.] arrived here in excellent time, charmed with their kind reception at Black Castle. From the first moment I set eyes and ears upon Christina I liked her,—it seemed to me as if she was not a new bride coming a stranger amongst us, but one of the family fitting at once into her place as a part of a joining map that had been wanting and is now happily found.
To LADY BEAUFORT.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, May 31, 1846.
I hope, dear Honora, that the rhododendrons will not exhaust themselves; at this moment yours opposite the library window are in the most beautiful profuse blow you can conceive, and at the end of my garden indescribably beautiful, and scarlet thorn beside. The peony tree has happily survived its removal, and is covered with flowers.
To MRS. R. BUTLER.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, June 24, 1846.
I must try your patience a bit more in a most thorny affair——How "thorny"?
You will never know till a box arrives by the coach, Edward being under orders to convey it to Granard in the gig. Why Edward? Why in the gig? Because the box is too heavy for Mick Dolan or any other gossoon to carry. "And what can be in it?" Wait till you see,—and I hope you may only see and not feel. Citoyenne, n'y touchez pas. Vegetable, animal, or mineral? Four-and-twenty questions might be spent upon it, and you would be none the wiser.
Now to be plain, the box contains "the old man's head;" now you know. Cacti sent to me by Sir William Hooker; your mother has not room for more than two, which she kept. Thunderstorm and hail-shower, half-past eleven.
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The death of Maria Edgeworth's half-brother Francis on 12th October 1846 was a great grief to the family. The same autumn saw the beginning of the Irish famine.
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MARIA to MRS. R. BUTLER.
February 9, 1847.
Mr. Powell instigated me to beg some relief for the poor from the Quaker Association in Dublin—so, much against the grain, I penned a letter to Mr. Harvey, the only person whose name I know on the committee, and prayed some assistance for Mr. Powell, our vicar, to get us over the next two months, and your mother represented to me that men and boys who can get employment in draining especially, cannot stand the work in the wet for want of strong shoes; so, in for a penny, in for a pound; ask for a lamb, ask for a sheep. I made bould to axe my FRIENDS for as many pairs of brogues as they could afford, or as much leather and soles, which would be better still, as this would enable us to set sundry starving shoemakers to work. By return of post came a letter to "Most respected Friend," or something better, I forget what, and I have sent the letter to Fanny—granting L30 for food—offering a soup boiler for eighty gallons, if we had not one large enough, and sending L10 for women's work: and telling me they would lay my shoe petition before the Clothing Committee. [Footnote: Leather was sent by these benevolent gentlemen, and brogues were made for men and boys, and proved to be of the first service.]
The people are now beginning to sow, and I hope they will accordingly reap in due course. Mr. Hinds has laid down a good rule, not to give seed to any tenants but those who can produce the receipt for the last half-year's rent. Barry has been exceedingly kind in staying with us, doing your mother all manner of good, looking after blunders in draining, etc.
I have been working as hard as an ass to get the pleasure of writing to you, and have not been able to accomplish it. I have only time to say, a gentleman from the Birmingham Relief Committee has sent me L5 for the starving Irish. How good people are! I send Mrs. Cruger's letter, and have written to the ladies of America, specially, as she desires, to those of New York, and your mother approved, and I asked for barley seed, which, as Mr. Powell and Gahan and your mother say, to be of any use must come before May—but I asked for money as well as seed.—Sturdy beggars.