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The Life and Letters of Maria Edgeworth, Vol. 2
by Maria Edgeworth
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March 22.

You will see how good the Irish Americans [Footnote: The Irish porters who carried the seed corn sent from Philadelphia to the shore for embarkation refused to be paid.] have been, and are; I wish the rich Argosie was come.

April 9.

"Ou peut-on etre mieux qu'au sein de sa famille?" I found it, my dear, exactly where I knew it was, in Alison's History. On Buonaparte's return from Egypt, the Old Guard surrounding him and the band playing this. I know Mary Anne and Charlotte have the music. I have seen it with my eyes and heard it with my ears; I have it in the memory of my heart—I have made all the use I want of it now in the new story I am writing, and mean to publish in Chambers's Miscellany, and to give the proceeds to the Poor Relief Fund.

April 26.

Having seen in the newspapers that the Australians had sent a considerable sum for the relief of the distressed Irish, and that they had directed it to the care of "His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin," meaning Dr. Murray, I wrote to our Archbishop Whately, playing upon this graceless proceeding towards him, and to the best of my capacity, without flattery. I did what I could to make my letter honestly pleasing to His Grace, and I received the most prompt, polite, and to the point reply, assuring me that the Australians were not so graceless in their doings as in their words, that they had made a remittance of a considerable sum to him, and that if I apply to the Central Relief Committee, in whose hands he placed it, he has no doubt my application will be attended to.

This was nuts and apples to me, or, better at present, rice and oatmeal, and I have accordingly written to "My Lords and Gentlemen." The Archbishop, civilly, to show how valuable he deemed my approbation! has sent me a corrected copy of his speech, with good new notes and protest and preface. He says it is impossible to conceive how ignorant the English still are of Ireland, and how positive in their ignorance.

April 28.

Mr. Powell has received from Government L105 on his sending up the list of subscriptions here for a hundred guineas, according to their promise, to give as much as any parish subscribed towards its own relief. This he means to lay out in bread and rice and meal—not all in soup; that he may encourage them to cook at home and not be mere craving beggars.

To LADY BEAUFORT.

EDGEWORTHSTOWN, May 8, 1847.

Most heartily do I rejoice that we may hope that you may be able to come; I do not say come with Fanny, for that might hurry and hazard you, but in the days of harvest home, if harvest home does ever come again to our poor country, and you will rejoice with us in the brightened day.

I cannot answer your Admiral's question as to the number of deaths caused by the famine. I believe that no one can form a just estimate. In different districts the estimates and assertions are widely different, and the priests keep no registry. Mr. Tuite, who was here yesterday, told us that in the House of Commons the contradictory statements of the Irish members astonished and grieved him, as he knew the bad effect it would have in diminishing their credit with the English. Two hundred and fifty thousand is the report of the Police up to April. Mr. Tuite thought a third more deaths than usual had been in his neighbourhood. My mother and Mr. Powell say that the increase of deaths above ordinary times has not in this parish been as much as one-third.

To MRS. R. BUTLER.

EDGEWORTHSTOWN, May 19, 1847.

The fever, or whatever it is, has been, Lucy says, dreadful about Armagh; many gentlemen have it; one who exerted himself much for the poor—was distributing meal, saw a poor girl so weak, she could not hold her apron stretched out for it; he went and held it for her—she was in the fever; he went home, felt ill, had the fever, and died.

June 7.

What magnificent convolvulus! we had not one blown for Fanny's birthday. Do not trouble yourself about my cough or cold, for I am doing, and shall do, very well; and I would have had twenty times the cough for the really exquisite pleasure I have received from Sir Henry Marsh's letter: no such generous offer was ever made with more politeness and good taste. In the midst of all that may go wrong in the world there is really much good, and so much that is honourable to our human nature.

When Margaret is with you, if she likes to see Orlandino in his present deshabille, she is welcome. [Footnote: This story was the first of a series edited by William Chambers. It was practically "a temperance story." Speaking in it of the influence of Father Matthews, Miss Edgeworth says: "Since the time of the Crusades, never has one single voice awakened such moral energies; never was the call of one man so universally, so promptly, so long obeyed. Never, since the world began, were countless multitudes so influenced and so successfully diverted by one mind to one peaceful purpose. Never were nobler ends by nobler means attained."]

June 11.

I am quite well, and half-eaten by midges, which proves that I have been out, standing over Mackin, cutting away dead branches of laurestinus. He could not stand it—took off hat, and rubbed with both hands all over head and face. I wish we could put back the profuse blow of the rhododendrons, peonies, and Himalayan poppies till Honora and Fanny come. Have you any Himalayan poppies? If not, remember to supply yourself when you are here—splendid!

* * * * *

Of the publication of Orlandino, written for the benefit of the Irish Poor Relief Fund, Miss Edgeworth wrote to Mrs. S.C. Hall:

* * * * *

Chambers, as you always told me, acts very liberally. As this was to earn a little money for our parish poor, in the last year's distress, he most considerately gave prompt payment. Even before publication, when the proof-sheets were under correction, came the ready order in the Bank of Ireland. Blessings on him! and I hope he will not be the worse for me. I am surely the better for him, and so are numbers now working and eating; for Mrs. Edgeworth's principle and mine is to excite the people to work for good wages, and not, by gratis feeding, to make beggars of them, and ungrateful beggars, as the case might be.

* * * * *

A most touching reward for her exertions in behalf of the Irish poor, reached Miss Edgeworth from America. The children of Boston, who had known and loved her through her books, raised a subscription for her, and sent her a hundred and fifty pounds of flour and rice. They were simply inscribed—"To Miss Edgeworth, for her poor." Nothing, in her long life, ever pleased or gratified her more.

* * * * *

MARIA EDGEWORTH to MISS MARGARET RUXTON.

EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Oct. 27, 1847.

I have heard it said that no one should begin a letter with I, but methinks this must be the dictum of some hypocritical body, or of somebody who thinks more of themselves than they dare let appear. I am so full of my own little self, that I am confident you, my dear Margaret, will not think the worse of me for beginning with "I am very well;" and I am a miracle of prudence and a model of virtue to sick and well—with good looking-after understood. So I stayed in bed yesterday morning, and roses and myrtles and white satin ribbon covered my bed, to tie up a bouquet for a bride, very well wrapped up in my labada. You don't know what a labada is: Harriet will tell you. This nosegay was to be presented to the bride by little Mary, as Rosa was asked to the wedding, and was to take Mary with her. But who is the bride? you will ask, and ask you may; but you will not be a bit the wiser when I tell you—Miss Thompson. Now your heads go to Clonfin, or to Thompsons near Dublin, or in the County of Meath. This is one you never heard of—at Mr. Armstrong's, of Moydow; and she was married yesterday to the eldest son of Baron Greene.

At the breakfast, when Mr. Armstrong was to reply to the speech of the bridegroom, who had expressed his gratitude to him as the uncle who had brought her up, the old man attempted to speak; but when he rose he could only pronounce the words, "My child."

Mary, after the breakfast, walked gracefully up to the bride and said, "My Aunt Maria begged me to present this to you. The rose is called Maria Leonida, her own name is Maria; and she hopes you will be very happy." I was delighted.

To MRS. R. BUTLER.

EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Oct. 30, 1847.

I hope the hyacinths "Maria Edgeworth" and "Apollo," and all the blues, will not be destroyed in their journey to you. I spent an hour yesterday doing up dahlias for Rosa, who wrote to me from Dublin that she was heart-sick for flowers.

I advise and earnestly recommend you to read Grantley Manor. It does not, Mr. Butler, end ill, and from beginning to end it is good, and not stupidly good. It is not controversial either in dialogue or story, and in word and deed it does justice to both Churches, in the distribution of the qualities of the dramatis personae and the action of the story. It is beautifully written; pathetic, without the least exaggeration of feeling or affectation. The characters are well contrasted; some nobly high-minded, generous, and firm to principle, religious and moral without any cant; and there are no monsters of wickedness. I never read a more interesting story, new, and well developed.

Nov. 13.

Yesterday morning I received the enclosed note from that most conceited and not over well-bred Mons. de Lamartine. I desired my friend Madame Belloc to use her own discretion in repeating my criticisms on his Histoire des Girondins, but requested that she would convey to him the thanks and admiration of our family for the manner in which he has mentioned the Abbe Edgeworth, and our admiration of the beauty of the writing of that whole passage in the work. At the same time I regretted that he had omitted "Fils de St. Louis," and also that he has not mentioned the circumstance of the crowd opening and letting the Abbe pass in safety immediately from the scaffold after the execution. This it seems to me necessary to note, as part of the picture of the times: a few days afterwards a price was set upon his head, and hundreds were ready for the reward to pursue and give him up. I copied this from Sneyd's Memoir, and the anecdote of the Abbe, when asked at a dinner (Ministerial) in London whether he said the words "Fils de St. Louis," etc., and his answer that he could not recollect, his mind had been so taken up with the event. I think Lamartine, in his note to me, turns this unfairly; and I feel, and I am sure so will you and Mr. Butler, "What an egotist and what a puppy it is!" But ovation has turned his head.

* * * * *

On the 4th of February 1848, after a very short illness, Mrs. Lestock Wilson—Fanny Edgeworth—died. Maria survived her little more than a year. She bore the shock without apparent injury to her health, and she continued to employ herself with her usual benevolent interest and sympathy in all the business and pleasures of her family and friends; but strongly as she was attached to all her brothers and sisters, Fanny had been the dearest object of her love and admiration. To her friend Mrs. S.C. Hall, who wrote to her as usual on 1st January (1849), which was her birthday, she answered, "You must not delay long in finding your way to Edgeworthstown if you mean to see me again. Remember, you have just congratulated me on my eighty-second birthday." In the spring she spent some weeks at Trim, where her sister Lucy and Dr. Robinson were with her. She seemed unusually agitated and depressed in taking leave of her sister Harriet and Mr. Butler, but said as she went away, "At Whitsuntide I shall return."

Only a few weeks before her death Miss Edgeworth wrote:

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

In her last letter to her sister, Honora Beaufort, she enclosed the lines:

* * * * *

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

MARIA E. May 1849.

* * * * *

On the morning of the 22nd of May Miss Edgeworth drove out, apparently in her usual health. On her return she was suddenly seized with pain of the heart, and in a few hours breathed her last in the arms of her devoted stepmother and friend.[Footnote: Mrs. Edgeworth herself lived till 1865, greatly honoured and beloved.]

Mrs. Edgeworth writes:

* * * * *

Maria had always wished that her friends should be spared the anguish of seeing her suffer in protracted illness; she had always wished to die at home, and that I should be with her—both her wishes were fulfilled.

Extremely small of stature, her figure continued slight, and all her movements singularly alert to the last. No one ever conversed with her for five minutes without forgetting the plainness of her features in the vivacity, benevolence, and genius expressed in her countenance.[Footnote: In her old age Miss Edgeworth used to say, "Nobody is anything worse than 'plain' now; no one is ugly now but myself,"—but no one thought her so.]

Particularly neat in her dress and in all her ways, she had everything belonging to her arranged in the most perfect order—habits of order early impressed upon her mind by Mrs. Honora Edgeworth, which, with her methodical way of doing business, enabled her to get through a surprising amount of multifarious work in the course of every day.

She wrote almost always in the library, undisturbed by the noise of the large family about her, and for many years on a little desk her father had made for her, and on which two years before his death he inscribed the following words:

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

"R.L.E."

She used afterwards a writing-desk which had been her father's, but when at home it was always placed on a little table of his construction, which is in my possession, and to which she had attached many ingenious contrivances—a bracket for her candlestick, a fire-screen, and places for her papers. This little table being on castors, she could move it from the sofa by the fire to the window, or into a recess behind the pillars of the library, where she generally sat in summer time. She wrote on folio sheets of paper, which she sewed together in chapters.

To facilitate the calculation of the MS. for printing, and to secure each page containing nearly the same amount of writing, she used to prick the margin of her paper at equal distances, and her father made a little machine set with points by which she could pierce several sheets at once. A full sketch of the story she was about to write was always required by her father before she began it, and though often much changed in its progress, the foundation and purpose remained as originally planned. She rose, as I have said, early, and after taking a cup of coffee and reading her letters, walked out till breakfast-time, a meal she always enjoyed especially (though she scarcely ate anything); she delighted to read out and talk over her letters of the day, and listened a little to the newspapers, but she was no politician. She came into the breakfast-room in summer time with her hands full of roses, and always had some work or knitting to do while others ate. She generally sat down at her desk soon after breakfast and wrote till luncheon-time,—her chief meal in the day,—after which she did some needlework, often unwillingly, when eager about her letters or MSS., but obediently, as she had found writing directly after eating bad for her. Sometimes in the afternoon she drove out, always sitting with her back to the horses, and when quite at ease about them exceedingly enjoyed a short drive in an open carriage, not caring and often not knowing which road she went, talking and laughing all the time. She usually wrote all the rest of her afternoon, and in her latter years lay down and slept for an hour after dinner, coming down to tea and afterwards reading out herself, or working and listening to the reading out of some of the family. Her extreme enjoyment of a book made these evening hours delightful to her and to all her family. If her attention was turned to anything else, she always desired the reader to stop till she was able to attend, and even from the most apparently dull compositions she extracted knowledge or amusement. She often lingered after the usual bed-time to talk over what she had heard, full of bright or deep and solid observations, and gay anecdotes a propos to the work or its author.

She had amazing power of control over her feelings when occasion demanded, but in general her tears or her smiles were called forth by every turn of joy and sorrow among those she lived with. When she met in a stranger a kindred mind, her conversation upon every subject poured forth, was brilliant with wit and eloquence and a gaiety of heart which gave life to all she thought and said. But the charms of society never altered her taste for domestic life; she was consistent from the beginning to the end. Though so exceedingly enjoying the intercourse of all the great minds she had known, she more enjoyed her domestic life with her nearest relations, when her spirits never flagged, and her wit and wisdom, which were never for show, were called forth by every little incident of the day. When my daughters were with Maria at Paris, they described to me the readiness with which she would return from the company of the greatest philosophers and wits of the day to superintend her young sisters' dress, or arrange some party of pleasure for them. "We often wonder what her admirers would say, after all the profound remarks and brilliant witticisms they have listened to, if they heard all her delightful nonsense with us." Much as she was gratified by her "success" in the society of her celebrated contemporaries, she never varied in her love for Home.

* * * * *

Her whole life, of eighty-three years, had been an aspiration after good.



SUMMARY OF VOLUME II

1820-1821

Letters from Maria Edgeworth from Coppet, Pregny, Lausanne, Lyons, Paris, Calais, Clifton, Bowood, Easton Grey, Edgeworthstown to Miss Waller, Mrs. Edgeworth, Mrs. Ruxton, Miss Honora Edgeworth, Miss Lucy Edgeworth, Miss Ruxton.

Journey through Switzerland: Madame de Montolieu, Dumont, Duke de Broglie, M. de Stein, Pictet, Madame Necker, M. de Stael—Return to England through France: Madame de Rumford, the Delesserts, Madame de la Rochejacquelin—Attack of the Quarterly Review on the Memoirs—Visits to Bowood and Easton Grey: Lord Lansdowne, Hallam, David Ricardo—Return to Edgeworthstown—Reading and home life.

1821-1822

Letters from Kenioge, Smethwick Grove, Wycombe Abbey, Gatcombe Park, Easton Grey, Bowood, Clifton, Winchester, The Deepdene, Frognel, Hampstead, Beechwood Park, Mardoaks to Mrs. Edgeworth, Miss Honora Edgeworth, Miss Lucy Edgeworth, Mrs. Ruxton, Miss Ruxton.

Visits in England—Wycombe Abbey: Lord Carrington, Madame de Stael, and Buonaparte—David Ricardo—Bowood: Lord Lansdowne, Bowles—Miss Joanna Baillie's: Brodie, Dr. Holland, Lord Grenville—Anecdotes of Lady Salisbury and Wilberforce—Le Bas, Sir James Macintosh, Dumont.

1822

Letters from London to Mrs. Edgeworth, Mrs. Ruxton.

Life in London—Frank—Lady Lansdowne, Lady Elizabeth Whitbread, Calcott, Mrs. Somerville—Visit to the House of Commons: Peel, Brougham, Vansittart—Mrs. Fry—Almack's—Dinners and parties: Sir Humphry Davy, Dr. Holland, Miss Lydia White—Mrs. Siddons and Sheridan—Jeffrey, Hume, Herschel, Lady Byron, Randolph—Ticknor on Maria Edgeworth's conversation.

1822-1823

Letters from Edgeworthstown, Black Castle, Kinneil, Edinburgh, Callander, Inverness, Kinross, Abbotsford to Mrs. Ruxton, Mrs. O'Beirne, Miss Honora Edgeworth, Miss Lucy Edgeworth, Miss Ruxton, Mrs. Ruxton.

Return to Edgeworthstown—Literary work and reading: Early Lessons, Harry and Lucy—Walter Scott and Joanna Baillie—Death of Lord Londonderry—Visit to Scotland—Edinburgh: Evening at Sir Walter Scott's—Sir Walter Scott, Lady Scott, and Lockhart—A fortnight at Abbotsford.

1823-1830

Letters from Edgeworthstown, Pakenham Hall, Black Castle, Bloomfield to Mrs. and Miss Ruxton, Mrs. Bannatyne, Mrs. O'Beirne, Miss Honora Edgeworth, Mrs. Edgeworth, C.S. Edgeworth, Captain Basil Hall, Mr. Bannatyne.

Return to Ireland—Reading and letters: Mrs. Hemans, Blanco White, Dr. Holland, Walter Scott—Death of Anna Edgeworth—Death of Mrs. Barbauld—Visit of Sir Walter Scott to Edgeworthstown—Visit to Killarney with Scott and Lockhart—Harry and Lucy—Management of the estate—Death of Lady Scott—Visit from Sir Humphry Davy—Vivian Grey and Almack's—Sydney Smith's conversation—Visit from Herschel—Mrs. Mary Sneyd settles at Edgeworthstown—Illness and recovery—General interests and life at Edgeworthstown.

1830-1831

Letters from London to Miss Ruxton, Miss Honora Edgeworth, Mrs. Edgeworth, Mrs. R. Butler.

Death of Mrs. Ruxton—Visit to London: Lord Lansdowne, Joanna Baillie, Sir Henry Holland, Southey—Talleyrand—Duchess of Wellington, Sir James Macintosh—Death of Mr. Hope—Macaulay—Visit to the Herschels: Sir Joshua Reynolds's work—Rogers, Lord Mahon—Death of the Duchess of Wellington—Scene in the House of Lords—Opera and plays.

1831-1840

Letters from Edgeworthstown, Rostrevor, Pakenham Hall, Dunmoe Cottage, Lough Glyn, Trim to Captain Basil Hall, Mrs. L. Edgeworth, Miss Ruxton, Mrs. R. Butler, Mr. Bannatyne, C.S. Edgeworth, Mr. Pakenham Edgeworth, Mrs. Stark, Miss Margaret Ruxton, Mr. and Mrs. Ticknor.

Return to Ireland—Visits in Ireland—Lockhart's Life—Helen—Tour in Ireland—Young Sir Walter Scott—Principles of novel-writing—General election and relations with tenants—Views on Politics—Visit of Mr. Ticknor to Edgeworthstown, and of Rev. William Sprogue—Maria becomes real owner of Edgeworthstown—Home interests—Marriage of Honora Edgeworth.

1840-1843

Letters from London, Edgeworthstown, Trim to Mrs. R. Butler, Mrs. Edgeworth, Mrs. Beaufort, Miss Margaret Ruxton, Miss Bannatyne, Mrs. Beaufort.

Visit to London: Darwin, Dr. Lushington, Macaulay—Return to Edgeworthstown: Distress in Ireland—Mrs. Hall's description of the family life at Edgeworthstown—Dangerous illness of Maria Edgeworth—Reading and literary interests: Dickens, Francis Horner—Marriage of Miss Lucy Edgeworth to Dr. Robinson.

1843-1849

Letters from London, Warfield Lodge, Collingwood, Edgeworthstown, Armagh to Mrs. R. Butler, Mrs. Edgeworth, Miss Margaret Ruxton, Lady Beaufort, Mrs. S.C. Hall.

Visit to London—Sydney Smith, Sir Henry Holland, Rogers, Mrs. Drummond—Opening of the new Houses of Parliament—Visits in England—Dean Milman, Herschel—Return to Edgeworthstown—Reading and home interests—The Irish Famine—Orlandino—Death of Maria Edgeworth.

THE END

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