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EDWIN AND EMMA.
BY DAVID MALLET.
A New Edition,
WITH NOTES AND ILLUSTRATIONS
FREDERICK T. DINSDALE, Esq. LL.D. F.S.A.
"And some have died for love."--ARMSTRONG.
GEORGE BELL, FLEET STREET.
JOHN ATKINSON, BARNARD CASTLE.
The beautiful and affecting ballad of Edwin and Emma has been long generally known, and has doubtless been read and admired by thousands who were altogether unconscious that it was founded on fact, and that the poet had drawn his materials from the mournful history of two faithful but illstarred lovers, whose mutual attachment gave rise not only to the ballad of Edwin and Emma, but also to two other poetical compositions, which will be found in the Appendix to this volume.
The village of Bowes, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, was the native place and the real scene of the hapless loves of Roger Wrightson and Martha Railton.
The story will be learnt from the following letter, and more in detail from “ The Extract of a Letter from the Curate of Bowes,” and the preface to “The Bowes Tragedy.'
* See pp. 19, 109.
Rumford, Feb. 22.
Mr. Thomas Cooke in his enumeration of, and critical remarks on, the works of D. Mallet (particularised in your last volume, p. 1181), takes no notice of that beautiful poem entitled Edwin and Emma, which I always supposed was written by Mallet. I presume it will not be disagreeable to your readers to be acquainted that that piece (though adorned with the ornaments of the Muse, and believed by many to have originated in the mere effusions of a poetic brain) relates pretty accurately the death of two unfortunate cottagers. A knowledge of some particular incidents relative thereto enables me to communicate to you an account, to which we see few parallels* in these days. At Bowes, in
* Two similar instances may be here mentioned. “ The ballad of Andrew Lammie is said to be founded on real circumstances: the daughter of the Miller of Tifty, near Fyvie, in Aberdeenshire, fell in love with the trumpeter of the Laird of Fyvie, and being prevented from marrying him by her father, who esteemed the match beneath his dignity, died in consequence of a broken heart.
Both parties are said to have been remarkable for good looks. Annie's death, according to her gravestone in Fyvie churchyard, took place in 1631. Andrew, however, did not die as related in the ballad."-Chambers' Scottish Ballads, p. 137.
There is a circumstance in the life of Michael Johnson (the father of Dr. Johnson) somewhat romantic, but well authenticated: “A young woman of Leek, in Staffordshire, while he served his apprenticeship there, conceived a violent passion for him; and though it met with no favourable return, followed him to Lichfield, where she took lodgings opposite to the house in which he lived, and indulged her hopeless flame. When he was informed that it so preyed upon her mind that her life was in danger, he, with a generous humanity, went to her, and offered to marry her; but it was then too late : her vital power was exhausted; and she actually exhibited one of the very rare instances of dying for love."-Boswell's Life of Johnson, 10 vols. London, 1835, vol. i. pp. 31, 313. Gentleman's Magazine, vol. lv. p. 100.
Yorkshire, a dreary village on the edge of Stanmore, this young pair lived secluded from the gay scenes of the world : they were happy! for their happiness was centred in each other. Her sister was alive within these few years, and used frequently to relate to her young inquiring neighbours, with a kind of gloomy pleasure, every circumstance respecting the death of Edwin and Emma. These two early victims of love were both interred in Bowes churchyard, in one grave, over which no stone or brass is laid to commemorate their remarkable passion for each other. Their names are recorded in the parish register, with the particulars. Though they moved in a humble sphere, a bard arose and handed them to posterity, to be read when their real names and resting-place shall have long been forgot. It was once in agitation to have erected a monument to their memory by private subscription, but why not executed I know not, probably prevented by some characters similar to
“ The father too a sordid man,
Who love nor pity knew,
10 of Edwin and Emma.
The author of a publication, entitled A Week at a Cottage, has given us an account of their lives in his work, but with a poetica licentia has wandered so far into the regions of fancy, and varnished his narrative with so high a colouring, that he leads into labyrinths rather than elucidates the story.
* Gentleman's Magazine, vol. ixii. part i. p. 100. A.D. 1792, Feb.