described, had brought one of the maid- to which he should expect his wife to ens to the house he had taken at Lich- subscribe. She would have to give up all field. This was Sabrina, as he had called luxuries, amenities, and intercourse with her. Lucretia, having been fouod trouble. the world, and promise to seclude herself some, had been sent off with a dowry to in his company. Miss Sneyd seems to be apprenticed to a milliner. Sabrina was have kept Mr. Edgeworth waiting while a charming little girl of thirteen; every. she wrote back at once and decidedly, body liked her, especially the friendly saying that she could not admit the unqualladies at the palace, who received her ified control of a husbaud over all her with constant kindness, as they did Mr. actions, nor the necessity for "seclusion Day himself and his visitor. What Miss from society to preserve female virtue.” Seward thought of Sabrina's education I Finding that Honora absolutely refused to do not know. The poor child was to be change her way of life, Mr. Day went into taught to despise luxury, to ignore fear, to a fever, for which Dr. Darwiá bled him. be superior io pain. She appears, how. Nor did he recover until another Miss ever, to have been very fond of her bene- Sneyd, Elizabeth by name, made her ap. factor, but to have constantly provoked pearance in the Close. him by starting and screaming whenever Mr. Edgeworth, who was of a lively he fired uncharged pistols at her skirts, and active disposition, had introduced or dropped hot, melted sealing-wax on her archery among the gentlemen of the bare arms.

She is described as lovely neighborhood, and he describes a fine and artless, not fond of books, incapable summer evening's entertainment, passed of understanding scientific problems, or in agreeable sports, followed by dancing of keeping the imaginary and terrible and music, in the course of which Honosecrets with which her guardian used to ra's sister, Miss Elizabeth, appeared for try her nerves. I do not know if it had the first time on the Lichfield scene, and yet occurred to him that Honora Sneyd immediately joined in the country dance. was all that his dreams could have im- There is a vivid description of the two agined. One day he left Sabrina under sisters in Mr. Edgeworth's memoirs, of many restrictions, and returning unexpect the beautiful and distinguished Honora, edly found her wearing, some garment or loving science, serious, eager, reserved; handkerchief of which he did not ap- of the more lovely but less graceful Elizaprove. Poor Sabrina was evidently not beth, with less of energy, more of humor meant to mate and soar with philosophical and of social gifts than her sister. Elizaeagles; and, after this episode, she too beth Sneyd was, says Edgeworth, struck was despatched, to board with an old lady, by Day's eloquence, by his unbounded in peace for a time, let us hope, and in generosity, by his scorn of wealth. His tranquil mediocrity.

educating a young girl for his wife seemed Mr. Edgeworth approved of this ar- to her romantic and extraordinary; and rangement; he did not consider that Sa- she seems to have thought it possible to brina was suited to his friend. But being yield to the evident admiration she had taken in due time to call at the palace, he aroused in him. But, whether in fun or was charmed with Miss Seward, and still in seriousness, she represented to bim more by all he saw of Honora; compar- that he could not with justice decry ac. ing her, alas ! in his mind “with all complishments and graces that he had not other women, and secretly acknowledging acquired. She wished him to go abroad her superiority." At first, he says, Miss for a time to study to perfect himself in Seward's brilliance overshadowed Honora, all that was wanting ; on her own part she but very soon her merits grew upon the promised not to go to Bath, London, or bystanders.

any public place of amusement until his Mr. Edgeworth carefully concealed his return, and to read certain books which feelings except from his bost, who was he recommended. beginning himself to contemplate a mar- Meanwhile Mr. Edgeworth had made riage with Miss Sneyd. Mr. Day pres- no secret of his own feeling for Honora ently proposed formally in writing for the to Mr. Day," who with all the eloquence hand of the lovely Honora, and Mr. of virtue and of friendship” had urged Edgeworth was to take the packet and him to fly, to accompany him abroad, and to bring back the answer; and being mar- to shun dangers he could not hope to ried himself, and out of the running, he overcome. Edgeworth consented to this appears to have been unselfishly anxious proposal, and the two friends started for for his friend's success. In the packet Paris, visiting Rousseau on their way. Mr. Day had written down the conditions | They spent the winter at Lyons, as it was



a place where excellent masters of all or commanded it, he had done all he could sorts were to be found; and here Mr. to divide them, now he wished to be the Day, with excess of zeal

first to promote their meeting. The meetput himself (says his friend) to every species Edgeworth and Miss Sneyd were mar

ing resulted in an engagement, and Mr. of torture, ordinary and extraordinary, to com. ried within four months by the benevolent pel his Antigallican limbs, in spite of their natural rigidity, to dance and fence, and man- old canon in the Lady Chapel of Lichfield age the great horse. To perform his promise Cathedral. to Miss E. Sneyd honorably, he gave up seven Mrs. Seward wept ; Miss Seward, "notor eight hours of the day to these exercises, withstanding some imaginary dissatisfacfor which he had not the slightest taste, and tion about a bridesmaid," was really glad for which, except horsemanship, he manifested of the marriage, we are told; and the the most sovereign contempt. It was aston- young couple immediately went over to ishing to behold the energy with which he per- | Ireland. severed in these pursuits. I have seen him stand between two boards which reached from the ground higher than his knees : these boards were adjusted with screws so as barely to per

THOUGH her life was so short, Honora mit him to bend his knees, and to rise up and Edgeworth seems to have made the deepsink down. By these means Mr. Huise pro- est impression on all those she came posed to force Mr. Day's knees outwards; but across. Over little Maria she had the screwing was in vain. He succeeded in tor: greatest influence. There is a pretty deturing his patient; but original formation and scription of the child standing lost in inveterate habit resisted all his endeavors at wondering admiration of her stepmother's personal improvement. I could not help pity beauty, as she watched her soon after her ing my philosophic friend, pent up in durance vile for hours together, with his feet in the marriage dressing at her toilet-table. stocks, a book in his hand, and contempt in

Little Maria's feeling for her stepmother his heart.

was very deep and real, and the influence

of those few years lasted for a lifetime. Mr. Edgeworth meanwhile lodged him- Her own exquisite carefulness she always self “in excellent and agreeable apart. ascribed to it, and to this example may ments,” and occupied himself with engi- also be attributed her habits of order and neering. He is certainly curiously out self-government, her lise of reason and de. spoken in his memoirs ; and explains that liberate judgment. the first Mrs. Edgeworth, Maria's mother, The seven years of Honora's married with many merits was of a complaining life seem to haye been very peaceful and disposition, and did not make him so happy. She shared her husband's pur. happy at home as a woman of a more suits, and wished for nothing outside her livelý temper might have succeeded in own home. She began with him to write doing. He was tempted, he said, to look those little books which were afterwards for happiness elsewhere than in his home. published. It is just a century ago since Perhaps domestic affairs may have been she and Mr. Edgeworth planned the early complicated by a warm-hearted but trou. histories of Harry and Lucy and Frank; blesome little son, who at Day's sugges. while Mr. Day began his “Sandford and tion had been brought up upon the Rous. Merton,” which at first was intended to seau system, and was in consequence appear at the same time, though eventuquite unmanageable, and a trouble to ally the third part was not published till everybody Poor Mrs. Edgeworth's 1789. complainings were not to last very long; As a girl of seventeen Honora Sneyd She joined her husband at Lyons, and had once been threatened with consumpafter a time, having a dread of lying-in tion. After seven years of married life abroad, returned home to die in her con- the cruel malady again declared itself; finement, leaving four little - children. and though Dr. Darwin did all that human Maria could remember being taken into resource could do, and though every ten. her mother's room to see her for the last der care was lavished, the poor young time.

lady rapidly sank. There is a sad, prim, Mr. Edgeworth hurried back to En- most affecting little letter, addressed to gland, and was met by his friend Thomas little Maria by the dying woman shortly Day, who had preceded him, and whose before the end; and ihen comes that one own suit does not seem to have prospered written by the father, which is to tell her meanwhile. His first words were to tell that all is over. his friend that Honora was still free, more 1f Mr. Edgeworth was certainly unforbeautiful than ever; while virtue and hon. | tupate in losing again and again the hap

— а

piness of his home, he was more fortunate, we are told, became a sort of proverb in than most people in being able to rally the Edgeworth family. from his grief. He does not appear to The little girl meanwhile was sent to have been unfaithful in feeling. Years school to a certain Mrs. Lataffiere, where after, Edgeworth, writing to console Mrs. she was taught to use her fingers, to write Day upon her husband's death, speaks in a lovely delicate band, to work white satin the most touching way of all he had suf. waistcoats for her papa. She was then fered when Honora died, and of the strug. removed to a fashionable establishment gle he had made to regain his hold of life. in Upper Wimpole Street, where, says This letter is in curious contrast to that her stepmother," she underwent all the one written at the time, as he sits by poor usual tortures of backboards, iron collars, Honora's deathbed, which reads strangely and dumbbelis, with the unusual one of cold and irrelevant in these days when being hung by the neck to draw out the people are not ashamed of feeling or of muscles and increase the growth, describing what they feel. “Continue, signal failure in her case.” (Miss Edgemy dear daughter" --- he writes to Maria, worth was always a very tiny person.) who was then thirteen years old — “the There is a description of the little maiden desire which you feel of becoming amia- absorbed in her book with all the other ble, prudent, and of use. The ornamental children at play, while she sits in her faparts of a character, with such an under vorite place in front of a carved oak cabstanding as yours, necessarily ensue; but inet, quite unconscious of the presence true judgment and sagacity in the choice of the romping girls all about her. of friends, and the regulation of your Hers was a very interesting character behavior, can be only had from reflec- as it appears in the memoirs — sincere, tion, and from being thoroughly con- intelligent, self-contained, and yet depenvinced of what experience in general dent; methodical, observant. Sometimes teaches too late, that to be happy we as one reads.of her in early life one is must be good.”

reminded of some of the personal char“Such a letter, written at such a time,” acteristics of the writer who perhaps of says the kind biographer, “ made the im- all writers least resembles Miss Edge pression it was intended to convey; and worth in her art — of Charlotte Brontë, the wish to act up to the high opinion her whose books are essentially of the modern father had formed of her character be- and passionate school, but whose strangecame an exciting and controlling power ly mixed character seemed rather to beover the whole of Maria's future life.” long to the orderly and neatly ruled existOn her deathbed, Honora urged her hus-ence of Queen Charlotte's reign. People's band to marry again, and assured him that lives as they really are don't perhaps vary the woman to suit him was her sister very much, but people's lives as they Elizabeth. Her influence was so great seem to be assuredly change with the upon them both that, although Elizabeth fashions. Miss Edgeworth and Miss was attached to some one else, and Mr. Brontë were both Irishwomen, who have Edgeworth believed she was little suited often, with all their outcome, the timidity to himself, they were presently engaged which comes of quick and sensitive feel. and married, not without many difficulties. ing. But the likeness does not go very

The result proved how rightly Honora deep. Maria, whose diffidence and timid. had judged.

ity were personal, but who had a firm It was to her father that Maria owed and unalterable belief in family traditions, the suggestion of her first start in litera. may have been saved from some danger ture. Timmediately after Honora's death of prejudice and limitation by a most sor. he tells her to write a tale about the length tunate though trying illness which affected of a “ Spectator,” on the subject of gener. her eyesight, and which caused her to be osity. " It must be taken from history or removed from her school with its monromance, must be sent the day se’nnight strous elegancies to the care of Mr. Day, after you receive this; and I beg you will that kindest and sternest of friends. take some pains about it.” A young gen. This philosopher in love had been bit tleman from Oxford was also set to work terly mortified when the lively Elizabeth to try his powers on the same subject, Sneyd, instead of welcoming his return, and Mr. William Sneyd, at Lichfield, was could not conceal her laughter at his un. to be judge between the two perforin- couth elegancies, and confessed that, on

He gave his verdict for Maria : the whole, she had liked him better as he An excellent story and very well writ- was before. He forswore Lichfield and ten : but where's the generosity?” This, I marriage, and went abroad to forget. He



[ocr errors]


turned his thoughts to politics; he wrote make them earn their money." There is pamphlets on public subjects and letters a pretty description of the worthy couple upon slavery: His poem of the “Dying in their home dispensing help and benefits Negro had been very much admired. all round about, draining, planting, teach. Miss Hannah More speaks of it in her fing, doctoring nothing came amiss to memoirs. The subject of slavery was them. Their chief friend and neighbor much before people's minds, and Day's was Samuel Cobbett, who understood influence had not a little to do with the their plans, and sympathized in their rising indignation.

efforts, which, naturally enough, were Among Day's readers and admirers viewed with doubt and mistrust by most was one person who was destined to have of the people round about. It was here a most important influence upon his life. that Mr. Day finished “Sandford and By a strange chance his extraordinary Merton,” begun many years before. His ideal was destined to be realized; and a death was very sudden, and was brought young lady, good, accomplished, rich, de-about by one of his own benevolent theovoted, who had read his books, and sym- ries. He used to maintain that kindness pathized with his generous dreams, was alone could tame animals; and he was ready not only to consent to his strange killed by a fall from a favorite colt which conditions, but to give him her kind heart he was breaking in. Mrs. Day never reand find her best happiness in his society covered the shock. She lived two years and in carrying out his experiments and hidden in her home, absolutely inconsolafancies. She was Miss Esther Milnes, ble, and then died and was laid by her of Yorkshire, an heiress; and though at husband's side in the churchyard at Warfirst Day hesitated and could not believe grave by the river. in the reality of her feeling, her constancy It was to the care of these worthy peoand singleness of mind were not to be ple that little Maria was sent when she resisted, and they were married at Bath was ill, and she was doctored by them in 1778. We hear of Mr. and Mrs. Day both physically and morally. “Bishop spending the first winter of their married Berkeley's tar-water was still considered life at Hampstead, and of Mrs. Day, a specific for all complaints,” says Mrs. thickly shodden, walking with him in a Edgeworth. “Mr. Day thought it would snowstorm on the common, and ascribing be of use to Maria's inflamed eyes, and her renewed vigor to her husband's wise he used to bring a large tumbler full of it advice.

to her every morning. She dreaded his Day and his wife eventually established · Now, Miss Maria, drink this. But there themselves at Anningsley, near Chob. was, in spite of his stern voice, something ham. He had insisted upon seitling her of pity and sympathy in his countenance. fortune upon herself, but Mrs. Day as. His excellent library was open to her, and sisted him in every way, and sympa- he directed her studies. His severe reathized in his many schemes and benevo soning and uncompromising truth of mind lent ventures. When he neglected to awakened all her powers, and the ques. make a window to the he tions be put to her and the working out built for her, we hear of her uncomplain. of the answers, the necessity of perfect ingly lighting her candles; to please bim accuracy in all her words, suited the natshe worked as a servant in the house, and lural truih of her mind; and though such all their large means were bestowed in strictness was not agreeable, she even philanthropic and charitable schemes. then perceived its advantage, and in after Mr. Edgeworth quotes his friend's reproof life was grateful for it.” to Mrs. Day, who was fond of music: “Shall we beguile the time with the strains of a lute while our fellow-creatures are We have seen how Miss Elizabeth starving ?” “I am out of pocket every Sneyd, who could not make up her mind year about 3001. by the farm I keep,” Day to marry Mr. Day, notwithstanding all he writes to his friend Edgeworth. “ The bad gone through for her sake, had eventsoil I have taken in hand, I am convinced, ually consented to become Mr. Edgeis one of the most completely barren in worih's third wife. With this stepmother England.” He then goes on to explain for many years to come Maria lived in an his reasons for what he is about. " It affectionate intimacy, only to be exceeded enables me to employ the poor, and the by that most faithful companionship which result of all my speculations about hu- existed for fifty years between her and manity is that the only way of benefiting the lady from whose memoirs I quote. mankind is to give them employment and It was about 1782 that Maria went


[ocr errors]

home to live at Edgeworthtown with her | He put down rack-rents and bribes of father and his wife, with the many young every sort, and did his best to establish brothers and sisters. The family was a things upon a firm and lasting basis. large one, and already consisted of her But if it was not possible even for Mr. own sisters, of Honora the daughter of Edgeworth to make things all they should Mrs. Honora, and Lovell her son. To have been outside the house, inside the these succeeded many others of the third sketch given of the family life is very generation; and two sisters of Mrs. pleasant. The father lives in perfect Edgeworth's, who also made their home confidence with his children, admitting at Edgeworthtown.

them to his confidence, interesting them Maria had once before been there, very

in his experiments, spending his days young, but she was now old enough to be with them, consulting them. There are struck with the difference then so striking be- no reservations; he does his business in tween Ireland and England. The tones and the great family sitting-room, surrounded looks, the melancholy and the gaiety of the by his family. I have heard it described people, were so new and extraordinary to her as a large ground-floor room, with two that the delineations she long afterwards made columns supporting the farther end, by of Irish character probably owe their life and one of which Maria's writing.desk used truth to the impression made on her mind at to be placed – a desk which her father this time as a stranger. Though it was June had devised for her, which used to be when they landed, there was snow on the roses she ran out to gather, and she felt altogether drawn out to the fireside when she worked. in a new and unfamiliar country.

Does not Mr. Edgeworth also mention in

one of his letters a picture of Thomas She herself describes the feelings of the Day hanging over a sofa against a wall? master of a family returning to an Irish Books in plenty there were, we may be bome:

sure, and perhaps models of ingenious Wherever he turned his eyes, in or out of machines and different appliances for his home, damp dilapidation, waste appeared. scientific work. Sir Henry Holland and Painting, glazing, roofing, fencing, finishing

Mr. Ticknor give a curious description all were wanting. The backyard and even the of Mr. Edgeworth's many ingenious infront lawn round the windows of the house ventions. There were strange locks to were filled with loungers, followers, and peti- the rooms and telegraphic despatches to tioners; tenants, undertenants, drivers, sub: the kitchen; clocks at the other end of the agent were to have audience; and they all had house were wound up by simply opening grievances and secret informations, accusations, reciprocations, and quarrels each under certain doors. It has been remarked that each interminable.

all Miss Edgeworth's heroes had a smat.

tering of science. Several of her brothHer account of her father's dealings ers inherited her father's turn for it. We with them is admirable :

hear of them raising steeples and estabI was with him constantly, and I was amused lishing telegraphs in partnership with and interested in seeing how he made his way him. Maria used to help her father in the through their complaints, petitions, and grieva business connected with the estate, to ances with decision and despatch, he all the assist him, also, to keep the accounts. time in good humor with the people and they She had a special turn for accounts, and delighted with him, though he often rated them she was pleased with her exquisite neat roundly when they stood before him perverse columns and by the accuracy with which in litigation, helpless in procrastination, de her figures fell into their proper places. tected in cunning or convicted of falsehood. They saw into his character almost as soon as

Long after her father's death this knowl. he understood theirs.

edge and experience enabled her to man

age the estate for her eldest stepbrother, Mr. Edgeworth had in a very remark. Mr. Lovell Edgeworth. She was able, at able degree that power of ruling and ad- a time of great national difficulty and ministering which is one of the rarest of anxious crisis, to meet a storm in which gifts. He seems to have shown great many a larger fortune was wrecked. firmness and good sense in his conduct in Bút in 1782 she was a young girl only the troubled times in which he lived. He beginning life. Storms were not yet, and saw to his own affairs, administered jus. she was putting out her wings in the sun. tice, put down middlemen as far as possi- shine. Her father set her to translate ble, reorganized the letting out of the "Adèle et Théodore," by Madame de Genestate. Unlike many of his neighbors, (lis (she had a great facility for languages, he was careful not to sacrifice the future and her French was really remarkable). to present ease of mind and of pocket. | Holcroft's version of the book, however,

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »