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sympathize with mine, or their lawful recreations, because they are not agreeable to my delight; or ridiculously to laugh at my neighbor's clothes, if they are not of the mode, color, or cut, or the ribbon tied with a mode not; or to busy myself out of the sphere of our sex, as in politics of state; or to preach false doctrine in a tub, or to entertain myself in hearkening to vain flatteries, or to the incitements of evil persuasions, when all these follies, and many #. may be cut off by such innocent work as this.” .
And to the reader of her Poems and Fancies she says—
“Pray be not too severe in your censures, for I have no children to employ my care and attendance on ; and my lord’s estate being taken away, had nothing for housewifery, or thristy industry to employ myself in.” . . . “I began a book about three years since,” says this scribbling duchess, “which I intend to name The World's Olio ; and when I come into Flanders, where those papers are, I will, if God give me lise and health, finish it, and send it forth in print. I imagine all those that have read my former books will say that I have writ enough, unless they were better; but say what you will, it pleaseth me, and since my delights are harmless, I will satisfy my humor.
For had my brain as many fancies in't
A determined authoress, indeed . “This is to let you know,” she says at another time, “that my book is neither wise, witty, nor methodical, but various and extravagant. I doubt it will never gain applause.”
There were many in the duchess's day who affirmed that her conceptions transcended her capacity, denying her to be the true authoress of them. “As for my being,” she says to the duke, “the true and only authoress of them, your lordship knows best, and my attending servants are witness that I have had none but my own thoughts, fancies, and speculations to assist me; and, as soon as I have set them down, I send them to those that are to transcribe them and fit them for the press.”
“Truly,” says the duke, in his justification" of his duchess, “she did never imp her highflying sancies with any old broken feathers out of any university. As for her Poems, where are the exceptions to these Marry, they miss sometimes in the numbers and in the rhymes.
* “An Epistle to Justific the Lndy Newcastle and Truth against Falsehood, saying those false and malicious Aspersions of her, that she was not Author of her Books.”—Plays, fol. Lond. 1662.
It is well known by the copies, that those faults lie most upon the corrector and the printer; but put the case, there might be some slips in that kind, is all the book damned for it?–No mercy, gentlemen 7 When, for the numbers, every schoolboy can make them on his fingers, and for his rhymes, Fenner" would have put down Ben Jonson; and yet neither the boy nor Fenner so good poets! No, it is neither of those that either makes or condemns a poet; it is new-born and creating sancies that glorifies a poet; and in her book of poems I am sure there is excellent and new sancies, as have not been writ by any; and that it was onl writ by her is the greatest truth in the world. It is said she has not the experience or the terms. But here's the crime, a lady writes them, and to intrench so much on the male prerogative is not to be forgiven ; but I know gown men will be more civil to her, because she is of the gown too, and therefore, I am confident, will defend her and truth.”
She was accused of pilfering from Des Cartes and Hobbes ; and, in her vindication of herself, tells us what she knew of these two extraordinary men.
“Some say that from my Book of Philosophy, it seems as if I had conversed with Des Cartes or Master Hobbes, or both, or have frequented their studies, by reading their works; but I cannot say but I have seen them both ; but, upon my conscience, I never spake to Monsieur Des Cartes in my life, nor even understood what he said, for he spake no English, and I understand no other language, and those times l saw him, which was twice at dinner with my lord at Paris, he did appear to me as a man of the fewest words lever heard. And for Master Hobbes, it is true I have had the like good fortune to see him, and that very of— ten, with my lord at dinner, for I conversing seldom with any stranger, had no other time to see those two famous philosophers; yet I never heard Master #. to my best remembrance, treat or discourse of philosophy, nor I never spake to Master Hobbes twent words in my life. I cannot say I did not as him a question; for when I was in London I met him, and told him, as truly I was, very glad to see him, and asked him if he would please do me that honor to stay at dinner; but he with great civility refused me, as having some business which, I suppose, required his absence.”
The duchess, however, admits that, at times, the duke assisted her, with “this my lord writ,” and such-like acknowledgments: “For I being no lyric poet, my lord supplied that desect of my brain with the superfluity of his own brain; thus our wits join as in matrimony, my lord's the masculine, mine the feminine wit, which is no small
* See Gifford's Ben Jonson, vii. 432.
glory to me that we are married souls, bodies and brains.” “What a picture of foolish nobility,” says Walpole, “was this stately poetic couple, retired to their own little domain, and intoxicating one another with circumstantial flattery on what was of consequence to no mortal but themselves!” Welbeck was, at least, as Gifford says, when commenting on this passage, as big as Walpole's baby-house at Strawberry-Hill. The folio works of this indefatigable woman are stored with prefaces, notices, dedications, apologies, and advertisements. Every idea she considered of consequence, every fear required its committal to paper; the duke interested himself in her pursuits, and why, she thought, should not the public participate in their pleasure? Some of her requests from her readers are characteristic. “Let me entreat you,” she says, “to consider only the fancies in this my book of poems, and not the language, numbers, nor rhymes, nor false printing; for if you do you will be my condemning judge, which will grieve my muse.” This is before her Poems and Fancies; at page 123 of the same volume, she writes:—
her six-and-twenty plays. Langbaine, however, ventured a commendation in their behalf.
“I know there are some,” he writes, “that have but a mean opinion of her plays; but if it be considered that both the language and plots of them are all her own, I think she ought, with justice, to be preferred to others of her sex which have built their fame on other people's foundations.”
Something like this the duchess herself says, in the general prologue, where the reader is entreated not to try her performances by the master-hand of Jonson's tnuse :
“What length of time he took those plays to write,
- + + +: + + * * +
“Greek, Latin poets I could never read,
Her volume of Philosophical Fancies was written in less than three weeks. In what space of time she composed her plays she has not thought fit to tell us.
A lady of the rank, and wit, and wealth of the Duchess of Newcastle could not be without her train of attendant flatterers.
“Methinks I behold in you,” writes Dryden to the duke, before he had lost the art of praising,” “another Caius Marius, who, in the extremity of his age, exercised himself almost every morning in the Campus Martius, amongst the youthful nobility of Rome; and afterwards, in your retirements, when you do honor to poetry, by employing part of your leisure in it, I regard you as another Silius Italicus, who having passed over his consulship with applause, dismissed himself from business and from the gown, and employed his age among the shades in the reading and imitation of Virgil. In which,” he adds, “lest any thing should be wanting to your happiness, you have, by a rare effect of fortune, found in the person of your excellent lady, not only a lover, but a partner of your studies; a lady whom one may justly equal with the Sappho of the Greeks, or the Sulpitia of the Romans; who, by being taken into your bosom, seems to be inspired with your genius, and by writing the history of your life in so masculine a style, has already placed you in the number of the heroes. It cannot be
* See his Dedication to Plutarch's Lives.
denied but that your grace has received a double satisfaction, the one to see yourself consecrated to immortality while you are yet alive; the other, to have your praises celebrated by so dear, so just, and so pious an historian.”
This was the age of flattery, and Shadwell and Flecknoe pursued the duke and the duchess with the same sort of adulatory language; but it cannot be concealed that the excellent-minded Evelyn has the better of them in the force and variety of his encomiums. Her grace had made him a present of her works (complete), and of her husband's very useful book of Horsemanship, and Evelyn's acknowledgment is an unrivalled piece of forced and foolish flattery; a complete ransacking of the names of illustrious ladies of all countries and of all ages. -
“I do not intend,” says Evelyn, “to write a panegyric of your virtues, which all the world admires, lest the indignity of my style should prophane a thing so sacred; but to repeat my admiration of your genius and sublime wit, so comprehensive of the most abstracted appearances, and so admirable in your sex, or rather in your grace's person alone, which I never call to mind but to rank it among the Heroines, and constellate with the Graces. Such of ancient days was Zenobia, queen of Palmyra, that writ the history of her country, as your grace has done that of my lord duke your husband. worthy to be transmitted to posterity. Your grace has title to all her perfections. Such was Anna Commena, who called Alexius father, and writ fifteen books of history. Such was St. Catharine of Sienna, St. Bridget, and Therese (for even the greatest saints have cultivated the sciences). Such was Fulvia Morata, Isabella Andreini, Margarite of Valois (sister to Francis I.), whose novels are equal to those of the witty Boccaccio. But all these summoned together possess but that divided which your grace retains in one. For what of sublime and worthy in the nature of things does not your grace comprehend and explain?”
Surely the arrow of adulation is here drawn to the head; and this is the mighty pretender, too, to the science, philosophy, and poetry of the Diary of the same individual
Soothed with a series of letters full of flattery of this description, and buoyed up with a belief that her fame would stand high, and securely high with posterity, the duchess descended quietly to the grave, as Fulman informs us, on the 7th January, 1673–4. The produce of her brain was her only off. spring. The duke survived her some three years, when he was laid by the side of his
wife and biographer, in the Chapel of St. Mi chael, in Westminster Abbey, where there
is to this day a stately monument to their memories (erected at the duke's expense), with an inscription which has called forth the admiration of Addison, and of Mr. Washington Irving :
“Here lies the loyal Duke of Newcastle and his Duchess, his second wife, by whom he had no issue. Her name was Margaret Lucas, youngest sister to Lord Lucas of Colchester, a noble family, for all the brothers were valiant, and all the sisters virtuous. This duchess was a wise, witty, and learned lady, which her many books do well testify: she was a most virtuous, and loving, and careful wife, and was with her lord all the time of his banishment and miseries; and when they came home, never parted with him in his solitary retirements.”
This is evidently, in part, the composition of the duchess herself; it is very beautiful.
We have as yet but looked upon the eccentricities of this extraordinary woman, whom it has been too long the custom to decry. There is no volume altogether without its good, without a redeeming sentence, without something to praise. The occasional poetry and good sense and wit of the duchess atone for all her whims and oddities of thought and manner. Her verse is eminently characteristic—vigorous at times, and at times poetical. We select a few pieces not generally known –
And numbers ten did bear her to the grave, The Muses nine a monument her gave.”
Nor is what she styles “A Farewell to the Muses” without its excellencies:—
“Farewell, my Muse, thou gentle, harmless sprite,
The following is impressive, but careless in its execution :
“Great God, from Thee all infinites do flow,
go : Just so do thoughts, and then they backward slide Unto the places where first they did abide: And there in gentle murmurs do complain That all their care and labor is in vain. But since none knows, the great Creator must: Man, seek no more, but in His goodness trust.”
The prose of the duchess is bold but involved, her thoughts and her style are peculiarly her own. We select a few of her most striking sentences; the mind continually active, could not fail at times to write something that was good:—
“The reason why women are so apt to talk too much, is an overweening opinion of themselves in thinking they speak well; and striving to take off that blemish from their sex of knowing little, by speaking much, as thinking that many
words have the same weight as much knowledge.”
“Courts should be a pattern and an example of virtue to all the rest of the kingdom, being the ruler and chief head to direct the body of state ; but most commonly, instead of clemency, justice, modesty, friendship, temperance, humility, and unity, there is faction, pride, ambition,luxury, covetousness, hate, envy, slander, treachery, flattery, impudence, and many the like; yet they are ofttimes covered with a veil of smooth professions and protestations, which glisters like gold when it is but coppered tinsel.”
“Great memories are like standing ponds that are made with rain; so that memory is nothing but the showers of other men's wits.”
“Poetry is so powerful, and hath such an attractive beauty, that those that can but view her perfectly could not but be enamored, her charms do so force affection. Surely those that do not delight in Poetry or Music have no divine souls or harmonious thoughts.”
“Men who can speak long and eloquently, contrasted with those who can say but little, but that to the point, are like several sized candles, the longer or shorter ere they come to a snuff.”
“Vanity is so natural to our sex, that it were unnatural not to be vain.”
“Platonic love is a bawd to adultery.”
“True affection is not to be measured ; because it is like eternity, not to be comprised.”
“There is no greater usury or extortion than upon courtesy; for the loan of money is but ten, twenty, or thirty in the hundred; but the loan of courtesy is to enslave a man all his life.”
“Some have more words than wit, and more wit than judgment. And others have more years than experience, and more experience than honesty.”
“Our natural English tongue was significant enough without the help of other languages; but as we have merchandized for wares, so have we done for words: but indeed we have rather brought in than carried out.”
“Ben Jonson, I have heard, was of opinion that a comedy was not a natural or true comedy if it should present more than a day’s action.”
“In truth, I never heard any man read well but my husband, and have heard him say, he never heard any man read well but Ben Jonson, and yet he hath heard many in his time.” —Letters, p. 362.
“King James was so great a lover of peace, that rather than he would lose the delights of peace, he would lie under the infamy of being thought timorous; for in that it was thought he had more craft than fear.”
“Children should be taught at first the best. plainest, and purest of their language, and the most significant words; and not as their nurses teach them, a strange kind of gibbridge, broken language of their own making, which is like scraps of several meats heaped together, or hash'd, mixt or minced: so do they the purest of their language; as, for example, when nurses teach children to go, instead of saying Go, they say, Do, do; and instead of saying, Come to me, they say, Tum to me; and when they newly come out of a sleep, and cannot well open their eyes, they do not say, My child cannot well open his or her eyes, but My child tant open its nies; and when they should bid them speak, they bid them peak; and when they should ask them, is they will or would drink, they ask them is they will dinck; and so all the rest of the language they teach children is after this manner. . . . Likewise they learn them the rudest language first; as to bid them say, such a one lies, or to call them rogues and the like names, and then laugh as if it were a witty jest. And as they breed them in their language, so they breed them in their sports, pastimes, or exercises, as to play with children at bo-peep, blindman's-buff, and cock's-hod.”
“A gentleman ought to be skilful in the use of his sword, in the manage of horses, to vault, to wrestle, to dance: the first defends his honor and country; the next is for command in cav
alry; the third makes him ready in the day of
battle to horse himself; the fourth keeps him from being overcome by a clown or peasant, for the sleights in wrestling will overcome great strength; the fifth gives his limbs a graceful motion. His exercises should be masculine: for better it were to see a gentleman shoe a horse, than to play on the viol or lute, virginal, or any other musical instrument; for that she weth the command man hath over beast. Or to carry a burthen on his back, than to sit idly at cards or dice: sor idleness is like the sluggish worm, that is neither able to help nor defend itself.”
“Some, in their praises of women, say, they never speak, but their words are too many in number for the weight of the sense: besides, the ground of their discourse is impertinent, as inquiries who dined and who supped at such a table; what looks, words, and actions passed among the company; what addresses such a man made to such a woman, and what encourageinent they received in their courtships; then who was it court, who at church; or slandering, or desaming one another; or bragging of themselves, what clothes they have or will have; what coaches or lacqueys, what love-servants they have or may have ; what men are like to die for love of them : what seas they made for such a company; who took them out to dance at such a ball; who ushered them out of church, and who they saw there: and not of what they heard tiere; and for their pastimes, say they are seldom at home but to receive visits. Neither are they pleased
with the company of their own sex; for is there be no man amongst them, they are very dull, and as mute as one would wish; unless it be at a gossipping, where a cup of good liquor runs about.”
“All women are a kind of mountebanks; for they would make the world believe they are better than they are; and they do all they can to draw company; and their allurements is their dressing, dancing, painting, and the like : and when men are catcht, they laugh to see what fools they were to be taken with such toys: for women's ends are only to make men profess and protest, lie and forswear the mselves in the admiration of them : for a wo— man's only delight is to be flattered of men; for they care not whether they love truly, or speak falsely, so they profess earnestly.”
“Some parents suffer their children to run about into every dirty office, where the young master must learn to drink and play at cards with the kitchen boy, and learn to kiss his mother's dirty maid for a mess of cream. The daughters are danced upon the knee of every clown and serving man, and hear them talk scurrilous to their maids, which is their complement of wooing, and then dancing Sellinger's Round with them at Christmas time.”
“Some say a man is a nobler creature than a woman, because our Savior took upon him the body of man; aud another, that man was inade first: but these two reasons are weak ; for the Holy Spirit took upon him the shape of a dove, which creature is of less esteem than mankind ; and for the pre-eminency in creation, the devil was made belore man.”
Mrs. Piozzi gave a saffron color to her cheeks by painting. Thousands, by following a very foolish and pernicious fashion, had done the same before her.
“Painting the face, when it is used for a good intent, as to keep or increase lawful affection, is, perhaps, admissible; but in a widow, painting is most disallowable—a widow once, a widow ever. I am utterly against the art of painting, out of three respects; the first is dangerous—for most paintings are mixed with inercury, wherein is much quicksilver, which is of so subtle and malignant a nature, as it will fall from the head to the lungs, and cause consumptions, and is the cause of swelling about the neck and throat. The next is, that it is so far from adorning, that it disfigures: for it will rot the teeth, dim the eyes, and take away both the life and youth of a face, which is the greatest beauty. Thirdly, and lastly— the sluttishness of it, and especially in the preparatives, as masks of sear-clothes, which are not only horrid to look upon, in that they seem
“He to God's image, she to his was made, So farther fron the fount the stream at random stray'd.” DRY DEn.