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proportion both of useful and curious information. The first volume comprehends Mr Edgeworth's own account of himself
the second its continuation by his justly celebrated daughter; and the most remarkable thing certainly about the work is, that the first.is, on the whole, better than the second. It is very lively, rapid and various--enlivened with a great number of anecdotes and characters, and, if not indicating any extraordia nary reach of thought, or loftiness of feeling, exhibiting, in rather a pleasing and candid way, the history of a very active and cultivated mind and scattering about everywhere the indications of a good-humoured self-complacency, and a light-hearted and indulgent gayety. The other is too solemn and didactic and though there are many passages full of interest and instruction, it overflows so much with praise and gratitude, and duty and self-denial, as to go near to be dull and tedious.
We do not think it necessary to lay before our readers any account of Mr Edgeworth's genealogy, or of the fortunes and exploits of his paternal and maternal ancestors; nor even to present them, in detail, with the history and characters of his four wives and their respective progenies. There are some traits of indelicacy here, indeed, which we are bound to mark with our reprehension; and which, in a work intended for publication, we think admit of no apology. What need, for instance, was there to inform the world that he lived uncomfortably with his first wife, repented very soon of his union with her, and gave up his affections to another long before her death,- at the same time that he allows the match to have been entirely of his own seeking, and that he had nothing whatever to reproach her with, except that she was not altogether so gay and intellectual as he could have desired? The indecorum of such a statement is greatly aggravated too, by the consideration that this unfortu. nate lady was the mother of that daughter whose fame must, after all, be her father's best passport to celebrity, and to whom one parent has thus delegated the task of publishing the defects of the other. Mr E.'s successive marriage of two sisters is also a transaction which might as well have been allowed to repose in the obscurity into which it had naturally fallen, instead of being studiously brought forward, with a fond and ambitious reference to the various forgotten publications in which the legality of this very questionable proceeding was discussed at the time.
In the same way, we think the public might have been spared the account of Mr E.'s bad nursing, and of the various schools he attended, and the nicknames he received before he was eight years old. For his own family and posterity, it is barely pos
sible that these particulars may have some interest; but for the general reader, they can have none. It is only of Great Men that we are greedy to preserve such relics; and it is not merely misapplying, but parodying the spirit of heroic biography, to hazard its licenses on such an occasion as the present. Some of the anecdotes, however, are worth culling, both on their own account, and as having acquired a kind of classical interest as the groundwork in point of fact on which several scenes and characters in Miss E.'s exemplary Tales appear to have been founded. We shall endeavour to give our readers a little saniple of these; and shall try to connect them by as rapid and concise an abstract of the narrative as we can easily manage.
The family was originally English, and went to Ireland in the time of Elizabeth. Most of them seem to have been gay and extravagant. One of them married so young, that his own age and that of his wife did not make up thirty-one years. He had estates in England and Ireland, and had got money with his wife.
• But they were extravagant, and quite ignorant of the management of money. Upon an excursion to England, they mortgaged their estate in Lancashire, and carried the money to London, in a stocking, which they kept on the top of their bed. To this stocking, both wife and husband had free access, and of course its contents soon began to be very low. The young man was handsome, and very fond of dress. At one time, when he had run out all his cash, he actually sold the ground plot of a house in Dublin, to purchase a high crowned hat and feathers, which was then the mode. He lived in high company in London, and at court. Upon some occasion, King Charles the Second insisted upon knighting him. His lady was presented at court, where she was so much taken notice of by the gallant monarch, that she thought it proper to intimate to her husband, that she did not wish to go there a second time; nor did she ever after appear at court, though in the bloom of youth and beauty. She returned to Ireland. This was an instance of prudence, as well as of strength of mind, which could hardly have been expected from the improvident temper she had shown at first setting out in life. In this lady's character there was an extraordinary mixture of strength and weakness. She was courageous beyond the habits of her sex in real danger, and yet afraid of imaginary beings. According to the superstition of the times, she believed in fairies, Opposite to her husband's Castle of Lissard, in Ireland, and within view of the windows, there is a mount, which was reputed to be the resort of fairies; and when Lady Edgeworth resided alone at Lissard, the common people of the neighbourhood, either for amusement, or with the intention of frightening her away, sent children by night to this mount, who by their strange noises, by singing, and the lights they showed from time to time, terrified her exceedingly. But she did not quit the place. The mount was called Fairy-Mount, since abbreviated into Fir mount,'-- From which the Abbé Edgeworth took his ordinary name of M. de Firmont.' I. 11-13.
The son of this prudent couple was not much better.'
· Colonel Francis Edgeworth, besides being straitened in his cir. cumstances, by having for many years a large jointure to pay to his mother, was involved in difficulties by his own taste for play ; a taste which, from indulgence, became an irresistible passion. One night, after having lost all the money he could command, he staked his wife's diamond ear-rings, and went into an adjoining room, where she was sitting in company, to ask her to lend them to liim. She took them from her ears, and gave them to him, saying, that she knew for what purpose he wanted them, and that he was welcome to them. They were played for. My grandfather' won upon this last stake, and gained back all he had lost that night. In the warmth of his gratitude to his wife, he, at her desire, took an oath, that he would never more play at any game with cards or dice. Some time afterwards, he was found in a hay yard with a friend, drawing straws out of the hayrick, and betting upon which should be the longest !
As might be expected, he lived in alternate extravagance and distress ; sometimes with a coach and four, and sometimes in very want of half a crown.' I. p 16, 17.
The learned reader will easily discover the originals of some of Miss Edgeworth's characters in those sketches of her ancestry. The following probably suggested the first idea of Castle Rackrent.
About this time, one of our relations, a remarkably handsome youth of eighteen or nineteen, came one day to dine with us; my father was from home, and I had an opportunity of seeing the manneys of this young man. He was quite uninformed; my mother told me, that he had received no education, that he was a hard drinker, and that notwithstanding his handsome appearance, he would be good for nothing. Her prediction was soon verified. He married a woman of inferior station, when he was scarcely twenty. His wife's numerous grown-up-family, father, brothers, and cousins, were taken into his house. They appeared wherever any public meeting gave them an opportunity, in a handsome coach with four beautiful grey horses; the men were dressed in laced clothes after the fashion of those days, and his wife's relations lived luxuriously at his house for two or three years. In that period of time, they dissipated the fee-simple of twelve hundred pounds a year, which, fifty years ago, was equal at least to three thousand of our present money. The quantity of claret which these parasites swallowed was so extraordinary, that when the accounts of this foolish youth came before the chancellor, bis lordship disallowed a great part of the wine-merchant's bill; adding, that had the gentleman's coach horses drunk claret, so much as had been charged could not have been consumed. This wine-merchant, however, obtained a considerable portion of the poor young man's estate,
in liquidation of the outstanding debt. The host had for some time partaken of the good cheer in his own house; but disease, loss of appetite, and want of relish for jovial companions, soon confined him to his own apartment, which happened to be over the dining parlour, where he heard the noisy marriment below. In this solitary situation, a basin of bread and milk was one day brought to him, in which he observed an unusual quantity of hard black crusts of bread. He objected to them, and upon inquiry was told, that they were the refuse crusts that had been cut off a loaf, of which a pudding had been made for dinner. This instance of neglect and ingratitude stung him to the quick; he threw the basin from him, and exclaimed, “ I de. serve it.” To be denied a crumb of bread in his own house, where his wife's whole family were at that instant rioting at his expense, “ quite conquered him.” He never held his head up afterwards, but in a few months died, leaving a large family totally unprovided with fortune, to the guidance of a mother, who kept them destitute of any sort of instruction.' I. 37-39.
When only seven years old, Mr E. received his first bias to mechanical studies from the kindness and patience of an old gentleman, who showed him the construction of an orrery and other instruments. He was also, he assures us, a prodigious dancer and hunter before he was fifteen ; and at sixteen went through the ceremony of marriage with a young lady-he says entirely in sport-but under such circumstances as induced his father to institute a suit in the Ecclesiastical court for annulling those imaginary nuptials. Soon after he went to Oxford, where he seems to have conducted himself with great propriety. The following anecdote, like most of those he has remembered, is very much to his credit.
• During the assizes at Oxford, the gownsmen are or were per. mitted to seat themselves in the courts. In most country courts there is a considerable share of noise and confusion; but at Oxford the din and interruption were beyond any thing I have ever witnessed; the young men were not in the least solicitous to preserve decorum, and the judges were unwilling to be severe upon the students. A man was tried for some felony, the judge had charged the jury, and called on the foreman, who seemed to be a decent farmer, for a verdict. While the judge turned his head aside to speak to somebody, the foreman of the jury, who had not heard the evidence or the judge's charge, asked me, who was behind him, and whom he had observed to be attentive to the trial, what verdict he should give. Struck with the injustice and illegality of this procedure, I stood up and addressed the judges Wills and Smith. “My Lords," said I“ Sit down, Sir," said the judge.--" My Lord, I request to be heard for one moment."— The judge grew angry.--". Sir, your gown shall not protect you, I must punish you if you persist."--By this time the eyes of the whole court were turned upon me; but feeling
that I was in the right, I persevered. « My Lord, I must lay a cir. cumstance before you which has just happened.” The judge still imagining that I had some complaint to make relative to myself, ordered the sheriff to remove me.--" My Lord, you will corymit me if you think proper, but in the mean time I must declare, that the foreman of this jury is going to deliver an illegal verdict, for he has not heard the evidence, and he has asked me what verdict he ought to give."
The judge from the bench made me an apology for his hastiness, and added a few words of strong approbation. This was of use to me, by tending to increase my self-possession in public, and my desire to take an active part in favour of justice.' 1. 95–97.
Soon after he entered the University, he was introduced to the family of the lady he afterwards married that of a lawyer, à contemporary of his father, who had many years before married an heiress, retired from practice, and sunk gradually into the ruin and stupidity that so often await those who seek happiness in the country. The following is a picturesque account of his establishment.
Having no interest in the common routine of a country life, he had little to do, and that little he neglected. The family into which he married was proud, and when an heir to the family was born, no expense was spared to celebrate the important event; and as Mrs Elers had in perfection one essential quality of a wife, before her husband could look about him, she had celebrated two or three such festivals. '--' A very old steward of the Hungerford family managed all the business of the estate; a great part of which business consisted in choosing, felling, and cutting up wood for fuel. This poor little man, eighty years of age, used to be seen in the depth of win. ter, upon a little grey horse with shaggy hair and a long flaxen mane and tail, riding about the grounds, and seeming to conduct a num. ber of labourers, who did precisely what they pleased. The value of the timber cut down for firing was more than equal to the price of coals sufficient for the house ; and the expense of making it up for use was still greater. Every part of the domestic expenditure was carried on in this manner; so that in a few years after the death of his father-in-law, Mr Elers found himself in distress, without having been guilty of the slightest extravagance. His family rapidly increased, the old steward doated, Mr Elers left every thing to his wise, and Mrs Elers left every thing to her servants. Things were in this situation at Black-Bourton, when I was introduced to the family by my father. He had personally known little of Mr Elers, since their first friendship was formed at the Temple ; but judging from his letters, my father considered him as the same man of active mind and talents, and with the same habits for business, which he had then appeared to possess. It was, therefore, naturally a great object with him, to place me, on my first going to Oxford, under the care of a person wliom he so much esteem.