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ment, a task which superficial spirits riority, to allow himself to receive, may, perhaps, mistake for a humble from its perusal, any impressions and easy one. By her Popular Tales, which could at all affect his conduct she has rendered an invaluable ser. or opinions. vice to the middling and lower orders But though, for these reasons, we of the people; and by her novels, and continue to think that Miss Edgeby the volumes before us, has made worth's fashionable patients will do a great and meritorious effort to pro- less credit to her prescriptions than mote the happiness and respectability the more numerous classes to whom of the higher classes. On a former they might have been directed, we occasion we believe we hinted to her, admit that her plan of treatment is in that these would probably be the the highest degree judicious, and her least successful of all her labours; conception of the disorder most lumiand that ic was doubtful whether she nous and precise. would be justified for bestowing so There are two great sources of much of her time on the case of a few unhappiness to those whom fortune persons who scarcely deserved to be and nature seem to have placed above cured, and were scarcely capable of the reach of ordinary misery. The being corrected. The foolish and un. one is ennui-that stagnation of life happy part of the fashionable world, and feeling which results from the for the most part, “is not fit to bear absence of all motives to exertion; itself convinced.” It is too vain, too and by which the justice of Provibusy, and too dissipated, to listen to, dence has so fully compensated the or remember any thing that is said to partiality of fortune, that it may be it. Every thing serious it repels, by fairly doubted whether, upon the “its dear wit and gay rhetorick;" and whole, the race of beggars is not against every thing poignant, it seeks happier than the race of lords; and shelter in the impenetrable armour whether those vulgar wants that are of bold stupidity.
ometimes so importunate, are not, “Laughed at, it laughs again;-and, stric. in this world, the chief ministers of ken hard,
enjoyment. This is a plague that inTurns to the stroke its adamantine scales, fests all indolent persons who can That fear no discipline of human hands.”
live on in the rank in which they A book, on the other hand, and were born, without the necessity of especially a witty and popular book, working. But, in a free country, it is still a thing of consequence to rarely occurs in any great degree of such of the middling classes of so- virulence, except among those who ciety as are in the habit of reading. are already at the summit of human They dispute about it, and think of felicity. Below this there is room for it; and as they occasionally make ambition, and envy, and emulation, themselves ridiculous by copying the and all the feverish movements of manners it displays, so they are apt aspiring vanity and unresting selfishto be impressed with the great les ness, which act as prophylacticks spns it may be calculated to teach; against this more dark and deadly and, on the whole, receive it into distemper. It is the canker which considerable authority among the re corrodes the full-blown flower of hugulators of their lives and opinions. man felicity--the pestilence which But a fashionable person has scarcely smites at the bright hour of noon. any leisure to read, and none to think The other curse of the happy, has of what he has been reading. It would a range more wide and indiscrimibe a derogation from his dignity to nate. It, too, tortures only the rich speak of a book in any terms but and fortunate; but is most active those of frivolous derision; and a among the least distinguished; and strange desertion of his own supe- abates in malignity as we ascend to
the lofty regions of pure ennui. This the best dispositions and capacities, is the desire of being fashionable and the most powerful inducements the restless and insatiable passion to to action, the hero of ennui makes no pass for creatures more distinguished advances towards amendment till he than we really are—with the mortifi- is deprived of his title and estate; and cation of frequent failure, and the the victim of fashion is left, at the end humiliating consciousness of being of the tale, pursuing her weary career perpetually exposed to it. Among with fading hopes and wasted spirits, Those who are secure of “meat, but with increased anxiety and perseclothes and fire,” and are thus above verance. The moral use of these narthe chief physical evils of existence, ratives, therefore, must consist in we do believe that this is a more proli- warning us against the first approachfick source of unhappiness, than guilt, es of evils which can never afterwards disease, or affoction; and that more be resisted. positive misery is created, and more These are the great twin scourges true enjoyment excluded, by the of the prosperous; but there are eternal fretting and straining of this other maladies, of no despicable mapitiful ambition, than by all the rava. lignity, to which they are peculiarly ges of passion, the desolations of war, liable. One of these, arising mainly or the accidents of mortality. The from want of more worthy occupawretchedness which it produces may tion, is that perpetual use of stratagem not be so intense; but it is of much and contrivance-lhat little, artful longer duration, and spreads over a diplomacy of private life, by which far wider circle. It is quite dreadful, the simplest and most natural transindeed, to think what a sweep this actions are rendered complicated pest has taken among the comforts of and difficult, and the common busi. our prosperous population. To be ness of existence made to depend on thought fashionable-that is, to be the success of plots and counterplots. thought more opulent and tasteful, By the incessant practice of this petty and on a footing of intimacy with a policy, a habit of duplicity and anxgreater number of distinguished per- iety is infallibly generated, which is sons than they really are, is the great equally fatal to integrity and enjoyand laborious pursuit of four families ment. We gradually come to look on out of five, the members of which are others with the distrust which we are exempted from the necessity of daily conscious of deserving; and are inindustry. In this pursuit, their time, sensibly formed to sentiments of the spirits and talents, are wasted; their most unamiable selfishness and sustempers soured; their affections pal- picion. It is needless to say, that all sied; and their natural manners and these elaborate edifices are worse dispositions altogether sophisticated than useless to the person who emand lost.
ploys them; and that the ingenious These are the giant curses of fa- plotter is almost always battled and shionable life; and Miss Edgeworth exposed by the downright honesty of has accordingly dedicated her two best some undesigning competitor. Miss tales to the delineation of their symp- Edgeworth, in her tale of “ Maneurtoms. The history of “ Lord Glen- ring," has given a very complete and thorn" is a fine picture of ennui ---that most entertaining representation of of « Almeria” an instructive repre “the by-ways and indirect, crooked sentation of the miseries of fashion. paths" by which these artful and inWe do not know whether it was a efficient people generally make their part of the fair writer's design to re-' way to disappointment. In the tale, present these maladies as absolutely entitled “ Madame de Fleury,” she incurable, without a change of con has given some useful examples of . dition; but the fact is, that in spite of the ways in which the rich may mosi
effectually do good to the poor, an mer estate. Poverty and love now operation which, we really believe, supply him with irresistible motives fails more frequently from want of for exertion. He rises in his profes. skill than of inclination. In “ the sion; marries the lady of his heart; Dun,” she has drawn a touching and and in due time returns, an altered most impressive picture of the man, to the possession of his former wretchedness which the poor so fre. affluence. quently suffer from the unfeeling Such is the naked outline of a thoughtlessness which withholds from story, more rich in character, inthem the scanty earnings of their la- cident and reflection, than any En. bour.
glish narrative with which we are acOf these tales, “ Eunui" perhaps quainted. As rapid and various as the is the best and most entertaining, best tales of Voltaire, and as full of though the leading character is some practical good sense and moral pawhat caricatured, and the denoue. thetick as any of the other tales of ment is brought about by a discovery Miss Edgeworth. The Irish characwhich shocks by its needless impro- ters are inimitable; not the coarse bability. Lord Glenthorn is bred up, caricatures of modern playwrightsby a false and indulgent guardian, as but drawn with a spirit, a delicacy, and the heir to an immense English and a precision, to which we do not know Irish estate; and, long before he is if there be any parallel among nation. of age, exhausts almost all the re al delineations. As these are tales of sources by which life can be made fashionable life, we shall present our tolerable to those who have nothing readers, in the first place, with some to wish for. Born on the very pin- traits of an Irish lady of rank. Lady nacle of human fortune," he had no Geraldine-the enchantress whose thing to do but to sit still and enjoy powerful magick almost raised the the barrenness of the prospect.” He hero of ennui from his leaden slumtries travelling, gaming, gluttony, bers, is represented with such exhunting, pugilism, and coach-dri- quisite liveliness and completeness of ving; but is so pressed down with the effect, that the reader can scarcely load of life, as to be repeatedly on the belp imagining that he has formerly eve of suicide. He passes over to Ire- been acquainted with the original. land, where he receives a temporary Every one at least, we conceive, must relief from the rebellion, and from have known somebody, the recollecfalling in love with a lady of high tion of whom must convince him, character and accomplishments; but that the following description is as the effect of these stimulants is
t'lle to nature as it is creditable to speedily expendesh, and he is in dan- art. ger of falling into a confirmed le
“ As lady Geraldine entered, I gave ore thargy, when it is fortunately dis- involuntary glance of curiosity. I saw a covered that he has been changed at tall, finely shaped woman, with the comnurse; and that, instead of being a manding air of a person of rank. She moPeer of boundless fortune, he is the red well; not with feminine timidity, yet son of a cottager who lives on po. had find eyes and a fine complexion, yet
with ease, promptitude, and decision. She tatoes. With great magnanimity, he
no regularity of feature. The only thing instantly gives up the fortune to the
that struck me as really extraordinary, rightful owner, who has been bred a was her indifference when I was introdublacksmith, and takes to the study of ced to her. Every body had seemed ex. the law. At the commencement of tremely desirous that I should see her lathis arduous career, he fortunately dyship, and that her ladyship should see falls in love, for the second time, with
me; and I was rather surprised by her
unconcerned air. This piqued me, and the lady entitled, after the death of fixed my attention. She turned from me, che blacksmith, to succeed to his for- and began to conveise with others. Her
voice was agreeable, though rather loud. most about her ladyship, was her indifferShe did not speak with the Irish accent; ence to flattery. She certainly preferred. but, when I listened maliciously, I detect frolick. Miss Bland was her humble comed certain Hibernian inflexions-nothing panion; Miss Tracey her butt. It was one of the vulgar Irish idiom, but something of lady Geraldine's delights, to humour that was more interrogative, more excla Miss Tracey's rage for imitating the matory, and perhaps more rhetorical, than fashions of fine people. Now you shall the common language of English ladies, see Miss Tracey appear at the ball to accompanied with infinitely more anima morrow, in every thing that I have sworn tion of countenance and demonstrative to her is fashionable. Nor have I cheated gesture. This appeared to me peculiar her in a single article. But the tout enand unusual, but not affected. She was semble I leave to her better judgment; uncommonly eloquent; and yet, without and you shall see her, I trust, a perfect action. Her words were not sufficiently monster, formed of every creature's best. rapid to express her ideas. Her manner Lady Kilrush's feathers; Mrs. Moore's appeared foreign, yet it was not quite wig; Mrs.O'Connor's gown, Mrs. Lighton's French. If I had been obliged to ciecide, I sleeves, and all the necklaces of all the should, however, have pronounced it ra Miss Ormsbys. She has no taste, no judgther more French than English. To deter ment; none at all, poor thing; but she can mine which it was, or whether I had ever imitate as well as those Chinese painters, seen any thing similar, I stood considering who, in their drawings, give you the flower her ladyship with more attention than I of one plant stuck on the stalk of ano. had ever bestowed. on any other woman. ther, and garnished with the leaves of a The words striking---fuscinating-bewitch- third.” 1. 130--139. ing, occurred to me as I looked at her and This favourite character is afterheard her speak. I resolved to turn my wards exhibited in a great variety of eyes away, and shut my ears; for I was
dramatick contrasts. For example: positively determined not to like her; I dreaded so much the idea of a second
• Lord Craig-lethorpe was, as Miss Tra
cey had described bim, very stiff, cold, Hymen. I retreated to the furthest window, and looked out very soberly upon a dirty
and high. His manners were in the exfish-pond.
treme of English reserve; ard liis ill-bred “If she had treated me with tolerable
show of contempt for the Irish, was suffi. civility at first, I never should have
cient provocation and justification of lady
Geraldine's ridicule. He was much in awe thought about her. High-born and highbred, she seemed to consider more what
of his fair and witty cousin. She could
easily put him out of countenance, for le she thought of others, than what others
was extremely bashful. ilis lordship had thought of her. Frank, candid, and affable,
that sort of bashfulness, which makes a yet opinionated, insolent, and an egotisi, her candour and affability appeared the
man surly and obstinate in his taciturnity;
which makes hin turn upon all who apeffect of a naturally good temper; her insolence and egotism only those of a spoil. proach him, as if they were going to ased child. She seemed to talk of herself question as if it were an injury, and repel
sault him; which makes him answer a purely to oblige others, as the most inter
a compliment as if it were an insult. Once, esting possible topick of conversation; for
when he was out of the room, lady Geral. such it had always been to her fond mo
dine exclaimed: “ That cousin Craigle. ther, who idolized her ladyship as only daughter, and the representative of thorpe of mine is scarcely an agreeable
man. The awkwardness of mauvaise honte an ancient house. Confident of her talents, conscious of her charms, and secure of might be pitied and pardoned, even in a her station, lady Geraldine gave free
nobleman,' continued her ladyship, 'if it
scope to her high spirits, her fancy, and her
really proceeded from humility; but here,
when I know it is connected with secret turn for ridicule. She looked, spoke, and
and inordinate arrogance, 'tis past all enacted, like a person privileged to think,
durance. Even his ways of sitting and say, and do, what she pleased. Her raillery, like the raillery of princes, was with standing provoke me, they are so self-suf.
ficient. Have you observed how he stands out fear of retort. She was not ill-natured, yet careless to whom she gave offence; English fireside outdone! Then, if he
at the fire ? Oh, the caricature of the provided she produced amusement; and
sits, we hope that change of posture may in this she seldom failed: for, in her con
afford our eyes transient relief; but worse versation, there was much of the raciness
again. Bolstered up, with his back against of Irish wit, and the oddity of Irish humour. The singularity that struck me
his chair, his hands in his pockets, and his
legs thrown out, in defiance of all passen, VOL. II.
gers and all decorum, there he sits, in Her whole conduct and convermagisterial silence, throwing a gloom sation are kept in admirable unison upon all conversation. As the Frenchman
with this half wild, half masculine, said of the Englishman, for whom even his politeness could not find another compli lofty, and delicate character. It would ment: 'Il faut avouer que ce monsieur a
be endless to extract her repartees un grand talent pour le silence;'-he holds and strokes of naiveté. We give only his tongue, till people actually believe her simple account of her mother. that he has something to say-a mistake “Every body says,” whispered she, they could never fall into if he would " that mamma is the most artful woman but speak. It is not timidity; it is all
in the world; and I should believe it, only pride. I would pardon his dulness, and that every body says it. Now, if it were even his ignorance; for one, as you say, true, nobody would know it.” I. 157. might be the fault of his nature, and the
This may suffice as a specimen of other of his education. But his self-suffi. ciency is his own fault; and that I will not,
the high life of the piece; which is and cannot pardon. Someboddy says, that more original and characteristickthan nature may make a fool, but a coxcomb is
that of Belinda-and altogether as always of his own making. Now, my cousin lively and natural. For the low life, --(as he is my cousin, I may say what I we do not know if we could extract please of him)---my cousin Craiglethorpe is a solemn concomb, who thinks, because
a more felicitous specimen than the his vanity is not talkative and sociable, following description of the equipage that it's not vanity. What a mistake!"
in which lord Glenthorn's English 1. 146-148.
and French servant were compelled These other traits of her character to follow their master in Ireland. are given, on different occasions, by “ From the inn yard came a hackney lord Glenthorn).
chaise, in a most deplorably crazy state; “ At first I had thought her merely
the body mounted up to a prodigious superficial, and interit solely upon her own height, on unbending springs, nodding amusement; but I soon found that she had
forwards, one door swinging open, three a taste for literature, beyond what could
blinds up, because they could not be let have been expected, in one who lived so
down; the perch tied in two places; the dissipated a life; a depth of reflection that
iron of the wheels half off, half loose; seened inconsistent with the rapidity
wooden pegs for linch-pins, and ropes for with which she thought; and, above all, a
barness. The horses were worthy of the degree of generous indignation against harness; wretched little dog-tired creameanness and vice, which seemed incom
tures, that looked as if they had been dripatible with the selfish character of a fine
ven to the last gasp, and as if they had 1.dy, and which appeared quite incompre
never been rubbed down in their lives;
their bones starting through their skin; hensible to the imitating tribe of her fashionable companions.” I. 174.
one lame, the other blind; one with a raw “ Lady Geraldine was superiour to ma
back, the other with a galled breast; one næuvring little arts, and petty stratagems,
with his neck poking down over his collar, to attract attention. She would not stoop
and the other with his head dragged for
ward by a bit of a broken bridle, held at even to conquer. From gentlemen she seemed to expect attention, as her right; beggar, in halt a hat and half a wig, both
arms' length by a man dressed like a mad as the right of her sex; not to beg or accept of it as a favour. If it were not paid, awry in opposite directions; a long tattered she deered the gentleman degraded, not
coat, tied round his waist by a hay rope; the herself. Far from being mortified by any jagged rents in the skirts of this coat
showing his bare legs, marbled of many preference shown to other ladies, her
colours, while something like stocking's countenance betrayed onlya sarcastick sort of pity for the bad taste of the men, or an
hung loose about his ankles. The noises absolute indifference and look of baughty he made, by way of threatening or en. absence. I saw that she beheld with dis- couraging his steeds, I pretend not to dain the paltry competitions of the young
describe. In an indignant voice I called to Jadies, her companions. As her com
the landlord- I hope these are not the
horses, I hope this is not the chaise, inpanions, indeed, she hardly seemed to consider them; she tolerated their foibles, tended for my servants. The innkeeper, forgave their envy, and never exerted any
and the pauper who was preparing to ofsuperiority, except to show her contempt
ficiate as postilion, both in the same inof vice and meanness.” I. 198, 199.
stant exclaimed Sorrow better chaise