« AnteriorContinuar »
interrupt no course of duty. No deserted mansion claims us within its ruined walls ; no ancient followers look in vain for our protection. Had my husband been an elder brother, our case would have been different. As it is, we have acted from serious, and I hope conscientious, motives. Setting our own case aside, nothing has been more mistaken by the friends of Ireland than the effects of the occasional residence of some of her children in the sister country. Who are most anxious for her prosperity ? With some brilliant exceptions, we must say, Those who have mixed with English society, who have visited England, witnessed the humanity of her landlords, the prosperity of her peasantry, the smiling neatness of her cottages. To improve a country by forbidding her inhabitants to know by experience what is done in those foremost in the race of virtue and civilisation, is a solecism. Already has much been done by the infusion of English society.' (P. 300.)
But Mr. Trench appears to have been frequently engaged with the management of their estates, and hence some of the most delightful letters of this volume. Here is
Here is a short specimen :
• Barsledon Lodge, Dec. 1810. None of us have been out of the house since Monday, and there was a fresh fall of snow to-day. How I thank my young self for having cultivated such a taste for occupation that my old self never knows ennui. That I prefer society to loneliness, is quite another thing; and I am glad to see clearly that I do so, and no longer to be cheated by the false ideas a warm imagination picks up on the subject from books, or an impatient spirit from the momentary disgust inspired by unpleasant company.
"I think to be excellent as a husband a man must be excellent in many other points; and if women were more convinced of this than they are in general, there would be fewer marriages, and perhaps more happiness; or else, in hope of pleasing us, men would improve themselves. The greatest fault our sex can be accused of, is being too easily pleased by yours; who seem to take an unfair advantage of it in being as much over, as we often are under, nice ; since the smallest fault of temper, manners, or even person, is thought a sufficient apology for your breaking loose ; while poor we --; but this is too copious a subject, and my poor baby is crying. I hope Bonaparte may have a sick child, as I think the cry of an infant, whose pain one cannot know or assuage, would make him feel his want of power, though nothing else has done it.' (P. 238.)
Another series of familiar letters is addressed by Mrs. Trench to her son by her first marriage. They combine the best maternal counsel with an almost lover-like tenderness, a determination at once to hold his respect and to win his friendship. Of course, in so close a relationship the public cannot be admitted within the innermost circle of family affairs, but we are permitted to give one example which any young man might be proud to receive :
To Charles St. George, Esq.
* Bursledon Lodge, 1814. The most beautiful and the most superb Brussells veil—the prettiest, the best chosen, the newest, in short a present in the most ex. cellent taste. It is admired by all beholders, and accepted with cordial pleasure, as a proof, among ten thousand others, of my dearest Charles's vigilant and perennial affection. It came just in time to appear at the music meeting, the bustle of which was combined with the private fuss of a removal from James's Square to the dear old house where Charles and his Mother were so merry and happy together.
*These united bustles prevented me from writing for some days, but I know you will not be uneasy, because you are well assured that if I were ill or unhappy, I have one with me who would most certainly give you the earliest information. I was triste on first coming here at seeing your empty room, and I miss you at the Piano-forte, and everywhere else. Think of my going to six concerts, three of them in the morning and three in the Abbey, in the space of five days. I began to speak in recitative, and all this public music has awakened the taste for private performance. Thank you for your news, which was very diplomatic as it had appeared in the papers three days before. I am not sorry to hear you propose remaining in your present situation some time longer, long enough to prove your steadiness and your ability for a more ostensible place. I hope you really feel satisfied, and do not place everything in the fairest light in order to give me pleasure. Excuse my having mistaken Japan for Dresden. Your beautiful present is my A. B. C. as to China, in which I am deplorably ignorant.
I cannot help wishing you would give one hour-look at your watch-I ask no more-to writing to your affectionate grandmother, and your still more affectionate brothers. These are in the two extremes of age when kindness is most sensibly felt. There are some exceptions to this rule, warm exceptions, I think, in the hearts of your mother and her mate, not to mention my dear son Charles, but the rule is tolerably general notwithstanding, Adieu, my dear inspirer of present pleasure and future hope.' ( MS.)
Interspersed with graver matter, we meet with free and humorous pictures of London society. There is a joust of talk between Jekyll and Rogers, in which the latter ingeniously prevents any of the jokes of the former from coming to maturity. There is Rogers, when Mr. Wilmot has left the room, addressing the remaining circle, " That Mr. Wilmot is a sensible
man. I don't say so from my own knowledge; not the least. · He wrote a book too. That you'll say was nothing. And • printed it. I don't say that from my own knowledge either,
for I never read it. Never met anybody that had.' And we think the following, if not perhaps accurately true, at any rate an ingenious explanation of the very unfavourable change which has taken place within the last thirty years in the social habits of the higher classes of this country.
• Dec. 31. It is not wholly our refinement, as we are apt to think, which has banished social and sprightly amusements from our drawing-rooms. Commerce, contracts, loans, and war prices have poured an influx of wealth into hands not hitherto in contact with the Corinthian pillars of society. Many persons were suddenly raised, as well by wealth as by alliances, places, and Court favours, to mingle with those, of whom some boast a long line of distinguished ancestors, others all the advantages of the best education, and not a few unite both. The patricians were not delighted with the intimacy with such persons which playing at cards for a low stake, private acting, domestic danc without the formality of previous preparation, or small plays, naturally produced; nor in general could the merely wealthy shine, where ease, sprightliness, and accomplishment were required. Accordingly they invited their noble friends to splendid dinners in apartments of Eastern magnificence; and from the moment these invitations were accepted, our English nobility declined from those habits of simple enjoyment by which they were formerly distinguished. They were disinclined to be much inferior in récherche and expense to these new acquaintances, and invited them to entertainments more luxurious and more formal than they had themselves habitually given—more luxurious from contagion, more formal, in part to preserve their own dignity-thus adding insensibly to the farsought delicacies of the table, and the ornament of their houses; till at last all society, saving Almac's, which is a “ bright particular star, and that dignified delightful scene of dozing, the Ancient Music, has taken one uniform colour. The duke, the commoner, the contractor, all entertain, as it is called, in gay apartments, full of pomp and gold;
“And one eternal dinner swallows all.” (Pp. 411-12.) We have hitherto allowed Mrs. Trench's literary merits to be inferred from her writings, and we would not now press into special notice the specimens of her composition in prose and verse that are here before us. They are always graceful and expressive of the mind of the author in correct and feeling language, but they never would have won of themselves the high and lasting repute which we believe to be the destiny of this volume.
There is an Eclogue entitled “Mariazell,' probably written during her tour in Germany, which has quite a Wordsworthian simplicity and tenderness about it, and the following stanzas show that she could occasionally take a still higher range:
• Their eyes have met. The irrevocable glance
• Eternity ! sweet word to lover's ear,
Exists self-poised, and wishes all its days the same.' The following self-criticism expresses her own judgment on her writings :
I should write much better if I had ever been criticised. The heaths and many other flowers require wind (not merely air, but blasts of wind) as well as sunshine; and it would have been both a stimulus and an improvement, if I had ever heard the voice of truth. But alas! that was impossible ; and my little attempts can have no merit but that of showing to those who love me, what I might have done had I not been deprived of the advantages of classical learning; had I not been flattered in my youth, as one to whom mental acquirements were unnecessary; had I not been the fond mother of nine children and the troublesome wife of one whom I do not much like to have out of my sight;—four very unfavourable circumstances to the cultivation of any art or science whatever.' (P. 432.)
Her French style is evidently founded on the elder models with which she was so familiar. It would now perhaps be considered somewhat formal and constrained, but it is usually correct and sometimes rises to eloquence. Mrs. Trench's estimate of the books of her day is generally far from indulgent. She is enthusiastic about no contemporary poetry except "Childe • Harold' and Rogers'. Human Life.' She gives Walter Scott's later novels a very cool reception, and while she enjoys · The • Corsair' and 'Lara,'(and indeed suggests that the only way which posterity can account for Jacqueline appearing in company with the latter will be by supposing that Rogers was Lord Byron's dissenting chaplain), she thus accurately analyses • The Giaour,' and its defects :
1813.-" The Ginour" is a trial of skill low far picturesque, ani
mated, and eloquent description will please, without dignity or delicacy of character, novelty of scene or manners, interesting narrative, or elevated sentiments. Events similar to those recorded in this tale have not only been thrice told, but three hundred times; and in point of manners, every one who has read a book of “Travels in Turkey.” knows too well all of which he is here reminded, not to feel a certain disappointment at being carried so far and shown nothing new.'
The story of "The Giaour” could hardly be comprehended by human ingenuity, if it did not turn on circumstances the most commonplace, as we are only presented with unconnected fragments from the lips of two nameless narrators, who ask a variety of questions, and whom we should be glad to question a little in our turn. Fragments of this uninteresting story are tricked out in gaudy colouring, and amidst a greater proportion of indifferent lines than are fairly admissible in so short a production, we meet occasional proofs of originality and genius. Still“ The Giaour” ranks far below any former production of the same author. It contributes, as far as its mite goes, to injure the taste of the age, by reducing poetry merely to an amusement for a vacant hour, instead of employing it to elevate our minds, soften our hearts, and refine our pleasures. Whether these effects are produced by sentiments, by characters, by imagery, is immaterial. When they are not produced, when poetry addresses herself chiefly through the ear to the eye, she must be on the decline; and this decline works like “The Giaour” at once acceleráte and proclaim.' (P. 279.)
The following are somewhat severe but not injudicious strictures :
Oct. 1816. - I am reading Mrs. Marcet's “ Political Economy.” It is all Say, thrown into dialogue, with the objections which might be made. This is a good plan for chemistry, where a well-educated and thinking person may begin the book entirely ignorant of the subject. But it is a bad plan for political economy, on which every one has some information, more or less. One has not patience to be stopped every minute by a foolish objection, to which one knows the answer. It may do as an elementary book ; but though I could read her
Chemistry,” I cannot read this; and I should suppose the effect would be similar on all grown people. It shows a laudable spirit of industry, but I think it unfair to Say, of whom it is a sort of unavowed translation ; for though she professes it to give the quintessence of other authors, all of it which I have read, except what is avowedly quoted, is cribbed from him without even changing his phrases.' (P. 348.)
* July, 1817.- We are now reading Miss Edgeworth's “Ormond and Harrington." The Edinburgh Reviewers have done her much mischief ; first, by persuading her to stick fast to the bogs, after she has exhausted all that was comic, pathetic, or striking in the peculiar distinctions between England and Ireland; next to objecting to her morality being so apparent.
Now she never writes half so well as when she evidently endeavours to illustrate a moral or prudential VOL. CXVI. NO, CCXXXV.