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Chapter 22:

  • Edgeworthtown.
  • -- English lakes.-York. -- Doncaster. -- Wentworth house.


August 21.—We set out pretty early this morning to make a visit, by invitation, to the Edgeworths, at Edgeworthtown, sixty-five English miles from Dublin. . . . The whole country we passed through was like a succession of prairies, so little inequality was there in the surface, and it was only at rare intervals we even saw any tolerably sized hills in the horizon. Nor were the objects on the road more various. . . . . The ruins of an old castle of the Leinsters, at Maynooth, two mounds, which were probably burial-places of the aborigines, a good many ruined churches, and a good many villages, some very squalid and wretched, and some as comfortable as the poorer Scotch hamlets, were all we noticed. . . . .

At last we approached the house. There was no mistaking it. We had seen none such for a long time. It is spacious, with an ample veranda, and conservatory covering part of its front quite beautifully, and situated in a fine lawn of the richest green, interspersed with clumps of venerable oaks and beeches. As we drove to the door Miss Edgeworth came out to meet us,—a small, short, spare lady of about sixty-seven, with extremely frank and kind manners, and who always looks straight into your face with a pair of mild, deep gray eyes, whenever she speaks to you. With her characteristic directness, she did not take us into the library until she had told us that we should find there Mrs. Alison of Edinburgh, and her aunt, Miss Sneyd,1 a person very old and infirm; and that the only other persons constituting the family were Mrs. Edgeworth,2 Miss [427] Honora Edgeworth,3 and Dr. Alison, a physician, and son of the author on ‘Taste.’ Having thus put us en pays de connaissance, she carried us into the library. It is quite a large room, full of books, and every way comfortable as a sitting-room. We had not been there five minutes before we were, by her kindness and vivacity, put completely at our ease, a sensation which we do not seem likely to lose during our visit. Soon after we were seated and had become a little acquainted with Mrs. Alison,—who is a daughter of the famous Dr. Gregory,—the rest of the party came in from a drive.

Mrs. Edgeworth—who is of the Beaufort family—seems about the age of her more distinguished step-daughter, and is somewhat stout, but very active, intelligent, and accomplished, having apparently the whole care of the household, and adding materially, by her resources in the arts and in literature, to its agreeableness4. . . . .

It is plain they make a harmonious whole, and by those who visited here when the family was much larger, and composed of the children of all the wives of Mr. Edgeworth, with their connections produced by marriage, so as to form the most heterogeneous relationships, I am told there was always the same very striking union and agreeable intercourse among them all, to the number sometimes of fifteen or twenty. . . .

After sitting about an hour in the library. . . . we went to dress, and punctually at half past 6 were summoned by the bell to dinner. . . . . At half past 8 we rejoined the ladies in the library, which seems to be the only sitting-room; at nine we had tea and coffee, and at half past 10 went to bed. . .. . What has struck me most today in Miss Edgeworth herself, is her uncommon quickness of perception, her fertility of allusion, and the great resources of fact which a remarkable memory supplies to her, combined into a whole which I can call nothing else but extraordinary vivacity. She certainly talks quite as well as Lady Delacour or Lady Davenant, and much in the style of both of them, though more in that of Lady Davenant. . . .

August 22.—It has been a rainy day to-day, the first, properly so, [428] that we have had since we left Liverpool, nearly two months ago. I was heartily glad of it, for it prevented all talk of driving into a country essentially flat and uninteresting, and kept us in the most interesting and agreeable society. We did not really separate during the whole day, from breakfast, at nine, until bedtime, half after eleven. The whole time was passed in the library, except the breakfast, which was protracted to an hour's length by sitting round the table; lunch, which is really the dinner of most people;. . . . and dinner itself, from half past 6 to half past 8.

Miss Edgeworth's conversation was always ready, and as full of vivacity and variety as I can imagine. It was, too, no less full of good-nature. She was disposed to defend everybody, even Lady Morgan, as far as she could, though never so far as to be unreasonable; and in her intercourse with her family she was quite delightful, referring constantly to Mrs. Edgeworth, who seems to be the authority in all matters of fact, and most kindly repeating jokes to her infirm aunt, Miss Sneyd, who cannot hear them, and who seems to have for her the most unbounded affection and admiration.

About herself, as an author, she seems to have no reserve or secrets. She spoke with great kindness and pleasure of a letter I brought to her from Mr. Peabody,5 explaining some passage in his review of ‘Helen,’ which had troubled her from its allusion to her father; ‘but,’ she added, ‘nobody can know what I owe to my father; he advised and directed me in everything; I never could have done anything without him. These are things I cannot be mistaken about, though other people can,—I know them.’ As she said this, the tears stood in her eyes, and her whole person was moved.

Of ‘Helen,’ she said that it was a recent conception altogether, first imagined about two years before it was printed. The Collingwoods, she said, were a clumsy part of it; she put them in, thinking to make something of them, but was disappointed, and there they stuck, she could not get them out again. Many parts of it were much altered; two only were printed just as they were first put on paper, with hardly the correction of a word,—Lady Davenant's conversation with Helen in the pony phaeton, and Lady Cecilia's conversation with Helen towards the end, telling her all that had happened during their separation. These two portions she said she dictated to her sister Lucy, whom she represented to be a person of sure taste. She dictated these particular passages because, as they [429] were to represent narrative conversation, she thought this mode of composing them would give them a more natural air, and whenever her sister's pen hesitated, she altered the word at once. ‘So,’ said she, ‘all that turned out right, and I was very glad of it for Lucy's sake as well as my own.’

‘Taking for Granted,’ she told me, was sketched very roughly about fifteen years ago, and she is now employed in working it entirely over again, and bringing it out. She was curious to know what instances I had ever witnessed of persons suffering from ‘taking for granted’ what proved false, and desired me quite earnestly, and many times, to write to her about it; ‘for,’ she added, ‘you would be surprised if you knew how much I pick up in this way.’ ‘The story,’ she said, ‘must begin lightly, and the early instances of mistake might be comic, but it must end tragically.’ I told her I was sorry for it. ‘Well,’ said she, ‘I can't help it, it must be so. The best I can do for you is, to leave it quite uncertain whether it is possible the man who is to be my victim can ever be happy again or not.’

But neither ‘Helen’ nor ‘Taking for Granted,’ she said, is the subject she should be glad to write about, and write about with the most interest. It is something connected with the religious and political parties that are ruining Ireland, ‘my poor Ireland.’ ‘But,’ she went on, ‘ it won't do. Few would listen, and those that would listen would do it to serve their own purposes. It won't do, and I am sorry for it, very sorry.’

But though she talked thus freely about herself and her works, she never introduced the subject, and never seemed glad to continue it. She talked quite as well, and with quite as much interest, on everything else. Indeed, though I watched carefully for it, I could not detect, on the one side, any of the mystification of authorship, nor, on the other, any of its vanity. . . . . The sustained tone of conversation, however, with her unquenchable vivacity, was, I think,—continued as it was through so long a day,—a little fatiguing to her. She was just the same to the last moment,—just as quick in repartee, and just as gay in her allusions and remarks,—but her countenance showed that her physical strength was hardly equal to it. Indeed, she is of a feeble constitution naturally, though for the last two years she has gained strength. It was, therefore, something of a trial to talk so brilliantly and variously as she did, from nine in the morning till past eleven at night.

Sunday, August 23.—To-day was more quiet; not less interesting [430] or agreeable than yesterday, but less exciting. We went to church with the family, who all seemed Episcopalians in principle and practice. Miss Edgeworth carried her favorite Prayer-book in a nice case, and knelt and made all the responses very devoutly. The church is small, but neat, and their pew is the place of honor in it, with a canopy and recess as large as any two other pews. . . . . On one side of the altar was a small, plain, oval tablet, to the memory of their grandfather, bearing no inscription but his name, and the time of his birth and death; and on the other side was one exactly like it,. . . . to their father, who died in 1817. The whole had the air of decency and reverence that ought always to be found in a village church; but the sermon was Calvinistic, from a young man, and the congregation very small, making a striking contrast to the congregation which poured out from the Catholic chapel in the neighborhood, so as to fill and throng the highway.

The Edgeworths have always been on the most kindly terms with their Catholic neighbors and tenantry, but, like many other Protestants whom I have met, they feel rather uncomfortably at the encroaching spirit which the Emancipation Bill has awakened in the whole Catholic population of the island, and the exclusive character and tone assumed by the priests, who have every day, as they assure me, more and more the air of claiming superiority; especially where, as in the case of Edgeworthtown, the old priests have been removed, and Jesuits placed in their stead.

After lunch,—there is only one service in the church,—Miss Edgeworth showed me a good many curious letters from Dumont,— one in particular, giving an account of Madame de Stael's visit, in 1813, to Lord Lansdowne at Bowood, for a week, when Mackintosh, Romilly, Schlegel, Rogers, and a quantity more of distinguished people were there; but Miss Edgeworth declined, not feeling apparently willing to live in a state of continual exhibition for so long a time. It was, however, very brilliant, and was most brilliantly described by Dumont. One thing amused me very much. Madame de Stael, who had just been reading the ‘Tales of Fashionable Life,’—then recently published,—with great admiration, said to Dumont of Miss Edgeworth: ‘Vraiment elle était digne de l'enthousiasme, mais elle se perd dans votre triste utilitye.’ It seemed to delight Miss Edgeworth excessively, and it was to show me this that she looked up the letters.

In the evening she showed me her long correspondence with Sir Walter Scott, at least his part of it. The whole seemed to have been extremely creditable to both parties. As soon as ‘Waverley’ was [431] published, she wrote a letter to its anonymous author, filled with the fulness of her fresh delight, which she enclosed to Ballantyne, who answered it on behalf of the Great Unknown. This was the beginning of the matter. Soon after, they wrote directly to each other; she went to see Scott; young Walter and his new wife were sent to her as to an intimate friend, immediately after their marriage. Sir Walter wrote to her, also, on his loss of fortune, and the correspondence was continued till his mind failed. When she was in Edinburgh, in 1823, Lady Scott expressed her surprise that Scott and Miss Edgeworth had not met when Miss Edgeworth was in Edinburgh in 1803. ‘Why,’ said Sir Walter, with one of his queer looks, ‘you forget, my dear,—Miss Edgeworth was not a lion then, and my mane, you know, was not grown at all.’ She told many stories of him, all showing an admiration for him, and a personal interest in him and his fame, which it was delightful to witness in the only person that could have been fancied his rival. During the evening she was very agreeable, and in the latter part of it very brilliant with repartee, so that we sat late together, not separating until midnight. Everything shows that her mind is as active, and as capable of producing ‘Ennui,’ or ‘The Absentee,’ now, as at any previous period. In fact, ‘Helen’ proves it.

August 24.—The house, and many of its arrangements,—the bells, the doors, etc.,—bear witness to that love of mechanical trifling of which Mr. Edgeworth was so often accused. It was only this morning that I fully learnt how to open, shut, and lock our chamber-door; and the dressing-glass, at which I have shaved for three mornings, is somewhat of a mystery to me still. Things are in general very convenient and comfortable through the house, though, as elsewhere in Ireland, there is a want of English exactness and finish. However, all such matters, even if carried much farther than they are, would be mere trifles in the midst of so much kindness, hospitality, and intellectual pleasures of the highest order, as we enjoyed under their roof, where hospitality is so abundant that they have often had twenty or thirty friends come upon them unexpectedly, when the family was much larger than it is now.

But we were now obliged to leave them. We did it with great regret; but our engagements with other friends in England would be broken by a more protracted stay in Ireland. So urgent was their kindness, as we parted from them, that we fairly promised to come back to Ireland,6 on our return from the Continent, and make them [432] a longer visit. At half past 10 this morning, after lingering at the breakfast-table longer than we ought to have done, we left them. The roads are good, the post well served, so that we reached Dublin —sixty-five English miles—in eight hours and a quarter.

September 1, 1835.7—At Ambleside we found a kind note from Wordsworth, inviting us to come directly to him. I walked there as soon as I had refreshed myself a little. . . . . I found it, as I anticipated, a house of trouble. Mrs. Wordsworth's sister died a few weeks ago; Mr. Wordsworth's sister—a person of much talent—lies at the point of death, and his daughter is suffering under the spine complaint, though likely to recover. But they received me—I mean Mr. and Mrs. Wordsworth, their daughter, and their two sons—with entire kindness, and, after the first few moments, did not seem to recall their sorrows.

Wordsworth was very agreeable. He talked about politics, in which his views are very gloomy. He holds strongly and fondly, with an affectionate feeling of veneration, to the old and established in the institutions, usages, and peculiarities of his country, and he sees them all shaken by the progress of change. His moral sensibilities are offended; his old affections are wounded; his confidence in the future is disturbed. But though he talks about it as if it were a subject that oppresses him, he talks without bitterness, and with the large and flowing eloquence which marks his whole conversation. Indeed, he feels the whole matter so deeply and so tenderly, that it is not easy to avoid sympathizing with him, even when the strictness of his political system is most apparent. He was very curious, too, about our institutions in America, and their effect upon society and character, and made many shrewd as well as kind remarks about us; but is certainly not inclined to augur well of our destinies, for he goes upon the broad principle that the mass of any people cannot be trusted with the powers of government. [433]

In this sort of conversation a couple of hours passed very quickly away, and when I rose to leave him he took his staff and walked nearly back to Ambleside with me.

September 2.—As it was not convenient for us to go up to Rydal and breakfast with Mr. Wordsworth, he came and breakfasted with us. His talk was like that of last evening, flowing and abundant, with an elevated moral and intellectual tone, and full of a kindliness that was not to be mistaken. We determined to pass the day in an excursion up Coniston Water, generally considered the most beautiful of the lakes, and he said he would go with us,—a great addition to a great pleasure. . . . . To show us the best points he carried us to the houses of two of his friends. The first was Mrs. Copley's, where we met Miss Fletcher,8 formerly of Edinburgh, and one or two other quite agreeable people, and where we stopped long enough to lunch with them. . . . . The other place was that of the venerable Mrs. Smith,—the mother of the extraordinary Elizabeth Smith,— where, besides the fine views, we saw the cottage, the site of the tent which has given the name of Tent Hall to the place,. . . . and the other localities mentioned in the beautiful ‘Fragments,’ printed after her premature death. . . . .

We then set out to visit my old friend Mrs. Fletcher,. . . . but met her, and, finding that our engagements would permit no other arrangement, she offered to breakfast with us to-morrow morning, and we parted and came back to Ambleside.

Wordsworth, as usual, talked the whole time. He showed us the scenery in the spirit of one bred among its beauties; with which his mind has been peculiarly nourished, and of which his poetry everywhere bears the impress. He talked about Burns, whose poetry he analyzed with great truth and acuteness, considering it as the fresh and unidealized expression of the most beautiful of merely human feelings and affections, in the better parts of it, and in this view of unrivalled merit. He described to us his last sad visit to Scott, just as he was setting off for Naples, broken down in mind and body, and conscious of it; for when his two last stories were mentioned, he said, ‘Don't speak of them; they smell of apoplexy.’

And he talked about Campbell, the reviewers, and their effect on his own reputation, etc., all in the most kindly and frank spirit, describing to us ‘The Recluse,’ his unpublished poem, and repeating, in illustration of his opinions, passages from his own works, in his [434] peculiarly sonorous recitative. The drive of fifteen miles and the visit seemed short, and soon after my return home I rejoined him at Rydal Mount and passed an extremely agreeable evening with him again, which he again ended by accompanying me back to Ambleside by a beautiful moonlight.

September 3.—Mrs. Fletcher and her daughter came to breakfast with us; and though she is sixteen years older than she was when I saw her last, she is as interesting as ever, by her talent and enthusiasm. When we drove from Ambleside she accompanied us to Wordsworth's, where we passed a couple of hours very agreeably. He showed us quite over his pretty grounds and through his favorite walks, where he has composed so much of his poetry,. . . . and went with us to the picturesque waterfall in Lady Le Fleming's grounds. . . . . His daughter was on her sofa, very intelligent and pleasing, her animation not impaired by her debility; and his younger son, whose education is not completed, is an agreeable, kind-hearted young man, forming, with their venerable father and excellent, gentle, matronly mother, a group which leaves such a kindly and harmonious impression on the mind as we are always glad to cherish there. . . . Bidding farewell to the Wordsworths and the Fletchers, we drove on to Keswick.

Keswick, September 3.—We came here by invitation to pass the evening with Southey, but we accepted the invitation with some hesitation, for Mrs. Southey has been several months hopelessly deranged, and is supposed now to be sinking away. . .. . He received us very kindly, but was much moved when he showed me his only son, and reminded me that I had last seen him hardly three weeks old, in his cradle in the same room. . . . .

Southey was natural and kind, but evidently depressed, much altered since I saw him fifteen years ago, a little bent, and his hair quite white. He showed me the materials for his edition of Cowper and the beginning of the Life; the last work, he says, he shall ever do for the booksellers. Among the materials was the autograph manuscript of ‘John Gilpin,’ and many letters .. . . . He read us, too, about three cantos of his ‘Oliver Newman,’—the poem on American ground,—some of it fine, but the parts intended to be humorous in very bad taste. He showed me as many curious and rare manuscripts and books as I could look at, and told me that he means now to finish his history of Portugal and Portuguese literature; and if possible write a history of the Monastic Orders. If he does the last, it will be bitter enough. He says he has written no ‘Quarterly Review’ [435] for two years, and means to write no more; that reviews have done more harm than good, etc. In politics I was surprised to find him less desponding than Wordsworth, though perhaps more excited. He says, however, that Ireland will not be tranquillized without bloodshed, admits that Sir Robert Peel is not a great man, and that England is now desperately in want of really great minds to manage its affairs. His conversation was very various, sometimes quite remarkable, but never rich or copious like Wordsworth's, and never humorous or witty. It was rather abundant in matters of fact, and often in that way quite striking and effective. . . . York, September 6.—We arrived here early, and established ourselves in the narrow, but neat and comfortable lodgings which we had previously secured for the Musical Festival week. The city, though old, seemed beautifully clean; and the streets, though close and dark, were filled with crowds of well-dressed people, many of whom, like ourselves, had been attracted by the great occasion. . . . In the latter part of the evening, the moon being at its full and very brilliant, we walked quite round the magnificent minster, enjoying the effect of its glorious Gothic architecture by the light in which it can be most appropriately seen. It was very beautiful and very solemn, especially when viewed from near the gates of the Residence. September 7.—I met, this morning, Mr. William Vernon Harcourt, with whom I dined at Lord Mulgrave's in Dublin. He is the son of the Archbishop of York, first Residentiary Canon of the minster, and the most active and efficient manager of the Festival. . .. . The first instance of his kind attention was to give us the means of going to the garden of the Museum this morning, when the Duchess of Kent and the Princess Victoria were received there. . . . . September 8.—The first great day of the Festival. Mr. Harcourt sent us tickets for the ‘Patrons' gallery’ in the minster, the best part of the building, where seats were reserved for the royal party, and we went at eleven o'clock. Everything was perfectly arranged, twelve avenues being opened to admit the immense crowd into the immense building; a moment after we entered, we emerged into a gallery at the west end of the church opposite to the choir and the great organ. The part of the minster given to the purposes of this occasion is the nave and aisles, the nave being 261 feet long, 109 broad, and 99 high. . . . all together capable of containing full 5,000 persons seated, besides the 620 musicians. . . . . Punctually at twelve o'clock the royal party arrived. . . .. The [436] whole audience rose, and when the royal guests came to the front of the gallery so as to be distinctly visible, a tumult of applause broke forth which was with difficulty suppressed by the Dean as entirely unsuitable to the place. . . .. . As soon as they were seated the whole choir broke forth with Handel's Coronation Hymn, this being the anniversary of the King's crowning. The effect was electrical. The vast audience rose again, and when the shout of ‘God save the King’ broke from the choir of four hundred voices sustained by the full power of two hundred and fifty instruments and the tremendous organ, its effect was not to be mistaken. There was not a soul under those wide vaults that did not feel it. . . .

September 9.—The performance to-day was Handel's Messiah,— the whole of it,—a great work, which requires all the power and variety that the art of music can bring with it; and which, I suppose, has never been heard so well anywhere as in this vast and solemn minster. . . . It is astonishing how distinctly a single voice is heard, even in its lowest and sweetest tones, through nearly every part of this wide pile; and the stillness of the multitudes to catch its murmurs is sometimes as thrilling as the notes themselves. Grisi can fill the whole building with the most brilliant sounds.

We dined at Lord Fitzwilliam's, who has taken a large house just outside the gates, for the Festival week, which he thinks it his inherited duty to patronize. . . . .

September 12.—Mr. Willis of Caius College, Cambridge, who has published on architecture, being here, and desirous to see some parts of the cathedral not usually seen, Mr. Harcourt had it opened and lighted, and a party was formed to go over it. It was very curious. We were shown, under the pavement of the present choir, the remains of the ancient choir of the church built in 1070 and burnt in 1137, together with one arch of the still older church built about A. D. 900, all discovered in 1830, when the excavations were made for the repairs of the present building, after the disastrous fire of 1829. These old ruins are of Cyclopean size, and the later portions of them are in the Norman style and very elaborate. The whole is in total darkness under the foundations of the huge minster itself, but was this morning beautifully lighted up with gas, which has been introduced for the purpose. After this we went over the choir and the other parts of the church. . . . It has more of the power given to Gothic architecture in the ‘ Penseroso’ than any building I know of; ‘the high embowed roof,’ the ‘antic pillars massy-proof,’ the ‘storied windows, richly dight,’ ‘ the pealing organ,’ and ‘the fullvoiced [437] quire below,’ are all there, and there in their original perfection.

We were invited to dine with the Harcourts, but had an engagement with the Phillipses. . . . . We passed a couple of hours most agreeably with Professor Phillips, who gratifies and surprises me more, the more I know him.9. . . . We finished the evening with the Harcourts, who are fine specimens of the highest order of the English character,—the lady beautiful, intelligent, winning, and religious; and Mr. Harcourt a quiet, unobtrusive, efficient gentleman, with very large resources of various and elegant knowledge. We shall be sorry indeed to leave York, because it contains such people.

After the Musical Festival followed the Doncaster Races, at which, on the great St. Leger Day, the excitement of the multitude was vastly increased that year by the presence of the Princess Victoria and the Duchess of Kent, who were then the guests of Lord Fitzwilliam at Wentworth House. The arrival of the royal party at the race-ground was a brilliant sight, with the turnout of Lord Fitzwilliam's many splendid carriages, all with six or four horses and outriders, and escorted by a body of forty of his manly-looking tenants; and when the Princess was seated in front of the Grand Stand, the upturned faces of the immense crowd that welcomed her made another impressive sight.

The descriptions of these scenes, and of Castle Howard, Rivaulx Abbey, and other interesting spots, must be set aside to make room for visits at pleasant country-houses. First comes Mulgrave Castle, where, by Lord Mulgrave's invitation, given at Dublin, the party were received by Mr.Villiers and Mrs. Edward Villiers,10 then staying there.

On September 18, the day following their arrival at Mulgrave Castle, Mr. Ticknor says:— [438]

We began our excursion by stopping in a small village belonging to Lord Mulgrave. We wished to get a little information from the clergyman, but he was not at home. I was sorry for it, for Mr. Villiers told me he is one of the last specimens now remaining of Fieldings Parson Adams, sometimes dining with Lord and Lady Mulgrave, and finishing the evening drinking beer in their servants' hall. I saw the house in which the profligate Duke of Buckingham took refuge from the plague, in the time of Charles II. His tenantry were rejoiced to have him among them, as Lord Mulgrave told me, did him all honor and made him as comfortable as possible, and, when he went away, crowded about him and asked when he would come again. ‘With the next plague,’ said the gracious landlord, and rode off.

The next day, at Kirby Moorside, Mr. Ticknor was shown a common-looking house where Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, died, whose death is thus recorded in the parish register of the place: ‘buried in the yeare of our Lord 1687, April ye 17. Gorges uiluas Lord dooke of bookingam,’ etc.,—so carelessly and ignorantly was the death of a statesman, out of date, put on record, even in the midst of his own possessions and tenantry.

About two miles to the northwest of Kirby Moorside, I stopped to see the small but remarkable church of Kirkdale. It stands in a retired and quiet valley, and has undergone considerable repairs; but the Saxon arch of its principal entrance is still surmounted by a sundial, on which there is a plain Saxon inscription, signifying that it was placed there ‘by Orm the son of Gamal, in the days of Edward the King and of Tosti the Earl,’ which brings its date to 1055-65, when Tosti was Earl of Northumberland, and Edward, the Confessor, King.

Three days later they passed through Leeds, where the Messrs. Gott—two of whom Mr. Ticknor had met at York—showed him the wonderful machinery of their great woollen manufactory, with a freedom and openness very unusual; and ‘after resting from this labor,’ he says, ‘I went to dine at Mr. Edward Smyth's, the head of the branch of the Bank of England for Leeds, and brother of Professor Smyth, who is now staying at his house. It was a pleasant, quiet dinner; the professor himself being, as he always is, agreeable, with the utmost simplicity [439] of heart. I saw him constantly in York, and it was one of my pleasures to witness his exquisite enjoyment of the music at the minster.’

A visit of three days at Thorn's House—the seat of Mr. Gaskell, ten miles from Leeds—now followed. Professor Smyth of Cambridge joined the party at Leeds, by appointment, and added to every interest and enjoyment in the next two days by his delightful union of talent, simplicity, quaint humor, and most winning kindliness. Mr. Gaskell had been Member of Parliament for Malden, and his son at this time represented Shropshire. The whole family were rich in cultivation, refinement, and hospitality, and the establishment elegant and luxurious.

Immediately after lunch [on the first day] Mrs. Gaskell carried us to the house of that strange person, Mr. Waterton, whose ‘ Wanderings ’ in South America excited so much remark a few years ago. He is an anomaly; a thorough Catholic, and holding the most despotic theories of government, yet a radical at home, in order to overturn everything now existing in England; living a large part of his time in the woods, with the habits and the sharpened instincts of a savage, and yet with a fine, comfortable, English establishment, full of servants and luxuries; a man of an old family and large hereditary property, yet holding little intercourse with those about him; in short, a mass of inconsistencies, mingled with a great deal of talent and not a little science. We were sorry not to find him at home; but we saw his curious collection in natural history, one of the most beautiful things I ever beheld. The birds, collected and prepared by himself, are exquisite. . .. . There were other things, too; the alligator he rode; the ‘nondescript,’ with which he tried to mystify the naturalists, but which is only a red monkey, prepared by his consummate skill to look like a man, etc., etc. The whole is in his house, which stands in the middle of a small lake, and is approached by a drawbridge,—a fit position and arrangement for so whimsical and strange a creature.

On the 25th September, Mr. Ticknor reached Wentworth House, Lord Fitzwilliam's ‘princely establishment,’ and there four days were filled with rich and varied interest, and with the most true and delightful hospitality. [440]


Sunday, September 27.—After breakfast—which was rather late, and over which we lounged a good while—Lord Fitzwilliam asked who would drive to church; all but two of the ladies declined. It seems to be the custom of the house to employ the carriages as little as possible on Sundays, so that we made a formidable procession, the children and all constituting about twenty. Those of the tenantry who were in the churchyard-perhaps a dozen—drew up to the path and took off their hats as Lord Fitzwilliam passed in. . . . . The church is small, very old, and has nothing curious about it but a few old monuments, especially one to Lord Strafford's father and one to himself, all quite rude. He was the last distinguished person buried here; his son, with the Rockinghams, Fitzwilliams, etc., being deposited in York Minster. The pew of the family is of oak, very rudely carved, and has a shattered look; but it is in the state in which it was when the famous Strafford sat there, and has his arms ill cut in several places. . . . . I could not help imagining how things looked when he was there, and the great Marquis of Rockingham, and when Burke and Fox sat there, as they often did, with the late Lord Fitzwilliam. I had many strange visions about it, and little heeded poor old Mr. Lowe. . . . We lounged slowly home through the grounds and gardens. . . .

After lunch, Lord Fitzwilliam said he should go to hear a charity sermon two or three miles off, and asked who would go with him; but all declined except Lady Mary and Mr. Thompson, it being understood that Dr. Dundas would read the evening service in the chapel after dinner. Instead of going to church we made a party at half past 3, to see the stables and the establishment for young horses at one of the lodges. They were well worth the trouble. . . . .

After dinner. . . . the party distributed itself through the gallery and the library rooms, to the number of about thirty. A little before nine o'clock the groom of the chambers came as usual and said, ‘ My lord, the chapel is ready,’ and everybody went. About seventy or eighty servants were there when we went in, and with the family and visitors made quite a respectable congregation. The ladies were in the gallery, the female servants chiefly under it. . . . .

September 28.—We intended to have left Wentworth House this morning, and, passing the day at Sheffield, about ten miles off, have proceeded on our journey to-morrow; but I found Lord Fitzwilliam had invited Montgomery, the poet, to meet us, and that they had proposed [441] to make a party for Sheffield to go with us, so that we altered our plan. . . . . After breakfast we went over some other parts of this vast pile of building, saw the state sleeping-apartments, which are magnificent, and many other suites of rooms that are very rich and comfortable. . . . The saloon fitted up by the present Lord Fitzwilliam is very rich and magnificent. On one side of it hangs the famous picture of Lord Rockingham's horse ‘Whistler,’ by Stubbs, nearly as large as life, and one of the most striking pictures of an animal I ever saw. It is nothing but a painting of a horse, no trappings, no background, no earth, yet it does not leave any feeling of deficiency. Lord Fitzwilliam told me that when the horse was painted Lord Rockingham intended to have put George III. upon him; ‘ but,’ said he, laughing, ‘the king misbehaved about that time, and so Lord Rockingham would not have him there. However,’ he added, ‘that is a story I do not often tell, and the people here know nothing about it. There is no use in having such things remembered.’. . . .

When I went into the gallery before dinner I found Montgomery talking with Mr. Lowe. He—Montgomery—is a small man, above sixty-five years old, rather feeble and sensitive, but good, kind, and benevolent, and greatly loved in Sheffield, where he has lived many years. He is a Moravian, and much interested in what relates to his sect and to Christianity. He dresses rather singularly,—but, I suspect, from some fancied benefit to his health,—with a large cravat and very high standing collar to his shirt, so that, as his head is small and sunk quite deeply into this projecting collar, the effect was by no means good at first. However, he is very agreeable in conversation, and much in earnest in whatever he says, so that I was quite glad to talk with him. He told me, among other things, that Chantrey was born near Sheffield; that he knew him as quite a young man before he went to London; that he began in the country as a portrait-painter, and showed great skill in drawing but no power of coloring; and that he—Montgomery-had a portrait of himself painted by Chantrey at this early period. He told me, too, a good deal about Elliott, the author of the Corn Law rhymes, who is in the iron-trade at Sheffield, and who, it seems, has been these thirty years trying to obtain notice as a poet, but never succeeding until lately. Montgomery represents him—as might have been anticipated—to be a person with much talent and tenderness, mixed up with great rudeness, passion, and prejudice.

After dinner the children danced and frolicked in the gallery, as usual, until prayer-time, when the service was read by Mr. Lowe in [442] the chapel, about forty or fifty persons being present. Then we went to the library, had tea, and played a little whist. . . . . Before we went to bed Lord Fitzwilliam and the ladies urged us so kindly and earnestly to return to them on Saturday, and meet Lord Spencer,. . . . that we promised to do so. . . . . I shall be very glad to see this distinguished statesman so quietly and familiarly.

September 29.—We left Wentworth House to-day, after having enjoyed as much really considerate kindness as we ever enjoyed anywhere in four days, and came thirty-five miles,. . . . to Colonel Richard Yorke's, at Wighill Park. . . .

October 3.—In the course of the four days we stayed at Wighill Park there were about twenty different inmates in the house.11 It was a very pleasant party, whose chief attraction and amusement was music. . . . Sir Francis Doyle, an old officer, and very intelligent gentleman, who has read much and seen much, was uniformly agreeable, and so was Lord Arthur Hill, one of the best cavalry officers in the service, who fought at Waterloo in the famous regiment of the Scotch Grays, and now commands it, but whose obvious character here was only bonhomie, and easy careless happiness. . . . . Our host himself, who has been entertaining company in this way these thirty years, has much knowledge of the world, great kindness, and a good deal of amusing anecdote. His establishment was perfect for its purposes, in comforts and luxuries, and there was an exactness in the mode of carrying it on that was quite remarkable.

We left Wighill Park between eleven and twelve, and reached Lord Fitzwilliam's before five. Twelve or thirteen miles off, the milestones that announced the distance ‘From Wentworth House ’ showed we were within his dominions. . . . We found Lord Fitzwilliam in the long gallery. He received us with great kindness, and presented us to Lord Spencer, lately the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and as ‘ Honest Althorp,’ the leader of Lord Grey's administration in the House of Commons.12 He had arrived about an hour before us, and was still standing before the fire in his travelling-dress. He is about fifty-three years old, short, thick-set, with a dark red complexion, black hair, beginning to turn gray, a very ordinary, farmer-like style of dress, and no particularly vivacious expression of countenance. His manner was as quiet and simple as possible, perfectly willing to [443] talk, but not seeming to have much to say. We were presented also to Mr. Wood, I believe a son-in-law of Lord Grey, and to Mr. Chaloner, a brother-in-law of Lord Fitzwilliam, who is here with his wife, a daughter of the late Lord Dundas, and a son and daughter. We found too the Dundases, whom we left here on Tuesday, and a Mr. Phillips,13 a fine scholar-like young man, and Mr. Frederic Ponsonby, of the Besborough family. . . . .

Lord Spencer, whom I sat near at dinner, was very agreeable. We talked about the hunting season, which is now just beginning. He said he used to keep a pack formerly, and that the relations into which it brought him with his neighbors and the county had taught him more of human nature than he had learnt in any other way. The whole affair of fox-hunting, he added, with all its trespasses upon property, could not be maintained, if the whole neighborhood did not take as great an interest in it as the owner of the hounds. In talking a little politics, he happened to speak of Lord Lyndhurst, and while he gave him all praise as a man of talent, of perfectly good temper, and of the best possible qualities and habits for a business man, he declared that he was entirely unprincipled. In illustration, he said that, having made up his mind formerly to introduce a bill for the collection of small debts by a simpler process, he communicated with Lord Lyndhurst—then Solicitor-General—on the subject, and was assured by him that he approved of it entirely, and that it would be, not only a great benefit to suitors, but a great relief to the upper courts, who were most uselessly oppressed with such business. Lord Spencer-then Lord Althorp—introduced the bill, and Was surprised beyond measure to have Mr. Solicitor Copley oppose it in a very able and acute argument. He went over instantly and spoke to him on the subject, and reminded him of what he had previously said in its favor, in private, to which ‘Copley made no sort of reply but by a hearty laugh.’ Lord Eldon, however, on whom Copley's promotion then depended, it was found afterwards, was opposed to the bill, and this explained it. Later, the government changed its opinion on the measure, Lord Althorp introduced it again, received the most efficient, good-tempered, and sagacious support for it, both in committee and in the House, and carried it, with Copley's aid, in every stage, and in every way, except debate.

Lord Spencer talked to me, too, a great deal about his recollections of Fox, Pitt, and Sheridan, placing the latter much lower than his party usually does, and giving more praise to Pitt than I ever heard [444] a Whig give him. He does not talk brilliantly,—he hardly talks well, for he hesitates, blushes even, and has a queer chuckling laugh, —but he interests you and commands your attention. I felt sure all the time that I was getting right impressions from him. . . . . As we went down to the chapel, Lord Spencer told me that so solemn and fine a chapel is nowhere else kept up in England. Dr. Dundas read prayers, and about fifty-five were present.

Sunday, October 4.—The forenoon was rainy. . . . . Lord Fitzwilliam said he was not well and should not go to church, but asked round, and collected a considerable number, for whom he ordered three carriages. . . . .

Lord Spencer talked with decided ability about the Poor-Laws as we walked home, for the rain had ceased. He told me, too, about his brother, who, from being a richly beneficed English clergyman, has become a poor, fervent Catholic priest; and yet is a man of much talent and learning, who greatly distinguished himself at Cambridge. At the end of our talk he invited us to visit him at Althorp, any time after December 1, which is the earliest period he can be there himself, and I was very sorry to be obliged to decline. I should revel in that magnificent library and most beautiful establishment. But we cannot go. It is time already that we were on our way to Dresden.

The dinner to-day was in greater state than we have yet seen it; that is, there was a greater show of plate, five gilt silver ‘cups,’ as they are called, but really massive vases of elaborate workmanship, ornamenting the centre of the table and three more the sideboard, the whole being prizes won by the family race-horses. . . .

In the evening we looked over a good many of Lord Fitzwilliam's curious black-letter books, and Lord Spencer told us so much about Althorp, that I was very glad to promise to make him a visit there on our return from the Continent. Dr. Dundas read the evening service at ten o'clock. The chapel was very full to-night, more than a hundred servants being present. The huntsmen in their scarlet dresses, who have come [from Northamptonshire] since we were here before, made quite a show.

October 5.—It is a rainy morning, and yet when we went to breakfast I found Lord Spencer with spurs on, prepared for a ride. He told me that he is going to Wakefield, to see the prison there, and had sent on one of his horses to change half-way. The distance is eighteen miles, making thirty-six in all, which he prefers to take on horseback, notwithstanding the rain, and to be back to dinner. . . .. Lord Fitzwilliam generally makes his journeys on horseback, in all [445] weathers. Last year he went in this way to Milton, eighty-nine miles, in a single day, and will probably do the same this year. All this comes of fox-hunting.

October 6.—To-day, for the first time in my life, I have witnessed and joined a fox-hunt,—a thing as different from all I ever witnessed before as anything can well be, and which I suppose I saw in great perfection, for Lord Spencer tells me the establishment for it here is as fine as any in England, if not the finest .. . . . We reached home about five o'clock, rather late, for dinner was to be at six, as it is ‘the Public Day,’ or the day on which the family — in observance of a custom formerly common among the chief nobility, but now hardly kept up at all except here-receive any of their neighbors who think fit to come and who think themselves fit to come. In this way Lord Fitzwilliam keeps open house once a week during the two or three months he lives in Yorkshire, it being understood that persons do not generally avail themselves of the invitation more than once in a season; and in this way he avoids all the embarrassments and heart-burnings which would be the inevitable consequence of selecting, sorting, and inviting formal parties.

The whole state and ceremony of the house is observed on these occasions, to which people come ten, twenty, and even forty miles or more. To-day there were a little more than twenty, the most curious of whom was old Lady G., eighty-four years old, covered with diamonds, laces, and feathers.14. . . . The party was received in the beautiful saloon,. . . . and the procession to dinner across the enormously large hall, headed by the chaplain in his canonicals, was quite a solemnity. . .. . Mr. Lowe was in full costume, bands and all, and asked a blessing and returned thanks. The dinner itself was much as usual, but there was of course a greater show of plate. Lord Fitzwilliam was not well enough to appear.

The journey from Wentworth House to London, between the 8th and 13th of October, was crowded with interest and beauty, and the ten days passed in London were busy, not only by reason of the kind attentions of friends, but with the necessary preparations for a migration to the Continent. In a resume of this autumnal visit in London, Mr. Ticknor says:— [446]

I dined once with my old friend Lady Dudley Stuart. She is a good deal altered in person, and has feeble health, but her essential character is the same that I knew eighteen years ago.15 Lord Dudley Stuart was at Lord Brougham's on a visit. The company consisted of the Duke de Regina, the Count del Medico,—who owns the Carrara quarries,—and two or three other persons. It was pleasant, the conversation being entirely in French, and much of the amusement of the evening being music. An English composer, who is just bringing out an opera which he dedicates to Lady D. Stuart, came in and played and sang; and a Polish prince-among those who are indebted to Lord Dudley Stuart for carrying the bill in favor of the Poles through Parliament—was there a little while, and improvisated with great talent. There was nothing English about it, any more than if we had all been in Italy.

Dr. Holland, who travelled in Greece with Lord Byron, came to see me one morning, in consequence of a note from Miss Edgeworth, and was very kind in attentions afterwards, but I could only find time to breakfast with him. He is a short, active, very lively person, abounding in knowledge, and in very exact knowledge. He quite embarrassed me once or twice by his minute familiarity with American geography, but he is a very simple, direct, and agreeable person. His wife — a daughter of Sydney Smith—was not in town, for which I was sorry. But I shall see them both, I trust, when we return to England, for Dr. Holland is among the most interesting men I have met. He is now becoming one of the most famous and fashionable of the London physicians.

The day after we reached London the kind Sir Francis Doyle came to see us, and invited us so very pleasantly to the Tower, both to see it and to dine with him, that we could not refuse, though we could ill give the time to it. So on Saturday we drove to the Tower, four miles off; but the dense crowds in the Strand and the other protracted thoroughfares, with two, three, and sometimes four files of carriages abreast, reaching as far as the eye could follow them, often stopped us several minutes at a time .. . . . It was a part of our amusement, during an hour or more we were in reaching the Tower, to watch these different currents, embarrassments, and contests of the different sorts of passengers. At last we arrived, and, passing the drawbridge, drove through streets and ways that seemed quite long, to the Governor's house. It is one of the examples of the pleasant abuses with which England abounds, that the Duke of Wellington is Governor [447] of the Tower, with a good salary, and knows nothing about it; that Sir Francis Doyle is his lieutenant, with another large salary, and resides there only two months in the year; and that somebody else, with a third salary, is the really efficient and responsible person. . . . .

Lunch was ready immediately, and as soon as it was ended, Sir Francis and Miss Doyle went over the Tower with us, visiting chiefly those parts not shown to strangers, as we had seen the rest. . . . . First we went to the ancient records, where we saw the autographs of the English monarchs, from the time when they were able to write, which is Edward the Fourth's. The most curious to me was the handwriting of Richard III., bold and vigorous, plainly legible, and, especially in a document touching Buckingham, written with choice phraseology considering the date. We saw, too, the Prayer-Book of 1662, with the only authority that still exists for its use, and the great seal of England attached to it to vouch for its authenticity; the pious Charles II. being of course the official corner-stone on which this portion of the religion of the monarchy has reposed for a century and a half. . . . .

Here [in the White Tower] we were shown the Council Chamber of the ancient kings of England, hardly altered at all; the very room in which Richard III. bared his arm, and accused Hastings of witchcraft in shrivelling it. We went to the very window where he stood when he witnessed the instant execution of his victim, and saw the very spot, at the corner of the old chapel, where the block was laid for it. It seemed to bring the ancient horrors of those troubled times extremely near to us. . . . .

In the Governor's house we found other strange memorials of the past. The room of Miss Doyle was that in which the Council sat, before whom Guy Fawkes and his conspirators were tried; and an account of the whole is carved on one side of the room by order of one of its members, and the names of all of them and of all the culprits attached to it. Over the fireplace is a head of James I. as large as life, beautifully carved in oak. . . . . In short, we saw whatever the most—exact and kind attention could find to amuse us within the wide range of the Tower, and came away promising to dine with them on Monday. . . . .

The dinner [on Monday] was elegant, and truly comfortable. Colonel Hume, and two or three other high officers of the proud and fashionable ‘ Guards’; Mr. Seymour, just setting out for a journey to Egypt and the East; Mr. Hart Davis; young Mr. Doyle; [448] and two or three other agreeable people, constituted the party. . . . We had a most pleasant time. Indeed, the very minute and consistent, but altogether unobtrusive attentions and kindness of Sir Francis make all feel at their ease and happy in his house; and the conversation, which was chiefly literary, with a mixture of politics and nationalities, was as agreeable as could be desired. . . . .

One day, as we came back from Wimbledon and Putney,. . . . we drove to Dr. Somerville's, and passed an hour with him and his truly simple, kind-hearted, astonishing wife. He is a good, round, easy person, by no means without talent, or fair scientific knowledge, both in his profession and out of it, but enjoys his comfortable place as head of the medical part of this grand establishment, given out of respect to his wife's rare merits. She is the daughter of one of the Fairfax family, a branch of which is in Virginia,—Lord Fairfax, Washington's friend, was of the same family,—a little, small, quiet, kindly person of about fifty, with a voice ‘soft, gentle, and low, ever an excellent thing in woman’; a good mother, who has educated her family herself, and done it well and successfully; a good wife, managing her household judiciously; a good friend, as Lady Byron knows, to whose daughter, Lady King, she has been of great practical use; a domestic person, yet receiving and enjoying a great deal of the best scientific and literary society, and frequenting occasionally the most exclusive and fashionable; skilled in the modern languages, two of which she speaks fluently; painting beautifully in oil-colors, of which we saw many specimens; and one of the most extraordinary mathematicians alive, of whom all the rest speak with the greatest kindness and admiration.

The hour we passed with her would yet have informed us of nothing of all this, except that she is a most gentle, quiet, and kind-hearted person. When we were obliged to come away, they said so much about our visiting them again, that we promised to dine with them on Wednesday, the day but one before we should leave London, without company. We went, therefore, and found only Mr. Babbage, so that we had as agreeable a dinner as we well could have, talking upon all sorts of subjects until very late, with great vivacity. . . . .

English kindness was uniform and consistent to the last, but I do not recollect anything worth noting except a visit to Wilkie, the painter, at Kensington, to which he invited me at Dublin. I found him living very comfortably, but very much like an artist. With great good-nature and a strong desire to please, not unmixed with Scotch shrewdness, he talked a good deal and pleasantly about his [449] profession, and showed me a quantity of rough sketches, and two pictures now in progress. Of the sketches, those he made in Spain are the most picturesque; those he has lately made in Ireland are the most interesting. . . . . It is evidently Wilkie's theory and purpose to find out what is striking and characteristic in his own times, and turn them to account on canvas, by showing them in a poetical light, and on their picturesque side. Of late he has been more ambitious in his subjects, though, I think, still within these limits.

1 Aunt by courtesy, since Miss Maria Edgeworth was the only surviving child of the first Mrs. Edgeworth, a Miss Elers; while Miss Sneyd was sister to the second and third wives of Richard Lovell Edgeworth.

2 Fourth wife of Mr. Edgeworth, Miss Beaufort, sister of Sir Francis Beaufort.

3 Daughter of the third Mrs. Edgeworth.

4 In her note of invitation, though writing to strangers, Miss Edgeworth said to Mr. Ticknor: ‘The sooner you can come to us, if I might suggest, the better, because Mrs. Edgeworth is now at home with us,. . . . as you would find this house much more agreeable when she is at home; and in truth you never could see it to advantage, or see things as they really are in this family, unless when she makes part of it, and when she is at the head of it.’

5 Rev. William O. B. Peabody. The article appeared in the ‘North American Review,’ No. 84, July, 1834.

6 Note by Mr. Ticknor, written February 9, 1836: ‘After an interval of six months I look back upon this visit to Miss Edgeworth with just the same feelings with which I drove away from her door. There was a life and spirit about her conversation, she threw herself into it with such abandon, she retorted with such brilliant repartee, and, in short, she talked with such an extraordinary flow of natural talent, that I do not know whether anything of the kind could be finer.’

An animated and interesting correspondence was kept up for many years between Miss and Mrs. Edgeworth and Mr. and Mrs. Ticknor, and did not cease until the death of Mrs. Edgeworth, the survivor of the two, in 1865.

7 The interval since the last extract had been filled by a charming journey in North Wales, including visits to Mr. J. Taylor and the Miss Luxmoors of St. Asaph's.

8 See ante, p. 279. Miss Fletcher afterwards married Sir John Richardson, the Arctic explorer.

9 John Phillips, Professor of Geology in King's College, London, and Curator of the Museum at York, an eminent geologist. Mr. Ticknor had known him in Dublin, when he was Secretary of the British Association.

10 Mrs. Edward Villiers was a sister of Lady Mulgrave, and Mr. Villiers a brother of Mrs. Lister, ‘a highly intellectual person, with large and pleasant resources in belles-lettres knowledge, whom,’ says Mr. Ticknor, ‘I thought quite equal to any of the family for talent, beside which he is a better scholar than any of them.’

11 Note by Mr. Ticknor: ‘When I look back upon this visit, it seems as if I were recollecting some of the descriptions of parties in country-houses in English novels, so much truer are they to nature than is generally imagined.’

12 Third Earl Spencer.

13 Thomas J. Phillips, Esq.

14 Note by Mr. Ticknor: ‘I asked Lord Fitzwilliam what could induce a person like Lady G., above eighty years old and deaf, to come thirty or forty miles to a dinner—He said, “ Only because she has done it every year for above half a century.” ’

15 Christine Bonaparte. See ante, p. 183, and note.

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