Life And Letters Of Maria Edgeworth/Volume 1/Letter 21
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Volume 1/Letter 21
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To MISS SOPHY RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Oct. 1797.
I do not like to pour out the gratitude I feel for your unremitting kindness to me, my dear Sophy, in vain thanks; but I may as well pour it out in words, as I shall probably never be able to return the many good turns you have done me. I am not nearly ready yet for Irish Bulls. I am going directly to Parent's Assistant. Any good anecdotes from the age of five to fifteen, good latitude and longitude, will suit me; and if you can tell me any pleasing misfortunes of emigrants, so much the better. I have a great desire to draw a picture of an anti-Mademoiselle Panache, a well-informed, well-bred French governess, an emigrant.
By the blind bookseller my father will send you some books, and I hope that we shall soon have finished Godwin, that he may set out for Black Castle. There are some parts of his book that I think you will like much—"On Frankness," and "Self-taught Genius;" but you will find much to blame in his style, and you will be surprised that he should have written a dissertation upon English style. I think his essay on Avarice and Profusion will please you, even after Smith: he has gone a step farther. I am going to write a story for boys, which will, I believe, make a volume to follow the Good French Governess. My father thinks a volume of trials and a volume of plays would be good for children. He met the other day with two men who were ready to go to law about a horse which one had bought from the other, because he had one little fault. "What is the fault?" said my father. "Sir, the horse was standing with us all the other day in our cabin at the fire, and plump he fell down upon the middle of the fire and put it out; and it was a mercy he didn't kill my wife and children as he fell into the midst of them all. But this is not all, sir; he strayed into a neighbour's field of oats, and fell down in the midst of the oats, and spoiled as much as he could have eaten honestly in a week. But that's not all, sir; one day, please your honour, I rode him out in a hurry to a fair, and he lay down with me in the ford, and I lost my fair."
* * *
For the last few years Mrs. Elizabeth Edgeworth's sisters, Charlotte and Mary Sneyd, had lived entirely at Edgeworthstown, not only beloved and honoured by the children of their two sisters, but tenderly welcomed and cherished by the children of their predecessor, especially by Maria, to whom no real aunts could have been more dear. During the seventeen years through which her married life lasted, Mrs. Elizabeth Edgeworth had become increasingly the centre of the family circle, to which she had herself added five sons and four daughters. In every relation of life she was admirable. Through the summer of 1797 her health rapidly declined, and in November she died.
Mr. Edgeworth, then past fifty, had truly valued his third wife, of whom he said that he had "never seen her out of temper, and never received from her an unkind word or an angry look." Yet, when he lost her, after his peculiar fashion, he immediately began to think of marrying again.
Dr. Beaufort, Vicar of Collon, was an agreeable and cultivated man, and had long been a welcome guest at Mrs. Ruxton's house of Black Castle. His eldest daughter, who was a clever artist, had designed and drawn some illustrations for Maria Edgeworth's stories. With these Mr. Edgeworth found fault, and the good-humour and sense with which his criticisms were received charmed him, and led to an intimacy. Six months after his wife's death he married Miss Beaufort.
It may sound strange, but it is nevertheless true, that, in Miss Beaufort, even more than in her predecessors, he gave to his children a wise and kind mother, and a most entirely devoted friend.
- Essays, by the author of Caleb Williams.
- The Good Aunt.