Life And Letters Of Maria Edgeworth/Volume 1/Letter 5

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Dec. 29, 1791.

My Dear Uncle—If you are going to the canal put this letter in your pocket, and do not be troubled in your conscience about reading it, but keep it till you are perfectly at leisure: for I have nothing strange or new to tell you. We live just the same kind of life that we used to do at Edgeworthstown; and though we move amongst numbers, are not moved by them, but feel independent of them for our daily amusement. All the phantasmas I had conjured up to frighten myself, vanished after I had been here a week, for I found that they were but phantoms of my imagination, as you very truly told me. We live very near the Downs, where we have almost every day charming walks, and all the children go bounding about over hill and dale along with us. My aunt told me that once when you were at Clifton, when full dressed to go to a ball at Bath, you suddenly changed your mind, and undressed again, to go out a walking with her, and now that I see the walks, I am not surprised, even if you were not to have had the pleasure of my aunt's company. My father has got a transfer of a ticket for the Bristol library, which is an extremely fine one; and what makes it appear ten times finer is, that it is very difficult for strangers to get into. From thence he can get almost any book for us he pleases, except a few of the most scarce, which are by the laws of the library immovable. No ladies go to the library, but Mr. Johns, the librarian, is very civil, and my mother went to his rooms and saw the beautiful prints in Boydell's Shakespear. Lavater is to come home in a coach to-day. My father seems to think much the same of him that you did when you saw him abroad, that to some genius he adds a good deal of the mountebank. My father is going soon to Bath, Madame de Genlis is there, and he means to present the translation of Adele and Theodore to her:[1] he had intended to have had me introduced to her, but upon inquiry he was informed that she is not visited by demoiselles in England.

For some time I kept a Bristol journal, which I intended to send to Black Castle in form of a newspaper, but I found that though every day's conversation and occurrences appeared of prodigious importance just at the moment they were passing, yet afterwards they seemed so flat and stale as not to be worth sending. I must however tell you that I had materials for one brilliant paragraph about the Duchess of York. Mr. Lloyd had seen the wondrous sight. "When she was to be presented to the Queen, H.R.H. kept Her Majesty waiting nearly an hour, till at last the Queen, fearing that some accident had happened, sent to let the Duchess know that she was waiting for her. When the Duchess at length arrived, she was so frightened—for a Royal Duchess can be frightened as well as another—that she trembled and tottered in crossing the presence chamber so that she was obliged to be supported. She is very timid, and never once raised her eyes, so that our correspondent cannot speak decidedly as to the expression of her countenance, but if we may be allowed to say so, she is not a beauty, and is very low. She was dressed in white and gold," etc. etc.

The children all desire their love: they were playing the other day at going to Black Castle, and begged me to be Aunt Ruxton, which I assured them I would if I could; but they insisted on my being Sophy, Letty, and Margaret at the same time, and were not quite contented at my pleading this to be out of my power.


  1. Maria Edgeworth, by her father's advice, had made a translation of Adèle et Théodore in 1782, but the appearance of Holcroft's translation prevented its publication.