Life And Letters Of Maria Edgeworth/Volume 2/Letter 138

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To MRS. EDGEWORTH.

COLLINGWOOD, April 8, 1844.

Fine sunshiny day, and from my window I see a beautiful lawn, and two children rolling on the grass, and I hear their happy voices and their father's with them. I should have told you that on Friday Lestock took me and Emmeline, and Emmeline Gibbons and her little girl, to the Zoological Gardens, and we all were mightily delighted; but of the beasts and birds when I return.

Here are Lord and Lady Adair—she is grateful to Sophy Palmer for her kindness when she was ill at Oxford—and Sir Edward Ryan, and one whom I was right glad to meet, "Jones on Rent;" and I have attacked, plagued, and gratified him by urging him to write a new volume. Jones and Herschel are very fond of one another, often differing, but always agreeing to differ, like Malthus and Ricardo, who hunted together in search of Truth, and huzzaed when they found her, without caring who found her first: indeed, I have seen them both put their able hands to the windlass to drag her up from the bottom of that well in which she so strangely delights to dwell.

I must go back to the 23rd, which was a full and well-filled day. In the morning Rogers kindly determined to catch us: came before luncheon-time, and was very agreeable and very good-natured about a drawing I showed to him by a niece of Mrs. Holland's, a young girl of fifteen, who has really an inventive genius. I suggested to her, among the poems it is now the fashion to illustrate, Parnell's fairy tale: she has sketched the first scene—the old castle, lighted up: fairies dancing in the hall: Edwin crouching in the corner. Rogers praised it so warmly, that I regretted the girl could not hear him; it would so encourage her. He got up, dear, good-natured old man, from his chair as I spoke, and went immediately to Lower Brook Street with the drawing to the young lady.

Luncheon over, we drove to the city, to see an old gentleman of ninety-three, Mr. Vaughan, whom I am sure you remember so kindly showing the London Docks to us in 1813, with his understanding and all his faculties as clear and as fresh now as they were then; and after returning from Mr. Vaughan's, we went to the bazaar, where I wanted to buy a churn, and other toys that shall be nameless, for the children; and after all this I lay down and slept for three-quarters of an hour, before time to dress for dinner. This dinner was at Lambeth: arrived exactly in time: found Mrs. Howley ready in her beautiful drawing-room, and I had the pleasure of five minutes' conversation alone with her. Oddly, it came out that she had a fine picture in the room, given to her by Mr. Legge, who inherited Aston Hall, which Mr. Legge I used to hear of continually ages ago as a sort of bugbear, being the heir-at-law to Sir Thomas Holte and Lady Holte's property. "Very natural they could never bear the name of Legge," said Mrs. Howley, "but he was my relative and excellent friend;" and she pointed to an inscription in grateful honour of him under the picture. How oddly connections come out, and between people one should never have thought had heard of each other, and at such distant times.

This dinner and evening at Lambeth proved very agreeable to me. At the dinner were Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton Grey, Dean Milman, the Bishop of Lichfield, Sir Thomas Sinclair, and some others whose names I do not remember—fourteen altogether. I was on the Archbishop's right hand, Mrs. Hamilton Grey on his left. Dear, simple, dignified, yet playful Archbishop, who talked well of all things, from nursery rhymes to deep metaphysics and physics. Apropos to dreams and acting in character in the strangest circumstances, I mentioned Dr. Holland's Medical Notes, and the admirable chapter on Reverie and Dreaming. He had not seen the book, but seemed interested, and said he would read it directly—a great pleasure to me (goose!). I must not go further into the conversation with Milman, and the Archbishop's remarks upon Coleridge; it was all very agreeable, and—early hours being the order of the day and night there—I came away at ten; and as I drew up the glass, and was about to draw up Steele's opossum cloak, I felt a slight resistance—Fanny! dear, kind Fanny, so unexpected, come in the carriage for me; and a most delightful drive we had home.

1 NORTH AUDLEY STREET, April 15.

"Slip on, for Time's Time!" said a man, coming forth with a pipe in his mouth from an inn door, exhorting men and horses of railroad omnibus. "Slip on, Time's Time!" I have been saying to myself continually; and now I am coming to the last gasp, and Time slips so fast, that Time is not Time—in fact, there's no Time.

Rosa's note to Fanny about glass shall be attended to, and I shall paste on the outside, "GLASS—NOT TO BE THROWN DOWN;" for Lord Adair had a bag thrown down the other day by reckless railway porters, in which was a bottle of sulphuric acid, which, breaking and spilling, stained, spoiled, and burned his Lordship's best pantaloons. I have packed up my bottles with such elastic skill, that I trust my petticoats will not share that sad fate.

* * *

Miss Edgeworth now left London for the last time. This was her last visit to her happy London home in North Audley Street, and in this last visit she had enjoyed much with all the freshness of youth, though the health of her sister and hostess often caused her anxiety. Mrs. L.H. Sigourney, who had been a frequent visitor, writes:[1]

* * *

To have repeatedly met and listened to Miss Edgeworth, seated familiarly with her by the fireside, may seem to her admirers in America a sufficient payment for the hazards of crossing the Atlantic. Her conversation, like her writings, is varied, vivacious, and delightful. Her forgetfulness of self and happiness in making others happy are marked traits in her character. Her person is small and delicately proportioned, and her movements full of animation. The ill-health of the lovely sister, much younger than herself, at whose house in London she was passing the winter, called forth such deep anxiety, untiring attention, and fervent gratitude for every favourable symptom, as seemed to blend features of maternal tenderness with sisterly affection.


Footnotes[edit]

  1. Pleasant Memories of Pleasant Lands, by Mrs. L.H. Sigourney (1791-1865).