Life And Letters Of Maria Edgeworth/Volume 2/Letter 31
To MRS. RUXTON.
8 HOLLES STREET, March 9.
We are comfortably settled in this good central situation. We were last Monday at a select early party at Mrs. Hope's. The new gallery of Flemish pictures given to Mr. Hope by his brother is beautifully arranged.
I have had the greatest pleasure in Francis Beaufort going with us to our delightful breakfasts at Mr. Ricardo's—they enjoy each other's conversation so much. It has now become high fashion with blue ladies to talk Political Economy, and make a great jabbering on the subject, while others who have more sense, like Mrs. Marcet, hold their tongues and listen. A gentleman answered very well the other day when asked if he would be of the famous Political Economy Club, that he would, whenever he could find two members of it that agree in any one point. Meantime, fine ladies require that their daughters' governesses should teach Political Economy. "Do you teach Political Economy?" "No, but I can learn it." "O dear, no; if you don't teach it, you won't do for me."
Another style of governess is now the fashion,—the ultra-French: a lady-governess of this party and one of the Orleans' or liberaux met and came to high words, till all was calmed by the timely display of a ball-dress, trimmed with roses alternately red and white,—"Garniture aux préjugés vaincus." This should have been worn by those who formerly invented in the Revolution "Bals aux victimes."
Yesterday we breakfasted at Mrs. Somerville's, and sat in her painting-room. Left her at one o'clock, and went by appointment to Lansdowne House. Lady Lansdowne quite affectionate to Fanny and Harriet; had fire and warm air in the superb new statue saloon on purpose for them. Mrs. Kennedy,—Sir Samuel Romilly's daughter,—came in, invited to meet us, very pleasing manners. Mrs. Nicholls,—Lady Lansdowne's niece,—"I like that you should know all I love."
Then we went with Captain and Mrs. Beaufort to Belzoni's tomb,—the model first, and then the tomb as large as life, painted in its proper colours,—a very striking spectacle, but I need not describe it; the book represents it perfectly.
Next door to the tomb are the Laplanders, the man about my size, at work, intently, but stupidly, on making a wooden spoon. The wife was more intelligent: a child of five years, very quiet gray eyes. In the middle of the apartment is a pen full of reindeer,—very gentle and ravenously eager for moss, of which there was a great basket. This moss, which they love as well as their own, has been found in great quantities on Bagshot Heath.
We went one night to the House of Commons: Mr. Whitbread took us there. A garret the whole size of the room—the former chapel—now the House of Commons; below, kitcats of Gothic chapel windows stopped up appear on each side above the floor: above, roof-beams. One lantern with one farthing candle, in a tin candlestick, all the light. In the middle of the garret is what seemed like a sentry-box of deal boards and old chairs placed round it: on these we got and stood and peeped over the top of the boards. Saw the large chandelier with lights blazing, immediately below: a grating of iron across veiled the light so that we could look down and beyond it: we saw half the table with the mace lying on it and papers, and by peeping hard two figures of clerks at the further end, but no eye could see the Speaker or his chair,—only his feet; his voice and terrible "ORDER" was soon heard. We could see part of the Treasury Bench and the Opposition in their places,—the tops of their heads, profiles, and gestures perfectly. There was not any interesting debate,—the Knightsbridge affair and the Salt Tax,—but it was entertaining to us because we were curious to see and hear the principal speakers on each side. We heard Lord Londonderry, Mr. Peel, and Mr. Vansittart; and on the other side, Denman, Brougham, and Bennett, and several hesitating country gentlemen, who seemed to be speaking to please their constituents only. Sir John Sebright was as much at ease as in his own drawing-room at Beechwood: Mr. Brougham we thought the best speaker we heard, Mr. Peel next; Mr. Vansittart the best language, and most correct English, though there was little in what he said. The Speaker, we were told, had made this observation on Mr. Vansittart, that he never makes a mistake in grammar. Lord Londonderry makes the most extraordinary blunders and mal-à-propos. Mr. Denman speaks well. The whole, the speaking and the interest of the scene surpassed our expectations, and we felt proud to mark the vast difference between the English House of Commons and the French Chambre des Députés. Nevertheless, there are disturbances in Suffolk, and Lord Londonderry had to get up from dinner to order troops to be sent there.
- Brother of the fourth Mrs. Edgeworth.