Life And Letters Of Maria Edgeworth/Volume 2/Letter 41
To MRS. RUXTON.
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, Nov. 20, 1823.
It is a long time since I have written to you, always waiting a day longer for somebody's coming or going, or sailing or landing. You ask what I am doing: nothing, but reading and idling, and paving a gutter and yard to Honora's pig-stye, and school-house. What have I been reading? The "Siege of Valencia," by Mrs. Hemans, which is an hour too long, but it contains some of the most beautiful poetry I have read for years. I have read Quin's letters from Spain, entertaining; the review of it in the Quarterly is by Blanco White. Dr. Holland's letters continue to be as full of information and interest as ever, though he is a married man. Tell Sophy that the subject of electricity and electro-magnetism is every day affording new facts, and all the philosophers on the Continent are busy about it. Sir Humphry Davy had a narrow escape of breaking his neck by a fall down stairs, but he is not hurt, tout an contraire. I had a letter, written in very good English, the other day from M. de Staël; he is now in London, and tells me the French and the Holy Alliance are tyrannising sadly at Geneva, and have ordered all the Italian patriots who had taken refuge there to decamp. There is one of these, Count Somebody or other, whose name I cannot persuade myself to get up to look for, whom M. de Staël wishes I would take by the hand in London, and what I am to do with him when I have him by the hand I don't know.
I had a letter from Walter Scott, who has been delighted with the history of Caraboo, which I sent to him: a pamphlet published at the time. He says that nobody with a reasonable head could attempt to calculate the extent of popular credulity, and observes that she, like all the great cheats who have imposed upon mankind, was touched with insanity, half knave, half mad, at last the dupe of her own acting of enthusiasm.
Prince Hohenlohe and the pamphlets, pro and con, occupy us much. Crampton's second edition of his I think excellent. Some very curious facts have been brought out of the effect of the imagination upon the bodily health. And while Scott is writing novels to entertain the world, and the philosophers in France trying experiments on electro-magnetism, Davy tumbling down stairs, and Denham and Co. in Africa looking for the Niger, here is all London rushing out to look at the cottage in which a swindler lived who murdered another swindler, and buying bits of the sack in which the dead body was put! Have your newspapers given what we have had in the Morning Chronicle? views of Roberts's cottage and the pond with Thurtell and Hunt dragging the body out of it? Shakespear understood John Bull right well, and always gave him plenty of murders and dead bodies. I am glad there are no Irishmen in this base as well as savage gang.
- Caraboo is alluded to in St. Roman's Well, published in the autumn of this year. Sir Walter had never heard of her till Miss Edgeworth told her history to him at Abbotsford.