Life And Letters Of Maria Edgeworth/Volume 2/Letter 62
To CAPTAIN BASIL HALL
EDGEWORTHSTOWN, April 25, 1827.
I really cannot express to you how much you have gratified me by the proof of confidence you have given me. No degree of praise or admiration could flatter me so much: confidence implies something much higher—real esteem for the character. I thank you; you shall not find your confidence misplaced. I trust you will not think I have gone beyond your permission in considering my own family now with me—viz. Mrs. Edgeworth, my sisters, and my brother—as myself. The Journal was read aloud in our library: not a line or a word of it has been copied; and though some passages have, I know, sunk indelibly into the memories of those present, you may rest perfectly secure that they will never go out beyond ourselves. No vanity will ever tempt any one of us to boast of what we have been allowed to read; we shall strictly adhere to your terms, and never mention or allude to the book. It is delightful, most interesting, and entertaining. You may, perhaps, imagine, by conceiving yourself in my place, remote in the middle of Ireland, how entertaining and interesting it must be to be thus suddenly transported into the midst of the best company in London, scientific, political, and fashionable; and not merely into the midst of them, but behind the scenes with you, and after seeing and hearing and knowing your private opinion of all. Considering all this, and further, that numbers of the persons you mention in your Journal we were well acquainted with when we were in London, you may, perhaps, comprehend how much pleasure, of various kinds, we enjoyed while we read on.
The first page I opened upon was the character of Captain Beaufort. Do not shrink at the notion of his most intimate friend, or his sister Mrs. Edgeworth, or his nieces Fanny and Sophy, having seen this character. You need not: we all agree that it does him perfect justice.
Your manner of mentioning Lydia White was quite touching, as well as just. She was all you say of her, and her house and society were the most agreeable of the sort in London, since the time of Lady Crewe. Lydia White, besides being our kind friend, was a near connection of ours by the marriage of her nephew to a cousin of ours; and we have had means of knowing her solid good qualities, as well as those brilliant talents which charmed in society. You may guess, then, how much we were pleased by all you said of her. Of all the people who ever sold themselves to the world, I never knew one who was so well paid as Lydia White, or any one but herself who did not, sooner or later, repent the bargain; but she had strength of mind never to expect more than the world can give, and the world in return behaved to the last remarkably well to her.
All you say of the ill-managed dinner of wits and scientific men I have often felt. There must be a mixture of nonsense with sense, or it will not amalgamate: all wits and no fools, all actors and no audience, make dinners dull things. The same men in their boots, as you say, are quite other people. "Two or three ladies, too"—we were delighted with your finding them useful as well as agreeable on such occasions.
Your account of Sidney Smith's conversation is excellent, and the manner in which you took his criticism showed how well you deserved it. He will be your friend in all the future, and I do not know any man whom I should wish more to make my friend: supereminent talents and an excellent heart, which in my opinion almost always go together. His remarks on the views you should take of America, to work out your own purpose in softening national animosities, are excellent; also all he says of American egotism and nationality. But I should be as ready to forgive vanity in a nation as in an individual, and to make it turn to good account. I have always remarked that little and envious minds are the most acute in detecting vanity in others, and the most intolerant of it. Having nothing to be proud or vain of, they cannot endure that others should enjoy a self-complacency they cannot have.
There is a sentence in one of Burke's letters, which, as far as England is concerned, might do for a motto for your intended travels: "America and we are no longer under the same crown; but if we are united by mutual goodwill and reciprocal good offices, perhaps it may do almost as well."
Will you, my dear sir, trust me with more of your Journals? I think you must see, by the freedom of this letter, that you have truly pleased and obliged me: I have no other plea to offer. It is a common one in this country of mine—common, perhaps, to human nature in all places as well as Ireland—to expect that, when you have done much, you will do more; and you will, won't you? If I could get your little Eliza to say this in a coaxing voice for us, we should be sure of your compliance.
- Who had lent a volume of his London Journal to Miss Edgeworth to read.