Page:The Maclise Portrait-Gallery.djvu/110

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THE MACLISE PORTRAIT-GALLERY.

a wreck behind," of any given sum,—whether earned, inherited, borrowed, gained, accepted, or what not -is simply a question of time. In this manner went all his own fortune, which was considerable; the sum settled upon his wife; bequests from relations; legacies left to his daughter at various times; and a sum of £20,000, won in a London lottery,-the lucky number 2224, having been fixed upon, and pertinaciously adhered to, in spite of the difficulty in obtaining it, by little Mary, when just ten years old.

Then came the actual necessity of literary exertion,—and that of a remunerative kind. At her career as a woman ot letters, the briefest glance must suffice. In dramatic literature she has displayed no inconsiderable ability, and is known as the author of several plays which enjoyed a fair share of success at the time of their appearance. Of these may be mentioned Julian, and Foscari, as most striking in dramatic power; together with Rienzi, which Macready thought "an extraordinary tragedy,—for a woman to have written." Another drama—Charles the First, which really seems to me ultra-royal in tendency, was suppressed, like the Alasco of Sir Martin Archer Shee, R.A., by George Colman, the deputy Licenser for the Stacre, acting under the authority of the Lord Chamberlain. Both plays appear ahke innocent to me, and I am at a loss to understand their exclusion from the theatre. Miss Mitford has also written a volume of Dramatic Scenes (1827, 8vo), marked by much vivid and pathetic action. These, however, will hardly survive; neither, too, her minor poems, spirited and graceful as some of them are. It is rather by her Belford Regis, and Our Village, that she must hope to be remembered by posterity. In these works we are presented with a series of pictures of English country life painted at once with the minute fidelity of a Flemish artist, and the refined grace of a pure-minded and educated lady. The papers known in their collected form as Our Village, were at first offered to Campbell, the poet, for publication in the New Monthly Magazine, but were unaccountably rejected by him as unsuitable; and the Lady's Magazine (1819) had the honour of giving them to the world. They were next collected in one volume, in 1823; a second series appeared in 1826; a third in 1828; a fourth in 1830; and a fifth in 1832. These simple and natural delineations of English country life at once found favour with the public, and will, in all probability, continue to be read. They charm one in youth, and, like a blind man's bride, retain all their freshness and beauty for us in hoary eld" When heated from the lava-flood of modern and foreign fiction, it is refreshing to turn to these pure and tranquil streams, where we seem, as it were, to experience a spiritual rebaptism, and the perturbed soul regains a wholesome serenity.

In 1837, a literary pension of £100 per annum was conferred upon Miss Mitford by Lord Melbourne; a sum the exiguity of which she did not find derogatory, when she reflected that it was the same as was bestowed upon Felicia Hemans and Mary Somerville.

On the death of her father in 1832,— she had lost her mother in 1830,— she left the cottage at Three-Mile Cross, where she had lived so long, and which she loved so well. Here Haydon, says S. C. Hall, in his Memories, had "talked better pictures than he painted,"— here Talfourd had brought the delightful gaiety of his brilliant youth,—here Amelia Opie, Jane Porter, Cary (the translator of Dante), and a host of others, had visited the authoress in her humble home, and made her shabby little parlour more