Madame D’Arblay


Lord Macaulay

The text is from The Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay, London: Vizetelly and Co., 1890.

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Madame D’Arblay, by Lord Macaulay.

Frances Burney was descended from a family which bore the name of Macburney, and which, though probably of Irish origin, had been long settled in Shropshire and was possessed of considerable estates in that county. Unhappily, many years before her birth, the Macburneys began, as if of set purpose and in a spirit of determined rivalry, to expose and ruin themselves. The heir apparent, Mr. James Macburney offended his father by making a runaway match with an actress from Goodman’s-fields—The old gentleman could devise no more judicious mode of wreaking vengeance on his undutiful boy than by marrying the cook. The cook gave birth to a son, named Joseph, who succeeded to all the lands of the family, while James was cut off with a shilling. The favourite son, however, was so extravagant that he soon became as poor as his disinherited brother. Both were forced to earn their bread by their labour. Joseph turned dancing-master and settled in Norfolk. James struck off the Mac from the beginning of his name and set up as a portrait painter at Chester. Here he had a son, named Charles, well known as the author of the “History of Music” and as the father of two remarkable children, of a son distinguished by learning and of a daughter still more honourably distinguished by genius.

Charles early showed a taste for that art of which, at a later period, he became the historian. He was apprenticed to a celebrated musician1 in London, and he applied himself to study with vigour and success. He early found a kind and munificent Patron in Fulk Greville, a highborn and highbred man, who seems to have had in large measure all the accomplishments and all the follies, all the virtues and all the vices, which, a hundred years ago, were considered as making up the character of a fine gentleman. Under such protection, the young artist had every prospect of a brilliant career in the capital. But his health failed. It became necessary for him to retreat from the smoke and river fog of London to the pure air of the coast. He accepted the place of organist at Lynn, and settled at that town with a young lady who had recently become his wife.2

At Lynn, in June, 1752, Frances Burney was born.3 Nothing in her childhood indicated that she would, while still a young woman, have secured for herself an honourable and permanent place among English writers. She was shy and silent. Her brothers and sisters called her a dunce, and not altogether without some show of reason; for at eight years old she did not know her letters.

In 1760, Mr. Burney quitted Lynn for London, and took a house in Poland-street; a situation which had been fashionable in the reign of Queen Anne, but which, since that time, had been deserted by most of its wealthy and noble inhabitants. He afterwards resided in St. Martin’s—street, on the south side of Leicester square. His house there is still well known, and will continue to be well known as long as our island retains any trace of civilisation; for it was the dwelling of Newton, and the square turret which distinguishes it from all the surrounding buildings was Newton’s observatory.

Mr. Burney at once obtained as many pupils of the most respectable description as he had time to attend, and was thus enabled to support his family, modestly indeed, and frugally, but in comfort and independence. His professional merit obtained for him the degree of Doctor of Music from the University of Oxford;4 and his works on subjects connected with art gained for him a place, respectable, though certainly not eminent, among men of letters.

The progress of the mind of Frances Burney, from her ninth to her twenty-fifth year, well deserves to be recorded, When her education had proceeded no further than the hornbook, she lost her mother, and thenceforward she educated herself. Her father appears to have been as bad a father as a very honest, affectionate and sweet-tempered man can well be. He loved his daughter dearly; but it never seems to have occurred to him that a parent has other duties to perform to children than that of fondling them. It would indeed have been impossible for him to superintend their education himself. His professional engagements occupied him all day. At seven in the morning, he began to attend his pupils, and, when London was full, was sometimes employed in teaching till eleven at night. He was often forced to carry in his pocket a tin box of sandwiches and a bottle of wine and water, on which he dined in a hackney coach while hurrying from one scholar to another. Two of his daughters he sent to a seminary at Paris; but he imagined that Frances would run some risk of being perverted from the Protestant faith if she were educated in a Catholic country, and he therefore kept her at home. No governess, no teacher of any art or of any language was provided for her. But one of her sisters showed her how to write; and, before she was fourteen, she began to find pleasure in reading.

It was not, however, by reading that her intellect was formed. Indeed, when her best novels were produced, her knowledge of books was very small. When at the height of her fame, she was unacquainted with the most celebrated works of Voltaire and Moliere; and, what seems still more extraordinary, had never heard or seen a line of Churchill, who, when she was a girl, was the most popular of living poets. It is particularly deserving of observation that she appears to have been by no means a novel reader. Her father’s library was large, and he had admitted into it so many books which rigid moralists generally exclude that he felt uneasy, as he afterwards owned, when Johnson began to examine the shelves. But in the whole collection there was only a single novel, Fielding’s “Amelia.”5

An education, however, which to most girls would have been useless, but which suited Fanny’s mind better than elaborate culture, was in constant progress during her passage from childhood to womanhood. The great book of human nature was turned over before her. Her father’s social position was very peculiar. He belonged in fortune and station to the middle class. His daughters seemed to have been suffered to mix freely with those whom butlers and waiting-maids call vulgar. We are told that they were in the habit of playing with the children of a wigmaker who lived in the adjoining house. Yet few nobles could assemble in the most stately mansions of Grosvenor-square or St. James’s Square a society so various and so brilliant as was sometimes to be found in Dr. Burney’s cabin. His mind, though not very powerful or capacious, was restlessly active; and, in the intervals of his professional pursuits, he had contrived to lay up much miscellaneous information. His attainments, the suavity of his temper and the general simplicity of his manners had obtained for him ready admission to the first literary circles. While he was still at Lynn, he had won Johnson’s heart by sounding with honest zeal the praises of the “English Dictionary.” In London, the two friends met frequently and agreed most harmoniously. One tie, indeed, was wanting to their mutual attachment. Burney loved his own art passionately, and Johnson just knew the bell of St. Clement’s church from the organ. They had, however, many topics in common; and on winter nights their conversations were sometimes prolonged till the fire had gone out and the candles had burned away to the wicks. Burney’s admiration of the powers which had produced “Rasselas” and “The Rambler” bordered on idolatry. He gave a singular proof of this at his first visit to Johnson’s ill-furnished garret. The master of the apartment was not at home. The enthusiastic visitor looked about for some relic which he could carry away, but he could see nothing lighter than the chairs and the fireirons. At last he discovered an old broom, tore some bristles from the stump, wrapped them in silver paper, and departed as happy as Louis IX. when the holy nail of St. Denis was found.6 Johnson, on the other hand, condescended to growl out that Burney was an honest fellow, a man whom it was impossible not to like.

Garrick, too, was a frequent visitor in Poland-street and St. Martin’s-street. That wonderful actor loved the society of children, partly from good nature and partly from vanity. The ecstasies of mirth and terror, which his gestures and play of countenance never failed to produce in a nursery, flattered him quite as much as the applause of mature critics. He often exhibited all his powers of mimicry for the amusement of the little Burneys, awed them by shuddering and crouching as if he saw a ghost, scared them by raving like a maniac in St. Luke’s, and then at once became an auctioneer, a chimney-sweeper or an old woman, and made them laugh till the tears ran down their cheeks.

But it would be tedious to recount the names of all the men of letters and artists whom Frances Burney had an opportunity of seeing and hearing. Colman, Twining, Harris, Baretti, Hawkesworth, Reynolds, Barry, were among those who occasionally surrounded the tea table and supper tray at her father’s modest dwelling. This was not all. The distinction which Dr. Burney had acquired as a musician and as the historian of music, attracted to his house the most eminent musical performers of that age. The greatest Italian singers who visited England regarded him as the dispenser of fame in their art, and exerted themselves to obtain his suffrage. Pacchierotti became his intimate friend. The rapacious Agujari, who sang for nobody else under fifty pounds an air, sang her best for Dr. Burney without a fee; and in the company of Dr. Burney even the haughty and eccentric Gabrielli constrained herself to behave with civility. It was thus in his power to give, with scarcely any expense, concerts equal to those of the aristocracy. On such occasions, the quiet street in which he lived was blocked up by coroneted chariots, and his little drawing-room was crowded with peers, peeresses, ministers and ambassadors. On one evening, of which we happen to have a full account, there were present Lord Mulgrave, Lord Bruce, Lord and Lady Edgecumbe, Lord Barrington from the War office, Lord Sandwich from the Admiralty, Lord Ashburnham, with his gold key dangling from his pocket, and the French ambassador, M. De Guignes, renowned for his fine person and for his success in gallantry. But the great show of the night was the Russian ambassador, Count Orloff, whose gigantic figure was all in a blaze with jewels, and in whose demeanour the untamed ferocity of the Scythian might be discerned through a thin varnish of French Politeness. As he stalked about the small parlour, brushing the ceiling with his toupee, the girls whispered to each other, with mingled admiration and horror, that he was the favoured lover of his august mistress; that he had borne the chief part in the revolution to which she owed her throne; and that his huge hands, now glittering with diamond rings, had given the last squeeze to the windpipe of her unfortunate husband.

With such illustrious guests as these were mingled all the most remarkable specimens of the race of lions, a kind of game which is hunted in London every spring with more than Meltonian ardour and perseverance. Bruce, who had washed down steaks cut from living oxen with water from the fountains of the Nile, came to swagger and talk about his travels. Ornai lisped broken English, and made all the assembled musicians hold their ears by howling Otaheitean love-songs, such as those with which Oberea charmed her Opano.

With the literary and fashionable society which occasionally met under Dr. Burney’s roof, Frances can scarcely be said to have mingled.7 She was not a musician, and could therefore bear no part in the concerts. She was shy almost to awkwardness, and she scarcely ever joined in the conversation. The slightest remark from a stranger disconcerted her, and even the old friends of her father who tried to draw her out could seldom extract more than a Yes or a No. Her figure was small, her face not distinguished by beauty. She was therefore suffered to withdraw quietly to the background, and, unobserved herself, to observe all that passed. Her nearest relations were aware that she had good sense, but seem not to have suspected that under her demure and bashful deportment were concealed a fertile invention and a keen sense of the ridiculous. She had not, it is true, an eye for the fine shades of character. But every marked peculiarity instantly caught her notice and remained engraven on her imagination. Thus while still a girl she had laid up such a store of materials for fiction as few of those who mix much in the world are able to accumulate during a long life. She had watched and listened to people of every class, from princes and great officers of state down to artists living in garrets and poets familiar with subterranean cookshops. Hundreds of remarkable persons had passed in review before her, English, French, German, Italian, lords and fiddlers, deans of cathedrals and managers of theatres, travellers leading about newly caught savages, and singing women escorted by deputy husbands.

So strong was the impression made on the mind of Frances by the society which she was in the habit of seeing and hearing, that she began to write little fictitious narratives as soon as she could use her pen with ease, which, as we have said, was not very early. Her sisters were amused by her stories. But Dr. Burney knew nothing of their existence; and in another quarter her literary propensities met with serious discouragement. When she was fifteen, her father took a second wife.8 The new Mrs. Burney soon found out that her daughter-in-law was fond of scribbling, and delivered several good-natured lectures on the subject. The advice no doubt was well meant, and might have been given by the most judicious friend; for at that time, from causes to which we may hereafter advert, nothing could be more disadvantageous to a young lady than to be known as a novel writer. Frances yielded, relinquished her favourite pursuit, and made a bonfire of all her manuscripts.9

She now hemmed and stitched from breakfast to dinner with scrupulous regularity. But the dinners of that time were early; and the afternoon was her own. Though she had given up novel-writing, she was still fond of using her pen. She began to keep a diary, and she corresponded largely with a person who seems to have had the chief share in the formation of her mind. This was Samuel Crisp, an old friend of her father. His name, well known, near a century ago, in the most splendid circles of London, has long been forgotten. His history is, however, so interesting and instructive, that it tempts us to venture on a digression. Long before Frances Burney was born, Mr. Crisp had made his entrance into the world, with every advantage. He was well connected and well educated. His face and figure were conspicuously handsome; his manners were polished; his fortune was easy; his character was without stain; he lived in the best society; he had read much; he talked well; his taste in literature, music, painting, architecture, sculpture, was held in high esteem. Nothing that the world can give seemed to be wanting to his happiness and respectability, except that he should understand the limits of his powers, and should not throw away distinctions which were within his reach in the pursuit of distinctions which were unattainable. “It is an uncontrolled truth,” says Swift, “that no man ever made an ill figure who understood his own talents, nor a good one who mistook them.” Every day brings with it fresh illustrations of this weighty saying; but the best commentary that we remember is the history of Samuel Crisp. Men like him have their proper place, and it is a most important one, in the Commonwealth of Letters. It is by the judgment of such men that the rank of authors is finally determined. It is neither to the multitude, nor to the few who are gifted with great creative genius, that we are to look for sound critical decisions. The multitude, unacquainted with the best models, are captivated by whatever stuns and dazzles them. They deserted Mrs. Siddons to run after Master Betty; and they now prefer, we have no doubt, Jack Sheppard to Van Artevelde. A man of great original genius, on the other hand, a man who has attained to mastery in some high walk of art, is by no means to be implicitly trusted as a judge of the performances of others. The erroneous decisions pronounced by such men are without number. It is commonly supposed that jealousy makes them unjust. But a more creditable explanation may easily be found. The very excellence of a work shows that some of the faculties of the author have been developed at the expense of the rest——for it is not given to the human intellect to expand itself widely in all directions at once and to be at the same time gigantic and well-proportioned. Whoever becomes preeminent in any art, nay, in any style of art, generally does so by devoting himself with intense and exclusive enthusiasm to the pursuit of one kind of excellence. His perception of other kinds of excellence is too often impaired. Out of his own department, he blames at random, and is far less to be trusted than the mere connoisseur, who produces nothing, and whose business is only to judge and enjoy. One painter is distinguished by his exquisite finishing. He toils day after day to bring the veins of a cabbage leaf, the folds of a lace veil, the wrinkles of an old woman’s face, nearer and nearer to perfection. In the time which he employs on a square foot of canvas, a master of a different order covers the walls of a palace with gods burying giants under mountains, or makes the cupola of a church alive with seraphim and martyrs. The more fervent the passion of each of these artists for his art, the higher the merit of each in his own line, the more unlikely it is that they will justly appreciate each other. Many persons, who never handled a pencil, probably do far more justice to Michael Angelo than would have been done by Gerard Douw, and far more justice to Gerard Douw than would have been done by Michael Angelo.

It is the same with literature. Thousands, who have no spark of the genius of Dryden or Wordsworth, do to Dryden the justice which has never been done by Wordsworth, and to Wordsworth the justice which, we suspect, would never have been done by Dryden. Gray, Johnson, Richardson, Fielding, are all highly esteemed by the great body of intelligent and well informed men. But Gray could see no merit in “Rasselas,” and Johnson could see no merit in “The Bard.” Fielding thought Richardson a solemn prig, and Richardson perpetually expressed contempt and disgust for Fielding’s lowness.

Mr. Crisp seems, as far as we can judge, to have been a man eminently qualified for the useful office of a connoisseur. His talents and knowledge fitted him to appreciate justly almost every species of intellectual superiority. As an adviser he was inestimable. Nay, he might probably have held a respectable rank as a writer if he would have confined himself to some department of literature in which nothing more than sense, taste, and reading was required. Unhappily, he set his heart on being a great poet, wrote a tragedy in five acts on the death of Virginia, and offered it to Garrick, who was his personal friend. Garrick read, shook his head, and expressed a doubt whether it would be wise in Mr. Crisp to stake a reputation, which stood high, on the success of such a piece. But the author, blinded by self-love, set in motion a machinery such as none could long resist. His intercessors were the most eloquent man and the most lovely woman of that generation. Pitt was induced to read “Virginia” and to pronounce it excellent. Lady Coventry, with fingers which might have furnished a model to sculptors, forced the manuscript into the reluctant hand of the manager; and, in the year 1754, the play was brought forward.

Nothing that skill or friendship could do was omitted. Garrick wrote both prologue and epilogue. The zealous friends of the author filled every box; and, by their strenuous exertions, the life of the play was prolonged during ten nights. But though there was no clamorous reprobation, it was universally felt that the attempt had failed. When “Virginia” was printed, the public disappointment was even greater than at the representation. The critics, the Monthly Reviewers in particular, fell on plot, characters, and diction without mercy, but, we fear, not without justice. We have never met with a copy of the play; but if we may judge from the lines which are extracted in the “Gentleman’s Magazine,” and which do not appear to have been malevolently selected, we should say that nothing but the acting of Garrick and the partiality of the audience could have saved so feeble and unnatural a drama from instant damnation. The ambition of the poet was still unsubdued. When the London season closed, he applied himself vigorously to the work of removing blemishes. He does not seem to have suspected, what we are strongly inclined to suspect, that the whole piece was one blemish, and that the passages which were meant to be fine were, in truth, bursts of that tame extravagance into which writers fall when they set themselves to be sublime and pathetic in spite of nature. He omitted, added, retouched, and flattered himself with hopes of a complete success in the following year; but, in the following year, Garrick showed no disposition to bring the amended tragedy on the stage. Solicitation and remonstrance were tried in vain. Lady Coventry, drooping under that malady which seems ever to select what is loveliest for its prey, could render no assistance. The manager’s language was civilly evasive; but his resolution was inflexible. Crisp had committed a great error; but he had escaped with a very slight penance. His play had not been hooted from the boards. It had, on the contrary, been better received than many very estimable performances have been-than Johnson’s “Irene,” for example, or Goldsmith’s “Good-natured Man.” Had Crisp been wise, he would have thought himself happy in having purchased self-knowledge so cheap. He would have relinquished, without vain repinings, the hope of poetical distinction, and would have turned to the many sources of happiness which he still possessed. Had he been, on the other hand, an unfeeling and unblushing dunce, he would have gone on writing scores of bad tragedies in defiance of censure and derision. But he had too much sense to risk a second defeat, yet too little to bear his first defeat like a man. The fatal delusion that he was a great dramatist had taken firm possession of his mind. His failure he attributed to every cause except the true one. He complained of the ill-will of Garrick, who appears to have done everything that ability and zeal could do, and who, from selfish motives, would, of course, have been well pleased if “Virginia” had been as successful as “The Beggar’s Opera.” Nay, Crisp complained of the languor of the friends whose partiality had given him three benefit nights to which he had no claim. He complained of the injustice of the spectators, when, in truth, he ought to have been grateful for their unexampled patience. He lost his temper and spirits, and became a cynic and a hater of mankind. From London be retired to Hampton, and from Hampton to a solitary and long-deserted mansion, built on a common in one of the wildest tracts of Surrey.10 No road, not even a sheepwalk, connected his lonely dwelling with the abodes of men. The place of his retreat was strictly concealed from his old associates. In the spring, he sometimes emerged, and was seen at exhibitions and concerts in London. But he soon disappeared and hid himself, with no society but his books, in his dreary hermitage. He survived his failure about thirty years. A new generation sprang up around him. No memory of his bad verses remained among men. His very name was forgotten. How completely the world had lost sight of him will appear from a single circumstance. We looked for his name in a copious Dictionary of Dramatic Authors published while he was still alive, and we found only that Mr. Samuel Crisp, of the Custom-house, had written a play called “Virginia,” acted in 1754. To the last, however, the unhappy man continued to brood over the injustice of the manager and the pit, and tried to convince himself and others that he had missed the highest literary honours only because he had omitted some fine passages in compliance with Garrick’s judgment. Alas for human nature, that the wounds of vanity should smart and bleed so much longer than the wounds of affection! Few people, we believe, whose nearest friends and relations died in 1754, had any acute feeling of the loss in 1782. Dear sisters, and favourite daughters, and brides snatched away before the honeymoon was passed, had been forgotten, or were remembered only with a tranquil regret. But Samuel Crisp was still mourning for his tragedy, like Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted. “Never,” such was his language twenty-eight years after his disaster, “never give up or alter a tittle unless it perfectly coincides with your inward feelings. I can say this to my sorrow and my cost. But mum!” Soon after these words were written, his life—a life which might have been eminently useful and happy—ended in the same gloom in which, during more than a quarter of a century, it had been passed. We have thought it worth while to rescue from oblivion this curious fragment of literary history. It seems to us at once ludicrous, melancholy, and full of instruction.11

Crisp was an old and very intimate friend of the Burneys. To them alone was confided the name of the desolate old hall in which he hid himself like a wild beast in a den. For them were reserved such remains of his humanity as had survived the failure of his play. Frances Burney he regarded as his daughter. He called her his Fannikin; and she in return called him her dear Daddy. In truth, he seems to have done much more than her real father for the development of her intellect; for though he was a bad poet, he was a scholar, a thinker, and an excellent counsellor. He was particularly fond of Dr. Burney’s concerts. They had indeed, been commenced at his suggestion, and when he visited London he constantly attended them. But when he grew old, and when gout, brought on partly by mental irritation, confined him to his retreat, he was desirous of having a glimpse of that gay and brilliant world from which he was exiled, and he pressed Fannikin to send him full accounts of her father’s evening parties. A few of her letters to him have been published; and it is impossible to read them without discerning in them all the powers which afterwards produced “Evelina” and “Cecilia”; the quickness in catching every odd peculiarity of character and manner; the skill in grouping; the humour, often richly comic, sometimes even farcical.

Fanny’s propensity to novel-writing had for a time been kept down. It now rose up stronger than ever. The heroes and heroines of the tales which had perished in the flames were still present to the eye of her mind. One favourite story, in particular, haunted her imagination. It was about a certain Caroline Evelyn, a beautiful damsel who made an unfortunate love match and died, leaving an infant daughter. Frances began to image to herself the various scenes, tragic and comic, through which the poor motherless girl, highly connected on one side, meanly connected on the other, might have to pass. A crowd of unreal beings, good and bad, grave and ludicrous, surrounded the pretty, timid young orphan; a coarse sea captain; an ugly, insolent fop, blazing in a superb court dress; another fop, as ugly and as insolent, but lodged on Snow-hill and tricked out in second-hand finery for the Hampstead ball; an old woman, wrinkles and rouge, flirting her fan with the air of a miss of seventeen and screaming in a dialect made up of vulgar French and vulgar English; a poet, lean and ragged, with a broad Scotch accent. By degrees these shadows acquired stronger and stronger consistence; the impulse which urged Frances to write became irresistible; and the result was the “History of Evelina.”

Then came, naturally enough, a wish, mingled with many fears, to appear before the public; for, timid as Frances was, and bashful, and altogether unaccustomed to hear her own praises, it is clear that she wanted neither a strong passion for distinction, nor a just confidence in her own powers. Her scheme was to become, if possible, a candidate for fame without running any risk of disgrace. She had not money to bear the expense of printing. It was therefore necessary that some bookseller should be induced to take the risk; and such a bookseller was not readily found. Dodsley refused even to look at the manuscript unless he were intrusted with the name of the author. A publisher in Fleet-street, named Lowndes, was more complaisant. Some correspondence took place between this person and Miss Burney, who took the name of Grafton, and desired that the letters addressed to her might be left at the Orange Coffee-house. But, before the bargain was finally struck, Fanny thought it her duty to obtain her father’s consent. She told him that she had written a book, that she wished to have his permission to publish it anonymously, but that she hoped that he would not insist upon seeing it. What followed may serve to illustrate what we meant when we said that Dr. Burney was as bad a father as so goodhearted a man could possibly be. It never seems to have crossed his mind that Fanny was about to take a step on which the whole happiness of her life might depend, a step which might raise her to an honourable eminence or cover her with ridicule and contempt. Several people had already been trusted, and strict concealment was therefore not to be expected. On so grave an occasion, it was surely his duty to give his best counsel to his daughter, to win her confidence, to prevent her from exposing herself if her book were a bad one, and, if it were a good one, to see that the terms which she made with the publisher were likely to be beneficial to her. Instead of this, he only stared, burst out a-laughing, kissed her, gave her leave to do as she liked, and never even asked the name of her work. The contract with Lowndes was speedily concluded. Twenty pounds were given for the copyright, and were accepted by Fanny with delight. Her father’s inexcusable neglect of his duty happily caused her no worse evil than the loss of twelve or fifteen hundred pounds.12

After many delays, “Evelina” appeared in January, 1778.

Poor Fanny was sick with terror, and durst hardly stir out of doors. Some days passed before anything was heard of the book. It had, indeed, nothing but its own merits to push it into public favour. Its author was unknown. The house by which it was published, was not, we believe, held high in estimation. No body of partisans had been engaged to applaud. The better class of readers expected little from a novel about a young lady’s entrance into the world. There was, indeed, at that time a disposition among the most respectable people to condemn novels generally: nor was this disposition by any means without excuse; for works of that sort were then almost always silly and very frequently wicked.

Soon, however, the first faint accents of praise began to be heard: The keepers of the circulating libraries reported that everybody was asking for “Evelina,” and that some person had guessed Anstey13 to be the author. Then came a favourable notice in the “London Review”; then another still more favourable in the “Monthly.” And now the book found its way to tables which had seldom been polluted by marble-covered volumes. Scholars and statesmen, who contemptuously abandoned the crowd of romances to Miss Lydia Languish and Miss Sukey Saunter, were not ashamed to own that they could not tear themselves away from “Evelina.” Fine carriages and rich liveries, not often seen east of Temple-bar, were attracted to the publisher’s shop in Fleet-street. Lowndes was daily questioned about the author, but was himself as much in the dark as any of the questioners. The mystery, however, could not remain a mystery long. It was known to brothers and sisters, aunts and cousins: and they were far too proud and too happy to be discreet. Dr. Burney wept over the book in rapture. Daddy Crisp shook his fist at his Fannikin in affectionate anger at not having been admitted to her confidence. The truth was whispered to Mrs. Thrale: and then it began to spread fast.

The book had been admired while it had been ascribed to men of letters long conversant with the world and accustomed to composition. But when it was known that a reserved, silent young woman had produced the best work of fiction that had appeared since’ the death of Smollett, the acclamations were redoubled. What she had done was, indeed, extraordinary. But, as usual, various reports improved the story till it became miraculous. “Evelina,” it was said, was the work of a girl of seventeen. Incredible as this tale was, it continued to be repeated down to our own time. Frances was too honest to confirm it. Probably she was too much a woman to contradict it; and it was long before any of her detractors thought of this mode of annoyance. Yet there was no want of low minds and bad hearts in the generation which witnessed her first appearance. There was the envious Kenrick and the savage Wolcot, the asp George Stevens and the polecat John Williams. It did not, however, occur to them to search the parish register of Lynn, in order that they might be able to twit a lady with having concealed her age. That truly chivalrous exploit was reserved for a bad writer14 of our own time, whose spite she had provoked by not furnishing him with materials for a worthless edition of Boswell’s “Life of Johnson,” some sheets of which our readers have doubtless seen round parcels of better books.

But we must return to our story. The triumph was complete. The timid and obscure girl found herself on the highest pinnacle of fame. Great men, on whom she had gazed at a distance with humble reverence, addressed her with admiration, tempered by the tenderness due to her sex and age. Burke, Windham, Gibbon, Reynolds, Sheridan, were among her most ardent eulogists. Cumberland15 acknowledged her merit, after his fashion, by biting his lips and wriggling in his chair whenever her name was mentioned. But it was at Streatham that she tasted, in the highest perfection, the sweets of flattery mingled with the sweets of friendship. Mrs. Thrale, then at the height of prosperity and popularity—with gay spirits, quick wit, showy, though superficial, acquirements, pleasing, though not refined, manners, a singularly amiable temper and a loving heart-felt towards Fanny as towards a younger sister. With the Thrales, Johnson was domesticated. He was an old friend of Dr. Burney; but he had probably taken little notice of Dr. Burney’s daughters; and Fanny, we imagine, had never in her life dared to speak to him, unless to ask whether he wanted a nineteenth or a twentieth cup of tea. He was charmed by her tale, and preferred it to the novels of Fielding, to whom, indeed, he had always been grossly unjust. He did not, indeed, carry his partiality so far as to place “Evelina” by the side of “Clarissa” and “Sir Charles Grandison”; yet he said that his little favourite had done enough to have made even Richardson feel uneasy. With Johnson’s cordial approbation of the book was mingled a fondness, half gallant, half paternal, for the writer; and this fondness his age and character entitled him to show without restraint. He began by putting her hand to his lips. But he soon clasped her in his huge arms, and immediately implored her to be a good girl. She was his pet, his dear love, his dear little Burney, his little character-monger. At one time, he broke forth in praise of the good taste of her caps. At another time, he insisted on teaching her Latin. That, with all his coarseness and irritability, he was a man of sterling benevolence, has long been acknowledged. But how gentle and endearing his deportment could be, was not known till the recollections of Madame D’Arblay were published.

We have mentioned a few of the most eminent of those who paid their homage to the author of “Evelina.” The crowd of inferior admirers would require a catalogue as long as that in the second book of the “Iliad.” In that catalogue would be Mrs. Cholmondeley, the sayer of odd things; and Seward, much given to yawning; and Baretti, who slew the man in the Haymarket; and Paoli, talking broken English; and Langton, taller by the head than any other member of the club; and Lady Millar, who kept a vase wherein fools were wont to put bad verses; and Jerningham, who wrote verses fit to be put into the vase of Lady Millar; and Dr. Franklin—not, as some have dreamed, the great Pennsylvanian Dr. Franklin, who could not then have paid his respects to Miss Burney without much risk of being hanged, drawn, and quartered, but Dr. Franklin the less.

It would not have been surprising if such success had turned even a strong head and corrupted even a generous and affectionate nature. But in the “Diary,” we can find no trace of any feeling inconsistent with a truly modest and amiable disposition. There is, indeed, abundant proof that Frances enjoyed with an intense, though a troubled, joy, the honours which her genius had won; but it is equally clear that her happiness sprang from the happiness of her father, her sister, and her dear Daddy Crisp. While flattered by the great, the opulent and the learned, while followed along the Steyne at Brighton and the Pantiles at Tunbridge Wells by the gaze of admiring crowds, her heart seems to have been still with the little domestic circle in St. Martin’sstreet. If she recorded with minute diligence all the compliments, delicate and coarse, which she heard wherever she turned, she recorded them for the eyes of two or three persons who had loved her from infancy, who had loved her in obscurity, and to whom her fame gave the purest and most exquisite delight. Nothing can be more unjust than to confound these outpourings of a kind heart, sure of perfect sympathy, with the egotism of a bluestocking who prates to all who come near her about her own novel or her own volume of sonnets.

It was natural that the triumphant issue of Miss Burney’s first venture should tempt her to try a second. “Evelina,” though it had raised her fame, had added nothing to her fortune. Some of her friends urged her to write for the stage. Johnson promised to give her his advice as to the composition. Murphy, who was supposed to understand the temper of the pit as well as any man of his time, undertook to instruct her as to stage effect. Sheridan declared that he would accept a play from her without even reading it. Thus encouraged, she wrote a comedy named “The Witlings.” Fortunately, it was never acted or printed. We can, we think, easily perceive, from the little which is said on the subject in the “Diary,” that “The Witlings” would have been damned, and that Murphy and Sheridan thought so, though they were too polite to say so. Happily Frances had a friend who was not afraid to give her pain. Crisp, wiser for her than he had been for himself, read the manuscript in his lonely retreat and manfully told her that she had failed, and that to remove blemishes here and there would be useless; that the piece had abundance of wit but no interest, that it was bad as a whole; that it would remind every reader of the “Femmes Savantes,” which, strange to say, she had never read, and that she could not sustain so close a comparison with Moliere. This opinion, in which Dr. Burney concurred, was sent to Frances in what she called “a hissing, groaning, catcalling epistle.” But she had too much sense not to know that it was better to be hissed and catcalled by her Daddy than by a whole sea of heads in the pit of Drury-lane theatre; and she had too good a heart not to be grateful for so rare an act of friendship. She returned an answer which shows how well she deserved to have a judicious, faithful, and affectionate adviser. “I intend,” she wrote, “to console myself for your censure by this greatest proof I have received of the sincerity, candour, and, let me add, esteem of my dear daddy. And, as I happen to love myself more than my play, this consolation is not a very trifling one. This, however, seriously I do believe, that when my two daddies put their heads together to concert that hissing, groaning, catcalling epistle they sent me, they felt as sorry for poor little Miss Bayes as she could possibly do for herself. You see I do not attempt to repay your frankness with an air of pretended carelessness. But, though somewhat disconcerted just now, I will promise not to let my vexation live out another day. Adieu, my dear daddy; I won’t be mortified and I won’t be downed; but I will be proud to find I have, out of my own family, as well as in it, a friend who loves me well enough to speak plain truth to me.”

Frances now turned from her dramatic schemes to an undertaking far better suited to her talents. She determined to write a new tale on a plan excellently contrived for the display of the powers in which her superiority to other writers lay. It was, in truth, a grand and various picture gallery, which presented to the eye a long series of men and women, each marked by some strong peculiar feature. There were avarice and prodigality, the pride of blood and the pride of money, morbid restlessness and morbid apathy, frivolous garrulity, supercilious silence, a Democritus to laugh at everything and a Heraclitus to lament over everything. The work proceeded fast, and in twelve months was completed.

It wanted something of the simplicity which had been among the most attractive charms of “Evelina”; but it furnished ample proof that the four years, which had elapsed since “Evelina” appeared, had not been unprofitably spent. Those who saw “Cecilia” in manuscript pronounced it the best novel of the age. Mrs. Thrale laughed and wept over it. Crisp was even vehement in applause, and offered to insure the rapid and complete success of the book for half-a-crown. What Miss Burney received for the copyright is not mentioned in the “Diary “; but we have observed several expressions from which we infer that the sum was considerable. That the sale would be great, nobody could doubt; and Frances now had shrewd and experienced advisers, who would not suffer her to wrong herself. We have been told that the publishers gave her two thousand pounds, and we have no doubt that they might have given a still larger sum without being losers.16

“Cecilia” was published in the summer of 1782. The curiosity of the town was intense. We have been informed by persons who remember those days, that no romance of Sir Walter Scott was more impatiently awaited or more eagerly snatched from the counters of the booksellers. High as public expectation was, it was amply satisfied; and “Cecilia” was placed, by general acclamation, among the classical novels of England.

Miss Burney was now thirty. Her youth had been singularly prosperous; but clouds soon began to gather over that clear and radiant dawn. Events deeply painful to a heart so kind as that of Frances followed each other in rapid succession. She was first called upon to attend the deathbed of her best friend, Samuel Crisp. When she returned to St. Martin’s-street after performing this melancholy duty, she was appalled by hearing that Johnson had been struck with paralysis, and, not many months later, she parted from him for the last time with solemn tenderness. He wished to look on her once more; and on the day before his death she long remained in tears on the stairs leading to his bedroom, in the hope that she might be called in to receive his blessing. But he was then sinking fast, and, though he sent her an affectionate message, was unable to see her. But this was not the worst. There are separations far more cruel than those which are made by death. Frances might weep with proud affection for Crisp and Johnson. She had to blush as well as to weep for Mrs. Thrale.

Life, however, still smiled upon her. Domestic happiness, friendship, independence, leisure, letters, all these things were hers; and she flung them all away.

Among the distinguished persons to whom Miss Burney had been introduced, none appears to have stood higher in her regard than Mrs. Delany. This lady was an interesting and venerable relic of a past age. She was the niece of George Granville, Lord Lansdowne, who, in his youth, exchanged verses and compliments with Edmund Waller, and who was among the first to applaud the opening talents of Pope. She had married Dr. Delany, a man known to his contemporaries as a profound scholar and eloquent preacher, but remembered in our time chiefly as one of that small circle in which the fierce spirit of Swift, tortured by disappointed ambition, by remorse, and by the approaches of madness, sought for amusement and repose. Dr. Delany had long been dead. His widow, nobly descended, eminently accomplished, and retaining, in spite of the infirmities of advanced age, the vigour of her faculties, and the serenity of her temper, enjoyed and deserved the favour of the royal family. She had a pension of three hundred a-year; and a house at Windsor, belonging to the crown, had been fitted up for her accommodation. At this house, the king and queen sometimes called, and found a very natural pleasure in thus catching an occasional glimpse of the private life of English families.

In December, 1785, Miss Burney was on a visit to Mrs. Delany at Windsor. The dinner was over. The old lady was taking a nap. Her grandniece, a little girl of seven, was playing at some Christmas game with the visitors, when the door opened, and a stout gentleman entered unannounced, with a star on his breast, and “What? what? what?” in his mouth. A cry of “The king!” was set up. A general scampering followed. Miss Burney owns that she could not have been more terrified if she had seen a ghost. But Mrs. Delany came forward to pay her duty to her royal friend, and the disturbance was quieted. Frances was then presented, and underwent a long examination and cross-examination about all that she had written, and all that she meant to write. The queen soon made her appearance, and his majesty repeated, for the benefit of his consort, the information which he had extracted from Miss Burney. The good nature of the royal pair might have softened even the authors of the “Probationary Odes,”17 and could not but be delightful to a young lady who had been brought up a Tory. In a few days the visit was repeated. Miss Burney was more at ease than before. His majesty, instead of seeking for information, condescended to impart it, and passed sentence on many great writers, English and foreign. Voltaire he pronounced a monster. Rousseau he liked rather better. “But was there ever,” he cried, “such stuff as great part of Shakspeare? Only one must not say so. But what think you? What? Is there not sad stuff? What? What?”

The next day Frances enjoyed the privilege of listening to some equally valuable criticism uttered by the queen touching Goethe, and Klopstock, and might have learned an important lesson of economy from the mode in which her majesty’s library had been formed. “I picked the book up on a stall,” said the queen. “Oh, it is amazing what good books there are on stalls!” Mrs. Delany, who seems to have understood from these words that her majesty was in the habit of exploring the booths of Moorfields and Holywell-street in person, could not suppress an exclamation of surprise. “Why,” said the queen, “I don’t pick them up myself. I have a servant very clever; and if they are not to be had at the booksellers, they are not for me more than for another.” Miss Burney describes this conversation as delightful; and, indeed, we cannot wonder that, with her literary tastes, she should be delighted at hearing in how magnificent a manner the greatest lady in the land encouraged literature.

The truth is, that Frances was fascinated by the condescending kindness of the two great personages to whom she had been presented. Her father was even more infatuated than herself. The result was a step of which we cannot think with patience, but recorded as it is with all its consequences in these volumes deserves at least this praise, that it has furnished a most impressive warning.

A German lady of the name of Haggerdorn, one of the keepers of the queen’s robes, retired about this time, and her majesty offered the vacant post to Miss Burney. When we consider that Miss Burney was decidedly the most popular writer of fictitious narrative then living, that competence, if not opulence, was within her reach, and that she was more than usually happy in her domestic circle, and when we compare the sacrifice which she was invited to make with the remuneration which was held out to her, we are divided between laughter and indignation.

What was demanded of her was that she should consent to be almost as completely separated from her family and friends as if she had gone to Calcutta, and almost as close a prisoner as if she had been sent to gaol for a libel; that with talents which had instructed and delighted the highest living minds, she should now be employed only in mixing snuff and sticking pins; that she should be summoned by a waiting-woman’s bell to a waiting-woman’s duties; that she should pass her whole life under the restraints of a paltry etiquette, should sometimes fast till she was ready to swoon with hunger, should sometimes stand till her knees have way with fatigue; that she should not dare to speak or move without considering how her mistress might like her words and gestures. Instead of those distinguished men and women, the flower of all political parties, with whom she had been in the habit of mixing on terms of equal friendship, she was to have for her perpetual companion the chief keeper of the robes, an old hag from Germany, of mean understanding, of insolent manners, and of temper which, naturally savage, had now been exasperated by disease. Now and then, indeed, poor Frances might console herself for the loss of Burke’s and Windham’s society by joining in the “celestial colloquy sublime” of his majesty’s equerries.

And what was the consideration for which she was to sell herself to this slavery? A peerage in her own right? A pension of two thousand a-year for life? A seventy-four for her brother in the navy? A deanery for her brother in the church? Not so. The price at which she was valued was her board, her lodging, the attendance of a man-servant, and two hundred pounds a-year.

The man who, even when hard pressed by hunger, sells his birthright for a mess of pottage, is unwise. But what shall we say of him who parts with his birthright and does not get even the pottage in return? It is not necessary to inquire whether opulence be an adequate compensation for the sacrifice of bodily and mental freedom; for Frances Burney paid for leave to be a prisoner and a menial. It was evidently understood as one of the terms of her engagement, that, while she was a member of the royal household, she was not to appear before the public as an author; and, even had there been no such understanding, her avocations were such as left her no leisure for any considerable intellectual effort. That her place was incompatible with her literary pursuits was indeed frankly acknowledged by the king when she resigned. “She had given up,” he said, “five years of her pen.” That during those five years she might, without painful exertion, without any exertion that would not have been a pleasure, have earned enough to buy an annuity for life much larger than the precarious salary which she received at Court, is quite certain. The same income, too, which in St. Martin’s street would have afforded her every comfort, must have been found scanty at St. James’s. We cannot venture to speak confidently of the price of millinery and jewellery; but we are greatly deceived if a lady, who had to attend Queen Charlotte on many public occasions, could possibly save a farthing out of a salary of two hundred a-year. The principle of the arrangement was, in short, simply this, that Frances Burney should become a slave, and should be rewarded by being made a beggar.

With what object their majesties brought her to their palace, we must own ourselves unable to conceive. Their object could not be to encourage her literary exertions; for they took her from a situation in which it was almost certain that she would write and put her into a situation in which it was impossible for her to write. Their object could not be to promote her pecuniary interest for they took her from a situation where she was likely to become rich, and put her into a situation in which she could not but continue poor. Their object could not be to obtain an eminently useful waiting-maid; for it is clear that, though Miss Burney was the only woman of her time who could have described the death of Harrel,18 thousands might have been found more expert in tying ribbons and filling snuff-boxes. To grant her a pension on the civil list would have been an act of judicious liberality honourable to the Court. If this was impracticable, the next best thing was to let her alone. That the king and queen meant her nothing but kindness, we do not in the least doubt. But their kindness was the kindness of persons raised high above the mass of mankind, accustomed to be addressed with profound deference, accustomed to see all who approach them mortified by their coldness and elated by their smiles. They fancied that to be noticed by them, to be near them, to serve them, was in itself a kind of happiness; and that Frances Burney ought to be full of gratitude for being permitted to purchase, by the surrender of health, wealth, freedom, domestic affection and literary fame, the privilege of standing behind a royal chair and holding a pair of royal gloves.

And who can blame them? Who can wonder that princes should be under such a delusion when they are encouraged in it by the very persons who suffer from it most cruelly? Was it to be expected that George III. and Queen Charlotte should understand the interest of Frances Burney better, or promote it with more zeal, than herself and her father? No deception was practised. The conditions of the house of bondage were set forth with all simplicity. The hook was presented without a bait; the net was spread in sight of the bird, and the naked hook was greedily swallowed, and the silly bird made haste to entangle herself in the net.

It is not strange indeed that an invitation to Court should have caused a fluttering in the bosom of an inexperienced woman. But it was the duty of the parent to watch over the child, and to show her, that on one side were only infantine vanities and chimerical hopes, on the other, liberty, peace of mind, affluence, social enjoyments, honourable distinctions. Strange to say, the only hesitation was on the part of Frances. Dr. Burney was transported out of himself with delight. Not such are the raptures of a Circassian father who has sold his pretty daughter well to a Turkish slave merchant. Yet Dr. Burney was an amiable man a man of good abilities, a man who had seen much of the world. But he seems to have thought that going to Court was like going to heaven; that to see princes and princesses was a kind of beatific vision; that the exquisite felicity enjoyed by royal persons was not confined to themselves, but was communicated by some mysterious efflux or reflection to all who were suffered to stand at their toilettes or to bear their trains. He overruled all his daughter’s objections, and himself escorted her to prison. The door closed. The key was turned. She, looking back with tender regret on all she had left, and forward with anxiety and terror to the new life on which she was entering, was unable to speak or stand; and he went on his way homeward rejoicing in her marvellous prosperity.

And now began a slavery of five years, of five years taken from the best part of life, and wasted in menial drudgery or in recreations duller than menial drudgery, under galling restraints and amidst unfriendly or uninteresting companions. The history of an ordinary day was this: Miss Burney had to rise and dress herself early, that she might be ready to answer the royal bell, which rang at half after seven. Till about eight she attended in the queen’s dressing-room, and had the honour of lacing her august mistress’s stays, and of putting on the hoop, gown, and neck-handkerchief. The morning was chiefly spent in rummaging drawers, and laying fine clothes in their proper places. Then the queen was to be powdered and dressed for the day. Twice a week her majesty’s hair was curled and craped; and this operation appears to have added a full hour to the business of the toilette. It was generally three before Miss Burney was at liberty. Then she had two hours at her own disposal. To these hours we owe great Part of her “Diary.” At five she had to attend her colleague, Madame Schwellenberg, a hateful old toadeater, as illiterate as a chambermaid, as proud as a Whole German Chapter, rude, peevish, unable to bear solitude, unable to conduct herself with common decency in society. With this delightful associate, Frances Burney had to dine and pass the evening. The pair generally remained together from five to eleven, and often had no other company the whole time, except during the hour from eight to nine, when the equerries came to tea. If poor Frances attempted to escape to her own apartment, and to forget her wretchedness over a book, the execrable old woman railed and stormed, and complained that she was neglected. Yet, When Frances stayed, she was constantly assailed with insolent reproaches. Literary fame was, in the eyes of the German crone, a blemish, a proof that the person—who enjoyed it was meanly born, and out of the pale of good society. All her scanty stock of broken English was employed to express the contempt with which she regarded the author of “Evelina” and “Cecilia.” Frances detested cards, and indeed knew nothing about them; but she soon found that the least miserable way of passing an evening with Madame Schwellenberg was at the card-table, and consented, with patient sadness, to give hours which might have called forth the laughter and tears of many generations to the king of clubs and the knave of spades. Between eleven and twelve, the bell rang again. Miss Burney had to pass twenty minutes or half an hour in undressing the queen, and was then at liberty to retire and to dream that she was chatting with her brother by the quiet hearth in St. Martin’s-street, that she was the centre of an admiring assembly at Mrs. Crewe’s, that Burke was calling her the first woman of the age, or that Dilly was giving her a cheque for two thousand guineas.

Men, we must suppose, are less patient than women; for we are utterly at a loss to conceive how any human being could endure such a life while there remained a vacant garret in Grub-street, a crossing in want of a sweeper, a parish workhouse or a parish vault. And it was for such a life that Frances Burney had given up liberty and peace, a happy fireside, attached friends, a wide and splendid circle of acquaintance, intellectual pursuits, in which she was qualified to excel, and the sure hope of what to her would have been affluence.

There is nothing new under the sun. The last great master of Attic eloquence and Attic wit has left us a forcible and touching description of the misery of a man of letters, who, lulled by hopes similar to those of Frances, had entered the service of one of the magnates of Rome. “Unhappy that I am,” cries the victim of his own childish ambition: “would nothing content me but that I must leave mine old pursuits and mine old companions, and the life which was without care, and the sleep which had no limit save mine own pleasure, and the walks which I was free to take where I listed, and fling myself into the lowest pit of a dungeon like this? And, O God! for what? Is this the bait which enticed me? Was there no way by which I might have enjoyed in freedom comforts even greater than those which I now earn by servitude? Like a lion which has been made so tame that men may lead him about by a thread, I am dragged up and down, with broken and humbled spirit, at the heels of those to whom, in my own domain, I should have been an object of awe and wonder. And, worst of all, I feel that here I gain no credit, that here I give no pleasure. The talents and accomplishments, which charmed a far different circle, are here out of place. I am rude in the arts of palaces, and can ill bear comparison with those whose calling from their youth up has been to flatter and to sue. Have I, then, two lives, that, after I have wasted one in the service of others, there may yet remain to me a second, which I may live unto myself?”

Now and then, indeed, events occurred which disturbed the wretched monotony of Francis Burney’s life. The Court moved from Kew to Windsor, and from Windsor back to Kew. One dull colonel went out of waiting, and another dull colonel came into waiting. An impertinent servant made a blunder about tea, and caused a misunderstanding between the gentlemen and the ladies. A half-witted French Protestant minister talked oddly about conjugal fidelity. An unlucky member of the household mentioned a passage in the “Morning Herald” reflecting on the queen; and forthwith Madame Schwellenberg, began to storm in bad English, and told him that he had made her “what you call perspire!”

A more important occurrence was the royal visit to Oxford. Miss Burney went in the queen’s train to Nuneham, was utterly neglected there in the crowd, and could with difficulty find a servant to show the way to her bedroom or a hairdresser to arrange her curls. She had the honour of entering Oxford in the last of a long string of carriages which formed the royal procession, of walking after the queen all day through refectories and chapels and of standing, half dead with fatigue and hunger, while her august mistress was seated at an excellent cold collation. At Magdalene college, Frances was left for a moment in a parlour, where she sank down on a chair. A good-natured equerry saw that she was exhausted, and shared with her some apricots and bread which he had wisely put into his pockets. At that moment the door opened; the queen entered; the wearied attendants sprang up; the bread and fruit were hastily concealed. “I found,” says poor Miss Burney, “that our appetites were to be supposed annihilated at the same moment that our strength was to be invincible.”

Yet Oxford, seen even under such disadvantages, “revived in her,” to use her own words, a “consciousness to pleasure which had long lain nearly dormant.” She forgot, during one moment, that she was a waiting-maid, and felt as a woman of true genius might be expected to feel amidst venerable remains of antiquity, beautiful works of art, vast repositories of knowledge, and memorials of the illustrious dead. Had she still been what she was before her father induced her to take the most fatal step of her life, we can easily imagine what pleasure she would have derived from a visit to the noblest of English cities. She might, indeed, have been forced to ride in a hack chaise, and might not have worn so fine a gown of Chambery gauze as that in which she tottered after the royal party; but with what delight would she have then paced the cloisters of Magdalene, compared the antique gloom of Merton with the splendour of Christchurch, and looked down from the dome of the Radcliffe library on the magnificent sea of turrets and battlements below! How gladly should learned men have laid aside for a few hours Pindar’s “Odes” and Aristotle’s “Ethics,” to escort the author of “Cecilia” from college to college! What neat little banquets would she have found set out in their monastic cells! With what eagerness would pictures, medals, and illuminated missals have been brought forth from the most mysterious cabinets for her amusement! How much she would have had to hear and to tell about Johnson, as she walked over Pembroke, and about Reynolds, in the antechapel of New college. But these indulgences were not for one who had sold herself into bondage.

About eighteen months after the visit to Oxford, another event diversified the wearisome life which Frances led at Court. Warren Hastings was brought to the bar of the House of Peers. The queen and princesses were present when the trial commenced, and Miss Burney was permitted to attend. During the subsequent proceedings, a day rule for the same purpose was occasionally granted to her; for the queen took the strongest interest in the trial, and, when she could not go herself to Westminster-hall, liked to receive a report of what passed from a person who had singular powers of observation, and who was, moreover, personally acquainted with some of the most distinguished managers. The portion of the “Diary” which relates to this celebrated proceeding is lively and picturesque. Yet we read it, we own, with pain; for it seems to us to prove that the fine understanding of Frances Burney was beginning to feel the pernicious influence of a mode of life which is as incompatible with health of mind as the air of the Pontine marshes with health of body. From the first day, she espouses the cause of Hastings with a presumptuous vehemence and acrimony quite inconsistent with the modesty and suavity of her ordinary deportment. She shudders when Burke enters the Hall at the head of the Commons. She pronounces him the cruel oppressor of an innocent man. She is at a loss to conceive how the managers can look at the defendant and not blush. Windham comes to her from the managers’ box, to offer her refreshment. “But,” says she, “I could not break bread with him.” Then again, she exclaims, “Ah, Mr. Windham, how come you ever engaged in so cruel, so unjust a cause?” “Mr. Burke saw me,” she says, “and he bowed with the most marked civility of manner.” This, be it observed, was just after his opening speech, a speech which had produced a mighty effect, and which certainly, no other orator that ever lived could have made. “My curtsy,” she continues, “was the most ungrateful, distant and cold; I could not do otherwise; so hurt I felt to see him the head of such a cause.” Now, not only had Burke treated her with constant kindness, but the very last act which he performed on the day on which he was turned out of the Pay office, about four years before this trial, was to make Dr. Burney organist of Chelsea hospital. When, at the Westminster election, Dr. Burney was divided between his gratitude for this favour and his Tory opinions, Burke in the noblest manner disclaimed all right to exact a sacrifice of principle. “You have little or no obligations to me,” he wrote; “but if you had as many as I really wish it were in my power, as it is certainly in my desire, to lay on you, I hope you do not think me capable of conferring them in order to subject your mind or your affairs to a painful and mischievous servitude.” Was this a man to be uncivilly treated by a daughter of Dr. Burney because she chose to differ from him respecting a vast and most complicated question which he had studied deeply, requiring many years and which she had never studied at all? It Is clear, from Miss Burney’s own statement, that when she behaved so unkindly to Mr. Burke, she did not even know of what Hastings was accused. One thing, however, she must have known, that Burke had been able to convince a House of Commons, bitterly prejudiced against him, that the charges were well founded, and that Pitt and Dundas had concurred with Fox and Sheridan in supporting the impeachment. Surely a woman of far inferior abilities to Miss Burney might have been expected to see that this never could have happened unless there had been a strong case against the late Governor-general. And there was, as all reasonable men now admit, a strong case against him. That there were great public services to be set off against his great crimes is perfectly true. But his services and his crimes were equally unknown to the lady who so confidently asserted his perfect innocence, and imputed to his accusers—that is to say, to all the greatest men of all parties in the state—not merely error, but gross injustice and barbarity.

She had, it is true, occasionally seen Mr. Hastings, and had found his manners and conversation agreeable. But surely she could not be so weak as to infer from the gentleness of his deportment in a drawing-room that he was incapable of committing a great state crime under the influence of ambition and revenge. A silly Miss, fresh from a boarding—school, might fall into such a mistake; but the woman who had drawn the character of Mr. Monckton19 should have known better.

The truth is that she had been too long at Court. She was sinking into a slavery worse than that of the body. The iron was beginning to enter into the soul. Accustomed during many months to watch the eye of a mistress, to receive with boundless gratitude the slightest mark of royal condescension, to feel wretched at every symptom of royal displeasure, to associate only with spirits long tamed and broken in, she was degenerating—into something fit for her place. Queen Charlotte was a violent partisan of Hastings, had received presents from him, and had so far departed from the severity of her virtue as to lend her countenance to his wife, whose conduct had certainly been as reprehensible as that of any of the frail beauties who were then rigidly excluded from the English Court. The king, it was well known, took the same side. To the king and queen, all the members of the household looked submissively for guidance. The impeachment, therefore, was an atrocious persecution; the managers were rascals; the defendant was the most deserving and the worst used man in the kingdom. This was the cant of the whole palace, from gold stick in waiting down to the table-deckers and yeomen of the silver scullery; and Miss Burney canted like the rest, though in livelier tones and with less bitter feelings.

The account which she has given of the king’s illness contains much excellent narrative and description, and will, we think, be more valued by the historians of a future age than any equal portion of Pepys’ or Evelyn’s “Diaries.” That account shows also how affectionate and compassionate her nature was, but it shows also, we must say, that her way of life was rapidly impairing her powers of reasoning and her sense of justice. We do not mean to discuss, in this place, the question whether the views of Mr. Pitt or those of Mr. Fox respecting the regency were the more correct. It is, indeed, quite needless to discuss that question; for the censure of Miss Burney falls alike on Pitt and Fox, on majority and minority. She is angry with the House of Commons for presuming to inquire whether the king was mad or not and whether there was a chance of his recovering his senses. “Melancholy day,” she writes; “news bad both at home and abroad. At home the dear unhappy king still worse; abroad new examinations voted of the physicians. Good heavens! what an insult does this seem from Parliamentary power, to investigate and bring forth to the world every circumstance of such a malady as is ever held sacred to secrecy in the most private families! How indignant we all feel here, no words can say.” It is proper to observe that the motion which roused the indignation at Kew was made by Mr. Pitt himself, and that if withstood by Mr. Pitt, it would certainly have been rejected. We see therefore, that the loyalty of the minister, who was then generally regarded as the most heroic champion of his prince, was lukewarm indeed when compared with the boiling zeal which filled the pages of the backstairs and the women of the bedchamber. Of the Regency bill, Pitt’s own bill, Miss Burney speaks with horror. “I shuddered,” she says, “to hear it named.” And again, “Oh, how dreadful will be the day when that unhappy bill takes place! I cannot approve the plan of it.” The truth is that Mr. Pitt, whether a wise and upright statesman or not, was a statesman, and, whatever motives he might have for imposing restrictions on the regent, felt that in some way or other there must be some provision made for the execution of some part of the kingly office, or that no government would be left in the country. But this was a matter of which the household never thought. It never occurred, as far as we can see, to the exons and keepers of the robes that it was necessary that there should be somewhere or other a power in the state to pass laws, to observe order, to pardon criminals, to fill up offices, to negotiate with foreign governments, to command the army and navy. Nay, these enlightened politicians, and Miss Burney among the rest, seem to have thought that any person who considered the subject with reference to the public interest showed himself to be a bad-hearted man. Nobody wonders at this in a gentleman usher, but it is melancholy to see genius sinking into such debasement.

During more than two years after the king’s recovery, Frances dragged on a miserable existence at the palace. The consolations which had for a time mitigated the wretchedness of servitude were one by one withdrawn. Mrs. Delany, whose society had been a great resource when the Court was at Windsor, was now dead. One of the gentlemen of the royal establishment, Colonel Digby,20 appears to have been a man of sense, of taste, of some reading, and of prepossessing manners. Agreeable associates were scarce in the prison house, and he and Miss Burney therefore naturally were attached to each other. She owns that she valued him as a friend, and it would not have been strange if his attentions had led her to entertain for him a sentiment warmer than friendship. He quitted the Court, and married in a way which astonished Miss Burney greatly, and which evidently wounded her feelings and lowered him in her esteem. The palace grew duller and duller; Madame Schwellenberg became more and more savage and insolent; and now the health of poor Frances began to give way; and all who saw her pale face, and emaciated figure and her feeble walk predicted that her sufferings would soon be over.

Frances uniformly speaks of her royal mistress and of the princesses with respect and affection. The princesses seem to have well-deserved all the praise which is bestowed on them in the “Diary.” They were, we doubt not, most amiable women. But “the sweet queen,” as she is constantly called in these volumes, is not by any means an object of admiration to us. She had, undoubtedly, sense enough to know what kind of deportment suited her high station, and self-command enough to maintain that deportment invariably. She was, in her intercourse with Miss Burney, generally gracious and affable, sometimes, when displeased, cold and reserved, but never, under any circumstances, rude, peevish or violent. She knew how to dispense, gracefully and skilfully, those little civilities which, when paid by a sovereign, are prized at many times their intrinsic value; how to pay a compliment; how to lend a book; how to ask after a relation. But she seems to have been utterly regardless of the comfort, the health, the life of her attendants, when her own convenience was concerned. Weak, feverish, hardly able to stand, Frances had still to rise before seven, in order to dress “the sweet queen,” and to sit up till midnight, in order to undress “the sweet queen.” The indisposition of the handmaid could not, and did not, escape the notice of her royal mistress. But the established doctrine of the Court was that all sickness was to be considered as a pretence until it proved fatal. The only way in which the invalid could clear herself from the suspicion of malingering, as it is called in the army, was to go on lacing and unlacing, till she fell down dead at the royal feet. “This,” Miss Burney wrote, when she was suffering cruelly from sickness, watching and labour, “is by no means from hardness of heart; far otherwise. There is no hardness of heart in any one of them but it is prejudice and want of personal experience.”

Many strangers sympathised with the bodily and mental sufferings of this distinguished woman. All who saw her saw that her frame was sinking, that her heart was breaking. The last, it should seem, to observe the change was her father. At length, in spite of himself, his eyes were opened. In May, 1790, his daughter had an interview of three hours with him, the only long interview which they had had since he took her to Windsor in 1786. She told him that she was miserable, that she was worn with attendance and want of sleep, that she had no comfort in life, nothing to love, nothing to hope, that her family and friends were to her as though they were not, and were remembered by her as men remember the dead. From daybreak to midnight the same killing labour, the same recreations, more hateful than labour itself, followed each other without variety, without any interval of liberty and repose.

The doctor was greatly dejected by this news; but was too good-natured a man not to say that, if she wished to resign, his house and arms were open to her. Still, however, he could not bear to remove her from the Court. His veneration for royalty amounted in truth to idolatry. It can be compared only to the grovelling superstition of those Syrian devotees who made their children pass through the fire to Moloch. When he induced his daughter to accept the place of keeper of the robes, he entertained, as she tells us, a hope that some worldly advantage or other, not set down in the contract of service, would be the result of her connection with the Court. What advantage he expected we do not know, nor did he probably know himself. But, whatever he expected, he certainly got nothing. Miss Burney had been hired for board, lodging and two hundred a-year. Board, lodging and two hundred a-year she had duly received. We have looked carefully through the “Diary” in the hope of finding some trace of those extraordinary benefactions on which the doctor reckoned. But we can discover only a promise, never performed, of a gown:21 and for this promise Miss Burney was expected to return thanks, such as might have suited the beggar with whom Saint Martin, in the legend, divided his cloak. The experience of four years was, however, insufficient to dispel the illusion which had taken possession of the doctor’s mind; and between the dear father and “the sweet queen” there seemed to be little doubt that some day or other Frances would drop down a corpse. Six months had elapsed since the interview between the parent and the daughter. The resignation was not sent in. The sufferer grew worse and worse. She took bark, but it soon ceased to produce a beneficial effect. She was stimulated with wine; she was soothed with opium; but in vain. Her breath began to fail. The whisper that she was in a decline spread through the Court. The pains in her side became so severe that she was forced to crawl from the card-table of the old Fury to whom she was tethered three or four times in an evening for the purpose of taking hartshorn. Had she been a negro slave, a humane planter would have excused her from work. But her majesty showed no mercy. Thrice a day the accursed bell still rang; the queen was still to be dressed for the morning at seven, and to be dressed for the day at noon, and to be undressed at eleven at night.

But there had arisen, in literary and fashionable society, a general feeling of compassion for Miss Burney, and of indignation against both her father and the queen. “Is it possible,” said a great French lady to the doctor “that your daughter is in a situation where she is never allowed a holiday?” Horace Walpole wrote to Frances to express his sympathy. Boswell, boiling over with good-natured rage, almost forced an entrance into the palace to see her. “My dear ma’am, why do you stay? It won’t do, ma’am-you must resign. We can put up with it no longer. Some very violent measures, I assure you, will be taken. We shall address Dr. Burney in a body.” Burke and Reynolds, though less noisy, were zealous in the same cause. Windham spoke to Dr. Burney, but found him still irresolute. “I will set the club upon him,” cried Windham; “Miss Burney has some very true admirers there, and I am sure they will eagerly assist.” Indeed, the Burney family seem to have been apprehensive that some public affront, such as the doctor’s unpardonable folly, to use the mildest term had richly deserved, would be put upon him. The medical men spoke out, and plainly told him that his daughter must resign or die.

At last paternal affection, medical authority, and the voice of all London crying shame, triumphed over Dr. Burney’s love of courts. He determined that Frances should write a letter of resignation. It was with difficulty that, though her life was at stake, she mustered spirit to put the paper into the queen’s hands. “I could not,” so runs the Diary “summon courage to present my memorial—my heart always failed me from seeing the queen’s entire freedom from such an expectation. For though I was frequently so ill in her presence that I could hardly stand, I saw she concluded me, while life remained, inevitably hers.”

At last, with a trembling hand, the paper was delivered. Then came the storm. Juno, as in the Aeneid, delegated the work of vengeance to Alecto. The queen was calm and gentle, but Madame Schwellenberg raved like a maniac in the incurable ward of Bedlam! Such insolence! Such ingratitude! Such folly! Would Miss Burney bring utter destruction on herself and her family? Would she throw away the inestimable advantages of royal protection? Would she part with privileges which, once relinquished, could never be regained? It was idle to talk of health and life. If people could not live in the palace, the best thing that could befall them was to die in it. The resignation was not accepted. The language of the medical men became stronger and stronger. Dr. Burney’s parental fears were fully roused; and he explicitly declared, in a letter meant to be shown to the queen, that his daughter must retire. The Schwellenberg raged like a wild cat. “A scene almost horrible ensued,” says Miss Burney. “She was too much enraged for disguise, and uttered the most furious expressions of indignant contempt at our proceedings. I am sure she would gladly have confined us both in the Bastille, had England such a misery, as a fit place to bring us to ourselves, from a daring so outrageous against imperial wishes.” This passage deserves notice, as being the only one in in her “Diary,” as far as we have observed, which shows Miss Burney to have been aware that she was a native of a free country, and she could not be pressed for a waiting-maid against her will, that she had just as good a right to live, if she chose, in St.-Martin’s-street as Queen Charlotte had to live at St. James’s.

The queen promised that, after the next birthday, Miss Burney would be set at liberty. But the promise was ill kept; and her Majesty showed displeasure at being reminded of it. At length Frances was informed that in a fortnight her attendance should cease. “I heard this,” she says, “with a fearful presentiment I should surely never go through another fortnight in so weak and languishing and painful a state of health.... As the time of separation approached, the queen’s cordiality rather diminished, and traces of internal displeasure appeared sometimes, arising from an opinion I ought rather to have struggled on, live or die, than to quit her. Yet I am sure she saw how poor was my own chance, except by a change in the mode of life, and at least ceased to wonder, though she could not approve.” Sweet queen! What noble candour, to admit that the undutifulness of people who did not think the honour of adjusting her tuckers worth the sacrifice of their own lives, was, though highly criminal, not altogether unnatural!

We perfectly understand her majesty’s contempt for the lives of others where her own pleasure was concerned. But what pleasure she can have found in having Miss Burney about her, it is not so easy to comprehend. That Miss Burney was an eminently skilful keeper of the robes is not very probable. Few women, indeed, had paid less attention to dress. Now and then, in the course of five years, she had been asked to read aloud or to write a copy of verses. But better readers might easily have been found: and her verses were worse than even the Poet Laureate’s Birthday odes. Perhaps that economy, which was among her majesty’s most conspicuous virtues, had something to do with her conduct on this occasion. Miss Burney had never hinted that she expected a retiring pension; and, indeed, would gladly have given the little that she had for freedom. But her majesty knew what the public thought, and what became her own dignity. She could not for very shame suffer a woman of distinguished genius, who had quitted a lucrative career to wait on her, who had served her faithfully for a pittance during five years, and whose constitution had been impaired by labour and watching, to leave the Court without some mark of royal liberality. George III., Who, on all occasions where Miss Burney was concerned, seems to have behaved like an honest, good-natured gentleman, felt this, and said plainly that she was entitled to a provision. At length, in return for all the misery which she had undergone, and for the health which she had sacrificed, an annuity of one hundred pounds was granted to her, dependent on the queen’s pleasure.

Then the prison was opened, and Frances was free once more.

Johnson, as Burke observed, might have added a striking page to his “The Vanity of Human Wishes,” if he had lived to see his little Burney as she went into the palace and as she came out of it.

The pleasures, so long untasted, of liberty, of friendship, of domestic affection, were almost too acute for her shattered frame. But happy days and tranquil nights soon restored the health which the queen’s toilette and Madame Schwellenberg’s card-table had impaired. Kind and anxious faces surrounded the invalid. Conversation the most polished and brilliant revived her spirits. Travelling was recommended to her; and she rambled by easy journeys from cathedral to cathedral, and from watering place to watering place. She crossed the New forest, and visited Stonehenge and Wilton, the cliffs of Lyme, and the beautiful valley of Sidmouth. Thence she journeyed by Powderham castle, and by the ruins of Glastonbury abbey to Bath, and from Bath, when the winter was approaching, returned well and cheerful to London. There she visited her old dungeon, and found her successor already far on the way to the grave, and kept to strict duty, from morning till midnight, with a sprained ankle and a nervous fever.

At this time England swarmed with French exiles, driven from their country by the Revolution. A colony of these refugees settled at juniper hall, in Surrey, not far from Norbury park, where Mr. Locke, an intimate friend of the Burney family, resided. Frances visited Norbury, and was introduced to the strangers. She had strong prejudices against them; for her Toryism was far beyond, we do not say that of Mr. Pitt, but that of Mr. Reeves; and the inmates of Juniper Hall were all attached to the constitution of 1791, and were, therefore, more detested by the royalists of the first emigration than Petion or Marat. But such a woman as Miss Burney could not long resist the fascination of that remarkable society. She had lived with Johnson and Windham, with Mrs. Montague and Mrs. Thrale. Yet she was forced to own that she had never heard conversation before. The most animated eloquence, the keenest observation, the most sparkling wit, the most courtly grace, were united to charm her. For Madame de Staël was there, and M. de Talleyrand. There, too, was M. de Narbonne, a noble representative of French aristocracy; and with M. de Narbonne was his friend and follower General D’Arblay, an honourable and amiable man, with a handsome person, frank soldier-like manners, and some taste for letters.

The prejudices which Frances had conceived against the constitutional royalists of France rapidly vanished. She listened with rapture to Talleyrand and Madame de Staël, joined with M. D’Arblay in execrating the Jacobins and in weeping for the unhappy Bourbons, took French lessons from him, fell in love with him, and married him on no better provision than a precarious annuity of one hundred pounds.

Here the “Diary” stops for the present.22 We will, therefore, bring our narrative to a speedy close, by rapidly recounting the most important events which we know to have befallen Madame d’Arblay during the latter part of her life.

M. D’Arblay’s fortune had perished in the general wreck of the French Revolution;—and in a foreign country his talents, whatever they may have been, could scarcely make him rich. The task of providing for the family devolved on his wife. In the year 1796, she published by subscription her third novel, “Camilla.” It was impatiently expected by the public; and the sum which she obtained for it was, we believe, greater than had ever at that time been received for a novel.

We have heard that she had cleared more than three thousand guineas. But we give this merely as a rumour.23 “Camilla,” however, never attained popularity like that which “Evelina” and “Cecilia” had enjoyed; and it must be allowed that there was a perceptible falling off, not, indeed, in humour or in power of portraying character, but in grace and in purity of style.

We have heard that, about this time, a tragedy by Madame D’Arblay was performed without success. We do not know whether it was ever printed; nor, indeed, have we had time to make any researches into its history or merits.24

During the short truce which followed the treaty of Amiens, M. D’Arblay visited France. Lauriston and La Fayette represented his claims to the French government, and obtained a promise that he should be reinstated in his military rank. M. D’Arblay, however, insisted that he should never be required to serve against the countrymen of his wife. The First Consul, of course, would not hear of such a condition, and ordered the general’s commission to be instantly revoked.

Madame D’Arblay joined her husband at Paris, a short time before the war of 1803 broke out, and remained in France ten years, cut off from almost all intercourse with the land of her birth. At length, when Napoleon was on his march to Moscow, she with great difficulty obtained from his ministers permission to visit her own country, in company with her son, who was a native of England. She returned in time to receive the last blessing of her father, who died in his eighty-seventh year. In 1814 she published her last novel, “The Wanderer,” a book which no judicious friend to her memory will attempt to draw from the oblivion into which it has justly fallen.25 In the same year her son Alexander was sent to Cambridge. He obtained an honourable place among the wranglers of his year, and was elected a fellow of Christ’s college. But his reputation at the University was higher than might be inferred from his success in academical contests. His French education had not fitted him for the examinations of the Senate house; but, in pure mathematics, we have been assured by some of his competitors that he had very few equals. He went into the Church, and it was thought likely that he would attain high eminence as a preacher; but he died before his mother. All that we have heard of him leads us to believe that he was such a son as such a mother deserved to have. In 1831, Madame D’Arblay published the memoirs of her father; and on the sixth of January, 1840, she died in her eighty-eighth year.

We now turn from the life of Madame D’Arblay to her writings. There can, we apprehend, be little difference of opinion as to the nature of her merit, whatever differences may exist as to its degree. She was emphatically what Johnson called her, a character-monger. It was in the exhibition of human passions and whims that her strength lay; and in this department of art she had, we think, very distinguished skill. But, in order that we may, according to our duty as kings at arms, versed inthe laws of literary precedence, marshal her to the exact seat to which she is entitled, we must carry our examination somewhat further.

There is, in one respect, a remarkable analogy between the faces and the minds of men. No two faces are alike; and yet very few faces deviate very widely from the common standard. Among the eighteen hundred thousand human beings who inhabit London, there is not one who could be taken by his acquaintance for another; yet we may walk from Paddington to Mile-end without seeing one person in whom any feature is so overcharged that we turn round to stare at it. An infinite number of varieties lies between limits which are not very far asunder. The specimens which pass those limits on either side, form a very small minority.

It is the same with the characters of men. Here, too, the variety passes all enumeration. But the cases in which the deviation from the common standard is striking and grotesque, are very few. In one mind avarice predominates; in another pride; in a third, love of pleasure—just as in one countenance the nose is the most marked feature, while in others the chief expression lies in the brow, or in the lines of the mouth. But there are very few countenances in which nose, brow, and mouth do not contribute, though in unequal degrees, to the general effect; and so there are very few characters in which one overgrown propensity makes all others utterly insignificant.

It is evident that a portrait painter, who was able only to represent faces and figures such as those—which we pay money to see at fairs, would not, however spirited his execution might be, take rank among the highest artists. He must always be placed below those who have skill to seize peculiarities which do not amount to deformity. The slighter those peculiarities, the greater is the merit of the limner who can catch them and transfer them to his canvas. To paint Daniel Lambert or the living skeleton, the pig-faced lady or the Siamese twins, so that nobody can mistake them, is an exploit within the reach of a sign painter. A third-rate artist might give us the squint of Wilkes, and the depressed nose and protuberant cheeks of Gibbon. It would require a much higher degree of skill to paint two such men as Mr. Canning and Sir Thomas Lawrence, so that nobody who had ever seen them could for a moment hesitate to assign each picture to its original. Here the mere caricaturist would be quite at fault. He would find in neither face anything on which he could lay hold for the purpose of making a distinction. Two ample bald foreheads, two regular profiles, two full faces of the same oval form, would baffle his art; and he would be reduced to the miserable shift of writing their names at the foot of his picture. Yet there was a great difference; and a person who had seen them once would no more have mistaken one of them for the other than he would have mistaken Mr. Pitt for Mr. Fox. But the difference lay in delicate lineaments and shades, reserved for pencils of a rare order.

This distinction runs through all the imitative arts. Foote’s mimicry was exquisitely ludicrous, but it was all caricature. He could take off only some strange peculiarity, a stammer or a lisp, a Northumbrian burr or an Irish brogue, a stoop or a shuffle. “If a man,” said Johnson, “hops on one leg, Foote can hop on one leg.” Garrick, on the other hand, could seize those differences of manner and pronunciation, which, though highly characteristic, are yet too slight to be described. Foote, we have no doubt, could have made the Haymarket theatre shake with laughter by imitating a conversation between a Scotchman and a Somersetshire man. But Garrick could have imitated a dialogue between two fashionable men both models of the best breeding, Lord Chesterfield, for example, and Lord Albemarle, so that no person could doubt which was which, although no person could say that, in any point, either Lord Chesterfield or Lord Albemarle spoke or moved otherwise than in conformity with the usages of the best society.

The same distinction is found in the drama, and in fictitious narrative. Highest among those who have exhibited human nature by means of dialogue, stands Shakspeare. His variety is like the variety of nature, endless diversity, scarcely any monstrosity. The characters of which he has given us an impression as vivid as that which we receive from the characters of our own associates, are to be reckoned by scores. Yet in all these scores hardly one character is to be found which deviates widely from the common standard, and which we should call very eccentric if we met it in real life. The silly notion that every man has one ruling passion, and that this clue, once known, unravels all the mysteries of his conduct, finds no countenance in the plays of Shakspeare. There man appears as he is, made up of a crowd of passions, which contend for the mastery over him, and govern him in turn. What is Hamlet’s ruling passion? Or Othello’s? Or Harry the Fifth’s? Or Wolsey’s? Or Lear’s? Or Shylock’s? Or Benedick’s? Or Macbeth’s? Or that of Cassius? Or that of Falconbridge? But we might go on for ever. Take a single example—Shylock. Is he so eager for money as to be indifferent to revenge? Or so eager for revenge as to be indifferent to money? Or so bent on both together as to be indifferent to the honour of his nation and the law of Moses? All his propensities are mingled with each other, so that, in trying to apportion to each its proper part, we find the same difficulty which constantly meets us in real life. A superficial critic may say that hatred is Shylock’s ruling passion. But how many passions have amalgamated to form that hatred? It is partly the result of wounded pride: Antonio has called him dog. It is partly the result of covetousness: Antonio has hindered him of half a million; and when Antonio is gone, there will be no limit to the gains of usury. It is partly the result of national and religious feeling: Antonio has spit on the Jewish gaberdine; and the oath of revenge has been sworn by the Jewish Sabbath. We might go through all the characters which we have mentioned, and through fifty more in the same way; for it is the constant manner of Shakspeare to represent the human mind as lying, not under the absolute dominion of one despotic propensity, but under a mixed government in which a hundred powers balance each other. Admirable as he was in all parts of his art, we most admire him for this, that while he has left us a greater number of striking portraits than all other dramatists put together, he has scarcely left us a single caricature.

Shakspeare has had neither equal nor second. But among the writers who, in the point which we have noticed, have approached nearest to the manner of the great master, we have no hesitation in placing Jane Austen, a woman of whom England is justly proud. She has given us a multitude of characters, all, in a certain sense, common-place, all such as we meet every day, yet they are all as perfectly discriminated from each other as if they were the most eccentric of human beings. There are, for example, four clergymen, none of whom we should be surprised to find in any parsonage in the kingdom—Mr. Edward Ferrers, Mr. Henry Tilney, Mr. Edmund Bertram, and Mr. Elton. They are all specimens of the upper part of the middle class. They have been liberally educated. They all lie under the restraints of the same sacred profession. They are all young. They are all in love. Not one of them has any hobbyhorse, to use the phrase of Sterne. Not one has a ruling passion, such as we read of in Pope. Who would not have expected them to be insipid likenesses of each other? No such thing. Harpagon is not more unlike to Jourdain, Joseph Surface is not more unlike to Sir Lucius O’Trigger, than every one of Miss Austen’s young divines to all his reverend brethren. And almost all this is done by touches so delicate that they elude analysis, that they defy the powers of description, and that we know them to exist only by the general effect to which they have contributed.

A line must be drawn, we conceive, between artists of this class and those poets and novelists whose skill lies in the exhibiting of what Ben Jonson called humours. The words of Ben are so much to the purpose that we will quote them:—

“When some one peculiar quality Doth so possess a man, that it doth draw All his affects, his spirits and his powers, In their confluxions all to run one way, This may be truly said to be a humour.”

There are undoubtedly persons in whom humours such as Ben describes have attained a complete ascendancy. The avarice of Elwes, the insane desire of Sir Egerton Brydges for a barony, to which he had no more right than to the crown of Spain, the malevolence which long meditation on imaginary wrongs generated in the gloomy mind of Bellingham, are instances. The feeling which animated Clarkson and other virtuous men against the slave trade and slavery, is an instance of a more honourable kind.

Seeing that such humours exist, we cannot deny that they are proper subjects for the imitations of art. But we conceive that the imitation of such humours, however skilful and amusing, is not an achievement of the highest order; and, as such humours are rare in real life, they ought, we conceive, to be sparingly introduced into works which profess to be pictures of real life. Nevertheless, a writer may show so much genius in the exhibition of these humours as to be fairly entitled to a distinguished and permanent rank among classics. The chief seats of all, however, the places on the dais and under the canopy, are reserved for the few who have excelled in the difficult art of portraying characters in which no single feature is extravagantly over-charged.

If we have expounded the law soundly, we can have no difficulty in applying it to the particular case before us. Madame D’Arblay has left us scarcely anything but humours. Almost every one of her men and women has some one propensity developed to a morbid degree. In “Cecilia,” for example, Mr. Delville never opens his lips without some allusion to his own birth and station; or Mr. Briggs, without some allusion to the hoarding of money; or Mr. Hobson, without betraying the self-indulgence and self-importance of a purseproud upstart; or Mr. Simkins, without uttering some sneaking remark for the purpose of currying favour with his customers; or Mr. Meadows, without expressing apathy and weariness of life; or Mr. Albany, without declaiming about the vices of the rich and the misery of the poor; or Mrs. Belfield, without some-indelicate eulogy on her son; or Lady Margaret, without indicating jealousy of her husband. Morrice is all skipping, officious impertinence, Mr. Gosport all sarcasm, Lady Honoria all lively prattle, Miss Larolles all silly prattle. If ever Madame D’Arblay aimed at more, as in the character of Monckton, we do not think that she succeeded well.26 We are, therefore, forced to refuse to Madame D’Arblay a place in the highest rank of art; but we cannot deny that, in the rank to which she belonged, she had few equals and scarcely any superior. The variety of humours which is to be found in her novels is immense; and though the talk of each person separately is monotonous, the general effect is not monotony, but a very lively and agreeable diversity. Her plots are rudely constructed and improbable, if we consider them in themselves. But they are admirably framed for the purpose of exhibiting striking groups of eccentric characters, each governed by his own peculiar whim, each talking his own peculiar jargon, and each bringing out by opposition the oddities of all the rest. We will give one example out of many which occur to us. All probability is violated in order to bring Mr. Delville, Mr. Briggs, Mr. Hobson, and Mr. Albany into a room together. But when we have them there, we soon forget probability in the exquisitely ludicrous effect which is produced by the conflict of four old fools, each raging with a monomania of his own, each talking a dialect of his own, and each inflaming all the others anew every time he opens his mouth. Madame D’Arblay was most successful in comedy, and, indeed, in comedy which bordered on farce. But we are inclined to infer from some passages, both in “Cecilia” and “Camilla,” that she might have attained equal distinction in the pathetic. We have formed this judgment less from those ambitious scenes of distress which lie near the catastrophe of each of those novels, than from some exquisite strokes of natural tenderness which take us, here and there, by surprise. We would mention as examples, Mrs. Hill’s account of her little boy’s death in “Cecilia,” and the parting of Sir Hugh Tyrold and Camilla, when the honest baronet thinks himself dying.

It is melancholy to think that the whole fame of Madame D’Arblay rests on what she did during the earlier part of her life, and that everything which she published during the forty-three years which preceded her death lowered her reputation. Yet we have no reason to think that at the time when her faculties ought to have been in their maturity, they were smitten with any blight. In “The Wanderer,” we catch now and then a gleam of her genius. Even in the memoirs of her father, there is no trace of dotage. They are very bad; but they are so, as it seems to us, not from a decay of power, but from a total perversion of power. The truth is, that Madame D’Arblay’s style underwent a gradual and most pernicious change—a change which, in degree at least, we believe to be unexampled in literary history, and of which it may be useful to trace the progress. When she wrote her letters to Mr. Crisp, her early journals and her first novel, her style was not, indeed, brilliant or energetic; but it was easy, clear, and free from all offensive thoughts. When she wrote “Cecilia” she aimed higher. She had then lived much in a circle of which Johnson was the centre; and she was herself one of his most submissive worshippers. It seems never to have crossed her mind that the style even of his best writings was by no means faultless and that even had it been faultless, it might not be wise in her to imitate it. Phraseology which is proper in a disquisition on the Unities or in a preface to a dictionary, may be quite out of place in a tale of fashionable life. Old gentlemen do not criticise the reigning modes, nor do young gentlemen make love, with the balanced epithets and sonorous cadences which, on occasions of great dignity, a skilful writer may use with happy effect.

In an evil hour the author of “Evelina,” took “The Rambler” for her model. This would not have been wise even if she could have imitated her pattern as well as Hawkesworth did. But such imitation was beyond her power. She had her own style. It was a tolerably good one; and might, without any violent change, have been improved into a very good one. She determined to throw it away, and to adopt a style in which she could attain excellence only by achieving an almost miraculous victory over nature and over habit. She could cease to be Fanny Burney; it was not so easy to become Samuel Johnson.

In “Cecilia” the change of manner began to appear. But in “Cecilia” the imitation of Johnson, though not always in the best taste, is sometimes eminently happy; and the passages which are so verbose as to be positively offensive, are few. There were people who whispered that Johnson had assisted his young friend, and that the novel owed all its finest passages to his hand. This was merely the fabrication of envy. Miss Burney’s real excellences were as much beyond the reach of Johnson as his real excellences were beyond her reach, He could no more have written the Masquerade scene or the Vauxhall scene, than she could have written the life of Cowley or the review of Soame Jenyns. But we have not the smallest doubt that he revised “Cecilia,” and that he retouched the style of many passages.27 We know that he was in the habit of giving assistance of this kind most freely. Goldsmith, Hawkesworth, Boswell, Lord Hailes, Mrs. Williams, were among those who obtained his help. Nay, he even corrected the poetry of Mr. Crabbe, whom, we believe, he had never seen. When Miss Burney thought of writing a comedy, he promised to give her his best counsel, though he owned that he was not particularly well qualified to advise on matters relating to the stage, We therefore think it in the highest degree improbable that his little Fanny, when living in habits of the most affectionate intercourse with him, would have brought out an important work without consulting him; and, when we look into “Cecilia,” we see such traces of his hand in the grave and elevated passages as it is impossible to mistake. Before we conclude this article, we will give two or three examples.

When next Madame D’Arblay appeared before the world as a writer, she was in a very different situation. She would not content herself with the simple English in which “Evelina” had been written. She had no longer the friend who, we are confident, had polished and strengthened the style of “Cecilia.” She had to write in Johnson’s manner without Johnson’s aid. The consequence was, that in “Camilla” every passage which she meant to be fine is detestable; and that the book has been saved from condemnation only by the admirable spirit and force of those scenes in which she was content to be familiar.

But there was to be a still deeper descent. After the publication of “Camilla” Madame D’Arblay resided ten years at Paris. During these years there was scarcely any intercourse between France and England. It was with difficulty that a short letter could occasionally be transmitted. All Madame D’Arblay’s companions were French. She must have written spoken, thought in French. Ovid expressed his fear that a shorter exile might have affected the purity of his Latin. During a shorter exile Gibbon unlearned his native English. Madame D’Arblay had carried a bad style to France. She brought back a style which we are really at a loss to describe. It is a sort of broken Johnsonese, a barbarous, patois, bearing the same relation to the language of “Rasselas” which the gibberish of the negroes of Jamaica bears to the English of the House of Lords. Sometimes it reminds us of the finest, that is to say the vilest, parts of Mr. Galt’s novels; sometimes of the perorations of Exeter hall; sometimes of the leading articles of the “Morning Post.” But it most resembles the puffs of Mr. Rowland and Dr. Goss. It matters not what ideas are clothed in such a style. The genius of Shakspeare and Bacon united would not save a work so written from general derision.

It is only by means of specimens that we can enable our readers to judge how widely Madame D’Arblay’s three styles differed from each other.

The following passage was written before she became intimate with Johnson. It is from “Evelina.”

“His son seems weaker in his understanding and more gay in his temper; but his gaiety is that of a foolish, overgrown schoolboy, whose mirth consists in noise and disturbance. He disdains his father for his close attention to business and love of money, though he seems himself to have no talents, spirit or generosity to make him superior to either. His chief delight appears to be in tormenting and ridiculing his sisters, who in return most cordially despise him. Miss Branghton, the eldest daughter, is by no means ugly; but looks proud, ill-tempered and conceited. She hates the city, though without knowing why; for it is easy to discover she has lived nowhere else. Miss Poly Branghton is rather pretty, very foolish, very ignorant, very giddy and, I believe, very good natured.”

This is not a fine style, but simple, perspicuous, and agreeable. We now come to “Cecilia,” written during Miss Burney’s intimacy with Johnson—and we leave it to our readers to judge whether the following passage was not at least corrected by his hand.

“It is rather an imaginary than an actual evil and, though a deep wound to pride, no offence to morality. Thus have I laid open to you my whole heart, confessed my perplexities, acknowledged my vain glory and exposed, with equal sincerity, the sources of my doubts and the motives of my decision. But now, indeed, how to proceed I know not. The difficulties which are yet to encounter I fear to enumerate, and the petition I have to urge I have scarce courage to mention. My family, mistaking ambition for honour and rank for dignity, have long planned a splendid connection for me, to which, though my invariable repugnance has stopped any advances, their wishes and their views immoveably adhere. I am but too certain they will now listen to no other. I dread, therefore, to make a trial where I despair of success. I know not how to risk a prayer with those who may silence me by a command.”

Take now a specimen of Madame D’Arblay’s later style. This is the way in which she tells us that her father, on his journey back from the Continent, caught the rheumatism.

“He was assaulted, during his precipitated return, by the rudest fierceness of wintry elemental strife; through which, with bad accommodations and innumerable accidents, he became a prey to the merciless pangs of the acutest spasmodic rheumatism, which barely suffered him to reach his home ere long and piteously, it confined him, a tortured prisoner, to his bed. Such was the check that almost instantly curbed, though it could not subdue, the rising pleasure of his hopes of entering upon a new species of existence—that of an approved man of letters; for it was on the bed of sickness, exchanging the light wines of France, Italy and Germany, for the black and loathsome potions of the Apothecaries’ hall, writhed by darting stitches and burning with fiery fever, that he felt the full force of that sublunary equipoise that seems evermore to hang suspended over the attainment of long-sought and uncommon felicity, just as it is ripening to burst forth with enjoyment!”

Here is a second passage from “Evelina.”

“Mrs. Selwyn is very kind and attentive to me. She is extremely clever. Her understanding, indeed, may be called masculine; but unfortunately her manners deserve the same epithet, for, in studying to acquire the knowledge of the other sex, she has lost all the softness of her own. In regard to myself, however, as I have neither courage nor inclination to argue with her, I have never been personally hurt at her want of gentleness—a virtue which nevertheless seems so essential a part of the female character, that I find myself more awkward and less at ease with a woman who wants it than I do with a man.”

This is a good style of its kind, and the following passage from “Cecilia” is also in a good style, though not in a faultless one. We say with confidence—either Sam Johnson or the devil.

“Even the imperious Mr. Delville was more supportable here than in London. Secure in his own castle, he looked round him with a pride of power and possession which softened while it swelled him. His superiority was undisputed: his will was without control. He was not, as inthe the great capital of the kingdom, surrounded by competitors. No rivalry disturbed his peace; no equality mortified his greatness. All he saw were either vassals of his power, or guests bending to his pleasure. He abated, therefore, considerably the stern gloom of his haughtiness and soothed his proud mind by the courtesy of condescension.”

We will stake our reputation for critical sagacity on this, that no such paragraph as that which we have last quoted can be found in any of Madame D’Arblay’s works except “Cecilia.” Compare with it the following sample of her later style.

“If beneficence be judged by the happiness which it diffuses, whose claim, by that proof, shall stand higher than that of Mrs. Montagu, from the munificence with which she celebrated her annual festival for those hapless Artificers who perform the most abject offices of any authorised calling in being the active guardians of our blazing hearths? Not to vain glory but to kindness of heart, should be adjudged the publicity of that superb charity which made its jetty objects, for one bright morning, cease to consider themselves as degraded outcasts from all society.”

We add one or two short samples. Sheridan refused to permit his lovely wife to sing in public, and was warmly praised on this account by Johnson.

“The last of men,” says Madame D’Arblay “was Dr. Johnson to have abetted squandering the delicacy of integrity by nullifying the labours of talents.”

The Club, Johnson’s Club, did itself no honour by rejecting, on political grounds, two distinguished men—one a Tory, the other a Whig. Madame D’Arblay tells the story thus:—“A similar ebullition of political rancour with that which so difficultly had been conquered for Mr. Canning foamed over the ballot box to the exclusion of Mr. Rogers.”

An offence punishable with imprisonment is, in this language, an offence “which produces incarceration.” To be starved to death is “to sink from inanition into nonentity.” Sir Isaac Newton is “the developer of the skies in their embodied movements;” and Mrs. Thrale, when a party of clever people sat silent, is said to have been “provoked by the dullness of a Witurnity that, in the midst of such renowned interlocutors, produced as narcotic a torpor as could have been caused by a dearth the most barren of all human faculties.”

In truth it is impossible to look at any page of Madame D’Arblay’s later works without finding flowers of rhetoric like these. Nothing in the language of those jargonists at whom Mr. Gosport laughed, nothing in the language of Sir Sedley Clarendel, approaches this new Euphuism.28

It is from no unfriendly feeling to Madame D’Arblay’s memory that we have expressed ourselves, so strongly on the subject of her style. On the contrary, we conceive that we have really rendered a service to her reputation. That her later works were complete failures is a fact too notorious to be dissembled, and some persons, we believe, have consequently taken up a notion that she was from the first an overrated writer, and that she had not the powers which were necessary to maintain her on the eminence on which good luck and fashion had placed her. We believe, on the contrary, that her early popularity was no more than the just reward of distinguished merit, and would never have undergone an eclipse if she had only been content to go on writing in her mother tongue. If she failed when she quitted her own province and attempted to occupy one in which she had neither part nor lot, this reproach is common to her with a crowd of distinguished men. Newton failed when he turned from the courses of the stars and the ebb and flow of the ocean to apocalyptic seals and vials. Bentley failed when he turned from Homer and Aristophanes to edit the “Paradise Lost.” Enigo failed when he attempted to rival the Gothic churches of the fourteenth century. Wilkie failed when he took it into his head that the “Blind Fiddler” and the “Rent Day” were unworthy of his powers, and challenged competition with Lawrence as a portrait painter. Such failures should be noted for the instruction of posterity, but they detract little from the permanent reputation of those who have really done great things.

Yet one word more. It is not only on account of the intrinsic merit of Madame D’Arblay’s early works that she is entitled to honourable mention. Her appearance is an important epoch in our literary history. “Evelina” was the first tale written by a woman, and purporting to be a picture of life and manners, that lived or deserved to live. “The Female Quixote” is no exception. That work has undoubtedly great merit, when considered as a wild, satirical harlequinade; but if we consider it as a picture of life and manners, we must pronounce it more absurd than any of the romances which it was designed to ridicule.29

Indeed, most of the popular novels which preceded “Evelina” were such as no lady would have written; and many of them were such as no lady could without confusion own that she had read. The very name of novel was held in horror among religious people. In decent families, which did not profess extraordinary sanctity, there was a strong feeling against all such works.

Anthony Absolute, two or three years before “Evelina” appeared, spoke the sense of the great body of fathers and husbands when he pronounced the circulating library an evergreen tree of diabolical knowledge. This feeling on the part of the grave and reflecting increased the evil from which it had sprung. The novelist having little character to lose, and having few readers among serious people, took without scruple liberties which in our generation seem almost incredible.

Miss Burney did for the English novel what Jeremy Collier30 did for the English drama; and she did it in a better way. She first showed that a tale might be written in which both the fashionable and the vulgar life of London might be exhibited with great force and with broad comic humour, and which yet should not contain a single line inconsistent with rigid morality or even with virgin delicacy. She took away the reproach which lay on a most useful and delightful species of composition. She vindicated the right of her sex to an equal share in a fair and noble province of letters. Several accomplished women have followed in her track. At present, the novels which we owe to English ladies form no small part of the literary glory of our Country. No class of works is more honourably distinguished by fine observation, by grace, by delicate wit, by pure moral feeling. Several among the successors of Madame D’Arblay have equalled her; two, we think, have surpassed her. But the fact that she has been surpassed gives her an additional claim to our respect and gratitude; for, in truth, we owe to her not only “Evelina,” “Cecilia,” and “Camilla,” but also “Mansfield Park” and “The Absentee.”

1 Dr. Arne.—ED.]

2 The lady’s maiden name was Esther Sheepe. She was, by the mother’s side, of French extraction, from a family of the name of Dubois—a name which will be remembered as that of one of the characters in her daughter Fanny’s first novel, “Evelina.”—ED.]

3 She was born on the 13th of June, 1752—ED.]

4 This degree was conferred upon him on Friday, the 23rd of June, 1769.—ED.]

5 The “Early Diary of Frances Burney, from 1768 to 1778,” recently published, throws some new light upon her education. It is her own statement that her father’s library contained but one novel—“Amelia”; yet as a girl we find her acquainted with the works of Richardson and Sterne, of Marivaux and Provost, with “Rasselas” and the “Vicar of Wakefield.” in history and poetry, moreover, she appears to have been fairly well read, and she found constant literary employment as her father’s amanuensis. As to Voltaire, she notes, on her twenty-first birthday, that she has just finished the “Heoriade”; but her remarks upon the book prove how little she was acquainted with the author. She thinks he “has made too free with religion in giving words to the Almighty. But M. Voltaire, I understand, is not a man of very rigid principles at least not in religion” (!).—ED.]

6 This is not quite accurate. Burney secured the relic in the manner described, not, however, to gratify his own enthusiasm, but to comply with the request of his friend Mr. Bewley, of Massingham, Norfolk, that he would procure for him some memento of the great Dr. Johnson. The tuft of the Doctor’s hearth-broom, which Burney sent him, half in jest, was preserved with the greatest care by its delighted recipient. “He thinks it more precious than pearls,” wrote Fanny. (“Early Diary,” vol. i, p. 169.) This incident occurred in 1760.—ED.]

7 The “Early Diary,” however, proves that, in spite of her shyness, Fanny was very much at home in the brilliant society which congregated at her father’s house, and occasionally took her full share in the conversation. Nor do we find her by any means avoiding the diversions common to young ladies of her age and station. She goes to dances, to the play, to the Opera, to Ranelagh, and even, on one memorable occasion, to a masquerade—“a very private one,” however.”—ED.]

8 Mrs. Stephen Allen, a widow, of Lynn. She was married to Dr. Burney (not yet Doctor, however) in October, 1767. His first wife died on the 28th of September, 1761.—ED.]

9 There is some difficulty here as to the chronology. “This sacrifice,” says the editor of “The Diary,” “was made in the young authoress’s fifteenth year.” This could not be; for the sacrifice was the effect, according to the editor’s own showing of the remonstrances of the second Mrs. Burney; and Frances was in her sixteenth year when her father’s second marriage took place.]

10 Chesington, lying between Kingston and Epsom.—ED.]

11 The picture drawn by Macaulay of Mr. Crisp’s wounded vanity and consequent misanthropy is absurdly overcharged. In the first place, his play of “Virginia,” which was first produced at Drury Lane on the 25th of February, 1754, actually achieved something like a succes d’estime. It ran eleven nights, no contemptible run for those days; was revived both at Drury Lane and at Covent Garden; was printed and reprinted; and all this all in his own lifetime. It had, in fact, at least as much success as it deserved, though, doubtless, too little to satisfy the ambition of its author. In the second place, there is absolutely no evidence whatever that his life was long embittered by disappointment connected with his tragedy. It is clear, from Madame D’Arblay’s “Memoirs of Dr. Burney,” that Mr. Crisp’s retirement to Chesington, many years after the production of “Virginia,” was mainly due to a straitened income and the gout. Nor was his seclusion unenlivened by friendship. The Burneys, in particular, visited him from time to time; and Fanny has left us descriptions of scenes of almost uproarious gaiety, enacted at Chesington by this gloomy recluse and his young friends. But we shall hear more of Chesington and its inmates hereafter—ED.]

12 Scarcely, we think; when her fame was at its height, Fanny Burney received no more than 250 pounds for her second novel, “Cecilia.” See the “Early Diary,” vol. ii. p. 307.—ED.]

13 Christopher Anstey, the author of that amusing and witty poetical satire, the “New Bath Guide.”—ED.]

14 John Wilson Croker.—ED.]

15 Richard Cumberland’s fame as playwright and novelist can hardly be said to have survived to the present day. Sheridan caricatured him as Sir Fretful Plagiary, in the “Critic.” We shall meet with him hereafter in “The Diary.”—ED.]

16 See note ante, p. xxiv.]

17 “Probationary Odes for the Laureateship,” a volume of lively satirical verse published after the appointment of Sir Thomas Warton to that office on the death of William Whitehead, in 1785.—ED.]

18 See “Cecilia,” Book V. chap. 6.—ED.]

19 In “Cecilia.”—ED.]

20 The “Mr. Fairly” of “The Diary.”—ED.]

21Macaulay is mistaken. Fanny did receive the gown, a “lilac tabby,” and wore it on the princess royal’s birthday, September 29, 1786.—ED.]

22 The fifth volume of “The Diary” concludes with Fanny’s marriage to M. d’Arblay. The seven volumes of the original edition were published at intervals, from 1842 to 1846.——ED.]

23 The rumour was probably not far from correct. “Camilla” was published by subscription, at one guinea the set, and the subscribers numbered over eleven hundred. Four thousand copies were printed, and three thousand five hundred were sold in three months. Within six weeks of its publication, Dr. Burney told Lord Orford that about two thousand pounds had already been realized.—ED.]

24 Fanny’s tragedy of “Edwy and Elgiva”, written during the period of her slavery at court, was produced by Sheridan at Drury-lane in March, 1795. It proved a failure, although the leading parts were played by Kemble and Mrs. Siddons. This tragedy, which was never published, is occasionally referred to in her letters of that year. See also an article by Mr. E. S. Shuckburgh, in “Macmillan’s Magazine” for February, 1896.——ED.]

25 We find it difficult to understand Macaulay’s estimate of “The Wanderer.” Later critics appear, in general, to have echoed Macaulay without being at the pains of reading the book. If it has not the naive freshness of “Evelina,” nor the sustained excellence of style of “Cecilia,” “The Wanderer” is inferior to neither in the “exhibition of human passions and whims.” The story is interesting and full of variety; the characters live, as none but the greatest novelists have known how to make them. In Juliet, Fanny has given us one of her most fascinating heroines, while her pictures of the fashionable society of Brighthelmstone are distinguished by a force and vivacity of satire which she has rarely surpassed. It is true that in both “The Wanderer” and “Camilla” we meet with occasional touches of that peculiar extravagance of style which disfigure, the “Memoirs of Dr. Burney,” but these passages, in the novels, are SO comparatively inoffensive, and so nearly forgotten in the general power and charm of the story that we scarcely care to instance them as serious blemishes—ED.]

26 This criticism of Madame D’Arblay appears to us somewhat too sweeping. It must be remembered that the persons of “one propensity,” instanced by Macaulay, are all to be found among the minor characters in her novels. The circumstances, moreover, under which they are introduced, are frequently such as to render the display of their particular humours not only excusable, but natural. But surely in others of her creations, in her heroines especially, she is justly entitled to the praise of having portrayed “characters in which no single feature is extravagantly overcharged.”—ED.]

27 This conjecture may be considered as finally disposed of by Dr. Johnson’s explicit declaration that he never saw one word of “Cecilia” before it was printed.—ED.]

28 The above “flowers of rhetoric” are taken from the “Memoirs of Dr. Burney,” published in 1832; but it is scarcely just—indeed, it is wholly unjust—to include “Camilla” and “The Wanderer” under the same censure with that book. The literary style of the “Memoirs” is the more amazing, since we find Madame D’Arblay, in 1815, correcting in her son the very fault which is there indulged to so unfortunate an extent. She writes to him—“I beg you, when you write to me, to let your pen paint Your thoughts as they rise, not as you seek or labour to embellish them. I remember you once wrote me a letter so very fine from Cambridge, that, if it had not made me laugh, it would have made me sick.”—ED.]

29 “The Female Quixote” is the title of a novel by Charlotte Lenox, published in 1752. It was written as a satire upon the Heroic Romances, so popular in England during the seventeenth century, and the early part of the eighteenth; and scarcely claims to be considered as a picture of life and manners. It is a delightful book however, and the character of the heroine, Arabella, is invested with a charm which never, even in the midst of her wildest extravagancies, fails to make itself felt.—ED.]

30 Author of the famous “Short View of the Immorality and the Profaneness of the English Stage,” published in 1698; a book which, no doubt, struck at a real evil, but which is written in a spirit of violence and bigotry productive rather of amusement than of conviction. It caused, however, a tremendous sensation at the time, and its effect upon the English drama was very considerable; not an unmixed blessing either.—ED.]

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