If there be no greater error in my work than a few transgressions of nature, I shall depend on the dulness of my readers not to find them out.
Jane Taylor (1783–1824) and her sister Ann Taylor (1782–1866) had dual careers. From their early teens both were engravers, taught by their father, Isaac Taylor (1759–1826), one in a line of at least four by that name. Both sisters went on to write poetry and children’s books, again following their father’s lead. One or the other or both gave us “Twinkle, twinkle, little star”.
Happily, The Authoress is not a children’s book, and most of it is not in verse. Part One pokes gentle fun at the various kinds of cheesy fiction that were to be found on library shelves in 1819. In Part Two, our authoress tries to do better by embarking on a novel in the tradition of The Female Quixote or Northanger Abbey.
All of the above is assuming The Authoress was in fact written by Jane Taylor—which is by no means certain. The book carries no author credit, but is identified only as “By the author of Rachel”. The same person went on to write Godfrey Hall, or, Prudence and Principle. Probably. And that person may or may not have been Jane Taylor. All we can say is that the attribution dates back at least to 1834—well after Jane’s death, but within her sister Ann’s lifetime.
On the “probably not” side of the argument, it is worth studying the three pages of publisher’s advertising. Notice how many titles are attributed to “Mrs. Taylor”, “Miss Taylor” or “Jane Taylor”. With all this, it seems odd that Jane would not be identified as author of Rachel—or of the present novel. (The fact that the publisher is also named Taylor is a further complication.) Going by the advertised books, and their named authors, either Jane Taylor did not write The Authoress . . . or she didn’t want anyone to know about it.
This ebook is based on the 1819 Taylor & Hessey (duodecimo) edition. The frontispiece is credited to “W. Hilton, R.A.” That would be William Hilton (1786–1839), then in the middle of his career: he exhibited at the Academy from 1803 to 1838, mostly on classical or biblical themes, and was elected a full Academy member in 1819.
Fair warning: Quotation marks are, let’s say, chaotic. The basic rule is: Single quotes (‘inverted commas’) represent passages from the authoress’s works. Double quotes represent dialogue, whether in the primary narrative or within those works. But towards the end of the book, even this guideline is abandoned.
Typographical errors are marked with and are listed again at the end of each chapter. The word “invisible” means that the letter or punctuation mark is missing, but there is an appropriately sized blank space.
J. MOYES, GREVILLE STREET, LONDON.
THE AUTHOR OF “RACHEL.”
“——So Fancy weaves
Her flimsy web, while sober Reason sits,
And smiling wonders at the puny work,
A net for her.”
PRINTED FOR TAYLOR AND HESSEY,
IT is the design of the following pages to point out some of the many absurdities, which abound in the literature of a circulating library.
I can scarcely be supposed so devoid of understanding as to rail at all works bearing the name of Novels. It were, indeed, to be wished that a more honourable appellation could be found for vi the works of those great Geniuses, whose talents have been employed for the amusement of mankind; or that a different term were applied to those to which my censure alludes. But as I am persuaded that no one can possibly confound the two classes, it would be equally useless and impertinent in me to attempt to fix the line of demarcation.
There doubtless exist many abuses of common sense more flagrant than those I have selected; but to point out all had been an endless undertaking: and besides, I did not intend my work to be of too sombre a cast. My highest ambition will be gratified, should my vii readers be inclined to say of my old gentleman, (as Hardcastle does of Tony Lumpkin,) “There’s morality, however, in his reply.”1
“So, my young friend, I hear you have turned authoress,” said Mr. Newman.
“It is too true,” replied the young lady, mournfully.
“Too true! why, how is that? you were not compelled to become a wielder of the plume.”
“It is, notwithstanding, the most unfortunate thing I ever did in my life.”
“How so? how so?” demanded the old gentleman, with some impatience.
“My first work,” replied she, “went off very well. This flattered my vanity, and I wrote my second in high spirits; but,” and a deep blush here overspread 2 her face, “but my unfortunate second met not with the same fate; it was refused, rejected. This, though it mortified my pride, did not subdue my inclination for writing; but my ideas no longer flowed in an easy and natural manner. I wrote and blotted, began and never finished, till now my desk is filled with unconnected scrawls, which I am unwilling to destroy, but which I foresee will never be completed.”
“It is a mournful case, certainly,” said the old gentleman drily, “that your brains should go wool-gathering to so little purpose; but suffer me to overlook this desk, and perhaps I may be able to disentangle some of these confused ideas.”
To this proposal the authoress made no objection, stipulating only, that she should be allowed a few days to arrange, in some degree, the various papers she intended to submit to his inspection.
On the day appointed the old gentleman 3 made his appearance, and professing great eagerness to begin his examination, she showed him into her study, placed two chairs and a table near the fire, and drawing forth her keys, she unlocked the sacred repository of her cogitations, and presented him with the following tale—
“Before I begin,” said Mr. Newman, rubbing his spectacles with his handkerchief, and fitting them, with great solemnity, on his nose: “before I begin, I wish you to understand, that I consider myself at liberty to make any observation that may appear to me suitable to the occasion.”
The authoress bowed her head in token of acquiescence, and the old gentleman began thus:—4
‘Had I been on a journey of life and death, I must have made a pause; as I travelled for pleasure, I made a dead stand. It was the most interesting scene I had ever beheld. It was a calm summer’s evening, and the mellow tints of approaching twilight gave a threefold interest to every object. I cannot here, like some authors, who delight in giving scope to the imaginations of their readers, by drawing the outline of some catastrophe, leave you to suppose any other than the real state of the case. Alas! I know not what offence I may be giving. Some among you may imagine I beheld active preparations for a pugilistic match; others may anticipate the ground marked out for a foot-race, or a duel; others may look forward to a cricket match; or, (if I 5 chanced to be by the water-side,) an imitation of a naval engagement:—’twas none of these. Some fair lady may suppose I saw some favourite lap-dog being extricated from a slough; or some fond lovers, who were using more haste than sense or discretion in posting to Gretna Green, overtaken on this hapless spot by an austere father, or vindictive brother, who might be exerting his authority in severing hearts, which Caprice and Folly had bound in their strongest chains. But ’twas none of these.’
“Pray, my dear,” said the old gentleman, raising his eyes, “have you written particularly and expressly for the descendants of Job?”
“Sir!” uttered the authoress.
“I say, my dear, you have stretched this part of your story considerably too much; but few I should imagine would have patience to peruse such an enumeration of events, merely to be told at the conclusion—’Twas none of these.”6
“I perceive, sir,” replied the young lady, “that you know nothing of one of the principal beauties of this style of writing. To wind up the imagination to the utmost height, before you develope the real fact, causes the reader to enjoy all the delight of a strong contrast.”
soon might you persuade me,” returned Mr. Newman, “that after travelling up a steep hill, in hopes of contemplating the scenery below, I should enjoy the contrast of being suddenly and violently pushed to the bottom. But to proceed—”
“You have entirely destroyed my climax, by this abrupt interruption: I beg you will take up the story at, ‘Alas! I know not what.’”
The old gentleman, who was by some of his friends reckoned a little facetious, felt vastly inclined to utter the joke to which the conclusion of the young lady’s speech had given rise in his mind: but remarking the air of importance with 7 which she spoke, he repressed the inclination, softly murmuring to himself, ‘A joke out of season wants kindness and reason:’ but not being disposed to go over the story again, he hastened to the sum final, by proceeding thus—
‘Beneath a large tree, which screened the village inn from the storms of winter and the dust of summer, the little group were assembled.’—“What group?” asked the old gentleman, turning back the page, and casting his eye from the top to the bottom with an inquiring glance.
“Upon my word, Mr. Newman,” said the young lady, rising from her seat, and taking the paper from his hand with rather more haste than is commonly used in withdrawing a thing from a friend, “you tire my patience with these continued interruptions; you destroy the harmony of my language; you interrupt the connexion of my ideas; you murder my tropes and figures; you—”8
“In short, I give you a specimen of another of the miseries incident to an author.”
“Notwithstanding your sarcasm, my dear sir, there are many things of more moment, less trying to the temper of an author, than hearing his works mangled by another. But do you not perceive this narrative is written in the abrupt style: the sentences are disjoined, though not unconnected. It is a difficult style to read with propriety, because the reader should so modulate his voice, as to allow his hearers time to fill up, in their own minds, what the author has omitted to express.”
“Then we will call it the incomprehensible style,” said Mr. Newman; “one in which the meaning of the work depends on the intellect of the reader; and this is, I suppose, of your own invention.”
“Did you never hear of Sterne?” asked the authoress, in a tone in which was 9 blended contempt for his ignorance, and mortification at his not having made the discovery without her assistance.
“So ho! it is an imitation of Sterne! Nay, then, now we shall do very well. Aye, aye, there are a plentiful number of dashes. I crave your pardon for not having perceived the resemblance before; but, now I am let into the secret, you need not fear another stoppage for some time.”
“It was not my intention, sir, that the resemblance should have remained a secret,” said the young lady, resuming her seat. Mr. Newman made a wry face at his blunder, and taking up the manuscript, began again—
‘Beneath a large tree, which screened the village inn from the storms of winter and the dust of summer, the little group were assembled.—They appeared to my view—but the pencil of Hogarth would have described them infinitely better; and 10 so let it pass unmentioned. On a seat on one side sat an old woman knitting;—she was blind—but the eyes, which had ceased to behold her fellow-creatures, had not ceased to shed the sympathetic tear for their sorrows.—A young child stood by her side, playing with a kitten;—a burning tear fell on its little hand;—the child dropped the string which held his play-fellow;—the kitten took the opportunity to escape;—the child turned towards its aged parent—he took the corner of his pin-afore—looked at it—’twas very dirty;—he hesitated—another drop fell—consideration was at an end. “Don’t cry, granny,” said the child, and wiped her cheek with the very corner he had before deemed unworthy of the office;—he had no better, and the part was necessary to be performed.’
“I suppose she wanted a pocket handkerchief,” said Mr. Newman. The authoress frowned, even though a tear of 11 ecstacy swam in her own eye. “The affection of the child,” said she, “suggested the necessity of offering some mark of attention at that moment.”
“I stand corrected,” rejoined Mr. Newman. “But are the feelings of children generally so very acute?”
“Indeed I can’t tell; I have never been in the habit of studying the dispositions of children very closely. It is enough for my purpose that those of this were so.”
“Say rather that you have made them so,” said Mr. Newman.
“Well, well, ’tis of little consequence. If there be no greater error in my work than a few transgressions of nature, I shall depend on the dulness of my readers not to find them out.”
“If the dulness of your readers should throw so convenient a blind over the defects of your tale, what is to fill up the gaps which you have left for the exercise 12 of their imaginations?” asked her friend. The authoress was puzzled.—“We scribes,” said she, “are not in the habit of attending to such minutiæ. No work is, or can be expected to be, faultless, and a compromise may readily be made: if they are blind to the beauties, they are also insensible to the defects; and if they have penetration enough to discover the faults, they will likewise be aware of the perfections. Pray have the goodness to proceed.”
Mr. Newman obeyed—‘Had I ever before this moment doubted man’s superiority over all other animals, this one incident had made me a proselyte.—The kitten, unconscious of the woes of another, and alive only to its own gratifications, had fled the scene of sorrow the moment its little owner dropt the string;—the child, though equally unconscious of the cause of his parent’s grief, had yet seen her tears, and endeavoured to console her. 13 And so much for this, thought I; I would not have missed this sight for ——; but who shall set a price on nature? Her scenes are too common to be valued, and too inimitable to be exchanged for any thing. Rail on, ye proud ones, sighed I, rail as ye will against Pity, it is still an amiable quality.
‘Opposite the old woman sat a weather-beaten soldier—his dress bespoke extreme poverty, and the furrows in his cheek plainly showed that youth no longer assisted him to bear up against its griping hand.—And were I Commander in Chief, thought I—but what matters it—I shall find some other way, said I softly, as a glance at my own homely habiliments brought to my recollection who I really was.—At the feet of the old soldier, and lying on the ground, I beheld the object of mine host’s harangue:—he was a tall thin youth; and if ever Grief had set her stamp on any human countenance, it was 14 on his.—Many of the neighbouring cottagers had assembled round to hear their story—and a doleful one it was.—In the middle of the group stood mine host; he held an empty tankard in his hand, which, by way of garnish to his discourse, he frequently flourished in the air:—he had nearly completed his narrative when I arrived.
‘“And not one of them, I fear,” continued he, “will stand up for this poor lad: and it goes to my heart to think that while one of the true family is alive, the Hall should go to any body else.”
‘“But have I no friend left? are all, all dead?” demanded the lad.
‘“All!” repeated mine host; “all are gone,” said he, as he poured the last drainings of the emptied tankard on the ground.
‘“All are not gone!” exclaimed the old soldier, starting from his seat:—“his father, in the field of battle, left him to my 15 care; and I will stand by him whilst I have a limb left.”
‘“Spoken like a British soldier!” exclaimed I; “and thou shalt stand by him, and shalt conquer too, if all I am worth be the I had almost unconsciously leapt from my horse—and when I had finished speaking, I found myself standing between the old soldier and the boy. Mine host stared at me with the broad grin of unaffected surprise. The lad sprung from the ground—the colour mounted to his cheek—a tear started in his eye.—“No!” said he, proudly, “I have not lived to receive assistance from a stranger.”—The soldier wrung my hand, with all the fervor of gratitude and unsuspecting confidence.’
“Heyday,” cried the old gentleman, “the conclusion is perfectly consonant with the tale, quite in the abrupt style.”
“I forewarned you, sir, that none of 16 my works were complete. But may I ask your opinion of this specimen?”
“I suppose you wish me to advise you to finish it; and so I would, if I thought you at all likely to succeed; but, indeed, my dear, I think you have done well in giving up the attempt. Independent of (you must allow me to say,) the absurdity of supposing any man senseless enough to offer to risk all his property in the manner you have described, there are many objections to be made. It is a difficult and a dangerous thing to affect the style of any author, particularly one so peculiar as that of Sterne. I have seen other attempts lately, but they all fail:—and so, with your leave, we will proceed to the next.”
The authoress took the manuscript in silence: like the cripple who jokes at his own deformity, she could decry the merits of her own performances; but would 17 have been as well pleased to hear them praised by another. Mr. Newman, disregarding her silence, took up the scroll which lay nearest to him, and began to read, “The Memoirs of Martha.”
“As soon might you persuade me,” returned Mr. Newman
open quote missing
“What group?” asked the old gentleman, turning back the page, and casting his eye from the top to the bottom with an inquiring glance.
[How well I know the feeling. “Where did the waiter come from? How did the characters end up in a restaurant? I thought they were sitting in a car!” followed by frantic turning-back of pages.]
he took the corner of his pin-afore
[The Oxford English Dictionary assures me that this is indeed the word’s etymology. It is of fairly recent date; their earliest citation is from 1782.]
if all I am worth be the sacrifice.”
close quote missing
‘Martha Hernshaw had, at the time this history commences, attained her thirteenth year; yet, though young, her judgment was mature, and her understanding far above her years. Her education had fitted her for the highest station; whilst the retirement in which she had been brought up had preserved her innocent, and ignorant of the dissipation and luxury attendant on the great. Her grandmother, who had reared her from her earliest recollection, had ever preserved the most inflexible silence respecting her parents; and though Martha had often entreated her grandmother to remove the veil, the venerable old lady checked all inquiry by informing her that circumstances then existed which rendered 19 her incapable of complying with her request. Martha thought it strange; but the care of her flowers or her fowls served to banish curiosity; and time imperceptibly stole on till she had completed her thirteenth year. It was a custom with Mrs. Hernshaw, on each return of Martha’s birthday, to make a little festival for the young people of the village; and, as usual, preparations were made to celebrate the event.
‘It had been for some time the declared intention of Mrs. Hernshaw to unfold to her grand-daughter, on this day, the secret of her birth; but, as all matters of great importance, whether their subject be painful or otherwise, equally engross the mind, and render the attention to trifling occurrences disgusting, she had resolved to postpone the conference till after the departure of her young friends. The intention of her grandmother was, however, entirely frustrated by the anxiety 20 which Martha naturally experienced on this occasion.
‘The little lawn, on the appointed day, was overspread with merry groups; for as the season was the middle of June, they preferred dancing out of doors. Martha alone was sad—Martha, who had ever before shone the queen of the sports, was on this night absent, spiritless, and languid. The thoughts of the approaching communication pressed heavy on her heart: she dreaded to learn that her birth would raise her above the reach of her beloved Edmund.’
“What!” exclaimed Mr. Newman, “in love at thirteen?”
“And why not, sir?” demanded the young lady.
“Nay, if you will show cause why, it will be useless for me to show cause why not; and I think, as authoress, you are bound to speak first.”
“Then, sir,” said Miss Stanley, for 21 such was the lady’s name, “I can show a most unanswerable reason.”
“I am prodigiously glad to hear it,” said Mr. Newman.
“It is this,” replied she: “as my heroine is compelled, for the interest of my tale, to go through numberless adventures, it is absolutely necessary to fix the commencement of them at an early period, otherwise she must inevitably be old and ugly before they could come to a happy termination; which I hope you perceive would destroy all curiosity, for who would care about reading the ‘hair-breadth ’scapes’ of an ugly old woman, or desire, in the least, to know whether she got through them or not; besides that, she could not, in the course of nature, possibly expect more than a year or two in which to enjoy the fruits of her labours.”
“Truly, my young friend,” replied Mr. Newman, “you are, indeed, provided with a very philosophical reason. The 22 life of man, as has been ably demonstrated by many, is exceedingly short; and if it be so indispensably necessary for one person to experience more vicissitudes than is generally supposed possible, you have done well to make your heroine capable of enduring them at a much earlier period than is usual to human nature; for I recollect that you have provided for all objections that might be raised on account of ignorance and inexperience, by telling us at the setting out, that ‘her judgment was mature, and her understanding above her years:’ and so let us go on.”
‘Every one noticed the effect, though none could surmise the cause: in vain did Martha endeavour to shake off the uneasiness that oppressed her: in vain did Edmund, by the most winning attentions, strive to discover her grief, or to divert her notice to other objects. The company of her young friends wearied 23 her, and heartily did she wish to see them depart; but they, unconscious of the disgust they inspired, and pleased with the festivity of the evening, remained much later than usual; so that when, at length, they dispersed, the night was so far advanced, that Mrs. Hernshaw besought Martha to repress her curiosity till the following morning, as she felt too much fatigued to enter on the subject that night; assuring her, however, at the same time, that she had nothing to dread from an explanation which had been so long deferred.
‘Martha, though much vexed, could not refuse a petition so urged; and having taken leave of her grandmother for the night, she retired. In the quiet solitude of her own apartment she ruminated, with great anxiety, on her future life: of the nature of her grandmother’s communication she could not form an idea; and notwithstanding her assurances that it 24 contained nothing to excite her apprehension, the possibility of its giving rise to some obstacle to her union with him who had so long constituted all her felicity, appeared to her so overwhelming an evil, that sinking on her knees, she implored of her heavenly Father, protection from the misfortune which might await her, and fortitude to support it with resignation to his will. She rose composed and comforted, and retired to rest.’
“You are to understand, Miss Stanley,” said Mr. Newman, with some severity, “that this is one of the greatest objections that can be raised against works of this kind. Nay, I am justified in saying, it is the very greatest that can possibly be made.”
“Sir!” said the young lady.
“I say, my dear,” he resumed, “I hope you have committed this error through ignorance, as I should be sorry to suppose you would call for the assistance of 25 a surgeon, if the skin of your finger threatened the approach of a whitlow.”
“Sir?” repeated Miss Stanley.
“Might it not be supposed,” continued he, “that you would see as much reason in this proceeding as in that of which you have made Martha guilty? for, indeed, her’s borders on a crime. I see you are surprised, but such is the fact; for religion, though affording a sure help and refuge in real affliction, is not to be called upon lightly on every trifling occurrence. Do not suppose that I am intending to imply that prayer is not necessary to be used on all emergencies; I only object to the subject being introduced under any circumstances in works of the imagination, and most particularly on such absurd occasions: for I think if the appeal were to be made to persons of any understanding, all would agree that one more highly ridiculous could not well be imagined, than the rupture of a love affair between 26 a boy and girl of thirteen, even allowing that such a thing ever really existed. Many of our modern novelists suppose (as I presume), that they stifle all objections to their performance, by occasionally calling in some such circumstance as that we have just read: they think to qualify their works for the taste of the most rigid, by quoting the Scriptures, without ceremony, on every opportunity that occurs; and imagine they are conveying religious and moral instruction by so doing. But they hurt the cause they pretend to espouse; and would they but reflect, they must see the folly of such a supposition. How can any believe that the least good effect can follow the violation of a commandment; for is it not calling on the Lord’s name in vain, to make any being they may be describing, implore (let the mode of expression be ever so well chosen) His protection every time they have the vapours; and how often is the occasion 27 no better! Religion, my young friend, requires a composed temper of mind, to be contemplated with advantage. It is not in scenes descriptive of tumultuous and worldly passions, that the doctrine which teaches meekness and resignation can with propriety be introduced: and thrust in, as it is too often, in this manner, it is far more likely to be received with contempt, than with the reverence which is its due. It is a remedy for all the real evils of life; but is of too sacred a nature to be used merely as affording a contrast of character, a variety of expression, or a means of rounding a period.
“I have wandered far from the trifling incident in your manuscript, though from it I have been led to express my opinion so fully of these things in general.—To return to Martha. She appears to have had no reasonable cause for despondency: she knew her grandmother’s station in life to be respectable: her income was not 28 insufficient for her wants: she had informed her the communication was not to be dreaded: so if you have made her low spirited only to introduce her prayers, it would have been far better let alone; or if it be to show she had a just presentiment of what was going to befal her, it is a creed I am not much given to admire; and so, with your leave, I will endeavour to find if there was any other reason.”
The authoress said nothing, though inwardly vexed, that the very sentence she expected to be praised, as containing a good hint to young people, should have provoked so severe an animadversion. Mr. Newman proceeded:—
‘Martha slept in an apartment adjoining her grandmother; and towards morning she was much alarmed by groans, proceeding from Mrs. Hernshaw’s chamber. Hastily throwing on her dressing-gown, she hurried to her room; she found 29 her grandmother insensible, and apparently in much pain: with great promptitude she summoned the servant, and having despatched her for medical assistance, she rendered all in her own power to her suffering parent. It was not till towards the evening of the following day that Mrs. Hernshaw became sensible of the objects around her. Her returning reason was hailed by her grand-daughter with transport: but the Doctor reminded her how often in similar cases the return of sense had preceded dissolution.
‘Martha was overwhelmed with affliction at this information, and remained lost in grief; till her grandmother, at the time I have before mentioned, called her to the bedside, and taking her hand, thus addressed her:—“It was my intention, my dear child, to have informed you of the history of your birth, even had my health been spared me; and now the communication is more imperatively necessary, as 30 I may not long remain here to impart the interesting tale.”—Martha, dreading her grandmother would injure herself by too much speaking, besought her to postpone the recital till some other period.
‘“That period will never arrive, my love, when I shall be better enabled to perform this necessary duty,” replied Mrs. Hernshaw; “therefore listen attentively to what I am about to say.—Your great-grandfather ——.” But as I think I can express the account more circumstantially, I shall relate in the third person the narrative of Mrs. Hernshaw.’
“This,” said Mr. Newman, “is one of the things I am most particularly provoked with. Scarcely any thing can be conceived more uninteresting than the long genealogical accounts, one of which I perceive you are going to pour down upon us. If it be necessary to trace the ancestry of a person from any antediluvian date, why not do it at first? why, 31 when you may have raised some slight degree of interest for the persons you have introduced, effectually destroy it, by leaving them in some critical situation, while you run back to relate the adventures of their great-grandfathers? Believe me, my dear, it is no small matter to excite the interest of your readers sufficiently, to carry them through your work without disgust or fatigue, whilst you are relating circumstances which you would have supposed to be taking place at the present time; but it is an Herculean labour, if not an impossibility, to amuse them with accounts of persons, who, they are previously informed, have ceased to exist before the commencement of the tale. It is a melancholy impression, which few will entirely lose, let the tale of other times be ever so interesting, to know that whether amiable or otherwise, successful or unfortunate, they have alike found the termination of their sorrows and their joys in the grave.”32
“But if it be unavoidable?” said Miss Stanley.
“Such a case is not possible; an author has the choice of arranging his materials as he pleases: and as we proceed, I much question whether we shall find any sufficient reason for keeping the old lady long enough in the last agonies to relate the history of her ancestors.”
“Since you are so little disposed to admire the introduction,” said the authoress, “I will not trespass so much on your patience as to allow you to proceed; but recommend this to your perusal.” As she spoke, she drew the Memoirs of Martha from his hand, and presented him with “The Persecuted Lovers, or the History of Lionel and Leonora.”
Martha Hernshaw had, at the time this history commences, scarcely attained
text has sarcely
towards morning she was much alarmed by groans, proceeding from Mrs. Hernshaw’s chamber
[Raise your hand if you took this to mean that Martha’s grandmother would die before imparting the Dread Secret.]
‘Lionel and Leonora were the offspring of parents whose virtues would have shed a lustre on the highest station. The friendship which had for a great length of time connected these amiable families was, in their earliest childhood, perceived to be reciprocal in their children; nor had many years elapsed before the attachment became more tender. Lionel pleaded his passion with all the fervour of youth; and the gentle Leonora blushed consent. The delighted parents joyfully accorded their sanction to the union, only requiring that as they were both so young, Lionel should make the tour of Europe, so necessary to the completion of the education of a gentleman, before it took place. The parting wrung the hearts of the young people 34 with love’s most exquisite torments; but the time was now nearly expired; and at the commencement of this history they were looking forward with transport to the moment which was to restore them to each other, and heap on them the highest happiness they were capable of conceiving. But, before we proceed, it may not be amiss to give a description of their persons. The figure of Lionel Fitzosbert was formed in the finest mould of manly beauty.’
“You’ll excuse me, my dear, but I cannot read the praises of a man with much patience,” said Mr. Newman, breaking off abruptly; “so I shall pass over this long account of raven locks, aquiline nose, arched brows, fire-eliciting eyes, noble soul, feeling heart, &c. &c. and just take a peep at the lady.”
‘Leonora Mandeville was one of those beings whom “youthful poets fancy when they love.” The Medicean grace of her 35 movements accorded well with the sylphid fragility of her form. Of her countenance it would be vain to attempt a description; she might justly be considered as Nature’s masterpiece, so admirably was the roseate hue intermingled with the alabaster fairness of her skin, animated with the united expression of conscious dignity and feminine softness.’
“Are there any more descriptions?” asked Mr. Newman.
“No, sir,” was the reply.
“You rejoice me exceedingly,” said the old gentleman, “as possibly I may now be enabled to proceed.”
“And why should the descriptions disable you?” asked Miss Stanley.
“Merely because having taken up the manuscript with the idea of being able to recognise some of the persons as resembling those I have known in real life, on finding myself transported to such a super-excellent set of people, I feel rather 36 confused, and altogether unable to decide whether I should not have found myself more at ease, if you had premised that such people live only in fairy tales. Since, however, you have secured me from the introduction of any more, I will just ask, if it is not a little extraordinary that every heroine of a novel should happen to be Nature’s masterpiece? (for all I have ever heard of are described as peerless,) and proceed.”
‘Lionel was already on his return home, when a fatal fever broke out in the neighbourhood, and carried off, among many others, the parents of Lionel and Leonora. The affliction of the young and beautiful Leonora may, by hearts susceptible as her own, be imagined; but words must fall far short of conveying any adequate idea: she walked from one cold corpse to another, beating her breast, rending her luxuriant locks with frantic violence, and calling on Death to release her from a life 37 which had now become a burthen too intolerable to be borne. In this state she remained many days, refusing all consolation, till the remembrance of Lionel recalled her to herself; and for his sake she endeavoured to compose her disordered mind.
‘The mournful task of communicating this intelligence she resolved to postpone till his arrival; “for I can mix consolation with my information when he is present,” thought she, “and wipe away the tears my tale will cause to flow.” Besides, the exquisite delicacy of Leonora’s mind was such, that she would not write to inform him of the death of his parents, lest by announcing to him her unprotected state, she might appear desirous of hastening his return.’
“Delicacy with a witness!” exclaimed Mr. Newman; “but it is all false. What, in the name of modesty, prudence, and common decency, would have been the 38 breach, if she had even requested him to use his utmost exertion to reach her? Misfortune abolishes all forms of ceremony; and if she had no other friend to console and direct her at such a time, a very moderate degree of reason would have pointed out the propriety, if not the necessity, of sending for the only one she possessed, even if their love had been sanctioned only by an usual length of intimacy, and he had not had a personal interest in the calamity. Yes, it is certainly a false sentiment.”
‘One evening as Leonora sat in silent contemplation, picturing to herself the melancholy delight she should experience on beholding her beloved Lionel, the servant announced a stranger, who followed her into the room. The gentleman was muffled in a large riding coat, and the idea of Lionel being ever uppermost in the mind of Leonora, she doubted not but she beheld him, and sprung towards the 39 door. But how great was her astonishment when the stranger, catching her in his arms, exclaimed, “And does my angel meet me so kindly? Oh! it is more than I dared hope.”
‘Leonora hastily disengaged herself: the voice, though known but too well, was not the one she hoped to hear. The stranger, whose name was Mortimer, was a man of independent fortune, who some time previous had made proposals to Miss Mandeville, but which of course had been rejected. Leonora, trembling with anger and affright, leant against the chimney-piece for support, while she demanded the occasion of his visit.
‘“If I have had the unparalleled misfortune to offend you, Miss Mandeville,” said he in a mournful tone, “be assured it was unintended. I have heard of your sorrows, and my heart bled at the information.”
‘“How then, sir, dare you presume to 40 intrude on those sorrows?” asked Leonora. “Call it the effervescence of my solicitude, the result of my undiminished adoration; call it any thing but presumption. Oh, Miss Mandeville, could you form, but for a moment, the least idea of what I have endured since banished your presence, you would surely condescend to listen to me. Let me implore you,” he continued, sinking on his knees, while the tears chased each other down his manly countenance; “let me entreat you to listen to a wretch, whose life depends upon your smile, whose future felicity or misery must be determined by your lips.”
‘Leonora was softened by witnessing his sufferings, and she again asked, but with more kindness, the occasion of his present appearance.’
“And do you suppose, my dear,” asked Mr. Newman, “that any man can so entirely lose sight of all self-respect, as 41 to debase himself in this manner? If such is your opinion, our sex are very much obliged to you for imagining us such fools.”
“Indeed, sir,” replied Miss Stanley, “I cannot say that any one ever said as much to me, but I have not accustomed myself to consider that as a proof that such things are not said to any one else; particularly as there are so many instances extant similar to the one I have related.”
“It may be that I was never of the love-making sort,” returned Mr. Newman; “for certainly I never was guilty of such an absurdity. What makes me rather more particularly inclined to doubt the reality of such things is, that these descriptions, (as far as my reading enables me to judge) are most commonly found in the works of female writers, as if it were soothing to their vanity to imagine an arbitrary power over the happiness of man, which he is not altogether so willing to allow.”42
‘“The motive of my present visit, Miss Mandeville,” replied Mortimer, “is to renew those offers I some time ago so unsuccessfully made. Your present unprotected state pierces me to the heart; allow me to convey you to where every thing that affluence can command shall be yours. Oh! suffer me to bid the sun of prosperity dissipate the storms of adversity, and the gentle balm of affection heal the wounds inflicted by the rude hand of affliction.”
‘Leonora heard him in silence, and then said, “Give me leave to say, Mr. Mortimer, that, situated as I am, you might have shown your friendship in a far more acceptable manner, by remaining perfectly inactive in my concerns. What must be your opinion of me, if you can suppose me so capable of change, as in the short space of three years to have altered my sentiments respecting you? So far from considering myself under any obligation, I feel you have offered me a 43 most unpardonable insult; and the only way in which you can make me the least reparation, is by instantly leaving my presence, never more to return.”’
“I hope he did not go,” said Mr. Newman.
“Hope he did not go, sir! why so?” asked the authoress.
“More moderation, my dear,” replied he, “had been more consistent with the delicacy you have laid so much stress upon. The least one can do, is to decline an offered favour with civility; and it is to be presumed that Mortimer was unacquainted with her engagement to Lionel, or he would hardly have renewed his own addresses. Indeed, I think her behaviour very bad.”
“But recollect, my dear sir, that her defenceless situation called for the greatest circumspection,” said Miss Stanley.
“It is to be hoped,” rejoined the old gentleman, “that passion and injustice 44 will never be generally mistaken for circumspection; or, farewell to all concord and unity. Mortimer’s offer appears to me a very disinterested one; and she could not properly have done less than have returned him her thanks, and explained to him her situation with Lionel.”
“What, sir!” exclaimed the young lady, “would you advise a female to tear open the secret recesses of her heart, and make a gentleman her confidant?”
“A lady’s heart must be made of very flimsy materials indeed, if it could not close and be as sound as ever, after such an explanation. I think no woman of delicacy could unnecessarily boast of an attachment, however worthy the object; but no woman of justice (which is a much more noble principle,) would withhold the communication, if necessity called for it. But I am in haste to see if he staid.”
‘Mortimer bowed low. “I am incalculably unfortunate,” said he, “to have 45 raised anger where I had hoped to excite pity;” and without uttering another word he rushed from the apartment.
‘Several days now passed, during which time Leonora received a letter from Lionel, informing her that he should be with her early in the ensuing week. Leonora wished, yet dreaded to see him; her heart beat high when she thought of the rapture she should experience on again beholding him, but died within her, as she remembered the melancholy intelligence that awaited him. On the evening preceding the day Lionel had mentioned as that of his intended arrival, Leonora was startled, and somewhat alarmed, by a loud ringing at the gate, and in trembling agitation she awaited the explanation of this unexpected disturbance; but not long was she kept in suspense, a man pale and breathless rushed into her presence, and throwing off his hat, she recognized Mortimer.46
‘“Wretch!” she exclaimed, overcome with surprise and terror, “what do you here?”
‘“I come,” replied he, “to render you an important service. Some miles from hence, I chanced to overtake a gentleman who had fallen from his horse: he appeared in great pain: I assisted him to the nearest inn, when, the doctor giving him to understand he was in danger, he besought me to fly to you, and entreat you to hasten to receive his last sigh.”
‘Leonora heard no more, but sunk back in a swoon. When she recovered she found her servant and Mr. Mortimer standing by her: the sight of Mortimer recalled his errand to her mind, and starting from her seat, she cried, “Let us go directly. Wretches! why do you not instantly prepare for my departure? Oh Lionel, Lionel, is it thus we are to meet?”
‘The servant in silence obeyed her 47 orders, and in less than an hour the miserable Leonora was lifted into the chaise of the treacherous Mortimer.’
“For my part,” said Mr. Newman, “I think this fair lady very inconsistent.”
“In what?” asked Miss Stanley.
“Her delicacy,” replied her friend, “would not suffer her to hasten her lover home, though there was the most urgent necessity for so doing; and yet she can, at the first word, set out on a wildgoose chase, after nobody knows whom; for, if I recollect rightly, Mortimer never mentioned the name of this unfortunate gentleman.”
“My dear Mr. Newman,” said the young lady, “you are too fastidious; he could not mention Lionel’s name, because he knew nothing about him; it was enough for his own purposes, that Leonora’s love was sufficiently alive, to take the alarm without making inquiries which might have perplexed him.”48
“Though I acknowledge the force of your reason, yet it makes the case still worse; for if he knew nothing about the matter, how could he invent or foresee the success of his scheme?”
“You must put up with this, and a thousand other little inaccuracies, or you will never do for a novel-reader, my dear sir.”
“I do indeed begin to perceive by how delicate a fibre the incidents of a novel hang together,” rejoined Mr. Newman.
‘It is now necessary to make the reader acquainted with the real character of Mortimer. He was artful, selfish, and designing, and would stoop, without hesitation, to the meanest act, to gratify his most vicious inclination. Devoid of generosity, courage, or humanity, he was equally incapable of performing a good action, or defending a base one; whilst, unrestrained by any motive, moral or 49 divine, his cruelty enabled him to perform any deed, however atrocious, of which his subtlety ensured the success.’
“For shame! for shame!” cried Mr. Newman, “this exceeds all possibility: there never was such a man in the world!”
“Indeed, Mr. Newman,” said the authoress, “we shall never come to an end, if you will make these continual interruptions.”
“You will recollect it was a stipulated article, at the commencement of our undertaking, that I should be allowed this liberty; and I cannot avoid availing myself of it when I see you disseminating such false views of mankind. Thanks to our beneficent Creator! we are none of us formed of such vile materials, though many of us have more evil passions than we can subdue, and the best are often severely proved in keeping them in subjection; but who could withstand 50 such a host? I will not say there is any thing criminal in fancying such a character, but certainly it is a being of human invention. It is an extreme as unnatural as that in which I expect you are going to paint your hero: the one raises a man to a height infinitely above human nature, the other sinks him equally below. I cannot conclude without enforcing my argument with the authority of the Spectator, who says, ‘There is no person so vicious, who has not some good in him; nor any so virtuous, who has not in him some evil.’
return to Leonora.”—‘She suffered herself to be borne along many miles, without making any inquiries as to her destination, so entirely was she absorbed in mournful reflections on the past, and anticipations of the future. At length they stopped at the gate of an old-fashioned mansion, where Mortimer desired her to alight. Leonora, roused to a 51 sense of the objects around her, gazed at the house with astonishment. “This house is no inn:” said she.
‘“It is any thing you shall please to call it,” replied Mortimer, with a sarcastic smile: “be it an inn, and I the landlord of my lovely guest.”
‘The knowledge of her situation now darted like a flash of lightning on the mind of Leonora; she turned sick as death; but hastily recovering her composure, she exclaimed with dignity, “To what end, O thou villain, hast thou brought me here?”’
Mr. Newman laughed outright. “I fancy her dignity will not be of much avail in this case,” said he; “and she might, I should have imagined, have fixed upon some more mollifying term. I know not how it is, but heroines appear to me to have a language peculiar to themselves, at least they make no scruple of using epithets, which in the mouths of more common females would be thought 52 rather incompatible with propriety, But I am interrupting the lady in the middle of her speech.”
‘“Instantly order your horses to return, for be assured I shall not alight.”
‘“As you please, madam,” replied the abandoned man; “but if you will not alight willingly, you must not complain if I use a little compulsion. My horses are much too fatigued to obey your orders.” So saying, he advanced towards the chaise, and, in spite of her resistance, bore Leonora to the house. She shrieked aloud; but, alas! there was no one to heed her cries; the postillion grinned, and the old woman who had opened the door had disappeared.
‘It will not be necessary to relate all the entreaties, promises, and menaces, which this vile man used to prevail on Leonora to become his wife. True to her beloved Lionel, she treated all his proposals with disdain, and spent her time in endeavouring 53 to plan her escape, but in vain. Eleven months passed in this manner; and despairing of accomplishing her purpose, she resigned herself to a hopeless melancholy; while the thought of what Lionel would suffer on her account contributed not a little to her grief. One evening about this time, when the fineness of the weather had in some degree soothed her lacerated mind, she left her chamber with the intention of requesting permission to walk in the grounds, when how great was her joy and surprise to find the door which led to the garden open. She rushed through it—the grounds on one side were bounded by a narrow stream.—She fled towards it, and without the hesitation of a moment, plunged in.—Fear lent her strength, and she gained the opposite bank in safety.
‘Without considering which road might lead to the last town she had passed through on the day in which she was 54 trepanned from her home, she ran down the one that first presented itself, nor stopped till the detested house had long been hidden from her sight. She then sat down to rest herself, her wet clothes hung heavily upon her, and she trembled equally with cold and affright; but aware she must use some exertion to reach an abode for the night, or pass it under a hedge, she arose and pursued her way. For some time she continued her walk without interruption, lost in joy at her escape, though unknowing whither she was going, or by what means she should reach home.’
“She was in a joyful plight to be sure,” said Mr. Newman.
‘At length she heard a horseman behind her: fearful of pursuit, she waited not to cast a look behind, but fled with the utmost expedition her exhausted strength could use. The horseman evidently gained ground upon her; and 55 giving up herself as lost, she was sinking on the ground, when her pursuer, leaping from his steed, caught her in his arms. She uttered a piercing cry; but casting her eyes towards his face, she beheld Fitzosbert; she saw no more, joy overcame her faculties, and she fainted on his bosom.’
“You have not, I think, been very wise to bring them so soon together,” said Mr. Newman; “for now I suppose they have nothing to do but make themselves happy, which of course puts an end to every one’s interest.”
“You are much mistaken,” replied the young lady; “it is as easy for an author to separate as to bring together. They have not yet met with a thousandth part of their misfortunes.”
“Then prithee let us make haste and get through them.”
‘When Leonora recovered her senses, the transport of being again clasped to 56 the heart of her beloved Lionel dissipated all remembrance of her former sorrows. Lionel, on the other hand, was so enraptured at recovering his heart’s treasure, that for some time he appeared unconscious of his existence; but his servant coming up at this moment, he so far recollected himself as to be enabled to despatch him to the nearest town for a chaise, and then seating Leonora on the bank, he besought her to inform him of the cause of her strange disappearance. She related it all from the time of their parents’ death to the present meeting; and then, in her turn, requested to know what had befallen him during their separation. But as this narrative will be given more at large hereafter, it is only necessary to state here that he had passed the time ever since his return in endeavouring to trace her retreat; and that he was accidentally travelling this road in the prosecution of his search when he overtook her.’57
“Oh, most lucky chance!” exclaimed Mr. Newman; “how often does it happen in works of this kind, that the happiness or misery of a person’s life depends upon an accident as trifling as this! Had not Lionel set out on his ride, by chance, at the precise moment he did; and had hot Leonora found the garden door open by chance, and by chance taken the same road, they must inevitably have missed, and been very unhappy for the rest of their life.”
“I am delighted, Mr. Newman,” said the young lady, “that I can bring some authority against you, you are so severe upon me. What say you to Pope’s maxim—‘All chance, direction which thou canst not see.’”
“Nothing, madam; it may be a true doctrine; but in compositions of the fancy, where, as I have once before said, an author may arrange his materials as he pleases, it is more satisfactory to have 58 it shown that certain causes tended to produce the effects described, than to have it in one’s power to worry our imagination with the tormenting ‘but if circumstances had not so happily coincided, I wonder what would have happened.’”
‘As Lionel concluded his account the chaise arrived, and during their ride it was determined, that Leonora should be placed in some respectable family till such time as they should be united. Lionel pleaded for an early day; but Leonora would not hear of shortening the time of her mourning. “It is but one month, my Lionel,” said she, “and shall we not pay our dear parents this last tribute of our affection?”
‘In vain did Lionel urge the probability of her being exposed to the fresh machinations of Mortimer; in vain did he describe the agony he should endure if again she was lost to him; in vain did he remind her that he was her only friend, 59 and that the sooner she gave him a title to protect her, the sooner would she put an end to their mutual anxiety: she was inflexible—nay more, her delicacy made her shrink from the idea of receiving the frequent visits of any man unsanctioned by the presence of a father, or a brother; and she therefore demanded, that after she should be comfortably settled he should absent himself from her, and be contented with corresponding with her till the month should be expired. Lionel, though grieved at her resolution, could not but admire the refined and elevated mind which thus resolutely persisted in the discharge of a fancied duty, regardless of personal danger and inconvenience.’
“I can’t read another line upon my honour,” said Mr. Newman, throwing down the manuscript. “It is often objected to Novels in general, that the actions of the characters introduced are without sufficient motives, and that principles are 60 not attended to. But such are innocent, in comparison with the class to which this belongs. Here are principles, indeed, but the most false that can be imagined; where Virtue and Decorum are strained till they become Folly and Indiscretion, if nothing worse; and where the most absurd conclusions are drawn; which, if the author really mean his maxims to be attended to, cannot fail of imparting a wrong bias to the mind of the youthful reader; and which, were he to apply them in real life, might tend greatly to his injury, before experience had taught him the fallacy of such rules. Do not suppose I am recommending a young girl to leap into the arms of her lover, or of him who pretends to be such, for every trifling occurrence that may happen to chafe her temper. It is, perhaps, a hazardous resource at all times; but man is the creature of circumstances, and, as such, must yield to their influence: in the 61 case you have drawn, nothing but a perversion of intellect could have induced a young unprotected female to act in so singular a manner; unless, indeed, one may suppose the lady was fond of being smuggled, and so, voluntarily exposed herself to all the evils incident to her situation. If you would not wish to incur the high reproach of misleading young minds, who are not able to discriminate for themselves, be cautious to distinguish every thing by its proper name; you must not, for the indulgence of your own fancy, dignify absolute folly by the name of delicacy, nor term the too great indulgence of an overstrained sensibility the refinements of an elevated mind. But what is the next production you wish me to read?”
Miss Stanley, without speaking, offered him “Valentina; or, the Spirit of the Vault.”
one of those beings whom “youthful poets fancy when they love.”
[I don’t think anyone laments that Nicholas Rowe’s The Fair Penitent is no longer in the average theater company’s repertoire. The most recent review I find is from 1986, under the headline “. . . Rises from the Past”.]
if she had no other friend to console and direct her at such a time
[I would particularly like to know if there was anyone who could step in and make funeral arrangements, since Leonora’s part seems limited to walking “from one cold corpse to another”.]
a man pale and breathless rushed into her presence
[If I were Mr. Newman, I would here point out that Leonora ought to have instructed the servants that she will never be at home to Mortimer. Then again, these are the same servants who let him in the first time around without bothering to ask his name, let alone find out whether the recently bereaved Leonora was at home. Maybe they are unwilling to take orders from anyone but the head of the household—a position that is currently vacant.]
“To return to Leonora.”
open quote missing
Eleven months passed in this manner
[I am frankly awed that Mr. Newman did not throw aside the manuscript at this point.]
She fled towards it, and without the hesitation of a moment, plunged in.
[Like the female Quixote of an earlier generation, Leonora takes it for granted that she will know, untaught, how to swim.]
the day in which she was trepanned from her home
[Today I Learned . . . that there are, or used to be, two separate and unrelated “trepan” words. This one means a trick, trap or lure.]
“I can’t read another line upon my honour,” said Mr. Newman, throwing down the manuscript.
[Mr. Newman held out for many more pages than I would have done.]
* * * * * * *
* * * * * *
* * * * * * *
“How is this?” asked Mr. Newman: “this, unlike any of the others, has no beginning.”
“This is a romance,” replied Miss Stanley; “and the more it is wrapped in obscurity the better. I have always admired the commencement of the ‘Old English Baron,’ which the editor, professing to have found it in some strange place, has described as being so much mutilated by the damp as to have rendered the first part unintelligible; and has, therefore, begun with a line or two of asterisks. I have said I admire it, which will account for my having adopted the plan.”63
‘Night, at length, spread her sable mantle over the earth, and locked the senses of mankind in sweet oblivion, those only excepted who, like our heroine, watched the slow steps of leaden-footed Time, and vainly wished for power to expedite his course. The Moon rose in unclouded majesty, and shedding her mild radiance on all surrounding objects, silvered the turrets of the Castle, whose black and frowning base cast a deep and sombre shade on the majestic stream, whose diaphanous waves seemed to rush past its gloomy influence to sparkle in the bright beams of the Queen of Night.’
“Oh, merciless scribe!” exclaimed Mr. Newman; “what an un-in-one-breath-utterable sentence is here! It is this which makes a romance dreadful to me; though the sentence I have now read is not so long as some I have seen, having once met with one which allowed no breathing time for the first thirty lines.”64
‘“Happy stream!” sighed Valentina, as she seated herself at the window to listen for the expected signal; “thou art not, like me, condemned to linger here!”
‘At last the shrill whistle and appointed words summoned her: she rose, and descending to the court, found a man in armour awaiting her arrival; she started, but prepared to follow her guide, who led the way towards the vault. The wind whistled bleakly as they descended—“I shall never have courage to proceed,” whispered the trembling Valentina.
‘“Fear nothing,” replied her conductor; “the blast, though an unpleasant one, is no terrible opponent.”
‘The castle clock at this moment struck one: Valentina shuddered; “I dare not, indeed I dare not go further,” said she.
‘“And has love no greater power over thy heart?” demanded her guide. “How much stronger is the love of him, who in the cold dungeon has so long awaited our coming!”65
‘Stimulated to fresh exertion by this mention of the situation of her lover, Valentina drew her cloak round her and advanced a few steps; but in so doing, recollected the danger of trusting herself at this lone hour in so remote a place with two men, one of whom she had seen but twice since the tournament, and of the other she was probably totally ignorant.’
“A very good thought, though recollected almost too late,” said the old gentleman. “But as I have remarked that the ladies, in these tales, are miraculously protected, though they may commence open warfare against common sense by committing the most flagrant absurdities, I hope, for the sake of the story, you have suffered her to proceed.”
“For the sake of the story I have not suffered her to proceed,” replied the Authoress.
“I am afraid, then, she will have some trouble to get away; for I presume they 66 were alone, and at such a time of night she might shout for a long while without making any one hear.”
“And to render her situation still more perilous,” said the Authoress, with a look of importance, “I have made her a resident in a castle possessing no inhabitants but herself and a deaf old woman.”
“Delightful! delightful!” exclaimed the old gentleman: “but,” he added in a tone of disappointment, “I suppose you have had recourse to the interposition of fairies.”
“Proceed,” said the young lady, “and you will find that it is all brought about in a very reasonable and natural manner.”
“Exquisite beyond comparison,” rejoined he; “if you are not crowned Queen of Scribes for this, I will say there is neither sense nor sentiment among the whole band of critics.”
‘This reflection caused her to make an 67 involuntary stand, and she eagerly cast her eyes along the dark passage to ascertain if there was any possibility of escape; but, alas! she perceived not the slightest chance of even a temporary concealment. Her companion watched her quick and searching glance; and, as if suspecting her intention, offered her his arm to assist her progress. Conscious that if her desire had really been to proceed, such an assistance would have been most welcome, Valentina forced herself to place her arm within his, and giving up all idea of escape, she stepped on over the mouldering stones. The footing was very insecure. Time had entirely decayed some of the stones; and others were so much loosened that they rocked beneath their weight. In this manner they proceeded for some time, when Valentina’s attention was roused by a half-suppressed start of her companion: she raised her eyes, supposing it to have been occasioned by the 68 stones slipping from his foot, but how great was her surprise and terror on beholding a tall majestic figure approaching them! Its height appeared more than human, and its white garments fell in long and graceful folds to its feet. It advanced with one hand on its breast, the other raised in the air. Its steps were slow, measured, and noiseless; and as it drew nearer it uttered, in a hollow voice, “Beware! beware! beware!” and continuing its march, before Valentina could recover from her astonishment it had disappeared among the ruins.’
“All this is the climax of rationality to be sure,” said Mr. Newman.
“I am sorry it does not meet with your approbation,” said the mortified Authoress; you will please to observe that this apparition is not meant as the means of her escape, but merely to confirm her desire of returning: and that such a confirmation was necessary, you 69 will allow, to inspire her with courage to act in the manner you will find she did.”
“What! did she knock the man in armour down?” asked Mr. Newman.
“Have the goodness to proceed,” was the dignified rejoinder.
‘Her resolution strengthened by the warning voice of the apparition, Valentina determined to proceed no further; but perceiving no chance of eluding the vigilance of her companion, she resolved to extinguish the light he carried, and trust to her own knowledge of the castle for regaining her apartment. For this purpose she took two or three unsteady steps, and designedly missing her footing, she fell in such a manner as to dash the lamp to the ground. The light was instantly extinguished; but her conductor, unsuspicious of her design, assisted her to rise before he attempted to restore it; and having seated her on the ground, he 70 proceeded to draw from his pocket a bottle of phosphorus. Valentina, in the meanwhile, cautiously removed from her seat, and having stationed herself behind a large column, which had in ancient times supported an immense arch, she awaited with anxiety and trembling suspense the discovery of her absence.
‘In a few moments the unsteady light of the lamp again flashed on the crumbling walls, showing the many coloured damps which stained this once gorgeous residence. The man in armour looked round with astonishment on perceiving the absence of his companion—“Does she think to escape me now?” he exclaimed in a voice so demoniac, that, whilst it pierced the throbbing heart of the terrified Valentina, caused her secretly to rejoice at having left him. Fearing her white drapery might attract his attention, she drew her robe close round her fragile figure; and though convinced she could 71 not be perceived, she pressed still closer to the column.
‘After a quick but scrutinizing search, the man in armour proceeded by himself; and Valentina fancied she heard him utter some vow to gain possession of her person, notwithstanding her present escape: she shuddered, and congratulated herself on having avoided the present danger; and as she watched his almost gigantic figure pacing with hurried steps towards the end of the dark passage, she could only wonder how she had ever dared to trust herself with him for a moment. Though his visor was down, his dark eye flashed a horrible gleam of threatened vengeance; the lamp he held barely served to show the horrors of the place; the weight of his steps seemed to shake the ruined pile to its foundation; all which, added to the natural gloom of the vault, conspired to make her think him something more than human.’72
“I do not perceive she had any just reason for thinking so,” observed Mr. Newman: “the man happening to be tall, and the place happening to be old, affords none in my opinion; and as for armour, I suppose that was not altogether uncommon in those days.”
‘It was not till the last streak of light had vanished from her sight, and the sound of the last footstep had died upon her ear, that Valentina felt a superstitious dread stealing over her. To be alone at such an hour, and in such a place, struck terror to her heart; while the remembrance of the supernatural figure she had so lately seen, increased that terror so much, that she almost expected to see it again issue from the circumambient gloom. A cold chill overspread her limbs, and, unable to support herself, she sunk senseless on the ground.’
“I may now stop, without danger of interrupting Valentina, to make a few 73 observations, or rather to point out a few inconsistencies I have remarked. In the first place, my dear, you tell us these folks were proceeding along a dark passage, in which the young lady, previous to the ghost’s exhortation, could see no place of concealment; but the words which served to confirm her resolution, appear also to have built a column to enable her to put that resolution in execution.”
“I declare that never struck me before,” said Miss Stanley.
“Secondly,” proceeded Mr. Newman, “you say she had the address to gain this ambush while her conductor was striking a light: ’twas but a short time, but we will pass over that; it was possible, and that in romances is a rare merit: but, if she concealed herself so effectually from his sight, it was not possible that she could have commanded so entire a view of his actions, inasmuch as no person can see through a stone column; 74 neither was it possible, that when his back was turned towards her, she could behold the expression of his eyes.”
“But I have not said his back was towards her,” said Miss Stanley.
“True; but I presume you do not mean to imply that the man in armour walked backwards: and if he did not, you must be sensible that two, or at most three steps, would have prevented her from any longer beholding his face.”
“Really I think you are too hard upon me, Mr. Newman: I am sure I have seen much greater absurdities in many romances.”
“I believe you, because I have seen many greater myself; but this quick perception of the faults of others throws no veil over your own.”
‘On recovering her recollection, Valentina made an effort to return to her chamber; but how great was her horror when she found herself forcibly detained! 75 A strong grasp held her cloak. Unable to turn through extreme alarm, she uttered a piercing scream: the dark and silent passages reverberated only with her cry, but it seemed to her horrorized imagination the mingled tones of many With an almost supernatural strength she slipped her cloak from her shoulders, and winged by the excessive impulse of unadulterated terror, she fled towards her apartment, which having at length gained, she sunk, deprived of sense, upon the couch, and remained lost to all sense of remembrance till the old woman summoned her the next morning to breakfast; when, on opening her eyes, she perceived the sun shining with uncommon splendour, and the various songsters, who found habitations in the neighbouring groves, hymning their early matins to the God of day.’
“The long and the short of this matter then,” said Mr. Newman, “is, that she had had the night-mare.”76
“Very far from it, as you will perceive, when you proceed,” said the young lady.
“Pardon me, my dear,” replied he, “if I beg to stop here. This tale, like most others of its kind, is conducive to no one good end. The principal recommendation, of works of the imagination, is when the sentiments and incidents, related in them, convey some useful and moral instruction to the reader: in this shape they are not only sources of amusement, but vehicles of improvement; but, devoid of this qualification, they become vain, frivolous, and worthless. Reason is at all times to be preferred to fancy, as being the safest and surest guide of the mind; for, though the latter may sometimes be called in as an agreeable and entertaining companion, she will never prove a steady and trustworthy leader. Is it not then an unnecessary expenditure of time and trouble, both on the part of the author and the reader, to compile or peruse a thing, which, 77 when it is completed, they are compelled to own is inconsistent with nature; and which, so far from enlarging their views of mankind, may raise in weak minds a distaste for the common occurrences of life, and perhaps unfit them for the performance of the duties incident to that station in which it has pleased their Creator to place them.”
“Do you then consider romances as actually criminal?”
“In some hands they are harmless; as some may despise, and others may be insensible of their poison: but as they cannot in any hands be productive of advantage, they may, in my opinion, be pronounced unworthy perusal, as being the means of corrupting the minds of some, and misspending the ‘talent’ of all.”
the ladies, in these tales, are miraculously protected, though they may commence open warfare against common sense
[In centuries to come, Valentina’s literary descendants will figure as the heroines of horror movies.]
you will find that it is all brought about in a very reasonable and natural manner
[We are in the Ann Radcliffe school of gothic romance, where the “reasonable” and “natural” explanation is more wildly implausible than any supernatural agency.]
“but you will please to observe that this apparition
open quote missing
neither was it possible, that when his back was turned towards her, she could behold the expression of his eyes
[Especially since we have been explicitly told that his visor was down. I am also surprised Mr. Newman has nothing to say about Valentina’s successful flight . . . in pitch darkness . . . over the insecure footing and mouldering stones that were so lovingly described on page 67.]
it seemed to her horrorized imagination the mingled tones of many voices.
final . invisible
“I have here,” said Miss Stanley, “another sort of composition, which it is possible may please you better.”
Mr. Newman took the manuscript, and read as follows:
‘To Miss Seymour.
‘MY DEAR JEMIMA!
‘Can you believe it possible that your gay, volatile, unthinking Louisa, is absolutely domesticated in a cottage? Yet such is the fact; and you may credit me, my dear girl, when I assure you, that now I have in some measure tranquillized the excess of feeling called forth by my separation from you, I am more truly 79 happy than when mixing, the gayest of the gay, among the thoughtless and imprudent. That I should never willingly have left the ball and rout for purling streams and sylvan shades, I make no scruple of declaring to you, to whom my whole heart is laid open; but that more real happiness is to be found among the one than at the other, now that I have made the trial, I think I may justly pronounce. Such were my thoughts the other evening when rambling through the grounds which surround this house, and insensibly my ideas arranged themselves in the following order:—
Placid hour of twilight, hail!
Soothing to the world-worn mind:
Quiet whispers in thy gale;
Quiet which the proud ne’er find.
Among the flow’rets of the spring,
As I take my devious way,
As I catch the sweets they fling,
In Reason’s ear they seem to say:—80
“Learn, like us, in shades to dwell,
Far from envy, strife, and noise;
Bid the busy town farewell,
Come and prove the Christian’s joys.
“Here he marks the rolling year
Clothe the mountain, tree, and sod;
Here he learns to live, and fear
The wonder-working hand of God.”
“And this is a specimen of a young lady’s poetry!” said Mr. Newman. “Without making any comment on the language, which is as common-place as I ever remember to have seen, I shall only say that it contains a sentiment as false as your account of Mr. Mortimer, your—”
“Pardon me, my dear sir, if I beg you to reserve your comments till you have completed the perusal.” Mr. Newman went on—
“I make no apology, my dear, for troubling you with my poetical effusions, convinced you will value them for my 81 sake; and indeed I am so nearly at a loss for materials to fill my paper, that they come apropos enough to save you from an empty sheet: I must, however, tell you how I spend my time.—As it is early spring, I have some cade lambs, which I visit every day; I then proceed to the aviary and feed my little pensioners there; then I return to the house, practise my favourite lessons a few hours, (for as I hope to return to fair Augusta’s lofty towers next winter, I am unwilling to lose any of my attractions,) or add a few touches to the likeness I am taking of our cat, or something of that kind; then dress for dinner; after which I sometimes walk out with the squire’s son, (a most elegant young man, just come down, as refreshing to my optics as a stream in a desert,) or play at whist with his papa,—a durance vile to which I am compelled to submit, in order to secure the conquest of the son, who has some odd notions that way.82
‘And so having given you this insight into our mode of life, I will take this opportunity of giving you the account you so often requested while we were together, of my papa, mamma, uncles, and aunts, as far back as my sieve-like brains will enable me to recollect.’
“Which ditty I shall take the liberty of passing over in silence,” said the old gentleman; “for I see it fills twelve pages of foolscap; and proceed to the end.”
“But why should you refuse it a hearing?” asked Miss Stanley.
“Because I am no Cambrian; I never took the slightest pleasure in tracing my own genealogy, much less that of other people.”
‘So much for your request; and I have now only to assure you of the unalterable affection of your truly sincere, and ever affectionate friend,
‘P. S. My mamma’s health, which you 83 know was the cause of our coming here, is, I believe, somewhat mended.’
‘To Miss Delauney.
‘Your long, affectionate, and truly welcome letter, my best Louisa, arrived at a time when I was devoured with the spleen, to cheer me with its “sweet and honeyed sentences.”
‘You must know that I have commanded that deceitful monster Beauclerc never to enter my presence again. But you shall have particulars. Every thing was, as you know, settled between us, and in a few days I was to have taken him for better or worse: but a blessed escape I have had, as you shall hear. The other evening I went to a masked ball at Lady P—’s, attended by Sir Charles F—, your quondam lover, (who, by the bye, has become very particular in his attentions in a certain quarter). 84 Well, I went as Venus, he as Adonis, (could any thing have been more appropriate?) at which Beauclerc chose to take offence; but I dare say nothing would have come of it, had I not unluckily missed the rest of our party, by which accident I was forced to spend two hours in searching the rooms for them. What was to be done? I could not walk home, you know: to be sure old Lady Bab Flowers offered to set me down, but Sir Charles told me she had quite a coachful of her own family; so I agreed to use his, and at last I got home just after all our folks were gone to bed.
‘Would you believe it? my gentleman came the next day, gave himself as many airs as might have served a husband of the last century; and when we should have parted I am quite at a loss to imagine, had I not ordered him to leave me, which he did. I threw myself back in an engaging attitude, considering whether I should 85 abate aught of my severity at our next meeting, when the door opened. I expected, of course, he had returned to ask my highness’s pardon; but no, it was your letter: and I have just heard the animal has vanished into the country.’
“Poor lady! how I pity her disappointment!” said Mr. Newman.
‘To you, my beloved Louisa, to whom I communicate every thought, in the pleasing confidence of your sympathy and affection; to you, if I felt any thing but pleasure at what has occurred, I should without hesitation declare it; but you know the heart of your Jemima, and will readily believe that I rejoice at having slipped the yoke from my neck.’
“From the very circumstance of her using so much protestation, I should suspect her sincerity. But we need go no further; I see clearly that this is one of the sentimental class, to which, as I hate all things ridiculous, I bear a mortal antipathy. 86 I must, however, offer a few observations on what I have read. It is, I believe, a custom with all people pretending to sentiment, to decry towns as the seat of all vice, and eulogize villages as the abode of all virtue. It is a position so very absurd, that I should say nothing on the subject, did I not wish to prevent you from falling into the same error again. You may be assured, my dear young friend, that in every station we have ample room for the discharge of our duty; and because the taste of some individuals may lead them to prefer the quiet of a country life, they have no reason to imagine that others have not equal room for rational happiness in the bustle of a town, or that the choice of such a life argues any perversion of principle. Hard would it be indeed, if, in conformity with your young lady’s poetry, the Christian’s joys were to be confined to the ‘low roofed cottages and hamlets small.’ With respect to the young ladies 87 themselves, the inconsistency of the first is apparent enough, in her declaring in one part of her letter that she is more truly happy in the country than she had been in town, and in another confessing that her actions are directed by plans for her return. But such will ever be the case when people affect to describe feelings which they do not possess. Of the second I shall only say, that she appears to have written more to please herself than her friend; for I observe, that although her best Louisa had been at the trouble of filling so many pages at her desire, she never once mentions the satisfaction the perusal had afforded her. And by the way, is it not somewhat extraordinary, that if the request had been made while they were together, Louisa should not have given her friend verbal information? Certainly it would have been attended with less trouble to the narrator, and a more safe mode of conveying it, if it 88 contained any family secrets, which of course it did, or where was the utility of telling it? This is a very frequent oversight in those authors who choose to make their heroines write letters.
“I will trespass on your patience no longer than to add a remark or two of more authority than any of my own. The first is from an author whose name I am unacquainted with; the other you will recognise to be Dr. Johnson’s.”
“Without friendship and warm affection towards connexions, it is impossible to be either individually happy, or to make other people so. Engaging, however, as the kindness of real friendship ever is, the affectation of it is equally disagreeable; and it is a fault belonging to every station, and almost to every age.
“But the tender friendships of young ladies from fifteen to twenty are what I most wish annihilated; the joy of 89 receiving and writing letters, which at first is a novelty, gives rise to the folly of multiplied correspondence, which, though not
‘To waft a sigh from Indus to the Pole,’
yet wafts loads of nonsense, and of family tales, which might as well not be told at all, and tend most sadly to feed the vanity of each separate writer; who, thinking that she writes with more taste than her beloved friend, wastes a double portion of her time in reading novels, in imitating the romantic fancies she admires, and in which she endeavours to clothe the sentiments which she communicates to the absent partner of her heart. These affected friendships are seldom of long duration; and I have known them succeed one another with a rapidity, which one would suppose must have struck the friends themselves as a ridicule on friendship.”90
“It has been so long said,” says Dr. Johnson, “as to be commonly believed, that the true characters of men may be found in their letters, and that he who writes to his friend lays his heart open before him. But the truth is, that such were the simple friendships of the golden age, and are now the friendships only of children. Very few can boast of hearts which they dare lay open to themselves, and of which, by whatever accident exposed, they do not shun a distinct and continued view; and, certainly, what we hide from ourselves we do not show to our friends.”
“If these things be true, how much credit is due to the unsuspecting confidence, unreserved friendship, unalterable affection, and all the other epithets which compose a young lady’s vocabulary?”
Placid hour of twilight, hail!
[There ought to be some more single quotes all around this poem, but we all know what the author meant.]
I have some cade lambs, which I visit every day
[New one on me. A cade animal—especially a lamb—is one that has been neglected or abandoned by its mother and is instead raised by humans. Mr. Newman might have pointed out that having several of them on a single small farm suggests a certain failure in husbandry. Let’s hope that our authoress is using the word in its secondary sense of “pet” or “tame”—especially since one visit a day would hardly be enough to sustain life.]
a remark or two of more authority than any of my own
[The whole multi-page quotation is printed in 18th-century style, with quotation marks at every line.]
“Without friendship . . . . a ridicule on friendship”
[The “author whose name I am unacquainted with” is Althea Fanshawe, in the 1805 book Thoughts on Affectation: Addressed Chiefly to Young People. Mr. Newman cherry-picks from a longish passage—including the single line of verse, which in its turn is lifted from Pope’s 1717 “Eloisa to Abelard”.]
“It has been so long said . . . . do not show to our friends.”
[Johnson’s Life of Pope, fittingly enough. Mr. Newman evidently had Pope on the brain.]
In former times, as legends tell,
There lived a lady fair,
(In Spain these dire events befel,)
Her father’s pride and care.
Full many lovers woo’d the dame,
For wondrous were her charms,
Who boasted honour, wealth, and fame,
To win her to their arms.
But all alike the maiden scorned,
One only she admired,
By virtue and by nature formed,
Who to her hand aspired.
The beauteous maid he long had loved,
Sebastian was his name,
But though the maid the youth approved,
She seem’d to slight his flame.92
For ah! no wealthy Lord was he,
Nor was with honour blest;
A heart sincere, and warm, and free,
Was all that he possessed.
But though his state was poor and mean,
His sires’ had not been so;
For in their festive courts was seen
The pomp of courtly show.
Amidst the train that daily bowed,
A haughty knight was seen,
A knight implacable and proud,
Of high and lofty mien.
Oft he had fac’d his country’s foes,
And oft his blood had shed;
But he from mean estate arose,
A peasant he was bred.
“For what reason this poor man was to be condemned for being a brave and rich peasant, or the other esteemed for being a pennyless noble, I own I am at a loss to discover,” said Mr. Newman.
“If your patience does not tire before you come to the end, you will be no 93 longer at a loss for the reason,” replied the Authoress.
“You will observe,” returned the old gentleman, “that it is, in my opinion, a most illiberal prejudice, which supposes a mean spirit inseparable from a mean descent.” But let us go on:—
But fame now on his steps awaits,
With honour was he crowned,
And pride and plenty crowd his gates,
And vassals fawn around.
Long had he sought the maiden’s hand,
But she his love abhorr’d,
Nor could his riches or his land
Make interest for their Lord.
At length he saw with rage and pride
His ev’ry wish was vain,
Sooner than be Ordonio’s bride
She’d join the vestal train.
Then dire revenge for slighted love
Inspired his daily thought;
Unblest with fair Elvira’s hand,
He deem’d his riches nought.
“Heyday!” exclaimed Mr. Newman, “how comes this change in the metre?”
“I found,” said the young lady, with a slight blush, “that the continuation of the alternate rhyme would, in so long a work, fetter my genius so much, that I dropt it for the sake of allowing myself greater variety of expression.”
Mr. Newman looked at her for a moment, and the Authoress thought he seemed to believe that inability had, in reality, been the cause of the alteration she had ascribed to convenience. But before she could say any thing to refute this opinion, he went on:—
Deep sheltered in a lonely dell
A ruined castle stood,
Whose lofty turrets met the eye
Above the neighbouring wood.
This castle by the village round
Was view’d in solemn
He there resolved, despite her hate,
The lovely maid to wed.95
But how to bring this scheme to bear,
So full of danger fraught,
Required much nicety and care,
Much prudence, and much thought.
He knew Elvira lov’d to walk
When Phœbus’ parting beam
Just ting’d the fading landscape round,
And gilt the murmuring stream.
This he resolv’d should be the hour,
In some retired glade,
When none were near to hear her cries,
To force away the maid.
One evening as she wander’d forth,
All at the close of day,
Three villains seiz’d the astonish’d fair,
And bore their prize away.
Then to Ordonio’s castle they
With anxious speed repair;
Whilst reft of hope their victim wept,
And rav’d in wild despair.
Ordonio met the expected guests,
E’en at the castle gate;
And at his sight Elvira shrinks,
And fears some dreadful fate.96
“And is it thou?” at length the maid
“Who durst to force me to this place,
Where nought but ruin reigns?”
“Alas, my love!” Ordonio cried,
“My late rash act forgive,
Without Elvira’s blooming charms,
Ordonio cannot live.”
“Forgive thee, tyrant! never, no,”
Return’d the weeping fair,
“Unless you instantly restore
Me to my father’s care.”
“Thou shalt return, if thou’lt consent,”
The haughty knight replied;
“That very hour thou shall return
That thou becom’st my bride.”
“Then here for ever will I mourn,
A prey to hopeless grief;
For rather than wed thee, proud knight,
Stern death shall bring relief.”
“Since it is so,” the Chief exclaims,
“Thou here alone must bide,
Till solitude and scanty fare
Subdue thy useless pride.”97
They parted thus; Ordonio left
The hapless maid to mourn,
Of father, fortune, friends bereft,
From ev’ry blessing torn.
Meanwhile her strange mysterious flight
Was noised the country round:
Her aged father rends his hair,
And nought but tears abound.
Great was the price, large the reward,
He offered to that Knight
Who should make known to him the place
Where she had ta’en her flight.
Sebastian, though with grief distract,
When first the news he heard,
Then hastened to her father’s court,
And thus his suit preferr’d:
“Nor power, nor riches do I seek,
A nobler prize I claim;
Long have I loved Elvira’s charms,
Long has she known my flame.
Then swear, my Lord, by ev’ry tie,
Most sacred and divine,
The day I bring Elvira home
Shall make her wholly mine.98
“I swear, Sebastian,” cried her sire,
“By ev’ry tie divine,
The day thou bring’st Elvira home
Shall make her wholly thine.”
“Enough, my Lord,” Sebastian said,
“For ever will I roam,
Until I find my long-lost love,
And bring her safely home.”
He spoke, and springing on his steed,
Full quickly disappears,
And carries with him, as he rides,
A father’s hopes and fears.
For many days and darksome nights
He roam’d o’er hill and dale,
When first bright Phœbus gilt the East
Until his last beams fail’d.
Yet still nor clue nor trace he found
That might direct his way
To where the fair Elvira mourn’d,
To hopeless grief a prey.
One evening, when the lengthening shades
Stretch’d on the plains around,
Sebastian onward urg’d his way,
In reverie profound.99
Nor heeded where his courser stray’d,
Nor saw the day had closed,
Until a large and darksome wood
His further course opposed.
‘Twas then he saw with some surprise
Nor house nor cot was near,
So thro’ the wood he took his way,
His bosom knew no fear.
Pale Cynthia now her reign began,
And heaven’s high arch had climbed,
When in Sebastian’s gladden’d ear
The hour of evening chimed.
Astonished at the welcome sound,
He urged his steed more near;
And breaking through the gloom, at length
The castle gates appear.
Aloud he rung, the gate op’d slow
Upon its rusty hinge;
And soon a ruffian voice ask’d, who
Dar’d on his rest infringe?
“Behold a knight,” Sebastian cried,
“A stranger led astray,
Who fain beneath this roof would bide
Till dawning of the day.”100
“Thou’lt find no entrance here, Sir Knight;
Onward thou still must ride:
The village is not far away,
And there thou’lt safely bide.”
At this Sebastian’s choler grew:
“Now, wretch! prepare to die,
For much unfit is he to live
Who succour can deny.”
This said, he raised his manly arm,
And fell’d him to the ground;
The purple stream in torrents flowed,
And stain’d the place around.
“I must confess,” said Mr. Newman, “that the manly arm of Ordonio appears to me to have been more laudably employed against his country’s foes, than that of Sebastian, who I should imagine could not have believed that he should gain much honour by thus meanly murdering a defenceless man. Besides, I cannot help rejoicing that I do not live in an age nor a nation, where every hot-headed 101 boy that knocks at my gate considers himself a judge of my fitness to live.”
“I am aware,” said Miss Stanley, “that this must to every one appear a rash, and perhaps a cruel action; but as there was no other means by which Sebastian could gain admittance to the castle, you perceive it was necessary to remove this man.”
“It would in real life be deemed but a slight reason for the forfeit of a man’s existence; but it is admissible, perhaps, for a lady and a poet.”
He pass’d the gates, the bridge was down,
Enter’d the spacious court;
A solemn stillness fill’d the place
Once fam’d for festive sport.
A while he paus’d, and look’d around,
No sound broke on his ear,
Save the loud shrieking of the owl,
Which made the place more drear:102
“Ah, me!” he cried, “in this abode
Now falling to decay,
Perchance some haughty Lord has reign’d
With proud tyrannic sway.
“But, ah, this ruin’d pile can tell
That neither pride, nor power,
Nor fame, nor wealth, can e’er avert
‘Th’ inevitable hour.’”
As thus he mus’d, he onward passed
To court sleep’s balmy aid;
But sleep he banish’d from his eyes
By thinking of the maid.
“I don’t at all feel surprised he could not sleep when he had a newly committed murder on his mind.”
Long had he paced the marble floor,
His thoughts all rest denied;
When, lo! the glimmering of a torch
At distance he descried.
Astonishment pervades his soul,
For in the distant shade
He sees a beauteous female form,
In purest white arrayed.
“Is there to be no end to this very interesting tale?” asked Mr. Newman.
“There are not above fifteen or twenty stanzas more,” replied Miss Stanley.
“Then that is precisely fifteen or twenty more than I can possibly contrive to read: and out of this numerous collection, which do you wish me to select next?”
“It is quite indifferent to me, sir, I assure you,” said the lady.
“Then I will choose for myself,” rejoined her friend. “Let me see, here is ‘An Ode to Contentment,’ ‘Lines on an Arbour,’ ‘Stanzas addressed to a Friend,’ ‘Sonnet on Evening,’ ‘Verses on Time,’ &c. &.c.: but these are all old, my dear, quite old, and what a score or two of young ladies have written on before you. Nor is it at all to be wondered at, while such are the effusions of their pens, that verses by a young lady should always excite contempt 104 and disgust. Indeed, my dear, I wish I could commend you; but, alas! I am compelled to say that your time might have been better employed. It is not every one, who has had the advantage of a writing-master, that is capable of writing a novel. While the works of D’Arblay, West, and Edgeworth, are in circulation, a female author should be careful what she writes. Who that has access to the grain will turn to the chaff? Not persons of intellect, certainly; and of what esteem is the praise of
“However,” continued the old gentleman, remarking the disappointed countenance of the authoress, “publish these fragments in the order in which we have read them, and comfort yourself with the assurance that they will sell——at least for waste paper.”
“Heyday!” exclaimed Mr. Newman, “how comes this change in the metre?”
[Does rhyme scheme count as metre? If he hadn’t pointed it out, I would never have noticed that the last four lines depart from the ABAB pattern to become ABCB.]
This castle by the village round / Was view’d in solemn dread,
[It seems as if the comma after “dread” ought to be at least a semicolon.]
and of what esteem is the praise of fools.
[And here it seems as if the full stop ought to be a question mark.]
“Waste paper!” thought the authoress, as she sat reflecting on her friend’s words. “And have I spent so much time and trouble in furnishing the world with waste paper! Surely I can do something better than that:” and anxious to prove her fancied power, she composed the following tale. When it was nearly completed, she entreated Mr. Newman again to honour her study with his presence: but though some months were passed since his last visit, he had not yet forgotten it; and he did not feel much inclination to comply with the request.108
“Indeed,” said Miss Stanley, “it is widely different from those you formerly read. Pray suffer me to show you that I have profited by your remarks.” Thus urged, the old gentleman shrugged his shoulders and consented. Again, then, he was seated in his former place; again the desk was unlocked; and again he essayed his critical powers on—“Fanny; or, The Dupe of False Principles.”109
‘“Fanny, Fanny!” said her father, “those books will be your ruin.”
‘Fanny rose from her seat, and, without speaking, placed the book she was reading on a table on the opposite side of the room. But it was not from a sense of duty and submission to her father’s judgment that Fanny evinced such ready obedience; but because her studies (if such they might be called) had taught her that it was consistent with the character of a heroine to comply with every mandate of an unreasonable parent.
‘“You are a good girl, Fanny,” said Mr. Anderson, pleased with her immediate compliance: “I hardly wished you to break off so very abruptly, though I 110 could wish, my love, to see your taste otherwise directed. You have so long indulged in the perusal of works of this kind, that I grieve to observe none other have now the power of affording you amusement. Nor is this their worst effect: your love of them increases so rapidly, that your usual occupations are neglected. Fanny!” continued he more gravely, “this amounts to a crime. No earthly pursuit should engross the attention, to the exclusion of the rest of our duties; how then can you suffer this so far to mislead you?”
‘“Indeed, papa,” replied Fanny, “you consider this matter too seriously. Your situation in life precludes the necessity of my taking an active part in your household; and surely it can signify little whether I darn my own stockings, or suffer my servant to mend them.”
‘“To me, Fanny, it signifies nothing; 111 but to you much. I do not contend for the instance you have selected: but useful employment is salutary for all; and neither my station in life nor your own justifies you in misspending that time which was given you to prepare for futurity.”
‘The conversation ended here, for Mr. Anderson was summoned away; and Fanny again, left to herself, leant her elbow on the table to consider—not the reasons her father had been urging—but excuses for herself, and inconsistencies in her parent’s conduct. Where can be the harm, thought she, which I am to suffer from these books? Have I not seen my father read, and with the greatest pleasure, the works of Fielding, Smollett, and such kind of authors; and who will deny that the language of my favourites is more pure, the incidents less disgusting, and therefore the less dangerous to weak minds; if, indeed, my mind is so very weak. As this last 112 reflection darted through her mind, she rose with a sensation of offended pride, and taking the novel from the table, was soon again lost in the delusion from which the entrance of her father had roused her. But Fanny had yet to learn that a description of real life, though cloaked in its coarsest dress, cannot mislead, though it may offend, a delicate mind; while fiction is still unnatural, however fascinating its appearance may be.
‘It had unfortunately happened for Miss Anderson that her mother expired soon after her birth. The numerous avocations of her remaining parent prevented his superintending her education himself, and the task had consequently devolved to a maternal relative, who, pitying the motherless state of her little charge, had indulged her every wish, in the idea of compensating the loss she had sustained, as far as her power enabled her. Fanny’s 113 disposition was good, and she therefore escaped many evils which excessive indulgence engenders. Her abilities were not contemptible, and her early inclination for reading had been gratified by the perusal of all the novels, which the library of the little market-town near which she resided could boast. Miss Anderson was in her own idea a perfect heroine, and only wanted opportunity to exhibit her accomplishments, when her father recalled her from the country. Her highest desire was now fulfilled: she was going to London; adventures would doubtless crowd upon her on her arrival, though the care of her father had prevented any occurring on the road, by sending a trusty servant to accompany her to the metropolis. The old lady, who was sincerely attached to her, and who looked forward to the many hours which in Fanny’s absence she must pass alone, wept bitterly at parting with 114 her: and Fanny, whose heart was the abode of much affection, would have shed tears of sincere regret, had they not been converted into tears of sentiment, by recollecting that it was highly proper to weep without moderation, and even to faint, if possible, at all such partings as this between herself and her aged friend. It was not till some time after her arrival in London, that her father perceived her excessive love of novel-reading: but regarding it in the light of harmless amusement, he thought not of restraining her inclination; and it was not till he was convinced, by beholding it absorb all her attention, that he discovered amusement might degenerate into fault. It was then he endeavoured to eradicate the evil; but it was too deeply rooted to be moved at will: it required much time and experience to break a spell, that for so many years had been daily gaining strength.115
‘As the only child of an opulent merchant, Miss Anderson was courted and flattered by all her acquaintance, among whom was a young female who strove to recommend herself by suiting her opinions to those expressed by Fanny; and who consequently was raised to the dignity of a bosom friend. Being provided with this absolute requisite, a lover was alone wanted to complete Fanny’s notions of felicity—for of what possible use was a confidante if she had no secrets to confide?
‘Eleanor Montague was some years older than Miss Anderson, though the difference was not enough to prevent an unreserved exchange of confidence, at least so Fanny believed: but the truth was, Eleanor had a brother, to whom Fanny’s fortune would be any thing than unacceptable; and as she did not want penetration, she soon discovered that the distempered imagination of Miss Anderson 116 would induce her to admit as a lover, and Eleanor doubted not, with a little management, as a husband, any one who came with the delightful accompaniments of secrecy, stolen interviews, and all the high sounding sentences which could be crammed into a love letter. That Montague was not a man likely to reflect too much credit on his species, his ready acquiescence in this plan will attest. To prove the practicability of their scheme, Miss Montague contrived to introduce her brother at a romantic juncture, and not without effect. The instructed brother played his part to admiration, and by dint of vows of eternal constancy, unalterable affection, &c. &c. on his side, and tears, prayers for the sake of her unhappy brother’s peace of mind, and the delivery of certain long epistles on that of his sister, Fanny was drawn on to grant interview after interview, till the deluded girl was, or imagined herself, as deeply in 117 love as any of the many heroines whose case she believed her own to resemble.
‘With what success Miss Montague and her brother might have been crowned, cannot rightly be pronounced, as it was in this stage of the adventure that a knowledge of it reached the ears of Mr. Anderson. Provoked at the subtlety of her advisers, and hurt at the duplicity of his child, his first step was to order her never to see them more; and his next, to write to his sister, who lived at a considerable distance, to entreat her to receive Fanny, for a time, as a part of her family. The request was readily granted, and at the time our story commences, the following day was the one on which Fanny (in a manner self-exiled) was again to leave her parental roof. In vain had she wept, in vain implored a mitigation of her sentence: Mr. Anderson’s knowledge of her opinions made him dread to trust her where she would be exposed to the machinations of 118 the Montagues; and having no female in his family qualified to superintend her conduct, he committed her the more willingly to the care of his sister, possessing equal confidence in her affection for his daughter, and in the efficacy of change of scene to dissolve the power of her present attachment.
‘We left Fanny lost in the perusal of one of her favourite tales. The story was her own; almost she could have believed it the work of inspiration. An unfeeling, an unreasonable, an implacable parent, callous to all interest in the real welfare of his child, had compelled her to resign a brave, noble, amiable, and all-accomplished lover; and to consume her youth in an old family mansion, with no other companions than prudish aunts and cross cousins: while she, gentle and beautiful prototype of all that the eye or heart of man looks for in woman, though cut to the soul, and sinking beneath her load of 119 woe like a snow-drop bent with the dew of morn, after three screaming hysterical and four long fainting fits, the natural effusions of her sorrow, submitted in passive silence to his will; and after a short time spent in the before-mentioned delectable society, had contrived a secret meeting with her highly praiseworthy lover, with whom she fled from the thraldom of parental authority.
‘Fanny’s heart throbbed as she laid down the book. “Yes, amiable girl,” she exclaimed, “I will follow your noble example—and who knows,” she added in a lower tone, “but I may also find the same termination of my woes.”
‘Little did Fanny know to what extent she was deceiving herself. The action, which the book she had been reading termed dutiful, and which Fanny believed she practised from the same principle, had in its composition nothing of the quality. It was performed by the imaginary 120 heroine because she had exhausted all her woman’s weapons without effect, and had no choice left; and by Fanny Anderson, because her hopes whispered that a similar compliance might meet with what she would have called the reward of filial virtue and obedience.
‘These reflections enabled Fanny to meet her father the next morning with placid and almost cheerful looks. Mr. Anderson, pleased with what he imagined to be her wish to oblige him, as he placed her in the coach which was to convey her from him, dropt a tear of satisfaction on her cheek, and added to his parting blessing a promise of a speedy return.
‘These marks of affection, which might on some hearts have made a softer impression, (and would have done on Fanny’s had she been differently educated), were, by Miss Anderson, considered as circumstances merely incidental to her situation: the tear which had wetted her cheek she 121 beheld as an involuntary mark of compunction, and the unasked promise of return, as wrung from relenting severity by an impulse of natural affection.
‘The close of the day found Fanny seated in the large wainscoted parlour at Exton Park; and, but for one circumstance, she might have fancied her waking dreams realized. During her journey, she had pictured to herself the gloomy avenue, the dreary house, the staid mistress, and her countryfied daughter; judge, then, of her transport, on entering an avenue even more gloomy than she had imagined, and on alighting at a house, whose appearance might have bespoken it an abbey. But if these things excited joy which I am unable to describe, how far short shall I fall of expressing that which filled her bosom, when her aunt hastened to meet her, in a cap clear-starched after the fashion of her youth, her hair drawn over a roller, and an apron worked at the corners. These 122 pleasurable sensations were, however, a little damped by the circumstance to which I have before alluded; and this was no other than the affectionate welcome she received from the person she had designed to consider as her jailer; and the sisterly embrace from her, whose youth was to have added envy to the malignity of her mother. To Fanny’s astonishment, not the slightest rancour was visible on either side: they affected not to know the reason of her visit; and consequently not the most distant allusion was made to her imprudence, her undutifulness, or her unmaidenlike forwardness; on which subjects, she had supposed her aunt would have exhausted her stock of eloquence, and so had prepared herself to retire to her comfortless chamber, fatigued with her journey, and harrassed in her mind by the persecutions of those, whose near affinity should have induced them to solace her wounded heart. But the 123 very reverse of all this was the real state of the case—she was received as a beloved relation; and so effectually was the attention of her aunt and cousin employed for her comfort, that she was compelled to own, even to herself, that her every want had been fully anticipated, and that the most captious could not have found ground for complaint. I have before said that Fanny was naturally affectionate, nor did she behold these things, without being inclined to love and reverence the relatives, who might have chosen to treat her in a very opposite manner. But the force of disposition, when unstrengthened by principle, though it will undoubtedly at times prevail, will also frequently yield to the force of habit. A few moments’ reflection made Fanny regard every thing in as wrong a light, as her most inveterate enemy could have wished. Her aunt and cousin had unquestionably learned the readiest way to 124 gain her heart, and had, therefore, used these means to efface from her mind the remembrance of Montague. If a proof was wanting, what could be a more satisfactory one, than their having avoided mentioning his name throughout the evening. “But, no,” she cried, with all the emphasis due on the occasion, “never shall they succeed.” With this most wise and worthy resolution she sought her pillow.’
“I do not yet quite comprehend your design,” said Mr. Newman, as he completed the chapter.
“I scarcely know,” replied the authoress, “whether I have been able to accomplish it. But I have thought a good deal on the remarks you made on the former contents of my desk; and was willing to set before such persons as might honour me with a perusal, the evils which may result from false principles.”125
“But hitherto,” rejoined the old gentleman, “the instances you have shown of Fanny’s conduct, are such as from most persons (not having, as we have, the privilege of tracing her motives,) would have procured for her the title of an obedient child.”
“Very true; and it is this false virtue I would wish to expose.”
“But are there no sophists, Miss Stanley, who would tell you that the welfare of the world would be equally well promoted, if every one should perform his duty, let his secret inducement be what it may?”
“If such there be,” said the young lady, “I shall be proud to prove the absurdity of such an opinion; though certainly, at first sight, the proposition does not seem very unreasonable. But it is not to you, Mr. Newman, that I need endeavour to demonstrate the impossibility of a long continuance of rectitude, where good principles do not exist. The example 126 I have chosen is conveyed under the form of a plain story, the offspring of my own brain certainly; but for every action of my heroine, I will offer such reasons as, I suppose, might actuate a person under similar circumstances. My object in which is, to endeavour to prove that the principles, (if I may so call them) which the generality of novels inculcate, cannot fail to impart a wrong bias to the mind, and lead the href = "#chapI reader to view things through a false medium; and that, were he to apply them in real life, before experience had taught him the fallacy of such rules, they might tend greatly to his injury. My intention being thus explained, it remains for my readers to coincide with me or not, as their judgment and different opinions shall dictate.”
“It is an exhausted theme,” said Mr. Newman: “at least I would say, that Sheridan’s Lydia Languish is as perfect a picture as can be drawn of the absurdities 127 into which a person may be allured by this kind of reading.”
“Believe me, sir,” returned the authoress, “I am far from supposing myself capable of becoming the rival of so great a writer; but my story is conducted on a widely different plan: he has shown the absurdities, I would exhibit the evils, which may arise from it: I have endeavoured to add a moral to my description.”
“You will succeed but badly, I am afraid,” said her friend. “The whole world will be against you: one half will refuse to read you on account of your presumption; the other will condemn you as ill-natured. However, I will see how you manage the affair.”
Sheridan’s Lydia Languish is as perfect a picture as can be drawn
[Huh. I was thinking Arabella (the female Quixote) with an admixture of Catherine Morland.]
‘The movements of the family at Exton Park were as regular as those of the old clock, that had told the departure of time to their ancestors for many generations. A style of life, so opposite to that to which she had been lately accustomed, had at first the effect of depressing the spirits of Fanny so much, that many consultations were held between Mrs. Exton and her daughter, for the purpose of discovering some means of entertaining their guest; Mrs. Exton rightly judging that the liberty she had of indulging thoughts of the past, was the last way in the world to effect that alteration in her sentiments, which they desired to see accomplished. These consultations had produced nothing but increased perplexity; for the habits of life, which custom had endeared to the 129 owners of Exton Park, afforded them no opportunities of judging which was the most probable way of diverting the attention of their young relative. Fanny had been, however, but little more than a fortnight under her aunt’s protection, when an apparent alteration took place in her manners; she was cheerful, animated, and so different from the pensive, spiritless being she had before seemed, that the astonishment of Mrs. Exton could only be equalled by her fear that Fanny had found means of eluding her vigilance, and had seen, or at least heard from Montague. To ascertain the truth of her surmise, she took the earliest opportunity of summoning Fanny to her dressing-room, and thus spoke to her:—“You must be convinced, my dear child, that I am not ignorant of your father’s motives for placing you with me.” Now, thought Fanny, my persecution is about to commence; but she only bent her head, and her aunt continued—“I 130 was not, therefore, surprised or displeased to perceive your dejection of spirits on your first arrival; and too sincerely should I have rejoiced at beholding their amendment, to be thus the first to check them, had not their sudden restoration excited an alarm which, I trust, it is in your power to remove. I am too old, Fanny, to be very much deceived in these matters. The balm afforded by time is necessarily slow, though certain in its operation. I have experienced sorrow myself, and know that a wounded heart does not suddenly recover its wonted serenity.”
‘Fanny listened in silent trepidation; but her aunt, who had paused in expectation of some answer, finding she was not likely to gain one without a direct inquiry, proceeded again:—“You force me, Fanny, to speak in plainer terms—have you within these last few days seen Montague?”131
‘Fanny, who was well aware that her aunt’s discourse would end in this demand, felt her heart swell with a kind of triumph, as she firmly and unhesitatingly answered, “No, madam.”
“Nor heard from him?”
“You have much relieved me, my dear,” said Mrs. Exton. “While you are under my roof I must consider myself responsible for your conduct; therefore, now we are on the subject, promise me that you will hold no communication with him while you remain here.”
‘Fanny, who, without an extorted promise of beholding her lover no more, imagined it would be impossible to experience the proper ecstacy at a reunion, made no objection to giving the required promise; and her aunt, satisfied that no mischief had happened, and that Fanny was of too good and tractable a disposition to give ground for serious uneasiness, kissed her 132 cheek, and calling her a good girl, left the room.
‘It remains now for us to account for the change in Fanny’s conduct. Without employment of a nature to interest her, without a prospect of beholding Montague, and without a wish that his remembrance should lose any of its influence in her bosom, the first fortnight of her residence at the Park passed heavily enough. It is true she joined in the family devotions night and morning, not from a desire to be enabled to perform her duty by yielding up her wishes to those of her father, but because all young ladies in her situation have thought it expedient to do so. It is also true that she made patchwork for her aunt, and walked or rode with her cousin, but it was all without motive; no principle of sense or duty actuated her in any one instance of her conduct: all that she sought or aspired to attain to, was to act as a heroine would have acted; and the 133 consequence was, she became listless, spiritless, and unhappy. It was about this time that she recollected, that although her father had commanded her to see neither Montague nor his sister again, yet there were duties of friendship as well as of obedience to be fulfilled. “Alas!” she exclaimed, “Eleanor is my only friend! She will speak comfort to my depressed and care-worn heart: she will send me some tidings of him I am no more to see.” Having shed the right quantity of tears, she set about writing to this only friend; and, after many contrivances, succeeded in conveying a letter to her. Eleanor, once made acquainted with the place of her retreat, lost no time in writing to inform her beloved Fanny of the distress, the unspeakable anguish, she had endured on her account. Of her distracted brother it would, she said, be vain to speak; it was more than probable that his life would have fallen a sacrifice 134 to his feelings, had not her thrice welcome letter allayed in some trifling degree the intense agony of his mind.
‘It would be difficult in this place to decide if Fanny had the most trouble in resolving whether to rejoice or mourn. It was but natural to grieve for those miseries which, though she possessed the power, she was not allowed to alleviate; but it was still more natural that she should rejoice to find she was not forgotten by Montague; that Eleanor had forgiven her apparent breach of friendship: and so, rejoice she did; which conduct had the singular utility of exciting the suspicion of her aunt, and wringing from herself a promise, which increased her sorrows and embarrassments. The day that Mrs. Exton held this conference with her niece, was also marked by the return of her son, who had for some time been absent on a visit. His appearance raised the spirits of his mother and sister 135 so much, that had Fanny delayed the commencement of her rejoicing till this day, it never would have been noticed at all; or if remarked, might have been regarded as owing its source to the cause, which had exhilarated the other inhabitants. Had Fanny known this, she would have redoubled her rejoicings that her cousin had not arrived time enough to interfere with her adventures.
‘Young Exton was a worthy, well-informed, and respectable country gentleman. If any of my readers be inclined to say, contemptuously, “Nature made him for a man, and so let him pass;” I must take the liberty of reminding them, that I have already one sentimental youth in my train, and that for the sake of contrast, it may not be amiss to oppose against his superfine qualifications, the more ordinary ones of plain good sense, general good will, and sincere disinterested friendship.
‘Nothing now happened to interrupt the 136 quiet routine of domestic enjoyments for some weeks; during which time Fanny insensibly became interested in the scene around her. The retirement which at first was irksome, custom rendered endurable; and the restoration of many little habits, which had enlivened the seclusion in which her infancy had been passed, tended very considerably to make it agreeable.
More than once we have intimated that Fanny’s natural disposition was mild and affectionate: her manners, when uninfluenced by the ridiculous notions which had tinctured her mind so deeply, were gentle and unaffected. At the Park there was nothing to call forth affectation or disguise, while the constant kindness and attention she experienced from every individual, warmed a heart not insensible to affectionate indulgence, and Fanny by degrees became sincerely attached to the relatives whom she had met with such different sensations. Had it so happened, or 137 been so ordered (which you will), that this intimacy had been formed previous to that with the Montagues, it is possible that Fanny might in time have become an altered character. But this is mere speculation: “what is, appears; what might have been, is doubtful:” and certain it is, that an unforeseen occurrence destroyed at a blow all the advantages which Fanny in appearance was gaining.
‘The real cause of her visit to Exton Park had been concealed from the knowledge of her cousin Charles: his mother, though wearing a starched cap and lawn apron, possessed delicacy enough to feel for the uneasy sensations Fanny would endure, if she had any reason to suppose him acquainted with it. Ignorant of these circumstances, and becoming every day more attached to their visitor, it had sometimes occurred to young Exton that the loss of her society would be very sensibly felt, before he came to 138 the resolution of endeavouring to make her a constant resident in the family. But, from considering it to be desirable, he believed it to be practicable, and accordingly made known his intention to his mother; not because he could not form a decided opinion without the aid of hers, but because the habit of consulting and unfolding every wish to each other, had rendered the concealment of any plan unthought of, if not disagreeable.
Mrs. Exton heard her son in silence, and paused some time after he had concluded, before she spoke. To suffer him to address a woman whose affections were engaged, startled her at first as an impossibility; but when she considered that it was both the wish of her father, and the interest of Fanny, to break off her present engagement, (if, indeed, it deserved such a name); when she recollected, too, the change that had apparently taken place in her sentiments, she began to think it 139 was not altogether impracticable. Besides, she loved Fanny, and wished to see her happy; and by whom, thought the affectionate mother, can that happiness be so effectually ensured as by Charles Exton? These reflections determined her, and she signified her approval of his design.
Influenced, perhaps, by his old-fashioned education, or perhaps by a wish to recommend himself more fully to Fanny; or perhaps desirous of sparing himself the mortification of a repulse from her father, when she perchance might have listened favourably to him; young Exton immediately set off for London, and with little circumlocution informed Mr. Anderson of the cause of his journey.
The same reasons which had directed the conduct of Mrs. Exton were equally prevailing with her brother. “I have, however, some communications to make, Charles,” said he, “which ought not, and indeed cannot be concealed from you. 140 I am not possessed of the property the world imagines. Many unexpected and heavy losses have recently befallen me, and Fanny Anderson is portionless.”
‘To this information Exton simply said, that the failure was to him of no consequence, otherwise than as it prevented his making a more liberal provision for Fanny in case of his death. “The property my father bequeathed me,” said he, “and which accumulated during a long minority, is sufficient for all our wants, and I hope our wishes. If Fanny can be satisfied with such arrangements as it may be in my power to make, I have nothing left to desire.”
‘The consequence of this statement was the cordial concurrence of Mr. Anderson; to which he added a letter to his daughter, informing her of his consent to the proposals of her cousin, and of his wish to see it confirmed by her own.
‘The night was far advanced when 141 Charles reached the Park. He found his mother and sister waiting his arrival; but Fanny, who had that night a momentous affair to transact, had long since retired. The intelligence he brought, so far as it concerned himself, gave them pleasure, for they saw his happiness would be affected by the termination of the affair; and they doubted not, from what they had observed of Fanny’s character, that with so gentle a subject as herself, her father’s wishes could not fail of abolishing the remaining influence of Montague, which they believed to be greatly on the wane, if not totally destroyed.
‘Fanny, as we before said, had this night a momentous affair to transact, which was no other than to determine whether she should yield to the temptation of opening a letter she had that evening received from Montague, enclosed in one from his sister. As this matter required much deliberation, and much consultation between the fors 142 and againsts, Fanny had retired early to settle the point. When the locked door, the letter placed on the table, and the almost irresistible pleadings of the sister to read it, conned over two or three times (which were undoubtedly the fors, inasmuch as they comprised time, place, and inclination), had had their claim heard; the againsts asserted their right. Did ever young lady, at the first solicitation, consent to read a letter from a banished lover? Certainly not. Did ever young lady break her promise of not hearing from him, the first time she was asked? Certainly not. Consequently, ought she, a young lady, a heroine, whose lover was banished, who had promised never to hold correspondence with him again—ought she to seize the first opportunity cast in her way to forfeit all these claims to heroineism? Certainly not. The againsts prevailed; Fanny pushed the letter from her, resolved not to read it, and burst into tears.143
“Hard sacrifice to duty!” exclaimed she; “cruel fate! which compels me to wound two hearts in obedience to a parent. But, alas! my Montague, forgive me: the motive sanctifies the barbarous deed.” And so giving herself all credit for her duteous conduct, Fanny went to rest.
‘This is not the first instance in which we have had to notice the egregious manner in which our mistaken heroine deceived herself. How little of filial duty and obedience ought to have been ascribed to this action, all who may chance to read the foregoing scene may determine; and it is doubtful if poor Fanny would have kept up even this outward show of it, had not her evil genius whispered her that Montague would not be so easily repulsed.’
“Well, sir,” inquired the authoress, “what think you now of my work?”144
“It is too soon to hazard an opinion,” replied the old gentleman; “but as I believe your intention is good, I hope you will not very greatly fail. Of one thing, however, I trust you have taken care: as I presume Fanny is to be led from one imprudence to another, we shall not, I hope, be shocked by any unnatural catastrophe, or improbable adventures.”
“I have vanity enough to believe,” replied Miss Stanley, “that some portion of instruction is mingled with the incidents of my tale; and it has, therefore, been my endeavour to avoid any actual impossibility: for I have sufficient ‘glimmerings o’ common sense’ to perceive that it would be fruitless to extol or decry a line of conduct in situations in which nobody has been, or ever can be placed.”
“Let us proceed then,” said Mr. Newman, as he turned the leaf.
From here to the end of Fanny, the author—or possibly the printer—entirely loses her grip on the concept of nested quotes. Paragraphs that ought to start in ‘“ (single plus double quote) instead start in “ (double quote) alone. I was going to supply the missing single quotes, but their absence is too consistent to treat as an error.
“Nature made him for a man, and so let him pass”
[Meet a quotation once, and suddenly you’re meeting it everywhere. In Mona Maclean, Medical Student (1892–93), the title character says: “God made him, and so I was prepared to let him pass for one, as Portia says.” Some ten years earlier, a character in Dr. Edith Romney (1883) similarly quotes: “God made him, and therefore let him pass for a man.”]
More than once we have intimated
[We’ve already lost the nested ‘“ quotes. Over the next few pages, even single quotes will be missing as often as not.]
“what is, appears; what might have been, is doubtful”
[I was enormously relieved to find that this is not a Shakespeare paraphrase. In Dryden’s Don Sebastian, King of Portugal, the title character says “What had been is unknown; what is, appears”.]
‘When Fanny rose the next morning, she enclosed Montague’s letter in a blank cover, and came down stairs with the intention of sending it without the knowledge of any one; but as she crossed the hall she encountered her aunt.
“Good morning, my love,” said she. “To whom,” glancing her eyes towards the letter, “have you been writing so early?”
‘Fanny hesitated a moment: to utter a falsehood was too unheroinelike to be thought of; and to acknowledge she had kept her promise of not hearing from her lover, would seem like boasting. Her aunt fearing from her silence that her correspondent was Montague, said, with some severity, “I insist on seeing the 146 direction.” Fanny put the letter into her hands.
“Disingenuous girl!” exclaimed Mrs. Exton “have you then so little regard for the promise you pledged your father, and repeated to me?”
‘Never, perhaps, in her life had Fanny rejoiced so much in having acted with propriety; and the heroine, for a time, was laid aside, as with a countenance glowing with a consciousness of being unjustly suspected, she said, “Open it, madam: I beg, I insist that you open it.” Mrs. Exton complied, and Montague’s letter unopened, unanswered, met her eyes. “Forgive me, my dear Fanny,” said she, taking her hand; “I ought to have known you better than to have suspected you for a moment; but it is my anxiety for you that so readily awakes my fears. Seal up the letter again, Fanny; or stay, will it not be better for me to direct it? Montague will then see 147 that you have no concealment from your friends, and that you are willing to be directed by their advice.”
“As you please, madam,” said Fanny; and the letter was accordingly directed by Mrs. Exton, and dispatched before the rest of the family joined them.
‘Let it not for a moment be supposed that Fanny complied with her aunt’s proposal, from an opinion that such a proceeding was the best she could adopt; far from it. It was so perfectly consistent, such numberless instances were to be found of distracted damsels being compelled to write letters of disgust and abhorrence, while their hearts were desirous of contradicting every syllable, that Fanny thought it was the least she could expect only to submit to the blank cover being directed by her aunt.
‘When the breakfast was ended, Mrs. Exton and her daughter contrived, under various pretexts, to give Charles an opportunity 148 of conversing with his cousin without restraint. With the same open sincerity he repeated to her the proposals he had made her father. Fanny heard him almost with horror. The disinterested friendship, the delicate attentions, the warm affection that had been shown her by all the inhabitants of Exton Park, appeared to her disordered imagination the effects of a deeply laid collusion: but thinking it prudent to conceal her apprehensions, she said, “You are not, sir, I imagine, ignorant of my situation, nor can you wonder that under existing circumstances your offers excite my surprise, my”—detestation she would have added; but Exton, who supposed the circumstances to which she alluded, must be the recent change that had taken place in her father’s affairs, interrupted her.
“Trifles of this kind, dearest Fanny, weigh nothing in the scale of affection. I sincerely grieve for the loss you have 149 sustained; but, believe me, it will ever be the object of my most constant care and attention to efface from your mind every unpleasant recollection.”
“Trifles!” repeated Fanny, when he ceased speaking. “Losses to be effaced from my mind by your attention! Is it possible? Do I hear right? Have I then lost all that was most prized, most loved?”
‘The astonishment of Exton was extreme at these apostrophes, as he had never suspected the love of money to be so deeply rooted in the breast of any young person, particularly in that of Fanny Anderson: but he strove to calm her agitation by saying, “It is possible your father’s information may not be correct.”
“And is it possible,” exclaimed she, “that while a doubt remains, you can imagine I can listen to you with patience? Have I no honour, no sense of justice, 150 think you, Mr. Exton, that I could bear to unite my fate with your’s, while only a possibility existed that the information was not true?”
“Indeed, Fanny, you carry your notions of honour to an extreme. I have property enough to support you in the rank of life to which you have hitherto been accustomed, and——”
“Say no more on the subject,” interrupted Fanny, waving her hand. “Poverty were preferable, with unblemished integrity.”
“This, then, is my only hope,” said Exton, presenting her father’s letter. “Consider it well: if this should fail to influence you in my favour, Fanny, I will trouble you no more.” He left the room as he pronounced these words, and Fanny hastened to her chamber.
“Alas!” she exclaimed, throwing herself into a chair, and covering her face with her handkerchief, “did I not from 151 the first suspect their design? Fool that I was; their blandishments prevailed: and I suffered myself to be lulled to an imaginary sense of safety. But now the veil is rent aside, and their treachery, in its most hideous colours, is presented to my view. Oh! Montague, Montague, what snares have they laid to make me prove a traitor to love and thee!—but ’tis in vain.” She then proceeded to read her father’s letter; it stated his embarrassed circumstances, his wish to see her the wife of Exton: the paper dropt from her hands. “Oh! aid me, all ye powers who watch over distressed lovers,” she cried; “shield me from a father’s curse, a detested lover’s persecution.” But no such powers came to her assistance; probably because they foresaw the lover was not of the persecuting order; and because they knew the father had not threatened to curse.
‘When she had cried herself into something like composure, she began to consider 152 what course it would be the best to pursue. Opposition will sometimes render that precious, whose value was previously doubtful. If Fanny had before entertained any suspicion of the reality of her attachment to Montague, she was now convinced that she loved him better than life; that life must cease ere she could be insensible to him, &c. &c. &c.: and her resolution was accordingly taken, that nothing should induce her to give him up.
‘Independent of Montague, what could equal the interest of her situation? Was she to marry, when her father was, perhaps, about to become the inmate of a prison? When every one would fly him as a pestilence, was she to join the train of faithless friends, and leave him comfortless? Was it not her place to attend, to soothe, to cheer him; to work day and night to procure him some better fare than the prison allowed; in short, ought she 153 not to become his servant, his slave, his horse, his ox, his ass, his goods, his household stuff, as well as his child? Yes: and she would fly to him, and prove at once her devotion to her father, and her fidelity to Montague.—Let us not set down aught in malice. Fanny did not positively rejoice that her father was likely to have to endure the hardships incident to so great a change in his fortune; but it is certain that the prospect of her own interesting condition greatly assisted to assuage her grief.
‘These ideas took such entire possession of her mind, that she was anxious to put them in immediate execution; and her desire of returning home met no opposition, as Exton Park could not now be considered an agreeable or an eligible abode for her. On her arrival in London, however, she found her power of cheering the gloom of a prison was little likely to be called into action, as her father was 154 still able to reside in the same house; and though some of the domestics had been dismissed, enough remained to prevent the necessity of her taking their place. The rejection of Charles was also likely to prove the last of her adventures; for in spite of her having taken the trouble to inform Eleanor of her having done so, Montague seemed in no haste to profit by the tacit encouragement it held out to him; no letter arrived, either from himself or his sister. How was she to account for it? Fanny’s heart began to sicken with disappointment. Montague had always represented himself to be a man of large and independent property, and it was therefore impossible to account for his neglect by supposing her loss of fortune to be the cause. But it might be he had not heard of their misfortunes; even to herself Fanny was obliged to confess this was most unlikely; for when did a faithful and devoted lover ever lose sight 155 of the beloved object so completely, as to be ignorant of circumstances of far less importance? But she would not be hasty in her conclusion; she would wait some time longer, ere she condemned him. Week after week, however, rolled on, and still no tidings arrived of Montague.
‘It happened while Fanny’s mind was in this state of uncertainty, that unexpected business brought Exton to London, nor did he leave it till he had entreated Fanny to think again of the proposal he had formerly made her. Fanny did think of it. She had never borne her cousin any dislike, and his conduct, so different to that of Montague, had insensibly excited her esteem and respect; she reflected too that she should oblige her father as well as Exton: unfortunately, above all, she recollected that it would be the touchstone of Montague’s affection for her.
‘Let no one start, Fanny was not vicious. The want of right principles was her 156 misfortune, not her fault; for while her mind was unbiassed, and capable of receiving proper impressions, they had never been instilled. Right principles would have taught her that, when once married, she had nothing to do with ascertaining the reality of the attachment Montague had professed for her; they would have taught her that it was her interest, and above all her duty to crush all remains of tenderness in her own bosom: but Fanny was the Dupe of False Principles.’
“I hope you have not brought her to a very tragical end,” said Mr. Newman, pausing to take breath.
“I shall not anticipate my own catastrophe,” replied Miss Stanley. “But whence comes it you are not so liberal of your remarks on this tale, as on those you formerly read?”
“Do you expect, my young friend,” asked the old gentleman, “that by way 157 of compromise for the dissatisfaction I then expressed, I am going to say this is perfect? I cannot forswear myself, even to please a lady; such is not the case; but as you have anticipated most of the remarks I should have made, I am not disposed to interrupt the story, for the sake of arranging a period, or transposing an adverb.”
“Disingenuous girl!” exclaimed Mrs. Exton “have you then
[It seems as if there ought to be punctuation of some kind after “Mrs. Exton”.]
will it not be better for me to direct it? Montague will then see that you have no concealment from your friends
[This is not very good thinking on Mrs. Exton’s part. Montague might equally well conclude that Fanny’s mail is being intercepted.]
‘It is needless to trace the progress of events from this period till that of Fanny’s marriage, on which occasion so much real satisfaction appeared in the countenances of all around her, that Fanny, knowing herself to be the ruling cause of it, could only wonder how she had refrained from contributing to it before. And now it would appear that the author has nothing more to do than to make his bow, and exit: but patience, gentle reader, marriage is not always the signal for the departure of sorrow. Nearly a year and a half passed in perfect tranquillity at the Park. Peace appeared to have taken up her abode with them; and Happiness, who like a faithful handmaid always attends her steps, had arrayed her in her most enchanting garb.’159
“No rhodomontade, if you please, my dear,” said Mr. Newman: “we have gone on quietly and simply hitherto, and so in sober reason let us conclude.”
“I pray you, my dear sir,” replied the Authoress, “do not begin to find fault with me now. Our journey will soon be finished, if you throw no obstacles in the way.”
‘The remembrance of Montague alone disturbed the mind of Fanny, and that from the power of resentment began rapidly to fade. To ascribe to her a better motive would, doubtless, raise her higher in the opinion of our readers, but there existed no better; and if Charles possessed more of her affection than formerly, it was owing to the contrast between his endeavours to obtain it, and the indifference of Montague; for Fanny, who had expected her marriage would have driven him to some act of desperation, had never heard of his having recourse to 160 such a proceeding; and she had tried to banish him from her mind, more from a sense of mortified vanity, than from principle.
‘One evening about this time she was summoned to a rustic, who stated that a sick person, who had fallen ill at his house, wished to see her. There was nothing extraordinary in the business, as such appeals to their benevolence were often made by the neighbouring poor in cases of emergency, and Fanny accordingly accompanied the man to his cottage. On entering the sick chamber, as she supposed it to have been, Fanny beheld a man closely muffled in a long dressing gown, sitting by the fire. The cottager placed a seat, and retired: the stranger did not offer to break silence; and Fanny, at length finding her situation somewhat unpleasant, inquired if it was in her power to relieve him. The stranger shook his head in silence.
“For what purpose, then, did you send for me?” asked Fanny.161
“To curse you before I die!” exclaimed the stranger, throwing off the gown, and discovering to the terror-struck Fanny the features of Montague.
‘She sunk back in her chair scarcely able to breathe. “To curse me, Montague!” she faintly articulated; “to curse Fanny Anderson!”
“No,” replied he, “but Fanny Exton I would curse; Tell me,” he added, “tell me instantly, am I to bless or curse you?”
“Oh! not to curse me, surely not curse me!” said Fanny.
‘Montague knew precisely the character he had to work upon: “You say true,” said he, sighing deeply; “I cannot choose but bless you still. But you shall hear my wrongs. Oh Fanny! how cruelly have you deceived me!”
‘Poor Fanny sat the image of death, while Montague related a long fabrication of his endeavours to see her during her residence at the Park, in which he 162 was circumvented by the machinations of Exton; of his letters having been intercepted by the same means; and finally, of a long and dangerous illness into which the news of her marriage had thrown him: he concluded by saying, that as soon as his health permitted, he had set out for the neighbourhood of Exton Park, to take his last farewell, and die.
‘All this was so exactly according with the most choice love tales, that Fanny believed every syllable, and thought her own rashness had alone dashed away a cup of the purest bliss that had ever been offered to mortal lips.
‘There was no principle in Fanny’s bosom that reminded her of the impropriety of listening to such tales of a man, who, if they were true, was still her husband; none, that represented the attention she paid them as inconsistent with the duty and honour she had vowed to render him, inasmuch as it was undermining 163 the respect which was their surest basis; none, that suggested the injustice of condemning unheard any one, who, for so long a time, had proved himself so undeserving such an accusation. Fanny thought only of Montague, of his sufferings, and her own.
“Fanny,” said Montague at length, “I see you pity me; would you still, if it were possible, be mine?”
“Why ask me such a question?” replied she; “it is not possible, for am I not married?”
“Have we not both been deceived, treacherously robbed of all our hopes; and are we not justified in redressing our wrongs?”
“What can you mean?” demanded Fanny.
“I have an infallible elixir for our sorrows, Fanny,” said he; “but will you use it?”
“I will,” she replied, though a sudden chill ran through her frame, for she believed 164 he was going to propose that they should poison themselves: “death will be welcome to me now.”
‘This desperate declaration encouraged Montague to lay aside the reserve he had till now preserved, and he informed her that it was not his intention to die, but elope with her. This was an awful hour in Fanny’s life, and one that she afterwards looked back upon with terror. Fancied injuries had roused her indignation; Montague’s affected misery had awakened all the tenderness which had nearly expired; hope of future happiness strengthened her resolutions; and Fanny consented to sacrifice honour, reputation, and peace of mind, to rend asunder all the ties imposed by conjugal, maternal, and filial duty, and elope with Montague the following evening.’
“It is over-drawn, upon my honour it is over-drawn,” said Mr. Newman.
“I cannot think so indeed,” returned 165 the Authoress. “Remember the character I have described; and consider too that she was not as dispassionate as we are, who are reading her adventures.”
‘Ten o’clock, the following night, was the hour appointed for Fanny to leave the Park. It was the hour when the family assembled in the supper-room; and she complained of indisposition, to excuse herself from joining them. Having tied up the few things she intended taking with her, she stole softly to the nursery, to take her last leave of her sleeping infant. She drew the curtains of his little bed—he was in a profound sleep. “This,” said she, “is worst of all. Why did I come?” She stooped and pressed her lips to his cheek; the action startled the little sleeper; he woke and uttered a peevish cry, but seeing his mother in the act of turning from him, he stretched his arms towards her. It turned the 166 scale in a moment. The voice of nature routed all her enemies from the bosom of Fanny, and saved her from irremediable destruction.
“I am glad she has got safe off at last,” said the old gentleman, as he laid down the manuscript; “but you surely do not mean to break off here.”
“It is one of my endless tales,” replied the Authoress; “and I think, on that account, it may be allowed to go with the rest.”
“Oh! add it by all means,” returned Mr. Newman: “it will act the part of a long moral, to a set of short fables. But I should have been better pleased to have heard of a reformation in Fanny’s principles, or rather the importation of a fresh stock; for, as the matter now stands, we do not feel at all convinced that she will not do the like again.”
“It was my intention,” said Miss 167 I finished it, to have satisfied my readers on that point, by giving notice of the reformation you speak of, and also of her conviction of Montague’s villany.”
“And by the way, my dear,” remarked the old gentleman, “you have not done justice to Montague, in withholding the reason of his conduct.”
“The plot of the tale is imperfect I confess,” said the young lady; “but as my principal business was with my heroine’s motives, I have used Montague only as the means of showing to what lengths a person may be carried by false principles. For if a being, such as I have endeavoured to describe Fanny, possessed of good natural disposition and abilities, could be led so far astray, how much farther will those wander who are devoid of even this slender barrier? Surely they will not escape the precipice to whose brink they have run.”168
“I am glad that I have made so fair a proselyte,” said Mr. Newman. “You will then agree with me in saying, that novels in general, when considered in any other light than that of amusement, may, in the hands of the unskilful, prove not only dangerous, but fatal.”
J. MOYES, GREVILLE STREET, LONDON.
“It is over-drawn, upon my honour it is over-drawn,” said Mr. Newman.
[The year is 1819. With any luck, Mr. Newman will have died of old age before East Lynne sees the light of day.]
“It was my intention,” said Miss Stanley, “had I finished it
text has Miss Stanley,” had I with the wrong quotation mark in the wrong place
[The word “Stanley” comes at the beginning of a page, giving the printer some slight excuse.]
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The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.