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Miss TALBOT was the only and posthumous child of Edward Talbot, second son of William, Bishop of Durham, and younger brother to Charles, first Lord Talbot. Her mother was daughter to the Rev. George Martyn, Prebendary of Lincoln. They had been married only a few months, when Mr. Talbot died, in his thirtieth year, leaving his widow in a situation very inadequate to his rank in life. The kind attentions of an intimate friend were not wanting at this critical period. Catherine, sister to Mr. Benson, afterwards Bishop of Gloucester, who had been the companion of Mrs. Talbot's early youth, and was residing with her at the time, was her great support in this heavy affliction; and when her infant was born, it was supposed that she could not have been reared without the assistance of her care and tenderness. These circumstances naturally formed a still closer bond of intimacy between the two ladies. They continued to live together, and to bestow all their joint attention upon the infant Catherine, till the marriage of Miss Benson to Mr. (afterwards Archbishop) Secker, then Rector of the
valuable living of Houghton-le-Spring in Durham. For this preferment Mr. Secker had been indebted to the friendship of Mr. Edward Talbot, who, on his death-bed, recommended him to his father the bishop: Mr. Secker was never unmindful of this obligation; and was thus induced to pay great attention to the widow and child of his deceased friend. Upon his marriage with Miss Benson, he immediately joined his wife in a request that Mrs. and Miss Talbot would become a part of his family. The offer was accepted, and they never afterwards separated ; for, upon Mrs. Secker's death, which took place in the year 1748, they still continued with him, and took the management of his domestic concerns.
From her mother, it does not appear probable that Miss Talbot could acquire either much literature or many accomplishments; but to her she owed what was of much greater consequence, strictly religious and virtuous principles, so well grounded, and on a foundation so solid, that they were never afterwards shaken in any situation of life. Mrs. Talbot was not a woman of brilliant parts, and her own education seems to have been rather neglected; yet, her mind was strong, her judgment sound, her manners amiable, and her piety fervent as well as rational. Besides her mother's instructions, Miss Talbot enjoyed the benefit of a constant intercourse with Mr. Secker: she reaped all the advantages of his deep and extensive learning, of his accurate knowledge of the Scriptures, and of his critical and unwearied research into the sciences and languages more immediately connected with that important study. Yet, though so much attention was bestowed on serious pursuits, the lighter and more ornamental parts of female education were not neglected. Music, drawing, and painting in water-colours, engaged her attention. The sciences and modern languages
were not neglected. She attained a complete knowledge of French and Italian, and at a subsequent period of life, she taught herself German. She likewise studied geography and astronomy with
Moving in a distinguished sphere of life, her noble birth, high connexions, and residence in the family of so eminent a prelate as Dr. Secker was, added lustre to her merit, and set it off with every advantage. Admired also for her personal charms, she possessed all the graces of the most polished manners, and the most engaging address.
The seeds of the fatal malady which at length conducted her to the tomb, seem to have been very early planted in her constitution. Hence, probably, proceeded the listlessness and languor which oppressed her so severely, even when she had no apparent complaint; and hence also the disorder which was mistaken for consumption, and for which Mrs. Carter accompanied her to Bristol, about ten years before her death. Her stay there appeared to have the desired effect, but she never recovered her health ; from that time she became a confirmed invalid.
This excellent and amiable woman, great as were her talents, and brilliant as were her accomplishments, possessed qualities of infinitely more importance both to herself and society. Her piety was regular, constant, and fervent, but not enthusiastic. It was the spring of all her actions, as its reward was the object of all her hopes. Her charity, including the whole meaning of the word in its apostolical sense, was extended to all her acquaintance, rich as well as poor; and to the latter she gave, not only such relief as her circumstances would allow of, (for she was never rich,) þut no small portion of her time.
Miss Talbot’s life affords little scope for narrative: it passed on in a smooth and equable tenor. This was a blessing of which her pious mind was deeply
sensible: she was always" thankful for days not marked by calamity, nor blackened by the horrors of guilt." But Miss Talbot lived to experience a severe affliction, though she did not long survive it, in the death of Abp. Secker. This event, which took place in July 1768, was extremely distressing, on many accounts, both to her and her mother. They lost the sincere and affectionate friend with whom they had resided for forty-three years, without the most trifling disagreement, or the least diminution of kindness. They had to seek another home, when the advanced age of the mother, and the illhealth of the daughter, rendered the necessity of exertion painful and distressing, and left them little able to struggle with the world. For, it was an aggravation of their sorrow on losing this distinguished friend, that they for some time suffered from the fear of comparative poverty. The Archbishop's will was not found till three months after his de. cease; and they had the prospect of quitting the affluence of Lainbeth Palace, for a precarious state of dependence on a relation, or the occupation of a house on the smallest scale.
Yet, the balm of religious consolation was still theirs ;
and in patient submission to the will of God, they found both relief and reward. The language of Miss Talbot to a friend was this: “ In so great a calamity, it will somewhat comfort you to hear that my mother and I are well; composed and resigned." And again, a few days after, “ Circumstances of the greatest distress have been mixed with our heavy affliction, and I more than ever see cause for thankfulness to an over-ruling Providence. God be thanked, our minds are supported in comfort, and our health wonderfully preserved."
The provision which the will of Archbishop Secker made for Mrs. Talbot and her daughter, enabled them to take a convenient house in Grosvenor-street, where they continued for some time. But Miss Talbot's increasing complaints obliged them to leave London for a cooler and better air. Their kind and constant friend, the late Marchioness Grey, lent them for this purpose her house at Richmond, together with “ every thing she could think of to contribute to their comfort or amusement; and at the same time recommended them to all her intimate acquaintance in that neighbourhood. From this delightful retreat Miss Talbot returned only to breathe her last in her mother's house in town. She was with great difficulty conveyed thither from Richmond in November, and though she thought herself better for the first few days, she was never afterwards able to quit her own apartment. Her dissolution took place on the 9th of January, 1770, in the 49th year of her age; it was not attended by severe pain, or any peculiarly distressing circumstances. To her to die was gain. Her whole life had been a preparation for death ; her last hours, therefore, were not likely to be disturbed by the horrors of a wounded conscience, or the agonies of mental disquietude. The following account is given by a lady who was with her when her death was hourly expected.
“ Her resignation and patience through all her sufferings you are well acquainted with: it exceeds all description. Cheerfulness does not express her countenance or manner; I mean on Sunday last. There was a joy I shall never forget, and founded, I am certain, on the very few hours she hoped to remain here; and she told me she had that feeling within her, that spoke her happiness near.-I am thankful I have known her, and have sometimes hopes I may be the better all my life, for some conversations passed in this last illness."
The followiny extracts from her writings cannot but be highly acceptable to the reader.