« НазадПродовжити »
scarcely three years after his marriage, and left bis widow with two sons unprovided for; but her character obtained her friends, and, by her exertions, she was able to maintain herself in independence.
We have almost lost sight of Mr. Edgeworth ; but the truth is, he is a far less interesting personage, in his own memoirs, than most of his friends. In the year 1709, his father died at the age of sixty-nine; and Mr. Edgeworth finding himself in possession of a competent estate, gave up all thoughts of the bar. Soon after this event, his wife being still living, he became acquainted with Miss Honora Sneyd, to whom Major André was at that time paying his addresses ; and bis admiration soon grew into a deep attachment. Whatever may be thought of Mr. Er's conduct in the first instance, he took the only honourable method of obviating criminality and danger-by flight. He went abroad, in company with his friend Day; and while the philosopher was practising the graces, Mr. E. engaged in a scheme which called into exercise all his skill in engineering : it was no other than to divert the Rhone into a new channel. When he found be should be detained at Lyons for some time, he invited' his wife to join him : she staid with him till the winter, and then returned in order to be confined in England, and to die. On receiving this intelligence, Mr. E. lost no time in returning:
' A new era in his life,' he tells us beginning. Our readers will guess what this means: he went directly to Litchfield, saw Miss Honora Sneyd, was accepted, was married by special license, and immediately after the ceremony, set off for Ireland. The remainder of the memoir describes, with more feeling than is displayed in any other part of the volume, the few short years of domestic happiness which ensued, and the decline and death of Honora ; it then proceeds to detail the method he took to repair his irreparable loss by marrying, at his deceased wife's suggestion, her sister Elizabeth, and the discussions to which this gave rise; and it breaks off abruptly at the year 1782, when Mr. Edgeworth formed the wise determination to return to Ireland, and dedicate the remainder of his life to the improvement of his estate, the education of his children, and the good of the country from which he drew his subsistence.
It is to his daughter that Mr. Edgeworth is entirely indebted for exhibiting the bright side of his character, -as a father, a landlord, and a patriot; that daughter whose writings render it after all his safest claim to posthumous celebrity, that he was the father of Maria Edgeworth. From the period of his settling in Ireland in 1782, he resided in that country, and on his own estate, nearly five and thirty years. In that year, the Irish volunteers were in force, and Lord Charlemont, their general, Vol. XIV. N. S.
appointed Mr. Edgeworth to be one of his aides de camp. Miss Edgeworth gives an interesting sketch of Irish affairs at this critical period, in which her father bore an honourable part. In 1785, the Royal Irish Academy was formed, and Mr. Edgeworth was named, at Lord Charlemont's desire, one of its original members. In the two following years, he occupied himself very usefully in the improvement of considerable tracts of mountainous land and of bog; and in carrying limestone for the improvement of the mountain farm, he made the first trial of
wooden moveable railways, and small carriages with cast-iron
wheels, supported on friction rollers. During the disturbances and alarms of the years 1794, 5, he exerted himself, but without success, to establish a telegraph in Ireland : it did not suit the English government to sanction it. In the year 1997, he lost bis third wife, to whom he had been married seventeen years; and as there is no good reason why a man who has had three wives, should not take a fourth, he lost no tine in supplying the Vacancy. His own daughter must be allowed to be a disinterested judge of the propriety of this step : she says,
My father was past fifty, when he was left a third time a widower, with a numerous family, by different wives : four sons and five daughters living with him ; some of them grown up, others very youngthe youngest but three years old-two of the daughters fourteen and sixteen, just at the age when a mother's care is of most importance. Besides his children, two sisters of the late Mrs. Edgeworth had resided with us for several years. Though they had friends and near connexions in England, for whom they felt high esteem, they had remained in Ireland with us, and they formed part of this large family, attached to them by ties of kindred, and by feelings of gratitude and esteem. Those wlio knew him intimately, and all indeed who had seen how much the felicity of his former life had depended upon conjugal affection, were aware, that he would not be happy unless he married again.' p. 191.
The lady on whom his choice fell, was a Miss Beaufort, to whom is borne a most honourable testimony.
A more trying situation for a wife could hardly be imagined, than that in which she was now placed. She knew, that in the minds of all who surrounded her-sons, daughters, and sisters-in-law, old associations and present feelings, though not averse to her individually, must be painfully affected by the first introduction of a new wife and mother. She was aware, that points of comparison must continually recur with those, who had been much beloved or highly admired. Love and sorrow for their late mother were still fresh in the minds of her own children ; while ever present to the memory of others of the family, and of traditional power over the imagination, was the character of one highly gifted and graced with every personal and mental endowment-the more than celebrated, the revered Honora! Knowing and feeling all this and who could know or feel it more
my father seemed neither embarrassed nor anxious for his present wife ; not imprudently impatient to have her admired or beloved by his family
Soon after this marriage, things and persons found themselves in their proper places ; and the fear of change, which had.perplexed numbers, was gradually dispelled. The sisters of the late Mrs. Edgeworth, those excellent aunts (Mrs. Mary and Charlotte Sneyd,) instead of returning to their English friends and relations, remained at Edgeworth-Town. This was an auspicious omen to the common people in our neighbourhood, by whom they were universally beloved --it spoke well, they said, for the new lady. In his own family, the union and happiness she would secure was soon felt, but her superior qualities, her accurate knowledge, judgment, and abilities, in decision and in action, appeared only as occasions arose and called for them. She was found always equal to the occasion, and superior to the expectation. The power and measure of her efficient kindness could never be calculated, and was never fully known to each individual of her family, till by that individual it was most wanted.' pp. 202—4.
Fifteen years after, we have the following most pleasing picture.
Fifteen years had now passed, since his last marriage. The sisters of a former wife continued to reside in his family, having become the most attached friends of the present Mrs. Edgeworth and of her children. Under her uniting influence, he saw his sons and daughters, by three previous marriages, living together with six of her children, all in perfect harmony and happiness; all looking up to him with fond affection, confidence, and gratitude. From the great difference in the ages of his children, his eldest being at that time above five and forty, the youngest, only one year old ; he enjoyed as a father, preceptor, and friend, an extraordinary variety of interest and amusement, as well as occupation and friendship in his own family. Some had been for years his friends and companions, had joined with him in all his pursuits, thoughts, and feelings, and had lived with him on terms of equality, which, diminishing nothing from respect, added incalculably to our happiness, gratitude, and affection.
Then he had, both as a preceptor and a parent, contirual interest in the education of his sons; while their gratitude,, and the promise of their excellence, delighted their father's heart with the fairest prospect, and the most reasonable of human hopes. For the fortitude with which he had sustained former misfortunes, and the energy with which he had persevered unremittingly in the education of those which remained to him, he was rewarded by seeing a new race grouring up around him, to supply, not to obliterate in bis affections, those whom he had lost.' pp. 381--382.
To go back to the year 1798, a memorable one for Ireland. When it became absolutely necessary to have recourse to military interference, Mr. E. felt it to be an act of justice to his own tenantry, to raise a corps of infantry, into which, by what was deemed a most hazardous exercise of liberality, he admitted
Catholics as well as Protestants. But though the corps was raised, the arms were, by some mistake of the ordnance office, delayed till all danger was over. The evening of the day on which the news came, of the successful landing of the French at Killala, all seemed quiet at Edgeworth town; but the next morning (Sept. 4), reports reached them that the rebels were up in arms within a mile of the village, pouring in from the county of Westmeath, hundreds strong. These were contradicted, but at length, it was ascertained, that a body of rebels were advanciog towards the village, and no alternative was left but to fly. One of Mr. Edgeworth's carriages having been lent, there remained but one for the whole family, eleven in number.
• No mode of conveyance could be had for some of the female ser. vants; our faithful English housekeeper offered to stay till the return of the carriage, which had been left with the officer; and as we could not carry her, we were obliged, most reluctantly, to leave her behind to follow, as we hoped, immediately. As we passed through the village, we heard nothing but the entreaties, lamentations, and objurgations of those, who could not procure the means of carrying of their goods or their families : most painful when we could give no assistance.
We expected every instant to hear the shout of the rebels enter. ing Edgeworth-Town. When we had got about half a mile out of the village, my father suddenly recollected, that he had left on his table a paper, containing a list of his corps; and that, if this should come into the hands of the rebels, it might be of dangerous consequence to his men; it would serve to point out their houses for pillage, and their families for destruction. 'He turned his horse instantly, and galloped back for it. The time of his absence appeared immeasurably long, but he returned safely, after having destroyed the dangerous paper.
• Longford was crowded with yeomanry of various corps, and with the inhabitants of the neighbourhood, who had flocked thither for protection. With great difficulty the poor Edgeworth-Town infantry found lodgings. We were cordially received by the landlady of a good inn. Though her house was, as she said, fuller than it could hold, as she was an old friend of my father's, she did contrive to give us two rooms, in which we ven were thankful to find ourselves. All our concern now was for those we had left behind. We heard nothing of our housekeeper all night, and were exceedingly alarmed: but early the next morning, to our great joy, she arrived. She told us, that after we had left her, she waited hour after hour for the carriage : she could hear nothing of it, as it had gone to Longford with the woun. ded officer. Towards evening, a large body of rebels entered the village.-She heard them at the gate, and expected that they would have broken in the next instant. But one, who seemed to be a leader, with a pike in his hand, set his back against the gate, and swore, that, “if he was to die for it the next minute, he would have the life of the first man, who should open that gate, or set enemy's foot within side of that place." He said, the housekeeper, who was left in it, was a good gentlewoman, and had done him a service, though she did not
leave to go
know him, nor he her. He had never seen her face, but she had, the year before, lent his wife, when in distress, sixteen shillings, the rent of flax-ground, and he would stand her friend now.
• He kept back the mob; they agreed to send him to the house with a deputation of six, to know the truth, and to ask for arms. The six men went to the back-door, and summoned the housekeeper; one of them pointed his blunderbuss at her, and told her, that she must fetch all the arms in the house ; she said she had none. Her champion asked her to say if she remembered him~" No; to her knowledge she had never seen his face.". He asked if she remembered having lent a woman money to pay her rent of flax-ground the year before? « Yes," she remembered that, and named the woman, the time, and the sum. His companions were thus satisfied of the truth of what he had asserted. He bid her not to be frighted, " for that no harm should happen to her, nor any belonging to her ; not a soul should get
into her master's house; not a twig should be touched, nor a leaf harmed.” His companions huzzaed and went off. Afterwards, as she was told, he mounted guard at the gate during the whole time the rebels were in the town.
• When the carriage at last returned, it was stopped by the rebels, who filled the street; they held their pikes to the horses and to the coachman's breast, accusing him of being an Orange-man, because, as they said, he wore the orange colours (our livery being yellow and brown.) A painter, a friend of ours, who had been that day at our house, copying some old family portraits, happened to be in the street at that instant, and called out to the mob, “ Gentlemen, it is yellow ! -gentlemen, it is not orange." In consequence of this happy distinction they let go the coachman ; and the same man, who had mounted guard at the gate, came up with his friends, rescued the carriage, and surrounding the coachman with their pikes, brought him safely into the yard. The pole of the carriage having been broken in the first onset, the housekeeper could not leave Edgeworth-Town till morning. She passed the night in walking up and down, listening and watching, but the rebels returned no more, and thus our house was saved by the gratitude of a single individual.
The sequel is well known. The news of the total defeat of the French, near Granard, soon dissipated all fears of danger from the rebels, and the family lost no tine in returning to their home.
• When we came near Edgeworth-Town, we saw many well known faces at the cabin doors, looking out to welcome us. One man, who was digging in his field by the road side, when he looked up as our horses passed, and saw my father, let fall his spade and clasped his hands; his face, as the morning sun shone upon it, was the strongest picture of joy I ever saw. The village was a melancholy spectacle; windows shattered, and doors broken. But though the mischief done was great, there had been little pillage. Within our gates we found all property safe; literally “ not a twig touched, nor a leaf harmed." Within the house every thing was as we had left it a map that we had been consulting was still open on the library table, with pencils, and