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hours; and Mrs. Barbauld redeemed it from oblivion. But it is time to present a more advantageous view of female literature, and behold two ladies, who seem formed to banish every gloomy impression. Each born to a liberal station, and with aptitudes to poetry, was educated with tender care, surrounded with the comforts of affluence, and distinguished by the attractions of beauty. They were neither coevals nor rivals. A disparity of more than twenty years would, perhaps, have formed a barrier to the ties of friendship, had they been familiarly acquainted. It appears not, however, that they ever saw each other. It is only in the obituary that Mrs. Tighe and Miss Seward are associated. Mrs. Tighe struggled a few years with hopeless disease, and perished in the flower of youth, almost without having redeemed the pledge her early compositions had given of ambitious excellence. But her "Psyche," though veiled in allegory, which by few readers can be relished, though occasionally betraying the languor that preyed on the writer's delicate frame, her tender "Psyche" still lives, and Ireland cherishes as she ought her accomplished daughter, who, in beguiling her own sufferings, created an imaginary elysium. The style of this interesting woman is characterized by a certain voluptuous melancholy which appears to have pervaded the writer's mind. She excelled in delicacy and purity of sentiment, and if we could conceive an angel descending to attune a mortal lyre, we might expect its melodious vibrations to flow in unison with the strains of Tighe. I should now take leave of the Autographs, but that my attention is mournfully recalled by the names of Inchbald and Radcliffe. The juxtaposition is evidently accidental, for these belonged not to the same class, and were insulated from all sister writers by unapproached and almost unimitated excellence. It has been pretended that original or rather creative genius belongs not to the female sex; but who has more indisputably possessed that attribute than the enchantress of "Udolpho?" Like the author of Waverley, she was the foundress of a school of novelwriters, among whom she invariably maintained pre-eminence. From childhood she was characterized by habits of abstraction, such as mark a contemplative mind; she delighted in picturesque scenery, and was a nice observer and passionate worshiper of Nature. She married early a man of sense and liberal attainments, whose society rather aided than impeded her favourite pursuits, and to whose judgment were submitted her various productions. Deeply imbued with the spirit of poetry, her first effusions were in verse, and some of her sonnets not unworthy the Italian model she had selected; but the rapidity of her conceptions could ill brook the trammels of metre; in her mind all teemed with life and energy and intense excitement, and she struck into a wild romantic path, in which she could indulge unrestrained the enthusiasm and exuberance of her creative imagination. Fortunately for her success with the public, she possessed in a supreme degree the art of elaborating a fable, by which curiosity was awakened and suspense prolonged, with such felicity as rendered even impatience susceptible of exquisite enjoyment. Of her positive merits, however, this constructive talent formed but a subordinate part; she wrote from the fulness of inspiration, and boundless is the empire she exercises over our imaginative passion. It were idle to expatiate on those merits which have been long and cordially acknowledged, but it is remarkable that without re
ference to the dicta of criticism, by the tact of genius alone she has preserved congruity and harmony in her style, her personages, and her sentiments. Of Mrs. Radcliffe's domestic life little is known, but that it was spent in honourable privacy; and whilst her habits of retirement baffled curiosity, her strict propriety defied reproach. It appears surprising that she should so early have resigned the pen to which she was probably indebted for her happiest moments. To men of imagination, the world with all its rich varieties is open, to relieve or renovate the mind when absorbed and exhausted by literary pursuits; but to women of genius no such resources are offered; and if they have not a father or a brother to assist the progress of their studies, they must continue by solitary efforts to struggle into notice, and to spend their leisure in uncongenial society. Home is to them a citadel of vigilance, not a scene of pleasure or repose: to man it is as a garden, in which he refreshes his weary spirit and exercises his best affections; but to woman this seeming elysium is a school of discipline, which allows not even a momentary relaxation from laborious care.
It is not without emotion that I turn to Inchbald, who in the order of time should have preceded Radcliffe: an involuntary impulse assigns. to her the last, not least honoured place. Born of humble parents, the early indications she gave of superior intelligence were neither prized nor understood; her rare endowments, instead of gratifying, seem to have alienated from her the affections of her domestic relatives, and she had not only to struggle with the disadvantages inevitable to a neglected education, but to endure the slights and persecutions inflicted by vulgar ignorance. But genius endureth all things for its own sake. Little as Elizabeth Singer owed to cultivation, she contrived to discover books which she devoured rather than read, and became passionately enamoured of dramatic poetry. As she approached maturity, her miseries increased; she found her home intolerable, and as a desperate resource, resolved to try her fortunes on the stage. She was scarcely sixteen when she took this resolution, for which it was not probable she should obtain the assistance or even the sanction of her parents. Of her aptitudes to the theatrical profession, report speaks not highly; her memory was prompt and retentive, her voice sweet and powerful, but she had a slow and somewhat defective articulation, was destitute of confidence, and overflowing with sensibility. But to whatever disabilities she might be liable, her majestic stature and beautifully expressive countenance insured her attention from the manager or the audience. She was engaged in a provincial company; but had no sooner entered on her new career, than she became sensible of the dangers to which it must expose her unfriended youth; and it was this painful conviction which induced her to accept the hand of Mr. Inchbald, already in the wane of life, with whom she steadily pursued the profession she had chosen, for which, however, she soon avowed unqualified abhorrence. The principles which had determined her choice, continued to influence her conduct; she lived without reproach, but on her husband's death, found herself with no other resource than her talent and energy supplied. By what gradations she became an authoress is not known: by an intercourse with the stage, so often the school of talent, she might in some degree surmount the disadvantages of a sordid education; she at least acquired that knowledge of the
world and that discriminating taste which are essential to dramatic composition. Nature lent the power, necessity gave the impulse, and after a long and painful probation she succeeded in establishing herself as a comic writer. At first her efforts were limited to the humble task of adapting French farces to an English theatre. It was the play of "Such Things are," that introduced her as an original dramatist. Although the success of this piece was brilliant, it is in real merit at an incalculable distance from "Every One has his Fault," a play the most perfect, perhaps, of the mixed kind that is to be found in our dramatic literature, in which the author evinced her versatility by enlisting among her dramatis personæ, a Siddons and a Munden, Lewis and Kemble,—a rare assemblage, that was crowned with a splendid triumph! But even this interesting play is scarcely as dramatic as her novel of "The Simple Story," in which, without the aid of theatrical representation, the seenes pass in rapid succession before the reader's eye. Not for a moment is the identity of the respective personages to be mistaken: the lineaments of Sandford are indelibly imprinted on memory; we seem to have known and to have talked or trifled with the charming Miss Milner; the interest with which we pronounce the name Dornforth, is the author's panegyric. In "Nature and Art," there is more versatility of talent, and stronger intensity of feeling; the tale is desultory, the impressions it produces are almost too painful, yet where shall we find its like again? In the zenith of her popularity Mrs. Inchbald was unfortunately constrained to adapt German plays to the English stage. The task was not more unworthy of her talents than repugnant to her taste; but what will not be endured by those, who after a series of heart-sickening disappointments, are at length cheered with the prospect of success, and allured by the hope of realizing independence! Mrs. Inchbald continued therefore to concentrate her powers in the vain effort, to extract -sense and humour from the pages of Kotzebue, and to satisfy the manager and conciliate the opposing claims of rival performers. Appalled by the difficulties incident to such undertakings, she complained that she never began a play without indescribable agonies of fear, nor ever completed it without feeling like a criminal already tried and condemned. Like all people of genius, she descried favourable auspices for the commencement of her work: when these were wanting, she knew it was but lost labour to pursue her progress; whatever she wrote without the presage of success, was consigned to the flames; but no sooner was she warm with her subject, than, abandoning herself to the impulse that took possession of her mind, she wrote with unremitted ardour till its action was suspended; sometimes persisting in her labours till long after midnight, she scarcely allowed herself to take the necessary refreshment. Whatever impressions she had received from real events, she was eager to seize and to transmit in all their vivid freshness. It was after attending a trial at the Old Bailey, that she drew the inimitable scene of Hannah standing at the bar of justice, before the seducer who pronounces the fatal verdict. In the Simple Story, she is believed to have pourtrayed her own most sacred feelings; and if rumour may be credited, she had been taught by a real Dornforth to describe the anguish attendant on slighted love. Mrs. Inchbald often dwelt with pathos on the unremitted toils and difficulties imposed on a dramatic writer. She complained that her anxiety never ceased, and that even, after the great ordeal of
public representation, she had to endure the cavils of criticism and repel the insinuations of malice. After frequent repetitions she saw another laurel added to her wreath, and for a short time was hailed in many a circle by friends and even rivals as the envied object of popular admiration; but the moment of triumph quickly passed, and she had to resume her efforts. In company Mrs. Inchbald was always seen to peculiar advantage: she forgot not to lend her charms the aid of dress, and when she had long resigned pretensions to youth, still drew the homage so universally yielded to beauty. Her person was tall and majestic, her dark hazel eyes wore an expression of archness, agreeably softened by a smile that played almost unconsciously on her eloquent lips. There was a gentle hesitation in her speech, which though it originated in defect, she had the grace to improve into a feminine perfection. Nor was her voice without its fascination; its full clear tones were exquisitely modulated, and from her lips the most trifling sentence became impressive. Her conversation was rich in anecdotes, which, whether old or new, were rendered piquant by her admirable talent of narration. In argument she was equally irresistible; even criticism from her was graceful; and a witty barrister once said to her, "I know not what rare beings may be found above, but sure I am there is nothing like you on earth beneath." But whatever animation she diffused in society, she had to return to her solitary lodging in Leicester-square to resume her toils, to renew her solicitudes, her involuntary regrets, her ever anticipated disappointments. To her relatives she was ever kind and considerate, although it was impossible that any sympathies or aptitudes for companionship could subsist between them. She was therefore left in the world and to the consciousness of her own loneliness; and in spite of her temperamental gaiety, it was well known to her intimate friends that she had moments of intense melancholy, which commonly preceded her happiest seasons of literary composition. Born with keen sensibilities, it had been the business of her life to control their vehemence, but neither years nor vicissitudes had destroyed her capacities for tenderness, and opportunity only was wanting to revive their force. In the house where she resided, she became passionately attached to a child, for whom, as she herself observed, she originally meant to preserve perfect indifference,--but who, said she, could help noticing a poor helpless infant?
"The maid who cleaned my apartment was accustomed to lay him on the carpet. At first I regarded him as a troublesome intruder; but when he cried I soothed him, and was pleased to find I had the power to still his murmurs: this happened again and again. By degrees I wished for the hour when he was to be brought to my room. I observed his growth, I watched his thoughts. Presently he began to articulate, and I was soon struck with the traits of feeling that escaped him.-I find his little passions already cause him to suffer much that he knows not how to express, and that pride sometimes teaches him to stifle his complaints. I love him for all that he suffers and enjoys; but above all I love him because he delights in me, and seeks me for my own sake even more than he relishes the sweet cakes with which I first offered to bribe his affections. It is long, very long since I have been loved or sought for myself."
The above is a trifling specimen of Mrs. Inchbald's familiar conversation, but she often contrived to introduce profound reflections in the disguise of sportive pleasantry. Her criticisms were in general perfectly just, and conveyed with true laconic brevity. It is the work of a
great mind, said she one day, speaking of Belinda, but not a great work; the author is capable of doing better. Of another book she complained it was too learned, and that it sent her to her dictionary, thus obliquely condemning its pedantry. The last fifteen years of her life were spent in seclusion: she still lived near the metropolis, but without mingling in its pleasures, and not only renounced the world, but relinquished her pen, lest, as she observed, she should have the misfortune to outlive her reputation. She even suppressed the publication of an autobiographical work, including the memoirs of fifteen years of her life. If this manuscript should be recoverable, it will perhaps bear away the palm of autobiography, even from Göthe. What could be more attractive than the graceful pen of Inchbald describing herself in all her early trials and subsequent conflicts of passion and duty, of reason and imagination? In suppressing this work the author has probably sacrificed that which would have constituted her most popular production; but, till the fact be positively ascertained, let no unhallowed pen presume to mar her story. There could be but one biographer worthy of Inchbald. In dismissing the autographs I should perhaps be tempted to inquire what encouragements this country offers to female authorship; but, expecting ere long to see many of the lettered belles in Miranda's Boudoir, I reserve my remarks for the present
ALL Nature breathes of joy, and hails the May;
And calf loud mooing in its colours pied,
SONNET.-THE SHEPHERD BOY.
And happy heavens where the righteous go;