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Now God be praised, the day is ours! Mayenne hath turned his rein
Remember St. Bartholomew," was passed from man to man;
Ho! maidens of Vienna! Ho! matrons of Lucerne !
That Antwerp monks may sing a mass for thy poor spearmen's souls'
[EDINBURGH REVIEW, JANUARY, 1843.]
THOUGH the world saw and heard little of Madame D'Arblay during the last forty years of her life, and though that little did not add to her fame, there were thousands, we believe, who felt a singular emotion when they learned that she was no longer among us. The news of her death carried the minds of men back at one leap, clear over two generations, to the time when her first literary triumphs were won. All those whom we had been accustomed to revere as intellectual patriarchs, seered children when compared with her; for Burke had sat up all night to read her writings, and Johnson had pronounced her superior to Fielding when Rogers was still a schoolboy, and Southey still in petticoats. Yet more strange did it seem that we should just have lost one whose name had been widely celebrated before anybody had heard of some illustrious men who, twenty, thirty, or forty years ago, were, after a long and splendid career, borne with honour to the grave. Yet so it Frances Burney was at the height of fame and popularity before Cowper had published his first volume, before Porson had gone up to college, before Pitt had taken his seat in the House of Commons, before the voice of Erskine had been once heard in Westminster Hall. Since the appearance of her first work, sixty-two years had passed; and this interval had been crowded, not only with political, but also with intellectual revolutions. Thousands of reputations had, during that period, sprung up, bloomed, withered, and disappeared. New kinds of composition had come into fashion, had gone out of fashion, had been derided, had bee forgotten. The fooleries of Della Crusca, and the fooleries of Kotzebue, had for a time bewitched the multitude, who had left no trace behind them; nor had misdirected genius been able to save from decay the once flourishing| schoc's of Godwin, of Darwin, and of Radcliffe. Many books, written for temporary effect, had run through six or seven editions, and had then been gathered to the novels of Afra Behn, and the epic poems of Sir Richard Blackmore. Yet the early works of Madame D'Arblay, in spite of the lapse of years, in spite of the change of manners, in spite of the popularity deservedly obtained by some of her rivals, continued to hold a high place in the public esteem. She lived to be a classic. Time set on her fame, before she went hence, that seal which is seldom set except on the fame of the departed. Like Sir Condy Rackrent in the tale, she survived her own wake, and overheard the judgment of posterity.
Having always felt a warm and sincere, though not a blind admiration for her talents, we rejoiced to learn that her Diary was about
*Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay. 5 vols. Bro. London. 1842
to be made public. Our hopes, it is true, were not unmixed with fears. We could not forget the fate of the Memoirs of Dr. Burney, which were published ten years ago. That unfortunate book contained much that was curious and interesting. Yet it was received with a cry of disgust, and was speedily consigned to oblivion. The truth is, that it deserved its doom. It was written in Madame D'Arblay's later style-the worst style that has ever been known among men. No genius, no information, could save from proscription a book so written. We, therefore, opened the Diary with no small anxiety, trembling lest we should light upon some of that particular rhetoric which deforms almost every page of the Memoirs, and which it is impossible to read without a sensation made up of mirth, shame and loathing. We soon, however, discovered to our great delight, that this Diary was kept before Madame D'Arblay became eloquent. It is, for the most part, written in her earliest and best manner; in true woman's English, clear, natural, and lively. The two works are lying side by side before us, and we never turn from the Memoirs to the Diary without a sense of relief. The difference is as great as the differ ence between the atmosphere of a perfumer's shop, fetid with lavender water and jasmine soap, and the air of a heath on a fine morning in May. Both works ought to be consulted by every person who wishes to be well acquainted with the history of our literature and our manners. But to read the Diary is a pleasure; to read the Memoirs will always be a task.
We may, perhaps, afford some harmless amusement to our readers if we attempt, with the help of these two books, to give them an account of the most important years of Madame D'Arblay's life.
She was descended from a family which bore the name of Macburney, and which, though probably of Irish origin, had been long settied in Shropshire, and was possessed of consider able estates in that county. Unhappily, many years before her birth, the Macburneys began, as if of set purpose and in a spirit of deter mined rivalry, to expose and ruin themselves. The heir-apparent, Mr. James Macburney, offended his father by making a runaway match with an actress from Goodman's Fields. The old gentleman could devise no more judicious mode of wreaking vengeance on his undutiful boy than by marrying the cook. The cook gave birth to a son named Joseph, who succeeded to all the lands of the family, while James was cut off with a shilling. The favorite son, however, was so extravagant, that he soon became as poor as his disin herited brother. Both were forced to earn their bread by their labour. Joseph turned dancing-master, and settled in Norfolk. James struck off the Mac from the beginning of his
name, and set up as a portrait-painter at that of fondling them. It would indeed have Chester. Here he had a son named Charles, been impossible for him to superintend their well known as the author of the History of education himself. His professional engage Music, and as the father of two remarkable ments occupied him all day. At seven in the children, of a son distinguished by learning, morning he began to attend his pupils, and and of a daughter still more honourably dis- when London was full, was sometimes emtinguished by genius. ployed in teaching till eleven at night. He was often forced to carry in his pocket a tin box of sandwiches, and a bottle of wine and water, on which he dined in a hackney-coach while hurrying from one scholar to another. Two of his daughters he sent to a seminary af Paris; but he imagined that Frances would run some risk of being perverted from the Protestant faith if she were educated in a Catholic country, and he therefore kept her al home. No governess, no teacher of any art or of any language was provided for her. B one of her sisters showed her how to writ and, before she was fourteen, she began to fin pleasure in reading.
It was not, however, by reading that her in tellect was formed. Indeed, when her best novels were produced, her knowledge of books was very small. When at the height of her fame, she was unacquainted with the most celebrated works of Voltaire and Molière, and, what seems still more extraordinary, had never heard or seen a line of Churchill, who, when she was a girl, was the most popular of living poets. It is particularly deserving of observation, that she appears to have been by no means a novel-reader. Her father's library was large; and he had admitted into it se many books which rigid moralists generally exclude, that he felt uneasy, as he afterwards owned, when Johnson began to examine the shelves. But in the whole collection there was only a single novel, Fielding's Amelia.
An education, however, which to most girls would have been useless, but which suited Fanny's mind better than elaborate culture, was in constant progress during her passage from childhood to womanhood. The great book of human nature was turned over before her. Her father's social position was very peculiar. He belonged in fortune and station to the middle class. His daughters seem to have been suffered to mix freely with those whom butlers and waiting-maids call vulgar,
We are told that they were in the habit of playing with the children of a wig-maker who lived in the adjoining house. Yet few nobles could assemble in the most stately mansions of Grosvenor Square or St. James's Square, a society so various and so brilliant as was sometimes to be found in Dr. Burney's cabin. His mind, though not very powerful or capa cious, was restlessly active; and, in the inter vals of his professional pursuits, he had con trived to lay up much miscellaneous informa tion. His attainments, the suavity of his tem per, and the gentle simplicity of his manners, had obtained for him ready admission to the first literary circles. While he was still at Lynn, he had won Johnson's heart by sound ing with honest zeal the praises of the English Dictionary. In London the two friends met frequently, and agreed most harmoniously. One tie, indeed, was wanting to their mutual attachment. Burney loved his own art pas
Charles early showed a taste for that art, of which, at a later period, he became the historian. He was apprenticed to a celebrated musician in London, and applied himself to study with vigour and success. He early found a kind and munificent patron in Fulk Greville, a high-born and high-bred man, who seems to have had in large measure all the accomplishments and all the follies, all the virtues and all the vices which, a hundred years ago, were considered as making up the character of a fine gentleman. Under such protection, the young artist had every prospect of a brilliant career in the capital. But his health failed. It became necessary for him to retreat from the smoke and river fog of London, to the pure air of the coast. He accepted the place of organist at Lynn, and settled at that town with a young lady who had recently become his wife.
At Lynn, in June, 1752, Frances Burney was born. Nothing in her childhood indicated that she would, while still a young woman, have secured for herself an honourable and permanent place among English writers. She was shy and silent. Her brothers and sisters called her a dunce, and not altogether without some show of reason; for at eight years old she did not know her letters.
In 1760, Mr. Burney quitted Lynn for London, and took a house in Poland Street; a situation which had been fashionable in the reign of Queen Anne, but which, since that time, had been deserted by most of its wealthy and noble inhabitants. He afterwards resided in St. Martin's Street, on the south side of Leicester Square. His house there is still well known, and will continue to be well known, as long as our island retains any trace of civilization; for it was the dwelling of Newton, and the square turret which distinguishes it from all the surrounding buildings was Newton's observatory. Mr. Barney at once obtained as many pupils of the most respectable description as he had time to attend, and was thus enabled to support his family, modestly indeed, and frugally, but in comfort and independence. His professional merit obtained for him the degree of Doctor of Music from the University of Oxford; and his works on subjects connected with his art gained for him a place, respectable, though certainly not eminent, among men of letters.
The progress of the mind of Frances Burney, from her ninth to her twenty-fifth year, well deserves to be recorded. When her education had proceeded no further than the hornnook, she lost her mother, and thenceforward she educated herself. Her father appears to have been as bad a fatner as a very honest, affectionate, and sweet-tempered man can well be. He loved his daughter dearly, but it never see'ns to have occurred to him that a parent other duties to perform to children than
sionately; and Johnson just knew the bell of St. Clement's Church from the organ. They had, however, many topics in common; and on winter nights their conversations were some times prolonged till the fire had gone out, and the candles had burned away to the wicks. Burney's admiration of the powers which had produced Rasselas and The Rambler, bordered on idolatry. He gave a singular proof of this at his first visit to Johnson's ill-furnished garret. The master of the apartment was not at home. The enthusiastic visitor looked about for some relique which he might carry away; but he could see nothing lighter than the chairs and the fire-irons. At last he discovered an old broom, tore some bristles from the stump, wrapped them in silver paper, and departed as happy as Louis IX, when the holy nail of St. Denis was found. Johnson, on the other hand. condescended to growl out that Burney was an honest fellow, a man whom it was impossibie not to like.
pocket, and the French Ambassador, M. De
With such iliustrious guests as these were mingled all the most remarkable specimens of the race of lions-a kind of game which is hunted in London every spring with more than Meltonian ardour and perseverance. Bruce, who had washed down steaks cut from living oxen with water from the fountains of the Nile, came to swagger and talk about his travels. Omai lisped broken English, and made all the assembled musicians hold their ears by howling Otaheitean love-songs, such as those with which Oberea charmed her Opano.
With the literary and fashionable society which occasionally met under Dr. Burney's roof, Frances can scarcely be said to have mingled. She was not a musician, and could therefore bear no part in the concerts. She was shy almost to awkwardness, and scarcely ever joined in the conversation. The slightest remark from a stranger disconcerted her; and But it would be tedious to recount the names even the old friends of her father who tried to of all the men of letters and artists whom Fran- draw her out could seldom extract more than a ces Burney had an opportunity of seeing and Yes or a No. Her figure was small, her face hearing. Colman, Twining, Harris, Baretti, not distinguished by beauty. She was thereHawkesworth, Reynolds, Barry, were among fore suffered to withdraw quietly to the backthose who occasionally surrounded the tea-ground, and, unobserved herself, to observe all table and supper-tray at her father's modest that passed. Her nearest relations were aware dwelling. This was not all. The distinction that she had good sense, but seemed not to which Dr. Burney had acquired as a musician, have suspected, that under her demure and and as the historian of music, attracted to his bashful deportment were concealed a fertile house the most eminent musical performers of invention and a keen sense of the ridiculous. that age. The greatest Italian singers who She had not, it is true, an eye for the fine shades visited England regarded him as the dispenser of character. But every marked peculiarity of fame in their art, and exerted themselves to instantly caught her notice and remained enobtain his suffrage. Pachieroti became his in-graven on her imagination. Thus, while still timate friend. The rapacious Agujari, who a girl, she had laid up such a store of materials sang for nobody else under fifty pounds an air, for fiction as few of those who mix much in sang her best for Dr. Burney without a fee; the world are able to accumulate during a long and in the company of Dr. Burney even the life. She had watched and listened to people haughty and eccentric Gabrielli constrained of every class, from princes and great officers herself to behave with civility. It was thus in of state down to artists living in garrets, and his power to give, with scarcely any expense, poets familiar with subterranean cook-shops. concerts equal to those of the aristocracy. On Hundreds of remarkable persons had passed such occasions the quiet street in which he in review before her, English, French, Gerlived was blocked up by coroneted chariots, man, Italian, lords and fiddlers, deans of catheand his little drawing-room was crowded with drals, and managers of theatres, travellers leadpeers, peeresses, ministers, and ambassadors. ing about newly caught savages, and singing On one evening, of which we happen to have women escorted by deputy-husbands. a full account, there were present Lord Mulgrave, Lord Bruce, Lord and Lady Edgecumbe, Lord Barrington from the War-Office, Lord Sandwich from the Admiralty, Lord Ashburnham, with his gold key dangling from his
So strong was the impression made on the mind of Frances by the society which she was in the habit of seeing and hearing, that she be gan to write little fictitious narratives as soon as she could use her pen with ease, which, as
Garrick, too. was a frequent visitor in Poland Street and St. Martin's Lane. That wonderful actor loved the society of children, partly from good-nature, and partly from vanity. The ecstasies of mirth and terror which his gesnres and play of countenance never failed to produce in a nursery, flattered him quite as much as the applause of mature critics. He often exhibited all his powers of mimicry for the amusement of the little Burneys, awed them by shuddering and crouching as if he saw a ghost, scared them by raving like a maniac in St. Luke's and then at once became an auctioneer, a chimney-sweeper, or an old woman, and made them laugh till the tears ran down their cheeks.
we have said, was not very early. Her sisters were amused by her stories. But Dr. Burney knew nothing of their existence; and in another quarter her literary propensities met with serious discouragement. When she was fifteen, her father took a second wife. The new Mrs. Burney soon found out that her daughter-inlaw was fond of scribbling, and delivered several good-natured lectures on the subject. The advice no doubt was well meant, and might have been given by the most judicious friend; for at that time, from causes to which we may hereafter advert, nothing could be more disadvantageous to a young lady than to be known as a novel-writer. Frances yielded, relinquished her favourite pursuit, and made a bonfire of all her manuscripts.
She now hemmed and stitched from breakfast to dinner with scrupulous regularity. But the dinners of that time were early; and the afternoon was her own. Though she had given up novel-writing, she was still fond of using her pen. She began to keep a diary, and she corresponded largely with a person who seems to have nad the chief share in the formation of her mind. This was Samuel Crisp, an old friend of her father. His name, wel! known near a century ago, in the most splendid circles of London, has long been forgotten. His history is, however, so interesting and instructive, that it tempts us to venture on a digression. Long before Frances Burney was born, Mr. Crisp had made his entrance into the world with every advantage. He was well connected and well educated. His face and figure were conspicuously handsome; his manners were polished; his fortune was easy; his character was without stain; he lived in the best society; he had read much; he talked well; his taste in literature, music, painting, architecture, sculp-ciate each other. Many persons who never ture, was held in high esteem. Nothing that handled a pencil, probably do far rore justice the world can give seemed to be wanting to to Michael Angelo than would have been doce his happiness and respectability, except that by Gerhard Douw, and far more justice to Ger he should understand the limits of his powers, hard Douw than would have been done by Miand should not throw away distinctions which chael Angelo. were within his reach, in the pursuit of distinctions which were unattainable.
It is the same with literature. Thousands who have no spark of the genius of Dryden of Wordsworth, do to Dryden the justice which has never been done by Wordsworth, and to Wordsworth the justice which, we suspect, would never have been done by Dryden. Gray, Johnson, Richardson, Fielding, are all highly esteemed by the great body of intelligent and well-informed men. But Gray could see no merit in Rasselas; and Johnson could see no merit in the Bard. Fielding thought Richard. son a solemn prig; and Richardson perpetually expressed contempt and disgust for Fielding's lowness.
Mr. Crisp seems, as far as we can judge, to have been a man eminently qualified for the useful office of a connoisseur. His talents and knowledge fitted him to appreciate justly al most every species of intellectual superiority As an adviser he was inestimable. Nay, he might probably have held a respectable rank as a writer, if he would have confined himself
"It is an uncontrolled truth," says Swift, "that no man ever made an ill figure who understood his own talents, nor a good one who mistook them." Every day brings with it fresh illustrations of this weighty saying; but the best commentary that we remember is the history of Samuel Crisp. Men like him have their proper place, and it is a most important one, in the Commonwealth of Letters. It is by the judgment of such men that the rank of authors is finally determined. It is neither to the multitude, nor to the few who are gifted with great creative genius, that we are to look for sound critical decisions. The multitude, unacquainted with the best models, are captivated by whatever stuns and dazzles them. They deserted Mrs. Siddons to run after Master Betty; and
they now prefer, we have no doubt, Jack Shep
* There is some difficulty here as to the chronology.
"This sacritice," says the editor of the Diary, was made in the young authoress's fifteenth year." This
could not be; for the sacrifice was the effect, accord- to some department of literature in which no
Ing to the editor's own showing, of the remonstrances of the second Mrs. Burney; and Frances was in her
sixteenth year when her father's second marriage took Mace.
thing more than sense, taste, and reading was