as neither to be followed, praised, nor blamed, which is
likely enough to happen in a year or two, I should not
wonder to find him become a great orator.
Adieu, my very dear friend. This is something like
ray old budget of saucinessâ in length at least â and I
am afraid in carelessness and illegibility ; but I am
quite sure of your indulgence, and of that of your kind
family. Say everything for me to them all, especially
to Miss Elford.
Ever most gratefully yours,
]\r. E. M.
To B. R. Haydon, Esq., Connaugld Terrace, Portman Sjuare.
Three Mile Cross, March 3, 1825,
My deae Friend,
Pray should you like to be an M.P.? Did the
thing ever take your fancy ? I cannot understand the
charm at all ; but a charm there must be, notwithstand-
ing, and a very strong one. What a prodigious sensa-
tion you would make in the House ! C4ood Lord, how
they would stare! Our friend Mr. Talfourd will be
there some day or other, beyond a doubt â and he will
make a sensation too. He has just made a most splendid
display at the Berkshire Assizes ; I wish you had heard
him. I was in court one day, during which he led in
every cause â all of them interesting ; two prosecutions
for maltreating a negro boy, and one defence for libel.
They were of the highest local importance â one of them
a special jury cause, and the court (a very large one)
202 LIFE OF MARY IIUSSELL MITFORD.
was crammed to suffocation, including all the first
people in the county. He spoke in the libel case for an
hour and a half ; and really I never before witnessed
such an exhibition of high and passionate eloquence ;
quite different from the ordinary eloquence of the bar,
from its being far finer and purer in kind, as well as
mightier in power. No cant, no commonplace, no claj)-
traps, no bitterness ; appealing to the highest and loftiest
feelings, the deepest and noblest sympathies of our
nature ! Such eloquence is a grand and glorious thing.
He swayed the multitude as a steed is swayed by its
rider. You might have heard a pin drop, till he ceased ;
and then the irrepressible applause was so tumultuous
that it was not for a long time that the judge could get
the court quiet enough to be heard, when he threatened
to send the clappers to gaol ; confessing, at the same
time, that he did not wonder at the plaudits bestowed
on the young and most eloquent pleader, only they had
chosen a wrong place. You may imagine that this was
a very proud day for Mr. Talfourd and for his friends.
We dined together at Dr. Valpy's after tlie court closed ;
and I never remember being so much excited and
gratified in my life. He spoke of you with great en-
thusiasm â and has quite recanted about Kean ; dis-
gusted, of course, at the quantity of cant that has been
written about him.
Have you read Dr. Antommarchi's account of the
last days of Napoleon ? It appears clearly to me that
the exceeding ignorance of that Italian co-operated
with the climate and the gaoler in killing him. Only
think of never giving calomel till the two or three last
days ! The effect that it had, even then, proves what
it might have done if administered sooner. My father
says that ho has no doubt but the accumulation of
PLAN OF A NOVEL. 2C'3
acrid bile iii the stomach produced the nicer. But
foreign physicians are old women. Altogether it is a
very painfid book to read, and yet one that I could not
help reading. Everything about that great man has
for me a charm absolutely inexpressible. I rejoice that
you do not mean to paint Mrs. Hay don in lace and
velvet ; they are too poor, too millinery for her. She
is a creature of poetry. The only costume I could fancy
for her would be Oriental â rich and splendid as her
matchless beauty. Kindest love to her and the dear
little ones. God bless you, my dearest friend !
Ever most faithfully yours,
M. E. MiTFOED.
To the Bev. William Harness, Tlavq stead.
Three Mile Cross, April 22, 1S25.
My deak Friend,
Many thanks for your kindness about Mr. Camp-
bell. I have sent him two articles to the care of Mr.
Colburn. In future, I will send them to his house,
when I can get a frank or a private hand. My little
book is in a third edition, which is encouragement for
a novel. Do you know who wrote the critique in the
'Quarterly,' which has certainly done me so much
good ? Now for the plot of my novel, although I am
so afraid of the undertaking, that I am quite per-
suaded it will never be good for anything. I mean to
take a whole village â one of those islands of cultivation
and habitancy which are found amidst the downs of
Wiltshire, or the vale of Berkshire â that which is called
in these parts the low country. There I mean to place
an old and splendid, but nearly deserted residence,
belonging to an impoverished nobleman, whose park,
&c. are rented by a Mrs. Ellis, widow of a rich farmer â
204 LIFE OF MARY RUSSELL MITFORD.
a comely, kindly dame, witli one very pretty, spoilt,
romp of a daughter, about sixteen. The book shall
open with a letter to Mrs. Ellis from a lawyer in
London, informing her that an old stockbroker, her
great uncle, whom she had never seen in her life, is
dead, having left a miser's fortune between her and the
descendant of some other niece then abroad. The
lawyer, who is also the agent for the nobleman her
landlord, informs her that the mansion and estate, part
of which she rents, are to be sold, and advises her to
purchase them. In the course of further communica-
tions he makes an offer, on the part of the old lord, of
his only son to her only daughter. Mrs. Ellis catches
eagerly at the proposal, and requests the lawyer's lady
to provide a governess forthwith for her Kate. Accord-
ingly a lady-like young woman of three or four and
twenty, a Miss Clive, arrives ; and, shortly afterwards,
come the nobleman and his son â apparently to finish
the sale, but in reality to commence the courtship. The
father is much more anxious for this match than the
son ; and gradually it shall ooze out that there had
been an old attachment between the latter and Miss
Clive, the governess, whose father had been an officer
in the same regiment ; that it had been broken off by
the remonstrances of Lord N. (I have not named him
yet) with Miss Clive; and still more gradually it shall
be felt, that the old love is reviving â interrupted, of
course, by the proper quantity of hopes and fears, and a
good deal of the usual coquetry on the part of the
pretty little Kate, who, herself in love with a scape-
grace nephew of Lord N.'s, takes no sniall pleasure in
perplexing her lover and all about her. At length,
things come to a crisis ; Kate declares to her mother
that she will not have the man selected for her, and
PLAN OF A NO VEL. 205
he, on his part, affirms to his father that he will marry-
none but Augusta Clive. Lord N. reproaches Miss
Clive with breaking her promise to him. At last it is
discovered that Augusta is herself the heiress to the
other half of the miser's property ; and that, finding
both her name and person unknown to Mrs. Ellis, she
has availed herself of her sending for a governess to
make, under that title, an interest in the affections of
her relations, and perhaps to examine into the faith
of her lover. Of course all parties marry and are happy
This is a very rough sketch ; but I send it to a master,
whose fancy can easily suj)ply the lights and shades and
the colouring. Is the story, do you thiuk, suiSciently
original ? It is free from vice and pecuniary evil (both
of which are so unpleasant in books) ; and the conclu-
sion will be comfortable and satisfactory. I see that I
must not make too much perplexity about nothing (that
provoking fault of Madame D'Arblay's novels), and that
I must get as much incident and character as I can. Do
tell me anything you think might mend it. But I shall
finish 'Charles' first.
Most gratefully and affectionately yours,
M. R. MiTFOED.
To Sir William Elkord, Bkkham, Plijiuouth.
Three Mile Cross, May 21, 1825.
My dear Friend,
I thank you for remembering my request, although
it is with sincei'e regret that I read your opinion. To
me. Dr. Darling* seemed a fine portrait, both as to
expression and colour. As to myself,! it seemed a
strong unflattered likeness â one that certainly would
* Portrait by Haydon. t Haydon's portrait of her.
20G LIFE OF MARY RUSSELL MITE ORB.
not be very calculated to feed a woman's vanity, or to
en re the public of the general belief tbat authoresses
are and must be frights. But really I don't think it
much uglier than what I see every day in the looking-
glass ; and I especially forbid you from answering this
observation by any flattery, or anything whatsoever.*
I am sorry that the portrait is not more complimen-
tary ; because it vexes my father to hear it so much
abused, as I must confess it is, by everybody except Miss
James, and the artist, who maintain that it is a capital
likeness â quite a woman of genius, and so forth. Now,
my dear friend, I entreat and implore you not to men-
tion to any one what I say, I would not have Mr.
Haydon know it for worlds. It was a present, in the
first place, and certainly a very kind and flattering
attention ; and, in the second, my personal feelings for
him would always make the picture gratifying to me
for his sake were it as ugly as Medusa. He is a most
admirable person, whose very faults spring from that
excess of brilliancy and life with which, more than any
creature that ever lived, he is gifted. I never see him
without thinking of the description of the Dauphin's
horse in ' Henry the Fifth ' â all air and fire â the duller
elements have no share in his composition. You know,
I suppose, that he has a commission for an historical
Pray write again soon. God bless you, my very dear
' J\I. E. M.
* The fault of tlio jKntiait was, that everything was larger than life.
It K.'presented a Brohdignagian fat woman beated in a bower of Brob-
dignagian honey buckles.
BBILLIANCY OF HER GARDEN. 207
To jIiss Jephson, Bath.
Three Mile Cross, May 27, 1825.
My dear Friend,
We rejoice to hear that you are well and in Eng-
land, and with friends whom you love so much. Oh !
how I wish you were passing near us! I have been
sitting all the morning in my little garden, with its
roses and stocks of all kinds ; and rich peonies and
geraniums ; and purple irises and periwinkles ; and
yellow laburnums and globe anemones ; and greens
vivid and beautiful even as flowers, making altogether
the finest piece of colour I ever saw â and 1 really
yearned after you â you would have liked it so much.
It is provoking to show such a thing to common eyes,
which go peeping about into the detail, pulling the
effect to pieces as children do daisies. Besides the
nightingale and the scent of lilies of the valley, my
garden, on which my father rallies me so much, is my
passion. But you will forgive me for over-rating it.
It is, at least, a mistake on the right side, to be too
fond of one's own poor home â and no mistake at all to
wish you in it.
I am now busy finishing a tragedy on the story of
Charles and Cromwell for Co vent Garden next season ;
after which I shall set to work at the ' Heiress ' ding-
dong. One alteration I have made in the plan ;
Augusta shall not know that she is entitled to a share
in the property. I shall give my miser an involved
pedigree, and make a difficulty on all sides in tracing
the descent ; which will give rise to some irood comic
scenes, and will give to the whole work something of
interest, independent of love. After all, I am really
and unfeignedly afraid of my power in this line of com-
208 LIFE OF MARY RUSSELL MIT FORD.
Your story of Carlo is very pretty. May has puppies :
we had seven-and-twenty applications ; and, as poor
May has only eight, were obliged, keeping one, to
refuse twenty friends. The one kept is a little white
beauty â May in miniature. It fell down the other
day and hurt â almost dislocated â its hip. We picked
it up, poor little thing, and rubbed it with camphorated
spirits of wine, during which operation it lay in my lap
quite quiet and patient, whilst May sat close by, shiver-
ing and whining and moaning at every touch, just as if
it had been her limb that was hurt, and not the puppy's.
The scene was really affecting.
Pray excuse this blotted scrawl â for which I have
no other excuse than that of being a blotter by profes-
sion. I wish I could Avrite tidily! My father and
mother join in most affectionate remembrances â and I
My own dear Emily,
Most faithfully yours,
M. K. M.
To SiK William Elfoiid, Blckham, Plymouth.
Three Mile Cross, June 23, 1825.
My dear Friend,
I write to you de provision, as Madame de Sevigne
says, although I have no M.P. under hand; but I am
tired to death â I have been all the morning talking,
entertaining morning visitors (the deuce take 'em) â
and all the afternoon gardening, planting and watering
flowers (deuceâ no, not deuce take them â I love them
too well) ; and so, being fairly worn off my feet and oft"
my tongue, it has occurred to me out of my great
friendship and affection to bestow the bloom of my
weariness, the lirst moments of yawning and grumbling,
on you. Are you not exceedingly obliged to me ?
DB. MITFOHD'S HOUSEKEEPING. 209
My mother is so well as to be staying with a relation
in Hampshire, so that my father and I are left to
keep house together. He is housekeeper â mamma
thinks him the trustier of the two â so she left those
ensigns of authority, the keys, in his possession; and
they are only lost fifty times in an hour. We were in
great danger of going without dinner, because such a
thing was not thought of till it was wanted to be eaten ;
but we have dressed a great bit of beef, and now we are
independent. All these troubles amuse us excessively,
and I can't tell you Avhich is the most in fault of the
two â only I rather think I am. Dear me, if mamma
knew the disorderly life we lead, what would she say !
Good-bye, my dear Sir William, for to-niglit. Next
time I am thoroughly done up I shall write to you by
way of resting myself.
Most affectionately yours,
M. E. M.
To B. R. Haydon, Esq., ConnaugM Terrace.
Three Mile Cross, July 18, 1S25.
My dear Friend,
I have just received your hot-weather letter, which
I could return point by point â only that the couuti-y is
the country, and London is London ; and that we
have a long shed open to the nortli, which runs along
one side of my little garden, where we live entirely,
looking out upon that bright piece of colour, my flower
beds. Your verses amused me exceedingly. I do think
they are yours â at least they might be ; for there is
the very mixture of honest fun and strong humour and
fine high fancy which you would put into such a sub-
ject. I have a theory, very proper and convenient for
an old maid, that the world is over-peopled, and always
VOL. II. P
210 LIFE OF MARY RUSSELL MITFORD.
hear with some regret of every fresh birth. I hold old
maids and old bachelors â especially old maids, for an
obvious reason â to be the most meritorious and patriotic
class of his Majesty's subjects ; and I think the opinion
seems gaining ground. Three persons in this neigh-
bourhood especially, all friends of mine, are stanch in
the creed ; only, unluckily, their practice does not quite
accord with tlieir principles. The first, an old maid
herself, I caught last week in the act of presiding over
a dozen of country-town ladies, cutting out baby linen
for a charity â ' The Maternal Society,' save the mark !
Bounties upon babies ! The second, an admiral of the
last edition, called on me on Saturday with a very
rueful face to announce the birth of a daughter (be
has a pretty young wife and six children under eight
years old) â " Well," said I, " it must be endured."
" Yes," said he, " but who would have thought of its
being a girl !" The third, a young married woman, was
brought to bed this very morning of twins â a cata-
strophe which I have been predicting to her this month
past. Never fear for dear Mrs. Haydon â there is a
wonderful providence in such cases. Besides, there is
a purity of health about her ; and she is so loving and
so precious that she will be taken particular care of â
depend upon it.
When I last saw my portrait it seemed to me as
like as what I see every day in the looking-glass ;
and even if it were as ugly as Medusa I should always
think it the greatest honour of my life that it was
painted. There is a long letter from me to you some-
where on the road. God bless you, my dear friends!
Believe me always.
Most affectionately yours,
M. E. MlTFORD.
PBECOGIOUS CHILD REN. 211
To B. E. Haydon, Esq., Connaught Terrace.
Three Mile Cross, Aug. 11, 1825.
I congratulate you on your boy Frank not being
prematurely clever ! We have a precocious child here,
the daughter of a dear friend, and the heiress of
ten thousand â a year, who frightens me for her own
destiny and her mother's happiness. She is like a little
old fairy ; with eyes over-informed, preternatural in
their expression. She really startles me. If there be
one thing that I deprecate more than another, it is that
precociousness. You know who says
" At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish for snow in May's new-fangled shows ;"
and a wiser thing even he never said.*
I have just been reading Mr. Combe's and Mr.
Deville's books on phrenology. Keally I half believe.
The names of the organs are most absurd â most un-
philosophical â most un-English. If they were altered
I believe a great deal of the objection against the
science would disappear. It is at all events an interest-
ing pursuit, taken moderately. God bless you, my very
dear frieuds !
Ever most faithfully yours,
M. E. MlTFORD.
To the Eev. William Harness, Hampstead.
Three Mile Cross, Wednesday,
Oct. 9, 1825.
My dear Friend,
Although I have no member under hand, I write
without waiting the uncertain chance of meeting with
one â first, to thank you for your very kind attention
* Shakespeare. The lines are in 'Love's Labour Lost,' Act i.
212 LIFE OF MARY RUSSELL MITFORD.
about the money â secondly, to give you all the in-
formation I myself possess respecting the play. Mr.
Kemble found ' Charles ' on his table on his return from
abroad â read it immediately â thought it "admirable
though somewhat dangerous" â and sent it at once
to the licenser. For three weeks we heard nothinof of
it. At last came a note from Mr. Colman to say " that,
in consequence of the exceedingly delicate nature of
the subject and incidents of ' Charles the First,' he had
received instructions to send the MS. to the Lord
Chamberlain, that he might himself judge, on perusal,
of the safety of granting a license." Accordingly the
piece is gone to the Duke of Montrose, who is in
Scotland. And there we stand. Is not this very
stranire and unusual ?
Have you read Pepys's Memoirs? I am extremely
diverted by them, and prefer them to Evelyn's, all to
nothing. He was too precise and too gentlemanly and
too sensible by half; â wrote in full dress, with an eye,
if not to the press, at least to posthumous reputation.
Now this man sets down his thoughts in a most becom-
ing dishabille â does not care twopence for posterity ;
and evidently thinks wisdom a very foolish thing. I
don't know when any book has amused me so much.
It is the very perfection of gossiping â most relishing
How long do you stay at Hampstead ? I shall tell
you the fate of ' Charles ' as soon as I know it. Do let
me know what you think of Mr. Fitzharris. Kindest
love to dear Mary. â Mamma's to all of you. Ever, my
Most sincerely yours,
M. E. MiTFORD.
'HENRY THE SECOND: 213
To the Rev. William Harness, The Deepdene, Dorlcinrj.
Three Mile Cross, Oct. 30, 1825.
My dear Feiend,
You are the only friend whose advice agrees with
my strong internal feeling respecting the drama.
Everybody else says, Write novels â write prose ! So
that my perseverance passes for perverseness and obsti-
nacy, which is very disconraging. There is a most
splendid subject for historical tragedy which has taken
great hold of my imagination : â Henry the Second â
introducing, by a pardonable anachronism, the whole
story of Becket, Eleanor, and Eosamond, and the re-
bellious sous. I should only take the best and worst of
these, Henry and Geoffrey â Eichard and John being
too familiar to the stage ; and the death of Prince Henry
would supply, what in the story of so long-lived a
monarch is very material, a good conclusion. This
would certainly be a fine subject, and quite untouched.
But the licenser! The chief temptation is of course
Thomas a Becket, whom I should make as like as I
could to what he was â a mixture of prelatic haughti-
ness and personal austerity â the haircloth peeping
under the prince's robes; and the great scene would
be an excommunication, not of the king, but of the
ministers and the nation ; certainly a fine thing to do â¢
but the licenser ! Henry, an enlightened prince, at
least two centuries before his age, must have the better
of the argument. But may we touch the subject?
And Eleanor anrl Eosamond, odious as the queen was
and must be â would that do ?
I have a good mind to write to Mr. Colman and ask.
I would, if I knew any way of getting at him. Cer-
tainly I mean no harm â nor did I in 'Charles'; and
214 LIFE OF MART RUSSELL MJTFORD.
the not licensing that play will do great harm to my
next, by making me timid and over careful. Let me
know what you think about Henry the Second.
You cannot imagine how perplexed I am. There
are points in my domestic situation too long and too
painful to write about. Tlie terrible improvidence of
one dear parent â the failure of memory and decay of
faculty in that other who is still dearer, cast on me a
weight of care and of fear that I can hardly bear up
against. Give me your advice. Heaven knows, I
would write a novel, as every one tells me to do, and
as, I suppose, I must do at last, if I had not the feeling
of inability and of failure so strong within me that it
would be scarcely possible to succeed against such a
presentiment. And to fail there would be so irreme-
diable ! But it will be my lot at last.
God bless you, my dear friend ! Kindest love to dear
]\Iary. I hope we shall see you here, or at least at
Reading. Pray, pray contrive it.
Ever most gratefully yours,
M. E. MiTFORD.
Yes! I have read Madame de Genlis with great
amusement. What a delio-htful mixture of cant and
affectation and shrewdness and vanity she is ! I had a
peculiar pleasure in reading these volumes, as they
completely justified the contempt I had always enter-
tained for the authoress ; a contempt chiefly grounded
on her good characters, of which tlie exaggerated and
morbid virtues proved so decidedly a defective moral
LETTER FROM COLMAN. 215
To the Rev. William Harness, Hampstead.
Three Mile Cross, Dec. 1, 1825.
My dear Friend,
I followed your advice, and requested Mr. Eowland
Stephenson to ask Mr. Colman if the * Charles ' could
not be altered so as to be licensable, and to-day's post
brought me a packet from Miss Stephenson, enclosing
the following from Mr. Colman to her brother-in-law.
I transcribe it w'ord for word : â
" 28th Nov. 1825. Brompton Square.
" My dear Sir,
" It is much to be regretted that Miss Mitford has
employed her time unprofitably when so amiable a
motive as that of assisting her family has induced her to
exercise her literary talents ; but it would be idle and
ungenerous to flatter her with hopes which there is no
prospect of fulfilling.
" My oflScial opinion of her tragedy is certainly un-
favourable to the author's interests. I was, however, so
far from wishing it to prejudice the Lord Chamberlain
that the play was submitted to his perusal at my
suggestion. He therefore formed his own judgment
upon it and decidedly refused to license its perform-
" As to alterations â the fact is, that the subject of
this play and the incidents it embraces are fatal in
themselves â they are an inherent and incurable disease
â the morbid matter lies in the very bones and marrow
of the historical facts, and defies eradication. Indeed it
would be a kind of practical bull to permit a detailed
representation of Charles's unhappy story on a public
stage, when his martyrdom is still observed in such