Sarah Josepha Buell Hale.

Woman's record; or, Sketches of all distinguished women, from the beginning till A.D. 1850. Arranged in four eras. With selections from female writers of every age online

. (page 66 of 214)
Online LibrarySarah Josepha Buell HaleWoman's record; or, Sketches of all distinguished women, from the beginning till A.D. 1850. Arranged in four eras. With selections from female writers of every age → online text (page 66 of 214)
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Vaugelaus afforded an example. M. Le Fevre
accorded, on this occasion, with the popular
opinion of the times, in considering this perform-
ance as a masterpiece of eloquence : his daughter,
on the conti'ary, whether more acute or less easily
satisfied, censured the ti-anslation as defective in
purity of style, and in the idiom of the French

Her father died in 1673, and the following year
Mademoiselle Le Fevre went to Paris, and took
up her residence in that city. She was then en-
gaged on an edition of " Callimachus," which she
published in 1674. Some sheets of that work
having been shown to M. Huet, preceptor to the
dauphin, and other learned men, a proposal was

made to her to prepare some Latin authors for the
dauphin's use ; which proposal she accepted, and
published an edition of Florus in 1674.

Her reputation being now spread all over Eu-
rope, Christina of Sweden ordered a present to be
sent to her, in her name ; upon which Mademoi-
selle Le Fevre sent the queen a Latin letter, with
her edition of Florus. Her majesty not long after
wrote to her, to persuade her to abandon the Pro-
testant faith, and made her considerable offers to
settle at court. But this she declined, and con-
tinued to publish works for the use of the dauphin.
" Sextus Aurelius Victor" came out under her care,
at Paris, in 1681 ; and in the same year she pub-
lished a French translation of the poems of Ana-
creon and Sappho, with notes, which were so
much admired as to make Boileau declare that it
ought to deter any one from attempting to trans-
late those poems in verse. She also published,
for the use of the dauphin, "Eutropius," in 1683 ;
and "Dictys Cretensis" and " Dares Phrygius" in
1684. She wrote French translations of the "Am-
phitryo," "Epidicus," and "Prudens," comedies
of Plautus, in 1683; and of the "Plutus" and
"Clouds" of Aristophanes, with notes. She was
so charmed with this last comedy, that she had
read it two hundred times.

She married M. Dacier, with whom she had
been brought up in her father's house, in 1683,
and soon after declared to the duke of Montausier
and the bishop of Meaux a design of reconciling
herself with the church of Rome ; but as M. Da-
cier was not satisfied as to the propriety of the
change, she retired with him to Castres in 1684,
to examine the controversy between the Protest-
ants and Papists. They determined in favour of
the latter, and, after their conversion, the duke de
Montausier and the bishop of Meaux recommended
them at court, and the king settled a pension of
1500 livres on M. Dacier, and of 500 upon his
wife. They then returned to Paris and resumed
their studies.

In 1688, she published a French translation of
" Terence's Comedies," with notes, in three vol-
umes. She rose at five in the morning, during a
very cold winter, and finished four of them, but
reading them over a few months afterwards, she
was so dissatisfied with them that she burnt them,
and began the translation again. She brought the
work to the highest perfection, and even equalled
the grace and noble simplicity of the original.
She assisted in the translation of " Marcus Anto-
ninus," published by her husband in 1691, and in
the specimen of the translation of " Plutarch's
Lives," which he published three years after-

In 1711, she published a French translation,
with notes, of " Homer's Iliad," which was thought
faithful and elegant. In 1714, she published the
" Causes of the Corruption of Taste." This was
written against M. de la Motte, who, in the pre-
face to his " Iliad," had expressed but little admi-
ration for that poem. This was the beginning of
a literary war, in the course of wliich a number
of books were produced. In 1716, she published
a defence of Homer against the apology of father




Hardouin, in which she attempts to show that
father Hardouin, in endeavouring to apologize for
Homer, has done him a greater injustice than his
declared enemies. Her last work, the " Odyssey
of Homer," with notes, translated from the Greek,
was published the same year.

She died, after a painful sickness, August 17th,
1720, at sixty-nine years of age. She had two
daughters and a son, whom she educated with the
greatest care ; but the son died young, one daugh-
ter became a nun, and the other, who is said to
have united all the virtues and accomplishments
of her sex, died at eighteen.

M. Dacier was inconsolable for his loss ; nor did
he long survive his wife. Never had there been a
couple more united, better suited to each other,
and between whom a more entire affection had
subsisted. They had been educated together, and
for more than forty years they lived in the enjoy-
ment of that harmony of tastes and pursuits
which enhanced their mutual esteem and love.
Marriage, when thus made holy by the union of
souls, as well as hearts and hands, while life is
devoted to noble pursuits, displays human nature
in the happiest light.

Madame Dacier was remarkable for firmness,
generosity, good-nature, and piety. Her modesty
was so great, that it was with difficulty she could
be induced to speak on literary subjects. A
learned German once visited her and requested
her to write her name and a sentence in his book
of collections. She, seeing in it the names of the
greatest- scholars in Europe, told him that she
could not presume to put her name among so many
illustrious persons. But as he insisted, she wrote
her name with a sentence from Sophocles signify-
ing that " Silence is the ornament of women."
She was often solicited to publish a translation of
some books of Scripture, with remarks upon
them; but she always answered that "A woman
ought to read and meditate on the Scriptures, and
regulate her conduct by them, and to keep silence,
agreeably to the command of St. Paul."

We must not forget to mention, that the aca-
demy of Ricovrati at Padua chose her one of their
body in 1684, and learned men of all countries
vied with each other in proving their sense of her

Only child of Field-marshal Conway, was born
in 1748. Almost in childhood, she imbibed a love
of literature, and became highly accomplished.
An accidental conversation with Hume, respecting
some plaster casts, turned her attention to sculp-
ture, and she took lessons from Ceracchi and Ba-
con, and studied in Italy. She was also fond of
dramatic amusements, ana was an excellent ama-
teur actress. She died May 28th, 1808. The
productions of her chisel are numerous and do her
honour. Among them is a bust of Nelson in
Guildhall, and two colossal heads on Henley
bridge, and a statue in marble, of George III., in
the Edinburgh Register office.

It is not so much the excellence of her works
of art that entitles this lady to admiration, as that

a person of her rank, wealth, and beauty, should
give up society, in a great measure, to devote her-
self to so arduous an occupation as that of sculp-
ture. She was a warm-hearted politician, and
exerted all her influence, which was not trifling,
in favour of Fox.


Second daughter of Sir Thomas More, was born
in London, 1509, and educated very carefully un-
der her father's care. She corresponded with
Erasmus, who praises the purity of her Latin
style. She married, when very young, Mr. Dancy,
son and heir of Sir John Dancy. Her productions
and the time of her death are uncertain.


A CELEBRATED French actress, considered as
superior to any of her profession in the class of
characters she personated ; she was the repre-
sentative of the waiting-maids of French comedy.
She died, March, 1796; but, more fortunate than
people of higher station and greater talents, her
eulogium was pronounced two years before her
decease. In September 1794, M. Mol^, at the
Lyceum of Arts, at Paris, delivered a panegyric
on this distinguished actress.


Whose name, by an act of heroic daring, has
resounded through the civilized world, was born
November 24th, 1815, at Bamborough, on the coast
of Northumberland, England. She was the se-
venth child of William Darling, a steady, judicious,
and sensible man, who held the responsible office
of keeper of the Longstone Lighthouse, situated
on one of the most distant and exposed of the
Fame Islands, a rockj- group extending some seven
or eight miles beyond this dangerous coast. In
this isolated position, where weeks sometimes
elapsed without communication with the main-
land, the greater part of Grace's existence was
passed, with no other companionship than that of
her parents and brother, who resided at the Light-
house. She benefited by the advantages of a
respectable education, suited to one in her sphere




of life, and her time was principally occupied in
assisting her mother in household affairs.

Grace had reached her twenty-second year,
when the incident occurred which has given her
so wide-spread and just a fame. The Forfarshire
steamer, proceeding from Hull to Dundee, with
sixty-three persons on board, was wrecked upon
one of the fearful crags of the Fame group, on
the night of the 6th of September, 1838. The
vessel, which subsequent enquiry proved to have
been utterly unseaworthy, was broken in two
pieces, the after part, with many souls upon it,
being swept away instantly, while the fore part
remained upon the rock. The captain and his
wife were among the number of those who per-
ished. Nine persons survived the horrors of that
night upon the remaining fragment of the wreck,
exposed, amid rain and profound darkness, to the
fury of the waves, and expecting momentarily to
be engulfed by the boiling surge.

At daybreak on the morning of the 7th, these
poor people were discovered from Longstone by
the Darlings, at nearly a mile's distance, by means
of a glass, clinging to the rocks and remnants of
the vessel. Grace, the moment she caught sight
of them, perceiving their imminent danger — for
the returning tide must wash them off — immedi-
ately determined to save them ; and no remon-
strances of her father, who, in the furious state
of the sea, considered it a desperate and hopeless
adventure, had any power in dissuading her.
There was no one at the time at the Lighthouse
but her parents and herself, her brother being
absent on the mainland ; and she declared if her
father did not accompany her, she would go alone ;
that, live or die, she would attempt to save the
wretched sufferers.

Her father consented to the trial. The boat
was launched with the assistance of the mother,
and the father and daughter, each taking an oar,
proceeded upon their errand of mercy. They suc-
ceeded ; and in no instance has lowly virtue and
unobtrusive heroism met with more prompt ac-
knowledgment or just reward. The highest enthu-
siasm prevailed throughout Great Britain as the
adventure became known, and distant nations re-
sponded with hearty sympathy. To reward the
bravery and humanity of Grace Dai-ling, a sub-
scription was raised in England, which amounted
to £700, and she received besides numberless pre-
sents from individuals, some of them of distin-
guished rank. Her portrait was taken and multi-
plied over the kingdom ; the Humane Society sent
her a flattering vote of thanks and a piece of
plate ; dramatic pieces were performed represent-
ing her exploit ; her sea-girt home was invaded
by steamboat loads of wonder-seeking admirers,
and offers of marriage, not a few, flowed in upon

Amid all this tumult of applause, so calculated
to unsettle the mind, Grace Darling never for a
moment swerved from the modest dignity which
belonged to her character. She continued, not-
withstanding the improvement in her circum-
stances, to reside at the Lighthouse with her pa-
rents, content to dwell in the secluded and humble

sphere in which her lot had been cast ; proving by
her conduct that the liberality of the public had
not been unworthily bestowed.

Grace Darling, as is too often the case with the
noble and good, was not destined to long life.
She survived only a few years to enjoy her well-
earned fame. In 1841, symptoms of declining
health exhibited themselves, and, on the 20tli of
October, 1842, she died of consumption.

Grace Darling is described as a woman of the
middle size, comely, though not handsome, but
with an expression of mildness and benevolence
most winning. Her disposition was always retir-
ing and reserved, the effect, no doubt, of her soli-
tary mode of life ; a life which unquestionably
fostered and concentrated the quiet enthusiasm of
her character, and made her the heroine of one
of the most beautiful episodes that ever adorned
the history of Avoman.


A MEMBER of the Society of Friends, and the
wife of William Darrah, of Philadelphia, rendered
an important service to the American army during
the revolutionary war. The house of William
Darrah was chosen by General Howe, while the
British army had possession of Philadelphia, as a
place for private conference with the other officers.
On the night of the second of December, 1777,
Lydia Darrah overheard an order read, for the
troops to march out of the city on the night of the
fourth, to a secret attack on the American camp
at White Marsh. Not wishing to endanger her
husband's life by making him a sharer of the
secret, she resolved to give the important informa-
tion to General Washington herself. Obtaining
permission from General Howe to leave the city
on some domestic errand, she went directly to-
wards the American camp. Meeting an American
officer on her way, she disclosed the secret to him,
making him promise not to betray her, and re-
turned without any suspicions having been excited
concerning her errand. In consequence of her
information, when the British army marched out
to the attack, on the night of the fourth, they
found the enemy so well prepared, that they were
obliged to return without firing a gun. Lydia
Darrah's interposition was never discovered by
the British.

Princess of, was descended from the noble
family of AVorenzoff, and was the early friend and
confidant of the empress Catharine II. of Russia.
She was born in 1744, and became a widow at the
age of eighteen. She endeavoured to effect the
accession of Catharine to the throne, but, .nt the
same time, was in favour of a constitutional limi-
tation of the imperial power. In a military dress,
and on horseback, she led a body of troops to the
presence of Catharine, who placed herself at their
head, and precipitated her husband, Peter III.,
from the throne. The request of the princess
Daschkoff to receive the command of the imperial
guards, was refused. She did not long remain
about the person of Catharine. Study became




her favourite employment ; and, after her return
from abroad, in 1782, slie was made director of
the Academy of Sciences, and president of tlie
newly-established Russian Academy. She wrote
much in the Russian language, and promoted the
publication of the Dictionary of the Russian Aca-
demy. She died at Moscow, in 1810.

Her courage and decision were extraordinary.
Although her exertions in Catharine's favour had
been repaid by ingratitude, neglect and coldness,
yet the empress did not hesitate, when a conspi-
racy was formed to dethrone her, of which she
thought the princess must be cognizant, to write
her a long and llattering letter, in which she con-
jured her, in the name of their friendship, to re-
veal the projects against her, promising the prin-
cess full pardon for all concerned. The indignant
princess replied to the four pages she had received
iu four lines. " Madam, I have heard nothing :
but, if I had, I should beware of what I spoke.
What do you require of me ? That I should ex-
pire on the scaffold ? I am ready to ascend it."


Second daughter of Dr. Oliver and Margaret
Davidson, was born at Plattsburg, on Lake Cham-
plain, Sept. 27th, 1808. Her parents were then
in indigent circumstances, and, to add to their
troubles, her mother was often sickly. Under
such circumstances, the little Lucretia would not
be likely to owe her precocity to a forced educa-
tion. The manifestations of intellectual activity
were apparent in the infant, we may say ; for at
four j^ears old she would retire by herself to pore
over her books, and draw pictures of animals, and
soon illustrated these rude drawings by poetry.
Her first specimens of writing were imitations of
printed letters; but she was very much distressed
when these were discovered, and immediately de-
stroyed them.

The first poem of hers which has been preserved,
was written when she was nine years old. It was
an elegy on a Robin, killed in the attempt to rear
it. This piece was not inserted in her works.
The earliest of her poeans which has been printed,
was written at eleven years old. Her parents
were much gratified by her talents, and gave her
all the indulgence in their power, which was only
time for reading such books as she could obtain
by borrowing ; as they could afford no money to
buy books, or to pay for her instruction. Before
she was twelve years old, she had read most of
the standard English poets — much of history, both
sacred and profane — Shakspeare's, Kotzebue's and
Goldsmith's dramatic works, and many of the popu-
lar novels and romances of the day. Of the latter,
however, she was not an indiscriminate reader —
many of those weak and worthless productions,
which are the 61ite of the circulating libraries,
this child, after reading a few pages, would throw
aside in disgust. Would that all young ladies j)OS-
sessed her delicate taste and discriminating judg-
ment !

When Lucretia was about twelve years old, a
gentleman, who had heard of her genius and seen
Bome of her verses, sent her a complimentary note,

enclosing twenty dollars. Her first exclamation
was, " Oh, now I shall buy me some books!" But
her dear mother was lying ill — the little girl looked
towards the sick-bed — tears gushed to her eyes,
and putting the bill into her father's hand, she
said — "Take it, father; it will buy many comforts
for mother; I can do without books."

It is no wonder that her parents should feel the
deepest affection for such a good and gifted child.
Yet there will always be found officious, meddling
persons, narrow-minded, if not envious, who are
prone to prophesy evil on any pursuits in which
they or theirs cannot compete. These meddlers
advised that she should be deprived of pen, ink,
and paper, and rigorously confined to domestic
pursuits. Her parents were too kind and wise to
follow this counsel; but Lucretia, by some means,
learned that such had been given. Without a
murmur, she resolved to submit to this trial ; and
she faithfully adhered to the resolution. She told
no one of her intention or feelings, but gave up
her writing and reading, and for several months
devoted herself entirely to household business.
Her mother was ill at the time, and did not notice
the change in Lucretia' s pursuits, till she saw the
poor girl was growing emaciated, and a deep de-
jection was settled on her countenance. She said
to her, one day, " Lucretia, it is a long time since
you have written any thing." The sweet child
burst into tears, and replied, "0, mother, I have
given that up long ago." Her mother then drew
from her the reasons which had influenced her to
relinquish writing — namely, the opinions she had
heard expressed that it was wrong for her to in-
dulge in mental pursuits, and the feeling that she
ought to do all in her power to lighten the cares
of her parents. Mrs. Davidson was a good, sen-
sible woman ; with equal discretion and tender-
ness, she counselled her daughter to take a middle
course, resume her studies, but divide her time
between these darling pursuits and the duties of
the household. Lucretia from thenceforth occa-
sionally resumed her pen, and soon regained her
quiet serenity and usvial health.

Her love of knowledge grew with her growth,
and strengthened by evei'y accession of thought.
"Oh!" said she one day to her mother — "Oh!
that I only possessed half the means of improve-
ment which I see others slighting ! I should be
the happiest of the happy !" At another time she
exclaimed — " How much there is yet to learn! —
If I could only grasp it at once !"

This passionate desire for instruction was at
length gratified. When she was abovit sixteen, a
gentleman, a stranger at Plattsburg, saw, by ac-
cident, some of her poems, and learned her his-
tory. With the prompt and warm generosity of a
noble mind, he immediately proposed to place her
at school, and give her every advantage for which
she had so ardently longed. Her joy on learning
this good fortune was almost overwhelming. She
was, as soon as possible, placed at the Troy Fe-
male Seminary, under the care of Mrs. Emma
AVillard. She was there at the fountain for which
she had so long thirsted, and her spiritual eager-
ness could not be restrained. " On her entering




the Seminary," says the Principal, "she at once
surprised us by the brilliancy and pathos of her
compositions — she evinced a most exquisite sense
of the beautiful in the productions of her pencil ;
always giving to whatever she attempted to copy,
certain peculiar and original touches which marked
the liveliness of her conceiDtions, and the power
of her genius to embody those conceptions. But
, from studies which required calm and steady in-
vestigation, efforts of memory, judgment and con-
secutive thinking, her mind seemed to shrink. She
had no confidence in herself, and appeared to re-
gard with dismay any requisitions of this nature."
— In truth, she had so long indulged in solitary
musings, and her sensibility had become so exqui-
site, heightened and refined as it had been by her
vivid imagination, that she was dismayed, agonized
even, with the feeling of responsibility, which her
public examination involved. She was greatly be-
loved and tenderly cherished by her teachers ; but
it is probable that the excitement of the new situa-
tion in which she was placed, and the new studies
she had to pursue, operated fatally on her consti-
tution. She was, during the vacation, taken with
an illness, which left her feeble and very nervous.
AVhen she recovered, she was placed at Albany, at
the school of Miss Gilbert — but there she was
soon attacked by severe disease. She partially
recovered, and was removed to her home, where
she gradually declined till death released her pure
and exalted mind from its prison-house of clay.
She died, August 27th, 182-5, before she had com-
pleted her seventeenth year.

In person she was exceedingly beautiful. Her
forehead was high, open, and fair as infancy — her
eyes large, dark, and of that soft beaming expres-
sion which shows the soul in the glance — her fea-
tures were fine and symmetrical, and her com-
plexion brilliant, especially when the least excite-
ment moved her feelings. But the prevailing
expression of her face was melancholy. Her
beauty, as well as her mental endowments, made
her the object of much regard ; but she shrunk
from observation — any particular attention always
seemed to give her pain ; so exquisite was her
modesty. In truth, her soul was too delicate for
this "cold world of storms and clouds." Her
imagination never revelled in the " garishness of
joy;" — a pensive, meditative mood was the na-
tui'al tone of her mind. Tlie adverse circumstances
by which she was surrounded, no doubt deepened
this seriousness, till it became almost morbid me-
lancholy — but no external advantages of fortune
would have given to her disposition buoyant cheer-
fulness. It seems the lot of youthful genius to be
sad ; Kirke White was thus melancholy. Like
flowers opened too early, these children of song
shrink from the storms of life before they have
felt its sunbeams.

The writings of Miss Davidson were astonish-
ingly voluminous. She had destroyed many of her
pieces; her mother says, at least one-third — yet
those remaining amount to two hundred and seventy-
eight pieces. There are among them five regular
poems of several cantos each, twenty-four school-
exercises, three unfinished romances, a complete

tragedy, written at thirteen years of age, and
about forty letters to her mother. Her poetry is
marked by strong imaginative powers, and the
sentiment of sad forebodings. These dai'k visions,
though they tinged all her earthly horizon, were

Online LibrarySarah Josepha Buell HaleWoman's record; or, Sketches of all distinguished women, from the beginning till A.D. 1850. Arranged in four eras. With selections from female writers of every age → online text (page 66 of 214)