Thomas Babington Macaulay Macaulay.

Critical, historical, and miscellaneous essays online

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Burney, and of indignation against both her fathe?
and the Queen. ^^ Is it possible,'' said a great French
lady to the Doctor, ** that your daughter is in a situa-
tion where she is nevw allowed a holiday ? " Horace
Walpole wrote to Frances, to express his sympathy.
BosweD, boiling over with goodnatured rage, almost
forced an entrance into the palace to see her. ^^ My
dear ma'am, why do you stay ? It won't do, ma'^am ;
you must resign. We can put up with it no longer.
Some very violent measures, 1 assure you, will be
taken. We shall address Dr. Burney in a body."
Burke and Reynolds, though less noisy, were zealous



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MADAM K D'ARBLAY. 297

in the same cause. Windham spoke to Dr. Bumey ;
but found liim still irresolute. "• I will set the club
upon him," cried Windham ; '' Miss Bumey has some
very true admirers there, and I am sure they wili
ea^];erly assist." Indeed the Bumey family seem to
liave been apj^rehensive that some public affront, such
as the Doctor's unpardonable folly, to use the mildest
term, liad richly deserved, would be put upon him.
The medical men spoke out, and plainly tokl him that
his daughter mast resign or die.

At kst paternal affection, medical authority, and the
voice of all London crying shame, triumphed over Dr.
Bumey's love of courts. He determined that Frances
should write a letter of resignation. It was with dif-
ficulty that, though h^a* life was at stake, she mustered
spirit to put the paper into the Queen^s hands. ^^ I
could not," BO runs the Diary, " summon courage to
present my memorial : my heart always failed me firom
sedng the Queen's entire freedom from such an ex-
pectaticMi. For though I was frequently so ill in her
presence that I could hardly fttand, I saw she concluded
me, while life remained, inevitably hers."

At last with a trembling hand the paper was deliv-
ered. Then came the stonn. Juno, as in the ^neid,
del^ated the work of vengeance to Alecto. The
Queen was calm and gentle ; but Madame Schwellen-
berg raved like a maniac in the incurable ward of Bed
lam ! Such inscdence ! Such ingratitude ! Such folly I
Would Miss Bumey bring utter destruction on herself
and her family ? Would she throw away the inestima-
ble advantage of royal protection ? Would she part
with privileges which, once relinquished^ could nevei
be regained ? It was idle to talk of healtli and life.
(f people could not live in the palace, the best thing



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298 . DIARY AND LETTERS OF

that could befkll them was to die in it. The resigna^
tion was not accepted. The language of the medical
men became stronger and stronger. Dr. Bumey's
parental fears were fully roused; and he explicitly
declared, in a letter meant to be shown to the Queen,
tliat his daughter must retire. The Sdiwellenbei^
rngcd like a wild cat. ^^A scene almost horrible
ensued," says Miss Bumey. '* She was too much
enraged for disguise, and uttered the most furious ex-
()ressions of indignant contempt at our pn>ceedixigs. I
am sure she would gladly have confined us both in the
Bastile, had England such a misery, as a fit place to
bring us to ourselves, from a daring so outrageous
against imperial wishes." This passage deserves no-
tice, as being the only one in the Diary, so far as we
have observed, which shows Miss Burney to have
been aware that she was a native of a free country,
that she could not be pressed for a waiting maid against
her will, and that she had just as good a right to live,
if she chose, in Saint Martin's Street^ as Queen Char-
lotte had to live at Saint James's.

The Queen promised that, after the next birthday.
Miss Bumey should be set at liberty. But the promise
was ill kept ; and her Majesty showed great displeasureftt
being reminded of it. At length Frances was informed
that in a fortnight her attendance should cease. I ^ heard
this," she says, " with a fearftd presentiment I should
surely never go through another fbirtnight, in so weak
and languisliing and painful a state of health. ... As
t!ie time oi separation approached, the Queen's cordial^
ity I'ather diminished, and traces of internal displeasure
appeared sometimes, arising from an (pinion I ought
rather to have struggled on, live or die, than to quit
her. Yet I am sure she saw how poor was my own



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MADAMK D'AliBLAY. 29£

cluuice, except by a change in the mode of life, and at
least ceased to wonder, though she could not approve."
Sweet Queen I What noble candour, to admit that
the undutiiulness of peqple, who did not think the hon-
our of adjusting her tuckers worth the sacrifice of their
own lives, was, though highly criminal, not altogether
unnatural !

We perfectly understand her Majesty's contempt for
the lives of others where her own pleasure was con*
cemed. But what pleasure she can liave found in hav-
ing Miss Bumey about her, it is not so easy to compre-
hend. That Miss Bumey was an eminently skilful
keeper of the robes is not very probable. Few women,
indeed, liad paid less intention to dress. Now and
then, in Xhe course of five years, she had been asked to
read aloud or to write a copy of verses. But better
readers m^t easily have been found : and her verses
were worse than even the Foot Laureate's Birthday
Odes. Perhaps that economy, which was among her
Majesty's most conspicuous virtues, had something to do
with her conduct on this occasion. Miss Bumey had
never hinted that she expected a retiring pe^^ion ; and
mdeed woidd gladly have given the little that she had
for freedom. But her Majesty knew what the public
diought, and what became her own dignity. She
could not for very shame suffer a woman o£ distin*
guished genius, who had quitted a locmtive caiieer to
wait on her, wha had served her fiuthiuUy for a pit-
tance during five years, and whose constitution had
been impaired by labour and watching, to leave the
tourt without some mark of royal Uberality. George
the Third, who, on all occasions where Miss Bumey
was concerned, seems to hajve behaved like an honest,
goodnatured gentleman, felt thfe, and said plainly that



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300 DJARY AND LE'riERS OF

she was entitled to a provision. At lengtli, ii\ return
for all tlie misery which she had undergone, and for the
health \i'hich she had sacrificed, an annuity of one hun-
dred pounds was granted to her, dependent on the
Queen's pleasure.

Then the prison was opened, and Fnuices was free
once mere. Johnson, as Burke observed, might have
added a striking page to his poem on the Vanity of
Human Wishes, if he had lived to see his Uttle Bumey
as she went into the palace and as she came out of it.

The pleasures, so long untasted, of lib^ty, of firiend-
ship, of domestic affection, were almost too acute for
her shattered frame. But happy days and tranquil
nights soon restored the health which the Queen's
toilette Hud Madame Schwellenberg's cardtable had
impaired. Kind and anxious faces surrounded the
invalid. Conversation die most polished and l^lliant
revived her spirits. Travelling was recommended to
her ; and she rambled by easy journeys from cathedral
to cathedral, and from watering place to watering place.
She crossed the New Forest, and visited Stonehenge
and Wilton, the cliffs of Lyme, and the beautiful valley
of Sidmouth. Thence she journeyed by Powderham
Castle, and by the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey to Bath,
and from Bath, when the winter was approaching,
returned well and cheeiful to London. There she
visited her old dungeon, and found her successor al-
ready far on the way to the grave, and kept to strict
duty, from morning till midnight, with a sprained ankle
and a nervous fever.

At this time England swarmed with French exiles
driven from their country by the Revolution. A col-
ony of these refugees settled at Juniper Hall, in Surrey,
not far from Norbury Park, where Mr. Locke, an inti-



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MADAMK D'ARBLAT. 301

mate firiend of the Bumey family, resided. Frances
risited Norbory and was introduced to the stranj^rs.
She had strong prejudices against them ; for her Tory-
ism was for beyond, we do not say that of Mr. Pitt,
but that of Mr. Reeves ; and the inmates of Juniper
Hall were all attached to the constitution of 1791, and
were therefore more detested by the royalists of the
first emigration than Pedon or Marat. But sucli a
woman as Miss Bumey could not long resist the fasci*
nation of that remarkable society. She had lived with
Johnson and Wyndham, with Mrs Montague and Mrs.
Thrale. Yet she was forced to own that she had never
heard conversation before. The most animated elo-
quence, the keenest observation, the most sparkling wit,
the most courtly grace, were united to charm her. For
Madame de Stael was there, and M. de Talleyrand.
There too was M. de Narbonne, a noble representative
of French aristocracy ; and with M. de Narbonne was
his friend and follower General D'Arblay, an honour-
able and amiable man, with a handsome person, frank
soldierlike manners, and some taste for letters.

The prejudices whieh Frances had conceived against
the constitutibnal royalists of France rapidly vanishcnl.
She listened with rapture to Talleyrand and Madame
de Sta^l, joined with M. Arblay in execrating tlie
Jacobins and in weeping for the unhappy Bourbons,
took French lessons from him, fell in love with him,
and married him on no better provision than a preca-
rious annuity of one hundred pounds.

Here the Diary stops for the present. We will, there-
fore, bring our narrative to a speedy close, by rapidly
recounting the most important events which we know
to have befallen Madame D' Arblay during the lattei
part of her Kfe.



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802 DIARY AND LETTERS OF

M. D' Arblay's fortune had pa-isbed in the genera,
wreck of the Fi'encli Revolution ; and in a foreign
country liis talents, whatever they may have been,
could scarcely make him rich. The task of providing
for the family devolved on his wile. In the year 1796,
she published by subscription hei* third novel, Camilla.
It was impatiently expected by the public; and th<2
sum which she obtained for it was, we believe, greater
tlian liad ever at that time been received for a novel.
We have heard that she cleared more than three
thousand guineas. But we ^ve this merely as a
rumour. Camilla, however, never attained popularity
like that which Evelina and Cecilia had enjoyed ; and
it must be allowed that tliere was a perceptible fidling off,
not indeed in h^jmour or in power of portraying char-
acter, but in grace and in purity of style.

We have heard that, about iAi\& time, a tragedy by
Madame D'Arblay was performed without success.
We do not know whether it was ever printed ; new
indeed have we had time to make any researches into
its history or merits.

During the short truce which f<dlowed the treaty of
Amiens, M. D'Arblay visited France, Lauriston and
La Fayette represented his claims to the French gov-
ernment, and obtained a piomiae that he should be
reinstated in his military rank. M. D'Arblay, however,
insisted that he should never be required to serve
against the countrymen of his wife. The First Consul,
of course, would not hear of such a condition, and
ordered the generaPa commission to be imtantly re-
voked.

Madame D'Arblay joined her husband at Paris, a
short time before the war of 1803 broke out, and re-
mamed in France ten yeare, cut off (torn almost all



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MADAME D*ARBLAT. 808

intercourse with the land erf her birth. At length,
when Napoleon was on his march to Moscow, she with
great difficulty obtained from his minist^^ permission
to visit her own country, in company with her son,
who was a native of England. She returned in time
to receive the last blessing of her fether, who ditid in
his eighty-seventh year. In 1814 she published her
last novel, the Wanderer, a book which no judicious
friend to her memory will attempt to draw from the
oblivion into which it has justly &Ilen. In the same
year, her 8(m Alexander was sent to Cambridge. He
obtained an honourable place among tlie wranglers of
his year, and was elected a fellow of Christ's College.
But his reputation at the University was higher than
might be inferred from his succe^ in academical con-
tests. His French education Imd not fitted him for the
<*jcaminations of the Senate House ; but, in pure mathe-
matics, we have been assured by some of his com-
petitors that he had very few equals. He went into
the church, and it was thought lik«jy that he would
attain high eminence as a preacher ; but he died before
his mother. All that we have heard of him leads us to
believe that he was such a son us such a mother de
served to have. In 1832, Madame D' Arblay publidied
the memoirs of her &ther ; and on the sixth of Jan*
iwry, 1840, she died in her eighty-eighth year.

We now turn from the 1^ of Madame D'Arblay
to her writings. There can, we apprdiend, be little
difference of opmion as to the nature of her merit,
whatever differ^ices may exist as to its degree. She
was emphatically what Johnson called her, a character-
monger. It was in the exhibition of human passions
and whims that her strength lay ; and in thk depart-
ment of art she had, we think, very disdngitished
skill.



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804 DIARY AND LETTERS OF

But in order that we may, according to our duty as
kings at arms, versed in the laws of literarj* preco-
dence, marshal her to the exact seat to which she is
entitled, we must carry our examination somewhat
further.

There is, in one respect, a remarkable analogy b^
tween the faces and the minds of men. No two feces
are alike ; and yet very few .feces deviate very >videly
fronr:44he common standard. Among the eighteen
hundred thousand human beings who inhabit London,
there is not one who could be taken by his acquaint-
ance for another ; yet we may walk from Paddingtxm
to Mile End without seeing one person in whom any
feature is so overcharged that we turn round to stare
at it. An infinite tiumber of varieties lies between
limits which are not very fer asunder. The specimens
which pass those limits on eith^ side, form a vary small
minority.

It is the same with the characters of men. Here,
too, the variety passes all enumeration. But tlie cases
in which the deviation from the common standard is
striking and grotesque, are very few. In one mind
avarice predominates ; in another, pride ; in a third, love
of pleasure ; just as in one countenance the nose is the
most marked feature, while in others the chief expres-
sion lies in the brow, or in the lines of the mouth. But
there are very few countenances in which nose, brow,
and mouth do not contribute, though in unequal degrees,
to the general effect ; and so there are very few charac-
ters in which one ovei^rown propensity makes all others
utterly insignificant.

It is evident that a portrait painter, who was able
(mly to represent faces and figures such as those which
we pay money to see at feirs, would not, however spir



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MADAME D'ARBLAY. 305

rted his execution might be, take rank among the high-
est artists. He must always be placed below those who
liave skill to seize peculiarities which do not amount to
deformity. The slighter those pecuUarities, the gi*eater
is the merit of the limner who can catch them and
tnmsfer them to hfa canvass. To paint Danid Lambert
(ir the Uving skeleton, the pig faced lady or the Siamese
twins so that nobody can mistake them, is an exploit
within the reach of a signpainter. A thirdrate artist
might give us the squint of Wilkes, and the depressed
nose and protuberant cheeks of Gibbon. It would re-
quire a much higher degree of skill to paint two such
men as Mr. Canning and Sir Thomas Lawrence, so that
nobody who had ever seen them coukl for a moment
hesitate to assign each picture to its original. Here the
mere caricaturist would be quite at &ult. He would
find in neither face any thuig on which he could lay
hold for the purpose of making a distinction. Two
ample bald foreheads, two regular profiles, two ftiU
faces of the same oval form, would baffle his art ;
and he would be reduced to the miserable shifl of
writing their names at the foot of his picture. Yet
there was a great difSsrenoe ; and a person who had
seen tJiem once would no more have mistaken one of
them for the other, than he would have mistaken Mr.
Pitt for Mr. Fox. But the difference lay in delicate
lineaments and shades, reserved for pencils of a rare
order.

This distinction runs througli all the imitative aits.
Foote's mimicry was exquisitely ludicrous, but it was all
caricature. He could take off only some strange pecu-
liarity, a stammer or a lisp, a Northumbrian burr or an
Irish brogue, a stoop or a shuffle. *' If a man," said
Johnson, *' hops on one leg, Foote can hop on one log."



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306 DIARY AND LETTEES OF

Garrick, on the other hand, could seize those differencet
of manner and pronunciation, wliich, tliough liighly
characteristic, are yet too slight to be described. Foote,
we liave no doubt, could have made the Haymarket
theatre shake inth laughter by imitating a eonversaticm
between a Scotchman and a Somersetshireman. But
Oarrick could have imitated a conversation between two
fashionable men, both models of the beat breeding. Lord
Chesterfield, for example, and Lord Albemariei so that
no person ccmld doubt which was which, although no
person could say that, in any point, either Lord Ches-
terfield or Lord Albemarle spoke or n^ved otberwise
than in conformity with the usages of the best society.
The same distinction is found in the drama and in
fictitious narrative* Highest among those who have
exhibited human nature by means of dialogue^ stands
Shakspeare. His variety is like the variety of nature,
endless diversity, scarcely any monsti^osity. The ohar-
acters of which he lias given us an impression, as vivid
as that which we receive from the characters of our
own assodates, are to be reckoned by scores* Yet in
all these scores hard.y one character is to be found
which deviates widely from the common standard, and
which we should call very eccentric if we met it in real
life. The silly notion tliat every man has one ruling
jiassion, and that this clue, once known, unravels all
the mysteries of his oonduct, finds no count^naiK^ in
the plays of Shakspeare. There man appears as he is«
made up of a crowd of passions, which ccmtend for the
mastery over him and govern him in turn. What i?
Hamlet's ruling passion ? Or Othello's ? Or Harry
the FifUi's? Or Wolsey's? Or Lear's? Or Shy-
lock's? Or Benedick's? Or MacbeUi's? Or that
of Cassius ? Or that of Falconbridire ? But we might



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MADAMK D'ARBLAT. 807

go on for ever. Take a single example, Shylock. la
he so eager for money as to be indifFerent to revenge ?
Or so eager for revenge as to be indifferent to money ?
Or so bent on both together as to be indifferent to the
honour of his nation and the law of Moses ? All his
])ropensities are mingled with each other, so that, in
trying to apportion to each its proper part, we find the
same difficnlty which constantly meets us in real life.
A superficial critic may say, that hatred is Shylock 's
niHng passion. But how many pasaons have amalgar
mated to form that hatred ? It is partly the result of
wounded pride: Antonio has called him dog. It is
partly the result of covetousness : Antcnio has hindered
him of half a million ; and, when Antomo is gone,
there will be no limit to the gains of usury. It is partly
the result of national and religious feeling : Antonio
has spit on the Jewish gaberdine ; and the oath of re-
venge has been sworn by die Jewbb Sabbath. We
might go through all the characters wliich we have
mentioned, and through fifty more in the same way ;
for it is the constanit manner of Sbaki^eare to represent
the human mind as lying, not under the absolute do-
minion of one despotk^ propensity, but under a mixed
government, in which a hundred powers balance each
other. Admirable as he was in all parts of his art, we
most admire him for this, that while he has left us a
greater numb» of striking portraits than all other dram-
atists put together, he has scarcely left u$ a single
caricature.

Shakspeare has had neither equal nor second. But
among the writers who, in the point which we have
noticed, have approached nearest to the manner of the
great master, we have no hesitation in placing Jane
Austen, a woman of whom England is justly proud.



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308 DIARY AND LETTERS OF

She lias given us a multitude of characters, all, in a
certain sense, commonplace, all such as we meet every
day. Yet they are all as perfectly discriminated from
each other as if they were the most eccentric of humim
beings. There are, for instance, foiir clergymen, none
t)f whom, we should be surprised to find in any parson-
age in the kingdom, Mr. Edward Ferrars, Mr. Henry
Tilney, Mr. Edmund Bertram, and Mn Elton. They
are all specimens of the upper part of the middle class.
They have all been hberally educated. They all lie
under the restraints of the same sacred profession.
They are all young. They are all in love. Not one
of them has any hobbyhorse, to use the phrase of Sterne.
Not one has a ruling passion, such as we read of in
Pope. Who would not have expected them to be in-
sipid likenesses of each other ? No such thing. Harp-
agon is not more unlike to Joordain, Joseph SurfSace is
not more unlike to Sir Lucius O'Tr^ger, than ev-
ery one of Miss Austen's young divines to all his rev*
ei*end brethren. And almost all this is done by touches
so delicate, that they elude analysis, that they defy the
powers of description, and that we know them to exist
only by the general effect to which they have con-
tributed.

A line must be drawn, we conceive, between artists
of this class, and those poets and novelists whose skill
lies in the exhibiting of what Ben Jonson called hu-
mours. The words of Ben are so much to the purpose
that we will quote them :

" When some one peonliar quality
Doth so poAeess a man, that it doth drav
All his affects, his spirits, and his powers,
In their confluxions nil to run one way,
This may be truly said to be a bmnonr.**

There are undoubtedly persons, in whom hnmoiu^

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ALA.DAME D'ARBLAY. 809

sadi as Bcii describes have attained a complete ascen-
dency. The avarice of Elwes, the insane desire of Sir
Egertou Brydges for a barony to which he had no more
right than to the crown of Spain, the malevolence which
long meditation on imaginaiy wrongs generated in the
gloomy mind of Bellingham, are instances. The feel-
ing which animated Clarkson and other virtuous men
against the slave trade and sfatvcry, is an instance of a
more honourable kind.

Seeing that such humours exist, we cannot deny
that they are proper subjects for the imitations of art.
But we conceive that the imitation of such humours,
however skilful and amusing, is not an achievement of
the highest order ; and, as such humours are rare in
real life, they ought, we conceive, to be sparingly intro-
duced into works which prc^ess to be pictures of real
life. Neverthdess, a writer may show so much genius
In the exhibition of these humours as to be fairly enti-
tled to a distinguished and p^*manent rank amcmg clas-
sics. The chief seats of all, however, the places on
the dais and under the canopy, are reserved for the few
who have excelled in the difficult art of portraying
characters in which no singk feature is extravagantly
overcharged.

If we have expounded the law soundly, we can have
no difficulty in applying it to the particular case before
us. Madame D'Arblay has left us scarcely any thing
but humours. Almost every one of her men and
women has some one ])ropensity developed to a morbid
degree. In Cecilia, for example, Mr. Delvile nevei'
opens his lips without 8<mie allusion to his own birth
and station ; or Mr. Briggs, without some allusion to
the hoarding of money ; or Mr. Hobaon, without be-
traying the selfindulgence and selfimportance of a



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810 DIARY AND LETTERS OF

purseproud upstart ; or Mr. Simkins^ without uttering
some sneaking remark for the purpose of cuiTying fa^
vour with his customers ; or Mr. Meadows^ without
expressing apathy and weariness of life ; or Mr. Albany,
without declaiming about die vices of the rich and the
misery of the poor ; or Mrs. Belfield, without some in-
delicate eulogy on her son ; cft Lady Margaret, with-



Online LibraryThomas Babington Macaulay MacaulayCritical, historical, and miscellaneous essays → online text (page 23 of 84)