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The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 06, No. 38, December, 1860 online

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stalwart men, and to represent the honor and the interests of the empire
in that last emergency when all might be depending on his courage and
capacity. Even women were thus saddled upon the pay-lists; and the time
is within the memory of living men, when a gentle lady, whose knowledge
of arms may be presumed to have never extended beyond the internecine
disputes of the nursery, habitually received the salary of a captaincy
of dragoons. In ranks thus officered, it was easy to foresee the speedy
and sure triumph of competent ability, when once backed by patronage.

So long, however, as his dependence upon his father endured, it was
useless for André to anticipate the day when he might don the king's
livery. The repugnance with which his first motion in the matter was
greeted, and the affectionate opposition of his mother and sisters, seem
to have at least silenced, if they did not extinguish his desires. And
when the death of his father, in 1769, left him free to select his own
pathway through the world, a new conjuncture of affairs again caused him
to smother his cherished aspirations.

The domestic relations of the André family were ever peculiarly tender
and affectionate; and in the loss of its head the survivors confessed a
great and a corroding sorrow. To repair the shattered health and recruit
the exhausted spirits of his mother and sisters, the son resolved to
lead them at once away from the daily contemplation of the grave to more
cheerful scenes. The medicinal waters of Derbyshire were then in vogue,
and a tour towards the wells of Buxton and of Matlock was undertaken.
Among the acquaintances that ensued from this expedition was that of the
family of the Rev. Mr. Seward of Lichfield; and while a warm and lasting
friendship rapidly grew up between André and Miss Anna Seward, his heart
was surrendered to the charms of her adopted sister, Miss Honora Sneyd.

By every account, Honora Sneyd must have been a paragon of feminine
loveliness. Her father was a country-gentleman of Staffordshire, who had
been left, by the untimely death of their mother, to the charge of a
bevy of infants. The solicitude of friends and relatives had sought the
care of these, and thus Honora became virtually a daughter of Mrs.
Seward's house. The character of this establishment may be conjectured
from the history of Anna Seward. Remote from the crushing weight of
London authority, she grew up in a provincial atmosphere of literary and
social refinement, and fondly believed that the polite praises (for
censure was a thing unknown among them) that were bandied about in her
own coterie would be cordially echoed by the voices of posterity. In
this she has been utterly deceived; but at the same time it must be
confessed that there was much in the tone of the reigning circles at
Lichfield, in those days, to contrast most favorably with the manners of
the literary sovereigns of the metropolis, or the intellectual elevation
of the rulers of fashion. At Lichfield, it was polite to be learned, and
good-breeding and mutual admiration went hand in hand.

In such an atmosphere had Miss Sneyd been educated; and the
enthusiastic, not to say romantic, disposition of Miss Seward must have
given additional effect to every impulse that taught her to acknowledge
and rejoice in the undisguised admiration of the young London merchant.
His sentiments were as pure and lofty as her own; his person was as
attractive as that of any hero of romance; and his passion was deep and
true. With the knowledge and involuntary approbation of all their
friends, the love-affair between the two young people went on without
interruption or opposition. It seemed perfectly natural and proper that
they should be brought together. It was not, therefore, until a formal
betrothal began to loom up, that the seniors on either side bethought
themselves of the consequences. Neither party was a beggar; but neither
was in possession of sufficient estate to render a speedy marriage
advisable. It was concluded, then, to prohibit any engagement, which
must inevitably extend over several years, between two young persons
whose acquaintance was of so modern a date, and whose positions involved
a prolonged and wide separation. To this arrangement it would appear
that Honora yielded a more implicit assent than her lover. His feelings
were irretrievably interested; and he still proposed to himself to press
his suit without intermission during the term of his endurance. His
mistress, whose affections had not yet passed entirely beyond her own
control, was willing to receive as a friend the man whom she was
forbidden to regard as an elected husband.

It was by the representations of Miss Seward, who strongly urged on him
the absolute necessity of his adherence to trade, if he wished to secure
the means of accomplishing matrimony, that André was now persuaded to
renounce, for some years longer, his desire for the army. He went back
to London, and applied himself diligently to his business. An occasional
visit to Lichfield, and a correspondence that he maintained with Miss
Seward, served to keep his flame sufficiently alive. His letters are
vivacious and characteristic, and the pen-and-ink drawings with which
his text was embellished gave them additional interest. Here is a
specimen of them. It will be noted, that, according to the sentimental
fashion of the day, his correspondent must be called Julia because her
name is Anna.

"_London, October_ 19, 1769.

"From the midst of books, papers, bills, and other implements of gain,
let me lift up my drowsy head awhile to converse with dear Julia. And
first, as I know she has a fervent wish to see me a quill-driver, I must
tell her that I begin, as people are wont to do, to look upon my future
profession with great partiality. I no longer see it in so
disadvantageous a light. Instead of figuring a merchant as a middle-aged
man, with a bob wig, a rough beard, in snuff-coloured clothes, grasping
a guinea in his red hand, I conceive a comely young man, with a
tolerable pig-tail, wielding a pen with all the noble fierceness of the
Duke of Marlborough brandishing a truncheon upon a sign-post, surrounded
with types and emblems, and canopied with cornucopias that disembogue
their stores upon his head; Mercuries reclin'd upon bales of goods;
Genii playing with pens, ink, and paper; while, in perspective, his
gorgeous vessels 'launched on the bosom of the silver Thames' are
wafting to distant lands the produce of this commercial nation. Thus all
the mercantile glories crowd on my fancy, emblazoned in the most
effulgent colouring of an ardent imagination. Borne on her soaring
pinions, I wing my flight to the time when Heaven shall have crowned my
labours with success and opulence. I see sumptuous palaces rising to
receive me; I see orphans, and widows, and painters, and fidlers, and
poets, and builders, protected and encouraged; and when the fabrick is
pretty nearly finished by my shattered pericranium, I cast my eyes
around, and find John André by a small coal-fire in a gloomy
compting-house in Warnford Court, nothing so little as what he has been
making himself, and in all probability never to be much more than he is
at present. But, oh! my dear Honora! it is for thy sake only I wish for
wealth. - You say she was somewhat better at the time you wrote last. I
must flatter myself that she will soon be without any remains of this
threatening disease.

"It is seven o'clock. - You and Honora, with two or three more select
friends, are now probably encircling your dressing-room fireplace. What
would I not give to enlarge that circle! The idea of a clean hearth, and
a snug circle round it, formed by a few select friends, transports me.
You seem combined together against the inclemency of the weather, the
hurry, bustle, ceremony, censoriousness, and envy of the world. The
purity, the warmth, the kindly influence of fire, to all for whom it is
kindled, is a good emblem of the friendship of such amiable minds as
Julia's and her Honora's. Since I cannot be there in reality, pray,
imagine me with you; admit me to your _conversationés_: - Think how I
wish for the blessing of joining them! - and be persuaded that I take
part in all your pleasures, in the dear hope, that, ere it be very long,
your blazing hearth will burn again for me. Pray, keep me a place; let
the poker, tongs, or shovel represent me: - But you have Dutch tiles,
which are infinitely better; so let Moses, or Aaron, or Balaam's ass be
my representative.

"But time calls me to Clapton. I quit you abruptly till to-morrow: when,
if I do not tear the nonsense I have been writing, I may perhaps
increase its quantity. Signora Cynthia is in clouded majesty. Silvered
with her beams, I am about to jog to Clapton upon my own stumps; musing,
as I homeward plod my way. - Ah! need I name the subject of my
contemplations?

"_Thursday_.

"I had a sweet walk home last night, and found the Claptonians, with
their fair guest, a Miss Mourgue, very well. My sisters send their
amities, and will write in a few days.

"This morning I returned to town. It has been the finest day imaginable;
a solemn mildness was diffused throughout the blue horizon; its light
was clear and distinct rather than dazzling; the serene beams of an
autumnal sun! Gilded hills, variegated woods, glittering spires,
ruminating herds, bounding flocks, all combined to enchant the eyes,
expand the heart, and 'chase all sorrows but despair.' In the midst of
such a scene, no lesser sorrow can prevent our sympathy with Nature. A
calmness, a benevolent disposition seizes us with sweet, insinuating
power. The very brute creation seem sensible of these beauties. There is
a species of mild chearfulness in the face of a lamb, which I have but
indifferently expressed in a corner of my paper, and a demure, contented
look in an ox, which, in the fear of expressing still worse, I leave
unattempted.

"Business calls me away - I must dispatch my letter. Yet what does it
contain? No matter - You like anything better than news. Indeed, you have
never told me so; but I have an intuitive knowledge upon the subject,
from the sympathy which I have constantly perceived in the tastes of
Julia and _Cher Jean_. What is it to you or me,

"If here in the city we have nothing but riot;
If the Spitalfield weavers can't be kept quiet;
If the weather is fine, or the streets should be dirty;
Or if Mr. Dick Wilson died aged of thirty?

"But if I was to hearken to the versifying grumbling I feel within me, I
should fill my paper, and not have room left to intreat that you would
plead my cause with Honora more eloquently than the enclosed letter has
the power of doing. Apropos of verses, you desire me to recollect my
random description of the engaging appearance of the charming Mrs. - - .
Here it is at your service.

"Then rustling and bustling the lady comes down,
With a flaming red face and a broad yellow gown,
And a hobbling out-of-breath gait, and a frown.

"This little French cousin of our's, Delarise, was my sister Mary's
playfellow at Paris. His sprightliness engages my sisters extremely.
Doubtless they tell much of him to you in their letters.

"How sorry I am to bid you adieu! Oh, let me not be forgot by the
friends most dear to you at Lichfield. Lichfield! Ah, of what magic
letters is that little word composed! How graceful it looks, when it is
written! Let nobody talk to me of its original meaning, 'The Field of
Blood'! Oh, no such thing! It is the field of joy! 'The beautiful city,
that lifts her fair head in the valley, and says, _I am, and there is
none beside me.'_ Who says she is vain? Julia will not say so, - nor yet
Honora, - and least of all, their devoted

"John André."

It is not difficult to perceive in the tone of this letter that its
writer was not an accepted lover. His interests with the lady, despite
Miss Seward's watchful care, were already declining; and the lapse of a
few months more reduced him to the level of a valued and entertaining
friend, whose civilities were not to pass the conventional limits of
polite intercourse. To André this fate was very hard. He was hopelessly
enamored; and so long as fortune offered him the least hope of eventual
success, he persevered in the faith that Honora might yet be his own.
But every returning day must have shaken this faith. His visits were
discontinued and his correspondence dropped. Other suitors pressed their
claims, and often urged an argument which it was beyond his means to
supply. They came provided with what Parson Hugh calls good gifts:
"Seven hundred pounds and possibilities is good gifts." Foremost among
these dangerous rivals were two men of note in their way: Richard Lovell
Edgeworth, and the eccentric, but amiable Thomas Day.

Mr. Day was a man whose personal charms were not great. Overgrown,
awkward, pitted with the small-pox, he offered no pleasing contrast to
the discarded André: but he had twelve hundred pounds a year. His
notions in regard to women were as peculiar as his estimate of his own
merit. He seems to have really believed that it would be impossible for
any beautiful girl to refuse her assent to the terms of the contract by
which she might acquire his hand. These were absurd to a degree; and it
is not cause for surprise that Miss Sneyd should have unhesitatingly
refused them. Poor Mr. Day was not prepared for such continued ill-luck
in his matrimonial projects. He had already been very unfortunate in his
plans for obtaining a perfect wife, - having vainly provided for the
education of two foundlings between whom he promised himself to select a
paragon of a helpmate. To drop burning sealing-wax upon their necks, and
to discharge a pistol close to their ears, were among his philosophical
rules for training them to habits of submission and self-control; and
the upshot was, that they were fain to attach themselves to men of less
wisdom, but better taste. Miss Sneyd's conduct was more than he could
well endure, after all his previous disappointments; and he went to bed
with a fever that did not leave him till his passion was cured. He could
not at this time have anticipated, however, that the friendly hand which
had aided the prosecution of his addresses was eventually destined to
receive and hold the fair prize which so many were contending for.

Richard Lovell Edgeworth, the ambassador and counsellor of Mr. Day in
this affair, was at the very moment of the rejection himself enamored of
Miss Sneyd. But Edgeworth had a wife already, - a pining, complaining
woman, he tells us, who did not make his home cheerful, - and honor and
decency forbade him to open his mouth on the subject that occupied his
heart. He wisely sought refuge in flight, and in other scenes the
natural exuberance of his disposition afforded a relief from the pangs
of an unlawful and secret passion. Lord Byron, who met him forty years
afterwards, in five lines shows us the man: if he was thus seen in the
dry wood, we can imagine what he was in the green: - "I thought Edgeworth
a fine old fellow, of a clarety, elderly, red complexion, but active,
brisk, and endless. He was seventy, but did not look fifty, - no, nor
forty-eight even." He was in France when the death of his father left
him to the possession of a good estate, - and that of his wife occurring
in happy concurrence, he lost little time in opening in his own behalf
the communications that had failed when he spoke for Mr. Day. His wooing
was prosperous; in July, 1773, he married Miss Sneyd.

It is a mistake, sanctioned by the constant acceptance of historians, to
suppose that it was this occasion that prompted André to abandon a
commercial life. The improbability of winning Honora's hand, and the
freedom with which she received the addresses of other men, undoubtedly
went far to convince him of the folly of sticking to trade with but one
motive; and so soon as he attained his majority, he left the desk and
stool forever, and entered the army. This was a long time before the
Edgeworth marriage was undertaken, or even contemplated.

Lieutenant André of the Royal Fusileers had a very different line of
duty to perform from Mr. André, merchant, of Warnford Court, Throgmorton
Street; and the bustle of military life, doubtless, in some degree
diverted his mind from the disagreeable contemplation of what was
presently to occur at Lichfield. Some months were spent on the Continent
and among the smaller German courts about the Rhine. After all was over,
however, and the nuptial knot fairly tied that destroyed all his
youthful hopes, he is related to have made a farewell expedition to the
place of his former happiness. There, at least, he was sure to find one
sympathizing heart. Miss Seward, who had to the very last minute
contended with her friend against Mr. Edgeworth and in support of his
less fortunate predecessor, now met him with open arms. No pains were
spared by her to alleviate, since she could not remove, the
disappointment that evidently possessed him. A legend is preserved in
connection with this visit that is curious, though manifestly of very
uncertain credibility. It is said that an engagement had been made by
Miss Seward to introduce her friend to two gentlemen of some note in the
neighborhood, Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Newton. On the appointed morning,
while awaiting their expected guests, Cunningham related to his
companion a vision - or rather, a series of visions - that had greatly
disturbed his previous night's repose. He was alone in a wide forest, he
said, when he perceived a rider approaching him. The horseman's
countenance was plainly visible, and its lines were of a character too
interesting to be readily forgotten. Suddenly three men sprang forth
from an ambush among the thickets, and, seizing the stranger, hauled him
from his horse and bore him away. To this succeeded another scene. He
stood with a great multitude near by some foreign town. A bustle was
heard, and he beheld the horseman of his earlier dream again led along a
captive. A gibbet was erected, and the prisoner was at once hanged. In
narrating this tale, Cunningham averred that the features of its hero
were still fresh in his recollection; the door opened, and in the face
of André, who at that moment presented himself, he professed to
recognize that which had so troubled his slumbers.

Such is the tale that is recorded of the supernatural revelation of
André's fate. If it rested on somewhat better evidence than any we are
able to find in its favor, it would be at least more interesting. But
whether or no the young officer continued to linger in the spirit about
the spires of Lichfield and the romantic shades of Derbyshire, it is
certain that his fleshly part was moving in a very different direction.
In 1774, he embarked to join his regiment, then posted in Canada, and
arrived at Philadelphia early in the autumn of the year.

It is not within the design of this paper to pursue to any length the
details of André's American career. Regimental duties in a country
district rarely afford matter worthy of particular record; and it is not
until the troubles of our Revolutionary War break out, that we find
anything of mark in his story. He was with the troops that Carleton sent
down, after the fall of Ticonderoga, to garrison Chambly and St. John's,
and to hold the passage of the Sorel against Montgomery and his little
army. With the fall of these forts, he went into captivity. There is
too much reason to believe that the imprisonment of the English on this
occasion was not alleviated by many exhibitions of generosity on the
part of their captors. Montgomery, indeed, was as humane and honorable
as he was brave; but he was no just type of his followers. The articles
of capitulation were little regarded, and the prisoners were, it would
seem, rapidly despoiled of their private effects. "I have been taken by
the Americans," wrote André, "and robbed of everything save the picture
of Honora, which I concealed in my mouth. Preserving that, I think
myself happy." Sent into the remote parts of Pennsylvania, his
companions and himself met with but scant measure of courtesy from the
mountaineers of that region; nor was he exchanged for many long and
weary months. Once more free, however, his address and capacity soon
came to his aid. His reports and sketches speedily commended him to the
especial favor of the commander-in-chief, Sir William Howe; and ere long
he was promoted to a captaincy and made aide-de-camp to Sir Charles
Grey. This was a dashing, hard-fighting general of division, whose
element was close quarters and whose favorite argument was the cold
steel. If, therefore, André played but an inactive part at the
Brandywine, he had ample opportunity on other occasions of tasting the
excitement and the horrors of war. The night-surprises of Wayne at
Paoli, and of Baylor on the Hudson, - the scenes of Germantown and
Monmouth, - the reduction of the forts at Verplanck's Ferry, and the
forays led against New Bedford and the Vineyard, - all these familiarized
him with the bloody fruits of civil strife. But they never blunted for
one moment the keenness of his humanity, or warped those sentiments of
refinement and liberality that always distinguished him. Within the
limited range of his narrow sphere, he was constantly found the friend
and reliever of the wounded or captive Americans, and the protector and
benefactor of the followers of his own banner. Accomplished to a degree
in all the graces that adorn the higher circles of society, he was free
from most of their vices; and those who knew him well in this country
have remarked on the universal approbation of both sexes that followed
his steps, and the untouched heart that escaped so many shafts. Nor,
while foremost in the brilliant pleasures that distinguished the British
camp and made Philadelphia a Capua to Howe, was he ever known to descend
to the vulgar sports of his fellows. In the balls, the theatricals, the
picturesque _Mischianza_, he bore a leading hand; but his affections,
meanwhile, appear to have remained where they were earliest and last
bestowed. In our altered days, when marriage and divorce seem so often
interchangeable words, and loyal fidelity but an Old-World phrase,
ill-fashioned and out of date, there is something very attractive in
this hopeless constancy of an exiled lover.

Beyond the seas, meanwhile, the object of this unfortunate attachment
was lending a happy and a useful life in the fulfilment of the various
duties of a wife, a mother, and a friend. Her husband was a large landed
proprietor, and in public spirit was inferior to no country-gentleman of
the kingdom. Many of his notions were fanciful enough, it must be
allowed; but they were all directed to the improvement and amelioration
of his native land and its people. In these pursuits, as well as in
those of learning, Mrs. Edgeworth was the active and useful coadjutor of
her husband; and it was probably to the desire of this couple to do
something that would make the instruction of their children a less
painful task than had been their own, that we are indebted for the
adaptation of the simpler rudiments of science to a childish dress. In
1778 they wrote together the First Part of "Harry and Lucy," and printed
a handful of copies in that largo black type which every one associates
with the first school-days of his childhood. From these pages she taught
her own children to read. The plan was communicated to Mr. Day, who
entered into it eagerly; and an educational library seemed about to be
prepared for the benefit of a far-away household in the heart of
Ireland. But a hectic disorder, that had threatened Mrs. Edgeworth's
life while yet a child, now returned upon her with increased virulence;
and the kind and beautiful mistress of Edgeworthstown was compelled to
forego this and every other earthly avocation. Mr. Day expanded his
little tale into the delightful story of "Sandford and Merton," a book
that long stood second only to "Robinson Crusoe" in the youthful
judgment of the great boy-world; and in later years, Maria Edgeworth
included "Harry and Lucy" in her "Early Lessons." It is thus a point to
be noticed, that nothing but the _res angusta domi_, the lack of wealth,
on the part of young André, was the cause of that series of little
volumes being produced by Miss Edgeworth, which so long held the first
place among the literary treasures of the nurseries of England and
America. Lazy Lawrence, Simple Susan, and a score more of excellently
conceived characters, might never have been called from chaos to


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Online LibraryVariousThe Atlantic Monthly, Volume 06, No. 38, December, 1860 → online text (page 13 of 20)