« PreviousContinue »
gaging amusement could not be wrong; that to use etery means of counteracting the general thoughtlessness and luke-warmness of the age with regard to religion was not only right, but even a positive duty. And he was repeatcdly asked, not only try the grave, but also by the gay, how he could answer it to his own conscience to withhold from the world so delightful a means of improvement, unless he had positive directions, or had given a promise to thak effect.
Neither of these were the case: Mrs. Carter neither required a promise from him, nor gave bim any directions about her Letters, but that he would dispose of them according as they were labelled; some to be destroyed, and others to be returned to the writers if living, or, in some instances, to their representatives. This was of course complied with, but still a great number remained both from and to her, which were left entirely to his discretion; and the only circumstance which made the Editor determine at first that none of them should be printed, was the general disapprobation which Mrs. Carter had often expressed of the publication of Letters without regard to judgment and propriety, or the feelings of those who were mentioned in them, if living, or to those of their relatives, if deceased.
There is reason to hope that the present selection can give no offence in any of these respects; and the Editor is persuaded that Mrs. Carter herself was of that opinion, because the Correspondence between her and Miss Talbot was found regularly arranged and bound up in volumes, with all such names carefully erased by lierself as she did not chuse should appear in them; and the Lettters to Mrs! Vesey were left just as she had received them after that lady's decease, with the Letter from Mrs. Vesey still lying" upon them, in which she so earnestly recommends, and from such powerful motives that they should be given to the public. This Letter will be found prefixed to them. It made a strong impression upon the Editor's mind, and he is convinced that if Mrs. Carter had not chosen that he should exercise his own judgment about these and her other Letters, she would either have destroyed them herself, or kave given him some directions about them, to which she well knew he would conscientiously attend. But even when he mentioned to her his design of writing some account of her life if he survived lier, she only replied by thanking him for his kind intention, “ but what,” added she, “ be said of so obscure an individual as I am! and what do
you think the world will care about me:"
The Editor therefore, having been prevailed on to publisha some of her Letters, selected these in particular which now appear; both because they were left in the manner before mentioned, by Mrs. Carter herself, and because the two ladies concerned have now been dead many years; the one unmarried, and the other without leaving any family. They were both also well known and much respected in the world; and as the Letters to Mrs. Vesey begin some years before Miss Talbot's death, they comprise together the whole of that part of Mrs. Carter's life which was passed between the years 1740 and 1788. Nothing has been added to any of the Letters, but a good deal has been left out of trifling chit-chat and contidential communications.
And excepting a very few short passages, necessary for the sake of connection, all those Letters, or extracts from them, which were published in the Memoirs, have been here omitted.
Possibly this last circumstance, which has made frequent references to the Memoirs unavoidable, may be attended with some inconvenience to the reader. It was occasioned by the Editor's anxious wish that the public should not be imposed on, by finding in a new work, Letters which have been printed before. He is sensible how frequent this species of literary dishonesty is become, and therefore prefers that his publication should be thought obscure rather than fraudulent, and to give some little trouble to his readers rather than render himself liable to a similar im. putation.
It is much to be lamented that when Mrs. Carter published those Essays of her deceased friend, Miss Talbot, which have been so well received, she had not prefixed to them some account of the early life and education of the amiable and accomplished author. She was then perhaps so well known as to make it needless, but it is not easy now to supply the deficiency. Near forty years have elapsed since her decease, and though some of the friends of her latter days are still living, probably no one now remains who remembers her in her youth.
Miss Catherine Talbot was a posthumous child, born five months after her father's decease. He was second son to the Bishop of Durham, and younger brother to the
Lord Chancellor of that name; and having been introduced to Mr. Secker (afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury) he recommended him to his father's patronage on his deathbed. This was the foundation of that distinguished prelate's fortune, and his grateful heart never forgot the obligation. Mr. Talbot died in December 1720; and as soon as Mr. Secker married, which was in 1725, he and Mrs. Secker (Bishop Benson's sister) joined in requesting Mrs. and Miss Talbot to become a part of their family, which they never afterwards left.
These particulars are mentioned in the Bishop of London's Life of his friend and patron, Archbishop Secker; but it was foreign to his Lordship's purpose, if indeed he was acquainted with it, to give any account of Miss Talbot's education. Her mother's name was Martyn, and she was daughter to a Prebendary of Lincoln. She appears to have been a woman of strong understanding, very amiable manners, and excellent religious principles; but her education, however intrinsically good as to the most important points, was certainly not a complete one in the modern sense. She seems to have understood no language but her own, and her Letters prove that she did not write even that very correctly; and there is no reason to suppose that she had gained any of the merely ornamental feminine acquire ] ments.
But in every elegant as well as serious branch of education her daughter was equally accomplished. She had not attained the age of five years when she went to reside with Dr. Secker; and till he was preferred to the see of Bristol
in 1734, his family chiefly lived at Durham, where he liad a prebendal stall, or in Piccadilly, at his rectory of St. James's.
In all these situations there were abundant opportunities for the cultivation of Miss Talbot's admirable understanding, as well as for the acquirement of those graceful arts which add so high a polish to virtue, but which, where the mind is neglected, so often lead to vice. Her progress in all seems to have been equally rapid, and her knowledge in all that she attempted equally complete. She learnt music both vocal and instrumental; but after her early youth, did not chuse to give up so much time to those delightful amusements as is necessary to make any very considerable proficiency in them. She performed, however, in private concerts occasionally, but never pretended to much skill in the science, nor seemed to be very fond of any but sacred music, in which she took great pleasure. She excelled much more in drawing, and painting in water colours, in which she shewed the taste and the execution of an artist, especially in landscapes, and in painting flowers from nature. In this study she took particular delight; and some of her performances of this kind, which she gave to Mrs. Carter, and which are now in the Editor's possession, have been greatly admired by the best judges.
Whoever reads Miss Talbot's Letters will not need to be told with how much care her religious education was attended to. This first and most important of all sciences seems, from her earliest youth to the day of her death, to liave been the dearest object of her constant study, her