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But she did not quit the place. The mount was called Fairy-Mount, since abbreviated into Fir mount. From which the Abbé Edgeworth took his ordinary name of M. de Firmont.' I. 11-13.
The son of this prudent couple was not much better.
Colonel Francis Edgeworth, besides being straitened in his circumstances, by having for many years a large jointure to pay to his mother, was involved in difficulties by his own taste for play; a taste which, from indulgence, became an irresistible passion. One night, after having lost all the money he could command, he staked his wife's diamond ear-rings, and went into an adjoining room, where she was sitting in company, to ask her to lend them to him. She took them from her ears, and gave them to him, saying, that she knew for what purpose he wanted them, and that he was welcome to them. They were played for. My grandfather won upon this last stake, and gained back all he had lost that night. In the warmth of his gratitude to his wife, he, at her desire, took an oath, that he would never more play at any game with cards or dice. Some time afterwards, he was found in a hay yard with a friend, drawing straws out of the hayrick, and betting upon which should be the longest ! -As might be expected, he lived in alternate extravagance and distress; sometimes with a coach and four, and sometimes in very want of half a crown.' I. p 16, 17.
The learned reader will easily discover the originals of some of Miss Edgeworth's characters in those sketches of her ancestry. The following probably suggested the first idea of Castle Rackrent.
About this time, one of our relations, a remarkably handsome youth of eighteen or nineteen, came one day to dine with us; my father was from home, and I had an opportunity of seeing the manners of this young man. He was quite uninformed; my mother told me, that he had received no education, that he was a hard drinker, and that notwithstanding his handsome appearance, he would be good for nothing. Her prediction was soon verified. He married a woman of inferior station, when he was scarcely twenty. His wife's numerous grown-up-family, father, brothers, and cousins, were taken into his house. They appeared wherever any public meeting gave them an opportunity, in a handsome coach with four beautiful grey horses; the men were dressed in laced clothes after the fashion of those days, and his wife's relations lived luxuriously at his house for two or three years. In that period of time, they dissipated the fee-simple of twelve hundred pounds a year, which, fifty years ago, was equal at least to three thousand of our present money. The quantity of claret which these parasites swallowed was so extraordinary, that when the accounts of this foolish youth came before the chancellor, bis lordship disallowed a great part of the wine-merchant's bill; adding, that had the gentleman's coach horses drunk claret, so much as had been charged could not have been consumed. This wine-merchant, however, obtained a considerable portion of the poor young man's estate,
in liquidation of the outstanding debt. The host had for some time partaken of the good cheer in his own house; but disease, loss of appetite, and want of relish for jovial companions, soon confined him to his own apartment, which happened to be over the dining parlour, where he heard the noisy merriment below. In this solitary situation, a basin of bread and milk was one day brought to him, in which he observed an unusual quantity of hard black crusts of bread. He objected to them, and upon inquiry was told, that they were the refuse crusts that had been cut off a loaf, of which a pudding had been made for dinner. This instance of neglect and ingratitude stung him to the quick; he threw the basin from him, and exclaimed, "I deserve it." To be denied a crumb of bread in his own house, where his wife's whole family were at that instant rioting at his expense, quite conquered him." He never held his head up afterwards, but in a few months died, leaving a large family totally unprovided with fortune, to the guidance of a mother, who kept them destitute of any sort of instruction.' I. 37–39.
"When only seven years old, Mr E. received his first bias to mechanical studies from the kindness and patience of an old gentleman, who showed him the construction of an orrery and other instruments. He was also, he assures us, a prodigious dancer and hunter before he was fifteen; and at sixteen went through the ceremony of marriage with a young lady-he says entirely in sport-but under such circumstances as induced his father to institute a suit in the Ecclesiastical court for annulling those imaginary nuptials. Soon after he went to Oxford, where he seems to have conducted himself with great propriety. The following anecdote, like most of those he has remembered, is very much to his credit.
During the assizes at Oxford, the gownsmen are or were permitted to seat themselves in the courts. In most country courts there is a considerable share of noise and confusion; but at Oxford the din and interruption were beyond any thing I have ever witnessed; the young men were not in the least solicitous to preserve decorum, and the judges were unwilling to be severe upon the students. A man was tried for some felony, the judge had charged the jury, and called on the foreman, who seemed to be a decent farmer, for a verdict. While the judge turned his head aside to speak to somebody, the foreman of the jury, who had not heard the evidence or the judge's charge, asked me, who was behind him, and whom he had observed to be attentive to the trial, what verdict he should give. Struck with the injustice and illegality of this procedure, I stood up and addressed the judges Wills and Smith. My Lords," said I "Sit down, Sir," said the judge." My Lord, I request to be heard for one moment. "The judge grew angry." Sir, your gown shall not protect you, I must punish you if you persist. "By this time the eyes of the whole court were turned upon me; but feeling
that I was in the right, I persevered. My Lord, I must lay a circumstance before you which has just happened. The judge still imagining that I had some complaint to make relative to myself, ordered the sheriff to remove me." My Lord, you will commit me if you think proper, but in the mean time I must declare, that the foreman of this jury is going to deliver an illegal verdict, for he has not heard the evidence, and he has asked me what verdict he ought to give.
The judge from the bench made me an apology for his hastiness, and added a few words of strong approbation. This was of use to me, by tending to increase my self-possession in public, and my desire to take an active part in favour of justice.' I. 95-97.
Soon after he entered the University, he was introduced to the family of the lady he afterwards married-that of a lawyer, a contemporary of his father, who had many years before married an heiress, retired from practice, and sunk gradually into the ruin and stupidity that so often await those who seek happiness in the country. The following is a picturesque account of his establishment.
Having no interest in the common routine of a country life, he had little to do, and that little he neglected. The family into which he married was proud, and when an heir to the family was born, no expense was spared to celebrate the important event; and as Mrs Elers had in perfection one essential quality of a wife, before her husband could look about him, she had celebrated two or three such festivals. A very old steward of the Hungerford family managed all the business of the estate; a great part of which business consisted in choosing, felling, and cutting up wood for fuel. This poor little man, eighty years of age, used to be seen in the depth of winter, upon a little grey horse with shaggy hair and a long flaxen mane and tail, riding about the grounds, and seeming to conduct a num. ber of labourers, who did precisely what they pleased. The value of the timber cut down for firing was more than equal to the price of coals sufficient for the house; and the expense of making it up for use was still greater. Every part of the domestic expenditure was carried on in this manner; so that in a few years after the death of his father-in-law, Mr Elers found himself in distress, without having been guilty of the slightest extravagance.-His family rapidly increased, the old steward doated, Mr Elers left every thing to his wife, and Mrs Elers left every thing to her servants. Things were in this situation at Black-Bourton, when I was introduced to the
family by my father. He had personally known little of Mr Elers, since their first friendship was formed at the Temple; but judging from his letters, my father considered him as the same man of active mind and talents, and with the same habits for business, which he had then appeared to possess. It was, therefore, naturally a great object with him, to place me, on my first going to Oxford, under the care of a person whom he so much esteem
ed, and of whose abilities he had such a high opinion. The family at Black-Bourton at this time consisted of Mrs Elers, her mother Mrs Hungerford, and four grown up young ladies, besides several children. The eldest son, an officer, was absent. The young ladies, though far from being beauties, were handsome; and though destitute of accomplishments, they were notwithstanding agreeable, from an air of youth and simplicity, and from unaffected good nature and gaiety. The person who struck me most at my introduction to this family group was Mrs Hungerford. She was near eighty, tall, and majestic, with eyes that still retained uncommon lustre. She was not able to rise from her chair without the assistance of one of her grand-daughters; but when she had risen, and stood leaning on her tortoise-shell cane, she received my father, as the friend of the family, with so much politeness, and with so much grace, as to eclipse all the young people by whom she was surrounded. Mrs Hungerford was a Blake, connected with the Norfolk family. She had for. merly been the wife of Sir Alexander Kennedy, whom Mr Hungerford killed in a duel in Blenheim Park. Why she dropped her title in marrying Mr Hungerford I know not, nor can I tell how he persuaded the beautiful widow to marry him after he had killed her hus band. In the history of Mrs Hungerford there was something mysterious, which was not, as I perceived, known to the younger part of the family. I made no inquiries from Mr Elers; but I observed, that she was for a certain time in the day invisible. She had an apartment to herself above stairs, containing three or four rooms; when she was below stairs, we used to make a short way from one side of the house to the other, through her rooms, which occupied nearly one side of a quadrangle, of which the house consisted. One day, forgetting that she was in her room, and her door by accident not having been locked, I suddenly entered: I saw her kneeling before a crucifix, which was placed upon her toilette; her beautiful eyes streaming with tears, and cast up to Heaven with the most fervent devotion; her silver locks flowing down her shoulders; the re mains of exquisite beauty, grace, and dignity, in her whole figure. I had not, till I saw her at these her private devotions, known that she was a catholic; nor had I, till I saw her tears of contrition, any reason to suppose that she thought herself a penitent. The scene struck me, young as I was, and more gay than young-her tears seemed to comfort, not to depress her-and for the first time since my childhood I was convinced, that the consolations of religion are fully equal to its terrors. She was so much in earnest, that she did not perceive me; and I fortunately had time to withdraw without having disturbed her devotions.' I. 83-90.
We may add another anecdote, connected with the place rather than the person.
Mr Lenthall (descended from the Speaker Lenthall) lived at Burford, within a few miles of Black-Bourton. This gentleman, who was a very good master, had a very good butler. One morning the
butler came to his master with a letter in his hand, and rubbing his forehead in that indescribable manner which is an introduction to something which the person does not well know how to communicate, he told Mr Lenthall, that he was very sorry to be obliged to quit his service. Why, what is the matter, John? has any body offended you? I thought you were as happy as any man could be in your situation?" "Yes, please your honour. that's not the thing; but I have just got a prize in the lottery of 3000l., and I have all my life had a wish to live for one twelvemonth like a man of two or three thousand a year; and all I ask of your honour is, that, when I have spent the money, you will take me back again into your service." That is a promise, said Mr Lenthall, " which I believe I may safely make, as there is very little probability of your wishing to return to be a butler, after having lived as a gentleman."
'Mr Lenthall was however mistaken. John spent nearly the amount of his ticket in less than a year. He had previously bought himself a small annuity to provide for his old age; when he had spent all the rest of his money, he actually returned to the service of Mr Lenthall; and I saw him standing at the sideboard at the time when I was in that country. I. 116-118.
Mr E. fell in love with one of the Miss Elers, and married her at Gretna Green before he was twenty-obtained his father's forgiveness-kept terms at the Temple-and diverted himself with mechanics and reading at a small house in Berkshire. Here and in London he now became acquainted with Sir Francis Blake Delaval, the most celebrated man of wit,' fashion, and gallantry about town at the accession of the late King; and we are accordingly presented with about fifty pages of anecdotes about his electioneering-his theatricals-his conjuring and his gambling-the greatest part of which appears to us to have very little interest.
It was this person who, in conjunction with Foote, carried on in disguise the mystery of a fortune-teller, with prodigious reputation and success; and is supposed to have broken off, and brought on, more matches in the course of a season, than all the dowagers in town. His great object, it is said, was to secure his own union with Lady Pawlet; upon the accomplishment of which, the magician suddenly disappears. It was to assist this dashing friend in obtaining early intelligence of his fate at Newmarket, that Mr Edgeworth first conceived, or revived, the notion of a Telegraph-and actually constructed one in the year 1767, which transmitted sentences with great accuracy from stations sixteen miles apart. The catastrophe of Sir Francis is rather edifying; and therefore we shall give it in his own words-though his dying speech is a little too set and solemn, we think, to be perfectly authentic. He had a project, it seems, of aggrandizing his family by a match between his sister and