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Little Memoirs of the Nineteenth Century by George Paston

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compelled to part with his copyright of the 'Duke at Waterloo' for a
wholly inadequate sum.

In the spring of 1842 the Fine Arts Commission issued a notice of the
conditions for the cartoon competition, intended to test the capacity
of native artists for the decoration of the House of Lords. The joy
with which Haydon welcomed this first step towards the object which he
had been advocating throughout the whole of his working life, was
marred by the painful misgiving that he would not be allowed to share
the fruits of victory. When he had first begun his crusade, he had
felt himself without a rival in his own branch of art, not one of his
contemporaries being able to compete with him in a knowledge of
anatomy, in strength of imagination, or in the power of working on a
grand scale. But now he was fifty-six years old, there were younger
men coming on who had been trained in the principles of his own
school, and he was painfully aware that he had made many enemies in
high places. Still, in spite of all forebodings, he continued his
researches in fresco-painting, and wrote vehement letters to the
papers, protesting against the threatened employment of Cornelius and
other German artists.

During this year Haydon was working intermittently at two or three
large pictures, 'Alexander conquering the Lion,' 'Curtius leaping into
the Gulf,' and the 'Siege of Saragossa,' for the days were long past
when one grand composition occupied him for six years. That the wolf
was once again howling at the door is evidenced by the entry for
February 6. 'I got up yesterday, after lying awake for several hours
with all the old feelings of torture at want of money. A bill coming
due of £44 for my boy Frank at Caius. Three commissions for £700 put
off till next year. My dear Mary's health broken up.... I knew if my
debt to the tutor of Caius was not paid, the mind of my son Frank
would be destroyed, from his sensitiveness to honour and right. As he
is now beating third-year men, I dreaded any check.' In these straits
he hastily painted one or two small pot-boilers, borrowed, deferred,
pawned his wife's watch, and had the satisfaction of bringing his son
home 'crowned as first-prize man in mathematics.' For one who was in
the toils of the money-lenders, who was only living from hand to
mouth, and who had never made an investment in his life, to give his
son a university career, must be regarded, according to individual
feeling, either as a proof of presumptuous folly or of childlike trust
in Providence.

As soon as his pictures were off his hands, Haydon began his
competition cartoons of 'The Curse of Adam and Eve,' and 'The Entry of
Edward the Black Prince and King John into London.' He felt that it
was beneath his dignity as a painter of recognised standing to compete
with young unknown men who had nothing to lose, but in his present
necessities the chance of winning one of the money prizes was not to
be neglected. In the absence of any lucrative employment he was only
able to carry on his work by pawning his lay-figure, and borrowing off
his butterman. Small wonder that he exclaims: 'The greatest curse that
can befall a father in England is to have a son gifted with a passion
and a genius for high art. Thank God with all my soul and all my
nature, my children have witnessed the harrowing agonies under which I
have ever painted, and the very name of painting, the very thought of
a picture, gives them a hideous taste in their mouths. Thank God, not
one of my boys, nor my girl, can draw a straight line, even with a
ruler, much less without one.'

In the course of this year Haydon began a correspondence with Miss
Barrett, afterwards Mrs. Browning, with whom he was never personally
acquainted, though he knew her through her poems, and through the
allusions to her in the letters of their common friend, Miss Mitford.
The paper friendship flourished for a time, and Haydon, who was a keen
judge of character, recognised that here was a little Donna Quixote
whose chivalry could be depended on in time of trouble. More than
once, when threatened with arrest, he sent her paintings and
manuscripts, of which she took charge with sublime indifference to the
fact that by so doing she might be placing herself within reach of the
arm of the law. One of the pictures that were placed in her
guardianship was an unfinished portrait of 'Wordsworth musing upon
Helvellyn.' Miss Barrett was inspired by this work with the sonnet

'Wordsworth upon Helvellyn! Let the cloud
Ebb audibly along the mountain wind';

and concluding with the fine tribute:

'A vision free
And noble, Haydon, hath thine art released.
No portrait this with academic air,
This is the poet and his poetry.'

The year 1843 brought, as Haydon's biographer points out, 'the
consummation of what he had so earnestly fought for, a competition of
native artists to prove their capability for executing great
monumental and decorative works; but with this came his own bitter
disappointment at not being among the successful competitors. In all
his struggles up to this point, Haydon had the consolation of hope
that better times were coming. But now the good time for art was at
hand, and he was passed over. The blow fell heavily--indeed, I may
say, was mortal. He tried to cheat himself into the belief that the
old hostile influences to which he attributed all his misfortunes, had
been working here also, and that he should yet rise superior to their
malice. He would not admit to himself that his powers were
impaired--that he was less fit for great achievements in his art than
he had been when he painted Solomon and Lazarus. But if he held this
opinion, he held it alone. It was apparent to all, even to his warmest
friends, that years of harass, humiliation, distraction, and conflict
had enfeebled his energies, and led him to seek in exaggeration the
effect he could no longer attain by well-measured force. His restless
desire to have a hand in all that was projected for art, had wearied
those in authority. He had shown himself too intractable to follow,
and he had not inspired that confidence which might have given him a
right to lead.'

Although Haydon loudly proclaimed his conviction that, in face of the
hostility against him, his cartoons would not be successful, even
though they were as perfect as Raphael's, yet it is obvious that he
had not altogether relinquished hope. In a letter to his old pupil,
Eastlake, who was secretary to the Fine Arts Commission, he says: 'I
appeal to the Royal Commission, to the First Lord, to you the
secretary, to Barry the architect, if I ought not to be indulged in my
hereditary right to do this, viz., that when the houses are ready,
cartoons done, colours mixed, and all at their posts, I shall be
allowed, _employed_ or _not employed_, to take the brush, and
dip into the _first_ colour, and put the _first_ touch on the
_first_ intonaco. If that is not granted, I'll haunt every noble
Lord and you, till you join my disturbed spirit on the banks of
the Styx.'

On June 1, Haydon placed his two cartoons in Westminster Hall, and
thanked his God that he had lived to see that day, adding with
unconscious blasphemy, 'Spare my life, O Lord, until I have shown thy
strength unto this generation, thy power unto that which is to come.'
The miracle for which he had secretly hoped, while declaring his
certainty of failure, did not happen. On June 27 he heard from
Eastlake that his cartoons were not among those chosen for reward.
Half stunned by the blow, anticipated though it had been, he makes but
few comments on the news in his Journal, and those are written in a
composed and reasonable tone. 'I went to bed last night in a decent
state of anxiety,' he observes. 'It has given a great shock to my
family, especially to my dear boy, Frank, and revived all the old
horrors of arrest, execution, and debt. It is exactly what I expected,
and is, I think, intentional.... I am wounded, and being ill from
confinement, it shook me. (_July 1st_) A day of great misery. I
said to my dear love, "I am not included." Her expression was a study.
She said, "We shall be ruined." I looked up my letters, papers, and
Journals, and sent them to my dear AEschylus Barrett. I burnt loads of
private letters, and prepared for executions. Seven pounds was raised
on my daughter's and Mary's dresses.'

The three money prizes were awarded to Armitage, Cope, and Watts, but
it was announced that another competition, in fresco, would be held
the following year, when the successful competitors would be intrusted
with the decoration of the House of Lords. Haydon did not enter for
this competition, but, as will presently appear, he refused to allow
that he was beaten. On September 4 he removed his cartoons from
Westminster Hall, with the comment: 'Thus ends the cartoon contest;
and as the very first inventor and beginner of this mode of rousing
the people when they were pronounced incapable of relishing refined
works of art without colour, I am deeply wounded at the insult
inflicted. These Journals witness under what trials I began them--how
I called on my Creator for His blessing--how I trusted in Him, and how
I have been degraded, insulted, and harassed. O Lord! Thou knowest
best. I submit.'

During the year Haydon had finished his picture of 'Alexander and the
Lion,' which he considered one of his finest works, though the British
Gallery declined to hang it, and no patron offered to buy it. He had
also painted for bread and cheese innumerable small replicas of
'Napoleon at St. Helena' and the 'Duke at Waterloo' for five guineas
apiece. By the beginning of 1844 his spirits had outwardly revived,
thanks to the anodyne of incessant labour, and he writes almost in the
old buoyant vein: 'Another day of work, God be thanked! Put in the sea
[in "Napoleon at St. Helena"]; a delicious tint. How exquisite is a
bare canvas, sized alone, to work on; how the slightest colour, thin
as water, tells; how it glitters in body; how the brush flies--now
here--now there; it seems as if face, hands, sky, thought, poetry, and
expression were hid in the handle, and streamed out as it touched the
canvas. What magic! what fire! what unerring hand and eye! what power!
what a gift of God! I bow, and am grateful.' On March 24 he came to
the fatal decision to paint his own original designs for the House of
Lords in a series of six large pictures, and exhibit them separately,
a decision founded, as he believed, on supernatural inspiration.
'Awoke this morning,' he writes, 'with that sort of audible whisper
Socrates, Columbus, and Tasso heard! "Why do you not paint your own
designs for the House on your own foundation, and exhibit them?" I
felt as if there was no chance of my ever being permitted to do them
else, without control also. I knelt up in my bed, and prayed heartily
to accomplish them, whatever might be the obstruction. I will begin
them as my next great works; I feel as if they will be my last, and I
think I shall then have done my duty. O God! bless the beginning,
progression, and conclusion of these six great designs to illustrate
the best government to regulate without cramping the energies of

In July the frescoes sent in for competition were exhibited in
Westminster Hall, and in the result six artists were commissioned to
decorate the House of Lords, Maclise, Redgrave, Dyce, Cope, Horsley,
and Thomas. 'I see,' writes Haydon, 'they are resolved that I, the
originator of the whole scheme, shall have nothing to do with it; so I
will (trusting in the great God who has brought me thus far) begin on
my own inventions without employment.' The first of the series was
'Aristides hooted by the Populace,' and the conditions under which it
was painted are described in his annual review of the year's work: 'I
have painted a large Napoleon in four days and a half, six smaller
different subjects, three Curtiuses, five Napoleons Musing, three
Dukes and Copenhagens, George IV., and the Duke at Waterloo--half done
Uriel--published my lectures--and settled composition of Aristides. I
gave lectures at Liverpool, sometimes twice a day, and lectured at the
Royal Institution. I have not been idle, but how much more I might
have done!'

In 1845 Haydon exhibited his picture of 'Uriel and Satan' at the
Academy, and 'after twenty-two years of abuse,' actually received a
favourable notice in the _Times_, For the Uriel he was paid £200,
but five other pictures remained upon his hands, their estimated value
amounting to nearly a thousand pounds, and he was left to work at his
_Aristides_ with barely ten shillings for current expenses, and
not a single commission in prospect. 'What a pity it is,' he observes,
'that a man of my order--sincerity, perhaps genius [in the Journal a
private note is here inserted, "not _perhaps_"], is not employed.
What honour, what distinction would I not confer on my great country!
However, it is my destiny to perform great things, not in consequence
of encouragement, but in spite of opposition, and so let it be.' In
the latter part of the year came one or two minor pieces of good
fortune for which Haydon professed the profoundest gratitude,
declaring that he was not good enough to deserve such blessings. The
King of Hanover bought a Napoleon for £200, and a pupil came, who paid
a like sum as premium. His son, Frank, who had taken his degree,
changed his mind again about his profession, and now 'shrank from the
publicity of the pulpit.' Haydon applied to Sir Robert Peel for an
appointment for the youth, and Peel, who seems to have shown the
utmost patience and kindness in his relations with the unfortunate
artist, at once offered a post in the Record Office at £80 a year, an
offer which was gladly accepted.

Thus relieved of immediate care, Haydon set to work on the second
picture of his series, 'Nero playing the Lyre while Rome was burning.'
The effect of his conception, as he foresaw it in his mind's eye, was
so terrific that he 'fluttered, trembled, and perspired like a woman,
and was obliged to sit down.' Under all the anxiety, the pressure, and
the disappointment of Haydon's life, it must be remembered that there
were enormous compensations in the shape of days and hours of absorbed
and satisfied employment, days and hours such as seldom fall to the
lot of the average good citizen and solvent householder. The following
entry alone is sufficient proof that Haydon, even in his worst
straits, was almost as much an object of envy as of compassion:
'Worked with such intense abstraction and delight for eight hours,
with five minutes only for lunch, that though living in the noisiest
quarter of all London, I never remember hearing all day a single cart,
carriage, knock, cry, bark of man, woman, dog, or child. When I came
out into the sunshine I said to myself, "Why, what is all this driving
about?" though it has always been so for the last twenty-two years, so
perfectly, delightfully, and intensely had I been abstracted. If that
be not happiness, what is?'

Haydon had now staked all his hopes upon the exhibition in the spring
of 1846 of the first two pictures in his series, 'Aristides' and
'Nero.' If the public flocked to see them, if it accorded him, as he
expected, its enthusiastic support, he hoped that the Commission would
be shamed into offering him public employment. If, on the other hand,
the exhibition failed, he must have realised that he would be
irretrievably ruined, with all his hopes for the future slain.
Everything was to be sacrificed to this last grand effort. 'If I lose
this moment for showing all my works,' he writes, 'it can never occur
again. My fate hangs on doing as I ought, and seizing moments with
energy. I shall never again have the opportunity of connecting myself
with a great public commission by opposition, and interesting the
public by the contrast. If I miss it, it will be a tide not taken at
the flood.'

By dint of begging and borrowing, the money was scraped together for
the opening expenses of the exhibition, and Haydon composed a
sensational descriptive advertisement in the hope of attracting the
public. The private view was on April 4, when it rained all day, and
only four old friends attended. On April 6, Easter Monday, the public
was admitted, but only twenty-one availed themselves of the privilege.
For a few days Haydon went on hoping against hope that matters would
improve, and that John Bull, in whose support he had trusted, would
rally round him at last. But Tom Thumb was exhibiting next door, and
the historical painter had no chance against the pigmy. The people
rushed by in their thousands to visit Tom Thumb, but few stopped to
inspect 'Aristides' or 'Nero.' 'They push, they fight, they scream,
they faint,' writes Haydon, 'they see my bills, my boards, my
caravans, and don't read them. Their eyes are open, but their sense is
shut. It is an insanity, a rabies, a madness, a furor, a dream. Tom
Thumb had 12,000 people last week, B. R. Haydon 133 1/2 (the half a
little girl). Exquisite taste of the English people!... (_May,_
18_th_) I closed my exhibition this day, and lost £111, 8s. 10d.
No man can accuse me of showing less energy, less spirit, less genius
than I did twenty-six years ago. I have not decayed, but the people
have been corrupted. I am the same, they are not; and I have suffered
in consequence.'

In defiance of this shipwreck of all his hopes, and the heavy
liabilities that hung about his neck, this indomitable spirit began
the third picture of his unappreciated series, 'Alfred and the First
British Jury.' He had large sums to pay in the coming month, and only
a few shillings in the house, with no commissions in prospect. He
sends up passionate and despairing petitions that God will help him in
his dreadful necessities, will raise him friends from sources
invisible, and enable him to finish his last and greatest works.
Appeals for help to Lord Brougham, the Duke of Beaufort, and Sir
Robert Peel brought only one response, a cheque for £50 from Peel,
which was merely a drop in the ocean. Day by day went by, and still no
commissions came in, no offers for any of the large pictures he had on
hand. Haydon began to lose confidence in his ability to finish his
series, and with him loss of self-confidence was a fatal sign. The
June weather was hot, he was out of health, and unable to sleep at
night, but he declined to send for a doctor. His brain grew confused,
and at last even the power to work, that power which for him had spelt
pride and happiness throughout his whole life, seemed to be leaving

On June 16 he writes: 'I sat from two till five staring at my picture
like an idiot, my brain pressed down by anxiety, and the anxious looks
of my dear Mary and the children.... Dearest Mary, with a woman's
passion, wishes me at once to stop payment, and close the whole thing.
I will not. I will finish my six under the blessing of God, reduce my
expenses, and hope His mercy will not desert me, but bring me through
in health and vigour, gratitude and grandeur of soul, to the end.' The
end was nearer than he thought, for even Haydon's brave spirit could
not battle for ever with adverse fate, and the collapse, when it came,
was sudden. The last two or three entries in the Journal are
melancholy reading.

'_June_ 18.--O God, bless me through the evils of this day. My
landlord, Newton, called. I said, "I see a quarter's rent in thy face,
but none from me." I appointed to-morrow night to see him, and lay
before him every iota of my position. Good-hearted Newton! I said,
"Don't put in an execution." "Nothing of the sort," he replied, half
hurt. I sent the Duke, Wordsworth, dear Fred and Mary's heads to Miss
Barrett to protect. I have the Duke's boots and hat, Lord Grey's coat,
and some more heads.

'20_th_.--O God, bless us through all the evils of this day.

'21_st,_.--Slept horribly. Prayed in sorrow, and got up in

'22_nd_.--God forgive me. Amen.


'"Stretch me no longer on this rough world"--_Lear_.'

This last entry was made between ten and eleven o'clock on the morning
of June 22. Haydon had risen early, and gone out to a gunmaker's in
Oxford Street, where he bought a pair of pistols. After breakfast, he
asked his wife to go and spend the day with an old friend, and having
affectionately embraced her, shut himself in his painting-room. Mrs.
Haydon left the house, and an hour later Miss Haydon went down to the
studio, intending to try and console her father in his anxieties. She
found him stretched on the floor in front of his unfinished picture of
'Alfred and the First Jury,' a bullet-wound in his head, and a
frightful gash across his throat. A razor and a small pistol lay by
his side. On the table were his Journal, open at the last page,
letters to his wife and children, his will, made that morning, and a
paper headed: 'Last thoughts of B. R. Haydon; half-past ten.' These
few lines, with their allusions to Wellington and Napoleon, are
characteristic of the man who had painted the two great soldiers a
score of times, and looked up to them as his heroes and exemplars.

'No man should use certain evil for probable good, however great the
object,' so they run. 'Evil is the prerogative of the Deity.
Wellington never used evil if the good was not certain. Napoleon had
no such scruples, and I fear the glitter of his genius rather dazzled
me. But had I been encouraged, nothing but good would have come from
me, because when encouraged I paid everybody. God forgive me the evil
for the sake of the good. Amen.'

This tragic conclusion to a still more tragic career created a
profound sensation in society, and immense crowds followed the
historical painter to his grave. Among all his friends, perhaps few
were more affected by his death than one who had never looked upon his
face--his 'dear Æschylus Barrett, 'as he called her. Certain it is
that, with the intuition of genius, Elizabeth Barrett understood,
appreciated, and made allowances for the unhappy man more completely
than was possible to any other of his contemporaries. Clear-sighted to
his faults and weaknesses, her chivalrous spirit took up arms in
defence of his conduct, even against the strictures of her poet-lover.
'The dreadful death of poor Mr. Haydon the artist,' she wrote to her
friend Mrs. Martin, a few days after the event, 'has quite upset me. I
thank God that I never saw him--poor gifted Haydon.... No artist is
left behind with equal largeness of poetical conception. If the hand
had always obeyed the soul, he would have been a genius of the first
order. As it is, he lived on the slope of genius, and could not be
steadfast and calm. His life was one long agony of self-assertion.
Poor, poor Haydon! See how the world treats those who try too openly
for its gratitude. "Tom Thumb for ever" over the heads of its giants.'

'Could any one--_could my own hand even have averted what has
happened_?' she wrote to Robert Browning on June 24, 1846. 'My head
and heart have ached to-day over the inactive hand. But for the moment
it was out of my power, and then I never fancied this case to be more
than a piece of a continuous case, of a habit fixed. Two years ago he
sent me boxes and pictures precisely so, and took them back
again--poor, poor Haydon!--as he will not this time.... Also, I have
been told again and again (oh, never by _you_, my beloved) that
to give money _there_, was to drop it into a hole in the ground.
But if to have dropped it so, dust to dust, would have saved a living
man--what then?... Some day, when I have the heart to look for it, you
shall see his last note. I understand now that there are touches of
desperate pathos--but never could he have meditated self-destruction
while writing that note. He said he should write six more
lectures--six more volumes. He said he was painting a new background
to a picture which made him feel as if his soul had wings... and he
repeated an old phrase of his, which I had heard from him often
before, and which now rings hollowly to the ears of my memory--that he
_couldn't and wouldn't die_. Strange and dreadful!'

Directly after Haydon's death a public meeting of his friends and
patrons was held, at which a considerable sum was subscribed for the
benefit of his widow and daughter. Sir Robert Peel, besides sending
immediate help, recommended the Queen to bestow a small pension on
Mrs. Haydon. The dead man's debts amounted to £3000, and his assets
consisted chiefly of unsaleable pictures, on most of which his
creditors had liens. In his will was a clause to the effect that 'I
have manuscripts and memoirs in the possession of Miss Barrett, of 50
Wimpole Street, in a chest, which I wish Longman to be consulted
about. My memoirs are to 1820; my journals will supply the rest. The
style, the individuality of Richardson, which I wish not curtailed by
an editor.' Miss Mitford was asked to edit the Life, but felt herself
unequal to the task, which was finally intrusted to Mr. Tom Taylor.

Haydon's _Memoirs_, compiled from his autobiography, journals,
and correspondence, appeared in 1853, the same year that saw the
publication of Lord John Russell's _Life of Thomas Moore_. To the
great astonishment of both critics and public, Haydon's story proved
the more interesting of the two. 'Haydon's book is the work of the
year,' writes Miss Mitford. 'It has entirely stopped the sale of
Moore's, which really might have been written by a Court newspaper or
a Court milliner.' Again, the _Athenæum_, a more impartial
witness, asks, 'Who would have thought that the Life of Haydon would
turn out a more sterling and interesting addition to English biography
than the Life of Moore?' But the highest testimony to the merits of
the book as a human document comes from Mrs. Browning, who wrote to
Miss Mitford on March 19, 1854, 'Oh, I have just been reading poor
Haydon's biography. There is tragedy! The pain of it one can hardly
shake off. Surely, surely, wrong was done somewhere, when the worst is
admitted of Haydon. For himself, looking forward beyond the grave, I
seem to understand that all things, when most bitter, worked ultimate
good to him, for that sublime arrogance of his would have been fatal
perhaps to the moral nature, if further developed by success. But for
the nation we had our duties, and we should not suffer our teachers
and originators to sink thus. It is a book written in blood of the
heart. Poor Haydon!' Mr. Taylor's Life was supplemented in 1874 by
Haydon's _Correspondence and Table-talk_, together with a
_Memoir_ written in a tone of querulous complaint, by his second
son, Frederick, who, it may be noted, had been dismissed from the
public service for publishing a letter to Mr. Gladstone, entitled
_Our Officials at the Home Office_, and who died in the Bethlehem
Hospital in 1886. His elder brother, Frank, committed suicide in 1887.

On the subject of Haydon's merits as a painter the opinion of his
contemporaries swung from one extreme to another, while that of
posterity perhaps has scarcely allowed him such credit as was his due.
It is certain that he was considered a youth of extraordinary promise
by his colleagues, Wilkie, Jackson, and Sir George Beaumont, yet there
were not wanting critics who declared that his early picture,
'Dentatus,' was an absurd mass of vulgarity and distortion. Foreign
artists who visited his studio urged him to go to Rome, where he was
assured that patrons and pupils would flock round him; while, on the
other hand, he was described by a native critic (in the _Quarterly
Review_) as one of the most defective painters of the day, who had
received more pecuniary assistance, more indulgence, more liberality,
and more charity than any other artist ever heard of. But the best
criticism of his powers, though it scarcely takes into account the
gift of imagination which received so many tributes from the poets, is
that contributed to Mr. Taylor's biography by Mr. Watts, R.A.

'The characteristics of Haydon's art,' he writes, 'appear to me to be
great determination and power, knowledge, and effrontery... Haydon
appears to have succeeded as often as he displays any real anxiety to
do so; but one is struck with the extraordinary discrepancy of
different parts of the work, as though, bored by a fixed attention
that had taken him out of himself, yet highly applauding the result,
he had scrawled and daubed his brush about in a sort of intoxication
of self-glory... In Haydon's work there is not sufficient
forgetfulness of self to disarm criticism of personality. His pictures
are themselves autobiographical notes of the most interesting kind;
but their want of beauty repels, and their want of modesty
exasperates. Perhaps their principal characteristic is lack of
delicacy and refinement of execution.' While describing Haydon's touch
as woolly, his surfaces as disagreeable, and his draperies as
deficient in dignity, Mr. Watts admits that his expression of anatomy
and general perception of form are the best by far that can be found
in the English school. Haydon had looked forward in full confidence to
the favourable verdict of posterity, and to an honourable position in
the National Gallery for the big canvases that had been neglected by
his contemporaries. It is not the least of life's little ironies that
while not a single work of his now hangs in the National Gallery, his
large picture of Curtius leaping into the Gulf occupies a prominent
position in one of Gatti's restaurants. [Footnote: Three of Haydon's
pictures, however, are the property of the nation. Two, the 'Lazarus'
and 'May-day,' belong to the National Gallery, but have been lent to
provincial galleries. One, the 'Christ in the Garden,' belongs to the
South Kensington Museum, but has been stored away.]

As a lecturer, a theoriser, and a populariser of his art, Haydon has
just claims to grateful remembrance. Though driven to paint
pot-boilers for the support of his family, he never ceased to preach
the gospel of high art; he was among the first to recognise and
acclaim the transcendent merits of the Elgin Marbles; he rejoiced with
a personal joy in the purchase of the Angerstein collection as the
nucleus of a National Gallery; he scorned the ignoble fears of some of
his colleagues lest the newly-started winter exhibitions of old
masters should injure their professional prospects; he used his
interest at Court to have Raphael's cartoons brought up to London for
the benefit of students and public; he advocated the establishment of
local schools of design, and, through his lectures and writings,
helped to raise and educate the taste of his country.

Haydon has painted his own character and temperament in such vivid
colours, that scarcely a touch need be added to the portrait. He was
an original thinker, a vigorous writer, a keen observer, but from his
youth up a disproportion was evident in the structure of his mind,
that pointed only too clearly to insanity. His judgment, as Mr. Taylor
observes, was essentially unsound in all matters where he himself was
personally interested. His vanity blinded him throughout to the
quality of his own work, the amount of influence he could wield, and
the extent of the public sympathy that he excited. He was essentially
religious in temperament, though his religion was so assertive and
egotistical in type that those who hold with Rosalba that where there
is no modesty there can be no religion, [Footnote: Rosalba said of Sir
Godfrey Kneller, 'This man can have no religion, for he has no
modesty.'] might be inclined to deny its existence. From the very
outset of his career Haydon took up the attitude of a missionary of
high art in England--and therewith the expectation of being crowned
and enriched as its Priest and King. He clung to the belief that a man
who devoted himself to the practice of a high and ennobling art ought
to be supported by a grateful country, or at least by generous
patrons, and he could never be made to realise that Art is a stern and
jealous mistress, who demands material sacrifices from her votaries in
exchange for spiritual compensations. If a man desires to create a new
era in the art of his country, he must be prepared to lead a monastic
life in a garret; but if, like Haydon, he allows himself a wife and
eight children, and professes to be unable to live on five hundred a
year, he must condescend to the painting of portraits and pot-boilers.
The public cannot be forced to support what it neither understands nor
admires, and, in a democratic state, the Government is bound to
consult the taste of its masters.

Haydon's financial embarrassments were perhaps the least of his
trials. As has been seen, he had fallen into the hands of the
money-lenders in early youth, and he had never been able to extricate
himself from their clutches. But so many of his friends and
colleagues--Godwin, Leigh Hunt, and Sir Thomas Lawrence among
others--were in the same position, that Haydon must have felt he was
insolvent in excellent company. As long as he was able to keep himself
out of prison and the bailiffs out of his house, he seems to have
considered that his affairs were positively nourishing, and at their
worst his financial difficulties alone would never have driven him to
self-destruction. Mrs. Browning was surely right when she wrote:--'The
more I think the more I am inclined to conclude that the money
irritation was merely an additional irritation, and that the despair,
leading to revolt against life, had its root in disappointed ambition.
The world did not recognise his genius, and he punished the world by
withdrawing the light... All the audacity and bravery and
self-calculation, which drew on him so much ridicule, were an agony in
disguise--he could not live without reputation, and he wrestled for
it, struggled for it, _kicked_ for it, forgetting grace of
attitude in the pang. When all was vain he went mad and died... Poor
Haydon! Think what an agony life was to him, so constituted!--his own
genius a clinging curse! the fire and the clay in him seething and
quenching one another!--the man seeing maniacally in all men the
assassins of his fame! and with the whole world against him,
struggling for the thing that was his life, through day and night, in
thoughts and in dreams ... struggling, stifling, breaking the hearts
of the creatures dearest to him, in the conflict for which there was
no victory, though he could not choose but fight it. Tell me if
Laocoön's anguish was not as an infant's sleep compared to this.'

Haydon wrote his own epitaph, and this, which he, at least, believed
to be an accurate summary of his misfortunes and their cause, may
fitly close this brief outline of his troubled life:--




An English Historical Painter, who, in a struggle to make the People,
the Legislature, the Nobility, and the Sovereign of England give due
dignity and rank to the highest Art, which has ever languished, and,
until the Government interferes, ever will languish in England, fell a
Victim to his ardour and his love of country, an evidence that to seek
the benefit of your country by telling the Truth to Power, is a crime
that can only be expiated by the ruin and destruction of the Man who
is so patriotic and so imprudent.

'He was born at Plymouth, 26th of January 1786, and died on the [22nd
of June] 18[46], believing in Christ as the Mediator and Advocate of

'"What various ills the Painter's life assail, Pride, Envy, Want, the
Patron and the Jail."'



[Illustration: Sydney Owenson, afterwards Lady Morgan, From a drawing
by Sir Thomas Lawrence.]

'What,' asks Lady Morgan in her fragment of autobiography, 'what has a
woman to do with dates? Cold, false, erroneous dates! Her poetical
idiosyncrasy, calculated by epochs, would make the most natural points
of reference in a woman's autobiography.' The matter-of-fact Saxon
would hardly know how to set about calculating a poetical idiosyncrasy
by epochs, but our Celtic heroine was equal to the task; at any rate,
she abstained so carefully throughout her career from all unnecessary
allusion to what she called 'vulgar eras,' that the date of her birth
remained a secret, even from her bitterest enemies. Her untiring
persecutor, John Wilson Croker, declared that Sydney Owenson was born
in 1775, while the _Dictionary of National Biography_ more
gallantly gives the date as 1783, with a query. But as Sir Charles
Morgan was born in the latter year, and as his wife owned to a few
years' seniority, we shall probably be doing her no injustice if we
place the important event between 1778 and 1780.

Lady Morgan's detestation for dates was accompanied by a vivid
imagination, an inaccurate memory, and a constitutional inability to
deal with hard facts. Hence, her biographers have found it no easy
task to grapple with the details of her career, her own picturesque,
high-coloured narrative being not invariably in accord with the
prosaic records gathered from contemporary sources. For example,
according to the plain, unvarnished statement of a Saxon chronicler,
Lady Morgan's father was one Robert MacOwen, who was born in 1744, the
son of poor parents in Connaught. He was educated at a hedge-school,
and on coming to man's estate, obtained a situation as steward to a
neighbouring landowner. But, having been inspired with an unquenchable
passion for the theatre, he presently threw up his post, and through
the influence of Goldsmith, a 'Connaught cousin,' he obtained a
footing on the English stage.

The Celtic version of this story, as dictated by Lady Morgan in her
old age, is immeasurably superior, and at any rate deserves to be
true. Early in the eighteenth century, so runs the tale, a
hurling-match was held in Connaught, which was attended by all the
gentry of the neighbourhood. The Queen of Beauty, who gave away the
prizes, was Sydney Crofton Bell, granddaughter of Sir Malby Crofton of
Longford House. The victor of the hurling-match was Walter MacOwen, a
gentleman according to the genealogy of Connaught, but a farmer by
position. Young, strong, and handsome, MacOwen, like Orlando,
overthrew more than his enemies, with the result that presently there
was an elopement in the neighbourhood, and an unpardonable
_mésalliance_ in the Crofton family. The marriage does not appear
to have been a very happy one, since MacOwen continued to frequent all
the fairs and hurling-matches of the country-side, but his wife
consoled herself for his neglect by cultivating her musical and
poetical gifts. She composed Irish songs and melodies, and gained the
title of Clasagh-na-Vallagh, or Harp of the Valley. Her only son
Robert inherited his father's good looks and his mother's artistic
talents, and was educated by the joint efforts of the Protestant
clergyman and the Roman Catholic priest.

When the boy was about seventeen, a rich, eccentric stranger named
Blake arrived to take possession of the Castle of Ardfry. The
new-comer, who was a musical amateur, presently discovered that there
was a young genius in the neighbourhood. Struck by the beauty of
Robert MacOwen's voice, Mr. Blake offered to take the youth into his
own household, and educate him for a liberal profession, an offer that
was joyfully accepted by Clasagh-na-Vallagh. The patron soon tired of
Connaught, and carried off his _protégé_ to London, where he
placed him under Dr. Worgan, the famous blind organist of Westminster
Abbey. At home, young MacOwen's duties were to keep his employer's
accounts, to carve at table, and to sing Irish melodies to his guests.
He was taken up by his distant kinsman, Goldsmith, who introduced him
to the world behind the scenes, and encouraged him in his aspirations
after a theatrical career.

Among the young Irishman's new acquaintances was Madame
Weichsel, _prima donna_ of His Majesty's Theatre, and mother of
the more celebrated Mrs. Billington. The lady occasionally studied her
roles under Dr. Worgan, when MacOwen played the part of stage-lover,
and, being of an inflammable disposition, speedily developed into a
real one. This love-affair was the cause of a sudden reverse of
fortune. During Mr. Blake's absence from town, Robert accompanied
Madame Weichsel to Vauxhall, where she was engaged to sing a duet. Her
professional colleague failing to appear, young MacOwen was persuaded
to undertake the tenor part, which he did with pronounced success. But
unfortunately Mr. Blake, who had returned unexpectedly from Ireland,
was among the audience, and was angered beyond all forgiveness by this
premature _début_. When Robert went home, he found his trunks
ready packed, and a letter of dismissal from his patron awaiting him.
A note for £300, which accompanied the letter, was returned, and the
prodigal drove off to his cousin Goldsmith, who, with characteristic
good-nature, took him in, and promised him his interest with the
theatrical managers.

According to Lady Morgan's account, Robert Owenson, as he now called
himself in deference to the prevailing prejudice against both the
Irish and the Scotch, was at once introduced to Garrick, and
allowed to make his _début_ in the part of Tamerlane. But, from
contemporary evidence, it is clear that he had gained some experience
in the provinces before he made his first appearance on the London
boards, when his Tamerlane was a decided failure. Garrick refused to
allow him a second chance, but after further provincial touring, he
obtained another London engagement, and appeared with success in such
parts as Captain Macheath, Sir Lucius O'Trigger, and Major O'Flaherty.

Owenson had been on the stage some years when he fell in love with
Miss Jane Hill, the daughter of a respectable burgess of Shrewsbury.
The worthy Mr. Hill refused his consent to his daughter's marriage
with an actor, but the dashing _jeune premier_, like his father
before him, carried off his bride by night, and married her at
Lichfield before her irate parent could overtake them. Miss Hill was a
Methodist by persuasion, and hated the theatre, though she loved her
player. She induced her husband to renounce his profession for a time,
and to appear only at concerts and oratorios. But the stage-fever was
in his blood, and after a short retirement, we find him, in 1771,
investing a part of his wife's fortune in a share in the Crow Street
Theatre, Dublin, where he made his first appearance with great success
in his favourite part of Major O'Flaherty, one of the characters in
Cumberland's comedy, _The West Indian_. He remained one of the
pillars of this theatre until 1782, when Ryder, the patentee, became a
bankrupt. Owenson was then engaged by Richard Daly to perform at the
Smock Alley Theatre, and also to fill the post of assistant-manager.

By this time Sydney had made her appearance in the world, arriving on
Christmas Day in some unspecified year. According to one authority she
was born on ship-board during the passage from Holyhead to Dublin, but
she tells us herself that she was born at her father's house in Dublin
during a Christmas banquet, at which most of the leading wits and
literary celebrities of the capital were present. The whole party was
bidden to her christening a month later, and Edward Lysaght, equally
famous as a lawyer and an improvisatore, undertook to make the
necessary vows in her name. In spite of this brilliant send-off,
Sydney was not destined to bring good fortune to her father's house. A
few years after her birth Owenson, having quarrelled with Daly,
invested his savings in a tumble-down building known as the Old Music
Hall, which he restored, and re-named the National Theatre. The season
opened with a grand national performance, and everything promised
well, when, like a bomb-shell, came the announcement that the
Government had granted to Richard Daly an exclusive patent for the
performance of legitimate drama in Dublin. Mr. Owenson was thus
obliged to close his theatre at the end of his first season, but he
received some compensation for his losses, and was offered a
re-engagement under Daly on favourable terms, an offer which he had
the sense to accept.

A short period of comparative calm and freedom from embarrassment now
set in for the Owenson family. Mrs. Owenson was a careful mother, and
extremely anxious about the education of her two little girls, Sydney
and Olivia. There is a touch of pathos in the picture of the prim,
methodistical English lady, who hated the dirt and slovenliness of her
husband's people, was shocked at their jovial ways and free talk,
looked upon all Papists as connections of Antichrist, and hoped for
the salvation of mankind through the form of religion patronised by
Lady Huntington. She was accustomed to hold up as an example to her
little girls the career of a certain model child, the daughter of a
distant kinsman, Sir Rowland Hill of Shropshire. This appalling infant
had read the Bible twice through before she was five, and knitted all
the stockings worn by her father's coachman. The lively Sydney
detested the memory of her virtuous young kinswoman, for she had great
difficulty in mastering the art of reading, though she learned easily
by heart, and could imitate almost anything she saw. At a very early
age she could go through the whole elaborate process of hair-dressing,
from the first papillote to the last puff of the powder-machine, and
amused herself by arranging her father's old wigs in one of the
windows, under the inscription, 'Sydney Owenson, System, Tête, and
Peruke Maker.'

Mr. Owenson found his friends among all the wildest wits of Dublin,
but his wife's society was strictly limited, both at the Old Music
Hall, part of which had been utilised as a dwelling, and at the
country villa that her husband had taken for her at Drumcondra. Yet
she does not appear to have permitted her religious prejudices to
interfere with her social relaxations, since her three chief intimates
at this time were the Rev. Charles Macklin (nephew of the actor), a
great performer on the Irish pipes, who had been dismissed from his
curacy for playing out the congregation on his favourite instrument; a
Methodist preacher who had come over on one of Lady Huntingdon's
missions; and a Jesuit priest, who, his order being proscribed in
Ireland, was living in concealment, and in want, it was believed, of
the necessaries of life. These three regularly frequented the Old
Music Hall, where points of faith were freely discussed, Mrs. Owenson
holding the position of Protestant Pope in the little circle. In order
that the discussions might not be unprofitable, the Catholic servants
were sometimes permitted to stand at the door, and gather up the
crumbs of theological wisdom.

Female visitors were few, one of the most regular being a younger
sister of Oliver Goldsmith, who lived with a grocer brother in a
little shop which was afterwards occupied by the father of Thomas
Moore. Miss Goldsmith was a plain, little old lady, who always carried
a long tin case, containing a rouleaux of Dr. Goldsmith's portraits,
which she offered for sale. Sydney much preferred her father's
friends, more especially his musical associates, such as Giordani the
composer, and Fisher the violinist, who spent most of their time at
his house during their visits to Dublin. The children used to hide
under the table to hear them make music, and picked up many melodies
by ear. When Mr. Owenson was asked why he did not cultivate his
daughter's talent, he replied, 'If I were to cultivate their talent
for music, it might induce them some day to go upon the stage, and I
would rather buy them a sieve of black cockles to cry about the
streets of Dublin than see them the first _prima donnas_ of

The little Owensons possessed one remarkable playfellow in the shape
of Thomas Dermody, the 'wonderful boy,' who was regarded in Dublin as
a second Chatterton. A poor scholar, the son of a drunken country
schoolmaster, who turned him adrift at fourteen, Dermody had wandered
up to Dublin, paying his way by reciting poetry and telling stories to
his humble entertainers, with a few tattered books, one shirt, and two
shillings for all his worldly goods. He first found employment as
'librarian' at a cobbler's stall, on which a few cheap books were
exposed for sale. Later, he got employment as assistant to the
scene-painter at the Theatre Royal, and here he wrote a clever poem on
the leading performers, which found its way into the green-room.
Anxious to see the author, the company, Owenson amongst them, invaded
the painting-room, where they found the boy-poet, clad in rags, his
hair clotted with glue, his face smeared with paint, a pot of size in
one hand and a brush in the other. The sympathy of the kind-hearted
players was aroused, and it was decided that something must be done
for youthful genius in distress. Owenson invited the boy to his house,
and, by way of testing his powers, set him to write a poetical theme
on the subject of Dublin University. In less than three-quarters of an
hour the prodigy returned with a poem of fifty lines, which showed an
intimate acquaintance with the history of the university from its
foundation. A second test having been followed by equally satisfactory
results, it was decided that a sum of money should be raised by
subscriptions, and that Dermody should be assisted to enter the
university. Owenson, with his wife's cordial consent, took the young
poet into his house, and treated him like his own son. Unfortunately,
Dermody's genius was weighted by the artistic temperament; he was
lazy, irregular in his attendance at college, and not particularly
grateful to his benefactors. By his own acts he fell out of favour,
the subscriptions that had been collected were returned to the donors,
and his career would have come to an abrupt conclusion, if it had not
been that Owenson made interest for him with Lady Moira, a
distinguished patron of literature, who placed him in the charge of
Dr. Boyd, the translator of Dante. Dermody must have had his good
points, for he was a favourite with Mrs. Owenson, and the dear friend
of Sydney and Olivia, whom he succeeded in teaching to read and write,
a task in which all other preceptors had failed.

In 1788 Mrs. Owenson died rather suddenly, and the home was broken up.
Sydney and Olivia were at once placed at a famous Huguenot school,
which had originally been established at Portarlington, but was now
removed to Clontarf, near Dublin. For the next three years the
children had the benefit of the best teaching that could then be
obtained, and were subjected to a discipline which Lady Morgan always
declared was the most admirable ever introduced into a 'female
seminary' in any country. Sydney soon became popular among her
fellows, thanks to her knowledge of Irish songs and dances, and it is
evident that her schooldays were among the happiest and most healthful
of her early life. The school was an expensive one, and poor Owenson,
who, with all his faults, seems to have been a careful and
affectionate father, found it no easy matter to pay for the many

'I remember once,' writes Lady Morgan,' our music-teacher complained
to my father of our idleness as he sat beside us at the piano, and we
stumbled through the overture to _Artaxerxes_. His answer to her
complaint was simple and graphic--for, drawing up the sleeve of a
handsome surtout, he showed the threadbare sleeve of the black coat
beneath, and said, touching the whitened seams, "I should not be
driven to the subterfuge of wearing a greatcoat this hot weather to
conceal the poverty of my dress beneath, if it were not that I wish to
give you the advantage of such instruction as you are now
neglecting."' The shaft went home, and the music-mistress had no
occasion to complain again. After three years the headmistress retired
on her fortune, the school was given up, and the two girls were placed
at what they considered a very inferior establishment in Dublin. Here,
however, they had the delight of seeing their father every Sunday,
when the widower, leaving the attractions of the city behind, took his
little daughters out walking with him. To this time belong memories of
early visits to the theatre, where Sydney saw Mrs. Siddons for the
first and last time, and Miss Farren as Susan in the _Marriage of
Figaro_, just before her own marriage to Lord Derby. During the
summer seasons Mr. Owenson toured round the provinces, and generally
took his daughters with him, who seem to have been made much of by the
neighbouring county families.

In 1794 the too optimistic Owenson unfortunately took it into his head
that it would be an excellent speculation to build a summer theatre at
Kilkenny. Lord Ormond, who took an interest in the project, gave a
piece of land opposite the castle gates, money was borrowed, the
theatre quickly built, and performers brought at great expense from
Dublin. During the summer the house was filled nightly by overflowing
audiences, and everything promised well, when the attorney who held a
mortgage on the building, foreclosed, and bills to an enormous amount
were presented. Mr. Owenson suddenly departed for the south of
Ireland, having been advised to keep out of the way until after the
final meeting of his creditors. His two daughters were placed in
Dublin lodgings under the care of their faithful old servant, Molly
Atkins, until their school should reopen.

Sydney had been requested to write to her father every day, and as she
was passionately fond, to quote her own words, of writing about
anything to any one, she willingly obeyed, trusting to chance for
franks. Some of these youthful epistles were preserved by old Molly,
the packet being indorsed on the cover, 'Letters from Miss Sydney
Owenson to her father, God pity her!' But the young lady evidently did
not consider herself an object of pity, for she writes in the best of
spirits about the books she is reading, the people she is meeting, and
all the little gaieties and excitements of her life. Somebody lends
her an _Essay on the Human Understanding_, by Mr. Locke, Gent.,
whose theories she has no difficulty in understanding; and somebody
else talks to her about chemistry (a word she has never heard at
school), and declares that her questions are so _suggestive_
(another new word) that she might become a second Pauline Lavosier.
She puts her new knowledge to practical effect by writing with a piece
of phosphorus on her bedroom wall, 'Molly, beware!' with the result
that Molly is frightened out of her wits, the young experimenter burns
her hand, and the house is nearly set on fire. The eccentric Dermody
turns up again, now a smart young ensign, having temporarily forsaken
letters, and obtained a commission through the interest of Lord Moira.
He addresses a flattering poem to Sydney, and passes on to rejoin his
regiment at Cork, whence he is to sail for Flanders.

Mr. Owenson's affairs did not improve. He tried his fortune in various
provincial theatres, but the political ferment of the years
immediately preceding the Union, the disturbed state of the country,
and the persecution of the Catholics, all spelt ruin for theatrical
enterprises. As soon as Sydney realised her true position she rose to
the occasion, and the letter that she wrote to her father, proposing
to relieve him of the burden of her maintenance, is full of affection
and spirit. It will be observed that as yet she is contented to
express herself simply and naturally, without the fine language, the
incessant quotations, and the mangled French that disfigured so much
of her published work. The girl, who must now have been seventeen or
eighteen, had seen her father's name on the list of bankrupts, but it
had been explained to her that, with time and economy, he would come
out of his difficulties as much respected as ever. Having informed him
of her determination not to return to school, but to support herself
in future, she continues:--

'Now, dear papa, I have two novels nearly finished. The first is
_St. Clair_; I think I wrote it in imitation of _Werther_, which
I read last Christmas. The second is a French novel, suggested
by my reading the _Memoirs of the Duc de Sully_, and falling in
love with Henri IV. Now, if I had time and quiet to finish them, I am
sure I could sell them; and observe, sir, Miss Burney got £3000 for
_Camilla_, and brought out _Evelina_ unknown to her father;
but all this takes time.' Sydney goes on to suggest that Olivia shall
be placed at a school, where Molly could be taken as children's maid,
and that she herself should seek a situation as governess or companion
to young ladies.

Through the good offices of her old dancing-master, M. Fontaine, who
had been appointed master of ceremonies at the castle, Sydney was
introduced to Mrs. Featherstone, or Featherstonehaugh, of Bracklin
Castle, who required a governess-companion to her young daughters, and
apparently did not object to youth and inexperience. The girl's
_début_ in her employer's family would scarcely have made a
favourable impression in any country less genial and tolerant than the
Ireland of that period. On the night of her departure M. Fontaine gave
a little _bal d'adieu_ in her honour, and as the mail passed the
end of his street at midnight, it was arranged that Sydney should take
her travelling-dress with her to the ball, and change before starting
on her journey. Of course she took no count of the time, and was gaily
dancing to the tune of 'Money in Both Pockets,' with an agreeable
partner, when the horn sounded at the end of the street. Like an Irish
Cinderella, away flew Sydney in her muslin gown and pink shoes and
stockings, followed by her admirers, laden with her portmanteau and
bundle of clothes. There was just time for Molly to throw an old cloak
over her charge, and then the coach door was banged-to, and the little
governess travelled away through the winter's night. In the excitement
of an adventure with an officer _en route_, she allowed her
luggage to be carried on in the coach, and arrived at Bracklin, a
shivering little object, in her muslin frock and pink satin shoes. Her
stammered explanations were received with amusement and sympathy by
her kind-hearted hosts, and she was carried off to her own rooms, 'the
prettiest suite you ever saw,' she tells her father, 'a study,
bedroom, and bath-room, a roaring turf fire in the rooms, an open
piano, and lots of books scattered about. Betty, the old nurse,
brought me a bowl of laughing potatoes, and gave me a hearty "Much
good may it do you, miss"; and didn't I tip her a word of Irish, which
delighted her.... Our dinner-party were mamma and the two young
ladies, two itinerant preceptors, a writing and elocution master, and
a dancing-master, and Father Murphy, the P.P.--such fun!--and the Rev.
Mr. Beaufort, the curate of Castletown.'

Miss Sydney was quite at her ease with all these new acquaintances,
and so brilliant were her sallies at dinner that, according to her own
account, the men-servants were obliged to stuff their napkins down
their throats till they were nearly suffocated. The priest proposed
her health in a comic speech, and a piper having come up on purpose to
'play in Miss Owenson,' the evening wound up with the dancing of Irish
jigs, and the singing of Irish songs. One is inclined to doubt whether
Sydney's instructions were of much scientific value, but it is evident
that she enjoyed her occupation, was the very good friend of both
employers and pupils, and knew nothing of the snubs and neglect
experienced by so many of our modern Jane Eyres.

The death of Mrs. Featherstone's mother, Lady Steele, who had been one
of the belles of Lord Chesterfield's court, placed a fine old house in
Dominic Street, Dublin, at the disposal of the family. At the head of
the musical society of Dublin at that date was Sir John Stevenson, who
is now chiefly remembered for his arrangement of the airs to Moore's
Melodies. One day, while giving a lesson to the Miss Featherstones,
Sir John sung a song by Moore, of whom Sydney had then never heard.
Pleased at her evident appreciation, Stevenson asked if she would like
to meet the poet, and promised to take her and Olivia to a little
musical party at his mother's house. Moore had already made a success
in London society, which he followed up in the less exclusive circles
of Dublin, and it was only between a party at the Provost's and
another at Lady Antrim's that he could dash into the paternal shop for
a few minutes to sing a couple of songs for his mother's guests. But
the effect of his performance upon the Owenson sisters was electrical.
They went home in such a state of spiritual exaltation, that they
forgot to undress before getting into bed, and awoke to plan, the one
a new romance, the other a portrait of the poet.

Sydney had already finished her first novel, _St. Clair_, which
she determined to take secretly to a publisher. We are given to
understand that this was her first independent literary attempt,
though she tells us that her father had printed a little volume of her
poems, written between the ages of twelve and fourteen. This book
seems to have been published, however, in 1801, when the author must
have been at least one-and-twenty. It was dedicated to Lady Moira,
through whose influence it found its way into the most fashionable
boudoirs of Dublin. Be this as it may, Sydney gives a picturesque
description of her early morning's ramble in search of a publisher.
She eventually left her manuscript in the reluctant hands of a Mr.
Brown, who promised to submit it to his reader, and returned to her
employer's house before her absence had been remarked. The next day
the family left Dublin for Bracklin, and as Sydney had forgotten to
give her address to the publisher, it is not surprising that, for the
time being, she heard no more of her bantling. Some months later, when
she was in Dublin again, she picked up a novel in a friend's house,
and found that it was her own _St. Clair_. On recalling herself
to the publisher's memory, she received the handsome remuneration
of--four copies of her own work! The book, a foolish, high-flown
story, a long way after _Werther_, had some success in Dublin,
and brought its author--literary ladies being comparatively few at
that period--a certain meed of social fame.

Mr. Owenson, who had left the stage in 1798, was settled at Coleraine
at this time, and desired to have both his daughters with him.
Accordingly, Sydney gave up her employment, and tried to make herself
contented at home. But the dulness and discomfort of the life were too
much for her, and after a few months she took another situation as
governess, this time with a Mrs. Crawford at Fort William, where she
seems to have been as much petted and admired as at Bracklin. There is
no doubt that Sydney Owenson was a flirt, a sentimental flirt, who
loved playing with fire, but it has been hinted that she was inclined
to represent the polite attentions of her gallant countrymen as
serious affairs of the heart. She left behind her a packet of
love-letters (presented to her husband after her marriage), and some
of these are quoted in her _Memoirs_. The majority, however,
point to no very definite 'intentions' on the part of the writers, but
are composed in the artificially romantic vein which Rousseau had
brought into fashion. Among the letters are one or two from the
unfortunate Dermody, who had retired on half-pay, and was now living
in London, engaged in writing his Memoirs (he was in the early
twenties) and preparing his poems for the press.

'Were you a Venus I should forget you,' he writes to Sydney, 'but you
are a Laura, a Leonora, and an Eloisa, all in one delightful
assemblage.' He is evidently a little piqued by Sydney's admiration of
Moore, for in a letter to Mr. Owenson he asks, 'Who is the Mr. Moore
Sydney mentions? He is nobody here, I assure you, of eminence.' A
little later, however, he writes to Sydney: 'You are mistaken if you
imagine I have not the highest respect for your friend Moore. I have
written the review of his poems in a strain of panegyric to which I am
not frequently accustomed. I am told he is a most worthy young man,
and I am certain myself of his genius and erudition.' Dermody's own
career was nearly at an end. He died of consumption in 1802, aged only

If Sydney scandalised even the easy-going society of the period by her
audacious flirtations, she seems to have had the peculiarly Irish
faculty of keeping her head in affairs of the heart, and dancing in
perfect security on the edge of a gulf of sentiment. Her work helped
to steady her, and the love-scenes in her novels served as a
safety-valve for her ardent imagination. Her father, notoriously
happy-go-lucky about his own affairs, was a careful guardian of his
daughters' reputation, while old Molly was a dragon of propriety.
Sydney, moreover, had acquired one or two women friends, much older
than herself, such as the literary Lady Charleville, and Mrs. Lefanu,
sister of Sheridan, who were always ready with advice and sympathy.
With Mrs. Lefanu Sydney corresponded regularly for many years, and in
her letters discusses the debatable points in her books, and enlarges
upon her own character and temperament. Chief among her ambitions at
this time was that of being 'every inch a woman,' and she was a firm
believer in the fashionable theory that true womanliness was
incompatible with learning. 'I dropped the study of chemistry,' she
tells her friend, 'though urged to it by, a favourite preceptor, lest
I should be less the _woman_. Seduced by taste and a thousand
arguments to Greek and Latin, I resisted, lest I should not be a
_very woman_. And I have studied music as a sentiment rather than
as a science, and drawing as an amusement rather than as an art, lest
I should become a musical pedant, or a masculine artist.'

In 1803, the Crawfords having decided to leave Fort William and live
entirely in the country, Sydney, who had a mortal dread of boredom,
gave up her situation, and returned to her father, who was now settled
near Strabane. Here she occupied her leisure in writing a second
novel, _The Novice of St. Dominic_, in six volumes. When this was
completed, Mrs. Lefanu advised her to take it to London herself, and
arrange for its publication. Quite alone, and with very little money
in her pocket, the girl travelled to London, and presented herself
before Sir Richard Phillips, a well-known publisher, with whom she had
already had some correspondence. If we may believe her own testimony,
Sir Richard fell an easy victim to her fascinations, and there is no
doubt that he was very kind to her, introduced her to his wife, and
found her a lodging. Better still, he bought her book (we are not told
the price), and paid her for it at once. The first purchases that she
made with her own earnings were a small Irish harp, which accompanied
her thereafter wherever she went, and a black 'mode cloak.' After her
return to Ireland, Phillips corresponded with her, and gave her
literary advice, which is interesting in so far as it shows what the
reading public of that day wanted, or was supposed to want.

'The world is not informed about Ireland,' wrote the publisher, 'and I
am in a condition to command the light to shine. I am sorry you have
assumed the novel form. A series of letters addressed to a friend in
London, taking for your model the letters of Lady Mary Wortley
Montagu, would have secured you the most extensive reading. A
matter-of-fact and didactic novel is neither one thing nor the other,
and suits no class of readers. Certainly, however, _Paul and
Virginia_ would suggest a local plan; and it will be possible by
writing three or four times over in six or eight months to produce
what would _command_ attention.' Sir Richard concluded his advice
with the assurance that his correspondent had it in her to write an
immortal work, if she would only labour it sufficiently, and that her
_third_ copy was certain to be a monument of Irish genius. Miss
Owenson was the last person to act upon the above directions; her
books read as if they were dashed off in a fine frenzy of composition.
Perhaps she feared that her cherished womanliness would be endangered
by too close an attention to accuracy and style.

The _Novice_, which appeared in 1804, was better than _St.
Clair_, but such success as it enjoyed must have been due to the
prevailing scarcity of first-rate, or even second-rate novelists,
rather than to its own intrinsic merits. The public taste in fiction
was not fastidious, and could swallow long-winded discussions and
sentimental rhodomontade with an appetite that now seems almost
incredible. The _Novice_ is said to have been a favourite with
Pitt in his last illness, but if this be true, the fact points rather
to the decay of the statesman's intellect than to the literary value
of the book. Still the author was tasting all the sweets of fame. She
was much in request as a literary celebrity, and somebody had actually
written for permission to select the best passages from her two books
for publication in a work called _The Morality of English

In the same year, 1804, an anonymous attack upon the Irish stage in
six _Familiar Epistles_ was published in Dublin. So cruel and
venomous were these epistles that one actor, Edwin, is believed to
have died of chagrin at the attack upon his reputation. An answer to
the libel presently appeared, which was signed S. O., and has been
generally attributed to Sydney Owenson. The _Familiar Epistles_
were believed to be the work of John Wilson Croker, then young and
unknown, and it may be that the lifelong malignity with which that
critic pursued Lady Morgan was due to this early crossing of swords.
Sydney herself was fond of hinting that Croker, in his obscure days,
had paid her attentions which she, as a successful author, had not
cared to encourage, and that wounded vanity was at the bottom of his

The next book on which Miss Owenson engaged was, if not her best, the
one by which she is best known, namely, _The Wild Irish Girl_.
The greater part of this was written while she was staying with Sir
Malby Crofton at Longford House, from whose family, as has been seen,
she claimed to be descended. Miss Crofton sat for the portrait of the
heroine, and much of the scenery was sketched in the wild romantic
neighbourhood. About the same time she collected and translated a
number of Irish songs which were published under the title of _The
Lay of the Irish Harp_. She thus anticipated Moore, and other
explorers in this field, for which fact Moore at least gives her
credit in the preface to his own collection. She was not a poet, but
she wrote one ballad, 'Kate Kearney,' which became a popular song, and
is not yet forgotten.

The story of _The Wild Irish Girl_ is said to have been founded
upon an incident in the author's own life. A young man named Everard
had fallen in love with her, but as he was wild, idle, and penniless,
his father called upon her to beg her not to encourage him, but to use
her influence to make him stick to his work. Sydney behaved so well in
the matter that the elder Mr. Everard desired to marry her himself,
and though his offer was not accepted, he remained her staunch friend
and admirer. The 'local colour' in the book is carefully worked up;
indeed, in the present day it would probably be thought that the story
was overweighted by the account of local manners and customs.
Phillips, alarmed at the liberal principles displayed in the work,
which he thought would be distasteful to English patriots, refused at
first to give the author her price. To his horror and indignation Miss
Owenson, whom he regarded as his own particular property, instantly
sent the manuscript to a rival bookseller, Johnson, who published for
Miss Edgeworth. Johnson offered £300 for the book, while Phillips had
only offered £200 down, and £50 on the publication of the second and
third editions respectively. The latter, however, was unable to make
up his mind to lose the treasure, and after much hesitation and many
heart-burnings, he finally wrote to Miss Owenson:--

'DEAR BEWITCHING AND DELUDING SYKEN,--Not being able to part from you,
I have promised your noble and magnanimous friend, Atkinson [who was
conducting the negotiations], the £300.... It will be long before I
forgive you! At least not till I have got back the £300 and another
£100 along with it.' Then follows a passage which proves that the
literary market, in those days at any rate, was not overstocked: 'If
you know any poor bard--a real one, no pretender--I will give him a
guinea a page for his rhymes in the _Monthly Magazine_. I will
also give for prose communications at the rate of six guineas a

_The Wild Irish Girl_, whose title was suggested by Peter Pindar,
made a hit, more especially in Ireland, and the author woke to find
herself famous. She became known to all her friends as 'Glorvina,' the
name of the heroine, while the Glorvina ornament, a golden bodkin, and
the Glorvina mantle became fashionable in Dublin. The book was
bitterly attacked, probably by Croker, in the _Freeman's
Journal_, but the best bit of criticism upon it is contained in a
letter from Mr. Edgeworth to Miss Owenson. 'Maria,' he says, 'who
reads as well as she writes, has entertained us with several passages
from _The Wild Irish Girl_, which I thought superior to any parts
of the book I had read. Upon looking over her shoulder, I found she
had omitted some superfluous epithets. Dared she have done this if you
had been by? I think she would; because your good sense and good taste
would have been instantly her defenders.' It must be admitted that all
Lady Morgan's works would have gained by the like treatment.

In an article called 'My First Rout,' which appeared in _The Book of
the Boudoir_ (published in 1829), Lady Morgan describes a party at
Lady Cork's, where she was lionised by her hostess, the other guests
having been invited to meet the Wild Irish Girl. The celebrities
present were brought up and introduced to Miss Owenson with a running
comment from Lady Cork, which, though it must be taken with a grain of
salt, is worth transcribing:--

'Lord Erskine, this is the Wild Irish Girl you were so anxious to
meet. I assure you she talks quite as well as she writes. Now, my
dear, do tell Lord Erskine some of those Irish stories you told us at
Lord Charleville's. Mrs. Abington says you would make a famous
actress, she does indeed. This is the Duchess of St. Albans--she has
your _Wild Irish Girl_ by heart. Where is Sheridan? Oh, here he
is; what, you know each other already? _Tant mieux._ Mr. Lewis,
do come forward; this is Monk Lewis, of whom you have heard so
much--but you must not read his works, they are very naughty.... You
know Mr. Gell; he calls you the Irish Corinne. Your friend, Mr. Moore,
will be here by-and-by. Do see, somebody, if Mrs. Siddons and Mr.
Kemble are come yet. Now pray tell us the scene at the Irish baronet's
in the Rebellion that you told to the ladies of Llangollen; and then
give us your blue-stocking dinner at Sir Richard Phillips'; and
describe the Irish priests.'

At supper Sydney was placed between Lord Erskine and Lord Carysfort,
and was just beginning to feel at her ease when Mr. Kemble was
announced. Mr. Kemble, it soon became apparent, had been dining, and
had paid too much attention to the claret. Sitting down opposite Miss
Owenson, he fixed her with an intense and glassy stare. Unfortunately,
her hair, which she wore in the fashionable curly 'crop,' aroused his
curiosity. Stretching unsteadily across the table, he suddenly, to
quote her own words, 'struck his claws into my locks, and addressing
me in his deepest tones, asked, "Little girl, where did you buy your
wig?"' Lord Erskine hastily came to the rescue, but Kemble, rendered
peevish by his interference, took a volume of _The Wild Irish
Girl_ out of his pocket, and after reading aloud one of the most
high-flown passages, asked, 'Little girl, why did you write such
nonsense, and where did you get all those hard words?' Sydney
delighted the company by blurting out the truth: 'Sir, I wrote as well
as I could, and I got the hard words out of Johnson's Dictionary.'
That Kemble spoke the truth in his cups may be proved by the following
sentence, which is a fair sample of the general style of the book:
'With a character tinctured with the brightest colouring of romantic
eccentricity [a father is describing his son, the hero], but marked by
indelible traces of innate rectitude, and ennobled by the purest
principles of native generosity, the proudest sense of inviolable
honour, I beheld him rush eagerly on life, enamoured of its seeming
good, incredulous of its latent evils, till, fatally entangled in the
spells of the latter, he fell an early victim to their successful

_The Wild Irish Girl_ was followed by _Patriotic Sketches_
and a volume of poems, for which Sir Richard Phillips offered £100
before he read them. A little later, in 1807, an operetta called
_The First Attempt_, or the _Whim of the Moment_, the libretto
by Miss Owenson and the music by T. Cooke, was performed at
the Dublin Theatre. The Duke of Bedford, then Lord-Lieutenant,
attended in state, the Duchess wore a Glorvina bodkin, and the
entertainment was also patronised by the officers of the garrison and
all the liberal members of the Irish bar. The little piece, in which
Mr. Owenson acted an Irish character, was played for several nights,
and brought its author the handsome sum of £400. This, however, seems
to have been Sydney's first and last attempt at dramatic composition.

The family fortunes had improved somewhat at this time, for Olivia,
who had gone out as a governess, became engaged to Dr., afterwards Sir
Arthur Clarke, a plain, elderly little gentleman, who, however, made
her an excellent husband. Having a good house and a comfortable
income, he was able to offer a home to Mr. Owenson and to the faithful
Molly. For the present, Sydney, though always on excellent terms with
her brother-in-law, preferred her independence. She established
herself in lodgings in Dublin, and made the most of the position that
her works had won for her. Her flirtations and indiscretions provided
the town with plenty of occasion for scandal, and there is a tradition
that one strictly proper old lady, on being asked to chaperon Miss
Owenson to the Castle, replied that when Miss Owenson wore more
petticoats and less paint she would be happy to do so. Yet another
tradition has been handed down to the effect that Miss Owenson
appeared at one of the Viceregal balls in a dress, the bodice of which
was trimmed with the portraits of her rejected lovers!

Foremost among our heroine's admirers at this time was Sir Charles
Ormsby, K.C., then member for Munster, He was a widower, deeply in
debt, and a good deal older than Sydney, but if there was no actual
engagement, there was certainly an 'understanding' between the pair.
In May, 1808, Miss Owenson was on a visit to the Dowager Lady Stanley
of Alderley at Penrhôs (one of the new friends her celebrity had
gained for her), whence she wrote a sentimental epistle to Sir Charles
Ormsby. The Sir John Stanley mentioned in the letter was the husband
of Maria Josepha Holroyd, to whom he had been married in 1796.

'The figure and person of Lady Stanley are inimitable,' writes Sydney.
'Vandyck would have estimated her at millions. Though old, her
manners, her mind, and her conversation are all of the best school....
Sir John Stanley is a man _comme il y en a peu_. Something at
first of English reserve; but when worn off, I never met a mind more
daring, more independent in its reflections, more profound or more
refined in its ideas. He said a thousand things like you; I am
convinced he has loved as you love. We sat up till two this morning
talking of Corinne.... I have been obliged to sing "Deep in Love" so
often for my handsome host, and every time it is _as for you_ I
sing it.' The letter concludes with the words, '_Aimons toujours
comme à l'ordinaire_.' The pair may have loved, but they were
continually quarrelling, and their intimacy was finally broken a year
or two later. Lady Morgan preserved to the end of her days a packet of
love-letters indorsed, 'Sir Charles Montague Ormsby, Bart., one of the
most brilliant wits, determined _roués_, agreeable persons, and
ugliest men of his day.'

The summer of this year, 1808, Miss Owenson spent in a round of visits
to country-houses, and in working, amid many distractions, at her
Grecian novel, _Ida of Athens_. After the first volume had gone
to press, Phillips took fright at some of the opinions therein
expressed, and refused to proceed further with the work. It was then
accepted by Longmans, who, however, were somewhat alarmed at what they
considered the Deistical principles and the taint of French philosophy
that ran through the book. Ida is a houri and a woman of genius, who
dresses in a tissue of woven air, has a taste for philosophical
discussions, and a talent for getting into perilous situations, from
which her strong sense of propriety invariably delivers her. This book
was the subject of adverse criticism in the first number of the
_Quarterly Review_, the critic being, it is believed, Miss
Owenson's old enemy, Croker. As a work of art, the novel was certainly
a just object of ridicule, but the personalities by which the review
is disfigured were unworthy of a responsible critic.

'The language,' observes the reviewer, 'is an inflated jargon,
composed of terms picked up in all countries, and wholly irreducible
to any ordinary rules of grammar and sense. The sentiments are
mischievous in tendency, profligate in principle, licentious and
irreverent in the highest degree.' The first part of this accusation
was only too well founded, but the licentiousness of which Lady
Morgan's works were invariably accused in the _Quarterly Review_,
can only have existed in the mind of the reviewer. One cannot but
smile to think how many persons with a taste for highly-spiced fiction
must have been set searching through Lady Morgan's novels by these
notices, and how bitterly they must have been disappointed. The review
in question concludes with the remark that if the author would buy a
spelling-book, a pocket-dictionary, exchange her raptures for common
sense, and gather a few precepts of humility from the Bible, 'she
might hope to prove, not indeed a good writer of novels, but a useful
friend, a faithful wife, a tender mother, and a respectable and happy
mistress of a family.' This impertinence is thoroughly characteristic
of the days when the _Quarterly_ was regarded as an amusing but
frivolous, not to say flippant, publication.

_Ida of Athens_ received the honour of mention in a note to
_Childe Harold_. 'I will request Miss Owenson,' writes Byron,
'when she next chooses an Athenian heroine for her four volumes, to
have the goodness to marry her to somebody more of a gentleman than a
"Disdar Aga" (who, by the way, is not an Aga), the most impolite of
petty officers, the greatest patron of larceny Athens ever saw (except
Lord E[lgin]), and the unworthy occupant of the Acropolis, on a
handsome stipend of 150 piastres (£8 sterling), out of which he has to
pay his garrison, the most ill-regulated corps in the ill-regulated
Ottoman Empire. I speak it tenderly, seeing I was once the cause of
the husband of Ida nearly suffering the bastinado; and because the
said Disdar is a turbulent fellow who beats his wife, so that I exhort
and beseech Miss Owenson to sue for a separate maintenance on behalf
of Ida.'

In 1809 Lady Abercorn, the third wife of the first Marquis, having
taken a sudden fancy to Miss Owenson, proposed that she should come to
Stanmore Priory, and afterwards to Baron's Court, as a kind of
permanent visitor. A fine lady of the old-fashioned, languid, idle,
easily bored type, Lady Abercorn desired a lively, amusing companion,
who would deliver her from the terrors of a solitude _à deux,_
make music in the evenings, and help to entertain her guests. It was
represented to Sydney that such an invitation was not lightly to be
refused, but as acceptance involved an almost total separation from
her friends, she hesitated to enter into any actual engagement, and
went to the Abercorns for two or three months as an ordinary visitor.
Lord Abercorn, who was then between fifty and sixty, had been married
three times, and divorced once. So fastidious a fine gentleman was he
that the maids were not allowed to make his bed except in white kid
gloves, and his groom of his chambers had orders to fumigate his rooms
after liveried servants had been in them. He is described as handsome,
witty, and blasé, a _roué_ in principles and a Tory in politics.
Nothing pleased Lady Morgan better in her old age, we are told, than
to have it insinuated that there had been 'something wrong' between
herself and Lord Abercorn.

In January, 1810, Sydney writes to Mrs. Lefanu from Stanmore Priory to
the effect that she is the best-lodged, best-fed, dullest author in
his Majesty's dominions, and that the sound of a commoner's name is
refreshment to her ears. She is surrounded by ex-lord-lieutenants,
unpopular princesses (including her of Wales) deposed potentates
(including him of Sweden), half the nobility of England, and many of
the best wits and writers. She had sat to Sir Thomas Lawrence for her
portrait, and sold her Indian novel, _The Missionary,_ for a
famous price. Lord Castlereagh, while staying at Stanmore, heard
portions of the work read aloud, and admired it so much that he
offered to take the author to London, and give her a rendezvous with
her publisher in his own study. Stockdale, the publisher, was so much
impressed by his surroundings that he bid £400 for the book, and the
agreement was signed and sealed under Lord Castlereagh's eye. _The
Missionary_ was not so successful as _The Wild Irish Girl,_
and added nothing to the author's reputation.

It was not until the end of 1810 that Miss Owenson decided to become a
permanent member of the Abercorn household. About this time, or a
little later, she wrote a short description of her temperament and
feelings, from which a sentence or two may be quoted. 'Inconsiderate
and indiscreet, never saved by prudence, but often rescued by pride;
often on the verge of error, but never passing the line. Committing
myself in every way _except in my own esteem_--without any
command over my feelings, my words, or writings--yet full of
self-possession as to action and conduct.' After describing her
sufferings from nervous susceptibility and mental depression, she
continues: 'But the hand that writes this has lost nothing of the
contour of health or the symmetry of youth. I am in possession of all
the fame I ever hoped or ambitioned. I wear not the appearance of
twenty years; I am now, as I generally am, sad and miserable.'

In 1811 Dr. Morgan, a good-looking widower of about eight-and-twenty,
accepted the post of private physician to Lord Abercorn. He was a
Cambridge man, an intimate friend of Dr. Jenner's, and possessed a
small fortune of his own. When he first arrived at Baron's Court, Miss
Owenson was absent, and he heard so much of her praises that he
conceived a violent prejudice against her. On her return she set to
work systematically to fascinate him, and succeeded even better than
she had hoped or desired. In Lady Abercorn he had a warm partisan, but
it may be suspected that the ambitious Miss Owenson found it hard to
renounce all hopes of a more brilliant match. The Abercorns having
vowed that Dr. Morgan should be made Sir Charles, and that they would
push his fortunes, Sydney yielded to their importunities so far as to
write to her father, and ask his consent to her engagement.

'I dare say you will be amazingly astonished,' she observes, 'but not
half so much as I am, for Lord and Lady Abercorn have hurried on the
business in such a manner that I really don't know what I am about.
They called me in last night, and, more like parents than friends,
begged me to be guided by them--that it was their wish not to lose
sight of me ... and that if I accepted Morgan, the man upon earth they
most esteemed and approved, they would be friends to both for
life--that we should reside with them one year after our marriage, so
that we might lay up our income to begin the world. He is also to
continue their physician. He has now £500 a year, independent of his
practice. I don't myself see the thing quite in the light they do; but
they think him a man of such great abilities, such great worth and
honour, that I am the most fortunate person in the world.'

To her old friend, Mrs. Lefanu, she writes in much the same strain.
'The licence and ring have been in the house these ten days, and all
the settlements made; yet I have been battling off from day to day,
and have only ten minutes back procured a little breathing time. The
struggle is almost too great for me. On one side engaged, beyond
retrieval, to a man who has frequently declared to my friends that if
I break off he will not survive it! On the other, the dreadful
certainty of being parted for ever from a country and friends I love,
and a family I adore.'

The 'breathing time' was to consist of a fortnight's visit to her
sister, Lady Clarke, in Dublin, in order to be near her father, who
was in failing health. The fortnight, however, proved an exceedingly
elastic period. Mr. Owenson was not dangerously ill, the winter season
was just beginning, and Miss Owenson was more popular than ever. Her
unfortunate lover, as jealous as he was enamoured, being detained by
his duties at Baron's Court, could only write long letters of
complaint, reproach, and appeal to his hard-hearted lady. Sydney was
thoroughly enjoying herself, and was determined to make the most of
her last days of liberty. She admitted afterwards that she had behaved
very badly at this time, and deserved to have lost the best husband
woman ever had.

'I picture to myself,' writes poor Dr. Morgan, 'the thoughtless and
heartless Glorvina trifling with her friend, jesting at his
sufferings, and flirting with every man she meets.' He sends her some
commissions, but declares that there is only one about which he is
really anxious, 'and that is to love me _exclusively_; to prefer
me to every other good; to think of me, speak of me, write to me, and
look forward to our union as to the completion of every wish, as I do
by you. Do this, and though you grow as ugly as Sycorax, you will
never lose in me the fondest, most doating, affectionate of husbands.
Glorvina, I was born for tenderness; my business in life is _to
love_.... I read part of _The Way to Keep Him_ this morning,
and I see now you take the widow for your model; but it won't do, for
though I love you in _every_ mood, it is only when you are true
to nature, passionate and tender, that I adore you. You are never less
interesting to me than when you _brillez_ in a large party.'

The fortnight's leave of absence had been granted in September, and by
the end of November Dr. Morgan is thoroughly displeased with his
truant _fiancée_, and asks why she could not have told him when
she went away, that she intended to stay till Christmas. 'I know, he
writes, 'this is but a specimen of the roundabout policy of all your
countrywomen. How strange it is that you, who are in general
_great_ beyond every woman I know, philosophical and magnanimous,
should _in detail_ be so often ill-judging, wrong, and (shall I
say) little?' In December Sydney writes to say that she will return
directly after Christmas, and declares that the terrible struggle of
feeling, which she had tried to forget in every species of mental
dissipation, is now over; friends, relatives, country, all are
resigned, and she is his for ever! A little later she shows signs of
wavering again; she cannot make up her mind to part from her invalid
father just yet; but this time Dr. Morgan puts his foot down, and
issues his ultimatum in a stern and manly letter. He will be trifled
with no longer. Sydney must either keep her promise and return at
Christmas, or they had better part, never to meet again. 'The love I
require,' he writes, 'is no ordinary affection. The woman who marries
me must be _identified_ with me. I must have a large bank of
tenderness to draw upon. I must have frequent profession and frequent
demonstration of it. Woman's love is all in all to me; it stands in
place of honours and riches, and what is yet more, in place of
tranquillity of mind.'

This letter, backed by one from Lady Abercorn, brought Sydney to her
senses. In the first days of the new year (1812) she arrived at
Baron's Court, a little shamefaced, and more than a little doubtful of
her reception. The marquis was stiff, and the marchioness stately, but
Sir Charles, who had just been knighted by the Lord Lieutenant, was
too pleased to get his lady-love back, to harbour any resentment
against her. A few days after her return, as she was sitting over the
fire in a morning wrapper, Lady Abercorn came in and said:

'Glorvina, come upstairs directly and be married; there must be no
more trifling.'

The bride was led into her ladyship's dressing-room, where the
bridegroom was awaiting her in company with the chaplain, and the
ceremony took place. The marriage was kept a secret from the other
guests at the time, but a few nights later Lord Abercorn filled his
glass after dinner, and drank to the health of 'Sir Charles and Lady


The marriage, unpromising as it appeared at the outset, proved an
exceptionally happy one. Sir Charles was a straightforward, worthy, if
somewhat dull gentleman, with no ambition, a nervous distaste for
society, and a natural indolence of temperament. To his wife he gave
the unstinted sympathy and admiration that her restless vanity craved,
while she invariably maintained that he was the wisest, brightest, and
handsomest of his sex. She seems to have given him no occasion for
jealousy after marriage, though to the last she preserved her passion
for society, and her ambition for social recognition and success. The
first year of married life, which she described as a period of storm,
interspersed with brilliant sunshine, was spent with the Abercorns at
Baron's Court.

'Though living in a palace,' wrote Sydney to Mrs. Lefanu, early in
1812, 'we have all the comfort and independence of a home.... As to
me, I am _every inch a wife_, and so ends that brilliant thing
that was Glorvina. _N.B._--I intend to write a book to explode
the vulgar idea of matrimony being the tomb of love. Matrimony is the
real thing, and all before but leather and prunella.' In a letter to
Lady Stanley she paints Sir Charles in the romantic colours
appropriate to a novelist's husband. 'In _love_ he is Sheridan's
Falkland, and in his view of things there is a _mélange_ of
cynicism and sentiment that will never suffer him to be as happy as
the inferior million that move about him. Marriage has taken nothing
from the _romance_ of his passion for me; and by bringing a sense
of _property_ with it, has rendered him more exigent and nervous
about me than before.'

The luxury of Baron's Court was probably more than counterbalanced by
the inevitable drawbacks of married life in a patron's household,
where the husband, at least, was at that patron's beck and call.
Before the end of the year, the Morgans were contemplating a modest
establishment of their own, and Sydney had set to work upon a novel,
the price of which was to furnish the new house. Mr. Owenson had died
shortly after his daughter's marriage, and Lady Morgan persuaded her
husband to settle in Dublin, in order that she might be near her
sister and her many friends. A house was presently taken in Kildare
Street, and Sir Charles, who had obtained the post of physician to the
Marshalsea, set himself to establish a practice. Lady Morgan prided
herself upon her housewifely talents, and in a letter dated May, 1813,
she describes how she has made their old house clean and comfortable,
all that their means would permit, 'except for one little bit of a
room, four inches by three, which is fitted up in the _Gothic_,
and I have collected into it the best part of a very good cabinet of
natural history of Sir Charles's, eight or nine hundred volumes of
choice books in French, English, Italian, and German, some little
curiosities, and a few scraps of old china, so that, with muslin
draperies, etc., I have made no contemptible set-out.... With respect
to authorship, I fear it is over; I have been making chair-covers
instead of systems, and cheapening pots and pans instead of selling
sentiment and philosophy.'

In the midst of all her domestic labours, however, Lady Morgan
contrived to finish a novel, _O'Donnel_, which Colburn published
in 1814, and for which she received £550. The book was ill-reviewed,
but it was an even greater popular success than _The Wild Irish
Girl_. The heroine, like most of Lady Morgan's heroines, is
evidently meant for an idealised portrait of herself, and the great
ladies by whom she is surrounded are sketched from Lady Abercorn and
certain of the guests at Baron's Court. The Liberal, or as they would
now be called, Radical principles inculcated in the book gave bitter
offence to the author's old-fashioned friends, and increased the
rancour of her Tory reviewers. But _O'Donnel_ found numerous
admirers, among them no less a person than Sir Walter Scott, who notes
in his diary for March 14, 1826: 'I have amused myself occasionally
very pleasantly during the last few days by reading over Lady Morgan's
novel of _O'Donnel_, which has some striking and beautiful
passages of situation and description, and in the comic part is very
rich and entertaining. I do not remember being so pleased with it at
first. There is a want of story, always fatal to a book on the first
reading--and it is well if it gets the chance of a second.'

The following year, 1815, France being once again open to English
travellers, the Morgans paid a visit to Paris, Lady Morgan having
undertaken to write a book about what was then a strange people and a
strange country. The pair went a good deal into society, and made many
friends, among them Lafayette, Cuvier, the Comte de Ségur, Madame de
Genlis, and Madame Jerome Bonaparte. Sydney, whose Celtic manners were
probably more congenial to the French than Anglo-Saxon reserve, seems
to have received a great deal of attention, and her not over-strong
head was slightly turned in consequence.

'The French admire you more than any Englishwoman who has appeared
here since the Battle of Waterloo,' wrote Madame Jerome Bonaparte to
Lady Morgan, after the latter had returned to Ireland. 'France is the
country you should reside in, because you are so much admired, and
here no Englishwoman has received the same attentions since you. I am
dying to see your last publication. Public expectation is as high as
possible. How happy you must be at filling the world with your name as
you do! Madame de Staël and Madame de Genlis are forgotten; and if the
love of fame be of any weight with you, your excursion to Paris was
attended with brilliant success.'

Madame de Genlis, in her _Memoirs_, gives a more soberly-worded
account of the impression produced by Lady Morgan on Parisian society.
The author of _France_ is described as 'not beautiful, but with
something lively and agreeable in her whole person. She is very
clever, and seems to have a good heart; it is a pity that for the sake
of popularity she should have the mania of meddling in politics....
Her vivacity and rather springing carriage seemed very strange in
Parisian circles. She soon learned that good taste of itself condemned
that kind of demeanour; in fact, gesticulation and noisy manners have
never been popular in France.' The spoilt little lady was by no means
satisfied with this portrait, and Sir Charles, who was away from home
at the time the _Memoirs_ appeared, writes to console her. 'You
must not mind that lying old witch Madame de Genlis' attack upon you,'
says the admiring husband. 'I thought she would not let you off
easily; you were not only a better and younger (and _I_ may say
_prettier_) author than herself, but also a more popular one.'

Over the price to be paid for _France_, to which Sir Charles
contributed some rather heavy chapters on medical science, political
economy, and jurisprudence, there was the usual battle between the
keen little woman and her publisher. Colburn, having done well with
_O'Donnel_, felt justified in offering £750 for the new work, but
Lady Morgan demanded £1000, and got it. The sum must have been a
substantial compensation for the wounds that her vanity received at
the hands of the reviewers. _France_, which made its appearance
in 1817, in two volumes quarto, was eagerly read and loudly abused.
Croker, in the _Quarterly Review_, attacked the book, or rather
the author, in an article which has become almost historic for its
virulence. Poor Lady Morgan was accused of bad taste, bombast and
nonsense, blunders, ignorance of the French language and manners,
general ignorance, Jacobinism, falsehood, licentiousness, and impiety!
The first four or five charges might have been proved with little
difficulty, if it were worth while to break a butterfly on a wheel,
but it was necessary to distort the meaning and even the text of the
original in order to give any colour to the graver accusations.

Croker had discovered, much to his delight, that the translator of the
work (which was also published in Paris) had subjoined a note to some
of Lady Morgan's scraps of French, in which he confessed that though
the words were printed to look like French, he could not understand
them. The critic observes, _à propos_ of this fact, 'It is, we
believe, peculiar to Lady Morgan's works, that her English readers
require an English translation of her English, and her French readers
a French translation of her French.' This was a fair hit, as also was
the ridicule thrown upon such sentences as 'Cider is not held in any
estimation by the _véritables Amphitryons_ of rural _savoir
faire_.' Croker professes to be shocked at Lady Morgan's mention of
_Les Liaisons Dangereuses_, having hitherto cherished the hope
that 'no British female had ever seen this detestable book'; while his
outburst of virtuous indignation at her mention of the 'superior
effusions' of Parny, which some Frenchman had recommended to her, is
really superb. 'Parny,' he exclaims, 'is the most beastly, the most
detestably wicked and blasphemous of all the writers who have ever
disgraced literature. _Les Guerres des Dieux_ is the most
dreadful tissue of obscenity and depravity that the devil ever
inspired to the depraved heart of man, and we tremble with horror at
the guilt of having read unwittingly even so much of the work as
enables us to pronounce this character of it.'

Croker concludes with the hope that he has given such an idea of this
book as might prevent, in some degree, the circulation of trash which,
under the name of a '_Lady_ author,' might otherwise have found
its way into the hands of young persons of both sexes, for whose
perusal it was, on the score both of morals and politics, utterly
unfit. Such a notice naturally defeated its own object, and
_France_ went triumphantly through several editions. The review
attracted almost as much attention as the book, and many protests were
raised against it. 'What cruel work you make with Lady Morgan,' wrote
Byron to Murray. 'You should recollect that she is a woman; though, to
be sure, they are now and then very provoking, still as authoresses
they can do no great harm; and I think it a pity so much good
invective should have been laid out upon her, when there is such a
fine field of us Jacobin gentlemen for you to work upon.' The Regent
himself, according to Lady Charleville's report, had said of Croker:
'D----d blackguard to abuse a woman; couldn't he let her _France_
alone, if it be all lies, and read her novels, and thank her, by
Jasus, for being a good Irishwoman?'

Lady Morgan, as presently appeared, was not only quite able to defend
herself, but to give as good as she got. Peel, in a letter to Croker,
says: 'Lady Morgan vows vengeance against you as the supposed author
of the article in the _Quarterly_, in which her atheism, profanity,
indecency, and ignorance are exposed. You are to be the
hero of some novel of which she is about to be delivered. I hope she
has not heard of your predilection for angling, and that she will not
describe you as she describes one of her heroes, as "seated in his
_piscatory_ corner, intent on the destruction of the finny
tribe."' 'Lady Morgan,' it seems, replies Croker, 'is resolved to make
me read one of her novels. I hope I shall feel interested enough to
learn the language. I wrote the first part of the article in question,
but was called away to Ireland when it was in the press; and I am
sorry to say that some blunders crept in accidentally, and one or two
were premeditatedly added, which, however, I do not think Lady Morgan
knows enough of either English, French, or Latin to find out. If she
goes on, we shall have sport.'

Early in 1818 Colburn wrote to suggest that the Morgans should proceed
to Italy with a view to collaborating in a book on that country, and
offered them the handsome sum of £2000 for the copyright. By this time
Sir Charles had lost most of his practice, owing to his publication of
a scientific work, _The Outlines of the Physiology of Life_,
which was considered objectionably heterodox by the Dublin public.
There was no obstacle, therefore, to his leaving home for a lengthened
period, and joining his wife in her literary labours. In May, the pair
journeyed to London _en route_ for the South, Lady Morgan taking
with her the nearly finished manuscript of a new novel, _Florence
Macarthy_. With his first reading of this book Colburn was so
charmed, that he presented the author with a fine parure of amethysts
as a tribute of admiration.

According to the testimony of impartial witnesses, Lady Morgan made as
decided a social success in Italy as she had done a couple of years
earlier in France. Moore, who met the couple in Florence, notes in his
diary for October 1819: 'Went to see Sir Charles and Lady Morgan; her
success everywhere astonishing. Camac was last night at the Countess
of Albany's (the Pretender's wife and Alfieri's), and saw Lady Morgan
there in the seat of honour, quite the queen of the room.' In Rome the
same appreciation awaited her. 'The Duchess of Devonshire,' writes her
ladyship, 'is unceasing in her attentions. Cardinal Fesche
(Bonaparte's uncle) is quite my beau.... Madame Mère (Napoleon's
mother) sent to say she would be glad to see me; we were received
quite in an imperial style. I never saw so fine an old lady--still
quite handsome. The pictures of her sons hung round the room, all in
royal robes, and her daughters and grandchildren, and at the head of
them all, _old Mr. Bonaparte_. She is full of sense, feeling, and
spirit, and not the least what I expected--vulgar.'

_Florence Macarthy_ was published during its author's absence
abroad. The heroine, Lady Clancare, a novelist and politician, a
beauty and a wit, is obviously intended for Lady Morgan herself, while
Lady Abercorn figures again under the title of Lady Dunore. But the
most striking of all the character-portraits is Counsellor Con
Crawley, who was sketched from Lady Morgan's old enemy, John Wilson
Croker. According to Moore, Croker winced more under this caricature
than under any of the direct attacks which were made upon him. Con
Crawley, we are told, was of a bilious, saturnine constitution, even
his talent being but the result of disease. These physical
disadvantages, combined with an education 'whose object was
pretension, and whose principle was arrogance, made him at once a
thing fearful and pitiable, at war with its species and itself, ready
to crush in manhood as to sting in the cradle, and leading his
overweening ambition to pursue its object by ways dark and
hidden--safe from the penalty of crime, and exposed only to the
obloquy which he laughed to scorn. If ever there was a man formed
alike by nature and education to betray the land which gave him birth,
and to act openly as the pander of political corruption, or secretly
as the agent of defamation; who would stoop to seek his fortune by
effecting the fall of a frail woman, or would strive to advance it by
stabbing the character of an honest one; who could crush aspiring
merit behind the ambuscade of anonymous security, while he came
forward openly in defence of the vileness which rank sanctified and
influence protected--that man was Conway Crawley.'

The truth of the portraiture of the whole Crawley family--exaggerated
as it may seem in modern eyes--was at once recognised by Lady Morgan's
countrymen. Sir Jonah Barrington, an undisputed authority on Irish
manners and character, writes: 'The Crawleys are superlative, and
suffice to bring before my vision, in their full colouring, and almost
without a variation, persons and incidents whom and which I have many
a time encountered.' Again, Owen Maddyn, who was by no means
prejudiced in Lady Morgan's favour, admits that her attack on Croker
had much effect in its day, and was written on the model of the Irish
school of invective furnished by Flood and Grattan. As a novelist, he
held that she pointed the way to Lever, and adds: 'The rattling
vivacity of the Irish character, its ebullient spirit, and its
wrathful eloquence of sentiment and language, she well portrayed; one
can smell the potheen and turf smoke even in her pictures of a
boudoir.' In this sentence are summed up the leading characteristics,
not only of _Florence Macarthy_, but of all Lady Morgan's
national romances.

_Italy_ was published simultaneously in London and Paris in June,
1821, and produced an even greater sensation than the work on France,
though Croker declared that it fell dead from the press, and devoted
the greater part of his 'review' in the _Quarterly_ to an
analysis of Colburn's methods of advertisement. Criticism of a penal
kind, he explained, was not called for, because, 'in the first place,
we are convinced that this woman is wholly _incorrigible_;
secondly, we hope that her indelicacy, vanity, and malignity are
inimitable, and that, therefore, her example is very little dangerous;
and thirdly, though every page teems with errors of all kinds, from
the most disgusting to the most ludicrous, they are smothered in such
Boeotian dulness that they can do no harm.' In curious contrast to
this professional criticism is a passage in one of Byron's letters to
Moore. 'Lady Morgan,' writes the poet, 'in a _really excellent_
book, I assure you, on Italy, calls Venice an ocean Rome; I have the
very same expression in _Foscari_, and yet you know that the play
was written months ago, and sent to England; the _Italy_ I
received only on the 16th.... When you write to Lady Morgan, will you
thank her for her handsome speeches in her book about _my_ books?
Her work is fearless and excellent on the subject of Italy--pray tell
her so--and I know the country. I wish she had fallen in with
_me_; I could have told her a thing or two that would have
confirmed her positions.'

Almost simultaneously with the appearance of _Italy_, Colburn
printed in his _New Monthly Magazine_ a long, vehement, and
rather incoherent attack by Lady Morgan upon her critics. The editor,
Thomas Campbell, explained in an indignant letter to the _Times_,
that the article had been inserted by the proprietor without being
first submitted to the editorial eye, and that he was in no way
responsible for its contents. Colburn also wrote to the _Times_
to refute the _Quarterly_ reviewer's statements regarding the
sales of _Italy_, and publicly to declare his entire satisfaction
at the result of the undertaking, and his willingness to receive from
the author another work of equal interest on the same terms. In short,
never was a book worse reviewed or better advertised.

The next venture of the indefatigable Lady Morgan, who felt herself
capable of dealing with any subject, no matter how little she might
know of it, was a _Life of Salvator Rosa_. This, which was her
own favourite among all her books, is a rather imaginative work, which
hardly comes up to modern biographical standards. The author seems to
have been influenced in her choice of a subject rather by the
patriotic character of Salvator Rosa than by his artistic attainments.
Lady Morgan was once asked by a fellow-writer where she got her facts,
to which she replied, 'We all imagine our facts, you know--and then
happily forget them; it is to be hoped our readers do the same.'
Nevertheless, she seems to have taken a good deal of trouble to 'get
up' the material for her biography; it was in her treatment of it that
she sometimes allowed her ardent Celtic imagination to run away with
her. About this time Colburn proposed that Sir Charles and Lady Morgan
should contribute to his magazine, _The New Monthly_, and offered
them half as much again as his other writers, who were paid at the
rate of sixteen guineas a sheet. For this periodical Lady Morgan wrote
a long essay on _Absenteeism_ and other articles, some of which
were afterwards republished.

In the spring of 1824 the Morgans came to London for the season, and
went much into the literary society that was dear to both their
hearts. Lady Caroline Lamb took a violent fancy to Lady Morgan, to
whom she confided her Byronic love-troubles, while Lady Cork, who
still maintained a salon, did not neglect her old _protégée_. The
rough notes kept by Lady Morgan of her social adventures are not
usually of much interest or importance, as she had little faculty or
inclination for Boswellising, but the following entry is worth

'Lady Cork said to me this morning when I called Miss ---- a nice
person, "Don't say nice, child, 'tis a bad word." Once I said to Dr.
Johnson, "Sir, that is a very nice person." "A _nice_ person," he
replied; "what does that mean? Elegant is now the fashionable term,
but it will go out, and I see this stupid _nice_ is to succeed to
it. What does nice mean? Look in my Dictionary; you will see it means
correct, precise."'

At Lydia White's famous _soirées_ Lady Morgan met Sydney Smith,
Washington Irving, Hallam, Miss Jane Porter, Anacreon Moore, and many
other literary celebrities. Her own rooms were thronged with a band of
young Italian revolutionaries, whose country had grown too hot to hold
them, and who talked of erecting a statue to the liberty-loving
Irishwoman when Italy should be free. Dublin naturally seemed rather
dull after all the excitement and delights of a London season, but
Lady Morgan, though she loved to grumble at her native city, had not
yet thought of turning absentee herself. Her popularity with her
countrymen (those of her own way of thinking) had suffered no
diminution, and her national celebrity was proved by the following
verse from a ballad which was sung in the Dublin streets:--

'Och, Dublin's city, there's no doubtin',
Bates every city on the say;
'Tis there you'll hear O'Connell spoutin',
And Lady Morgan making tay;
For 'tis the capital of the finest nation,
Wid charmin' peasantry on a fruitful sod,
Fightin' like divils for conciliation,
An' hatin' each other for the love of God.'

Our heroine was hard at work at this time upon the last of her Irish
novels, _The O'Briens and the O'Flaherties_, which was published
early in 1827, and for the copyright of which Colburn paid her £1350.
It was the most popular of all her works, especially with her own
country-folk, and is distinguished by her favourite blend of politics,
melodrama, local colour, and rough satire on the ruling classes. The
reviews as usual accused her of blasphemy and indecency, and so severe
was the criticism in the _Literary Gazette_, then edited by
Jerdan, that Colburn was stirred up to found a new literary weekly of
his own, and, in conjunction with James Silk Buckingham, started the
_Athenaeum_. Jerdan had asserted in the course of his review that 'In
all our reading we never met with a description which tended so
thoroughly to lower the female character.... Mrs. Behn and Mrs.
Centlivre might be more unguarded; but the gauze veil cannot hide the
deformities, and Lady Morgan's taste has not been of efficient power
to filter into cleanliness the original pollution of her infected
fountain.' Lady Morgan observes in her diary that she has a right to
be judged by her peers, and threatens to summon a jury of matrons to
say if they can detect one line in her pages that would tend to make
any honest man her foe.

There were other disadvantages attendant upon celebrity than those
caused by inimical reviewers. No foreigner of distinction thought a
visit to Dublin complete without an introduction to our author, who
figures in several contemporary memoirs, not always in a flattering
light. That curious personage, Prince Pückler Muskau, was travelling
through England and Ireland in 1828, and has left a little vignette of
Lady Morgan in the published record of his journey. 'I was very
eager,' he explains, 'to make the acquaintance of a lady whom I rate
so highly as an authoress. I found her, however, very different from
what I had pictured to myself. She is a little, frivolous, lively
woman, apparently between thirty and forty, neither pretty nor ugly,
but by no means inclined to resign all claims to the former, and with
really fine expressive eyes. She has no idea of _mauvaise honte_
or embarrassment; her manners are not the most refined, and affect the
_aisance_ and levity of the fashionable world, which, however, do
not sit calmly or naturally upon her. She has the English weakness of
talking incessantly of fashionable acquaintances, and trying to pose
for very _recherché_, to a degree quite unworthy of a woman of
such distinguished talents; she is not at all aware how she thus
underrates herself.' The _Quarterly Review_ seized upon this
passage with malicious delight. The prince, as the reviewer points
out, had dropped one lump of sugar into his bowl of gall; he had
guessed Lady Morgan's age at between thirty and forty.' Miss Owenson,'
comments the writer, who was probably Croker, 'was an established
authoress six-and-twenty years ago; and if any lady, player's daughter
or not, knew what _she_ knew when she published her first work at
eight or nine years of age (which Miss Owenson must have been at that
time according to the prince's calculation), she was undoubtedly such
a juvenile prodigy as would be quite worthy to make a _case_ for
the _Gentleman's Magazine_.'

Another observer, who was present at some of the Castle festivities,
and who had long pictured Lady Morgan in imagination as a sylphlike
and romantic person, has left on record his amazement when the
celebrated lady stood before him. 'She certainly formed a strange
figure in the midst of that dazzling scene of beauty and splendour.
Every female present wore feathers and trains; but Lady Morgan scorned
both appendages. Hardly more than four feet high, with a spine not
quite straight, slightly uneven shoulders and eyes, Lady Morgan glided
about in a close-cropped wig, bound with a fillet of gold, her large
face all animation, and with a witty word for everybody. I afterwards
saw her at the theatre, where she was cheered enthusiastically. Her
dress was different from the former occasion, but not less original. A
red Celtic cloak, fastened by a rich gold fibula, or Irish Tara
brooch, imparted to her little ladyship a gorgeous and withal a
picturesque appearance, which antecedent associations considerably

In 1829 _The Book of the Boudoir_ was published, with a preface
in which Lady Morgan gives the following naïve account of its genesis:
'I was just setting off to Ireland--the horses literally
putting-to--when Mr. Colburn arrived with his flattering proposition
[for a new book]. Taking up a scrubby manuscript volume which the
servant was about to thrust into the pocket of the carriage, he asked
what was that. I said it was one of my volumes of odds and ends, and
read him my last entry. "This is the very thing," he said, and carried
it off with him.' The book was correctly described as a volume of odds
and ends, and was hardly worth preserving in a permanent shape, though
it contains one or two interesting autobiographical scraps, such as
the account of _My First Rout_, from which a quotation has
already been given. A writer in _Blackwood_ reviewed the work in
a vein of ironical admiration, professing to be much impressed by the
author's knowledge of metaphysics as exemplified in such a sentence
as: 'The idea of cause is a consequence of our consciousness of the
force we exert in subjecting externals to the changes dictated by our
volition.' Unable to keep up the laudatory strain, even in joke, the
reviewer (his style points to Christopher North) calls a literary
friend to his assistance, who takes the opposite view, and declares
that the book is 'a tawdry tissue of tedious trumpery; a tessellated

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