Lord Munster devoted himself entirely to ambition: what has been said of Cinna might be applied to him, he had a head to contrive, a tongue to persuade, and a hand to execute any mischief. Weak people are only wicked by halves; and whenever we hear of high and enormous crimes, we may conclude that they proceeded from a power of soul, and a reach of thought, that are altogether unusual.
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He stuck at nothing to accomplish his political plans; and his success rendered him still more enterprising: But being at last refused a favor from his Sovereign, he retired disgusted with the court, and in vain sought that happiness in a retreat, which his crimes made it impossible he should ever find. He was so chagrined that everything became intolerable to him; and he continually vented his spleen on those of his friends, whose circumstances rendered them subservient to his caprices. He possessed good health, a large estate, and had fine children, that equalled his most sanguine expectations. In the opinion of the world, therefore, he was a very happy man, but in his own, quite the contrary. No man can judge of the happiness or infelicity of his neighbour. We only know the external causes of good and evil, which causes are not always proportionable to their effects: those which seem to us small, often occasion a strong sensation; and those which appear to us great, often produce only a faint sensation. The great advantages Lord Munster possessed, as they excited in him only indifference, in reality were inconsiderable in themselves. But the small evil, his having been refused a ribbon by his Sovereign, exciting in him insupportable uneasiness, was in reality a great evil. Lady Munster had been dead many years: Lord Finlay and Lady Frances were the only surviving children. Engrossed as the earl had been in public affairs, he still paid particular attention to their education. Though a man of the world, he was at the utmost pains in selecting those of distinguished worth, to whom only he committed the care of his children. Lord Finlay had promising parts; but force of mind makes a man capable of great vices or great virtues, but determines him to neither.
Education, discipline, and accidents of life, constitute him either a profound philosopher, or a great knave. The probity and disinterestedness of Mr Burt's principles recommended him to Lord Munster, for a tutor to his son.—He had been brought up to the ministry, with an inclination to it, and entered into it with a fervent desire of being as useful as he could. His education being all his fortune, he subscribed, and took every step the church required, before he was sufficiently acquainted with the doctrines subscribed to;—their foundation in scripture, and the controversies which he afterwards found had been raised, and carried on about them in the christian world: and, after a diligent inquiry, was dissatisfied with some doctrines established in our articles, liturgy, &c. and declined accepting a considerable living in Lord Munster's gift, on which alone he depended for his future subsistence, and that of an amiable woman, whom he had espoused upon these expectations.
I heartily wish that all who are disposed for the ministry of the church, were as careful to satisfy themselves about the lawfulness of conformity, and that the church of England laid fewer obstructions in the way of those who are both disposed and qualified for advancing the interests of religion and virtue; but dare not engage publicly in her service, for fear of violating the peace of their minds, and wounding their consciences. In such a situation what must a clergyman do? must he preach and maintain doctrines he disapproves of? this would be acting both against his persuasion, and his solemn promise at his ordination. Shall he preach or write against them? this he must not do neither, lest he should be judged guilty of impugning his subscription, and consequently incur the censures of the church. Shall he then be quite silent, and neither preach nor write about them at all? but how will this be consistent, with his other solemn promise, made likewise at his ordination, to be ready with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines—all doctrines which he is persuaded, are contrary to God's word? He must therefore necessarily offend, either against the church, or against truth, and his own conscience. A sad alternative! when a man can neither speak, what he thinks to be truth, with safety, nor be silent without offence. These considerations induced Mr Burt to refuse a proffered establishment—by which conduct, he proved his belief in a future state, more firmly than a great many of them appear to do, by their immoderate desires of the good things in this: but his faith was founded, not on the fallacious arguments of too many of his brethren; but on that adorable conjunction of unbounded power and goodness, which must certainly someway recompense so many thousand innocent wretches, created to be so miserable here. He possessed that virtue in an eminent degree, which the christians call humility, and which the ancients were ignorant of.—But he had real merit, and could easily be modest, which is almost impossible to those, who have only the affectation of it. With this respectable man was Lord Finlay placed, at five years old, when a considerable settlement was made on him, in compensation for relinquishing other pursuits, with a promise of its beings continued for life. Lord Munster from time to time examined his son, and was highly satisfied with the progress he made; and not a little surprised, to find him no way deficient in those accomplishments, which, though of less consequence in themselves, a late noble author has illustrated as being absolutely necessary, in compleating the character of a fine gentleman. For these Lord Finlay was indebted to Captain Lewis, father-in-law to Mr Burt. This old gentleman was of an antient family, and had retired from the army, disgusted at his situation, having been many years in a very subaltern station.
The condition of many brave and experienced officers is to be lamented, who, after having passed through many various dangers in the service of their country, are subject to the command of boys and striplings. Whilst stations, which should be the reward of martial virtues, can be purchased, it is in vain to hope, that our officers can be animated like those of a neighbouring nation.
Honour alone can support the soldier in a day of battle; without this invigorating principle, humanity will tremble at the sight of slaughter, and every danger will be avoided, which necessity does not impose.
Captain Lewis retained that dignity of sentiment, which no misfortunes could surmount. Our hearts and understandings, are not subject to the vicissitudes of fortune. We may have a noble soul though our circumstances be circumscribed, and a superiority of mind without being of the highest rank. He had been much among the great world, in the early part of his life, having been aide-de-camp to Lord S——. Upon his daughter's marriage with Mr Burt, he resided entirely with him; and though she died of her first child, he continued with him, and became as fond of lord Finlay as his grand-daughter, who, after her mother's decease, became the object of his tenderest affection.
Thus were Lord Finlay and Miss Burt brought up together; and from the time of her birth never separated until she was nine years old. At that period she was sent to a convent at Paris, and returned, after six years absence, highly accomplished; uniting in herself everything that could charm a heart that was disengaged.
The consequences to Lord Finlay were inevitable, though never suspected. A student of about eighteen, full of the amours of Ovid, and the soft odes in Horace, has a heart very susceptible of love. These sensations were too agreeable to be repulsed; he delivered himself entirely over to his passion, which absorbed every other faculty of his soul. The most perfect affection soon subsisted between these young people: but the dignity of Miss Burt's manners inspired her lover with such respect as rendered him silent on the subject of his passion, as he could not enforce it without his father's sanction.
But there is an intelligence between tender souls, and the most animated expression may be conveyed without the aid of words; and this dumb language is so eloquent, that it is generally understood where the heart is in unison. Friendship, indeed, was only spoke of; but their every look, their every action, bespoke the most ardent love. 'What transports,' (said he, one day to her) 'can friendship bestow! what refined feelings, what delightful sensations, actuate the human soul in such happy moments as these!'
We contemplate each other in silence; but the soul is never more eloquent than under the influence of such a silence. She expresses, in a moment, a train of ideas and sensations, which would be but confounded by utterance.
Miss Burt had a merit the more engaging, from its avoiding notice and parade: a refined genius, enriched with great knowledge and happy expression, united with the most candid sincerity and goodness of heart; these qualities entitled her to the esteem and friendship of every noble mind: and the thick veil, under which her too great modesty concealed her pre-eminence, exalted her in the penetrating eyes of her lover. She scarce ever laid this veil aside, except to him, whose approbation rendered her indifferent with respect to the commendations of every one else. He became every day more attached to her: and was so ignorant of the world as to expect his father's approbation of his passion, and that he would be propitious to it.
Thus situated were the lovers, when Lord Munster disgusted with the court retired to the country. He immediately sent for Mr Burt and Lord Finlay: although the distance was only a few miles, it was very grievous for the latter to leave a place where he had access every minute of the day to behold the object of his wishes.
Upon this occasion he was determined to disclose to her the situation of his heart. He threw himself at her feet, in that pathetic disorder of spirits which constitutes the true eloquence of love, and endeavoured to speak, but hesitated at every word. In the mean time she saw and pitied his confusion.
'I can read,' said she, 'my lord,' with an air of frankness, 'the sentiments of your heart: I am not insensible of your passion; but why hath fortune placed us at so great a distance from each other? how delightful it would have been to me, if—But,' said she, (stopping short in her discourse) 'let us not flatter ourselves with chimeras.—Let us suppress the emotions of our hearts; it may be dangerous to indulge them.'
'How? dangerous!' replied Lord Finlay, 'why suppress them? do not those emotions constitute our happiness? It is the duty of love to repair the injustice of fortune. How enraptured should I be to make happy the object I love. Prejudice might object to it perhaps: but that shall never enslave my understanding, especially as it must be founded only in pride.'
With these sentiments they parted. It may be easily conceived how impatient Lord Finlay was to see the idol of his heart, but he could not with propriety propose quitting his father, for the first days after his arrival in the country. He at last fell upon the expedient of suggesting, whether, as he was under such obligations to Captain Lewis, it would not be proper to call, and invite him to Munster house. This Lord Munster agreeing to, he and his son called one morning; when Miss Burt entertaining them with a little music, the light-winged god took one of the sharpest arrows from the fair-one's quiver, applied it to his bow, and swift as the forked lightning of Jove, fixed it in the old man's heart. Lord Munster became desperately in love, and determined to make her his wife. It is not at all surprising that a young woman makes an impression on an old man. While we have life we have our passions; age represses, but does not extinguish them. As in maturer years, the fire lurks under the ashes of prudence; so, if that be wanting, love burns up and blazes fiercely; and is generally inextinguishable, if it takes hold of the dry and worm-eaten wood of old-age. Persons of languid passions (it has been observed) have few partialities; they neither love, nor hate, nor look, nor move, with the energy of a man of sense. People of real genius, and strong passions, have great partialities. The blamelessness of the former should be weighed with their insignificancy; and the faults of the latter balanced with their superiority.
Lord Munster made proposals to Mr Burt that very day, never doubting but that Hymen would soon rekindle his torch.—But the same principles determined him respecting his daughter, which had influenced him in his own affairs. He thanked Lord Munster for the honor he intended him, which he should acquaint her of—but that in an affair in which her happiness for life was so immediately concerned, he must forgive his interfering further. When he acquainted her with it; instead of enforcing the acceptance of the honor proposed to her, he was at great pains to precaution her, against many disagreeable consequences of such an unequal alliance, both in age and condition, lest she should be dazzled by wealth or titles, to sacrifice her inclinations!
Miss Burt, with unfeigned concern, was greatly chagrined to hear of Lord Munster's proposals: she, therefore, with great warmth, declared herself totally unfit, for such an exalted station. 'I can neither,' said she, 'adopt the virtues, or the vices of the great: the former are too conspicuous, the other too obscure. A round of peaceable employments, proper to satisfy the mind, and to soothe the heart, is the kind of happiness for which I find myself inclined.'
'With such principles and inclinations, I could not be happy in the great world, where the general way of life is solely calculated, to flatter the senses, and where a superior genius is contemned, or at least only permitted to exhibit itself in lively sallies, or smart repartees.'
Mr Burt informed the earl of his daughter's sentiments. But his lordship's self-love prevailed so far as to render it impossible to conceive that he could be refused. He, therefore, made preparations for his nuptials, and sent for his daughter home to be present on that occasion. Lord Munster had taken the same pains on Lady Frances's education, as her brother's. Mrs Norden, a distant relation, had the entire charge of her. She resided in London until Lady Frances was fourteen years old: at that time she accompanied her to Rome, where she had the best masters, and where Santerello improved her taste in music. After remaining three years at Rome, they went to Paris, from which they were just returned at the period above mentioned. Lord Munster was greatly charmed, both with the personal, and acquired perfections of his daughter: and professed himself much indebted to Mrs Norden, for the very great attention she had paid to her.
The day after Lady Frances's arrival, she went to Mr Burt's to pay her respects to her intended mother-in-law.
No servant happening to be in the way to announce her, she walked forwards into a room, the door of which she saw open, with an intention to ring the bell, when she found Miss Burt in her father's library, weeping bitterly: never before had she seen such an air of languid softness, mixed with so much beauty. What an affecting sight! She was going to retire, to save her from that confusion which a sensible heart is apt to feel at having its afflictions perceived by a stranger; but the lovely mourner, observing her, endeavoured to suppress her emotions: but her grief was too violent to be checked; and her tears burst forth the more, for having been an instant subdued. She could only say, 'That she could be no stranger to who did her the honour of waiting on her, from the likeness Lady Frances had to her brother.' The thoughts of Lord Finlay then renewed her affliction; and asking pardon for her rudeness, she again shed a torrent of tears. Lady Frances answered, 'That apologies were only due on her part, for breaking in upon her retirement, and witnessing emotions she might have wished to conceal.' After a few general things, she told her the pleasure it gave her of having so near a prospect of being entitled to take an interest in all her concerns; when she would be happy in her friendship. In this Lady Frances was perfectly sincere; for though she had been alarmed at the intended marriage taking place, and although she was of a very shy disposition, yet, at first sight, feeling the greatest partiality for Miss Burt, she echoed her sighs, and her eyes bore testimony of the feelings of her heart. With all the confidence of an ancient friendship, she conjured her to acquaint her with the cause of her sorrows; and took upon her to console, soothe, and comfort her. Miss Burt had only time to express the sense she entertained of her goodness, and to add, her miseries were too great to be alleviated; when her grand-father entering the room, the conversation turned upon general topics.
Upon Lady Frances's return home, her father gayly enquired, What she thought of his intended bride? She answered, Every thing that was charming; and that she had prepared for her an eternal habitation in the warmest part of her heart: 'There is every thing in her,' added she, 'that can engage the affections, or command the respect, of people of taste and judgment.'
Lord Finlay mean while was under the greatest oppression of spirits. A thousand conflicting passions tortured his (until then) undisturbed bosom. Love and filial piety alternatively took possession of his soul. Each in their turn was rejected.—When sentiments are nearly of equal force, the soul, as if unsettled, and wavering between contrary emotions, knows not which to resolve on; its decrees destroy each other; scarce is it freed from its troubles when it is involved in them anew; this undetermined state does not always terminate to the advantage of the most powerful sentiment.
After a long conflict, the soul wearied out with the efforts it has made, gradually loses its sensibility and force together; and finally yields to the last impression, which thus remains master of the field. After many struggles, Lord Finlay was determined to sacrifice his inclinations, or in other words, (what he thought, his life, to his father.)
This pious resolution, no doubt, was strengthened by his supposing Miss Burt had acquiesced to the proposed marriage. His resentment supported his prudence. Such was the situation of Lord Finlay's mind, when Lady Frances received the following letter from Miss Burt.
You found me in tears, and kindly insinuated your desire to mitigate my distress; receive from me all the acknowledgments which can proceed from a full heart, raised from the lowest distress, to a glimmering prospect of avoiding misery, while that superior Power which witnesses your generosity, will reward it. Thus, when unhappy, we grasp at the least shadow of relief! we seize upon it with eagerness, and in a moment raise ourselves above our afflictions. When an unhappy drowning wretch is carried away by the current, while intimidated by the steepness of the banks, and the rapidity of the torrent, he looks upon death as inevitable; his sinews relax, his heart fails him, he looks forward to an awful dreaded futurity: but if the least twig presents its friendly assistance, his courage at last revives, he raises his head, he seizes upon it with a hasty avidity, and makes a sudden and violent effort to save himself from destruction. Such is my application to your ladyship. Heaven grant you may avert from me those evils I so much dread! even the horror of involving my respectable parents in want and misery. My father's probity has entailed on him poverty; and my grandfather's half-pay is our sole dependance, exclusive of the salary Lord Munster settled on my respectable parent when he undertook to superintend the education of his son; and which he promised to continue for life, in compensation for his giving up all other pursuits. I flatter myself, the frowardness of his unhappy daughter will not frustrate his lordship's beneficence, and which he judged his labours entitled him to. May I intreat your ladyship will soften, through the medium of your influence, the refusal of the honor intended me!
An attempt to deceive would wring my soul to torture: Can I then take upon me vows at the altar, incompatible with the feelings of my heart, and the possibility of conforming myself to? forbid it, gratitude, truth, and justice! let me sooner become a martyr to these, as my unfortunate father. In every event of my life, integrity and honor shall influence me. If my refusal is not founded upon the most advantageous, yet it is upon the most worthy terms: if that of embracing tranquility before profit, and preferring probity of mind, even attended with the greatest inconveniences, before its opposite, although surrounded with every outward accommodation, be deserving of that epithet. I ask pardon for this intrusion, and have the honor to be
Obliged humble servant,
Mary Ann Burt.'
The little tenderness Lord Munster had ever shewn Lady Frances, the impressions she entertained of the sourness of his disposition, and the severity of his temper; all conspired to fill her with the greatest awe and dread of his displeasure. It may then be easily judged how badly qualified she was for the office enjoined her in the letter. To add to her distress, her valuable friend Mrs Norden was absent, and she dared not conceal the receipt of it until her return, as it was a subject that admitted of no delay.
She accordingly summoned up sufficient courage to take the letter in her hand, and to present herself before her father; when her timidity and confusion were sufficient vouchers of her unwillingness to be an agent in such a disagreeable business. Her apprehensions were considerably increased, when the earl asked her, in a harsh tone, her business with him? Being unable to reply, and trembling from head to foot, she gave him the letter—which he eagerly pursued, while he was alternately agitated with indignation, pride, and confusion! He at length broke into a great rage, loading Lady Frances with invectives, for having innocently produced these emotions, adding, that he then discovered the cause of her partiality for Miss Burt: but that if she, or Lord Finlay, ever presumed, from that time forward, to hold any communication with the Burt family, he should consider them as aliens to his! Where friendship is reversed, and turned to enmity, the latteris generally as extreme, as the former was fervent. If we were more regular in our affections, we should be more moderate in our aversions, and, without consulting our interest, should hate nothing but what is really odious: but we are so unjust, that we judge only of things by their relation to us; we approve of them when agreeable to us, and, by a strange infatuation, do not esteem them as good or bad, but by the satisfaction of disgust they give us: we would have them alter their quality according to our caprices, and cameleon like, assume our colours, and accommodate themselves to our desires. We fain would be the center of the world, and have all creatures join with us in inclination. Lord Munster was not only disappointed in his affections, but piqued in pride, that, after he had by his intrigues led some of the first princes in Europe, and made them subservient to his views, a little obscure girl should render him the laughing-stock of the country. Lady Frances retired, not daring to return him any answer.
Lord Finlay met her, and, alarmed at her appearance, followed her into her apartment, intreating to know the subject of the letters she had received from Miss Burt! She informed him of it, and the disagreeable task she had just executed; when his looks very soon (to one of her penetration) betrayed the situation of his heart. He owned to Lady Frances that his life depended on Miss Burt, their mutual affection, and the violence he had done his inclinations, by the obligations he had imposed on himself to subdue his passion whilst it interfered with his father: but remarked with joy, that he was now relieved from such a painful effort. 'The Almighty,' said he, 'my dear sister,' (for he was in a state of mind which both inclined him to be wise and kind) 'implanted both reason and the passions in human nature, mutually to conduce to men's happiness. But, in order to become a happy creature, man is not blindly to follow the impulses of his passion to the exclusion of reason: nor is he to contradict his natural desires but when they invert the order of nature, and oppose the common good of society, the dictates of right reason, and the manifest design of Providence.—I have done what man could do,' added he; 'I did not interfere when my father was concerned; but I will not relinquish the object of my affections to any other man breathing.' This was Lord Finlay's philosophy, which he strictly adhered to—Tremblingly alive to his interest, Lady Frances told him the risque he would run of his father's displeasure; but the impetuosity of his passion rendered him deaf to her remonstrances; and, regardless of everything but its gratification, he sat down and wrote the following letter to Miss Burt.
The strict injunctions of my father, that all communication should cease between our families, renders it necessary for me to write, instead of waiting on you in person. Alas, how poor a substitute is the former for the latter! To express my sorrow, or paint my grief, is impossible! Were you to know my distress, you would be sensible of my sufferings, and compassionate my wretchedness! To be debarred from the presence of your respectable parents, to whom I have a thousand obligations, and for whom I feel the greatest respect and tenderest regard, is a very great hardship: but to be prevented from beholding you, is downright tyranny, and forces me to rebel! Could I see Mr Burt, I would intreat him to pardon, what I am mortified to call the injustice of my father, and assure him that nothing shall be wanting, on my part, to soften, and bring him to reason. But I know too well the inflexibility of his virtue, he will not see me contrary to the inhibitions I have received.
Permit me on my knees to intreat from you that favor I dare not request from him! We may meet at—any day before seven in the morning. My life depends on your answer! Let us at least enjoy the soothing pleasure, the melancholy consolation of mingling griefs, and bearing a part in each other's sorrows; satisfaction that even renders despair itself more tolerable! Be persuaded there is nothing, not even my father, that can divert my eye, my heart, or hand, from an opportunity of expressing how much I am, with the greatest respect,
After dispatching the above letter, Lord Finlay spent his time, fluctuating every moment between hope and despair, agitated with all the pains of a solicitous suspence; but Miss Burt was too much attached to him not to agree to his proposal, nor did her condescension at all infringe on her delicacy.—She could not suppose that the good qualities so distinguishable in her lover, and which had been so studiously cultivated by her father, could be only violated to the dishonor of his daughter. Lord Finlay's passion was too ardent to submit to prudence, and could not be long concealed: they met often, and remained long together; time is easily forgot in the society of those we love—In Cupid's dial, hours are but minutes.—Their interviews were discovered.
Captain Lewis being informed of it, jealous of his honor, insisted on Lord Finlay's instantly espousing his grand-daughter; who, loaded with his reproaches, led away by his passion, and the fears of being interdicted from steering her more—forgot every thing but the justification of his honorable intentions.
The indignation with which Lord Munster was seized when informed of this marriage, is easier to be conceived than delineated. He swore he would never see his son more, or contribute to his support!
The passions are more easily excited in the young than in the old; in women, as being of a frame more delicate than in men; in the poor and distressed, than in the rich and fortunate, for prosperity hardens the heart; in the illiterate than in the learned, because more prone to admire; and for the same reason in those who have lived privately, than in men of large experience; but when once fixed, are not so easily eradicated as in the others.
The indiscreet solicitations of a gentleman in the neighbourhood, served only to exasperate him the more. A weak friend, if he will be kind, ought to go no further than wishes: if he either says or does more, it is dangerous. Good intentions are indispensable to constitute a good man; but other adjuncts are necessary to form the man who interferes in our behalf. An excellent cause has often suffered through an indifferent advocate; and I once heard of a lawyer retained by his client, to hold his peace for him.
In consequence of Lord Munster's implacability, Lord and Lady Finlay were involved in a variety of wretchedness, and most affecting distress; under all which they bore up with becoming fortitude, and never departed from that dignity of behaviour, which innate virtue, and conscious innocence inspire; strengthened by true principles of religion, and a rational trust in providence, tempered with genuine humility, and unfeigned resignation to whatever fate should be alloted them. In every action of their lives they had a view to each other: if they were serious, or cheerful, amused or grieved, still by their sympathy and love, every trifle made a pleasure, and every pleasure was heightened into rapture, by their mutual participation of it. Their hearts exulted with that joy which is built on the strong foundation of undissembled tenderness. Happy it is for mortals, that grief is only an exotic in the human breast—the soil does not naturally afford nutriment for its constant growth. A perfect similarity of sentiment soon produced that mutual happiness which arises from loving another better than one's self: they were no longer anxious for events they could not direct, nor tasted pain from the disappointment of their hopes.
The half-pay of Captain Lewis, was the only ostensible support of his unfortunate family, increased by the birth of several children: but their income had been enlarged, by Mr Burt's literary productions. His greatest enjoyment was in study—pleasures vary with each different age; for God and nature never made any faculty, either in soul or body, but he prepared a suitable object in order to its regular gratification.
The follies of men of a certain age, on this account, have the pre-eminence to all others, a ridiculous dignity, that gives them a right to be laughed at in the first place. The phenomenon of feeling amorous pursuits under grey hairs, may as much astonish us, as to see those mountains whose top is covered with snow, and whose bowels abound with flames. Mr Burt had a happy temper, formed on the principles of Christian philosophy. Such was his cheerfulness, that none of the accidents of life could discompose him; such his fortitude, that not even the severest trials could unman him. He had a collected spirit, and on no occasion wanted a resource. He could retire within himself, and hold the world at defiance.
His amiable daughter possessed also these qualities in an eminent degree. Captain Lewis dying, their circumstances were reduced; but Lady Finlay, by her ingenuity supplied the loss they sustained in his half-pay. She had a fine genius for painting, and in that art did wonders. By the sale only of a Crucifixion, and an Arcadia, she maintained her family for two years. She concealed her name, lest she should irritate Lord Munster more against her; but had too much good sense to be ashamed of employing those talents, bestowed on her by nature for so natural a purpose. And the hours that the indolent devote to rest, and the licentious to pleasure, she dedicate to providing bread for her family. Good blood cannot be kept up, without the shambles of the market, so it is no scandal to procure that by ingenuity or industry, when the appendages of gentility are so far reduced as not to afford it otherwise.
The picture called Arcadia, is in the possession of the Marquis of P——. In it there is exhibited a view of the most delightful region, with the grandest rural scenery in the world; and a romantic wildness runs through the whole, which gives uncommon beauties to the piece. Her happy fancy, and the prospects in the country (they had retired to Wales for cheapness) supplied her with vales more charming than those of Juan Fernandez, with lawns like those of Tinian, and finer water-falls than those of Quibo. She copied the greatest beauties in nature, and formed the finest imitations. The invention of the whole is extremely pleasing; and has been applauded by all who have seen it, as a master piece in the landscape way.
Lady Finlay's health decreasing she could no longer exert this talent; and the miserable situation to which her Lord was reduced, in consequence of his attachment to her, afforded her constant uneasiness. The griping hand of poverty, produced painful fears, and corroding cares, while the anxiety of mind eachsuffered for the other, increased their mutual calamity.
The death of two fine children at last entirely subdued Lady Finlay's remaining spirits—She died in child-bed, (the infant surviving her a few hours) leaving behind her only two children. It was then Lord Finlay's cup of affliction was filled. He had reason to fear, the deceased, dearest object of his tenderest affections, had perished for want of proper assistance. Assistance! their scanty circumstances denied! If previous to this, when he perceived in her any marks of sorrow, it was to him as if all nature had been eclipsed; what must have been his sensations then? they were too great for humanity to support! His reason forsook him; and the third day after her decease, he expired in the delirium of madness.
Nothing can give a better sense of the consideration man ought to have of his latter end, than the following lines of Sir Thomas More:
'You'd weep, if sure you'd but one month to stay;
Yet laugh, uncertain of a single day!'
Few are the happy marriages contracted contrary to the consent of parents.—Disobedience to them, like murder, seldom goes unpunished in this life. Mr Burt wrote Lady Frances Finlay a letter informing her of the melancholy catastrophe of this unfortunate couple, and beseeching her interest with Lord Munster, in behalf of their helpless progeny.
'Could tears, Madam,' said he, 'write as legibly as ink, my streaming eyes would be an inexhaustible fund, to assist me to send you the woes of a poor old man, and to pour forth the sorrows of my soul! But Cicero could not have described, Apelles could not have painted, nor Roscius have represented, the heartrending scenes I have lately witnessed.'
Lord Munster died the day before his daughter received the above letter. He had for some time before lost all sensation. The pleasures or pains of others were to him of so little importance, that he lived as if he had been the only creature himself in the universe. He could not bear to hear of the applause some of his opponents in politics had acquired, and grudged them a reputation he thought only suitable to his own distinguished abilities. Different from that conqueror, of whom it is said he silenced the whole earth, he fancied that the whole world must talk of his disgrace. He could not support it; and a pistol put an end to his wretched existence. A careful observer of events will frequently see, that flagrant vices are punished by some remarkable strokes of wretchedness, and bad dispositions made sensible of the evils they bring on others. Never did any Greek or Roman commit suicide, from too quick a sense of private misfortunes.—Vain glory in the vulgar may be supportable, nay, may be diverting; but in a great man it is intolerable: nothing is greater in a man, than to be above even greatness itself.
Lady Frances was left by her father the entire possession of the family estate.—She immediately wrote to Mr Burt, desiring he would leave a place which must necessarily revive in him such melancholy ideas, and bring her nephew and niece to Munster house; enclosing him a sum of money to discharge debts, and to defray the expenses of the journey. He instantly complied with her request, and resided with her, though she immediately not only settled on him the annuity he had formerly been promised, but also paid the arrears due on it.
Had Lord and Lady Finlay lived a few weeks longer, Lady Frances would have cheerfully assigned to them the estate bequeathed to her, and which their virtues so justly entitled them to.
It is a strong argument for a state of retribution hereafter, that in this world virtuous people are often very miserable, and vicious ones happy, which is wholly repugnant to the nature of a Being, who appears infinitely wise and good in all his works, unless we may suppose, that such a promiscuous and undistinguishing distribution of good and evil, which was necessary for carrying on the designs of Providence in this life, will be rectified and made amends for in another.
Lady Frances possessed the most attractive beauty, was surrounded with every grace, and blessed with every virtue, that could enslave the affections, and captivate the soul of the most stubborn philosophers. The sound of her voice had an engaging sweetness; and her expressions were well chose, without being affected.—In a word, it was her character and mind that gave charms to her person. Lord Darnley made his addresses to her, in which he had been countenanced by Lord Munster, and every preparation was making for their nuptials, before her father's death.
Lord Darnley was one of the most amiable of men. He gave a grace to every thing he said—a refined and delicate wit enlivened all his discourse, and the vivacity of his imagination discovered itself continually in fresh sallies. But what irresistibly fixed Lord Munster's partiality; was the art with which he disguised his own wit and knowledge to make him shine. He conformed entirely to that pleasing criterion of true humour which Mr Addison gave,—'That it looks grave itself, while it makes all others laugh.' He had a turn for placing things in a ridiculous point of view, which was highly diverting—but by this he never offended; he formed his ridicule on a circumstance, which the party attacked, was not in his heart unwilling to grant him; that he was guilty of an excess in something which in itself was laudable. He very well understood what he chose to be, what was his predominant passion, and knew he need not fear his anger, for declaring he was a little too much the thing.
Nice raillery is a decent mixture of praise and reproach; it touches slightly upon little failings, only to dwell the more upon great qualities. I believe what renders courtiers pleasing, is the attention they pay to the self-love of others. I shall only add, that the politeness of Lord Darnley's manners would not suffer him to omit any of those engaging attentions which are so capable of pleasing; and as he was deeply in love with Lady Frances, he inspired her with mutual sentiments. How then must it surprise the world to find, that upon her sudden acquisition of wealth, the marriage did not take place! The philosopher, experienced in the vicissitudes of human events, views such sudden dissolutions of the most intimate connections without surprise or amazement. In regard to the moral and political world, it is not always great and adequate causes that produce strange and surprising events; on the contrary, they often are the result of things seemingly small, and utterly disproportionate to their effects. The same constant fluctuation that attends the seasons, and all the appendages of the globe we inhabit, affects the heart of man, making it a prey, by turns, to different passions. The well-regulated mind alone, can boast of any degree of consistency, and thattoo often late in life, the product of long experience, and unnumbered cares. It was in vain Lord Darnley declared the disinterestedness of his passion, and intreated Lady Frances to settle the property of the family out of his power, previous to her marriage.
She remained unmoved; only assured him, that nothing but what she apprehended was her first duty, could alienate her from him, and that she never would dispose of herself to any other: but advised him to marry. She applied herself entirely to the care of her family, and to the improvement of that property invested in her person.
Living entirely in the country, she sought, in the beauty of nature, in science, and the love of order, that satisfaction, which in the world (where people are theslaves of apology, and the dupes of caprice) is eagerly pursued, but never found. It is principally on this account, that people in general are so often declaiming against human life. She considered society is manifestly maintained by a circulation of kindness: we are all of us, in some way or other, wanting assistance, and in like manner qualified to give it. None are in a state of independency on their fellow-creatures. The most slenderly endowed are not a mere burthen on the community; even they can contribute their share to the common good. We learn what are justly our mutual claims, from this mutual dependency; that on its account, as well as for other reasons, our life is not to pass in a round of pleasure of idleness, or according to the suggestions of mere fancy, or in sordid or selfish pursuits. Can there be any thing more evidently our duty than that we should return the kindness we receive; than that, if many are employed in promoting our interest, we should be as intent in advancing theirs? All men are by nature equal: their common passions and affections, their common infirmities, their common wants, give such constant remembrances of this equality, even to those who are most disposed to forget it, that they cannot, with all their endeavours, render themselves unmindful of it. They cannot become insensible, how unwilling soever they may be to consider, that their debt is as much their demands, as they owe to others as much as they reasonably can expect from them. It is not to be supposed that Providence would have made such distinctions among men, such unequal distributions, but that they might endear themselves to one another by mutual helps and obligations. Gratitude is the surest bond of love, friendship, and society.
The various conditions of human life seem so admirably adapted to the several dispositions of individuals, that if our happiness in this life were intended, the unequal distribution of the gifts of fortune affords the most plausible means to effect it. Through nature, indeed, love is centered at home, and not improperly, though the most amiable and God-like is the most diverged. But as the principle regards of human love, are, for the much greater part, over selfish and contracted, the divine goodness has so directed its operations, as to render them necessary, and very often unintentionally productive of common social good. I have often observed, that people favoured by fortune seldom feel for the pain of the mind, even though they themselves are the authors of it; their pity alone is excited by certain disgraces, certain exterior evils, such as sickness and poverty. This was by no means the case with Lady Frances, who interested herself in the distresses of the soul, with a goodness equally noble and judicious, and offered to the unhappy, all those labouring under any species of innocent distress, consolation and relief.
Her education taught her, that virtue and abilities can only procure us real happiness, and that nothing but doing good, in that sphere of life in which we are placed, can afford the true felicity to a noble soul. Upon her father's death she found herself possessed of an estate of twenty thousand pounds a year, and three hundred thousand pounds in mortgages. The house and pleasure grounds were in great disrepair, from the late Earl's constant residence in London and theenvirons. Lady Frances sent for Mr Brown, who found great capabilities in the situation: under his direction it is now one of the finest places in England. She acquainted him of her intention of building a number of houses for the reception of artificers, and the introduction of certain manufactures. He fixed upon a beautiful situation, at the side of a navigable river. Mr Adams approved very much of the plan Lady Frances submitted to his inspection—he perfected and improved it. It consisted of one hundred houses; and a tribuna in the center. Upon the solid foundation of the Doric, the Ionic, and Corinthian orders rise gradually with all their beauty, proportion, and ornaments.
The fabric seizes the most incurious eye. No modern building is comparable to it for the outward decorations; and for the disposition within, it has been formed from whatever ancient and modern times afford most adapted and suitable to the purpose of the structure, not excluding decorations, which are distributed with equal taste and economy. The sciences and arts are assembled together in this fine building, and connected (if I may be allowed the expression) by a large and well chosen library in all faculties: Here is whatever the lower people's interest, or the man of taste's curiosity can desire. The first object that presents itself to the eye, on entering into this noble hall, which is no less spacious than splendid, is the statue of the founder, inviting the lovers of literature to make use of the helps which she has provided for them. This statue is of white marble, as large as life, and entirely worthy of Mr More, the artist; who has improved the exact likeness with an air of grandeur and benevolence, dignity and affability.
And what is a very well chosen ornament for such a place, there is a representation of nine of the most eminent libraries—the Babylonian, Athenian, Alexandrian, Palatine, etc.—with short inscriptions giving an account of each. And to set in view, the origin and first advance of learning in several countries—there are painted on large pilasters ranged along the middle of the library, those persons who were reputed to have been the inventor of letters in several languages. Adam, Abraham, Moses, Mercurius, Ægyptius, Hercules, Cadmus, Cecrops, Pythagoras, and several others, with the letters which each of these are said to have invented written under their pictures.
This library is open at stated times, (like that of the Vatican, and the French king's) with every proper accommodation to all strangers. This was greatly wanted in this kingdom. London, after so many ages, remains without any considerable public library. The best is the Royal Society's: but even that is inconsiderable; neither is it open to the public; nor are the necessary conveniences afforded strangers for reading or transcribing. The British Museum is rich in manuscripts, the Harleian Collection, the Cottonian Library, the collection of Charles I. and many others, especially on our own history; but it is wretchedly poor in printed books: and it is not sufficiently accessible to the public; their revenue not being sufficient to enable them to pay a proper number of attendants.
An ingenious Persian lately in England, gave an account of many thousand Arabian manuscripts, totally unknown to the gentlemen of the university of Oxford. It is to be wished these were procured. The Orientals and Hebrews were the parents of knowledge, and the Greeks no more than their scholars: how gross were their notions of prudence and virtue, till Orpheus, and the travelled philosophers taught them better! The institutions of modern nations are not to be compared to those of the ancients, as almost all these had the advantage of being founded by philosophers. Athens and Sparta were the two first formed states of Greece. Solon and Lycurgus, who had seen the success of the plan conducted by Minos in Crete, and who partly copied after that wise prince, erected these two celebrated republics. The sagacious system of Egypt served as a model to all the east.
The astronomical observatory is furnished with the best instruments; anatomy has an amphitheatre, and a spacious room filled with a compleat set of anatomical pieces in wax.
Painting and sculpture, besides a most convenient apartment for the study and practice of these arts, have two large rooms full of models of the most valuable remains of antiquity, taken from the originals.
The pupils of architecture have a hall, crowded with designs and models of the finest pieces, ancient and modern—and there are contiguous apartments where all the liberal sciences are read and taught, as logic, physic, ethics, metaphysics, astronomy, geography, geometry, etc.
These assemblage of studies in every branch is further enriched with curious museums of antiques, and natural history. All these advantages are heightened by the lectures of able professors in every art and every science.
This academy receives two hundred scholars, affords them a liberal support, and leads them through a perfect course of education; from the first elements of letters, through the whole circle of the sciences; from the lowest class of grammatical learning, to the highest degrees in the several faculties. It properly and naturally consists of two parts, rightly forming two establishments, the one subordinate to the other. The design of the one was to lay the foundation of science; that of other, to raise and compleat the superstructure: the former was to supply the latter with proper subjects; and the latter was to improve the advantages received in the former.
The young gentlemen in the neighbourhood are permitted to receive instructions from the several professors—and a day is set apart, when they examine young people, in order to discover wherein their genius conflicts, and to what kind of studies or employments they naturally are suited. Every man finds in himself a particular bent and disposition to some particular character; and his struggling against it is the fruitless and endless labour of Sisyphus. Let him follow and cultivate that vocation, he will succeed in it, and be considerable in one way at least; whereas, if he departs from it, he will at best be inconsiderable, probablyridiculous. Cicero said, that masters should consider the nature of their scholars, least they should act like unskilful husbandmen, who would sow wheat in a soil, that was only proper for oats. Might it not prove an useful institution if public societies were erected on this plan? By this means most subjects might become beneficial to the public; and not only the arts be brought to perfection, but all the posts of government be well supplied: whereas, we now daily hear complaints of the want of proper persons to direct affairs, whilst the youth are condemned to studies, and matriculated into certain arts or employments before they arrive at years of discretion.
Some parents on the birth of a son determine what profession he is to be of. The father sometimes designs his son for a judge, because his grand-father was one, which may be as absurd as to design a weakly child for a running footman, or a purblind boy for a painter. Sometimes a young man is to be a colonel because he is tall, or an alderman because he has a large belly.
When any remarkable genius displayed itself in any of the young men, their talents have cultivated for that art of science. The master for oratory was recommended by Mr Sheridan, who says that the art of oratory may be taught upon as certain principles, and with as good a prospect of success, as it ever was by the rhetoricians of Greece or Rome, or as the arts of music, painting, etc. are taught by their several professors. He formed himself on Quintilian's institutes of eloquence, who particularly recommends chironomy, or gracefulness of action, which took rise in the age of heroism, was practised by the greatest men in Greece, was approved of by Socrates, ranked by Plato amongst the civil virtues, and recommended by Chrysippus in his treatise upon the education of youth. Quintilian had the acquisition of an hundred years after Cicero's death, to improve his knowledge—he had greater opportunities than Cicero ever had to study 'that intellectual relation, that secret charm, in the liberal professions, which, connecting one to the other, combines them all.'
One angle of the tribuna is entirely dedicated to the education of women. Twenty young ladies are admitted, and there are funds for their perpetual maintenance, as that of the two hundred scholars. In the selection of these young gentlewomen, she always gives the preference to those who labour under any imperfection of body—endeavouring, by increasing their resources within themselves, to compensate for their outward defects. When it is found that any of these ladies have a taste for any manual or mental art, they cultivate it, and assist them in the pleasantest means, and by various little attentions confirm these inclinations with all the spirit of pursuit requisite to preserve minds (in general) from that state of languidness and inactivity, whereby life is rendered irksome to those who have never found it unfortunate. In this establishment she entirely runs counter to that of Madame de Maintenon's at Saint Cyr; where the young women, who should have been instructed in rural labours, and economy in the duties of a family, in the employments of Solomon's virtuous women, by their education, were only fit to be addressed by men who were rich enough to require in a wife nothing but virtue. This is also the foible of too many parents, who all expect their daughters are to fill exalted stations in life, and by educating them with that view, disqualify them for their after lot.
As divines say that some people take more pains to be damned than it would cost them to be saved, so many people employ more thought, memory, and application, to be fools, than would serve to make them wise and useful members of society. The ancients esteemed it an honor to understand the making of every thing necessary for life one's self, without any dependence on others; and it is that which Homer most commonly calls wisdom and knowledge. He describes old Eumæus making his own shoes, and says, he had built some fine stalls for the cattle he bred. Ulysses himself built his own house, and set up his bed with great art, the structure of which served to make him known to Penelope again. When he left Calypso, it was he alone that built and rigged the ship.—From all which we see the spirit of these ancient times.
These young ladies are not instructed to declaim with grace, or sing with taste; but if they are less amusing, they are infinitely more useful and interesting companions to those they afterwards associate with, whether in the character of wives or friends. Several of them have married very well in the neighbourhood. There is no sentiment more cold, or of shorter continuance, than admiration. We grow weary of a set of features, though ever so beautiful. Between folly, and a homely person, there is this difference; the latter is constantly the same, at least with imperceptible alteration, whilst folly is ever putting on some new appearance, and giving, by that means, fresh pain and disgust. However true this may be, I believe it would require some rhetoric to convince a young man not to prefer the folly that accompanies beauty, to wisdom and deformity. Though Sir Francis Bacon assures us in his natural philosophy, that our taste is never better pleased than with those things which at first created a disgust in us. He gives particular instances of porter, olives, and other things, which the palate seldom approves of at first; but when it has once got a relish of them, generally retains it for life.
The streets, which were built on each side of the Tribuna, were uniform, and the houses ornamented with emblematical figures of the different trades intended for the possessors. She permitted them to live rent-free for the two first years, and admitted none but such who excelled in their art. This was certainly very political—By encouraging them in this manner, it enabled them at first to work, and sell their manufactures at a moderate rate; which insured them the business of the neighbouring counties that would otherwise have sent at a greater distance, for what could be equally produced at home.
The size of the houses decreases gradually from the centre of every street. As Lady Frances spared no expense in the execution, Mr Adams directed it with the greatest taste and propriety. The smallest houses are, indeed, exteriorly, the handsomest, on account of their twisted columns; yet, as they convey an idea of weakness, they always displease when they are made use of as supports to heavy buildings. The different orders succeed each other, from the Corinthian to the Tuscan, according to the size of the houses. Mr Hogarth observes on this head, that the bulks and proportions of objects are governed by fitness and propriety; that it is this which has established the size and proportion of chairs, tables, and all sorts of utensils and furniture; has fixed the dimensions of pillars, arches, etc. for the support of great weights; and so regulated all the orders in architecture.
In the course of ten years Lady Frances brought all the above plans to perfection; which she the more easily effected from Mr Burt's having maintained a correspondence with the literati in most parts of the world. And as the encouragement given was great, it is not surprising that her academy became a seat of the muses, and a place to which many resorted for the solution of literary doubts.
If their ears were enchanted by harmony, their eyes were equally ravished by the beauties of painting and sculpture. In this charming mansion is blended the improvement of the arts, with that of philosophy: an exquisite assemblage of all the sweets of life. Architecture, statuary, painting, and music, find in her a patroness. Refinement of taste in a nation, is always accompanied with refinement of manners. People accustomed to behold order and elegance in public buildings, and public gardens, acquire urbanity in private. The Italians, on the revival of the liberal arts and sciences, gave them the name of virtù; from this was derived the term of virtuoso, which has been accepted throughout Europe. Should not this appellation intimate, to those who assume it to themselves, that the study of what is beautiful, in nature or art, ought to render them more virtuous than other men. Exclusive of the above buildings, there are others finely adapted to their different purposes, at the same time calculated to ornament the grounds. There are manufactories of different kinds; and silks wrought by hydraulic machines, which renders the workmanship more easy and expeditious. Lady Frances procured artificers from Tuscany for a porcelain manufacture, which has continued with them from the ancient Etruscans. She has also established a manufacture of earthen ware, procuring models of Etruscan vases in Terra Cotta, made after those in the Vatican library. These are used even in the most common vessels. She also took some pains in regulating the dress of the young women. A country girl returning from the spring with a pitcher of water on her head, perfectly resembles those figures which the most exquisite antiques represent in the same attitude. The great share variety has in producing beauty, may be seen in the ornamental part of nature; the shapes and colours of plants, flowers, leaves; the painting in butterflies wings, shells, etc. which seem of little other intended use, than that of entertaining the eye with the pleasure of variety: in this all the senses delight and are equally averse to sameness—The ear is as much offended with one continued note, as the eye is with being fixed to a point, or to the view of a dead wall.
Every building is rendered ornamental to the grounds. There is a botanical garden, which is filled with plants and flowers, which have been presented to Linnæus, from whom she received them, from every part of the globe. One of his pupils resided here, in an elegant habitation, in which there is a rotunda where lectures on botany are given: this fine room is surrounded with exotic plants. Mr Burt entirely concurred with Linnæus, in wishing, that gentlemen designed for theological studies were directed to apply as much time to the study of physics as they spent in metaphysics and logic, which he judges neither so indispensably necessary, nor useful as the former.
Lady Frances also erected an hospital for the reception of two hundred incurables; a thing much wanted in this kingdom, without paying any regard to their country, religion, or disease, requiring no security in case of death. The practice of most of the public hospitals in this country is widely different, the restrictions of admission being such as frequently deprive many from receiving the benefit first intended by the founder. But she had a fund of charity of another stamp, which gave her infinitely more pleasure, as it was free from the ostentation of those acts of public bounty. These were private donations to those whose circumstances were not yet so bad as to oblige them to beg publicly. If an industrious tradesman had a numerous family, little business, or a small stock, she found means to supply his wants, or put him in a way of carrying on his business to greater advantage, in such a manner, as that sometimes he himself did not know the source of his relief; at most, none but the party succoured, and Mr Burt, knew any thing of the matter, for this worthy man was her secret almoner, and searched out for the secret necessities of modest and industrious poor. She had the happiness arising from the consciousness of having maintained numerous families in decent plenty, who, without her well-timed and secret bounty, must have been a charge to the parish. But she was a great enemy to poor-rates, judging with Davenant, that they will be the bane of our manufactures.
Lady Frances was far from being alarmed at the great expenses of her undertakings. She thought her large fortune, and her nephew's long minority, as it put it in her power, could not be better employed than in works of national magnificence. The power and wealth of ancient Greece were most seen and admired in the splendor of the temples, and other sublime structures of Pericles. He boasted, that every art would be exerted, every hand employed, every citizen in the pay of the state, and the city, not only beautified, but maintained by itself. The sums Lady Frances expended in bringing these plans to perfection, diffused riches and plenty among the people, and has already doubled the estate. She has a fine collection of pictures.—The only way to raise a genius for painting, is to give encouragement: historical painters get so little by their profession, that we have very few. This Lady Frances made her particular object, to afford our youth ready access to good pictures: till these be multiplied in Great Britain, we shall never have the reputation of producing a good painter. If we expect to rival the Italian, the Flemish, or even the French school, our artists must have before their eyes the finished works of the greatest masters. It is a pity, that when an ingenious gentleman last winter submitted to the parliament, as worthy of their attention, some considerations that might tend to the encouragement of useful knowledge, and the advancement in this kingdom of the arts and sciences, he did not with his usual intelligence, represent the bad consequences of the duty laid on pictures imported into Great Britain: Were the bad effects of this represented to our legislature, it is impossible but it must be amended. This gentleman took notice in his speech, that a remarkable opportunity of improving the national taste in painting, which was lately lost, he hoped would now be recovered. The incomparable Sir Joshua Reynolds, and some other great painters, who do honor to our country, generously offered to adorn the cathedral of St Paul's (a glorious monument of the magnificence of our ancestors) with some of their most valuable works: but the proposition was rejected by the late Bishop of London, though he flatters himself it will be renewed, and accepted by the gentleman at present in that fee, who is not only a man of solid piety, but of the soundest learning, and of exquisite classical taste. The great art of human life is not to eradicate the passions, but to adopt the proper objects of them: if mankind cannot think so abstractedly as a pure effort of unmixed reason implies, I presume it follows, that some degree of passion is warrantable in devotion. While we are in our present imperfect and embodied state, it will be found necessary to call in externals to our aid, for the proper discharge of religious worship. Even among those who in their private devotions are most sincere, external acts and ceremonies, when properly conducted, become real assistances; because the connectionbetween the body and soul, between the senses and the imagination, between the passions and the reason of mankind, is so strong and mutual, that they uniformly act and re-act upon one another, and mutually raise the soul to new and higher degrees of fervor.
This was so much Lady Frances's opinion, that she had some fine pieces of painting in her chapel, which is also a very fine new building; the architecture and paintings do honor to the artists—She made it a rule to be constant in her attendance at church. Public acknowledgments of the goodness of God, and application for his blessings, contribute to give a whole community suitable apprehensions of him: and these, if it was her duty to entertain, it was equally her duty to propagate; both as the regard she paid the divine excellencies was expressed, and as the same advantage that she received from such apprehensions, was received by all whom they affected in the same manner.
She had not the smallest degree of superstition, having too much good sense to imagine the Deity can be persuaded to recede from the settled laws of the universe, and the immutability of his nature. But she knows the perfections of God are a ground and sufficient reason for prayer, and that it is both an act and a means of virtue. She had a mind free from prejudice, adorned with knowledge, and filled with the best principles; a noble firmness in showing these principles, and in maintaining them; in short, every talent joined to the most amiable modesty. She was advised to call her elegant village by the name of Athens; but this she declined, naming it Munster Village: but she justly thought it deserved it; with this difference, that the inhabitants are too well informed to give into such gross superstitions, and so easily suffer themselves to be imposed upon by astrologers, divines, soothsayers, and many other sorts of conjurers, as the Grecians did.
They excelled in arts; their laws were wise; they had brought everything to perfection that makes life easy and agreeable: but they took little pains in the speculative sciences, geometry, astronomy, and physics. The anatomy of plants and animals, the knowledge of minerals and meteors, the shape of the earth, the course of the stars, and the whole system of the world, were still mysteries to them.
The Chaldeans and Egyptians, who knew something of them, kept it a great secret and never spoke of them but in riddles; so that until Alexander's time, and the reign of the Macedonians, they had made no great progress in such learning as might cure them of superstition. An immoderate love of the study of astrology, was a weakness which characterized also the fifteenth century. In the age of Lewis XIV, the court was infatuated with the notion of judicial astrology: many of the princes, through a superstitious pride, supposed that nature, to distinguish them, had writ their destiny in the stars. Victor Amadeus, Duke of Savoy, father to the Duchess of Burgundy, had an astrologer always with him, even after his abdication. The same weakness which gave credit to the absurd chimera, judicial astrology, also occasioned the belief of sorcery and witchcraft; courts of justice composed of magistrates, who ought to have had more sense than the vulgar, were employed in trying persons accused of witchcraft.—Latest posterity must hear with astonishment that the Madame d'Ancre was burnt at the Gréve as a sorceress. This unfortunate woman, when questioned by counsellor Courtin concerning the kind of sorcery she had used to influence the will of Mary de Medecis, having answered, She had used that power only which great souls always have over weak minds; this sensible reply served only to precipitate the decree of her death.
It must be confessed there is a strong propensity in man's nature, to assign every thing uncommon to supernatural means. But though I am very apt to believe there is greater credulity in most minds, than will be candidly acknowledged, yet the degree of it must be in proportion to people's ignorance and want of information. Thus the famous doctors of the faculty at Paris, when John Faustus brought the first printed books that had then been seen in the world, or at least seen there, and sold them for manuscripts, were surprised at the performance, and questioned Faustus about it; but he affirming they were manuscripts, and that he kept a great many clerks employed to write them, they were satisfied. Looking further, however, into the work, and observing such an exact uniformity throughout the whole, that if there was a blot in one, it was the same in all, etc. etc. etc. their doubts were revived. The learned divines not being able to comprehend the thing, (and that was always sufficient) concluded it must be the devil; that it was done by magic and witchcraft; and that, in short, poor Faustus (who was indeed nothing but a mere printer) dealt with the devil.
They accordingly took him up for a magician and a conjurer, and one that worked by the Black Art, that is to say, by the help of the devil—and threatened to hang him; commencing a process against him in their criminal courts; when the fear of the gallows induced Faustus to discover the secret—that he had been a compositor to Koster of Harlem, the first inventor of printing.
Gardening made a much slower progress among the ancients, than architecture. The palace of Alcinous, in the seventh book of the Odyssey, is grand and highly ornamented; but his garden is no better than what we call a kitchen garden. This also Lady Frances excelled in. She had also a receptacle for all sorts of animals to retire to in their old age. It was of old the custom to bury the favourite dog near the master. To use those of the brute creation who toil for our pleasure, or labour for our profit, with hard and ungenerous treatment, is a species of inhumanity which all men allow to be derogatory from virtue. The authors of wanton cruelty towards the dumb creation, are justly execrated for their brutality. It is a crime which I believe many commit, without either considering the misery itproduces, or the guilt it incurs: and many more, who in fits of causeless or capricious displeasure intend to inflict the misery, have yet no sense that they incur guilt. Lady Frances makes use of buffaloes to draw her ploughs. These animals are far stronger than oxen, and eat less. Why have we not them in this country, and dromedaries and camels?
She cultivates India corn, which grows with vast reeds, which is of great use; and has attempted the culture of rice, and some other things upon boggy ground, with tolerable success. As our cork used to come from France, and now grows in Italy, she has tried it here, where it thrives amazingly; it resembles the evergreen oak, and bears acorns. When you strip other trees of their bark, they die; but this grows stronger, and produces a new coat. She leaves nothing unattempted which has a chance of becoming useful. She also procured sheep from Norway, which are peculiar from having four horns, and being spotted like deer, with a coat of substance betwixt the hair and wool, which is admirable for many uses.
Edward IV has been greatly censured, as taking a very impolitic and injurious measure in making a present to the King of Spain of some Cotswold sheep; the breed of which has been very detrimental to the English woollen manufacture, which has been a national branch of trade ever since. The celebrated Buffon affirms, that our sheep are very far removed from their natural state; from which it has been the usual course of things to decline.
Lady Frances cultivates silk-worms. The ancient Romans for a long time never dreamed that silk could be produced in their country; and the first silk ever seen in Greece, was after the conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great. From thence it was imported into Italy, but was sold at the rate of an equal weight of gold.
The Persians being the only people of whom it was to be had, would not permit a single egg or worm to be carried out of their country. Hence the ancient Greeks and Romans were so little acquainted with the nature of silk, that they imagined it grew like a vegetable. Holosericum, or a stuff made of silk only, was worn by none but ladies of the first rank. But men of the greatest quality, and even princes, were contented with subsericum, or a stuff made of half silk; to that Heliogabulus is remarked for being the first who wore holosericum. In the reign of the emperor Justinian, a trial was made for bringing silk-worms alive to Constantinople, but without success; however, two monks who had been employed in the affair, repeated the trial with silk-worms eggs. The experiment succeeded so well, that to this Constantinopolitan colony, all the silk-worms, and silk manufactures in Europe owe their existence and origin. Till the middle of the twelfth century, all the silken stuffs at Rome and other parts of Europe were of Grecian manufacture. But Roger I. King of Sicily, about the year 1138, invading Greece with a fleet of vessels with two or three benches of oars, called Galeæ or Sagittæ (from whence are derived the words galley and saique) and sacking and plundering Corinth, Thebes, and Athens, brought away to Palermo, among other prisoners, a great number of silk weavers to instruct his subjects in that art. From them, as Otto Trisingensis de gestis Frederici, lib. I. cap. 23. informs us, the Italians soon learnt the method of manufacturing silk.
Lady Frances did not restrain farmers, or the sons of farmers from shooting, as none are better entitled to game than those whose property is the support of it.