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of gratitude and such stuff. She is one of those feeble persons, who, wanting confidence in themselves, are continually afraid that they shall not be grateful enough; and so they reproach and torment themselves, and refine and sentimentalize, till gratitude becomes burdensome, (as it always does to weak minds), and the very idea of a benefactor odious. Mademoiselle de Coulanges was originally unwilling to accept of any obligation from me; she knew her own character better than I did. I do not deny, that she has a heart; but she has no soul. I hope you understand and feel the difference.” Vol. V. p. 80-89.
The merit of the tale consists in these characters; for the story is neither very entertaining nor very probable. The scene of the butterfly drives the refugees from the house of their benefactress, just as she is plotting how to overwhelm them with her generosity, in forcing her only son to marry Emilie. The said Emilie refuses to rescue her mother from poor lodgings by marrying M. de Brisac, because she had given away her heart to a young stranger who had delivered them from their dungeon in France;-a reconciliation, however, is at last effected; and by a striking coup de theatre, Emilie and her mother discover, at one and the same moment, that their deliverer is the son of Mrs. Somers, and that the fortunes of their house are restored. Every thing, of course, is now in a fair train for the catastrophe--but the mother has scruples about Mr. Somers's want of nobility.
"Some conversation passed between Lady Littleton and Mrs. Somers, about a dormant title, in the Somers' family, which might be revived; and this made a wonderful impression on the Countess. She yielded, as she did every thing else, with a good grace.-History does not say, whether she did or did not console M. de Brisac; we are only informed, that, immediately after her daughter's marriage, she returned to Paris, and gave a splendid ball at her Hotel de Coulanges.- We are farther assured, that Mrs. Somers never quarrelled with Emilie, from the day of her marriage till the day of her death-But this is incredible." Vol. V. p. 199.
We come now to the last, the longest, and by far the most interesting of these tales. It is entitled, “The Absentee;' and it is intended to expose the folly and misery of renouncing the respectable character of country ladies and gentlemen, to push through intolerable expense, and more intolerable scorn, into the outer circles of fashion in London. That the case may be sufficiently striking, Miss Edgeworth has taken her example in an Irish family, of large fortune, and considerable rank in the peerage; and has enriched her main story with a greater variety of collateral incidents and characters, than in any of her other productions. VOL. I. New Series.
Lord and Lady Clonbrony are the absentees;-and they are so, because Lady Clonbrony is smitten with the ambition of making a figure in the fashionable circles of London;—where her very eagerness obstructs her success; and her inward shame, and affected contempt for her native country, only make her pational accent, and all her other nationalities more remarkable. She has a niece, however, a Miss Grace Nugent, who is full of gentleness, and talent, and love for Ireland -and a son, Lord Colambre, who, though educated in England, has very much of his cousin's propensities. The first part of the story represents the various mortifications and repulses which Lady Clonbrony encounters, in her grand attempt to be very fashionable in London-the embarrassments, and gradual declension into low company, of Lord Clonbrony- the plots to marry Lord Co. lambre to an heiress--and the growth of his attachment to Miss Nugent, who shares his regret for the ridicule which his mother is at so much expense to excite, and his wish to snatch her from a career at once so inglorious and so full of peril. Partly to avoid his mother's importunities about the heiress, and partly to escape from the fascinations of Miss Nugent, whose want of fortune and high sense of duty seem to forbid all hopes of their union, he sets out on a visit to Ireland; where the chief interest of the story begins. There are here many admirable delineations of Irish character, in both extremes of life; and a very natural development of all its most remarkable features. At first, his Lordship is very nearly entangled in the spells of Lady Dashfort and her daaghter; and is led by their arts to form rather an unfavourable opinion of his countrymen. An accidental circumstance, however, disclosing the artful and unprincipled character of these fair ladies, he breaks from his bondage, and travels incog. to his father's two estates of Colambre and Clonbrony;--the one flourishing under the management of a conscientious and active agent; the other going to ruin under the dominion of an unprincipled oppressor. In both places, he sees a great deal of the native politeness, native wit, and kind. heartedness of the lower Irish; and makes an acquaintance at the latter with one group of Catholic cottagers, more interesting, and more beautifully painted in the simple colouring of nature, than all the Arcadians of pastoral or romance. After detecting the frauds and villany of the tyrannical agent, he hurries back to London, to tell his story to his father; and arrives just in time to hinder him from being irretrievably entangled in his snares. He and Miss Nugent now make joint suit to Lady Clonbrony to retire for a while to Ireland, -an application in which they are powerfully seconded by the terrors of an execution in the house; and at last enabled to succeed, by a solemn promise that
the yellow damask furniture of the great drawingroom shall be burnt on the very day of their arrival. In the mean time, Lord Colambre, whose wider survey of the female world had finally determined him to seek happiness with Grace Nugent, even with an humble fortune, suffers great agony, from a discovery maliciously made by Lady Dashfort, of a stain on her mother's reputation; which he is enabled at length to remove, and at the same time to recover a splendid inheritance, which had been long withheld by its prevalence from the woman of his choice. This last event, of course, reconciles all parties to the match; and they all set out, in bliss and harmony, to the paradise regained of Clonbrony;--their arrival and reception at which is inimitably described in a letter from one of their postillions, with which the tale is concluded.
In this very brief abstract, we have left out an infinite multitude of the characters and occurrences, from the variety and profusion of which the story derives its principal attraction; and have only attempted indeed to give such a general notice of the relations and proceedings of the chief agents, as to render the few extracts we propose to make intelligible. The contrivance of the story indeed is so good, and the different parts of it so concisely represented, that we could not give an adequate epitome of it in much less compass than the original. We can venture on pothing, therefore, but a few detached specimens. For the sake of our fashionable readers, we may give the first place to Lady Dashfort, an English lady of very high ton, whom Lord Colambre encountered in Dublin.
"She in general affected to be ill-bred and inattentive to the feel. ings and opinions of others; careless whom she offended by her wit, or by her decided tone. There are some persons in so high a region of fashion, that they imagine themselves above the thunder of vulgar censure. Lady Dashfort felt herself in this exalted situation, and fancied she might “ hear the innocuous thunder roll below." Her rank was so high, that none could dare to call her vulgar; what would have been gross in any one of meaner note, in her was freedom, or originality, or lady Dashfort's way. It was lady Dashfort's pleasure and pride to show her power in perverting the public taste. She often said to those English companions with whom she was intimate, “ Now see what follies I can lead those fools into. Hear the nonsense I can make them repeat as wit.” Upon some occasion one of her friends ventured to fcar that something she had said was too strong. “ Too strong, was it? Well, I like to be strong—wo be to the weak.” On another occasion she was told, that certain visitors had seen her ladyship yawning. " Yawn, did I?-I am glad of it-the yawn sent them away, or I should have snored;-rude, was 1? they won't complain. To say, I was rude to them, would be to say, that I did not think it worth
my while to be otherwise, Barbarians are not we the civilized English, come to teach them manners and fashions? Whoever does not conform, and swear allegiance too, we shall keep out of the English pale." Vol. VI. p. 50, 51.
Having fixed upon Colambre as a husband for her daughter, she resolved to take him with her into the country, for the double purpose of riveting his chains, and disgusting him with his native land; and so she addresses him
“ My Lord, I think you told me, or my own sagacity discovered, that you want to see something of Ireland, and that you don't intend, like most travellers, to turn round, see nothing, and go home content." Lord Colambre assured her ladyship that she had judged him rightly, for, that nothing would content him but seeing all that was possible to be seen of his native country. It was for this special purpose he came to Ireland. “Ah!--well-- very good purpose-can't be better; but now, how to accomplish it. You know the Portuguese proverb says; "you go to Hell for the good things you intend to do, and to Heaven, for those you do.'--Now let us see what you will do.-Dublin, I suppose, you've seen enough of by this time-through and through-round and round-this makes me first giddy and then sick. Let me show you the country--not the face of it, but the body of it—the people.--Not Castle this, or Newtown that, but their inhabitants. I know them, I have the key, or the picklock, to their minds. An Irishman is as different an animal, on his guard, and off his guard, as a miss in school, from a miss out of school. A fine country for game I'll show you; and, if you are a good marksman, you may have plenty of shots “ at folly as it flies."
• Lord Colambre smiled. “ As to Isabel,” pursued her ladyship, “I shall put her in charge of Heathcock, who is going with us-She won't thank me for that, but you will-Nay, no fibs, man; you know, I know, as who does not, that has seen the world, that though a pretty woman is a mighty pretty thing, yet she is confoundedly in one's way, when any thing else is to be seen, heard,-or understood.” Lord Colambre seemed much tempted to accept the invitation; but he hesitated, because, as he said, her ladyship might be going to pay visits where he was not acquainted.
“Bless you!- don't let that be a stumbling-block in the way of your tender conscience. I am going to Killpatrickstown, where you'll be as welcome as light: You know them, they know you, at least you shall have a proper letter of invitation from my lord and my lady Killpatrick, and all that. And as to the rest, you know a young man is always welcome every where--a young nobleman kindly welcome, I won't say such a young man, and such a young nobleman, for that might put you to your bows, or your blushes--but nobilitas by itself, nobility is enough in all parties, in all families, where there are girls, and of course balls, as there are always at Killpatrickstown.-Don't be alarmed; you shall not be forced to dance,
or asked to marry. I'll be your security. You shall be at full li. berty, and it is a house where you can just do what you will.-Indeed, I go to no others. These Killpatricks are the best creatures in the world; they think nothing good or grand enough for me. If I'd let them, they would lay down cloth of gold over their bogs for me, to walk upon.-Good hearted beings!" added lady Dashfort, marking a cloud gathering on lord Colambre's countenance. “I laugh at them, because I love them. I could not love any thing I might not laugh at your lordship excepted.--So you'll come-that's settled.”
• And so it was settled. Our hero went to Killpatrickstown.
“ Every thing here sumptuous and unfinished, you see,” said lady Dashfort to lord Colambre, the day after their arrival. 66 All begun as if the projectors thought they had the command of the mines of Peru; and ended as if the possessors had not sixpence: des arrangemens provisatoires, temporary expedients; in plain English, make-shifts.-Luxuries, enough for an English prince of the blood. Comforts, not enough for an English woman.—And you may be sure that great repairs and alterations have gone on to fit this house for our reception, and for our English eyes! -Poor people!-English visitors, in this point of view, are horribly expensive to the Irish. Did you ever hear that, in the last century, or in the century before the last, to put my story far enough back, so that it shall not touch any body living; when a certain English nobleman, lord Blank A-, sent to let his Irish friend, lord Blank B-, know that he and all his train were coming over to pay him a visit; the Irish nobleman, Blank B-, knowing the deplorable condition of his castle, sat down fairly to calculate, whether it would cost him most to put the building in good and sufficient repair, fit to receive these English visitors, or to burn it to the ground. He found the balance to be in favour of burning, which was wisely accomplished next day. Perhaps Killpatrick would have done well to follow this example. Resolve me which is worst; to be burnt out of house and home, or to be eaten out of house and home. In this house, above and below stairs, including first and second table, housekeeper's room, lady's maids' room, butler's room, and gentleman's, one hundred and four people sit down to dinner every day, as Petito informs me, beside kitchen boys, and what they call charwomen; who never sit down, but who do not eat or waste the less for that; and retainers, and friends; friends to the fifth and sixth generation, who “must get their bit and their sup;” for—"sure, its only Biddy,” they say;-continued Lady Dashfort, imitating their Irish brogue.-And“ sure, 'tis nothing at all, out of all his honour, my Lord, has.--How could he feel it!-Long life to him! He's not that way: not a couple in all Ireland, and that's saying a great dale, looks less after their own, nor is more off-handeder, or open-hearteder, or greater open-house-keepers, nor my lord and my lady Killpatrick.” Now, there's encouragement for a lord and a lady to ruin themselves.'