Page images

of forty

among the

and The Dupe, which was produced in 1765, and which, although
it failed on the stage, owing, it is said, to a conspiracy of some hos-
tile parties, was also well received by the public from the press,
and of the novels of Sidney Bidulph and Nourjahad, all written
in the darkest hours of a life of struggle and disappointment, which
a complication of diseases terminated in 1766, at the age
two; Mrs. Brooke (whose maiden name was Miss Frances Moore),
the authoress of the novels of Lady Juliet Mandeville and Emily
Montague, and of the musical drama of Rosina, as well as of some
tragedies and other compositions in prose and verse,
rest, a periodical work called The Old Maid, which appeared
weekly from November, 1755, to July, 1756 ; Miss Jane Marshall,
an Edinburgh lady, of whom there remain the novels of Clarinda
Cathcart and Alicia Montague, which had considerable success on
their first appearance, in 1765 and 1767, and the comedy of Sir
Harry Gaylove, printed in 1772, although never acted, but whose
most interesting production is a Series of Letters, in two volumes,
Edinburgh, 1788, in which she gives a naïve and lively account of
the mischances of her literary career; Mrs. Lennox (originally
Miss Charlotte Ramsay, a native of New York), whose Memoirs
of Harriet Stuart appeared in 1751, her Female Quixote, or Ad-
ventures of Arabella, to which Johnson wrote the dedication, in
1752, her Shakespeare Illustrated in 1753, her novel of Sophia in
1761, her comedy of The Sister in 1769, and who did not cease
to write till near the end of the century; Miss Sophia Lee, whose
two first performances, her amusing comedy of The Chapter of
Accidents, and her popular romance of The Recess, were pro-
duced, the former in 1780, the latter in 1783; and Miss Frances
Burney, afterwards Madame D'Arblay, whose two first novels of
Evelina and Cecilia appeared, the former in 1777, the latter in
1782. To these names may be added, as distinguished in other

1 Along with, perhaps, a higher appreciation of the literary merits of Miss Burney's two early novels than has been expressed by any recent critic, Lord Macaulay has, in an article published in the Edinburgh Review for January, 1843, claimed for her the honor of being the true founder of the modern school of female novelwriters. “Her appearance,” he observes, “is an important epoch in our literary history. Evelina was the first tale written by a woman, and purporting to be a picture of life and manners, that lived, or deserved to live..... Miss Burney did for the English novel what Jeremy Collier did for the English Drama; and she did it in a better way. She first showed that a tale might be written in which both the fashionable and the vulgar life of London might be exhibited with great force, and with broad comic humor, and which yet should not contain a single line incon

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

kinds of writing, blind Anna Williams, Dr. Johnson's friend, whose volume of Miscellanies in prose and verse was published in 1766 ; the learned Miss Elizabeth Carter, whose translation of Epictetus, however, and we believe all her other works, had appeared before the commencement of the reign of George III., although she lived till the year 1806; her friend Miss Catherine Talbot, the writer of a considerable quantity both of prose and verse, now forgotten; Mrs. Montagu (originally Miss Elizabeth Robinson), the pupil of Dr. Conyers Middleton, and the founder of the Blue Stocking Club, whose once famous Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespeare was published in 1769, and who survived till the

year 1800 ; Mrs. Chapone (Miss Hester Mulso), another friend of Miss Carter, and the favorite correspondent of Samuel Richardson, whose Letters on the Improvement of the Mind appeared in 1773; Mrs. Macaulay (originally Miss Catherine Sawbridge, finally Mrs. Graham), the notorious republican historian and pamphleteer, whose History of England from the Accession of James I. to the Restoration was published in a succession of volumes between the years 1763 and 1771, and then excited much attention, though now neglected; and the other female democratic writer, Miss Helen Maria Williams, who did not, however, begin to figure as a politician till after the French Revolution, her only publications that fall to be noticed in this place being some volumes of verse which she gave to the world in 1782 and the two or three following years. Mrs. Hannah More, Mrs. Barbauld, Mrs. Charlotte Smith, Mrs. Inchbald, and some other female writers who did not obtain the height of their reputation till a later date, had also entered upon the career of authorship within the first quarter of a century of the reign of George III. And to the commencement of that reign is to be assigned perhaps the most brilliant contribution from

sistent with rigid morality, or even with virgin delicacy. She took away the reproach which lay on a most useful and delightful species of composition. She vindicated the right of her sex to an equal share in a fair and noble province of letters. Several accomplished women have followed in her track. At present the novels which we owe to English ladies form no small part of the literary glory of our country. No class of works is more honorably distinguished by fine observation, by grace, by delicate wit, by pure moral feeling. Several among the successors of Madame D'Arblay have equalled her; two, we think, have surpassed her. But the fact that she has been surpassed gives her an additional claim to our respect and gratitude ; for, in truth, we owe to her not only Evelina, Cecilia, and Camilla. (published in 1796), but also Mansfield Park (Miss Austen] and The Absentee Miss Edgeworth).”

a female pen that had yet been added to our literature, the collection of the Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, which, although written many years before, were first published in 1763, about a year after Lady Mary's death. The fourth volume, indeed, did not appear till 1767.


To the latter part of the reign of George II. belongs the revival of the Periodical Essay, which formed so distinguishing a feature of our literature in the age of Anne. Political writing, indeed, in this form had been carried on from the era of the Examiner, and the Englishman, and the Freeholder, and Defoe's Review and Mercator, and the British Merchant, with little, if


intermission, in various publications; the most remarkable being The Craftsman, in which Bolingbroke was the principal writer, and the papers of which, as first collected and reprinted in seven volumes, extend from the 5th of December, 1726, to the 22d of May, 1731 ; nor was the work dropped till it had gone on for some years longer. Some attempts had even been made during this interval to supply the place of the Tatler, Spectator, and Guardian, by periodical papers, ranging, in the same strain, over the general field of morals and manners : Ambrose Philips, for instance, and a number of his friends, in the year 1718 began the publication of a paper entitled “ The Free-thinker, or Essays on Ignorance, Superstition, Bigotry, Enthusiasm, Craft, &c., intermixed with several pieces of wit and humour designed to restore the deluded part of mankind to the use of reason and common sense,” which attracted considerable attention at the time, and was kept up till the numbers made a book of hree volumes, which were more than once reprinted. The Museum was another similar work, which commenced in 1746, and also ran to three volumes, — Horace Walpole, Akenside, the two Wartons, and other eminent writers being among the contributors; but nothing of this kind that was then produced has succeeded in securing for itself a permanent place in our literature. The next of our periodical works after The Guardian that is recognized as one of the classics of the language is The Rambler, the first num

ber of which appeared on Tuesday, the 20th of March, 1750, the last (the 208th) on Saturday, the 14th of March, 1752, and all the papers of which, at the rate of two a week, with the exception only of three or four, were the composition of Samuel Johnson, who may be said to have first become generally known as a writer through this publication. The Rambler was succeeded by The Adventurer, edited and principally written by Dr. Hawkesworth, which was also published twice a week, the first number having appeared on Tuesday, the 7th of November, 1752, the last (the 139th) on Saturday, the 9th of March, 1754. Meanwhile The World, a weekly paper, had been started under the conduct of Edward Moore, the author of the Fables for the Female Sex, the tragedy of The Gamester and other dramatic productions, assisted by Lord Lyttelton, the Earls of Chesterfield, Bath, and Cork, Horace Walpole, Soame Jenyns, and other contributors: the first number appeared on Thursday, the 4th of January, 1753; the 209th, and last, on the 30th of December, 1756. And contemporary with The World, during a part of this space, was The Connoisseur, established and principally written by George Colman, in conjunction with Bonnell Thornton, a writer possessed of considerable wit and humor, which, however, he dissipated for the most part upon ephemeral topics, being only now remembered for his share in a translation of Plautus, also undertaken in concert with his friend Colman, the first two of the five volumes of which were published in 1766, two years before his death, at the age of forty-four. The Connoisseur was, like The World, a weekly publication, and it was continued in 140 numbers, from Thursday, the 31st of January, 1754, to the 30th of September, 1756. We have already mentioned Mrs. Frances Brooke's weekly periodical work entitled The Old Maid, which subsisted from November, 1755, to July in the following year; but it is not usually admitted into the collections of the English essayists. The next publication of this class which can be said still to hold a place in our literature is Johnson's Idler, which appeared once a week from Saturday, the 15th of April, 1758, to Saturday, the 5th of April, 1760. And with The Idler closes what may be called the second age of the English periodical essayists, which commences with The Rambler, and extends over the ten years from 1750 to 1760, the concluding decade of the reign of George II. After this occurs another long interval, in which that mode of writing was dropped, or at least no

longer attracted either the favor of the public or the ambition of the more distinguished literary talent of the day; for no doubt attempts still continued to be made, with little or no success, by obscure scribblers, to keep up what had lately been so popular and so graced by eminent names: thus, Hugh Kelly, the author of The School for Wives, and some other second-rate dramas, produced during this interval a series of papers in a flashy, juvenile style under the title of The Babbler, which were afterwards collected in two small volumes; Miss Marshall, the Edinburgh novelist, who has been already mentioned, about the close of the year 1770 set up a periodical paper in London, in which, she tells us, she had the assistance of several gentlemen of known literary merit, although the sale proved insufficient to enable her to go on with it; 1 and there were of course many more such instances. But we have no series of periodical papers of this time, of the same character with those already mentioned, that is still reprinted and read. Goldsmith's Citizen of the World, occupied as it is with the adventures and observations of an individual, placed in very peculiar circumstances, partakes more of the character of a novel than of a succession of miscellaneous papers ; and both the letters composing that work and the other delightful essays of the same writer were published occasionally, not periodically or at regular intervals, and

1 Letters, vol. ii. pp. 202, 229. The very title of this forgotten work is probably now irrecoverable, as well as the names of the meritorious literati wlio were to lend it the aid of their reputation and abilities. Its ingenious, sensible, and goodhumored projector says: “From a grateful sense of the Duchess of Northumberland's goodness (her first novel had been presented to the queen by the duchess], I sent her grace the introductory paper in manuscript, begging the favour of being allowed the honour of dedicating the work to her grace; and next day I was waited on by a gentleman, probably one of her suite, who informed me that her grace not only accepted the dedication, and would most cheerfully patronize the work, but would also furnish me with some anecdotes which might be useful in the publication. But whether this gentleman, displeased with my je ne scais quoi, or disgusted at my Scots accent, had prejudiced her grace against me; or whether my not waiting on the duchess to receive the anecdotes, I cannot say; but I never had the good fortune to hear from my patroness again.” In reply to an application she made to Lord Lyttelton for his advice as to whether she should continue the publication, his lordship wrote — “On considering the question you do me the honour to put to me, my answer is this : if you write for fame, go on; if for money, desist, unless the Duchess of Northumberland or Lord Chesterfield will enable you to bear the expense of continuing the paper till it becomes so well known as to support itself. This they surely could do without any inconvenience to their opulent fortunes; and this I would do, if I were in their circumstances, with great pleasure.”

« PreviousContinue »