The Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay Volume Iii Part 70

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(Madame dArblay to Mrs. locke.) 11 Bolton-street, Nov. 1824.

Now then for a more cheerful winding-up. I came from Camden Town very unwillingly,--but Alex was called to Cambridge to an audit, and so I took that opportunity to make a break-up. But the day before I quitted it I received the highest resident honour that can be bestowed upon me--namely, a visit from one of my dear and condescending princesses. She came by appointment,-yet her entrance was so quick that Alex had not time to save himself.-However, she took the incident not only without displeasure but with apparent satisfaction, saying she was very glad to renew her acquaintance with him. She had not seen him since the time of his spouting, "The s.p.a.cious firmament on high"--"Ye shepherds so cheerful and gay," etc.,--all of which she remembers hearing. Ah--I have never recollected till this instant that I ought to have gone to her the next day !-how shocking!--and now that I have the consciousness, I can do nothing, for I am lame from a little accident.--Well!--she is all goodness-and far more to forgive than I, I trust, am to offend.


Although Madame d'Arblay's intercourse with society was now usually confined to that of her relations and of old and established friends, she yet greeted with admiration and pleasure Sir Walter Scott, who was brought to her by Mr. Rogers. Sir Walter, in his Diary for Nov. 18th, 1826, thus Page 455

describes the visit:--"I have been introduced to Madame d'Arblay, the celebrated auth.o.r.ess of 'Evelina' and 'Cecilia,' an elderly lady with no remains of personal beauty, but with a simple and gentle manner, and pleasing expression of countenance, and apparently quick feelings. She told me she had wished to see two persons-myself, of course, being one, the other, George Canning.

This was really a compliment to be pleased with--a nice little handsome pat of b.u.t.ter made up by a neat-handed Phillis of a dairy-maid, instead of the grease fit only for cartwheels which one is dosed with by the pound.

"I trust I shall see this lady again."


>From the year 1828 to 1832 Madame d'Arblay was chiefly occupied in preparing for the press the Memoirs of her father; and on their publication, she had the pleasure to receive letters from Dr. Jebb, Bishop of Limerick, and from Mr. Southey, the poet.

Among the less favourable criticisms of her work, the Only one which gave Madame d'Arblay serious pain was an attack (in a periodical publication) upon her veracity--a quality which, in her, Dr. Johnson repeatedly said "he had never found failing,"

and for which she had been through life trusted, honoured, and emulated.


(1835 to 1838.)

Madame d'Arblay's letters were now very few. - A complaint in one of her eyes, which was expected to terminate in a cataract, made both reading and writing difficult to her. The number of her correspondents had also been painfully lessened by the death of her eldest sister, Mrs. Burney, and that of her beloved friend, Mrs. Locke ; and she had sympathised with other branches of her family in many similar afflictions, for she retained in a peculiar degree not only her intellectual powers, but the warn) and generous affections of her youth.

"Though now her eightieth year was past," she took her wonted and vivid interest in the concerns, the joys, and sorrows of those she loved.

Page 456


At this time her son formed an attachment which promised to secure his happiness, and to gild his mother's remaining days with affection and peace : and at the close of the year 1836 he was nominated minister of Ely chapel, which afforded her considerable satisfaction. But her joy was mournfully short-lived. That building, having been shut for some years, was damp and ill-aired. The Rev. Mr. d'Arblay began officiating there in winter, and during the first days of his ministry he caught the influenza, which became so serious an illness as to require the attendance of two physicians. Dr. Holland and Dr. Kingston exerted their united skill with the kindest interest; but their patient, never robust, was unable to cope with the malady, and on the 19th of January, 1837, in three weeks from his first seizure, the death of this beloved son threw Madame d'Arblay again into the depths of affliction. Yet she bore this desolating stroke with religious submission, receiving kindly every effort made to console her, and confining chiefly to her own private memoranda the most poignant expressions of her anguish and regret, as also of the deeply religious trust by which she was supported.

The following paragraph is taken from her private notebook:--

"1837.-On the opening of this most mournful--most earthly hopeless, of any and of all the years yet commenced of my long career! Yet, humbly I bless my G.o.d and Saviour, not hopeless; but full of gently-beaming hopes, countless and fraught with aspirations of the time that may succeed to the dread infliction of this last irreparable privation, and bereavement of my darling loved, and most touchingly loving, dear, soul--dear Alex."


Much as Madame d'Arblay had been tried by the severest penalty of lengthened days, the loss of those who were dearest to her, *one more such sorrow remained in her cup of life. Her gentle and tender sister Charlotte, many years younger than herself, was to precede her in that eternal world for which they were both preparing; and in the autumn of the year 1838, a short illness terminated in the removal of that beloved sister.

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Madame d'Arblay's long and exemplary life was now drawing to a close; her debility increased, her sight and hearing nearly failed her; but in these afflictions she was enabled to look upwards with increasing faith and resignation. In a letter on the 5th of March, 1839, she wrote the following paragraph,(340) which was perhaps the last ever traced by her pen :--

"March 5, 1839.

"Ah, my dearest! how changed, changed I am, since the irreparable loss of your beloved mother! that last original tie to native original affections! . . .

"Wednesday.-I broke off, and an incapable unwillingness seized my pen; but I hear you are not well, and I hasten--if that be a word I can ever use again--to make personal Inquiry how you are.

"I have been very ill, very little apparently, but with nights of consuming restlessness and tears. I have now called in Dr.

Holland, who understands me marvellously, and I am now much as usual; no, not that--still tormented by nights without repose-- but better.

"My spirits have been dreadfully saddened of late by whole days- -nay weeks--of helplessness for any employment. They have but just revived. How merciful a reprieve! How merciful IS ALL we know! The ways of Heaven are not dark and intricate, but unknown and unimagined till the great teacher, Death, develops them."

In November, 1839, Madame d'Arblay was attacked by an illness which showed itself at first in sleepless nights and nervous imaginations. Spectral illusions, such as Dr. Abercrombie has described, formed part of her disorder; and though after a time Dr. Holland's skill removed these nervous impressions, yet her debility and cough increased, accompanied by constant fever. For several weeks hopes of her recovery were entertained; her patience a.s.sisted the remedies of her kind physician , and the amiable young friend, " who was to her as a daughter," watched over her with unremitting care and attention but she became more and more feeble,

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and her mind wandered ; though at times every day she was composed and collected, and then given up to silent prayer, with her hands clasped and eyes uplifted.

During the earlier part of her illness she had listened with comfort to some portions of St. John's Gospel, but she now said to her niece, "I would ask you to read to me, but I could not understand one word--not a syllable! but I thank G.o.d my mind has not waited till this time."

At another moment she charged the same person with affectionate farewells and blessings to several friends, and with thanks for all their kindness to her. Soon after she said, "I have had some sleep." "That is well," was the reply; "you wanted rest." "I shall have it soon, my dear," she answered emphatically: and thus, aware that death was approaching, in peace with all the world, and in holy trust and reliance on her Redeemer, she breathed her last on the 6th of January, 1840 ; the anniversary of that day she had long consecrated to prayer, and to the memory of her beloved sister Susanna.

(330) Her departure for Germany with her husband, the Prince of Hesse-Homburg, to whom she had been recently married.-ED. '

(331) From a Memorandum book of Madame d'Arblays.

(332) Queen Charlotte died at the palace at Kew, in the seventy-fifth year of her age, after an illness of six months.-ED.

(133) At Windsor.-ED.

(134) The Princess Mary, who had married her cousin, the Duke of Gloucester.-ED.

(135) Queen Caroline. George IV. was now king, George III. having died January 29, 1820. A brief account of the life of Queen Caroline may be of a.s.sistance to the reader. Her father was the Duke of Brunswick: her mother a sister of George II. She was born in 1768, and married her cousin, the Prince of Wales, in April, 1795, A speedy estrangement followed, brought about by the prince's intrigues, especially with Lady Jersey; and, after the birth of their daughter, the Princess Charlotte, a total separation took place. In 1806 a charge of adultery was brought against the Princess of Wales. The charge was declared disproved, but colour had been given to it by the undoubted levity and imprudence of her conduct. In 1813 she went abroad, and spent several years in travelling on the continent.

Her behaviour during this period gave rise to fresh charges, from which she has never been entirely cleared. She returned to England, June 6, 1820, came to London, and took up her residence in South Audley-street, at the house of her friend, Alderman Wood, one of the members of Parliament for the city of London.

Shortly before her return, the king's ministers had proposed to settle upon her an annuity of -/'50,000 for life, subject to the conditions of her continuing to reside abroad, and refraining from a.s.suming the t.i.tle of queen. This proposal she instantly rejected. She was received in England by the people with unbounded enthusiasm, to which the general discontent then prevailing questionless contributed. A secret committee of the House of Lords, appointed to examine the charges against the queen, having made their report, the government brought in a bill to deprive her of the t.i.tle of queen, and to dissolve the marriage. She was defended by counsel before the House of Lords, her leading advocate being Mr. (afterwards Lord) Brougham, The Motion for the third reading of the bill pa.s.sed (November 10) by a small majority, but the bill was immediately afterwards abandoned by the government. This proceeding was generally considered as tantamount to an acquittal, and was celebrated by illuminations and the voting of congratulatory addresses in all parts of the country. Queen Caroline did not long enjoy her triumph. She presented herself at Westminster Abbey on the occasion of the king's coronation, July 19, 1821, but was refused admission. Less than three weeks later she was dead.-ED.

(336) Lady Ann Hamilton, who had formerly belonged to Queen Caroline's household, and had joined her in France, shortly before her return to England.-ED.

(337) Thursday, August 17, was the day on which the queen's trial commenced before the House of Lords.-ED.

(338) Lord Byron, the poet.-ED.

(339) Mrs. Piozzi died at Clifton, May 2, 1821, having survived her second husband about twelve years.-ED.

(340) To her niece Mrs. Barrett.

The Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay Volume Iii Part 70

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