Charlotte Smith (1800)

“Mrs. Charlotte Smith.” Public Characters of 1800-1801. London: R. Phillips, 71 St. Paul’s Church Yard, 1801. 42-64.

 

 

Should it appear in the present memoir that superior endowments exempt not the possessor from the accidents and calamities of life, or that even in some situations they add poignancy to the sense of those calamities; yet, let it not be forgotten, that a cultivated imagination possesses itself an independent source of peculiar and appropriate enjoyment, compared with which, in richness and variety, the pleasures of sense are mean and scanty. When wearied with the futility of society, or disgusted with its vices, it is the privilege of genius to retire within itself, to call up, with creative power, new worlds, ad people solitude with ideal beings. It is to the improved taste, and feeling heart, that Nature, unveiling her charms, gives a zest to simple pleasure, and sheds over ordinary objects a touching grace.

            Mrs. Charlotte Smith was the daughter of Nicholas Turner, a gentleman who possessed from his father and elder brother, considerable estates in the counties of Surrey ad Sussex. Her mother, of the name of Towers, was no less distinguished for her personal charms than the qualities of her heart and understanding; but of her maternal care her children were unhappily deprived, when the eldest, the subject of this memoir, was little more than three years old: her death was the source of many misfortunes, since their father, in consequence of it, quitted his house in Surrey, and went abroad for some time, leaving his children to the care of their mother’s [43] sister,  who, as far as her tenderness and affection could to it, made up to them the loss they had sustained. But when a blow so cruel falls on a man of lively passions, and thus destroys his domestic happiness, many evils ensue from the eagerness with which a temporary forgetfulness is sought by mixing with the world. Returning from the tour he had made, in hopes of dissipating his sorrow, Mr. Turner placed his children at school, and, when the eldest was about ten years old, he sold his estate at Stoke,* near Guildford, and his family resided at his house in Sussex, or occasionally in London, for the purpose of having masters to attend his two daughters, while his son was placed at Westminster school.

            The hours of the eldest daughter were now consumed in attempting to acquire, at a great expence, what are called accomplishments. But certain it is, that either from her instructors being ill-chosen, or because her studies were too soon interrupted, she made no considerable progress in music, on which the greatest expence was lavished, and dedicated more of her time to drawing, with a fondness greater than her powers of execution, at least in drawing landscapes, in which the shortness of her sight prevented her from attaining any degree of perfection. At a more mature period of life she was accustomed to regret the time thus employed, and to wish that she had rather been directed in useful reading, and in the study of other languages, as well as the French, acquired in her early infancy. But though her

 

* Purchased by Mr. Dyson, since by Mr. Aldersley.

 

[44] father, no contemptible poet himself, encouraged and cherished the talents he thought he observed in his daughter, her aunt, whose care she was still under, had other opinions as to the propriety of indulging her taste for reading, and saw, with alarm, that her niece passed, and she thought wasted, whole days in hanging over almost any books that fell in her way. Such books, therefore, as were most likely to flatter the taste of a young person, were absolutely prohibited: the consequent of which was that she seized, with indiscriminating avidity, all that came in her way; by this means acquiring a superficial acquaintance with various subjects of knowledge, that, by awakening her curiosity, led, in subsequent periods, to more complete information.

            At this time of her life, though yet at an age when most girls are at school, Mrs. Smith was taken a great deal into company: and almost all the gaiety she every partook of was between her twelfth and fifteenth year. 

            But from the dissipations of London, in society, of at least a fashionable description, and from what she like better, wandering amidst the romantic beauties of that part of Sussex where her father’s house was situated, the time was now come when she was to be removed. Mr. Turner married a second wife, who, however defective in the qualities possessed by the first, had one advantage, by which, in the opinion of the majority, they were more than counterbalanced – a considerable fortune. Mr. Turner, foreseeing that his daughters, the eldest of whom had [45] attained her fifteenth year, would probably object to the authority of a step-mother suffered them to remain for some months, under the protection of their aunt; but the eldest daughter was soon after seen and admired by Mr. Smith, the son of a West India merchant of considerable fortune, who was also an India Director. Her extreme youth, to which the elder Mr. Smith had an objection, was no longer considered as such when he became acquainted with her, and, at a period of life when the laws of this country do not allow that a debt of ten pounds shall be abstracted, she became the wife of Mr. Smith, exchanged the pure air of her native country for a residence (made needlessly splendid) in one of the closet and most disagreeable lanes in the city of London, and the amusements in which she had been perhaps improperly indulged, for society altogether different, when her desire to conform to the wishes of the father of her husband, who was extremely fond of her, allowed her to mix in society at all.

            Much of her time was dedicated to this gentleman, the elder Mr. Smith, now a widower, having buried a second wife; and to amuse him she committed that her child (for she became a mother in her seventeenth year) should almost always reside with him. But in the following year, a few days only after the birth of a second son this lovely innocent was carried off by a sore throat, and from that period may be dated the commencement of those sorrows and anxieties, which, with unremitting severity, have pursued her, and given to her productions [46] that tincture of sadness which has excited in every feeling heart so lively an interest. The disorder that robbed her of this child, was of a nature so malignant and infectious, that of all her household, only herself and the new born infant escaped it; and that infant, though he survived ten years, suffered so much in this early state of his existence, for want of the care which is then so indispensably necessary, that his feeble and declining health embittered with the most cruel solicitude the life of his mother, who loved him with more than ordinary fondness. 

            Mrs. Smith, detesting more than ever the residence in the city, and being indeed unable to exist in it, had then a small house at some distance, where, as her husband was a good deal in town, and her sister not always with her, she lived very much alone, occupied solely by her family, now increased to three children. It was then her taste for reading revived, and she had a small library, which was her greatest resource. Her studies, however, did not interfere with the care of her children; she nursed them all herself, and usually read while she rocked the cradle of one, and had, perhaps, another sleeping on her lap. After some changes to different houses in the neighbourhood of London, Mr. Smith’s father (now married to that aunt of Mrs. Smiths who had brought her up) purchased for his son a house with about an hundred acres of land around it, called Lys Farm, in Hampshire, and the father undertook the whole management of the West India business, though he was now far advanced in life. At this place the family of [47] Mrs. Smith, consisting of five sons and three daughters, was occasionally increased by the nephews and nieces of her husband, now orphans; and in consequence of so many cares, and a large establishment, (for Mrs. Smith launched into farming with more avidity than judgment, and purchased other parcels of land) her time was so much occupied, that but little leisure was left her for those pursuits she most delighted in. Surrounding circumstances, however, and ill-judged expences, which she had no power to prevent, rendered her extremely unhappy; and when a few hours of the solitude she had learned to love was allowed her, her thoughts and feelings were expressed in some of those little poems, which she has since called Sonnets: but so far were they from being intended for the public eye, that her most intimate friends never saw them till many years afterwards.

            Her father had now been dead some years, and Mr. Smith’s father died in 1776; an irreparable loss to her, towards whom he had always expressed particular affection, and of whom his opinion was such, that he appointed her, with his widow and his son, executrix to his will; a measure which her being a wife rendered ineffectual as to any present power. His will, though fortunately it provided for all her children then born, was complex and confused; and the trustees, who were also appointed, refusing to act, great inconvenience ensued, and whoever was to blame, Mrs. Smith and her children, now nine in number, were finally the victims.

            [48] In 1782, Mr. Smith served the office of Sheriff for the county of Southampton. In the following year came a reverse of fortune, which, however, Mrs. Smith had expected, and vainly endeavoured to avert; it demanded all her fortitude, and all the affection she bore her children, to prevent her sinking under its pressure. On a subject of so much delicacy it would be improper to dwell: those who witnessed Mrs. Smith’s conduct, both while she apprehended the evils that now overtook her, or while she suffered under tem, can alone do her justice, or can judge, at least as far as a single instance goes, whether the mind which feels the enthusiasm of poetry, and can indulge in the visionary regions of romance, is always so enervated as to be unfitted for the more arduous tasks and severer trials of human life. Neither the fears of entering into scenes of calamity, nor of suffering in her health, already weakened, prevented her from partaking the lot of her husband, with whom she passed the greater part of even months in legal confinement, and whose release was, at the end of that time, obtained chiefly by her indefatigable exertions. But during this seven months some of her hours were passed at the house in Hampshire, which was not to be sold, under such circumstances as those who, in that sad hour, deserted her, are now as unwilling to hear of as she is to relate them. What were then her sentiments in regard to the summer friends, who so little a time before had courted her acquaintance, and delighted in her company! – Of her relations, her brother only never for a moment [48] relaxed in his tenderness and attention towards her, or in such acts of friendship as he had the power of performing towards her husband. It was the experience she acquired during these seven months of the chicanery of law, and the turpitude of many of its professors, that, were it proper to enter into the detail would fully justify those indignant feelings, which, on various occasions, she has not hesitated to express.

            It was during this period, too, that, sharing the imprisonment of her husband, she was first induced to turn her thoughts towards the press, and to try whether her pecuniary advantage could not be obtained by printing those little pieces of poetry which she had composed in her walks, (often accompanied by her children) and of which only a few had been seen by one or two of her most intimate friends. To her children the 27th Sonnet* particularly alludes.

            It occurred to her, that these productions of her talents might, in the reverse of her fortunes, be made 

 

*As this has more than once been pirated, and lately appeared in a newspaper with the name of a person who calls himself the Reverend Mr. Something annexed to it, it is printed here as it was first written about the year 1781.

 

Sighing I see you little group at play,

      By sorrow yet untouch’d, unhurt by care;

While free and sportive they enjoy to-day

      Content, and careless of to-morrow’s fare.

O, happy age! – when Hope’s unclouded ray,

      Lights their green path, and prompts their simple mirth;

E’er yet they feel the thorns that lurking lay,

      To wound the wretched pilgrims of the earth, [49] 

Making them rue the hour that gave them birth,

      And threw them on a world so full of pain,

Where prosperous folly treads on patient worth,

      And, to deaf pride, misfortune pleads in vain!

Ah! For their future fate how many fears

Oppress my heart, and fill mine eyes with tears.

 

[50] to afford a pecuniary resource: under this idea, she transcribed fourteen or fifteen Sonnets, which she was induced, by his reputation as a publisher in the fashionable world, to offer personally to Mr. Dodsley, in Pall-Mall. This gentleman’s reception of her, which impressed itself on her memory, was by no means liberal or flattering. Slightly regarding the manuscript, he assured her, that for such things there was no sale, that the public had been satiated with shepherds and shepherdesses, and that he must decline offering money for the manuscript. To this he added whimsically, that he should not object to print the poems – when, should any profit arise, he might take it for his pains, and, should there be none, there would be no great harm done. Mrs. Smith, as may be supposed, refused this generous proposal, and returned to her melancholy abode, sufficiently discouraged with her first literary adventure.

            Her brother then desired he might try Messrs. Dilly, in the Poultry, from whom there was reason to expect greater liberality; but one of those gentlemen, having perused one or two of the Sonnets, declared he had not opinion of their success, and wholly declined any treaty respecting them. 

            Thus repulsed, Mrs. Smith addressed herself, [51] through the interposition of an acquaintance, to Mr. Hayley, then known to her only by name, though he resided within seven miles of her father’s house in Sussex, and had long been considered as an author of great celerity. This gentleman, who doubtless appreciated the productions offered to his perusal with the taste of a poet, did credit to himself by allowing his name to be used by the writer in a dedication. With this encouragement Mrs. Smith returned to Mr. Dodsley, and agreed with him for the publication of the poems on her own account. The immediate success of the thin quarto edition more than justified its author’s confidence; a second edition was soon called for; while the profits of the work, in its progress, relieved the writer from those solicitudes for her children which had weighed down her spirits, and enabled her to look forward with fortitude to the period which should disembarrass their father’s affairs.*

 

* The popularity of these exquisite little poems, which have passed through numerous editions, sufficiently testifies their merit: while the imagination is gratified ad delighted by the rich, poetic imagery with which they abound; their melody, feeling and pathos touch the heart, awaken its sympathies, and seize on its affections. The character and situation of the author are, in the three following sonnets, described in a manner too appropriate and affecting to require an apology for their assertion.

 

SONNET I.

 

The partial Muse has, from my earliest hours,

       Smil’d on the rugged path I’m doom’d to tread;

And still, with sportive hand, has snatch’d wild flowers,

       To weave fantastic garlands for my head: [52]

But far, far happier is the lot of those

       Who never learn’d her dear delusive art;

Which, while it decks the head with many a rose,

       Reserves the thorn to fester in the heart.

For still she bids soft Pity’s melting eye

       Stream o’er the ills she knows not to remove,

Points every pang, and deepens every sigh

       Of returning friendship, or unhappy love.

Ah! Then how dear the Muse’s favours cost,

If those paint sorrow best – who feel it most.

 

SONNET XLVII.

 

                            To Fancy.

 

Thee, Queen of Shadows! – shall I still invoke,

       Still love the scenes thy sportive pencil drew,

When on mine eyes the early radiance broke,

       Which shew’d the beauteous rather than the true!

Alas! Long since those glowing tints are dead,

       And now ’tis thine in darkest hues to dress

The spot where pale Experience hangs her head,

       O’er the sad grave of murder’d Happiness!

Thro’ thy false medium, then, no longer view’d,

       May fancied pain and fancid pleasure fly;

             And I, as from me all thy dreams depart.

Be to my wayward destiny subdued:

                                    Nor seek perfection with a poet’s eye,

Nor suffer anguish with a poet’s heart[.] [53]

 

SONNET XLII.

 

Composed during a Walk on the Downs, in November, 1787.

 

The dark and pillowy cloud, the sallow trees,

      Seem o’er the ruins of the year to mourn;

And, cold and hollow the inconstant breeze,

      Sobs thro’ the falling leaves and wither’d fern.

O’er the tall row of yonder chalky bourn,

      The evening shades their gather’d darkness fling,

While, by the lingering light, I scarce discern

      The shrieking night-jar* sail on heavy wing.

Ah! Yet a little – and propitious Spring,

      Crown’d with fresh flowers, shall wake the woodland strain;

But no gay change revolving seasons bring,

      To call forth pleasure from the soul of pain;

But siren Hope resume her long lost part,

And chace the vulture Care – that feeds upon the heart.

 

* The night-jar, or night-hawk, or fern owl, less than a rook, is frequently seen of an evening on the Downs. It has a short heavy flight, then rests on the ground, and again, uttering a mournful cry, flits before the traveler, to whom its appearance is supposed by the peasants to portend misfortune.

 

[52] Whatever satisfaction Mrs. Smith derived from the success of her first literary adventure, and the public appreciation of her talents, her situation allowed her no leisure for their culture: entangled in legal perplexities, and occupied with cares for her family, her hours were consumed in labours and solicitudes but little favourable to the muse.

            By this time an arraignment was made though the [53] interposition of a court of law. The estate and effects of the elder Mr. Smith were put into trust, and Mr. Smith’s relations consented to his being liberated. Their names, as well as of the trustees into whose hands the property now passed, are purposely omitted. 

            After a day of excessive fatigue, which had succeeded to the most cruel solicitudes, Mrs. Smith at length experienced the satisfaction, (the deed of trust having been signed) of beholding her husband freed from his confinement, and accompanied him immediately into Sussex, where their family remained [54] under the care of their maternal uncle. Her sensations on this occasion are thus described in a letter to a friend: – 

            “It was on the 2d day of July that we commenced our journey. For more than a month I had shared the restraint of my husband, in a prison, amidst scenes of misery, of vice, and even of terror. Two attempts had, since my last residence among them, been made by the prisoners to procure their liberation, by blowing up the walls of the house. Throughout the night appointed for this enterprize, I remained dressed, watching at the window, and expecting every moment to witness contention and bloodshed, or, perhaps, be overwhelmed by the projected explosion. After such scenes, and such apprehensions, how deliciously soothing to my wearied spirits was the soft, pure air of the summer’s morning, breathing over the dewy grass, as (having slept one night on the road) we passed over the heaths of Surrey! My native hills at length burst upon my view – I beheld once more the fields where I had passed my happiest days, and, amidst the perfumed turf with which one of those fields was strewn, perceived, with delight, the beloved groupe, from whom I had been so long divided, and for whose fate my affections were too much for my exhausted spirits. After all my sufferings I began to hope I might taste content, or experience at least a respite from calamity.”*

 

* However honourably a sight of this letter has been obtained, an apology is yet perhaps due to the writer for its insertion. [55]

 

            This interval of joy and hope appears to have been transient –

 

                        “A spot of azure, in a cloudy sky,

                        A sunny island, in a stormy main.”*

 

            Innured to disappointment, she endeavoured to arm herself with patience: the consciousness of merit and rectitude is, in some degree, its own reward: her children, whose number was now likely to receive an increase, inspired with fortitude their unhappy mother, for whom new and accumulated misfortunes were yet in store.

            To a friend they were again indebted for persecution: to preserve the freedom of Mr. Smith, so recently acquired, an immediate retreat to the Continent became necessary: thither, ignorant of the language, he was attended by his wife. The presence of Mrs. Smith being requisite in England, she remained only one day with her husband at Dieppe, whence she returned in the same packet, and was at home before her absence had been perceived. All her efforts were now to be renewed and another interval of melancholy to be endured, while, in circumstances which rendered her exertions both hazardous and painful, she sought to arrange their perplexed affairs. Her negociations proving fruitless, 

 

* Scott’s Poems. – Or; as is still more elegantly expressed by Mrs. Smith in her Sonnet on the Exile –

            

            And if a flattering cloud appears to shew

                        The fancied semblance of a distant soil,

                        Then melts away – anew his spirits fail,

            While the last hope but aggravates his woe!  [56]

 

Mr. Smith was compelled to remain abroad, where, becoming acquainted with some English gentlemen, he was persuaded to hire a large but comfortless chateau,* in Upper Normandy, the residence, some time before, of a Scottish nobleman and his brothers. The furniture was purchased at five times its value, and thither was Mrs. Smith, with her children, directed to repair.

            Of this expedition she thus writes, in a letter to a friend: –

          “My voyage was without accident; but of my subsequent journey, in a dark night of October, through the dismal hollows and almost impassable chasms of a Norman cross-road, I could give a most tremendous account. My children, fatigues almost to death, harassed by sea-sickness, and astonished at the strange noises of the French postillions, whose language they did not understand, crept close to me, while I carefully suppressed the doubts I entertained whether it were possible for us to reach, without some fatal accident, the place of our destination. In the situation I then was, it was little short of admirable that my constitution resisted, not merely the fatigues of the journey, with so many little beings clinging about me, (the youngest, whom I bore in my arms, scarce two year old) but the inconveniencies that awaited my arrival at our new above, in which no accommodation was prepared for my weary charges.”

            In this melancholy exile was Mrs. Smith destined 

 

* Seat, or mansion-house.        [57]

 

to remain during a severe winter, and a scarcity of fuel, which excited the turbulence of the peasantry: wood being at that period farmed in Normandy, for the profit of the King, no quantity could be purchased but of the contractors at Dieppe, which, at the distance of twelve Norman mils, amounted almost to an absolute prohibition.

            These circumstances with other sources of fatigue and vexation, the severity of the weather, her delicate and perilous situation, far advanced in her pregnancy, and at a distance from all proper assistance and accommodation, added to the melancholy reflections with which she regarded the probable increase to her family, nearly bore down her spirits: possessed with the conviction that she should not survive the approaching hour, for several weeks she never parted with her children of an evening without a presage that they should meet no more. But – “God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb” – the period so much dreaded passed over in safety, and another son was added to the family. Mrs. Smith recovered more speedily from her confinement than in the days of her prosperity ad indulgence; hardship and exertion had possibly strengthened her frame; it is “when the mind’s free that the body’s delicate.” In the midst of deprivations, to which they had been but little accustomed, and inconveniences of various kinds, the whole family, in their forlorn abode, continued to enjoy uninterrupted health.

            But this advantage, whether derived from a life of hardy activity, or from the salubrity of the climate, [58] did not compensate for the excessive expences attending on their insulated situation; while many other circumstances combined to convince them of the expediency of Mrs. Smith’s return to England with her family.

            Having sent before her the three eldest boys, Mrs. Smith, with seven children, the youngest scarcely two months old, prepared to follow: the family were to depend for support on the exertions of the mother, who was likewise charged with the negociation of her husband’s affairs. Her efforts to procure his return proved not unsuccessful: many weeks had not elapsed before they once more found themselves together at the house in Sussex. This situation proving too expensive, they removed to the old family house of the Mills, at Woolbeding, a village once the residence of Otway. It was there the 26th Sonnet, “To the River Avon,” was written. But calamity of a nature which no exertions could avert, and the sense of which noting could assuage, still pursued her. Not long after her eldest son had left her to go out as a writer to Bengal, a fatal fever deprived her also of the second, after only a few hours illness; and all the others were affected by the same dreadful distemper, which nearly cost the lives of two of them. This additional distress was, however to be contended with: a part of it might, she thought, be alleviated, by having again recourse to her pen; but distrusting her powers in the composition f original prose, she hazarded the translation of a little French novel, written by the Abbé Prevost [59] which she had begun as an exercise in Normandy. This performance was, without a name, sold for a very small sum, when the translator applied herself to the selection of extraordinary stories, from authenticated trials, as recorded in a set of books, in old French, entitled Les Causes Célébres. This work, published under the title of The Romance of Real Life, for which in inconsiderable compensation was obtained, cost the translator a great deal of trouble, aggravated by the circumstances under which it was executed.

            It is so difficult to speak with requisite delicacy of persons yet living, that particulars are avoided: and it is only necessary to say, that Mr. Smith again going abroad, she resided wither children in a small cottage, in another part of Sussex, where, her time being less interrupted, she enlarged, with many beautiful additions, the collection of small poems, which, under the title of Elegiac Sonnets, were published, for the third time, embellished with plates, by subscription. This mode of publication, to which the assent of the author had been with difficulty procured, must to a delicate and independent spirit, be ever repugnant: on such a spirit the most humiliating pangs are inflicted by the vulgar pride of wealth, and the ostentation of patronage. If, from this painful experience, Mrs. Smith, in some instances, was not exempted, in others she tasted the sweetness, so affecting to a sociable heart, of receiving obligations, the value of which was enhanced a thousand-fold by the grace and kindness with which they were conferred. [60]

            It was during her residence in this cottage that, in the course of about eight months, she composed the novel of Emmeline; and though scarcely a year had elapsed before she was under the necessity of quitting her peaceful abode, and again engaging in attempts to arrange affairs, which those concerned seemed to delight in entangling; the novel of Ethelinde followed within the next year. Her industry alone enabled her, during this period, to support her family, for, of the interest of her own fortune, only a small share remained annually to her, and that was irregularly paid.

            Though no longer in the absolute seclusion of a cottage, Mrs. Smith devoted herself entirely to her children, and to that species of labour by which she could assist them most effectually. She was now in the place of both parents; and while she saw them healthy and happy, her application to the desk was rather a matter of delight than of complaint, though her health began to suffer considerably.

            From 1791 to 1793, her time was occupied in preparing materials, and in the composition of the novels of Celestina, Desmond, and The Old Manor House, wile, amidst fictitious scenes and ideal beings, she sought to elude for a while the sad realities of life.

            The penalties and discouragements attending the profession of an author fall upon women with a double weight; to the curiosity of the idle and the envy of the malicious their sex affords a peculiar incitement: arraigned, not merely as writers, but as women, their characters, their conduct, even their personal endowments become the subjects of severe inquisition: from the common allowances claimed by the species, literary women appear only to be exempted: in detecting their errors and exposing their foibles, malignant ingenuity is active and unwearied – vain would be the hope to shield themselves from detraction, by the severest prudence, or the most entire seclusion: wanton malice, in the failure of facts, amply supplies materials for defamation, while, from the anguish of wounded delicacy, the gratification of demons seems to be extracted. Besides her sharing as a literary woman this general and most unjust persecution, Mrs. Smith individually created enemies by the zeal and perseverance with which she endeavoured to obtain justice for her children f men who hated her in proportion as they had injured her. 

            The situation of Mrs. Smith was not likely to exempt her from these disadvantages, to which her sensibility rendered her peculiarly vulnerable: but in the respect and affection of the few who had minds to appreciate her talents, or hearts to sympathise in her unmerited sufferings, she sought and found consolation.

            But whatever was the perseverance or the success of Mrs. Smith as an author, the task she had undertaken was, notwithstanding the filial tenderness of her son in India, more than she could execute. Years passed on; but the persons entrusted with the property made no progress in disembarrassing the estate of her children’s grandfather; [62] they, on the contrary, gave it up to the plunder of West India agents. In the consequent dispersion of her family, she lost the solace and reward of her labours. In September 1793, her third son, who served as an ensign in the twenty-fourth regiment, lost his leg before Dunkirk. Scarcely had she learned to consider with calmness this accident, when a heavier calamity befell her, in the death of her second and most beloved daughter, who expired within two years after her marriage to a man, whose knowledge of her worth rendered the fate of the survivor most deserving of commiseration. “How lovely and how beloved she was (says her afflicted mother in a letter to a friend), those only who knew her can tell. In the midst of perplexity and distress, till the loss of my child, which fell like the hand of death upon me, I could yet exert my faculties; and, in the consciousness of resource which they afforded to me, experience a sentiment not dissimilar to that of the Medea of Corneille, who replied to the enquiry of her confidant – “Where now are your resources? – In myself!”

            Two years after the death of her daughter, Mrs. Smith was induced, by continued oppression, once more to repair to London, in the hope of rescuing her children from the hands of those who had now held their estate, since 1784, with so little attention to their interest, that it seemed every year to diminish in value.

            Wearied and baffled by a series of iniquitous proceedings, and hopeless of redress, she was about to relinquish [63] her efforts, and return to her family, when an unexpected event gave a turn to their affairs. The brother-in-law of Mr. Smith, the claims of whose family had been the principal excuse for the detention of his father’s effects, made offers of accommodation, and the compromise was too desirable to be declined; but in a compliance with the terms assistance was necessary. In this dilemma Mrs. Smith stated the situation of the business to a nobleman, whose character derives lustre from the liberality of his mind, rather than from the accidents of fortune and descent. By this gentleman, to whose benevolence her family had been already indebted, and who, acquainted with the circumstances of their oppression, had mad previous efforts for their redress; Mrs. Smith was enabled to avail herself of the tendered proposal. Artificial delays protracted the business yet eighteen months: it was at length, with all the certainty of which West India affairs are capable, finally determined, when Mrs. Smith had the satisfaction of seeing her children restored to their rights. In a business thus entailed and complicated, much yet remained to be done, and many years must probably elapse before the remembrance or consequences of past sufferings can be effaced. But, for the consumption of time, the waste of powers, and the ravages of health, who can recompence the mother, whose wounded spirit and broken constitution excites, even now, in the minds of her friends, the most painful solicitude for her valuable life? Who is he, that, with a soul capable of sympathy, or a mind [64] accessible to the charm of genius, will refuse to join in the wish, that in the rectitude of her own heart, in the consciousness of duties performed, in the resources afforded by an improved understanding and a cultivated taste, in the grateful tenderness of her family, and the cordial affection of her friends, this admirable and unfortunate woman may at length find her reward!

            Beside the works already described, Mrs. Smith is the author of some other novels, among which, The Old Manor House holds a distinguished place. If, in the hurry of composition, interrupted by distracting cares, her style is sometimes negligent, and often diffuse, and elevation of sentiment, a refinement of taste, a felling, a delicacy, breathes through her productions, that by moving the affections and engaging the sympathy of the reader, excites a lively and permanent interest.