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MEMOIRS OF THE MARGRAVINE OF ANSPACH,*
WRITTEN BY HERSELF.
« LADY CRAVEN always tells the truth," was a saying of the late King's; the veracity of which we are not disposed to doubt, since we bave the lady's own authority in support of it. “I have always been a strict observer of truth.” Again—“I never utter a falsehood; I never detract; I talk as little as I can," &c. Finally—“ I defy my bitterest enemy to affirm I ever told an untruth.” On the best grounds, therefore, we have established one important point—that every statement in these volumes is true. The fair authoress appears to have been on terms of intimacy with the most celebrated of her contemporaries; and has favoured us with anecdotes illustrative of their characters. There is one, and only one, given us at full length-her own. This we shall first notice, as it may enable the reader to appreciate justly the value of her other performances in the same line. She possessed “ a natural love for the muses,” which, however, she was always reluctant to betray. The docility of her temper made learning easy to her; she danced, sang, and embroidered, and had a taste for all fine works. Though lively to excess, the moment her attention was claimed by her lessons, she became all silence, and her application was so close as generally to cost her a nervous head-ache. Her natural disposition was one extremely difficult to manage---meek, yet lively-humble, yet, when roused, her sensations were such as for ever to seal her lips and ears to those who had offended her. Her feelings were invariably generous, and a liberal way of thinking characterized her conduct through life. In affairs of moment, her natural genius disposed her to reflection, though in trifles she was of a gay and inconsiderate turn. The contrast presented by these opposite qualities constituted her principal charm, and made her the delight of those with whom she lived. She was remarkable also for the clearness of her ideas; a quality which extorted from the Père Elisée, surgeon to the King of France, the exclamation, “ Dieu ! comme vos idées sont claires et nettes !” However, though subject to be complimented with expressions of this kind, she was humble enough to ascribe her great superiority over the rest of her sex to her education. Instead of skipping over a rope, she had been taught to pay visits and to receive them, and to suppose herself a lady receiving company. Moreover, she had been too weak to be tossed about, when an infant-an evil practice too common among English nurses. Then for her morality; though all obedience in indifferent matters, no power on earth could have forced her into a measure condemned by her conscience. Modesty, of course, she held in high esteem, as the chief ornament of the sex. “ The woman,” she observes, “ that surrenders her chastity, is universally despised.” The Countess of Suffolk, lady of the bed-chamber to Queen Caroline, her godmother, she made the * pattern of her manners,” and so profound is the respect she expresses for that lady, that she probably made her the pattern also of
2 vols. 8vo.
Memoirs of the Margravine of Anspach, written by herself. London, Colburn, 1826.
her morals. Her's was a soul of great magnanimity, and accessible to sensations, neither of envy nor hatred. Thus blessed by nature and education, the reader will not be surprised to learn that she was the comfort of both her husbands.
Her face and form were such as indicated the divinity within. Lady Berkeley, her mother, had conceived a dislike to her from her birth ; which was often“ attended with personal chastisement for her étourderies." This treatment produced in her that look of blended modesty and timidity, which, contrasted with her vivacity and playfulness, fascinated every beholder. It was a matter of regret to her that no picture of her had ever done her justice. The one done by Romney by no means conveys a just idea of her face or figure. He deserves, however, great praise for that which he executed of her two sons, Perkeley and Keppel. “ These two elėgant young men were models for an artist.” Even Reynolds, after six sittings, was obliged to give up the attempt. In his defence he said to Dr. Johnson, who was scolding him for his refusal to finish the portrait," there is something so comical in the lady's face, that all my art cannot describe it." Comical!-Johnson repeated the word ten times, and every time in a different tone, and ended in an angry one. “ J'ai vu des femmes plus belles, peut-être," said a Madame de Vaucluse to Mrs. Montague; “mais, pour sa physiognomie, Grand Dieu ! j'ai lu, j'ai écrit beaucoup de Romans, mais elle les a tous dans sa physiognomie.” From the period of her presentation she was courted by the men, and received by the world, in general, in a way that might have turned the head of any other young creature ; but this homage made her only the more diffident and humble, and “ it was just that look, which no one else had,” that endeared her to every one. « Est-elle aussi jolie ?" asked Madame de Polignac of the Duke of Dorset, “ A-t-elle autant d'esprit que le monde dit? "_" And what did you answer ?" said I to the Duke.-“ I told her,” said he,“ that we had twenty women at court more handsome than you ; mais pour les graces, et l'esprit, pas une." As no painter could be found to do justice to the “ inexpressible charm" of her face, it is fortunate for us, that she has herself undertaken to convey a correct impression. She enjoyed great advantages for the execution of this task, viz. a quickness of observation that never failed to discern the “ effect” her appearance produced, and an excellent memory, that treasured up and retained to old age every compliment that had been paid her in youth.
Of her taste, her acquirements, and learning, these volumes will afford sufficient evidence, to those who have patience enough to read them, and understanding to fathom the depth of her observations. Of that critical, as well as philosophical turn of thought, which pervades them, we can afford but one or two specimens.“ It was not chance which formed it,” (she is speaking of the Comédie Française)—“ Louis XIV. in disseminating a general emulation in the fine arts, created, if I may be allowed the expression, the great Corneille and the inimitable Molière.” “ A barber,” (she is criticising the Barbier de Seville,) “should never be the hero of a play. A barber never enters into the society of the beau monde. He may be allowed to appear at intervals, but ought never to be the hero." —She was deputed by the Margrave, to present Blanchard the aéronaut, with a gold medal. About a year and a half afterwards, she received a letter from him, thanking her for the hints she had suggested to him respecting the direction of the balloon. Now she had made no observations, only asked him questions. But ignorance, “ from it's constant enquiry, has frequently produced something new to those, who have lost their combinations, by being too abstract."-" Murder and assassination are not only destructive in themselves, but, if possible, still more destructive in their consequences. The practice of shedding blood unjastly, and often wantonly, blunts the conscience, and paves the way to every crime." This observation is verified in the ancient Greeks, &c. “ Money is a species of property of such extensive use, as greatly to inflame the appetite.”—“ Hesiod says, that God has placed labour as a guard to virtue-l approve every regulation that tends to prevent idleness.”—“ Opulence does not consist in the riches, but in the manners of a nation.”—“ Italian authors, I think, in general are not amusing, but the tragedies of Alfieri are very fine-Dante is very obscure.” -“ Metastasio enchants by the softness and harmony of his poetry." -“ Meratori surprises by the vast extent of his knowledge; but he is without purity or elegance."_“ Montesquieu, among the French writers, expresses himself with much precision.”—“That curious writer, Mandeville, who is always entertaining, if he does not instruct, &c.”
-“ For the elevation of the mind above the earth I recognize the plurality of worlds.”—“ Had all the learned men treated this subject, and explained it with the clearness and precision of Fontenelle, there would have been no occult sciences.”-“ After Fontenelle, I admire the elegant Algarotti, &c.”—“ When I wish for information of what passes in the material world, I read Buffon." -“ When I found my mind changeable, and my ideas not consecutive, I referred to the great dictionary of the Encyclopædia!"_“When I have no imagination, I look over some translations : I select that moment, because genius is not necessary there, &c.”
To do justice to the variety of this lady's information—the exquisite trath of her criticisms, the depth of her philosophical remarks, which touch upon every subject from the philosophy of dancing, to that of government and morals—and the engaging simplicity and unaffected tone by which they are recommended, would demand more pages than we have been able to afford lines. “Oh! there you are,” exclaimed Charles Fox to her at the assembly, where he saw her first Margravine; “ I wonder what you will do with your education; it will embarrass you much.” We think there was reason in his wonder; more especially if the Margravine was in the habit of favouring her auditors with reflections so profound and diversified as those with which she has indulged her readers. Lady Morgan, perhaps, though we speak with hesitation, (more modest in this than our critical brethren, who invariably have no hesitation,”) is the only living authoress that can be compared with her Highness, in the extent of her reading, and the boldness and originality of her speculations.
From the philosophical nature of her reflections, the reader led to expect much new light upon the charaeters of the distinguished persons with whom she associated. There are, however, but three characters in her book-her own, her mother's, and her first husband's. These she had good opportunities of studying, and, not being of a very rare or complex description, they were easily learned. The first we have endeavoured to exhibit. Her mother's is seen to most advantage on the occasion of the fair authoress's first appearance in the world, when, it must be owned, her reception was not over cordial. “ Being wrapped up in a piece of flannel, and without much attention deposited in the great elbow-chair, at her ladyship’s bed-side, with neither clothes, nor wet-nurse prepared, I was left in despair, for a while, to my fate." Lady Albemarle coming in to make civil enquiries after the health of the invalid and the stranger, had very nearly deprived the world of her, who was born to be the “delight" of every one, and us of her history, by preparing to sit down in the arm-ehair, where she had at first observed nothing but a piece of flannel. Lady Albemarle desired that the infant might be brought to the window, that she might judge of the probability of its existence. “ It's a miserable thing, and cannot live,” exclaimed Lady Berkeley. Fortunately for the future Margravine, Lady Albemarle judged otherwise, “ The infant's face being uncovered, the helpless little being opened its eyes, as if to hail the light of day; and as they appeared very bright,” Lady Albemarle conceived hopes of its living. She, therefore, took upon herself to give such orders as might at least allow the infant fair play, and which the mother, partly from despair, and partly from disappointment at its proving a female, when she had predetermined it should be a boy, had neglected to give.
Of her sister, Lady Georgiana, there is nothing said particularly worthy of observation ; except her mode of confiding to our authoress the secret of her attachment to the nobleman with whom, upon finding the course of her love not to run so smooth as was to be wished, she eventually disappeared. “One night, when my mother was asleep, Lady Georgiana came to my bed-side, having stolen silently from her own, and whispered, “My Bessy, I am in love. After the elopement of this sister, Bessy was sentenced to sleep in the same room with her mother till she was married.
The next remarkable circumstance in her history is a requisition made to her, at some sacred musical festival, by desire of the bishop of Gloucester, that she would hold one of the plates for the money to be collected for the poor. “ As I naturally felt abashed in a situation, where I was so conspicuous, I averted my face, when I curtsied for the guineas that were given, and they all fell sliding from the plate, to the dismay of the two beadles who attended." Notwithstanding a few casualties of this kind, and the teazing solicitatious of suitors, favoured by her mother, her life at that period was indifferently merry. “ I danced and sung, and wrote poetry, and laughed with my young friends, with my accustomed hilarity, without restraint or fear; comme le Chevalier Bayard, sans peur et sans reproche. But helas ! this state was not of long duration."
The most serious interruption to her tranquillity was occasioned by Mr. Craven's wilful and obstinate determination to fall in love with her. The urgency of friends, the intercessions of relatives, and the perseverance of Mr. Craven, prevail upon her, at length, to allow the settlements to be made. She was offered the choice of the seat in Leicestershire, or that in Berkshire, for her place of residenee. “I asked in which of the two counties the family interest lay. As he
said it was in Berkshire, I replied, that ought to be the place. When matters of serious moment were placed before me, my natural genius led me to reflection, &c.”
-, afterwards Lord Craven, had received what was called a polished education, which Oxford had the honour of completing. His life was one continued ramble. To hunt in Leicestershire to drive the Oxford stage-coach-to see a new play in London, &c. were his ordinary avocations. “ Till I lived with you, my love,” said he to his wife, “ I never stayed three days in one place.” Possessed of a sound judgment and a clear understanding, he had taste neither for music nor the fine arts, and disliked reading any thing but the newspapers.
“There were neither libraries nor books in any house, of any Craven. • A miracle ! a miracle !' exclaimed Fox one day to me--it was in Lord Craven's life-time- Craven, who never till yesterday opened his lips in the House of Lords, spoke.'— Indeed!' said I; - what did he say?' for he did not tell me, on his return, that he had spoken. He then described to me, with much good humour, a speech that Lord Sandwich had made, in which that nobleman concluded by asserting as a fact something that was his own invention. Lord Craven rose, to the astonishment of the whole house. Loud murmurs of disapprobation, which had arisen at Lord Sandwich's assertion, were instantly hushed, to give audience to a peer about to speak, who had never opened his mouth before. Lord Craven, looking steadfastly at Lord Sandwich, exclaimed, “ that's a lie,' and immediately sat down again. The house burst out into a convulsion of laughter." This is the best anecdote in the book, and is told in her best manner.
She bore her lord seven children, in the course, apparently, of almost as many years ; and her strict attention to the maternal duties, won her the heart of Samuel Johnson. “ I like you,” said he, one day, laying his great hand upon her arm,“ because you are a good mother." But all her talents, her virtues, and exemplary conduct were unable to subdue her lord's inveterate propensity to rambling. Happening, by chance, to alight at the Crown Inn, in Reading, he found there a lady, with whom some gay colonel had resided for awhile, till, sated with her charms, he had left her and them, by way of pledge, to pay for the reckoning. As was to be expected, this lady instantly took possession of Lord Craven. She rode out with him, drank with him, and gained a complete ascendancy over him. A scene of some pathos ensues between him and his lady; on her part, full of dignity; on his, of remorse. He soon, however, put an end to all doubt or anxiety on the subject, by flatly announcing one day his intention of going to London; and “+ when I go, I shall never see your face again.' To this I answered, “ That is, to part with me?' He replied, 'Yes.' I then proceeded as far as the door, and, turning round, said, with the greatest calmness I could collect, · The parting of a husband and a wife, who have lived together for thirteen years, and have had seven children, is a thiug of too great consequence to those children, for me not to take the best advice upon such an event ;' and I retired to my own sitting-room."
She was as good as her word, and consulted the very best authorities, in the persons of Lords Loughborough and Thurlow. The first was all faming indignation, and advised nothing short of prosecution.