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MRS MONTAGU 

1720-1800 

AN ESSAY 



BY R. HUCHON 



NEW YORK 

E. P. DUTTON AND COMPANY 

1907 



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PREFACE 

It is well known that, between 1750 and 
1790, a group of remarkable women emulated 
in London the example given them in 
Paris by Mmes du Tencin, du Deffand, and 
GeofFrin, and instituted assemblies, whence 
card-playing was excluded for the sake of 
literary conversation. Among these ladies, 
familiarly nicknamed "Blue Stockings," the 
leading spirit undoubtedly was Mrs Montagu, 
the subject of this Essay. 

It could not be maintained without great 
exaggeration that, since her day, her fame 
has lost none of its brightness. Her con- 
versational powers, like the acting of a player, 
have vanished into air, hardly leaving any 
trace behind. Her merits as a critic and a 



207179 

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vi PREFACE 

champion of Shakespeare against Voltaire 
are sometimes disputed, and, at best, acknow- 
ledged in a footnote. 

Yet, she has never been totally forgotten. 
Her early Letters, first published in 1809, 
have been partly reprinted, with much ad- 
ditional matter, in Mrs CHmenson's recent 
work on The Early Life of EliEabeth Montagu. 
Dr Doran's study, published in 1873 under 
the title of A Lady of the Last Century, though 
superficial and desultory, was the first attempt 
at a sketch of the whole subject. And as 
long as Voltaire finds readers, Mrs Montagu's 
name will remain inseparable from his last 
production, the second Letter to the Academy 
prefixed to the tragedy of Irine. 

This little book is not intended as a 
Biography, which Mrs Climenson alone can 
satisfactorily write, with the help of the mass 
of unprinted correspondence in her possession. 
Our scope is narrower. From the tangled 
biographical details contained in the printed 



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PREFACE vii 

volumes, we have tried to discover and 
collect, as best we could, the half-obscured 
and scattered lineaments of Mrs Montagu's 
intellectual and moral character. We have 
devoted more attention than any previous 
writer to her Essay on the Genius of Shake- 
speare, examined it in the Hght of the criticism 
of the time, and accompanied its author in 
her journey to France during the eventful 
summer of 1776. In the third and concluding 
chapter, her social influence and intercourse 
with the men and women of letters, her 
contemporaries, have been considered. We 
cannot conclude without expressing our great 
indebtedness to Mrs Climenson and to Mr 
Broadley for some unprinted material, which 
proved most valuable in the compiling and 
writing of this Essay^ 



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CONTENTS 



i. characteristics i 

ii. the essay osr shakesps are ... 79 
hi, mrs montagu's social and literary 

circle: the blue stockings . - 204 

conclusion 284 

INDEX ........ 295 



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LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



Mrs Montagu, /^ow a miniature in the 

possession o/"Miss MONTAGU . Froniispie, 

Mrs Montagu, from the engraved por- 
trait by C. TOWNLEY, after Frances 
Reynolds, in the possession of }Ax A. M. 
PROADLEY ...... Tofacep. 21 



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MRS MONTAGU AND HER 
FRIENDS 

CHAPTER I 

CHARACTERISTICS 



Some time in June 1779, Dr Johnson, dis- 
coursing with Mrs Thrale "on the amazing 
progress made of late years in literature by 
the women," remarked that "he was himself 
astonished at it," that "he well remembered 
when a woman who could spell a common 
letter was regarded as all accomplished ; but 
now," added he, "they vie with the men 
in everything."^ Nowhere was their success 
to be so conspicuous as in novel-writing. 
For more than a generation, from the publica- 
tion of Evelina to that of WaverUy, they held 
an almost undisputed sway over this their 
^ Tke Diary and Letters of Madame d'ARELAY, ed. 



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2 CHARACTERISTICS 

chosen literary domain. Both in realistic 
and in romantic fiction, the "age was distin- 
.^guished by producing extraordinary women." ^ 
The temper of the times, the tone of a society 
that was yearly gaining in respectability and 
intellectual refinement, accorded with the 
delicacy they wished to observe in their 
delineation of manners and in their style. 
They no longer ran any risk of endangering 
or even forfeiting their fair fame by becoming 
authoresses. Of them it could not be said, 
in Mrs Montagu's words, that "the generality 
of women who have excelled in wit have failed 
in chastity." ^ More fortunate than Mrs Aphra 
^ehn or Mrs Manley, they could_. please the 
public without being scorned for their pains ; 
they could live respected, marry decently, 
nay, be preferred to some employment at 
Court- Thus, the world of fashion and the 
world of letters drew closer, and women 
played their part in both. Some, lilie Mrs 
Vesey, Mrs Thrale, Mrs Boscawen, Miss 
Monckton, Mrs Walsingham, delighted in 
filling their London drawing-rooms with as 

^ The Diary and Letters of Madame d'ARBLAY, ed, 
1S76, i., 160. Burke to F. Burney. 

^ The Letters of Mrs Elizabeth Montagu, ed. 1813, 



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BIRTH AND FAMILY 3 

many literary celebrities as they could collect ; 
more distinguished even than these, Mrs 
Montagu, uniting the qualifications of a 
woman of fashion and of a writer, helped 
to raise the social standing of women of 
letters, and thereby acquired for herself pre- 
eminence in her own time and some right 
to the remembrance of posterity. 

Born on and October 1720, she was the 
fourth child and eldest daughter of Matthew 
Robinson and of Elizabeth Drake, both 
wealthy members of the landed gentry, and 
possessed, or soon to be possessed, of no 
less than four estates in Yorkshire, Cam- 
bridgeshire, and in Kent. Her father seems 
to have been a man of some talent and great 
indolence. His skill as a landscape painter 
excelled, we are told, that "of most of the 
professed artists of his day " ; his conver- 
sational powers and "intellectual endow- 
ments " ^ would have made him a favourite 
in the social and convivial circles of the 
metropolis. But, ever fond of his ease and 
pleasure, he had married too soon, when a 
youth of eighteen and a mere undergraduate 

^ The Letters of Mxs Elizabeth Montagu, ed. 1809, 



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4 CHARACTERISTICS 

or "fellow - cororooner" at Cambridge. 
Without any profession from which he could 
draw an income to supplement his personal 
means, he was driven by the care of his 
growing family into the dull retirement of 
a country life. He thought it "perfect 
misery."^ In vain did he practise "shoot- 
ing and coursing" as a diversion against 
the dreaded "hyp," the melancholy that 
threatened him : such poor palliatives proved 
ineffectual, and his "physician," his daughter 
playfully wrote, could not "prescribe him 
any cordial strong enough to keep up his 
spirits." ^ This languid existence lasted 
many years, first at Coveney, near Cam- 
bridge, and, worse still, from 1733 till 1746, 
at Monks Horton near Hythe, then a solitary 
part of Kent. The house he inhabited with 
his twelve children was indeed pleasant 
enough : a contemporary print represents it 
as a "large square" building "surmounted 
by a cupola" and surrounded with walled 
gardens.^ On a Sunday morning after 

' The Early Life of Elisabeth Montagu, by Mrs 
Climenson, 1906, ii., 94. 
' Letters, ed. 1809, i., 10. 
^ Mrs Climknson, ii., 14. 



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HER FATHER 5 

church, " Mr Robinson " could ride with 
his daughter as far as a neighbouring " high 
hill," whence a vast expanse of sea was to 
be seen, and also "a little of France," just 
enough "to distinguish the corn fields near 
Boulogne from the pasture."^ Such peaceful 
joys did not, however, satisfy the soul of 
Mr Robinson, turned squire against his will. 
He longed to become again a fine gentleman 
about town, as in his youth. When _his__ 
wife died, in 1746^ he was only too glad to 
settle in London and to mingle again in 
"the high and polished society of the clubs." 
Henceforward, his happiness was as complete 
as a man's can be: "Life," Mrs Montagu 
writes, "has been to him one long play 
day. He has never tasted business, care, 
or study ; vtvre au jour la journee, as the 
French saying is, has been his moral 
maxim." ^ His was an easy-going, epicurean J 
temper, occasionally depressed by idle fits of 
languor. 

We may believe that this country-hater 
could not forbear smiling at the peculiarities 
of his neighbours. His remarks found a 

' Letters, i., 240-1. 

^ Mrs Climbnson, ii., 156. 



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6 CHARACTERISTICS 

ready echo in his bright little daughter 
Elizabeth. From a very tender age, she 
possessed a nimble tongue and a caustic pen. 
The first years of her life had been spent, 
not only under the venerable shadow of York 
Minster,' and in the solitude of Coveney, 
but also in the learned society that met, in 
Cambridge, at the house of the University 
Librarian, the celebrated Dr Conyers Middle- 
ton, her grandmother's second husband. She 
had become a favourite with him and his 
friends, "an object of great notice and 
admiration " for her "uncommon sensi- 
bility, acuteness of understanding and extra- 
ordinary beauty as a child." With her grey- 

' By which she had been deeply impressed. On i6th 
September 1759, she wrote to Lord Lyttelton : ~ " I 
expect your lordship will be much pleased with the 
cathedral ; I have not seen any building of that kind 
so noble. ... I shall be glad to hear that your lordship 
and Mr Lyttelton like York, to which perhaps I am 
partial as to the place of my nativity. One of the 
strongest pictures in my mind is the funeral of a dean of 
York, which 1 saw perform'd with great solemnity in the 
cathedral when I was about four years old" {Letters, 
ed. 1813, iv., 338-9). Hence her admiration of this 
particular edifice, and of Gothic architecture in general, 
though she preferred the elegant style of "Athenian 
buildings." " Both are perfect in their kind," as she 
swd, with true critical taste {ibid.^ 249-50). 



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EARLY TRAINING 7 

blue' eyes, her high-arched, dark eyebrows, 
her "brilliant complexion"^ contrasting with 
her brown hair, her middle stature and stoop- 
ing posture, she looked so intelligent and so 
demure that much attention was already paid 
to her. The Doctor, desirous of improving 
her memory, required of her "an account 
of the learned conversations at which she 
was frequently present," and no doubt Eliza- 
beth proved an apt scholar. Even in solitary 
Monks Horton, her three elder brothers 
formed an audience whose sympathy or 
disapproval could not but invite her to exer- 
tion. Warm disputes, we are told, took 
place now and then, in which the mother 
acted as a moderator. Mr Robinson, de- 
lighted with his daughter's lively sallies, 
"afforded them perhaps too much encourage- 
ment" at the expense of his acquaintance, 
And as she spoke, so did she write. Her ' 
letters, from her thirteenth to her twentieth 
year, and even later, are remarkable for a 

' Cf. Letters, ed. 1813, iv., 132, where she speaks 
"of my two little grey eyes." Cf, also ibid., ed. i8og, 
ii-, 3'7- 

^ In 1773 alas! it had faded into a "pale yellow," 
Historical MSS. Commission, MSS. of the Marquis of 
Bath, i., 338. 



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8 CHARACTERISTICS 

sort of playful girlish irony that often pleases 
by its exuberance, and sometimes jars on us 
by its flippancy. 

The insignificant labourer alone excepted, 
all sorts and conditions of countrymen and 
■women run the gauntlet of her satiric touches. 
She laughs at them coUectively and individu- 
ally. "Were things as in ^sop's days," 
she airily writes, "when beasts could talk, 
the country might be a place of conversation : 
a jay might flutter about like a beau, a calf 
talk like a squire's eldest son, a stately ox be 
as grave a companion as the chairman of the 
bench of justices, a bull roar like a patriot 
senator. . . . Butif these metamorphoses can- 
not be compassed, it is very common to see the 
reverse of my scheme ; though I never saw a 
calf a direct young squire, I have seen many 
an heir-apparent a very calf, and so of the 
rest. . . . Here nobody laughs at what they 
say but themselves."^ Evidently this young 
lady is not deficient in assurance— impertin- 
ence perhaps, — but she observes and listens 
before she criticises. One evening, with the 
indispensable help of the full moon,^ she has 

'■ Letters, i., 48-9. 

^ The only time for visiting in the country. Cf. 



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IRONY 9 

gone eight miles from home to a ball given 
by Lady Thanet, a great personage in that 
part of Kent. When she returns, we hear 
a description of the whole family ; " I think 
I never saw so formidable a countenance " as 
her ladyship's, says she; "her smiles are 
like the sunshine and rain on an April day ; 
she smiles and frowns together, which makes 
a beautiful contrast in her visage." The 
child has his turn, after the mother; "Lord 
Thanet's education of his son is something 
particular ; he encourages him in swearing, 
and singing nasty ballads with the servants ; 
he is a very fine boy, but prodigiously rude ; 
he came down to breakfast the other day 
when there was company, and his maid came 
with him, who, instead of carrying a little 
whirligig for his lordship to play with, was 
lugging in a huge billet for his plaything."^ 
Our youthful satirist seldom sees deep into 
characters ; she fastens rather on the outward 
shows of things, on oddities of dress and 
manners. A certain "worshipful justice " 

Gibbon's Atitobiograpky (at Buriton, about 1760) : " I 

dreaded the period of the full moon, which was usually 

reserved for our more distant e: 

' Letters, i., 33-4, 



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to CHARACTERISTICS 

tried to entertain her one day with "the most 
elegant encomiums upon the country and the 
most barbarous censures upon the town." 
She paid less attention to her visitor's talk 
than to his dress, which consisted of " a new 
leathern belt, scarlet waistcoat and plush 
breeches."^ The Rev. "Mr Spintext," her 
vicar, partakes of the general dulness round 
about Horton. She probably thinks she 
could improve his sermons. He has been 
"somewhat tedious to-day," she remarks on 
the 14th of July 1741 : "poor man, he is 
a good while explaining anything, and one 
must wait till he has overtaken his meaning ; 
<Ja he finds it at last, it is well, if not, he 
calls for it again the next Sunday." '^ Should 
he be a bachelor and propose to her, she 
will not have him, nor, for that matter, any 
of those clodhoppers whose wits stick in the 
mud, as their shoes in their clay. She may 
condescend to play her tricks on them, to send, 
for instance, to one "Mr James Brockman of 
Beachborough " ^ an anonymous letter com- 
plaining of his absence from "balls, hops, and 

' Mrs Climenson'S Early Life of Mrs Monlagu, 
i., 31. 
s LeiUrs, i,, 251-2. ^ Ibid., 16-17 ( ii. 58-9. 



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HIGH SPIRITS II 

assemblies"; but, if the same James Brock- 
man loses his heart to her, she will have 
"no balsam for him," she will bury rather 
than marry him. He has, however, "such 
a stock of flesh to waste upon " that he will 
survive some time yet. 

Wherever this disdainful beauty goes, a 
light-hearted sportive smile brightens her 
countenance. Like her father, she knows no 
cares, or soon dispels them. Her younger 
sister Sarah being ill of the smallpox, 
Elizabeth has been sent away from home 
to a yeoman's^ farm in the neighbouring 
village of Hayton. At this Mr Smith's her 
surroundings are duller than ever, but she 
laughs all the more. "Amongst the old 

' This individual and his family were excellent repre- 
sentatives of their class (in 1741) : "They are not very 
fine people ; they have a small estate, and help it out 
with a little farming ; are very busy and careful. , , . 
They have been possessed in the family, for ought I 
know, since the Conqueror, of about four hundred 
pounds a year ; they have a good old house, neatly 
furnished ; but there is nothing of modern structure to 
be seen in it" {Letters, 1., 141, 153, 162). As the century 
advanced, this agricultural middle-class, half landowners, 
half farmers, gradually disappeared in most places, Kent 
excepted. Mr Smith's avarice is not less typical than 
his way of living ; peasants, as we know, are proverbially 



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12 CHARACTERISTICS 

furniture " of the house, she does not 
"forget the clock, who has indeed been a 
time-server. . . . Even me it goverijs, sends 
me to bed at ten, and makes me rise, oh 
barbarous ! at eight. I go to bed awake, 
and arise asleep." But, in the course of 
the day, she rouses herself well enough to 
dash off this picturesque sketch of her host, 
an old miser: "He eats in fear of waste and 
riot, sleeps with the dread of thieves, denies 
himself everything for fear of wanting any- 
thing ; ... he has the curse of covetousness 
to want the property of his neighbours, while 
he dare not touch his own ; the sum of his 
wisdom and his gains will be by living poor 
to die rich. , . . The other day, meeting him 
in a grove, for want of something better to 
say, I took notice we were under the shade 
of fine trees ; he said, yes, indeed, they were 
brave timber and would sell well, I said 
they would afford a comfortable habitation 
to a colony of rooks. To which, in the same 
vein, he answered he loved the creatures well 
enough, but that they would eat the corn. . . . 
I verily believe he would annihilate half God's 
works to have his granary the fuller." The 
very pen she writes with, being the miser's, 



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COUNTRY SOCIETY 13 

may not pass banter-free. "I believe, since 
it was dipped in inli, it never made a compli- 
ment. It has been worn out in the service 
of gain." Frolicsome as a kitten, stie plays 
with all that offers. She attends once a 
year the " Canterbury races," with their 
concomitant balls and assemblies, where the 
county gentry meet ; as she suffers from 
headaches, she repairs to Tunbridge, or even 
to Bath, and drinks the waters. But let no 
formal face appear, or it will set her pen 
a-going. ' ' The person most noticed for 
singularity at Tunbridge," says she, "was 
Lord Stanhope : he is always making mathe- 
matical scratches in his pocket-book, so that 
one-half of the people took him for a conjurer, 
the other half for a fool. He is much admired 
and commended by his acquaintance, which 
are few in number. I think he had three at 
the Wells, and I believe he did not allow 
them above a sentence a-piece in a whole 
day."^ Even a mathematician may not look 
grave ; even invalids at Bath may not be 
wrapped up in flannel ; they are so queer. 
And all uncommon characters or sights 
provoke her mirth and satire : "The morning 
' Lttters, i., 25. Cf. Mrs CLIMENSO^, i., 18. 



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14 CHARACTERISTICS 

after I arrived I went to the Ladies' Coffee 
House, where I heard of nothing but the 
rheumatism in the shoulder, the sciatica in 
the hip, and the gout in the toe. ... I 
began to fancy myself in the hospitals or 
infirmaries ; I never saw such an assembly 
of disorders."^ Nor was this sprightly, 
ironical mood the effect of mere youthful 
thoughtlessness : when years had passed 
and had brought to her some trials and 
much experience, still she remained ever 
ready to laugh at the foibles of others.^ 



11 



Of a high-strung, " nervous constitution," 
she enjoys her real or fancied superiority 
over her neighbours. Vanity, as she herself 
v^cknowledges, is her ruling passion. In a 
half- serious, half- humorous tone, she 
describes its invigorating power and charm. 
Through it, she has been pleased with the 
looking-glass, reconciled to the echo, and 

' Mrs Climknson, i., 39. 

^ Cf. MSS. of the Marquis of Bath, i., 334 ; letter 
from Bath, 9th December 1764. 



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VANITY 15 

made fond of pen and ink; "take but this 
my indulgent friend and constant companion 
from me, I shall neither look, talk, nor write 
to my satisfaction. . . . Flattery, it suggests/ 
is truth, and censure is envy ; kindness is 
the reward, malice the consequence, of my 
merit." "Content with herself," she never 
broods, but throws her whole soul into the 
diversions of her little world. A perpetual 
flow of good spirits carries her along. 
"Contemplation is not made for a woman 
on the right side of thirty," she declares; 
" rest and an elbow-chair are the comforts of 
age ; the pleasures of youth are of a more 
lively sort."^ Let but a blind fiddler strike 
up a tune, and up she springs, ready for the 
dance ; the longer it lasts, the better ; she 
will return "at two o'clock in the morning, 
mightily pleased to have been so well 
entertained." Should the coach break down 
on the way back, as it frequently happened 
in those days, when flooded ruts had to serve 
for cross-country roads, she will "squall for 
joy," and, to complete her felicity, she will 
stand "half an hour in the most refreshing 

' The original text is in the past tense- Le(/ers,u.,22. 
^ Ibid., >., 27. 



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i6 CHARACTERISTICS 

rain, and the coolest north breeze" she ever 
felt. The next morning', she comes "croaking 
down to breakfast," but, far from complaining, 
she denies having caught a cold, as "one 
always " does " when one has been scheming." 
Seventeen years afterwards, when she was 
already thirty-five, her friend Gilbert West 
could still comment upon the " store of wild- 
fire"^ that she possessed. To this fund of 
. jlervous energy was due, no doubt, her 
untiring lifelong activity, in spite of weak 
health. 

As another consequence of this, a "lively 
imagination"^ distinguished her, especially 
in youth. She dwelt " in the medium 
between judgment and fency." Able to 
reason and observe, she could also see 
visions and dream dreams. " It was from 
this picturendrawing faculty," she wrote in 
August 1760,^ "I used to be always amused 
and gay. ... If any person had then 
advertised for a companion to travel through 
the deserts of Siberia or Africa, I would have 



1 Letters, lii., 297 (ist July 1755.) 

' The phrase Js Mrs Donnellan's in 1740. Letters, i., 



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LIVELY FANCY 17 

recommended my imagination to them, as one 
which would show cities where even a cottage 
did not appear. . . . When first fancy began 
to lose some of its creative powers, it retained 
the complaisance of Hamlet's courtier, and 
could trace a weasel or an elephant in a shape- 
less cloud, from the least hint that was given 
it, " Such hints were borrowed from her 
reading or experience and developed in her 
letters for the amusement of her friends. If 
she wants delicately to urge the Duchess of 
Portland to more diligence in corresponding, 
she dates her message from "Pluto's palace," 
and announces that her death took place " last 
Thursday" for disappointment at not hearing 
from a certain duchess, that she has since 
crossed the Styx, encountered the shades 
and their king, consulted with the "melan- 
choly lovers " her negligent friend had already 
sent there, and finally resolved to call "for 
the pen and ink Mrs Rowe had used to write 
her letters^ from the dead to the living." 
There is much wit in this little invention, by 
which her reproof is mythologically conveyed 
and tempered. Or perhaps one of her own 

' See Friendship in Dealli, twenty Letters from the 
Dead to the Living (1728). 



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i8 CHARACTERISTICS 

letters to the Duchess has miscarried, and 
its loss must be explained, A servant had 
been ordered to post it at Canterbury. No 
doubt, "the fellow" forgot his errand. This 
" hint " suffices : here, as in many other 
occasions, her fancy takes wing; images and 
words throng on her paper. The unfortunate 
letter becomes a creature living and sensible : 
what must be "its mortification that, instead 
of having the honour to kiss Your Grace's 
hands, it must be confined in the footman's 
pocket, with greasy gloves, rotten apples, 
mouldy nuts, a pack of dirty cards, and, 
the only companion of its sort, a tender 
epistle from his sweetheart 'tru tell Deth.' 
Perhaps by its situation subject to be 
kicked by his master every morning, till 
at last, by ill-usage and rude company, 
worn too thin for any other use, it may 
make its exit in lighting a tobacco pipe."^ 
>A gifted damsel indeed, who could write 
thus at fourteen, with so much verve and 
point. 

To pass from her sluggish, humdrum 

surroundings at Horton to the elegant, 

high-bred society of her noble friend, the 

' Letters, i., 12, and Mrs Climenson, i., 12-3. 



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IN HIGH LIFE 19 

Duchess of Portland, was a delightful 
change. Lady Margaret Cavendish Harley, 
grand - daughter of the celebrated Lord 
Treasurer Oxford, had been "in early 
childhood the object of Swift's poetic 
attention, and the subject of Prior's expiring 
Muse,"^ Born in February 1714, she was 
Elizabeth's senior by six years, and had 
married in 1734 William Bentinck, second 
Duke of Portland. When still living at the 
paternal estate of Wimpole in Cambridge- 
shire, she had made the acquaintance of 
Miss Robinson, then about eleven years of 
age. The visits to Wimpole had been 
followed by invitations to the Duchess's 
London residence at Whitehall, and to her 
country-seat at Bulstrode "near Gerrard's 
Cross" in Buckinghamshire. There Eliza- 
beth, sympathetically nicknamed " F(dget,V 
found herself in a brilliant, cheerful, con- 
genial circle. That *' melancholy monu- 
ment of Dutch magnificence,"* the house at 
Bulstrode, and its park possessed unnumbered 
charms in her eyes: "The rural beauties of 

^ Weaxall's Historical Memoirs, ed. 1904, p. 95- 

= HOR. WaLPOLE'S Letters, ed. P. Toynbee, 1903, iii., 



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20 CHARACTERISTICS 

the place," she writes in 1740, "would per- 
suade me I was in the plains of Arcadia, 
but . . . the building, under whose gilded 
roof I dwell, has a pomp far beyond pastoral." 
Great simplicity, however, prevailed in the 
life of the Duchess, deeply attached to her 
family: "We breakfast at nine," Elizabeth 
goes on, "dine at two, drink tea at eight and 
sup at ten. In the morning, we work or read. 
In the afternoon the same, walk from six till 
tea-time, and then write till supper."^ But 
the "little jewels," "Lady Elizabeth, Lady 
Harriot and the Marquis," would often come 
in and insist on playing for "half an hour" 
with their mother and her friends ; then the 
Duchess would say, "Don't go. Penny," ^ or 
' ' Fidget, " as the case might be, ' ' till I 
have net one row in my cherry net," for this 
noble lady, like the future Mrs Delany, 
excelled at her needle and wheel. She was 
an enthusiastic collector of natural curiosi- 
ties, of "ores and minerals,"* of fossils, 



' Mrs Climenson, i., 49, 

2 /.£., Mrs Pendarves, then a widow, later Mrs Delany. 
Cf. T/ie Autobiography and Correspondence of Mary 
Granfville, Mrs Delany, 1st series, 1861, ii., 21-3. 

' Ibid., znd series, 1862, ii., 19. 



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AT BULSTRODE 21 

which " the ingenious philosopher, Mr 
Lightfoot," gathered for her in the mines 
of Cornwall, of plants and animals, which 
she fostered with a love as tender as that 
of Lady Hervey for her birds and roses.^ 
"The beauty of Bulstrode in spite of the 
weather is not to be described," Mrs Delany 
remarked In 1776, " no more than Her 
Grace's transport at seeing one of the hares 
suckle its three young ones 10 the court 
before the drawing-room window ! Another 
piece of extraordinary good fortune also 
attended the Duchess this morning ; four 
old nightingales with four young ones were 
brought to-day in a cage, which she set at 
liberty with her own fair hands." ^ In 1740, 
we hear of "macaws, parrots and all sorts 
of foreign birds flying in one of the woods " ; 
in 1753, there is mentioned "the most extra- 
ordinary bull ever seen," not so high as a 
large dog, "as round as a ball, as tame as 
a Iamb, " with ' ' a hump between his 
shoulders, in camel fashion, much higher 
than its head," which East Indian curiosity 

' Letters of Mary Lepel, Lady Hervey, London ; 
Murray, i8ai, pp. 106 and 157 (at Ickworth, Suffolk). 
* Ths Autohiography, etc., 2nd series, ii,, 224. 



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22 CHARACTERISTICS 

was, by the Duchess's kind attention, soon 
provided with "a fair lady."^ So much for 
the Bulstrode "menagerie," renowned in its 
time. The garden, doubtless, deserved equal 
praise, such as Dr Young, ever assiduous 
to please, bestowed on it in sentences 
most exclamative: "I beg leave to step 
into your flower-garden of which you are 
so fond. Why, truly, it is a most gorgeous 
apartment of your paradise. What shapes ! 
what colours ! what combinations of them 1 
what varieties ! what inimitable patterns for 
human art to copy after ! Even a Duchess's 
fingers are far distanced by them. ^ Poor 
Solomon ! what a beggarly appearance dost 
thou make in all thy glory, compared with 
these !"^ Nor was the flattered possessor 
of such natural beauties indifferent to those 
of literature and of the arts. There existed 
at Bulstrode a " brave gallery of old pictures " 
noticed by Horace Walpole ; the Duchess 
read all fashionable books, " laughed at 
fiction," and, notwithstanding Young's 
' The Autobiography, ist series, 1861, il., 241-2 and 293, 
2 Did they suggest to Mrs Delany the idea of her 
" Paper Flora " ? 

' Historical MSS. Cotnmission, MSS. of the Marquis 
of Bath, i., 31S (4th November 1750). 



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"FIDGET" AND HER FRIENDS 23 

recommendation/ formed a poor opinion of 
Pamela and even of Clarissa. The society 
of a woman, so warm in her affections, so 
many-sided in her pursuits, must have been 
singularly delightful to her "Fidget" and 
to the cherished friends with whom she 
loved to surround herself: Mrs Pendarves, 
"faultless in manners," "elegant in deport- 

' Who thus announced to her in September 1748 
the forthcoming last instalment of Clarissa ; " . . . Mr 
Richardson left me but on Saturday last. ... I know 
Yoar Grace has no great esteem of this author ; therefore 
in a letter to you 1 shall suppress my admiration of him, 
and will only, instead of panegyrist, turn prophet, and 
let Your Grace know that your great-grandchildren will 
read, and not without tears, the sheets which are now 
in the Press." (On the Duchess's unfavourable opinion 
of Richardson's novels, cf. also The Diary of Madame 
d'ARBLAY, ed. iS;6, i., 520.) Some months later, on 
29th January 1748 (O.S.), Young returned to the same 
subject ; " Has Your Grace read his Clarissa ? What a 
beautifiil brat of the brain is there ! I wish Your Grace 
would stand godmother, and give it its name, Clarissa 
the Divine. That romance will probably do more good 
than a body of Divinity, . . . And yet, Madam, this 
excellent offspring of the imagination was in danger of 
having been stifled in its birth ; or, at least, of having 
been made a changeling. I think Your Grace knows 
Mr Littleton ; he, Mr Fielding, Gibber, etc., all of 
them pressed the author very importunately to make 
his story end happily ; but does not Your Grace think 
it is infinitely better as it is. . . ." {MSS. of the Marquis 
s/5«rA,i., 313). 



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24 CHARACTERISTICS 

merit," "the pattern of a fine lady of other 
days,"^ Mrs Donnellan also, whose voice 
sounded as sweet as Philomel's.^ Can we 
now wonder, that Elizabeth preferred Bul- 
strode to Horton ? 

The notice taken of her there gratified the 
dearest wish of her heart, her desire, we do 
not say to excel, but to shine. "Of what 
'^Worth is remembrance without praise?" she 
once wrote,* thus giving a most luminous self- 
revelation of her character and aims through 
life. She formed one of those exceptions, 
which Dr Young, in his Satires, para- 
doxically made the rule ; the "love of 
fame" was indeed her "universal passion." 
And her eager appetite was fed, never satiated, 
by the early admiration of her parents and 
friends. When informed of the servant's 
negligence at Canterbury,* the Duchess of 
Portland answered her correspondent, then 
about fourteen, as follows : " I assure you I 

' Burke on her, in the Diary of Madame d'ARBLAY, 
ed. 1876, iii., 421. 

^ On her singing in a "covet'd boat" on the Thames, 
cf. The Autobiography of Mrs Delany, 1st series, 1861, 
i., 276. 



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EARLY HOMAGE 25 

am very angry at the fellow's not taking care 
of your letter, for they always give me in- 
finite pleasure, and I esteem it as a great 
loss," ^ The Duke himself flattered her in 
a strain that might seem, but is not, ironical : 
"Your being got rid of your feaver," he tells 
her in 1741, "gave us great joy, for we 
began to be uneasy about Fidgett ; nobody 
can see her without admiration, and when one 
hears her open her lips, one is struck dumb." ^ 
Even the great Dr Middleton, who had taught 
her the art of conversation, complimented her 
on her "amiable qualities," her "singular 
merit and accomplishments."^ Needless to 
add that she reigned like a young queen 
over the family circle. Her eldest brother, 
Matthew Robinson, a fierce misanthrope and 
eater of raw meat in later days, astonishes 
us by the gallant encomiums he lavishes on 
her: "I should be ashamed after so long a 
friendship with you," he writes from Bath 
in 1741, "to be ignorant of any of your 
talents, yet I do assure you there are some 
of them that after so long an acquaintance 
with them I have not yet done admiring." 

' Mrs CliMENSON, i., 13. ^ Ibid., 77. 

' On her marriage. Cf. Letters, ii., 175. 



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26 CHARACTERISTICS 

For in her retirement at Hayton Farm/ she 
has shown to the delighted Matthew that she 
can find as much pleasure " in study and 
in the contemplation of the ways of men or 
works of Nature" as in the "cheerful round 
of mirth," for which her "parts and spirits" 
were " purposely contrived." "Bating the 
tribe of your lovers," concludes this enthusiast, 
"you cannot have a more hearty friend to 
your person, or more assured admirer of your 
merit and accomplishments."^ Elizabeth, 
we have seen, was disposed to listen to the 
advice of vanity, her strengthener, and to 
reject the counsel of humility, her foe. She 
could not, therefore, disbelieve the pleasant 
testimonies of so many affectionate witnesses. 
She must be a superior woman, since all her 
acquaintances declared her to be so. She felt 
quite ready to undertake the part that seemed 
reserved for her. She would become some 
day a power in Society. Observe with what 
proud satisfaction she informs her parents, 
in 1737, that the Duchess will this year 
introduce her "to the best company in the 
town," that, when her friend "lies in," "she 

* Cf. above, p. 11. 

' Mrs CLIMENSON, i., 78 {27th April 1741). 



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AMBITION 27 

will receive in form " all visitors ; how anxious 
she is to have a "handsome suit," as "upon 
this occasion of first appearing with my Lady 
Duchess," she must be "in full dress." ^ How 
delighted she is also, when at Canterbury in 
1739, messages and visits pour in upon her 
"from prebends, deacons, and the rest of 
the church militant here on earth ! " ^ This 
homage, already paid to her youth In a little 
county town, she will afterwards court and 
taste in the more exalted circles of the 
metropolis, when, brilliant with jewels, she 
will receive ambassadors and princesses in 
her ' ' Palais Portman. " Vanity, ambition,- '■' 
the desire of making her real or assumed j 
superiority felt ; such is the distinctive feature / 
of her character. Young, who had seen 
much of her at Bulstrode, at Tunbridge, at 
Welwyn even, knew it well : "She has 
often held me by the ear," he writes of her 
in 1745, "till all about her were annihilated, 
and, in a numerous assembly, there was 
neither company nor person but herself. . . . 
She has an excellent and uncommon capacity, 
which ambition a little precipitates, and 



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28 CHARACTERISTICS 

prejudice sometimes misleads, but time and 
experience may make her a finished char- 
acter, for I think her heart is sound." ^ 
Time and experience, far from subduing, 
could only increase her love of social 
influence and splendour. 

This ostentatiousnfiss,betrays-itself too often 
in her correspondence, and takes much from 
its charm. She knew that her letters were 
circulated, that if, for instance, she penned 
a fine condemnatory paragraph on " Lord 
Bolingbroke's pompous, rhetorical and in- 
consistent Declamations," it would be com- 
municated by Gilbert West to Dr Herring, 
Archbishop of Canterbury. In return, she 
was highly pleased to hear that His Grace had 
desired to have "a copy," "promising that if 
he showed it to anybody, he would cautiously 
conceal the name of the author."^ Her 
"favourite friends. Lord Bath and Lord 
Lyttelton " repeatedly urged her to allow the 
"future publication"^ of these compositions, 
so that she must very soon have had an eye to 

^ To the Duchess of Portland, from Tunbridge Wells 
(MSS. of the Marquis of Bath, i., 289). 
' Mrs Climenson, ii,, 63 (1754). Cf. Letters, iii., 283-4. 
' Letters, ii,, 313. 



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VERBOSITY 29 

her readers to come. Her tone and style, 
when not ironical, do not strike us as being 
the pure, genuine language of the heart 
Even in her familiar fetters, she too plainly 
writes for effect, and the result, in spite of 
their admiration, must have sadly tired the 
patience of her contemporaries, as it does 
that of the present age. With unerring skill, 
she seizes on commonplaces, whose modicum 
of thought she washes almost colourless 
in a stream of words that, once let loose, 
overflows her pages. Such critics as dislike 
excessive conciseness, and recommend abund- 
ance, exuberance of manner, may drink at her' 
spring; she will give them their fill. Her 
fluency no woman can exceed. The Duchess 
of Portland's fondness for birds and poultry 
occurring to her, she knows her cue and 
expatiates on this theme. Of all fowl, she 
loves a goose best; "surely a goose is a 
goodly bird ; if its hiss be insignificant, 
remember that from its side the engine is 
taken with which the laws are registered, and 
history recorded ; though not a bird famous 
for courage, from this same ample wing are 
the heroes' exploits engraven on the pillar of 
everlasting fame ; though not an animal of 



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30 CHARACTERISTICS 

sagacity, yet does it lend its assistance to the 
precepts of philosophy ; if not beautiful, yet 
with its tender touch in the hands of some 
inspired lover is Lesbia's blush, Sacharissa's 
majesty, and Chloe's bloom made lasting, 
so that its brood, a 'university of goslins,' 
are the 'true worthies' of the age: impartial 
historians, unprejudiced philosophers, the 
great promoters of learning,"^ and, though 
so long, the enumeration remains incomplete. 
She has a gift for pompous declamation. 
Hers is the Asiatic kind among epistolary 
styles. She aims at eloquence, in and out 
of season. In the depth of winter, when all 
Nature seems dead, she has retired to her 
closet, reads Sully's Memoirs, and comments 
upon them for the benefit of one of her 
friends : "I am leading you," she begins, 
"to the laurelled tombs of deceased heroes."^ 
As if she were Young's faithful disciple, 
affectation is natural to her. She exercises 
her rhetoric even about the weather: "The 
spring has been unusually tardy," says she in 
June 1778, "and it is only within these few 
days that we have even partaken of her 

' Letters, iii., 14-5. 
^ Ibid., 136. 



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AFFECTATION 31 

agreeable caprices of alternate sunshine and 
showers. April, who used to be an agree- 
able coquette, often gay and pleasing, but 
inconstant, was this year a sullen, cold, 
severe prude. May, instead of being a bloom- 
ing beauty, was an ugly dirty dowdy. June 
has hardly attained his fresh vigour, and will 
have the puny air of a minor on Midsummer 
Day, when summer used to be reckoned to 
come of age. The mornings have been so 
cold that the lark has been afraid to rise early, 
and the evenings so chill that the nightingale 
durst hardly sing to her friends and silence 
and night for fear of catching a hoarseness."^ 
In her search after ornaments, such as com- 
parisons and antitheses, she would have 
invented Euphuism, had it been yet undis- 
covered. She runs Fal staff hard in her 
elegant imitations of Lyly. Money, she 
thinks, is indispensable in marriage : "What 
is a woman without gold or fee simple?" says 
she ; "a toy while she is young, and a trifle 
when she is old. Jewels of the first water are 
good for nothing till they are set, but as for 
us, who are no brilliants, we are nobody's 

' To the Duchess of Portland (from Sandleford), nth 
June 1778 {MSS. oflhe Marquis of Bath, i., 343-4). 



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32 CHARACTERISTICS 

money till we have a foil, and are encom- 
passed with the precious metal." ^ The richer 
we are, the more safely we pass through 
life. "The lofty cedar is only shook by the 
storms of heaven ; the ivy is trod by every 
passenger." ^ Close by this " ivy " grows the 
famous "camomile." 

Now and then, she becomes aware of her 
prolixity, and acknowledges that she "can 
spin a thread so long it seems neither to 
have end nor beginning, which serves to 
give her gentle correspondents an idea of 
eternity."^ But, though she confesses her 
own fault, she will not or cannot correct it. 
In those leisurely days, perhaps, politeness 
and amiability in epistolary intercourse were 
measured by the number and denseness 
of the sheets ; as the cost of postage was 
high, unless a frank could be obtained, as 
the expense was not the sender's, but the 
recipient's, the latter might think himself 
defrauded if he did not receive full weight 
for his money. So, Elizabeth wrote on, in 
order to please, and she did please. If -news 
ran short, she could launch into moralisings 

' Letters, i., 88. ^ Ibid., ii., 9. 

' Ibid., 137. 



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RHETORIC AND COMMONPLACES 33 
on all kinds of subjects. On ist January 
1742, she sends her New Year's greetings to 
her "dear Donnellan " ; what a fit oppor- 
tunity this affords for descanting on the use 
and abuse of time ! " In our youth," remarks 
this grave young lady, ' ' we defer being 
prudent tilt we are old, and look forward 
to a promise of wisdom as the portion of 
latter years; when we are old, we seek not 
to improve, and scarce employ ourselves."* 
What does she know about it at twenty-one, 
we may ask? But the age was addicted to 
superficial philosophising, and she obeys the 
impulse of her time. She had read or heard 
about the Deistic controversy ; she had 
gathered that thinkers of this school, vaguely 
pantheistic in their tendencies, found God 
in Nature, and, on one fine summer night, 
she follows the same train of thought: "For 
some time after sunset, the hemisphere 
glowed with purple light, then faded to a 
silver grey. . . . When the night began 'to 
hang out her golden lamps, ' with great 
attention I watched the rising of every star 
till the whole heaven glowed with living 
sapphires, then I chose to consider them no 
' Letters, ii., 89-90. 



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34 CHARACTERISTICS 

longer separately as glowing gems, but lost 
myself in worlds beyond worlds, and system 
beyond system ; till my mind rose to the 
great Maker of them all, who has not only 
given the stupendous laws by which all these 
vast bodies move, but with the same precision 
has appointed the modes and term of existence 
of the smallest animal that inhabits them."^ 
Most characteristic of a period that considered 
"man" as the "proper study of mankind" 
is the passage from the contemplation of a 
natural scene to the moral teaching it conveys 
or to the analogies it suggests with life and 
experience. During an excursion in York- 
shire, Mrs Montagu reaches the rocky banks 
of the Wharf and describes the river in a 
few words: "The stream is as clear as the 
finest crystal, and, where it runs on the 
pebbles, dimples and whispers, but when it 
meets with rocks, it foams and roars and 
dashes and froths with wonderful impetu- 
osity." She has been, as it were, surprised 
by this picturesque landscape. But she does 
not long remain absorbed in it. Even as 
she stands by the brink of the torrent, its 
reality seems to fade, and her thoughts return 
^ Letters, iv., 265-6. 



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LEARNING 35 

to their accustomed course. Such, she goes 
on, the human mind appears, "which, in 
the smooth and even scene of hfe, is gentle 
in its looks and tones, but, meeting great 
impediments, frets, storms and threatens, 
and we ask ourselves whether it is of the 
same element."^ 

The unpleasant effect produced by such 
harangues _^ about commonplaces is still in- 
creased by occasional parades__o|_^rijdJJiDn. 
Even in youth. Miss Robinson grievously 
suffered from what she calls "the female 
frailty of displaying more learning than is 
necessary or graceful." ^ She wore blue 
stockings from childhood to old age. She 
too evidently remained Dr Middleton's 
favourite pupil. Let us admit at once that . 
she was no mere pretender, that for an 
eighteenth century woman, her reading is 
of a most extensive range. Greek she was 
ignorant of, but she could understand Latin, 
though she sometimes denied it. ^ Her 
knowledge of living languages she willingly 

' Letters^ iv., 305-6. 
^ Ibid., iii., 134. 

s Gf. Letters, iv., 120 (to Dt Monsey) ; and ibid., 346 (to 
Mrs Carter). 



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36 CHARACTERISTICS 

confessed; she spoke bad "French,"* hut 
read it fluently ; she quoted Moliere at 
fourteen;^ Longinus was known to her in 
Boileau's translation, and Horace in Dacier's ; 
Thucydides she had perused in French and 
Italian versions ; * she even thought of learn- 
ing Spanish, but does not seem to have 
accomplished her purpose. Above all, she 
carefully kept pace with the literary activity 
of the time. Books of criticism and of 
divinity she would discuss, when asked for 
her opinion on them. * Novels, as too light 
food, she perhaps disdained ; but she was 
well acquainted with English poetry, and her 
frequent allusions to Shakespearian passages 
and phrases testify to her familiarity with the 
works of the great dramatist. These attain- 
ments, extraordinary in her days, entitle her 
to our esteem, and won for her the respect of 
most of her contemporaries. Unfortunately, _ 
the irresistible impulse of vanity makes her 
too ready to show them. There was at 
Haytoo Farm a strange weathercock or 
"fane," the old-fashioned structure of which 
had diverted her ; the mention of its anti- 

' Letta-s, iii., 193. ^ Mrs Climenson, i., 16. 

* Letters, iv., 346. ^ Uid., ii., 122, seq. 



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TOO WISE 37 

qtiity in a letter to the Duchess of Portland 
serves as a peg to hang a sketch of English 
history upon, from the invasion of the Danes 
to the landing of "our glorious William."^ 
Thomas Lyttelton, the son of her friend, 
having left Eton for Oxford, she writes to 
him a letter of advice, at his father's request, 
and recommends the study of the Ancients, 
with more emphasis than conviction, perhaps : 
"As you have got a key to the sacred shades 
of Parnassus, do not lose your time in 
sauntering in the homely orchards or diminu- 
tive pleasure gardens of the latter times. If 
the ancient inhabitants of Parnassus were to 
look down from their immortal bowers on our 
labyrinths, whose greatest boast is a fanciful 
intricacy, our narrow paths, where genius . 
cannot take his bounding step, and all the 
pert ornaments in our parterres of wit, they 
would call them the moderns' folly. ... I 
should be sorry to see you quit Thucydides 
for Voltaire, Livy for Vertot, Xenophon for the 
bragging Memoirs of French Marshals, and 
universal TuUy, and deep Tacitus, for specula- 
tive politicians, modern orators, and the 
dreamers in universities or convents."^ Shall 
" Letters, i,, 143, ' Iliia., iv., 87-8. 



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38 CHARACTERISTICS 

we be surprised after this, if unkind sceptics, 
irritated by so much ostentation in manner 
and in style, thought of her as did Mr Crisp, 
Fanny Burney's hterary adviser: "I believe 
I have told you," he wrote in 1780, "of 
several letters the Duchess of Portland 
showed me of hers formerly {for I had no 
acquaintance with herself) so full of affectation, 
refinement, attempts to philosophise, talking 
metaphysics — in all which particulars she so 
bewildered and puzzled herself and her 
readers, and showed herself so superficial — 
nay, really ignorant on the subjects she 
paraded on — that, in my own private mind's 
pocket-book, I set her down for a vain, empty, 
conceited pretender and little else."^ The 
sentence is severe, and, to some extent, 
hostile. But, for ail that, it proves '* Daddy " 
Crisp's sagacity as a critic. In what he 
condemns, he is right ; he is wrong only 
in what he forgets. "Fidget" had qualities 
which even her vanity and ostentatiousness 
could not mar. 

' The Diary and Letters o/"Madame d'ARBLAY, ed. 1876, 



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SELF-POSSESSION 



in 

What made her a remarkable woman was, 
that to the mercurial vivacity of a nervous 
temper she united calmness of deliberation "^ 
and strength of will. Though she relished 
the pleasures that gratified vanity gives, 
she never bought them too dear. Prudence 
was her constant rule of conduct.^ She 
blamed Voltaire's Amenaide in Tancred for 
not following "Virtue as by law established," 
for despising forms and following "Sentiment, 
a dangerous guide."* Happiness and in- 
fluence being her aims in Ufe, she adapted 
means to end with the self-command of an 
accomplished gamester. She kept so strict a 
watch on her heart that passion never invaded 
it. Her judgment, unruffled, shaped her 
course through the world; "There is no 
end of the bad consequences of an improper 
marriage," she wrote at fifty-eight.' She had 
been most careful to avoid them. At eighteen, 
she described the ideal husband she could be 

* Cf.LeiUrs,]., 123, and Middleton's praise, /*;i/.,ii., 176, 

^ Mrs CliMENSON, ii., 234. 

' DosAK's A Lady of the Last Century, 1873, p. 228. 



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40 CHARACTERISTICS 

disposed to favour : " He should have a great 
deal of sense and prudence to direct me and 
instruct me, much wit to divert me, beauty 
to please me, good humour to indulge me in 
the right, and reprove me gently when I am 
in the wrong ; money enough to afford me 
more than I can want, and as much as I 
can wish " ^ — all perfections in short ; observe, 
however, that mutual fondness is not men- 
tioned. Riches and wisdom conjoined, such 
are the essential requisites ; to these she will 
yield her hand — and her heart into the 
bargain. " If I am to be bound to a vessel," 
she declared at twenty-one, " I wish it 
may be a first rate. . . . Gold is the chief 
ingredient in the composition of worldly 
happiness. Living in a cottage on love is 
certainly the worst diet and the worst habi- 
tation one can find out. . . . For my part, '^ 
when I marry, I do not intend to enlist 
entirely under the banners of Cupid or 
Plutus, but take prudent consideration and 
decent inclination for my advisers."^ We 
may be sure that this "inclination" will be 
' ' decent " indeed, and nowise extravagant. 

* Letters, i., 38-9. 
= Ibid., 82-3. 



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COLDNESS 41 

Was ever human creature better adapted 
to her environment, to the cold, logical, 
matter-of-fact age she flourished in? And 
is it strange that more ardent natures should 
have been chilled, almost repelled by her 
frigid self-possession? She is "an Ignora- . 
mus in love," Mrs Chapone once jokingly 
said,^ and Mrs Montagu herself confessed , 
the truth of the saying.^ "As we have 
often agreed," Miss Burney wrote to Mrs 
Thrale in 1781, "Mrs Montagu is a char- / 
acter rather to respect than love, for she has 
not that don cTaimer by which alone love 
can be made fond or faithful,"^ that sweet, 
kindly longing after sympathy, irrepressible 
in Mrs Thrale — Mrs Montagu's opposite at 
all points. 

An incident that happened in her old age , 
curiously illustrates her unsentimental temper, yr 
About 1773, at the death of her friend Dr John 
Gregory, Professor of Physic in the Uni- 
versity of Edinburgh, she had taken as a 
companion his daughter Dorothea, whom 

' The Works of Mrs Chapone, ed. 1807, i., 180 (Mrs 
Chapone to Mrs Carter, November 178a). 

^ Letters, iv., 351,(0 Mrs Carter (1761): "... you and 
I, who have never been in love ..." 

The Diary and Letters of Madame d'AEBLAV, i., 326, 



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42 CHARACTERISTICS 

Miss Burney has portrayed as a " frank, open, 
shrewd and sensible" nature, speaking "her 
opinion both of matters and things with a 
plumpness of honesty and readiness that 
both pleases and diverts." ^ This hearty 
sincere Scotchwoman must have found her 
duties somewhat strange and irksome in 
the splendid London residence of her pro- 
tectress, for she seized the first opportunity 
that presented itself of regaining her liberty. 
Sometime in October 1782, she "went to 
Edinburgh to visit her brother, who was 
then newly married." She had "promised 
to return about the meeting of Parliament," 
but, instead of keeping her word, "she made 
various excuses," Mrs Montagu says, in a 
circumstantial account^ from which we shall 
largely quote : "And on the 6th of January, 
she wrote me a long letter to tell me all 
her future happiness depended on my giving 
my consent to her marrying a Mr Alison, 
who had not a shilling fortune, nor any 
preferment but a curacy at Durham." The 
much beloved and much despised " Mr 
Alison " was no other than the future author 

' The Diary and letters of Madame d'ARBLAV, i., 240. 
^ ^.S'^. of the Marquis of Bath, \., 353-5. 



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MISS GREGORY 43 

of the Essay on the Nature and the Principles 
of Taste, and the father of the historian. 
Obviously, Miss Gregory's choice was justified 
by the event. But Mrs Montagu, actuated 
by prudential considerations, perhaps also by 
selfish motives, refused to comply with such 
a request. Her answer to the truant was 
peremptory: "I told her that, though I had 
always had for her the tenderness of a mother, 
yet I could not pretend to parental authority, 
therefore my consent to her marriage was not 
necessary, but my approbation or countenance 
to such a marriage I never could give, my 
respect for the memory of her father, my duty 
to my own nephews and nieces, and to the 
world in general, forbade my giving my 
countenance to imprudent hasty engage- 
ments, ever heart-wounding to parents and 
friends, and too often unfortunate to the 
young persons who made them." This 
severe, haughty reproof was a shock to 
Dorothea, who, on receiving it, "fell into fits 
as young ladies often do when they cannot 
obtain consent to an improper marriage." 
As her dear Mr Alison, however, had not 
yet obtained the small living of ";^ioo a 
year" judged indispensable to settle upon, 



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44 CHARACTERISTICS 

she agreed to return till he had " such prefer- 
ment." " I would behave to her," Mrs 
Montagu went on, "with my usual kindness, 
but she must never speak to me " on the 
subject. "This condition was kept on both 
sides, and I also insisted she should neither 
see Mr Alison nor correspond with him; all 
which she promised, and, I believe, faithfully 
observed. But one day this spring," in 1784, 
"she told me she found she could not live 
without corresponding with Mr Alison and 
seeing him sometimes ; upon which I set forth 
to her the imprudence of her engagement, 
on which she fell into hysterics, then fainting 
fits, and lay as it were dead for some minutes. 
I saw then she would marry immediately if 
I did not allow her to see him a few times, 
as he was then in London, and by this 
compliance I should retard her indiscreet 
marriage; so I consented." But Dorothea, 
far from being satisfied with this scanty in- 
dulgence, went to Edinburgh, made interest 
with a friend who procured Mr Alison a 
living of }C^50 a year : it was one third more 
than the minimum she was ready to accept; 
therefore the wedding could no longer be 
delayed. Mrs Montagu's consent was again 



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NO "DON D'ARMER" 45 

applied for, and refused. Dorothea then 
*' determined to quit all connection with 
her," and to marry. Mrs Montagu doubt- 
less felt indignant at this rejection of her 
advice : " I should with great joy have given 
very solid proofs of my approbation to any 
man of character and decent circumstances, 
for happiness does not attend on wealth, 
but misery dogs poverty at the heels." She 
could hardly understand Dorothea's violence 
and obstinacy, so foreign to the soberness of 
her own nature: "Miss Gregory's behaviour," 
she says in her painful surprise, " had been so 
gentle, amiable and discreet, and with such 
appearance of affection, and attachment to me, 
that to see her sacrifice all prudent considera- 
tions of every kind, and all friendly con- 
nection with me, to a man she had not known 
ten weeks has been a great affliction." Her 
cold reason could not explain or measure the 
irresistible force of such passion. It must have 
seemed to her grossly instinctive, repugnant to 
the pure intellectual refinement alone worthy 
of a cultivated mind. 

In her own case, she had forgotten neither 
circumspection nor dignity. Resolved to give 
her hand and heart only to a man of character 



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46 CHARACTERISTICS 

and fortune " so established that one piece of 
generosity should not hurt his fortune, nor one 
act of indiscretion prejudice his character," ^ 
she had, in 1742,* fixed her choice on Mr 
Edward Montagu, a mathematician and 
Member of Parliament for Huntingdon, 
twenty - nine years her senior, and highly 
respected as the grandson of the "great 
Earl of Sandwich," ' as the possessor of 
valuable estates at Rokeby, at Allerthorpe in 
Yorkshire, and as the owner of a house in 
Dover- Street, London. He had brought 
wealth to her, and she had cheered his 
existence by her conversation and constant 
good humour. On their union of the liveli- 
ness of youth and of the seriousness of age, 
they seem to have always congratulated them- 
selves. He felt affection for her, and she 
gratitude for him. " I have the honour and 
happiness," she wrote in her grandiloquent 
style a few months after her marriage, "to 
be made the guest of a heart furnished with 
the best and greatest virtues, honesty, and 

' Mrs Climenson, i., no. 
^ The wedding took place on the 5th of August. 
=" "Lord High Admiral of the Fleet to Charles U. 
(Mrs Climenson, i., in). 



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MARRIED LIFE 47 

integrity, and universal benevolence, with 
the most engaging affection to every one 
who particularly belongs to him ] no desire 
of power but to do good, no use of it but 
to make happy. . . . Since I married, I have 
never heard him say an ill-natured word to 
any one, nor have I received one matrimonial 
frown."' In her letters to him, she ever 
subscribed herself "your most graU/ul wife." 
When her little boy was born, she had even 
intended to wrap herself up in her domestic 
felicity and to sacrifice her intellectual pursuits, 
the delight of earlier years, to the "pleasure 
of living with those" she loved and esteemed. 
" For amusement," she exclaimed in her 
maternal fondness, "no puppet-show is like 
the pleasant humours of my own Punch. "^ 
Alas ! poor " Punch " died in infancy, to 
her great grief and Mr Montagu's. We agree ■■ 
with Mrs Climenson^ in thinking "that this 
poignant and irreparable loss turned Elizabeth 
Montagu's thoughts more strongly to literature 
and knowledge of all kind." In Dover Street, 
and, after J^u.ne., 1747, in Hill Street, she began 
to form the social circle "which was gradually 
' Letters^ ii., 229-30. ~" ^ Ibid.^ 292. 



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48 CHARACTERISTICS 

to extend for more than thirty years. In her 
country residences, at Allerthorpe in the North, 
and at Sandleford near Newbury in Berkshire, 
she found the repose necessary to her con- 
stitution, overstrained by the fatigues of the 
London winter season. She disliked the 
country, Yorkshire especially, as much as 
ever. "The good folks" that visited her 
"poor tabernacle" there, she described as 
" drunken and vicious, and, worse than 
hypocrites, profligates," "Most of the ladies 
in the neighbourhood," she went on, "have 
more hogs in their dining-room than ever 
they had in their hog-sty, " ^ Sandleford, 
however, became at length a favourite place 
with her. It was an old "priory," which 
Mr Montagu had leased in 1730 from the 
Chapter of Windsor. "The situation is on 
an eminence," wrote the poet and philosopher 
Beattie in 1784, "with a gentle slope of a 
quarter of a mile towards the south ; and, 
from every part of the lawn, there is a beautiful 
prospect, first of a romantic village called New- 
town, and, beyond that, of the Hampshire 
hills, some of which are tufted with wood, 
and others bare, and green, and smooth to 
^ tetters, ii., 231-2. 



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AT SANDLEFORD 49 

the top."^ A little rivulet, the Enborne, or a 
branch of it, wandered "unheard and unseen 
through a venerable grove of oaks," but was 
afterwards " collected into two large and 
beautiful pieces of water, round which the 
walks and grounds were laid out to very- 
great advantage indeed." "At a distance of 
about thirty yards from the house, stood " 
an old chapel, "which for a century past 
or more, had been neglected or used as a 
place for lumber. This, Mrs Montagu," 
in her later days, "transformed into a very 
magnificent room, and joined to the main 
body of the house by a colonnade ; which, 
expanding in the middle, and rising to the 
height of thirty feet at least, formed a noble 
drawing-room of an elliptical shape. When 
the doors of these rooms were thrown open, 
the walk, from end to end, was upwards of 
an hundred feet, and the height and breadth 
proportionable." In this " sylvan palace," 
under the "arched roofs" of her "twilight 
groves," Mrs Montagu spent many summers 
in her married life and widowhood.^ Some- 

' An Account of the Life and Writings of James 
Bealtie, LL.D., by Sir WILLIAM FOEBES, 1807, ii., 341-2. 
^ Her husband died in May 1775. 



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50 CHARACTERISTICS 

times, the care of her health drove her to 
the waters of Tunbridge, Sunning Hill, or 
Bath, when the rheumatism or the "cramp 
in the stomach " grew painful ; but, more 
frequently, she fled from the dust of Dover 
Street, Hill Street, or Portman Square, 
to Sandleford which, through Maidenhead, 
Reading, and Newbury, she could reach 
in one day. There she took her peaceful 
"airings," quietly drank her tea, and then 
retired to "her dressing-room for two or 
three hours" with her cherished companions, 
her books ; or, on fine afternoons, her desk 
and she were placed "under the shade of 
some noble elms, which partly excluded the 
garish eye of day,"^ whilst her pen or 
"grey goose-quill" ran apace on the sheets 
destined to her correspondents and to 
posterity. 

Her social influence was chiefly founded on 
her wealth, which she helped her husband in 
administering, and, after his death, adminis- 
tered herself with the most vigilant care. 
Her prudent economy and practical sense 
made her a notable housekeeper. We hear 

' On Sandleford, cf. Ixtters, ii., 262'3 ; and iii., 183, 

256. 



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AT DENTON 51 

of her at Sandleford as being "deep in 
accounts" and "travelling from tubs of 
soap to firkins of butter, and from thence 
to chaldrons of coal."'- In June 1758, the 
decease of John Rogers, a first cousin^ of 
Mr Montagu's, brought her "a large acces- 
sion of fortune," together with "the usual 
accompaniment of riches : a great deal of 
business, a great deal of hurry, and a great 
many ceremonious engagements," She en- 
joyed her importance as an agriculturist and 
owner of coal-mines. She patronised her 
farmers and "pitmen" with stately con- 
descension. If they did not love, they 
certainly admired, their grand lady. In 
July 1775, two months after Mr Montagu's^ 
death, she went on a progress through her 
domains, from Darlington to Newcastle and 
"Denton Hall," "an old Gothic mansion," 
whose windows, built before the union with 
Scotland, were fitter "to exclude arrows 
and missive weapons" than "to admit the 
rays of the sun."^ "On the 3rd of July," 

' Letters, iv., 42, 

^ By his mother, Sarah Rogers. Cf. Mrs Climeneon, 
i., Ill ; ii., 128-9 — ani. Letters, iv., 74. 

' MSS. of the Marquis of Bath, 1., 349. Elizabeth 
Montagu to the Duchess of Portland. 



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52 CHARACTERISTICS 

she writes/ "I got as far as my estate 
at Burniston," near Darlington. "Exactly 
opposite to some of my land, there is a 
tolerable inn. I eat a hasty dinner, and, 
taking my steward with me, went over 
many of the farms, and sent invitations to 
ray tenants to dine with me the next day." 
In this reiteration of the possessive, we read 
the joy and pride of the possessor. The 
next day, therefore, attended by her steward, 
she dined, surrounded by her farmers' wives 
and " young lasses." Farther north, the 
scene changed ; instead of green fields, she 
found "a brown crust, with here and there 
a black hole of a coal-pit," Of her own 
Denton, she said : " It has mightily the air 
of an ant-hill ; a vast many black animals 
for ever busy. Near fourscore families are 
employed on my concerns here. Boys work 
in the colliery from seven years of age." 
But, as "the good souls, men and women," 
were very apt to get drunk, and then "to 
sing and dance and hollow and whoop," 
she dared not treat them like her Burniston 
people; she contented herself "with killing 

' Doran's a Lady of the Last Ctntury, pp. 196, 



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PRACTICAL SENSE 53 

a fat beast once a week, and sending to 
each family, once, a piece of meat." A 
most generous and "kind landlady" Indeed I 
But the "pitmen" were pleased with what 
she deigned to give: "some apparel" for 
their unclothed children, some "cheap rice, 
skimmed milk and coarse beef" as a regale 
for the poor hungry little things. The fathers, 
to her "great comfort," were heard to sing 
at the bottom of the pit. And she, at 
Sandleford or London, erected " palaces " 
with the produce of their toil. 

To her prudence in the conduct of life 
corresponded her extreme moderation in 
things political. A Conformist by nature 
and education, she kept to the beaten track, 
and shrank from all innovation. " If I had 
a son," she declared, " I should desire him 
never to wander single in quest of adventures. 
Virtue, wisdom, honours, prosperity, happi- 
ness, are all to be found on the turnpike- 
road, or not to be found at all."^ Though 
she could admire William Pitt's daring, 
she had formed a "little Englander's" ideal, 
before the phrase was known. The true 
patriot she conceived to be the guardian of 
' UORAN, p, 187. 



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54 CHARACTERISTICS 

his country's safety, "a far better citizen 
than the ambitious man, who enlarges its 
dominions."^ She took a merchant's delight 
in the fair sights and fruits of peace : " I got 
a very pleasant walk on the sea-shore," she 
wrote from Sunderland in 1758; "several 
ships were sailing out of the harbour, fraught 
only with the comforts and conveniences of 
life ; they carry out coals and salt, and bring 
home money. I question whether those who 
carry out death and bring home glory, are 
concerned in so good merchandise. . . ."^ 
A true child of her time, she distrusted 
enthusiasm, in whatever shape. Lady Hunt- 
ingdon, the founder of the famous Calvinistic 
"connection," she deemed a fanatic, who 
made herself "ridiculous to the profane, 
and dangerous to the good."^ Fox's zeal 
for liberty was, in her eyes, part of his 
general looseness,* and, though she had 
originally shared the mild Whig opinions 
of her husband and of the Portlands, she 
at last sided with Pitt against Fox, with 

' Letters, L, 216 (1741)- 

^ Ibid., iv., 99. 

" Ibid., 18. 

* DORAN, p. 346, in December 1788, about the Regency 



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A CONFORMIST 55 

Hastings against Burke, with Burke against 
the French Revolution. Her admiration of 

the latter's virulent Reflections stands on 
record in Madame d'Arblay's pages : " It 
is a tribute to its excellence, " says the 
Diarist, " which reflects high honour on 
Mrs Montagu's candour, as she was one of 
those the most vehemently irritated against 
its author but a short time since." ^ Indeed, 
BO self-possessed a person could not be ex- 
pected to approve the Revolutionists, these 
frenzied levellers ! 



IV 

Such having been Mrs Montagu's character 
in youth and age, we now proceed to show by 
what insensible steps she was led to author- 
ship. For her introduction into the world of 
letters she was indebted, as we shall see, to 
two or three of her most intimate friends. 

On the 3rd of May 1758, she wrote to her 
sister, Sarah Scott: "Miss Carter is to dine 
with me to-morrow ; she is a most amiable, 

* Diary and Letters, iii., 302 (23rd November 1790). 



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56 CHARACTERISTICS 

modest, gentle creature, not hdrissie de grecy 
nor blown up with self-opinion."^ The lady 
thus mentioned for the first time in the Corre- 
spondence was no other than the anonymous 
contributor to the Gentleman's Magazine and 
to the Rambler, the writer of the celebrated 
Ode to Wisdom, which Richardson had in- 
serted in his Clarissa, the learned translator 
and commentator of Epictetus, whose scholarly 
work and Christian preface had appeared in 
the preceding April, revised and approved by 
Dr Seeker, Bishop of Oxford. Three years 
older than Mrs Montagu, she had long passed 
her prime. She was the daughter of the 
Perpetual Curate of Deal in Kent, where 
she lived surrounded by her father's numerous 
family. In spite of her household cares and 
of her natural slowness, she had contrived to 
become a prodigy of learning. At a time 
when a knowledge of Latin and Greek was 
a remarliable achievement in a woman, she 
had added to these German, French, Italian, 
Spanish, Portuguese, even Hebrew and 
Arabic^ But she had bought such distinc- 

^ Letters, iv., 1 1. 

^ Memoirs of the Life of Mrs ElisabstU Carter, by the 
Rev. Montagu Pennington, i8oS,i., 12-16. 



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MISS CARTER 57 

tion at the cost of her health. In her desire 
to overcome what she thought her indolence, 

she used to rise between four and five in 
the morning, at the bidding of a bell 
rung by the sexton, and this ruthless treat- 
ment had caused headaches which tormented 
her through life. Her strength of will 
and elevation of purpose were reflected in 
her demeanour : "Really a noble-looking 
woman," Miss Burney exclaimed on seeing 
her at Bath in 1780, "I never saw age so 
graceful in the female sex yet ; her whole 
face seems to beam with goodness, piety, 
and philanthropy." ^ Indeed, the qualities 
of the heart were in her superior to those 
of the head ; in her friendship with Mrs 
Montagu, she brought a richness of feeling, 
a depth of sympathy which the latter was 
deficient in. The stabihty of her faith, un- 
shaken by doubt, gave to her thought and 
temper a cheerful, optimistic tone, which 
supported her in sickness or trouble, and 
enabled her to look undismayed on the 
prospect of the grave : " How terrible," she 
said, "to close one's eyes upon the flowery 
earth and radiant sun, and sink into a cold, 

' Diary and Letters, i., 269. 



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58 CHARACTERISTICS 

dark, eternal night ! . . . From all this. 
dreadful extinction, God be thanked, we are 

graciously secured."^ Though so pious that 
Mr Montagu disliked her conversation as too 
serious,^ she was no prude ; she could enjoy 
the " surprising variety of nature, wit, morality 
and good sense" to be met with m Joseph 
Andrews, the ''spirit of benevolence" that 
'* runs through the whole " and "renders 
it peculiarly charming." Tom Jones she 
acknowledged to be an imperfect character, 
for all his "honesty, good-nature and gener- 
osity"; nobody could admire Clarissa more 
than she; but "i am afraid," she went on, 
"that Fielding's book is the most natural 
representation of what passes in the world. "^ 
Its broad humanity, clear laughter, healthy 
enjoyment of this pleasant earth went to her 
heart. Loving the world for the sake of its 
Maker, she tasted with an epicure's relish all 
the innocent little pleasures within her reach. 
"Que je vous plains de n'Stre pas folle de la 
musique ! " she once wrote to her friend 

^ Memoirs of Mrs Carter, i., 416-7 
5 Mrs Climenson, ii., 246. 

° Cf. Mrs Carter's Letters to Miss Talbot, ed. 1819, 
i., 19, 261-2. 



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MISS CARTER 59 

Miss Talbot.^ " I seldom hear an agreeable 
air but it recalls to my mind almost every 
pleasing occurrence of my life." Her un- 
feigned admiration of the beauties of Nature 
speaks a poetic soul in her better than does 
her moral verse. Whether furious or calm, 
the sea is a source of delight to her. She 
observes 'it from her window "every hour 
in the day ; and every hour it wears some 
new appearance, if it be only from the 
various colourings it receives from the shift- 
ing clouds. At this moment, it is displaying 
all the grandeur of a storm ; and the waves 
of the Goodwin Sands which terminate our 
prospect are dashing against the clouds."^ 
On fine evenings, she would sit on the 
shore, "soothed by the murmurs of the 
ebbing tide and the glimmerings of moon- 
light on the waves. "^ Her frequent head- 
aches made her an indefatigable walker; on 
her return from London, where she generally 
spent the winter, she sometimes left the coach 
at Canterbury, sixteen miles from Deal, and 

' Cf. Mrs Caeter's LetUrs to Miss Talbot, ed. 1819 
i., I36-7- 

^ LetUrs from Mrs Carter to Mrs Montagu, 1817, 
iii., 34 (1777)- 

» Ibid., 35. 



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6o CHARACTERISTICS 

finished her journey on foot, wandering "over 
hill and dale without control," sitting down 
"to rest on a bank embroidered by violets 
and primroses,"^ or beholding with sudden 
rapture the unexpected splendour of a " honey- 
suckle,"^ singled out by the sun-beams from 
amidst the deep verdure of a "shady lane." 
This kindly feeling, this power of loving 
lovable men and things made her at once 
different from, and indispensable to, Mrs 
Montagu, who, moreover, respected, and 
perhaps envied her for her literary feme. 

A still more illustrious personage joined 
the two friends at Tunbridge in 1761, and 
formed an intimacy with them for the short 
remainder of his life. This was Lord Bath,^ 
better known as William Pulteney,* the 

' Letters from Mrs Carter to Mrs Montagu^ i8i7i ii-, 
303 (May 1775). 

* Ibid., i., 117 (September 1761). 

' Mrs Montagu had made his acquaintance so early 
as 1753 (Mrs Climenson, ij., 29), and renewed it at 
Tunbridge and London in August and December 1760- 

' On his character, see Chesterfield's "Mr Pulteney" 
{The Letters of Pkilif Dormer Stanhofie, ed. Bradshaw, 
1893, iji., 1415-6); Lady Herves's Letters,^d.. 1821, pp. 
32-4, 306 ; Memoirs of Mrs Elizadelk Carter, ed. 1808, 1., 
239-41 ; Lord Edmund Fitzmaurice's Shelbume, 1875, 
i.,4S ; and Wm. E. H. Lecky,.^ History of England^ ed. 
1891, i., 374-S- 



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LORD BATH 6i 

former colleague, whom resentment had 
made the bitter adversary, of Sir Robert 
Walpole, once a leader among politicians 
and wits, but long since "shrunk into insig- 
nificancy and an Earldom." A master of 
"sharp, cutting" sarcasm, "an elegant 
scholar," he had been considered, before he 
retired into "that hospital of incurables," 
the House of Lords, as "a most complete 
orator and debater" in the Commons, as a 
man to be dreaded for his sudden bursts 
of passion "supported by great personal 
courage." Twenty years had elapsed since 
his ambitious hopes and his popularity had 
been for ever ruined by his refusal to take 
the reins of government from his conquered 
rival's hands. He had almost sunk into the 
obscurity of private life, with a wife whose 
peevish, avaricious temper^ was such, that 
she could "gather together eight hundred 
Christian souls " at an assembly, and send 
them home without giving them "a biscuit 
or a bit of bread" to eat. To Lord Bath's 
great joy, death had taken her away in 1758, 
and, though he was thought to have kept 

' She was nicknamed "the wife of Bath" by her 
acquaintance. 



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62 CHARACTERISTICS 

too much of her stinginess, though "his 
bounty was not equal to the opportunities 
he enjoyed of exerting it," yet he could be 
generous when his affections were engaged,^ 

' In April 1761, he sent through Mrs Montagu to 
Mrs Carter "two bank bills of 20 pounds each," to 
"make her fine when she comes to Tunbridge" (Mrs 
CuME^fSON, ii., 235). In an undated letter, Mrs 
Montagu thus acknowledges the gift :— 

"Your lordship's present to Mrs Carter is so noble, 
that I am very desirous it should go to her as it is. If 
it had been of a fourth part the value, 1 should have 
wished to have done it as you first suggested, and the 
witt and politeness of your lordship's letter would have 
added such a grace to the present as must have given 
her great pleasure, but realy, my lord, your great bounty 
has now made it such as will be of true service to her. 
I think I know enough of her heart to pronounce that 
such a proof of regard from my Lord Bath will in itself 
be pleasing to the highest degree ; but as she is full of 
delicacies, I must, by gently trying the ground, feel out 
the way, and if I can do it to-day, your lordship shall 
hear from me to-morrow morning. I will not tell your 
lordship how much my mind was affected by the manner 
of your doing this generous act. I have in my life known 
pplh ldge,bl m hy one 

h Idd nwm Yldhp does 

11 m h h h p y d b er ; is 

th b hyhkid care 

h h I h p h h f I can 

yhg mfd h h h being 

II I m 11 y 1 d h p h I ssibly 

nd h b k bU M C h 1 ng her 

k frnhn hymf h Jdp bably 



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TO SPA 63 

and in the familiar ease of social intercourse 

he proved "the most agreeable, the most 
entertaining, and the most lively companion 
imaginable," gifted with "an infinite deal of 
wit, which his great good-nature prevented 
from being offensive to any one," and free 
from all vanity or importance. 

In the summer of 1763, one year before 
his death, Lord Bath and the Montagus, 
accompanied by the Earl's Chaplain, Dr 
Douglas, and by IVIrs Carter, went in a 
party to drink the waters at Spa. An 
interesting account of their journey, pre- 
served in the Carter Memoirs,'^ naively 
expresses the travellers' astonishment at 
finding the vanquished, enslaved country 
little, if at all, inferior to their own. On 

imagine they came from me, and I should rather rob 
your lordship upon Hounslow Heafh the next time 
you go to Ives Place, for in that case I should only 
take your gold, but here I should steal from you the 
grace of an action, and the proof [of] a mind above 
all gold, 1 wonder that a person of your lordship's 
classical learning, so well acquainted with the story of 
Midas's queen, could imagine that I could keep the 
secret from any inducement whatever, but I have given 
you a reason why it is absolutely impossible besides my 
general incapability of keeping a secret. . . ." (Broadley 
Collection). 
' Vol. i., 249-376. 



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64 CHARACTERISTICS 

their arrival at Calais, after a five hours' 
passage, they expected to see the gaunt, , 
starving wretches, with bare feet or wooden 
shoes, whom Hogarth had engraved or 
painted, leaving the fat of the land to the 
jolly, lazy monks. In fact, they did see, in 
crossing the market-place, "such a mixture 
of rags, and dirt, and finery, as was entirely 
new to the English spectator. The women 
at the stalls, who looked as if they were by 
no means possessed of any thing like a 
shift, were decorated with long, dangling 
earrings." Yet, even at "Calais gate," 
there stood an excellent hostelry, the Lion 
d' Argent, with "large, comfortable rooms" 
and very good beds, "a much better inn," 
truly, than any to be found at Dover I And 
the '^poliiesse, the empressement pour vous 
servir, among the lower kind of people" 
seemed so very engaging that it was quite 
pleasant to talk to them. "There is a little 
perruquier, with a most magnificent queue, 
belonging to the inn, with whom I am upon 
the most friendly terms imaginable," said 
the excellent Mrs Carter. Further inland, 
roads and villages appeared " perfectly good." 
St Omer was " a very pretty town," with hand- 



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ON THE WAY 65 

some houses, streets wide and well-paved, 
which, to the mortification of their " English 
vanity," was the case with every town the 
travellers passed through. Lisle, "a large 
and very fine city," struck them by the 
uncomfortable look given to the houses by 
"strong, iron cross-bars before the windows." 
But its environs presented " charming views." 
Everywhere the "fields were highly culti- 
vated"; the people looked "very clean," 
and had "nothing of that air of poverty and 
wretchedness that one should have expected 
in a land of slavery." Thus wondering, they 
crossed the frontier into "the territories of 
the Empress Queen," and at Courtray beheld 
"the feast du saint Sacrement. Whenever 
the priest came from beneath the canopy 
and elevated the Hostia, all the people fell 
on their knees in the streets." Along an 
admirable highway "paved with flat stones, 
and bordered with very fine trees, like 
an avenue to a great house," they reached 
Brussels, whose sordid, crooked aspect dis- 
appointed them. " It is the most disagree- 
able town which I have yet seen in our 
way," wrote Mrs Carter; "the houses are 
extremely high, and the streets narrow, 



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66 CHARACTERISTICS 

which makes it dark and close ; and I shall 
be heartily glad when we leave it." Liege, 
at the bottom of its long and steep hill, was 
still worse ; its ugliness seemed enhanced by 
that of its inhabitants, who had "the worst 
look of any human creatures I ever saw," 
declared their unkind visitor. Thence, a 
twenty-one miles' dangerous drive through 
woods and along precipices conducted the 
friends to Spa, where they stayed two 
months, drinking in due course at the three 
springs, the Sauveniere, the Pouhon, and 
the Geronsterre, one "in the midst of the 
village," whose water was little used except at 
dinner, another at about two miles' distance, 
"on the top of a hill, with woods and rocks 
and precipices all around," the third further 
still. At six o'clock every morning' they 
repaired to the second of these springs. 
"The time of drinking," we are informed, 
"lasts little more than an hour, and then 
we return to breakfast, but tea is absolutely 
prohibited to all the water-drinkers. There 
is nothing but mere sauntering from this 
time till we dress for dinner at two; and 
about five begin visiting and going to the 
rocwns ; then supper, and to bed before ten." 



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RETURN 67 

On the 17th of August they took leave of the 
mixed society assembled in this internatiotial 
resort, where everybody, not excepting the 
Germans/ spoke French. Along the Rhine 
and through Holland they returned to 
England. At Wesel, these fine ladies and 
gentlemen had to sleep in "troughs filled 
with musty straw, and a very thin sort 
of bed laid over it." Near Arnheim, they 
crossed the Rhine "over a bridge of boats 
so shattered that every board shook, and 
there was no fence on either side." Nor 
were the causeways or "dykes" in Holland 
much safer, with their "perpendicular descent 
on each side to the toaderies and froggeries 
below." Such roads were good, but so 
narrow that, if two carriages met, one of 
them had to pass "within a few inches of 
the edge," After these varied and sometimes 

' In imitation of the Prussian philosopher and king, 
Frederick the Great. This affectation was sometimes 
carried to a most ridiculous excess. One day, for 
instance, a German lady was mentioning to Mrs Carter 
Gessner's Death of Abel, "which she had read only in 
the French translation," as "she did not understand 
her own language well enough to be able to read the 
original," and, according to Mrs Carter, "this laudable 
igDorance of their mother-tongue is really the case with 
many of them" {Memoirs, i., 322). 



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68 CHARACTERISTICS 

perilous experiences, Mrs Carter, who had 
suffered much from headaches, was glad to 
reach Deal again, whilst the Montagus pro- 
ceeded to the north to inspect their collieries. 
Of all the acquaintances made in early life 
by Miss Robinson, none turned out to be of 
more importance to her than that with "Mr 
George Lyttelton," the future lord. On ist 
January 1760, she wrote to him: "Can I 
begin the new year more auspiciously than 
by dedicating the first hours of the New 
Year's Day to that person from whose friend- 
ship I hope to derive so much of the honour 
and happiness of my life?"^ At that date 
their acquaintance was of some twenty years' 
standing. In the world of fashion, where 
she had been introduced by the Duchess of 
Portland, Miss Robinson had soon singled 
out this "fine gentleman," equally remark- 
able by his birth and talents, the son of a 
wealthy Worcestershire baronet, the owner, 
some day, of Hagley Park, of its ancient 
mansion and " enchanting scenes," ^ the 
author of compositions in verse and prose, 

' Mrs Climenson, ii., 178. 

^ See the picturesque description in Walpole's Letters, 
ed. Toynbee, iii., 185-6, 



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LORD LYTTELTON 69 

always elegant, "let the subject be ever so 
trifling."! Though "Mr Lyttelton's " choice 
of a wife had not answered Fidget's secret 
wishes, her admiration had known no decline. 
Her polite, flattering encomiums on his pro- 
ductions rather increased in warmth as time 
went on. In 1747, she lamented with him 
the death of his beloved "Lucy," and deemed 
the poet's once famous Monody on his loss 
extremely pretty, describing as it did "a 
most delicate and tender affection."^ When, 
in 1759, "Lord" Lyttelton improved his "bad 
and old " ancestral house into "a magnificent 
edifice," and sent to Mrs Montagu the first 
volumes of his ponderous Henry IT., she 
united the praises of the historian, of his 
residence and his park, in the same rounded 
periods. "Your Hagley oaks," she said, 
"will derive additional honour from you. . . . 
The having been your lordship's will make 
them sacred with posterity : if there be one 
more noble than the rest, the honour of 
having shaded Lord Lyttelton while he wrote 
his History of Henry II. will be ascribed to 
it, and every genius devoted to the daughters 

' Mrs Montagu's Letters, i., 133. 
* J&id., lit., 46. 



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■JO CWARACtfiRlSTtCS 

of memory will make a pilgrimage thither."* 
Let us hope that all was not mere rhetoric in 
this eulogy, in her comparison of Robertson 
to a "Scotch fir," waving its "high top, in 
sign of worship," to the Hagley oak, and that 
she really believed in Lyttelton's superiority. 
Her partiality for a friend is, after all, pardon- 
able, if sincere. But most of her contem- 
poraries would have demurred to her fervid 
panegyric of Lyttelton as a man and a 
writer. Comparing his work with Hume's 
and Robertson's, Gibbon declared that "he 
Could not aspire to the fame of these men 
of genius, that he possessed, however, the 
qualities of a good patriot, of a well- 
informed, accurate, and impartial historian,"^ 
but no higher ones. To say the truth, he 
never rose, in politics or in literature, much 
above the level of "honest mediocrity." His 
unprepossessing aspect and address made him 
ridiculous in all but Fidget's eyes. "With 
the figure of a spectre and the gesticulations 
of a puppet," says Horace Walpole, "he 

' Letters, iv., 227. 

" Mdmoires liiUraires de la Grande Bretagne pour 
1767, art. i., 29. Cf, also Gibbon's Autobiographies, ed. 
Murray, 1897, p. 279. 



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LORD LYTTELTON 71 

talked heroics through his nose, made decla- 
mations at a visit, and played at cards with 
scraps of history or sentences of Pindar."^ 
He sat to Chesterfield for his portrait of the 
absent-minded " Laputan wrapped in intense 
thought, and possibly sometimes in no thought 
at all. He leaves his hat in one room," con- 
tinues the satirist, "his sword in another, 
and would leave his shoes in a third, if his 
buckles, though awry, did not save them ; 
his legs and arms, by his awkward manage- 
ment of them, seem to have undergone the 
question extraordinaire ; and his head, always 
hanging upon one or other of his shoulders, 
seems to have received the first stroke upon 
the block." ^ Virtue and learning all judges, 
even Chesterfield, granted him ; but not a 
ray of genius, they thought, and not too 
unjustly thought,^ ever illuminated his 
"studied orations," his "elegant" verses, 
his weighty theological or historical dis- 
quisitions, respectable indeed, yet dull. 

' Memoirs of George II., ed. 1847, i., 202-3. 

^ Lord Chesterfield's Letters, ed. Bradshaw, 1893, i., 
245-6. Cf. also Lord UEKVEY'S Memoirs 0/ George JI. ; 
Lord Waldegrave's Memoirs, ed. 1821, pp. 25-6 ;- and 
SheLBORNE's Autobiography, ed. Fitzmaurice, p. 74. 

' Some passages of die Monody excepted. 



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72 CHARACTERISTICS 

His Dialogues of ike Dead, published in May 
1760, though not to be excepted from this 
general censure, possess a peculiar interest 

for us, as the last three, composed "by a 
different hand," were the production of Mrs 
Montagu, who thus appeared for the first 
time before the public as an anonymous 
writer. One of them, the twenty-sixth of the 
whole collection, consists of a conversation 
between "Cadmus and Hercules " on the com- 
parative value to mankind of heroic strength 
and of the civilising arts and sciences ; it 
deserves to the full the praise of seriousness, 
good sense and solidity, which a French 
contemporary critic* bestowed on a transla? 

' Cf. Fr^RON's Annh Httiraire, 1761, ii., 96: 
" II y a dans ces Dialogues plus de sens que de ce qu'on 
appelle esprit, plus de v^rit^ que de brillant, plus de 
solidity que de finesse, et par 1^ je les crois plus instructifs 
pour I'esprit et plus utiles pour les mceurs que ceux de 
Lucain {sic) et de Fontenelle." In England, the critics 
were divided : Lord Chesterfield (Mrs Climenson, 
ii., iSi, 207) and perhaps Lady Hervey spoke and 
wrote warmly in their favour ; on the contrary, Horace 
Walpole, who called them "Dead Dialogues" {Letters, 
ed. Toynbee, iv., 389-91), Johnson, who pronounced them 
"a nugatory performance," and Lord Bath were hostile. 
They are perhaps still remembered in France o 
of Lyttelton's short correspondence with Voltaire a 
subject (cf. Voltaire's (Euvres computes, ed. 1881 
534-6, and xli., 44-5). 



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THE DIALOGUES OF THE DEAD 73 

tion of the book.' In the flat monotony of 
its moralisings, it rivals Lyttelton's dulness ; 
Hercules' soft speech and weak objections 
remind us of his distaff rather than of his 
club; his fiercest utterance is that, were 
Eurystheus to set him to work again, a 
worse task than any he performed should be 
imposed upon him ; he should be made 
to read through a great library, "and I 
would," cries the demi-god, "serve it Jts I 
did the Hydra, I would burn as I went on." 
The voluble Cadmus has become in the 
Elysian Fields a perfect utilitarian. " Poetry," 
he contends, "is of excellent use, to enable 
the memory to retain with more ease, and to 
imprint with more energy upon the heart, 
precepts of virtue and virtuous actions." ^ 

' Three of them are known to us r one by Jean DES 
Champs, Prfitre de I'Egiise angiicane, Ministre de la 
Chapelle Roiale de la Savoye . , , published in London, 
G. Seyffert, October or November 1760, under Lyttelton's 
supervision (cf. Mrs Climenson, ii., 1867, and Mrs 
Montagu's Letters, iv., 312); another by "M, le 
Professeur de Joncourt," also printed in 1760, but at 
La Haye, chez Pierre de Hondt ; the third (anonymous), 
" faite sur la 4* Edition, A Amsterdam, chez M. Magerus, 
1767." 

^ Dialogues of the Dead, London, 1760 (anon,), pp. 294, 
296. 



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74 CHARACTERISTICS 

The mnemonic qualities of verse are its chief, 
perhaps its oniy, recommendation, in the 
opinion of this Ancient, converted to a very 
modern kind of philosophy. Livelier in rep- 
artee and wittier in expression is the second 
of these Dialogues, between "Mercury and 
a fine Lady," a Mrs Modish, who, summoned 
by "the grim messenger" to pass the Styx, 
insists on delay, as she happens to be "en- 
gaged, absolutely engaged." Fidget's good- 
humoured raillery sparkles all through this 
pleasant little piece, more like Lucian's 
famous compositions than anything else in 
the book. To Mrs Montagu's great joy, her 
ironical sketch of the fashionable Mrs Modish 
became "a favourite with the town ; but some 
ladies," she added, "have tossed up their 
heads, and said it was abominably satirical."^ 
It had been suggested to her by a recent 
incident : when the notorious Lord Ferrers, 
guilty of murdering his steward, was tried 
by his peers, "the ladies crowded to the 
House of Lords to see a wretch brought 
loaded with crime and shame to the Bar, 
to hear sentence of a cruel and ignominious 
death." Shocked at such inhumanity, she 
^ Letters, iv., 359-62. 



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MRS MODISH 75 

vented her indignation in her portrait of Mrs 
Modish, ever engaged, not in her family, but 
in a perpetual round of dissipations and visits. 
"Look on my chimney-piece," exclaims the 
fair victim to her pitiless conductor, "and 
you will see I was engaged to the play on 
Mondays, balls on Tuesdays, the opera on 
Saturdays, and to card assemblies the rest of 
the week, for two months to come, and it 
would be the rudest thing in the world not 
to keep my appointments. If you will stay 
for me till the summer season, I will wait on 
you with all my heart. Perhaps the Elysian 
Fields may be less detestable than the country 
in our world. Pray, have you a fine Vauxhall 
and Ranelagh? I think I should not dislike 
drinking the Lethe waters when you have a 
full season."* 

This elegant and characteristic passage is 
the best sample we can give of Mrs Montagu's 
literary style in her three dialogues. The 
twenty-eighth and last, between Plutarch and 
a modern bookseller, partakes of the defects 
and merits of the former two, Plutarch, now 
turned Christian moralist, proses at a length 
that his great age may excuse ; the book- 
' Dialogues, 1760, p. 301. 



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76 CHARACTERISTICS 

seller, astonished to find himself in a world 
"so absolutely the reverse of that he left, 
that here authors domineer over book- 
sellers, " is marked by a gruff stolidness 
that produces some humorous effects. He 
nourishes a special grudge against his very 
adviser, Plutarch, for " having almost 
occasioned his ruin." "When I first set up 
shop," he explains, "understanding but little 
of business, I unadvisedly bought an edition 
of your Lives ; a pack of old Greeks and 
Romans, which cost me a great sum of 
money. I could never get off above twenty 
sets of them," laments this disconsolate dealer, 
who, however, recouped himself by publishing 
The Lives of the Highwaymen and The Lives of 
Men that never Livedo 

The writing of these trifles filled IVlrs 
Montagu's leisure hours, and brought her 
some fame. "The Dialogues, I mean the 
three worst, have had a more favourable 
reception than I expected," she wrote in May 
to Mrs Carter. "They are now mostly given 
to the true author." During her stay at 
Tunbridge In the same year, "an old Quaker 
of four score, . . . one of the greatest chymists 
' Dialogues, pp. 307, 309, 



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AN AUTHOR AT LAST 77 

in Europe," took a fency to her, because he 
would believe her to be, in spite of all she 

could assert, the writer of certain Dialogues, 
and this unexpected friend sat by her and 
attended on her with the utmost assiduity.^ 
Mrs Carter, of course, was all praise : " It 
is downright scandal to say," she declared, 
"that Cadmus talks like a pedant; he has 
all the elegance of polite literature ; and it 
is equally scandalous to suspect that Mrs 
Modish wants the power of amusing."^ En- 
couraged by such approbation, Mrs Montagu 
thought it not impossible that "she might at 
last become an author in form." " It enlarges 
the sphere of action, and lengthens the short 
period of human life," she wrote, thus reveal- 
ing her secret ambition. It was, after all, a 
noble one, a sort of purified, intellectual vanity. 
To the social importance her wealth gave her, 
she felt that literary fame would add lustre and 

^ Mrs CLIMENSON, ii., 190. 

' letters from Mrs Elizabeth Carter to Mrs Montagu^ 
1817, i., 83-4. The Annh Uttiraire {loc. eit.) is, 
however, less favourable; "Vous trouverez les trois 
derniers dialogues infdrieurs k ceux que je viens de 
parcourir," says the critic who, for all his severity, has 
some indulgence for Mrs Modish : " Le Dialogue vingt- 
septifeme caract^rise assez bien une petite maitresse qui 
n'a aim^ ni son mari tii ses enfants," 



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78 CHARACTERISTICS 

influence on the world of letters. With this 
view, she henceforward turned her attention 
towards criticism, Shakespearian criticism in 
particular. 



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CHAPTER II 

THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 
I 

From the numerous judgments on books 
scattered through her published correspond- 
ence, we may gather that Mrs Montagu's 
literary criticism will be distinguished, we 
do not say by depth of insight, but by 
much good sense and some breadth of view. 
Though far from simple in her own manner 
and style, she has no patience with pedants, 
even with their most eminent representative 
in those days, William Warburton. When 
his edition of Shakespeare came out in 1747, >. 
she read his explanatory Notes on the text, 
and found them "most extraordinary." "He 
seems to proceed," she wrote, "by new rules 
of criticism, and makes Shakespeare speak as 
he prompts him, though ever so wide from 
his words or seeming meaning ; the word 
means, he changes for medicines . . . indeed 
79 



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8o THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

he too often makes poor Shakespeare talk 
like an apothecary." She ridicules several 

of the future Bishop's so-called emendations : 
in Romeo and Juliet, for instance, Capulet, 
overjoyed at his daughter's feigned consent 
to marry "the county Paris," declares, in 
praise of "Friar Laurence," her counsellor, 
that the "whole city is much bound to him.''^ 
Warburton, however, was not satisfied with 
this. Desirous to improve the line, he 
" most sagaciously " turned it thus : this 
friar, "the city is much obliged to hymn,' 
for "to hymn is to laud, and to laud is to 
praise," "and so," Mrs Montague ironically 
remarks, "by .incredible pains and a new 
verb, he makes you understand the city 
should praise the friar." ^ Exaggeration she 
constantly reproves, even though the criticised 
writer should not possess all her sympathy ; 
" I must tell you," she informs her friend, 
Dr Beattie, "that Samuel Johnson says of 
_Lprd Chesterfield's 'Instructions to his Son' 
that they are to teach the manners of a 
dancing-master, with the nrorals of a prosti- 
tute. The sentence is too severe to be 

' Romeo andJuHH, Act iv.. sc. 2, 1, 32. 
= Utters, iii., 50, 



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MRS MONTAGU AS A CRITIC 8i 

perfectly just, and the character too short to 
be perfectly descriptive ; but there is some- 
thing too near truth, and too like descrip- 
tion." 1 Dr Young's Letter on Original 
Composition, with its "vernal imagination" 
profuse of "violets and primroses," and its 
bland exhortation to "people to look sharp 
for genius, which he fancies many would 
find if they sought it," provokes an amused 
smile in her. "The doctor was so positive 
in his assurances," she laughingly goes on, 
"that 1 set about seeking for my genius; 
and, as I had bottled very little hay, hoped 
to find it presently ; but I am no nearer the 
matter."^ Sagacity and caustic wit are, how- 
ever, qualities which go to the making of the 
purely carping critic : from this excess Mrs 
Montagu was saved by her extensive reading. 
Ever fond of new intellectual pleasures, she 
was ready to appreciate the beauties of the 
Ancients and of the Moderns with perfect 
impartiality. She admired Sophocles, though 
in an English dress: "The (Ediptis Coloneus 
affected me extremely," she wrote to Lord 

^ Life and Writings of James Beattie, by Sir WILLIAM 
Forbes, ii., 63, 30th April 1774. 
' Letters, iv., 184-5. 



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83 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

Lyttelton, "and would have done so more, 
if it had not been for the constant presence 
of the chorus ; but the passions are awed 
and checked by a crowd." ^ Fren,ch_iPCl^-3y.,, 
delighted her no less than Greek tragedy ; 
she considered the Misanthrope as a master- 
piece, and could point out, with commendable 
acuteness, the essential feature of Alceste's 
fine character. His error, she said, though 
everywhere visible, is nowhere monstrous ; 
"the Misanthrope has the same moroseness 
in his love-suit and his law-suit ; he is as 
rigid and severe to a bad verse as a bad 
action, and as strict in a salutation in the 
street or address in a drawing-room, as he 
would be in his testimony in a court of 
justice : right in the principle, wrong only 
in the excess, you cannot hate him when 
he is unpleasant, nor despise him when 
he is absurd."* The "grace, ease, elegance, 
and sprightliness" of Madamede SevJgn^'s...- 
epistolary style did not escape her, though so 
different from her own florid pompousness; 
she thought the amiable Frenchwoman's 
letters "delightful" as such, and "valuable 
as giving the manners of the times and 
* Letters, iv., 275. " Uiii., 264. 



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HER CATHOLICITY 83 

characters of the principal persons of the 
Court." 1 And if we compare her judgments 
on English contemporary literature with those 
of Johnson, we are struck by his narrow- 
ness and her catholicity. Weighing Clarissa 
I Harlowe in her critical scales, she finds "the- 
[ story very affecting " and interesting, " though 
\ it wants two of the greatest merits of a narra- 
'.tion, elegance and brevity." Lovelace, how- 
ever, she objects to, as being an unnatural 
compound of too many inconsistencies.^ It 
seems to us that this calm discernment con- 
trasts favourably with Johnson's perfervid 
enthusiasm for Richardson. She never would 
have written or said that "there is more 
knowledge of the heart in one letter of 
Richardson's than in all Tom Jones "^ Her 
classical orthodoxy, her sincere admiration 
of Pope's correctness did not make her 
indifferent or hostile to the literary innova- 
tions of the time : long before the publication 
of Percy's Reliques, she felt that there were 
no love verses that seemed "suggested by 
the heart and softened in the language, like ■ 

' MSS. of the Marquis of Bath, i., 338. 

^ Leiiers,m., loo-i. 

' Boswell's Life of Johnson, Globe edition, 1894, 
p. 235. 



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84 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

some Scotch songs." ^ She described Gray's 
Bard as a web woven for Edward's line 
"with the noblest images of poetry";^ she 
immediately accepted Macpherson's Highland 
Poems as genuine,* and, when travelling in 
1766 through the Vale of Glencoe, she "re- 
collected many passages " of Ossian "in the 
very places that inspired them."* Receptive 
of knowledge and moderate in expression, 
she will prove, as a critic, prudent and 
sensible, rather than original. 



H 



Her Essa;y on the Writings and Genius of 
Shakespeare, published in 1769, was meant 
as an answer to Voltaire's strictures on the 
great dramatist. It is therefore related to 
French and English Shakespearian criticism 
in the eighteenth century, and, in order to 
assign to the work its just place and value, 

' Letters, iii., 69, alluding perhaps to Allan Ramsay's 
Scots Songs (1719), and to the Tea-Table Miscellany and 
Evergreen of the same (i7a4). 

^ Letters, iv., 6r. ' Idid., 292. 

* DORAN, A Lady of the Last Century, p. 143, 



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SHAKESPEARIAN CRITICISM 85 

a previous sketch of the more general 
question may not seem unnecessary.^ 

The dominant tendency of English opinion 
on Shakespeare during the hundred years 
that followed the Restoration was a spirit of 
compro mise^ between admiration for poetical 
beauties so dazzling that they could not be 
ignored, and blame for offences against moral 
or critical decorum and propriety. In his 
Essay of Dramatic Poesy, dated 1668, Dryden, 
' ' the father of Shakespearian criticism, " ^ 
struck the keynote which, till Coleridge's 
and Hazlitt's time, was echoed in more or 
less ample modulations of now rapturous 
and now reproachful tone. Shakespeare, he 
had already declared,^ together "with some 
errors not to be avoided in that age," 
undoubtedly possessed " a larger soul of 
poesy than ever any of our nation." The 

' The following books have been found useful in this 
study : G, Saintsbury, A History of Criticism, 190Z, 
ii., 365-495 ; Eighteenth Century Essays on Shakespeare, 
edited by D. Nichol Smith, 1903 ; J. J. Jusserand, 
Shakespeare en France^ 1898, p, 145 sqq. ; T. R, LOWNS- 
BURY, Shakespeare and Voltaire^ 1902, 

' D. Nichol Smith, Introduction, p, xiii. 

' In the Epistle Dedicatory of the Rival Ladies (1664) 
{Essays of JOHN Dryden, selected and edited by W. P. 
Ker, 1900, i,, 6). 



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86 THE SSSA Y OM SHAICBSPEARE 

universality and depth of the dramatist's 
psychological insight struck him with wonder. 
"He was," Dryden exclaimed, "the man 
who of all modern, and perhaps ancient, 
poets, had the largest and most comprehen- 
sive soul. All the images of Nature were 
still present to him, and he drew them, not 
laboriously, but luckily ; when he describes 
anything, you more than see it, you feel 
it too. Those who accuse him to have 
wanted learning, give him the greater com- 
mendation : he was naturally learned ; he 
needed not the spectacles of books to read 
Nature ; he looked inwards, and found her 
there. I cannot say he is everywhere alike. 
. . . He is many times flat, insipid ; his 
comic wit degenerating into clenches, his 
serious sweUing into bombast. But he is 
always great, when some great occasion is 
presented to him."^ He had "an universal 
mind, which comprehended all characters 
and passions " ; Fletcher, his most skilful 
disciple, was only "a limb" of him.^ But, 
however warm the critic's appreciation may 

^ Essay of Dramatic Peesy, ed. Ker, vol. i., pp. 79-80. 

° Essays, ed. Ker, vol. i., p. 228, Preface to Troilus and 
Cressida, containing the grounds of Criticism in Tragedy 



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DRYDEN 87 

be, he does not the less insist on the poet's 
"feults," especially in style. He even goes 
so far as to assert that the reader "will find -■ 
in every page either some solecism of speech, 
or some notorious flaw in sense," ^ that "in 
many places," Shakespeare "writes below 
the dullest writer of ours, or any precedent 
age," that " the fury of his fancy often 
transports him beyond the bounds of judg- 
ment" into a profusion of metaphors, similes, 
or " bombasts," which makes him "the very 
Xan us .of poets" and precipitates him from the 
"height of thought to low expressions."^ 
In a word, as Dryden's successors will cease- 
lessly repeat, Shakespeare had an unbounded 
genius, a "native wood-note wild," but no_ 
taste. For "the times were ignorant" in 
which he lived. "Poetry was then, if not 
in its infancy among us, at least not 
arrived to its vigour and maturity,"^ to that 
classical correctness and elegance of phrase 
which Waller initiated and Dryden himself 
improved. 
The poet's enthusiasm, though tempered 

' Essays, ed. Ker, vol. i., p. 165, Defence of the Epilogue 
to the second part of the Conquest of Granada (1672). 
^ Ibid., 172. ' Ibid., 165. 



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88 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

by fault-finding, called forth in 1693 a 
vigorous protest by an uncompromising 
critic. Thomas Rymer, the compiler of the 
Fosdera, had already recommended in 1674 
the example of the Ancients and translated, 
for the benefit of the unlearned, Rapin's " 
Reflections on Aristotle's Treatise of Poesie. In 
his Preface, this loud-voiced monitor ex- 
claimed: "How unhappy the greatest English\ 
poets have been through their ignorance or! 
negligence of the fundamental Rules and/ 
Laws of Aristotle ! " Was Shakespeare, the 
guiltiest of all trespassers, to escape un- 
censured, because the too indulgent Dryden 
had pleaded in his favour? Certainly not. 
Everybody, genius or no genius, must con- 
form to the rules, to the three venerable 
Unities— of Action, Time, and Place: Rymer, 
therefore, with great gusto, proceeded to indict 
and to sentence the culprit. Look at our 
neighbours' ' tirama, the judge said in his 
anger! No doubt, "that wild-goose chase of 
Romance runs still in their head, some scenes 
of love must everywhere be shuffled in, tho' 
never so unseasonable " ; no doubt, they write 
their "plays in rime," and "their language 
itself wants strength and sinews, . . . their 



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RYMER 89 

consonants spread on paper, but stick in 
the hedge, and pass not their teeth in their 
pronunciation," Yet, all deductions made, 
"the French are certainly very delicate and 
■^ commendable in points of decency. The 
noble encouragement they met withal, and 
their singular application have carried them 
very far in the improvement of the drama." 
Whilst we, thanks to such playwrights as 
this Shakespeare, deserve "what Quintilian 
pronounced concerning the Roman Comedy : 
In Tragoedia maxime claudicamus, vix levem 
consequimur umbram," which may be 
rendered into English, to help your ignor- 
ance: "In Tragedy, we come short extreamly ; 
hardly have we a slender shadow of it." As 
a proof of our inferiority, take a so-called 
masterpiece, that Othello which "is said to 
bear the bell away" from all other tragic 
plays. Let us examine it, as a scholarly 
critic should, from the four points of view 
of the fable, the characters, the thoughts, I 
and the expression. "The Fable is drawn 
from a novel, composed in Italian by Giraldi 
Cinthio. . . . Shakespear alters it from the 
original in several particulars, but always, 
unfortunately, for the worse." What a tissue 



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^ THE £^5^ Y tJjV SHAKESPEARE 

of improbabilities he has made of it! "He 
bestows a name on his Moor, and styles him 
the Moor of Venice : a note of pre-eminence, 
which neither History nor Heraldry can allow 
him. ... It is an affront to all Chroniclers, 
and Antiquaries, to top upon 'em a Moor, 
with that mark of renown, who yet had never 
fain within the sphere of their Cognisance." 
Desdemona is no better, complains our 
unpoetical Rymer, hurt in his historical 
susceptibility. Here she comes, "dressed 
up with her Top Knots and raised to be a 
Senator's daughter. All this is very strange, 
and therefore pleases such as reflect not on 
the improbability. Surely," he goes on, in 
a strain of boorish irony, "the moral of this 
fable is on a par with the invention of it." 
Hereby, "all maidens of quality" may be 
cautioned ' ' how, without their parents' consent, 
they run away with Blackamoors. Secondly, 
this may be a warning to all good wives, 
that they look well to their linnen " — better 
than Desdemona, who, as everybody knows, 
lost her handkerchief — "thirdly, this may be 
a lesson to Husbands, that, before their 
Jealousie be tragical, the proofs may be 
mathematical." So much for the &ble. The 



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RYMER gi 

characters "are not less unnatural and 
improper," Has any one ever read of a 
soldier like lago ? Was Shakespeare un- 
aware that, according to all precedents, 
ancient and modern, a soldier should be 
" open-hearted, frank, plain-dealing," " a 
character constantly worn by them for some 
thousands of years in the world," and nowise 
"a close, dissembling, false, insinuating 
rascal," like this "most intolerable" ensign. 
Really, " there is not a monkey but under- 
stands nature better, not a pug in Barbary 
that has not a truer taste of things" than 
this Shakespeare, whom some would "top 
upon us" for a genius. Such being his 
characters, we need not expect, of course, 
his style and thoughts to be "either true 
or fine or noble. ... In the neighing of an 
horse or in the growling of a mastiff, there 
is a meaning, there is as lively expression, 
and, may I say, more humanity than many 
times in the tragical flights of Shakespear." 
His "genius lay for comedy and humour," 
for a certain kind of farce that could please 
"his masters, the coblers and parish clerks, 
and Old Testament stroulers." In Tragedy, 
the man who could put heroes like Brutus 



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92 THE ESSA V ON SHAKESPEARE 

and Cassius in "Fools' Coats and make 
them Jack-puddens " was "quite out of his 
element." With him we live in a "land of 
savages amongst Blackamoors," uncivilised 
by the precious " Rules " that Aristotle 
inculcated.'- 

That this conceited pedant should have been 
taken seriously may seem surprising, but it 
is a fact that his virulent attacks on Shake- 
speare^ and his scolding advocacy of the 
Rules enforced Dryden's submission, who, 
in the Preface to Troilus and Cresstda, quoted 
with approval Rapin's recommendation of 
Aristotle's precepts as a means of reducing 
"Nature into method," accepted the Stagy- 
rite's definition of tragedy as a sufficient 
reason for condemning "all Shakespeare's 
historical plays," and pliantly admitted that 
"Mr Rymer had discovered in his criticisms 
how defective Shakespeare and Fletcher have 
been in their plots."^ A later writer, the 
notorious John Dennis, whom Mr Nichol 
Smith has treated with excessive indulg- 

^ A Short View of Tragedy, ed. 1693, pp. 61-4, 86-6, 
148, 159. 

^ Not only in the Short View, but also in The 
Tragedies of the Last Age Consider'd (1678). 

^ Essays, ed, Ker, i., 207, 228-9 ('679). 



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DENNIS 93 

ence,i followed in the pedagogue's footsteps. 
In his three Letters on the Genius and Writings 
of Shakespeare, published in 1711, he acknow- 
ledged indeed that the Elizabethan dramatist 
" was one of the greatest genius's that the 
world e'er saw for the tragick stage," that 
his beauties were all "his own, and owing 
to the force of his own nature, whereas his 
faults were owing to his education, and to 
the age that he lived in." But, this passing 
tribute once paid, the objections crowded 
under Dennis's pen. Shakespeare, he 
thought, had wanted "nothing but time and 
leisure to have found out " the Rules and 
to have read "the Grascian and Roman 
Authors." "What would he not have 

' Eighteenth Century Essays on Shakespeare, Intro- 
duction, p, xvii. Dennis's earlier Imparlial Crilick, or 
Observations on Mr Rymer's Short View . . . {1693), isa 
very lame defence of Shakespeare, as the anonymous 
n\iQ\or c^ Rejiections on Mr Rymer's Short Vievi{i6g^), 
Charles Gildon perhaps, very jtistly remarked. Of 
Rymer himself, the writer observed that "Tho' 'tis 
frequent enough to meet with a duil poetaster for a 
poet, yet 'tis something more rare to encounter a jolly 
droll for a critic." In 1718 Gildon published The 
Complete Art of Poetry in Six Paris, composed in 
dialogue form, where one of the interlocutors, Laudon, 
advocates the rules ; but the book contains an excellent 
choice of extracts from Shakespeare. 



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94 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

been," the critic exclaimed, "if lie had 
joined to so happy a genius Learning and 

the Poetical Art I " Then he would not have 
introduced into his tragedies "things which 
are against the dignity of that noble poem, 
as the rabble in Julius C<ssar and that in 
Coriolanus " ; he would not have so familiarly 
debased the greatest heroes of antiquity, 
turned Menenius into "a downright buffoon," 
an inconceivable "Ciceronian Jack-pudding," 
and made Caesar "but a fourth-rate actor in 
his own tragedy," No ; enlightened and 
stimulated by "the Poetical Art," he would 
have shown us Casar consulting with Cicero 
and Antony on the advisability of abdicating 
or retaining the "absolute supremacy," and 
thus we might have had "a scene something 
like that which Corneille has so happily us'd 
in his Cinna."^ But such a masterpiece, 
the fruit of Dennis's profound cogitations, 
was too plainly beyond the reach of a 
Modern untutored in antique lore ! Fortu- 
nately, however, Shakespeare had, some 
years before, found a better apologist than 
Dennis. In A Discourse upon Comedy-^ 

' Eighteenth Century Essays on Shakespeare^ pp. 24-6, 
31. 33-4. 37- 

= Published id i?02. 



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FARQUHAR 95 

Farquhar had answered both Collier ^ and 
Rymer. "Aristotle," he bluntly declared, 
"was no poet, and consequently not capable 
of giving instructions in the Art of Poetry." 
The rules were nothing but a set of "acci- 
dental observations drawn from the works 
of Homer and Euripides," no essential 
principles. They had no value in practice 
or in theory. They could neither ensure 
success nor be justified in reason. "That 
a thousand years should come within the 
compass of three hours is no more an 
impossibility than that two minutes should 
be contained in one." Addressing, with real 
Irish warmth, an imaginary objector, he 
anticipated Johnson's famous argument, when 
he exclaimed: "Were not you the very 
minute before in the pit, talking to a wench, 
and now, presto, pass, you are spirited away 
to the banlis of the river Nile, Surely this 
is a most intolerable improbability. Then 
in the second act, with a flourish of the 
fiddles, I change the scene to Astrachan — " 
"O, this is intolerable" — "Look'ee, sir, 'tis 

^ Whose Short View appeared in 1698. Collier's 
opinion on Shakespeare is that "where there is .most 
smut, there is least sense." 



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g6 THE ESSA Y ON SHAKESPEARE 

not a jot more intolerable than the other ; 
for you'll find that 'tis much about the same 
distance between JEgypt and Astrachan as 
it is between Drury Lane and Grand Cairo." 
Shakespeare, Jonson, Fletcher, and others 
were not inferior, but different from, the 
Ancients. The "great Shakespear," in 
particular, is not a writer "whom every 
httle fellow that can form an Aoristus Primus 
will presume to condemn for Indecorums and 
Absurdities." Compared with Aristotle, he 
surely is "the greater poet of the two," 
and, if you say "it must be so, because 
Aristotle said it, I say it must be otherwise, 
because Shakespear said it." ^ A most 
generous and triumphant defence indeed, 
by a brother playwright ! 

Henceforward, Rymer's influence de- 
creased,^ and most Shakespearian critics 

• "Discourse upon Comedy," Works, ed. 1728, i., 93, 
98, 103-4. 

^ It may still be felt, perhaps, in Shaftesbury's 
judgment {Characteristics, ed- 1711, i.. Advice to an 
Author, 275 ;) " Our old dramatick poet may witness 
for our good ear and manly relish, notwithstanding his 
natural rudeness, his unpolish'd stile, his antiquated 
phrase and wit, his want of method and coherence, and 
his deficiency in almost all the graces and ornaments 
of this kind of writing "—though Shaftesbury does not 



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ROWE 97 

sided with Dryden in his more favourable 
judgment on the dramatist. Nicholas Rowe's 
preface to his edition of Shakespeare, pub- 
lished in 1709, contained not only the best 
life of the poet that the eighteenth century 
produced, but also a very sympathetic 
appreciation. He disapproved of Rymer's 
severity: "I must confess," he said, *'I 
can't very well see what could be the reason 
of his animadverting with so much sharpness 
upon the faults of a man excellent on most 
occasions. . . . Finding fault is certainly the 
easiest task of knowledge," an "ungrateful 
province" to be left to the "tyranny of 
pedants." True criticism is not a search 
after defects, but after beauties. Shake- 
speare, as the most original of all writers, 
independent of the Ancients, unbeholden to 
any one, except for the "foundation of the 
tale," does not fall under the jurisdiction of 

deny him some qualities. — Hume (1754) is still more 
severe. In his History of England (ed. Hughes, 1854, 
v., 54-s), he speaks of Shakespeare's "many irregularities, 
and even absurdities," of "his total ignorance of all 
theatrical art and conduct." This is hardly a poet to 
be represented as " capable of furnishing a proper enter- 
tainment to a refined or intelligent audience," says the 
fastidious sceptic, David Hume. 



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98 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

Aristotle and the rules. He "lived under 
a kind of mere light of nature, and had never 
been made acquainted with the regularity of 
those written precepts ; so it would be hard 
to judge him by a law he knew nothing of." 
Such strictures as those of Rymer are there- 
fore irrelevant. They must give place to 
an enumeration of excellences. " There is a 
great deal of entertainment in Shakespeare's 
comical humours " : Falstaff, for instance, a 
" lewd old fellow," a liar, a thief, a vain- 
glorious coward, has been endowed with "so 
much wit as to make him almost too agree- 
able," "Shylock the Jew in the Merchant of 
Venice" is an " incomparable character," and 
"the play itself one of the most finished of 
any of Shakespear's." The Tempest seems 
to Rowe "as perfect in its kind as almost 
anything we have of his," and Caliban, a 
character so well-sustained in its extravagance, 
"shows a wonderful invention in the author." 
" The whole tragedy of Macbeth, but more 
especially the scene where the king is murdered 
in the second act," as well as Hamlet, " is a 
noble proof of that manly spirit with which 
he writ." And what strength of expression 
he was gifted with, as Dryden had already 



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POPE 99 

remarked 1 " His Images are indeed every- 
where so lively, that the thing he would 
represent stands full before you, and you 
possess every part of it." No doubt, he was 
not free from faults : his plots lack originality 
and cohesion ; he fell into " the way of tragi- 
comedy," that "common mistake" of his 
age, too agreeable indeed at all times "to 
the English taste" ; he occasionally jingled 
and played upon words, thus complying with 
"the common vice of the age he lived in," 
when such quibbles were used as ornaments 
"to the sermons of some of the gravest 
divines."* In short, Shakespeare, according 
to Rowe, had some defects, which he could 
not avoid, and many incomparable beauties, 
which none but he ever possessed. 

Pope's estimate^ seems to us more jejune 
and less appreciative. Shakespeare's works 
he considers as a compound of good and bad, 
affording, he thinks, " the most numerous as 
well as most conspicuous instances both of 
beauties and faults of ail sorts." As an 
original writer, the great dramatist stands 

' Eighteenth Century Essays on Shakespeare, pp. 9-15, 
19-20, 

^ Ibid., Preface to his Edition of Shakespeare {1725), 
pp. 47-Si- 



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loo THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

above par, even above Homer: "he is not 
so much an imitator as an instrument of 
nature"; his characters it would be "an 
injury" to call mere copies; each of them 
is as much an individual as those in life 
itself. He has an absolute command over 
the passions ; he moves our laughter and 
tears whenever and just when he pleases ; 
his sentiments and moral reflections obtain 
our admiration; "by a talent very peculiar, 
something between penetration and felicity, 
he hits upon that particular point on which 
the bent of each argument turns." "He 
seems to have known the world by intuition," 
says Pope after Dryden. But perfection did 
not belong to him. Side by side with "these 
great excellences" are to be found "defects 
almost as great." He was, like most Eliza- 
bethan playwrights, dependent on the populace 
for his livelihood : he must please his audience 
of "tradesmen and mechanicks" by showing 
them their own image, even in Coriolanus and 
in Julius C^sar ; he must obey the players, 
judges as fit "of what is right as taylors 
are of what is graceful." Thus bound and 
limited by the necessities of his profession, 
Shakespeare could not be faultless ; still less 



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JOHNSON loi 

could he imitate the Ancients. To judge 
him, therefore, " by Aristotle's rules is llite 
trying a man by the laws of one country, 
who acted under those of another." Meagre 
in thought, Pope's criticism sounds as an 
echo of Dryden's. It is far inferior to 
Rowe's ; it cannot for a moment rival 
Johnson's Preface to the 1765 edition of 
Shakespeare, a production as weighty in 
matter as in style. At that time, owing, as 
we shall see, to Voltaire's attacks on the 
English drama, Shakespearian criticism had 
taken a larger scope : the merits or demerits 
of the poet could no longer be enquired into 
without a reference to wider questions. With 
his characteristic fearlessness in discussing 
purely intellectual themes, Johnson goes to 
the root of the difficulty and solves the problem 
once for all. He begins by praising in his 
turn Shakespeare's matchless skill as a painter 
of "manners and of life." His personages 
are as "distinct" as Pope and Rowe have 
asserted them to be ; but they possess a still 
greater value in Johnson's eyes as "repre- 
sentations of general nature," as "species" 
in which mankind will ever see themselves 
reflected. Because Shakespeare "is above 



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ro2 THE SSSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

all writers the poet of nature," he has repro- 
duced, in his living figures, not only the 
peculiar and ephemeral features of individuals, 
but also the more permanent characteristics 
of the race. Ignorant of theatrical decorum, 
\ such as Greece and France understood and 
,- practised it, he has given us in his plays 
■ a complete view of life, mixing "the comic 
; and tragic scenes " as they are mixed in 
; reality. He has exhibited the true "state 
of sublunary nature, which partakes of good 
and evil, joy and sorrow, in which at the 
same time the reveller is hasting to his wine 
and the mourner burying his friend." Shake- 
j speare's very want of ' ' art " results in a nearer 
I approximation to truth, and his plays lose 
jnone of their effect thereby. Neither does 
•our past laughter stop our tears when the 
time comes for weeping, nor do the tears we 
have shed spoil our enjoyment of laughter 
when it returns. "The interchanges of 
mingled scenes seldom fail to produce the 
intended vicissitudes of passion." Is It not 
delightful to see Johnson, by a simple appeal 
to truth and nature, overturning the ponderous 
theories of pedants ? Equally decisive is his 
answer to Voltaire and Rymer on the question 



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JOHNSON ON THE RULES 103 

of the rules. You will grant me, he tells 
them, that, except in "his histories," which, 
"being neither tragedies nor comedies, are 
not subject to any of their laws," Shakespeare 
"has well enough preserved the unity of 
action." But to those "of time and place 
he has shown no regard." Therefore you 
say that his drama is not " credible." 
What is performed in three hours, you 
maintain, cannot have lasted "months or 
years," what is acted on one stage cannot 
have taken place in different countries. But 
the unities are not founded in reason, what- 
ever their antiquity and authority may be. 
" It is false that any representation is mis- 
taken for reality." "When the play opens," 
Antony and Cleopatra, for instance, does 
the spectator really "imagine himself at 
Alexandria " ? does he believe " that his 
walk to the theatre has been a voyage to 
Egypt " ? If a London stage stands for 
Alexandria, why should it not stand for 
Rome also? " Delusion, if delusion be 
admitted, has no certain limitations," nayi 
" the delight of tragedy proceeds from our coni 
sciousness of fiction ; if we thought murder^ 
and treasons real, they would please no 



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104 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

more." Since we allow so many impossi- 
bilities as regards the place, we may extend 
at will the time of the action, the more so 
as the greater part of it "elapses between 
the acts." But Johnson would have been 
too fer in advance of his age if, after so 
conclusive a defence, he had not repeated 
\the traditional objections against Shake- 
speare's drama : the looseness of his plots, 
the inequalities of his style, pompous in his 
narratives, low in his "contests of sarcasm," 
the inaccuracies of his chronology, and lasUy, 
what seems to be Johnson's own remark, the 
want of "moral purpose " in his compositions, 
intended not to instruct, but to please. That 
a man who, in the beginning of his essay, 
had described Shakespeare as the "poet of 
life," whose works are as indissoluble as 
"adamant," should conclude by saying that 
"not one play perhaps," if exhibited as the 
production of a contemporary writer, would 
be heard to the end, leaves a painful impres- 
sion on us. But we must bear in mind 
Rowe's advice, and, like him, forgetting the 
defects, remember only the beauties. Then 
Johnson's appreciation of Shakespeare, in 
spite of an occasional dash of prejudice, will 



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SHAKESPEARE IN FRANCE 105 

appear as the most vigorous, thorough-going, 
principle-revealing work of criticism that the 
eighteenth century bequeathed to us on the 
subject.^ 

That gradual emancipation of the critical 
mind from the narrow dogmas of the past, 
successfully carried out in England from 
Dryden's to Johnson's time, did not take 
place in France until the Revolution and 
Empire were welt over. It was retarded, 
not only by those political convulsions, but 
also by a smaller cause : the conservative 
influence of Voltaire, whose uncompro- 
mising scepticism in matters religious and 

^ Qi. Eighteenth Century Essays, -pp. 114-5, 121-2, 117- 
20, 126-9, 123-5, 141. A fill! list of minor Shakespearian 
critics between Dennis's and Johnson's times is given 
in the same work, pp. xvii.-xxi. and p. 332, n. 126. After 
Johnson's Preface, the most remarkable contribution to 
Shakespearian scholarship was Richard Farmer's 
Essay on the Learning of Shakespeare, an entirely new 
departure, a mine of suggestive bibliographical knowledge 
on Elizabethan literature. There, Farmer proved, in the 
most circumstantial manner, that Shakespeare had not 
read the Ancients, Plutarch for instance, in the text, but 
in contemporary translations. With MORGANN's Essay 
on the Dramatic Character of Sir fokn Falsfaff (177?), 
brilliantly written in places, but too paradoxical as a 
whole, began the detailed study of Shakespeare's 
personages, which led to Hazlitt's well-known lectures 
later on. 



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io6 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

philosophical never extended, as is well 
known, to things dramatic. There he 
remained the most bigoted of orthodox 
believers. During his three years' stay in 
England,' he had indeed been struck by 
the power of some of Shakespeare's plays, 
of Julius C<Bsar above all ; he had come to 
the conclusion that our French tragedies 
were too often frigid and declamatory, and 
that an increase of rapidity in the action 
and of variety in the incidents would be 
desirable. In consequence he condescended 
to borrow many useful suggestions from 
Shakespeare, — and he most ungratefully 
abstained from acknowledging his debt. 
He stole from Othello the plot of his Zaire ; 
he copied in Mahomet some of the most 
tragic scenes in Macbeth; the "spectres" in 
Eriphyle and in Shniramis stalked over the 
stage in imitation of the ghost in Hamlet. 
But his lifelong abuse of Shakespeare 
showed him to be a belated disciple of 
Rymer, whom he quoted with delight. His 
superstitious reverence for the "poetical 
art, " for theatrical decorum and for the 
unities, was as strong as Dennis's. The 

' From 1726 till 1729- 



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VOLTAtRE 107 

' rules he considered as the "fundamental" 
principles of dramatic composition, as whole- 
some chains which none but the weak would 
refuse to bear. No exception could be allowed 
even in favour of the greatest genius. His 
coiidemnalion of Shakespeare's "wild extra- 
vagance " never varied : it only increased 
in virulence as time went on. When most 
enthusiastic about England, he wrote in his 
Lettres phUosophiques^ that "Shakespeare,; 
the creator of the English drama, had aj 
vigorous and teeming genius, natural some-- 
times and sometimes sublime, but without) 
the smallest spark of taste, and without the', 
least knowledge of the rules. This writer's 
merits," he added, "have ruined the English 
stage ; the fine scenes, the many grand and 
terrible passages scattered through his mon- 
strous farces miscalled tragedies, have insured 
his success " and called forth imitations. Yet, 
" in the Moor of Venice, a very touching play, 
you see a man strangling his wife before the 
audience, and, when the poor woman has 
been strangled, she cries out. that she is very 
unjustly murdered. ... In Hamlet, grave- 

^ Letter xviii., "on Tragedy." The book was published 
in 1733 in England, and in 1734 in France, 



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io8 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

diggers at work drink, sing catches and 
jest about the dead men's skulls they find 
with such wit as may be expected from 
people of that class." Not the slightest 
sense of propriety in those rude com- 
positions : kings jostle hinds, talk like 
mechanics and get drunk ; not the slightest 
"regularity": a hero, baptized in the first 
act, dies an old man in the fifth. How is 
the admiration of an enliglitened English 
public to be explained, then? They cannot 
be entirely mistaken in their taste ; they 
cannot be "quite wrong in their pleasures." 
The reason of their enthusiasm, says Voltaire, 
seems to be that, however conspicuous the 
defects of their favourite author, his beauties 
are still more so, " like the lightning through 
the darkest night." ^ 

So long as his opinion prevailed in Paris, 
Voltaire, proud of having introduced Shake- 
speare to the French readers of his Lettres 
philosopkiques, kept his patronising tone 
and treated his protege as an amiable 
barbarian whose untaught energy, provided 
it were directed and tamed down, might 

' Essai surla Podsie dpique., first printed 1728, but the 
passage here quoted is a later addition. 



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RICCOBONI AND LE BLANC 109 

help to invigorate our own tragedy. He 
could not disapprove of Louis Riccoboni's 
observation J that, "if, one day, the English 
poets consented to obey the rules and to 
remove from the sight of their audiences 
blood and murder, they might aspire to a 
share at least of the glory due to the best 
productions of the modern stage. " T^e 
judgment passed on Shakespeare by the 
Abbe Le Blanc ^ coincided so fully with 
his own, that he could endorse every word 

' See Riccoboni's Reflexions historiques et critiques 
sur les diffh-ens thi&tres de PEurops, 1738, pp. 150-78, 
Le Th^Stre anglois. Another observation of this writer 
made its mark at the time. To explain why so many 
deaths and murders are presented to the spectators on 
the London stage, he suggested that the English, being a 
very thoughtful people, must be shaken out of their 
musings by sights of horror ; " Suivant mon raisonne- 
ment je crois que si I'on donnoit sur leur theatre des 
tragedies dans le gout des meilleures et des plus exactes, 
dest-k-dire de celles qui sont denudes de ces horreurs qui 
souiUent la sc^ne par le sang, les spectateurs s'endor- 
miroient peut-Stre. L'exp^rience que les premiers pontes 
dramatiques auront faite de cette verite les aura port^s 
h. ^tablir ce genre de trag^die, pour les faite sortir de 
leur r&verie par des grands coups qui les r^veillent " 
(p. 166). 

^ Leiires dun Francois, ed. 1758, t. ii., pp. 94-5, 410, 
413. On p. 418 he says that"a Tragedy should be a 
poem fit for kings, and not, as in England, fit for the 



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no THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

of it: "Complete translations of, or faitiiful 
extracts from, Shakespeare's best plays 
would do much harm to his reputation In 
France. . . . He falls so often into the low 
and puerile I " The pleasure that some 
detached passages might procure us would 
be so entirely spoilt, were we to read any 
one of his dramas from beginning to end ! 
His admirable genius forms so perpetual a 
contrast with his bad taste ! For he knew 
not how to choose ; he forgot that tragedy 
cannot admit what is vulgar and familiar in 
Nature. "Few of his works remain in which 
three - fourths of the whole are not to be 
rejected. Compared with M. de Crebillon's 
Electra, how far removed is his Hamlet from 
such a degree of perfection ! " 

In 1746, however, a sudden^ change took 

' The very favourable article on Shakespeare published 
in Pkevost'S Pour et Centre, t. xiv., 1738, pp. 25-48, has 
not the importance that M. Jusserand (Shakesfeare en 
France, p. 173) ascribes to it. For it is not an original 
production, but a mere translation of ROWe's Preface 
(cf. p. 28 especially). More striking still is a paper on 
Othello, in the same Journal and presumably by the same 
writer (pp. 49-72), which concludes by the following judg- 
ment on the play : 

"Cette Strange rapsodie, oii I'on n'apperi^it ni ordfe 
a\ vraisemblance, et o& le comique ef le tragique sont 



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LA PLACE'S TRANSLATION ill 

place. M.- de la Place, a former pupil of the 
English Jesuits at St Omer,^ undertook to 
give to the French public numerous specimens 
of those strange plays, either in free transla- 
tions, or in condensed analyses. The first 
four volumes of his TkMtre anglois, published 
in the same year, were appropriated to Shake- 
speare ; his opening "Discourse," though it 
was not all praise, though it particularly 
reproved the mixture of comic and tragic 
scenes, deprecated, however, any "rash and 
inflexible condemnation of what posterity 
would perhaps commend." Here, then, was 
an officious person so partial to Shake- 
speare as not to translate him literally, for 
fear his coarseness should offend his readers, 
and so unkind to Voltaire as to reveal to all 
eyes the true original of so many admired 
dramatic innovations ! This seemed intoler- 
able to the great man, who vented his 
resentment in the famous Prefece to 
S4miramis.^ Shakespeare, that barbarian 

confus^ment m^Ms, passe pour le ehef-d'ceuvre de Shake- 
spear. On ne m'en croiroit pas, si je ne promettois 
d'expliquer dans quelque autre feuille les causes de cette 
admiration." 

' Cf. La Haepe's Lycie^ t. xiv., pp. 323-7. 

^ III 1748. 



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112 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

of genius, now became an 'Sntoxicated 
savage," whose delirious imagination pro- 
duced such a tragedy as Hamlet, "so iow 
and extravagant that the vilest populace 
in France or Italy could never bear it." 
Thirteen years later, incensed more and 
more by the continued success of La Place's 
work, by Patu's ^ enthusiasm for Romeo and 

' Claude-Pierre Patu, avocat en Parlement, was born 
in October 1729, and died of lung disease on 20tli August 
I7S? (cf- an Obituary Notice in the Ann^e LitUraire, 
"^IVl^ *■ ™-i PP- 178-18?). His comedietta les Adieux 
du go&t met with some success in 1754, and in the 
same year he visited England, where he made the 
acquaintance of Garrick, whose ardent admirer he 
became. More than any Frenchman of the time, 
certainly more than La Place, he felt the charm of 
Shakespeare as a poet (cf. his Letters to Garrict, in 
Gaerick'S Private and Foreign Correspondence, ed. 
1832, ii., 383-430; the first is written in English, and 
dated "Paris, 25th February 1755"). Some extracts 
from this Correspondence will show the young critic's 
sincere enthusiasm. On 6th May 1755, he says: 

"Je lis Shakespeare avec mon ami Mr Flint (a teacber 
of English in Paris), et le livre nous tombe des mains i 
chaque page. Quelle chaleur d'action I quelle v^rit^ de 
portraits I quelle vari^t^ dans les descriptions I Quelle 
foule de pr^ceptes instructifs, de remarc|ues sages, de 
beautds de toute esp6ce I Quelle connaissance du cceur 
et de la nature ! Je travaille maintenant i un ouvrage 
sur votre litt^rature, qui me donnera lieu de m'expliquer 
sur ce g^nie merveiUeux." 

This was to be a History of English Poetry, beginning 



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PATU 113 

Jidiet both at Ferney and in the Journal 
Etranger, by the pubHcation, in the Journal 
with Chaucer (cf. Idid., p. 406). On the i8th of June, he 



" J'ai mille choses i dire, sans pr^jug^s, ce me semble, 
sans mauvaise humeur, sans partiality nationale, sui cette 
divine action, sur cette chaleur d'int^ret qui caract^rise 
tant de vos pieces, et qui les rendent sur la sc^ne si pr^- 
f^rabies aux n6tres, dont la plupart ne sont que de trfes 
belies ^l^gies et de charmants pogmes ; mais je suis 
encore bien jeune, et j'ai besoin de certaines lumi&res 
que ie saisirai mieux h Londres qu'ici. Je crois done 
devoir remettre ce grand coup & quelques ann^es, et me 
contenter en attendant de porter quelques bottes k cet 
amour tyrannique que nous mspirent par prescription les 
r&glea d'unit^s, et surtout k cette id^ modeste, ou sont 
nos gens, qu'au theatre comme en tout nous sommes les 
arbitres souverains. Heureux si ma sant6, qui continue 
k fitre assez chancelante, ne me faisait craindre I'hiver de 
votre ville, et si les brouiUards de la Tamise et la fum6e 
de charbon convenaient autant k ma poitrine que les 
hommes, leurs mceurs, et les pi6ces tragiques s'y accordent 
avec moil goQt." 

In October 1755 he spent a week with Voltaire) whom 
he tried to bring to his own views on Shakespeare by 
reading aloud some scenes oi Romeo and oi Macbeth : 

" Je n'^ pas manqu^ de lui dire ce que je pensais de 
ses expressions si fausses, si peu r^fl^chies au sujet de 
Shakespear. 11 est convenu de bonne foi que c'^tait un 
bardare aimable, un Jou siduisant ; ce sont ses proprea 
termes ; le grand article qui le met de mauvaise humeur 
est I'irrdgidarit^ des plans de cet illustre poete. . . . 
J'ai fait ressouvenir aujourd'hui mSme ce grand homme 
du tr^t sublime de Macduff ; ' He has no children,' de la 
scfene entre le jemie Arthur et son gouvemeur Hubert, 
et de bien d'autres beaut^s de I'inimitable Shakespear. 
Je ne doute presque pas que je ne I'amenasse k ma facon 
de penser k ce sujet, si j'avais le temps de faire k Geneve 
H 



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IJ4 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

Encychpddiqm,^ of two laudatory articles on 
Shakespeare and Otway compared with 
Corneille and Racine, he rose in his anger, 
and addressed "to all the nations of Europe " 
an 4^/££7/ against these erroneous judgments. 
As was his wont, he ridiculed Hamlet in a 
lengthy account of the play, quoted, for 
the third time perhaps, some objectionable 
passages in Othello, and concluded by ask- 
ing: "Who can now speak of Aristotle's 
rules, of the three unities, of decorum, of 
the necessity there is of never leaving the 
stage empty, of giving a plausible reason 
for all exits and entrances, of making princes 
speak with due propriety? It is too plain 
that an author can bewitch a nation without 

uii s^jour plus long, mais je quitte le dieu de notre 
littdrature apris-demain, et je reviens ^ Paris." {Ibid., 
pp. 408-9). 

The article on Mrs Lennox's Shakespear Illusfraied 
in i^^ Journal Etranger for December 1755, i., 29-90, 
is by Patu (cf. Garbick's Correspondence, ji., 405). He 
died at St Jean de Maurienne, on his return from Italy, 
whither the care of his health had driven him. There 
is no doubt that French criticism on English poetry 
lost much by his premature death. 

' Contrary to Mr Lounsbury's opinion {Shakespeare 
and Voltairs, p. 183), we believe these articles to be bond 
fide translations. They appeared in the numbers for 
15th October and 1st November 1760. 



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VOLT AIRE'S APPEAL AND C^SAR 115 

putting himself to so much trouble." ^ And 
the better to expose the errors of his personal 
enemies, the Shakespeare - worshippers, he 
took occasion of the Commentary he was- 
writing on Corneille ^ to translate as feith- 
fully as possible — at least so he said — the 
first three acts of Julius C(Bsar, containing 
the dramatic presentment of a conspiracy 
very similar to that in Cinna. Between 
Corneille in the text, and Shakespeare 
rendered into French prose and blank 
verse by Voltaire, the world would thus 
be enabled to decide. 



Ill 

Mrs Montagu, like most of her com- 
patriots, felt indignant at this abuse. She 
had always admired Shakespeare sincerely. 
Comparing him with Sophocles in 1760, ^ 
she wrote that " he alone, like the dervise in 
the Arabian tales, could throw his soul into 
the body of another man." His gifts as a 

' Voltaire, (Euvres computes. Gamier ed., 1879, 
xxiv,, 203. 
' In 1764. 



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u6 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

(character-painter seemed to her unparalleled. 
Not so his style : " Had Shakespeare lived 
in Sophocles' age and country, what a writer 

■ had he been ! what powers had he by nature, 
and alas! what deficiencies in art!" Here 
the keynote is struck again that characterises, 
as we have seen, English criticism on Shaker 
speare at that time : so many beauties to be 
reckoned on one side, so many defects to 
be deducted on the other, with an over- 
whelming balance in favour of the former. 

■ He possesses the dramatist's essential skill, 
that of creating living individual figures, as 
if by intuition : '* In his Hamlet, King John, 
Henry IV., and in all his good plays, he 
makes his persons say what one would 
imagine could not occur to any one who 
was not in their very circumstances." His 
being an actor "might a little assist him 
in this respect," for a writer "puts down 
what he imagines," an actor "what he 

I feels." His dramatic instinct unerringly 
■guided him, even in his "moral reflections." 
JThey "are not the cold and formal observa- 
f tions of a spectator, but come warm from 
the heart of the interested person." ^ Answer- 
' l^etiers, iv., 299-301, 



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MRS MONTAGU ON VOtTAIRE 117 

ing this letter, Lord Lyttelton applauded his 
friend's remarks : "Shakespeare," he declared 
in his turn, was "indeed unequalled in the 
power of painting Nature as she is," and of 
putting into the mouth of the "interested 
persons " moral reflections which the passion 
they breathe makes much more striking and 
effective than the descant/of a Greek chorus.* 
Thus confirmed in her nigh appreciation of 
Shakespeare, Mrs Montagu's antipathy to 
Voltaire could not but increase. It became 
a rooted aversion. She disliked not only 
his criticism, but his conduct, his principles, 
his works. The Henriade she thought a 
schoolboy's imitation of Homer and Virgil, 
a "light matter borne aloft by the puffing 
of a little rhyme," fit "to dance a while in 
the atmosphere of France " ^ ; Candide or 
Optimism she agreed with Mrs Carter in 
" detesting." "This creature," exclaimed 
our pious Englishwomen in concert, " is a 
downright rebel to his God."^ And as such 
a hideous infidel must be severely castigated, 
they started, one day, in Amazonian fashion, 

' Mrs Climensok, ii., 206. 
« Letters,\v., 67{i7S7)- 
» Ibid., 197, 



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irS THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

from London to Wehvyn, where that solemn 
champion of Christianity, Dr Young, still 
resided, and, without much difficulty, per- 
suaded him to insert in his Resignation a 
homily, half unctuous and half minatory, 
on the error of a philosopher's ways.'- 
Common honesty, Mrs Montagu evidently 
believed, was not to be expected from a 
member of "Satan's household " ; ingratitude 
to a benefactor, to Shakespeare, must be one 
of the smallest sins of such a miscreant. 
Therefore, she was not surprised, when "the 
saucy Frenchman," in his Preface to the 
Orphelin de la Chine,^ opprobriously called 

■ Cf. Resignation, part ii., and Mrs CLIMENSON, ii., 257 
{2nd September 1761)- 

' Patu himself was displeased. On 23rd September 
175s, he wrote to Garrick (Correspondence, pp. 404-5) ^ 

"L'Orphelin de la Chine is over. La maladie subite de 
Le Kain a interronipu la pifice ^ la neuvifeme representa- 
tion. ... La preface ne manquera pas de vous r^volter. 
J'ai pen vu de choses (de lui surtout) aussi mal dig^r^ea, 
je dirais presque aussi mal ^crites. 11 y traite les pieces 
de Shakespear de farces monstrueuses, et en parle avec 
un m^pris souverain. J'en suis d'autant plus indign^ que 
les momdres paroles de ce grand fcrivain sont prises ici 
pour des oracles. . . ." 

Arthur Murphy appended to his adaptation of the 
Orphan of China (i7S9) a Letter to M. de Voltaire [2nd 
ed., pp^ 89-96), in which he said ; 

"A very ingenious gentleman of my acquaintance tells 



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MRS MONTAGU ON CORNEILLE 119 

Shakespeare's tragedies "monstrous farces.'" 
But her anger rose to the threatening pitch : { 
"I could burn him and his tragedy I" she>' 
cried, " Foolish coxcomb I rules can no '■, 
more make a poet than receipts a cook, / 
There must be taste, there must be skill. 
Oh I that we were as sure our fleets and 
armies could drive the French out of 
America/ as that our poets and tragedians 
can drive them out of Parnassus. I hate 
to see these tame creatures, taught to pace 
by art, attack fancy's sweetest child ! " 

What were their tragedies, which Voltaire 
and all their critics so proudly boasted of? 
Mere declamations, devoid of hfe and action. 
"I am flattered to find ray opinion of Corneille 
has always agreed with yours," she told Mrs 
Carter so early as 1758,^ "I will allow he 
is a poet, but I deny his dramatic talents : he 
does not possess the farailiarity of dialogue, 
nor the art of realising characters," His 
me, that whenever you treat the English bard as a 
drunken savage in your cevant firopos, he always deems 
it a sure prognostic that your play is the better for 

which sarcastic— but just—observation was literally trans- 
lated in \he Journal Elranger iox January i76o(pp, 1-47). 

' Letters^ iv., 7-8 (i8th November 1755). 

^ Letters, iv., 107-8. 



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120 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

magnanimous, grandiloquent personages re- 
semble the statues of certain great Romans : 
*' their air, their shape, their features are 
expressed, but they are not animated ; they 
are not men, they are mere images." In a 
tour she made through Scotland during the 
autumn of 1766, she became personally 
acquainted with Henry Home, Lord Kames, 
whose voluminous and once famous treatise 
on the Elements of Criticism she had probably 
perused on its publication in 1761, Both the 
Scotch judge and the English lady were 
unanimous in their depreciation of Voltaire/ 
and of the French drama. To prove Shake- 
speare's immense superiority as a painter of 
the passions, Home also had compared him 
with Corneille. Truth compelled him to ac- 
knowledge, not very unwillingly, we suspect, 
that the " French author describes in the 
style of a spectator, instead of expressing 
passion like one who feels it. . . . In the 
tragedy of Cinna, Emilia, after the con- 
spiracy is discovered, receives a pardon from 
Augustus. . . . This is a lucky situation for 

' Kames had found fault with the Henriade in his 
Elements, and drew 00 himself Voltaire's reprisals in 
the Gazelle LitUraire (4th April 1764). 



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LORD KAMES ON CORNEILLE 121 

representing the passions of surprise and 
gratitude in their different stages, which 
seem naturally to be what follow." Let us 
give one instance of those psychological 
observations on which Kames founded his 
code of aesthetics ; "These passions, raised 
at once to the utmost pitch" in Emilia's 
bosom, " and being at first too big for 
utterance, must, for some moments, be 
expressed by violent gestures only : as soon 
as there is vent for words, the first expres- 
sions are broken and interrupted ; at last we 
ought to expect a tide of intermingled senti- 
ments, occasioned by the fluctuation of the 
mind between the two passions." Unfortu- 
nately, however, Corneille had not studied 
moral philosophy in Scotland. He knew 
indeed how difficult it is for a tragic poet to 
paint "extreme grief" by "violent gestures" 
and "exclamations only." ^ To this powerful 
objection of CorneiUe's, Kames had nothing 
to answer. He preferred criticising on : 
"j^milia," he insisted, speaks in the most 
unnatural manner; "with extreme coolness 
she describes her own situation as if she 

' See his Examen of the Czd, quoted by Kames him- 
self, RUmenis of Criticism, 6th ed, 1785, i., 48a 



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122 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

were merely a spectator ; ... in the tragedy 
of Sertorius, the Queen/ surprised with the 
news that her lover was assassinated, instead 
of venting her passion, undertakes to instruct 
the bystanders how a queen ought to behave 
on such an occasion." Even in the Cid, Don 
Diegue, "having been affronted in a cruel 
manner, expresses scarce any sentiment of 
revenge, but is totally occupied in contem- 
plating the low situation to which he is 
reduced." Shakespeare, on the contrary, 
never "disgusts his reader with genera! 
declamation and unmeaning words : his 
sentiments are adjusted to the peculiar 
character and circumstances of the speaker, 
and the propriety is no less perfect between 
his sentiments and his diction."^ Kames's 
conclusions, identical with her own, must 
have greatly encouraged Mrs Montagu to 
proceed with her critical work. 

In 1764 the first draught of the Essay on 
Shakespear was, in all probability, already 



' Viriate. 

^ Elements, \., 458-64, 500-1, On Mrs Montagu s 
intercourse with Kames, see his Memoirs, by Alexander 
FRASERTvTLKRofWoodhouselee, 3nd ed., 1814, ii., 44 
sqq. 



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ITS PUBLICATION 123 

written, as Mrs Carter mentions in a letter^ 
one of its parts, the "criticism on Macbeth." 
Two years afterwards the same correspondent 
returned to the subject. She had read "the 
Prefaces prefixed to Johnson's Shakespear," 
and, in her opinion, the ablest of them all 
was Johnson's own. She did not intend, 
however, "by this to express that he is 
always right in what he says of his author. 
In this article he, like the rest of the com- 
mentators, appears to be very defective, and 
consequently ' res integra tibi reservatur,' 
if you pursue your scheme." ^ On 21st 
August 1767, Mrs Montagu submitted to 
her friend another part of her book, the 
essay "on the Prieternatural Beings,"* 
and she probably completed the whole 
during the summer of 1768,* The volume 
came out anonymously in the following 
April. 

Besides the "Introduction" and the two 
essays already mentioned "on Macbeth " and 

' Mrs Carter's Letters to Mrs Montagu, i., 214 
{I2th May). 

2 Ibid., p. 311 (rzth July 1766). 

' Ibid., 343 ; cf. Essay on Skakespear, p. 140, ed. 
I7?7. 

*/^M., 387 (21st June). 



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124 THE £SSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

"on the Preternatural Beings," it contains 
six separate dissertations : on " Dramatic 
Poetry " in general, on the " Historical 
Drama," on the two parts of "Henry IV.," 
on "Corneille's Cinna," and " Shakespear's 
Julius Caesar." The mere enumeration of 
the contents makes the writer's aim manifest : 
" the genius of Shakespear, through the 
whole extent of the poet's province,"^ is one 
of the two objects of the enquiry, the other 

Ujeing a reply to Voltaire: *'I will own," 
/Mrs Montagu says, '* I was incited to this 
undertaking by great admiration of Shake- 
spear's genius, and still greater indignation at 
the treatment he has received from a French 
wit, who seems to think he has made pro- 
digious concessions to our prejudices in 
favour of the works of our countryman, in 
allowing them the credit of a few splendid 
passages, while he speaks of every entire 

(piece as a monstrous and ill-constructed farce. 

/Ridiculously has our poet, and ridiculously 
has our taste been represented by a writer 
of universal fame, and through the medium 
of an almost universal language."^ Mrs 

' Essay on Shakespear, p. 135. 
^ md., 16. 



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THE RULES 125 

Montagu's book is, therefore, a patriotic | 
protest against undeserved abuse. ' 

She repudiates Voltaire's chief contention 
that Shakespeare's ignorance or non-observ-\ 
ance of the rules incapacitates him at oncej 
from ranking with the greatest classical: 
dramatists — Sophocles, Corneille, and Racine. 
As Farquhar had done before her, she denies 
the efficacy of Aristotle's precepts: "When 
one of these critics has attempted to finish a 
work by his own rules, he has rarely been 
able to convey into it one spark of divine 
fire ; and the hero of his piece, whom he 
designed for a man, remains a cold, inanimate 
statue. ... As these pieces take their rise 
in the school of criticism, they return thither 
again, and are as good subjects for the 
students in that art as a dead body to the 
professors in anatomy." ^ Elsewhere the 
same position is illustrated by a more elegant 
simile. According to Mrs Montagu, "the 
pedant who bought at a great price the lamp 
of a famous philosopher, expecting that by 
its assistance his lucubrations would become 
equally celebrated, was little more absurd 
than those poets who suppose their dramas 
-. pp- 6-7- 



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126 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

must be excellent if they are regulated by 
Aristotle's clock." ^ The rules are not only 
:useless, but also inapplicable to Shakespeare, 
(to one section of his plays especially. Johnson 
/had already asserted that * ' his histories, 
being- neither tragedies nor comedies, are not 
subject to any of their laws." ^ Mrs Montagu, 
borrowing this idea, expresses it in other 
words : " Those dramas of Shakespear, which 
he distinguishes by the name of his histories, 
being of an original kind and peculiar con- 
struction, cannot come within any rules, 
prior to their existence."* Aristotle, what- 
ever his learning, could not legislate about 
what was not "actually extant" in his own 
time. His decrees do not cover the whole 
field of the drama and even in their domain 
they have no specific virtue. 

Voltaire's, favourite argument once disposed 
of, Mrs Montagu proceeds to develop her 
own critical theory. Remembering that the 
Ancients and Johnson himself have said that, 
whilst " the end of writing is to instruct, the 

^ Essay on Shakespear, pp. 5-6. 

= NiCHOL Smith's Eighteenth Century Essays, 
p. 126. 
' Essay on Slmkespear, p. 53. 



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DEFINITION OF THE DRAMA 127 

end of poetry is to instruct by pleasing,"^ 
she starts from the following definition of 
the drama : " The effecting certain morali 
purposes, by the representation of a fable, : 
seems to have been the universal intention; 
from the first institution of the drama to this 
time." She will therefore examine her author 
with the double view of ascertaining "first,, 
whether his fables answer the noblest end of 
Fable, moral instruction ; next, whether his' 
dramatic imitation has its proper dramatic 
excellence."^ A comparison of his and of 
some other celebrated compositions, where 
the nature of the subjects can bear it, will 
enable her to form a candid judgment on his 
merits. 

She entertains no doubts of his ethical 
superiority over the French tragedians. Mrs 
Montagu, as we know, looks suspiciously 
upon love. She finds too much of it in the 
French plays. Instead of "attempting to 
purge the passions by Pity and Terror," 
writers like Corneille and Racine "have 
plainly neglected " the true object of the 
drama, its moral end, and melted it away " in 

^ Eighieenih Century Essays, p. 119. 
* Essay, pp. 12-3. 



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128 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

the strains of Elegy and Eclogue." Their 
warblings may please an effeminate audience, 
,y*' but let not example," she manfu lly exclaims, 
"teach us to fetter the energy and enervate 
the noble powers of the British Muse and 
of a language fit to express sublimer senti- 
ments." The subjects of an absolute monarch 
may delight in making persons "of every 
age and nation adopt French manners," in 
turning even Greek heroes into plaintive 
courtiers. Such distortions of the truth are 
repugnant to free-born Britons, well-read in 
Sophocles and Euripides. They know that 
"Ulysses, in the tragedy oi Hecuba, coming 
to demand PoHxena to be sacrificed, is cold, 
prudent, deaf to pity, blind to beauty, and to 
be moved only by consideration of the public 
weal." In consequence, they cannot approve 
of Racine's Ulysses telling Agamemnon " heis 
ready to ay."^ Surely sentimentalism never 
was the foible of Penelope's husband. In the 

1 The writer of an article on the Apolegie de Skakespear 
in the Annie Litlirinre for 1777, vi., 228, ingeniously 
remarks about this, that "L'erreur de miladi Montagu 
est inconcevable. II faut qu'elle n'ajt pas entendu le 
sens du passage qu'elle cite : en effet, lorsqu' Ulysse dit 
i Agamemnon qu'il est prSt de pleurer, ce n'est pas qu'il 
soil attendri stir le sort d'lphig^nie ; c'est une ruse 



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THE DRAMA— ITS MORAL END 129 

same play of Iphigenia, Achilles "is not dis- 
tinguished from any young lover of spirit ; 
yet this is one of the best French tragedies." 
Nor was Corneille more accurate in his 
characters. His "strained elevation of senti- 
ment and expression has perhaps a theatrical 
greatness," but it is not like "Roman dignity," 
which clothed exalted feelings in simple words. 
Shakespeare, on the contrary, in the greater - 
number of his historical dramas, takes care 
to choose national heroes and incidents well- 
known of all the spectators. Hence a twofold 
advantage : the interest he excites is deeper, 
"our noble countryman Percy engages us 
much more than Achilles " ; and in the second 
place, the moral lesson to be drawn from the 
play gains in clearness and usefulness: "As 
the misfortunes of nations, like those of 
individuals, often arise from their peculiar 
dispositions, customs, prejudices, and vices, 
these home - born dramas are excellently 
calculated to correct them. . . . The Poet 
collects, as it were, into a focus those truths 
which lie scattered in the diffuse volume of 
^loqiiente qu'il met en ceuvre pour determiner son pfere ^ 
ia sacrifier. II feint de partager la douleur d'Agamemnon, 
afin de s'insinuer dans son esprit, et de donner par Ih plus 
de poids k ses conseils," 



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I30 THE ESSA Y ON SHAKESPEARE 
the historian, and kindles the flame of virtue, 
while he shows the miseries and calamities of 
vice." Moreover, taking his work as a whole, 
we find that it possesses a psychological range 
and moral utility much wider than those of 
the French tragedies. These always turn on 
"love and ambition." "From the first of 
these passions, many by age and temper are 
entirely exempted, and from the second many 
more, by situation. . . . Shakespeare, in 
various nature wise, does not confine himself 
to any particular passion." For " purgative " 
power, his plays remain beyond compare. 
And as a coiner of ' ' sentences, " he is 
"certainly one of the greatest moral philo- 
sophers that ever lived." His axioms are not, 
like those of Euripides, "general opinions 
collected into maxims, ambitious ornaments 
glittering alone " : they come warm from the 
speaker's heart, and we remember them the 
better as they are "naturally united with the 
story." ^ 

If we pass to the second point, to the con- 
sideration of the "fable," Shakespeare shows 
himself no less a master. He unconsciously 
follows Aristotle's precept that "there can be 

' Essay., pp. 39, 41, 44-6, 55-S, 80. 



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HIS DRAMA— THE FABLE 131 

no tragedy without action. " He is a dramatist 
"upon instinct," and never deviates into tlie 
epic. He seldom or never falls into the long- 
winded speeches so rife in French plays. 
Voltaire himself "confesses that some of the 
most admired tragedies in France are rather 
conversations than representations of an 
action." No heavier charge can be brought 
against them, for, in that case, they "fail in 
the most essential part of the art." "The 
business of the drama is to excite sympathy, 
and its effect on the spectator depends on 
such a justness of imitation as shall cause, 
to a certain degree, the same passions and 
affections, as if what is exhibited was real. 
We have observed narrative imitation to be 
too faint and feeble a means to excite passion ; 
declamation, still worse, plays idly on the 
surface of the subject, and makes the poet, 
who should be concealed in the action, visible 
to the spectator."^ How poor is the merit of 
overcoming the difficulties of the rules and of 
the rhyme, when so essential a defect has to 
be incurred! The real "dramatic art" is 
then lost sight of, for the sake of an artificial 
technique. 

' Essay, pp. 30-1, 



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132 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 
As speeches abound in French tragedies, so 
do characters in Shaliespeare's plays. " His 
— talents were universal, his penetrating mind" 
seemed to know all things by intuition. "He 
could throw his soul into the body of another 
man, and be at once possessed of his senti- 
ments," which almost instantaneous inspira- 
tion is surely the highest gift in a poet. His 
grasp and range were such that in his 
historical dramas he succeeded in painting a 
full and animated picture of England during 
the Civil Wars. In his endeavour to re- 
produce the manifold aspects of things, he 
broke down, of course, " the barriers that had 
before confined the dramatic writers to the 
regions of comedy or tragedy. He perceived 
the fertility of the subjects that lay between 
the two extremes ; he saw that in the historical 
play he could represent the manners of the 
whole people, give the general temper of the 
times, and bring in view the incidents that 
affected the common fete of his country." 
From the extensiveness of the plan doubtless 
resulted some grave inconveniences : con- 
fusion and "hurly-burly" too often prevail 
in his plays ; by his strict fidelity to the 
chronicles, Shakespeare " has embarrassed 



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SHAKESPEARE'S CHARACTERS 133 

his dramas with too great a number of— 
persons and events." Moreover, the number- 
less assassinations and battles he has repre- 
sented, in conformity with his historical 
authorities, have caused the French to 
" impute barbarity and cruelty to a people 
that could delight in bloody skirmishes on 
the stage." But how rich is this maze of 
events in varied and always striking 
characters I Here is Hotspur, "hurried by 
an impetuosity of soul out of the sphere of 
obedience, and, like a comet, though 
dangerous to the general system, still an 
object of admiration and wonder to every 
beholder." What a curious and illuminat- 
ing contrast he forms with Worcester, the 
"proud, envious, malignant, artful rebel," 
with Henry IV. himself, whose " specious 
talents" assisted him "to usurp a kingdom," 
but, probably "from the want of great and 
solid qualities," left him unable to "main- 
tain opinion loyal to the throne." Nor are 
Prince Hal and Falstaff less skilfully contrived 
and opposed. "It was a delicate affe,ir to 
expose the follies of Henry V. before a 
people proud of his victories, and tender of 
his fame, at the same time so informed of 



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134 fHE ^^■^^J' ON SHAKESPEARE 

the extravagances and excesses of his youth 
that he could not appear divested of them 
with any degree of historical probability. . . . 
How happily therefore was the character of 
Falstaff introduced, whose wit and festivity in 
some measure excuse the Prince for admitting 
him into his familiarity, and suffering himself 
to be led by him into some irregularities!" 
Faistaff's mirth, "the source of his wit," and 
his overflowing spirits were so irresistibly 
attractive I The "finesse of wit " was in 
him, joined to "the drollery of Humour," 
For " Humour is a kind of grotesque wit, 
shaped and coloured by the disposition of 
the person in whom it resides or by the 
subject to which it is applied." And never 
was so amusing a "composition " as 
FalstalFs, whom corpulency, gluttony and" 
cowardice make ridiculous, thereby enhan- 
cing, instead of weakening, the effect of his 
resourceful wit. It may be that, now and 
then, a secondary figure "appears a mere 
antiquated habit," a monster begotten by 
the poet's brain. The rant of Pistol, for 
instance, is of a strange kind, probably 
meant as a caricature of some "forgotten 
mode," of "some fashionable affectation of 



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SHAKESPEARE'S CHARACTERS 135 

bombast language." The short duration of 
such oddities has deprived the character of the 
permanent value which their essential truth 
imparts to most Shakespearian personages. 
Take Macbeth, among others, with "his 
generous disposition and good propensities, 
but vehement passions, and aspiring wishes." 
"Amazing is the art with which Shakespeare 
exhibits the movement of the human mind," 
gradually "seduced by splendid prospects and 
ambitious counsels." How well he "renders 
audible the silent march of thought, traces its 
modes of operation in the course of deliberat- 
ing, the pauses of hesitation, and the final 
decision, shows how Reason checks and how 
the passions impel ; and displays to us the 
trepidations that precede, and the horrors 
that pursue acts of blood." See also with 
what skill Lady Macbeth is made to shrink 
from killing the king: "the exaggerated 
fierceness of her character" thus "returns 
back to the line and limits of humanity, and 
that very judiciously, by a sudden impression, 
which has only an instantaneous effect." 
So "prodigious" was the force of Shake- 
speare's talents that he could render even 
his " prjeternatural beings," his witches and 



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136 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

ghosts, "credible and subservient to his 
designs." ^ 

It was the height of imprudence in Voltaire 
to compare Julius Gssar and Cinna, For 
there is not one character in the French play 
but deserves our contempt. Emilia's " out- 
rageous resentment" against Augustus we 
cannot sympathise with, as we know nothing 
of her father, except that he was called 
Toranius, and had been proscribed by the 
Triumvirate. Nay, we detest it, for "we 
see her in the court of Augustus, under the 
sacred relation of his adopted daughter, enjoy- 
ing all the privileges of that distinguished 
situation, and treated with the tenderness of 
paternal love. Nothing so much deforms the 
feminine character as ferocity of sentiment. 
Nothing so deeply stains the human character 
as ingratitude." Very different from what a 
Roman hero should have been, Cinna resolves 
to murder the dictator, in order not so much 
to free the state as to please his mistress : 
"Shakespeare most judiciously laboured to 
show that Brutus's motives to kill C^sar 
were perfectly generous, and purely pubhc- 

' ^way, pp. 63-4, 69, 73, 92, 95-6, 103, 108, 124, 164, 
178, 185, 203. 



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CORNEILLE'S INFERIORITY 137 

spirited. Corneille has not kindled Cinna to 
his enterprize with any spark of Roman fire." 
The feeling he excites in us is "aversion at 
his black treachery. . . . When Augustus 
consults him as his friend, whether he shall 
lay down his power and restore liberty to the 
Commonwealth, Cinna advises him not to do 
it, with a great appearance of personal attach- 
ment to him and zeal for his country, but in 
reality that he may not lose a pretence to 
sacrifice him to the revenge of Emilia. This 
holds forth Cinna to the spectator as a 
perfidious friend, a wicked counsellor, a 
profligate citizen." Maximus, in the third 
act, turning informer out of love and jealousy, 
"becomes as base as Cinna his friend and 
Emilia his mistress," So that the play as a 
whole, instead of being "the representation of 
an importa.^t event" by illustrious persons, 
appears as "the love-intrigue of a termagant 
lady" carried on by "villains."' 

So far, Mrs Montagu had tried to confute 
Voltaire by eulogising Shakespeare and 
depreciating Corneille. She now attacked , 
the French critic directly, and censured the I 
many inaccuracies to be found in his transla- \ 
' £ssayf pp. Z19-20, 231, 240. 



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138 THE SSSAV ON SHAKESPEARE 

tion of the first three acts of Julius Cmsar. ^ 
The blame was just, and Voltaire had courted 
it by himself challenging; comparison with 
the original text: "The rendering here given 
oi C<ssar," he had written in his preface, "is 
the most faithful ever made in our language 
from any poet, ancient or foreign. . . . Prose 
corresponds to prose, blank verse to blank 
verse, and what is familiar and low in 
Shakespeare's tragedy has so remained."^ 
To this bold assertion, Mrs Montagu opposes 
a vigorous negative. In the first place, "it 
is difficult, perhaps impossible, to make the 
graces of style pass from one language to 
another, and our blank verse cannot be 
equalled by French blank verse." Voltaire, 
moreover, frequently proves, not his know- 
ledge, but his ignorance of the English 
tongue. " He often mistakes the signification 
of the most common words, of which there 
are many remarkable instances in this boasted 
translation of Juliits Casar" Let us quote 
at least some of them. In the iirst scene of 
the second act, Brutus, loath to have Antony 
and CcEsar slain together, exclaims: "Our 

' See above (p. 115). 

^ Voltaire, CEuvres compleits, ed, 1877, vii., 435-6. 



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VOLTAIRE'S INACCURACIES 139 

course will seem too bloody, Caius Cassius," 
which line was thus translated by Voltaire : 
"Cette course aux Roraains paraitrait trop 
sanglante," an "allusion perhaps to the 
Lupercal course," the ingenious commentator 
added in a note, unless it signifies "aservilpe 
of dishes at table." ^ He was corrected by 
Mrs Montagu, without much difficulty : course 
means "method of proceeding," she very 
justly observes. Brutus again, conversing 
with Portia, ^ promises to tell her the secrets 
of his heart: "All my engagements I will 
construe to thee," he says ; and Voltaire 
translates: "Va, mes sourcils fronces pren- 
nent un air plus doux." A gross blunder! 
remarks Mrs Montagu. How is it to be 
explained ? With commendable ingenuity, 
she suggests that "the dictionary was con- 
sulted for the word construe ; . . . according 
to the usual form, one may suppose it to 
have stood: to construe = to interpret. This 
not serving the purpose, to interpret was next 
sought ; there he found : to interpret or to 

' Voltaire, CEuvres computes, p. 464 ; cf. Essay, pp. 
21 1-2. 

* Julius Casar,hc\. I., Sc. ii., pp. 307-8 ; cf. Voltaire, 
<^. cit., p. 469, and Essay, p. 317. 



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I40 THE ESSAY OM SHAKESPEARE 

explain ; again, with indefatigable industry, 
excited by a desire to excel dll translators and 
translations, he had recourse to the article lo 
explain ; under this head he found : to unfold 
or clear up ; so away went the translator to 
clear up the countenance of Brutus." Equally 
amusing are her strictures on Voltaire's 
I " misconstruction " of Cesar's haughty speech 
to Metellus Cimber, whose brother had been 
banished. C^sar will not grant the exile's 
pardon, because such indulgence would turn 
"preordinance and first decree into the law 
of children."^ Voltaire, writing nonsense for 
the first time perhaps in his life, made the 
dictator say that " ces basses flatteries 

Peuvent sur un cceur faible avoir quelque pouvoir, 
Et changer quelquefois I'ordre ^ternel des choses 
Dans I'esprit des enfants ! " 

Further on, he had rendered, 

" If thou dost bend, and pray, and fawn for him, 
I spurn thee like a cur out of my way," 

by the remarkable blank lines that follow ; 

" Flatte, prie k genoux, et l^che-moi les pieds ; 
Va, je te rosserai comme un cfaien ; loin d'ici ! " 

^Julius CtEsar, Act III., Sc. i., 37 sgg. ; d. Voltaire, 
p. 480, and Essay, pp. 2?5-8. 



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ITS RECEPTION IN ENGLAND 141 

Mrs Montagu's knowledge of French, though 
she spoke it badly, was finer than Voltaire's 
sense of English. She knew that "je te 
rosserai" is "a very low phrase," and that 
"to spurn is a very noble one, not unfit 
for the highest poetry or eloquence." Her 
demonstration was conclusive. The "faithful 
translator " stood convinced of presumption 
and ignorance. When, five years later, part 
06 her Essay was translated into French, it 
materially impaired Voltaire's authority as a— 
critic of English literature. 

In England, Mrs Montagu's anonymous 
publication was received with a chorus of 
praise. Only two dissentient voices made 
themselves heard. The sarcastic Dowager 
Countess Gower wrote to Mrs Delany on 
30th August that " Mrs Montagu has com- 
menced author in vindication of Shakespear, 
who wants none : therefore her performance 
must be deemed a work of supererogation j 
some commend it," she condescendingly 
added, and "I'll have it, because I can throw 
it aside when I'm tired." ^ The literary dicta- 
tor of the time, Dr Johnson, pronounced that 

' The Autobiography and Correspondence oj Mrs 
PELANY, iv,, 236-7. 



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142 THE BSSA Y ON SHAKESPEARE 

the Eisay did its writer honour, but that " it 
would do nobody else honour." "I will 
venture to say," he snappishly told Reynolds 
and Garrick, who defended the work, "that 
there is not one sentence of true criticism in 
her book, . . . none showing the beauty of 
thought, as formed on the workings of the 
human heart."' As to her replying to Vol- 
taire's false accusations, " nobody else had 
thought it worth while." And so, "what 
merit was there in that?"^ But for these 
two exceptions, all friends and judges were 
\ unanimous in their applause. The May 
renumber of the Critical Review spoke of the 
[ "admirable observations" that occur in the 
\ chapter on "Dramatic Poetry" as proving 
j " our essayist " to be "almost the only critic 
who has yet appeared worthy of Shakespeare. " 
Voltaire and his party had suffered a final 
defeat. If his favourers, the reviewer went 
on, "have one grain of modesty or candour, 
the controversy, if so unequal a conflict can 
be so called, is now at an end ; the age has 
scarcely produced a more fair, judicious and 

' This might serve as a definition of Karnes's critical 
method ; cf. above, p. 121. 
* HosvielVs Johnson, Globe ed., p. 203. 



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ITS RECEPTION IN ENGLAND 143 

dassical performance of its kind than this 
Essa;y" When James Harris, the author of 
Hermes, and a "devotee of the Stagyrite," 
objected that " more profound reverence " 
should have been paid to the rules of Aris- 
totle, Mrs Carter, that learned Greek scholar, 
reassured her friend by observing that Aris- 
totle was, no doubt, "very respectable from 
an amazing depth and precision of under- 
standing," but that "not a single ray of poetic 
genius " enlivens his writings, "utterly desti- 
tute of the colouring of imagination." ^ These 
were apparently Mrs Montagu's proper 
qualities. No less a personage than George 
Grenville, the Prime Minister, declared her 
style and manner to be full of "imagination, 
elegance and correctness." "We have read 
that admirable work," he wrote to Lyttelton 
about the Essay, "by our fireside, over and 
over, to form the taste of our young people," 
and Lyttelton, in his delight, answered that 
Mrs Montagu would be made "very happy" 
by such high approbation.^ Congratulating 
letters poured in upon her ; one of them, from 
Dr Blair, "would raise my vanity," she says, 

' Mrs Carter's Letters to Mrs 
* The Grenville Papers, iv., 423-5. 



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144 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

'•if I did not know the courtesy with which 
authors are addressed."* On i6th August 
she mentions to her husband a visit of " Mr 
Burke. . . , He tells me my book is very- 
successful. Reynolds, the famous painter, 
laid five guineas it was written by Mr 
Warton, who wrote the Essay on the Genius 
and Writings of Pope, ^ but said at the same 
time the Essay on Shakespear was written 
with more imagination and fire. Reynolds 
has paid his five guineas, so dangerous 
it is to guess at authors when they 
don't put their names to their works." 
So pleased was she with her reception, 
that she hardly wished any longer to travel 
anonymously to fame. On loth September, 
probably, she thus wrote to her husband : 
"My Dearest, — The Monthly Review is 
the only periodical paper which has not treated 
my essay with indulgence, but I think they 
will not do the work much harm, for much 
of their cavilling is unintelligible. They say 
the language of the Essay is affected and in 
many places corrupt, and triumph over a 

' Mrs Montagu to Lord Lyttelton, from "Hill Street, 
July the 2oth " (in Mrs Cliraenson's Collection). 
^Joseph Warton (1756), 



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TO MR MONTAGU 145 

sentence falsely printed. They write with 
peevishness and ill manners even to great 
Shakespear himself, so how can his poor 
little Critick hope to escape ? ... It is 
whispered in Town that I am the author of 
the Essay, and perhaps with these Reviewers 
the work has not met with more candid treat- 
ment for being a Lady's. I expected all 
Mr Johnson's, Warburton's/ and Kurd's^ 
friends, and all implicit disciples of Aristotle 
upon my poor work, so upon the whole I 
am well off that these Monthly Reviewers 
have not been more severe. Wherever I 
think their criticism just, i will profit by it 
by correcting the fault they blame in the 
next edition, if my work lives to another 
edition, as there is hope it may. It is 
printing at Dublin.^ I repent I did not 

' Whose edition of Shakespeare and Preface (not 
particularly interesting) had appeared in 174?, Cf, 
NiCHOL Smith's Eighteenth Century Essays, p. 96 sqq. 

s The editor of Addison and author of the Letters on 
Chivalry {i-]bi). 

* So Mrs Vesey had t Id 1 ' J ly- And, soon after, 
Mr Montagu "read a d wherein your book 

is to be had at the m d p of two shillings. I 

suppose this is an Ir h d n The only remedy that I 
can think of will be mak m additions in a second 
one, tho' that will b n [ \ nt the mischief of so 



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146 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

advertise it again before the Jubilee.' ... I 

am so far well qualified for an author that I 
bear the Critick's lash with great fortitude. I 
had more reason to fear I should write below 
Criticism than to hope to write above it. I 
have ventured to contradict many established 
prejudices concerning Shakespear and con- 
cerning the Drama itself. . . . I cannot guess 
what these Criticks would be at, when they 
talk that Nature is the criterion, in points 
-where people do not agree what is Nature. 
You will see my Brother seems much pleased 
with my work, but my greatest happiness is 
that you are so. Papa doats on the essay 
with all the partiality of a grandfather. I 
have endeavour'd to put a padlock upon his 
vanity, for the Gentleman is quite vain that 

iniquitous a practice." Needless to say that Mr Montagu 
was quite enthusiastic about his wife's Essay: "My 
Dearest," he wrote on 7th September, " ! congratu- 
late you upon the good reception your book meets with, 
tho" it is no other than I expected, as it is founded in 
truth. ... I think it could not have been published at 
a more fortunate time than before the Jubilee, and will 
add to the readers and consequently the admirers of the 
inimitable genius of Shakespear." 

(Mrs Climenson's Collection). 
' Held at Stratford on 6th September, Garrick being 
present. 



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TO HER FATHER 147 

his Daughter has written a book." Indeed, 
Matthew Montagu, now living in Shepherd 
Street, London, had not been let into the 
secret till quite recently. On a "Sunday 
morn" in the same month of September, 
the "Essayist" had sent him the following 
letter of confession and apology : 

" Sir, — My vanity has been exceedingly 
flattered by hearing that a small performance 
of mine in the critical way has met with your 
approbation — whatever share of that approba- 
tion I must attribute to partiality, tho' the 
author dare not be vain of it, the Daughter 
feels a still higher pleasure from it. The only 
abatement of my pleasure on this occasion 
is, lest you should imagine my not having 
communicated this affair has some air or 
appearance of disrespect ; and as you both 
encouraged and cultivated those little talents 
Nature bestowed on me, I should appear 
ungrateful as well as undutiful, if you looked 
upon my reserve in that light. I will there- 
fore take the liberty to explain some of my 
reasons for the secrecy with which I acted 
on this occasion. In the first place, there is 
in general a prejudice against female authors, 
especially if they invade those regions of 



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148 THE SSSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

Titerature which the men are desirous to 
reserve to themselves. While I was young, 
I should not have liked to have been classed 
among authors, but at my age it is less 
unbecoming. If an old woman does not 
bewitch her neighbors' cows, nor make any 
girl in the parish spit crooked pins, the world 
has no reason to take offence at her amusing 
herself with reading books or even writing 
them. However, some circumstances in this 
particular case advise secrecy. Mr Pope our 
^ great poet, the Bishop of Gloucester our great 
■w Critick, and Dr Johnson our great scholar, 
\ having already given their criticisms upon 
\Shakespear, there was a degree of presump- 
jtion in pretending to meddle with a subject 
'they had already treated— sure to incur their 
■h envy if I succeeded tolerably well, their 
'Contempt if I did not. Then, for a weak 
^nd unknown champion to throw down the 
!■ gauntlet of defiance in the very teeth of 
1 Voltaire appeared too daring. The French 
iand Italians are fond of books of criticism, 
Dut they are not so much to the taste of the 
English. At present the desire of most 
readers is to be amused with something 
perfectly gay and superficial. I was obliged 



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TO HER FATHER 149 

to enter seriously into the nature of the 
dramatick purposes, and the character of 
the best dramatick writings, and by some- 
times differing from the code of the great 
legislator in Poeticks, Aristotle, I was afraid 
the Learned would reject my opinions, the 
unlearned yawn over my pages, so that I 
was very doubtful of the general success of 
my work. The booksellers who hate an 
author should print for himself would hardly 
advertise my book. ... It was with great 
difficulty I got my Essay advertised the day 
before it was published, and in spite of all 
my pains it hardly appeared in the papers 
till the week after the King's birthday,^ when 
the Town was empty, so that, all these dis- 
advantages considered, I could not flatter 
myself this little work would succeed so well 
as it has done ; if it remained in obscurity, 
as appeared to me too probable, it would 
only have been a mortification to my friends, 
and, tho', not being absurd, it could not 
disgrace, being neglected, it could not do me 
honour : therefore I communicated the affair 
only to three or four persons conversant in 
critical learning, whom I thought it necessary 
' On 4th June, 



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150 THE BSSAy ON SHAKESPEARE 

to consult before I ventured to publish, as it 
is unsafe to trust one's own judgment as to 
the merit of one's own compositions. The 
Critical Reviewers and other Monthly Writers 
have done much more than justice to my little 
work, and it is now printing in Dublin, to the 
increase of its fame, but to the prejudice of ray 
profit as an author. I must tell you, my 
confidantes in this affair kept the secret very 
faithfully, and diverse persons were named as 
the authors of the Essay, and all such as did 
honour to it, but some persons who were 
acquainted with my manner of expression or 
style, if so careless a writer may be said to 
have a style, guessed at me ; great enquiries 
were made of the booksellers, who said they 
knew not the author. . . , The printer at last 
unluckily own'd that Mr StiUingfleet^ corrected 
the press, and as he is an intimate friend of 
mine, this circumstance has in some degree 
betrayed the secret. 1 shall not own the 
work, nor would have any of my friends 
own it is mine, but leave people to think as 
J they, please. I am content to be a demirep 
i in literature, but cannot have the effronterie 
to go further. Voltaire is very malicious as 
■ See below, p. 272. 



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TO HER FATHER 151 

well as very witty ; I care little for his 
censure of the work, but would not have 
him abuse the author. If he provokes me, 
I will take my revenge upon his dramatical 
works. . . • 

" If this work lives to a second edition, I 
hope to present it to you improved, for it is 
very ill printed, and with many blunders. I 
do not affect to apologize for any faults in the 
writing by saying it was done carelessly or 
in haste, for indeed I took a great deal of 
pains about it, especially to make it short, 
as people are apt to complain of the dullness 
and dryness of criticism. My vacant hours 
were agreeably filled by this occupation, and, 
whenever I have health or leisure, I shall 
employ it in composition of some sort or 
another. If 1 had lived in the same age 
with Pope, Addison and Swift, and some 
others of that time, I should never have 
brandished my grey goose quill, but in our 
times a middling writer may expect a share 
of fame, which is now rather divided in small 
parcels amongst many, than engrossed by 
any superlative geniuses. ... As the jubilee 
has awakened the love of the public to Shake- 
spear, I have written a note to Dodsley from 



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152 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

the author of the Essay to desire it may be 
advertised again. I shall be much obliged 
to Mrs Hawkins if she will put it into the 
penny post^ — the further from Hill Street it 
is put in, the better, for I would not have 
Master Dodsley smell out the author."^ 

As the year drew to a close, the success 
of the book was more and more decided. 
On 26th November, Lord Lyttelton, in his 
pompous style, once more sent his con- 
gratulations, the exaggerated tone of which 
exceeded even the demands of politeness. 
" I don't wonder," he said, "that the admira- 
tion of the Essay upon Shakespear continually 
increases, or that it has been ascribed to all 
the great Witts In the kingdom. The greatest 
of them would be proud to father such a child ; 
but it came from the head of the mother, our 
English Minerva, as the Grecian Minerva from 
Jove's, without the assistance of another 
Parent. Yet I claim the honour of having 
been the man-midwife who helped to bring 
it forth, an honour of which I boast more 

1 Mrs Montagu was writing from "Sunning Weils," 
where she was drinking the waters. 

" These two unpublished letters have been very kindly 
gommunicated to me by Mrs Climenson, 



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ITS RECEPTION IN ENGLAND 153 

than of having been godfather to Glover's 
Leonidas" ^ Melmoth, the translator of Pliny, 
then residing at Bath, thanked her "for the 
pleasure and instruction she had afforded 
him in her late performance, in which she 
had most happily united the learning and 
judgment of Madame Dacier with the ease 
of Sevigne and the wit of Lenclos."^ By 
the end of December so many acquaint- 
ances and strangers had become partakers 
of the secret, that such half-concealment was 
worse than publicity itself. " I am sorry 
to tell you," she wrote to Lyttelton on the 
23rd, " that a friend of yours is no longer 
a concealed scribbler. . . . Being whispered, 
it has circulated with incredible swiftness. . . . 
Mr Melmoth, at Bath, pufifs me ; but I am 
most flattered that a brother author says, the 
book would be very well, if it had not too 
much wit. ... I look very innocent when 
I am attacked about the essay, and say, ' I 
don't know what you mean ! ' I shall set 
about a new edition as soon as your lord- 
ship comes to town, for the first thousand 
is in great part sold, tho' the booksellers 

' From Mrs Ciimenson's MSS. 

* From a letter in Mr Broadley's Collection. 



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154 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

have done me all the prejudice in their 
power. "^ 

Nor was the influence and the fame of the 
work so ephemeral as might be supposed. 
In 1774, one Edward Taylor, the writer of 
Cursory Remarks on Tragedy, and a belated 
disciple of Aristotle, though unable by taste 
and theory to admire Shakespeare's " motley 
pieces" abounding in "impossibilities," 
acknowledged, however, that the dramatist's 
"preternatural beings seemed to need little 
or no justification," and that "it would be 
fruitless to say anything more on this point, 
as it had been already treated in such a 
masterly manner by the very ingenious 
author of the remarks on the writings and 
genius of Shakespear, to whose merit " even 
this opponent was "not the less sensible, 
though on many occasions he might be led 
to differ in opinion."^ Maurice Morgann, 
FalstafPs lively advocate, whose defence of 
his hero runs to nearly a hundred pages, 
thus apostrophised our Essayist : " As for 
you, Mrs Montagu, I am grieved to find 

' Printed in the Grenville Papers, iv., 496, n. 3, 49S, 
and, with some inaccuracies, in Dorak, 150. 
' 0/>. cit, pp. 44-5. 



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ITS RECEPTION IN ENGLAND 155 

that you have been involved in a popular 
error ; so much you must allow me to say ; — 
for the rest I bow to your genius and your 
virtues : You have given to the world a very 
elegant composition ; and I am told your 
manners and your mind are yet more pure, 
more elegant than your book. Falstaff was 
too gross, too infirm for your inspection ; 
but, if you durst have looked nearer, you 
would not have found cowardice in the 
number of his infirmities."^ None of the 
, irony perceptible in this compliment appears 
■ in Beattie's comment about Johnson's adverse 
V; dictum on the Essay: "Johnson's harsh and 
/ foolish censure of Mrs Montagu's book does 
■ not surprise me," the Scotch philosopher 
|wrote in 1785, "for I have heard him speak 
» contemptuously of it. It is, for all that, one 
'of the best, most original, and most elegant 
pieces of criticism in our language, or any 
other. Johnson had many of the talents of 
a critic ; but his want of temper, his violent 
prejudices, and something, I am afraid, of 
an envious turn of mind, made him often a 
very unfair one. Mrs Montagu was very 
' NiCHOL Smith's Eighteenth Century Essays, p, 270 

(1777). 



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156 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

\ kind to him, but Mrs Montagu has more 
[ wit than any body ; and Johnson could not 
bear that any person should be thoug-ht to 
^ave wit but himself."^ Three years later, 
Cowper, coming across the volume, praised 
"the learning, the good sense, the sound 
judgment and the wit displayed in it," These 
qualities fully justified, not only his own 
compliment, " but all compliments that either 
have been already paid to her talents or shall 
be paid hereafter."^ 

Even in France the Essay had not remained 
completely unknown. In the year of its 
publication, the Ann/e Litteraire^ gave a 
French rendering of the "Introduction," as 
quoted in the London Evening Post; Mme. 
Riccoboni, one of Garrick's correspondents, 
having received from him a very early copy 
of the book, said, in acknowledging it, that 
"the pamphlet was very well written." "The 
reflections on Voltaire are just," she added, 
"... your author reproaches him with 
ignorance ; /accuse him of base jealousy, un- 
pardonable in a man of genius. Corneille is 

' Life of Beattie, by Sir William Forbes, ed. 1807, 
'■-, 375- 
' Quoted by Doran, pp. 155-6. ' T. iv., pp. 3-2a 



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ITS RECEPTION IN FRANCE 157 

too severely censured in this little work. To 
a certain extent, I share your critic's opinion 
on this poet, but should not like to declare it 
publicly : Pierre Corneille is revered by the 
French, and, even if one disagrees with them, 
popular prejudices should be respected, when- 
ever they do not clash with morals and 
honour,"' Much more important than this 
slight notice and passing allusion was an 
article in the Annh LittSraire for 1774^ in 
which considerable extracts were borrowed 
from Clement's Letters to Voltaire on the 
Corneille Commentary. Here appeared for 
the first time in a French review "the very 
precious fragments of an Essay by ' Miladi 
Montaigu,' " where this famous writer had 
noted "the innumerable gross mistakes that 
had escaped the pen of the translator oi Julius 
Ctssar." "Some of her remarks," Clement, 
and, after him, the reviewer pointed Out, 
would enable the reader "to judge of Mr de 
Voltaire's sagacity and of the accuracy of his 
version." Shakespeare's adversary, they Said, 
understood neither English prosody nor the 
language itself. He had misquoted "whore" 

^ GARRtCK'S Correspondence, ii., 564-5, 16 juin 1769. 
' T. vi., 38-9. 



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158 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

instead of " harlot," ^ misinterpreted the words 
"course" and "construe,"^ and confused 
Brutus's simile of "ambition's ladder" in 
the second act.^ Thus, even in its English 
garb, ' Miladi Montaigu's' Essay was slowly 
making its way into France, and undermining 
Voltaire's authority. 

It must be confessed that English con- 
temporary critics, refusing to extend their 
^tender mercies to the Essay and its author, 
,'have sided with Johnson against Beattie and 
fCowper. In Mr Saintsbury's opinion, "Mrs 
I Montagu's famous Essay is well intentioned, 
but rather feeble, much of it being pure tu 
quoque to Voltaire, and sometimes extremely 
unjust on Corneille and even ^schylus. It 
is not quite ignorant, but once more, non tali 
auxilio I " ^ Mr Lounsbury pronounces it 
"one of the most exasperating of books," 
and finds in Cowper's approbation of it a 
sure symptom of a coming fit of insanity.^ 
Mr Nichol Smith also "attaches little iraport- 

' Cf. Essay, p. 278, and VOLTAIRE, (Euvres, ed. 1877, 

^ See above, p. 139. ^ Cf. Essay, pp. 214-6. 

* History of Criticism, iii., 173, n. i. 

' Shakespeare and Voltaire, pp. 294, 296. 



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ITS AIM 159 

importance " to the work, which he con- 
siders as "a well-meaning, but shallow and 
unnecessary reply to Voltaire,"^ Johnson, 
he thinks, "had already vindicated the 
national pride in Shakespeare." Possibly, — 
but Mrs Montagu wished to go one stepi 
further than her predecessor. Believing^'.'' 
that Shakespeare would be best defended', 
by a counter - attack on his enemy, she ') 
meant to carry the war into Voltaire's own ; 
dominions and to conquer him there- 
with extraordinary audacity — we will not 
say recklessness -— she resolved on giving 
the French critic a Rowland for his Oliver, 
on assailing his favourite Corneille, as 
he had assailed Shakespeare. No doubt, 
her aggressive ardour occasionally carried 
her into an extreme of impetuous injustice : 
she did not shrink from comparing one 
passage in Lear with another in CUtandre, 
because "they both happened to be on 
similar subjects."^ She set poor Corneille's 
Otho by the side of Henry IV., and, rashly 
triumphant, exclaimed: "See what Shake- 
speare has done, and decide between the 

' Eighteenth Century Essays, p. xx. 
'' Essay, pp. 75-6. 



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i6o THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

two!"^ All this is, of course, the unreason- 
— -able criticism of a nervous woman. But, 
when she inveighs against the long speeches 
in Cinna and in most French plays, we 
remember our school-days, when we had to 
con them, and we sympathise with her dis- 
like. Less prudent than Madame Riccoboni, 
we fly in the face of "popular prejudice," find 
fault with that "termagant," Emilie, with 
that degenerate Roman weakling, Cinna, that 
verbose ruler, Augustus, and shrewdly suspect 
the so-called "masterpiece" to rest on a 
pedestal of clay. We applaud the English 
lady's daring, when, in a perfectly fair fight 
against Voltaire, she thrusts at the giant, 
and pierces through his empty pretence to 
accuracy as a translator. Her trouble seems 
to us, not "unnecessary," but useful, as it 
contributed to the manifestation of truth. 
The merit of the Essay on Shakespear best 
appears from the point of view of the historian 
of comparative literature. Considered in its 
[relations with English eighteenth - century 
i criticism, it is deficient in originality. Its 
Ueading ideas are borrowed from Pope and 
Johnson ; the questions of the unities, of the 
' Essay, pp. 81-5. 



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ITS CRITICAL VALUE i6r 

mixture of tragic and comic scenes, had been 
thoroughly sifted and settled before its time. 
But never had Voltaire been so frankly, so 
fully confuted, never had his literary authority 
been set at naught in a tone so peremptory 
that it must be heard even in France. In 
this sense, Mrs Montagu's work is that of a-" 
pioneer. There is no doubt that she opened 
the eyes of French critics to Voltaire's short- 
comings as an English scholar, and that 
Shaliespeare's cause profited by his adversary's 
partial loss of credit. 

Nor is the work so "shallow" as a super- 
ficial, hasty reader might suppose. Clear in 
conception and in plan, it starts from a sort of 
axiom — the definition of the drama — which 
serves as a more or less solid basis for the 
whole enquiry. The principle that the 
dramatic artist should "instruct by pleas- 
ing," and should therefore be studied, first 
as a moralist, secondly as an inventor of 
fables and painter of characters, need not be 
discussed here. Mrs Montagu did not dis- 
cover it, and its value, unquestioned by the 
ethical critics of her day, remains uncertain 
still. What concerns us now is that it gives 
to the nine dissertations contained in the Essay 



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i62 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

a unity they would otherwise lack. They 
run, almost uninterruptedly, along one or the 
other of those two primary lines of thought. 
Commendable by its composition, this 
"piece of criticism" is also remarkable by 
its good sense. Most unjustly has it been 
represented as " puerile where it is not 
ignorant."^ Mrs Montagu never spoke of 
Shakespeare as "rude and illiterate," except 
in an ironical passage that should be inter- 
preted as it was meant.^ Fortunately for 
herself, she was not one of those for whom 
every word that Shakespeare uttered is more 
than Gospel-truth. She knew some of his 
qualities at least, and her tribute to them 
sounds as sincere as the lyrical rhetoric of a 
more modern school. Her psychological in- 
sight into the meaning and development of 
such characters as Falstaff and Macbeth is by 
no means contemptible in an age when such 
studies had hardly begun. On the other 
hand, her admiration did not blind her to 
the dramatist's obvious defects. She doubt- 
less exaggerated them. It was a mistake to 
speak of the Elizabethan period as plunged 

' LOUNSBURY, Shakespeare and Voltaire, p. 297. 
" Essay, p, 117. 



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ITS CRITICAL VALUE 163 

"in the dark shades of Gothic barbarism," 
of Shakespeare's "happiest successes" as 
perhaps due to Chance, of "many speeches 
in the tragedy of Macbeth " as full of 
"bombast."^ But was it so very wrong to 
say that he wrote in "unpolished times "for 
an "unlettered audience, just emerging from 
barbarity," that, even at Court, learning was 
then "tinctured with pedantry," that "too 
great a number of persons and events " appear 
in the histories, that " nonsense, indecorums 
and irregularities " ^ are to be met with 
occasionally? We do not suppose that the 
quibbling contests of the clowns and others, 
the courtship of Katherine by Henry V. or 
the Porter's speech in Macbeth are essential 
to Shakespeare's glory. We do not contend, 
either, that Mrs Montagu, because she proved 
Voltaire's ignorance, praised some of the 
dramatist's beauties and pointed out some of 
his defects, is a critic of very great importance. 
The natural coldness of her temper made her -' 
absolutely insensible to the incomparable 
poetic charm of many passages in the plays. 
But, considering her work as a polemical 

' Essay, pp. 152, loi, 201. 
° /liid., s, 13, 9-10, 69, 78. 



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i64 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

, treatise, we find it a courageous, effective 
answer to Voltaire's impertinent remarks, a 
well -planned and measured apology of the 
English dramatist. 



IV 

On her return from Northumberland in 
August 1775, Mrs Montagu went for her 
annual season at Tunbridge Wells, and there 
thought of accomplishing a long-cherished 
design, that of a journey to France, which 
her widowed state now gave her leisure to 
undertake. An interesting letter to Beattie^ 
tells us of her intentions: " I have the 
happiness," she wrote, " of having Mrs 
Carter in my house, and Mrs Vesey is not 
at a quarter of a mile's distance ; thus, 
though I live secluded from the general 
world, I have the society of those I love best. 
I propose to stay here about three weeks, 
then I return to London to ' prepare for my 
expedition to the south of France. I have 

1 Life of Beaitie, by Sir WiLLlAM FORBES, ii., 116-7 
(3rd September). 



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JOURNEY TO FRANCE 165 

written to a gentleman at Montauban, to 
endeavour to get for me a large house in 
any part of that town. I am assured that 
the climate of Montauban is very delightful ; 
the air is dry, but not piercing, as at 
Montpelier, ... I think with some pleasure 
of escaping the gloom of our winter and the 
bustle of London, and passing my time in the 
blessings of cheerful tranquillity and soft sun- 
shine." This hope, however, was not to be 
realised, nor did Montauban ever receive the 
distinguished lady's visit. No house could 
be found suitable for her there,^ and Nice was 
next fixed upon as her journey's aim. She 
set out in October. But, as she was passing 
through Canterbury about the aoth, she fell 
ill of a "low fever," a sort of influenza, that 
made it very dangerous for her to brave "tiie 
bowlings of the wind, the dashing of the rain, 
the roaring and agitation of a tempestuous 
sea." "By the advice of her doctor and 
the persuasion of her friends," Mrs Carter 
says, "she was prevailed on to give up the 
scheme till next summer ; and I hope, now 
her resolution is taken, it will very much help 

' Mrs Carter's Letters to Mrs Montagu, ii., 330 
(8th October). 



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i66 THE ESSA y ON- SHAKESPEARE 

to facilitate her recovery, if she keeps to her 
promise of living very quietly the whole 
winter. Her illness, I am persuaded, was 
occasioned by the excessive fatigue of business 
and company, in which she has been engaged 
ever since she left Tunbridge.''^ A short 
period of rest enabled her to resume her place 
in her brilliant circle. During the month of 
May 1776 she was giving " illustrious foreign 
dinners,"^ M. and Mme Necker being pre- 
sumably in the number of her guests. The 
future Comptroller-General and his wife were 
then in London, among such acquaintances 
as Gibbon, in the bloom of his fame," and 
Garrick, whose acting in King Lear threw 
them into ecstasies.* It seems probable that 
to their entreaties was due Mrs Montagu's 
resolution to spend the summer in Paris. 

Accompanied by her attendant Miss 
Gregory, her "adopted son and heir " 

I Mrs Carter's Letters to Miss Catherine Talbol, vol. 
iii., 1819 ; Letters to Mrs Vesey, pp. 245-7 (25th October). 

3 Mrs Carter's Letters to Mrs Montagu, ii., 362 
(28th May). 

^ The first volume of his Decline and Fall had been 
published in February 1776. 

^ See Mme Necker's letter to Garrick in his Corre- 
spondeme, ii., 617 (14 mai 1776), and in Jusserand's 
Shakispeare en France, pp. 340-1. 



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CALAIS AND PARIS 167 

Matthew, his tutor M. Blondel, and Mrs 

Carter's nephew, Montagu Pennington,^ she 
embarked at Dover in the morning of Sunday, 
23rd June, and, after an extremely quick 
passage of "two hours and ten minutes," 
landed at Calais. A "very rapid wind and 
pretty boisterous waves" had "wafted her 
thither," "I was not in the least sick," she 
immediately wrote to Mrs Vesey. " I sat on 
the deck, tho' the waves sometimes washed 
over my head." The long journey from 
Calais to Paris failed to interest her : " I was 
not much delighted with the prospects in my 
way," she told her brother and also Mrs 
Carter. "The dull monotony of despotism 
tires." ^ In passing, however, through the 
forest of Chantilly, she notes that she felt 
"the sublime melancholy which befits the 
great and solemn scene." Her first impres- 
sions of Paris proved somewhat unfavourable. 
"About midnight," she said,^ "you arrive at 
I'hotel du Parlement d'Angleterre. It is a 
large house; you pay very dear for getting 
a place in it ; it has an air of dignity and 

^ The future editor of Mrs Carter's Letters. 

■^ From a MS. letter in Mrs Climenson's possession ; 
cf. Mrs Carter's Letters to Mrs Montagu, ii„ 363-4. 

= To Mrs Vesey, 15th July (Mrs Climenson's MSS.}. 



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magnificence which imposes — you may take 
that word either in the French or English 
sense, as you please : after knowing it more 
intimately, you discover it harbours a good 
deal of dirty vermin. Now I perceive you 
are angry, and fancy mine host Mr Picqot 
{sic) meant a satire on our Parliament House 
in calling his Hotel by its name, I assure 
you he is the politest man in the world of 
his occupation, and I am sure, if he had 
known certain resemblances and analogies, 
he would not have been guilty of so oblique 
a satire. . . ." The town itself she did not 
much admire: "The City of Paris," she 
wrote, " is in some respects like Bristol : 
streets narrow, dark and dirty in some parts, 
in others magnificent and fine."^ Two 
months afterwards,^ her opinion remained 
^ Cf. Mrs Carter's opinion in October 1782 {Memoirs 
of Mrs Elizaheth Carter, 180S, i., 452) : "The buildings 
are magnificent ; the streets so contemptibly narrow, 
that I saw very few wider than Fetter Lane. Indeed, 
we had a sorrowfiil proof that they are not very safe far 
carriages, as we were overturned in endeavouring to pass 
a waggon, . , . The only pleasant part of Paris which I 
saw was the quay on the banks of the Seine, which is 
wide and clean, and very safe walking, and perfectly free 
from any bustle of commerce." 

^ 7th September, to her sister, Mrs Scott (Mrs 
Climenson's MSS.). 



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PARISIAN MANNERS 169 

unchanged : " Miss Gregory and I are not yet 
cured of our astonishment at the nastiness, 
the stinks, and the narrowness of the streets, 
the wretched appearance of the common 
people, the miserable air of the shops." 

Domestic manners had, in too many cases, 
a looseness and a slovenliness most repugnant 
to her taste for well-regulated arrangements. 
"I wish Montagu^ was old enough," she 
exclaimed, ' ' to see the sad effects of despotism, 
that the love of liberty and laws might make 
the earliest, and, consequently, the deepest 
impression on him, and teach him a due 
reverence for the English constitution. The 
influence of Government upon the mind and 
morals cannot be known by any one who has 
not been in some land of slavery. Here is 
no conjugal faith, paternal care, filial affection, 
brotherly love, except amongst a few, nor is 
there any domestick order. Servants in 
general have little regard for the family they 
live in ; they are at board wages, eat at 
publick houses, and are gaming all day. 
Every antichamber is a gaming hole, for 
indeed, the antichambers, except in great 
houses, are the dirtiest and most miserable- 
' Her nephew and heir, Matthew Montagu. 



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I70 THE £SSAy ON SHAKESPEARE 

looking places imaginable. Our footmen are 
allowed to carry our trains as we go upstairs 
■ . . and, with the general sluttishness here, 
a staircase is very disgusting, often in smell, 
often in appearance." 

She liked the people much better than their 
dwellings. "We must own," she enthusi- 
astically wrote on 5th July, that "the French 
have infinitely more polite hospitality and 
agreeable, useful attentions than we have." 
The "men and women " she found even 
"more than polite, perfectly friendly if they 
can do you any service." "I meet with so 
much kindness, and have so many agreeable 
parties offered," she said, a very few days 
after her arrival, that "I know not how to 
avail myself of them all."' Her favourable 
opinion was only confirmed by time: "I am 
greatly pleased with the society at Paris," she 
told her brother on nth August. "There is 
an ease and politeness that is very pleasing, 
and the conversation is always as wise and 
as witty as conversation should be in mixed 
society. They have found out that to please, 
one must seem to be pleased. Nor does any 
lady think it necessary for her glory to have 
' To her sister on 2nd July, 



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Mrs MONTAGU FRENCHIFIED 171 

more company at once than can breathe in 
her apartment." Moving in "the hurlyburly 
of French suppers," Mrs Montagu did her 
best "to lead the life of a Parisian lady." 
Her natural complexion disappeared under 
the vermilion dye of the fashionable paint; 
"a churchyard cough," she laughingly ob- 
serves, "would become me better than the 
rouge I wear." She took "unheard-of pains 
to express herself in French," and her vain 
efforts reminded her hearers of their own 
"torments when, in England, they under- 
stood no one, and were understood of no 
one."^ But all did justice "to her wit, 
her parts and distinguished manners." The 
French visitors she had received in London 
now entertained her in Paris. " Madame 
Necker," she wrote on 2nd July, "came to 
Paris to carry me to her box at the play 
to - night, but I had company I could not 

' Mme Necker k M. Gibbon, Gibbon's Miscellaneous 
iVorks, ed. Murray, 1814, ii., 179-80 (30th Sept. 1776)- 
Cf. Mme du Deffand, Lettres A Horace Walpole, ed. 
1834, vol. iii., p. 321; "Je vois queiquefois niadame 
Montagu ; je ne la trouve pas trop p^dante, mais elle 
fait tant d'efforts pour bien parler notre langue, que sa 
conversation est p^nible" (dimanche, 18 aoiit 1776). 
See also Ibid., p. 328. 



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172 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

leave. I am to dine with her at her house 
near Paris on Saturday to meet all the Beaux 
Esprits." This was Necker's country-seat at 
Saint-Ouen, between Paris and Saint-Denis, 
a "pleasant abode," with its terrace over- 
looking the Seine, and its "shady groves" 
frequented by so many illustrious men of 
letters.^ Of one of the famous suppers there, 
Mrs Montagu says: "There was a great 
deal of good company, great elegance and 
order in every thing ; the Neckers are ami- 
able and respectable, as well as learned and 
ingenious. There was of the party a Madame 
du Deffand, much celebrated for her wit. She 
had desired to be introduced to me, was ex- 
ceedingly obliging, and I was charmed with 
her, and the more as she is fourscore years 
of age, totally blind, and as gay and lively 
as i8. She eat a very hearty supper, 
and I left her behind me at one in the 
morning." On another occasion,^ Mrs 
Montagu spent the Sunday " at Madame 
Necker's country - house very agreeably. 
Monsieur Buffon, le Chevalier de Chastellux, 

' See D'HaUSSONViLLe'S La Salon de Madame Necher, 
i8S2,i., 125.6. 
' 4th August 



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AT MADAME NECKER'S 173 

and Monsieur Thomas were of the party ; 
they were all polite to me, and just to 
Shakespeare," whose merits "the learned 
Academicians " had doubtless discussed with 
her during their " gentle walk in the evening 
along the banks of the Seine, the most 
discreet of all rivers, somewhat of a sloven, 
indeed, but gliding very temperately along." 
Let us note that, though Mrs Montagu's 
book had not yet been entirely translated 
into French, its existence was well known. 
She felt proud of her fame and importance 
as a critic. " I was quite overcome at first 
with the compliments I received on the 
subject of my book," she writes, delighted, 
"but now I mind them no more than Greg 
(Miss Gregory) does the thunder. My very 
Coiffeuse, while she curls my hair, flatters 
me on my reputation as an author. Talents 
give a m uch greater relief here than in 
England. Celebrity is the object here, to get 
riches and power the objects in England." 
What of those who, like her, had compassed 
both? Her presence was courted, therefore, 
with a double amount of affability. Not by 
Mme Necker only, but by the Neapolitan 
ambassador, ' ' le marquis Caraccioli, " at 



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174 THE SSSAV ON SHAKESPEARE 

whose house she "found the representatives 
of all the kings and states in Europe, and 
Messieurs Buffon and d'Alembert, and the 
most pleasing of all the beaux esprits, le 
chevalier de Chastellux, whose manners, like 
his birth, are truly noble." In the evening 
she went to Madame Geoffrin, now much 
decayed, and nearing her end.^ But, of 
all the titled ladies and bourgeoises she 
mingled with, her favourite probably was 
that Comtesse de Rochefort whom Horace 
Walpole has praised so highly : " Her 
understanding," says he, " is just and 
delicate, with a finesse of wit that is the 
result of reflection. Her manner Is soft 
and feminine, and though a savante, without 
any declared pretensions. She is the decent 
friend of Monsieur de Nivernols,"^ whom 
Mrs Montagu had known in London as 
French ambassador. Her opinion of the 
Countess agreed with Horace Walpole's. 

1 She died on 6th October 1777, at seventy-eight- 
= Cf. Horace Walpole's Letters, ed. Toynbee, 1904, 
vi., 407-8. "The Due de Nivemois has parts, and writes 
at the top of the mediocre, but, as Madame Geoffrin 
says, is manque partout ; guerrier manqu^, ambassadeur 
manqu^, homme d'affaires manqud, and auteur manqu^ 
— no, he is not homme de naissance manqu^." 



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A HOUSE AT CHAILLOT 175 

*'I believe," she writes to her sister, "you 
have heard me often speak of la Comtesse 
de Rochefort, of whose charms of conver- 
sation I had heard much. She is really 
the most charming woman I ever saw. 
She has been very handsome, is now not 
young, but her person is very genteel, 
and she has all the graces for her hand- 
maids, tho' she has ceased to be a Venus." 
The better to receive all her friends, whom 
Mr Picquot's " dirty vermin " might have 
deterred from coming, Mrs Montagu, about 
15th July, hired "a house at Chaillot," with 
a "pretty garden" and a view of the Seine, 
"at the gates of Paris almost." As there 
never were "any robberies," she could, in a 
quarter of an hour, drive back at night to 
her new abode, which she thus describes : 
" My house is most delightfully situated, 
having a view of the finest publick buildings 
in Paris, just at the distance one would place 
them to form a picture. The Seine, which 
is of the colour and consistence of green 
pease soup in Paris, is of a better colour 
here, and takes up no more nor less of the 
landscape than the eye is willing to afford 
it." The recruiting of servants, unfortunately, 



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176 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

remained a source of trouble : "No female 
could be got of the decent and cleanly sort 
of our under - servants," and her " family 
was composed of English, French, German, 
Italian, and Flemish persons." "All this 
does very well," she wisely remarks, "in the 
holiday of health, but it is unlike my orderly 
domestick system in England, which, like 
a good clock, seldom wants to be new- 
regulated." She had, however, discovered 
" an excellent cook," and sometimes gave 
dinners to "Monsieur de Buffon and several 
of the Academy." She was becoming a 
Parisian celebrity. 

To the author of the Essay on Shakespeare, 
French acting and plays were, of course, 
matters of deep interest. As could be 
expected, her attitude remained that of a 
critic violently prejudiced and hostile. That 
she should find fault with the wretched 
accommodation for spectators in our theatres 
then or since, seems only natural. "At the 
playhouses," she says, "some dirty women 
lead you through dark, horrid passages to 
your box ; the playhouses are so very small 
and so dark you can hardly discern the 
faces of the persons in the next box. The 



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ACTING AND PLAYHOUSES 177 

stage is small, but well enough lighted." 
On the other hand, her censure of the 
actors and actresses may sound somewhat 
trenchant : "I have seen a very pretty 
comedie,"^ she wrote on 14th July, "and 
the Zaire of Voltaire. . . . The comedie 
pleased me extreamly, and if, as my friend 
Dr Young says, Wonder is involuntary praise, 
why, I praised the tragedy. How shall I 
make you conceive it? For a heroine, take 
a vixen in hystericks, for the hero the most 
angry bull that has roared at a buU-baiting. 
Let them bellow and scream till they amaze 
you. . . . The famous Lekain^ acted Oros- 
mane, and he acted M prodigiously , prodigiously 
indeed ! Mr Garrick is always lost in the 
character he acts : one admires Macbeth, 
and Lear, etc., but one never thinks of Mr 
Garrick the whole time he is upon the 
stage. . . . But it is always Monsr. Lekain 
who acts Monsr. Voltaire. . . . Then the 
part of Lusignan is done in a quite different 
manner. Mr Garrick looks so old,* so sick, 

' Le Michant, by GrESSET. 

^ Mrs Montaga, not yet familiar with French names, 
writes " le du kin " and " Monr du kin." 

' On Garrick's Lusignan, see P. F'itzgeralu's Life of 
David Garrick, ed. 1899, p. 266. 



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178 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

so afflicted, it is past bearing; the French 
Lusignan is neither sick nor sorry. Zaire 
rends, tears, stares, screams, well -befitting 
a tender sex subject to convulsions and 
hystericks. What is polite life good for, 
if it does not put people some inches above 
nature? . . . However, all these tones are 
modulated by art, all the gestures regulated. 
When the despairing heroine walks off the 
stage, her hands are held as high above 
her head as she can stretch her arms. All 
this, custom has rendered agreeable, so, 
what cannot custom do? Madame Necker 
and Monsieur Necker, to whom I was engaged 
to supper, came to my box, and proposed 
to me to go in their coach to their country- 
house, that we might talk over the play as 
we went. I was discreet, and did not express 
aboveathousandthpartof my sensations. ■ . . 
I wonder the comedies please, for they are 
natural and easy." 

By a singular coincidence, it was during 
Mrs Montagu's sojourn in Paris that Voltaire's 
quarrel against Shakespeare came to a crisis. 
For more than three years, a portentous 
announcement had agitated the public and 
philosophic mind: "a complete and faithful 



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LETOURNEUR'S SHAKESPEARE 179 

translation " of the dramatist's works, by 
" Messieurs le Comte de C"' et le T"","^ was 
preparing. At last, in March 1776, the long- 
expected and much - dreaded petard had 
exploded, threatening instant destruction to 
that time-honoured fabric, the French tragedy. 
Letourneur, the responsible perpetrator of 
the misdeed, guiltier far than his two 
accomplices, the Count of Catuelan and M. 
Fontaine-Matherbe, surely was a bold and 
dangerous heretic I Not only had he inveigled 
all the Royal Family — the King, Queen, 
Princes, and Princesses— into subscribing to 
the work : in an Epistle to His Majesty, 
conceived and written " in the worst possible 
taste," he had dared to assert that "till 
now the Father of the English stage had 
never been shown to the eyes of the nation, 
except in a ridiculous travesty"; further 
on, the same translator and biographer, 
in the excess of his zeal, commended his 
author for having found "a host of interesting 
characters in the lowest classes of society," 
for having neglected "all rules, except those 
suggested to him by a deep knowledge of 
the human heart" and an original genius. 
' Anne'e Litteraire for 1772, t. iv., p. 69. 



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i8o THE ESSA Y ON SHAKESPEARE 

Were we to discard, henceforth, the unities, 
the proprieties, the great models left by 
Corneille and Racine, whom Letourneur did 
not even condescend to name ? Whom did 
this impudent Shakespeare-worshipper mean 
to attack in the following sally, that con- 
cluded his Preface and Extracts from sundry 
English critics ? "In Paris," Letourneur said, 
" some sprightly Aristarchs have already 
weighed Shakespeare's merits in their narrow 
scales, and discovered the exact amount of 
his beauties and his defects, though he has 
never been translated into French. They 
never read this poet, whose language they 
do not even understand ; but they insist on 
describing him in one word as a Savage, 
who chanced to light upon some lucky 
touches, vigorous and thick enough, but 
without anything precious to offer to a 
delicate and polite nation." ^ Was it a 
personal innuendo, thought Voltaire, who 
remembered his lavish abuse of Shakespeare, 
and whose anger increased with the success 
of the work. Two volumes had appeared 
early in 1776, the first containing the various 

' Shakespeare traduitdePAnglois,zA. 1776, t. i., pp. iv., 
Ixxv.-vi., cxxx.-i. 



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LETOURNEUR'S SHAKESPEARE i8i 

Prefaces and Othello, the second the Tempest 
and Julius Cmsar. No doubt, public opinion 
remained divided and uncertain, as Grimm 
said.^ The Annee Litteraire censured Letour- 
neur's profuse praise of the dramatist, his 
attacks on "the principle of the three unities, 
that fundamental rule of tragedy," his com- 
mendation of the mixture of comic and tragic 
scenes. It laughed at the monsters and sailors 
in the Tempest, at the "barbarous irregularities 
that deface Julius Ctssar." But, in the very 
same numbers, the reviewer made the most 
interesting — and irritating — remarks : " It 
is certain," he wrote, "that Orosmane is 
nothing but Othello in a French habit, and 
that Zaire has something of a family likeness 
with Desdemona. . . . Othello, therefore, is 
indisputably the mine from which Zaire was 
dug up," though M. de Voltaire, of course, 
polished the rough diamond into a fine 
jewel.^ With almost brutal directness, the 
Journal anglais declared that to Julius Casar 
was due the only pathetic scene in Voltaire's 
play,* and that the fourth act of Mahomet also 

' Correspondance littirairs, ed. Tourneux, 1879, t. xi,, 
p. 215 (mars 1776). 

^ 1776, t. ii., p. 43-5 ; ibid., p. 246 ; t. iv., pp, 74-5. 

' La Mort de C^sar, probably written in 1731. 



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i82 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

had been borrowed from Shakespeare.^ We 
now understand why, in Grimm's words, 
"the devotees of Ferney could not read, 
without much ill-humour, a work that was 
to reveal to France the admirable skill with 
which M. de Voltaire had appropriated Shake- 
speare's beauties, and the less admirable 
bad faith with which he afterwards dared 
to translate him." We likewise understand 
Voltaire's fierce denunciations of Letourneur 
in his famous letter to d'Argental, written 
on 19th July and immediately circulated in 
Paris, his lamentations that this monster 
of a translator should have partisans, that 
he himself should have been the first to 
speak of Shakespeare to tlie French in times 
gone by, and to show them "the few pearls 
he had gathered in that enormous dunghill." 
The course of the philosopher's overflowing 
wrath has been already traced with such 
minuteness,^ that we may be allowed here 
to make a long story short, and simply to 
state that, in less than a week, between 19th 

' No. 20, 30 juiUet 1776, Reflexions sur le C^sar de 
Shakespeare, pp. 194, 198. 

^ By Mr LOUNSBURY. Shakespeare and Voltaire, ch. 



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VOLTAIRE INDIGNANT 1S3 

and 26th July, Voltaire's final indictment of 
Shakespeare in a Letter to the Academy was 
composed, and that his faithful "lieutenant" 
and disciple, d'Alembert, undertook to read it 
in the public sitting of Sunday, 25th August, 
the festival of St Louis. 

In the morning, the Academicians met in 
the chapel at the Louvre to hear the annual 
panegyric of the saint. Mrs Montagu, having 
procured tickets, attended both sermon and 
mass. '* It was a very good historical dis- 
course," she wrote on the 37th, "preached 
by a most reverend-looking Capucin "— Pfere 
Elisee'- by name — "but on the right hand of 
this man of peace stood a guard with his 
bayonet. It may be an excellent method to 
prevent heresies from spreading to cut off 
the head of the preacher where the root of 
the heresy lies, but otherwise it is rather 
shocking to see an armed man standing 
ready either to oppose or to enforce doctrine, 
nor is this all that is extraordinary. The 
good Capucin divided his discourse into two 
parts ; at the end of the first he paused an 
instant, and the congregation clapped him 

■^ See the Academy Registers, 1895, t. iii., p. 399, quoted 
by JOSSERAND, Shakespeare en France, p. 305. 



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i84 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

in the same manner we do our favourite 
actors. At the end of the sermon, or properly 
at the exit from the pulpit, he was again 
clapped by men, women and children. I 
could not help expressing my surprise at 
this to a very ingenious Academician, and 
asked him whether it was usual to have a 
clerk stand in armour by the pulpit and to 
clap the preacher. He said a guard stood 
by the pulpits in the churches, but that it 
was not usual there to give that sort of 
applause. However, this is a consecrated 
chapel, the host was on the altar .■ . . and," 
she adds in another letter,^ "as soon as 
lifted up by the priest, all the Catholick part 
of the congregation acknowledged the real 
presence, and Mass was performed with due 
ceremony."^ 

' To Mr Burrows, from Chailiot, 6th September, first 
published in Miss Gaussen'S Later Pepys, 1904, i. 1 10-7. 
On pp. 112-3 is an interesting account of the singular 
"trial at Le Chitelet before le Lieutenant Criminel," 
where " La Caisse de Poissy " was the plaintiff and I'Abb^ 
Bandeau the defendant Grimm's narrative {Correspon- 
dance litUraire, 1879, t. xi., pp. 313-4) agrees with Mrs 
Montagu's. 

= In a letter to Mrs Vesey of 7th September, she returns 
to the offensive plaudits : " I must tell you at the same 
time," she says, "for I should hate to misrepresent any 



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THE 25TH OF AUGUST 185 

After this solemn morning prelude, the real 
business of the day came on in the afternoon. 
Convened for their yearly public meeting, 
the Academicians, twenty-four in number,' 
assembled again at the Louvre and took their 
seats "round a table," " Behind them, rows 
beyond rows, sat or stood the audience, or, 
more properly speaking, the spectators ; for 
in what country are there not more who go 
to see publick orations than to hear them? 
Le Chevalier de Chastellux opened the session 
in a very ingenious and elegant manner," by 
a "pretty long speech," said Grimm, "care- 
fully composed and adorned with subtle 
ingenious conceits which, being feebly con- 
nected together and never grouped in large 
masses, failed to produce any strong effect."^ 

people, especially a people from whom I have received 
great civilities, and for whom I have due admiration, I 
was assured that the sermon on St Louis was clapped 
as being a political affair. . . ." (From Mrs Cliraenson's 
MSS.) 

^ See the Academy Registers {loc. at.) : " A I'assembl^e 
de i'aprfes-midi, Mrs de Chastellux, Eatteux, d'Alembert, 
Foncemagne, le due de Nivemois, I'archevgque de Lyon, 
I'evgque de Limoges, le mar^chal de Duras, Radonvilliers, 
de Buffon, de Paulmy, Ste. Palaye, Watelet, Marmontel, 
Thomas, St Lambert, Amaad, Suard, Delille, La Harpe, 
Sauria, Gaillard, Brdquigny, Beauzee," 

° Correspondance liitiraire, 1879, t. xi., p. 315. 



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i86 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

"Two rival bards,"^ Mrs Montagu went 
on, now "presented their translations of the 
parting of Hector and Andromache at the 
Scean gate, when little Astyanax was 
affrighted at the plumes on his Father's 
helmet. . . ." As the "laureate pieces" 
were being read by M. de la Harpe, "one 
of them was by the audience thought greatly 
superior to the other, but, in both. Hector 
was much polished by his travels in France. 
He did not send his Dame home to mind 
her household business and mend little bibs. 
As to Madame Andromaque, she was most 
loquaciously dolente, like the widow in our 
Grief A la mode. Then, for Monsieur son 
fils, he was nothing lilce the ignorant, raw, 
blubbering boy in Homer. It was vastly 
pretty to have him so unnaturally natural, 
so very simple without simplicity, and reason 
about the helmet, because he could not 
reason. If a man was to study to be naive 
for a hundred years, he could not hit it 
better ; and so, the audience clapped exceed- 
ingly, and divided the prize between the 
two poets. Had Homer himself been there, 

' " M. Gruet, avocat au Parlement . . . et M. Atidr^ 
de HbxW-Xi.^" (fiorrespondance liiUraire^ pp. 315-6). 



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THE DAY OF ST LOUIS 187 

he would not certainly have got one sprig 
of laurel. Old Shakespeare and he must 
be content with the immortal garlands with 
which great Nature crowned them ; they are 
the evergreens of time, gathered in her 
universal common field, where genius ranges 
uncontrolled, not culled and picked in the 
nice parterre, or hothouse, where regions 
and seasons are confounded and blended." 
In his account of the proceedings, Grimm 
reports an observation made by a "foreign 
lady of much sagacity," Mrs Montagu her- 
self: " I am afraid," she said, "theAcademy 
will scarcely reach its aim. Here are young 
poets, whose feeling for the simple beauties 
of the Ancients is very weak, and here are 
judges and hearers who care little about 
such simplicity. The few applauded strokes 
are precisely the most remote from the truth 
of the original. Homer was not witty enough 
to say that Hector, covering his son with 
kisses and tears, 



Yet, lines like these and flourishes of this 
kind win all suffrages in the assembly." 
With less displeasure, but without Grimm's 



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i88 THE £SSAy ON SHAKESPEARE 

exuberant enthusiasm, she heard the address 
in which the Abbe Arnaud praised the "im- 
mortal bard of the Iliad and the Odyssey" 
and, summing up in an impartial judgment 
the conclusions of the dispute between the 
Ancients and the Moderns, maintained that, in 
the arts, perfection is not, as in the sciences, 
dependent on the slow progress of know- 
ledge, but may be reached at a bound, that, 
therefore, the poet first in the field could 
gather the freshest impressions from Nature, 
and so bear off the palm from all his 
successors, "After the poets had received 
the prize," Mrs Montagu wrote, " I'abbe 
Arnaud made a discourse on the utility of 
studying and imitating the classics, and said 
much in praise of original genius, but gave 
an oblique hint that genius never bloomed 
north of the most northern part of France, 
and that men of genius must not study certain 
barbarians. But this was done so gently 
and obliquely, that one was not obliged to 
understand it, and I would not seem to 
do so." 

Now came the grand event, announced a 
month before by Grimm, with tremblings 
in his voice. Voltaire, by the mouth of 



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LA LETTRB A L'ACAD&MIE 189 

d'Alembert as his herald, was to declare war 
against Shakespeare and to denounce the 
translators to the indignation of the Academy, 
"What would be the consequences of this 
act? It was difficult to foresee, but they must 
be exceedingly grave. Every one knew that 
England worshipped Shakespeare's genius as 
the god of her idolatry. Would she allow 
the French Academy quietly to discuss the 
reasons of this cult? Would she acknow- 
ledge the authority of these foreign judges? 
Would she not try to form a party in the 
very stronghold of our literature? Who did 
not know how often such quarrels, and for 
much smaller objects, had provoked hatred 
and sectarian fury? All minds therefore were 
in a ferment,"^ expecting something strange. 
— Nothing new came to the ears of the distin- 
guished audience, of the English ambassador, 
of Mrs Montagu, of all those who " patiently 
listened to this singular diatribe." It was 
lively in tone and style, but as trite in matter 
as a thrice-told tale. It once more recalled 
the writer's eminent services in the cause of 
Shakespeare. Far from disfiguring and 
travestying that author in his translations, 
' Corresponckmce litUraire, xi., 299 (juillet 1776). 



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igo THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

as Letourneur falsely accused him to do, 
Voltaire, as he indignantly reminded his 
colleagues, had been the first among them to 
learn English, to make Shakespeare known 
in France, and to translate freely some 
passages into verse, fu/es Cesar, he again 
asserted, was the most exact rendering ever 
seen, much more so than the so-called literal 
version by Letourneur and others ! Why had 
they suppressed that interesting quibble in 
C<ssar on "soul"and " sole," ^ and that polite 
speech of lago to Brabantio in the first act 
of Othello'i No doubt, they would conceal 
in their forthcoming volumes those gross 
indecencies which Voltaire revelled upon and 
d'Alembert demurely skipped, hinting at 
monstrosities I Why should this translator, 
this "secretaire de la librairie de Paris," 
endeavour to "immolate France to England 
in a work dedicated to the King of France " ? 
Was he not aware that, even in England, 
" Rymer himself, the learned Rymer, con- 
fessed that there was not a pug in Barbary, 
nor a baboon, but had more taste than 
Shakespeare"? Voltaire would not go quite 
so far. Truth compelled him to acknow- 
» Act I., Sc. i. 



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LA LETTRE A L'ACADBMIE 191 

ledge that, however wild, low, irregular, 
absurd Shakespeare's dramas might be, 
occasional sparks of genius shone in them. 
"Yes, gentlemen," the critic exclaimed, "in 
that dark chaos of murders, buffoonery, 
heroism, turpitude. Billingsgate speeches and 
momentous interests, there are found some 
natural, striking touches ! " Such a mixture 
of good and bad would remind us of those 
Spanish tragedies played at the Court of 
Philip II., performed and imitated all through 
Europe. Of the poorness of Shakespeare's 
models, we could judge, Voltaire thought, 
by a certain tragedy called Gorboduc, "in 
which a good king, the husband of a good 
queen, shares, in the first act, his kingdom 
between his children, who quarrel for their 
share : the younger gives the elder a blow 
in the second act, the elder in the third kills 
the younger; the mother in the fourth kills 
the elder; the king in the fifth kills Queen 
Gorboduc, and the people, in a riot, kill King 
Gorboduc, so that, at the end, nobody is left." 
This clever sketch, borrowed from Ryraer, 
was received, of course, with much laughter, 
and some noble Academicians doubtless felt 
that, coming from such miserable forbears. 



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192 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

Shakespeare must be a very low fellow 
indeed ! But he had great merit all the same, 
d'Alembert resumed, speaking in Voltaire's 
name : " So powerful was his genius that 
this Thespis became a Sophocles at times." 
Was, however, a polished and delicate nation 
like the French, enriched as it had been with 
the incomparable masterpieces of Corneille 
and Racine, to go to school to a barbarian, 
whom the infatuated Letourneur proclaimed 
"the god of the theatre"? No, indeed! 
"Fancy, gentlemen," Voltaire said in con- 
clusion, "that Louis XIV. stands in his 
gallery at Versailles, surrounded by a 
brilliant Court : a Jack - pudding, a Gilles, 
dressed in rags, comes through the crowd of 
heroes, of great men and beauties who 
compose this Court, and proposes to them 
to leave Corneille, Racine and Moliere for 
a buffoon who has happy sallies and makes 
grimaces. What, do you think, would his 
reception be ? " ^ 

Thus ended the Letter, which Mrs Montagu 
judged as follows : "Then rose Monsieur 
d'Alembert, to read a most blackguard 

' CEuvres completes, ed. 1879, t, xxx., pp. 351-3, 363-5, 



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LA LBTTRB A VACAdAmiE 193 
abusive invective of Monsieur de Voltaire's 
against Shaliespear, the translation of whose 
works, he apprehended, would spoil the taste 
of the French nation. He attributed to 
Shakespear many things he never said, he 
gathered together many things the rudeness 
of the age allowed him to say, and with 
a few mauvaises plaisanteries seasoned the 
discourse. With as much mauvaise foy he 
gave an account of the tragedy of Gorboduc 
and represented it as the taste of the 
nation in drama, tho' not ten people have 
for these hundred years read Gorboduc. 
This trash of Monsieur Voltaire's answered 
the great purpose of his life, to raise 
a momentary laugh at things that are 
good, and a transient scorn of men much 
superior to himself, but I must do that 
justice to the Academy and audience, they 
seemed in general displeased at the paper 
read. I was asked by an Academician if 
I would answer this piece of Voltaire's, and 
[he] did not doubt but I could do it very well. 
I said Mr I'abbe Arnaud had done it much 
better than I could, in the praises he had 
given to original genius and the benefits 
arising from the study of them {sic). That I 



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194 THE ESSA Y ON SHAKESPEARE 
remembered, sixty years ago, in the same 
Academy, old Homer had met with the same 
treatment with Shakespear ; that they now did 
justice to Homer : I did not doubt but they 
would do so to Shakespear, for that great 
geniuses survived those who set up to be their 
criticks, or more absurdly to be their rivals." 
This was not the only good thing that Mrs 
Montagu is reported to have uttered on that 
day. Suard, one of the forty, having said to 
her: "Je crois, Madame, que vous etes un 
peu fachee de ce que vous venez d'entendre," 
she replied : " Moi, Monsieur ! point du tout. 
Je ne suis pas amie de Monsieur Voltaire."^ 
Some time before this, the letter to d'Argental 
being shown to her, in which Shakespeare's 
works were called "un inorme fumier," she 
observed that "ce malheureux fumier avait 
engraiss^ une terre ingrate," which repartee, 
she informs Mrs Vesey,^ delighted the com- 

' Letters of Horace Walpole, ed. 1904, ix., 444-5. 

= On 28th August (Mrs Climenson's MSS.)- The 
saying, as reported in some books, has become quite a 
curiosity. Here is one instance {Th4 Memoirs of 
Hannah More, by Wm. Roberts, ed. 1834, i., 98, Mrs 
Boscawen to Miss H. More, 1776) : " Perhaps you have 
heard her admirable bon mot, in answer to Voltaire's 
catling Shakespeare un fumier. She said ; ' II en avoit 
le sort savoir d'enricher des terres ingrates.'" 



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LA LETTRE A L'ACADEMIB 195 

pany, " as they knew Voltaire had got 
many of his fine things from Shakespeare." 
To come back to the sitting of 25th August, 
" many of the Academicians declared their 
dislike of what was done" by shrugging up 
their shoulders and other "strong signs of 
disapprobation." They apparently thought 
that the Letter ^' "wslS not only unjust to Shake- 
speare, but unworthy of the Academy." Mr 
d'AIembert then brought the proceedings 
to a close by pronouncing "an ^loge of 
Destouches, whose comedies are reckoned 
next to Moliere's. There was a great deal 
of spirit and ingenuity in the eloge, and 
some anecdotes of Destouches that were 
interesting. Indeed everything but the paper 
of Voltaire was very ingenious, and such 
as did honour to the speakers and the 
assembly." 

None of the dire consequences dreaded by 
Grimm ensued. Though Voltaire's pamphlet 
was soon translated and published in London, 
England remained absolutely calm. She did 
not even enter on a paper-war. In fact, the 
most excited advocate of Shakespeare against 
his French critic was not one of his com- 
patriots, but a hot-headed Italian, Giuseppe 



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196 THE ESSA ¥ ON SHAKESPEARE 

Baretti/ who brought out in 1777 a Discours 
sur Shakespeare et sur M. de Voltaire written 
in French. This little book, a singular 
mixture of incorrections, vulgar abuse and 
vigorous itivective, impartially blamed both 
Voltaire and Letourneur, the former for 
having translated parts of Julius Cmsar and 
other plays with a school - girl's ignorant 
literalness, the latter for having undertaken 
the impossible task of rendering Shakespeare's 
"compact, energetic, vehement" poetry into 
so polished, dainty and fastidious an idiom as 
the French language.^ Some months before 
the publication of Baretti's volume, the 
Chevalier Rutlidge, "the son of an Irishman 
and born in France,"^ had addressed the 
members of the Academy in his courteous 
Observations au sujet <iune lettre de M, de 
Voltaire, a work of much critical insight in a 
small compass. Not content with pointing 
out, as Mrs Montagu had done already, 

' See on him Boswell's Johnson, passim, and The 
Autobiography of Mrs Piozsi, ed. by Havwaed, 1861, 
ii., 334-40- 

^ Discours, pp. 16-7, 21-2; cf, on this point LuiGI 
MORANDi, Voltaire contro Shakespeare, 1884. 

* Grimh, Correspondance littdraire, xi., 379-80 (no- 
verabre 1776). 



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MRS MONTAGU'S ALLIES 197 

Voltaire's minute inaccuracies of expression, 
he went deeper into the question at issue, and 
conclusively proved the utter unreasonableness 
of translating, in a version of Shakespeare, 
English prose by French prose, English blank 
verse and rhyme by French blank verse and 
rhyme. The two languages could not be thus 
superposed. Shakespeare did not use those 
several forms of speech indifferently : prose he 
reserved for the familiar conversation of the 
lower classes ; as soon as he meant his style to 
increase in dignity, he had recourse to blank 
verse, and, whenever some powerful, sublime 
thought was to be engraved in the spectator's 
memory, he chose rhyme. The transitions 
from one form to the other were always so 
artistically managed as to be imperceptible, 
except to an English ear. Rising to a still 
higher level in his argument, Rutlidge con- 
tended that what Voltaire miscalled barbarism 
really was the representation of Nature, of 
the whole of Nature. Shakespeare's plays 
were not to be considered in parts or passages, 
but in their endrety : the muchnderided scenes 
in the first acts of C^sar and of Romeo would 
then assume their true dramatic significance. 
No rules, no unities of time or place could 



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igS THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

override or supersede the essential law of 

the drama, that it should present an accurate, 
interesting, striking picture of society in 
its diverse aspects. The artistic value of 
Naturalism was Shakespeare's sufficient justi- 
fication. As there breathed more of this truth 
and life in him than in Corneille or in the 
elegant Racine, he must be held superior to 
his French rivals.^ 

Third in chronological order-— and also in 
importance— appeared in a French garb Mrs 
IVIontagu's own Essay^ entitled Apologie de 
Shakespear, "en reponse a la critique de M. 
de Voltaire, traduite de I'anglois de Madame 
de Montagu." The book had a shor , but 
somewhat curious, history. When, in July 
1776, the letter to d'Argental was going the 
round of the Paris salons, Grimm informs 
us that there were thoughts of having the 
Apologie de Shakespear rendered into French.^ 
That intention took effect. "A young man 
here," Mrs Montagu writes,^ "made a very 
middling translation of my Essay ; happily 
it was not gone to the press, so I bought it 

' Observations, pp. 49, 52, 57-8, 61. 

3 Correspondance Iztieraire, xi., 299. 

' To her sister, Mrs Scott, the nth (of September 
probably) (Mrs Climenson's MSS,). 



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THE ESSAY TRANSLATED 199 

of him" — for twenty-five louis d'or — "rather 
than let him print it. While Voltaire lives, 
the writers of reputation dare not translate 
it, and I don't like to have it ill done. The 
fear of Voltaire here is comical. The 
Witts all tell you the most odious stories 
of him, but make court to him." After 
one year's delay, a new and anonymous 
version of the Essay was published simul- 
taneously in London and in Paris. It met 
with a polite reception, except at the hands 
of Grimm, whom it almost threw into a fit 
of fury : " If this work does not prove 
so successful in France as it has been in 
Engijind," he said,^ "the translator's want 
of skill will not be the only reason of its 
failure. To the so-called prejudice in M. de 
Voltaire's judgments are opposed prejudices 
incomparably more revolting." How unbear- 
ably unfair it is to accuse the author of the 
Horaces to have painted his Romans after the 
manner of Scuderi or La Calprenfede I What 
can be the justice of a criticism of Corneille 
that is almost exclusively founded on extracts 

^ Correspondance Uttiraire, xii., 7-8 (octobre i777). 
The Essay was also translated into German, by Eschen- 
burgin 1771 (LOONSBijRY,p,39o),andinto Italian in 1B28. 



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20O THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

from Oiken and Pertharite ? And what avails 
it to attack Voltaire about Shakespeare, when, 
with the exception of a few details in which 
it is not surprising that a foreigner should 
have been mistaken, the judgment arrived at 
by the Apologist on her hero tallies exactly 
with the French critic's ? Is not the admission 
that Shakespeare wrote at a time when science 
was tainted with pedantry, that, at the Court 
of Elizabeth, a scientific obscure jargon was 
affected, that Shakespeare, either by contagion 
from or condescension for the public taste, 
often fell into the fashionable style, into 
"nonsense, indecorums, and irregularities" — 
is not such a concession tantamount to sub- 
scribing to all the strictures of Voltaire? — 
Yes, we might answer in Mrs Montagu's 
name — but with an all-important difference 
in tone, and with so full a sense of Shake- 
speare's beauties that the consideration of 
his conceded defects is almost obliterated in 
the end. Neither the Mermre de France'^ 
nor the Annie Littiraire^ thought that the 
Apologie unduly depreciated Shakespeare. 
" Though Mylady Montagu," the latter 

' Novembre 1777, pp. 132-8. 
" 1777. t. yI, pp. 217-56. 



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SECOND LETTER TO ACADEMY 201 

reviewer said, "sometimes yields too much 
to her exclusive admiration of Shakespeare, 

her book is none the less one of the deepest 
and of the most judicious that have been 
published for a long while on the dramatic 
art. We are even compelled to assent to 
all the praise she bestows on the English 
poet for the strength and truth of his char- 
acters, for his skill in painting the passions 
and moving the heart. Her partiality appears 
only when she tries to justify the mixture of 
tragedy and comedy, so fatal to his style, 
the introduction of spectres and sorcerers on 
the stage, and the irregularity of his plays." 
She ought, in short, to have insisted more, 
both on Shakespeare's defects and on Cor- 
neille's beauties. 

The same objections were made to the 
Apologie by Voltaire himself, when, in his 
last, but triumphal, journey to Paris, he sent 
to his colleagues of the Academy^ a second 
Letter, which now serves as the preface to 
Irine. " Mrs Montagu," he said, "an 
estimable citizen of London, has been inspired 
with a pardonable zeal for the fame of her 
country. Preferring Shakespeare to the 
^ In March 1778. 



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203 THE ESSAY ON SHAKESPEARE 

authors of Iph^^nie, Atkalie, Polyeucte and 
Cinna, she has written a whole book to assert 
his superiority, with that sort of enthusiasm 
which the English show for some fine passages 
in Shakespeare, that shine through the coarse- 
ness of his age. She has ranked him above 
all others, for the sake of such passages, 
natural and vigorous indeed, but almost 
always defaced by low familiarity." Con- 
trasted with this excessive indulgence, how 
hard her condemnation appears of some 
defects in Cinna and Rodogune, of the constant 
use made by Racine of the passion of love ! 
" Is it a lady's office to reprove the universal 
passion that causes her sex to reign?" No 1 
Let Mrs Montagu hear Berenice acted by 
Mile Gaussin, and she will shed tears ; let 
her attend a performance of Phidre or of 
IphigSnie, and she will be "beside herself" 
with emotion and grief. How could she 
remain insensible to what has drawn, for 
the hundredth time, tears of admiration and 
compassion from Voltaire's aged eyes? " Let 
her and the English mind their own dis- 
sensions, and cease finding fault with the 
great men of France,"^ exclaimed the dying 
' (Euvres completes, ed. 1877, vii,, 330-3. 



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END OF THE CONTROVERSY 203 

philosopher, whose decease brought to a close 
that paper-war in which Mrs Montagu had 
borne no ' 'd bl p ^ 



'On its 
de la littir 
COD Cro verse 

Shakespea 
point on do 
la question 

Shakespear 
Etudes de 
p. 258, thus r 
Montaigu 
Char, de n 
beaut^s ; e 
critique jud 






ILLEMAIN, Tableau 

i., 328: "Toute la 
e, au xviii= sik:le, 
d6s lors, est dans 
r ce qu'il est, k quel 

le xviiie si'fecle nous 



m an Essai Htteraire sur 

fir and reprinted in his 

U irangire, ed. 1846, 

I h E hakespeare : " Mistress 

si litt^rale de /ules 
n et I'oubli de grandes 

de Voltaire par la 
du theStre ftan^ais ; 
mais elle ne pouvait pallier les dnormes et froides bizar- 
reries mSlees aux pieces de Shakespeare," Thereby we 
see Ibat, nearly eighty years after its publication, Mrs 
Montagu's book was not yet forgotten, even in France. 



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CHAPTER III 



MRS MONTAGU'S SOCIAL AND LITERARY 
CIRCLE : THE BLUE STOCKINGS 



I 



Actuated by an inborn taste for society, 
which made her say that "the social state is 
truly the state of Nature, for it is that which 
is most agreeable to the nature of man, and 
that for which his great Author designed 
him,"^ Mrs Montagu, soon after the death 
of her child, began to show her love of 
hospitality and magnificence in the frequent 
receptions she held every year, during the ■ 
winter months, at her house in Hill Street. 
So early as April 1750, we find her entertain- 
ing distinguished strangers, like Mme du 

' MSS. of the Marquis of Bath, i., 337 (1773). 



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MME DU BOCCAGE 205 

BocCage/ who has recorded, in her Letires 
sur VAngkterre,^ the attentions she was 
honoured with : " In the morning," she 
wrote, "breakfasts, that enchant us by the 
cleanliness and elegance of the viands and 
of the utensils used to cook and serve in, 
pleasantly bring together English people 
and foreigners. We thus breakfasted to-day 
at ' Mylady Montaigu's,' in a closet lined with 
painted paper of Pefcin, and adorned with 
the prettiest Chinese furniture ; a long table, 
covered with pellucid linen, and a thousand 
glittering vases presented to the view coffee, 
' chocolate, biscuits, cream, butter, bread 
toasted in many ways, and exquisite tea. 
You must understand that good tea is to be 
had in London only. The mistress of the 
house, though worthy to be served at the 
table of the gods, poured it out herself, as 

' A native of Rouen (I7io-i8o2), the writer of a tragedy, 
Ui Amasones {1749), of an epic poem, la Colombiade ou 
la Foiportie au Nouveau Monde, and of an imitation of 
Milton, le Paradis Terrestre. Her best work is, however, 
her Lettres sur rAngleterre, la Hollande et ntalie 
{CEuvres completes, Lyon, 3 vols., 1762), Her salon in 
Paris long rivalled that of Mme- Geoffrin, says M. de 
S^GUE i Le Royaume de la Rue St Honori, p. 35, n. 3. 

^ Pages 12-3, ed. 1762. The book was translated into 
English in 1770 (2 vols,). 



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2o6 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

the custom demands, which to obey, English 
ladies put on a close-fitting, marvellously 
becoming dress, a white apron, a pretty 
little straw-hat, and these they wear not only 
within doors, but even along the Mall, at 
noon, when, like so many nymphs, they take 
their ;fevourite midday walk in St James's 
Park." The gratitude of Mme du Boccage 
expressed itself with equal warmth in the 
following note, probably of the same date : 
" Je suis engag^e a aller k la campagne pour 
quelques jours, Madame ; ce qui m'empeche 
d'aller moi-meme m'informer des nouvelles 
de la sante de Mr de Montaigu, et vous 
remercier de votre flatteur et beau present ; 
pour vous en marquer ma reconnaissance, je 
ne puis vous offrir que moi-meme : voudrez- 
vous bien m'accepter et recevoir des pierres 
de M^doc pour des diamants de Golconde? 
Ma reconnaissance sans borne ne pourra 
remplir cette difference ; vous aurez toujours 
la superiority qui vous est due, et je serai 
eternellement avec le souvenir de votre 
merite et de vos bienfeits, Madame, votre 
trhs humble et tres obelssante servante."^ 
- So numerous were the invitations sent out 
' From Mr Broadley's MSS. 



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THE CHINESE ROOM 207 

on gala days, that Mrs Montagu, on 24th 
December 1753, could tell Mrs Boscawen 
that her "Chinese room" had been "filled 
by a succession of people from eleven in 
the morning till eleven at night, " ^ Six 
months later we read of a rout, which 
" rather more than a hundred visitants " 
attended ; "but the apartment held them 
with ease, and the highest compliments were 
paid to the house." ^ All the guests united, 
of course, in praising the wonder of Hill 
Street at that time, the famous " Chinese " or 
"dressing-room" that resembled "the Temple 
of an Indian god, ._ . , The very curtains are 
Chinese pictures on gauze, and the chairs 
Indian fan-sticks with cushions of Japan 
satin painted : as to the beauty of colouring, 
it is carried as high as possible, but the 
toilette you were so good as to paint," Mrs 
Montagu writes to her sister, " is the only 
thing where nature triumps."^ 

Twenty years afterwards, Chinese orna- 
ments having gone out of fashion, a new 
decoration appeared to the amused, smiling 

' Letters, iii., 203. 

^ Mrs Climenson, ii., 30. 

^ Ibid., i., 271. 



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2o8 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

eyes of beholders like Mrs Delany, whose 
astonishment stands on record in an ironical 
passage of a letter to her niece: "If I 
had paper and time," she says on 28th 
May 1773, "I could entertain you with the 
account of Mrs Montagu's room of Cupidons, 
which was opened with an assembly for all 
the foreigners, the literati, and the macaronis 
of the present age. Many and sly are the 
observations how such a genius at her age, and 
so circumstanced, could think of painting the 
wails of her dressing-room with bowers of 
roses and jessamines entirely inhabited by little 
Cupids in all their little wanton ways . . . 
unless she looks upon herself as the wife of 
old Vulcan, and mother to all these little 
loves !"^ When "old Vulcan," enriched by 
his coal mines, departed this earth in May 
1775, he left to his widow, " Mrs Montagu of 
Shakespeareshire,"^ an estate " of ;^7,ooo a 
year in her own power." What her recep- 
tions were about that time, we can see in some 
letters of Hannah Mote's: "I had yesterday 

' Autobiography and Correspondence of Mrs DelaNV, 
iv.,508. 

'As Walpole impertinently calls her, see The Letters 
o/^HORACE Walpole, ed. Paget Toynbee, ij;., 202. 



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THE ROOM OF CUPIDONS 209 

the pleasure of dining in Hill Street, Berkeley- 
Square," the writer tells her sister, ^^ at a 
certain Mrs Montagues, a name not totally 
obscure. The party consisted of herself, Mrs 
Carter, Dr Johnson, Solander, and Maty, Mrs 
Boscawen, Miss Reynolds, and Sir Joshua, 
the idol of every company. , . . Mrs Montagu 
received me with the most encouraging 
kindness ; she is not only the finest genius, 
but the finest lady I ever saw : she lives in 
the highest style of magnificence ; her apart- 
ments and table are in the most splendid 
taste ; but what baubles are these when 
speaking of a Montagu ! her form {for she 
has no body) is delicate even to fragility ; her 
countenance the most animated in the world ; 
the sprightly vivacity of fifteen, with the 
judgment and experience of a Nestor. But 
I fear she is hastening to decay very fast ; 
her spirits are so active that they must soon 
wear out the little frail receptacle that holds 
them."^ And in 1776, this ethereal hostess, 
all mind, if not all soul, is again described 
by her delighted guest: "Just returned from 
spending one of the most agreeable days of 

'^Memoirs of Mrs Hannah More, by William 
Roberts, 1834, i., 53. 



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210 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

my life, with the female Maecenas of Hill 
Street ; she engaged me five or six days 
ago to dine with her, and had assembled 
all the wits of the age. The only fault that 
charming woman has, is, that she is fond 
of collecting too many of them together at 
one time. There were nineteen persons 
assembled at dinner, but after the repast, 
she has a method of dividing her guests, 
or rather letting them assort themselves into 
little groups of five or six each, I spent 
my time in going from one to the other 
of these little societies, as I happened more 
or less to like the subjects they were dis- 
cussing, Mrs Scott, Mrs Montagu's sister, 
a very good writer,^ Mrs Carter, Mrs 
Barbauld, and a man of letters, whose name 
I have forgotten, made up one of these 
little parties. When we had canvassed two 
or three subjects, I stole off and joined in 
with the next group, which was composed 
of Mrs Montagu, Dr Johnson, the Provost 
of Dublin, and two other ingenious men. 
In this party there was a diversity of 

' But very much neglected now, though her Millennium 
Hall and her Life of dAubignd are still occasionally 
mentioned. 



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M^ .-Mtmi^y^ 



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GARRICK 211 

opinions, which produced a great deal of 
good argument and reasoning."^ 

On some occasions, the company being 
less numerous or less literary, a dearth of 
animated conversation might be expected : 
recourse was then had to the illustrious actor, 
now retired from the stage, but whom Paris 
and London had long' united in admiring: 
"The French ambassador and ambassadress, 
Lord and Lady Spencer and the Garricks 
dined with me on Saturday last," Mrs 
Montagu writes in 1778, "and Mr Garrick 
was so good as to act the dagger scene in 
. Macbeth, and King Lear on his knees uttering 
maledictions on his ungrateful daughters. " 
A note, in acknowledgment of the artist's 
exceeding obligingness, was sent that very 
evening ; "I cannot go to sleep," Mrs 
Montagu said to him, "till I thank you for 
the honour you did your country, your wit, 
and your friends, and the infinite delight 
you gave to their excellencies and the rest 
of the company. I dare not repeat to you 
what was said lest it should look like flattery ; 
but I will tell you that Madame de Noailles 
thanked me above a hundred times for the 
^ Memoirs of Hannah More, i., 62-3. 



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212 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 
pleasure and surprise : she was thanking 
me and wondering at you all the way she 
went downstairs so earnestly, I was afraid 
she would fall and break her bones. Though 
they had heard so much of you, they had 
not the least idea such things were within 
the compass of art and nature. . . . The 
ambassador added to his admiration great 
sense of your good-nature and politeness ; 
and, in short, there was such a chorus of 
praise and thanks as cannot be represented ; 
and while they were uttering, Lady Spencer's 
eyes were more expressive than any human 
language. Then she amazed them with 
telling them how you could look like a 
simpleton in Abel Drugger, when murderous 
daggers and undutlful daughters were out 
of the question. With what pleasure shall 
I reflect on this evening, if you have not 
got cold I ..." 1 

The time soon came, however, when even 
the splendours of Hill Street no longer 
satisfied Mrs Montagu, whose ambition grew 
as her riches increased. She fixed on the 
north-west corner of Portman Square as the 
site of her projected "new house," which, in 
' Garrick's Correspondence, ii., 369, 



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PORTMAN SQUARE 213 

July 1 779, kept her very busy with her 

architect, "Mr Adam," and his workmen. 
" He came at the head of a regiment of 
artificers," she writes to the Duchess of 
Portland on the 20th, "an hour after the 
time he had promised : the bricklayer talked 
about the alterations to be made in a wall ; 
the stonemason was as eloquent about the 
coping of the said wall ; the carpenter 
thought the internal fitting up of the house 
not less important ; then came the painter, 
who is painting my ceilings in various 
colours, according to the present fashion."^ 
On i8th August, she cherishes the thought 
of that " new house " with a "passion almost 
equal to that of a lover to a mistress whom 
he thinks very handsome and very good, and 
such as will make him enjoy the dignity of 
life with ease.''^ She feels impatient to have 
it "fit for habitation, as I think," she says, 
"the large and high rooms and its airy 
situation will be of great service to my health ; 
and I am sure such noble apartments will 
be a great addition to my pleasures. In the 
winter of the year and the winter of our 
life, our principal enjoyments must be in 
^ MSS. of the Marquis of Bath, \., 345. 



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214 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

our own house."^ More than a year elapsed, 
however, before she had done furnishing 
her new residence and gradually removing 
her family into it.^ At last, in the beginning 
of December 1781, she settled "imperfect 
health and spirits in her Chateau Portman,"' 
Early in 1782, she invited some friends to 
bid adieu to the "little loves" in the room 
of Cupidons: "I was three times with Mrs 
Montagu the week I stayed in town," says 
Hannah More.^ "We spent one evening 
with her and Miss Gregory alone, to take 
leave of the Hill Street house ; and you 
never saw such an air of ruin and bankruptcy 
as every thing around us wore. We had 
about three feet square of carpet, and that 
we might all put our feet upon it, we were 
obliged to sit in a circle in the middle of 
the room, just as if we were playing at 
' hunt the slipper.' . . . She is now settled 
in Portman Square, where I believe we were 
among the first to pay our compliments to 

^ DORAN, A Lady of the Last Century, p. 255. 

° Mrs Boscawen to Mrs Delany, 12th November 
1781 {The Autobiography, etc. ... of Mrs Delany, 
vi., 6s). 

' Ibid, p. 78. 

* Memoirs oj Hannah More, i., 241. 



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THE "NEW PALACE" 215 

her. I had no conception of anything so 
beautiful. To all the magnificence of a very- 
superb London house, is added the scenery of 
a country retirement. It is so seldom that 
anything superb is pleasant, that I was 
extremely struck with it. I could not help 
looking with compassion on the amiable 
proprietor shivering at a breese, and who 
can at the best ■ enjoy it so very little a 
while. She has, however, my ardent wishes 
for her continuance in a world to which she 
is an ornament and a blessing." Horace 
Walpole himself, though often sarcastic 
in his remarks on Mrs Montagu and her 
belongings, expressed unwonted enthusiasm 
about them in a letter to Mason. "I 
dined on Monday at Mrs Montagu's new 
palace," he wrote on r4th February 1782, 
"and was much surprised. Instead of 
vagaries, it is a noble simple edifice. 
When I came home, I recollected that 
though I had thought it so magnificent a 
house, there was not a morse! of gilding. 
It is grand, not tawdry, nor larded and 
embroidered and pomponned with shreds and-" 
remnants, and clinquant like all the harle- 



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2i6 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

quinades of Adam/ which never let the eye 
repose a moment."^ 

An original and once famous fancy of hers 
in Portman Square was her "feather-work" 
or " feather hangings," which it took her well- 
nigh ten years to make. " My great piece is 
not yet completed," she wrote in February 
1784; "so, if you have an opportunity of 
getting me any feathers, they will be very 
acceptable. The brown tails of partridges 
are very useful, though not so brilliant as 
some others." She levied a voluntary tax 
on her friends' poultry - yards : "The neck 

^ On this architect, cf. the following remarks by Miss 
Berry, Walpole's editor and friend : " Three Scotch 
brothers, of the name of Adam, after a long professional 
study of architecture in Italy, on their return to England 
first applied the internal ornaments of the ancient apart- 
ments then lately discovered at Rome and at Pompeii to 
the decoration of London drawing-rooms. The applica- 
tion was bad, the taste minute and faulty — calculated for 
no room larger than a bath, and that in a warm country, 
where all hangings and paper were to be avoided. But 
their substitution of the Greek fret, the honey-suckle, the 
husk, and other ornaments of graceful contour, instead of 
the nondescript angular Nourishes, was an approach to 
something like truth," It seems, then, that the " return 
to Nature" was simultaneous in architecture and in 
poetry, 

= Horace Walpole's Z^/Z-ew, ed. Paget Toynbee, xii,, 



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THE FEATHER ROOM 217 

and breast feathers of the stubble goose are 
very useful," she told a kinswoman in 17S6, 
"and I wish your cook would save those of 
the Michaelmas goose for us."^ William 
Cowper, the poet, heard of the scheme 
through his cousin, Lady Hesketh, and 
celebrated it in a "eulogium,"^ the begin- 
ning of which may be quoted here : 

" The birds put oif their every hue. 
To dress a room for Montagu. 

The peacock sends his heavenly dyes, 
His rainbows and his starry eyes; 
The pheasant, plumes which round infold 
His mantling neck with downy gold ; 
The cock his arch'd tail's azure show. 
And, river-blanch'd, the swan his snow. 
All tribes, beside, of Indian name, 
That glossy shine, or vivid flame. 
Where rises and where sets the day, 
Whate'er they boast of rich and gay, 
Contribute to the gorgeous plan. 
Proud to advance it all they can. 
This plumage neither dashing shower, 
Nor blasts that shake the dripping bower, 
Shall drench again or discompose, 
But screen'd from every storm that blows, 
It boasts a splendour ever new. 
Safe with protecting Montagu. . . ."' 

And Horace Walpole has recorded that, on 
' DoRAN, pp. 336, 335. 

^ See his letter to Lady Hesketh, 19th May 1788, 
' On Mrs Montagu's feather kan^ngs (June 1788). 



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3i8 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

13th July 1791, the work being at last 
finished and in place, Mrs Montagu gave a 
Splendid inaugural breakfast to " seven 
hundred persons on opening her great room, 
and the room with the hangings of feathers." ^ 
Those sumptuous apartments were now 
ready to receive the highest personages in 
the land. Writing on zsth April 1790, 
Hannah More had mentioned that her friend 
was " fitting up the great room in a superb 
style, with pillars of verd antique, and had 
added an acre to what was before a very large 
town garden. Still the same inexhaustible 
spirits," she went on, "the same taste for 
business and magnificence ; three or four 
great dinners in a week with Luxembourgs, 
Montmorencies, and Czartoriskis."^ On and 
after 13th July 1791, a succession of "public 
breakfasts," as Miss Burney called them, took 
place in Portman Square. They seem to 
have been inconveniently crowded. In Mme 
d'Arblay's Diary for Friday, 25th May 
1 792,* we read how ' ' the table," loaded 
with a prodigious quantity of cold chicken, 

' Letters, ed. Toynbee, xv., 1. 

^ Memoirs of Hannah More, ii., 226-7. 

' Diary and Letters, ed, 1876, iii., 409-10. 



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RECEPTIONS IN GREAT ROOM 219 

haih, fish, etc., "was not a matter of in- 
difference to the guests at large,? how it 
was "so completely occupied by company 
seated round it, that it was long before one 
vacant ch^ix could be seized. The crowd" 
in fact was such that one "could only slowly . 
make way in any part. There could not be 
fewer than four or five hundred people/ It 
was like a full Ranelagh by daylight." Yet 
the Diarist found "the rooms well worth 
examination and admiration," the "noble 
pillars" especially. And Hannah More 
again, in the same year, thus writes to her 
sister: "You must know Mrs Montagu had, 
last week, the honour of entertaining the 
Queen and six princesses at breakfast, in 
Portman Square ; and yesterday she made a 
great breakfest for subjects, to which we went. 
Almost all the fine people were there, to the 
number of two or three hundred. Breakfast 
was ready at one; — there was a fine cold 
collation. The Duke of Gloucester and Mrs 
Montagu sat at the head of the table — the 
foreign princess," the Countess of Albany, 
wife to the Pretender, " next" to them. 
"There was great profusion of ices, fi-uits, 
and all sorts of refreshments, and the gay 



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220 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

coup (fml — the sight of so many dis- 
tinguished persons, was pleasant enough."' 
Only in her seventy-ninth year did she give 
up the heavy self - imposed duties of this 
extensive hospitality : "She is in perfect 
good health and spirits," Mrs Carter said 
in 1799, "though she has totally changed 
her mode of life, from a conviction that she 
exerted herself too much last year, and that 
it brought on the long illness by which she 
suffered so much. She never goes out except 
to take the air of a morning ; has no company 
to dinner (I do not call myself company), lets 
in nobody in the evening, which she passes 
in hearing her servant read, as, alas ! her 
eyes will not suffer her to read to herself. I 
flatter myself that this pause of exertion will 
restore her to us, and will help to prolong 
her life ; and that a taste for the comfort of 
living quietly will for the future prevent her 
from mixing so much with the tumults of the 
world as to injure her health."^ Singularly 
enough, the last convivial party she enter- 
\^ tained doubtless consisted of the chimney- 

sweepers, on whom she charitably bestowed 

' Memoirs of Hannah More, ii., 343-4. 
* Ibid., iii., 66. 



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THE CHIMNEY-SWEEPERS 221 

an annual feast.^ She was much amused, 
she once told her sister, "with good Mrs 
Anguish's request for her chimney-sweeper's 
boy ; I sympathise," she went on, "with her 
in tenderness for persons of that occupation, 
and all that come to my gate on May-day 
are admitted, tho' I do not send cards of 
invitation or give tickets of admission, but, 
if her protege presents himself at my gate 
about one o'clock, he will find beef, mutton, 
and pudding provided for his entertainment. 
We begin to spread our tables before one 
o'clock, and there is a succession of dinners 
till four o'clock in the afternoon."^ Thus did 
her large bounty extend, throughout her life, 
to high and low. On 26th August 1800, she^' 
passed away, in her eightieth year, and was 
buried in Winchester Cathedral 

' Or, as Mme d'A p 

characteristic of her m b m d h 

" her anntw.1 festival h h p rt fi wh 

perform the most abje ffi h d all g 

in being the active d b g h h 

{Memoirs of Dr But A % ) 

^ From Mrs Climen 



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223 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 



H 

Not her receptions only, but thousands of 

letters to and from her, bear witness to her 
social importance. As Wraxall has justly- 
noted, "many of the most illustrious persons 
in rank, no less than in ability, under the 
reigns of George the Second and Third, had 
been her correspondents, friends, companions, 
and admirers. Pulteney, Earl of Bath, whose 
portrait hung over the chimney-piece in her 
drawing-room, and George, the first Lord 
Lyttelton, so eminent for his genius, were 
among the number."^ Her assistance had 
been eagerly sought by the latter in the 
education of his son Thomas,^ the future 
"wiclted Lord," whose wild freaks of ex- 
travagance and folly were an evil payment 
for, though perhaps not an unnatural conse- 
quence of, the lavish praise bestowed on his 
early promise in body and mind. The youth, 
in his seventeenth year, was already corre- 

' Historical Memoirs, ed. 1904, pp. 86-?. 

^ Cf. above p. 37, and Frost's Thomas Lyttelton, 
1876, a book containing many documents, the authen- 
ticity of which seems to us questionable. 



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THOMAS LYTTELTON 223 

spending with the great lady, his father's 
collaborator in the Dialogues of the Dead. In 
1760 he sent her a short "account of the 
proceedings of that ever memorable day, 
September the ist," when the new mansion 
at Hagley Park was publicly opened : ^ 

"Dear Madam," he wrote in his sprightly 
style, " If I had caught a fever occasioned 
by too great a hurry of spirits in doing the 
honours at the New House, or was otherwise 
indisposed, I might give in to your grave 
observation that in this world all is vanity 
and vexation of spirit, but, at present, being 
as well as ever I was in my life and in 
exceeding good spirits, I am not disposed to 
make hermitical reflections upon three as jolly 
and as agreeable days as ever I passed. . . . 
I will only tell you that the whole was con- 
ducted with less awkward ceremony and more 
politesse and ease than it was natural to 
imagine un regal of that sort would have 
admitted of. We were pleased, and every 
body seemed pleased with us — on such an 
occasion as the opening of a New House, when 
a whole county was invited, a very unusual 
phenomenon : I did not even hear that Miss A. 
' Cf. above, p- 69. 



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224 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

was angry because Miss B. sat before her. 
Female contentions subsided, and the genius 
of good fellowship reigned triumphant. . , ,"i 
About that time, Mrs Montagu was doubt- 
less invited to the "dinners of six, all chosen 
esprits," among whom Lady Hervey,^ fresh 
from Paris and the salons of Helvetius and 
of Mme Geoffrin, vented her enthusiasm 
for France and its ways. " Don't let her 
make an infidel or a French woman of you," 
Mrs Chapone once wrote to a friend, "for 
she is as terrible and dangerous as the 
monsters that stand on the French shore." ^ 
Neither philosophy nor free thought, how- 
ever, excluded in her the most exquisite 
politeness and taste. In 1764 she sent the 
following note to Mrs Montagu, from St 
James's Place: "I have somewhere, Madam, 
read the following lines, and am very sorry 
to have proved they are not true : 

" ' Nought can restrain 
Desire of twain," 

■ From Mr Broadley's MSS. 

'^ The widow of John, Lord Hervey, Pope's " Sporus " 
and the author of the Memoirs of the Reign of George 11. 

' The Life and Correspondence of Mrs ChapONE 
{Works, ed. 1807, ii., i66). 



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LADY HERVEY 225 

for I had the ill fortune to miss of you both 
here and at your own house, the day before 
you left this town, ... If you have not yet 
read les Lettres du Marquis de Roselle,^ may 
I take the Hberty to recommend them to you? 
I am pretty sure you will be pleased both 
with the sentiments and the style ; I will 
mention no particulars, but long to hear 
your opinion of them, that I may either 
correct or approve my own by yours. I 
shall be glad to hear of your health, but 
don't think, Madam, that I mean to draw 
you into a correspondence with me ; what 
you voluntarily bestow, I receive as charity 
with thankfulness, but won't like a trickster 
betray you into trading with a beggar, , . ."* 

That compliments should have come in 
abundance to a lady so generous and so well 
connected is not surprising. Lord Sandwich, 
her husband's kinsman, writing to her in 
1753, used the most flattering expressions of 
regard: "I am just returned," said he, 
"from taking a long walk in a very dirty 
country, and have taken off my wet clothes 
in a great hurry, that I might have the 

^ "A very pretty novel by Madame de Beaumont," 
says Horace Walpole, Letters, ed, Toynbee, vi., 163. 

^ From Mr Broadley's MSS. 



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226 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

pleasure of some conversation with my dear 
Mrs Montagu, who is never absent from my 
mind. I think what pleasure her presence 
would give me, what a real benefit to me in 
my hours of retirement, then comes this cruel 
reflection that it cannot be ... ."^ In a 
First Lord of the Admiralty just turned out 
of office, this exordium showed considerable 
esteem indeed ; nor was it a despicable piece 
of hypocrisy, coming as it did from an 
adept in the rites of the Cistertian Abbey at 
Medmenham. Lord Shelburne was perhaps 
a little more sincere, when, in December 1780, 
he wrote from Bowood Park as follows : " I 
do not recollect that for many years I have 
been so long without the smallest intercourse 
with Mrs Montagu. Lady Shelburne is very 
shy, but I hope and am sure she'll find means 
to assure you how much I value your friend- 
ship, and how proud I am to acltnowledge 
myself beholden to it. . . ."^ But who could 
ever trust Shelburne's professions, whom his 
contemporaries nicknamed "Malagrida" the 
Jesuit, and whom Fox despised and hated 
for his duplicity ! With a deference equal 
to Shelburne's, the Lord President of the 
' From Mr Broadley's MSS. 



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SHELBURNE, CAMDEN 227 

Council in 1786, Lord Camden, better known 
as Chief Justice Pratt, explained to Mrs 
Montagu his reasons for not complying with 
a request of hers : " I should be very happy," 
he said, "if it was in my power to obey your 
commands, but I am under such circumstances 
of disability to make any addition to the list 
of Supernumerary Clerks, that I could not 
oblige my dearest friend in this instance — 
nay, I have precluded myself. It has been 
usual for every President in his turn to add 
one to the number, and he has generally been 
very young, frequently a mere child, so that 
when I came to the office, I found such a 
number that there was no probability the last 
upon the list could succeed to the employment 
in less than fifty years. ... I did determine 
to add none myself. . . . Indeed, I went 
further, for I complained of it to the King, 
and assured him I would never request him 
to increase the number for any friend of my 
own while I had the honour to sit at the head 
of that board. . . ."^ A refusal so polite and 
so well founded must have been taken almost 
as an honour. 

Many literary men also were, at all periods 
' From Mr Broadley's MSS. 



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228 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

I 
of her life, among Mrs Montagu's assiduous 
correspondents. Two eccentrics head the 
list. Through the pious scholar Gilbert 
West, an intimate friend of Lyttelton's, she 
had made, about 1750, the acquaintance of 
tha$ singular Scotchman and historian of the 
Popes, Archibald Bower, who, out of zeal for 
the Roman Church, had become a Jesuit, and, 
later on, out of hatred for the Inquisition, had 
returned from Italy to England and the 
Protestant fold. When Mrs Montagu knew 
him, he was living at Sidcup^ and compiling 
the last volume of his History in a little 
habitation that possessed, she said, ' ' the 
proper perfections of a cottage : neatness, 
cheerfulness and an air of tranquillity, a 
pretty grove with woodbines twining round 
every elm, a neat kitchen garden, with an 
arbour from whence you look on a fine 
prospect."^ He was "a very merry enter- 
taining companion," having left "all gloomi- 
ness in that seat of horrors the Inquisition. 
I breakfasted with him on Tuesday," Mrs 
Montagu went on; "he is but between two 
and three miles from Hayes.* ... I never 

' In Kent * Mrs Climenson, ii., 70. 

' Where she had, at that time, taken a cottage 



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ARCHIBALD BOWER 229 

saw any country more beautiful than about 
Chislehurst, where he lives ; I cannot say- 
much in praise of his habitation, which he 
calls his Paradise ; but indeed, to a mind as 
gay and cheerful as his, all places are a 
paradise. He is much engaged with those 
old ladies the popes, but says he will leave 
the Santi Padri for his Madonna," as Mrs 
Montagu was amiably called by him and 
Lyttelton ; "he will teach me the pronuncia- 
tion of Italian, which he has reduced into 
such a method it may be easily acquired. 
He taught it to Mr Garrick at Tunbridge."^ 
In 1754, the work being at last completed, 
Bower paid a visit to his native Scotland, 
and, on 24th August, he sent to Mrs 
Montagu this short note, which we may 
quote as a specimen of his Italian style: 
" Che n'fe divenuto mai della carissima 
Madonna 1 L'a il cielo, invidiando alia terra 
si gran bene, rapita a se? . . . Le scrissi gi^ 
due mesi fa, dandole un succinto ragguaglio 
del mio pellegrinaggio tra le rupi e le baize 
del romantico Keswick. . . . lo sono stato 
cinque settimane, ed anche sono in questa 
metropoH, mk ne partiro la settimana pros- 
' Letters, iii,, 208. 



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230 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

sima per la citta di Dundee, nella di cui 
vicinanza sono gli stati del mio nipote, 
ch'intendo di visitare e vedere la casa, in cui 
prima spirai I'aura vitale. . . ." ^ In Bower's 
case, however, the hour of success was also 
that of bitterest trouble : his Protestant 
History of the Fopes made him rancorous 
enemies who published some letters of his, 
accused him of being a Jesuit in disguise,^ 
and tried to ruin him in the opinion of 
his best friends, Mrs Montagu* and Lord 
Lyttelton. It required all the influence of 
the latter, some years afterwards, to save him 
from the dangerous consequences of Garrick's 
resentment,* 

A^iother curious figure in Mrs Montagu's 
world was the "little Pere" Le Courayer, 
whose "good spirits" and "douceurs" in 
language and in manners struck and amused 
Mrs Delany in 1772.* This unfortunate 
theologian, the victim of his tolerance and 

' From Mr Broadley's MSS. 

' See on this affair WaLFOLE'S Letters^ ed. Toynbee, 
1903, iii., 399-402. 

" Who refused to give up her acquaintance with him : 
see a letter that does her great honour, in Letters, iv., 1-5. 

• Cf. Garrick's Correspondence, i., 123-4, and Fitz- 
gerald's Garrick, ed. 1899, 235-7. 

' The Autobiography and Correspondence . . , iv., 488. 



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LE COURAYER 231 

candour, had published in 1723 a very 
estimable Dissertation sur la validity des 
ordinations des Anglois, the liberal conclusions 
of which had incurred the censures of his 
superiors and driven him into exile. England 
had received with sympathy the persecuted 
defender of her Established Church ; both 
at Oxford and in London, flattering distincf* 
tions and attentions had been pressed upon 
him. At the end of October 1751, Mrs 
Montagu, hearing he was "ill of a sore 
throat," paid him a visit, which she described 
in a characteristic letter, pretentious and 'yet 
picturesque : " I was obliged," she told 
Gilbert West, "to pass through all the gay 
vanities of Mrs Chenevix,^ and then ascend 
a most steep and difficult staircase, to^et at 
the little philosopher ; this way to wisdom 
through the vanities and splendid toys of 
the world, might be prettily allegorized by 
the pen of the great Bunyan ; and the good 
man himself, to an emblematizing genius, 
would have afforded an ample subject : his 
head was enfoncee in a cap of the warmest 
beaver, made still more respectable by a 
gold orris ; ' a wonderous hieroglyphic robe 
' The famous toy-woman, in the Strand. 



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232 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

he wore,'^ in which was pourtrayed all the 
attributes of the god Fo, with the arms 
and achievements of the cham of Tartary. 
Never did Christian doctor wear such a 
pagan appearance. . . . When I ceased to 
look upon him as a missionary, I began to 
consider him as the best piece of Chinese 
furniture I had ever seen, and could hardly 
forbear offering him a place on my chimney- 
piece. . . ."^ Sixteen years afterwards, Le 
Courayer had not yet mastered the English 
language, as the following epistle' will show : 
"Dear Madam, I have been informed at 
Ealing by some of your friends and mine 
that you abused me without mercy for not 
writing to you, — and for the discontinuation 
of a correspondence which was equally agree- 
able and honourable to me. I expected a 
kinder treatment from a Lady of so good 
nature and so good sense, and that you 
would rather have pity me than abuse me — 
and that at the example of our Master you 
would not break a bruised reed, nor quenc a 
smoaking flax. My silence is my misfortune 

* A chintz dressing-gown. 
" Letters, iii., 1 72-3. 

* Dated from "London, October 11, 1768." 



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LE COURAYER 233 

and not my crime, for how can I help it if by 
a severe judgment of the Providence upon me 
I am made unable to do, what you would 
have me do, and what I would like myself 
to do. Render me my eyes that I may read 
and write, and then you'll see whether I am 
deficient in my duty. . . . The loss is all 
of my side in not being able to keep your 
correspondance, and pray don't add to my 
misfortune in scolding me. . . • Since I am 
past recovery and I am left to shift for myself, 
help me to bear my calamity with patience 
and resignation, and let me like the old 
Simeon to desire to depart in peace. This 
is already too long for a blind man, but I 
hope you will take this as taking leave of 
writing for the future. I add only my best 
compliments to Mr Montagu, and wish you 
a long life, good eyes and a little more good 
nature for the blind. I am notwithstanding 
your abuses very sincerely, dear Madam, 
your affectionate friend and servant for ever 
and, as said La Fontaine, s'il se pent encore 
par del^,"^ Whether this blindness was 
real or imaginary, transient or lasting, the 
excellent " little Pfere " lived to the patriarchal 

* From Mr Broadle/s MSS. 



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234 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

age of ninety-five, and kept his "good spirits 
and looks" almost to the end.^ 

To pass on to names better known and 
to later times, Hannah More must be 
mentioned among Mrs Montagu's frequent 
correspondents and visitors. Their acquaint- 
ance began at the Garricks' in 1 773 or 
1774,^ when Hannah More, then about thirty, 
first came from Bristol to London in quest of 
literary successes. She met with great en- 
couragement ; thanks to Garrick's patronage, 
her tragedy of Percy was accepted at Covent 
Garden and produced in December 1777. It 
had "a run of twenty-one nights." Mrs 
Montagu was warm in her congratulations : 
"No one can more sincerely rejoice in the 
triumph of last night than myself," she wrote 
on nth December. " I have had such a pain 
in my face as has obliged me to be muffled 
up for these six weeks, but I am getting 
better, and have sent to the box-keeper for 
boxes for your third and sixth night, and 
hope also to attend the ninth, though I 
dare not make so distant an engagement 
with precarious health." On the ninth night 

' He died in 1776. 

' Memoirs of Hannah More, !., 47, 



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HANNAH MORE 233 

of Percy, "Mrs Montagu had a box again; 
which, as she is so consummate a critic," 
Hannah More remarked, "and is hardly ever 
seen at a public place, is a great credit to the 
play."^ The best sketches we possess of 
the dinners and breakfasts in Hill Street or 
Portman Square are due, as we have seen, to 
the pen of Hannah More, who, in 1784, also 
recorded a visit to Sandleford : "The fortnight 
I spent with our friend Mrs Montagu," she 
wrote to Mrs Boscawen, " I need not say to 
you, my dear madam, was passed profitably 
and pleasantly ; as one may say of her what 
Johnson has said of somebody else, that ' she 
never opens her mouth but to say something.'' 
The Primate of Ireland^ and Sir William 
Robinson were at Sandleford for the first 
three or four days after I got thither. I was 
a little afraid of his Grace at first, as he 
carries a dignity you know, in his person and 
abord, which excites more respect than is quite 
consistent with one's ease ; but he laid aside 
his terrors, and was all graciousness and 

' Memoirs ofJfannah More, i., 123, 127. 

* The Most Reverend Richard Robinson, D.D., Arch- 
bishop of Armagh and 1st Lord Rokehy. He was a 
cousin of Mrs Montagu's. 



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236 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

complacency, and condescended to join in 
the favourite subjects of the two ladies, poetry 
and criticism. . . ."^ As years went on, how- 
ever, plays and literature proper gave place, 
in Hannah More's mind, to religion and 
morals. Already, in 1785, she had seen and 
read " Mr Paley's book on Moral and Political 
Philosophy" and thus commented upon it in a 
letter to Mrs Montagu : " I think it admirable 
as far as I have gone, full of striking tho' 
obvious truths, coming home to the business 
and interests of each individual reader, and 
free from that sophistical twist so common 
in metaphysical enquiries. I stumbled a 
little at the threshold, because I thought the 
gentleman 'did protest too much,' however, I 
recovered myself as I went along, for I found 
that he ' kept his word ' and abounds more in 
sense and truth than any author I have lately 
read."^ The influence of such friends as John 
Newton and William Wilberforce, the indig- 
nation that she felt at the atrocities of the 
"Reign of Terror" in France, the dread of 
the possible consequences of a revolutionary 
propaganda in England, made her a strict 

' Memoirs of Hannah More, i., 328-9. 
= From Mr Broadley's MSS. 



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HANNAH MORE 237 

Evangelical in doctrine and an active 
pamphleteer on the side of government and 
order. She scattered broadcast through the 
land small tracts like her Village Politics by 
Will Chip that reached an immense public of 
all classes. In an interesting letter, probably 
written in 1794, she explained her motives 
to Mrs Montagu : " I have been so long 
accustomed," she said, "to receive favour, 
kindness and assistance from you on every 
occasion, that I am encouraged to recommend 
the enclosed little plan to your patronage. , . . 
It is not one of the wild theories for which 
this age is so famous, but the fruit of real 
experience. I have long seen and lamented 
the evil it is proposed to counteract. In all 
the villages I know, it Js surprising to see 
with what impatience the periodical visit of 
the hawker is expected, and with what avidity 
his poison is swallowed. You would be 
diverted at the immense quantity of trash I 
have collected ; even those papers that are 
written with better intentions are in general 
calculated to do more harm than good, con- 
sisting chiefly of ghosts, dreams, visions, 
witches and devils. When we consider the 
zeal with which the writings of Priestley, 



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238 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 
etc., are now brought within the compass of 
penny books, circulated with great industry, 
and even translated into Welsh, I begin to 
fear that our workmen and porters will become 
philosophers too, and that an endeavour to 
mend the morals and the principles of the 
poor is the most probable method to preserve 
us from the crimes and calamities of France. 
In this view, I am not above becoming the 
compiler and composer of hal^enny papers. 
If, my dear Madam, any impressive story fells 
in your way, pray treasure it up for me."* 
Such were the plan and intention of Hannah 
More's Cheap Repository of anti-revolutionary 
literature for the people ; it unquestionably 
helped to strengthen the reactionary move- 
ment that characterised English politics at 
the end of the eighteenth century. 

Contemporary with the success of Perty 
was that of Fanny Burney's Evelina, a novel 
which took the Town by storm in January 
1778. On a Tuesday morning in the follow- 
ing September, the author being then with 
Mrs Thrale at Streatham was asked by her 
hostess if she "did not want to see Mrs 

' From Mr Broadle/s MSS. Cf. about this under- 
taking Hannah Morels Memoirs, ii., 434-6, 



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FANNY BURNEY 239 

Montagu?" — "I truly said," Miss Burney 
has noted in her Diary,^ "I should be the 
most insensible of all animals, not to like to 
see our sex's glory," For Mrs Montagu 
had now reached the summit of her influence 
and fame ; her Essay on Shakespeare had been 
translated into French the year before, and 
everybody in London knew that she was 
"building a most superb house." She was 
a power before whom a humble and dmid 
debutante like Fanny Burney must silently 
bow., "A woman of such celebrity in the 
literary world," the Diarist said to herself, 
"would be the last I should covet to con- 
verse with, though one of the first I should 
wish to listen to." About one o'clock the 
next day, the expected guest made her 
appearance, accompanied by Miss Gregory : 
"She is middle-sized, very thin, and looks 
infirm," Miss Burney remarked; "she has 
a sensible and penetrating countenance, and 
the air and manner of a woman accustomed 
to being distinguished, and of great parts." 
At dinner the conversation lacked brilliancy, 
in spite of the presence of such luminaries 
as Mrs Montagu and Dr Johnson himself; 
' Vol. i., ed. i8?6, p, 61 seq. 



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240 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

but the lady-critic had not yet read Evelina, 
nay, did not discover the anonymous writer 
of it in the person of Miss Burney, till the 
secret was revealed by the eager Mrs Thrale. 
That novel never became one of Mrs Montagu's 
favourites; "she was amazed," she told Mrs 
Thrale,^ "that so delicate a girl could write 
so boisterous a book"; to the "vulgarity" 
of its Captain Mirvan, Madame Duval and 
Branghtons, she much preferred the pom- 
pousness of Cecilia and its Delviles. In a 
letter to the Dowager Duchess of Portland, 
she recommended the new work to her 
Grace's attention, and "old Mrs Delany," 
the Duchess's intimate friend, was "forced 
to begin it," Sir Joshua Reynolds informed 
Fanny, "though she had said she should 
never read any more ; however, when we 
met, she was reading it already for the 
third time."^ It is well known that, in 1785, 
Miss Burney went to live with Mrs Delany at 
St James's Place, and in November followed 
her to Windsor, where, on the Duchess's 
death, the King had presented her with 
a house. A message from Mrs Montagu 

' Diary, vol. 1., ed. 1876, p. 325, 
^ Ibid., 1^7 1. 



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FANNY BURNEY 241 

to Miss Burney, dated 16th December, 
announced the arrival of a " basket of 
game" and also lamented the "misfortune" 
which the Duchess's friends, Mrs Delany 
above all, had suffered in losing her.^ 
Fanny's reply, now published for the first 
time, fills a gap in the Diary : 

"Windsor, December 20th 1785. — Dear 
Madam, I am quite at a loss what thanks to 
return for the repast, equally rich and elegant, 
with which you have at once mentally and 
substantially regaled us: — Us, permit me to 
say, for here I may aspire at coupling myself 
with Mrs Delany, since we have participated 
in both the entertainments, and participate 
in the grateful acknowledgments we entreat 
you to accept.— Are you angry?— No, dear 
Madam, you cannot be angry that I com- 
municated to Mrs Delany a letter that could 
not but be soothing and consolatory to her. 
Acute as her sorrow has been, and deep as 
it must ever remain, she bore it from the 
first with patience and resignation, and she 
now diminishes it all she can by receiving 
in good part such comfort and relief as her 
surviving friends can afford her. Could I, 
1 Diary,\\., 51-3. 

Q 



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242 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

knowing this, withhold from her such a 
solace as sympathising kindness from Mrs 
Montagu? especially as it cannot be said 
to open the wound afresh, for the wound, 
alas, has never been closed. 

"That the Sting of Death is Sin, is 
most truly observed, and I had the pleasure 
to see a smile of satisfaction brighten her 
benignant countenance, when she considered, 
from your stating it, how happily it was here 
applied. 

" I am sorry — I had almost said surprised— 
at dear Mrs Vesey's continued regret:^ but 
a heart so much framed for tenderness weighs 
not always the full value of what excites it, 
and where there is too much kindness for 
discrimination, the scentless 'gaudy flower' 
or the permanent 'reviving aromatic' seem 

' She had lost her husband in the beginning of the 
preceding June. Cf. this passage of a letter by Hannah 
More, already quoted above, p. 236: "21 May 1785. 
I wish I could say something decisive of poor Vesey ; I 
this moment called there in order to give you the latest 
information ; he is too ill to recover and not ill enough to 
die ; at least not soon I fear, and \{ he does not die, s^e 
will, for her poor spirits will not long endure to be so 
harrassed. . . . She, poor dear [soul], forgetting all his 
offences and malefactions, endures the bitterest sorrow, 
and eafs and sleeps very little. His accounts for both 
worlds, I fear, are unsettled ! " 



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FANNY BURNEY 243 

to have an equal claim upon the affec- 
tions, however wide the difference of their 
desert. 

"The beneficence of their Majesties, and 
its happy effect upon their venerable Protegee 
would almost make Loyalists of Rebels, if 
witnessed in its munificent rise, and most 
tenderly delicate progress. I am much con- 
cerned in being the messenger of such ill 
news as their having to-day a new and 
severe alarm for the Princess Elizabeth. Sir 
George Baker had taken leave of her Royal 
Highness for three days, but she had so 
bad a night, that he was hastily sent for 
again this morning. She is now however 
better, and Hope once more is trying to gain 
the field from Apprehension, 

"The happy party ^ who will have the 
honour to dine to-morrow in Portman 
Square, will meet, I hope, many times 
more ; — in common benevolence I must 
hope it for their sakes, but I draw an 
[? inference] to myself that makes me hope 
it, also, from [some] motive more interested. 

1 Mrs Montagu had written {Diary, ii., p. 53); "1 
have solicited Dr Bumey to meet some of his friends at 
dinner here on Wednesday." 



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244 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

" Mrs Delany charges me to present you 
her kindest compliments, and best thanks 
for your partial expressions in her favour, — 
such she thinks them, who feels not that all 
praise is but the just tribute of her worth. 
She says, too, that the moor game was the 
best she ever tasted, and gave her an 
appetite. 

"May I take the liberty of desiring my 
very best compliments to Mr and Mrs 
Matthew Montagu ^ and to hope they will 
accept my best and prognosticating wishes for 
their happiness? I have the honour to be, 
etc. . . ."^ 

From the domestic freedom of Mrs Delany's 
house, Miss Burney passed, as we know, 
to a "wearisome life of attendance and 
dependence" at Queen's Lodge, where she 
spent five years in the official capacity of 
"Second Keeper of the Robes" and sub- 
ordinate to Mrs Schwellenberg.j She seldom 
met with Mrs Montagu during that time. 
But, her liberty once regained, in the interval 
between her departure from Windsor in July 

1 Mrs Montagu's adopted son and her daughter-in-law, 
who had been married in July. 

2 From Mr Broadley's MSS. 



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BEATTIE 245 

1791 and her marriage with M. d'Arblay in 
July 1793, she and her father were frequently 
invited to Portman Square and welcomed 
with extreme courtesy by the "unaffectedly 
agreeable" Mrs Montagu.^ 

In the summer of 1787, Miss Burney had 
"an appointment" with Dr Beattie, the once 
celebrated author of the Minstrel and of the 
Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth.^ 
She found him "pleasant, unassuming, and 
full of conversible intelligence, with a round, 
thick, clunch figure, that promises nothing 
either of his works or his discourse ; yet his 
eye, at intervals, and when something breaks 
from him pointed and sudden, shoots forth 
a ray of genius that instantly lights up his 
whole countenanpe. His voice and his 
manners are particularly and pleasingly 
mild, and seem to announce an urbanity of 
character both inviting and edifying."^ The 
very respectable, but flaccid, poet and philo- 
sopher thus described had indirectly made 
Mrs Montagu's acquaintance through Dr 

' Cf. above pp. 318-9, and Diary, iii., 382, 408-9. 

• Published the latter in 1770, the former in 1771 (first 

" Diary, ii., 376. 



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246 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

Gregory, Dorothea's father. Is it necessary 
to add that he entertained the highest regard 
for her, even before he knew her personally? 
" I have heard much of that lady," he wrote 
so early as 1767,^ "and I admire her as an 
honour to her sex and to human nature." 
When the first canto of the Minstrel came 
out in 1771, it was sent by Dr Gregory to 
Mrs Montagu, who communicated it to Lord 
Lyttelton. A most enthusiastic apprecia- 
tion was the result: "I read your Minstrel 
last night," Lord Lyttelton wrote on 8th 
March, "with as much rapture as poetry, 
in her noblest, sweetest charms, ever raised 
in my soul. It seemed to me, that my once 
most beloved minstrel, Thomson, was come 
down from heaven, refined by the converse 
of purer spirits than those he lived with here, 
to let me hear him sing again the beauties 
of nature, and the finest feelings of virtue, 
not with human, but with angelic strains." 
On receiving this devout eulogy, Mrs Montagu 
hastened to forward it on, through Dr Gregory, 
to Beattie, and to mention, not only her own 
opinion of the poem, but also the pains she 

^ The Life and Writings of Janus Beattie, by Sir 
William Forbes, ed, 1807, i., i2Z, 



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BEATTIE 247 

was taking to circulate both the Minstrel and 
the Essay on Truth : " I have enclosed a 
note," she said, "by which you will see 
how much it pleased Lord Lyttelton. I 
have sent one into the country to Lord 
Chatham ; and I wrote immediately to a 
person who serves many gentlemen and 
ladies with new books, to recommend it to 
all people of taste. I am very sorry the 
second edition of Dr Beattie's book^ is not 
yet in town. I have recommended it, too, 
to many of our bishops, and others ; but all 
have complained this whole winter, that the 
booksellers deny having any of either the 
first or second edition. I wish you would 
intimate this to Dr Beattie. I dare say many 
hundreds would have been sold, if people 
could have got them."^ This passage shows 
what precious services Mrs Montagu's social 
influence enabled her to render to her favourite 
writers. She occasionally tendered to them 
direct pecuniary assistance. In 1773, Dr 
Beattie, provided with an introduction to 
the Colonial Secretary, Lord Dartmouth, 

' T^., of the EMay on Truth, which edition appeared 
in 1771, just before the Minstrel. 
" Ufe of Beattie, i., 249-52. 



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348 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

came to London, with a view to obtain- 
ing a pension from Lord North or from the 
King. The negotiations, successful in the 
end, were protracted to a tedious length, and, 
in the interval of suspense, Mrs Montagu, 
not content with putting forth her best 
endeavours in the poet's cause, "told him 
in very explicit, though delicate, terms, that, 
if government did nothing, she would her- 
self claim the honour of rendering his situa- 
tion in life more comfortable."^ For this 
generous proposal, which the king's bounty 
made superfluous, Beattie expressed himself 
obliged and grateful. In 1784, a new edition 
of the Minstrel being wanted, he offered to 
Mrs Montagu the dedication of it, and, as 
"another fevour," asked leave to insert her 
name in the last stanza of the first canto : 
"I had not the honour to be known to 
you," he said, " when I published that 
first book; and, intending to put the name 
of a friend in the last stanza, but being 
then undetermined with respect to the person, 
I left in one of the lines a blank space, 
which has been continued in all the editions. 
That blank, with your permission, shall now 
' Life of Beattie, I., ^yj. 



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be filled up ; and then the stanza wilt run 
thus: 

Here pause, my Gothic lyre, a little while ; 

The leisure hour is all that thou canst claim : 

But on this verse if Montagu should smile. 

New lays ere long shall animate thy frame ; 

And her applause to me is more than fame, 

For still with truth accords her taste refined. 

At lucre or renown let others aim ; 

I only wish to please the gentle mind, 

Whom nature's charms inspire, and love of human kind. 

" It would give me no little pleasure to see 
in the same poem the names of Mrs Montagu 
and Dr Gregory ; ^ two persons so dear to 
me, and who had so sincere a friendship for 
one another. Besides, Madam, 1 beg leave 
to put you in mind that the first book of the 
poem was published at his desire, and the 
second at yours. So that I have more reasons 
than one for making this request. . . ."^ It 
was granted, and Mrs Montagu's name still 
enjoys what credit there is in being mentioned 
in the feeble conclusion of a poem, then in 
vogue and now justly neglected. Fifteen years 
afterwards, on hearing a premature report of 

' At the end of the second canto, first published in 
1774 (cf. Life of BeatHe, ii,, 43). 



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250 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

her death, Beattie wrote to a friend in a tone of 
sincere grief: "'I have known several ladies 
eminent in literature," he declared, "but she 
excelled them all ; and in conversation she 
had more wit than any other person, male or 
female, whom I have ever known. These, 
however, were her slighter accomplishments : 
_«vhat was infinitely more to her honour, she 
was a sincere Christian, both in faith and in 
practice. ... I knew her husband, who died 
in extreme old age, in the year 1775, and by 
her desire had conferences with him on the 
subject of Christianity; but, to her great 
concern, he set too much value on mathe- 
matical evidence, and piqued himself too 
much on his knowledge in that science."^ 
Alas I that her arch-enemy, Voltaire, should 
have perverted a friend so near and dear to 
her! 

With Burke, as with Beattie, she was 
acquainted almost from the beginning of his 
literary career in London. She mentioned 
him, in December 1758, as "a young lawyer 
by profession, the' an author by practice, 
for he wrote," she said, " Natural History 
' Life of Beattie, iii., 162-3. 



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BURKE 251 

preferable to Artificial,"' and, a few weeks 

afterwards, she praised his treatise on the 
Sublime and Beautiful m the foliowing passage 
of a letter to Mrs Carter: "I do not know 
that you will always subscribe to his 'System, 
but I thinlc you will find him an elegant and 
ingenious writer. He is far from the pert 
pedantry and assuming ignorance of modern 
witlings ; but in conversation and writing, 
an ingenious and ingenuous man, modest 
and delicate, and, on great and serious 
subjects, full of that respect and veneration 
which a good mind and a great one is sure 
to feei, while fools rush behind the altar at 
which wise men kneel and pay mysterious 
reverence." 2 At that time, Burke's thoughts 
were already turning from literature towards 
commerce and politics ; destitute of private 
means, and able to earn only a poor pittance 
by his pen, he eagerly wished for some post 
in the public service: "The Consulship of 
Madrid has been vacant for several months'," 
he wrote to Mrs Montagu on 24th September 
■759 1 "I ai" informed that it is in the 

1 This was the ironical Vindication, of Natural Society, 
published in 1756, Cf. Mrs Climenson, ii., 156. 
' Letters of Mrs Monta^, cd. 1813, iv., 211. 



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252 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

gift of Mr Secretary Pitt, and that it is 
valuable. I presume, however, that it is 
not an object for a person who has any 
considerable pretensions, by its having con- 
tinued so long vacant, else I should never 
have thought of it- My interest is weak, 
I have not at all the honour of being 
known to Mr Pitt ; nor much to any of 
his close connections. For which reason 
I venture to ask your advice whether I 
can with propriety proceed at all in this 
affair, and if you think I ought to under- 
take it, in what manner it would be proper 
for me to proceed, ... It occurred to me 
that a letter from you to Miss Pitt^ might 
be of great service to me. I thought, 
too, of mentioning Mrs Boscawen. . . ."^ 
But Mrs Montagu would not interfere, 
as she had " no influence on Ministers 
of State," and the project was abandoned. 
Burke stayed in England, entered Parlia- 
ment in 1765, soon to become one of the 
most famous orators and political writers of 
his day. His intercourse with Mrs Montagu 

' Miss Anne Pitt, the Minister's sister, and a friend of 
Mrs Montagu's. 
^ Mrs Climenson, ii., 170. 



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BURKE 253 

remained as cordial as before. ' She occasion- 
ally visited him at Beaconsiieldj "It was 
with great pleasure," she was told on 24th 
July 1771, that "Mrs Burke and I received 
your letter. Instead of a phenix, a bird 
or two whom I am neither naturalist or 
musician enough to know, and who sing to 
the harvest, shall tell the woods of Becons- 
field the honour you do them by this visit, 
We are very happy that your leisure permits 
you to see us, and that your health permits 
you to do it with convenience and pleasure 
to yourself. Your letter gave very sincere 
pleasure here ; for in truth I fell much pain 
in seeing you almost the whole winter in a 
very bad state of health. Thanks to Provi- 
dence and Tunbridge Waters ! We have 
nothing so unlucky on Monday as to prevent 
our seeing you and our excellent friends, 
Mrs Vesey and Mrs Handcock,^ and we can 
lodge you without difficulty. I think this 
part of the country pleasant, and we shall 
have particular pleasure in showing it to 
you."^ As a generous return for these 
attentions, Mrs Montagu, hearing in 1776 

'■ Mrs Vesey'a sister-in-law by her first marriage, 
^ From Mr Broadley's MSS. 



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254 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

that some of Burke's friends "in the City 
meant to start him for the vacant Chamber- 
lainship," immediately offered herself as one 
of the sureties necessary for the appointment. 
Their "total apiount was then ;^40,ooo." ^ 
Either in Hill Street or in Portman Square, 
the great orator's presence was eagerly courted. 
But his absences became more and more 
frequent as time went on. He had "more 
powerful avocations," Wraxall observes, 
"and aspired to other honours and emolu- 
ments than those which mere literary distinc- 
tion could bestow on him."^ "The demon 
of politics committed a robbery on me," Mrs 
Montagu complained to Mrs Vesey,* "when 
he stole Mr Burke from me ; there never 
was so pleasant, so instructive a companion 
and so amiable a friend ; my love and 
gratitude to him will always remain, and I 
hope sometimes he will bestow an hour at 
Portman Square." When the fall of the 
Coalition Ministry had freed him from the 
cares of office, he did reappear there : in 

^ Ufe of Burke, by Sir JAMES PriOE, ed. Bohn's 

Libraries, 1891, p. 164. 
* Wraxall's Historical Memoirs, ed. 1904, p. 9^ 
' On 9th December 1784 — from Mrs Climen^n's 

collection. 



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JOHNSON 255 

April 1790, Hannah More congratulated her- 
self on having "met at Mrs Montagu's Mr 
Burke and a pleasant party; indeed," she 
added, "he is a sufficiently pleasant party 
of himself."^ 

To close our list by the name of the most 
valued and most redoubted guest, we must 
now speak of Dr Johnson, His intercourse 
with Mrs Montagu was at first of a very 
courteous and amiable kind. He applied to 
her for help to the distressed, for subscriptions 
to Mrs Williams's Miscellany or to Mrs Ogle's 
benefit,^ and was never refused. In her high- 
flown, complimentary style, she asked him to 
her entertainments in Hill Street. "The 
whole party was engaged to dine at Mrs 
Montagu's," Miss Burney wrote in March 
1777.^ Dr Johnson said he had received the 
most flattering note he had ever read, or that 
anybody else had ever read, by way of 
invitation. — "Well! so have I too," cried 
Mrs Thrale ; "so if a note from Mrs Montagu 
is to be boasted of, I beg mine may not be 
forgot." — " Your note," cried Dr Johnson, 

' Memoirs, ii., 225. 

* See Mrs CLIMENSON, ii., 16;, 173 (1759)- 

* Early Diary, ed. 1889, ii., 157 (to Crisp), 



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2g6 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

"can bear no comparison with mtfi^; I am 
at the head of the Philosophers, she says," — 
"And I," cried Mrs Thrale, ^^ have all the 
Muses in my train.'" — "A fair battle," said 
Dr Burney. "Come, compliment for compli- 
ment, and see who will hold out longest."— 
"Ohl I am afraid for Mrs Thrale," cried 
Mr Seward ; "for I know Mrs Montagu exerts 
all her forces, when she attacks Dr Johnson," 
— "Oh, yes!" said Mrs Thrale, "she has 
often, I know, flattered him, till he has been 
ready to faint." To such distinguished 
regard, however, Johnson was by no means 
insensible. In Dr Maxwell's Recollections 
of him, we read how "one evening at 
Mrs Montagu's, where a splendid company 
was assembled, consisting of the most 
eminent literary characters, he seemed highly 
pleased with the respect and attention that 
were shown him. On our return home," 
Maxwell continues, " I asked him if he 
was not highly gratified by his visit : 
'No, Sir,' said he, 'not highly gratified; 
yet I do not recollect to have passed many 
evenings with fewer objections,'"'^ He could 

1 Quoted in BOSWell's Johnson, Globe ed., 1894, 
p. 318 (about 1770). 



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JOHNSON 257 

even pay the lady in kind, as this poetical 
inscription "on her bust" will show: 

"Had this fair figure, which, this frame displays 
Adorn'd in Roman time the brightest days, 
In every dome, in every sacred place, 
Her statue would have breath'd an added grace, 
And on its basis would have been enroll'd : 
This is Minerva cast in virtue's mould." ^ 

And he proved as polite in prose as in 
verse : " Madam," he wrote on Thursday, 
arst December 1775, "I know not when any 
letter has given me so much pleasure or 
vexation as that which I had yesterday the 
honour of receiving. That you, Madam, 
should wish for my company, is surely a 
sufficient reason for being pleased ; that I 
should delay twice, what I had so little right 
to expect even once, has so bad an appearance, 
that I can only hope to have it thought, that 
I am ashamed. — You have kindly allowed me 
to name a day. Will you be pleased. Madam, 
to accept of me any day after Tuesday? Till 
I am favoured with your answer, or despair 
of so much condescension, I shall suffer no 
engagement to fasten itself upon me."^ In 

' Poems of Dr Johnson in Chalmers's English Poets, 
1 8 10, xvi. 609. 
" From Mr Broadiey's MSS. 



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258 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

penning this elegant and ceremonious apology, 
Johnson evidently remembered that he was 
addressing her, whom he considered as "the 
first woman for literary knowledge in England, 
and, if in England, in the world." ^ 

But, in January 1781, a sudden and terrific 
storm burst, that rent their bonds of friendship 
in twain. The Doctor, an uncompromising 
critic, published a Life of Lord Lyttelton,^ in 
which he said of the latter's Boems that " they 
have nothing to be despised, but little to 
be admired," and of the Dialogues of the 
Z?ga</ that, when they first appeared, "they 
were kindly commended by the 'Critical 
Reviewers'; s.n6, poor Lyttelton, with humble 
g;ratitude, returned, in a note, acknowledg- 
ments which can never be proper, since they 
must be paid either for flattery or for justice." 
This patronising, almost contemptuous, tone 
stung to the quick the joint author of the 
Dialogues, " Mrs Montagu and Mr Pepys,* 

1 Miss BUKNEY's Diary, ed. 1876, i., 66 (1778). 

' In the second series of Prefaces, Biographical and 
Critical, to the most eminent of the English Poets ( 1 7B0), 

» Sir WiHiam Weller Pepys (1740-1825), Master in 
Chancery and a well-known figure in the literary circles 
of the metropolis : see about him Miss GaussEn's Later 
Pepys, 1904. Sir Lucas Pepys, physician to George III., 



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JOHNSON 259 

his Lordship's two chief surviving friends, 
are very angry," Hannah More tells us,^ and 
Horace Walpole, in his more picturesque 
style, informed Mason, on 27th January, 
that "Mrs Montagu and all her Moenades 

■ intended to tear Johnson limb from limb, for 
despising their moppet, Lord Lyttelton." ^ 

, She partly obtained her revenge, by inciting 
Robert Potter, a Norfolk schoolmaster and 
translator of Euripides, to undertake a defence 
of Gray against the critic. "It is sensibly 
written," Walpole remarked about this work, 
"is civil to Johnson, and yet severe. ■ ■ . 
I have heard that the true object was to 
revenge the attack on Lord Lyttelton, at the 
instigation of Mrs Montagu, who has her 
full share of incense."^ Pepys it was who 
suffered most in this contest of rival powers. 

^ Memoirs, i. 207. 

^ Letters, ed. Paget Toynbee, 1904, xi,, 376. 

' Ibid., xiii,, 5 (9th June 1783). Potter was amply 
rewarded for his trouble ; see a letter from him to Mrs 
Montagu, dated from "The Close, Norwich, 3rd July 
1789; Madam, — Last summer you did me the honour 
to congratulate me on my unexpected promotion to a 
Prebendal Stall in this Church ; I am now drawing upon 
you for your further congratulations on a similar occasion. 
Oq the zsth of the last month, the Bishop of Norwich 
came to my house, and of his own free grace offered me 



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36o SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

On a Wednesday in June 1781, he happened 
to dine at Mrs Thrale's in Johnson's company, 
and the blunt old Doctor fell foul of him in 
characteristic fashion. Miss Burney shall 
relate the scene to us, as she did, two years 
after the event, at Mrs Vesey's : '* I never saw 
Dr Johnson really in a passion but then : 
and dreadful, indeed, it was to see. He so 
red, poor Mr Pepys so pale ! " — " But how 
did it begin? What did he say?" — "Oh, 
Dr Johnson came to the point without much 
ceremony. He called out aloud, before a 
large company, at dinner, ' What have you 
to say, sir, to me or of me? Come forth, 
man I I hear you object to my Life of 
Lord Lyttelton. What are your objections? 
If you have anything to say, let's hear it. 
Come forth, man, when 1 call you!'" — 
"What a call indeed 1 Why, then, he 
feirly bullied him into a quarrell " — "Yes. 
And I was the more sorry, because Mr Pepys 
had begged of me, before they met, not to let 
Lord Lyttelton be mentioned. Now, I had no 

the united vicarages of Lowestoft and Kessingland, to 
which he collated me the next day ; they are at present 
worth ^£470 a year, and improving under an Act of 
Inclosureofa large extent. ..." (From Mr Broadley's 
MSS.) 



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JOHNSON 261 

more power to prevent it than this macaroon 
cake in my hand." — "It was behaving ill to 
Mrs Thrale, certainly, to quarrel in her 
house." — "Yes; but he never repeated it, 
though he wished of all things to have gone 
through just such another scene with Mrs 
Montagu, and to refrain was an act of heroic 
forbearance." — "Why, I rather wonder he 
did not ; for she was the head of the set of 
Lytteltonians." — " Oh, he knows that ; he 
calls Mr Pepys only her prime minister." — 
"And what does he call her?" — "'Queen,' 
to be sure I ' Queen of the Blues ' ! She 
came to Streatham one morning, and I saw 
he was dying to attack her. But he had 
made a promise to Mrs Thrale to have no 
more quarrels in her house, and so he forced 
himself to forbear. . . . " — "And how did 
Mrs Montagu herself behave?" — "Very 
stately, indeed, at first. She turned from 
him very stiffly, and with a most distant air, 
and without even curtseying to him, and with 
a firm intention to keep to what she had 
publicly declared — that she would never speak 
to him more I However, he went up to her 
himself, longing to begin ! and very roughly 
said, ' Well, madam, what's become of your 



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262 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

fine new house? I hear no more of it.'"— 
"But how did she bear this?" — "Why, 
she was obliged to answer him ; and she 
soon grew so frightened — as everybody does 
— that she was as civil as ever. . . . But Dr 
Johnson," Miss Burney concludes, "was now 
miich softened. He had acquainted me, when 
I saw him last, that he had written to her 
upon the death of Mrs Williams, because she 
had allowed her something yearly, which now 
ceased. . . . ' And I had a very kind answer 
from her,' said he."^ We do not know 
whether, during the year^ that intervened 
between this peace - making and Johnson's 
death, he was invited to Portman Square. 
But it seems probable, as Wraxall remarks, 
that his disappearance, at whatever time it 
may have occurred, took much from "the 
charm and the impulse" that propelled Mrs 
Montagu's dinners as well as her assemblies, 
and that, after his decease in 1784, "it became 
impossible to supply his place." ^ 

» Diary, i., 547-9 ; cf. /h'd., 354-7. 

^ Mrs Williams died in August 1783. 

s Historical Memoirs, ed. 1904, pp. 96-7. It is almost 
superfluous to add that many foreigners also corresponded 
with, and were invited by, Mrs Montagu. To give only 
i, Letourneur, the translator of Shakespeare, 



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MRS MONTAGU'S ASSEMBLIES 263 



III 

The picture of the collective life at such 
assemblies would indeed be pleasant to make, 
if only we possessed documents sufficiently- 
numerous and illuminating" on the subject. 
A mere passing glance, however, is all that 
' Mme d'Arblay's Memoirs of Dr Bumey'^ 
affords us: "At Mrs Montagu's," she writes 
in her comparative account of "Bas-BIeu 
Societies," "the semi-circle that faced the 
fire retained during the whole evening its 
unbroken form, with a precision that made it 
seem described by a Brobdignagian compass, 

sent her the curious note that follows : " Paris, 1 5 Janvier 
I777' — ^Madame, I shall not trouble yourself to day with 
any other request but with my humble prayer to be so 
kind as to order the inclosed Letter to M. Catuelan be 
rendered to him, if possible and if you know of his 
adress in your City. There are two months and more, 
since I have no news of him, and it wou'd be essential 
fo me oge an n we f om h m I hope e kep not 
he n ogn o n London fo ou Tea o en 

be ween bhake pea e ai d \ o a and e fi as 

go many chan p on whom ne e u fo but 
Shake pea e t.ood fo defend ng h m e f la etc. 
P J> — M F ank n he e mu h pe k n of he 
Electricity. (From Mrs Climen&on s MSS.) A rather 
poor testimonial for a translator of Shakespeare I 
^ Ed. 1832, ii., 270-2. 



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264 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

The lady of the castle commonly placed her- 
self at the upper end of the room, near the 
commencement of the curve, so as to be 
courteously visible to all her guests ; having 
the person of the highest rank, or consequence, 
properly on one side, and the person the 
most eminent for talents, sagaciously on the 
other, or as near to her chair and her converse 
as her favouring eye and a complacent bow of 
the head could invite him to that distinction. 
Her conversational powers were of a truly 
superior order : strong, just, clear, and often 
eloquent. Her process in argument, not- 
withst^ding an earnest solicitude for pre- 
eminence, was uniformly polite and candid. 
But' her reputation for wit seemed always in 
her thoughts, marring their natural flow and 
untutored expression. No sudden start of 
talent urged forth any precarious opinion ; 
no vivacious new idea varied her logical 
course of ratiocination. Her smile, though 
most generally benignant, was rarely gay ; 
and her liveliest sallies had a something of 
anxiety rather than of hilarity, — till their 
success was ascertained by applause. Her 
form was stately, and her manners were 
dignified. Her face retained strong remains 



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DINNERS AND CONVERSATION 265 

of beauty throughout life ; and though its 
native cast was evidently that of severity, 
its expression was softened off in discourse 
by an almost constant desire to please." 
Sir Nathaniel Wraxall, who first knew her 
in December 1776,^ corroborates Mme 
d'Arblay's testimony: "Mrs Montagu," he 
says, "was accustomed to open her house to 
a large company of both sexes, whom she 
frequently entertained at dinner. A service 
of plate, and a table plentifully covered, 
disposed her guests to admire the splendour 
of her fortune, not less than the lustre of her 
talents." Though she then verged, he goes 

' His first book, Cursory Remarks made in a Tour 
throagk some of the Northern Parts of Europe^ had 
appeared in 1775, and, on ist December 1776, he 
thus introduced himself to Mrs Montagu ; " I feel 
myself too highly honoured in Mrs Montagu's permission 
to present to her my present work, not to seize the earliest 
occasion of laying it at her feet, though my diffidence at 
appearing in such a presence almost restrains me from 
availing myself of her goodness. To recommend it to 
her candour, and to request her indulgence for its faults, 
is, I know, unnecessary. Though her judgment will 
oblige her to see, her generosity of mind will induce her 
to conceal its blemishes and errors. They are too 
numerous to escape her penetration, and I am obliged 
to take shelter from the superiority of her understand- 
ing in the beneficence of her heart ..." (From Mr 
Broadleys MSS.) 



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266 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

on, "towards her sixtieth year, her person, 
which was thin, spare, and in good preserva- 
tion, gave her an appearance of less antiquity. 
All the lines of her countenance bespoke 
intelligence, and her eyes were accommodated 
to her cast of features, which had in them 
something satirical and severe, rather than 
amiable" or inviting. She possessed great 
natural cheerfulness, and a flow of animal 
spirits ; loved to talk, and talked well on 
almost every subject; led the conversation, 
and was qualified to preside in her circle, 
whatever subject of discourse was started : 
but her manner was more dictatorial and 
sententious, than conciliating or diffident. 
There was nothing feminine about her ; and 
though her opinions were usually just, as 
well as delivered in language suited to give 
them force, yet the organ which conveyed 
them was not musical."^ She claimed the 
leadership in the ' ' semi-circle " of her guests ; 
she "reasoned and harangued"^ at great 
length ; for, as we know, she loved the sound 
of her own voice too well.^ 

' Historical MemoirSi pp. 85-6- 

' As Miss Burney says, Diaty,\.,'iyi. 

' Cf. above, pp. 37 seq. 



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THE BLUE STOCKINGS 267 

The "Blue Stocking" parties at her house 
or at Mrs Vesey's, whatever their imjjerfec- . 
tions, possessed the double merit of novelty 
and usefulness. They answered a sociah"- 
need of the time. With the progress and 
diffusion of knowledge, women— at least the 
best educated , among them — were becoming 
desirous of intellectual converse with men. 
They suffered from the injurious isolation 
and neglect to which, even in drawing-TOoms, 
they were often consigned- They felt almost 
affronted, when "scholars and authors" 
seemed to shun them. " As if the two sexes 
had been in a state of war," Mrs Carter wrote 
on one such occasion, "the gentlemen ranged 
themselves on one side of the room, where 
they talked their own talk, and left us poor 
ladies to twirl our shuttles, and amuse each 
other, by conversing as we could. By what 
little I could overhear, our opposites were 
discoursing on the old English poets, and 
. this subject did not seem so much beyond 
a female capacity, but that we might have 
been indulged with a share in it,"^ When,, 
at Mrs Montagu's table or in her "room of 

' Letters from Mrs Elisabeih Carter to Mrs Montagu, 
ed. 1817, iii., 68 (May 1778)- 



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268 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

Cupidons," Johnson, Burke, Richard Owen 
Cambridge, Hannah More, Miss Burney, 
Mrs Carter herself, were assembled together, 
they could freely discuss such topics as 
interested them all. Neither were they com- 
pelled unwillingly to pore on packs of cards, 
as happened in so many other London houses, 
where permission to enter and take a seat 
was bought at. twelve pence,^ in fees to 
the servants. With righteous indignation, 
Hannah More condemns this scandalous 
practice of "card-money," paid as part of 
their wages to the domestics entrusted with 
the care of " furnishing the implements of 
diversion for the guests of their masters."^ 
What intelligent conversation could be started, 
when, around a table, all eyes were gazing 
at trumps or honours, when money was lost 
and won, sometimes by hundreds of pounds? 
In a sprightly poem entitled The Bos Bleuf 
the same Hannah More exclaims, in praise 

' See Horace Walpole's Z^«iirj, ed. Toynbee, ii. 117 
(1745)- 

' " Thoughts ^m the Manners of the Great, 1798 ( Wbrks, 
ed. 1853, ii., 251). 

^ It was read in MS. by Pepys to a parly at his house, 
so early as November 1783 ; but did cot appear before 
1786. 



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HANNAH MORE'S BAS BLEV 269 

of the learned ladies that had banished 
cards and gambling from their drawing- 



" Long was society o'er-run 

By whist, that desolating Hun ; 

Long did quadrille despotic sit, 

That Vandal of colloquial wit ; 

And conversation's setting light 

Lay half-obscur'd in Gothic night ; 

At length the mental shades decline, 

Colloquial wit begins to shine ; 

Genius prevails, and conversation 

Emerges into reformation. i^ 

The vanqtiish'd triple crown to you 

Boscawen sage, bright Montagu, 

Divided fell ; — your cares in haste 

Rescued the ravag'd realms of taste ; 

And Lyttelton's accoiriplish'd name, 

And witty Pulteney shar'd the fame ; 

The men, not bound by pedant rules, 

Nor ladies pr^cietises ridicules ; 

For polish'd Walpole shew'd the way, 

How wits may be both learn'd and gay ; 

And Carter taught the female train. 

The deeply wise are never vain ; 
.And she, who Shakespeare's wrongs redrest, 

Prov'd that the brightest are the best. . . ." " 

, That the example and efforts of this little 
band of "reformers" contributed to raise 
the tone and to refine the manners of the 



I iVorks, ed. 1853, v., ^it-j. 



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270 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

higher circles in the metropolis, seems to us 
unquestionable. 

A writer on Mrs Montagu, "the Queen 
of the Blues," will probably be expected to 
throw some light on the origin of that 
curious phrase, the " Bas Bleus" or "Blue 
Stockings." To our great concern, though 
we have searched deep for it, the solution 
of the problem still eludes us. Some will 
have it that " calze turchine " were first 
gaily flaunted in Venice at the time of the 
Renaissance ; others maintain that they came 
direct from France as an eighteenth-century 
"article de Paris. "^ We cannot assent to 
this foreign view of the matter. With all 
his contemporaries, we firmly believe — but 
cannot demonstrate — that one of the wisest 
men in his generation, a poet, philosopher, 
musician, and naturalist, called Benjaniio 
Stillingfleet,^ was the involuntary cause of 
this appellation. The disinherited grandson 
of the once famous Bishop of Worcester, he 
had early learnt in the school of poverty and 

■^ See The Qftarterly Review for January 1903, pp, 68-g. 
Mrs CUmenson's remarks, li., 98, are based on a misquota- 
tion of a passage in Miss Gaussen's Later Pepys, i., 43, 

' Cf. The Literary Life and Select Works of B. S., 2 
. vols., London, 1811. 



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BENJAMIN STILLINGFLEET 271 



dependence a lesson of humility and s 
He had been a subsizar at Cambridge, a 
preceptor in a squire's family, and a for- 
saken lover after a ten years' courtship. The 
greatest success he could ever boast of in the 
world was an appointment to the place of 
" barrack-master at Kensington," worth about 
;^ioo a year. "You know not what it is," 
he once wrote to a friend, " to have ill-health, 
and therefore I will tell you it is a certain 
specific for some passions ; you know not 
what it is to be disappointed in every aim 
in life, which, I must tell you, is another 
specific for other passions ; and, when these 
passions are gone, there is but very little 
difference between a prince and a beggar." ^ 
From his many sorrows, the unambitious, 
resigned Stillingfleet had taken refuge in 
the cultivation of his garden, which gave 
him health, and in the study of botany 
and harmony, which procured him some 
pleasure. He was often seen at Bath or 
about town, doubtless stooping in his gait 
and plunged in his mildly pessimistic 
thoughts. His accomplishments as a scholar 
' Cf. The Literary Life and Select Works of B. S., 



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272 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

and a wit made him a fevourite with Mrs 
Montagu* and the other learned ladies. 
One day, about 1750, he was at Bath, and 
received an invitation to "a literary meeting 
at Mrs Vesey's." He "declined to accept 
it," Mme d'Arblay informs us, "from not 
being, he said, in the habit of displaying a 
proper equipment for an evening assembly. 
'Pho, pho,' cried Mrs Vesey, with her well- 
known, yet always original simplicity, while 
she looked inquisitively at him and his 
accoutrement, 'don't mind dress! Come in 
^-your blue stockings ! ' With which words, 
humorously repeating them as he entered 
the apartment of the chosen coterie, Mr 
Stillingfleet claimed permission to appear 
according to order. And those words ever 
after were fixed in playful stigma upon Mrs 
Vesey's associations."^ It seems a confirma- 
tion of this account that, on 13th November 
1756, a friend of Mrs Montagu's should 
write to her that "Monsey," the physician 
of Chelsea Hospital, "swears he will make 
out some story of you and Stillingfleet before 

' She had entrusted him with the care of correcting 
the proofs other £ssay in 1769, cf. above, p. 150. 
' Memoirs of Doctor Burney, ed. 1832, 11., 362-3. 



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THE ORIGINAL BLUE STOCKING 273 

you are much older ; you shall not keep 
blew stockings at Sandleford for nothing."^ 
And Mrs Montagu herself, in the following 
March, having mentioned Stillingfleet in a 
letter to Monsey, said of him: "I assure 
you our old philosopher is so much a man 
of pleasure, he has left off his old friends 
and his blue stockings, and is at operas 
and other gay assemblies every night." ^ 
Stillingfleet and his "blue stockings" there- — 
fore became interchangeable terms among his 
acquaintances. As Boswell observes : "Such 
was the excellence of his conversation, that 
his absence was felt as so great a loss that it 
used to be said : ' We can do nothing without 
the blue stockings ; ' and thus by degrees the 
title was established."* Wherever Stilling- 
fleet appeared, there were the Blue Stockings. 
By a very natural process, the name extended 
from Mrs Vesey's parties to those of Mrs 
Montagu and others. It even crossed the 
Channel at the end of the century.* 

' Mrs CUMENSON, ii., 98. 

^ Letters, iv., 117. 

' Life of Johnson, Globe ed,, p. 568. 

* We do not remember that the phrase was ever 
appUed to the parties at Mme du Deffand's, Mile de 
Lespinasse's, and Mme Geoffrin's. 



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274 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

Since the institution and its "title" in all 
probability originated with Mrs Vesey, it 
would be unjust to pass her over in silence. 
She formed a strong contrast with Mrs 
. Montagu ^ in her disposition and manners. 
She seemed "of imagination all compact," 
and her friends had affectionately nicknamed 
her "the Sylph," for, like an "astherial" 
being, she lived and thought "in a world 
of her own." In her actual work-a-day life 
she was none too happy. Fondly attached 
to her second husband, Agmondesham Vesey, 
of Lucan, near Dublin, "for many years a 
member of the Irish House of Commons 
and Comptroller and Accountant-General for 
Ireland,"^ she had not succeeded in fixing 
his affections. " He has many amiable 
qualities," Mrs Carter said in 1774, "and 
would have many more if he formed his 
standard of action from his own mind, for I 
am inclined to think he is not vicious so 

' Whose friend she was, and who, in 1755, described 
her as "a very amiable, agreeable woman," with "an 
easy politeness that gains one in a moment." {Letters, 
iil, J.a) 

^ Preface to the Letters between Mrs Elizabeth Carter 
and Miss Catherine Talbot, ed. 1819, I., xiii. The third 
volume consists of letters from Mrs Carter to Mrs Vesey. 



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MRS VESEY 275 

much from inclination as from the example 
of the world. If it was a fashionable thing- 
for wits and scholars and lord - lieutenants 
and other distinguished personages to be true 
to their wives, probably our friend would 
not have found him an unfaithful husband."' 
This disappointment had doubtless enhanced 
Mrs Vesey's flightiness and her dissatis- 
faction with the things of this world: "She 
scarcely ever enjoys any one object," Mrs 
Carter wrote to Mrs Montagu, "from the 
apprehension that something better may 
possibly be found in another. It is really 
astonishing to see how this restless pursuit 
counteracts all the feelings of her amiable 
and affectionate heart. There are few things, 
I believe, that she loves like you and me ; 
yet, when she is with us, she finds that you 
and I, not being absolute divinities, have no 
power of bestowing perfect happiness, and 

' Letters fi-om Mrs Carter to Mrs Montagu, ed. 1817, 
ii., 296. Cf. this passage of a letter from Mrs Montagu to 
her sister (1785) : " - . . You will be sony to hear that Mr 
Vesey has behaved hke a wretch to my poor friend. . . . 
He has left £1000 to his kept mistress, poor recompense 
to be sure for mortal sin and loathsome habits, but he 
has shown more regard to his companion in iniquity than 
to his tender, faithful friend. I will say no more of the 
Monster, for I cannot think of him with patience, . . ." 



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276 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

so from us she flies away, to try if it is to 
be met with at an assembly or an opera. "^ 
Ever ingenious at difficulties and little dis- 
tresses, she lived in "a perpetual forecast of 
disappointment," One day she fancied that 
she was losing her senses, or else she felt 
her memory going and her power of express- 
ing herself decreasing. The joys of friend- 
ship were spoilt for her by the bitter thought 
of their transitoriness. "Is it reasonable," 
Mrs Carter exclaimed on reading her com- 
plaints, "to wish to reject the possession of 
any real good, merely because it may happen 
not to be a perpetuity ? " ^ She had ' ' a 
mind formed for doubt," she said of herself, 
and her bias towards scepticism, though un- 
decided, alarmed her pious friends by its 
intermittent recurrence. " Never listen to 
the half learning, the perverted understand- 
ing, and pert ridicule of French philosophers 
and beaux esprits, who would persuade you 
it is best to wander over a wide, stormy 
ocean without a pilot and without a lead- 
ing start" Never take delight, Mrs Carter 
told her, "in the writings or conversation 

' Carter Letters to Mrs Montagu, ii., log-io. 
* Talbot Letters, iii., 45. 



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MRS VESEY 277 

of a licentious profligate infidel like the Abb6 
Raynal," whom Mrs Vesey — and also Mrs 
Montagu — welcomed to their houses in 1776.^ 
In the confusing crowd of fanciful anxieties 
which her "visionary imagination" conjured 
up, Mrs Vesey often lost her presence of 
mind. "With her," says WraxatI, "this 
forgetfulness extended to such a point, that 
she sometimes hardly remembered her own 
name. It will scarcely be credited, that 
she could declaim against second marriages, 
to a lady of quality who had been twice 
married, and though Mr Vesey was her own 
second husband. When at last reminded 
of the circumstance, she only exclaimed, 
' Bless me, my dear, I had quite forgotten 
itl'" As Wraxall wisely remarks, "there 
was some decay of mind in such want of 
recollection."^ In fact, after the death of her 
husband in 1785, Mrs Vesey gradually sank 
into "a most afflicting state of imbecility." 

But she remained to a very late period of 
her life a delightful being, whom all that 
knew her loved and petted almost, like a 

^ On his loquacity, see Wraxall's Historical Memoirs, 
ed. 1904, p. 94. 

" Jbid.,z^•^. 



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278 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

fcivourite child. The " gentleness " of her 
temper showed itself in her winning ways. 
" What English heart ever excelled hers?" 
cried Horace Walpole/ once sceptical, but 
soon converted. In a luminous passage of a 
letter to Mrs Montagu, Mrs Carter, comment- 
ing on the skill with which "the Sylph " con- 
ducted her "heterogeneous assembhes," thus 
explains the secret of her success and charm ; 
"One means by which she preserves so many 
naturally jarring characters as compose her 
motley crowd from quarrelling with each other, 
is by contriving to put them all into perfect 
good humour with themselves. . . . As, 
upon these occasions, our Sylph has not a 
grain of vanity, nor the least degree of merely 
personal feelings, she has an infinite deal of 
attention to bestow in adapting herself to 
the feelings of others ; and thus, without any 
appearance of flattery, of effort, or of design, 
she accomplishes the point of making each 
of the individuals with whom her blue room^ 

^Letters, ed. Paget Toynbee, xiv., s (1787)- 
^ In Bolton Row, and, after October 1779, in Clarges 
Street, Piccadilly. With Mrs Boscawen in South Audley 
Street, Mrs Montagu in Hill Street or Portraan Square, 
and Mrs Carter herself in Clarges Street, the most 
eminent " Blue Stockings " almost elbowed one another. 



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MRS VESEY 3?9 

is crowded, consider itself as a principal and 
distinguislied object ; and wherever people 
can imagine tliemselves to possess the first 
place, they will always be in wonderful good 
humour with all the world about them."^ 
At her own parties Mrs Montagu, we may 
remember, claimed for herself "the first 
place" at the head of the "semi-circle" of 
her guests. Mrs Vesey, less ambitious, 
abhorred this cold formality : 

"Th' enchantress wav'd her wand, and spoke 1 
Her potent wand the circle broke : " 

SO wrote the poetess of the Bas Bleu,''' and 
Mme d'Arblay, in a picturesque page of 
the Memoirs of Dr Burney,^ has left us a 
vivid description of the scene: "Mrs Vesey 
was as mirth-provoking from her oddities and 
mistakes as Falstaff was wit-inspiring. . . . 
Her fears were so great of the horror, as 
it was styled, of a circle, from the ceremony 
and awe which it produced, that she pushed 
all the small sofas, as well as chairs, pell- 

'^ Carter Letters, ii., 184-5 (i??^). 

' The Works of Hannah More, ed. 1853, v., 320. 
For a description of Mrs Vesey's parties between 1781 
and 1784, see Hannah More's Memoirs, \., 212, 278, 
357. 359. 

'Ed. 1832 ii., 264-8, 



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28o SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

mell about the apartments, so as not to 
leave even a zigzag path of communication 
free from impediment : and her greatest 
delight was to place the seats back to baclt, 
so that those who occupied them could 
perceive no more of their nearest neighbour 
than if the parties had been sent into different 
rooms : an arrangement that could only be 
eluded by such a twisting of the neck as 
to threaten the interlocutors with a spasmodic 
affection.^ . . . With really lively parts, a 
fertile imagination, anda pleasant quickness of 
remark, she had the unguardedness of child- 
hood, joined to an Hibernian bewilderment 
of ideas that cast her incessantly into some 
burlesque situation, and incited even the 
most partial, and even the most sensitive 
of her own countrymen to relate stories, 
speeches, and anecdotes of her astonishing 
self-perplexities, her confusion about times 
and circumstances, and her inconceivable 
jumble of recollections between what had 
happened, or what might have happened ; 
and what had befallen others, that she 

^ Cf., however, Madame d'AEBLAY's Diary, ed. 1876, 
i., 120 : " the chairs are drawn into little parties of three 
together, in a confused manner, all over the room." 



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MRS VESEY 281 

imagined had befallen herself: that made her 
name, though it could never be pronounced 

without personal regard, be constantly coupled 
with something grotesque. . . . But what most 
contributed to render the scenes of her social 
circle nearly dramatic In comic effect, was 
her deafness. . . . She had commonly two or 
three or more ear-trumpets hanging to her 
wrists, or slung about her neck, or tost upon 
the chimney-piece or table. The instant 
that any earnestness of countenance or anima- 
tion of gesture struck her eye, she darted 
forward trumpet in hand to inquire what 
was going on,^ but almost always arrived 
at the speaker at the moment that he was 
become, in his turn, the hearer. And 
after quietly listening some minutes, she 
would gently utter her disappointment by 
crying: 'Well, I really thought you were 
talking of something.' And then, though a 
whole group would hold it iitting to flock 
around her, and recount what had been 
said, if a smile caught her roving eye from 

' Cf. Mrs Delany {Autobiography and Correspondence, 
vi., 219) : "Poor Mrs Vesey is so deaf that, when she 
is in company, she carries her stool and cushion from 
one end of the room to the other, to be near those 
that are engaged in conversation" (1784), 



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282 SOCIAL AND LITERARY CIRCLE 

any opposite direction, the fear of losing 
something more entertaining would make 
her beg not to trouble them, and again 
rush on the gayer talkers. But as a laugh 
is excited more commonly by sportive 
nonsense than by wit, she usually gleaned 
nothing from her change of place and 
hastened therefore back to ask for the rest 
of what she had interrupted. But generally 
finding that set dispersing or dispersed, 
she would look around her with a forlorn 
surprise and cry : ' I can't conceive why 
it is that nobody talks to-night. I can't 
catch a word.' Yet with all these peciiliarities 
Mrs Vesey was eminently amiable, candid, 
gentle and even sensible, but she had an 
ardour to know whatever was going forward 
and to see whoever was named, that kept her 
curiosity constantly in a panic, and almost 
dangerously increased the singular wanderings 
of her imagination. Here, amongst the few 
remaining men of letters of the preceding 
literary era, Dr Burney met Horace Walpole, 
Owen Cambridge, and Soame Jenyns, who 
were commonly then denominated the old 
wits." 
__3"he life that the "blue stockings" led, 



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ELEGANCE AND EASE 283 

within the privileged circle of the nobility 
or higher gentry/ appears to us from a 
distance as singularly calm and pleasant- 
It passed, unruffled by any mighty commo- 
tion, political or social. When it reached its 
most brilliant period, "from 1770 to 1785,"^ 
the '45 was already forgotten, and the French 
Revolution yet unforeseen. The echoes of 
the American War hardly disturbed the 
peaceful tenour of Mrs Montagu's and of 
Mrs Vesey's assemblies. Convinced that the 
foundations of society and of their creed were 
proof against any assault, they had no cares 
but those which the course of our every- 
day life brings to man at all seasons and 
in all ages. From the anxieties of playing 
deep and thinliing deep, they prudently 
abstained, and gave the best of their time 
to the enjoyment of conversation on their 
fevourite subjects : criticism and poetry.' 

' On the " narrow boundaries " of that society, cf. Sir 
George Trevelyan, The Early History of Ch. J. Fox, 
ed. igor, pp. 68-9. 

° Wraxall's Historical Memoirs, ed. 1904, p. 96. 



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CONCLUSION 

In a passage of his Historical Memoirs,^ 
Wraxali asks himself whether the "literary 
society of London," at the period we have 
been speaking of, " could enter into any com- 
petition for extent of talents, and superiority 
of attainments, with the society of Paris, 
that met at the apartments of Madame du 
Deffand, and of Mademoiselle de Lespinasse"; 
and he is of the opinion "that neither in 
the period of its duration, nor in the number, 
merit, or intellectual eminence of the principal 
members, could the English society be held 
up on any parity with that of France." There 
can be no doubt that Wraxali is right in 
his judgment. The inferiority of the social 
and literary assemblies in Hill Street or 
Bolton Row, as compared with those at the 
"couvent St Joseph" or in the Rues St 

^ Ed. igOij, p. 96. 
284 



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BAS BLEUS 285 

Dominique and St Honore,^ seems due to 
several causes, the most important one being 
perhaps the preference which, at all times, 
the English have shown for "clubs composed 
exclusively of men," where "researches of 
taste and literature constitute " by no means 
"the basis and the central point of union. "^ 
In spite of Mrs Montagu's and of Mrs Vesey's 
exertions, their contemporaries remained 
addicted to cards and wine. Ever since 
"Lady Shrewsbury, in Queen Anne's time" 
first introduced card parties,^ the life of the 
aristocracy, during the eighteenth century, 
appears to us as one long play-day. "What 
devastations are made by that destructive 
fury, the spirit of Play ! " lamented Lord 
Lyttelton in 1750. " The time, the fortunes, 
the honour and the consciences of our nobility 
and gentry, both male and female, are all 
falling a prey to it, and, what is still worse, 
the force of the law has been tried against 
it, and proves ineffectual."* How could a 
' Respectively the abodes of Mme du DetFand, 
Mile de Lespinasse, and Mme Geoffrin. 

* Wraxall, ibid.^ p. loi. ^ 

= See Lord E. Fitzmaurice's Life of Shdburm, 
Autobiography, t, 51. 

* To Doddridge, in Phillimore'S Ufe of LytleUon 
p.42i. 



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286 CONCLUSION 

man like Sir John Bland, who in one night 
successively lost ;^32,ooo and "recovered 

the greatest part of it,"i leave the excitement 
of gambling for the tameness of the intel- 
lectual pleasures to be enjoyed in a set of 
more or less elderly ladies? "The gaming 
at Almack's,^ which has taken the pas of 
White's, is worthy the decline of our Empire," 
Horace Walpole wrote in 1770. " The young 
men of the age lose five, ten, fifteen thousand 
pounds in an evening there. Lord Stavor- 
daIe,^notone-and-twenty, lost eleven thousand 
there, last Tuesday, but recovered it by one 
great hand at hazard : he swore a great oath 
— 'Now, if I had been playing i^^e/, I might 
have won millions I '" * The recklessness of 
the Clubs was, to some extent, shared in by 
the Town : society in those days seemed "one 
vast casino."^ In the idleness of fashion- 
able life, gambling proved the easiest and the 
most fascinating way of killing time. " rcame 

' Horace Walpole'S Letters, ed. Joynbee, iii., 228. 

^ Known later on as Brookes's. 

' Eldest son of Stephen Fox, fiist Earl of Ilchester 
and twin brother to Henry Fox, Charles's father. 

^ Horace Walpole's Letters, vii'., 365. 

s Sir Geobge Tkevelvan's Early History of Ch. 
/. Fox, ed. 1901, p. 83. ^ 



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CLUB LIFE PREFERRED 287 

to town yesterday for a party at Bedford House, 
made for Princess Emily," Horace Walpole 
said in 1761. " There was limited loo for the 
Princess, unlimited for the Duchess of Grafton, 
a table of quinze, and another of quadrille."^ 
Men who, but for this besetting sin, *ould 
have been the ornament and delight of their 
social circle, wasted their fortunes and health 
in the most futile and exasperating of all 
pastimes : " Lord Chesterfield has had a 
stroke of apoplexy," Mrs Delany wrote in 
1756. "It is generally thought the anxious 
life he has led among gamesters has 
occasioned this stroke. Whatever effect it 
may have had on his constitution, it is a 
severe reproach and blemish to his character 
as a man possessed of superior talents to 
most of his sex, so good an understanding, 
such brilliancy of wit, so much discernment 
in seeing the foibles of others, and when 
he thought his example of consequence (as 
when Lord Lieutenant in Ireland), so great 
a command Of himself for nearly a whole 
year ! Is it not strange he should at last fall 
a sacrifice to that desperate vice, gaming?"^ 

' Letters, v,, 62-3. 

' Autobiography and Correspondence, iii. 404-5. 



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288 CONCLUSION 

He recovered, however, and, in 1758, 
Rigby mentioned him as looking quite 
well, and saying " he shall not be per- 
fectly so till hazard comes in,"^ To what 
bitter repentance and cruel embarrassments 
this passion could lead, we see by the 
following note^ from Lord Carlisle to Selwyn, 
the famous wit: "My dear George, I have 
undone myself, and it is to no purpose to 
conceal from you my abominable madness 
and folly. ... I never lost so much in 
five times as I have done to-night, and am 
in debt to the house ^ for the whole." 
Wilberforce himself, on entering public life 
in 1780, sought election at " all the leading 
clubs." "The first time I was at Brookes's," 
he says, " scarcely knowing any one, I joined 
from mere shyness in play at the faro table, 
where George Selwyn kept bank. A friend 
who knew my inexperience, and regarded 
me as a victim decked out for sacrifice, 
called to me, ' What, Wilberforce, is that 
you ? ' Selwyn quite resented the interference 

' The Bedford Correspondence, ed. 1843, ii. 359. 

2 Circa July 1776, endorsed by Selwyn " after the 
loss of the ^10,000"; see Jesse's George Selwyn and 
his Contemporaries, iii. 136. 

' Brookes's. 



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GAMBLING AND INTEMPERANCE 289 

and said in his most expressive tone, * O sir, 
don't interrupt Mr Wilberforce, he could not 
be better employed.' " ^ Everybody knows that 
Charles Fox spent at Brookes's or at New- 
market all the time "which was not devoted to 
the House of Commons," ^ that in his thirst for 
excitement, though an excellent player "at 
whist and at picquet," he preferred "games of 
chance, particularly faro," that "to this pursuit, 
or rather rage, he sacrificed a sinecure place of 
^£'2,000 a year for life, the Clerkship of the 
Pells in Ireland, a fine estate situated at 
Kingsgate in the Isle of Thanet," and, over 
and above these losses, incurred a debt of 
;^i40,ooo, which had to be discharged from 
his father's own property.* The ruin begun 
by gambling was often consummated by 
intemperance. Horace Walpole speaks in 
1772 of Charles Fox as just arrived from 
Newmarket, having sat up drinking all night 
and not been in bed, yet making an admirable 
speech in the House.* Sheridan, at sixty, 
reminded Wraxall of the "companions of 

' Ufe of Wilberforce by his sons, 1838, i., 16-8. 

* Wraxall'S Historical Memoirs, ed. 1904, pp. 343-4. 
^ Memorials of Ch. J. Fox, 1854, i., 92. 

* Letters, viii., 157. 



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ago CONCLUSION 

Ulysses who tasted of Circe's charmed cup,' 
so striking was " the metamorphosis produced 
in his appearance by repeated and habitual 
intoxication."^ Amidst these wild excesses, 
the "Blue Stocking" parties formed a little 
oasis of wisdom, which the impetuous youth 
of the time avoided, in their mad chase after 
more stirring scenes. 

Englishmen are, as we know, born in- 
dividualists. Singularity, eccentricity even, 
is with them a quality, not a defect. As 
Walpole says, they " establish a right to their 
own way,"^ and, if denied, they take it. 
Their literati never flocked to the Capital, as 
the French have done at all times, especially 
in the eighteenth century. "The circle in 
London," Wraxall remarks, " was, from 
various causes, necessarily much more con- 
tracted than in France, where every person 
distinguished by talents, with few excep- 
tions, commonly resided altogether in Paris." 
Very different was the case in England. 
Johnson, for many years domesticated with 
Mrs Thrale at Streatham, devoted, of course, 
the greatest part of his leisure to her suburban 

' Postkumous Memoirs, ed. 1836, i., 39. 
^Letters,v\,, 312. 



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ENGLISH ASSEMBLIES 291 

assemblies ; Goldsmith, though occasionally 
seen at Mrs Vesey's, had no talent for con- 
versation, and was chiefly remarkable for his 
simplicity and absent-mindedness; Cambridge, 
a lesser star, lived at Twickenham, Horace 
Walpole at Strawberry Hill ; Hannah More 
paid only flying visits to London, and Fanny 
Burney too soon retired from society to the 
depressing atmosphere of a Court. Gibbon 
" never emulated to be a member of these 
assemblies and never attended them. Like 
Burke, he looked more to politics, than to 
letters, for his substantial recompense,'" and, 
when deprived of his income as one of the 
Lords Commissioners of trade, he definitively 
left London for Lausanne. Hume, Adam 
Smith, Robertson and Beattie resided at 
Edinburgh or Aberdeen, and seldom travelled 
southwards. Of guests so dispersed, the 
attendance could be but casual, and the 
invitations to the Blue Stocking assemblies 
partook of the same character. Neither Mrs 
Montagu nor Mrs Vesey ever seem to have 
had stated days, on which their friends could 
rely upon finding at their houses a breakfast, 
or dinner, and conversation afterwards. In 
' Wraxall'S Historical Memoirs, ed. 1904, pp. 97-8. 



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392 CONCLUSION 

Paris, on the contrary, a man of letters, 
provided he was something of a philosopher, 
could regularly spend his week in the follow- 
ing manner: on Sundays and Thursdays, he 
dined at the Baron d'HoIbach's ; on Mondays 
and Wednesdays, at Mme Geoffrin's ; on 
Tuesdays, at M. Helv6tius' ; on Fridays, at 
Mme Necker's ; and every evening, between 
five and nine o'clock, he was expected at 
Mile de Lespinasse's.^ He thus found his 
life mapped out for him with all the precision 
and symmetry of a French garden ; had he 
gone to London, he would have been disturbed 
in his habits by a confusion and irregularity 
equal to those of an English park. 

And, to conclude, it must be acknowledged 
that neither Mrs Vesey nor even Mrs Montagu 
could for one moment compete in amplitude 
of talents and in power of attraction with 
their illustrious contemporaries, the Marquise 
du Deffand, Mme Geoffrin and Mile de 
Lespinasse. With the last named of these, 
Mrs Vesey possessed in common a singula:r 
personal charm, a sweet forgetfulness of self 
and lack of vanity, that made her take delight 

1 Ste. Beove, Causeries du Lundi, ii., 125-6 (Mile de 
Lespinasse, zo mai 1S50). 



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MRS MONTAGU 293 

in the wit of others, without intruding her 
own. But what a contrast appears between 
the excessive simplicity, we might almost say 
the Intellectual debility, of the English lady, 
and the ardent nature of Mile de Lespinasse, 
whose sympathy for others was but a softened 
reflex of the flame that burned within her, 
and at last consumed her! Mrs Montagu's 
acquaintance with the world was probablyequal 
to Mme du Deffand's and Mme Geoffrin's. 
But in no passage of her printed correspond- 
ence can we discover any trace of their 
penetrating insight into the human heart, of 
their gift for character -painting, ruthlessly 
sarcastic in Mme du Deffand, familiar and 
almost humoristic in Mme Geoffrin. An 
egotist by temperament and education, Mrs 
Montagu could hardly go out of herself and 
see deep into others. Her observation played 
on the surface of men and things ; she under- 
stood their outward shows better than their 
hidden meanings. She loved all that attracts 
notice ; she aimed at dazzling the world with 
her diamonds and her accomplishments. Her 
exertions obtained the success they deserved. 
The splendour of her receptions, the range 
of her learning, superior even to Mme du 



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294 CONCLUSION 

Deffand's, were acknowledged by all her 

contemporaries. And alone among the 

women of fashion at that time, she claimed 

and won a place as a professed author and 

critic. 



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Adam, 213, zi6 

Addison, 145, 151 

-Eschylus, 158 

Msop, 8 

Albany, Countess of, 2 1 g 

Alembert (d'), 1741 183, 189- 
90, 192, 195 

Alison, 42-4 

Arblay, (M. d'), 245 

{Mme d'), 38, 41-2, 238- 

45 i Ceiilia, 240 ; Diary and 
Lettsrs, I, 2, 23-4, 38, 41-2, 
55, 57, 318-9, 239j 241-5. 258. 
z6o-2, 266, 2^3, 280, 291 ; 
Early Diary, 255 ; Memoirs 
of Dr Bumsy, 221, 263-5, 
372, zy^-Sz;Eveliiui, 1,238, 



Atnaud (Abb^), i38, 193 



Baker (Sir Geoi^e), Z43 
Barbauld(Mrs), 210 
Baretti (G.), 195-6 
BalhlWm. Pnlteney, Lord), 28, 
60-3, 72| 222, 269 



Beattie (James), 48, 80, 155, 
158, 164, 245-50, 291 ; Essay 
an Truth, 245, 247; Minstrel, 

24s m- 

Beaumont (Mme de), 225 

Belm (A.), 2 

Berry (Miss), 216 

Blair (DrJ, 143 

^lanc (Abbe le), Uttres d'un 

Fraa^ais, 109-10 
Bland {Sir John), 2S6 
Blondel, 167 

Bine Stockings, 270-3, 283, 290 
Boccage (Mme du), 205-6 
Boileau, 36 

Bolingbroke (Lord), 28 
Boscawen (Mrs), 2, 194, 207, 

209, 214, 235, 252, 269, 27S 
Boswell (J.), Life of Johnson, 

83, 142, 196, 256, 273 
Bower (A. ), 228-30 
Broadley (Mr A. M.}, vii. 63, 

153. 206, 225-7, 230, 233, 

236, 244, 253, 257, 259 
Brockman (J.), lo-ii 
Buffon, 172, 174, 176 
Bunyan, 231 
Burke (Edm.), 24, SS. 144. 250- 

5, 268, 291 
Burney (Br), 243, 256, 282 
— (Miss), see Arblay (Mme 

d') 
Burrows, 184 



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296 



Cambridge (R. O.), 26S, 2S2, 
291 

Camden (Lord), 227 

Cacaccioli, 173 

Caclyle (Lord), 388 

Carter (Mrs), 35, 41, SS-^< 62- 
5,67-8,76-7. 117. 119. 123. 
i64-S,t 167, 209-10, 220, 251, 
268-9, 278 ; Letters to Mis! 
Talbot, 58-9, 166, 274; Letters 
to Mrs Montagu, 59-60, 77, 
I2J, 143, 165-7, 267., 275-6, 
278 

Catuelan (Comte de), 179, 262 

Champs (Jean des), 73 

Chapone (Mrs), Works, 41, 214 

Chastelinx (de), 172, 174, 185, 
263, 2?3 

Chaucer (G.), "2 

Chenevix (Mrs), 231 

Chesterfield (Lord), 60, 72, 387 ; 
Letters, 71, 80 

Obber, 23 

Cicero, 37 

Cl&nent, 157 

Climensorr (Mrs E. J.), vii. 144, 
146, 152, 167-8, 221, 254, 
263, 273 ; Early Life of Mrs 
Montagu, vi. 4, 5, 10, 13, I4, 
18.20,25-8,36,39,46-7,51, 
58,60,62,68,72-3, 7?, 117- 
8, 207,228, 2JI-2, 2SS 

Coleridge (S. T.), 85 

Collier (J.), 9S 

Comeille, 114-5, "9 ^«?-i i^Si 
127, 129, 156-9, 180, 192, 
198-9 ; Cid, 132 i CiKna, 94, 
115, 120-1, 136-7, 160,202; 
Clitandre, 159; Olhon, 159, 
200; Pertharite, 200; Ser- 

Conrayer (Le), 230-4 
Cowper (Wm.), 156, 158, 217 



Dacier, 36, 153 
Dartmouth (Lord), 247 
Deffknd (Mme du), v. 172, 273, 

284-S, 292-4 ; Lettrss h Hor, 

Walpile, 171 
Delany (Mrs), 20,23-4, 240j-ej.; 

Autobiography, 20-1, 24, 141, 

20S, 214, 230, 281, 2S7 
Dennis (John), 92, 105-6; Im- 

partiiU Critick, 93 ; Letters on 

Shakespeare, 93-4 
Destouches, 195 
Dodsley, 151-2 
Donnellan (Mrs), 16, 24, 33 
Doran (Dt), A Lady of the Last 

Century, vi. 39, 51-2, 54, 84, 

153-4, 156, 214 
Douglas (Dr), 63 
Drake (E.), a 
Dryden (J.), 88,97-8, 100, 105; 

Assays, 85-7, 92 



ELiSEE(Pke), 183 
Elizabeth (Princess), 243 
Epictetus, 56 
Euripides, 95, 128, 130, 259 



Farmer (R.), '^5 
Farquhar (G.), L'l^'^oi, 

Comedy, 94-6, 125 
Ferrers (Lord), 74 
Fielding (H.), 23; 

Andrews, 58 ; To! 



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Fitzmaurice (Lord Edni.)j Shil- 

bume, 6a, 71,285 
Fletcher (J.), 86,92,96 
Flint, I iZ 

Fontaine- Malherbe, l7g 
Fontenelle, 72 
Forbes (Sir Wm.), Life "f 

BtattU, 49, Si, 156, 164, 

Foitescue (Lucy), 69 
FoxfCh. J,), 54, 226, 289 
FrankUn (B.), 263 
Frederick the Great, 67 
Fr^ron, Annie Littiraire, 72, 
77, 112, 128, 156-7, 179,181, 

Frost, Thomas Lytldton, 222 



Garrick (D.), 112, 142, 146, 

156, 166, 177, 211-2, 229-30, 

234J Correspondence, Hz, 118, 

126-7, 166, 212, 230 
Gaussen {Miss k,\ Later Fepys, 

1S4, 25S 
Ganssin (Mile), 3az 
Geof&in (Mme), v., 174, 305, 

224, 273, 285, 292 
Gessner(S.), 67 
GibboB (Edw.), 166, 291 ; AMe- 

biograpky, 8, 70 ; MHnoires 

lilUraires, 70; MisctUaneoas 

Works, 171 , 
Gildon (Ch.), 93 
Gloucester (Duke of), 219 
Glover (R.}, 153 
Goldsmith {0.)7 291 
Gower (Dowager Countess), 

141 
Griy(Th.), 84,259 
Gregory (Miss), 41-5, 166, 169, 

173, 214, 239, 246 

(Dr John), 41, 246, 249 

Grenville (George), 143 
Cresset, 177 



Grimm, Cifrrespendance litth-- 
aire, i8l-2, 184-9, '95-6) 
198-9 

Gruct, 186 

H 

Hanbcock (Mrs), 253 

Harley {Lady M. Cav,). Ste 

Portland (Duchess of) 
Harpe(dela), III, 186 
Harris a-), 143 
Hastings (W.), 55 
Haussonville (d'), 172 
Hayward (A.), Mrs Piozzi, 196 
Hazlitt(Wm.). 85. 105 
Helv^tius, 224, 292 
Herring (Archbishop), 28 
Hervey (Lord J.), 71 
(Lady), 224; Letters, si, 

Heskelh (Lady), 217 

Hogarth, 64 

Holbach (d^), 292 

liomer, 95, 100, 117, 186-8, 

194 
Horace, 36 

Hume{D.}, 70,96, 29) 
Huntingdon (ikdy), 54 
Hurd(R,), 14s 

J 

JKNVNS {S.), 282 

Jesse g.H.), 288 

Johnson (Dr), I, 72, So, 83, 95, 
105, 141-2, 145. 148, I55-&. 
158-60, 209-ro, 235, 239, 
255-62, 268, 290 ; Preface to 
Shakespeare, 10I-5, 123, 126 ; 
Life of Lyttelton, 258, 260 

Joneourt (de), 73 

Jonson (Ben), gS 

Jnsserand (J. J.), Shakespeare 
en Frame, 85, no, 166, 183 



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Lecky (W. E. H.), History of 

England, 60 
Lekain, iiS, 177 
Lenclos (N. de),,l53 
Lennox (Mrs), ri2 
Lespinasse (Mile de), 273. 284- 

s. 292-3 

Letournear, 179 seq., 190, 192, 
196, 362 

Longinus, 36 

LomsXlV., 192 

Loxmsbury(T. R.), Skakesptare 
ami Veltaire, 85, 114, 158, 
162, 1S2, 199 

Lucian, 72, 74 

Lylya.),3' 

Lyttelton (Geoi^e, Lord), 6, 
23, aS, 68-73, Si, 117, 143, 
152-3, 222, 228-30, 246-7, 
25S-9, 269, 285. Dialogais 
of the Dtad, 72, 258 ; Henry 
II., 69 ; Monody, 69, ^\ 

(Thomas, Lord), 6, 37, 



M 

Macphkeson (J.), 84 

Manlej (Mrs), 2 

Maxwell (Dr), 256 

Melmoth{Wm.), '53 

Mercure dt Frmice, 200 

Middieton (Dr Conyets), 6-7, 
2S. 35. 39 

Moliere, 36, 192, 195 ; Misan- 
thrope, 82 

Monckton (Miss), 3 



Monsey (Dc), 35, 272 
Montagu (Edw.), 46-9, Sr, 58, 

[44-5, 206, 208, 233, 2i;o 
: (Mrs), 

Life : birfh and family, 3-5 ; 
early years, at Coveney, 6, 
Cambridge, 6-7, Monks 
Horton, 7, Hayton, I1-13, 
26, 36-7, Tunbridge and 
Bath, Z3-4, Canterbury, 27, 
Bulslrode, 19-24 ; marriage, 
46-7; life at Sandleford, 
4S-S1, at Denton, 51-3 ; 
journey to Spa with Lord 
Bath and Mrs Carter, 63 
seq., Calsus, 64, Lisle, 
Courtray, Brussels, 65, 
LiJge, Spa, 66, Holland, 
67 ; journey to France in 
1776, 164 seq., at the 
French Academy, 183 seq. ; 
receptions in Hill Street, 
204-12, 263.6, in Portman 
Square. 27, 212-21, May- 
day feast, 221 [ social and 
literary circle, 222-73 ! her 
death, 221 

Character : irony, 8-1 1 j high 
yiirits, 1 1-4 ; vanity, 14- 
o, 26; love of praise, 24- 
8 ; lively imagination, 16- 
8; strength of will, 39- 
41 ; practical sense, 50-3 ; 
learning, 35-8 ; her episto- 
lary style, 28-38! modera- 
tion in opinions, 53-5 ; 
antipathy to Voltaire, rij- 
9 ; judgment on Corneille, 
1 19-22 ; inferiority to French 
Bas Bleos, 292-3 

Works; Letters, vi., 2-11, 13, 
15-6, rS, 24-5, 27-8. 30, 
32-7, 39-41, 4?-8. 50-1. 54, 
S5, 69-70, 73-4, So-4, 116. 
7, 119, 207, 229, 232 
251 



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Mrs Montague {continued) — 
Letters (in MSS. of Marquis 

of Bath), 7, 14, 3r, 43, SI, 

83, 204, 213 
Unpablisked Lettsrs : to Lord 

Bafii, 6z ; to Mr Montagu, 

144-6 ; to iier fatlier, 147- 

S2 ; to her brother, 170-1 ; 

to her sister, 168, 170, 198 ; 

to Mrs Vesey, 167, 184, 

194-5. *S4 
Dialogues of the Dead: 72-6, 

323 
Essay on Skakes^are. 

84- 239; ■ 

122-3 ; contents, 133-4 ; 

rejection, of the rules, 125- 

6 ; leading ideas, 126-36 ; 

Corneille's inferiority to 

Shakespeare, 136-7 ; Vol- 






n England, 141- 
50, i5o-y, in France, 156- 
8 ; published anonymously, 
148-52 ; its aim and value, 
159-64; translated, 198-203; 
Villemain's opinion, 303 
Montagu (Matthew), 167, 169, 

844 
Monthly Review, 144 
Morandi (L,), 196 
More (Hannah), 20S-9, 214-5, 
218-9, 234-8. 342- 25s. 259. 
368, 291 ; Bus Bleu, 268-g, 
279 ; Percy, 234-5, 238 ; 
Thoughts on the Manners of 
ike Great, 268 
Morgann (M. ), Essay an Fahlaff, 

loS. "S4 
Murphy (A.), ri8 
Mutville(A. de), 186 

N 






Newton (John), 236 
Nivernois (M, de), 174 
Noailles (M. and Mm 

North (Lord), 248 



Oglb (Mrs), 25s 
Ossian, 84 
Otway (Th,), 114 
Oxford (Lord), 19 



Paley (Wm.), 336 
PatufCl. P.), 112, n 
Pendarves (Mrs), r. 

(Mrs) 
Pennington (Rev. Montagu), 

167; Memoirs of Mrs Carter, 

56, 58, 60, 63, 67, r68 
Pepys(SirW. W,), 258 je?., 268 
Percy (Th.), 83 
Phillimore (Sir R.), life of Lord 

Lyttelton, 285 
Picquot, 168, 175 
Pindar, ^\ 

Piozii (Mrs), see Thrale (Mrs) 
Pitt (Aone), 252 
(Wm., Lord Chatham), 53, 

247, 252 

(Wm.), 54 

Place (de la), Thidtre anglois, 

Plotarch, 105 

Pope (A.), 83, 148, 151, 160; 

Preface to Skakesfeare, 99-101 
Portland (Duchess of), 17-19, 

24. 26-9, 31, 37-8, 51, 68, 

(second Duke of), 19,25,54 

Potter (R,), 259 

Provost. (Abb^), Potiret Conlre, 



Priestley (J.), 237 



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Prior (Sir James), Life of Burke, 



Ramsay (A.), 84 

Rapin, S8, 92 

Raynal (Abli^), 277 

Reynolds (Sir J.), 142, I44> 209, 

Riccoboni (L.), 109 

(Mme), 155, 160 

Richardson (S.), Paiiela, 23; 

Clarissa, 23, 56, 83 
Rigby, 288 
Roberts (Win.), Mtmoir% of H. 

More, 194, 209, 311, 214, 

ai8, 220, 234, 236, 279 
Robertson (Wm.), Jo, 291 
Robinson (Elizabeth), see 

Montagu (Mrs) 
(Matthew), her fether, 3-5, 

7, 146-7 
(Matthew), her eldest 

brother, 25-6, 146, 167, 170-1 

(Rictaid), Archbishop, 235 

(Sarah), see Scott (Mrs) 

Rochefort (Comtesse de), 174-5 

Risers (John), 51 

Rowe (Mrs), t? 

— — (Nicholas), Preface to 

Shakesptare, 97-9, loi, 104, 

Rutlidge (Chevalier), 196-8 
Rymer (TL), 95-8, 102, ro6, 
190-1 ; Reflections on Aristotle, 
8S; A Short View of Tragedy, 
88-92 ; Tragedies of the Last 
Age, 92-3 



Sackville (Th.). Gorbodue, 
191. 193 

Saintsbur}- (G.), History of 
Ciiticism, 8s, 158 

Sandwich (Lord High Admiral), 
46 

(Lord), 225-6 

Schwellenberg (Mrs), 244 

facott (Sarah, Mrs), 11, 55, 210 

Seeker (Archbishop), 56 

Sel«ya (George), 288 

Si;vigne(Mmede), 82, 153 

be ward, 256 

Shaftesbury (Lord), 96 

Shakespeare (Wm.), vi., 79, 85 
seq , 114^?., 129, 135, 145-6. 
inlsny and Cleopatra, 103. 
C&naianus, 94, 100. Henry 
IV., 116, 124, 159; Falstaif, 
31, 98, 134. 154-5. 162. ^79 ; 
Percy, 129; Pistol, 134-5. 
Henry V., 163. Hamlet, 17, 
98, io6-7, 110, 112, 114, 116. 
Julius Cxsar, 94, 100, 106, 
IIS, "4. 136, 138-41, 157. 
181, 190, 196-7; Brutvis 91-2. 
King John, 112, 116. King 
Lear, 159, 166, 177, 211. 
Macbeth, 98, 106, 112, 123, 
135,162-3,177,211. Merchant 
of Venice, 98. Othello, 89-91, 
ro6-7, no, 114, 181, 190. 
Romeo and Juliet, 80, ll2, 
197. Tit^est, 98, i8i 

Shelbume (Lord), 226 

Sheridan (R, B.), 289-90 

Shrewsbury (Lady), 285 

Smith, tl 

(Adam), 291 

(D. Nichol), Eighteenth 

Century Essays on Shake- 
speare, 85, 92-4, 99, 105, 136, 
14s, '55. 158-9 



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Sophocles, iiS-6, 125, 128, 192; 

(Edipus Colsneus, 81-2 
Spencer (Lady), 211-2 



Stillingfleel (B.), 150, 270-3 

Suard, 194 

Sully, 30 

Swift (J.), 19, 151 



Tacitus, 37 

Talbot (Miss Catherine), 58-9 

Taylor (Edw.), 154 

Tencm (Mme du), v. 

Thanet (Lord and Lady), 9 

Thomas, 173 

Thiale (Mrs), r, 2, 41, 238, 240, 

2SS-6, 260-1, 290 
Thucydides, 36-7 
Trevelyan (Sir G. 0.), 2S3, 286 
Tytler (Fraser, Lord Wood- 

houselee). Memoirs of Lord 

Karnes, I22 



Vkrtot, 37 

Vesey (Agmondesham), 242, 

274-S 
(Mrs), 2, 145, 164, 242, 

253, 260, 267, 272-3, 274.82, 

Viilemain, 203 

Vii^il, 117 

Voltaire, vi., 37, 72, 84, 101-2, 
ios-6, 111-2, 115, ri7-8, 120, 
124-5, 13I1 142. 148, 150, 156 
seq., V]%seg., 199, 250. Prose 
works luentioned ; Appel h 
teutes les Nations, 1 14 ; Can- 
dide, 117; Camtaeiiiaire siir 
ComeiBe, 115 ; £ssai sw la 
Po&ie 4fique, 108 ; Gasetle 



m}<. 301 

Littiraire, 120; Letirt A 
ct Argental, 1S2, 194, 198 ; 
Llttre b, PAcadimii, 183, 188 
seq., 195. Seconde Lettre i 
rkcad^ie.vi., 201-2; Ltltres 
fhilesophiques, 107-8. Poems: 
Eriphyle, 106 ; Henriadi, 

Jules Cisar, 138-41, 190, 203; 
Mahomet, 106, 181 ; Mort de 
Clsar, 181 ; Orpkelin de la 
Chine, llS; Simiramis, 106, 
prefece to, 11 1 ; Tancred, 39; 
ZaXre, Jo6, 177-8, 181 

W 

Waldegravb (Lord), 71 

Waller (E.), 87 

Walpole (Horace), 22, 269, 282, 
291 ! Letters, 19, 68, 72, 174, 
194, aoS, 215 seg., 225, 230, 
259. 278, 286-7, 289, 290; 
Memoirs of Georm IL, 7 1 

(Sir R.), 61 

WalsiDgham(Mrs), 2 

Warhurton (Wm.), 79, 80, 145, 
148 

Warton (J.), 144 

West (G.), 16, 28, 228, 231 

Wilberforce (Wm.), 236, 288-9 

Williams (Mrs), 255, 262 

Wrasaa(SirN,),z65; Historical 
Memoirs, 19, 222, 254, 262, 
265-6, 277, 283-s, 289, 290-1 



VouNG (Edw.), 27, 30, 177; 
Letters, 22.3, 28; Resignation, 
n8; Satires, 24; Litter oti 
Original Composition, 81 



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