Mary in her novel of Lodore, published in 1835, gave a version of the differences between Harriet and Shelley. Though Lord Lodore is more an impersonation of Mary's idea of Lord Byron than of Shelley, Cornelia Santerre, the heroine, may be partly drawn from Harriet, while Lady Santerre, her match-making mother, is taken from Eliza Westbrook. Lady Santerre, when her daughter is married, still keeps her under her influence. She is described as clever, though uneducated, with all the petty manoeuvring which frequently accompanies this condition. When differences arise between Lodore and his wife the mother, instead of counselling conciliation, advises her daughter to reject her husband's advances. Under these circumstances estrangements lead to hatred, and Cornelia declares she will never quit her mother, and desires her husband to leave her in peace with her child. This Lodore will not consent to, but takes the child with him to America. The mother-in-law speaks of desertion and cruelty, and instigates law proceedings. By these proceedings all further hope is lost.
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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley – Her Life And Works
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
British authoress, second wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley, the poet, was born in the Polygon, Somers Town, on 30 Aug. 1797, and was the only daughter of William Godwin the elder and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. Orphaned of her mother a few days after her birth, she was left to the care of her father, who, bewildered by the charge, soon began to look for some one to share it with him. After sundry rebuffs he at last found the needed person (December 1801) in his next-door neighbour, Mrs. Clairmont, a widow with a son and daughter—‘a clever, bustling, second-rate woman, glib of tongue and pen, with a temper undisciplined and uncontrolled; not bad-hearted, but with a complete absence of all the finer sensibilities’ (Marshall). She inspired no remarkable affection, even in her own children, and Mary was thrown for sympathy upon the companionship of her father, whose real tenderness was disguised by his frigid manner. It was natural that, as she grew up, she should learn to idolise her own mother, whose memory became a religion to her. There seems to have been nothing peculiar in her education. ‘Neither Mrs. Godwin nor I,’ Godwin had written, ‘have leisure enough for reducing modern theories of education to practice;’ but she must have imbibed ideas and aspirations from the numerous highly intellectual visitors to her father's shabby but honoured household. At the age of fifteen she is described by Godwin as ‘singularly bold, somewhat imperious, and active of mind. Her desire of knowledge is great, and her perseverance in everything she undertakes almost invincible.’ From June to November 1812, and again from June 1813 to March 1814, she resided at Dundee with friends, the Baxters, whose son was employed with her foster-brother, Charles Clairmont, in Constable's publishing house at Edinburgh. The day of her return was 30 March, and on 5 May, so far as can be ascertained from Godwin's diary, she first made acquaintance with Shelley, whom she had only once seen before, in November 1812. Shelley was then in the throes of his breach with Harriet. Mary, remitted from beloved friends to an uncongenial stepmother, was doubtless on her part pining for sympathy. By 8 June, to judge by Hogg's record of the meeting between them which he witnessed, they had become affectionate friends; but it was not until 28 July that they left England together, accompanied by Jane Clairmont.
The poet learnt of the death of his first wife in the middle of December 1816, and he married Mary Godwin about a fortnight later. For the next six years her history is almost absorbed in that of her illustrious husband. They were seldom apart, and her devotion to him was complete. Some differences were unavoidable between persons in many respects so diversely organised. Endowed with a remarkably clear, penetrating, and positive intellect, she could not always follow Shelley's flights, and was too honest to affect feelings which she did not really entertain. Possessing in full measure the defects of her qualities, she had not the insight to discern the prophetic character of Shelley's genius; and, although she admired his poetry, her inner sympathy was not sufficiently warm to console him for the indifference of the world. Expressions of disappointment occur occasionally both in his verse and his prose. He was probably thinking of himself when he wrote: ‘Some of us have loved an Antigone in a previous stage of existence, and can find no full content in any mortal tie.’ There were incidents, too, on his side to test both her patience and her affection. With every deduction on these accounts, the union was nevertheless in the main a happy one. Mary undoubtedly received more than she gave. Nothing but an absolute magnetising of her brain by Shelley's can account for her having risen so far above her usual self as in ‘Frankenstein.’ The phenomenon might have been repeated but for the crushing blow of the death of her boy William in 1819. From this time the keynote of her existence was melancholy. Her father's pecuniary troubles, and the tone he chose to take with reference to them, also preyed upon her spirits, insomuch that Shelley was obliged at last to intercept his letters. With all this she was happier than she knew, and after Shelley's death she exclaims, with tragic conviction, ‘Alas! having lived day by day with one of the wisest, best, and most affectionate of spirits, how void, bare, and drear is the scene of life!’ Trelawny was her favourite among her husband's circle; but Byron, much as he made her suffer in many ways, also endeared himself to her. She associated him with Switzerland, where she copied the third canto of ‘Childe Harold’ for him. She liked Hogg and loved Leigh Hunt, but Peacock was uncongenial to her.
Mary Shelley was a hard student during her husband's lifetime. She read incessantly without any neglect of domestic duties, acquiring some knowledge of Greek, and mastering Latin, French, and Italian. Of the two romances which she produced during this period, ‘Frankenstein’ is deservedly by far the more famous. Frankenstein's monster, though physically an abortion, is intellectually the ancestor of a numerous family. The story, which was commenced in 1816 in rivalry with Byron's fragmentary ‘Vampyre,’ was published in 1818. ‘Valperga,’ an historical romance of the fourteenth century, begun in 1820, was printed in the spring of 1822, and published in 1823, after undergoing considerable revision from Godwin.
After her husband's death in 1822 her diaries for years to come are full of involuntary lamentations. Byron's migration to Genoa drew the Hunt circle after him, and there she spent the winter (1822–3), tried by the discomfort of Leigh Hunt's disorderly household, the waning kindness of Byron, who, by her own statement, had at first been most helpful and consolatory, and temporary misunderstandings with Hunt himself. These ordeals lessened the pain of leaving Italy. Byron and Peacock, Shelley's executors, concurred with Godwin in deeming her presence in England necessary. Byron, although he had handsomely renounced his prospective claim to a legacy under Shelley's will, showed no disposition to provide travelling expenses. Trelawny accordingly depleted his own purse for the purpose, and in June 1823 she left for London with her three-year-old child. On the way she had the satisfaction of seeing a drama founded on ‘Frankenstein’ performed with applause at Paris. She found her native land a dismal exchange for Italy, but was for a time much soothed by the society of Mrs. Williams. Sir Timothy Shelley had offered to provide for her son upon condition of her resigning the charge of him, which she of course rejected with indignation. After a time terms were made; but her small allowance was still dependent upon Sir Timothy's pleasure, and was withdrawn for a while when the newspapers named her as the authoress of ‘The Last Man,’ which had been published anonymously. ‘The name annoyed Sir Timothy.’ In the same year (1826), however, the death of Shelley's son by Harriet made little Percy a person of consequence as heir to the baronetcy, and her position improved.
‘The Last Man,’ published in 1826, though a remarkable book, is in no way apocalyptic, and wants the tremendous scenes which the subject might have suggested, the destruction of the human race being effected solely by pestilence. Passages, however, are exceedingly eloquent, and the portrait of Shelley as Adrian, drawn by one who knew him so well, has singular interest. Neither her historical novel, ‘Perkin Warbeck’ (1830), nor her latest fiction, ‘Falkner’ (1837), has much claim to remembrance; but ‘Lodore’ (1835) is remarkable for being, as Professor Dowden was the first to discern, a veiled autobiography. The whole story of the hero's and heroine's privations in London is a reminiscence of the winter of 1813. Harriet Shelley appears much idealised as Cornelia, and her sister's baneful influence over her is impersonated in the figure of a mother-in-law, Lady Santerre. By it Lodore is driven to America, as Shelley to the continent. Emilia Viviani is also portrayed, probably with accuracy.
Mrs. Shelley contributed for many years to the annuals, then in their full bloom, and her graceful tales were collected and published in 1891 as a volume of the ‘Treasure-house of Tales by Great Authors.’ One of these tales, ‘The Pole,’ was written by Claire Clairmont, but made presentable by Mary's revision. In 1831 she was engaged in polishing the style of Trelawny's ‘Adventures of a Younger Son,’ and negotiating with publishers on account of the erratic author, then far away, who gave her nearly as much trouble as Landor had given Julius Hare under similar circumstances. He must have offered her marriage, for she writes: ‘My name will never be Trelawny. I am not so young as I was when you first knew me, but I am as proud. I must have the entire affection, devotion, and above all the solicitous protection of any one who would win me. You belong to womenkind in general, and Mary Shelley will never be yours.’ This probably accounts for Trelawny's depreciation of Mary Shelley in the second edition of his ‘Memoirs,’ so different from the cordial tone of the first edition.
In 1836 Mary lost her father and her old and attached friends, the Gisbornes. She was at the time writing the lives of Petrarch, Boccaccio, Machiavelli, and other Italian men of letters for Lardner's ‘Cabinet Cyclopædia,’ and severely pressed by her exertions to give her son an education at Harrow, whither she had removed for the purpose. Sir Timothy did not see his way to assist, but, through his attorney, ‘trusted and hoped you may find it practicable to give him a good education out of the 300l. a year.’ The thing was done; Percy Florence proceeded from Harrow to Cambridge, but the struggle ruined Mary Shelley's health, and left her, exhausted by effort and ‘torn to pieces by memory,’ very unfit to discharge the task which devolved upon her of editing Shelley's works when the obstacles to publication were removed in 1838. The poems nevertheless appeared in four volumes in 1839, with notes, slight in comparison with what they might have been, but still invaluable. The prose remains were published in the following year, and, notwithstanding the number of pirated editions, both publications proved profitable. A further piece of good fortune signalised 1840, when Sir Timothy relented to the extent of settling 400l. a year upon his grandson on occasion of his attaining his majority and taking his degree. Mrs. Shelley was now able to seek rest and change on the continent, and eagerly availed herself of the opportunity. In 1840 and 1841 she and her son travelled in Germany, and in 1842 and 1843 in Italy. Her impressions were recorded in ‘Rambles in Germany and Italy,’ published in two volumes in 1844 and dedicated to Samuel Rogers, who, like Moore, had always shown himself a sympathising friend. The German part of the book contains little of especial interest, but the Italian part is full of admirable remarks on Italian art and manners.
In 1844 Sir Timothy Shelley's death placed Mary in a position of comparative affluence. The first act of her and her son was to carry out Shelley's intentions by settling an annuity of 120l. upon Leigh Hunt. She next endeavoured to write Shelley's life; but her health and spirits were unequal to so trying a task, and nothing was written but a fragment printed at the beginning of Hogg's biography. She died in Chester Square, London, on 1 Feb. 1851, and was interred in the churchyard at Bournemouth near the residence of her son, in the tomb where he also is buried, and to which the remains of her father and mother were subsequently brought.
Personally, Mary Shelley was remarkable for her high forehead, piercing eyes, and pale complexion. She gained in beauty as she grew in years; and her bust strikingly brings out the resemblance, which Thornton Hunt noticed, to the bust of Clytie. A fine portrait by Rothwell, painted in 1841, is engraved as the frontispiece to Mrs. Marshall's biography.
In the turmoil of our lives.
Men are like politic states, or troubled seas.
Tossed up and down with several storms and tempests.
Change and variety of wrecks and fortunes;
Till, labouring to the havens of our homes.
We struggle for the calm that crowns our ends.
Absent or dead, still let a friend be dear.
A sigh the absent claims, the dead a tear.
In the flattest and least agreeable part of the county of Essex, about five miles from the sea, is situated a village or small town, which may be known in these pages by the name of Longfield. Longfield is distant eight miles from any market town, but the simple inhabitants, limiting their desires to their means of satisfying them, are scarcely aware of the kind of desert in which they are placed. Although only fifty miles from London, few among them have ever seen the metropolis. Some claim that distinction from having visited cousins in Lothbury and viewed the lions in the tower. There is a mansion belonging to a wealthy nobleman within four miles, never inhabited, except when a parliamentary election is going forward. No one of any pretension to consequence resided in this secluded nook, except the honourable Mrs. Elizabeth Fitzhenry; she ought to have been the shining star of the place, and she was only its better angel. Benevolent, gentle, and unassuming, this fair sprig of nobility had lived from youth to age in the abode of her forefathers, making a part of this busy world, only through the kindliness of her disposition, and her constant affection for one who was far away.
The mansion of the Fitzhenry family, which looked upon the village green, was wholly incommensurate to our humblest ideas of what belongs to nobility; yet it stood in solitary splendour, the Great House of Longfield. From time immemorial, its possessors had been the magnates of the village; half of it belonged to them, and the whole voted according to their wishes. Cut off from the rest of the world, they claimed here a consideration and a deference, which, with the moderate income of fifteen hundred a-year, they would have vainly sought elsewhere.
There was a family tradition, that a Fitzhenry had sat in parliament; but the time arrived, when they were to rise to greater distinction. The father of the lady, whose name has been already introduced, enjoyed all the privileges attendant on being an only child. Extraordinary efforts were made for his education. He was placed with a clergyman near Harwich, and imbibed in that neighbourhood so passionate a love for the sea, that, though tardily and with regret, his parents at last permitted him to pursue a naval career. He became a brave, a clever, and a lucky officer. In a contested election, his father was the means of insuring the success of the government candidate, and the promotion of his son followed. Those were the glorious days of the English navy, towards the close of the American war; and when that war terminated, and the admiral, now advanced considerably beyond middle life, returned to the Sabine farm, of which he had, by course of descent, become proprietor, he returned adorned with the rank of a peer of the realm, and with sufficient wealth to support respectably the dignity of the baronial title.
Yet an obscure fate pursued the house of Fitzhenry, even in its ennobled condition. The new lord was proud of his elevation, as a merited reward; but next to the deck of his ship, he loved the tranquil precincts of his paternal mansion, and here he spent his latter days in peace. Midway in life, he had married the daughter of the rector of Longfield. Various fates had attended the offspring of this union; several died, and at the time of his being created a peer, Lord found himself a widower, with two children. Elizabeth, who had been born twelve years before, and Henry, whose recent birth had cost the life of his hapless and lamented mother.
But those days were long since passed away; and the first Lord , with most of his generation, was gathered to his ancestors. To the new-sprung race that filled up the vacant ranks, his daughter Elizabeth appeared a somewhat ancient but most amiable maiden, whose gentle melancholy was not (according to innumerable precedents in the traditions regarding unmarried ladies) attributed to an ill-fated attachment, but to the disasters that had visited her house, and still clouded the fortunes of her family. What these misfortunes originated from, or even in what they consisted, was not exactly known; especially at Longfield, whose inhabitants were no adepts in the gossip of the metropolis. It was believed that Mrs. Elizabeth's brother still lived; that some very strange circumstances had attended his career in life, was known; but conjecture fell lame when it tried to proceed beyond these simple facts: it was whispered, as a wonder and a secret, that though Lord Lodore was far away, no one knew where, his lady (as the Morning Post testified in its lists of fashionable arrivals and fashionable parties) was a frequent visitor to London. Once or twice the bolder gossips, male or female, had resolved to sound (as they called it) Mrs. Elizabeth on the subject. But the fair spinster, though innoffensive to a proverb, and gentle beyond the wont of her gentle sex, was yet gifted with a certain dignity of manner, and a quiet reserve, that checked these good people at their very outset.
Henry Fitzhenry was spoken of by a few of the last generation, as having been a fine, bold, handsome boy--generous, proud, and daring; he was remembered, when as a youth he departed for the continent, as riding fearlessly the best hunter in the field, and attracting the admiration of the village maidens at church by his tall elegant figure and dark eyes; or, when he chanced to accost them, by a nameless fascination of manner, joined to a voice whose thrilling silver tones stirred the listener's heart unaware. He left them like a dream, nor appeared again till after his father's death, when he paid his sister a brief visit. There was then something singularly grave and abstracted about him. When he rode, it was not among the hunters, though it was soft February weather, but in the solitary lanes, or with lightning speed over the moors, when the sun was setting and shadows gathered round the landscape.
Again, some years after, he had appeared among them. He was then married, and Lady accompanied him. They stayed but three days. There was something of fiction in the way in which the appearance of the lady was recorded. An angel bright with celestial hues, breathing heaven, and spreading a halo of calm and light around, as it winged swift way amidst the dusky children of earth: such ideas seemed to appertain to the beautiful apparition, remembered as Lord Lodore's wife. She was so young, that time played with her as a favourite child; so etherial in look, that the language of flowers could alone express the delicate fairness of her skin, or the tints that sat upon her cheek: so light in motion, and so graceful. To talk of eye or lip, of height or form, or even of the colour of her hair, the villagers could not, for they had been dazzled by an assemblage of charms before undreamt of by them. Her voice won adoration, and her smile was as the sudden withdrawing of a curtain displaying paradise upon earth. Her lord's tall, manly figure, was recollected but as a back-ground--a fitting one--and that was all they would allow to him--for this resplendent image. Nor was it remembered that any excessive attachment was exhibited between them. She had appeared indeed but as a vision--a creature from another sphere, hastily gazing on an unknown world, and lost before they could mark more than that void came again, and she was gone.
Since that time, Lord had been lost to Longfield. Some few months after Mrs. Elizabeth visited London on occasion of a christening, and then after a long interval, it was observed, that she never mentioned her brother, and that the name of his wife acted as a spell, to bring an expression of pain over her sedate features. Much talk circulated, and many blundering rumours went their course through the village, and then faded like smoke in the clear air. Some mystery there was--Lodore was gone--his place vacant: he lived; yet his name, like those of the dead, haunted only the memories of men, and was allied to no act or circumstance of present existence. He was forgotten, and the inhabitants of Longfield, returning to their obscurity, proceeded in their daily course, almost as happy as if they had had their lord among them, to vary the incidents of their quiet existence with the proceedings of the "Great House."
Yet his sister remembered him. In her heart his image was traced indelibly--limned in the colours of life. His form visited her dreams, and was the unseen, yet not mute, companion of her solitary musings. Years stole on, casting their clouding shadows on her cheek, and stealing the colour from her hair, but Henry, but , was before her in bright youth--her brother--her pride--her hope. To muse on the possibility of his return, to read the few letters that reached her from him, till their brief sentences seemed to imply volumes of meaning, was the employment that made winter nights short, summer days swift in their progress. This dreamy kind of existence, added to the old-fashioned habits which a recluse who lives in a state of singleness is sure to acquire, made her singularly unlike the rest of the world--causing her to be a child in its ways, and inexpert to detect the craftiness of others.
, in exile and obscurity, was in her eyes, the first of human beings; she looked forward to the hour, when he would blaze upon the world with renewed effulgence, as to a religious promise. How well did she remember, how in grace of person, how in expression of countenance, and dignity of manner, he transcended all those whom she saw during her visit to London, on occasion of the memorable christening: that from year to year this return was deferred, did not tire her patience, nor diminish her regrets. He never grew old to her--never lost the lustre of early manhood; and when the boyish caprice which kept him afar was sobered, so she framed her thoughts, by the wisdom of time, he would return again to bless her and to adorn the world. The lapse of twelve years did not change this notion, nor the fact that, if she had cast up an easy sum in arithmetic, the parish register would have testified, her brother had now reached the mature age of fifty.
Settled in some secret nest.
In calm leisure let me rest;
And far off the public stage.
Pass away my silent age.
--Seneca. Marvell's Trans.
Twelve years previous to the opening of this tale, an English gentleman, advanced to middle age, accompanied by an infant daughter, and her attendant, arrived at a settlement in the district of the Illinois in North America. It was at the time when this part of the country first began to be cleared, and a new comer, with some show of property, was considered a welcome acquisition. Still the settlement was too young, and the people were too busy in securing for themselves the necessaries of life, for much attention to be paid to any thing but the "overt acts" of the stranger--the number of acres which he bought, which were few, the extent of his clearings, and the number of workmen that he employed, both of which were, proportionately to his possession in land, on a far larger scale than that of any of his fellow colonists. Like magic, a commodious house was raised on a small height that embanked the swift river--every vestige of forest disappeared from its immediate vicinity, replaced by agricultural cultivation, and a garden bloomed in the wilderness. His labourers were many, and golden harvests shone in his fields, while the dark forest, or untilled plain, seemed yet to set at defiance the efforts of his fellow settlers; and at the same time comforts of so civilized a description, that the Americans termed them luxuries, appeared in the abode and reigned in the domestic arrangements of the Englishman, although to his eye every thing was regulated by the strictest regard to republican plainness and simplicity.
He did not mingle much in the affairs of the colony, yet his advice was always to be commanded, and his assistance was readily afforded. He superintended the operations carried on on his own land; and it was observed that they differed often both from American and English modes of agriculture. When questioned, he detailed practices in Poland and Hungary, and gave his reasons why he thought them applicable to the soil in question. Many of these experiments of course failed; others were eminently successful. He did not shun labour of any sort. He joined the hunting parties, and made one on expeditions that went out to explore the neighbouring wilds, and the haunts of the native Indians. He gave money for the carrying on any necessary public work, and came forward willingly when called upon for any useful purpose. In any time of difficulty or sorrow--on the overflowing of the stream, or the failure of a crop, he was earnest in his endeavours to aid and to console. But with all this, there was an insurmountable barrier between him and the other inhabitants of the colony. He never made one at their feasts, nor mingled in the familiar communications of daily life; his dwelling, situated at the distance of a full mile from the village, removed him from out of the very hearing of their festivities and assemblies. He might labour in common with others, but his pleasures were all solitary, and he preserved the utmost independence as far as regarded the sacred privacy of his abode, and the silence he kept in all concerns regarding himself alone.
At first the settlement had to struggle with all the difficulties attendant on colonization. It grew rapidly, however, and bid fair to become a busy and large town, when it met with a sudden check. A new spot was discovered, a few miles distant, possessing peculiar advantages for commercial purposes. An active, enterprising man engaged himself in the task of establishing a town there on a larger scale and with greater pretensions. He succeeded, and its predecessor sunk at once into insignificance. It was matter of conjecture among them whether Mr. Fitzhenry (so was named the English stranger) would remove to the vicinity of the more considerable town, but no such idea seemed to have occurred to him. Probably he rejoiced in an accident that tended to render his abode so entirely secluded. At first the former town rapidly declined, and many a log hut fell to ruin; but at last, having sunk into the appearance and name of a village, it continued to exist, bearing few marks of that busy enterprising stir which usually characterizes a new settlement in America. The ambitious and scheming had deserted it--it was left to those who courted tranquillity, and desired the necessaries of life without the hope of great future gain. It acquired an almost old-fashioned appearance. The houses began to look weatherworn, and none with fresh faces sprung up to shame them. Extensive clearings, suddenly checked, gave entrance to the forests, without the appendages of a manufacture or a farm. The sound of the axe was seldom heard, and primeval quiet again took possession of the wild. Meanwhile Mr. Fitzhenry continued to adorn his dwelling with imported conveniences, the result of European art, and to spend much time and labour in making his surrounding land assume somewhat of the appearance of pleasure-ground.
He lived in peace and solitude, and seemed to enjoy the unchanging tenor of his life. It had not always been so. During the first three or four years of his arrival in America, he had evidently been unquiet in his mind, and dissatisfied with the scene around him. He gave directions to his workmen, but did not overlook their execution. He took great pains to secure a horse, whose fiery spirit and beautiful form might satisfy a fastidious connoisseur. Having with much trouble and expense got several animals of English breed together, he was perpetually seen mounted and forcing his way amid the forest land, or galloping over the unincumbered country. Sadness sat on his brow, and dwelt in eyes, whose dark large orbs were peculiarly expressive of tenderness and melancholy, "Pietosi a riguardare, a mover parchi." Often, when in conversation on uninteresting topics, some keen sensation would pierce his heart, his voice faltered, and an expression of unspeakable wretchedness was imprinted on his countenance, mastered after a momentary struggle, yet astounding to the person he might be addressing. Generally on such occasions he would seize an immediate opportunity to break away and to remain alone. He had been seen, believing himself unseen, making passionate gestures, and heard uttering some wild exclamations. Once or twice he had wandered away into the woods, and not returned for several days, to the exceeding terror of his little household. He evidently sought loneliness, there to combat unobserved with the fierce enemy that dwelt within his breast. On such occasions, when intruded upon and disturbed, he was irritated to fury. His resentment was expressed in terms ill-adapted to republican equality--and no one could doubt that in his own country he had filled a high station in society, and been educated in habits of command, so that he involuntarily looked upon himself as of a distinct and superior race to the human beings that each day crossed his path. In general, however, this was only shown by a certain loftiness of demeanour and cold abstraction, which might annoy, but could not be resented. Any ebullition of temper he was not backward to atone for by apology, and to compensate by gifts.
There was no tinge of misanthropy in Fitzhenry's disposition. Even while he shrunk from familiar communication with the rude and unlettered, he took an interest in their welfare. His benevolence was active, his compassion readily afforded. It was quickness of feeling, and not apathy, that made him shy and retired. Sensibility checked and crushed, an ardent thirst for sympathy which could not be allayed in the wildernesses of America, begot a certain appearance of coldness, altogether deceptive. He concealed his sufferings--he abhorred that they should be pryed into; but this reserve was not natural to him, and it added to the misery which his state of banishment occasioned. "Quiet to quick bosoms is a hell." And so was it with him. His passions were powerful, and had been ungoverned. He writhed beneath the dominion of sameness; and tranquillity, allied to loneliness, possessed no charms. He groaned beneath the chains that fettered him to the spot, where he was withering in inaction. They caused unutterable throes and paroxysms of despair. Ennui, the dæmon, waited at the threshold of his noiseless refuge, and drove away the stirring hopes and enlivening expectations, which form the better part of life. Sensibility in such a situation is a curse: men become "cannibals of their own hearts;" remorse, regret, and restless impatience usurp the place of more wholesome feeling: every thing seems better than that which is; and solitude becomes a sort of tangible enemy, the more dangerous, because it dwells within the citadel itself. Borne down by such emotions, Fitzhenry was often about to yield to the yearnings of his soul, and to fly from repose into action, however accompanied by strife and wretchedness; to leave America, to return to Europe, and to face at once all the evils which he had journeyed so far to escape. He did not--he remained. His motives for flight returned on him with full power after any such paroxysm, and held him back. He despised himself for his hesitation. He had made his choice, and would abide by it. He was not so devoid of manliness as to be destitute of fortitude, or so dependent a wretch as not to have resources in himself. He would cultivate these, and obtain that peace which it had been his boast that he should experience.
It came at last. Time and custom accomplished their task, and he became reconciled to his present mode of existence. He grew to love his home in the wilderness. It was all his own creation, and the pains and thought he continued to bestow upon it, rendered it doubly his. The murmur of the neighbouring river became the voice of a friend; it welcomed him on his return from any expedition; and he hailed the first echo of it that struck upon his ear from afar, with a thrill of joy.
Peace descended upon his soul. He became enamoured of the independence of solitude, and the sublime operations of surrounding nature. All further attempts at cultivation having ceased in his neighbourhood, from year to year nothing changed, except at the bidding of the months, in obedience to the varying seasons;--nothing changed, except that the moss grew thicker and greener upon the logs that supported his roof, that the plants he cultivated increased in strength and beauty, and that the fruit-trees yielded their sweet produce in greater abundance. The improvements he had set on foot displayed in their progress the taste and ingenuity of their projector; and as the landscape became more familiar, so did a thousand associations twine themselves with its varied appearances, till the forests and glades became as friends and companions.
As he learnt to be contented with his lot, the inequalities of humour, and singularities of conduct, which had at first attended him, died away. He had grown familiar with the persons of his fellow-colonists, and their various fortunes interested him. Though he could find no friend, tempered like him, like him nursed in the delicacies and fastidiousness of the societies of the old world;--though he, a china vase, dreaded too near a collision with the brazen ones around; yet, though he could not give his confidence, or unburthen the treasure of his soul, he could approve of, and even feel affection for several among them. Personal courage, honesty, and frankness, were to be found among the men; simplicity and kindness among the women. He saw instances of love and devotion in members of families, that made him sigh to be one of them; and the strong sense and shrewd observations of many of the elder settlers exercised his understanding. They opened, by their reasonings and conversation, a new source of amusement, and presented him with another opiate for his too busy memory.
Fitzhenry had been a patron of the fine arts; and thus he had loved books, poetry, and the elegant philosophy of the ancients. But he had not been a student. His mind was now in a fit state to find solace in reading, and excitement in the pursuit of knowledge. At first he sent for a few books, such as he wished immediately to consult, from New York, and made slight additions to the small library of classical literature he had originally brought with him on his emigration. But when once the desire to instruct himself was fully aroused in his mind, he became aware how slight and inadequate his present library was, even for the use of one man. Now each quarter brought chests of a commodity he began to deem the most precious upon earth. Beings with human forms and human feelings he had around him; but, as if made of coarser, half-kneaded clay, they wanted the divine spark of mind and the polish of taste. He had pined for these, and now they were presented to him. Books became his friends: they, when rightly questioned, could answer to his thoughts. Plato could elevate, Epictetus calm, his soul. He could revel with Ovid in the imagery presented by a graceful, though voluptuous imagination; and hang enchanted over the majesty and elegance of Virgil. Homer was as a dear and revered friend--Horace a pleasant companion. English, Italian, German, and French, all yielded their stores in turn; and the abstruse sciences were often a relaxation to a mind, whose chief bane was its dwelling too entirely upon one idea. He made a study, also, of the things peculiarly befitting his present situation; and he rose in the estimation of those around, as they became aware of his talents and his knowledge.
Study and occupation restored to his heart self-complacency, which is an ingredient so necessary to the composition of human happiness. He felt himself to be useful, and knew himself to be honoured. He no longer asked himself, "Why do I live?" or looked on the dark, rapid waves, and longed for the repose that was in their gift. The blood flowed equably in his veins; a healthy temperance regulated his hopes and wishes. He could again bless God for the boon of existence, and look forward to future years, if not with eager anticipation, yet with a calm reliance upon the power of good, wholly remote from despair.
Miranda.--Alack! what trouble
Was I then to you!
Prospero.--O, a cherubim
Thou wast, that did preserve me!
Such was the Englishman who had taken refuge in the furthest wilds of an almost untenanted portion of the globe. Like a Corinthian column, left single amidst the ruder forms of the forest oaks, standing in alien beauty, a type of civilization and the arts, among the rougher, though perhaps not less valuable, growth of Nature's own. Refined to fastidiousness, sensitive to morbidity, the stranger was respected without being understood, and loved though the intimate of none.
Many circumstances have been mentioned as tending to reconcile Fitzhenry to his lot; and yet one has been omitted, chiefest of all;--the growth and development of his child was an inexhaustible source of delight and occupation. She was scarcely three years old when her parent first came to the Illinois. She was then a plaything and an object of solicitude to him, and nothing more. Much as her father loved her, he had not then learned to discover the germ of the soul just nascent in her infant form; nor to watch the formation, gradual to imperceptibility, of her childish ideas. He would watch over her as she slept, and gaze on her as she sported in the garden, with ardent and unquiet fondness; and, from time to time, instil some portion of knowledge into her opening mind: but this was all done by snatches, and at intervals. His affection for her was the passion of his soul; but her society was not an occupation for his thoughts. He would have knelt to kiss her footsteps as she bounded across the grass, and tears glistened in his eyes as she embraced his knees on his return from any excursion; but her prattle often wearied him, and her very presence was sometimes the source of intense pain.
He did not know himself how much he loved her, till she became old enough to share his excursions and be a companion. This occurred at a far earlier age than would have been the case had she been in England, living in a nursery with other children. There is a peculiarity in the education of a daughter, brought up by a father only, which tends to develop early a thousand of those portions of mind, which are folded up, and often destroyed, under mere feminine tuition. He made her fearless, by making her the associate of his rides; yet his incessant care and watchfulness, the observant tenderness of his manner, almost reverential on many points, springing from the differences of sex, tended to soften her mind, and make her spirit ductile and dependent. He taught her to scorn pain, but to shrink with excessive timidity from any thing that intrenched on the barrier of womanly reserve which he raised about her. Nothing was dreaded, indeed, by her, except his disapprobation; and a word or look from him made her, with all her childish vivacity and thoughtlessness, turn as with a silken string, and bend at once to his will.
There was an affectionateness of disposition kneaded up in the very texture of her soul, which gave it its "very form and pressure." It accompanied every word and action; it revealed itself in her voice, and hung like light over the expression of her countenance.
Her earliest feeling was love of her father. She would sit to watch him, guess at his thoughts, and creep close, or recede away, as she read encouragement, or the contrary, in his eyes and gestures. Except him, her only companion was her servant; and very soon she distinguished between them, and felt proud and elate when she quitted her for her father's side. Soon, she almost never quitted it. Her gentle and docile disposition rendered her unobtrusive, while her inexhaustible spirits were a source of delightful amusement. The goodness of her heart endeared her still more; and when it was called forth by any demand made on it by him, it was attended by such a display of excessive sensibility, as at once caused him to tremble for her future happiness, and love her ten thousand times more. She grew into the image on which his eye doated, and for whose presence his heart perpetually yearned. Was he reading, or otherwise occupied, he was restless, if yet she were not in the room; and she would remain in silence for hours, occupied by some little feminine work, and all the while watching him, catching his first glance towards her, and obeying the expression of his countenance, before he could form his wish into words. When he left her for any of his longer excursions, her little heart would heave, and almost burst with sorrow. On his return, she was always on the watch to see, to fly into his arms, and to load him with infantine caresses.
There was something in her face, that at this early age gave token of truth and affection, and asked for sympathy. Her large brown eyes, such as are called hazel, full of tenderness and sweetness, possessed within their depths an expression and a latent fire, which stirred the heart. It is difficult to describe, or by words to call before another's mind, the picture so palpable to our own. The moulding of her cheek, full just below the eyes, and ending in a soft oval, gave a peculiar expression, at once beseeching and tender, and yet radiant with vivacity and gladness. Frankness and truth were reflected on her brow, like flowers in the clearest pool; the thousand nameless lines and mouldings, which create expression, were replete with beaming innocence and irresistible attraction. Her small chiselled nose, her mouth so delicately curved, gave token of taste. In the whole was harmony, and the upper part of the countenance seemed to reign over the lower and to ennoble it, making her usual placid expression thoughtful and earnest; so that not until she smiled and spoke, did the gaiety of her guileless heart display itself, and the vivacity of her disposition give change and relief to the picture. Her figure was light and airy, tall at an early age, and slender. Her rides and rambles gave elasticity to her limbs, and her step was like that of the antelope, springy and true. She had no fears, no deceit, no untold thought within her. Her matchless sweetness of temper prevented any cloud from ever dimming her pure loveliness: her voice cheered the heart, and her laugh rang so true and joyous on the ear, that it gave token in itself of the sympathizing and buoyant spirit which was her great charm. Nothing with her centred in self; she was always ready to give her soul away: to please her father was the unsleeping law of all her actions, while his approbation imparted a sense of such pure but entire happiness, that every other feeling faded into insignificance in the comparison.
In the first year of exile and despair, Fitzhenry looked forward to the long drawn succession of future years, with an impatience of woe difficult to be borne. He was surprised to find, as he proceeded in the quiet path of life which he had selected, that instead of an increase of unhappiness, a thousand pleasures smiled around him. He had looked on it as a bitter task to forget that he had a name and country, both abandoned for ever; now, the thought of these seldom recurred to his memory. His forest home became all in all to him. Wherever he went, his child was by his side, to cheer and enliven him. When he looked on her, and reflected that within her frame dwelt spotless innocence and filial piety, that within that lovely "bower of flesh," not one thought or feeling resided that was not akin to heaven in its purity and sweetness, he, as by infection, acquired a portion of the calm enjoyment, which she in her taintless youth naturally possessed.
Even when any distant excursion forced him to absent himself, her idea followed him to light him cheerily on his way. He knew that he should find her on his return busied in little preparations for his welcome. In summer time, the bower in the garden would be adorned; in the inclement season of winter the logs would blaze on the hearth, his chair be drawn towards the fire, the stool for Ethel at his feet, with nothing to remind him of the past, save her dear presence, which drew its greatest charm, not from that, but from the present. Fitzhenry forgot the thousand delights of civilization, for which formerly his heart had painfully yearned. He forgot ambition, and the enticements of gay vanity; peace and security appeared the greatest blessings of life, and he had them here.
Ethel herself was happy beyond the knowledge of her own happiness. She regretted nothing in the old country. She grew up among the grandest objects of nature, and they were the sweet influences to excite her to love and to a sense of pleasure. She had come to the Illinois attended by a black woman and her daughter, whom her father had engaged to attend her at New York, and had been sedulously kept away from communication with the settlers--an arrangement which it would have been difficult to bring about elsewhere, but in this secluded and almost deserted spot the usual characteristics of the Americans were scarcely to be found. Most of the inhabitants were emigrants from Scotland, a peaceable, hard-working population.
Ethel lived alone in their lonely dwelling. Had she been of a more advanced age when taken from England, her curiosity might have been excited by the singularity of her position; but we rarely reason about that which has remained unchanged since infancy; taking it as a part of the immutable order of things, we yield without a question to its controul. Ethel did not know that she was alone. Her attendants she was attached to, and she idolized her father; his image filled all her little heart. Playmate she had none, save a fawn and a kid, a dog grown old in her service, and a succession of minor favourites of the animal species.
It was Fitzhenry's wish to educate his daughter to all the perfection of which the feminine character is susceptible. As the first step, he cut her off from familiar communication with the unrefined, and, watching over her with the fondest care, kept her far aloof from the very knowledge of what might, by its baseness or folly, contaminate the celestial beauty of her nature. He resolved to make her all that woman can be of generous, soft, and devoted; to purge away every alloy of vanity and petty passion--to fill her with honour, and yet to mould her to the sweetest gentleness: to cultivate her tastes and enlarge her mind, yet so to controul her acquirements, as to render her ever pliant to his will. She was to be lifted above every idea of artifice or guile, or the caballing spirit of the worldling--she was to be single-hearted, yet mild. A creature half poetry, half love--one whose pure lips had never been tainted by an untruth--an enthusiastic being, who could give her life away for the sake of another, and yet who honoured herself as a consecrated thing reserved for one worship alone. She was taught that no misfortune should penetrate her soul, except such as visited her affections, or her sense of right; and that, set apart from the vulgar uses of the world, she was connected with the mass only through another--that other, now her father and only friend--hereafter, whosoever her heart might select as her guide and head. Fitzhenry drew his chief ideas from Milton's Eve, and adding to this the romance of chivalry, he satisfied himself that his daughter would be the embodied ideal of all that is adorable and estimable in her sex.
The instructor can scarcely give sensibility where it is essentially wanting, nor talent to the unpercipient block. But he can cultivate and detect the affections of the pupil, who puts forth, as a parasite, tendrils by which to cling, not knowing to what--to a supporter or a destroyer. The careful rearer of the ductile human plant can instil his own religion, and surround the soul by such a moral atmosphere, as shall become to its latest day the air it breathes. Ethel, from her delicate organization and quick parts, was sufficiently plastic in her father's hands. When not with him, she was the playmate of nature. Her birds and pet animals--her untaught but most kind nurse, were her associates: she had her flowers to watch over, her music, her drawings, and her books. Nature, wild, interminable, sublime, was around her. The ceaseless flow of the brawling stream, the wide-spread forest, the changes of the sky, the career of the wide-winged clouds, when the winds drove them athwart the atmosphere, or the repose of the still, and stirless summer air, the stormy war of the elements, and the sense of trust and security amidst their loudest disturbances, were all circumstances to mould her even unconsciously to an admiration of all that is grand and beautiful.
A lofty sense of independence is, in man, the best privilege of his nature. It cannot be doubted, but that it were for the happiness of the other sex that she were taught more to rely on and act for herself. But in the cultivation of this feeling, the education of Fitzhenry was lamentably deficient. Ethel was taught to know herself dependent; the support of another was to be as necessary to her as her daily food. She leant on her father as a prop that could not fail, and she was wholly satisfied with her condition. Her peculiar disposition of course tinged Fitzhenry's theories with colours not always their own, and her entire want of experience in intercourse with her fellow-creatures, gave a more decided tone to her sense of dependence than she could have acquired, if the circumstances of her daily life had brought her into perpetual collision with others. She was habitually cheerful even to gaiety; yet her character was not devoid of petulence, which might become rashness or self-will if left to herself. She had a clear and upright spirit, and suspicion or unkindness roused her to indignation, or sunk her into the depths of sorrow. Place her in danger, and tell her she must encounter it, and she called up all her courage and became a heroine; but on less occasions, difficulties dismayed and annoyed her, and she longed to escape from them into that dreamy existence, for which her solitary mode of life had given her a taste: active in person, in mind she was too often indolent, and apt to think that while she was docile to the injunctions of her parent, all her duties were fulfilled. She seldom thought, and never acted, for herself.
With all this she was so caressingly affectionate, so cheerful and obedient, that she inspired her father with more than a father's fondness. He lived but for her and in her. Away, she was present to his imagination, the loadstone to draw him home, and to fill that home with pleasure. He exalted her in his fancy into angelic perfection, and nothing occurred to blot the fair idea. He in prospect gave up his whole life to the warding off every evil from her dear and sacred head. He knew, or rather believed, that while we possess one real, devoted, and perfect friend, we cannot be truly miserable. He said to himself--though he did not love to dwell on the thought--that of course cares and afflictions might hereafter befal her; but he was to stand the shield to blunt the arrows of sorrow--the shelter in which she might find refuge from every evil ministration. The worst ills of life, penury and desertion, she could never know; and surely he, who would stand so fast by her through all--whose nightly dream and waking thought was for her good, would even, when led to form other connexions in life, so command her affections as to be able to influence her happiness.
Not being able to judge by comparison, Ethel was unaware of the peculiarity of her good fortune in possessing such a father. But she loved him entirely; looked up to him, and saw in him the reward of every exertion, the object of each day's employment. In early youth we have no true notion of what the realities of life are formed, and when we look forward it is without any correct estimate of the chances of existence. Ethel's visionary ideas were all full of peace, seclusion, and her father. America, or rather the little village of the Illinois which she inhabited, was all the world to her; and she had no idea that nearly every thing that connected her to society existed beyond the far Atlantic, in that tiny isle which made so small a show upon her maps. Fitzhenry never mentioned these things to his daughter. She arrived at the age of fifteen without forming a hope that should lead her beyond the pale which had hitherto enclosed her, or having imagined that any train of circumstances might suddenly transplant her from the lonely wilderness to the thronged resorts of mankind.
Les deserts sont faits pour les amants, mais l'amour
ne se fait pas aux deserts.
--Le Barbier de Paris.
Twelve years had led Ethel from infancy to childhood; and from child's estate to the blooming season of girlhood. It had brought her father from the prime of a man's life, to the period when it began to decline. Our feelings probably are not less strong at fifty than they were ten or fifteen years before; but they have changed their objects, and dwell on far different prospects. At five-and-thirty a man thinks of what his own existence is; when the maturity of age has grown into its autumn, he is wrapt up in that of others. The loss of wife or child then becomes more deplorable, as being impossible to repair; for no fresh connexion can give us back the companion of our earlier years, nor a "new sprung race" compensate for that, whose career we hoped to see run. Fitzhenry had been a man of violent passions; they had visited his life with hurricane and desolation;--were these dead within him? The complacency that now distinguished his physiognomy seemed to vouch for internal peace. But there was an abstracted melancholy in his dark eyes--a look that went beyond the objects immediately before him, that seemed to say that he often anxiously questioned fate, and meditated with roused fears on the secrets of futurity.
Educating his child, and various other employments, had occupied and diverted him. He had been content; he asked for no change, but he dreaded it. Often when packets arrived from England he hesitated to open them. He could not account for his new-born anxieties. Was change approaching? "How long will you be at peace?" Such warning voice startled him in the solitude of the forests: he looked round, but no human being was near, yet the voice had spoken audibly to his sense; and when a transient air swept the dead leaves near, he shrunk as if a spirit passed, invisible to sight, and yet felt by the subtle atmosphere, as it gave articulation and motion to it.
"How long shall I be at peace?" A thrill ran through his veins. "Am I then now at peace? Do love, and hate, and despair, no longer wage their accustomed war in my heart? and is it true that gently flowing as my days have lately been, that during their course I have not felt those mortal throes that once made life so intolerable a burthen? It is so. I am at peace; strange state for suffering mortality! And this is not to last? My daughter! there only am I vulnerable; yet have I surrounded her with a sevenfold shield. My own sweet Ethel! how can I avert from your dear head the dark approaching storm?
"But this is folly. These waking dreams are the curse of inaction and solitude. Yesterday I refused to accompany the exploring party. I will go--I am not old; fatigue, as yet, does not seem a burthen; but I shall sink into premature age, if I allow this indolence to overpower me. I will set out on this expedition, and thus I shall no longer be at peace." Fitzhenry smiled as if thus he were cheating destiny.
The proposed journey was one to be made by a party of his fellow-settlers, to trace the route between their town and a large one, two hundred miles off, to discover the best mode of communication. There was nothing very arduous in the undertaking. It was September, and hunting would diversify the tediousness of their way. Fitzhenry left his daughter under the charge of her attendants, to amuse herself with her books, her music, her gardening, her needle, and, more than all, her new and very favourite study of drawing and sketching. Hitherto the pencil had scarcely been one of her occupations; but an accident gave scope to her acquiring in it that improvement for which she found that she had prodigious inclination, and she was assured, no inconsiderable talent.
The occasion that had given rise to this new employment was this. Three or four months before, a traveller arrived for the purpose of settling, who claimed a rather higher intellectual rank than those around him. He was the son of an honest tradesman of the city of London. He displayed early signs of talent, and parental fondness gave him opportunities of cultivating it. The means of his family were small, but some of the boy's drawings having attracted the attention of an artist, he entered upon the profession of a painter, with sanguine hopes of becoming hereafter an ornament to it.
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