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MISS CORNELIA KNIGHT,
LADY COMPANION TO THE
PRINCESS CHARLOTTE OF WALES.
WITH EXTRAOTS FROM HER JOURNALS AND
IN TWO VOLUMES.
A BOOK of this kind scarcely needs a sponsor. It carries the impression of its authenticity on every page. A few words, however, may be said about the circumstances of its publication. In the expectation that I should find in them materials for an interesting work, the papers from which these volumes have been compiled were given to me, some years ago, by the family into whose hands they passed on Miss Knight's death. On examining them, I found that they consisted of a considerable number of journal-books, the dates of which covered more than half a century, and an unfinished autobiographical memoir, written principally on loose sheets of paper. The latter had obviously been commenced at a very late period of life, and had been interrupted by death. The Journals, however, supplied all that was needed to complete the Memoir to the very end of the writer's life. Indeed, the continuous Memoir had been written from the Diaries,
with only occasional additions supplied by the recollection of the writer, and was, in many places, little more than a transcript of them.
As I had no doubt that the Autobiography had been written with a view to publication, after, if not before, the author's death, I felt that in giving it to the world I should only be carrying out the intentions which, had she lived, Miss Knight would herself have fulfilled. And, on consideration, I could see nothing to be deprecated in the fulfilment of those intentions. It is true that a very considerable portion of the manuscript related to the private concerns of the Royal Family of England. But, even if the publications of Madame D'Arblay, Lady Charlotte Campbell, Lord Malmesbury, the Duke of Buckingham, and others, had not rendered all scruples on this score almost an over-refinement of delicacy, it was to be considered that nearly half a century had passed since the principal events recorded by Miss Knight had occurred, and that really those events, however private and domestic in their origin, had grown into legitimate history, and might properly be so treated. Indeed, it might fairly be questioned whether they could ever be considered as anything else. For, although I cannot subscribe to the doctrine that there is one Family in England which has no private history (such being the penalty exacted for its greatness), it is sometimes in the very nature of things that privacy is
impossible, and that the affairs of royalty, whatsoever may be their delicacy, become public history before they are a day old. And it is so notorious that this was especially the case during the years of the Regency and the early part of the reign of George IV., that if it were not that the literary tendencies of the age are towards premature revelations, indicating a total disregard of the sanctity of domestic life, and that any kind of protest against it may do some good, I should have thought it altogether a work of supererogation to say a word in defence of the publication of such a Memoir
Moreover, these volumes, though not the least interesting, are perhaps the most harmless of their class. Miss Knight was no retailer of prurient scandal or frivolous gossip; she had too good a heart to delight in the one, and too good a head to indulge in the other. Some, therefore, may think that she neglected her opportunities, and that her Memoirs are wanting in piquancy of revelation and vivacity of style. But it appears to me that the very simplicity of the narrative greatly increases its value. There is such an entire absence of
everything like effort to produce effect, that the reader is irresistibly impressed with the conviction that he has before him the inornate truth, and that he may confide in every statement of the narrator.
Whilst, therefore, I had no scruples on the score