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Whether in forcing them to give their hands where they could not give their hearts, they had been sold for a price, and purchased for a consideration in which they had no share or interest.
But there are persons whose opinions are of the first importance, who will think the interests of religion, of truth and morality, do not require that we should throw aside all considerations of this sort, and come to a conclusion on a single fact, without any reference to the influences of surrounding circumstances.
The grave has never long closed over those who have been much admired and highly extolled, in their day, who have been in society formidable competitors for distinction, or in common opinion very fortunate in life and successful in society, or some particular pursuit, before the ashes of those dead celebrities are raked for error. Such tombs, indeed, are seldom ransacked unsuccessfully; but those who sit in judgment on the failings of their fellow-creatures, are never more likely to be erroneous in their opinions, than when they are most harsh and uncharitable in their judgments. Those persons who stand highest in the opinion of their fellow-men, may rank very low in the estimation of the Supreme Judge of all; and those for whose errors there is here no mercy, may have fewer advantages of instruction and example, of position, and of favourable circumstances that have been thrown away, to account for, than the most spiritually proud of the complacent self-satisfied, self-constituted judges and arraigners of their fellow-creatures.
It has been said, that " a great deal has been told of Goldsmith (in the early and incidental notices of his career), which a friendly biographer would have concealed, or at least silently passed over; that he would have felt bound in duty to respect the character which he took on himself to delineate ; and while he withheld nothing that could have enabled the public to form a right estimate of the subject, he would not have drawn aside the curtain that concealed the privacy of domestic intercourse, and exposed to view the weakness and inconsistency of the thoughtless and confidential hours of a chequered and too fortuitous life. The skilful painter can preserve the fidelity of the resemblance, while he knows how to develop all becoming embellishments. In heightening what is naturally beautiful, in throwing a shade over the less attractive parts, he presents us with a work that is at once pleasing and instructive. The biographer must form his narrative by selection. All things belonging to a subject are not worth the telling; when the circle of information is once completed, it is often the wisest part to rest satisfied with the effect produced. Such, evidently, was the rule which guided Mason in the very elegant and judicious account which he gave of his illustrious friend Gray; and though later inquirers have explored and unlocked some channels which he did not wish to open, they have left the original sketch very little altered, and hardly at all improved. In this he followed, though with a more liberal allowance to rational curiosity than had before been granted, the general practice of all biographers; but Boswell's Life of Johnson opened at once the floodgates of public desire on this subject, and set up an example, too faithfully imitated, of an indiscriminate development of facts, gratifying a not very honourable or healthy curiosity, with the minutest details of personal history, the eccentricities of social intercourse, and all the singularities of private life. The original work, however defective we may think it in its plan, derived a lustre from the greatness of its subject : but it has been the cause of overwhelming literature with a mass of the most heavy and tiresome biographies of very moderate and obscure men; with cumbersome details of a life without interest, and character without talent, and a correspondence neither illuminated with spirit nor enriched with fact. Vous me parlez,' says D'Olivet, d'un homme de lettres ; parlez moi donc de ses talens, parlez moi de ses ouvrages, mais laissez moi ignorer ses foiblesses, et à plus forte raison ses vices.'” *
Those who are desirous to be acquainted with the parentage, education, and incidents in the early career of the subject of this memoir, will find the information they require, gracefully given, and with a tender feeling of affectionate regard for the memory of the deceased lady, of whom this work treats, in a Memoir, written by her niece, Miss Power. Extracts from that Memoir, by the kind permission of Miss Power, I have been allowed to avail myself of, and they will be found subjoined to this Introduction, with such additional matter of mine appended to them, as Lady Blessington's communications to me, both oral and written, and my own researches enable me to offer.
The task I have undertaken, is to illustrate the literary life of Lady Blessington. Her acquaintance with the literary men and artists of England, and foreign countries, dates from the period of her marriage with Lord Blessington; and her application to literature, as a pursuit and an employment, from the time of the first continental tour, on which she set out in 1822.
It is not necessary for me, here at least, to enter at large into her early history—though, with one exception, I am probably better acquainted with it than any other person living. The whole of that history was communicated to me by Lady Blessington, I believe with a conviction, that it might be confided to me with safety, and perhaps with advantage at some future time to her memory.
* Gent. Mag. March, 1837. Notice of Prior's Life of Goldsmith,
EXTRACTS FROM A MEMOIR OF THE COUNTESS OF BLESSINGTON
BY Miss Power, WITH ADDITIONAL MATTER IN BRACKETS INSERTED BY THE EDITOR OF THIS WORK.
" Marguerite Blessington was the third child and second daughter of Edmond Power, Esq., of Knockbrit, near Clonmel, in the county of Tipperary, and was born on the 1st of September, 1790. Her father, who was then a country gentleman, occupied with field sports and agricultural pursuits, was the only son of Michael Power, Esq., of Curragheen [eight miles from Dungarvan), and descended from an ancient family in the county of Waterford. Her mother also belonged to a very old Roman Catholic family, a fact of which she was not a little proud, and her genealogical tree was preserved with a religious veneration, and studied until all its branches were as familiar as the names of her children :
My ancestors, the Desmonds,' were her household gods, and their deeds and prowess her favourite theme.”
[Mr. Edmond Power, the father of Lady Blessington, married, at an early age, a daughter of an ill-fated gentleman, Mr. Edmond Sheehy, descended from one of the most respectable Roman Catholic families in the county Tipperary.
In 1843 Lady Blessington presented me with an account of the Sheehy family, drawn up with great care; and from that document, in the handwriting of Lady Blessington, which is in my possession, the following notice is taken verbatim.]
PEDIGREE OF THE SHEEHY FAMILY.
“ This ancient family possessed a large estate on the banks of the river Deel, in the county of Limerick, from the time that Maurice, the first Earl of Desmond's daughter, was married to Morgan Sheehy, who got the said estate from the Earl as a portion with his wife.
“ From the above Morgan Sheehy, was lineally descended Morgan Sheehy, of Ballyallenane. The said Morgan married Ellen Butler, daughter of Pierce, Earl of Ormond, and the widow of Connor O'Brien, Earl of Thomond, and had issue, Morgan Sheehy. The said Morgan Sheehy married Catherine Mac Carthy, daughter to Donnough Mac Carthy-More, of Dunhallow, in the county of Cork; and had issue, Morgan Sheehy, who married Joan, daughter of David, Earl of Barrymore, in the county of Cork, and Lady Alice Boyle, eldest daughter of Richard, Earl of Cork; and had issue, Morgan Sheehy, and Meanus, from whom the Sheehys of Imokilly, and county of Waterford, are descended. The said Morgan married Catherine, the eldest of the five daughters of Teige O'Brien, of Ballycorrig, and of Elizabeth, daughter of Maurice, Earl of Desmond. He had issue, three sons, John, Edmond, and Roger, and five daughters. Of the daughters, Joan married Thomas Lord Southwell; Ellen married Philip Magrath, of Sleady Castle, in the county of Waterford, Esq.; Mary married Eustace, son of Sir John Brown, of Cammus, Bart. ; and Anne married Colonel Gilbrern, of Kilmallock.
“Of the five daughters of the above Teige O'Brien, Catherine married the above Morgan Sheehy, Esq. ; Honoria married Sir John FitzGerald, of Cloyne, Bart. ; Maudin married O'Shaughnessy, of Gort ; Julia married Mac Namara of Cratala ; and Mary married Sir Turlough Mac Mahon, of Cleana, in the county of Clare, Bart.
“Of the three sons of Morgan Sheehy, Esq., and Catherine O'Brien, John, the eldest, married Mary, daughter of James Casey, of Rathcannon, in the county of Limerick, Esq. (It was in this John's time, about 1650, that Cromwell dispossessed the family of their estates.) The said John had issue John Sheehy, who married Catherine, daughter of Donough O'Brien, of Dungillane, Esq. He had issue, Charles Sheehy, who married Catherine Ryan, daughter of Matthew Ryan,