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Yet thence the flow'ret hath its birth,
And into light will spring.
Of mortals all, the lot,
Its errors all forgot!"
Other lines unfinished, in a MS. book of Lady Blessington, in her hand-writing.
“ The smile that plays around the lips
When sorrow preys upon our hearts,
The youthful corpse, ere it departs
A fragment in pencilling, in another common-place book of Lady Blessington, in her Ladyship’s hand-writing, but no date or signature. " Pardon, oh Lord ! if this too sinful heart,
Ingrate to thee, didst for a mortal feel
Pardon-for lowly at thy feet I kneel :
Yields all remaining sweetness at thy shrine.
To bid repose and hope again be mine.
Thoughts that intrude to steal my soul from thee;
When I from sin and passion shall be free.” No one who ever knew Lady Blessington would, and perhaps few
persons who may chance to read those pages, will refuse to say, “ Amen, to that sweet prayer.”
* A line has here been erased.
NOTICES OF THE WRITINGS OF LADY BLESSINGTON, ETC.
It would be absurd to lay claim for Lady Blessington, to the great attributes of first-rate intellectual excellence, original, creative, and inventive genius of a high order, combining vigour of mind, strength of imagination, and depth of feeling, and displaying its mastery in graphic powers of delineation and description; giving a vivid look and life-like appearance to every thing it paints in words.
It would be a folly to seek in the mental gifts and graces of Lady Blessington, for evidences of the divine inspirations of exalted genius endowed with all its instincts and ideality, favoured with bright visions of the upper regions of poetry and fiction, with glimpses of ethereal realms, peopled with shadowy forms and spiritualized beings with glorious attributes and perfections, or to imagine we are to discover in her writings sublime conceptions of the grand, the beautiful, the chivalrous, or supernatural. The realization of great ideas, without encumbering the representation of ideal objects with material images and earthly associations, belongs only to genius of the first order; and between that power and mere graceful talent, fine taste, shrewdness of mind, and quickness of apprehension, there is a great difference, and there are many degrees of intellectual excellence.
It is very questionable if any of the works of Lady Blessington, with the exception of the “ Conversations with Lord Byron," and perhaps the “ Idler in Italy,” will maintain a permanent position in English miscellaneous literature. The interest taken in the writer was the main source of the temporary interest that was felt in her literary performances.
The master-thinker of the last century has truly observed —“An author bustling in the world, shewing himself in public, and emerging occasionally from time to time into notice, might keep his works alive by his personal influence ; but that which conveys little information, and gives no great pleasure, must soon give way, as the succession of things produces new topics of conversation, and other modes of amusement."*
Lady Blessington commenced her career of authorship in 1822. Her first work, entitled, “ The Magic Lantern ; or Sketches of Scenes in the Metropolis,” was published by Longman in that year, in one volume 8vo.
The work was written evidently by one wholly inexperienced in the ways of authorship. There were obvious marks in it, however, of cleverness, quickness of perception, shrewdness of observation, and of kindly feelings, though occasionally sarcastic tendencies prevailed over them. There were evidences in that production, moreover, of a natural turn for humour and drollery, strong sensibility also, and some graphic powers of description in her accounts of affecting incidents.
The sketches in the “ Magic Lantern,” are—the Auction, the Park, the Tomb, the Italian Opera.
A second edition of the “ Magic Lantern ” was published soon after the first. There is a draft of a preface in her Ladyship’s hand-writing, intended for this edition, among her papers, with the following lines :
“ If some my Magic Lantern should offend, The fault's not mine, for scandal's not my end;
* Dr. Johnson. Life of Mallet.
'Tis vice and folly that I hold in view,
It is very questionable if more indications of talent are not to be found in the first work written by Lady Blessington, “ The Magic Lantern,” than in the next production, or indeed in any succeeding performance of hers, though she looked so unfavourably on “ The Magic Lantern ” in her latter years, as seldom or ever to make“any reference to it.
“ Sketches and Fragments,” the second work by Lady Blessington, was also published by Longman in 1822, in one small 12mo. volume. The preface to it is dated June 12, 1822. The contents of this volume are the following :
Blighted Hopes-Marriage—the Ring—Journal of a week of a Lady of Fashion—an Allegory_Fastidiousness of Taste -Coquetry—Egotism-Reflections-Sensibility - Friendship -Wentworth Fragments.
In the “Sketches and Fragments,” Lady Blessington began to be somewhat affected and conventional, to assume a character of strait-laced propriety and purism, that made it incumbent on her to restrain her natural thoughts and feelings, and to adopt certain formulas in phraseology expressive of very exalted sentiments, and of a high sense of the duties she had imposed on herself as a censor of society, its manners, morals, and all externals affecting the decorum of its character. The fact is, Lady Blessington was never less effective in her writings than when she ceased to be natural. And with respect to her second production, though in point of style and skill in composition it was an improvement on her former work, in other respects it was hardly equal to it.
Lady Blessington received no remuneration from either of the works just mentioned. From the produce of the sale of the second work, after defraying all the expenses of publication, there was a small sum of £20 or £30 available, which was applied, by her Ladyship’s directions, to a charitable purpose.
The necessity of augmenting her income by turning her literary talents to a profitable account, brought Lady Blessington before the public as a writer of fashionable novels. The peculiar talent she exhibited in this style of composition was *in lively description of persons in high life, in some respect or other outrè or ridiculous, in a vein of quiet humour, which ran throughout her writings; a common sense, and generally an amiable way of viewing most subjects; a pleasant mode of effecting an entente cordiale with her readers, an air of good-nature in her observations, and an apparent absence of malice or malignity in the smart sayings, sharp and satirical, which she delighted in giving utterance to.
The great defect of her novels was want of creative power, and constructive skill in devising a plot, and carrying on any regularly planned action from the beginning of a work to its close, and making the dénouement the result that ought to be expected from the incidents of the story throughout its progress.
The characters of her mere men of fashion are generally well drawn. Many of her sketches of scènes (in one of the French acceptations of the word) in society, not of scenes in nature, are admirably drawn.
Lady Blessington, in novel-writing, discarded the services of “gorgons, hydras, and chimæras dire.” She had no taste for horrors of that kind; and if she had ventured into the delineation of them, the materiel of her imagination would not have enabled her to deal with them sucessfully.
The characters of her women are generally naturally delineated, except when in waging war with the follies' or vices of fashionable society. She portrayed its female members in colours rather too dark to be true to nature, or even just to
But she always professed to have a great
her own sex.