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ACCOUNT OF THE EXTRAORDINARY LITERARY ENDOWMENTS

OF

MISS ELIZABETH SMITH.

In a work confessedly written for the in- || actions; whatever she did was well done, and struction and amusement of the fair sex, we with an apparent reflection far beyond her conceive we cannot fulfil our engagement more years. to the satisfaction of our readers, certainly “ In the beginning of 1782,” says her monot more to our own satisfaction, than wisen ther, “we removed into a distaut county, at we introduce to their notice biographical the earnest entreaty of a blind relation ; and sketches of females, whose jupate virtue and in the following year my attendance on bim saperior talents have added a lustre to the becoming so necessary as daily to engage sevetimes in wbich we live. We have hitherto,ral hours, at his request I was induced to take from the nature of our plan, and from what we a young lady, whom he wished to serve in conthink due to rank, drawn our sketches chiefly sequence of her family having experienced some from bigb life; but should we, as it is our in severe misfortunes.” tention in the present instance, descend a little This lady, then scarcely sixteen, but whose lower, we shall perhaps exbibit a life, short as abilities exceeded her years, became the goverit unfortunately was, more easy of imitation to ness of her children for about eighteen months. the generality of onr readers. The great in On the death of her relation, in 1784, Mrs. tellectual acquirements which the subject of Smith informs us that they returned to B, our present memvir attained at an early pe- and remained there till June in the following riod of her existence may, indeed, be difficult year, when they removed to Piercefield. In the to accomplish, nor is it necessary for the hap course of the preceding winter Miss Elizabeth piness of the female sex that all should attempt | Smith had made an uncommon progress in it; but the modest diffidence which she enter-music. From that time till the spring of the tained of ber abilities, and the great bumility year 1786, the children had no instruction but she shewed in every part of her life, notwith from their mother, their former governess standing her superior understanding and know. then returned to them, and continued in the ledge, will, we hope, be copied hy many of our family three years longer. By her the chilfair readers.

dren were justructed in French, and in the Miss Elizabeth Smith, the young lady of' little Italian which she herself then underwhom we are going to speak, has been brought stood. These particulars Mrs. Smith says she to pablic votice by Mrs. Bowdler, the amiable mentions to prove how very little instruction anthor of the well known and greatly admired' in languages her daughter received, and that Sermons on the Doctrines and Duties of Christianity; the knowledge she afterwards acquired of them and it is from her fourth edition of Fragments was the effect of her own unassisted study. : in Prose and Verse, by a young Lady lately de In the year 1789, the late Mrs Bowdler spent ceased, that we profess to draw our information some weeks with the Smith family, at which respecting her.

time, it is supposed, Miss Elizabeth Smith, by Miss Elizabeth Smith, we learn by a letter accidentally hearing that Mrs. Bowdler had from her mother contained in the above vo acquired some knowledge of Hebrew and Greek Jame, was born at B-, in the county of purposely to read the Holy Scriptures in the Durham, in December 1776. At a very early original languages, was induced to make those age she discovered that love of reading, and languages her particnlar study, and to have tbal close application to whatever she was en obtained so much facility in the former langaged in, which marked ber character through guage as to have left hebind her a translation life. She was accustomed, when only three of the Book of Job, which a very learned divine years old, to leave an elder brother and younger has pronounced as conveying more of the true sister to play and amuse themselves, while she character and meaning of the Hebrew, with eagerly seized on such books as a nursery fewer departures from the idiom of the English, library commonly affords, and made herself than any other translation whatever that we mistress of their contents. At four years of possess; to combine accuracy of version with age she read extremely well. What in others purity of style, and to unite critical research is usually the effect of education and babit, with familiar exposition. seemed born with her; from a very habe the At the age of thirteen Miss Elizabeth Smith utmost regularity was observable in all ber | became a sort of governess to her younger

No. XLI. Vol. VI.

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sisters, her mother having then parted with and I may say it is the only time I ever re. the only one they ever had, and from that time joiced at being prevented from seeing you. the progress she made in acquiring languages, Last night, after my mother wrote to you, we both ancient and modern, was most rapid - were informed by a friend that there was an “This degree of information, 'says Mrs. Smith, execution against my father. At ten o'clock

so unusual in a woman, made no confusion at night came to take possession of the in her well-regulated mind; she was a living house. It was secured so that they could not library, but locked up except to a chosen few; il enter; but you may imagine the horror of her talents were like bales unopened,' and for our situation in that night of storms. Fortuwant of communication were not su beneficial nately, the next day being Sunday, we bad to to others as they might have been; for her watch only till twelve o'clock; and to-day we dread of being called a learned lady caused were preparing to go away at eight in the such an excess of modest reserve as perhaps evening, when we heard that my father's at. formed the greatest defect in her character."

torney was come from London, that the money “At this time,” says Mrs. Bowdler, “ Eli was provided, and the execution stopped. zabeth astonished us by the facility with which There is to be a meeting of creditors to-more she acquired information on every subject.

row, who are to bave an exact statement of all She excelled in every thing she attempted; the concerns of the Bank. My mother supmusic, dancing, drawing, and perspective were ported herself wonderfully last night, but toher chief pursuits, and she succeeded in all; day she was quite exhausted till this news but even at that early age her greatest pleasure revived her a little. Mr. and Mrs. seemed to be reading, which she would pursue in dreadful anxiety this morning, but I hope with unwearied attention during so many they too are now a little conforted ;* in short, hours that I often endeavoured to draw ber the prospect appears bright to what it did away from her books, as I feared that such two hours ago, and we shall all, I bope, bear close application might injure her health. She whatever bappens with furtitude. Above all, was then well acquainted with the French and

my beloved friend, I entreat you not to be un. Italian languages, and had made considerable easy, for I trust all will be well. My only progress in the study of geometry and some

apprehension has been for my mother; and I other brancles of the mathematics; at every confess it has been hard work to appear cheerperiod of her life she was extremely fond of ful when I saw her agitated in the greatest poetry.” Here Mrs. Bowdler treats us with a degree, and knew I could in vo way be of the specimen of her poetic talents, in a beautiful least use; t but she shewed great resolution fragment written in the year 1792, when she || whenever it was necessary. My mother de. was no more than fifteen; and another written sires me to say a thousand kind things for her. at the end of that year, entitled “A supposed The servants have behaved nobly, and she has Translation fronu a Welch Poem lately dug up had all the comfort that friends can give; if at Piercefield, in the same spot where Llewel- she had none but you she would be rich enough, Jyn ap Gryffyd was slain, December 10, 1281.* and I shall wish for nothing more whilst I But neither of which poems will our limits know you are mine.-Adieu, my dearest!" allow us to transcribe. Then follow some very How Miss Elizabeth Smith bore this calainteresting letters from Miss Elizabeth Smith to different friends on this and other subjects, * In the summer of the year 1791, when the one of which, as forming a part of our history, || Bank was in a fourisbing state, Mr.

who we shall here introduce.

was the neighbour and friend of Mr. Smith, At the commencement of the war, in the put his name in the firm, without advancing year 1793, many Banks in the west of England any part of the capital, or receiving any share failed, and Mr. Smith's was unfortuvately of of the emoluments, but on condition that liis that number; at which time Miss Elizabeth son should be taken into the house as clerk, Smith wrote to Mrs. Bowdler as follows : aud be admitted a partner on his coming of

“We were within an hour of setting off from age. In consequence of this circunstance hence, and intended to have seen you, my dear Mr. - was involved in the misfortune which friend, to-morrow, when we were prevented; happened in the year 1793, to the regret of all

who knew him, and particularly of the Smith Tbis poem was occasioned by the family, family. who at that time resided at Piercefield, reading + We cannot conceive that a young lady can the account of the death of Llewellyn in War be more useful than in shewing fortitude on rington's “ History of Wales," and from an

such an occasion, and helping to calm the imagination that it happened in their grore. mind of a distressed parent.

mity we learn from her mother, who, in a letter which marked the period of which I am now to the late Rev. Dr. Pi-says:-When a speaking, I can with truth say of Mrs. Smith reverse of fortune drove us from Piercefield, what she says of her beloved daughter, that I my daughter had just entered her seventeenth ; do not recollect a single instance of a murmur year, an age at which she might have been having escaped her on account of the loss of supposed to have lamented deeply many sub fortune; but there were other circumstances sequent privatious. Of the firmness of her attending this sad event which such a heart as mind on that occasion no one can judge better she had must deeply feel; and a letter which than yourself; for you had an opportunity to is now before me speaks the language of her observe it, when immediately after the blow heart: The business is agaiu delayed. I am Fas struck you offered, from motives of gene averse to this prolongation of our misery, but rous friendship, to undertake a charge which it is a duty we owe to, to do every thing ne pecuniary consideration could induce you which cau be likely to save him. Oh, my to accept a few months before. I do not recol dear friend ! if this amiable family were but lect a single murmur escaping her, or the least secure I should be no longer miserable; but as expression of regret at what she bad lost; on it is, the thought of their situation sometimes the coutrary, she always appeared contented; sinks me almost to despair.'-This was an and particularly after our fixing at it affliction (continues Mrs. Bowdler) under which seemed as if the place and mode of life were even conscious rectitude was not sufficient to such as she preferred, and in which she was support her; but the loss of fortune, as it was most happy. I pass over in silence a time in occasioned neither by extravagance nor vice, wbicb we bad no bome, and when, from the and dignified with such conduct as secured the deranged state of our affairs, we were indebted respect and esteem of their friends, was supfor one to the kindness and generosity of a ported by every individual of the family with friend; nor do I speak of the time spent in truly Christiau fortitude and resignation. A Ireland when following the regiment with my few days after I went to Piercefield my friends husband, because the want of a settled abode quitted it for ever, and the young ladies spent interrupted those studies in which my daughter seven or eight months with us, in and near most delighted. Books are not light of car Bath. The time which was spent with my riage, and the blow which deprived us of mother was certainly of great advantage to my Piercefield, deprived us of a library also. But young friends; for she was extremely fond of thougb this period of life afforded little op them, and nothing can be more just than what portunity for improvement in science, the Mrs. Smith says of her peculiarly happy manqualities of her heart never appeared in a more ner of conveying instruction. Many of their ainiable light. Through all the inconveniences favourite pursuits had been interrupted; they wliich attended our situation while living in had lost the sublime scenes of Piercefield, barracks, the firmness and cheerful resigua. which furnished an infinite variety of subjects tion of her mind at the age of nineteen made for the pencil. They drew extremely well, and me blush for the tear which too frequentiy Elizabeth was completely mistress of perspectrembled in my eye at the recollection of all tive. Her musical talents were very uncomthe comforts we had lost."

mon; she played remarkably well both on the After the distressing scene of which Miss piano-forte and harp, but she bad iust both Elizabeth Smith had written the account, her instruments; the library, of which she so Mrs. Bowdler continues ber narrative by say well knew the value, was also lost. Always iug :-" I went to Piercefield on the following averse to large parties, and with no taste for day, but I cannot attempt to describe the scene dissipation, she readily agreed to a plau ot'emto which I was then a witness; affictions so ployment proposed by my mother, and we nobly supported make the sufferers objects of agreed on a regular course of history, both euvy rather than pity; a change of fortune so ancient and modern, at other times we studied sudden, and so unexpected, was a great trial, Shakspeare, Milton, and sonje other English but it was received in a manner to command poets, as well as some of the Italians. We the respect of all who witnessed it. I bad long took loug walks and often drew fro'n nature; geen and admired Mrs. Smith in the situation after my mother retired to rest we usually in whieh she seemed peculiarly formed to studied the stars, and read Bonycastle's Astro. shine ; in one of the finest places in England, nomy, which reminds me of the following cirsurrounded by her lovely children, with all the cumstance :--Elizabeth told me one evening elegant comforts of affluence, and delighting that she did not perfectly understand what is her happy guests by the fascinating charins of said in Bonycastle of Kepler's celebrated, calconversation. Through all the misfortuues | culation, by which he discovered that the

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