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COURT AND FASHIONABLE
For JANUARY, 1809.
The Forty-first Number,
LADY LANGHAM, whose portrait, || from the celebrated pencil of Hopner, embellishes the present Number of La Belle Assemblée, is the only daughter of the Hon. Charles Vane, by Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Wood, Esq. of Hollin, in the County of York. Her Ladyship is married to Sir William Langham Bart. of Cotesbroke, Northamptonshire.
The materials of biography are very scantily distributed through the walks of private life. The uniform tenor of domestic duties, and the necessary seclusion of the mother of a family, leave little room for that kind of activity which attracts public notice.
It is the maxim of a great poet, that the sphere of female duty should not exceed the family circle-To man it is given to
act in public, to woman is committed the more difficult task of private utility, and the example of retired virtue.
The slight sketches which, according to the plan of our miscellany, we are in the habit of appending to the Portraits of those females which embellish our Work, are not to be dignified by the name of biography. The reader who receives, or expects them in such a shape, is not warranted in his expectations from any promise of the Editor.-They are meant merely as explanatory to the Plate upon those subjects of family connection which it is necessary to relate.-They aspire to no higher honour, and no farther utility; but when the subject admits of amplification we shall follow it.
THE CELEBRATED CORINNA.
THERE has been no biography of any authentic stamp of this celebrated woman; and our readers will perhaps feel a pleasure from the brief narrative which we now lay before them, collected with difficulty, and from no
Corinna (whose real name was Mrs. Thomas), the pride of the gay world, and no less celebrated for her charms than for her genius, was born in 1675. She seems to have inherited from her father, who was far advanced in life, and whose health had been long infirm, an unhappy constitution, rendered yet more delicate and feeble by the injudicious tenderness with which she was nurtured. From her infancy she was afflicted with fevers and defluxions; but, with these physical disadvantages, she possessed a gay and lively temper, and gave early promise of a vigorous intellect. Before she had completed her second year, the death of her father, of whose circumstances his family, from his expensive manner of living, had formed an erroneous calculation, || involved them in embarrassment and distress.
Their circumstances becoming daily more perplexed and involved, she remonstrated with her lover on the inequality of their fortunes and prospects, and the imprudence of the connection which he solicited. The attachment of Mr. Gwynnet, who was already in a great degree independent of his family, was increased by the delicacy and disinterestedness of his mistress; nor was it long before he gained the consent of his father to an union in which his happiness was so deeply involved. With this sanction he came to London, to claim the reward of his affection and fidelity.
Mrs. Thomas being at this time in an infirm state of health, her amiable daughter refused, in her own better prospects, to abandon her mother to the care of strangers. She replied to the solicitations of her lover, that as she had not thought sixteen years too long a period to wait for him, she hoped he would not consider six mouths as tedious, in expectation of receiving, at the end of that time, the recompence of his generous constancy. "Six months at present, my Corinna," he replied, with a sigh," "are more than the sixteen years that are passed; you now defer our union, and God will put it off for ever." His words were prophetic. The next day he returned into the country and made his will, by which he bequeathed to Corinua six hundred pounds; he sickened shortly after, and expired April 16th, 1711. To express the feelings of his mistress on this event language is inadequate :-" Sorrow," said she, "has been my portion ever since."
The Duke of Montague made flattering professions of service; and when Mrs. Thomas solicited him, as Captain of the band of pensioners, to bestow a post on a Mr. Gwynnet, a young gentleman who had long addressed her daughter, actually assented to her request, on condition that the bride-elect should apply to him in person. The guileless mother overwhelmed her generous benefactor with grateful acknowledgements, and instantly hastened to inform her daughter of their flattering prospects, when, to her extreme surprise, she received from Corinna, who had been accustomed to yield to her commands an implicit obedience, a peremptory refusal to avail herself of the bounty of the noble Duke. Compelled at length to explain the motives for a conduct so unreasonable and extraordinary, the young lady confessed that his Grace had attempted to allure her from the paths of chastity. To this she added, that in the condition he had annexed to his services to her lover, she had but too just cause to fear a renewal of his dishonour-paid into her hands. Reduced by this event to able purposes. The feelings of a mother upon such an occasion required no description. The mind of Corinna had been highly culti vated by a perusal of the best authors, while, as her taste refined, her sentiments became delicate and elevated, and her character strong. ly tinctured with those virtues which
"The sons of interest deem romance."
The deed of conveyance, by which the father of Mr. Gwynnet had empowered his son to dispose of his effects, with the will which he had in consequence made, were suppressed by his brother. She had, in the course of this suit, been obliged to sign an instrument to empower the lawyers to receive the money, and pay themselves the costs. The consequences may be foreseen: thirteen pounds sixteen shillings was the residue which these conscientious gentlemen, who sell justice very dear,
the necessity of reitring from her creditors to obscurity and want, she was betrayed by a pre tended friend, and thrown into prison.
After her liberation from confinement, Mrs. Thomas resided in a small and humble lodging in Fleet-street, where she died, February, 1730, in the fifty-sixth year of her age. She was interred in the church of St. Bride's.
ACCOUNT OF THE EXTRAORDINARY LITERARY ENDOWMENTS
MISS ELIZABETH SMITH.
"In the beginning of 1782," says her mother, “we removed into a distaut county, at the earnest entreaty of a blind relation; and in the following year my attendance on him becoming so necessary as daily to engage several hours, at his request I was induced to take a young lady, whom he wished to serve in consequence of her family having experienced some severe misfortunes."
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 to the satisfaction of our readers, certainly not more to our own satisfaction, than wien we introduce to their notice biographical sketches of females, whose innate virtue and superior talents have added a lustre to the times in which we live. We have hitherto, from the nature of our plan, and from what we think due to rank, drawn our sketches chiefly from high life; but should we, as it is our intention in the present instance, descend a little lower, we shall perhaps exhibit a life, short as it unfortunately was, more easy of imitation to the generality of our readers. The great intellectual acquirements which the subject of our present memoir attained at an early period of her existence may, indeed, be difficult to accomplish, nor is it necessary for the happiness of the female sex that all should attempt it; but the modest diffidence which she entertained of her abilities, and the great humility she shewed in every part of her life, notwithstanding her superior understanding and knowledge, will, we hope, be copied by many of our fair readers.
Miss Elizabeth Smith, the young lady of whom we are going to speak, has been brought to public notice by Mrs. Bowdler, the amiable anthor of the well known and greatly admired Sermons on the Doctrines and Duties of Christianity; and it is from her fourth edition of Fragments in Prose and Verse, by a young Lady lately deceased, that we profess to draw our information respecting her.
Miss Elizabeth Smith, we learn by a letter from her mother contained in the above volume, was born at B, in the county of Durham, in December 1776. At a very early age she discovered that love of reading, and that close application to whatever she was engaged in, which marked her character through life. She was accustomed, when only three years old, to leave an elder brother and younger sister to play and amuse themselves, while she eagerly seized on such books as a nursery library commonly affords, and made herself mistress of their contents. At four years of age she read extremely well. What in others is usually the effect of education and habit, seemed born with her; from a very habe the atmost regularity was observable in all her No. XLI. Vol. VI.
This lady, then scarcely sixteen, but whose abilities exceeded her years, became the governess of her children for about eighteen months. On the death of her relation, in 1784, Mrs. Smith informs us that they returned to B, and remained there till June in the following year, when they removed to Piercefield. In the course of the preceding winter Miss Elizabeth Smith had made an uncommon progress in music. From that time till the spring of the year 1786, the children had no instruction but from their mother, their former governess then returned to them, and continued in the family three years longer. By her the children were instructed in French, and in the little Italian which she herself then understood. These particulars Mrs. Smith says she mentions to prove how very little instruction in languages her daughter received, and that the knowledge she afterwards acquired of them was the effect of her own unassisted study...
In the year 1789, the late Mrs Bowdler spent some weeks with the Smith family, at which time, it is supposed, Miss Elizabeth Smith, by accidentally hearing that Mrs. Bowdler had acquired some knowledge of Hebrew and Greek purposely to read the Holy Scriptures in the original languages, was induced to make those languages her particular study, and to have obtained so much facility in the former language as to have left behind her a translation of the Book of Job, which a very learned divine has pronounced as conveying more of the true character and meaning of the Hebrew, with fewer departures from the idiom of the English, than any other translation whatever that we possess; to combine accuracy of version with purity of style, and to unite critical research with familiar exposition.
At the age of thirteen Miss Elizabeth Smith became a sort of governess to her younger
sisters, her mother having then parted with the only one they ever had, and from that time the progress she made in acquiring languages, both ancient and modern, was most rapid"This degree of information, 'says Mrs. Smith, 66 so unusual in a woman, made no confusion in her well-regulated mind; she was a living library, but locked up except to a chosen few; her talents were like bales unopened,' and for want of communication were not so beneficial to others as they might have been; for her dread of being called a learned lady caused such an excess of modest reserve as perhaps formed the greatest defect in her character."
"At this time," says Mrs. Bowdler, "Elizabeth astonished us by the facility with which she acquired information on every subject. She excelled in every thing she attempted; music, dancing, drawing, aud perspective were her chief pursuits, and she succeeded in all; but even at that early age her greatest pleasure seemed to be reading, which she would pursue with unwearied attention during so many hours that I often endeavoured to draw her away from her books, as I feared that such close application might injure her health. She was then well acquainted with the French and Italian languages, and had made considerable progress in the study of geometry and some other branches of the mathematics; at every period of her life she was extremely fond of poetry." Here Mrs. Bowdler treats us with a specimen of her poetic talents, in a beautiful fragment written in the year 1792, when she was no more than fifteen; and another written at the end of that year, entitled “A supposed Translation from a Welch Poem lately dug up at Piercefield, in the same spot where Llewellyn ap Gryffyd was slain, December 10, 1281.* But neither of which poems will our limits allow us to transcribe. Then follow some very interesting letters from Miss Elizabeth Smith to different friends on this and other subjects, one of which, as forming a part of our history, || we shall here introduce.
At the commencement of the war, in the year 1793, many Banks in the west of England failed, and Mr. Smith's was unfortunately of that number; at which time Miss Elizabeth Smith wrote to Mrs. Bowdler as follows
"We were within an hour of setting off from hence, and intended to have seen you, my dear friend, to-morrow, when we were prevented;
This poem was occasioned by the family, who at that time resided at Piercefield, reading the account of the death of Llewellyn in Warrington's "History of Wales," and from an imagination that it happened in their grove.
and I may say it is the only time I ever rẻ joiced at being prevented from seeing you. Last night, after my mother wrote to you, we were informed by a friend that there was an execution against my father. At ten o'clock at night came to take possession of the house. It was secured so that they could not enter; but you may imagine the horror of our situation in that night of storms. Fortunately, the next day being Sunday, we had to watch only till twelve o'clock; and to-day we were preparing to go away at eight in the evening, when we heard that my father's attorney was come from London, that the money was provided, and the execution stopped. There is to be a meeting of creditors to-morrow, who are to have an exact statement of all the concerns of the Bank. My mother supported herself wonderfully last night, but today she was quite exhausted till this news revived her a little. Mr. and Mrs. —were in dreadful anxiety this morning, but I hope they too are now a little comforted;* in short, the prospect appears bright to what it did two hours ago, and we shall all, I hope, bear whatever happens with fortitude. Above all, my beloved friend, I entreat you not to be uneasy, for I trust all will be well. My only apprehension has been for my mother; and I confess it has been hard work to appear cheerful when I saw her agitated in the greatest degree, and knew I could in no way be of the least use; but she shewed great resolution whenever it was necessary. My mother desires me to say a thousand kind things for her. The servants have behaved nobly, and she has had all the comfort that friends can give; if she had none but you she would he rich enough, and I shall wish for nothing more whilst I know you are mine.-Adieu, my dearest!"
How Miss Elizabeth Smith bore this cala
mity we learn from her mother, who, in a letter to the late Rev. Dr. R—, says :- When a reverse of fortune drove us from Piercefield, my daughter had just entered her seventeenth year, an age at which she might have been supposed to have lamented deeply many subsequent privatious. Of the firmness of her mind on that occasion no one can judge better than yourself; for you had an opportunity to observe it, when immediately after the blow was struck you offered, from motives of generous friendship, to undertake a charge which no pecuniary consideration could induce you to accept a few months before. I do not recollect a single murmur escaping her, or the least expression of regret at what she had lost; on the contrary, she always appeared contented; and particularly after our fixing at C―, it seemed as if the place and mode of life were such as she preferred, and in which she was most happy. I pass over in silence a time in which we had no home, and when, from the deranged state of our affairs, we were indebted for one to the kindness and generosity of a friend; nor do I speak of the time spent in Ireland when following the regiment with my } husband, because the want of a settled abode interrupted those studies in which my daughter most delighted. Books are not light of carringe, and the blow which deprived us of Piercefield, deprived us of a library also. But though this period of life afforded little op. portunity for improvement in science, the qualities of her heart never appeared in a more amiable light. Through all the inconveniences which attended our situation while living in barracks, the firmness and cheerful resiguation of her mind at the age of nineteen made me blush for the tear which too frequently trembled in my eye at the recollection of all the comforts we had lost."
After the distressing scene of which Miss Elizabeth Smith had written the account, Mrs. Bowdler continues her narrative by saying:"I went to Piercefield on the following day, but I cannot attempt to describe the scene to which I was then a witness; afflictions so nobly supported make the sufferers objects of eavy rather than pity; a change of fortune so sudden, and so unexpected, was a great trial, but it was receive in a manner to command the respect of all who witnessed it. I had long seen and admired Mrs. Smith in the situation in which she seemed peculiarly formed to shine in one of the finest places in England, surrounded by her lovely children, with all the elegant comforts of affluence, and delighting her happy guests by the fascinating charms of conversation. Through all the misfortunes
which marked the period of which I am now speaking, I can with truth say of Mrs. Smith what she says of her beloved daughter, that I do not recollect a single instance of a murmur having escaped her on account of the loss of fortune; but there were other circumstances attending this sad event which such a heart as she had must deeply feel; and a letter which is now before me speaks the language of her heart:-The business is again delayed. I am averse to this prolongation of our misery, but it is a duty we owe to, to do every thing which can be likely to save him. Oh, my dear friend! if this amiable family were but secure I should be no longer miserable; but as it is, the thought of their situation sometimes sinks me almost to despair. This was an affliction (continues Mrs. Bowdler) under which even conscious rectitude was not sufficient to support her; but the loss of fortune, as it was occasioned neither by extravagance nor vice, and dignified with such conduct as secured the respect and esteem of their friends, was supported by every individual of the family with truly Christiau fortitude and resignation. A few days after I went to Piercefield my friends quitted it for ever, and the young ladies spent seven or eight months with us, in and near Bath. The time which was spent with my mother was certainly of great advantage to my young friends; for she was extremely fond of them, and nothing can be more just than what Mrs. Smith says of her peculiarly happy manner of conveying instruction. Many of their favourite pursuits had been interrupted; they had lost the sublime scenes of Piercefield, which furnished an infinite variety of subjects for the pencil. They drew extremely well, and Elizabeth was completely mistress of perspective. Her musical talents were very uncommon; she played remarkably well both on the piano-forte and harp, but she had lost both her instruments; the library, of which she so well knew the value, was also lost. Always averse to large parties, and with no taste for dissipation, she readily agreed to a plan of employment proposed by my mother, and we agreed on a regular course of history, both ancient and modern; at other times we studied Shakspeare, Milton, and some other English poets, as well as some of the Italians. We took long walks and often drew from nature; after my mother retired to rest we usually studied the stars, and read Bonycastle's Astronomy, which reminds me of the following circumstance-Elizabeth told me one evening that she did not perfectly understand what is said in Bonycastle of Kepler's celebrated, calculation, by which he discovered that the