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pupil, who was acknowledged to be a man of the first genius and most elegant taste who had appeared at Oxford for some years.
“ It was at that time predicted, by those who knew my father best, that he would become an author, and would distinguish himself by some superior literary productions: but these predictions have not been fulfilled. My father never produced any compositions of sufficient consequence to be brought before the public; though I found a few essays and some slight attempts at versification in his portfolio, which afforded sufficient proof that had he undertaken larger works it would not have been without a considerable share of success.
“ It was always the intention of my grandfather, whc was high in favour with the ministry, to bring my father forward in the diplomatic line; but as no situation of this kind immediately offered, upon my father's leaving the University, he was without employment for two years, during which time he indulged in some expences which his noble friends could not conveniently answer; for my paternal relations are not rich.
“In the mean time, hopes were held out to him of speedy advancement in the line he desired: but finding that his creditors would not receive promises in lieu of payment, he suffered himself to be persuaded to seek the improvement of his fortune by marriage; a mode of rising in the world which one should think was but ill suited to a man of
my father's elegant taste and intellectual refinement. For he had often been in the habit of speaking of his future wife as of one who must possess the beauty of Helen and the graces of Calypso, together with the mental distinctions of the unfortunate Sappho: all of which imaginary perfections he was compelled to forego for the ordinary consideration of that large fortune which his various improvidences had rendered desirable.
“But, to speak in plain language, the young lady whom he selected as the object of his addresses was very rich, though she had few of those charms with which he used in imagination to endow his destined wife. She had, however, many excellent qualities; and, had her life been spared, she would, no doubt, have obtained and preserved the regard of her husband: she however lived only two years, and dying, left him one daughter.
“My father thus becoming a widower in early life, was not sorry to be relieved from the charge of his infant by her maternal grandmother, to whose care he consigned her after her mother's death, and never saw her more; though he ever retained a tender recollection of her, and seldom spoke of her without a certain expression of countenance which indicated that his feelings for her were more tender than he openly acknowledged.
“And now, in order that I may not hereafter break in upon other parts of my story, I shall here trace the simple outline of my sister's pathetic history. She was brought up by her respectable grandmother in much retirement, but not in ignorance. Her grandmother being aware of my father's love of literature, procured for her, when at a proper age, a learned tutor in the person of a middle-aged clergyman of the name of Gisborne, who, while the old lady herself undertook those branches of my sister's education which particularly belong to her sex, occupied himself in the cultivation of her mind and the improvement of her talents.
“ As far as I could ever learn, my sister was never a brilliant character, nor in any way distinguished by personal beauty: she possessed, however, in a singular degree, that uniform gentleness and consistency which, when united, as in her case, with feeling and good sense, so peculiarly fit the female for all the duties of daughter, wife, and mother, and render her so especially a help meet for the nobler sex.
My sister, being entitled to a large fortune, married very early, and as early became a widow, though not till she had first become a mother. Her only son, the little Alfred, was born when I, his aunt, was about
and continued to live with his mother and grandmother, enjoying the instruction of his mother's venerable tutor till I had entered into my eighteenth year; at which time he was deprived of both parents within a few months, and consigned by the dying testimony of his mother to the guardianship of
father, with this stipulation, that he should not on any account be separated from Mr. Gisborne. Intending to mention in its proper place what more I may have to say respecting this little boy, I shall now proceed with the history of my father.
“ He was very young when he first became a widower, and being thus freed from all domestic cares, he immediately entered upon that mode of life for which he had originally been designed, by accompanying his Excellency Lord, the English ambassador to the capital of the French monarchy; and from that time he was continually engaged in public affairs in the different courts of Europe till I was thirteen years
of age, although his second marriage did not take place till his daughter by his first wife was between ten and eleven years of age.
“ It was in the duchy of Baden, at the town of Carlsruhe, that my father first saw my mother. Being at that time in easy and affluent circumstances, he was not led to this second marriage by the same motives which had formerly influenced him, for my mother was
beautiful woman, and nearly allied to the first families in the principality. Her fortune was also small when she became my father's wife; though some years after their marriage, through the sudden death of an only brother, she became the heiress of a noble property, and entered into the possession of an almost princely domain.
“ Thus, my dear Madam, having given you the simple statement of the situation of my family before my birth, I shall proceed to those matters which relate more nearly to myself.
" I was born in the grand duchy of Baden, and was called Ellen, after my mother; but I left the place of my nativity so early, that I should have had no knowledge of it had I not seen it again at a later period. Soon after my birth, my parents went to France, and settled in Paris, having a country-house at Versailles, where I chiefly resided with my governess ; although I enjoyed much of the presence of my parents, who were seldom long absent from me, and who regarded me with a degree of tenderness which formed not only their happiness but mine also. I was naturally a very lively child; and I lived among very animated people. The scenes amid which I resided were calculated to excite the fancy in a more than ordinary degree. It was precisely that point of time in the last age, in which Versailles might be said to have reached its highest glory,
when the beautiful and unfortunate Marie Antoinette, the star of Austria, had just commenced that career of vanity, the end of which was so peculiarly disastrous as to excite the commiseration of all Europe, and will continue so to do as long as any records shall remain of the horrors of that time.
Though very young when I first saw that princess, I shall never forget the expression of her beautiful countenance as I one day met her, when walking with my governess in the gardens of Versailles. She was dressed in a simple robe of dimity, with a straw hat, in which was a single bunch of artificial flowers. Her attendants were few; and there was in her countenance an almost infantine expression of ease and sweetness, which formed a painful contrast with the portraits taken of this unhappy princess in later life, when the world had finished that work of corruption which we are well informed was too successfully begun in the court of her ambitious mother; when the caprices of fashion had destroyed her native simplicity; and after her mind had been inflamed with passion and harassed by fatigue.
“ About three years ago, when again visiting Versailles in order to weep over the wreck of former magnificence, I saw a portrait of the little Dauphiness on her first arrival in France; it was inclosed in a shabby frame, and had been thrown aside with other old lumber, in an underground apartment of the palace. In this portrait, the same infantine tenderness was visible; and though the features seemed scarcely yet to have obtained their due proportion, yet there was an air of harmlessness and sweet inexperience cast over the whole figure, which made my heart bleed at every pore, and led me to the indulgence of an encouraging persuasion, that the tragic end of this ill-fated princess was probably preceded by such convictions of the vanity of human life, as might happily fit her for a better world. But to pass from these touching reflections, and to descend into more ordinary life, though still somewhat allied to the pomp of courts.
Many of my early years, as I before said, were passed at Versailles, where my father had a countryhouse. Though I have myself been a great traveller on the Continent, I never saw a palace which conveyed
to my mind such an idea of regal pomp as that of Versailles. I doubt whether it may be asserted that the building is in a good taste; I believe that it is not generally allowed to be so: nevertheless the eye is struck with its magnificent extent, the profusion of sculpture with which it is enriched, the magnitude of its columns, porticoes, terraces, balustrades, and other architectural ornaments; all of which may be more easily conceived than described. The old-fashioned gardens, too, are not without their imposing effect; the various long walks, some straight, some winding, are separated one from another by little coppices or groves, (for we have not a word in English to describe the ornamented bosquet of the French,) in which grottoes charm and fountains play, and where all the caprices of the heathen mythology are represented in groups of marble or of bronze; the various lakes and basons of clear water, each adorned with its triton or water-nymph, its dolphin or its mermaid; the gardens of orange trees; the avenues of tilleul; the groves of myrtle; the stairs of stone, descending from terrace to terrace, ornamented with balustrades; the marble effigies of kings and heroes of other times;- all present in one point of view so much to amuse the fancy, and to confound all sense of ordinary life and the real state of man on earth, that the youthful individual must be cold indeed, or raised in no ordinary degree above earthly things, who can live at Versailles without receiving many corrupt impressions and entertaining many erroneous ideas.
" There is to be found, for the most part, about the courts of kings, a spirit of intrigue or gossip, which requires all the circumstance of splendour attending such places to preserve it in any degree from the low character which never ceases to accompany it in every other modification of life. This spirit is equally blended, in general, with flattery and detraction, and few minds are found sufficiently exalted to rise wholly above it. Hence the characters about every court are commonly of the most ordinary kind, agitated by the lowest passions, and excited by the meanest motives. Nor indeed is it possible that the immediate attendants and companions of earthly kings should ever be enabled to triumph completely over the low feelings of envy and ambition, until