British Fiction, 18001829

EDGEWORTH, Maria. Tales of Fashionable Life (1809)

Anecdotal Records

Letter from Maria Edgeworth to Sophy Ruxton.
June 1809.
A copy of Tales of Fashionable Life reached us yesterday in a Foster frank: they looked well enough,—not very good paper, but better than Popular Tales.
Source: The Life and Letters of Maria Edgeworth, ed. by Augustus J. C. Hare, 2 vols (London: Edward Arnold, 1894), I, 166.
Notes: In a letter to Sophy Ruxton of 22 Aug 1809, Edgeworth encloses comments (written in French) from Etienne Dumont about the first series of the Tales (Hare, I, 167). Popular Tales is EN2 1804: 17.

Letter from Anne Grant to Mrs Fletcher.
6 July 1809.
I am impatient to see [Edgeworth’s] Tales of Fashionable Life; but one never meets anything of that kind here till all the world are tired of it.
Source: Memoir and Correspondence of Mrs Grant of Laggan, ed. by J. P. Grant, 3 vols (London: Longman, 1844), I, 230.
Notes: Material in square brackets appears as given in the printed source.

Letter from Susan Ferrier to Charlotte Clavering.
26 July 1809.
Have you read Edgeworth’s ‘Fashionable Tales’? I like the two first, but none of the others. It is high time all good ladies and [65/66] grateful little girls should be returned to their gilt boards, and as for sentimental weavers and moralising glovers, I recommend them as penny ware for the pedlar.
Source: Memoir and Correspondence of Susan Ferrier. 1782–1854. Collected by her Grand-Nephew John Ferrier, ed. by John A. Doyle (London: Murray, 1898; repr. London: Eveleigh, 1929), pp. 65–66.

Letter from Sydney Smith to Francis Jeffrey.
3 Sept 1809.
I must be pardoned for suspecting the praise of Miss Edgeworth to be overdone […].
Source: The Letters of Sydney Smith, ed. by Nowell C. Smith, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1953), I, 165.
Notes: Jeffrey was the author of the Edinburgh review of the first series of Tales of Fashionable Life (vol. 14, July 1809). Letter is addressed from Heslington.

Letter from Agnes Porter to Lady Mary Talbot.
9 Feb 1810.
I think you would like Mrs Hamilton’s Cottage of Glenburney [sic], and Mrs Edgeworth’s Tales of Fashionable Life.
Source: A Governess in the Time of Jane Austen: The Journals and Letters of Agnes Porter, ed. by Joanna Martin (London: Hambledon Press, 1998), p. 292.
Notes: Elizabeth Hamilton’s Cottagers of Glenburnie is EN2 1808: 52.

Letter from Mary Russell Mitford to Sir William Elford.
29 Sept 1810.
Miss Edgeworth has done more good both to the higher and lower world than any writer since the days of Addison. She shoots at ‘folly as it flies’ with the strong bolt of ridicule, and seldom misses her aim. Perhaps you will think that I betray a strange want of taste when I confess that, much as I admire the polished satire and nice discrimination of character in the ‘Tales of Fashionable Life’, I prefer the homely pathos and plain morality of her ‘Popular Tales’ to any part of her last publication.
Source: The Life of Mary Russell Mitford: Related in a Selection from her Letters to her Friends, ed. by A. G. L’Estrange, 3 vols (London: Bentley, 1870), I, 108–09.

Letter from Walter Scott to Richard Lovell Edgeworth.
2 July [1811].
[…] Fame I have heard has done me the dishonour to attribute to me a very silly and impertinent review of Miss Edgeworths Tales of fashionable Life which appeared in the Quarterly Review. I know only one motive I could have for venting my revenge on such a work in such a manner and that is the soreness of my sides for several days after I read the Irish journey in the inimitable tale of Ennui. Perhaps this idle rumour has never reachd you but if it should I trust Miss Edgeworth did not believe it.
Source: Grierson, II, 510; also see Millgate #628.
Notes: Year is from the postmark. The review appeared in Quarterly Review 2 (Aug 1809) : 146–54.

Letter from Sarah Harriet Burney to Charlotte Francis Barrett.
[4 Oct 1811].
[regarding gossip about Lord Wellington] Nurse Dolly is an Irish Woman who brought him up, and when he went on this expedition would accompany him, & takes care of his tent, washes his linen, and when he comes back to his quarters at night harassed to death, has always something comfortable for him, & they say has more than once been the means of preserving his life. She is adored in the Camp. Is not this like the Irish Nurse in Ennui? Emma told me when I said so, that it had struck her directly.
Source: The Letters of Sarah Harriet Burney, ed. by Lorna J. Clark (Athens & London: University of Georgia Press, 1997), p. 141.
Notes: Charlotte was Burney’s niece; she married Henry Barrett in 1807. The letter is addressed to her at Richmond, Surrey. The letter is dated Friday; the postmark has Saturday 5 Oct.

Letter from Walter Scott to Matthew Weld Hartstonge.
20 June [1812].
I have been delighted by the new Vol. of Miss Edgeworths Fashionable Tales especially by that of the absentee. Oh what a world your island will be when Fashion and Prejudice shall have ceased to sow division among you and when the independence and wealth of your farmers shall render the presence or absence of your Landlords a matter of little consequence to any but themselves.
Source: Grierson, III, 454; also see Grierson, XII, 457 and Millgate #915.
Notes: Grierson, III misdates 1814; the date is corrected in Grierson, XII. Millgate corrects Grierson’s date of 30 June to 20 June from internal evidence. Letter is addressed to Hartstonge in Dublin.

Letter from Mary Russell Mitford to Sir William Elford.
12 July 1812.
I have just been reading Miss Edgeworth, [Tales of Fashionable Life] and I am delighted. Lady Julia is a sentimentalist of the first order, and has, of course, no small dash of folly mixed up with her eloquence. But Lady Sarah is Miss Edgeworth’s chef-d’oeuvre. I have not the slightest doubt of her having invented this character, because [203/204] genius always creates and leaves to patient dullness the mean and bounded drudgery of imitation; and yet I know a lady who is the exact resemblance of this exquisite portrait.
Source: The Life of Mary Russell Mitford: Related in a Selection from her Letters to her Friends, ed. by A. G. L’Estrange, 3 vols (London: Bentley, 1870), I, 203.

Letter from Maria Edgeworth to Miss Margaret Ruxton.
20 July 1812.
[Edgeworth thanks Margaret for reassuring her that her aunt Ruxton received a copy of the Tales.] I cannot by any form of words express how delighted I am […] that my uncle and aunt are pleased with what they have read of ‘The Absentee.’ I long to hear whether their favour continues to the end and extends to the catastrophe, that dangerous rock upon which poor authors, even after a prosperous voyage, are [181/182] wrecked, sometimes while their friends are actually hailing them from the shore.
Source: The Life and Letters of Maria Edgeworth, ed. by Augustus J. C. Hare, 2 vols (London: Edward Arnold, 1894), I, 181–82.

Letter from Princess Charlotte to Mercer Elphinstone.
16–20 Nov 1812.
I shall be delighted to have any musick or books from you. […] I have not read Miss Edgeworth’s, I will send for them. Have you got a new one by Miss Plumtree, called Myself & my Friend? I think you would rather like it.
Source: The Letters of Princess Charlotte 1811–1817, ed. A. Aspinall (London: Home and Van Thal, 1949), p. 39.
Notes: Princess Charlotte is writing from Windsor. It is likely that Princess Charlotte is referring to Edgeworth’s second series of Tales of Fashionable Life. Plumptre's History of Myself and My Friend is EN2 1813: 48.

Comment by Edward Wakefield.
[1812].
[Wakefield comments in a note to an observation on the state of education in Ireland:] A minister, of more than ordinary talent, once declared, that he did not care who made the laws, as long as he wrote the ballads of the nation. Did the government purchase the copy-right of Miss Hamilton’s Cottagers of Glenburnie; or Miss Edgeworth’s Popular and Rural tales; Mrs. Leadbeater’s Cottage Dialogues; and a few more such works, and sell them at a cheap rate, it would save the sheriff the cost of many a halter, and effect more than half the acts of parliament which will be passed in the next ten years. Dr Franklin, in the Memoirs of his Life, has described the effect which his establishing a book society, had upon the American people; a circumstance, recorded by that great man, [which] should not pass unheeded by the British statesman.
Source: Edward Wakefield, An Account of Ireland, Statistical and Political, 2 vols (London: Longman & Co, 1812), II, 416.
Notes: While Wakefield’s study is obviously not concerned primarily with literary matters, this comment demonstrates the ways in which fiction could structure a perception of a particular locale; it also points to the often utilitarian view of the uses of ‘improving’ literature of this time. By Edgeworth’s ‘Rural Tales’ Wakefield possibly means ‘Ennui’ and ‘The Absentee’, in the first and second series, respectively, of the Tales of Fashionable Life. Leadbeater’s Cottage Dialogues is EN2 1811: 50.

Letter from Mary Leadbeater to Melesina Trench.
11 Jan 1813.
[Leadbeater discusses the upcoming wedding of Miss Tilney Long.] It is said that she is designed in the ‘Absentee,’ under the name of Miss Broadhurst. If she have such a mind, no matter in what person it is lodged.
Source: Mary Leadbeater, The Leadbeater Papers, 2 vols (London: Bell and Daldy, 1862; rpt. Routledge/Thoemmes Press, 1998), II, 244.
Notes: Letter is addressed from Ballitore, Ireland. Miss Broadhurst is a character in ‘The Absentee’.

Letter from Melesina Trench to Mary Leadbeater.
Jan 1813.
I do not believe she [i.e. Miss Tilney Long] was designated under the character of Miss Broadhurst, for I never heard she had any pretensions to superiority of intellect, and she was placed in so strong a light by the [245/246] rays of her own wealth that every perfection of hers must have been blazoned to the world.
Source: Mary Leadbeater, The Leadbeater Papers, 2 vols (London: Bell and Daldy, 1862; rpt. Routledge/Thoemmes Press, 1998), II, 245–46.

Letter from Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen.
9 Feb 1813.
The Clements are at home & are reduced to read. They have got Miss Edgeworth.
Source: Le Faye, p. 206.
Notes: Letter is addressed from Chawton. The date indicates the likelihood that the Clements were reading the second series of the Tales (1812).

Diary Entry by Henry Crabb Robinson..
14 Mar 1813.
Read and finished Miss Edgeworth’s Absentee. It is by far the best of the new collection of tales, and is, indeed, a moral tale, calculated to do real good and have an operative and real effect on Irishmen. It has great variety of character, and great impartiality in the distribution of honourable and disgraceful characters among the two nations. As usual, her Irish low scenes are the master scenes. The letter of Larry describing the return of the Clonbrony family as a finale to the work is exquisite, and the pictures of the good and bad steward, the vulgar grocer’s wife, the romantic and high-minded O’Halloran, and the insipid Killpatricks are well-contrasted. It is a very instructive lesson addressed to Irish landholders, and a picture of Irish manners in which I have strong faith. Lord and Lady Clonbrony are also well managed, and Miss Nugent is a very decent heroine, but the embarrassment arising from Lord Colambre believing her to be illegitimate does not awaken sympathy, and the discovery of her birth has all the improbability of romance without being prepared for. Lady Dashfort is a good conception, but should have been drawn by a man. Who could endure a Pan or Silenus by Angelica Kaufmann? The two specimens of Miss Nugent’s wit, ostentatiously brought forward too, are very poor.
Source: Henry Crabb Robinson on Books and their Writers, ed. by Edith J. Morley, 3 vols (London: Dent, 1938), I, 124.

Letter from Maria Edgeworth to Mrs Margaret Ruxton.
9 Apr 1813.
I have been told that Larry the footboy and Mrs. Rafferty’s dinner [from ‘The Absentee’] are nothing to what has been seen at the dinners of les nouveaux riches at Liverpool and Manchester.
Source: Maria Edgeworth: Letters from England 1813–1844, ed. by Christina Colvin (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), p. 15.
Notes: Edgeworth has recently visited Manchester and Liverpool, and is commenting on the new wealth generated by manufacturing in those cities.

Letter from Maria Edgeworth to Charlotte Sneyd.
19 Apr 1813.
[Mrs Powys’s] manners and tone of voice appeared so well bred and gentle that I could scarcely find any resemblance to the character in Emilie de Coulanges.
Source: Maria Edgeworth: Letters from England 1813–1844, ed. by Christina Colvin (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), p. 21.
Notes: See Colvin (p. 21, n. 1) for a speculation about the connection between Mrs Powys and a character in ‘Emilie de Coulanges’. ‘Emilie de Coulanges’ is part of the second series of Tales.

Letter from Maria Edgeworth to Honora Edgeworth.
26 Apr 1813.
[Edgeworth is describing various people she has met at Derby.] Miss French who has agreeable manners and good taste. This last she proved to our satisfaction by various compliments she paid to Sneyd—Miss Broadhurst—not my heiress tho’ she says that after the publication people used to turn their heads whenever her name was announced and ask if she was Miss E’s Miss Broadhurst.
Source: Maria Edgeworth: Letters from England 1813–1844, ed. by Christina Colvin (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), p. 29.

Letter from Maria Edgeworth to Sophy Ruxton.
16 May 1813.
Lord Somerville is so much charmed he says with Lady Delacour and Lady Geraldine whom he pronounces to be perfect women of fashion and who he says are in high repute in the Equerry’s room at court that you know I cannot help being charmed with his Lordships good breeding in return.
Source: Maria Edgeworth: Letters from England 1813–1844, ed. by Christina Colvin (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), p. 53.
Notes: This part of the letter is marked ‘Private’. Lady Delacour and Lady Geraldine are characters in Belinda (EN2 1801: 24) and ‘Ennui’, respectively.

Letter from Maria Edgeworth to Fanny Edgeworth.
18 May 1813.
Lord Carrington sent me an excellent sermon of Dr. Fawcetts which I wish I had seen before Vivian was published as there is an x [sic] passage in it on false shame which Russell might have quoted….
Source: Maria Edgeworth: Letters from England 1813–1844, ed. by Christina Colvin (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), p. 67.
Notes: Ellipses appear as given in the printed source. Mr Russell is the former tutor and friend to the eponymous hero of ‘Vivian’ in the 2nd series of Tales.

Letter from Maria Edgeworth to Mrs Margaret Ruxton.
1 Jan 1814.
Hunter has sent a whole cargo of French translations—Popular Tales, with a title under which I should never have known them, Conseils à mon Fils! Manœuvring: La Mère Intrigante; Ennui—what can they make of it in French? Leonora will translate better than a better thing. Emilie de Coulanges, I fear, will never stand alone. [220/221] L’Absent, The Absentee,—it is impossible that a Parisian can make any sense of it from beginning to end. But these things teach authors what is merely local and temporary. Les deux Griseldis de Chaucer et Edgeworth; and, to crown all, two works surreptitiously printed in England under our name, and which are no better than they should be.
Source: The Life and Letters of Maria Edgeworth, ed. by Augustus J. C. Hare, 2 vols (London: Edward Arnold, 1894), I, 220–21.
Notes: At least one of the works printed using the Edgeworth name was likely to have been Tales of Real Life. Forming a sequel to Miss Edgeworth’s Tales of Fashionable Life (EN2 1810: 18). Rowland Hunter was the successor to Joseph Johnson, Maria Edgeworth’s publisher (BBTI). Leonora is EN2 1806: 29; Edgeworth’s The Modern Griselda is EN2 1805: 29.

Letter from Sydney Smith to Elizabeth Fox Vassall, Lady Holland.
20 Jan 1814.
I have not read Miss Edgeworth’s novel [Patronage (EN2 1814: 20)] nor have I much opinion of her powers of execution saving and excepting Irish characters. Every thing else I have read of hers I thought very indifferent, even her Tale called Eunice. If she has put into her Novels people who fed her and her odious father, she is not Trustworthy.
Source: The Letters of Sydney Smith, ed. by Nowell C. Smith, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1953), I, 244.
Notes: It is likely that Nowell C. Smith misreads Eunice for ‘Ennui’, published as part of the first series of Tales of Fashionable Life. Letter is addressed from Heslington.

Travelogue Entry by Anne Plumptre.
[1814/1815].
In Miss Edgeworth’s very fine tale of Ennui (and I know of few things in the way of fiction superior to it) I have still had one subject of regret. To give all the effect intended to the character of the hero, it was perhaps necessary he should experience the strange and complete reverse of fortune which Ellinor’s abrupt disclosure of his being her son brings upon him: yet much could I have desired that her warm attachment had never been other than that of the foster-mother to the babe she had reared,—than that of the dependant of the sept to its master. I wish the author’s fine imagination, her thorough acquaintance with the character of her countrymen, would exercise itself upon such a subject;—how exquisite a national picture would be added to those with which she already presented the public!
Source: Anne Plumptre, Narrative of a Residence in Ireland during the Summer of 1814, and that of 1815, (London: Henry Colburn, 1817), p. 336.

Letter from Walter Scott to Richard Lovell Edgeworth.
18 Feb 1815.
In my opinion the Absentee dans le meme genre fully equald if it did not exceed the Onwe and many passages of Patronage possess an interest more profound than either though as a whole the union of so many stories as were necessary to elucidate the important subject which Miss E. had chosen may injure in some degree the interest so far as it depends upon continuity of incident. Yet to me there seems no deficiency of this kind on the contrary the various scenes which display such knowledge both of human life & human nature are connected with the most wonderful address and remind us necessarily of the skill of the same author who sketched the little tale of ‘Waste not want not’ in which the moral is so naturally yet so forcibly elucidated by a natural chain of circumstances.
Source: Grierson, XII, 423; also see Millgate #3625.
Notes: Onwe is Scott’s phonetic spelling of 'Ennui', one of the tales. Patronage is EN2 1814: 20.

Letter from Anne Grant to Mrs Gorman.
16 July 1815.
I am far from thinking Patronage equal to her other works. Novelities never displace my old favourites, and Ennui has long had the first place in my affections: it is indeed incomparable.
Source: Memoir and Correspondence of Mrs Grant of Laggan, ed. by J. P. Grant, 3 vols (London: Longman, 1844), II, 96.
Notes: Addressed to Mrs Gorman of Kilmore, Ireland.

Letter from Maria Edgeworth to Mrs Frances Edgeworth.
13 Oct 1818.
[Edgeworth describes the buildings she has seen during a country drive from Epping.] There are such a variety of miniature castles with towers and battlements such as Milton and Scott never dreamed of and with all their imagination could never conceive—No nor Vivian neither.
Source: Maria Edgeworth: Letters from England 1813–1844, ed. by Christina Colvin (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), p. 113.
Notes: Vivian (in the 1812 tale of the same name) is involved in financial difficulties as a result of remodelling his mansion in the Gothic style.

Letter from Harriet Edgeworth to Mrs Frances Edgeworth.
18 Nov 1820.
[Harriet and Maria Edgeworth dine with Princess Galitzine.] […] she had been reading Ennui that morning and she was so delighted with it, she could talk of nothing else. She was charmed with the description of Lady Geraldine making Miss Tracy put on something of everybody and she [word(s) missing] into French people.
Source: Maria Edgeworth in France and Switzerland. Selections from the Edgeworth family letters, ed. by Christina Colvin (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), p. 282.
Notes: Letter is addressed from Paris. The indication that words are missing from the letter is given in the printed source.

‘Detached Thoughts’ by Lord Byron.
15 Oct-18 May 1821.
Sir Humphrey Davy told me that the Scene of the French Valet and Irish postboy in ‘Ennui’—was taken from his verbal description to the Edgeworths in Edgeworthstown—of a similar fact on the road occurring to himself—So much the better—being life.
Source: Byron’s Letters and Journals, ed. by Leslie A. Marchand, 13 vols (London: Murray, 1973–94), IX, 34.
Notes: The comments appear as number 64 of the ‘Detached Thoughts’.

Letter from Maria Edgeworth to Mrs Frances Edgeworth.
3 Dec 1821.
[Edgeworth is describing a visit with Lady Morley, described by Edgeworth as ‘one of the very best mimics I ever saw’.] We will give you at secondhand some time or other her Lady Cholmondely and her conversation on coincidencies—the tone exactly like my own idea of Lady Clonbrony—lisp and all to perfection.
Source: Maria Edgeworth: Letters from England 1813–1844, ed. by Christina Colvin (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), p. 283.
Notes: Lady Clonbrony is a character in ‘The Absentee’.

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