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A Book of Sibyls Miss Barbauld, Miss Edgeworth, Mrs Opie, Miss Austen   By: (1837-1919)

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A BOOK OF SIBYLS

MRS BARBAULD MISS EDGEWORTH

MRS OPIE MISS AUSTEN

BY

MISS THACKERAY (MRS RICHMOND RITCHIE)

LONDON SMITH, ELDER, & CO., 15 WATERLOO PLACE 1883

[ All rights reserved ]

[ Reprinted from the Cornhill Magazine ]

TO

MRS OLIPHANT

My little record would not seem to me in any way complete without your name, dear Sibyl of our own, and as I write it here, I am grateful to know that to mine and me it is not only the name of a Sibyl with deep visions, but of a friend to us all. A. T. R.

PREFACE.

Not long ago, a party of friends were sitting at luncheon in a suburb of London, when one of them happened to make some reference to Maple Grove and Selina, and to ask in what county of England Maple Grove was situated. Everybody immediately had a theory. Only one of the company (a French gentleman, not well acquainted with English) did not recognise the allusion. A lady sitting by the master of the house (she will, I hope, forgive me for quoting her words, for no one else has a better right to speak them) said, 'What a curious sign it is of Jane Austen's increasing popularity! Here are five out of six people sitting round a table, nearly a hundred years after her death, who all recognise at once a chance allusion to an obscure character in one of her books.'

It seemed impossible to leave out Jane Austen's dear household name from a volume which concerned women writing in the early part of this century, and although the essay which is called by her name has already been reprinted, it is added with some alteration in its place with the others.

Putting together this little book has been a great pleasure and interest to the compiler, and she wishes once more to thank those who have so kindly sheltered her during her work, and lent her books and papers and letters concerning the four writers whose works and manner of being she has attempted to describe; and she wishes specially to express her thanks to the Baron and Baroness VON HÜGEL, to the ladies of Miss Edgeworth's family, to Mr. HARRISON, of the London Library, to the Miss REIDS, of Hampstead, to Mrs. FIELD and her daughters, of Squire's Mount, Hampstead, to Lady BUXTON, Mrs. BROOKFIELD, Miss ALDERSON, and Miss SHIRREFF.

CONTENTS. PAGE

MRS. BARBAULD [1743 1825] 1 MARIA EDGEWORTH [1767 1849] 51 MRS. OPIE [1769 1853] 149 JANE AUSTEN [1775 1817] 197

A BOOK OF SIBYLS.

MRS. BARBAULD.

1743 1825.

'I've heard of the lady, and good words went with her name.' Measure for Measure.

I.

'The first poetess I can recollect is Mrs. Barbauld, with whose works I became acquainted before those of any other author, male or female when I was learning to spell words of one syllable in her story books for children.' So says Hazlitt in his lectures on living poets. He goes on to call her a very pretty poetess, strewing flowers of poesy as she goes.

The writer must needs, from the same point of view as Hazlitt, look upon Mrs. Barbauld with a special interest, having also first learnt to read out of her little yellow books, of which the syllables rise up one by one again with a remembrance of the hand patiently pointing to each in turn; all this recalled and revived after a lifetime by the sight of a rusty iron gateway, behind which Mrs. Barbauld once lived, of some old letters closely covered with a wavery writing, of a wide prospect that she once delighted to look upon. Mrs. Barbauld, who loved to share her pleasures, used to bring her friends to see the great view from the Hampstead hill top, and thus records their impressions:

'I dragged Mrs. A. up as I did you, my dear, to our Prospect Walk, from whence we have so extensive a view... Continue reading book >>




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