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Leonora   By: (1767-1849)

Leonora by Maria Edgeworth

First Page:

[Illustration: It was long past midnight, she had a heap of Mr. L 's old letters beside her. She denied that she was in tears.]





"O lady Leonora! lady Leonora is ill!" exclaimed every voice. The consternation was wonderful.




Leonora, though not published until 1806, was commenced three years before that date: the circumstances under which it was written were to a certain extent unique in Maria Edgeworth's life; for we are told that throughout the time occupied in writing the story, she had in mind the offer of marriage made to her by Monsieur Edelcrantz, a Swedish gentleman of good position, "of superior understanding and mild manners," as she told her aunt in a letter partly written before the proposal and finished afterwards. This seems, from the biographies, to have been the only time this truly good and sensible woman was ever sought in marriage by any man; and it shows some of the good qualities she possessed, that though she refused him, yet from the respect she bore him and the esteem in which she held him, this story was written to a large extent with a view to his approbation, though we are told that she never knew whether or no he had read it.

On the next page is appended a list of the principal editions of this volume.

Leonora, by Maria Edgeworth, 2 vols., London, 1806.

Another edition, with Letters on Several Subjects , and An Essay on Self Justification (forming Vol. IV. of Tales and Miscellaneous Pieces , by Maria Edgeworth, 14 vols.), London, 1825.

Another edition (Vol. XIII. of Novels and Tales of Maria Edgeworth, 18 vols.), London, 1832 33.

Many reprints from the stereotype plates of this edition have been issued in various forms and with varying arrangement of the stories.

Translated into French in 1807, and another edition in 1812.

F. J. S.




Letter i.

Lady Olivia to Lady Leonora L .

What a misfortune it is to be born a woman! In vain, dear Leonora, would you reconcile me to my doom. Condemned to incessant hypocrisy, or everlasting misery, woman is the slave or the outcast of society. Confidence in our fellow creatures, or in ourselves, alike forbidden us, to what purpose have we understandings, which we may not use? hearts, which we may not trust? To our unhappy sex genius and sensibility are the most treacherous gifts of Heaven. Why should we cultivate talents merely to gratify the caprice of tyrants? Why seek for knowledge, which can prove only that our wretchedness is irremediable? If a ray of light break in upon us, it is but to make darkness more visible; to show us the narrow limits, the Gothic structure, the impenetrable barriers of our prison. Forgive me if on this subject I cannot speak if I cannot think with patience. Is it not fabled, that the gods, to punish some refractory mortal of the male kind, doomed his soul to inhabit upon earth a female form? A punishment more degrading, or more difficult to endure, could scarcely be devised by cruelty omnipotent. What dangers, what sorrows, what persecutions, what nameless evils awaits the woman who dares to rise above the prejudices of her sex!

"Ah! happy they, the happiest of their kind!"

who, without a struggle, submit their reason to be swathed by all the absurd bandages of custom. What, though they cripple or distort their minds; are not these deformities beauties in the eyes of fashion? and are not these people the favoured nurslings of the World , secure of her smiles, her caresses, her fostering praise, her partial protection, through all the dangers of youth and all the dotage of age?

"Ah! happy they, the happiest of their kind!"

who learn to speak, and think, and act by rote; who have a phrase, or a maxim, or a formula ready for every occasion; who follow

"All the nurse and all the priest have taught... Continue reading book >>

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