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Little Memoirs of the Nineteenth Century   By: (1860-1936)

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LITTLE MEMOIRS OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY

BY GEORGE PASTON

1902

PREFACE

For these sketches of minor celebrities of the nineteenth century, it has been my aim to choose subjects whose experiences seem to illustrate the life more especially the literary and artistic life of the first half of the century; and who of late years, at any rate, have not been overwhelmed by the attentions of the minor biographer. Having some faith in the theory that the verdict of foreigners is equivalent to that of contemporary posterity, I have included two aliens in the group. A visitor to our shores, whether he be a German princeling like Pückler Muskau, or a gilded democrat like N. P. Willis, may be expected to observe and comment upon many traits of national life and manners that would escape the notice of a native chronicler.

Whereas certain readers of a former volume 'Little Memoirs of the Eighteenth Century' seem to have been distressed by the fact that the majority of the characters died in the nineteenth century, it is perhaps meet that I should apologise for the chronology of this present volume, in which all the heroes and heroines, save one, were born in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. But I would venture to submit that a man is not, necessarily, the child of the century in which he is born, or of that in which he dies; rather is he the child of the century which sees the finest flower of his achievement.

CONTENTS

BENJAMIN ROBERT HAYDON,

LADY MORGAN (SYDNEY OWENSON)

NATHANIEL PARKER WILLIS

LADY HESTER STANHOPE

PRINCE PÜCKLER MUSKAU IN ENGLAND

WILLIAM AND MARY HOWITT

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

BENJAMIN ROBERT HAYDON,

LADY MORGAN

NATHANIEL PARKER WILLIS

LADY HESTER STANHOPE ON HORSEBACK

LADY HESTER STANHOPE IN EASTERN COSTUME

PRINCE PÜCKLER MUSKAU

MARY HOWITT

BENJAMIN ROBERT HAYDON

PART I

If it be true that the most important ingredient in the composition of the self biographer is a spirit of childlike vanity, with a blend of unconscious egoism, few men have ever been better equipped than Haydon for the production of a successful autobiography. In naïve simplicity of temperament he has only been surpassed by Pepys, in fulness of self revelation by Rousseau, and his Memoirs are not unworthy of a place in the same category as the Diary and the Confessions . From the larger public, the work has hardly attracted the attention it deserves; it is too long, too minute, too heavily weighted with technical details and statements of financial embarrassments, to be widely or permanently popular. But as a human document, and as the portrait of a temperament, its value can hardly be overestimated; while as a tragedy it is none the less tragic because it contains elements of the grotesque. Haydon set out with the laudable intention of writing the exact truth about himself and his career, holding that every man who has suffered for a principle, and who has been unjustly persecuted and oppressed, should write his own history, and set his own case before his countrymen. It is a fortunate accident for his readers that he should have been gifted with the faculty of picturesque expression and an exceptionally keen power of observation. If not a scholar, he was a man of wide reading, of deep though desultory thinking, and a good critic where the work of others was concerned. He seems to have desired to conceal nothing, nor to set down aught in malice; if he fell into mistakes and misrepresentations, these were the result of unconscious prejudice, and the exaggerative tendency of a brain that, if not actually warped, trembled on the border line of sanity. He hoped that his mistakes would be a warning to others, his successes a stimulus, and that the faithful record of his struggles and aspirations would clear his memory from the aspersions that his enemies had cast upon it.

Haydon was born at Plymouth on January 26, 1786. He was the lineal descendant of an ancient Devonshire family, the Haydons of Cadbay, who had been ruined by a Chancery suit a couple of generations earlier, and had consequently taken a step downwards in the social scale... Continue reading book >>




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