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our own favourites.
We shall not easily forget the effect of a long avenue of orange-trees in the Cathedral of St. Gudule at Brussels, calling to mind as it did the expression of the psalmist -Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall fourish in the courts of our God.' The white lily is held throughout Spain and Italy the emblem of the Virgin's purity, and frequently decorates her shrines ; and many other flowers, dedicated to some saint, are used in profusion on the day of his celebration. The oakJeaf and the palm-branch have with us their loyal and religious anniversary, and the holly still gladdens the hearts of all good Churchmen at Christmas-a custom which the Puritans never succeeded in effacing from the most cant-ridden parish in the kingdom. Latterly, flowers have been much used among us in festivals, and processions, and gala-days of all kinds—the dahlia furnishing, in its symmetry and variety of colouring, an excellent material for those who, perhaps, in their young days sowed their own initials in mustard-and-cress, to inscribe in their maturer years their sovereign's name in flowers. Flowering plants and shrubs are at the same time becoming more fashionable in our London ball-rooms. No dread of noxious exhalations' deters mammas from decorating their halls and staircases with flowers of every hue and fragrance, nor their daughters from braving the headaches and pale cheeks, which are said to arise from such innocent and beautiful causes. We would go one step further, and replace all artificial flowers by natural ones, on the dinner-table and in the hair. Some of the more amaranthine flowers, as the camellia and the hoya, which can bear the heat of crowded rooms, or those of regular shapes, as the dahlia and others, would, we are sure, with a little contrivance in adjusting and preserving them, soon eclipse the most artistical wreaths of Natier or Forster, and we will venture to promise a good partner for a waltz and for life to the first fair débutante who will take courage to adopt the natural flower in her í sunny locks.'
Art. VIII.- Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay, Author
of Evelina,' Cecilia,' &c. Edited by her Niece. Vols. I., II., III. London. 1842. HEN we reviewed, ten years ago, that strange display of
egotism which Madame D'Arblay was pleased to call Memoirs of her Father,' we expressed a wish that she would * condense and simplify into a couple of interesting (and interesting they would be) volumes her own story and her contemporaneous notes and bona fide recollections of that brilliant society in which she moved from
1777 to 1793. We lay some stress on the words bona fide-not as imputing to Madame D'Arblay the slightest intention to deceive, but because we think that we see in almost every page abundant proof that the habit of norel-writing has led her to colour, and, as she may suppose, embellish, her anecdotes with sonorous epithets and factitious details, which however, we venture to assure her, not only blunt their effect, but discredit their authority.'-Quart. Rev. vol. xlix. p. 125.
We were not then in the secret of Madame D'Arblay's having from her earliest youth kept the diary now presented to us ; but we guessed, from many passages in the Memoirs of Dr. Burney,' that she was in possession of copious contemporaneous materials for her own, and we candidly forewarned her of the kind of errors into which she was likely to fall in preparing her notes for publication. Our conjectures are now too fully verified: the interest is indeed much less than we anticipated, but in all the rest—the diffuseness—the pomposity—the prolixity—the false colouring-the factitious details-and, above all, the personal affectation and vanity of the author, this book exceeds our worst apprehensions.
At first sight the Diary seems a minute record of all that she saw, did, or heard, and we find the pages crowded with names and teeming with matters of the greatest apparent interestwith details of the social habits and familiar conversation of the most fashionable, most intellectual, and, in every sense, most illustrious personages of the last age.
No book that we ever opened, not even Boswell's • Johnson,' promised at the first glance more of all that species of entertainment and information which memoir-writing can convey, and the position and respectability of the author, with her supposed power of delineating character, all tended to heighten our expectation; but never, we regret to say, has there been a more vexatious disappointment. We have indeed brought before us not merely the minor notabilities of the day, but a great many persons whose station and talents assure them an historic celebrity King George III., Queen Charlotte, and their family - Johnson, Burke, Sir Joshua, and their society - Mrs. Montague, Mrs. Thrale, Mrs. Delany, and their circles—in short, the whole court and literary world; and all in their easiest and most familiar moods:-their words—their looks—their manners-and even their movements about the room-pencilled, as it would seem, with the most minute and scrupulous accuracy but when we come a little closer, and see and hear what all these eminent and illustrious personages are saying and doing, we are not a little surprised and vexed to find them a wearisome congregation of monotonous and featureless prosers, brought together for one
single object, in which they, one and all, seem occupied, as if it were the main business of human life-namely, the glorification of Miss Fanny Burney-her talents—her taste-her sagacity-her wit—her manners-her temper-her delicacy-even her beauty -and, above all, her modesty!
We really have never met anything more curious, nor, if it were not repeated ad nauseam, inore comical, than the elaborate ingenuity with which—as the ancients used to say that all roads led to Rome--every topic, from whatsoever quarter it may start, is ultimately brought home to Miss Burney. There can be, of course, no autobiography without egotism ; and though the best works of this class are those in which self is the most successfully disguised, it must always be the main ingredient. We therefore expected, and, indeed, were very willing, that Miss Burney should tell us a great deal about herself; but what we did not expect, and what wearies, and, we must candidly add, disgusts us, is to find that she sees nothing beyond the tips of her own fingers, and considers all the rest of man and womankind as mere satellites of that great luminary of the age, the author of • Evelina. In fact, the first sentence of her · Diary,' though no doubt meant to pass for a modest irony, turns out to be a mere matter-of-fact expression of her true sentiments :
' Part I. 1778. This year was ushered in by a grand and most important event! At the latter end of January, the literary world was favoured with the first publication of the ingenious, learned, and most profound Fanny Burney! I doubt not but this memorable affair will, in future times, mark thie period whence chronologers will date the zenith of the polite arts in this island !
*This admirable authoress has named her most elaborate performance, “Evelina; or, a Young Lady's Entrance into the World.” )vol. i. 37. This assumed pleasantry is her own real view of the case, and affords indeed the text, as it were, on which the rest of the work is a most illustrative commentary.
We insist thus early, and thus strongly, on this extravagant egotism, not merely because it is the chief feature of the book, but for the higher and more important purpose of doing justice to the eminent persons who make a very mean and very
foolish figure when thus dragged at the wheels of the triumphant car of Miss Burney,—for so we must call her, while the · Diary' is written in that name. We know that ingenious and sensible people, from not adverting to her real and sole object-namely, herself—have been led to consider those eminent personages as responsible for all the nonsense and twaddle which she has
chosen to put into their mouths. A weekly critic,* for instance, who very shrewdly detected, and very adroitly exposed, the mock humility and inordinate vanity of the diarist,' is nevertheless so far inattentive to the consequences they produce as to assume her reports to be a true representation of the manners and conversation which she describes, and to flatter himself that society nowa-days would not tolerate the commonplace mediocrity and twaddle' of Johnson and Burke,' or the enormous pretensions and vulgarity of Mrs. Montague, Miss Carter, and Hannah More.' We do not deny the existence of the 'mediocrity' and 'vulgarity' attributed to those eminent persons by Miss Burney; they stare us out of countenance in every page: but we very much wonder that any attentive reader, and above all one whose appreciation of the author is otherwise so just, should not see that the twaddle' and vulgurity' are Miss Burney's own; and that her natural propensity to those defects (of which there are innumerable other proofs) is mainly assisted by her affecting, in the true jog-trot of a novel-writer, to give, verbatim, all the details of long conversations—sometimes many days oldwhich the readiest pen and the quickest apprehension could not have done even on the instant.
In truth nothing can be so vapid as that mode of reporting conversation must inevitably be, even in the cleverest hands. Boswell, the best and most graphic of narrators, never attempts so hopeless a task for above two or three consecutive paragraphs, but more commonly contents himself with preserving the general spirit of the discourse-catching here and there the most striking expressions, and now and then venturing to mark an emphasis or an attitude. A clever artist may sketch a very lively likeness of a countenance which he has only seen en passant, but if he were to attempt–in the absence of the object--to fill up the outline with all the little details of form and colour, he would find that his efforts only diminished the spirit and impaired the resemblance. So it is of reporting public speeches—and so still more of reporting conversations. But even if Miss Burney had had more of Boswell's happy knack, it would not have much mended the matter, for her sole and exclusive object was—not to relate what Burke, or Johnson, or anybody else should say on general subjects, but what flattering things they said about Fanny Burney. The result is, that we have little amusement and less faith in the details of those elaborate dialogues, which occupy, we believe, more than half her volumes—their very minuteness
Athenæum, 23rd April, 1842. The description of Miss Burney's style and character in that article is very clever and very just.
and elaboration sufficiently prove that they cannot be authentic; and they are, moreover, trivial and wearisome beyond all patience. How—we will not say, the author of · Evelina’ and Cecilia,' but—how any person of the most ordinary degree of taste and talents could have wasted time and paper in making such a much ado about nothing we cannot conceive; nor did we-till we had read this book-imagine that real life and proper names could by any maladresse of a narrator be made so insufferably flat, stale, and unprofitable. The severity of this judgment obliges us to justify it by some examples. We are well aware that they will appear tedious and fulsome, and that our readers may wish that we had spared them such wearisome extracts : but there is really no other way of giving them a tolerable idea of the book; and when we have the misfortune to think unfavourably of a work,
xious to allow it, as much as possible, to speak for itself.
Wednesday [at Streatham].—At breakfast, Dr. Johnson asked me if I had been reading his “Life of Cowley?"
"O yes,” said I.
““ I am delighted with it,” cried I ; " and if I was somebody, instead of nobody, I should not have read it without telling you sooner what I think of it, and unasked.”
Again, when I took up Cowley's Life, he made me put it away to talk. I could not help remarking how very like Dr. Johnson is to his writing; and how much the same thing it was to hear or to read him; but that nobody could tell that without coming to Streatham, for his language was generally imagined to be laboured and studied, instead of the mere common flow of his thoughts.
“Very true,” said Mrs. Thrale, “he writes and talks with the same case, and in the same manner : but, Sir [to him), if this rogue is like her book, how will she trim all of us by and by! Now she dainties us up with all the meekness in the world; but when we are away, I suppose she pays us off finely." "My paying off,” cried I, “is like the Latin of Hudibras,-
who never scanted
His learning unto such as wanted;' for I can figure like anything when I am with those who can't figure at all.”
Mrs. T.-Oh, if you have any mag in you, we'll draw it out!
Dr. J.-A rogue! she told me that, if she was somebody instead of nobody, she would praise my book !
'F. B.-Why, Sir, I am sure you would scoff my praise.
don't * Mrs. T.-We have told her what you said to Miss More, and I believe that makes her afraid.