Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

unhappy widow. Never saw I connubial affection so unaffectedly animated as his to her, destitute as she was of every exterior charm. There is much misery in the world, yet I hope it is not often of such keen intenseness as poor Mrs Jebb now feels. Her abilities have masculine strength, her sensibilities every

feminine excess. She idolized him--and well she might, since the uncommon plainness of her face, and withered leanness of her form, must treble the impression upon her gratitude and love, made by unremitting attention and impassioned tenderness. O! what a dreary desert is this world now to poor Mrs Jebb!-her earthly sun is set for ever!

Miss Reeves has shewn, in the Gentleman's Magazine for February, how heinously she takes the indignant remonstance which appeared in the preceding one, with my initials, and affects to suppose no female could be capable of what she deems so malicious an attack. Heaven knows it was not written with a malicious, though certainly with an incensed pen. Not even unjust reflections upon myself can excite my disdain more insuppressively than the injustice of criticism upon the talents of those great writers, from whom I have derived instruction and delight; nor is there any inode of degradation which appears to me

more ungenerous, than that of exhibiting some very inferior work of a celebrated writer, and asserting it to be his capital performance—especially where the nobler effusions of his genius have, through the cold frivolity of public taste, passed into a degree of general neglect, by which the rising generation is deprived of the great intellectual benefits which must ensue from their being admired and studied.

My poor father had another paralytic attack some ten days since; but, thank God! is now on his usual level of quiet, though feeble health. What unnatural weather! The past fortnight severely cold, as our snowy and piercing week at Wellsburn, in the last rigid December.

It flatters me that you wish to see a miscellany of mine on the same shelf with that of the Bard of Sussex. If health and leisure are lent me, I may one day present you with my poetic florets, collected in one garland; but faint will be their bloom and odour, compared with the magnolias, roses, and amaranths of the Hayleyan wreath.Adieu !

LETTER XXXI.

To MRS MARTIN*

Lichfield, June 5, 1786. AFTER a month's whirl in the London vortex, the blooming and quiet shades of Lichfield have again received me; and filial pleasures, from the easy and quiet, though feeble state of my father's health, bless my return. You were, during my absence, a fleeting visionary beneath those shades. I regret that you made this transit through our precincts while I was away. I should have preferred talking to you of what I had seen and heard, to rushing back upon paper into the busy world I have left. In that attempt, much that interested must remain untold, untouched upon, or my letter would be of a length ill tallying with the scantiness of my leisure.

And now, from the much that I have observed, and the little which I have time to impart, what shall be selected ? Shall I talk to you of our animated literary breakfastings, at the house of Miss Helen Williams, Mr Mathias, &c.; of the belle esprits of both sexes, whose genius, wit, and knowledge, made those little meetings so brilliant ?-or shall I talk to you of the abbeymusic,

* A near connection of Miss Seward, now resident at Bath.

“ Loud as from numbers without number, sweet
As from blest voices uttering joy?”

The last is the more popular theme; and therefore, if you please, it shall be ours. People universally assert, that the world never produced any thing of equal effect in the art. Indeed, I believe, that at these festivals, music touched her ne-plus ultra of excellence; for though, perhaps, every solo song has, from the impossibility of any single voice filling completely so immense a space, been heard in smaller scenes to greater advantage ; yet, the sublimity of the harmonies, so full and complete in all those great effects which Handel's matchless genius conceived, though, from the comparative nothingness of the best band those days could afford him, he heard them not complete with his mortal ears; the exclusion of every thing harsh, and disagreeably noisy, by the care taken that no order of instruments, or of voices, should preponderate ; the exquisite delicacy with which the songs were accompanied, and the picturesque power of several of the chorusses, that endued the ear with the powers of the eye ;--all these admirables produced one grand result, that completely satisfied my imagination, high as report had taught me to set its claims.

Now as to the individual performers. I allow to your favourite, Harrison, correctness, elegance, and taste, and all the coyer graces of his science ; but his voice, however sweet, and, even in its tone, however enriched with that free and perfect shake, is very limited in its compass, and very moderate in its powers; while his manner is wholly destitute of that fine enthusiasm, which is vital to the just execution of Handel's glowing ideas, that breathe the soul of every passion in turn.

Mrs Billington's voice is of great sweetness, compass, power, and execution; and her skill cannot be questioned, who played finely on the harpsichord at ten years old. Already she almost rivals Mara in the saramouch part of her performance; but has, however, too much sense to gambol like her in the sacred songs.-I breakfasted with Mr Bates, the director, and heard his seraphic wife excel in several of Handel's finest airs, Mara, and every other syren of the orchestra and stage. I observed to him, that Mara put too much gold fringe and tassels, upon

« ZurückWeiter »