« ZurückWeiter »
dulgence. O! my dearest father, did I once think the time could ever come when I should dare to stand up with the presiumption of attempting to entertain three hundred strangers with my poor voice? with so little science to guide me, and with small reliance, except on my ear, to protect me from absurd and ridiculous errors? I felt, strongly felt, how fearful a thing it was to see such a multitude of eyes fixed
upon me, without hearing any other sound but that of my own voice; no dear father at my side to cheer the spirits of his trembling child ;-to whisper the useful direction, and the encouraging bravo! O! my father, nothing but the thoughts that, since God has given me a talent, which, should I have the misfortune to lose you, would assist me in the support of my helpless infants, it would be criminal not to try to improve and exert it,-nothing else could have given me courage to open my mouth. When the piece of music played which was to introduce my song, how fervent was my prayer to God, that he would give me strength and resolution, for your sake and my childrens', to go through my effort without incurring disgrace ! Dear father, I do think my prayers were heard. I felt strengthened and sustained when I stood up to sing. You and my little ones, all that are to dear to me in the world, seemed to stand before me and encourage my attempt. My hand, indeed, trembled so, that Miss Cantelo kindly rose and helped me to hold my song ; but my voice did not faulter very much.
“ I was complimented, on my first rising, with a loud plaudit. That was a plaudit of encouragement ; but I had the delight of being interrupted twice in the progress of my song with a repetition of this generous applause. That was the applause of mercy; since, though, considering every thing, I performed better than I myself expected, yet most well do I know that I could not deserve those indulgent testimonies of satisfaction from my audience. They were twice repeated on the close of my strain ; and when the concert was over, several elegant ladies, whose names I do not know, came and spoke to me with so much kindness in their eyes! God bless them for it! it was a warm cordial to my beating heart.”
Thus does our unpractised orator paint, in the vivid colours of truth and nature, all the feelings of her heart, and place every little interesting circumstance before our eyes that occurs each night of her performance. It is delightful to us who are warmly interested for her. Perhaps there are not many instances, like this, where a person commences public singer through considerations of genuine piety. Mr Newton of Lichfield has
been a liberal friend to this interesting young woman, and, at different times, made her a present of two very elegant dresses. She has been much noticed, and made herself many friends at Bath. Mrs Falconer, of this place, good-naturedly sent her father a billet the other day, to the following purport :
“ I lately heard a lady in this neighbourhood read a letter from one of her correspondents at Bath. It had this paragraph. Our concerts are very good this winter. We have a Mrs Smith who pleases extremely."
The expression," a Mrs Smith,” is more gratifying than if it had been Mrs Smith from Lichfield; proving that the observation was made without an idea that the person'to whom it was addressed, might, being of Staffordshire, be interested in Elizabeth's success.
I do not apologize to you, my dear bard, for the prolixity of these circumstances. Friendship finds nothing trivial which relates to its object; and you are not less alive than myself to the welfare of the sweet Syren whose virtues have engaged your esteem, whose melting songs have “ wrapt your spirit in Elysium."
To MRS MOMPESSAN*.
Wellsburn, near Warwick, Dec. 31, 1785. BEHOLD, dear Mrs Mompessan, the promised minutes of that curious conversation which once passed at Mr Dilly's, the bookseller, in a literary party, formed by Dr Johnson, Mr Boswell, Dr Mayo, and others, whom Mrs Knowles and myself had been invited to meet, and in which Dr Johnson and that lady disputed so earn
rnestly. It is, however, previously necessary that you should know the history of the very amiable young woman who was the subject of their debate.
Miss Jenny Harry that was, for she afterwards married, and died ere the first nuptial year expired, was the daughter of a rich planter in the East Indies. He sent her over to England to receive her education, in the house of his friend, Mr Spry, where Mrs Knowles, the celebrated quaker,
Miss Seward's most intimate and most deservedly lued friend. She died unmarried at Mansfield Woodhouse, Nottinghamshire, in 1802, far advanced in years,
was frequently a visitor. Mr Spry affected wit, and was perpetually rallying Mrs Knowles on the subject of her quakerism, in the presence of this young, gentle and ingenuous girl; who, at the age of eighteen, had received what is called a proper education, one of modern accomplishments, without having been much instructed in the nature and grounds of her religious belief. Upon these visits Mrs Knowles was often led into a serious defence of quaker-principles. She speaks with clear and graceful eloquence on every subject. Her antagonists were shallow theologists, and opposed only idle and pointless raillery to deep and longstudied reasoning on the precepts of Scripture, uttered in persuasive accents, and clothed with all the beauty of language. Without any design of making a proselyte she gained one.
Miss Harry grew pensively serious, and me ditated perpetually on all which had dropt from the lips of Mrs Knowles on a theme, the infinite importance of which she then, perhaps, first began to feel. At length, her imagination pursuing this its primal religious bias, she believed quakerism the only true Christianity. Beneath such con. viction, she thought it her duty to join, at every hazard of worldly interest, that class of worshippers. On declaring these sentiments, several ingenious clergymen were commissioned to reason