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Madame d’Arblay’s Plans for her Son—Landing in England—Arrival at Chelsea—Saddening Change in Dr. Burney—Alexander d’Arblay at Cambridge—Publication of the ‘Wanderer’—Death of Dr. Burney—Madame d’Arblay presented to Louis XVIII.—M. d’Arblay appointed to the Corps de Gardes du Roi—Arrives in England and Carries Madame back to France—Madame d’Arblay presented to the Duchess d’Angoulême—The Hundred Days—Panic at Brussels—M. d’Arblay invalided—Settles in England—His Death—Remaining Days of Madame d’Arblay—Visit from Sir Walter Scott—The Memoirs of Dr. Burney—Tributes to their Value—Death of Alexander d’Arblay—Death of Madame d’Arblay—Conclusion.

Madame d’Arblay had other reasons for wishing to return to England besides the mere desire to see her father and kindred. The longer her only child remained in France, the greater risk he ran of being caught by the conscription, which continually increased its demands. The young Alexander was now of an age to be prepared for a profession, and it cannot be doubted that his mother was anxious to make provision for this purpose. Before leaving Paris, she had begun a treaty in London for the publication of her fourth story. Through what channel this was done we do not learn, but as early as December, 1811, Lord Byron[123] had heard that a thousand guineas were being asked for a new novel by Madame d’Arblay. She brought the manuscript over with her in a half-finished state.

The travellers did not escape the perils of the time, though happily they were taken prisoners by their own 316countrymen. They and several others had engaged berths on board an American vessel, the astute captain of which delayed his departure so long, in order to obtain more passengers, that when at length he entered British waters, he found himself a prize to the coastguard, news having just arrived that the United States had declared war against England.

It was the middle of August when mother and son found themselves again on English ground. ‘I can hardly believe it,’ writes the former to her sister Charlotte, now Mrs. Broome; ‘I look around me in constant inquiry and doubt; I speak French to every soul, and I whisper still if I utter a word that breathes private opinion.’ She goes on to describe her meeting with her father: ‘I found him in his library by himself—but, oh! my dearest, very much altered indeed—weak, weak and changed—his head almost always hanging down, and his hearing most cruelly impaired. I was terribly affected, but most grateful to God for my arrival.’ During the separation, Dr. Burney had not been unfortunate until the infirmities of age overcame him: the pension which he ought to have received from Mr. Pitt had been procured for him by Mr. Fox. He had been happily employed in writing for Rees’s Encyclop?dia; had received flattering notice from the Prince of Wales; had heard his Royal Highness quote Homer in Greek and imitate Dr. Parr’s lisp, and talked familiarly with him at the opera; had been a courted guest in many great houses; and had enjoyed the meetings of the Club till his sight and hearing both began to fail. When he could no longer go abroad, he spent most of his time in reading in his bedroom. Madame d’Arblay employed herself during this visit to England in nursing her father in his last days, in settling her son at Cambridge, and in bringing out her new book.

317Having obtained the Tancred scholarship, Alexander d’Arblay commenced residence at Christ’s College, Cambridge, in October, 1813. He eventually graduated as tenth Wrangler, and became Fellow of his college. ‘But,’ says Macaulay, who had mixed with his fellow-students, ‘his reputation at the University was higher than might be inferred from his success in academical contests. His French education had not fitted him for the examinations of the Senate House;[124] but in pure mathematics we have been assured by some of his competitors that he had very few equals.’

‘The Wanderer; or, Female Difficulties’ appeared in the beginning of 1814. Notwithstanding the falling-off which had been observed in ‘Camilla,’ the whole edition of the new work was bespoken before it was published. In six months, 3,600 copies were sold at two guineas a copy. But it may be doubted whether the most conscientious reader persevered to the end of the fifth volume. Ten years of exile had destroyed all trace of the qualities which made ‘Evelina’ popular.

Dr. Burney lived to his eighty-eighth birthday, and died at Chelsea on the 12th of April, 1814, in the presence of his recovered daughter, who had tended his last hours. A tablet to his memory, bearing an inscription from her pen, was placed in Westminster Abbey.

A few days after his death, Madame d’Arblay was presented to Louis XVIII. By desire of Queen Charlotte, she attended a reception held by the restored King in London on the day preceding his departure for France. Her sovereign—for it must be remembered that she was now a French subject—paid her the most courteous 318attention. Addressing her ‘in very pretty English,’ he told her that he had known her long, for he had been charmed with her books, and ‘read them very often.’ He bade her farewell in French, with the words ‘Bonjour, Madame la Comtesse.’

M. d’Arblay had no further reason to complain of Bourbon ingratitude. Within a few weeks he received a commission in the King’s Corps de Gardes, and soon afterwards he was restored to his former rank of Maréchal de Camp. He obtained leave of absence towards the close of the year, and came to England for a few weeks; after which Madame d’Arblay returned with him to Paris, leaving their son to pursue his studies at Cambridge.

In the early weeks of 1815, Madame d’Arblay was admitted to an audience of the Duchesse d’Angoulême, the King’s niece; close on which followed the return of Bonaparte from Elba, and the Hundred Days. Neither the General nor his wife seems to have felt any alarm till the Corsican reached Lyons. Then a passport was obtained for Madame, that she might be able to leave France in case of need, while her husband remained fixed to his post in the capital. In the night between the 19th and 20th of March, after the King had left Paris, and not many hours before Napoleon entered it, Madame d’Arblay took her departure, accompanied by the Princesse d’Hénin. After many difficulties and misadventures, the fugitives reached Brussels. In that city Madame d’Arblay was presently joined by her husband, who had followed Louis XVIII. to Ghent with the rest of the royal bodyguard. She remained in Brussels till the close of the campaign, and for some weeks longer. At a later date she wrote from memory a narrative of what befell her during this period. It includes a description of the scenes that occurred in the Belgian capital while the armies were 319facing each other within cannon-sound of its streets. The account is graphic, though too diffuse to be quoted at length; evidently it furnished Thackeray with much of the material for the famous chapters in ‘Vanity Fair.’ We give some abridged extracts:

“What a day of confusion and alarm did we all spend on the 17th!... That day, and June 18th, I passed in hearing the cannon! Good Heaven! what indescribable horror to be so near the field of slaughter! such I call it, for the preparation to the ear by the tremendous sound was soon followed by its fullest effect, in the view of the wounded.... And hardly more afflicting was this disabled return from the battle, than the sight of the continually pouring forth victims that marched past my windows to meet similar destruction....

“Accounts from the field of battle arrived hourly; sometimes directly from the Duke of Wellington to Lady Charlotte Greville, and to some other ladies who had near relations in the combat, and which, by their means, were circulated in Brussels; and in other times from such as conveyed those amongst the wounded Belgians, whose misfortunes were inflicted near enough to the skirts of the spots of action, to allow of their being dragged away by their hovering countrymen to the city....

“During this period, I spent my whole time in seeking intelligence....

“Ten times, at least, I crossed over to Madame d’Hénin, discussing plans and probabilities, and interchanging hopes and fears....

“Madame d’Hénin and Madame de la Tour du Pin projected retreating to Gand, should the approach of the enemy be unchecked; to avail themselves of such protection as might be obtained from seeking it under the wing 320of Louis XVIII. M. de la Tour du Pin had, I believe, remained there with his Majesty.

“M. de Lally and the Boyds inclined to Antwerp, where they might safely await the fate of Brussels, near enough for returning, should it weather the storm, yet within reach of vessels to waft them to the British shores should it be lost.

“Should this last be the fatal termination, I, of course had agreed to join the party of the voyage, and resolved to secure my passport, that, while I waited to the last moment, I might yet be prepared for a hasty retreat.

“I applied for a passport to Colonel Jones, to whom the Duke of Wellington had deputed the military command of Brussels in his absence; but he was unwilling to sanction an evacuation of Brussels, which he deemed premature. It was not, he said, for us, the English, to spread alarm, or prepare for an overthrow: he had not sent away his own wife or children, and he had no doubt but victory would repay his confidence....

“I found upon again going my rounds for information, that though news was arriving incessantly from the scene of action, and with details always varying, Bonaparte was always advancing. All the people of Brussels lived in the streets. Doors seemed of no use, for they were never shut. The individuals, when they re-entered their houses, only resided at the windows: so that the whole population of the city seemed constantly in public view. Not only business as well as society was annihilated, but even every species of occupation. All of which we seemed capable was, to inquire or to relate, to speak or to hear. Yet no clamour, no wrangling, nor even debate was intermixed with either question or answer; curiosity, though incessant, was serene; the faces were all monotony, though the tidings were all variety. I could attribute 321this only to the length of time during which the inhabitants had been habituated to change both of masters and measures, and to their finding that, upon an average, they neither lost nor gained by such successive revolutions....

“But what a day was the next—June 18th—the greatest, perhaps, in its results, in the annals of Great Britain!...

“I was calmly reposing, when I was awakened by the sound of feet abruptly entering my drawing-room. I started, and had but just time to see by my watch that it was only six o’clock, when a rapping at my bedroom door ... made me slip on a long kind of domino, ... and demand what was the matter. “Open your door! there is not a moment to lose!” was the answer, in the voice of Miss Ann Boyd. I obeyed, in great alarm, and saw that pretty and pleasing young woman, with her mother, Mrs. Boyd.... They both eagerly told me that all their new hopes had been overthrown by better authenticated news, and that I must be with them by eight o’clock, to proceed to the wharf, and set sail for Antwerp, whence we must sail on for England, should the taking of Brussels by Bonaparte endanger Antwerp also....

“My host and my maid carried my small package, and I arrived before eight in the Rue d’Assault. We set off for the wharf on foot, not a fiacre or chaise being procurable. Mr. and Mrs. Boyd, five or six of their family, a governess, and I believe some servants, with bearers of our baggage, made our party.... When we had got about a third part of the way, a heavy rumbling sound made us stop to listen. It was approaching nearer and nearer, and we soon found that we were followed by innumerable carriages, and a multitude of persons....

“Arrived at the wharf, Mr. Boyd pointed out to us our barge, which seemed fully ready for departure; but the 322crowd, already come and still coming, so incommoded us, that Mr. Boyd desired we would enter a large inn, and wait till he could speak with the master, and arrange our luggage and places. We went, therefore, into a spacious room and ordered breakfast, when the room was entered by a body of military men of all sorts; but we were suffered to keep our ground till Mr. Boyd came to inform us that we must all decamp!...

“He conducted us not to the barge, not to the wharf, but to the road back to Brussels; telling us, in an accent of depression, that he feared all was lost—that Bonaparte was advancing—that his point was decidedly Brussels—and that the Duke of Wellington had sent orders that all the magazines, the artillery, and the warlike stores of every description, and all the wounded, the maimed, and the sick, should be immediately removed to Antwerp. For this purpose he had issued directions that every barge, every boat, should be seized for the use of the army; and that everything of value should be conveyed away, the hospitals emptied, and Brussels evacuated.

“If this intelligence filled us with the most fearful alarm, how much more affrighting still was the sound of cannon which next assailed our ears! The dread reverberation became louder and louder as we proceeded....

“Yet, strange to relate! on re-entering the city, all seemed quiet and tranquil as usual! and though it was in this imminent and immediate danger of being invested, and perhaps pillaged, I saw no outward mark of distress or disturbance, or even of hurry or curiosity.

“Having re-lodged us in the Rue d’Assault, Mr. Boyd tried to find some land carriage for our removal. But not only every chaise had been taken, and every diligence secured; the cabriolets, the calèches, nay, the waggons and the carts, and every species of caravan, had been 323seized for military service. And, after the utmost efforts he could make, in every kind of way, he told us we must wait the chances of the day, for that there was no possibility of escape from Brussels, either by land or water....

“I was seated at my bureau and writing, when a loud ‘hurrah!’ reached my ears from some distance, while the daughter of my host, a girl of about eighteen, gently opening my door, said the fortune of the day had suddenly turned, and that Bonaparte was taken prisoner.

“At the same time the ‘hurrah!’ came nearer. I flew to the window; my host and hostess came also, crying, ‘Bonaparte est pris! le voilà! le voilà!’

“I then saw, on a noble war-horse in full equipment, a general in the splendid uniform of France; but visibly disarmed, and, to all appearance, tied to his horse, or, at least, held on, so as to disable him from making any effort to gallop it off, and surrounded, preceded, and followed by a crew of roaring wretches, who seemed eager for the moment when he should be lodged where they had orders to conduct him, that they might unhorse, strip, pillage him, and divide the spoil.

“His high, feathered, glittering helmet he had pressed down as low as he could on his forehead, and I could not discern his face; but I was instantly certain he was not Bonaparte, on finding the whole commotion produced by the rifling crew above-mentioned, which, though it might be guided, probably, by some subaltern officer, who might have the captive in charge, had left the field of battle at a moment when none other could be spared, as all the attendant throng were evidently amongst the refuse of the army followers.

“I was afterwards informed that this unfortunate general was the Count Lobau....

324“The delusion of victory vanished into a merely passing advantage, as I gathered from the earnest researches into which it led me; and evil only met all ensuing investigation; retreat and defeat were the words in every mouth around me! The Prussians, it was asserted, were completely vanquished on the 15th, and the English on the 16th, while on the day just passed, the 17th, a day of continual fighting and bloodshed, drawn battles on both sides left each party proclaiming what neither party could prove—success.

“It was Sunday; but Church service was out of the question, though never were prayers more frequent, more fervent. Form, indeed, they could not have, nor union, while constantly expecting the enemy with fire and sword at the gates. Who could enter a place of worship, at the risk of making it a scene of slaughter? But who, also, in circumstances so awful, could require the exhortation of a priest, or the example of a congregation, to stimulate devotion? No! in those fearful exigencies, where, in the full vigour of health, strength, and life’s freshest resources, we seem destined to abruptly quit this mortal coil, we need no spur—all is spontaneous; and the soul is unshackled.

“Not above a quarter of an hour had I been restored to my sole occupation of solace, before I was again interrupted and startled; but not as on the preceding occasion by riotous shouts; the sound was a howl, violent, loud, affrighting, and issuing from many voices. I ran to the window, and saw the Marché aux Bois suddenly filling with a populace, pouring in from all its avenues, and hurrying on rapidly, and yet as if unconscious in what direction; while women with children in their arms, or clinging to their clothes, ran screaming out of doors; and cries, though not a word was ejaculated, filled the 325air, and from every house, I saw windows closing, and shutters fastening; all this, though long in writing, was presented to my eyes in a single moment, and was followed in another by a burst into my apartment, to announce that the French were come!

“I know not even who made this declaration; my head was out of the window, and the person who made it scarcely entered the room and was gone.

“How terrific was this moment! My perilous situation urged me to instant flight; and, without waiting to speak to the people of the house, I crammed my papers and money into a basket, and throwing on a shawl and bonnet, I flew downstairs and out of doors.

“My intention was to go to the Boyds, to partake, as I had engaged, their fate; but the crowd were all issuing from the way I must have turned to have gained the Rue d’Assault, and I thought, therefore, I might be safer with Madame de Maurville, who, also, not being English, might be less obnoxious to the Bonapartists....

“What a dreadful day did I pass! dreadful in the midst of its glory! for it was not during those operations that sent details partially to our ears that we could judge of the positive state of affairs, or build upon any permanency of success. Yet here I soon recovered from all alarm for personal safety, and lost the horrible apprehension of being in the midst of a city that was taken, sword in hand, by an enemy....

“The alerte which had produced this effect, I afterwards learnt, though not till the next day, was utterly false; but whether it had been produced by mistake or by deceit I never knew. The French, indeed, were coming; but not triumphantly; they were prisoners, surprised and taken suddenly, and brought in, being disarmed, by an escort; and, as they were numerous, and their French uniform 326was discernible from afar, the almost universal belief at Brussels that Bonaparte was invincible, might perhaps, without any intended deception, have raised the report that they were advancing as conquerors.

“I attempt no description of this day, the grandeur of which was unknown, or unbelieved, in Brussels till it had taken its flight, and could only be named as time past.”

The writer’s pleasure at the success of the Allies was saddened by an accident which happened to General d’Arblay, who, while employed in raising a force of refugees at Trèves, had received a severe wound in the calf of his leg from the kick of a restive horse. This misfortune impaired still further a constitution already weakened. Being for the time disabled for service, and having passed his sixtieth year, the General found himself placed on the retired list, and obtained leave to settle with his wife in England. When sent on a mission to Blucher, he had been honoured by his master with the title of Comte, which, as being conferred only par une sorte d’usage de l’ancien régime, and being neither established by patent, nor connected with the ownership of an estate, he never used after the occasion on which it was given. He died at Bath on May 3, 1818.

Little remains to be told of the life of Madame d’Arblay. During her residence at Bath she renewed her acquaintance with Mrs. Piozzi. We have a long and entertaining account from her pen of an escape from drowning which she met with while staying at Ilfracombe. But with this exception, her last diaries and letters contain little of interest. Soon after the death of her husband she removed to No. 11, Bolton Street, Piccadilly. Her latter days she spent chiefly in retirement, seeing 327few persons but her own relations, and a small circle of established friends. Among the latter were Mrs. Locke and the poet Rogers, with the latter of whom she had made acquaintance on her first return from France. She was delighted, however, by a visit from Sir Walter Scott, who was brought to her by Rogers. Sir Walter, in his Diary for November 18, 1826, thus records the interview: “Introduced to Madame d’Arblay, the celebrated authoress of ‘Evelina’ and ‘Cecilia,’ an elderly lady with no remains of personal beauty, but with a simple and gentle manner, and pleasing expression of countenance, and apparently quick feelings. She told me she had wished to see two persons—myself, of course, being one, the other George Canning. This was really a compliment to be pleased with—a nice little handsome pat of butter made up by a neat-handed Phillis of a dairy-maid, instead of the grease fit only for cart-wheels which one is dosed with by the pound. I trust I shall see this lady again.”

From the year 1828 to 1832, she occupied herself in compiling the Memoirs of Dr. Burney. This book, published in her eightieth year, has all the faults of her later style, in their most aggravated form. But her friend Bishop Jebb, while gently hinting at these defects, could honestly congratulate her on the merit of her work. “Much as we already know of the last age, you have brought many scenes of it, not less animated than new, graphically before our eyes; whilst I now seem familiar with many departed worthies, who were not before known to me, even so much as by name.” Southey also wrote to her son: “‘Evelina’ did not give me more pleasure, when I was a schoolboy, than these Memoirs have given me now; and this is saying a great deal. Except Boswell’s, there is no other work in our language which carries us into 328such society, and makes us fancy that we are acquainted with the persons to whom we are there introduced.”

In January, 1837, she lost the last prop of her old age. Alexander d’Arblay, having taken Orders soon after his degree, became minister of Ely Chapel in 1836, and was about to marry, when he was carried off by an attack of influenza. His mother survived him nearly three years: she had a severe illness, attended by spectral illusions, in November, 1839; and died in London on January 6, 1840—a day which she had observed from the beginning of the century in memory of the death of her sister Susanna. She was buried at Walcot, near Bath, by the side of her husband and their only child.

Except for the production of the “Memoirs,” the last quarter of a century in Madame d’Arblay’s life was barren both of incident and employment. The details of her experience during the preceding fifteen years could not fail to interest us, if we had them related as she would have told them in her prime. Especially, we should like to know something more about that long detention in France, when chafing under police restrictions, and fretting for news from home, her heart vibrated to the continual echoes of cannon announcing Napoleon’s victories. But Fanny married, and growing elderly, was quite a different person from the Fanny of St. Martin’s Street and Chesington, of Streatham and Bath, of Windsor and Kew. Her Diary proper came to a final stop with the death of Mrs. Phillips in 1800. She will always be remembered as Frances Burney of the eighteenth century. Deriving her inspiration in part from Richardson, she heads the roll of those female novelists whose works form a considerable part of English literature. The purity of her writings first made the circulating library respectable. “We owe to her,” says 329Macaulay very justly, “not only ‘Evelina,’ ‘Cecilia,’ and ‘Camilla,’ but ‘Mansfield Park,’ and the ‘Absentee.’ Yet great as was her influence on her successors,[125] it was exhausted before the present century began. Indeed, it has been suggested, with some reason, that the excessive sensibility of her heroines is answerable for a reaction in Miss Edgeworth and Miss Austen; for the too great amount of bright and cold good sense of the first; for the over-sobriety of feeling of the second.[126] Fanny’s genius for expressing character in dialogue, aided by touches of description, placed her among the first memoir-writers of that journalizing age. A little more power of compression would have made her diaries equal to the best of Boswell’s sketches.

“The author herself,” says Mr. Leslie Stephen, “with her insatiable delight in compliments—certainly such as might well turn her head—her quick observation and lively garrulity, her effusion of sentiment rather lively than deep, but never insincere, her vehement prejudices corrected by flashes of humour, is always amusing.” We may assent to every word of this sentence, and yet feel that it does its subject something less than justice. We trust that our readers have found Fanny amusing; we trust also that they have recognised in her the possession of some higher qualities. If she was vain, her egotism was of the most innocent kind. It was more harmless than Goldsmith’s, for we cannot recall in her utterances a single envious or jealous remark. Of how many self-conscious authors can the like be said? The simple love of praise which led her to entertain her acquaintance with what was said about herself, has assisted to render her 330interesting to a wider circle. “Vain glory,” says Bacon quaintly, “helpeth to perpetuate a man’s memory: like unto varnish that makes ceilings not only shine, but last.” If she had strong prejudices, they were free from every taint of personal malevolence. Her dislike of the Opposition resembled Johnson’s professed hatred of the Scotch, at which the doctor himself used to laugh. She goes to the trial of Hastings, full of zeal for his cause, and spends her time there chiefly in conversing with his prosecutors. And however prejudiced on some points, she was far from narrow-minded on many matters of controversy. Though brought up a strict Protestant, she married a Roman Catholic. Though to the end of her days an attached daughter of the English Church, she expresses unqualified esteem for the piety of those very pronounced dissenters, Mr. and Mrs. Barbauld. The sympathy between herself and her own family was at all times perfect. There were no rivalries among them. “I am sure,” she wrote modestly in 1800, “my dear father will not think I mean to parallel our works.” She was extremely pleased when Queen Charlotte declared a tale published by her half-sister Sarah to be “very pretty.” Her faithfulness to duty and her friends was celebrated by her royal mistress in the saying that Miss Burney was “true as gold.” When she had cast in her lot with her Chevalier, no isolation, no privation, no anxiety for the future could make her repine. “I never forget,” she wrote in her poverty, “Dr. Johnson’s words. When somebody said that a certain person had no turn for economy, he answered, ‘Sir, you might as well say that he has no turn for honesty.’“ Whatever cavils have been raised by Croker and one or two like-minded detractors, no artifice or indirect dealing can be laid to her charge, even in literary matters, in regard to which such man?uvres 331are too often deemed excusable. We are not holding her up as a pattern of elevated or extraordinary virtue. She was simply the best representative of a worthy and amiable family who had been trained in the school of Samuel Johnson. That type of character has passed away. The rugged old dictator’s political creed is unintelligible to the present age; his devotion is taken for superstition or formalism; his canons of criticism are obsolete. His disciples felt nothing of what was stirring in the air. They were but little accessible to fresh ideas. The cause of popular freedom, the Evangelical movement in religion, the romantic spirit in poetry appealed to them with the smallest effect. They were zealous for authority; they were not in the least introspective; when they wanted a line or two of verse, they nearly always went to Pope for it. The speculations, the problems of the modern world were all unknown to them. They were far less inclined to embrace new dogmas of faith or agnosticism than to observe old rules of action. Yet when we read the annals of the Burneys—the accomplished, the genial, self-respecting, conscientious, pious Burneys—may we not be pardoned for thinking that there was a good deal, after all, in those antiquated Johnsonian principles?



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