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TO NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
ASTOM, LENOX AND TILDEN FOUNDATIONS 1924
Printed by T. K. & P. G. Colling.
MARY RUSSELL MITFORD.
THERE are few names which fall with a plea- | by imitation that genius has almost always in santer sound upon the ears of those who adopt the first instance manifested itself. She 'with. authors as friends, in recognition of the moral | drew herself from composition — read much, purity and geniality of feeling as much as of the though without any decided aim or object, and original talent displayed in their works, than would never (she thinks) have attempted author. the name of Mary Russell MITFORD. Happy ship again, had not those vicissitudes of fortune, thoughts and fresh images rise up when it is which try the metal of the sufferer no less searchspoken; and yet we are a trifle too apt to think | ingly than the sincerity of his friends, compelled of it only as connected with all that is lovely in her to come forth from her retreat, and honourthe rural scenery, and characteristic in the rural ably to exercise the talents with which she had society of Southern England, and to forget that been so largely gifted. It would be raising the it also appertains to a dramatist of no common veil too high to dwell upon the sequel; upon power, who has wrought in a period, when-if the rich reward of love, and respect, and conside. the theatres be deserted, and the popular acted ration, which have repaid so zealous and unselfish drama have degenerated into melo-drama, bur. a devotion of time and talent as Miss Mitford's letta, and farce the plays published exhibit far life has shown. We have but to speak of the more signs of strength and promise, than were good which has come out of evil, in the shape of shown by those produced in the palmy days of her writings; and we do this briefly and rapidly, Garrick, or the yet more glorious after-summer of because of the limited space within which we are the Kembles.
restricted. It was at Christmas time, in the year 1789, Miss Mitford's principal efforts have been a that Miss Mitford was born, her birth-place being series of tragedies. "The Two Foscari,”—“ Jus the little town of Alresford, Hampshire. She is lian,"_" Rienzi," —" Charles the First,”-have descended on the father's side, from an ancient been all represented, and all well received - the family in Northumberland, not remotely con- | third with signal success. Besides these may be nected with nobility; and there is a quaint rhyme mentioned two other tragedies, still in manu. current in the north country, which promises the script, “ Inez e Castro" and " Otto of Wittelsname a long duration :
bach," Miss Mitford's last, finest work. In all "Midford was Midford when Morpeth was nane,
these plays there is strong vigorous writing, — Midford shall be Midford when Morpeth is gane ; masculine in the free unshackled use of language, Bu loog as the sun sets or the moon runs her round, but wholly womanly in its purity from coarse. A Midford in Midford shall always be found."
ness or license, and in the intermixture of those Her mother was the only daughter of Dr. Rus- incidental touches of softest feeling and finest obsell, of Ashe, in Hampshire; this lady was a sin. /servation, which are peculiar to the gentler sex. gularly good classical scholar, and it would have A rich air of the south breathes over “ Rienzi ;” been strange if under such auspices, the educa- and in the “Charles," though the character of tion of her daughter had not been liberally plan. Cromwell will be felt to vibrate, it is, on the whole, ned and carefully completed. How delightfully conceived with a just and acute discernment of Miss Mitford has chronicled her school pleasures its real and false greatness—of the thousand con. and school feelings, during the years between the tradictions which, in reality, make the son of the ages of ten and fifteen, passed by her at a London Huntingdon brewer a character too difficult, and boarding-school of high repute, no one who has mighty, for any one beneath a Shakspeare to exread "Our Village" can have forgotten. By her hibit. As also in Joanna Baillie's fine tragedies, own showing she was as shy as she was clever, the poetry of these plays is singularly fresh and after a somewhat original fashion - a keen lover unconventional; equally clear of Elizabethan of poetry and plays. And shortly after she left quaintness and of modern Della-cruscanism, school, she showed the next evidence of talent, which, as some hold, indicate an exhausted and the possession of a creative as well as appreciative artificial state of society, in which the dramapower, by publishing a volume of miscellaneous the hearty, bold, natural drama — has no exist. poems, which were favourably received; for in At all events, it is now too much the fash. those days poetry was read. These, and other ion that every thing which is written for the stage juvenile effusions, now all but forgotten, were, shall be forgotten so soon as the actors employed
at the time of their appearing, successful; but in it have a fretted their hour." Were it other. their young writer was herself dissatisfied with wise, we should not have need to dwell
, even thus them; conscious, perhaps, that they were little briefly, upon the distinctive merits of Miss Mitmore than imitations, and forgetting that it was ford's tragedies.