THE PUBLIC are here presented with the last literary attempt of an author, whose fame has been uncommonly extensive, and whose talents have probably been most admired, by the persons by whom talents are estimated with the greatest accuracy and discrimination. There are few, to whom her writings could in any case have given pleasure, that would have wished that this fragment should have been suppressed, because it is a fragment. There is a sentiment, very dear to minds of taste and imagination, that finds a melancholy delight in contemplating these unfinished productions of genius, these sketches of what, if they had been filled up in a manner adequate to the writer’s conception, would perhaps have given a new impulse to the manners of... (From: Gutenberg.org.) THE WRONGS OF WOMAN, like the wrongs of the oppressed part of mankind, may be deemed necessary by their oppressors: but surely there are a few, who will dare to advance before the improvement of the age, and grant that my sketches are not the abortion of a distempered fancy, or the strong delineations of a wounded heart.
In writing this novel, I have rather endeavored to pourtray passions than manners.
In many instances I could have made the incidents more dramatic, would I have sacrificed my main object, the desire of exhibiting the misery and oppression, peculiar to women, that arise out of the partial laws and customs of society.
In the invention of the story, this view restrained my fancy; and the history ought rather to be considere... (From: Gutenberg.org.) Abodes of horror have frequently been described, and castles, filled with specters and chimeras, conjured up by the magic spell of genius to harrow the soul, and absorb the wondering mind. But, formed of such stuff as dreams are made of, what were they to the mansion of despair, in one corner of which Maria sat, endeavoring to recall her scattered thoughts!
Surprise, astonishment, that bordered on distraction, seemed to have suspended her faculties, till, waking by degrees to a keen sense of anguish, a whirlwind of rage and indignation roused her torpid pulse. One recollection with frightful velocity following another, threatened to fire her brain, and make her a fit companion for the terrific inhabitants, whose groans and shrieks were no ... (From: Gutenberg.org.) Earnestly as Maria endeavored to soothe, by reading, the anguish of her wounded mind, her thoughts would often wander from the subject she was led to discuss, and tears of maternal tenderness obscured the reasoning page. She descanted on “the ills which flesh is heir to,” with bitterness, when the recollection of her babe was revived by a tale of fictitious woe, that bore any resemblance to her own; and her imagination was continually employed, to conjure up and embody the various phantoms of misery, which folly and vice had let loose on the world. The loss of her babe was the tender string; against other cruel remembrances she labored to steel her bosom; and even a ray of hope, in the midst of her gloomy reveries, would sometim... (From: Gutenberg.org.) When perusing the first parcel of books, Maria had, with her pencil, written in one of them a few exclamations, expressive of compassion and sympathy, which she scarcely remembered, till turning over the leaves of one of the volumes, lately brought to her, a slip of paper dropped out, which Jemima hastily snatched up.
“Let me see it,” demanded Maria impatiently, “You surely are not afraid of trusting me with the effusions of a madman?” “I must consider,” replied Jemima; and withdrew, with the paper in her hand.
In a life of such seclusion, the passions gain undue force; Maria therefore felt a great degree of resentment and vexation, which she had not time to subdue, before Jemima, returning, delivered t... (From: Gutenberg.org.) Pity, and the forlorn seriousness of adversity, have both been considered as dispositions favorable to love, while satirical writers have attributed the propensity to the relaxing effect of idleness; what chance then had Maria of escaping, when pity, sorrow, and solitude all conspired to soften her mind, and nourish romantic wishes, and, from a natural progress, romantic expectations?
Maria was six-and-twenty. But, such was the native soundness of her constitution, that time had only given to her countenance the character of her mind. Revolving thought, and exercised affections had banished some of the playful graces of innocence, producing insensibly that irregularity of features which the struggles of the understanding to trace or govern... (From: Gutenberg.org.) “My father,” said Jemima, “seduced my mother, a pretty girl, with whom he lived fellow-servant; and she no sooner perceived the natural, the dreaded consequence, than the terrible conviction flashed on her—that she was ruined. Honesty, and a regard for her reputation, had been the only principles inculcated by her mother; and they had been so forcibly impressed, that she feared shame, more than the poverty to which it would lead. Her incessant importunities to prevail upon my father to screen her from reproach by marrying her, as he had promised in the fervor of seduction, estranged him from her so completely, that her very person became distasteful to him; and he began to hate, as well as despise me, before I was bo... (From: Gutenberg.org.) Active as love was in the heart of Maria, the story she had just heard made her thoughts take a wider range. The opening buds of hope closed, as if they had put forth too early, and the the happiest day of her life was overcast by the most melancholy reflections. Thinking of Jemima’s peculiar fate and her own, she was led to consider the oppressed state of women, and to lament that she had given birth to a daughter. Sleep fled from her eyelids, while she dwelt on the wretchedness of unprotected infancy, till sympathy with Jemima changed to agony, when it seemed probable that her own babe might even now be in the very state she so forcibly described.
Maria thought, and thought again. Jemima’s humanity had rather been benumbed th... (From: Gutenberg.org.) “Addressing these memoirs to you, my child, uncertain whether I shall ever have an opportunity of instructing you, many observations will probably flow from my heart, which only a mother—a mother schooled in misery, could make.
“The tenderness of a father who knew the world, might be great; but could it equal that of a mother—of a mother, laboring under a portion of the misery, which the constitution of society seems to have entailed on all her kind? It is, my child, my dearest daughter, only such a mother, who will dare to break through all restraint to provide for your happiness—who will voluntarily brave censure herself, to ward off sorrow from your bosom. From my narrative, my dear girl, you may gather the... (From: Gutenberg.org.) “I have perhaps dwelt too long on a circumstance, which is only of importance as it marks the progress of a deception that has been so fatal to my peace; and introduces to your notice a poor girl, whom, intending to serve, I led to ruin. Still it is probable that I was not entirely the victim of mistake; and that your father, gradually fashioned by the world, did not quickly become what I hesitate to call him—out of respect to my daughter.
“But, to hasten to the more busy scenes of my life. Mr. Venables and my mother died the same summer; and, wholly engrossed by my attention to her, I thought of little else. The neglect of her darling, my brother Robert, had a violent effect on her weakened mind; for, though boys may be ... (From: Gutenberg.org.) “I resume my pen to fly from thought. I was married; and we hastened to London. I had purposed taking one of my sisters with me; for a strong motive for marrying, was the desire of having a home at which I could receive them, now their own grew so uncomfortable, as not to deserve the cheering appellation. An objection was made to her accompanying me, that appeared plausible; and I reluctantly acquiesced. I was however willingly allowed to take with me Molly, poor Peggy’s daughter. London and preferment, are ideas commonly associated in the country; and, as blooming as May, she bade adieu to Peggy with weeping eyes. I did not even feel hurt at the refusal in relation to my sister, till hearing what my uncle had done for me, I had... (From: Gutenberg.org.) “My father’s situation was now so distressing, that I prevailed on my uncle to accompany me to visit him; and to lend me his assistance, to prevent the whole property of the family from becoming the prey of my brother’s rapacity; for, to extricate himself out of present difficulties, my father was totally regardless of futurity. I took down with me some presents for my step-mother; it did not require an effort for me to treat her with civility, or to forget the past.
“This was the first time I had visited my native village, since my marriage. But with what different emotions did I return from the busy world, with a heavy weight of experience benumbing my imagination, to scenes, that whispered recollections of joy an... (From: Gutenberg.org.) “A gentleman of large fortune and of polished manners, had lately visited very frequently at our house, and treated me, if possible, with more respect than Mr. Venables paid him; my pregnancy was not yet visible, his society was a great relief to me, as I had for some time past, to avoid expence, confined myself very much at home. I ever disdained unnecessary, perhaps even prudent concealments; and my husband, with great ease, discovered the amount of my uncle’s parting present. A copy of a writ was the stale pretext to extort it from me; and I had soon reason to believe that it was fabricated for the purpose. I acknowledge my folly in thus suffering myself to be continually imposed on. I had adhered to my resolution not to appl... (From: Gutenberg.org.) “Towards midnight Mr. Venables entered my chamber; and, with calm audacity preparing to go to bed, he bade me make haste, ‘for that was the best place for husbands and wives to end their differences. He had been drinking plentifully to aid his courage.
“I did not at first deign to reply. But perceiving that he affected to take my silence for consent, I told him that, ‘If he would not go to another bed, or allow me, I should sit up in my study all night.’ He attempted to pull me into the chamber, half joking. But I resisted; and, as he had determined not to give me any reason for saying that he used violence, after a few more efforts, he retired, cursing my obstinacy, to bed.
“I sat musing some time long... (From: Gutenberg.org.) “By watching my only visitor, my uncle’s friend, or by some other means, Mr. Venables discovered my residence, and came to inquire for me. The maid-servant assured him there was no such person in the house. A bustle ensued—I caught the alarm—listened—distinguished his voice, and immediately locked the door. They suddenly grew still; and I waited near a quarter of an hour, before I heard him open the parlor door, and mount the stairs with the mistress of the house, who obsequiously declared that she knew nothing of me.
“Finding my door locked, she requested me to open it, and prepare to go home with my husband, poor gentleman! to whom I had already occasioned sufficient vexation.’ I made no reply. M... (From: Gutenberg.org.) “As my mind grew calmer, the visions of Italy again returned with their former glow of coloring; and I resolved on quitting the kingdom for a time, in search of the cheerfulness, that naturally results from a change of scene, unless we carry the barbed arrow with us, and only see what we feel.
“During the period necessary to prepare for a long absence, I sent a supply to pay my father’s debts, and settled my brothers in eligible situations; but my attention was not wholly engrossed by my family, though I do not think it necessary to enumerate the common exertions of humanity. The manner in which my uncle’s property was settled, prevented me from making the addition to the fortune of my surviving sister, that I could... (From: Gutenberg.org.) Darnford returned the memoirs to Maria, with a most affectionate letter, in which he reasoned on “the absurdity of the laws respecting matrimony, which, till divorces could be more easily obtained, was,” he declared, “the most insufferable bondage.” Ties of this nature could not bind minds governed by superior principles; and such beings were privileged to act above the dictates of laws they had no voice in framing, if they had sufficient strength of mind to endure the natural consequence. In her case, to talk of duty, was a farce, excepting what was due to herself. Delicacy, as well as reason, forbade her ever to think of returning to her husband: was she then to restrain her charming sensibility through mere prejud... (From: Gutenberg.org.) One morning confusion seemed to reign in the house, and Jemima came in terror, to inform Maria, “that her master had left it, with a determination, she was assured (and too many circumstances corroborated the opinion, to leave a doubt of its truth) of never returning. I am prepared then,” said Jemima, “to accompany you in your flight.”
Maria started up, her eyes darting towards the door, as if afraid that some one should fasten it on her for ever.
Jemima continued, “I have perhaps no right now to expect the performance of your promise; but on you it depends to reconcile me with the human race.”
“But Darnford!”—exclaimed Maria, mournfully—sitting down again, and crossing her arms... (From: Gutenberg.org.) Such was her state of mind when the dogs of law were let loose on her. Maria took the task of conducting Darnford’s defense upon herself. She instructed his counsel to plead guilty to the charge of adultery; but to deny that of seduction.
The counsel for the plaintiff opened the cause, by observing, “that his client had ever been an indulgent husband, and had borne with several defects of temper, while he had nothing criminal to lay to the charge of his wife. But that she left his house without assigning any cause. He could not assert that she was then acquainted with the defendant; yet, when he was once endeavoring to bring her back to her home, this man put the peace-officers to flight, and took her he knew not whither. After... (From: Gutenberg.org.) BY THE EDITOR *
* i.e., Godwin [Publisher’s note].
VERY FEW hints exist respecting the plan of the remainder of the work. I find only two detached sentences, and some scattered heads for the continuation of the story. I transcribe the whole.
I. “Darnford’s letters were affectionate; but circumstances occasioned delays, and the miscarriage of some letters rendered the reception of wished-for answers doubtful: his return was necessary to calm Maria’s mind.”
II. “As Darnford had informed her that his business was settled, his delaying to return seemed extraordinary; but love to excess, excludes fear or suspicion.”
The scattered heads for the continuation of the story, are as follow. *
* To ... (From: Gutenberg.org.)