D’ the last ninety years, we must all admit that a
vast improvement has taken place in the writing of novels. The stilted and artificial language which delighted our forefathers has long ago disappeared. Even ordinary stories are more coherent and better put together than some of the best novels of former days, the descriptions are more graphic and picturesque, and the conversations more easy and natural; and yet those who wrote novels ninety years ago had one immense advantage over us—they had a large mine of materials to draw from, which is now almost exhausted. Odd people, full of strange eccentricities in dress, conversation, and habits, were then constantly to be found, and supplied a stock of comedy which we cannot expect to see in these modern times of rapid travelling, penny postage, and cheap literature. Our friends are now ashamed of being peculiar, and the sharp corners of even the most inveterate stayer at home gradually become fined down and smoothed away. Far different was it in the beginning of the nineteenth century; then queer folks were as plenty as blackberries—fire-eating squires, primitive spinsters, Scotch lairds who had never gone beyond their own county, abounded. Such a harvest was an irresistible temptation to a novelist; it was impos. sible not to put these human curiosities into a book and show them up with all their foibles and hobbies fresh upon them. Miss Burney had already given some startling types in Madame Duval, the Broughtons, and Mr. Briggs; Maria Edgeworth followed suit with Sir Kit and Sir Condy, Lady Clonbrony and King Corny of the Black Islands. Sir Walter Scott brought up a host of oddities—Jonathan Oldbuck, Dominie Sampson, Meg Dods, Old Mortality, &c., &c.; while Miss Ferrier came closely on his track, and confining herself to her native Scotland, introduced us to the family at Glenfern Castle, to the three aunts, Miss Jacky, Miss Grizzy, and Miss Nicky, together with their five nieces, Belle, Becky, Betty, Baby, and Beeny, tall frightened girls with sandy hair and great purple arms—girls whose “walk lay amongst threads and pickles, and whose sphere extended from the garret to the pantry.” Miss Ferrier’s special talent lay in representing the life of Scottish lairds and their families, during the transition period of their history, when the age of half-savage chivalry, of midnight forays and border warfare, was over, and when Highland chieftains were fast dwindling down into imitation squires. In the Noctes Ambrosiana of Christopher North (Professor Wilson) there is a very interesting conversation on Miss Ferrier’s novels. Tickler says: “They have no doubt many defects: their plots are poor, their episodes disproportionate, and the characters too often caricatures, but they are all thick-set with such specimens of sagacity, such happy traits of nature, such flashes of genuine satire, such easy humour and sterling good sense, and, above all (God knows where she picked it up), perfect knowledge of the world, that I think we may safely anticipate for them a different fate than what awaits even the cleverest of juvenile novels.” Miss Ferrier has
BIRTH IN EDINBURGH. 229
been called the Scotch Jane Austen ; but life in the Highlands, which she described so well, had broader shades and stronger lights than we find in the English shires with Miss Austen’s Thorpes, and Bennetts, and Elliots. Inch Orran, the Scotch laird in Destiny, a “little meagre sickly-looking man with a sharp, bitter face, a pair of fiery, vindictive eyes, and a mouth all puckered up as if to keep in the many cutting things which would otherwise get out,” is a more dramatic sketch than Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice, not perhaps so delicately finished, but full of satire and strength. Miss Ferrier’s satire is more cutting than Jane Austen’s; her writing is not so uniformly good, but it has capital bits. The inimitable Miss Pratt, who will even take advantage of an empty hearse to bring her to Rossville Castle out of a snowstorm, the faithful though sorelysnubbed Molly Macaulay, and testy Uncle Adam, are all vivid pictures of Scotch character, which we cannot afford to lose. A few glimpses are all we can get of Susan Ferrier’s quiet life; such as they are, we give them here :Mr. James Ferrier, Writer to the Signet, and his wife, lived in a flat of one of those gigantic houses in the old town of Edinburgh, which seems overflowing with romance and history. In this house, at “Lady Stair’s Close,” ten children, six sons and four daughters, were born. Susan was the youngest daughter, and her birthday was the 7th of September, 1782. The Ferriers were not rich, but they had a tolerable pedigree. Mr. Ferrier’s father had been the last laird of Kirklands in Renfrew, a property subsequently sold to Lord Blantyre; and Mrs. Ferrier, née Coutts, had been a celebrated beauty, and before her marriage, lived at Holyrood Palace with her aunt, the Hon. Mrs. Maitland, widow of a younger son of Lord Lauderdale. Mrs. Maitland was badly off, and had charge of the apartments at Holyrood, which then belonged to the Duke of Argyll. But Mr. Ferrier was even more mixed up with the Argyll family than his wife : he had been brought up in the office of his cousin, Mr. Archibald Campbell, and in time became the manager of the Argyll estates, and was appointed Principal Clerk of the Sessions. John, Duke of Argyll, was always Mr. Ferrier’s friend and patron, and helped him on in the world in various ways.
Mr. Ferrier is described as somewhat brusque and testy in manner, and was the unconscious prototype of Uncle Adam in The Inheritance—“as cross as two sticks,” and full of biting sarcasms for his niece, Bell, who has designs on his pocket. After years perhaps smoothed down the asperities of Mr. Ferrier’s temper. His daughter Susan was really fond of him, and proved the stay and comfort of his old age; but while his children were young he was certainly a bugbear to them, as will be seen by the following anecdote, which also shows Susan’s early talent for mimicry:—One evening her brothers and sisters returned home from a ball very hungry, and took refuge in her bedroom. They supposed that she was asleep, and began talking over the events of the evening, while at the same time they discussed a nice little supper which, unknown to their father, they had smuggled upstairs. “Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant”—so, no doubt, they found; but just as the feast was at its height an alarm was given, the dreaded sound of Mr. Ferrier’s loud voice was heard scolding and storming in the lobby outside. Away flew the culprits, upsetting chairs and tables in their confusion, while little Susan chuckled to herself under the bedclothes, for it was she who had so successfully imitated the harsh accents of her irate father. She considered that her brothers and sisters had richly deserved their fright, for not only had they invaded her territory, but had never offered her a share of their supper. She also mimicked old Miss Peggy Campbell (sister to Sir Islay Campbell, President of the Court of Session) so exactly, that her father actually came into the room where she was amusing her hearers, thinking that Miss Peggy had certainly arrived.
VISIT TO HAVVERAA’ V CASTLE. 231
Among her school companions and playfellows was the great Lord Brougham, but school-going does not seem to have occupied much of her time. Her three sisters married early, and at the age of fifteen she lost her mother. In the same year (1797) she went with her father to pay her first visit at Inverary Castle, the Duke of Argyll’s place on the banks of Loch Fyne. A girl’s first friendship is almost as important an event in her life as her first love. So it proved with Susan Ferrier. Among the numerous visitors at Inverary Castle was a very beautiful and elegant little girl, Miss Clavering, daughter of Lady Augusta Clavering, and niece to the Duke of Argyll. The two young ladies immediately struck up a never-dying attachment. Susan Ferrier wanted a companion, and Miss Clavering was lively and animated. There was, besides, so much to amuse and observe at the Castle, that by dint of laughing and joking the two friends became inseparable. Inverary Castle was the great rallying point for the clan Campbell. Red-haired, high cheek-boned Highland chieftains, sneezing, snuffing, and anathematising everything that was not Scotch, came and went every day. Lady Frederick Campbell, widow of Earl Ferrers, and original of Lady MacLaughlan in Marriage, was there, with her thousand and one ointments, lotions, and cough tinctures; the three Miss Edmonstones, one of whom was Susan Ferrier’s god-mother, probably put in an appearance, and unwittingly sat for their portraits as the three Miss Douglasses in Marriage. Then there were plenty of silly, selfish fashionable ladies from London—like Lady Juliana Douglas and Lady Elizabeth Malcolm—who favoured the Duke with a visit, bringing with them their parrots, lap-dogs, macaws, and physicians. Such a collection of human curiosities was not thrown away upon Susan Ferrier and her friend; they laughed over their bedroom fires at the many amusing things they had heard and seen during the day, and at last Miss Clavering said, “Why don’t you make a book of them?” During subsequent visits this
plan matured, and Miss Clavering promised to help. Each was to write a few pages, then show it to the other, and consult about further progress. All this was to be done under the pledge of profound secrecy, and so the first idea of Marriage originated. The two friends wrote long letters about their new undertaking. Plot they had little or none, but they had plenty of actors, drawn or suggested from real life, and fitting scenes lay close at hand. Dunderawe Castle, on Loch Fyne, was in Susan Ferrier’s mind when she drew the sketch of Glenfern Castle—a tall, thin, grey house, with a small sallow-looking lake below, and behind, a chain of rugged, cloud-capped hills, with some faint attempts at plantation on them. “I do not recollect,” she writes to her confidante, “ever to have seen the sudden transition of a high-bred English beauty (Lady Juliana) who thinks she can sacrifice all for love, to an uncomfortable solitary Highland dwelling, among tall, red-haired sisters and grim-faced aunts. Don’t you think this would make a good opening for the piece? Suppose each of us try our hand on it The moral being to warn all young ladies against runaway matches. I expect it will be the first book every wise matron will put into the hands of her daughter, and even the reviewers will relax of their severity in favour of the morality of the little work. Enchanting sight! Already do I behold myself arrayed in an old mouldy covering, thumbed and creased and filled with dog’s-ears. I hear the enchanting sound of some sentimental miss, the shrill pipe of some antiquated spinster, or the hoarse grumbling of some incensed dowager, as they severally inquire for me at the circulating libraries, and are assured by the master that ’tis in such demand, that though he has thirteen copies, they are quite insufficient to answer the call upon it, but that each of them may depend upon having the very first that comes in | | | Child, child, you had need to be sensible of the value of my correspondence. At this moment I’m squandering mines of wealth upon you, when I
* MARRIAGE.” 233
might be drawing treasures from the bags of time. But I shall not repine, if you’ll only repay me in kind. Speedy and long is all that I require. . . . One thing let me entreat of you : if we engage in this undertaking, let it be kept a profound secret from every human being. If I was suspected of being accessory to such foul deeds, my brothers and sisters would murder me, and my father bury me alive.” One great difficulty the friends had to struggle against was the expense of postage—no trifling matter in those days. “I suppose,” writes Susan Ferrier, in her usual bright, lively style, “that we’ll be pawning our flannel-petticoats to bring about our heroine’s marriage, and lying on straw to give her Christian burial.” Very soon, however, Miss Clavering was left out of the running, the only part of Marriage to which she can lay any claim being that dull and prosy chapter called “The History of Mrs. Douglas.” Nevertheless, she was quite willing to appreciate her friend’s superior talents. She writes from Inverary Castle, December, 1810 :—
“And now, my dear Susannah, I must tell you of the success of your firstborn. I read it to Lady Charlotte, in the carriage, when she and I came from Ardnacaple. I never, in my existence, saw Lady C-laugh so much as she did from beginning to end; seriously, I was two or three times afraid she would fall into a fit. Her words were, ‘I assure you, I think it without the least exception the cleverest thing that was ever written, and in wit far surpassing Fielding. The whole conversation of the aunties made her screech with laughing. I am sure you will be the first author of the age.”
The book was still in MS., and Susan Ferrier began to feel twinges of remorse lest some of her friends might recognise their portraits, Lady MacLaughlan in particular. “If I was ever to be detected, or even suspected,” she writes to Miss Clavering, “I would have nothing for it but to drown myself.” But her confidante wrote back that it must all go forth into the world. “You must not think of altering Lady MacLaughlan, neither must the ‘misses’ on any account be changed. . . . Make haste and print it, lest one of the Miss Edmonstones should die, as then I should think you would scarce venture for fear of being haunted.” Yet Miss Ferrier was in no hurry to rush into print. Years passed, and Marriage still peacefully slumbered on in MS. During the autumn of 1811 she went with her father on a visit to Sir Walter Scott, who was then at Ashestiel. The journey was attended with some difficulty. Though Ashestiel was only thirty miles from Edinburgh, still the coach stopped ten miles off, and a ford beneath Ashestiel had to be crossed :— “Generally very passable,” writes Sir Walter, then Mr. Scott, to his brother of the Signet; “but we will have a boat in readiness, in case Miss Ferrier prefers it, or the water should be full.” Dinner was to be at five o’clock. Terry, the comedian, was on a visit to Ashestiel, and “read aloud to us,” says Scott, “after coffee in the evening.” We catch a pleasant glimpse of the little party assembled round the fire, on the October evening, the Ferriers just arrived, Scott full of vigour and anecdote, and Susan Ferrier quick to note and observe all that passed. It was not till 1819, when she was thirty-seven, that she gave Marriage to the world. She received £150 for it, and when it began to be successful, no one was so much astonished as she was herself. In a subsequent preface she says, “It was published in the belief that the author’s name would never be guessed at, or the work heard of beyond a very limited sphere.” Her friends may have had their suspicions as to the authorship of the book, but they were obliged to be silent. Even Scott—the great unknown (for his secret had not yet oozed out)—alludes to Marriage in his preface to one of the Tales of my Landlord as follows:– “There remains not only a great harvest [of Scotch manners and character] but labourers capable of gathering it in. More
“THE INHERITANCE.” 235
than one writer has of late displayed talents of this description, and if the present author, himself a phantom, may be permitted to distinguish a brother, or perhaps a sistershadow, he would mention in particular the author of that very lively work entitled Marriage.” There are many serious faults in this notable novel; too many characters that have nothing to do with the story are introduced. The interest, which begins with silly, selfish Lady Juliana who runs away with a handsome Scotch captain, and is disgusted to find herself in a dull Highland castle, where there is not even loaf-bread, where she is half-poisoned with coarse Scotch broth, swimming with leeks, greens, and grease, where she is deafened by bagpipes and bewildered with aunts and sisters-in-law—is very soon diverted from her to her twin daughters, and especially to the Scotch-bred lassie, Mary, who finally ends by marrying a Scotchman. Of course, such a blissful lot favourably contrasts with that of her sister Adelaide, who captivates a prosy, solemn English duke. A change of heroines is always confusing; one generation is enough for a book, and a story that begins with the mother and ends with the daughters is a mistake which only the supreme excellence of Miss Ferrier’s “oddities” can redeem. Blunt Lady MacLaughlan, good at heart, but always administering personalities and rude speeches to her little husband, Sir Sampson, and to her friend, Miss Grizzy, is enough to keep any story going. Notwithstanding the success of her first book, Miss Ferrier was slow in writing another. Popular authors, nowadays, think nothing of running up a story in a few months, but Miss Ferrier was six years putting her second novel—The Inheritance—into form and shape. She wrote it in secret, at Morningside House, old Mr. Ferrier’s summer retreat, near Edinburgh, and complained that the house was so small, it was very ill-calculated for concealment. She still wished to keep her light under a bushel, and said, “I never will avow myself, and nothing can hurt or offend me so much as any of my friends doing it for me. I could not bear the fuss of authorism.” The Inheritance was considered a hundred miles above Marriage, and Blackwood gave £1,000 for it. In The Inheritance Miss Pratt takes the comic part, which Lady MacLaughlan took in Marriage. Miss Pratt is a real creation—“the very ribbons on her bonnet seemed to vibrate with impatience;” she forced herself in everywhere, often uninvited, interrupted the Earl of Rossville in his stateliest speeches, and made herself at home wherever she Went. “Everybody wearied of her, or said they wearied of her, and everybody abused her, while yet she was more sought after and asked about than she would have been had she possessed the wisdom of a More or the benevolence of a Fry. She was, in fact, the very heart of the shire, and gave life and energy to all the pulses of the parish. She supplied it with streams of gossip and chit-chat in others and subject of ridicule in herself. Even the dullest laird had something to tell of Miss Pratt, and something bad to say of her. Her eyes were not by any means fine eyes—they were not reflecting eyes—they were not soft eyes—they were not melting eyes—neither were they restless eyes, nor rolling eyes, but they were active, brisk, busy, vigilant, immovable eyes, that looked as if they could not be surprised by anything, not even by sleep. They never looked angry, or joyous, or perturbed, or melancholy, or heavy, but morning, noon, and night they shone the same, and conveyed the same impression to the beholder, viz., that they were eyes that had a look—not like the look of Sterne’s monk, beyond this world, but a look into all things on the face of this world. Her ears might evidently be classed under the same head with the eyes; they were something resembling rabbits’—long, prominent, restless, vibrating ears, for ever listening and never shut by the power of thought.” The story of The Inheritance is better imagined, and has a stronger plot than that of Marriage.
THE BLACK FAMIL V. 237
Gertrude St. Clair, supposed to be the heiress of her uncle, Lord Rossville, is brought by her mother to live at the Earl’s castle. The Earl is a petty, benevolent tyrant, full of little thoughts, little plans, little notions, little prejudices, little whims. He sits “behind the teapot like a cackling hen,” so Miss Pratt says, and his firm determination is that Gertrude should marry Mr. Delmour, the next heir-male to the Rossville estates. But Gertrude, of course, falls in love with the wrong man—with Mr. Delmour’s brother, the colonel. Just as the confusion caused by this obstinacy is at its height, the Earl dies, and Gertrude finds herself a countess. Yet all the time a mysterious, vulgar individual called Levitson keeps hovering about demanding money. In the end he forces himself into the Castle and announces that he is in reality Gertrude’s father, that she is the daughter of a nurse, whom her mother, having no children, has passed off as her own. Colonel Delmour immediately decamps at the news. Gertrude loses her “Inheritance,” but only to find another, as she is taken up by testy Uncle Adam with his £70,000, and at length marries Edward Lyndsay, an excellent but rather mild young man.
There are even more comic scenes in The Inheritance than in Marriage. There is the Black family, eleven in all. The young masters and misses, “fine, stout, blooming, awkward creatures with shining faces and straight-combed, though rebellious-looking hair, while a smart cap, red eyes, and sour face bespoke the sufferings of the baby.” The eldest, Miss Bell Black, is soon to be Mrs. Major Waddell.
“Miss Bell had no toilette duties to perform, for she was dressed for the Major, in a fashionable gown made by Miss Skrimpskirt, of Tattleton, from a pattern of Miss Gorewell’s, in Edinburgh, who has had hers direct from Madame Chefd’oeuvre, of Paris. Miss Bell, therefore, felt no disheartening doubts as to her appearance, but firmly relying on the justness of her proportions and the orthodox length of her waist, and breadth of her shoulders, and strong in the consciousness of being flounced and hemmed up to the knees, she boldly entered, followed by her betrothed. Major Waddell was a very passable sort of person for a nabob. He had a dingy bronze complexion, tawny eyes, tolerable teeth, and a long wrinkled baboonish physiognomy.” Miss Bell, when she develops into Mrs. Major Waddell, becomes still more ridiculous. “‘Oh! now, Major, you know if you haven’t changed your stockings, I shall be completely wretched. Good gracious ! to think of your keeping on your wet stockings. I never knew anything like it.’ “‘I assure you, my dear Bell— began the Major. “‘Oh? now, my dearest Major, if you have the least regard for me, I beseech you put off your stockings this minute. Oh! I’m certain you’ve got cold already. How hot you are !’ taking his hand; “and don’t you think his colour very high 7 Now, I’m quite wretched about you.’”
Such a scene must surely have been a study from life. The Inheritance was translated into French under the title of L’Heretière. It was also dramatised and produced at Covent Garden, but had a very short run. “I have since learned with regret,” writes Mrs. Gore to Miss Ferrier, “that the play is the production of a certain Mr. Fitzball, the author of The Flying Dutchman.” Miss Pratt ought certainly have done well on the stage.
Old Mr. Ferrier died at his house, 25, George Street, Edinburgh, January, 1829, aged eighty-six, and after his death his daughter removed to a smaller house in Nelson Street. She was always welcome at Sir Walter Scott’s townhouse in George Street, and Fanny Kemble mentions having met her at breakfast there. Sir Walter personally liked Miss Ferrier. He had known her as a girl, and their intimacy has ripened into friendship. He calls her a gifted personage, having, besides her great talents, conversation the least exigeante
of any author, male or female, that I have ever met. She is simple, full of humour, and exceedingly ready at repartee, and all this without the least affectation of the “bluestocking.” Destiny, Miss Ferrier’s third novel, was dedicated to Scott, and he writes: “I know a little the value of my future god-child, since I had a peep at some of the sheets when I was in town during a great snowstorm. So far, I must say, that what I have seen has had the greatest effect in making me curious for the rest.” Great part of Destiny was written at Stirling Castle, where Miss Ferrier was on a visit with her sister Jane, Mrs. Graham, whose husband, General Graham, was governor of the garrison. Amidst the romantic surroundings of Stirling, with the winding Forth twisting in and out, Susan Ferrier’s thoughts went back to her favourite Argyleshire, and she imagined the Highland chief, Glenroy, proud, prejudiced, and profuse, with his never-failing friend and companion, sleepy-headed and absent Benbowie, who chewed tobacco, slobbered when he ate, walked up and down with a pair of creaking shoes, and drummed upon the table with a snuffy hand. The elegant and fastidious Lady Elizabeth, Glenroy’s second wife, and widow of an English Honourable, cannot banish Benbowie; and, after a short trial of the Highlands, she and her beautiful little girl, Florinda, take their departure. Glenroy’s two children, Norman and Edith, together with their cousin, Reginald, grow up together. Edith was put under the care of Mrs. Molly Macaulay, “who was one of those happily-constituted beings who seem to have been born sans nerves, sans spleen, sans bile, sans everything of an irritable or acrimonious nature, but with all these wants there was no want of a heart, a good stout, sound, warm heart, which would cheerfully have given itself and its last drop for the honour and glory of the race of Glenroy.” Destiny will have it that Edith and Reginald, brought up together, should become attached. Destiny, too, decrees that Reginald should meet his former playfellow, Florinda, on the Continent, and that she should banish simple Scotch Edith from his thoughts. Destiny ordains that Reginald’s struggles against his infatuation for the fascinating Florinda, who, with her mother, suddenly appears at Glenroy Castle, should be in vain, and in spite of his sense of honour, Edith sees herself supplanted. The old chief’s obstinacy for the match is all in vain, and Edith, an orphan, finds a retreat in a little vulgar citizen’s box near London, where Mr. Ribley watches the poulterers’ and butchers’ boys going their rounds, and speculates on the scrag of mutton for Miss Mudge and the noble sirloin for Mr. Claridge. Destiny, after all, has a happy ending, for Edith finds her fate in her cousin Ronald, who was supposed to have been lost at sea, and was left an estate by the testy old chief, Inch Orran. The scene in the early part of the book, when Ronald returns, finds his parents enjoying the estate, supposing him to be dead, and resolves to conceal his existence, is a touch of pathos which Professor Wilson considers worthy of Sterne or Goldsmith. “Generally,” he says, “Miss Ferrier fails almost as egregiously as Hook does in the pathetic. She appears habitually in the light of a hard satirist; but there is always a fund of romance at the bottom of a true woman’s heart.” Destiny was Miss Ferrier’s greatest pecuniary success. By Sir Walter Scott’s influence, it was published by Cadell, who gave her £1,700 for it. Praise flowed in from all sides— from Joanna Baillie, who found the Scotch minister, Mr. MacDow, hateful, though very amusing; and from Sir J. Mackintosh, who, on the day of the dissolution of Parliament, between twelve and three, was employed in reading the second volume, and was so completely occupied in the colony at Argyleshire, that he did not throw away a thought on kings or Parliament. Fanny Kemble also notes in her Diary: “Finished Miss Ferrier’s novel of Destiny, which I like very much. Besides being very clever, it leaves a pleasant taste in one’s mind’s mouth.” It was some time after the publication of Destiny that Miss Ferrier went to Abbots
IAST VISIT TO A BROTSRORD. 24I
ford to cheer and amuse Sir Walter Scott during his failing years. In Lockhart’s Life of Scott we find the following:—
“His daughter had invited his friend, the authoress of Marriage to come out to Abbotsford; and her coming was serviceable, for she knew and loved him well, and she had seen enough of affliction akin to his to be well skilled in dealing with it. She could not be an hour in his company without observing what filled his children with more sorrow than the rest of the case. He would begin a story as gaily as ever, and go on, in spite of the hesitation in his speech, to tell it with highly picturesque effect; but, before he reached the point, it would seem as if some internal spring had given way ; he paused and gazed around him with the blank anxiety that a blind man has when he has dropped his staff. Unthinking friends would give him the catchword abruptly. I noticed the delicacy of Miss Ferrier on such occasions. Her sight was bad, and she took care not to use her glasses when he was speaking; and she affected also to be troubled with deafness, and would say, ‘Well, I am getting as deaf as a post; I have not heard a word since you said so-and-so,’ being sure to mention a circumstance behind that at which he had really halted. He then took up the thread with his habitual smile of courtesy, as if forgetting his own case entirely in the consideration of the lady’s infirmity.”
Such little traits show rare tact and unselfishness. Miss Ferrier had a deep sense of religion along with a chastened resignation to the ills of life. The world seemed to her, as she says in Destiny, “no bower of paradise, but something better, the abode of faith and hope.” Many pages in her novels, which most readers skip for the sake of the story, show that religion had become a part of herself. After 1831 she wrote no more. A London publisher offered £1,000 for anything from her pen; but she was contented with her three bantlings. She made two attempts to write something, but could not please herself, and would not publish
anything. During her later days she lived a very retired
life, only seeing her intimate friends. For years she suf. fered with her eyes, and became quite blind of one. “I can say nothing good of myself,” she writes; “my cough is very severe, and will probably continue so—at least, as long as this weather lasts; but I have many comforts, for which I am thankful. Amongst them I must reckon silence and darkness, which are my best companions at present.” A friend who visited her was astonished at her wonderful vivacity in the midst of the darkness and pain which she had suffered for so many years. She had so much wit, humour, and honesty of character, as well as Christian submission, that everybody who knew her tried to do something to alleviate the tedium of her days. One friend, who read aloud to her, said, “I never left her darkened chamber without feeling that I had gained something better than the book we might be reading, from her quick perception of its faults and beauties, and her unmerciful remarks on all that was mean or unworthy in conduct or expression.” Miss Ferrier died in 1854, aged seventy-two. Scotch, thoroughly Scotch to her finger-tips, we can hardly imagine Susan Ferrier out of Scotland. She went to London in 1831, to consult an oculist, and also paid a visit to Isleworth in order to see a villa belonging to Lord Casilis, which subsequently figures in Destiny as Lady Waldegrave’s rural retreat near London, and there her wanderings ended. The land of brown heath was always most congenial to her. “Scotland,” she says, “with all its faults, will ever be to its own children the land of our love, our father’s home.” And Scotch people may well be proud of Susan Ferrier. She has not flattered them, certainly; she has put them down as she found them to be, with their faults and their virtues, their crotchets and their prejudices; and yet with that strong, sturdy independence and true-heartedness, which, in spite of individual exceptions, make the Scotch nation what it has proved itself to be.
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