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De Montfort murders Rezenvelt, and then commits suicide by dashing his head against a pillar. This climax has been so long foreseen and is so tedious in coming that the spectators yawn over it and feel glad when it is all over. Nevertheless, the play reads so well that people still wondered why it could not be represented on the stage. There must be something wrong, they thought, in the theater when plays that read so well as Miss Baillie's could not be exhibited on the stage. When Edmund Kean was in his prime he undertook to bring out “De Montfort.” Some alterations were made and Miss Baillie rewrote the last act. Expectation was again awakened a second time, and Drury Lane was again crowded. But even Kean's superb genius could not avail to arouse interest in the ponderous though often sonorous lines. Three nights sufficed to satisfy Miss Baillie's admirers that her tragedies were not for the stage. Miss Baillie wrote eight tragedies, five comedies, and a musical drama, each exemplifying some one overmastering passion of the heart, as love, hatred, fear, jealousy, and ambition. But there is not enough of a story theme to make the por
trayal interesting. The characters are clearly
drawn, the dialogue is natural, the lines are poetic, but they all lead nowhere. The plots are meager and even vapid, and much as one may admire them in the study they are unsuited for dramatic representation.
Besides the “Plays on the Passions” Miss Baillie wrote a number of other plays, as well as some poems of a high degree of merit. A poem to her sister, “Lines to Agnes Baillie on Her Birthday,” has always been much admired.
She was a dear and lovely lady, a woman of undoubted genius, who lived gracefully into extreme old age beloved by all who knew her.
Francis Jeffrey always went to see her when he visited London. In one of his letters to his wife, written in 1842, he says:
We went to Hampstead and paid a very pleasant visit to Joanna Baillie, who is marvelous in health and spirits and youthful freshness and simplicity of feeling, and not a bit deaf, blind, or torpid.
She was then in her eightieth year.
SIR WALTER Scott was the Homer of modern novel writers, but great as he was, he was always glad to acknowledge his obligations to two women of genius, who pointed out the way for him. It was Miss Edgeworth's sketches of Irish character that first led him to think that he might do for Scotland what she had done for Ireland; and it was Miss Austen's novels of English life and manners that further challenged him to exertion in the same field. Of both these famous writers he was a lifelong admirer, and he often admitted that he could not equal them in the finer touches that portray character. Of course that was his modest
way of putting the matter, for time has placed 6O
the seal of fame on all his works, and has been disposed to slight theirs. Nevertheless, in the development of modern literature, Maria Edgeworth and Jane Austen are entitled to a high and honorable place. In one place Scott says: “Edgeworth, Ferrier, Austen, have all given portraits of real society far superior to anything man—vain man—has produced of a like nature.” In his diary, under date of March 14, 1826, he writes: Read again, for the third time at least, Miss Austen's finely written novel of “Pride and Prejudice.” That young lady had a talent for describing the involvements, and feelings, and characters of ordinary life, which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with. The big wow wow strain I can do myself, like any now going ; but the exquisite touch which renders ordinary, commonplace things and characters interesting, from the truth of the description and the sentiment,
is denied me. What a pity such a gifted creature died so early
Macaulay has an entry in his diary also:
I have now read once again all Miss Austen's novels— charming they are. There are in the world no compositions which approach nearer to perfection.”
Jane Austen's first novel, “Pride and Prejudice,” was written in 1796, when she was in her twenty-first year, and was followed at
considerable intervals by “Sense and Sensibil6L
ity,” “Northanger Abbey,” Mansfield Park,”
“Emma,” and “Persuasion.” The last appeared in 1816, one year before the author's death. She wrote also one or two shorter tales. This comprises her literary work during a space of twenty years. The word of culture at the present moment is Jane Austen—the “ Divine Jane.” Somewhat recently two prominent publishing houses have vied with each other in producing handsome editions of the novels, and in the last decade three or four biographies of her have appeared. But there was a time when her name and works were in eclipse. The generation that was brought up on the novels of Thackeray, Dickens, Bulwer, Charlotte Bronté, and their contemporaries, had no time to read the favorite novels of their fathers, and so Miss Austen passed out of fashion. From 1840 well down into the eighties, it was only the omnivorous readers that searched out the famous stories of the early part of the century. But now they are in fashion once more, and a very good and happy fashion it is. Miss Austen was the daughter of an English country clergyman, and the greater part of her life was passed at the rectory of Steventon. She spent
a few seasons at Bath, the famous English water62