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She was now a woman of unusual culture, a delightful conversationalist, one who possessed in a rare degree the admirable gift of graphic narration; all of which qualities would prove highly serviceable to a writer.
There were already in the field such authors as Sir Walter Scott, Theodore Hook, Captain Marryat, Harrison Ainsworth, Bulwer, Disraeli, Charles Dickens, John Galt and and William Godwin; and amongst her own sex such story-tellers as Maria Edgworth, Lady Morgan, Miss Mitford, Mrs S. C. Hall and Jane Porter. The poets included Wordsworth, Campbell, Coleridge, Barry Cornwall, Samuel Rogers, Tom Moore, Alfred Tennyson, Mrs Hemans, Miss Barrett, Miss Landon: and the essayists numbered Charles Lamb, De Quincey, Thomas Carlyle, and Landor. In every department of literature there seemed labourers enough already, yet room might be found for another. At this time Lady Blessington had no definite intention of joining the novelists' ranks. Verses, stories, and biographical sketches would come easier to her pen: but whilst a wide field of subjects to select from lay before her, no special design employed her mind. She felt assured however that she could furnish material for the periodicals, and already decided that the New Monthly Magazine would be the most desirable medium for a beginning.
This publication had been founded some ten years previously by Colburn, and had counted amongst its contributors the most
notable writers of the day. The first who filled the editorial chair was none other than Thomas Campbell, who though readable as a poet was execrable as an editor; he being a man under whose régime confusion reigned supreme, from whom contributors might hope in vain for answers; who apologised to his readers for 'inserting without reflection' an article which appeared in his pages, which on observing its unfairness made him feel dissatisfied with himself for having published it;' one who to use Talfourd's words 'stopped the press for a week to determine the value of a comma, and balanced contending epithets for a fortnight.'
In November 1831 Campbell was ceeded as editor by Bulwer, who was therefore responsible for the management of the magazine when in the spring of 1832 Lady Blessington wrote to offer her services as a contributor. The assistant editor was Samuel Carter Hall then a man of one-and-thirty, a writer of verse, a journalist, an editor, and more than all the husband of one who had published charming and racy stories of Irish life which had immediately brought her name before the public.
In reply to Lady Blessington's letter, S. C. Hall waited upon her and was shown into the drawing-room crowded with works of art, its deep embrasured windows looking on a fair garden. He had not been long here when the door was thrown open by a resplendent footman, and immediately after
Lady Blessington entered quietly and gracefully, that smile upon her face which was as witchery to all. His first impression was that she was remarkably handsome, not so perhaps by the established canons of beauty, but there was a fascination of look and manner that greatly augmented her personal charms. Her face and features were essentially Irish, and that is the highest compliment I can pay them,' he would add.
Her ardent admiration for talent, her delicate tact, her desire to please, prompted her to say many complimentary things regarding her richlyendowed countrywoman, Mrs Hall; words which were music to the ears on which they fell. Hostess and guest had much to say concerning the country which had given them birth; criticisms followed on the writers of the day-amongst whom he had many friends -finally they spoke of literature, a calling in which each was destined to become distinguished.
Lady Blessington proposed various subjects as suitable for treatment by her in the pages of the New Monthly, but none of them commended itself to the assistant editor. Then the conversation became desultory when he passed some comment on a picture of Byron hanging at a little distance. This led to reminiscences regarding the poet whom she described with fluency, recalling various opinions he had expressed to her, describing his traits of character and manners, the impressions he had given her.
'Now' said S. C. Hall who knew the interest felt by the public regarding the brilliant personality of Byron 'why not write what you have told me of the poet?'
Lady Blessington immediately accepted the suggestion, and promised to act upon it, and in this way her literary career may be said to have begun.
Whilst at Genoa, it will be remembered, she had seen Byron continually and he had spoken to her unreservedly on a variety of subjects. Each time he had left her presence, it had been her habit to jot down their conversations as fully as her excellent memory would permit. These records of his opinions and traits she had preserved, and at once began to transcribe
and arrange them for the press. When ready they appeared in the New Monthly Magazine under the heading 'Journals of Conversations with Lord Byron': the first instalment being published in July 1832, the last in December 1833, when they were issued in volume form.
The year 1832 was fruitful of events in Lady Blessington's life; for not only may she be said to have begun her literary career at this period, but she also arranged a marriage between her sister Mary Anne and a French nobleman, the Count Saint Marsault. Miss Power was at this time about thirty, whilst her husband was more than double her age. The Count was a distinguished-looking personage with a wicked eye and a charming smile, whose manners were the most polite and amiable imaginable. A man of rank, hand
somely dressed, his long yellow fingers loaded with rings that were heirlooms, it was considered he had ample means to support himself and his wife in the position proper for them to maintain an advantage which alone induced Mary Anne Power to accept his proposal, she being unwilling to remain any longer a burden on her sister, and anxious to gain independence even by the sacrifice of her feelings. On the other hand the Count believed that the sister of an English countess who lived in a style so magnificent, could not but have a handsome dowry.
Alas, the truth was known too late. The Count was well nigh as poor as his wife; and after living together for a few months during which they daily disagreed, they willingly separated: he returning to his own country and she at first to her sister until such time as she went to Dublin to take charge of her father; when in due course her place in Lady Blessington's household was supplied by her nieces, Marguerite and Ellen Power, the beautiful daughters of Lady Blessington's impecunious brother.
Her sister Ellen, who had married the Hon. Charles Manners Sutton, was far more fortunate. Her drawing-rooms were only less brilliant than those of Lady Blessington: whilst her grace and beauty were scarce second to the Countess. Between his scrambles from the receptions of a duchess to the concert of a marchioness, Tom Moore graciously found time to call upon Mrs Manners Sutton and in his