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written, he had said that they contained "Touches of Nature". "as fine, as he had ever met with in any of the Authors, who had made Human Nature their Subject." Thus we have the first two novelists of their age, and rivals to boot, combining to praise a third, whose work-to use an expressive phrase of Mr. Forster must now be disinterred in order to be discussed.
Sarah Fielding, nevertheless, was by no means without ability. She was a scholar, in days when womenscholars were rarer; and, according to those who knew her later at Bath, much respected, both for her character and talents, though she must always have been in necessitous circumstances. This must also have been the case of her friends, the two Miss Colliers, the daughters of Arthur Collier, the metaphysician; and there are indications that they were all three indebted to Richardson for presents of money. Jane Collier was Sarah Fielding's collaborator in the "dramatic Fable" called "The Cry." The other sister, Margaret, a frequent sojourner at North End, was also the young lady who is said to have cut out in paper that profile of Fielding which is fabled to have served as a guide to Hogarth in drawing his friend's protrait from memory. She had lived with Fielding at Ealing, where she witnessed his will, and she was one of the little party which accompanied him to Lisbon. But her obligations to Richardson must have afterwards wholly overcome any gratitude which she may have owed to his rival. "I was sadly vexed," she writes in 1755 from Ryde, to which place, after her sister's death, she had retired, "at my first coming, at a report which had prevailed here, of my
being the author of Mr. Fielding's last work, The Voyage to Lisbon: the reason which was given for supposing it mine, was to the last degree mortifying, viz. that it was so very bad a performance, and fell so far short of his other works, it must needs be the person with him who wrote it." In much the same strain writes another of Richardson's friends. “I have lately read over with much indignation Fielding's last piece, called his Voyage to Lisbon. That a man, who had led such a life as he had, should trifle in that manner when immediate death was before his eyes, is amazing. From this book I am confirmed in what his other works had fully persuaded me of, that with all his parade of pretences to virtuous and humane affections, the fellow had no heart. And so - his knell is knolled."
The writer of this precious piece of criticism was Thomas Edwards, a bachelor, and a barrister who never practised. Next to Young he was the most important of Richardson's male correspondents. He does not often give vent to such outbursts, and seems to have been usually what Mrs. Barbauld calls him, a "very good, pious, and kind-hearted man." He was the friend of Richard Owen Cambridge, Walpole's "Cambridge the Everything," of the parodist, Isaac Hawkins Browne, and of Mr. Speaker Onslow. Indeed, it may have been at Ember Court that he first made Richardson's acquaintance, for they were certainly there together. His first letter, from which it is clear that he has also been visiting at North End, is an acknowledgment of the "divine Clarissa," to whom he attributes an exaggerated effect upon the manners of the age. "I am not without hope that
this excellent work has already had some influence on the town; and cannot help thinking that the approbation with which I am told the tender scenes between Romeo and Juliet were received, above the humorous ones between Benedick and Beatrice, might be owing to impressions made by Clarissa, who has tamed and humanised hearts that before were not so very sensible." Richardson, of course, was delighted, and a correspondence ensued which lasted for several years, the quotation as to Fielding being taken from a letter of May 1755, whereas the words just given are from one of January 1749. Edwards was, in his way, a notable man; and Miss Thomson is right in claiming for him a position among the pioneers of the romantic revival. He was a genuine lover of the older writers - of Shakespeare, of Milton, of Spenser in particular, who had set him upon writing sonnets, although he afterwards observed the Miltonic rule. Many of these performances, which Richardson wanted to print during Edwards's life-time, are included in the Introduction to Cambridge's Works of 1803. There are others in the second volume of Dodsley's Collection, and, as we have seen, he composed an introductory sonnet for Clarissa's Meditations. Moreover, a few years earlier, he had written a clever Supplement to Warburton's Edition of Shakespeare, later known as the Canons of Criticism, in
1 In November 1748 Much Ado about Nothing had been acted at Drury Lane with Garrick as Benedick, and Mrs. Pritchard as Beatrice. It ran eight nights, and was followed by Romeo and Juliet, with Barry as Romeo and Mrs. Cibber as Juliet. This was played for nineteen nights. But it is to be feared that Barry's magnificent presence and Mrs. Cibber's beauty had more to do with its success than the publication of Clarissa.
which he exposed some of the Bishop's arrogant pretensions, a pamphlet concerning which it has always been held that it deserved more praise than Warburton's friend, Dr. Johnson, was inclined to allow to it. Richardson, who fancied he had been snubbed by Warburton, would have pressed Edwards to expose Warburton further still in a rival edition of Pope. But although Edwards, like his friend Cambridge, had contributed minerals to Pope's Twickenham grotto, he was not so thorough-going an admirer of the author of the Essay on Man as to undertake this enterprise. His real enthusiasm was reserved for the older writers; and his abilities were of that leisurely kind which dabbles in philology and folklore, skirts the fringes of a subject, and prefers to generalise about eclectic editions and grumble at "vamping" publishers, rather than to embark with resolution upon any definite task. He visited North End frequently from his home at Turrick, near Wendover in Bucks, making friends with Richardson's little circle of "Muses and Graces," and inspiring the younger members with his trick of sonneteering. He died finally under Richardson's roof in 1757.
Another of Richardson's correspondents, with whom his acquaintance seems to have begun not long before the publication of Clarissa, was Miss Sarah Westcomb of Enfield. Richardson had visited this young lady and her mother in their country-seat, and on his return wrote enthusiastically of the gardens, the summerhouse, and the "truly serpentine river." Mrs. Westcomb, who was a martyr to gout, and of whom we hear chiefly as being carried about her grounds in a sedan-chair all day long, was a widow, and Richardson
seems to have been at once invested with an honorary paternity which permitted him to correspond with Miss Sally at his ease. One of his letters to her from Tunbridge Wells was quoted in the previous chapter, and there is none more interesting in the rest of the batch. The young lady dwells edifyingly on her contempt for "Ranelagh's lofty dome, or Vauxhall's rural scenes," and displays a praiseworthy disdain for the proceedings of the husband-hunting Miss Gunnings, who have been "starring" at Enfield. "May toupees,1 powder, lace, and essence (the composition of the modern pretty fellows) follow them in troops, to stare, and be stared at, till the more bashful youths give the first blush!" So writes this gentle moralist; and "her best and good papa" is enraptured at the sentiments. "When women turn seekers," he replies oracularly, "it will not do. Gudgeons may bite; but not even then but by accident, and through inexperience of the wiles of anglers. . . I hear they [the Gunnings] have been rudely treated at Windsor, as they were at Edmonton." Nevertheless, when Miss Westcomb went shortly afterwards to Ankerwyke (where she fished and caught" no, not even a gudgeon"), she unfortunately enjoyed herself so thoroughly that she forgot to write to her self-constituted parent at North End, who forthwith despatches a seven-page remonstrance to the errant " offspring of his mind." In 1754 Miss Westcomb lost her mother, and not long afterwards, in July 1756, she is happily engaged to a very agreeable young gentleman, Mr. Scudamore, of Kentchurch, Herefordshire. Richardson gave her away in August of that year at St. George's, Hanover Square, 1 See note, ante, p. 81.