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For NOVEMBER, 1808.




The Thirty-eighth Number.



When these persons and these circumstances tend to inspire an abhorrence of vice and a love of virtue, novels are moral works, and Turgot even observes, perhaps with a little exaggeration, the only oues in which he had discovered any morality. They exhibit in the clearest manner the

It has been observed by Mirabeau || their heroes and the singularity of the cirthat the fashionable world is not to be de- cumstances which befal them. scribed, and yet no theatre is so highly interesting. Those whom the lowness of their birth, the mediocrity of their talents, or the want of fortune forbid the access to it, having nothing but novels to console them for the exclusion. In these they meet with beings different from those that moye in the narrow sphere to which they are them-influence of our actions on the happiness selves confined, and the entertainment derived from them increases in proportion to the originality of the persons who are

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and conduct of those about us. It is on this account in particular, that the novels of Madame Cottin have obtained a distin guished place among the works of that de scription.

But exclusive of the interest and moral tendency which render the perusal of them so entertaining and instructive to the generality of readers, the novels of Madame Cottin likewise possess the merit of afford.

ing equal delight to those who live in the great world. To such they are pictures drawn with equal truth and ability of the scenes which awakened their desires and gave new energy to their sentiments; or which, overwhelming them with affliction, moved their hearts without diminishing the keenness of their sensibility. Those must be made of brass, says a judicious critic, who do not feel the strongest emotion on reading the finest passages in Claire D'Albe, and Malvina, Amelia Mansfield and Matilda; and they must have hearts of adamant who are not twenty times melted into tears by the perusal of Elizabeth.

Placed between the Countess de Genlis and the Baroness de Stael Holstein, Ma. dame Cottin surpasses the former in that genuine eloquence, which, proceeding from the heart, never fails to penetrate to the heart; and though she possesses less erudition and genius than the latter, she is superior to her in the art of encouraging the domestic virtues by the most affecting pictures of innocence, candour and filial piety; and it is her own heart that furnishes her with the traits of these excellencies.

I shall now proceed to give a brief account of the life and writings of this incomparable female, who was too soon removed from the field of literature which she cultivated with ardour, from society which she adorned by the sweetness of her disposition and by the charms of her conversation, and from the world which she instructed by her virtues as well as by her works. But I shall not stop to pay vain compliments to her memory. The accumulated regret, esteem, love, and admiration with which it is honoured, are her fairest eulogy. Thus Truth, who, on the death of those whom fortunate accidents and multiplied crimes have raised to the pinnacle of terrestrial grandeur, overthrows the statues erected to them by blind adulation, opens the doors of her temple to virtue in the tomb, and consecrates to it in the bosom of affection, a monument more imperishable than brass or marble.

Sophia Ristan, was the only daughter of a rich merchant of Bordeaux, who was afterwards one of the directors of the French East India Company. She was born at Bordeaux, or in the environs of that city in 1771 or 1779. Her parents being of the

Protestant religion, at that time proscribed in France, she was educated under their inspection. Their example impressed upon her mind at an early age a reverence for those duties, the practice of which they recommended in their instructions: but it was to her mother, in particular, that she was indebted for all the virtues of which filial piety forms the basis. It is therefore no wonder that she repaid her cares with the warmest tenderness.

Adorned at the age of eighteen with all those advantages both natural and acquired which are calculated to attract admiration, and being the heiress to a large fortune, Mademoiselle Ristau soon had several suitors. By the advice of her parents she accepted the hand of M. Jean Cottin, a young banker of Paris, descended like herself from a Protestant family; and their union seemed to promise a life of unclouded felicity. Never was there more perfect harmony than what prevailed in the interesting family into which Madame Cottin had the good fortune to enter.

M. Cottin's father, on giving him a share in the bank, had retired to his country-seat at Guibeville, near Arpajon, reserving for himself only the ground-floor of the mag. nificent house which he possessed in the Chaussée d'Antin, now called Rue de Mirabeau. The first story was occupied by M. Jauge, one of the partners in the firm, who had married the eldest of M. Cottin's daughters. M. Girardot, the husband of the younger, and likewise a partner in the house, occupied half of the second story, the other half of which formed the apartments of M. Jeau Cottin and his young wife. One of the wings contained the offices of the bank and the apartments of M. Cottin's youngest son, then about sixteen, and of a gentleman, a native of Germany, who had been his tutor. In the evening the whole company supped some times with one, sometimes with another of the young ladies, and in winter on the ground floor with Madame Cottin their mother. This accomplished lady was equally respectable for her extensive ac quirements, the excellent qualities of her mind and the unalterable goodness of ber heart. Though she was on the decline, she still retained a considerable portion of beauty; and the affability of her manners,

and the charms of her conversation made those who were in her company entirely forget her age. She was adored by her husband and children, and received the same homage from all who had the happiness to be introduced into her society. Respect obliges me to be silent in regard to Madame Jauge her eldest daughter. I have by the way thrown a flower upon the tomb of her mother, but I must not offend the modesty of the heiress of her virtues and of her talents.

| ted into the society of Madame Cottin, and to see her every day. She was then in the flower of youth, and had an extremely interesting countenance. The delicacy of her complexion, her large blue eyes, and the tone of her voice, announced the excellence of her soul. Her features bore the stamp of extreme sensibility; and whoever has seen the smile of benevolence upon her lips, or her eyes suffused in the tears of sympathy, will never forget her angelic sweetness. Her demeanor and her looks, betrayed a timidity of which it is difficult to form a conception; and which produced a striking contrast with that heroism in the cause of virtue which she possessed in such a high degree as sometimes to appear

susceptible of the same sublime enthusiasm. Sincerely attached to the man to whom she was united, she fulfilled every conjugal duty with the most scrupulous fidelity and the most unaffected zeal. Like her own Clara she had culled from all existing sentiments that portion of each which was best adapted to promote the happiness of her husband. She would have given her life for him; but I think I am not mistaken in asserting that her heart was a stranger to love. The almost supernatural notions of the delicious and irresistible empire of a lively passion which her ardent imagination had suggested, caused her frequently to suspect that her felicity was not so

The profound grief felt by Madame Cottin on parting from a mother whom she passionately loved, was in some measure dispelled by the warm welcome she received from the mother and sisters of her husband. Their inclinations, habits, and charac-romantic to those whose souls were not ters were all conformable with her own dispositions. The generosity of her soul was unable to withstand the attractions of confiding friendship. Her connection with Madame Girardot, who was nearly of her own age, soon ripened into the most perfect and steady intimacy. No ivalship ever subsisted between these two amiable females, except in talents and elevation of sentiment. The one successfully cultivated the art of drawing; while the other, endowed with a more lively imagination devoted all her leisure hours to reading. Both were fond of music; both timid and fearful of being remarked, placed their highest good in living unnoticed by the world, in the happy circle of their family and a select number of friends; as two limpid springs gushing from the side of the same hill, uniting at its foot, and flowing in a peaceful stream through some solitary valley, are known only to the few inhabitants of the neighbouring hamlets.

Madame Cottin's father died in 1789, very soon after his daughter's marriage, and Madame Ristau followed him in a few years to the grave. Madame Cottin had now no parents but those of her husband. An attachment founded on esteem and confidence supplied the place of the ties of blood, and gradually soothed the violence of the grief which wrung her heart for the loss she had sustained.

complete as it might have been, and transported her into an ideal world, where she hoped to find the happiness which, in her opinion, had been refused her. These reveries, though dangerous for a heart less enthusiastically attached to virtue, produced however, no alteration in the even flow of her temper. Like Malvina she possessed that complaisance which proceeds from native goodness of heart. It was neither with any effort, nor with any design that she adapted her taste to that of others; but because the image of their pleasure was always present to her mind before that of her


Madame Cottin had occasion to visit England. During the few weeks she spent in At the beginning of 1791, having acLondon, she did not neglect to learn the cepted the place of tutor to the children of language of the author of Clarissa, and of M. Jauge, I had the pleasure to be admit-many other celebrated writers with whose

immortal works she had been able to form || only an imperfect acquaintance by means of feeble translations. Messrs. Plimely and Kelly, masters of the commercial academy in Finsbury-square, came alternately every evening to the house which Madame Cottin occupied in Norfolk-street, Strand. The entrance of the Duke of Brunswick into France, at the head of an army of Prussians, my countrymen, having caused me to remove to England, I had the honour of being admitted of the company when these lessons were given. Emulation facilitated our study of the English language, and Madame Cottin in particular made a very rapid proficiency in it.

She hastened her return to her native country before the commencement of hostilities between France and England; but she had not been there many months before she had the grief to see the health of her husband, which had long been precarious, decline daily. M. Cottin died at Paris

in 1793.

The loss of a husband to whom she had

self with imaginary beings, invented for them uncommon situations, and amused herself with relating their history. Such was the origin of Amelia Mansfield. The plan of this work was formed, when some unexpected circumstance called Madame Cottin to the vicinity of Rouen, on the banks of the Seine, into an enchanting country, where in less than a fortnight she composed her novel of Claire d'Albe. This first essay of her talents was highly ap plauded. Never were the struggles of love and duty described with greater force and warmth of style; and though love at length proves triumphant, the impression which the perusal of the work leaves upon the heart, is nevertheless wholly in favour

of virtue.*

This novel was followed by Malvina, which Madame Cottin composed at her country house at Champlan, half way she had invited from Bordeaux Madame between Guibeville and Paris. Thither Verdier, a near relation and the friend of

her childhood, whom she loved with ido

been tenderly attached overwhelmed Ma-latry, and who was a widow like herself,

dame Cottin with affliction. Left a widow at the age of twenty two, it was not without alarm that she found herself her own mistress. All the painful sentiments which absorbed her ardent soul immediately acquired alarming force. Her grief and her fears assumed the character of despair and were followed bya gloomy melancholywhich filled her friends with apprehensions for her health. She retired to the country where the beauties of nature, which she delighted to contemplate, and the benefits which she diffused around her, attached her again to life. She likewise conceived a partiality for the study of botany and be gan to pursue it with success.

but had two lovely daughters. The care she bestowed on the children of her friend suggested the situation in which she has placed her heroine. It was because she

felt herself capable of devoting her life to the education of Madame Verdier's daugh ters, without ever dividing her affections between them and any other object, that she represented Malvina taking the oath dictated by the exaltation of friendship, on which her history is founded. In respect to the powerful charm of impassioned Clara; but it is rendered still more intereloquence, this work is perhaps inferior to esting by the number of persons who are introduced into it, and by the complica

cation of the circumstances, which occur

An able critic,† paying a just tribute of praise to Elizabeth, one of Madame Cottin's performances, which has obtained the applause of the most enlightened and the

Solitude, however, nourished those reveries in which she had indulged even ining in the north of Britain, may be said to make it an English work. the midst of Paris. Love, ardent love, of which her lively imagination had formerly drawn such a delicious picture, of which she still felt herself susceptible, but of which her knowledge of the world filled her with dread, communicated a vague agitation to a heart irresistibly impelled to love. To satisfy this impulse, to give it an innocent object, and free expression to its exalted sentiments, she surrounded her

* Our readers will not be displeased to learn that Clara, which is so justly characterized by the author, may be had either in French or English of Mr. Colburn, Conduit-street. + Edinburgh Review, No. XXII. p. 448,

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most rigid judges, has inquired why women observed in her Clara that "a woman who succeed so much better than men in paint- devotes herself to the education of her chiling fugitive impressions, the transient emo- dren and her domestic concerns, at the tions of the human heart, and thinks that same time that she sets an example of good it must be, at least, partly owing to their morals and of industry to all about her. education. Madame Cottin, in Malvina, || performs the task which her country reis of a different opinion. "Novels," she quires of her. If all," she continues, "were says, "are the peculiar province of wo- thus content to do good, each within her men, only because it belongs to them to own sphere, this multitude of good actions seize all the shades of a sentiment which is would produce a truly admirable general the history of their life, whereas it is result. To men belong grandeur and subscarcely the episode of that of men. Their limity of conception; it is theirs to estatalents," adds she, "consist only in blish governments and laws; but it is the painting their feelings in glowing colours; province of women to facilitate their execuand if none of the sex has yet distinguished tion by rigidly confining themselves to the herself by grand productions, which re- duties which fall immediately within their quire long and profound meditation, this sphere. Their task is easy; for be the ortruth, demonstrated by facts, must not be der of things whatever it may, provided it charged to the account of their education. be founded on virtue and justice, they are How many men, sprung from indigent sure to contribute towards its duration, by parents, of the lowest extraction, encom- never stopping beyond the circle which passed with prejudices, without means, nature has traced around them; for if a without resources, more ignorant than the machine shall go well, each of the parts majority of women, have we seen raising which compose it must be in its proper themselves by the strength of their genius, place." from obscurity to glory, enlightening the age in which they lived, and even penetrating into the boundless regions of futurity!

After the publication of Malvina, Madame Cottin resumed the subject which she had attempted immediately after the death of her husband, and in 1802 produced her Amelia Mansfield, an admirable work, in which she has attacked the absurd prejudice of the pride of birth, and delineated in a style equal, if not superior to that of Clara, the horror with which her own heart' was seized at the idea of that terrible passion, which in a paroxysm of a few moments exhausts all the energies of the soul to such a degree, that it no longer possesses courage for its duties, sensibility for the soft affections, or a relish for life.

"If indeed it be true, as I think it is, that women cannot rise without difficulty to metaphysical abstractions, and have in general no ideas but what spring from palpable objects, it follows that these ideas being by their nature always accompanied either with pleasure or pain, the sex must be more invariably under the dominion of sentiment. The author of nature has denied them the faculty of soaring into the lofty regions of abstract thought, in order to attach them to domestic duties. They The peace of Amiens, which restored a seem, as Chamfort has observed, to have a short interval of repose to harrassed Eucell less in the head and a fibre more in the rope, and tranquillity to the high vallies heart. Most assuredly they have no orca- of Switzerland and the beautiful plains of sion to complain of their lot. Destined to Italy, induced Madame Cottin to pay a do good in detail, they possess the delight- visit to those countries, for the purpose of ful privilege of being sure to dispense hap-contemplating the varied situations, the piness if they are so inclined; while men, description of which had so often moved actuated by the best intentions, by general-her heart. Returning to France by the izing their ideas in order to do good on al large scale, are frequently led into dangerous speculations, which involve nations in misery for many generations."

maritime Alps, and proceeding along the coast of the Mediterranean, she directed her course toward the spot where she had passed her youth, and fixed upon a charm Accordingly Madame Cottin had before ing retreat at the foot of the Pyrenees.

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