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Patronage
    (Review / Patronage, by Maria Edgeworth)
  Monthly Review /JAS, 1814
  vol. 74 (1814): 109-11.
 
Art. 26. Patronage. By Maria Edgeworth, Author of 'Tales of Fashionable Life,' 'Belinda,' 'Leonora,' &c. Second Edition. 12mo. 4 Vols. 1l. 8s. Boards. Johnson and Co. 1814.

Those writers who wish to be moral generally exhibit as warnings, the downfall of schemes raised on false principles: but Miss Edgeworth, with superior skill, deters her female readers from artifice, and those of the other sex from abject dependance, by pourtraying characters whose attempts to obtain patronage are successful, but who remain unhappy in the midst of worldly prosperity, for want of self-esteem and affectionate family-union. If she be somewhat backward in suggesting religious motives for amiable conduct, she has drawn such attractive examples, that no one can rise from perusing this story without an impression favourable to virtue. It abounds with sensible observations and masterly strokes, and furnishes many excellent models for young people. Among these, the character of Rosamond is peculiarly well imagined; her generous acquiescence in her sister's superiority, and her affectionate zeal for promoting Caroline's triumphs, are touchingly pleasing. The exemplary perseverance of her brothers also affords an useful lesson, and the praise bestowed on the Percys by their former dependants are admirably introduced. The sketch of Lord William, in the third volume, with the personification of mauvaise-honte, is also new and ingenious. Above all, the prominent character of Lord Oldborough is forcibly drawn, and uncommonly well preserved: but the concluding incident, of the discovery of his son, might as well have been avoided, as derogatory to his fame.

Perhaps the story includes too many personages; though, as they have all their appropriate features, their number proceeds rather from the author's exuberance of fancy than from a repetition of imagery. Several, however, of the individuals who appear, are not allowed to speak; and this is to be lamented, because the dialogues are among the most striking and lively parts of the work. The letters from the young Percys to their parents are natural, but too long; and, in our old-fashioned estimation, 'Your's truly' is not a respectful conclusion of a letter to a mother. Most of the cures performed by Erasmus, the physician, are trifling and improbable; the legal incidents are inaccurately conceived; the history of Mr Henry and Miss Panton is an hors-d'oeuvre, neither interesting nor illustrative; and [110] the anecdote of Buckhurst Falconer saving the Bishop from choking is disgusting, and unworthy of the pen of this superior writer.

These pages contain also a few verbal inaccuracies, which must have been overlooked in the hurry of publication: viz. Vol. i. p. 9., 'Rosamund was so much excited by what had happened, that she continued talking.' - Vol. ii. p. 167. 'As to friends of your own making, they are as much your own earning, and all the advantages they can be to you is as honourably your's,' &c. - Vol. iv. p. 58., 'Alfred shewed that, without Buckhurst yielded, law must take its course.' - Page 354., 'There was no noisy acclamations,' &c.

In the preface to this edition, Miss Edgeworth disavows her having drawn living characters: but her candour is so generally acknowleged [sic] that this vindication scarcely seems necessary; and if, like Mr By-ends in the Pilgrim's Progress, 'it is her luck to jump in her judgment with the way of the times,' and thus to give the effect of real portraits to the creations of her own genius, let her not repine, 'but rather count it a blessing.' [complete]

Provided by Julie A. Shaffer, January 2000