Synopsis[ edit ] Belinda is a young lady who lives with her aunt, Mrs. Being unwed, Belinda is sent to live with Lady Delacour, whom Belinda considers fascinating and charming. Lady Delacour believes herself to be dying of breast cancer. She hides her emotional distress caused by her impending death and poor relationships with her family from Belinda through wit and charm. I see that she is incapable of feeling. Once Lady Delacour seeks treatment for her illness, Belinda returns to support her.
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Stanhope, a well-bred woman, accomplished in that branch of knowledge which is called the art of rising in the world, had, with but a small fortune, contrived to live in the highest company.
She prided herself upon having established half a dozen nieces most happily, that is to say, upon having married them to men of fortunes far superior to their own. One niece still remained unmarried—Belinda Portman, of whom she was determined to get rid with all convenient expedition. Stanhope did not find Belinda such a docile pupil as her other nieces, for she had been educated chiefly in the country; she had early been inspired with a taste for domestic pleasures; she was fond of reading, and disposed to conduct herself with prudence and integrity.
Her character, however, was yet to be developed by circumstances. Stanhope lived at Bath, where she had opportunities of showing her niece off, as she thought, to advantage; but as her health began to decline, she could not go out with her as much as she wished.
After manoeuvring with more than her usual art, she succeeded in fastening Belinda upon the fashionable Lady Delacour for the season. Soon after her arrival in town, Belinda received the following letter from her aunt Stanhope. Clarence Hervey—an acquaintance, and great admirer of my Lady Delacour.
He is really an uncommonly pleasant young man, is highly connected, and has a fine independent fortune. Besides, he is a man of wit and gallantry, quite a connoisseur in female grace and beauty—just the man to bring a new face into fashion: so, my dear Belinda, I make it a point—look well when he is introduced to you, and remember, what I have so often told you, that nobody can look well without taking some pains to please.
How I have pitied and despised the giddy creatures, whilst I have observed them playing off their unmeaning airs, vying with one another in the most obvious, and consequently the most ridiculous manner, so as to expose themselves before the very men they would attract: chattering, tittering, and flirting; full of the present moment, never reflecting upon the future; quite satisfied if they got a partner at a ball, without ever thinking of a partner for life!
I have often asked myself, what is to become of such girls when they grow old or ugly, or when the public eye grows tired of them? If they have large fortunes, it is all very well; they can afford to divert themselves for a season or two, without doubt; they are sure to be sought after and followed, not by mere danglers, but by men of suitable views and pretensions: but nothing to my mind can be more miserable than the situation of a poor girl, who, after spending not only the interest, but the solid capital of her small fortune in dress, and frivolous extravagance, fails in her matrimonial expectations as many do merely from not beginning to speculate in time.
You will also have the name of being very fashionable, if you go much into public, as doubtless you will with Lady Delacour. I need say no more to you upon this subject, my dear. Even with your limited experience, you must have observed how foolish young people offend those who are the most necessary to their interests, by an imprudent indulgence of their vanity. To know how and when to lay out money is highly commendable, for in some situations, people judge of what one can afford by what one actually spends.
You have no occasion for caution yet on one of these points. Say every thing that is proper, in your best manner, for me to Lady Delacour. Her taste for literature declined in proportion to her intercourse with the fashionable world, as she did not in this society perceive the least use in the knowledge that she had acquired. Her mind had never been roused to much reflection; she had in general acted but as a puppet in the hands of others.
To her aunt Stanhope she had hitherto paid unlimited, habitual, blind obedience; but she was more undesigning, and more free from affectation and coquetry, than could have been expected, after the course of documenting which she had gone through. She was charmed with the idea of a visit to Lady Delacour, whom she thought the most agreeable—no, that is too feeble an expression—the most fascinating person she had ever beheld.
Such was the light in which her ladyship appeared, not only to Belinda, but to all the world—that is to say, all the world of fashion, and she knew of no other. Female wit sometimes depends on the beauty of its possessor for its reputation; and the reign of beauty is proverbially short, and fashion often capriciously deserts her favourites, even before nature withers their charms. Lady Delacour seemed to be a fortunate exception to these general rules: long after she had lost the bloom of youth, she continued to be admired as a fashionable bel esprit; and long after she had ceased to be a novelty in society, her company was courted by all the gay, the witty, and the gallant.
To be seen in public with Lady Delacour, to be a visitor at her house, were privileges of which numbers were vehemently ambitious; and Belinda Portman was congratulated and envied by all her acquaintance, for being admitted as an inmate.
How could she avoid thinking herself singularly fortunate? Abroad she appeared all life, spirit, and good humour—at home, listless, fretful, and melancholy; she seemed like a spoiled actress off the stage, over-stimulated by applause, and exhausted by the exertions of supporting a fictitious character.
She would sometimes walk up and down the empty magnificent saloon, absorbed in thoughts seemingly of the most painful nature. Take it down again, my good friends: let his lordship go his own way.
Prejudiced by her ladyship, Belinda was inclined to think that Lord Delacour sober would not be more agreeable or more rational than Lord Delacour drunk. Apropos, Belinda, did not you tell me Clarence Hervey is coming to town? His lordship whistled, rang for his horses, and looked at his nails with a smile.
Belinda, shocked and in a great confusion, rose to leave the room, dreading the gross continuance of this matrimonial dialogue. Why looks your grace so heavily to-day? What dreadful noise of fiddles in my ears! What sights of ugly belles within my eyes! Luttridge to the life! Hervey threw himself on the sofa; Lord Delacour whistled as before, and left the room without uttering a syllable.
Luttridge and her wig. On all these topics Mr. Clarence Hervey might have been more than a pleasant young man, if he had not been smitten with the desire of being thought superior in every thing, and of being the most admired person in all companies.
He had been early flattered with the idea that he was a man of genius; and he imagined that, as such, he was entitled to be imprudent, wild, and eccentric. He affected singularity, in order to establish his claims to genius.
He had considerable literary talents, by which he was distinguished at Oxford; but he was so dreadfully afraid of passing for a pedant, that when he came into the company of the idle and the ignorant, he pretended to disdain every species of knowledge.
His chameleon character seemed to vary in different lights, and according to the different situations in which he happened to be placed. He could be all things to all men—and to all women.
He was supposed to be a favourite with the fair sex; and of all his various excellencies and defects, there was none on which he valued himself so much as on his gallantry. He was not profligate; he had a strong sense of honour, and quick feelings of humanity; but he was so easily led, or rather so easily excited by his companions, and his companions were now of such a sort, that it was probable he would soon become vicious.
As to his connexion with Lady Delacour, he would have started with horror at the idea of disturbing the peace of a family; but in her family, he said, there was no peace to disturb; he was vain of having it seen by the world that he was distinguished by a lady of her wit and fashion, and he did not think it incumbent on him to be more scrupulous or more attentive to appearances than her ladyship.
Stanhope was known amongst the men of his acquaintance. Young ladies who have the misfortune to be conducted by these artful dames, are always supposed to be partners in all the speculations, though their names may not appear in the firm.
If he had not been prejudiced by the character of her aunt, Mr. Hervey would have thought Belinda an undesigning, unaffected girl; but now he suspected her of artifice in every word, look, and motion; and even when he felt himself most charmed by her powers of pleasing, he was most inclined to despise her, for what he thought such premature proficiency in scientific coquetry.
He had not sufficient resolution to keep beyond the sphere of her attraction; but, frequently, when he found himself within it, he cursed his folly, and drew back with sudden terror.
His manner towards her was so variable and inconsistent, that she knew not how to interpret its language. She thought that she had been guilty of treachery, and she wrote again immediately to Mrs. The masquerade dresses are come. But, you novice of novices, how awkwardly shuffled! I beg, I entreat, I conjure you!
Stanhope think no one can make out an inuendo in a libel, or fill up a blank, but an attorney-general? Belinda was in too much confusion either to speak or think.
All I can do now is not to read the rest. But whilst we are making speeches to one another, poor Marriott is standing in distress, like Garrick, between tragedy and comedy. Have patience with us, and you shall be satisfied. Upon many occasions Miss Portman had observed, that Marriott exercised despotic authority over her mistress; and she had seen, with surprise, that a lady, who would not yield an iota of power to her husband, submitted herself to every caprice of the most insolent of waiting-women.
It seemed certain that a woman, extravagantly fond of her own will, would never have given it up without some very substantial reason.
It seemed as if Marriott was in possession of some secret, which should for ever remain unknown. This idea had occurred to Miss Portman more than once, but never so forcibly as upon the present occasion. There was a little cabinet beyond her bedchamber, which Lady Delacour called her boudoir, to which there was an entrance by a back staircase; but no one ever entered there but Marriott.
One night, Lady Delacour, after dancing with great spirit at a ball, at her own house, fainted suddenly: Miss Portman attended her to her bedchamber, but Marriott begged that her lady might be left alone with her, and she would by no means suffer Belinda to follow her into the boudoir.
All these things Belinda recollected in the space of a few seconds, as she stood contemplating Marriott and the dresses. The hurry of getting ready for the masquerade, however, dispelled these thoughts, and by the time she was dressed, the idea of what Clarence Hervey would think of her appearance was uppermost in her mind. She was anxious to know whether he would discover her in the character of the comic muse.
Lady Delacour was discontented with her tragic attire, and she grew still more out of humour with herself, when she saw Belinda. Freke knows that we are the two muses. Clarence Hervey swears he should know me in any disguise—but I defy him—I shall take special delight in puzzling him. I that should have been so proud. All this went off admirably well with every body but Miss Portman; she could not help thinking it extraordinary that a person who was obviously fond of being waited upon would never suffer any person to assist her at her toilet except Marriott, a woman of whom she was evidently afraid.
For this purpose he had exerted much ingenuity in the invention and execution of a length of coiled skin, which he manoeuvred with great dexterity, by means of internal wires; his grand difficulty had been to manufacture the rays that were to come from his eyes.
He had contrived a set of phosphoric rays, which he was certain would charm all the fair daughters of Eve. He forgot, it seems, that phosphorus could not well be seen by candlelight. When he was just equipped as a serpent, his rays set fire to part of his envelope, and it was with the greatest difficulty that he was extricated. The moment that the tragic and comic muse appeared, he invoked them with much humour and mock pathos, declaring that he knew not which of them could best sing his adventure.
After a recital of his misfortune had entertained the company, and after the muses had performed their parts to the satisfaction of the audience and their own, the conversation ceased to be supported in masquerade character; muses and harlequins, gipsies and Cleopatras, began to talk of their private affairs, and of the news and the scandal of the day. A group of gentlemen, amongst whom was Clarence Hervey, gathered round the tragic muse; as Mr. Hervey had hinted that he knew she was a person of distinction, though he would not tell her name.
Do you imagine that, through this tragical disguise, I have not found you out? I have a sort of cobweb feeling, an imaginary net coming all over me.
However, they are going to part now, I hear: Tollemache was tired of her before the honey-moon was over, as I foretold. Joddrell, who has no more ear than a post, went and married her, because he had a mind to set up for a connoisseur in music; and Mrs. Stanhope flattered him that he was one. The victims are sacrificed before they have sense enough to avoid their fate. Stanhope got poor Valleton to fight a duel about her place in a country dance, and then he was so pleased with himself for his prowess, that he married the girl.
Many of my acquaintance were tempted to go and look at the premises, but not one, you may be sure, had a thought of becoming a tenant for life. That eye where mirth and fancy used to shine. Hervey bowed; all the gentlemen who stood near him smiled; the tragic muse gave an involuntary sigh.
TALES AND NOVELS,
Stanhope, a well-bred woman, accomplished in that branch of knowledge which is called the art of rising in the world, had, with but a small fortune, contrived to live in the highest company. She prided herself upon having established half a dozen nieces most happily, that is to say, upon having married them to men of fortunes far superior to their own. One niece still remained unmarried—Belinda Portman, of whom she was determined to get rid with all convenient expedition. Stanhope did not find Belinda such a docile pupil as her other nieces, for she had been educated chiefly in the country; she had early been inspired with a taste for domestic pleasures; she was fond of reading, and disposed to conduct herself with prudence and integrity.
Were all novels like those of Madame de Crousaz, Mrs Inchbald, Miss Burney, or Dr Moore, she would adopt the name of novel with delight: But so much folly, errour, and vice are disseminated in the books classed under this denomination, that it is hoped the wish to assume another title will be attributed to feelings that are laudable, and not fastidious. The main purpose of these revisions was to bring it into line with the widely held values of the time and make the characters conform more to the ideals of the romantic novel. In her efforts to achieve a good match for Belinda, Mrs Stanhope has successfully ingratiated herself with Lady Delacour, a fashionable society hostess, who invites Belinda to go with her to London. As a beautiful heiress, she had been much courted and had fallen in love with a man named Henry Percival who loved her, but refused to overlook her faults and would not blindly flatter her. As a result, she had chosen to marry the admiring Lord Delacour instead who needed her money and whom she thought she could master. Lord and Lady Delacour from Belinda by Maria Edgeworth version Through high living and gambling, Lord and Lady Delacour exceeded their income and argued perpetually about money.
She prided herself upon having established half a dozen nieces most happily, that is to say, upon having married them to men of fortunes far superior to their own. One niece still remained unmarried — Belinda Portman, of whom she was determined to get rid with all convenient expedition. Her character, however, was yet to be developed by circumstances. Mrs Stanhope lived at Bath, where she had opportunities of showing her niece off, as she thought, to advantage; but as her health began to decline, she could not go out with her as much as she wished. After manoeuvring with more than her usual art, she succeeded in fastening Belinda upon the fashionable Lady Delacour for the season. Soon after her arrival in town, Belinda received the following letter from her aunt Stanhope. Clarence Hervey — an acquaintance, and great admirer of my Lady Delacour.
When her father married his second wife Honora Sneyd in , she went with him to his estate, Edgeworthstown , in County Longford , Ireland. Maria was sent to Mrs. Maria transferred to Mrs. She also started her lifelong correspondences with learned men, mainly members of the Lunar Society.