The first paper under the above title having described the Characters of the individuals who constitute this Society, this second number will contain an outline of their general History, with the intent of giving the reader an insight of the causes of some particularities which belong to each of its members, and of the circumstances which have brought them together.
Mr. Philip Mordaunt and his brother James were the sons of a wealthy country gentleman, who considered that circumstance, together with the accident of being born in England, as two of the most substantial advantages a man could possess — He had not any very extended views as to what might be the fate of those who were to succeed him, but thought that as he could leave to each of his children wealth enough to supply them with all the conveniences of life it was nonsense to place his sons in any profession.
“Why should they take the trouble of fitting themselves for any? After all, there was nothing like being an independent English Country Gentleman.”
His three daughters had the same kind of sentiments addressed to them — “His girls would hardly give their hands to a military coxcomb, a knave of a lawyer, A pedant of a church man.” &c. &c. “No — he hoped to see them married to the only order to whom no imputation could attach, that of *the English Country Gentry.”
The young Ladies a little dissented from this opinion. Miss Mordaunt could not see any reason why the military were not to be full as much respected — Men who ventured their lives for the protection of the Country, and on whose exertions the safety of the gentry themselves, greatly depended. — And in Major Sydney, who frequently visited in the neighborhood, she saw the first of military men.
Happily for her, those attractive qualities which first won her attention, and then her affections, were accompanied by merits of a more solid kind — the Major was a man of principle and honor: and knowing the prejudices of Mr. Mordaunt, he scarcely trusted himself to consider the engaging manners of his eldest daughter, lest he should be tempted to solicit her to swerve from her filial obedience. But as the House where the Major so often resorted was one of the few at which it was acceptable to Mr. Mordaunt for his family to visit, the young people had so many opportunities of observing each others amicable properties, that a mutual attachment was the consequence; and as nothing could be objected to Major Sydney but that he had a profession, their marriage, after some opposition, was consented to by Mr. Mordaunt, and Major Sydney and his wife lived several years in great felicity, till a fever snatched her away and the Major, who was for a long time in the deepest affliction, had so won the esteem and affection of his wife’s relations that he continued to be regarded as one of the family.
Miss Louisa Mordaunt met with a pattern of as much excellence in the Church, as her sister had in the Army; and again the prepossessions of Mr. Mordaunt were to be combated in favor of Mr. Forrester, a young divine who had lately been presented to the rectory of the parish where the Mordaunts resided. Miss Louisa prevailed, and Mr. Mordaunt having a military and a clerical son in law, now and then moderated his sarcasms against those two orders of men, and now and then murmured that his daughters should have formed alliances with any but independent Country Gentlemen.
This marriage did not turn out so favorably as Miss Mordaunt’s; and Mrs. Forrester, after enduring a variety of distresses became a widow, and returned to the bosom of her family. She brought into it, at the same time, her niece Miss Forrester, a young woman just of age, and in a situation of the greatest danger, being at once an orphan, and an heiress. Mrs. Forrester, awake to the perils of her condition, had won her over to take up her abode with her; and under the appearance that she would sacrifice her own love of retirement, to her niece’s fondness for gaiety and bustle, the young lady who was greatly attached to her aunt, was highly satisfied to remain under her protection.
It is now time to speak of Mr. Philip Mordaunt, the eldest son of the family, who with a temper the most placid and cheerful imaginable, however looked round the society in which he was placed, with a disposition to reconcile himself as much as possible to their different humors and opinions, and to give and receive satisfaction. He served his father so entirely as almost to honor his prejudices, whilst the literal and philanthropic turn of his own mind kept him free from everything that could be so termed, unless it was an unwillingness to investigate those of his father. He sometimes felt a slight inclination to visit the metropolis, but aware that it would vex the old gentleman were he to do so, he never would indulge the wish, and was more than compensated for this trivial sacrifice, by the consideration that he was contributing to his father’s gratification.
Mr. James Mordaunt, with a mind of a very studious and inquisitive cast, did not contemplate the scene around him with the same serenity as his brother, nor was he so implicit with regard to his father’s prejudices. He perceived they were errors, and strove to remove them: this frequently led into warm disenssion, and, not unfrequently interrupted the peace of the family; as with Mr. Mordaunt the father, it was a sort of heresy to entertain an opinion contrary to his favorite idea of the preeminence of the English Country Gentry to every other order of society whatever.
The scrutinizing propensity of Mr. James Mordaunt led him also to consider the characters of his neighbors, and whenever he found, or imagined anything wrong in them, he very eagerly endeavored to set them right. These endeavors nevertheless, altho originating from the most laudable motives, did not recommend him to those with whom he associated; they considering their own judgments as good as his, and he rather enforcing than insinuating his own opinions. This made them regard him as a domineering meddling person; and he, convinced of his own superiority to most of them in point of talent, and giving himself credit for the principle upon which he acted, being determined not to yield while he felt himself in the right, a sort of habitual controversy succeeded and an eagerness for investigation became a leading feature in the character of Mr. James Mordaunt.
Mrs Jane Mordaunt, the third daughter, was of so happy a temper, with principles so pure and benevolent that she became the idol of both old and young; and everyone who was acquainted with her substantial merit felt persuaded that so much goodness joined to manners the most pleasing, and a beautiful person, must soon receive offers which could not be objected to; and every young man of distinguished worth, was in succession looked upon as the person whom the general darling was to render happy.
Jane had however bestowed her heart on one whom she had convinced herself would not be approved of by her father: the young man thus honored was supposed by the world to possess a tolerable share of abilities, and a good heart. His mind and understanding were also well cultivated, but unfortunately he was a Man of Fashion, and not a little tinged with fashionable follies.
This drawback on his character, with the consciousness that such a person would be more obnoxious to her father’s feelings than either of those whom her sisters had made choice of, forbad the mild and affectionate Jane from listening to the pleadings of her Lover, or to the whisperings of her own heart in his favor, and combating the suggestions of partiality and pity with the virtuous consideration that in remaining under her father’s roof she could contribute more perhaps to the comfort of his declining years, than any union she could form would allow her to do, Jane, after receiving numerous proposals which were considered eligible by her friends, took the resolution, to the astonishment of all the surrounding gentry, of remaining single.
Some time after the decease of the old gentleman Miss Forrester proposed a visit to town, in acceeding to which, the family were unanimous; and after making trial of their new situation for several months, determined that it should be their principal place of residence. Their observations upon this wide theatre of business and amusement being in them original the narrator has obtained permission to communicate to this polished Circle their ideas upon such subjects as have most claimed their notice, and flatters himself that they may not be unentertaining to the Reader. It is also recollected that the inhabitants of Positive House not only contributed their own endeavors to heighten the amusement of the Attic Society, but that they drew from many of the enlightened personages belonging to it, compositions both poetic and prosaic, which had in them merit of the first order.
May it then be the commendation of the narrator of the anecdotes and opinions of The Family Circle, that if he is not, like Falstaff, “witty in himself”, yet he has the good fortune to be “the Cause of Wit in others.”