It has been justly remarked that, if the actions of private life, as well as the circumstantial details of individual character were more frequently the object of biographical attention, a much greater benefit would result to society at large from a perusal of such narratives, than from the most finished memoir of those who are lauded as conquerors and heroes: — and for this obvious reason, because in the former almost every one is interested, and because they come home to the bosoms of, and are felt by all; while the latter can be appreciated only by a few, and can admit but of partial imitation.
To bring forward to public notice the lives of those, who have been eminent for worth, for talent, and for benevolence; to delineate the character of such as have contributed to the welfare and happiness of their fellow creatures, is a task the most delightful, since its object is the improvement of mankind, by holding up to their example those essential virtues in which they are most intimately concerned — the duties of social and domestic life.
Nothing has conferred a brighter lustre on the English name, or been a source of greater gratification to its admirers, than the high intellectual attainments possessed by many of the Female sex in this country: and few, of the present age, have been more eminently distinguished for true genius and varied endowments than the lamented subject of the following brief and imperfect Memoir.
MRS. ELIZABETH COBBOLD was born in Watling street, London, and was the daughter of Mr. Robert Knipe, of Liverpool. Her mother's maiden name was Waller.
At a very early period of life she discovered considerable talent, which she cultivated with unremitting industry; and soon attracted and gained the notice of many distinguished literary characters. Her taste for poetry was likewise evinced in several early efforts of her muse; and in 1787 she ventured to appear before the world as an authoress, by the publication of "Six Narrative Poems." This work was very favourably received, and as it has now become scarce, and is consequently but little known, the subjoined critique on its merits, which I have extracted from the Monthly Review, may not perhaps be uninteresting.
"In her dedication to Sir Joshua Reynolds, she says, 'I esteem myself highly honoured by the permission to dedicate the following Poems to you; nor could I wish them a better fate than to be thought worthy of your acceptance: I fear they can have no pretensions to that honour, but as the early efforts of an unlettered muse, who trembles at the severity of criticism, and who does not hope much even from candour.' This however was a language which a writer like Miss Knipe needed not to have adopted; for real merit, it should be remembered, is an Aegis on which it is scarcely possible that even the shafts of envy and malice should make an impression. These Poems are entitled, The Vizir; The Village Wake; The Return from the Crusade; The Prussian Officer; Atomboka and Omaza; Humanity. The Return from the Crusade and The Prussian Officer are tales in the manner of the legendary stories of old, of which there are numerous examples in The Reliques of Ancient Poetry; and they are related in that unaffected and artless flow of numbers which never fails to gain upon the heart, that heart I mean, of which nature, and nature only, has been the fashioner. The other Poems have likewise considerable merit."
Miss Knipe was at this period chiefly resident in Manchester, but frequently visited an eminent Book-seller in London, where, among other literary characters, she became acquainted with the celebrated Sir Joshua Reynolds, who, as a painter, a scholar, a critic, and a gentleman, well merited his great and distinguished popularity, and whose notice and approbation, therefore, might justly be considered by her as an enviable honour.
In November 1790, she was married at Liverpool to William Clarke, Esq. a Portman of the borough and Comptroller of the Customs of Ipswich, a gentleman very considerably her senior in age, but of much worth and integrity, and to whom, during their short union, she strictly fulfilled all the duties of a wife, with affectionate solicitude and attention. Her sentiments of this person, and her indifference to the remarks which the disparity in their years had occasioned, way be collected from the following lively verses, which she addressed to him on St. Valentine's day, soon after their marriage.
Eliza to William this Valentine sends,
While ev'ry good wish on the present attends;
And freely she writes undisturb'd by a fear,
Tho' prudes may look scornful, and, libertines sneer,
Tho' tatlers and tale-bearers smiling may sky,
"Your Geniuses always are out of the way,"
Sure none but herself would such levities mix,
With the seriousness suited to grave twenty-six.
A Wife send a Valentine! Lord, what a whim!
And then of all people to send it to him!
Make love to her husband! my stars, how romantic!
The Girl must be certainly foolish or frantic;
But I always have thought so, else what could engage
Her to marry a man who is twice her own age?
While the tabbies are thus on my motives enlarging,
My sentiments William may read in the margin.
On the wings of old Time have three months past away
Since I promis'd "to honour, to love, and obey;"
And surely my William's own heart will allow,
That my conduct has ne'er disagreed with my vow.
Would health spread her wings round my husband and lord,
To his cheeks could the smiles of delight be restor'd;
The blessing with gratitude I should receive,
As the greatest that Mercy benignant could give;
And heedless of all that conjecture may say,
With praise would remember St. Valentine's day.
In 1791, she published a romance in two volumes, entitled The Sword, or Father Bertrand's History of his own Times; from the Original Manuscript. Prefixed to this work, which was printed at Liverpool, is a list of the numerous subscribers, among whom are the names of three very eminent and distinguished individuals, viz. Brandreth, Currie, and Roscoe; with those of many others of her literary acquaintance.
Mrs. Clarke, by the decease of her husband in 1791, became a widow within six months of her marriage. But it was not to be expected that a woman possessed of such amiable qualities of the heart, and gifted with so many attractions of the mind, should long remain in that condition, or should affect any undue delicacy, on her hand being so soon again solicited by a person fully competent to appreciate her merits, and of sufficient wealth and liberality to indulge her taste for literature; consequently, she a second time entered the conjugal state, and became the wife of John Cobbold, Esq. of the Cliff Brewery, in Ipswich, who, at the time of this marriage, was a widower with fourteen children. Placed in the bosom of this numerous family, and indulged in the means of gratifying her benevolent and liberal spirit, the Cliff became the home of her dearest affections, the residence of taste, and the scene of hospitality. Here it was, in a situation so congenial to her feelings, that her talents and her domestic virtues had ample scope for expansion; and here it was that her native genius more fully developed its varied and delightful powers. In this abode, while attracting and conciliating the regards of all her visitors, she passed the happiest hours of her life. The energies of her mind, and the exertion of her maternal duties were now, by a numerous family, with its attendant cares and anxieties, called into constant action, and it is only justice to say, that, devoted as she was to the charms of literature, and from her numerous accomplishments so well qualified to enjoy and participate in the elegancies of life, she considered her domestic claims of superior importance, and never neglected those higher duties which she had undertaken to perform. In the course of a few years she herself became the mother of six sons, the third and fourth Rowland and Francis, she lost in their youth, the former at the age of six, and the latter at fourteen; and of an only daughter who died in her infancy. Of the remaining four, Robert Knipe and Charles were brought up in their father's large mercantile establishment, and Richard and Edward are in the Church; the former is Rector of Wortham, and the latter by his recent marriage is possessed of the valuable Rectory of Watlington in Norfolk.
It may readily be supposed, that in so large a family, and with such various and contending interests, the management of the whole was no easy task, and often required the exercise of all her firmness and resolution; yet she took a pleasure, and no little pride, in the direction and guidance of every department of it. She could teach with gentleness, and persuasion; and while cultivating with unwearied industry the talents, and forming the minds of the juniors, who more immediately required her care, she sought by sedulous and affectionate attention to endear herself to the elder branches, to whom, she was at once the kind mother, the instructive companion, and the intelligent friend.
The varied nature of her employments at this period, Mrs. Cobbold, in one of her poetical epistles to a friend, thus most characteristically describes:
A botanist one day, or grave antiquarian,
Next morning a sempstress, or abecedarian;
Now making a frock, and now marring a picture,
Next conning a deep philosophical lecture;
At night at the play, or assisting to kill
The time of the idlers with whist or quadrille;
In cares or amusements still taking a part,
Though science and friendship are nearest my heart.
It is unquestionable that the possession of superior talent ever confers a higher and more refined enjoyment of life, and increases the variety of our pleasures; and not the least of these is the power it affords of developing and assisting merit. In discerning genius and abilities of any kind, Mrs. Cobbold's penetration was quick and just, and her power of inspiring confidence and regard, remarkable. To young persons her manner was most kind and encouraging; she ever allowed for the prejudices or deficiencies of education, and nothing yielded her higher gratification than imparting advice or instruction. She was always ready to give hints or suggestions, and frequently applied herself to the tuition of youthful genius with an ardour and perseverance, which peculiarly marked her character. In some instances indeed she may be regarded as a public benefactress. Her patronage and introduction of Miss Goward (a native of this town, who is now so justly admired as an actress and public singer) is a proof of this. At a very early age, Mrs. Cobbold, struck with the precocity of this young lady's talent, and particularly with her taste for music, undertook the culture of her abilities, and ultimately prepared her for that walk in life, which she is now pursuing with such honourable distinction. On her recent appearance on the boards of the Ipswich Theatre, her kind patroness supplied her with the following beautiful and apposite Address:
Should I attempt, in language, to reveal
The force, the tenderness, of all I feel,
The mix'd emotions utterance would subdue,
And tears be all that I could give to you!
Yet something I would say; — would fain express
Such thoughts as grateful hearts alone can guess
To speak their powers I feel my own unable;
Allow me then to temper them with fable.
The new fledged nightingale, when first she leaves
The thorn on which a parent's bosom heaves,
Her fluttering wing essay'd, returns to rest
Trembling and panting, on the well known nest;
There cherish'd, with renew'd and strengthen'd wing
Again she takes her flight, and tries to sing;
Then seeks the skies; — on ether dares to float;
Visits each clime; improves each tender note;
But still returns, with gratitude and love,
To wake the echoes of her native grove.
Though not like Philomel's my song be heard,
Can you not fancy me that trembling bird?
Who, having tried my early song and flight,
Seek on the sheltering nest again to light;
To meet those fostering smiles, for ever dear,
And grow in strength from growing kindness here!
If, through that kindness, it be mine to claim,
On persevering wing, the heights of fame;
Should I again to these loved scenes belong.
Matur'd in mind, and perfected in song;
O! with what transport would that song be given,
In notes of grateful praise, to you and Heaven!
Hope waves me on, presenting to my view
Such blissful hour — 'till then, — adieu! — adieu!
In 1800, Mrs. Cobbold published a burlesque poem under the following title: The Mince Pye, an Heroic Epistle, humbly addressed to the Sovereign Dainty of a British Feast. By Caroline Petty Pasty. 4to. "This," says the British Critic, "is a playful, good humoured, and facetious trifle, ridiculing the splendid and truly magnificent publication of the Sovereign, by Mr. Pybus. It is dedicated to the veritable Sovereign of a British table, namely, a Plum-pudding. Mr. Pybus's poem was adorned with a superb engraving of the Imperial Crown of Russia, to this poem a mince-pye is prefixed; and to correspond with the portrait of Mr. Pybus, it is embellished with that of the celebrated Mrs. Glasse, in the act of taking a drop of cherry bounce."
In 1803, with her usual liberality of spirit, and prompt benevolence of heart, she exerted her pen and interest in behalf of a worthy but humble individual, who had been introduced to her notice as the writer of a collection of miscellaneous poems, and which were submitted to her inspection. These she corrected, arranged, and prefaced with an introductory narrative, and published for the Author's benefit under the following title: Poetical Attempts by Ann Candler, a Suffolk Cottager; with a short Narrative of her Life. Of this little work more than five hundred copies were sold, the profits of which to a person in the writer's lowly circumstances, afforded a considerable relief.
In 1805, a party of Officers, who were then stationed in the Garrison at Ipswich, performed, for the benefit of "The Lying-in Charity" of that town, the tragedy of Oronooko, with the entertainment of Tom Thumb. On this occasion, Mrs. Cobbold, ever ready to aid a charitable purpose, wrote an appropriate and witty Epilogue, which was spoken by a Captain of the Royal Engineers, in the character of a Nurse, and which added greatly to the amusement and satisfaction of the numerous auditors. A short time after, on the representation of the Castle Spectre, and the melo-drama of The Tale of Mystery, by the same gentlemen, for the benefit of the Norwich Company of Comedians, who had gratuitously, on the former occasion, afforded the use of their theatre, she again exerted her pen in an excellent Introductory Address.
From her love of the drama she was a very frequent attendant on the theatre, and a warm patroness of that delightful recreation. On the appearance of any actor of eminence, she made a point not only of witnessing the performance, but also of encouraging their talent, by her kind notice and hospitable attention. She herself also possessed much taste and skill in dramatic composition, and wrote several pieces of great merit.
On the publication of The Chaplet, a collection of Original and selected Poems, Mrs. Cobbold politely furnished the Editor of that little volume, with several interesting and acceptable communications: and at the commencement of Mr. Raw's Ladies Fashionable Repository in 1809, she became a valuable contributor, and continued annually, to the close of her life, to grace, with her poetical effusions. the pages of that highly-favoured publication.
When any subject of interest engaged her feelings, and attention, it was frequently celebrated and adorned both by her pen and pencil; and the Albums of her intimate acquaintances and visitors will offer many elegant proofs of her willing muse and obliging disposition. The application of her ready talent for writing poetry on any particular event that occurred, was a source of gratification and pleasure to her friends; and as it was always done in perfect good humour, never created her a single enemy. Yet there are individuals, who cannot join in such innocent and laudable amusement. In a company some years since where Mrs. Cobbold was present, the conversation turning upon this subject, a Lady of the party thought proper, with much tartness and personality, to give a decided opinion against it, and "thanked God she could not write poetry!" Mrs. Cobbold, with her usual quickness observed, that it was the first time she had ever heard any one thank God for their ignorance. Though not naturally of a sarcastic turn, she was ever alive to retaliate impertinence: and her etching of a Sketch of a Sketcher, the caricature portrait of an Officer, who was observed in the Ipswich Assembly Room to be exercising his talent in that art, is a proof of this remark.
For a period of nearly twenty years the hospitable mansions of the Cliff, and Holy Wells, were enlivened by an annual party on the evening of St. Valentine's Day; for which festive occasion Mrs. Cobbold designed, composed, and executed, with great taste and elegance, a collection of Valentines, generally to the number of eighty, which were all curiously cut out on a half sheet of letter paper, and each inscribed with verses applicable to the subject. They were then folded precisely alike in blue paper, and placed, the ladies' valentines in one basket, and the gentlemens' in another; and when cards or music had contributed for an hour or two to the amusement of the evening, these baskets were handed round to the unmarried visitors, and the Valentines drawn by them as a lottery; each lady or gentleman selecting one at their pleasure from any part of the respective packets. The prize was intended to prognosticate to the person, who drew it, marriage, or a matrimonial engagement in the ensuing year; while the others, from the variety, and accidental or fancied coincidences with the supposed sentiments of the parties, afforded an unique and highly interesting amusement. The following Scena, which formed one of the valentines for the year 1814, is introduced as in some measure depictive of this entertainment.
OBERON and ROBIN GOODFELLOW.
Come, blythest Elf of fancy's band,
Obey the Fairy King's command.
'Tis now the time, as Swains relate,
When ev'ry bird selects its mate;
Now Elves to eastern climes resort
Their sprightly Fairy Dames to court,
And hold their revels, blythe and boon,
Beneath the mild and dewy moon.
What, in this consecrated hour
Exempt from aught of mischief's pow'r,
Has Oberon, 'mid lovers true,
For Robin-Goodfellow to do?
To Britain's eastern coast repair,
Where gently glides the Orwell fair,
There shalt thou find a chearful Dame,
More grac'd by happiness than fame;
Who gives, to-night, a festive scene
In honour of our Fairy Queen;
And Britain's loveliest daughters there
The mental revel freely share,
And draw the merry Valentine,
Inscrib'd with many a sportive line:
Go thou, and so the packets guide
That each, appropriately supplied,
May find an emblem to impart
The secret wishes of her heart:
So beauty's animated smile
Shall well reward thy wanton wile;
And mirth and unaffected glee
Shall join the gentle revelry.
I will not, Puck, where all are fair
Presume to bid thee choose the fairest;
But to thy love a billet bear,
And when thy choice thou thus declarest,
Tell her that in her sparkling eye,
Such gay good humour thou didst spy,
Such mirth, thou couldst not but opine
That she would share these tricks of thine,
And bid that eye's bright lustre shine
Approving on her Valentine.
The recurrence of this festival was ever anticipated with the greatest pleasure, by those who were accustomed to share in the invitation to this annual recreation. And surely nothing could be more amiable, virtuous and praiseworthy, than thus to lead a whole neighbourhood to the enjoyment of such a literary feast. Such varied excellence as these Valentines displayed, must have proved a bright example and incitement to the younger part of her visitors; their own hopes and feelings must have been often woven, as it were, into this interesting and happy party; while each individual enjoyed the general gaiety of the evening. The crowded assemblies, and noisy routs of the luxurious and opulent, can never afford the gratification, or bear the agreeable reflections of such a rational entertainment as this.
In consequence of the anxiety expressed by many of Mrs. Cobbold's friends to possess copies of her Valentines, she in 1813 and 1814, printed them for private circulation; and on the presentation of a copy to a noble Earl in the vicinity of Ipswich, his Lordship inserted in the blank page the following complimentary verses:
A Valentine of adverse fate,
Still anxious for a willing mate,
Into this book once took a peep
In hope some benefit to reap,
At least to search with eager eyes,
The likeliest way to gain a prize;
Encourag'd by the courteous strain
He read, admir'd, and read again;
The graces lead him through the page,
The muses too his mind engage,
Announcing in attraction's name
A welcome to the festive game,
Held on this spot, where every year
Hope and her jocund nymphs appear,
And from her train of thronging fair
Not one is banish'd but despair;
Wealth, wit and beauty here combine
To celebrate Saint Valentine,
By which this coveted retreat
Displays Elysium compleat;
Enraptur'd with the painted bliss,
He cries, explain the cause of this,
What Goddess here so chaste resides,
And with such attic taste presides?
Under what Star auspicious teems
The soil with such Pierian streams?
At Cliff, declare on whose account,
Parnassus rears another mount?
Quoth Truth, "'tis Cobbold here is Queen,
Her genius forms the classic scene."
In 1812, Mrs. Cobbold, consulting with several benevolent Ladies on the best mode of relieving a species of distress at that time very prevalent in the cottages of the indigent, viz. a want of necessary apparel for their new born offspring, suggested the establishment of a Society for clothing the Infant Poor. Under her direction a sketch of the plan was drawn up, subscriptions were solicited, the public became interested, a general meeting was called, rules and regulations were formed, and the Society was instituted, which, aided by her active exertions and powerful eloquence, has been the means of affording, during the last twelve years, neat and warm clothing to more than two thousand poor infants.
This institution was also most warmly encouraged and strengthened by the zeal and activity of its late amiable Vice President, Mrs. Byles, of the Hill House, Ipswich, to whose memory, in her sixth anniversary address, Mrs. Cobbold, after feelingly lamenting her loss, paid the following elegant and well-merited tribute.
MONODY TO THE MEMORY OF MRS. BYLES.
Mild were her manners; o'er her lovely face
Meek kindness shone, in unaffected grace,
And mark'd with virtuous energy combin'd,
The true politeness of a gentle mind.
As oft she turn'd to cheer the lowly cot,
Toil smooth'd his brow, and blest his humble lot,
And while she rais'd the sufferer's languid head
From poverty's hard pillow sickness fled:
Her voice could agony's sharp throe beguile,
And sorrow brighten'd in her angel smile.
Not her's the boon that listless pride bestows,
When, from uncounted stores the gift it throws,
Heedless by whom or how the dole is shared
So its own cherish'd indolence be spared:
She with warm zeal, and quicken'd footstep, trode
The path that led to misery's lorn abode,
Her prudent cares from luxury's bosom drew
The stores, that mix'd with pity's holy dew;
In wants' far-spreading wilderness were given,
A daily banquet like the bread of Heaven!
Cheerful not light; devout, yet not austere;
To weakness kind; to error not severe;
With suasive speech, from vice and folly's track,
She called the poor deluded wanderer back,
And through remorse's gloomy valley shew'd
The brightening path to virtue's calm abode.
Abroad in timid softness ever drest;
At home with all of pure affection blest
And while her heart no evil passions felt,
She deem'd none such in other bosoms dwelt:
That heart so form'd to feel, in spotless worth,
Its heavenly father's kingdom here on earth
Seem'd a clear source, where kindred souls might prove
A fount of tenderness and holy love.
Who now shall glad the cottage? who dispense
The timely aid to suffering indigence?
Who from remorse despair's stern grasp controul,
And soothe in penitence the anguish'd soul?
O! there are hearts that yet with kindness glow,
That melt in sympathy with others' woe;
Hands that can yet the liberal dole supply,
And turn the house of grief to that of joy
But still for her will fall the tender tear,
To hearts like these her memory still be dear,
And surely they who lov'd her best on earth,
Will best essay to emulate her worth.
She left, us suddenly: no lingering pain
Bound her to life with slow corroding chain.
Swift as the prophet's heavenly car she flies,
Her track of radiance sparkling in the skies;
O! while with reverential awe we view,
May we that track of blissful light pursue,
And may the mantle of her virtues rest,
With heavenly comfort, on a daughter's breast.
It is a very just remark, that when females begin to act in a public capacity, the greatest care and circumspection are necessary; for however good their intentions, the world is too apt to be sarcastic and censorious, and to cast aspersions on the most laudable undertakings. On such occasions, of what value is an able and willing guide to direct the efforts of the timid, and by judicious advice to preserve them from even the appearance of error; such a guide was the subject of this memoir. Her presence, during the transactions of this society, gave confidence to all who assembled round her; she not only conciliated them by her suavity of manners, and encouraging remarks, but, by stimulating their exertions, and gaining their co-operation, she rendered her own talents and abilities more effective, and more conducive to the interests and welfare of their mutual object.
At the annual meetings of the subscribers to the INFANT CHARITY, the Moot Hall of Ipswich displayed a most interesting spectacle. Here the ladies of the town and neighbourhood assembled, while their excellent and able President on these occasions, never failed to encourage and incite their benevolence by an energetic and appropriate address. To those, who, for twelve successive years, have listened with delight to these eloquent appeals to the best feelings of their nature, any repetition of the sentiments they contain will be superfluous; but I cannot refrain from presenting the reader with the following poetical extract from her address delivered April, 1821.
Daughters of Britain, in whose lucid eyes
Benevolence with intellectual ray
Shines with a lustre far beyond the beam
Of beauty, — You, though young and fair,
Can quit the haunts of vanity to soothe
The pillow of affliction. You as wives,
As mothers, daughters, friends, endear the joys
Of social home, and make the humblest hearth
Gay as a painted ball-room. — Nay, 'tis yours,
E'en in the scenes of gaiety, to blend
Domestic tenderness; but dearer still
Your worth, when, called by charity, you bring
The tear, the boon, the voice of consolation.
—Daughters of Britain,
The helplessness of infancy implores
Your aid, to cherish; think you hear the cry,
Waked by the pressure of the chilly air,
Hushed to the soft still breathing of repose:
Think that you feel the downy dimpled cheek
Nestling upon your arm, and see the smile
Curl the fresh lip with life, and warmth and joy.
Your bounty lull'd the cry and calm'd the breath,
Here still that bounty pour; here shall the voice
Of gratitude await you: — here your hearts
Shall feel the glow of social tenderness,
And greet with warm and unalloy'd delight
That holy bliss, the blessing of the poor.
Mrs. Cobbold, in conjunction with a committee of ladies, also superintended, and largely contributed to that emporium of female taste and beneficence, "The Charitable Bazaar, for the works of Industry and Fancy;" — the first annual sale of which, took place on the 29th of April, 1820; and the yearly produce of which has hitherto been applied to such benevolent purposes as appeared to her, and to the committee, most eligible and most deserving of support.
In 1815, Mrs. Cobbold published an Ode to the Victory of Waterloo, which she dedicated to his present Majesty, then Prince Regent; a poem of very considerable merit, go profits arising from which were given in aid of the Waterloo subscription. On the arrival of his Grace the Duke of Wellington on a visit to Lord Granville, at Wherstead Lodge in 1818, she presented him with a copy of this poem very splendidly bound in morocco, which was most graciously received and acknowledged.
Among the numerous productions of her muse which are too long for insertion, in the present selection, several are greatly deserving of notice, particularly Taliessin, a Welch Legend. — Rural Employment, a Tale for Citizens, a favorite piece, which she very frequently introduced in her evening recitations, a recreation in which she delighted and excelled. — The Avenger or the Wrongs of Lady Hermegild a poem written to illustrate two elegant designs of her friend Sir Robert Ker Porter — and Cassandra a Monodrama as performed by Miss Macauley, at the European Saloon, King-street, St. James's Square, London.
In addition to the publications already named, Mrs. Cobbold was a correspondent in, and frequent contributor to, a variety of periodical and scientific works; more particularly those, which related to her favorite study, Natural History.
To that ingenious Artist and eminent Naturalist, Mr. Sowerby, she communicated much valuable information for his elaborate publication on Mineral Conchology, and forwarded many interesting specimens of fossil shells, which are there severally recorded, and one of which, a small gibbose variety of the NUCULA, as a compliment to her knowledge and research, bears her name.
In Tab. CLXXX. Fig. 2. it is depicted, and in p. 177, thus described—
"NUCULA Cobboldiae. Spec. Char. Transversely obovate, convex; surface marked with zig-zag furrows, diverging over the sides; edge entire."
and in the succeeding page Mr. Sowerby further remarks "being desirous of commemorating Mrs. Cobbold, whose copious collection obtained with great industry, in company with several of the junior branches of her family, whom she delighted to inspire with a love for the works of nature, from the Crag pits of her own estate, evinces a degree of taste and zeal seldom met with; I have named this rare and withal elegant shell after her."
With Sir James Smith, the learned President of the Linnaean Society, to whose acquaintance she was first introduced by her venerable friend Dr. Gwyn, she frequently corresponded, and for his scientific work, the "Flora Anglica," she favored him with the habitats of many plants, the natives of this county.
In the month of July last, Mrs. Cobbold was attacked by an alarming illness, from the effects of which she appeared to have recovered; a return however of the same complaint in the October following, on a constitution already so seriously impaired, to the great grief of her family, and the deep regret of all her friends proved fatal. — After lingering one week in a state of insensibility, this excellent woman, on the 17th of that month, breathed her last, in the fifty-seventh year of her age.
If the character of a woman is to be estimated by her conduct in the faithful discharge of the great and essential duties of social and domestic life, few will rank higher, or deserve more honorable mention, than that of Mrs. Cobbold.
The female heart, when devoted to conjugal affection, is sometimes observed to be comparatively cold to other claims; but that of Mrs. Cobbold formed an exception to this remark, for she possessed a warmth and kindliness of manner particularly calculated for inspiring and requiting friendship.
Conscious of her own extraordinary abilities, and, aware of her great powers of attraction, she sought and obtained applause; but although she loved admiration much, she valued friendship more. A solid judgment enabled her to conceive and act with a promptness and decision that formed a striking trait in her character. Ever ready to meet and repel any improper attack on those measures, which, after due consideration, either her friends or herself had adopted, she was a formidable antagonist, and of course a valuable partizan.
Above being the copyist of any individual, she thought and acted for herself; and such was the general conviction of her good sense and strong mind, that opinions, which in any other female might have been termed affected or singular, with her were admitted as correct.
Her knowledge was multifarious, and her powers of fancy and sentiment striking: her reasoning convincing, and her understanding clear and sound. Delighting in reciprocity of talent wherever she chanced to meet with it, she never forgot that though wit may dazzle, and depth and brilliancy of intellect delight, yet that esteem is due only to genius when accompanied by benevolence of heart and purity of mind: wherever these qualities existed, it never failed to obtain her favorable notice. From her natural frankness and ingenuousness of disposition, she frequently laid herself open to the censure of those, who prided themselves upon that disqualifying sort of hypocrisy, which commonly passes for modesty; and to the mere casual observer she might, therefore, sometimes have appeared vain and egotistic. But "vanity, egotism, and a sense of their own sufficiency," says an elegant modern writer [Author's note: D'Israeli on Literary Characters, chap. XI.], "must alter with the occasion, for to mediocrity, the simplicity of truth may appear vanity, and the consciousness of superiority seem envy. The love of praise is instinctive in the nature of persons of genius; take from some that supreme opinion of themselves, that pride of exultation, and you crush the germ of their excellence. Lower the high self-reverence and the lofty conception of genius, and you deprive it of the consciousness of its powers with the delightfulness of its character in the blow you give to the musical instrument, the invisible soul of its tone is for ever lost."
There is perhaps, no method of improving the mind more efficacious, and certainly none more agreeable, than a mutual interchange of sentiments with the well-read, the judicious, and the intelligent: by many, therefore, the conversation of Mrs. Cobbold was much sought after, as her colloquial powers rivalled even her literary talents.
Ease, elegance, genius, vivacity, solid sense and delicate raillery were the characteristic traits, and formed the principal charm of her conversation Her transitions from one subject to another were frequent and rapid; when any thing touched her feelings and excited her admiration, or awakened her displeasure, she poured forth enthusiastic eloquence, and then as quickly changed to reasoning or wit. She had also, as has been beautifully remarked, "a constant flow of thought, joining with the current of other minds, thence gathering fresh strength not headlong in its course, but easily turning with every bend in its progress;" and possessed a facility of comprehension, and a felicity of expression by which she fascinated and delighted minds of the most opposite textures.
Mrs. Cobbold shone pre-eminent in the circle, in which she daily moved, for the versatility and the universality of her genius. — There are few departments in science, which she had not attempted, and, in many certainly she eminently excelled. There is no mode of the lyre, each of which is supposed almost to require a particular talent, through which she had not run — song, epigram, ode, sonnet, elegy, ballad, opera, tragedy, nay even the lofty epic itself. Yet the muses alone were far from monopolizing the talents of this indefatigable woman; botany, entomology, geology, mineralogy, conchology, and the fine arts alternately divided and engaged her attention.
She excelled in painting, both in oil and water colors, in portraits, she was very successful; and that her readiness to exert this pleasing talent was equal to her skill, many of her intimate friends, together with the author of the following tributary sonnet, will gratefully acknowledge.
SONNET, BY MR. R. LLWYD,
Addressed to Mrs. Cobbold, of the Cliff, near Ipswich.
On her painting a half-length picture of the writer's Mother, from a miniature likeness.
Blest be the hand that Heaven has taught to trace,
So well each feature in that dearest face,
So well her form to filial fondness gives—
'Tis inspiration, and the canvas lives!
Blest be the bright — the intellectual ray,
That bade the pencil e'en the mind pourtray—
Place in her hand Religion's hallow'd choice,
And precepts pure in Britain's infant voice.
Blest! truly blest, be Nature's kindest heart
That thus in union with the powers of art,
Has saved from Fate, and Time, a copy fair—
Giv'n to my wishes — all that Heaven could spare!
O Cobbold! while the grateful glow is mine,
A Parent's smile celestial shall be thine!
She was also passionately fond of music, and pursued, with characteristic ardour and industry, the study of that enchanting accomplishment.
In the lighter and more trivial graces and occupations of the female mind, fancy and needle-work, she was unrivalled, and the elegant and unique furniture and ornaments of her drawing-room afford beautiful specimens of her taste, industry and ingenuity. Her insatiable thirst for knowledge induced, and her persevering application, enabled her to make herself mistress of the French, Italian, and German languages.
Her love of flowers was very great, and was rendered more pleasing by her intimate acquaintance with their several properties and uses. A taste for the beauties of vegetation is allowed to be the mark of a pure mind, and is most desirable, as it directs the attention from the turbulent scenes of folly, tranquillizes the mind, and is highly favorable to the gentler virtues, and to the permanency of our most refined enjoyments.
The countenance of Mrs. Cobbold was extremely commanding; her eyes were remarkable for their quick and intelligent expression, and her address and manner peculiarly graceful. But no delineation can give a more adequate idea of some of the leading features of this distinguished woman, than the. following poetical picture, written by her three years after her second marriage.
A CHARACTER (OF THE AUTHOR BY HERSELF.)
Alicia frankly owns the crowd
Has reason oft to call her proud,
For, scorning ev'ry little art
She loves her friends with all her heart,
While careless of the world beside.
She makes indifference pass for pride,
And when acquaintance call to chatter
Of dinners, dress, or some such matter,
Forgets to thank them for the honor
Their visit has conferr'd upon her,
Nay, e'en in circles term'd polite
Sits downright stupid half the night,
To whist or scandal scarce attends,
And thinks of books and absent friends,
Cares not for luck, if good or evil
But seldom means to be uncivil,
Yet with a stern and haughty air
Repels impertinence's stare,
Restrains not, as she ought, the sneer,
When affectation prattles near,
And frets to hear a coxcomb prate,
Though vice alone provoke her hate.
Upon her birth fate smil'd serene
And gave her life's delightful mean,
Taught her to look while blest with health
From envy free, on pride, or wealth,
That virtue far surpasses birth,
And modesty enhances worth.
She boasts not, and the world may know it,
A taste for dress, or shape to shew it;
In neatness no excelling pattern,
Nor yet affectedly a slattern.
Too proud to cringe, too plain to shine,
She quits all claim at twenty-nine
To dissipation or to fame,
A fat unfashionable dame.
Her foibles all are strictly scann'd
By folly's idle censuring band;
While scandal's votaries, glad to maul her,
A petticoated pedant call her.
Yet think not that her simple muse
That name with affectation wooes,
She shuns the proud conceited thought,
The verse by tedious study bought;
While unassuming nature's praise
Breathes in her song, inspires her lays;
And virtuous love, with air serene
Illumes the soft domestic scene,
And varies still its placid round;
Yet shall the truth be fairly own'd?
Dear vanity, with harmless pow'r
Steps in to claim an idle hour,
And makes it doubtful to decree
If friendship prompt the verse or she;
Yet should her heart expound its laws,
Success were sure in friendship's cause.
And now some seventeen years gone bye,
Alicia's retrospective eye
Reviews this portrait light and free,
A rapid sketch, and smiles to see
How little time has done, but fix
The lines more strong at forty-six.
Yet past not all these seasons o'er
Without some prudent useful lore,
For she has learnt with less disdain
To listen to the weak or vain;
Her neighbours' faults less harshly shewn,
And more severely mark'd her own,
And she has daily, hourly, found
Esteem and kindness growing round,
Has felt affection's tender tear,
E'en the rough stroke of pain endear
Till half she fears her heart may find
A pang severe to leave behind,
The earthly bliss about it twin'd.
On every occasion Mrs. Cobbold was ready to give advice to those who asked it; and very many there are who have profited by its excellence. Even her admonitions were generally blended with consolation, though sometimes necessarily mingled with reproof. So decided was her manner with the vicious, that the boldest offender stood abashed in her presence, and by the force of her reprobation, she often reclaimed the idle and careless to proper feeling and better conduct.
In the management of her family, and the arrangement of her domestic concerns, every species of extravagance and fashionable dissipation were avoided; frivolous amusements, empty pomp, and noisy gaiety, were not congenial with her usual occupations and pursuits: yet, while she supported the dignity of a lady, she never made herself the slave of etiquette. The generosity of her disposition evinced itself on every laudable occasion, and very few persons, with the same means, were so extensively useful. No one when convinced that it was to a profitable end, could give with a freer heart. Her actions throughout life shewed that she knew the right use of riches — to encourage merit, relieve the distressed, support the weak, and raise the desponding. Many individuals, to whose complaints she has listened, and whose sorrows she has soothed, will bear grateful witness to those virtues, which rendered her a model of excellence whether considered as a wife, a mother, or a friend.
How appositely may that benevolent character, and those almost prophetic regrets, by which she so lately commemorated another, be applied to herself. "Such indefatigable zeal and peculiar capabilities we cannot hope to see united and equalled in any individual, however meritorious. A powerful mind, and well regulated education enabled her to conduct, every charitable institution with the utmost facility. Warmly attached to their interests, she lost no opportunity of promoting their welfare; while her activity seemed a principle of health and vitality circulating through their veins. Can we forget how strenuously, and how constantly she advocated the cause of her favourite charity for the Infant Poor? From her last earthly exertion in its behalf, her removal to a better world was not of long duration. That her place here knows her no more, the poor have reason to mourn, and friendship feels saddened at the remembrance; but it must be our consolation to reflect that the abode of blessedness is everlasting!"
I cannot conclude this imperfect tribute to the memory of this lamented and highly gifted woman more appropriately, than in the pathetic language of an elegant female writer of the present day, — "She is now removed to that sphere, where the incense of human applause can no longer gratify; where the joys and cares of human life can no longer delight or assail her; to that sphere, where alone those faculties; which she always devoted to the worthiest purposes, can attain their complete expansion; and those virtues, which proved the blessing of all connected with her, will at length receive their full reward."
ST. VALENTINE'S DAY, 1825.