Helen Maria Williams

Isaac D'Israeli to John Murray, 1815; Smiles, A Publisher and his Friends: Memoir of John Murray (1891) 1:280.


I have just finished Miss Williams's narrative [of Events in France in 1815], and the result is so very different from what I expected, that I can't refrain from telling you that I consider it a capital work, written with great skill, talent, and care; full of curious and new developments, and some facts which we did not know before. There breathes through the whole a most attractive spirit, and her feelings sometimes break out in the most beautiful effusions. This narrative is not a book made up for the occasion, but will enter the historical list; and it must be popular, as it is the most entertaining imaginable; one of those books one does not like to quit before finishing it. I cannot tell whether she writes for a particular purpose, but she writes well. Time has sobered her volatile nonsense, while near thirty years ago she wrote novels and middling poetry. It is true she writes now with very different feelings, but that does not prove that the present are not genuine. She has turned her petti-coat, for ladies have no other coats to turn; but if she has discovered that the former side was both dirty and faded, the present one is not the less decent for that.

I write this because I can't get conveniently to you, and further, that you never spoke to me in the highest commendation of the book. It is one of the very best we have long had.

In haste, yours,

I. D'I.