1773 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elizabeth Sheridan

Frances Burney, 1773; The Early Diary of Frances Burney (1889) 1:199-203.



We went, Susan and I, to a very fine oncert lately for Mr. Fischar's (the celebrated Hautbois) benefit. But can I speak of music, and not mention Miss Linley? The town has rung of no other name this month.

Miss Linley is daughter to a musician of Bath, a very sour, ill-bred, severe, and selfish man. She is believed to be very romantic; she has long been very celebrated for her singing, though never, till within this month, has she been in London. She has met with a great variety of adventures, and has had more lovers and admirers than any nymph of these times. She has been addressed by men of all ranks. I dare not pretend to say, honourably, which is doubtful; but what is certain is, that whatever were their designs, she has rejected them all. She has long been attached to a Mr. Sheridan, a young man of great talents, and very well spoken of, whom it is expected she will speedily marry. She has performed this Lent at the Oratorio of Drury Lane, under Mr. Stanley's direction. The applause and admiration she has met with, can only be compared to what is given Mr. Garrick. The whole town seems distracted about her. Every other diversion is forsaken. Miss Linley alone engrosses all eyes, ears, hearts. At Mrs. Stanley's invitation, mama, Susan, and myself sat in her box at Alexander Balus, to see and hear this Syren. Her voice is soft, sweet; clear, and affecting. She sings with good expression, and has great fancy and even taste in her cadences, though perhaps a finished singer would give less way to the former, and prefer few and select notes. She has an exceeding good shake, and the best and most critical judges, all pronounce her to be infinitely superior to all other English singers. The Town in general give her the preference to any other. To me her singing was extremely pleasing. Perhaps, except the divine Millico, I would rather hear her (if I also saw her!) than any other.

As Mrs. Stanley's box is very high, and I am very near-sighted, I could only perceive that Miss Linley's figure was extremely genteel, and the form of her face very elegant. I had heard from Miss Kinnaird, who is acquainted with Mrs. Stanley, that she always went into the green-room after the oratorio, and I determined to make interest for the same favour, as it had been granted to Miss Kinnaird. I had immediate success. As soon as the performance was over, we all went into that famous apartment, which I was surprised to see, was lined with red! There was not a creature there; but at my request Miss Arland, Mrs. Stanley's sister, went into another room, and asked Miss Linley and her sister to favour us with her company. The rest of the family, viz.: father, mother, and brother were already in the red green room.

Had I been for my sins born of the male race, I should certainly have added one more to Miss Linley's train. She is really beautiful; her complexion a clear, lovely, animated brown, with a blooming colour on her cheeks; her nose, that most elegant of shapes, Grecian; fine luxurious, easy-sitting hair, a charming forehead, pretty month, and most bewitching eyes. With all this her carriage is modest and unassuming, and her countenance indicates diffidence, and a strong desire of pleasing, — a desire in which she can never be disappointed. I most sincerely and earnestly wish her well, safely, and happily settled. I think that so young a woman, gifted with such enchanting talents, and surrounded by so many admirers, who can preserve herself unconscious of her charms and diffident of her powers, has merit that entitles her to the strongest approbation, and I hope, to the greatest happiness: — a union from affection with a man who deserves her!