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The Berry papers; being the correspondence hitherto unpublished of Mary and Agnes Berry (1763-1852)
by Lewis Meliville (1914)


To those interested in Horace Walpole's circle the names of his 'twin wives ' are ever green, and Mr. Melville's book will be welcomed as telling more about these attractive ladies of Scottish bourgeois descent, who became so notable for over sixty years in London Society, and whose salon included everyone of note who was fortunate enough to be invited to it.

Mary Berry, the eldest sister, stands out as the leader very like 'Miss Deborah' in 'Cranford,' while the gentle Agnes was more like 'Miss Matty.' Walpole's friends became their friends, and his cousin Mrs. Darner (whose letters, rather triste though they are, yet yield some new lights on old ' Lord Oxford's 'quips and cranks), their chief correspondent. The editor gives a valuable collection of letters to and from the Misses Berry. The letters of the young Lord Hartington (his correspondence began when he was twelve ! ) connect Walpole's circle with Devonshire House. They are well edited with many notes. Unfortunately, however, Mr. Melville is a bad proof reader, and one finds many misprints. It is difficult for instance to distinguish in 'Madame de Goutant' the well-known Mme. de Gontaut, nor should the bright Lady Charlotte Bury's second husband twice appear as 'Berry.' The editor would have been well advised also to have had the French in the book revised, as from it, in the way much of it is printed, one would hardly guess that Miss Berry had been, as she was, 'a perfect Frenchwoman in her language.'

It was the privilege of the writer of this review to talk lately to an aged but delightful survivor of Miss Berry's salon. She told him, among other curious details, that Miss Berry was proposed to by Sir John Stanley of Alderley (probably before the O'Hara affair) but that she refused him; that she appeared on her eightieth birthday with a gown and cap of bouton d'or, and had a 'very grand presence,' while her sister was 'prettier and more delicate.' Mr. Melville's book must be read by all interested in Walpoleana. He does not mention that the Lovedays of Caversham were the Misses Berry's cousins, and could have made more of their genealogy, but, after all, kinship played but a small part in the social career of the two ladies, and he gives much information that must be new to many of his readers. The book is copiously illustrated, and one or two of the portraits lent by Mr. Broadley are interesting.

A. FRANCIS STEUART.

You can read this book in pdf format here


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