Talbot, Catherine

, a very ingenious lady, the only child of Edward Talbot, second son of William, bishop of Durham, and nephew to the chancellor, was born in May 1720. She was born five months after the decease of her father, who died at the early age of twenty-nine, and being a younger brother, left his widow in a situation very inadequate to his rank in life. She was the daughter of the rev. George Martyn, prebendary of Lincoln, and had been married to Mr. Talbot only a few months. Happily, however, for her, the kind attentions of a dear and intimate friend were not wanting at that critical period. Catharine, sister to Mr. Benson, afterwards bishop of Gloucester, who had been the companion of her early youth, and whose brother was upon an equally intimate footing with Mr. Talbot, was residing with her at the time of his death, and was her great support in that heavy affliction; and they continued to live together and bestow all their joint attention upon the infant Catherine. But before she was five years of age, this establishment was broken up by the marriage of Miss Benson to Mr. Seeker, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury (See Secker), but then rector of the valuable living of Houghton-le-Spring in Durham. Mr. Seeker, mindful of his obligations to Mr. Edward Talbot, as mentioned in our account of him, immediately joined with his | wife in the request that Mrs. and Miss Talbot would from that time become a part of his family. The offer was accepted, and they never afterwards separated; and upon Mrs. Seeker’s death, in 1748, they still continued with him, and took the management of his domestic concerns.

Besides her mother’s instructions, which were chiefly confined to religious principles, Miss Talbot enjoyed the benefit of a constant intercourse with the eminent divine with whom they lived; and his enlightened mind soon discovered the extent of her early genius, and was delighted to assist in its improvement. Hence, although she never studied the learned languages, unless perhaps a little Latin, she reaped all the advantages of Mr. Seeker’s deep and extensive learning, of his accurate knowledge of the Scriptures, and of his critical and unwearied research into the sciences and languages more immediately connected with that important study. Yet though so much attention was bestowed on serious pursuits, the lighter and more ornamental parts of female education were not neglected; and for the acquirement of these there was abundant opportunity in the different situations in which Mr. Seeker’s rapid progress in the church placed him. From the time that she was seven years old, she lived, almost constantly, in or near large cities; and was consequently enabled to acquire every useful branch of education, and all elegant accomplishments. She made some progress in music, but much more in drawing and painting in water-colours. Nor were the sciences and modern languages neglected; she had a competent knowledge of French and Italian, and late in life she taught herself German. She studied also geography and astronomy with much care and attention, and her master in the latter of these sciences, a Mr. Wright, was the means of her becoming acquainted with the celebrated Mrs. Carter, with whom she formed a strict friendship, the amiable turn of which may be seen in their correspondence lately published. Miss Talbot formed also other friendly connections with persons of merit and rank, who highly esteemed her.

At what age she began to compose does not appear; but certainly it was early in life, for her poem on reading Hammond’s elegies was written when she was not more than twenty- two years of age and though not one of the best of them, it shows that she was familiar with composition, and that her powers of mind had been accustomed to | exertion. There are no dates, however, to her different productions, and therefore we cannot trace her progress in composition or sentiment, nor could she be prevailed upon by her friends either to arrange her papers, or to publish them herself. This is much to be regretted, for the world has been sufficiently inclined to do justice to Miss Talbot’s talents; and few books of moral and religious instruction have had a greater sale, and gone through more editions than the little posthumous volume of her miscellaneous works. Of the “Reflections on the Days of the Week,” published separately, up wards of 25,000 copies have been sold; and of the collection of her works, that now before us (1812, 8vo) is the seventh edition. This is a circumstance not less creditable to the age, than it is to the author; and it also proves the correctness of her friend’s judgment into whose hands they were put by Mrs. Talbot. Mrs. Car* ter published them upon her own account and at her own hazard, and the event shewed that she had formed a just estimate both of their merit and the reception they would meet with.

But Miss Talbot ought not to be considered by posterity merely as an author. Great as her talents, and brilliant as her accomplishments were, she possessed qualities of infinitely more importance, both to herself and society. Her piety was regular, constant, and fervent. It was the spring of all her actions, as its reward was the object of all her hopes. Her charity, including the whole meaning of the word, in its apostolic sense, was extended to all her acquaintance, rich as well as poor; and to the latter she gave, not only such relief as her circumstances would allow (for she was never rich) but what was infinitely more valuable to her, no small portion of her time. There is reason to believe that she was often Dr. Seeker’s almoner, for there can be no doubt that he, who when he became archbishop of Canterbury, constantly bestowed in charity upwards of 2,000l. a year, had been equally bountiful before in proportion to his income.

On the death of this affectionate friend in 1768, who bequeathed Mrs. Talbot and her daughter about 400l. a year, they removed from Lambeth-palace to a house in Grosvenor-street, but in the following year the declining state of Miss Talbot’s health obliged them to leave London for a cooler and better air. Their kind and constant friend, the late marchioness Grey, lent them for this purpose her | house at Richmond, together with every thing she could think of to contribute to their comfort or amusement; and from this delightful retreat Miss Talbot only returned in time to breathe her last in her mother’s house in town, Jan. 9, 1770, in the forty- ninth year of her age. Her chief disorder, added to a very weak, and now completely worn-out constitution, was a cancer, which had been for three years preying upon her enfeebled frame.

These particulars we have extracted from an elegant memoir of her life prefixed to the last edition of her works by the rev. Montague Pennington, but must refer to it for much interesting information respecting Miss. Talbot’s amiable character and disposition. Her works consist of “Reflections on the Seven Days of the week” “Essays on various subjects” “Letters to a friend on a Future State” “Dialogues” “Prose Pastorals” “Imitations of Ossian;” “Allegories;” and “Poetry.1


Life as above.—Mrs. Carter’s Life and Correspondence.