Maxwell, Lady Darcy
Maxwell, Lady Darcy an eminently pious Methodist, who by birth and rank belonged to the nobility of Scotland, is noted for her great works of philanthropy. She was the youngest daughter of Thomas Brisbane, County of Ayr, and was born about the year 1742. In her own home she received the rudiments of an education, but subsequently completed it in the city of Edinburgh. At the age of sixteen she resided for a time in London with her uncle and aunt, lord and lady Lothian, to enjoy the advantages of being presented at court. In 1759, soon after her return from London, she married Sir Walter Maxwell. This union seemed to open before her a bewildering vista of future joys and happiness; but only for two short years did she realize her bright anticipations; at the end of that period her husband and child were taken from her, and she was left a widow at nineteen. When tidings of her little one's death, within six weeks after that of her husband, were conveyed to her, without any outburst of grief, or even a murmur, she exclaimed, "I see God requires my whole heart, and he shall have it!" "God brought me to himself by affliction," she frequently said. It was while overwhelmed by these heavy trials that she became acquainted with the Methodists. The early ministry of John Wesley and George Whitefield was generally respected in Scotland. Many of the higher classes approved their labors; ministers of the Establishment, members of the university, and persons of rank and title mingled in their audiences. It is supposed that some of the pious nobility, admirers of Wesley and Whitefield, first induced lady Maxwell to hear them. However that may be, it is certain that on June 16, 1764, Mr. Wesley preached to a large congregation in Edinburgh, and from that time corresponded with her ladyship, his influence aiding greatly in regulating her views, and guiding her determinations through life. From the time of her husband's death she had resided in Edinburgh or the vicinity. Her benevolence here was unusually great. Seeking to relieve misery in every form, there was scarcely a public or private charity for the repose of age or the guidance of youth, the relief of the poor, the care of the sick, or the spread of the Gospel, to which she did not contribute. In 1770 she established a school in Edinburgh for the purpose of affording education and Christian instruction to poor children — this school was always the object of her pious solicitude; its entire management and superintenennce remained with herself, and, as the benefits flowing from it became manifest, pecuniary aid was furnished by others. At the time of her death eight hundred children had profited by this praiseworthy charity, and it is still in active operation. The employment of her time each day was exceedingly exemplary; she usually rose at four o'clock, and attended the Wesleyan chapel at five, morning preaching being then customary; after breakfast she discharged the duties of the head of a family in her own house; from eleven to twelve she spent the time in interceding with God for her friends, the Church, and the world; the remaining hours of the day she devoted to reading, writing, exercise, and acts of benevolence. Her evenings, when alone, were occupied with reading, chiefly divinity; and, after an early supper, and committing her family to the care of the great Father who watches over all, and spending some time in praising God for his mercies, she retired to rest. In this manner, for nearly fifty years, she walked with her God. Her outward religious life had its varieties, but they were the varieties of advance; her inner religious life also had its changes, but they were those of the beautiful morning, which shines brighter and brighter unto the perfect day. In person, lady Maxwell was above the medium height, exceedingly straight and well proportioned; her features quite feminine, but strongly intelligent; her eye quick and penetrating, yet sweet and tender. She died July 2, 1810, passing away as peacefully and joyfully as she had lived: the society to which she belonged losing its oldest member, the world one of its best inhabitants, and the Church universal one of its brightest ornaments. See Lancaster, Life of Lady Maxwell (N. Y. 1840, 12mo); Coles, Heroines of Methodism, p. 76.