My Dear LORD,
FOR so you must permit the most obliged creature upon earth henceforth to term you. If your recent bounty of fifty pounds were already exhausted, I must certainly have been extravagant; and that, the treasures of the east could never make me. I would be liberal, had Providence entrusted me with the means, but never profuse or ostentatious. I have no passions that could lead me into expense. I neither like public or private amusements. I neither study dress or fashion, but wear what is decent and convenient. If I am superfluous in any point, 'tis in dressing out my son; for which I know how I am censured: but I do it as much to mortify his father and his partisans, as to show the world what your Lordship's goodness can enable an afflicted mother to do.
The permission your Lordship has given me to call on Mr. White, is a proof of your unlimited kindness; yet I can't help thinking, my Lord, it would manifest great want of modesty in me to make the least use of so noble an indulgence. I know no advantage money could be of to me, but to serve those who are in distress; and I have no need to be an agent for our Lordship in that respect, who finds so much felicity in doing it yourself: in short, my dear Lord, I want nothing but a sight of you; and if ever I receive a favour, it must be immediately from your own benevolent hand. The verses your Lordship demands of me, are very incorrect, as they were written like a letter, and never intended to see the light. I know your Lordship will overlook their imperfections, as you do those of their author; and therefore, sans reserve, I shall submit them to your superior judgment.—I believe I told you, my Lord, that when I lodged in Green-Street, Grosvenor-Square, the most beautiful and accomplished young lady I had ever beheld came to entreat I would write a letter for her; but before she could tell me the substance of it, she fell into an agony of tears, from which she was with difficulty recovered: in short, she was obliged to go home in a chair, without being able to tell me what she came about. It was the third morning after she had first attempted to speak, that, with the mildest exhortations to repose a confidence in one who sincerely pitied her, and assurances of friendship, secrecy and assiduity to serve her, she told her story in a simple but eloquent manner, which I the same day put into the dress in which I here transcribe it:
To heaven and you, repentant I confess
At once my shame, contrition and distress;
And, oh! if pity may await a crime
That sullies honour to remotest time,
Judge from this faithful picture of my state,
Whether that pity should my crime await;
Covered with crimson blushes while I tell,
From white-robed truth and virtue how I fell;
From spotless innocence, from meek eyed peace,
A prey to horror, victim to disgrace.
Four summers passed since this dejected frame,
Was clad in sweetness, and enriched with fame;
Within my breast no sentiment arose,
That vestal maids might scruple to disclose;
The best of mothers, lavished on my mind,
Each heaven-taught precept to improve designed;
Bid guiltless joy on all my moments wait,
Blind to a thought of my succeeding fate,
Oh! had my soul each bright perfection shared,
Had all the beauties of my form been spared,
A noble fortitude had steeled my breast
The serpent wiles of mankind to detest;
To guard my virtue from the fatal stain,
These tears attempt to wash away in vain.
A youth by nature and by art possessed
Of all that melts the sympathetic breast;
Such sweet persuasion on whose accents hung,
That while he spoke I thought an angel sung;
Whose kneeling vows in fond profusion given,
Appeared to me the registers of heaven;
With all the arts deception could inspire,
Taught me to love, to pity, to admire;
Eternal truth each broken sentence filled,
Through every vital boundless rapture thrilled:
My honest soul each abject doubt disdained,
Yet rolling years his suit was unobtained
Till imprecations, hermits might deceive,
Made me to endless infamy a slave;
Dashed the rich cup whence social comforts flow,
And left me heir to everlasting woe.
Can I forget the still, the solemn night,
Scene of my joy, my ruin, my delight?
When modest Cynthia veiled her silver face,
Too chaste to evidence my sad disgrace;
When with affected piety of look
His impious hands unclosed the sacred book,
And joined our hearts with that celestial chain
Which death can only disunite again;
The mystic ring upon my finger placed,
Emblem of love, unchangeable and chaste;
Then Tarquin-like to my embraces flew,
While every angel from my side withdrew.
Own, wretch obdurate, though you can't relent,
Your present state is distant from content;
Her you abandoned in pursuit of wealth,
Had ease, good humour, sprightliness, and health;
Had love to cheer, should every comfort fail,
And temper gentle as the southern gale;
Unlike thy cankered, thy misshapen bride,
Fraught with detraction, enmity and pride
Who while her coffers burst with gems and plate,
Grudges each tasteless morsel that you eat;
Whose fiend-like soul aspires at no content,
But the infernal pleasure to torment;
Whose conversation may prevent my curse,
Since hell contains no punishment that's worse.
Here would I close the grief-awaiting tale,
And o'er the sequel cast a sable veil
To dumb obscurity the ills consign
That adverse fortune destined to be mine;
But though my heart at every sentence bleed,
My sex's welfare prompts me to proceed.
With hope and fear, alternate conflicts spent
Two tedious days since my destroyer went;
I sighed, I loved, I looked, I longed in vain,
And every moment was an age of pain;
No streaming tear could give my woes relief,
Tears the poor refuge of a common grief;
The third a fever's burning heat expressed,
The potent fury of a flame suppressed.
Vain was recourse to tenderness or art,
Sorrow and shame were written on my heart;
And wild distraction let my tongue reveal,
The fatal secret, reason would conceal.
Life from the great, the rich, the happy flies,
But grief's immortal, and it never dies;
Else why, ye powers, did I this stroke survive?
Why am I still in misery alive?
Perhaps the hour new vigour I acquired
Some hero perished, or some bard expired;
Some whose benevolence the world had shared
Have fallen, whilst wretchedness itself was spared.
When new-born health her balmy influence shed,
And o'er my cheek a vermil-tincture spread,
A tender mother, to compassion wrought,
The fatal cause of my affliction sought;
Told him in words that might a Nero melt
The stings her daughter in his absence felt;
While from her eye the tear of pity stole,
That spoke the kind sensations of her soul
But to her pleadings no regard was shown,
The wretch was callous as the frigid zone:
Then 'gainst her life her trembling hand she bent,
Nor e'er returned to tell me the event;
No longer worthy her esteem to claim,
She left me full of agony and shame.
Oh thou to nature's visitings unknown,
From whom these evils took their rise alone,
This tragic tale unshaken who can hear,
Nor pay the generous tribute of a tear;
Know that when worldly artifice shall sail,
To aweful heaven's tribunal I'll appeal;
Of joys eternal, let thy soul despair,
For clad in terrors I'll arraign thee there ;
My bleeding mother shall confront thy sight,
And furies snatch thee from the realms of light.
You see, my Lord, the whole piece is irregular and indigested, so that nothing but your desire could induce me to give it under my hand. If there is anything in it pleasing to Lord Kingsborough, I must entirely impute it to his partiality to me.
I am this instant going to mortify Mr. Brown with your Lordship's last letter; for as he is now at liberty, it might give him a flow of spirits that would endanger his health, if I did not take them down a little, by letting him know I have the uppermost place in your Lordship's heart; which to deserve it is the only wish of
Your most dutiful,