Memoirs of Laetitia Pilkington - THE PREFACE.</p>

THE PREFACE.


            Lest the world should imagine I published this volume, in order to displease my father, or any other person, the reflection of which, would give me the utmost uneasiness, I thought it quite necessary, in this place, to declare the reason it lay so long in obscurity; and why it is at this time made public.

            My mother, before her death, had taken in a number of subscriptions in Ireland, and after her departure from life, as I was left quite destitute of money or friends, I was obliged to pursue the design of printing the volume; to which I was encouraged by several persons of real worth and distinction: but though I became indebted to the public, it was never in my power, to raise a sufficient sum to defray the expense of printing; but on the contrary, through the resentment of those, whom my mother had formerly described, I was not only basely traduced in my reputation, but plunged into a world of calamities, which I may, perhaps, at some time hereafter relate, together with the various passages of my life. However, amongst many accusations, that fell heavily on me, one was, that I had defrauded the public, by taking subscriptions to a work, which I not only had not a design of printing, but one that never existed, except in my imagination; as they were kind enough to declare, that my mother never wrote such a book.

            Yet should I have been content, to have stood all this reproach, and much more, nay, as the subscribers were persons of fortune and humanity, whose contributions proceeded more from the desire of serving me, than a curiosity to see the book, I would have remained their debtor for ever, sooner than have brought such an affair over; but, that having a wife and family to support, and finding it impossible to obtain from my father the smallest succour, though I applied to him in the most submissive and pathetic manner: on the contrary, when I found him endeavouring to hurt me in the opinion of those, with whom I had some interest [*particularly the Lord Bishop of Derry, to whom I am much obliged.] I thought it but prudent, to acquit myself of the charge of dishonesty, by delivering the books to my benefactors, and at the same time, to endeavour to make as much as possible by it. To this end I came to London last October, but had not brought the manuscript with me, which was in the hands of Mr. Powell, printer in Dublin. I thought it prudent, not being overstocked with cash, to try how a subscription would take in London, before I ventured to pay a sum, which was due to Powell. I therefore printed proposals, and communicated my plan to Mr. Foote, who had, when in Ireland, professed a great friendship for me, (not without some cause) as will be seen hereafter. He highly approved my project, and assured me I might make a considerable sum by it; and that for his own part, he would get me at least a hundred subscribers, all which, not knowing the gentleman's real disposition, I sincerely believed. His farce of the Englishman in Paris, was at this time acting; and I ventured to write the following lines upon it, which I sent to him in a letter, and begged his permission, to insert them in the Daily Advertiser.

To Samuel Foote, Esq.; on seeing his Englishman in Paris

When brilliant merit justly claims applause,
Commands esteem, and admiration draws;
When every action suits to please mankind,
Delights the sense, and elevates the mind:
Each Bard enraptured should exalt his lays,
And gladly pay his tributary praise;
Yet British wits are silent when they see,
Thy last inimitable comedy;
In which, a spirit lives through every part,
That charms, that soothes, that captivates the heart.
'Tis thine, oh Foote, with a peculiar ease,
At once to lash, t'instruct us, and to please:
So sweet, yet poignant, all your satires flow,
That patiently from you our faults we know;
The dunce, the fribble, the affected wit,
Chastised by you, must silently submit.
Still may Britannia, with a grateful sense,
Thy matchless labours strive to recompense;
Thus we in time, may every error find,
And Foote still prove a mirror to mankind.

            The gentleman was pleased to honour me with the following answer:

Dear Sir,
It is impossible for me to thank you as I ought, for your enclosed favour; and full as impossible for me, to answer* the contents of your obliging letter [*Note i.e to correct it.]; There is at present, such a conflict in me, between modesty and vanity, that as neither can get the better, I must leave the destination of your elegant piece, to your own discretion.
I am,
Dear Sir,
Most sincerely yours,
SAMUEL FOOTE.
Covent Garden.

                An indifferent person would now imagine, that this gentleman was inclinable to serve me; but whether he contracted insincerity, in his late tour to Paris, or whether 'tis native to him, I know not. But when I went to him, with the subscription papers, he took a quantity of them, and desired me to call in about a week; he then excused himself, by saying he had been unwell, but finally, when I pressed him hard, he wrote me the following polite and obliging note.

Sir,
I am sorry the disadvantageous light, in which some of your countrymen have placed you here, has put it out of my power, to be as useful to you as I could wish. I have sent you half-a-guinea, together with all your subscriptions; you will consider, that the many calls I have of this kind, (though not too much for my inclination) are a little too heavy for my income.
Yours, &c.
SAMUEL FOOTE.

            I shall make no comment in this place, upon this extraordinary revolution; perhaps as he says himself,

'Tis pride, nay something worse,
The pocket's low.
Epilogue to the Englishman in Paris.

                But on his acting the characters of Ben the Sailor, and Buck in the Englishman in Paris one night, some envious anonymous scribbler, furnished out the following lines; and as that gentleman's transcendent abilities, are superior to any low things of this nature, I hope it will not be thought malice in me, to transcribe them here.

To Sl Fte, Esq.; on his condescending to enact Ben and Buck

Oft hast thou sought the comic Muse in vain,
While thy strained gesture but excited pain;
For when Sir Courtly Nice was played by thee,
The mumuring audience cried, it cannot be;
With like success some other parts you tried,
Nay, even for favour in the Buskin vied;
But all in vain, you were compelled to drop it,
And act the satyr, the buffoon, and poppet*;
Till wisely pondering what composed your mind,
Where you no generous sentiment could find;
You saw the error, and to end the dispute,
Shined in your native character a bte.
[*i.e.In the Haymarket]

                I am told, that the ludicrous author of this, was not threatened with so slender revenge as tea or coffee, but absolute Newgate and the pillory; which poor subterfuge gave him so much reason to pity his antagonist, that he has since held him incorrigible, below the notice, even of a scribbler.
And here I cannot help remarking at the same time, that I return my most sincere acknowledgements to my noble subscribers in England, that amongst the number of persons, whose characters my mother had endeavoured to illustrate by due praise, not one, except his Grace the Duke of Marlborough, and Sir John Ligonier, to whose superlative bounties I am unspeakably indebted, would assist me. But as they are the greatest and noblest characters, which compose her writings, I must e'en content myself; and though this volume is not in octavo, which I at first proposed, but was afterwards obliged to alter my design, in order to make it match the other two, I am persuaded, but as my subscribers are composed of the greatest and best persons in England, they will pardon that defect since it contains the purposed quantity. However, any person who imagines they have paid too much, shall have the overplus returned, on sending to me.

            N.B. A list of subscribers is omitted for particular reasons, which the reader will be better qualified to guess at after he has perused the ensuing pages.

 

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