Memoirs of Mrs. Margaret Leeson
Each substance of a grief hath twenty shadows
Which show like grief itself, but are not so:
For sorrow's eye, glazed with blinding tears,
Divides one thing entire, to many objects
Like Perspectives, which, rightly gaz'd upon
Show nothing but confusion; ey'd awry
Distinguish form—so, I
Looking awry on his departure
Find shapes of grief more than himself to wail
Which look'd on as it is, is nought but shadows
Of what it is not—weep not
For more than his departure; more's not seen
Or if it be, 'tis with false sorrow's eye
Which, for things true, weep things imaginary.
SHAKESPEARE'S Richard II.
FOR some time after Mr. Lawless had sailed for America, my grief, though violent, was yet methodical. In my melancholy, sickly state, I had leisure to exert my fancy, and to combine in one accumulated sum the divers articles, for each of which I ought to grieve. First, his absence deprived me of the main comfort of my life; yet, it was not the sole cause of uneasiness. I figured to myself the consequences of his absence, both to himself and to me. In regard to himself, I imagined he would be more easily consoled than I should be, as he had many more new objects of consolation than I had. He had a comfortable subsistence; the means of mine were drained. He had incessantly a variety of new objects surrounding him to give him pleasure, and banish me from his mind; I was confined to constant sameness, and everything around me only presented what brought him momentally to my recollection. He would doubtless, be caught with the charms of females he might see, and enter into connections with them. The very idea of which was a poniard to my heart; whereas I was sickly, and emaciated; and it might have been said of me as of the unhappy Jane Shore.
Her waning form no longer can excite
Envy in woman, or desire in man.
She never views the sun but thro' her tears
And wakes to weep the live long night away.
In the next place, I was sunk in poverty, could scarce afford the comforts necessary for my sick situation, and my lying-in, with the most scanty hand, and had no prospect before my eyes, by which my circumstances might be amended. However just at this period, a Miss Fleetwood, who was under the protection of Lord Cl—m called on me, and wanted to take my house in Wood-street. As I was well acquainted with her, I immediately concluded the bargain; and what she paid me was highly welcome, as it provided a sufficient maintenance for myself and child, under my sickness and adversity. I remained some months in my country lodgings, till I was so far recovered as to be able to go out. My friends advised me now to turn my views to the brighter side of my affairs, and to banish as much as I could all gloomy ideas, as whilst my thoughts were incessantly bent on subjects of melancholy, I could not expect any re-establishment of my health. My physicians also told me that unless I would exert myself a consumption would inevitably come on, and then I should be accessory to my own destruction.
This advice was so frequently inculcated by all around me, that I found the absolute necessity of following it; and also of increasing my finances. When I went to the country, I had let my little house to Miss Sally Hayes (for whom I had a very strong friendship) at half-a-guinea a week, which was my sole support, in my illness and lying-in. And that was the first lodging she ever occupied after she had left her father's house, with Mr. P—. When I let my house to Miss Fleetwood, it was on condition that Miss Hayes should still have her own apartment, and after she had quitted it, Sally still remained there. When I found myself able to remove I sent my child to nurse, and returned to Wood-street, where we lived together, in constant expectations of hearing from Mr. Lawless. Month after month came, but yet not a line from him. Whatever outward appearance of cheerfulness I assumed, I was inwardly greatly disquieted. I conceived he must have been dead, or what was still more grievous to me that he was ungenerous, ungrateful, and had forgotten me.
As I had been so many years in a situation so very recluse, and had so long been absent from every place of public amusement, I was in a great measure a new face. My friends congratulated me on my return to the world, and I had presently a very numerous train of admirers, each emulous to gain my good opinion, and striving who should pay the greatest attention to me. This flattered my vanity, I sat with them, partook of their treats, went with them to public places, and frequently accepted their presents—yet, this was all they could obtain from me, as I was resolved to keep faithful to Lawless, till he should return from America, or I could receive certain news he was dead. For faithless as he was to me, I still had so much affection for him, that I could not reconcile to myself the admitting any other person to my bed.
Amongst the number of those who laid close siege to me, and did not quit their attacks on my firm resistance, as several did, was the very same Captain Mathews, my old friend, I have already mentioned. He teased me morning, noon and night, to be again taken into my favour, and be the representative of Mr. Lawless. He was soon convinced, that the strong attachment I had entertained, put it out of the power of even interest, to alter my good opinion, or make me unfaithful. But the difficulty of gaining me, made Captain Mathews still more eager to obtain my esteem. I went so far in indulgence to the love-sick swain, as to accompany him to a country entertainment, that was both expensive and elegant; but I took that opportunity to convince him of the folly and inutility of making any farther addresses to me, as I was most resolutely determined not to accept of any man, till I had heard from, or of Mr. Lawless. Captain Mathews, then offered to take me to any part of America, where I could expect to find Lawless, upon my promise that if he was unable to support me, or unwilling to receive me, that I would then accept his offer and attach myself to him.
His proposal was, indeed, very generous, and fully demonstrative of his sincere regard for me, but I rejected it. I well knew Mr. Lawless had it not in his power to afford me a subsistence, and thought it would be cruel in me to give him the pain (as I yet flattered myself he would feel) at seeing me in the arms of another. Besides, as I could not find he had written to any of his own relations, any more than to me, I yet imagined I should receive some letter from him, in which he would explain his conduct towards me and acquaint me with the real state of his affairs. And, indeed, had Mr. Lawless given me such information of himself, and even told me that he would return to me as soon as ever it was in his power, I would have waited, however long, for so joyful an event; and have endeavoured to support myself, by honest industry, had it been even by plain-work, or washing small linen, during the interval.—But alas! it was otherwise decreed, I was fated to taste the bitter cup of misery, and plunge in a whirl of those pleasures, which bring remorse and sorrow in their train.