Peg Plunkett's Memoirs - CHAP. XXXII.

Memoirs of Mrs. Margaret Leeson

CHAP. XXXII.

MRS. LEESON 'S ECCENTRICITIES.

AS I found it impossible to introduce every remarkable occurrence of my life, in the regular order it happened in; I appropriated a book which I called my "Eccentricities;" and to which I committed every little adventure, which I thought one day or other, would afford me some entertainment; though I little thought then of committing either them or any Memoirs of mine to the press. I am therefore determined the public shall have them without variation or alteration,様et them therefore speak for themselves.

One day in the month of July, 1791, Groves, O'Brien, Beresford, Burnet, old Mrs. Sterling, Mrs. Bennis, a few more of the first rate impures and I, attended by our Aid-de-Camp Squire C覧e, took an excursion to Rathfarnham, to view the charming retreat of Captain Southwell, the little Dargle, and after very minutely examining all the beauties of that enchanting spot, adjourned to Laughlin's tavern, on the ponds, where we dined and spent the remainder of the day; by accident the company of Printers and Booksellers, amounting to upwards of fifty persons, happened to be there also. After we had finished our dinner and drank half a dozen of choice Champagne, we ordered wine, tea, &c. into the garden, and were regaling ourselves very merrily when we were waited upon by a deputation of six of that respectable body, who hearing we were there, sent to compliment us; in consequence of which I ordered more wine, and after finishing two or three coopers, the lads of the Frisket insisted on treating us, which I peremptorily refused, telling them, if they could drink a hogshead in my company on such an occasion, they should not pay a farthing, and accordingly more wine being brought in, my Typographers began to grow fine and mellow, particularly the son of my poor friend Bartle C覧n the Hibernian Poet Laureate, who made some amorous advances towards me, which fired the blood of my hero C覧e between whom and young C覧n, a battle royal ensued in presence of the whole company in the garden. In the course of the scuffle C覧 pulled off Type's wig and threw it to Fanny Beresford, who instantly went aside, and filled the brown-bob with the briny produce of her luscious fountain, after which she returned it to C容, who not dreaming of its consecration, thrust it in its inundated state into his Nankeen breeches, which caused a vast deal of merriment, as notwithstanding the heat of Fanny's constitution, poor C庸ound his privities extremely chilled, which caused him in a paroxysm of rage to throw the well sluiced peruke into a running brook at the bottom of the garden, from whence it was carried off never to be recovered by the heir of old Bartle; who was obliged to return to town with a handkerchief tied about his bald pericranium, to the no small diversion of the company.輸 select party of these gentlemen did me the honour of supping at my house that evening, and generously laid down a guinea each for their entertainment, my friends Jack S覧e and P覧 W覧 by their lively wit and singularity of humour, keeping the table in a roar the whole night.

One day that we spent at Drumcondra, Broadhead, our landlord, did not as I thought treat us with that deference we expected, and accordingly I left the following couplet, written with my diamond pencil on one of his parlour windows,

 

"Not Broadhead but Flathead you surely should be,
As you're really a Flat, in the highest degree.
M.L."

One evening as Joe the game cock and I, were talking upon the impossibility of the existence of such monsters as S覧d覧s and C覧t覧s in such a land of beauty as ours; a loud rap announced some person of consequence; when seeming terribly alarmed, lest it might be Buck Lawless with whom I lived at that time, I requested with tears in my eyes, his lordship would be kind enough to step into a clothes-press which stood in my dressing room, and on his lordship's politely complying, I turned the key on him, and amused myself with my favourite L覧g for about half a hour, when I walked out with him, leaving his lordship a close prisoner till my return, when I had the honour of liberating him, almost stifled and pressed to death in the presence of eight or ten of my laughter-loving wenches, who absolutely were convulsed with laughing, at the ridiculous figure his lordship cut on being released from doing Cupboard duty.

A Gentleman of my acquaintance, who before his misfortunes was looked upon as a celebrated Wit, happened to meet me one morning on the road to Rathfarnham, and asking me very politely the way? I directed him to go straight forward;"Zounds madam," exclaimed he, "if that be the case I shan't be able to get there this night.""Why so," said I, "Lord Loftus's house is not a quarter of a mile off." "Aye," replied the eccentric, "I'll allow that, but you have cruelly desired me to go straight forward, which is a thing impossible s, if I was dismounted, you'd find me as crooked as the line of beauty.""I'll charge you nothing for that," said I laughing, and galloped off.

Another day as I was riding in the Park, with a little diminutive dwarf-looking servant trotting after me, Sir B唯alderdash bawled out, "yarrow Piggy, what thing's that's behind you?" "My A容, Sir B." said I, "would you choose an introduction in the old fashioned way?"

Another day as I was riding on the Rock road, a Buckeen accosted me with, "By G猶eg, I wish I was st覧g you." O Lord, sir!" exclaimed I, "what good would that do me?" "Why Peg, it would make you as lively and sprightly as possible." Oh," replied I, "would it so? why then for heaven's sake st覧e my Mare, for she's as lazy and dull as the devil." My spark rode off like a cur who had lost his tail.

Once on the road to Cork, I stopped at the sign of the Angel, which was kept by two sisters whose Christian names were Faith and Prudence; on my first stopping there I was treated with the greatest good manners, everything the best in its kind with the most reasonable charges: however, on my return back in about six weeks, all was changed; the Angel was converted into a Shoulder of Mutton, and on enquiry I found the eldest sister Miss Faithy was dead, and that Miss Prue was not a whit better than she should be. On which a Wit in my company left the following Jeu d'Esprit on one of the panes of the window:

 

"When Faith and Prudence lived here,"
An Angel kept the door:
But Faith is dead, the Angel fled,
And Prudence turned a wh覧e."

Once in a large company of Belles and Beaux at my house, the tide of ridicule was turned against a gentleman in company well known in the literary world, who happened to have the misfortune of having crooked legs, on which he pleasantly said (holding out his right leg,) "You may make what fun of me you please, but I'll hold you an unlimited rump and dozen; there is a worse leg than that in the company." A gentleman present thinking that impossible, closed with the bet, on which he produced his left leg, which was much more deformed than the right) and won the wager, to the no small pleasure of all present. In Edwin's eccentricities Mr. Williams takes notice of this excellent Bon Mot, but not with the justice it deserves. Williams says Mr. G覧 produced the fellow to the leg the wager was held upon, when, in reality, he produced a worse, which made the jest more excellent; besides Mr. Williams relates it as happening in Belfast, when it actually happened at my Table in a large mixed company of Munster gentlemen, and fashionable Impures and Demireps of the Ton.

On my being told that the late Stephen R. who was an active agent for the Ministerial party at the famous Carrickfergus election (when C覧n the Smuggler was returned Member for that town against the united powers of eleven Peers of the realm) was arrested and thrown into prison at the suit of his democratic Baker, to whom he owed sixty pounds for bread; and that Amyas G覧th, Esq. was dismissed from all his employments under the crown, on account of his opposition to the Court Candidate the late honorable Joseph H覧. I heaved a heavy sigh and said, "Alas! poor Stephen, you have lost your Liberty for your Bread, whilst my poor Amyas has lost his Bread for his Liberty."

The tax upon Salt was long whispered about, before it was agitated in the house of Commons: I exclaimed (hoping however it would never take place) "damnation to them! they have already taxed poor Paddy's brogues, and now they purpose not to give him Salt to his Porridge.'

When the famous companion and Fidus Achates of secretary P覧, the pretended Count R覧 the chimney doctor, was mentioned to be only a spy, sent here and also to England by the French Directory, to feel the pulses of the two kingdoms, I burst into an immoderate fit of laughter saying"By Jupiter, he has fairly smoked us all, peeped into our private recesses, and will shortly perhaps pay us another visit, and send us to his country seat Rumford to get our A覧s new bottomed."

One evening I had the pleasure of the company of my friend P覧n immediately after the publication of that diabolical tragedy called Democratic Rage, which was cramm'd down the throats of all his Majesty's dutiful and loyal subjects,擁n order to impress the Canaille with horror against the Sans Culottes, I took the liberty of sending to his lodging a very handsome drinking glass with the following epigram written on it with my diamond pencil:

 

"Alas poor Lewis, what a fate was thine,
Untimely taken off by Guillotine;
Which roused the folly of a P覧n's pen,
To have thy memory slaughter'd o'er again."

On going through part of the county Wexford on a pleasurable excursion, my party happened to stop just at dinner hour at Taghmon, a little village in that county, where we could not get a morsel to eat, or any kind of lodging; on which I left on one of the widow Breen's windows the following lines:

 

"Tis surely a bore,
That a favourite wh覧e,
Praised by wits for her humour and fun,
Should with cash in her purse,
As if God sent a curse;
Want lodgings in hungry Taghmon."

One evening in a large party at my house in Pitt-street, Saunders's newspaper was handed about, which announced the marriage of a Mr. and Mrs. Brush,葉he witty and facetious counsellor Curran who was one of the party instantly produced the following:

 

"Now Brush with Mrs. Brush, a Brush may take,
And Brush her Brush, so little Brushes make."

One day just as our Catholic Brethren had obtained some relaxations from the Popery laws, which in themselves were a disgrace to any nation, that brilliant orator and senator Sir B覧 Balderdash happened to call to see me,謡hen the subject turning on politics, I happened to mention the advantages the Catholics had gained that session, when the obsequious Knight and Baronet replied, "Yes Peg, what you say is very true, we should all be very much obliged to his lordship our good Lord Lieutenant, for this very great indulgence,"用ronouncing his I's and U's with the luscious brogue of his own sweet kingdom of Kerry. Once I had the pleasure of visiting the Baronies of East and West Carbery, Bere and Bantry, with a captain T覧 my then husband pro tempore, and being invited to spend the day with a musical party of Amateurs in the town of Skibbereen, when the Rev. Charles Tuckey in particular, was to entertain us with his musical glasses, a species of sound at that time quite nouvelle, except with Cartwright himself, whose harmony was never heard of by any of the sprightly hospitable inhabitants of that obscure village; a number of old Milesian chieftains graced the board, O'Donovan, O'Driscoll, O'Donoughoe, O'Falvey, Leary, M'Carthy, &c. &c. &c. together with a variety of other gentlemen and ladies of the first consequence, Colonel T覧d and family of Castle T覧d, Edward T覧d of White-hall, John T覧d of THORNHILL, together with a heterogneous mass of F覧k覧s, H覧gf覧ds, Bald覧ns, who never once suspected me to be a Fille de Joy, a young gentleman of the O'Driscoll race, a Mr. Dennis O'Driscoll, who had just been imported from Crook-haven or Ballydehob, and who had never seen a tree growing till a week before, called upon me "to be kaind enough to help him to a bit of the cap of the pye." "What is it you desire to have, Sir?" said I. "Only a small bit of the cap of dat dere pye, I mean madam, de kiver." "Oh! Sir, you shall of kiver or cap," said I, "be helped plentifully," and knowing the dish to be merely a deception of bran and paste, I dexterously whipped the entire covering off, and clapping it on his head, proclaimed aloud, to the no small entertainment of the much diverted company: "Dennis O'Driscoll of Ballydehob, I create you and your heirs for ever lawfully begotten, the renowned knights of the order of the Cap of the pye; so in the name of St Patrick take off your Helmet and devour a part of it,"預nd from that hour to this, Dennis O'Driscoll of Skibbereen in the county of Cork, goes by no other name than "Cap of the Pye"溶or did I ever hear that I was even suspected of being any other person than the lady of captain T覧, and as such became an universal toast in that country, where I spent four months of the pleasantest of my life.

A Mr. S覧t覧y, a hungry looking dog, son of a Cabinet-maker, lived with me on the Rock road for a few months as my favourite Paramour; during which time he by degrees pollocked (to use a new phrase for cozening or tricking one), me out of considerable sums of money; and not satisfied with that, he absolutely pawned a number of my trinkets and movables, which the unprincipled villain found means to secret from me. 'Tis really very singular how I suffered myself to be so duped by a contemptible miscreant who came into my house more on the footing of a servant than anything else, and who at the time was actually in rags傭ut the old proverb is verified frequently on such occasions,

 

"Clap a Beggar on horse-back and he'll ride to the devil."

 

"I'll hunt the hated varlet all his days,
No hour shall bring the dirty reptile ease."

A Mr. Fleet覧d an attorney, gave me an annuity of thirty pounds a year during my life, for my elegant house on the Rock-road, the bare erection of which by contract cost me five hundred pounds, besides upwards of a hundred I laid out on it myself during my residence in it; and surely the interest of that sum would have brought me in six pounds a year more than the honourable attorney allowed me, exclusive of which my constitution was so broken and my speedy death so certain, that the concerns during my life, should at least have brought me one hundred pounds a year: but what cared honest F覧d so he brought the grist to his mill, and so he certainly has done to some purpose, as I am well informed on his laying out about one hundred pounds on the premises they will let for upwards of sixty pounds a year for nine hundred and ninety nine years, and he pays but six pounds a year ground rent.

As my customers were very numerous, it was impossible for me to recollect each person in company, especially as in general they were in a state of intoxication, or at least so impregnated with generous wine as to lose their retentive faculties and consequently forget to pay for their Viands, beverage, or Filles de joys, in which case when I could not bring to mind their names, I generally had a reference to their employments, some defect in their persons, the colour of their clothes, their provincial accents, &c. &c. As a specimen the following is given, taken from the 126th folio of my private ledger:

 

Mr. Blinker, the old country man from Thurles, I found out his name afterwards to be B覧k覧
For Money lent, Wine, and sundries: 」3460

 

Captain Longnose, the whiskered hero with the county Limerick brogue.
For Wine and passing my word to Miss Groves and Fanny Beresford that he would not bilk them: 」1866

 

Brown Billy from Kerry, with the yellow spencer.
A week's Board and Lodging: 」5139

 

Flat W覧l覧n, whose father lived with the Collector who hanged himself.裕his buck was snaffled by two Catchpoles, Mooney and Sheridan, and I not bearing to see a gentleman in such hands advanced 3 Guineas, which with 2 flasks of Champagne he drank at my expense to thank me,預mount to 4 Guineas,謡hich he handsomely never thought proper to pay for: 」411覧

 

The curly pated Squire from Limerick: one Night's Lodging, a girl and a bottle: 」2169

 

The Broganier Fool, from Tralee, with the long ruffles and tremendous sword, A覧 R覧l, Esq;猶olitely took a fancy to a gold Seal I had, and for which he promised to pay: 」411覧

But this volume would not hold the half, could I at this moment bring myself to publish the names and transactions at full length. In this curious whimsical way I generally kept my accounts, and have often recovered notes of hand, I. O.'s and other securities without ever troubling my head to see if the parties had signed them: there is one that was contracted and terminated singular enough:輸 gentleman-like looking man, in the sea-faring line, had been arrested for a debt of 」18 passed for wine, and having no acquaintance in town, begged to be carried to my house; the shark who had him in custody, gratified him,預nd though I never saw him but once and only in company with a friend of mine, I sent for the plaintiff (a Grocer in Grafton-street) who took my note as a discharge for the debt, the gentleman passed me his note with thanks as follows:

 

"In twenty-one days time I certainly will pay Mrs. Peggy Leeson nineteen pounds ten shillings.
Witness my hand."

He unfortunately omitted both date and name, but he had a remarkable token about him that I could not forget, namely a wooden leg. Upon producing it however after to a Captain L. of Belfast, he told me he knew the person by the writing and description I gave of him; and that the note must have been passed by one Heighl妖, who had formerly been a midshipman in the Navy, and who was then in the Revenue, and that if his profession did not pervert his principles, he was certain, as a Sailor, he'd scorn to take any advantage, after so distinguished a piece of service from me; and that certainly the date and omission of the name was an oversight of his own. I accordingly applied to Heighl妖, and found that the brave honest Tar was sunk in the occupation of a pitiful mate of a Revenue Cruiser; for the scoundrel positively denied he had ever been in my house, or had even passed me a Note of any kind whatever; however he paid dear for his assertion, for I commenced a suit against him and fully proved the transaction, and his ingratitude, to the great satisfaction of the court. The debt and cost amounted to upwards of sixty pounds, which he was obliged to discharge.

Once on a trip I took with a gentleman to Belfast, I went to a Coterie there. Tom G覧g (who had been an old blacksmith, but was then a top Merchant and joined with his brother-in-law the famous C覧n) was King, and a Mrs. P. a diminutive deformed hobgoblin, Queen. Among a great number of beautiful, well behaved, affable, charming women, one who was by far the most disagreeable, ordinary and ill-behaved in the room, attracted my particular notice; she was made up of conceit, pride and impertinence, with an hauteur that could not strike awe or respect, whatever it might disgust. On enquiring who this creature was, a Capt. Tom B. of the 70th Regiment informed me she was Miss Jenny G. daughter to the king of the Coterie, whom he had known to have followed the trade of a Horse-shoer in that town, but that now the case was altered, he had by smuggling and other such honourable practices, amassed a princely fortune, in consequence of which, not only Vulcan himself, but the whole family had become vain, saucy, imperious and impertinent, particularly Jenny, who absolutely stunk with pride. Having got my cue, I made it my business the whole night to turn her into ridicule: I whispered my partner H. W覧n (as we were next couple to Jenny and her partner Count J覧n from Pill-lane) loud enough to be heard, "Pray has not that tall awkward thing a great deal of the Black about her countenance?" "Hold your tongue you rogue," answered Hill, "don't you know her Papa, the king there, was a blacksmith." What care I whether he was a blacksmith or a whitesmith, if his daughter could learn to behave herself with propriety; but, as Gay says,

 

"All upstarts insolent in place,
Remind us of their vulgar race."

Before we left the ball room, I publicly before the whole company, wrote the following lines on one of the windows of the Coterie room which was held at the Donegall arms.

 

"Jenny G覧g they say has wit,
And some, they add, have felt it;
She walks as if she was besh覧t,
And looks as if she smelt it."

Some years before the French Revolution, when Roman Catholics were thought to have a greater respect for the Grand Monarch than for their own good king; than which, by the by, no opinion on earth could be more erroneous; the earl of B. and Col. V did me the honour to take a petite soup at my house: the noble Lord sat on one side of me, and the Colonel at the other; when B. (thinking me a bigoted papist, and consequently inimical in his mind to church and state) taking up his glass, drank, "here's the king, Peg, but not your king by God", on which, with the greatest nonchalance I took up my glass, and addressing the Colonel with a thump on the knee said, ""Well Colonel, here's the king, but not your king by G妖." "What do you mean Peg?' said the great colonel most learned in Irish; "Colonel, I drank the toast merely as I got it; it is not that I don't love my own king the great and good king George, better than any Monarch on the habitable globe." "Bravo! bravo! Peg," exclaimed lord B. "by the L覧d I believe his Majesty has not a better subject on earth." Not one my Lord, and who has exerted herself more for the purpose of manning his Fleets and Armies; I have incessantly laboured for him day and night, and sometimes without a shift to my back."

I have often wondered at the similitude between the heroes of ancient Greece and Rome, and our own modern heroes of the dear kingdom of Kerry; a part of the world I love in my very heart. In fact I really believe more gentlemen have committed Suicide in that county, nay, in the very town of Tralee (I'll confine myself to that charming spot, where I have spent some of the pleasantest days of my existence; though utterly unknown to the dear, the hospitable inhabitants; for I absolutely lived there with a gentleman in the army for one entire year without ever being discovered; long, long before my excursion to the divine Lake of Killarney). Imprimis then, to my own knowledge. My dear Edward D覧y, the most accomplished gentleman of the name, shot himself at an obscure Inn in the north of Ireland. When an Ensign in the Army, he lived on his pay economically and prudently like a gentleman, but when by his marriage and the bequest of his worthy brother Arthur, he came into the receipt of about eleven hundred pounds a year, he ran in debt, he was attacked by the clamours of unrelenting creditors, his nerves were unstrung, his feelings superlatively great; and he made at once with a loaded pistol his own quietus.

Francis C覧l, Esq. brother to the husband of Miss A覧n, who has been mentioned before, was tried in London for the commission of a rape, and condemned to be hanged, but by the interference of his countryman Lord Shelbourne, was pardoned; in consequence of which he returned home, with his last speech, confession, and dying words in his pocket, and deliberately shot himself. This line from Ovid was found in his pocket,

 

"Nobody shall kill Ajax but Ajax himself."

Thomas H覧k覧n, Esq. an eminent physician and a gentleman of worth and honour, on his eldest brother's reforming, as they call it (i.e. turning Protestant and taking possession of the entire property of the whole family, consisting of himself and five brothers): (Glorious law! enacted by a band of merciless, sanguinary villains,) took a resolution to starve himself, and absolutely lived upon water alone for forty one days, refusing any other sustenance, though importuned by the first ladies in the town, who on their knees implored him to take nourishment, but in vain; he languished for forty one days and expired. And upon being asked whether he felt much pain in fasting, he declared that for the first three days he was in great agony, but for all the rest of the time he had not the smallest inclination to eat.

Samuel M覧r覧s, Esq. after inviting a very large company to spend the day with him, just as dinner was dishing, stepped into his carriage which happened to be at the hall door, and blew his brains out, to the no small mortification of the company, who thereby lost a splendid entertainment.

The Rev. Fitzm覧e B覧t, after having paid his addresses to an amiable young lady for a number of years, at last obtained her consent, and accordingly the writings having been completed and every matter adjusted, and the day fixed for the celebration of the nuptials, the Rev. Divine (who was a worthy, a most excellent man, and in affluent circumstances) retired to the stable the evening before the completion of all his wishes were to have been ratified, and hung himself on one of the collar braces.

William B覧h覧t, Esq. collector of the county, a gentleman in possession of estated property, to the amount of near six thousand pounds a year besides his collection; he was also married to an amiable, sentimental and beautiful lady, by whom he had a number of fine children, and possessed a character in high estimation among all his numerous friends and acquaintances, notwithstanding all which (in short though in possession of all the good things in this world) he deliberately finished his existence by hanging himself in one of his stables, to the great grief of a virtuous affectionate wife, a large family of children and servants, and a multitude of friends and near relations.

Crosbie M覧ll, Esq. an eminent attorney, hearing of the immersion of the late poor Baron Power near the Light House, notwithstanding he had been returned for the borough of Tralee, that he had given thirty thousand pounds with his daughter in marriage to the late Sir B. D覧y who was afterwards fairly pistoled by C覧 in a duel. In fact notwithstanding M覧ll had risen to be the greatest man that ever was or will be in that august family, and had the cleverness to die nine hundred thousand pounds in debt,遥et upon mere speculation and chance, in order to obtain the place of the Barons' Register in the regions of Tartarus, had the temerity to plunge after him and seek an asylum in that country from whose bourne no traveller returns. The following epitaph was written by me on the occasion.

 

Here M覧ll lies whom not a soul bemoans,
For whom we see no tears, nor hear no groans;
Death and the devil snatched him quite away,
The devil take death for suffering him to stay
Among us longer than his natal day.
M. L.

Besides these suicides which all happened in my own memory, there were many others if I could bring them to my recollection; and what is still more extraordinary, the gentlemen were all contemporaries and school-fellows, all educated in the town of Tralee at Young's school; all excellent scholars and accomplished gentlemen, and in general highly respected by all who had the pleasure of their acquaintance; and what is very singular, there was not one of them who had not one time or other basked in the sunshine of my bewitching smiles: They all in turn had been my devoted slaves and admirers, from whom I had received vast sums of money. Indeed I often think my poor friend Henry B覧t will go the same road, and as little regretted as his compeer C覧e M覧ll.

 

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