The character of Lady Tempest, with some particulars of her servants and family.
THE sudden appearance of this lady, with whom our hero is now about to take up his residence, may perhaps excite the reader's curiosity to know who she is; and therefore, before we proceed any farther in our history, we shall spend a page or two in bringing him acquainted with her character. But let me admonish thee, my gentle friend, whosoever thou art, that shalt vouchsafe to peruse this little treatise, not to be too forward in making applications, or to construe satire into libel. For we declare here once for all, that no character drawn in this work is intended for any particular person, but meant to comprehend a great variety; and therefore, if thy sagacity discovers likenesses that were neverintended, and meanings that were never meant, be so good to impute it to thy own ill-nature, and accuse not the humble author of these sheets. Taking this caution along with thee, candid reader, we may venture to trust thee with a character, which otherwise we should be afraid to draw.
Lady Tempest then was originally daughter to a private gentleman of a moderate fortune, which she was to share in common with a brother and two other sisters: But her wit and beauty soon distinguished her among her acquaintance, and recompensed the deficiencies of fortune. She was what the men call 'a sprightly jolly girl,' and the women 'a bold forward creature,' very cheerful in her conversation, and open in her behaviour; ready to promote any party of pleasure (for she was a very rake at heart), and not displeased now and then to be assistant in a little mischief. This made her company courted by men of all sorts; among whom her affability and spirit, as well as her beauty, procured her many admirers. At length she was solicited in marriage by a young lord, famous for nothing but his great estate, and far her inferior in understanding: But the advantageousness of the match soon prevailed with her parents to give their consent, and the thoughts of a title so dazzled her own eyes, that she had no leisure to ask herself whether she liked the man or no that wore it. His lordship married for the sake of begetting an heir to his estate; and married her in particular, because he had heard her toasted as a beauty by most of his acquaintance. She, on the contrary, married because she wanted a husband; and married him, because he could give her a title and a coach and six.
But, alas! there is this little misfortune attending matrimony, that people cannot live together any time, without discovering each other's tempers. Familiarity soon draws aside the mask, and all that artificial complaisance and smiling good-humour, which make so agreeable a part of courtship, go off like April blossoms, upon a longer acquaintance. The year was scarce ended before her young ladyship was surprised to find she had married a fool; which little circumstance her vanity had concealed from her before marriage, and the hurry and transport she felt in a new equipage did not suffer her to attend to for the first half year afterwards. But now she began to doubt whether she had not made a foolish bargain for life, and consulting with some of her female intimates about it (several of whom were married) she received such documents from them, as, I am afraid, did not a little contribute to prepare her for the steps she afterwards took.
Her husband too, though not very quick of discernment, had by this time found out, that his wife's spirit and romantic disposition were inconsistent with his own gloom; which gave new clouds to his temper, and he often cursed himself in secret for marrying her.
They soon grew to reveal these thoughts to one another, both in words and actions; they sat down to meals with indifference; they went to bed with indifference; and the one was always sure to dislike what the other at any time seemed to approve. Her ladyship had recourse to the common expedient in these cases, I mean the getting a female companion into the house with her, as well to relieve her from the tediousness of sitting down to meals alone with her husband, as chiefly to hear her complaints, and spirit her up against her fool and tyrant; the names by which she usually spoke of her lord and master. When no such female companions, or more properly toad-eaters, happened to be present, she chose rather to divert herself with a little favourite dog, than to murder any of her precious time in conversing with her husband. This his lordship observed, and besides many severe reflections and cross speeches, at length he wreaked his vengeance o the little favourite, and in a passion put him to death. This was an affair so heinous in the lady's own esteem, and pronounced to be so barbarous, so shocking, so inhuman by all her acquaintance, that she resolved no longer to keep any terms with him, and from this moment grew desperate in all her actions.
First then, she resolved to supply the place of one favourite with a great number, and immediately procured as many dogs into the family as it could well hold. His lordship in return, would order his servant to hang two or three of them every week, and never failed kicking them downstairs by dozens, whenever they came in his way. When this and many other stratagems had been tried, some with good and some with bad success, she came at last to play the great game of female resentment, and by many intimations gave him to mistrust, that a stranger had invaded his bed. Whether this was real, or only an artifice of spite, his lordship could never discover, and therefore we shall not indulge the reader's curiosity, by letting him into the secret; but the bare apprehension of it so inflamed his lordship's choler, that her company now became intolerable to him, and indeed their meetings were dreadful to themselves, and terrible to all beholders. Their servants used to stand at the door to listen to their quarrels, and then charitably disperse the subjects of them throughout the town; so that all companies now rang of lord and Lady Tempest. But this could not continue long; for indifference may sometimes be borne in a married state, but indignation and hatred I believe never can; and 'tis impossible to say what their quarrels might have produced, had not his lordship very seasonably died, and left his disconsolate widow to bear about the mockery of woe to all public places for a year.
She now began the world anew on her own foundation, and set sail down the stream of pleasure, without the fears of virginity to check her, or the influence of a husband to control her. Now she recovered that sprightliness of conversation and gaiety of behaviour, which had been clouded during the latter part of her cohabitation with her husband; and was soon cried up for the greatest female wit in London. Men of gallantry, and all the world of pleasure, had easy access to her, and malicious fame reports, that she was not over-hard-hearted to the solicitations of love; but far be it from us to report any such improbable scandal. What gives her a place in this history is her fondness for dogs, which from her childhood she loved exceedingly, and was seldom without a little favourite to carry about in her arms: But from the moment that her angry husband sacrificed one of them to his resentment, she grew more passionately fond of them than ever, and now constantly kept six or eight of various kinds in her house. About this time, one of her greatest favourites had the misfortune to die of the mange, as was above commemorated, and when she saw little Pompey at Hillario's lodgings, she resolved immediately to bestow the vacancy upon him, which that well-bred gentleman consented to on certain conditions, as the reader has seen in the foregoing chapter.
She returned home from her visit just as the clock was striking four, and after surveying herself a moment in the glass, and a little adjusting her hair, went directly to introduce Master Pompey to his companions. These were an Italian grey-hound, a Dutch pug, two black spaniels of King Charles's breed, a harlequin grey-hound, a spotted Dane, and a mouse-coloured English bull-dog. They heard their mistress's rap at the door, and were assembled in the dining-room, ready to receive her: But on the appearance of master Pompey, they set up a general bark, perhaps out of envy; and some of them treated the little stranger with rather more rudeness than was consistent with dogs of their education. However, the lady soon interposed her authority, and commanded silence among them, by ringing a little bell, which she kept by her for that purpose. They all obeyed the signal instantly, and were still in a moment; upon which she carried little Pompey round, and obliged them all to salute their new acquaintance, at the same time commanding some of them to ask pardon for their unpolite behaviour; which whether they understood or not, must be left to the reader's determination. She then summoned a servant, and ordered a chicken to be roasted for him; but hearing that dinner was just ready to be serve dup, she was pleased to say, he must be contented with what was provided for herself that day, but gave orders to the cook to get ready a chicken to his own share against night.
Her ladyship now sat down to table, and Pompey was placed at her elbow, where he received many dainty bits from her fair hands, and was caressed by her all dinner-time, with more than usual fondness. The servants winked at one another, while they were waiting, and conveyed many sneers across the table with their looks; all which had the good luck to escape her ladyship's observation. But the moment they were retired from waiting, they gave vent to their thoughts with all the scurrilous wit and ill-mannered raillery, which distinguishes the conversation of those parti-coloured gentlemen.
And first, the butler out of livery served up his remarks to the house-keeper's table; which consisted of himself, an elderly fat woman the house-keeper, and my lady's maid, a saucy, forward, affected girl, of about twenty. Addressing himself to these second-hand gentlewomen, as soon as they were pleased to sit down to dinner, he informed them, 'that their family was increased, and that his lady had brought home a new companion.' Their curiosity soon led them to desire an explanation, and then telling them that this new companion was a new dog, he related minutely and circumstantially all her ladyship's behaviour to him, during the time of his attendance at the side-board, not forgetting to mention the orders of a roasted chicken for the gentleman's supper. The house-keeper launched out largely on the sin and wickedness of feeding 'such creatures with Christian victuals,' declared it was flying in the face of heaven, and wondered how her lady could admit them into her apartment, for she said, 'they had already spoiled all the crimson damask-chairs in the dining-room.'
But my lady's maid had a great deal more to say on this subject, and as it was her particular office to wait on these four-footed worthies, she complained of the hardship done her, with great volubility of tongue. 'Then,' says she, 'there's a new plague come home, is there? he has got the mange too, I suppose, and I shall have him to wash and comb to-morrow morning. I am sure I am all over fleas with tending such nasty poisonous vermin, and 'tis a shame to put a Christian to such offices—I was in hopes when that little mangy devil died t'other day we should have had no more of them; but there is to be no end of them I find, and for my part, I wish with all mu heart somebody would poison 'em all—I can't endure to see my lady let them kiss her, and lick her face all over as she does. I am sure I'd see all the dogs in England at Jericho, before I'd suffer such polecat vermin to lick my face. Faugh! 'tis enough to make one sick to see it; and I am sure, if I was a man, I'd scorn to kiss a face that had been licked by a dog.'
This was part of a speech made by this delicate, mincing comb-brusher; and the rest we shall omit, to wait upon the inferior servants, who were now assembled at dinner in their common hall of gluttony, and exercising their talents likewise on the same subject. John the footman here reported what Mr. William the butler had done before in his department, that their lady had brought home a new dog. 'Damn it,' cries the coachman, with a surly brutal voice, 'what signifies a new dog? has she brought home ever a new man?' which was seconded with a loud laugh from all the company. Another swore, that he never knew a kennel of dogs kept in a bed-chamber before; which likewise was applauded with a loud and boisterous laugh: but as such kind of wit is too low for the dignity of this history, though much affected by many of my contemporaries, I fancy I shall easily have the reader's excuse, if I forbear to relate any more of it.
My design in giving this short sketch of kitchen-humour, is only to convey a hint to all masters and mistresses, if they choose to receive it, not to be guilty of any actions, that will expose them to the ridicule and contempt of their servants. For these ungrateful wretches, though receiving ever so many favours from you, and treated by you in general with the greatest indulgence, will show no mercy to your slightest failings, but expose and ridicule your weakness in ale-houses, nine-pin-alleys, gin-shops, cellars, and every other place of dirty rendezvous. The truth is, the lower sort of men-servants are the most insolent, brutal, ungenerous rascals on the face of the earth: they are bred up in idleness, drunkenness and debauchery, and instead of concealing any faults they observe at home, find a pleasure in vilifying and mangling the reputations of their masters.