Dublin, April 18, 1748
AS you desire me to be merry, whether I will or not, my duty obliges me to comply with your injunction, and rattle out everything I think entertaining without once considering who I am prating to. I assure you, my Lord, if I was not old enough to be your mother, the world would say we carried on an intrigue; nay, those who have not seen how roughly master time has handled me, give shrewd innuendoes, that it is not for nothing some people are so great. Your Lordship's hand and seal is already known in the post-office; and, but for the causes aforesaid, there might possibly be an action of damages against you, or a formal citation to appear in Facie Ecclesiae, and good reason. Why, forsooth, if a reverend gentleman of the gown chose to distress his wife, why should any stirring young nobleman take upon him to protect and defend her?—But you ask me, my Lord, for the Colonel's letter, whose character, as well as decency would permit, I have drawn in my second volume; the most of which your Lordship has seen in manuscript, and I hope soon to have the pleasure to present to you the whole in print. I wrote to the Colonel some time before I left London, at an hour when a trivial assistance would have been highly acceptable. I addressed him in the most solemn style, and endeavoured to awaken his pity by a true and pathetic recital of my state. I took care to remind him of his promises to me, which had at his serious hours been very liberal; he answered me thus:
You old D——l,
WHEN you were something handsome, I told you I loved you, as I told every woman that came in my way; but, by G——d, my dear little creature, I never cared a halfpenny for you; and so you now begin to talk to me like a death's head, or a memento mori. I thought you had more sense than to preach that to me, when I am like yourself, obstinate and old, which I always despised, as you know. You, tell me you are in distress: very well; I am not.—And pray, Madam, what's your misfortunes to me? Must I break a ten guinea bet at White's, to give you one, because you are unfortunate? That would indeed help to make me so, as I should repent it all my life—Oh! thou beautiful ruin! thou admirable antique! thou venerable matron! thou poetical Sybil! in short, thou dear fine worthy ancient gentlewoman!
Your most obedient,
P. S. You want to go to eat, I want to go to game; once more your humble servant.
Having satisfied your Lordship with what you requested, I leave you to admire at the brutality of the writer, but do assure you the Colonel wrote his genuine sentiment. During the time I was favoured with his visits, he asked me one day if I ever heard how my brother Grub-street, the laureate, had like to have his neck brought into a halter? I told him no, Why, said he, our British Maecenas, as you term the Earl of Chesterfield, was about twenty years ago forbid the Court, and very justly too; for George owed him money, which he never meant to pay.—You must know that previous to the birth-day, Colley sends his ode, finely done up in gilt paper, or leather, or something, for the Royal approbation. The Earl, who from his intimacy with Colley knew all this, took care to have the start of him, one day at least. He likewise knew the laureate's hand-writing; and, therefore having a book done just after Cibber's fashion, he dressed a footman in the same livery to deliver the supposed Ode. It was immediately handed to the Queen, and ran thus:—
I Colley Cibber, right or wrong,
Must celebrate this day;
And tune once more my tuneless song,
And strum the venal lay.
Heaven spread through all the family
That broad illustrious glare,
That shine: so flat in every eye
And makes them all to stare.
Heaven send the Prince of Royal grace,
A little whore and horse;
A little meaning in his face,
And money in his purse.
And as I have a son like you,
May he Parnassus rule;
So shall the Crown, and laurel too,
Descend from fool to fool.
The Queen, said the Colonel, burst out a-crying after reading this; but yet was so covetous that she would neither pay poor Chesterfield his wife's portion, nor supply her own son with means to support the dignity of a Prince. You must know, you little devil, continued the Colonel, I am just come from White's, where I heard an excellent passage.—There's a smock-faced lad, who has been introduced amongst us that we all know has no means to support the appearance he makes, or the expenses he runs into. He was at play with Lord B——, and having a run of very ill fortune, cried, well, I believe if I played for my backside I should lose it. Lord B—— very gravely answered,—indeed, Sir, that would be a loss to you.
Just after this, Lord B—— engaged in play with young H——, who is known to be a natural son; but the tables turned on him, and he lost every bet he made. Losers have always leave to speak: Lord B—— therefore cried, with some heat,—I never yet knew a bastard but what was a son of a whore. The young gentleman, with great readiness of countenance, said, indeed then, my Lord, I did; for my sister is a bastard, and yet not a son of a whore; which entirely raised the laugh against Lord B——.
Now, my Lord, you find how much I can deviate from myself, when inspired by the prospect of giving, you a transitory entertainment; but having filled my whole sheet, I must wish your Lordship a good night.