A third volume of memoirs is really a bold undertaking, as they are generally light, frothy, and vain; yet I have met with such unhoped success, that I am quite encouraged to proceed; more especially as my word is passed to the public; and my word I have ever held sacred. I cannot, like a certain female writer, say, I hope if I have done nothing to please, I have done nothing to offend; for truly I mean to give both pleasure and offence: lemon and sugar is very pretty. I should be sorry to write a satire which did not sting, nor will I ever write a panegyric on an undeserver. If a rogue should happen to be my honest friend, I owe him silence; but that is the most he can expect.
Many indeed are glad to become purchasers of it. Persons whom I know nothing of, come and beg I may not put them into the third volume; and they will subscribe: surely then they should knock at their own hearts; and if it confess a natural guiltiness,
Let it not breathe a thought upon their tongue
To my dishonour—
I threaten not any, nor did I ever do it; but characters are my game, who
Eye nature's walks, shoot folly as it flies,
And catch the manners living as they rise.
I should now be glad to know how I could prosecute my own history without intermingling that of others; I have not lived in deserts, where no men abide, nor in a cave, like Echo; therefore it is no more in my power to grant such unreasonable requests, when a book is required of me, than it is in that of an historical painter to give a good piece, when he is positively commanded never to draw the likeness of anything in heaven or on Earth.
But, oh my dear ladies, why are you so frightened? Why so many supplications to a person unacquainted with you? Have you all then a sore place, which you are afraid I should touch? But now, I say this to you, or to the same defect: ladies, or most fair ladies, I would request you not to fear, not to tremble; my life for yours, if you think I come as a lion, 'twere pity of my life: no, no, I am no such thing; I am a woman, as other women are—
But, after all, it does not a little surprise me, that every person who suffers a panic, lest their own reputations should be attacked, has not a little compassion for that of another: no, no! Let them find a flaw in a brilliant, and by the help of their magnifying talents, they shall dim it all over: if they look upon this as a virtue, 'tis one I shall never be emulous of.
I remember Dr. Swift told me, he once dined at a person's house, where that part of the tablecloth, which was next to him, happened to have a small hole in it, which, says he, I tore as wide as I could; then asked for some soup, and fed myself through the hole. The Dean, who was a great friend to housewifery, did this to mortify the lady of the house, but, upon my word, by the general love of scandal and detraction in
But 'tis of no consequence to me; as treason and malice now have done their worst.
Reputation once gone is never to be retrieved: the wise say, it is as often gained without merit, as lost without a crime; so I must comfort myself the best I can. The fable of Reputation, Fire, and Water, is too well known to want a recital, and, to quote a paragraph from a late letter of Mr. Cibber's to me, in answer to one of mine, wherein I had acquainted him, that a gentleman who had formerly been prejudiced against him, was now his very sincere admirer, as his lines may in some measure of the applicable to me, I shall insert them as follows:
"It is now growing too late in life, to be much concerned about whatever good or evil the world may think it worth their while to say of me. All I have to do, is to fix a consciousness of my own integrity, and then let the devil do his worst. Truth has a strong arm, adding that the weakest person living, with an honest heart, may trust for their protection."
So let this serve by way of preface, while I proceed in my narrative, or,
Take the sprightly reed, and sing and play,
Careless of what the censuring world may say.
And here, before I proceed, to give ease to every heart, which may possibly suffer any anxiety, on account of what might be said of them, I proclaim peace to all, but those who have directly affronted me. 'Tis but a mean piece of cowardice to insult a woman, and as some gentlemen have had the courage to challenge me, by the known laws of chivalry, I have a right to choose the weapons; a pen is mine, let them take up another, and mayhap they will meet their match.
But Hibernian writers are evermore threatened, not with the wit of their antagonists, but the arm of the flesh; and truly that is such a knockdown argument, as I, at least, am utterly unable to resist.
Upon my word, were any folly of mine to produce real wit in another person, I should not be displeased to be roundly rallied.
I was very well diverted with Mr. Woodward's Coffee, [*when this gentleman exhibited at
Subscribe, or else I'll paint you like the devil
Though how I, who never either was a dramatic writer, or a player, came to have such extraordinary marks of distinction paid me from the theatre, is more than I can readily account for. However I enjoyed the jest, and the worst mark of resentment I showed, was to send him a crown for a box ticket, which he graciously accepted; and in return, got his friend in the College to add six couplets of scurrility to his former encomium on me.
No marvel, for I remember the Dean told me, he paid a man's debt on account of his having wrote something tolerably good, and the next proof he gave of his talents, as soon as he was released from jail, was to write a satire on his benefactor and deliver. I told this passage to Mr. Cibber, who assured me he had been just served in the same manner.
Gratitude is, of all virtues, the most seldom practised; because of this defect, I take to be our innate pride; few persons can bear to be under the weight of an obligation, not considering that,
The grateful heart by paying owes not,
But stands at once indebted and discharged.
Dr. Swift very well observes, but many persons have done a just, many a generous, but few a grateful act.
I have indeed experienced gratitude, even to painful ecstasy; especially, when you my dear, and honoured Lord Kingsborough, vouchsafe to cheer my habitation, with the Muses, Loves, and Graces in your train; with all the virtues that adorn the good, and every shining excellence which distinguishes the fine gentleman: so Cyrus deigned to visit Zoroaster, and bless his solemn grotto.
You have, my Lord, another talent, which as leisure and fortune give you a power of exerting it, I hope you will; and which, by the honour you have allowed me, of being your correspondent, I have discovered, and, like a true woman, cannot bear the pain of keeping a secret. Amongst all the letters I have yet seen published, I never saw any so truly elegant, learned, and polite, as those with which your Lordship has condescended to honour your poor servant: invoke then, my Lord, the sacred Nine; not one of the beauteous virgins can be coy to such a lover, resembling so much their own Apollo. I am very certain they have all bestowed of their favours, though you are too much the man of honour to reveal it.
Let Britannia boast her Shaftesburys, Dorsets, Mulgraves; and let us tell her in return, we have our Kingsborough. And here I must to vindicate the learning, as well as the politeness of the nobility; but be in opposition to Mr. Pope's opinion; who says,
What woeful stuff this madrigal would be
In some starved Hackney sonnetteer or me?
But let my Lord once own the happy lines,
How the wit brightens, how the style refines!
Why sure every person must acknowledge, that while he is insulting his betters, his Ethic Epistles are little more than Lord Shaftesbury's Rhapsody berhymed, his Windsor Forest stolen from Cooper's Hill; and his Eloisa and Abelard, the most beautiful lines in it, taken from Milton's Il Penseroso; and if I wrong his merit, let the learned judge. Mr. Pope says, in his description of the Convent,
Where awful arches, make a noonday night,
And the dim windows shed a solemn light.
And storied windows richly dight,
Shedding a dim religious light.
Which of these is best, I leave to any person of taste to determine.
From the full choir when loud Hosannas rise
And swell the pomp of dreadful sacrifice.
There let the pealing organ blow,
To the full-voiced choir below.
For service high, &c.
But I forget, and am launching into a criticism ere I am aware of it.
Now though I have held out the olive branch to my friends, to whom I would be kind, as the life-rendering Pelican; yet my foes are not included in the treaty. You, my lady of the fishponds and lakes of Lebanon, must be remembered.
And I cannot avoid paying my acknowledgements to the Vice-Queen of a certain village. Vice-Queen I term you, for the lovely Goddess of the Plains [*Lady Ann Connelly] has as much humanity and politeness as you want, and I cannot pay her a higher compliment; though indeed it is no wonder, as she is the daughter of an English Earl, and you derive your pedigree from a Scotch pedlar, I will not name you, because you shall not take the law of me, but describe you I will.
Pray, when I sent you a book, how came it to entitle me to an affront? And your civil message, that if my third volume was worth reading, you would buy it at the stationer's: why, it will cost you a crown there.
But how long have you commenced a judge of the Belles Lettres? That you may be a competent one of men, nobody disputes; and for your honour, I believe a certain relation of mine was pretty intimate with it at **********.
And do you and your two companions take a frisk still, now you are grown old! Certainly it must be as entertaining as the witches in Macbeth.
Why, Madam, had I said that your fa—r died blaspheming the Almighty, and of the foul disease; had I said that he refused to see his wife's cubs, as he called your sisters, at the hour of his death; and I said, that you hid Lady D— behind the arras, to see—Nothing—which you said, your little tom titmouse of a husband had, you could not have used me worse.
But I scorn your low invectives, which savour more of malice than of wit; these and many other valuable secrets, which I have the honour of knowing of you, shall be buried in oblivion.
Stand apart now, ye Roderick Randoms,
Foundlings, bastard sons of wit,
Hence, ye profane, be far away,
All ye that bow to idol lusts, and altars raise,
Or to false heroes give fantastic praise:
While I, the Cream of Historians, Mirror of Poets, worthy not only the bays but the laurel made for mighty conquerors, for my signal victories, proceed in my true history, which take as follows, from me the genuine successor of Cid Hamet, and immortal Swift:
Thus much may serve by way of Proem,
Proceed we now to attain our poem.
One day as I was sitting in my shop, [*Vide. The 2nd vol. of these memoirs] a woman who though very badly dressed had a dignity in her air which distinguished her from the vulgar, stood reading the paper I had stuck up, with regard to writing letters and petitions. At length she came in and begged of me to write a petition for her, to his Majesty, from whom, as she said, she hoped for a pension. I asked her what title she had to it. She said, if I could have patience to hear her story, she was certain I would think she had a very just one. As I was fond of novelties, I assured her she could not oblige me more; so to avoid interruption, I took her into the parlour, when she began her history as follows:
"I am," said she, "granddaughter to the Marquis of Vendome; my mother, whose name was Margaretta de Tiange, was one of the most celebrated beauties in the court of France. The late Electress of Hanover (poor lady, though her husband was crowned King of England, she never was acknowledged as Queen) had so fond an affection for her, that she could not think of parting with her; but when she was married, entreated she would accompany her to Hanover; their united prayers prevailed on my grandfather to give his assent, and the Electress placed her in quality of the first Lady of her Bedchamber, that she might ever have her near her person,—
"Whatever regret my mother felt, at the strange difference she found between the court of Paris, and the house of Herrenhausen, yet being happy in the favour of her Royal mistress, young and cheerful, she made herself quite easy; and she and Count Koningsmark used to set their heads together, to study what might be the most amusing to the lovely lady.
"But alas! While they thought only of innocence, the Princess Sofia, and the Duchess of Munster, a discarded mistress of the Elector's, had other schemes in their heads, which not long after they put in practice, to the destruction of the Count, the disgrace of the Electress, and the banishment of every person, whom she honoured with her confidence.
"I have frequently heard my mother declare, that she believed there was not in the world a more virtuous person than the Electress, and indeed her conduct from the time of her separation from the late King, to the hour of her death, sufficiently convinced the world of her unspotted purity.
"Well, in the general ruin my mother, as her first favourite, was inevitably involved: she was ordered to return home to France; and as she was a woman of quality, a man-of-war was fitted out for that purpose."
I could not here avoid interrupting her, to say I wondered that the Princess Sofia should enter into any scheme which might in the least reflect on the honour of her own illustrious family; she answered, the Princess loves nothing so well as dominion, and as the ladies of France had a natural turn to politics, she was afraid the Electress might interfere, so as to injure her power, which was almost absolute. Oh! Ambition! By what cruel means dost thou compass thy ends? I desired her to proceed, which she did as follows.
"My mother returned home safe, though much dejected at the separation from her mistress, with whom had she been permitted, she would willingly have embraced an exile from the gay world. But as time insensibly wears off affliction, and lessens the object, by removing it to a greater distance, so she began to resume her native cheerfulness, and once more shone at court.
"The first night she appeared there, an English noblemen, for as such he passed himself, (neither did his good mien or politeness, in the least contradict this generally received opinion) paid his addresses to her. Gallantry and complaisance are so much the mode at Paris, that my mother took all he said of his passion, and her charms, merely as words of course, and told him so; he answered that he found she was unacquainted with the temper of the English, who, above all other people, particularly valued themselves on sincerity, and scorned deceit or hypocrisy even to the fair, to whom most men practice it. She answered, the ladies in his country must certainly be very happy, he said, the most convincing proof he could give of the reality of his passion, was, that, provided her heart and hand were disengaged, he would use his utmost endeavours to merit both. She assured him she was entirely at her father's disposal, and that if he was serious in his declaration, he must apply to the Marquis of Vendome. Accordingly, next day he paid the Marquis a visit, and brought such credentials of his being a man of fortune and quality in England, that the Marquis had but one objection, which was an unwillingness to part with my mother; however, my father promised they would once a year pay the Marquis a visit: so all things being agreed on, the marriage was celebrated with great pomp and festivity.
"No sooner were the rejoicing ended, that it was whispered my father was not a man of quality, but an impostor. This greatly afflicted both the Marquis and my mother; they mentioned it to my father, who assured them it was a malicious falsehood, raised by some persons who envied his happiness. As it was too late to retract what was done, they could only hope the best. Shortly after, my father urged the necessity of his returning to London, to which the Marquis reluctantly consented.
"At Dover my father's chariot met them, carried him to a very handsome house, where there were a number of servants in rich liveries, waiting the commands of the bride and bridegroom.
"But after all, not to hold you longer in suspense, my father was a limner; but so excellent in his art, that he could well afford to keep his wife like a man of quality. However as there is no country where persons set a higher value on noble blood than France; my mother was cruelly mortified to find herself imposed upon, and fell into a deep melancholy, which preying on the very pith of life, she languished in a consumption for three years and died, leaving me and another daughter desolate orphans.
"After this loss, which I was too young to regret, my father brought in a woman, whom it seems he had some time kept as a mistress, to order his household, and take care of us, which she did so well, that at length my father married her.
"Here happened a most strange reversal of fortune to us: for no sooner did this woman attain her ends, than she altered her conduct, and from a fawning servant, turned a haughty and despotic tyrant. My father was obliged to turn off all his old servants, because they did not pay respect enough to her ladyship, for he had the honour of knighthood conferred on him by King William.
"This step-dame now continually endeavoured to set my father against us; till at length, wearied out with injuries, I hired myself as a servant to the governor's lady of Saint Christopher's; and she being informed who I was, treated me with the utmost kindness.
"This unhealthful climate soon deprived me of her, who with her dying breath, recommended me to the care of the governor, he called me up, told me her request, and kindly said, whoever was dear to her, it should be his particular care to protect, even for her sake.
"I kneeled down by the bedside, to bless them both for their goodness, my mistress took my hand, grasped it very hard, and instantly expired.
"I fainted away, and my master, as I was afterwards informed, quitted the chamber, bidding the servants take care of the poor child.
"When the funeral was over, and that the first transports of my master's sorrow were abated, he desired to see me, and renewed his kind assurances of protection and favour to me. He made me dine at his table, saying, that my innocent prattle diverted his melancholy; and I, studious to please him, did it so effectually, that instead of my being his servant, he became mine; and as he was too humane and generous, to entertain a dishonourable thought, he proposed matrimony to me, an offer too considerable for me to reject.
"The evening before the day appointed for our nuptials, my dear master, friend, and lover, was taken very ill, on which they were deferred. But his illness increasing, he thought proper to have the marriage ceremony performed, made his will, and as he had no children, left me all his fortune, and died the next day.
"Though I cannot say I was in love with this gentleman, yet gratitude made me a sincerely sorrowful widow; though I was young, rich, and, as the world said, handsome.
"When my year of mourning expired, I had several matches proposed to me, of which I made choice of the worst. He was an Englishman, but to say the truth had nothing but his person to recommend him. He was addicted to every vice, and consequently soon squandered the plentiful fortune I had brought him.
"And at last, one day when I was abroad, he robbed the house of everything it contained that was valuable, and he, with a Negro woman servant I had, got on board a vessel bound for England.
"I was now plunged into not only the extremity of sorrow, but also of want. However, being very expert at my needle, particularly in embroidery, and also very curious in shell work; I set up a school, and instructed young ladies. Money is very easy to be got there, and so it ought, the island is productive of nothing for the service of life, neither fruit nor herbage, and consequently there are no cattle, but what they have either from the continent, or salted from England.
"Well, bad as the place was, I lived there thirty years after the departure of my second husband, tolerably easy; till at length I received, from an English captain of a ship, a letter from the sister I have mentioned, who was extremely well married in London, and gave me a kind invitation to come and pass the remainder of my life with her.
"Accordingly I embraced the first opportunity of returning to my dear native country, all the ladies entreated me to stay, but finding me determined to the contrary, they gave me signal marks of their favour: each making me a present, and assuring me that if ever I returned, I should be affectionately received.
"We had a tolerable voyage, even till we were inside of the English shore, when a furious tempest arose, which set us almost beside ourselves. The goods were thrown overboard, so that I lost all my clothes; and few minutes after, we struck upon a rock, but by God's Providence, not a soul perished. All that I saved was a basket of curiosities, such as the island afforded.
"But not to detain you with trivial circumstances, I got to London, and went to my sister's house, which I found hung with black, she in her coffin, and the hearse ready to convey her to the grave.
"This was a dreadful disappointment to me, for I was quite a stranger, moneyless, and could not reasonably hope for much favour from a brother-in-law, whom I had never seen, especially as the link of the chain which united us, was now dissolved.
"The next day I went to him; and, on telling him the circumstances of my life, exactly as my sister had done, he had the goodness to give me her clothes; a reasonable relief, as my own were lost.
"The following day I went into a broker's shop, to know if the person who kept it would buy some of my merchandise: he seemed surprised at the variety and beauty of my collection; and perceiving me very faint, for indeed I was all almost famished, he offered me a dram; which I refused, as I was sensible it must have got the better of one so weak as I was.
"However, I accepted of some toast and ale, which, I really think, saved my life: after this active civility I told my distress to him, and he kindly gave me a lodging, and recommended me to you."
I wrote a petition for this unhappy stranger, which had no manner of effect on his Majesty: I afterwards wrote to her brother-in-law; who gave her five guineas, with which sum she again set out for Saint Christopher's; and, as I afterwards learned, the ship, with all the passengers, were lost.
I think this poor lady's life was but a continuous scene of storms and the misfortunes, as if heaven had
Bared her bosom to the thunderstone.
But alas! How shall we poor reptiles presume to judge the ways of Providence; all things are ordered with a harmony and beauty; though, like a fly, our feeble ray sees but an inch around, yet dares dislike the structure of the whole.
As well might a Mariner, in the midst of the wide world of congregated waters, hope, with his line, to sound the deep abyss, as are finite minds to comprehend of the ways of Deity.
Here then let us rest,
Whatever is, is right; wisdom and goodness govern all.
Reader, have patience with my philosophic whimsies, which I must sometimes indulge: 'tis frequent, in conversation, to say, of those that are drowned, that they had gone to the bottom of the sea, but, with due deference to better judges, I cannot conceive the ocean to have any bottom, except near the shore. I have observed every single drop of water to be an entire globe; put another to it, they unite by adhesion of parts, like quicksilver, to form a larger: thus the tributary streams pour in globulous chrysolites, to form that wondrous mass of waters, which returned the ocean, and which, no doubt, goes quite through the centre of the Earth, without any middle way to stop it. I know it may be here objected, that a ship lost on one side ought, by this rule, to rise at the opposite place: not at all; the pressure of the atmosphere is everywhere equal, nor is there any such thing as up or down in nature: as many stars bespread the firmament beneath us, as above us: as travellers, such as have sailed round the world, sufficiently evidence; and did not the strong laws of gravitation hold all in firm union, the sea, no doubt, would tumble on our heads.
Oh! Thou revered spirit of Newton, who couldst take the dimension of each planet in our solar system, and then demonstrate to us,
How other planets circle other suns.
Giving us thereby the most august view of that being, who poured forth new worlds to all eternity, and people to the infinity of space: if I have erred, through pride, in endeavouring to search into the secrets of nature, wherein I may very possibly err; let thy honoured Manes vouchsafe to set me right,
For I so much a Catholic will be,
As for this once, great Saint, to pray to thee.
I think I have scarce ever read two better lines than Mr. Pope's epitaph on this Prince of philosophers, which, to prove my regard to him as a poet, I will insert:
Nature, and nature's laws, lay wrapped in night,
God said, let Newton be, and all was light!
His inscription on Sir Godfrey Kneller's monument* is remarkably bad as this is excellent:
Kneller by heaven, and not a master, taught,
Whose heart was nature, and whose pictures thought,
Whate'er was beauteous, and whate'er was great,
When now two ages he had snatched from fate
Rests crowned with Princes, honours, poets, lays,
Due to his merit, and brave thirst of praise,
Living, great nature feared he might outvie,
Her works, and dying, fears herself shall die.
[*See Westminster Abbey.]
And bad as it is, 'tis but a lean translation from the Italian, an enervate language, well adapted to the soft warblers of it, but incapable of manly strength, dignity, or grace.
I always find in myself a strong inclination to criticism, and, if I live to finish this volume, I shall certainly indulge it: for my part, let the world say what they please of critics, I esteem them as very useful members of the Commonwealth of learning. Whatever is well written will stand the test of strict examination, ay, and ridicule too; and when that is past, the work appears like gold from the furnace, with tenfold lustre: therefore I fairly invite the whole body of critics to canvass my writings; if they point out an error I shall esteem them as friends, and endeavour to amend: if they make an injudicious criticism, for some such I have seen published against me, they prove their own ignorance, and cannot give me a greater triumph: I only wish I may have a Longinus, not a Zoilus, to judge me.
Well now, Mrs. Pilkington, says, perhaps, my reader, what, in the name of wonder have we to do with all this? Why, truly, no more, I think, than with a buff jerkin, or mine hostess at Saint Alban's; but I am no Methodist either in writing or religion; sometimes irregularities please; shapeless rock, or hanging precipice, present to the poetic imagination more inspiring dreams than could the finest garden: where
Grove nods at grove, each alley has a brother,
And half the platform just reflects the other.
I am, in short, an Heteroclete, or irregular verb, which can never be declined, or conjugated.
But however, considering it was a history of myself, I promised to the world, I now proceed in it thus:
Two very fine young gentleman, whom I did not know, came to buy some prints, and observing a large book in manuscript, open before me, one of them demanded, was that my account book? I assured the gentlemen, my revenue was easily cast up, and that I was but a bad arithmetician, though I frequently dealt in figures and numbers.
This gentleman, whom I presently after found was an Earl, by his companions calling him by his title, insisted on seeing the subject of my amusement. This was the first volume of my work, which when once he had begun, he went quite through with, and gave it more applause than ever an author's dear partiality to their own offspring could possibly make me believe it deserved.
However, his Lordship made a just remark, that I was very fond of introducing the sun by way of simile, in all my poems, and said, he had a mind to cut it out wherever he met it.
I told his Lordship, he would then leave my book in the land of darkness, and the shadow of death.
The Earl then asked me, if I intended to print it? I said I would, if I could get subscribers to it, otherwise it must, like many other valuable things, be buried in oblivion. He gave me a subscription, and, as it was dinnertime, took his leave, with the promise of drinking coffee with me the next evening; when, as it was Sunday, I should be disengaged from business; which promise, however, he did not fulfil; and having vainly expected him till eight, I then went upstairs, to sit with the Countess of Yarmouth's steward's wife; and, on my return, found my shop broke open, and every article of my wearing apparel taken away: this was a dreadful mortification, and a sad loss! All my comfort was, that the thieves had taken nothing but what belonged to me.
This robbery quite ruined me, as I was obliged to lay out my money for necessaries to appear decent; my landlord seized for a quarter's rent, though he was my countryman, and professed great friendship for me.
I was once more in doleful plight; however, I got a ready-furnished lodging, just tolerable.
One evening, when I came home from a friend' s, my landlady told me, there was a young woman to visit me, who wept sadly that I was abroad. I asked her what sort of person she was? She told me, she thought she greatly resembled me, and that she would be with me early in the morning: accordingly she came, and I knew her, at first sight, to be my daughter: the surprise made me faint away; not but I was very glad to see her, but joy is overcoming as grief; and when I considered how little it was in my power to help her, it quite sunk my spirits. She was in a garb which bespoke poverty, and gave me a long account of her father's inhumanity to her, and his youngest son.
A few days after her arrival came the son I have now with me, from on board a privateer, as ragged as a prodigal returned from keeping swine; but, poor child, I wonder how he subsisted at all, considering the hardships he had suffered, and what to do with them both I could not tell: Mr. Richardson [author of Clarissa] was so kind to give my son a new suit of clothes, which put him in a capacity of going amongst my friends, from whom I received a transient relief.
At length the girl, finding how matters were, went to wait on a lady, and Captain Meade took my son with him on board a man-of-war, with which a number of transports, and others, then went on a secret expedition, but were prevented in their design, by having their intentions betrayed to the French.
Well, this was a little respite to me: I heard Worsdale was in London, and wrote to him, but received no answer; a day or two after, as I was going through Spring Garden, pretty early in the morning, who should I see but the very identical man, standing at a coffee-house door!
I stopped, and looked at him, when he immediately recollected me, and seemed overjoyed to see me: he invited me to breakfast, and told me, he was upon his keeping; so that he had been obliged to quit a pretty ready-furnished house, he had in Mount Street, Berkeley Square, and leave it to the care of a servant, to retire to this privileged place.
After breakfast he desired I would write a letter for him to the Bavarian ambassador, and two others, whom I have now forgot, to beg their protection; which accordingly he obtained, though not directly. He made me dine with him, and promised to reward me when he should be at liberty to pursue his work; and in the meantime, he said, I should be welcome to his house in Mount Street; an offer which I readily accepted, as well for the fine air, as being rent-free.
He allowed me a shilling a day to live on, which I could very well do: but he came every morning to know how much I had wrote. He would give me fifteen subjects at once, and expected I should compose something excellent on every one of them: in short, there was no end to my labour, nor any relaxation from it, except sometimes a kind of troubled sleep; for, amongst other misfortunes, I was not able to make my bed, nor light the fire; and the old woman, his housekeeper, proud, ignorant, and insolent beyond imagination, asked me, where the devil I was bred, that I could not sweep rooms, light fires, and make beds, as well as other servants; and truly Mr. Worsdale was a fool to hire me, who did nothing but write all day long.
Though I conceived a good deal of indignation at being thought the servant of a colour-grinder' s son, yet I could not forbear laughing at the ideas of this good creature.
Never did any soul lead a more solitary life than poor Lætitia; for Worsdale had positively ordered the old woman not to let any human creature come near me; and she punctually obeyed him, more out of malice than integrity.
In this sequestration from the world I wrote three ballad operas, one of them planned on the story of the old song, A Pennyworth of Wit; where I have so exalted the wife over the harlot, that at last, as Worsdale is a professed libertine, I began to think it was quite necessary to apologise for his writing anything to the honour of virtue, or exposing of vice; so I wrote the following epilogue, to be spoken by a woman:
Epilogue to Virtue Triumphant.
Deuce on't, I wonder what the author means,
To pester thus the stage with moral scenes!
The fool! He sent me hither to excuse him;
Faith I'll be even with him, and abuse him.
I hope he listens, while I speak my thoughts
And tell, what he must bear to hear, his faults.
First he endeavours, in a freeborn nation,
To bring the wearing fetters into fashion,
Nor would have loving couples go together,
Till they are yoked by matrimonial tether.
Here does he plainly liberty invade,
And is, besides an enemy to trade:
Should his advice be followed through the land,
What must become of Drury, and the Strand?
In France, when age appears through walls of paint,
Each battered jade turns devotee or saint,
And, when her looks no longer love inspire,
Does wisely to a nunnery retire:
But here should pity females leave off sinning,
What must they do? Betake themselves to spinning!
Why, sure, 'twould vex the heart of Jew, or Turk,
To see the pretty playful creatures work.
Well, after all his railing thus at harlots
'Tis said, he liked them once, by lying varlets;
And that, unless he perfectly had known 'em,
He never could so perfectly have shown 'em.
But, jests apart, the poet bade me say,
He to the generous Fair commends this play,
To show their matchless excellence designed,
And cure the roving madness of mankind;
To show the Fair, though husbands may be led,
By artful wiles, to stain the nuptial bed
Yet virtue shall, at last, triumphant prove,
And husbands bless the joys of faithful love.
Studious the worthy and the good to please,
If such with approbation crown his lays,
Our happy author seeks no other praise.
I am sorry I have not the opera, but Worsdale was too cunning for me, and seized it sheet by sheet, as fast as I wrote it. And having now liberty, by means of the protection, and a good deal of work bespoke in the city, he took a floor near the Royal Exchange, in a large old-fashioned house, with very antique furniture; and there he gave me a little room to myself; but, as it was within side of his painting room, I was a prisoner all the morning, and might fast and write till 3 o'clock in the day; then I was called to dinner, of beef steaks, or mutton chops, cooked by himself: the manner of our eating I must describe.
We had four playbills laid for a tablecloth, knives, forks, or plates, had we none; no matter for that—
I had a blade,
With which my tuneful pens were made—
And, so to make my dinner sure,
I for a fork employed a skewer.
The butter, when we had any, was deposited in the cool and fragrant recess of an old shoe, a coffee-pot of mine served for as many uses as ever Scrub had, for sometimes it boiled coffee, sometimes tea, it brought small beer, strong beer, and I am more than half afraid it has been applied to less noble uses; but be that as it may, I've done the man some service, and he knows it—no more of that.
He happened to paint, as he told me, the young Chevalier's picture, at Manchester. As he went to Richmond he left all his pictures in my care, when, one morning, a very beautiful young lady, of about sixteen, and her brother, a fine young gentleman, came to the house: I was called down, and they walked upstairs; when, after a little hesitation, the lady asked me, could she see the picture of the Highlander? I answered, yes, and brought it to her: she kissed the face, feet, and every bit of it; and judging from this that she was a Roman Catholic, a religion that Patrick Sarsfield's* neice can never hate, let who will take offence at it; for he was generous, noble, and humane; and, in God's name, that everyone of his creatures be as upright and just as he, (and no doubt but he will look down well pleased, and bless the fair variety).
[*Note: Lord Lucan, eldest son to the Earl of Kilmallock.]
The young lady repeated two lines of a poem of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, on seeing this picture:
In every lineament of which we trace
The injured Saint, and Royal martyr's face.
Their curiosity being satisfied, the lady would have given me some money: I told her, I was not a servant, but that I lodged in the house, Mr. Worsdale left the pictures on my care: "Madam," says she, "I beg pardon; but how can I make you a recompense for your trouble?" "By giving me, Madam, the remainder of the poem:" she repeated it; and, finding I had something like taste, she kindly embraced me, giving me a direction where to wait on her; and we parted, I believe, delighted with each other; but I only speak for myself.—
Worsdale came to town, and called on this lady, and gentlemen: they were so kind to praise be highly, and ask him, who I was? He declared he did not know; he left, he said, an old chairwoman to look after his house, perhaps it was she.—
This answer did not satisfy them, they were so unreasonable as to insist on it, that there was a gentlewoman, that they knew it by my speech, and hands, by my refusing money, and begging poetry: but Worsdale renounced me more heartily than ever he did the devil, whose servant he is.—
He came on very angry, abused me at an unmerciful rate, and told me, I should not stay in his house, to show my wit and breeding, forsooth, when I had neither; and boast of my family, when it would have been better for me to have been the daughter of a cobbler. As this fellow always boasted of his being Sir Godfrey Kneller's bastard, I could not avoid telling him, that some people were so fond of family, that, to keep it up, they will prove themselves sons of whores.
The hour of my deliverance, from this worse than Egyptian bondage, now approached; a young woman, for whom I had wrote several love letters to a gentleman who had, it seems, kept her till he married, and then forsook her, as indeed he ought, found me out.
The scheme was to persuade him, that at the time he dismissed her, she was with child by him, though she in reality confessed she was never in that circumstance in her life: but, bite the biter was fair enough; if he cheated her out of innocence (a loss never to be retrieved) I think she had just title to some of his money, of which he had more than he knew how to use.
I was writing a melancholy epistle for her, when in came Worsdale; he gave me a furious look, and withered all my strength before he spoke; then he went out of the chamber, and sent for me, demanding of me, whether I intended to neglect his business, and turn secretary for the whores. I was really surprised, that he of all men, should fall so hard on kind females; and as their money was honestly earned by me, and they are generally liberal, I never thought I did anything amiss, in helping them out with a soft epistle: he stormed at me, she heard him, and finding his wrath was raised on her account, was very much troubled, and slipping a guinea into my hand softly, whispered me to come to her house in Golden Square, and she would make me full amends for my vexation.—Of all men I ever saw, W—e has the strongest appearance of charity and compassion, and the least of it in reality. He would take any curious artist out of trouble, provided their work, which he appropriated to himself, would yield him tenfold interest. Love, favour, or even common decency, no person ever met with from him, except in terms of becoming his slave. I have often reflected with wonder, on the vast propensity that appears in persons of quality, to provide for the spurious offspring of beggars, vagrants, &c. by depriving themselves of the enjoyment of life, to amass vast treasure, and when that tremendous hour arrives, in which all earthly glories, honours, wealth, and titles, cannot give a moment's ease, or prolong frail life, the question is, "How shall I dispose of this, to appease that God, at whose tribunal I expect shortly to appear? Oh! I'll leave it all to the poor."—As if the Omnipotent could not see through the shallow device, or that His eternal kingdom was to be purchased with their leavings.
I have observed, that most of those, who have chosen to be public spirited after their death, have in their lifetime been mere unhospitable narrow-hearted souls; and if a person of birth and polite education, had by any misfortune fallen into distress, and made an application to them, such would not fail of meeting with an affront, and having their letter sent back open, with the civil message, that truly my Lord or my lady did not know anything of it, and had dependents enough of their own to provide for.
And pray now let us enquire, who are these poor, who the public and private are eternally providing for; are there not collections daily in churches, besides the vast legacies left to parishes, hospitals, &c. and yet to appearance no soul the better.
Are not the streets infested with beggars of all denominations? And in the Houses, objects that would raise compassion in any humane, well-judging person?
Here we shall find a poor wretch, for a few shillings a week, slaving to support a wife and children, and perhaps at the end of the quarter, stripped by a cruel landlord, and torn relentlessly from the relief of his family, while they are exposed to the sharpest pangs of want, cold and nakedness.
And where shall they apply for relief? If to the parish, perhaps they may obtain a few halfpence, but no real succour.
If to a beneficent lady, who distinguishes herself, by giving a gown once in the year to some particular old beggar women, and sixpence a week for their support, to give them a taste of life, (as the same woman must not expect to be served two years successively). Why, truly my Lady Bountiful is not at home, or the servant durst not carry up any letter or petitions: so the poor sufferer may return, loaded with poverty, and swollen with sorrow.
And yet this lady expects to be almost deified for her munificence, and patriotism, she laid out her money on a house, not to satisfy her vanity, but to employ her distressed countrymen; she never saw the naked, but she clothed them; nor the sick, but she visited them; nor the hungry or thirsty but she relieved them, while the rich she sent empty away. In which charitable opinion of her own virtues, she expects to go directly to heaven; but now hear the opinion of impartiality.
Indeed she never saw her fellow creatures in distress, but she being of a compassionate temper, found it necessary for her own quiet, to relieve them; therefore, she always chose a backroom to sit in, that she might not view such disagreeable objects; and in order to save her money for some great last stroke, if persons of rank dine or sup with her, they must take such as the house affords, by which means the rich are always sent empty away.
If nobody knows this picture, without writing the name under it, I will confess myself to be as bad a painter as W—e.
Dean Swift's excellent scheme for building a hospital for lunatics and idiots, was of a different cast from those of most other men, as it was not a matter uttered with his last breath, but studied, calculated, and determined for many years before, as the following lines in his elegy on his own death sufficiently evince.
He left the little wealth he had,
To build a house, for fools and mad;
And showed by one satiric touch,
No nation wanted it so much.
And according to his usual wisdom, he committed the regulation of it to gentlemen of real worth, honour, and probity, in which, would others follow so great, so laudable an example, perhaps the many sums that were designed for good uses,* but are now appropriated to the purchasing estates, and splendid equipages for some particular people, might have the wished effect of being a universal benefit. [*Note: Mem. The workhouse in Dublin.]
The Dean could not abide the thought of being like other mortals, forgot as soon as his venerable dust was conveyed to the Earth; and therefore he always endeavoured to render himself worthy of a grateful remembrance in the hearts of the people; yet how true are his own lines!
And now the Dean no more is missed,
Than if he never did exist;
Except amongst old-fashioned folks,
Who now and then repeat his jokes.
A remarkable sense of his whimsical disposition, which are admitted in my first volume, as I find
His sacred name remains still dear,
To every just Hibernian ear,
I will here insert, and must say, it is with infinite pleasure, I find that my weak attempts to delineate his inimitable character, have met with such unhoped approbation, both here and in England, not so much for the vanity of an author, as the pleasure I feel at seeing so vast a respect paid to his memory.
I believe the Dean of his first coming to Ireland, was very melancholy, as indeed it was not to be wondered at, as he was then separated from those whom he loved, Mr. Pope, Lord Bolingbroke, &c. and in one of his poems, he seems to despair of meeting with friendship in a strange country so that,
Not a Judas could be found,
To sell him for three hundred pound.
I one day asked him how he came to write a poem; he told me he had three times like to have been hanged, "and, pox take me," said he, "but I believe the people thought I could bring the Pretender in my hand, and place him on the throne."
I remember a worthy gentleman, who had the honour of his acquaintance, told me, that the Dean and some other persons of taste, whom I do not now recollect, came to a resolution to have a feast once a year, in imitation of the Saturnalia, which, in heathen Rome, was held about the time we keep our Christmas, whereat the servants personated their Masters, and the Masters waited as servants.
The first time they put this scheme in practice, was at the deanery house. When all the servants were seated, and every gentleman placed behind his own man, the Dean’s servant took an opportunity of finding fault with some meat that was not done to his taste, and taking it up his hand, he threw it in his Master's face, and mimicked him in every other foible which he had ever discovered in him.
At this the Dean flew in a violent rage, beat the fellow, and put everything into such disorder, that the servants affrighted, fled the room; and here ended the feast of Saturnalia.
Stella,* whom he has so beautifully praised through his writings, was actually his wife, though they never, I am convinced, tasted even the chaste joys which Hymen allows. [*Note: Mrs. Johnson, said to be his own sister.]
It is certain, they retained for each other, a most tender love; and though they did not indulge the desires of the body, yet their souls were united by the strictest bonds of divine and social harmony.
He, in the latter part of his life, offered to acknowledge her as the partner of his heart; but she wisely declined it; knowing that while she continued only as a visitor, he would treat her with respect; which would cease, as his temper was unpassive, if she lived entirely with him; and every fault of his servants would be attributed to her. I am certain he must have tenderly loved that lady, as I have been a witness, that the bare mention of her name has drawn tears from him, which it was not easy to effect.
I remember he sent me one morning very early, to breakfast; and as I always drank tea or coffee, I expected to have found one of these ready; but after he had detained me two hours, discoursing on his household economy, and other matters, amongst which one was, as a piece of his garden wall had fallen down, "and so," said he, "one of my fellows forsooth, must needs get trowel and mortar, and undertake to mend the breach."
"I happened," continued the Dean, "to spy him out of my window at this employment, and called to him to know why he did that? He told me he had been bred a bricklayer, and that his doing it, would save me money; so I let him finish it, which he did very completely in about an hour's time. I gave him a moidore; and pox take me, but the fellow instead of going as he ought, to the alehouse or a whore, went and bought silver buckles, and is grown very proud upon it."
"I think, Sir," said I, "the man made a good hour’s work of it."
"Come," said he, "shall we go to breakfast, I knew you were once Bermudas mad, now I'll give you some of that country cheer, open that draw and reach me a flat bottle you will find their." I ran to obey him, and as the drawer was low, kneeled down to it. I no sooner attempted to unlock the drawer, but he flew at me and beat me most immoderately; I again made an effort, and still he beat me, crying, "Pox take you, open the drawer." I once more tried, and he struck me so hard, that I burst into tears, and said, "Lord, Sir, what must I do?"
"Pox take you for a slut," said he, "Would you spoil my lock, and break my key?" "Why, Sir, the drawer is locked." "Oh! I beg pardon," said he, "I thought you were going to pull it out by the key; well, open it and do what I bid you."
I did so, and found the bottle. "Now," said he, "you must know I always breakfast between my own house and the church, and I carry my provision in my pocket," upon this he pulled out a piece of gingerbread, and offered me some.
As I was terribly afflicted with the heartburn, the very thoughts of anything so dry, made me ten times worse, which I told him, and begged he would excuse me. He positively insisted on my eating a piece of it, which I was, on penalty of another beating, obliged to comply with.
"Now," said he, "you must take a sup out of my bottle." I just held at my mouth, and founded so strong, that I entreated he would not ask me to taste it: he endeavoured to persuade me; but finding that would not avail, he threw me down, forced the bottle into my mouth, and poured some of the liquor down my throat, which I thought would have set my very stomach on fire. He then gravely went to prayers, and I returned home, not greatly delighted, but, however, glad to come off no worse.
I went the ensuing evening to pay a visit to my kinsman Dr. S—ge, then lately consecrated Lord B—p of ****. This gentleman, and his family, were extremely fond of my father, and always pleased when I did myself the honour to call on them; and received me with that ease and politeness, peculiar to well bred people. I congratulated the Bishop on his preferment: he modestly told me, that his honours did not sit easy on him, and that he would willingly dispense with his friends not saluting him by his title of Lord, as it always made him uneasy. He then asked me, as he saw my father's chariot at the door, where I intended to go? I told him, to the Dean. Well, said he, I beg you'll give my compliments to him, and tell him, that, as 'tis to his recommendation I owe my present happiness, I'm surprised I never had the pleasure of seeing him since he conferred so great a favour on me: while I was plain Dr. S—ge, continued he, the Dean used to send his wine and bread before him, and frequently take a dinner with me; but now, I believe, he is ashamed to own me: pray speak to him, and let me know his answer. I promised I would, and then departed.
I found the Dean at home, and alone, which gave me an immediate opportunity of delivering the B—p's message. He listened to me very attentively, and then said, "oh, I remember something of it: L—d C—t applied to me for a person to make a Bishop of, whom I knew was not an honest man: and as I wanted the living of W—s for D—y, I recommended S—ge to the bishopric, with an assurance, that he would answer his Excellency's purpose: and pox take me if I ever thought him worth my contempt, till I had made a Bishop of him."
The Dean then told me, that as he had no company, and did not know how to dispose of his time, I should have the honour to sup with him; and, said he, I will give you a most kingly entertainment. I accordingly waited, in expectation of some extraordinary repast, till about nine o'clock, in which interval, my readers may be assured, I wanted not amusements for the mind: however, at length, the cloth was laid on a small table, and to my great surprise, the servant brought up four blue eggs on a china plate: "Here, hussy," said he, "is a plover's egg; King William used to give crowns apiece for them, and thought it profanation in a subject to eat one of them; as he was, amongst his other immortal perfections, an epicure, a glutton, and a—hold," said he, "I had like to have spoken treason: but how do you like the eggs?" "Sir, I have eat none yet." "Well, eat like a monarch then, and tell me your opinion." I did eat it, and told him, I had not that elevated notion of his banquet which he might possibly have, from so great a precedent. "Well," said he, "these eggs cost me sixpence apiece, which is a little extravagant, considering a herring will cost but a halfpenny; but I never exceed two; and this is the only article in which I am luxurious."
I must here again apologise to my reader for my frequent digressions, in which, however, 'tis possible, they will find more entertainment than a simple narrative will afford.
I believe there was never any set of people so happy in so sincere and uninterrupted friendship, as the Dean, Dr. Delany, Mr. Pilkington, and myself, nor can I reflect, at this hour, on anything with more pleasure, than those happy moments we have enjoyed! 'Tis for this reason I am fond of mentioning matters, which bring the pleasing ideas to my mind. I have observed, that the scent of a flower, or the tune of the song, always conveys to remembrance the exact image of the place in which they were first noticed. Well, therefore, in the relation of a story, where one circumstance insensibly brings on another, may a writer, who scorns to deal in romance, be led, like me, to digress.
Mrs. Barber, whose name, at her earnest request, I omitted in my first volume, and who was the lady I mentioned to have been with me, at my first interview with the Dean at Dr. Delany's seat, was at this time writing a volume of poems, some of which I fancy might, at this stage, be seen in the cheesemongers', chandlers', pastry-cooks', and second-hand booksellers' shops: however, dull as they were, they certainly would have been much worse, but that Dr. Delany frequently held what he called a Senatus consultum, to correct these undigested materials; at which were present sometimes the Dean, (in the chair) but always Mrs. Grierson, Mr. Pilkington, the doctor, and myself. One day that he had appointed for this purpose, we received from him the following lines, which, as they contained a compliment to me, from so eminent a hand, I must insert: take notice, that as we were both diminutive in size, Mr. Pilkington was styled Thomas Thumb, and I his lady fair:
Mighty Thomas, a solemn Senatus I call,
To consult for Saphira, so come one and all;
Quit books, and quit business, your cure and your care,
For a long winding walk, and a short bill of fare.
I've mutton for you, sir; and as for the ladies,
As friend of Virgil has it, I've Aliud Mercedes;
For Letty, one filbert, whereon to regale,
And a peach for pale Constance*, to make a full meal;
And for your cruel part**, who take pleasure in blood,
I have that of the grape, which is ten times as good:
Flow wit to her honour, flow wine to her health,
High raised be her worth, above titles or wealth.
[**My mother, who used to argue with the doctor about his declamations against eating blood.]
We obeyed the summons, and had a very elegant entertainment; and afterwards proceeded to our business, which was completed, to the satisfaction of all parties.
Of all the gentleman I ever knew, this I must say, that Dr. Delany excels in one point particularly; which is, in giving an elegant entertainment, with ease, cheerfulness, and a hospitality, which makes the company happy.
Lord Carteret, in his Lieutenancy, being very fond of this gentleman, who is indeed worthy of universal esteem, came one day, quite unattended, and told the doctor he was come to dine with him. He thanked his Excellency for the honour he conferred on him, and invited him to walk into his (beautiful) gardens; which his Excellency did, with great good humour. They took a turn or two, when the servant came to inform them, that dinner was on the table. The Doctor had generally something nice, in the season, for himself and his mother, to whom he behaved with true filial tenderness and respect; for which, no doubt, his days will be long in the land, which the Lord hath given him.
The Doctor made the old lady do the honours of his table; for which, nor for the entertainment, he never made the least apology, but told his Lordship, that
To stomachs cloyed with costly fare,
Simplicity alone was rare.
This demeanour of his was infinitely agreeable to Lord C—t, who, though a courtier, hated ceremony when he sought pleasure, which is indeed inconsistent with it. And what respect soever our nobility may think is owing to the French mode of cringing and complimenting, I must confess I never see it practised, without a peculiar pain, which I can compare to nothing but the apprehensions I am under at the sight of tumblers, rope dancers, &c. such as, I believe all rational creatures share, at seeing men deform their visages by a thousand awkward grimaces, and their bodies like jointed babies, only because it is A la mode Françoise: neither do we often see any but the most illiterate coxcombs practice it.
His Excellency, after the cloth was taken away and the bottle introduced, (when consequently, the lady departed) told the doctor, "that he always believed him a most well-bred gentleman, but never had so clear demonstration of it, as he had this day seen. Others, said he, whom I have tried the same experiment on, have met me in as much confusion as if I came to arrest them for high treason; nay, they would not give me a moment of their conversation; which, and not their dinner, I sought, but hurry from me; and then, if I had any appetite, deprive me of it by their fulsome apologies for defects. This," said his Excellency, "is like a story I heard the Dean tell of a lady, who had given him an invitation to dinner: as she heard he was not easily pleased, she had taken a month to provide for it. When the time came, every delicacy which could be purchased, the lady had prepared, even to profusion, (which you know Swift hated.) However, the Dean was scarce seated, when she began to make a ceremonious harangue; in which she told him, that she was sincerely sorry she had not a more tolerable dinner, since she was apprehensive there was not anything there fit for him him to eat; in short, that it was a bad dinner: 'Pox take you for a b—,' said the Dean, 'Why did you not get a better? Sure you had time enough! But since you say it is so bad, I'll e'en go home and eat a herring.' Accordingly he departed, and left her justly confused at her folly, which had spoiled all the pains and expense she had been at."
And here, if it would not be thought impertinent in me, to intrude into such company, I also have a story, which I somewhere heard, not unapplicable to the above.
A certain English nobleman, who had the honour to be sent ambassador to France, was said to be one of the most polite accomplished fine gentlemen in Europe. This reached the ears of the French king, who thought such a character due to none but himself; but as everything is proved by trial, his Majesty took this method of informing his curiosity. One morning that the ambassador had a private audience, the King told him he should be glad of his Excellency's company, to take an airing with him; the ambassador did not hesitate to accept the offer; but told his Majesty, he was ready to wait on him; the King's chariot was at the door, which he very carelessly desired the nobleman to step into: "No, Sir," replied the ambassador, "not before your Majesty;" at which the King burst out laughing, and said, "No, no, my Lord, you are not the best bred man in the world; otherwise you would have done what I desired, since you might well know, that if it was not agreeable to me, I should never have paid you the compliment."
And indeed I have heard those who ought to be the best judges of manners, declare, that in company with superiors, to act implicitly according to their directions, is the most effectual method of being always acceptable; which leads me to another little circumstance related by Mrs. Percival.
This lady, with a company of very agreeable persons, resolved in the summertime to take a trip to The Hague; she accordingly set out, and landed at some place in Holland, the name of which I have now forgot: however, on their first day's journey, they stopped at an inn to dine, and enquired what they could have to eat; they were told there was nothing in the house but a neck of veal; which, though insufficient, they desired to be dressed, as there was not an inn for some miles forward; therefore they made it up with some of their sea provisions, which the servants had fortunately brought in. After dinner they called the Bill, and amongst other articles of extortion, they were charged for meat one pound four shillings, which was so palpable an imposition, that though each of the company and fortune and liberality enough, yet they called for the man, and told him they absolutely would not pay so extravagant a price; sooner than which, as they came merely for pleasure, they would stay a month and spend a hundred pounds apiece in law; the bullish fellow told them that it was the common price in this place; which if they doubted, he was willing to appeal to the magistrate. This they readily agreed to, and all preparing for a serious trial of the matter, whem Minheer told them, in an ironical tone, that he was himself the ruling officer and dispenser of law and justice in that place. Finding this to be the fact, and that the defendant must be judging this cause, the plaintiffs thought proper to submit, and paid him.
If the reader thinks this little narrative is not quite in point; which, now it is related, I begin to find out myself, he may blot it out of his book if he pleases, but he shall not blot it out of my manuscript, for that would be to deprive me of a page, that is worth a crown to me. Nay, and as it is truth, who knows but it may prove worth two crowns to the reader, if he should happen to make the same tour.
My dear Mr. Cibber, to whom, for his amusement, I used to relate such little incidents, would frequently admire what a fund of matter for entertainment my brain contained, and he bade me write it all; since, if it pleased him, it might possibly have the same effect on others. This gentleman's frequent conversation with the great, gave him a better opportunity of knowing their disposition (as he had infinite penetration) than most others: in consequence of which, he advised me, when I ever had occasion to solicit a favour from any persons of distinction, to take care to time it properly; for instance, said he, "Never write to him or her, of a dark foggy frosty morning, particularly before breakfast, at which time it is ten to one, they are out of temper; nor though you send at any time, and even received an unmannerly answer, do not let a rash pride drive you to return the affront, since it is impossible for you to know what at that instant had chagrined their temper. He who will not be your friend at one time, may at another; and though you never can bring him to do you any service, yet do not provoke him to be your enemy; a man may have had ill success at play, missed an appointment with a fine woman, or twenty such accidents; which may for the present sour his disposition; whereas if you continue your assiduities, in process of time he might do you more service than you could hope." These are truths which I have since experienced, and I should be wanting in gratitude as well as sincerity, if I did not make it public. Here follows an instance.
Nicholas Loftus Hume, Esq., whom I mentioned in my second volume, that came to see me in London, but declined subscribing to me, because he was going to the Duke of Dorset's to dinner, has since my being in this kingdom, been kind enough to send me five guineas as a subscription; for which I rest his most obliged servant.
I remarked to Mr. Cibber, upon this conversation, that though the English nobility were outdone by none in munificence and liberality, yet I could by no means conceive, that their buildings were the least expressive of it; since there was scarcely one fine house in London, which was not obscured by a monstrous high wall, that entirely intercepted the prospect, and took much from the magnificence the streets might possibly have. He told me, it was the method in Italy, from whence our Peers, and others, transplanted it as a great beauty, because the surprise has a vast effect. "Sir," said I, "In Italy those walls are requisite, to keep off the extreme heat of the sun; and if possible to shut out the eye of God from their abominable pollutions; but as we enjoy a mild and temperate region, and are I hope, untainted with their beastly vices, I see no reason for our Peers to affect it, there is besides, generally at these gates, a most avaricious Cerberus, who, should a stranger happened to stand and gaze at any occasion of the gates being opened, would very judiciously slap it in their faces, as if our eyes, like the Sphinx of Egypt's, could penetrate stone walls. If you have the smallest suit to make to his master, the fellow will be as dull of apprehension as the Mock Doctor, till you tip him the symptoms, which when you have given him, he prevails on the valet to deliver it, which must also be accompanied by a daub in the fist." I have computed the expense of writing to a great man, as under,
For pen, ink, and paper,
For a person to find when his Lordship is at home
To the porter
To the valet
To the foot man, who brings the answer
The amount of which is
These observations I thought proper to communicate, as I am persuaded some of the nobility of England, will be curious enough to read this work, and I do assure them, nothing so much dims their lustre, as the arrogance and penury of their vassals; which, when they know, perhaps they may reclaim. Dean Swift discharged a servant only for rejecting the petition of a poor old woman; she was very ancient, and a cold morning sat at the Deanery steps a considerable time, during which the Dean saw her through a window, and no doubt commiserated her desolate condition. His footman happened to come to the door, and the poor creature besought him in a piteous tone, to give that paper to his reverence. The servant read it, and told her with infinite scorn, his master had something else to mind than her petition. "What's that you say, fellow," said the Dean, looking out at the window, "come up here." The man trembling obeyed him, he also desired the poor woman to come before him, made her sit down, and ordered her some bread and wine; after which he turned to the man, and said, "At what time, Sir, did I order you to open a paper directed to me? Or to refuse a letter from any one? Hark ye, Sirrah, you have been admonished by me for drunkenness, idling, and other faults, but since I have discovered your inhuman disposition, I must dismissal from my service: so pull off my clothes, take your wages, and let me hear no more of you."—
The fellow did so, and having vainly solicited a discharge, was compelled to go to sea, where he continued five years; at the end of which time, finding that life far different from the ease and luxury of his former occupation, he returned, and humbly confessing, in a petition to the Dean, his former manifold crimes; he assured him of his sincere reformation, which the dangers he had undergone at sea, had happily wrought, and begged the Dean would give him some sort of discharge, since the honour of having lived with him, would certainly procure him a place. Accordingly, the Dean called for pen, ink and paper, and gave him a dismission, with which, and no other fortune, he set out for London.
Among others he applied to me, who had known him at his late master's, and produced his certificate, which for its singularity I transcribed, and believe it may not be displeasing to the reader.
"Whereas the bearer — served me the space of one year, during which time he was an idler and a drunkard, I then discharged him as such; but how far his having been five years at sea, may have mended his manners, I leave to the penetration of those who may hereafter choose to employ him."
Jan 9th, 1739.
I advised him to go to Mr. Pope, who, on seeing the Dean's handwriting, which he well knew, told the man, if he could produce any credible person, who would attest, that he was the servant that the Dean meant, he would hire him. On this occasion he applied to me, and I gave him a letter to Mr. Pope, assuring him, that I knew the man to have been footman to the Dean. Upon this Mr. Pope took him into his service, in which he continued to the death of his master.
'Tis now, I think, full time for me to take up my clue, and go on with my Memoirs, previous to which it is, however, I think, it incumbent on me, to entreat my readers' forgiveness for my so frequently mentioning, in the prosecution of my story, a person so contemptible, so unworthy even of satire, as one Worsdale, a painter, yet those who examined these writings will find, that he is so unluckily interwoven in my history, that it is as impossible for me to eradicate him, as it was for Jack, in the Tale of a Tub, to strip his coat of its fopperies, without visibly defacing the whole.
Worsdale went abroad, and I took an opportunity to make my escape, to visit Mr. Cibber, and met, according to custom, a very kind reception. For his friendship to me was inviolable. He was writing The Character and Conduct of Cicero Considered, and did me the honour to read it to me: I was infinitely pleased to find, by the many lively sallies of wit in it, that the good gentleman spirits were undepressed with years;—long may they continue so. This gave me an opportunity of writing a poem for him, which W—e had the confidence to ask from me, but I did not choose to compliment him with it: [The editor has applied to Mr. Cibber for a copy of this poem, but he having disposed of them all, we are obliged to omit it].
Mr. Cibber was exceedingly well pleased when I waited on him with it, and said, he would give it a place, but that it wanted correction, which he promised to bestow on it: this I readily agreed to, being convinced his judgement far surpassed mine.
I waited on him next morning, and found he had greatly improved my work: I thanked him for his obliging pains, but remarked his modesty and having the struck out some lines, in which she was most praised.
"Well, Madam," said he, "there are two guineas for your flattery, and one more for the liberty I took." I blessed my benefactor sincerely from my soul; he smiled benevolent: "Come," said he, "I have more good news for you; Mr. Stanhope altered a line, for which he desires you will accept of a guinea. Mr. Hervey also pays you the same compliment, for changing one monosyllable for another." To say the truth, I only wished every gentleman at White's had, on the same terms, taken the same liberty, till my work, like Admiral Drake' s ship, had been so often mended, that not a bit of the original stuff it was composed of, should remain; for
Here, in nice balance, truth with gold she weighs,
And solid pudding, against empty praise.
I could do no more than (after some joyful tears) to assure Mr. Cibber, that neither his own favours to me, nor those he had solicited for me, should ever be forgot, while this poor machine of mine had any existence.
Surely I hope we shall know our friends after death, that we may hold sweet communion with them; and
If, in the melancholy shades below,
The flames of friends or lovers ceased to glow,
Yet mine shall sacred last, mine undecayed,
Burn on through death, and animate my shade.
What strange things are thought; and reflections, how do they wander? Who but the Almighty can account for them? I went, when in London, to be electrified, when finding the motion given to a glass globe not only made sparks of fire come out of my arm, but also set a ball of sand under it a-boiling, I could not help thinking, Earth revolving each day on its own axis, must of course take fire, as I have seen a chariot wheel do. Our Globe may then become a comet and the inhabitants of others gaze on it with surprise and admiration. I think no philosopher has yet been able to tell us, by all their mathematical rules, what comets are. I have been told many stars, which once adorned the blue ethereal space, have disappeared; worlds perhaps lost in a conflagration, which no more fill the wide expanse.
But how I ramble out of my sphere, in a vain attempt to soar above it,
For while this muddy vesture of decay,
Doth grossly close me in, I cannot do it.
I long to listen to the young eyed cherubims, and am weary of the world, but what of that, I gave not life to myself, nor dare I attempt to abridge it.
Reader, excuse me; if you are a man of sense I am certain you will, and from the ladies I yet hope compassion; though rarely met with from one woman to another.
Had I strayed from the paths of virtue, when turned out desolate to the wide world, forsaken by all my once dear seeming friends, and tender relatives, I might at least have hoped for pity, and given necessity as a plea for error: this has made me so circumstantial in every particular of my nine years living in London, where I am certain I have many friends, and those such as would be an honour to any person to gain. And I really was
Ranked with their friends, not numbered with their train.
My dear and honoured Lady Codrington, thou lovely epitome of every female virtue, whose ear is shut to scandal, whose hand is liberal, whose chastity immaculate, whose zeal to serve the distressed unwearied, whose friendship I experienced when you kindly pleaded in my behalf for her Grace the late Duchess of Marlborough, to the Royal offspring of our august Monarch, and whose politeness is as conspicuous as your every other amiable virtue;
Pardon me, abstract of all goodness, that I dare to whisper your immortal name; but your sweet epistle, when you told me it was necessary for me to write a letter of acknowledgement to her Grace, which I submitted to your ladyship's superior judges to correct, where there was anything defective; pardon my vanity, I must insert:
To Mrs. Meade.
I have observed that superior geniuses have evermore a diffidence of themselves, you pay me a very high compliment in believing me capable of mending what comes from you: I wish it may have the effect I desire, of a farther bounty from her Grace:
Your real friend, and most obedient servant,
As I had wrote my letter to her Grace in a very small hand, a fault scribblers are apt to run into, whence arise numerous mistakes, I asked Lady Codrington, whether her Grace, who was now declined into the Vale of Years, could see to read it? She assured me, she could, as well as I. This put me in mind of some very fine lines, wrote on this illustrious lady, in the Kit-Kat Toasts, which cannot but be acceptable to my readers.
On the Duchess Dowager of Marlborough:
Let others youth esteem, this glass shall boast,
A great, immortal, undecaying toast,
In the quick lustre of whose radiant eye,
Still lives the beauteous spark of liberty,
Whose spirit undepressed by fourscore years,
Except for England's safety knows no fears;
From whom a race of toasts, and patriots came,
England shall pledge me, when I MARLBOROUGH name.
To all this noble family my respect and gratitude are due; it is a blessing to our island, that some of their descendants, equal in wisdom and virtue to their ancestors, vouchsafe to reside in it, where they may flourish like the Cedars of Livanus.
But to return: I was now able to quit my confinement; for Worsdale made his house a severe one to me: Oh how I rejoiced at my deliverance, and took a little decent lodging, but my joys were perishable as the baseless fabric of a vision: Captain Meade, with whom I mentioned my son's going on the secret expedition, came to tell me, that the boy and he landed the day before; that my son was seized with all the symptoms of a violent fever, and wanted to see me. I went to the Captain's lodgings, in Scotland Yard, and found my poor wanderer quite lightheaded. The Captain sent a physician and a surgeon to him, with orders to the mistress of the house to provide for him whatever was necessary, and he would answer the expense. For many days we despaired of his life, till at length God's mercy restored him to my prayers and tears. When he came perfectly to himself he told me, they had been in a violent tempest, where, the waves rolling mountains high, he was wet to his skin, and the ship in imminent danger of being lost. Captain Meade, he said, begged of God, that he might just see his wife and children, and then he should die without the smallest reluctance; his prayer was heard, the storm abated, and all got safe on shore.
As he was impatient to see his family, he had left directions for my son to follow him to Teddington, if it pleased God he recovered. As I knew nothing could be a greater restorative, after a fit of sickness, than a pure air, I recommended that sovereign elixir to him: he went to the moment he was able, and sent me the next day the following letter.
I have returned to what I had just left, sickness: the Captain is in a malignant fever, beyond anything I ever saw; he knows nobody, nor has he any physician, I don't believe he can outlive tomorrow night: I am really greatly grieved, as I am sure he loved me, and on account of his poor wife, who is almost distracted: the four little girls, I fear, would be quite unprovided for: all things here are in confusion. Adieu my dear mother, heaven preserve you to
Your affectionate and dutiful son,
John Carteret Pilkington.
Teddington, Friday morning.
My son's prognostic happened to prove true, the Captain expired about four the next morning, of which the boy was first informed by the dismal outcry of the widow and children. This woman's character has something in it so far surpassing anything I have yet met with, that I hope it may at once divert and instruct my readers; the story is genuine.
She was the daughter of Mr. Wh—f—d, of Canterbury, an ancient and honourable family, many of whom had seats in Parliament; but it seems he had strayed from the wisdom and virtue of his ancestors, and devoted himself entirely to Belial. Women and wine were all his joy, till he broke his lady's heart: and, oh strange to hear, shocking to human nature! Had the cruelty to attempt his virgin daughters! One of whom, to protect herself from such devilish solicitations, ran away with his coachman.
She thought it neither shame not sin
For John was come of honest kin.
The heroine of our story, being left alone, was so tormented by his incestuous infernal fire, that she fled to her younger brother, who was an apothecary, and lived at W—d—r.
As he was a bachelor, he was very glad of her, to oversee his domestic affairs, which, I daresay, she did very well, as she was a good housewife, especially in the frugal part of management. It happened another apothecary fell in love with her, but nothing could prevail on her to accept of him as a husband, though her brother tried every art he could to persuade her to it.
Things were in this situation when Captain Meade was commanded on duty to W—d—r, and as he had often been there, was well acquainted with the town, and as well esteemed. Miss Wh—f—d and her brother, with some young ladies, were walking on the Terrace, when Captain Meade accosted them. They fell into chat, and Mr. Wh—f—d invited the Captain to supper; after which the young lady retired.
Mr. Wh—f—d then acquainted the Captain with his sister's obstinate refusal of an advantageous match. "She has," said he, "seemed to pay a particular deference to every word you spoke tonight, and, I am certain, if you undertake the lover's cause, you would bring my sister to reason."
The Captain said it would be too abrupt to pretend to advise a lady he had never seen before, in so delicate point is that of matrimony, wherein many circumstances ought to be considered, in order to a union firm and lasting. It may be, said he, the young lady's heart is pre-engaged; in that case, how cruel would it be to force her into a hateful wedlock, the consequence of which is misery?
Mr. Wh—f—d then assured him, he had no such intention, all he aimed at was her happiness: "Cultivate," added he, "a friendship with her; you may easily do it, and discover the true cause of her aversion toward an honest good man, who loves her, and is in circumstances to maintain her in ease and plenty."
Captain Meade promised all in his power, and when, by frequenting the house, he had got into a little intimacy with her, he in a paternal style, when they were alone, expostulated with her, to no purpose: she said, she was determined never to marry, as she was certain she should never have the man she only could love.
He pressed very hard to know who it was; assuring her of his friendship; and, at the same time, laying hold of her hand, said, he must be insensible indeed, who did not, above all other considerations, regard so much tenderness and beauty.
He perceived it she trembled, blushed, and seemed quite confounded. "Would to God, Madam," said he, "that I was the happy occasion of all those tender emotions which swell your fair bosom, how blessed should I think myself?" "And are you," said she, in a faltering voice, "are you in earnest, or do you only trifled with a weakness, which your penetration must have observed, even from the first moment I beheld you?"
Although this declaration was very plain, yet it was so unexpected, that the captain was for some moments at a loss how to make a suitable return: but, recovering himself, he told her, joy had made him speechless, but from that hour he was entirely devoted to her for life.
He then asked her in marriage of her brother, who absolutely refused her to him, on account of his being in the army.
But as the lady was willing to be the kind companion of his flight, he hired a chariot and six, and took her with him.
This story Captain Meade told me before her. Nor did she in the least attempt to deny it; but said, she had gained a good husband by her sincerity.
Indeed, when I was with them, they seemed to me perfect patterns of conjugal love, but her fondness seemed to surpass all things, for she would kiss her husband's linen, saying, they smelt of violets and roses, but truly, though I loved my dear relation very well, I was grown so delicate I did not like a dirty shirt (for that was sometimes the case) to be offered to me as a nosegay.
Her piety was so great, that Whitsunday morning, when we were going to church, which was near half a mile from Captain Meade's house, a young lady called to us, to know, did the bell ring? Mrs. Meade answered, yes, but finding even the churchyard door not opened, she said, she would not receive the sacrament that morning: I asked, why she should not? "Because," said she, "I have told a lie, in saying the bell rang:" I told her scruple to Dr. Hales, who joined us, and presently dispelled her fears, by assuring her, an innocent mistake could never be deemed a lie.
Upon this we both ventured to receive the blessed Eucharist, administered to us by a truly holy hand; for, assuredly, Dr. Hales, yours is such. And let no person say, I do not reverence the clergy, for I really do, but not any one of them, who does not, as near as humanity can go, aim at the perfection of their Maker and Redeemer.
As I have already related the manner of Captain Meade's death, let us see how his pious widow behaved herself on the occasion; after having yelled and screamed to save appearances, she locked up his body, and had him next day buried.
She desired my son, who remained disconsolate in the house, to go to the Tower, and bring home whatever of the captain's was there, but he being apprehensive that, perhaps, on account of his youth, and his not having a line with him, they might be refused to him, begged of me to accompany him; which, as I was truly desirous of rendering any service I could to his family, I readily did. When we arrived at his apartment there, for the officers keep one in every place where they are obliged to be on guard, and told the mistress of the house my melancholy errand, she gave me the keys of his bureau, portmanteau, trunk, &c.
When I took out his regimentals, his sash, and many other things appertaining to him, in which I had so often seen him arrayed, I could not refrain bursting into tears, to think the dear wearer of them was now no more. Amongst other things we found two guineas, which was a seasonable relief to the widow. The soldiers on duty wept like children at his death's sad story. My son conveyed all things safe; but the sight of them did not take the same effect on his relict that they had done on me; for she only said, she was very glad to get them.
My boy, who colours prints beautifully, was employed by Mr. Millan, so that he was innocently and elegantly employed. The sweets of getting money made him doubly diligent; and, to be quite undisturbed, which was impossible he should be with me, so many persons coming, for letters, petitions, &c. he took a lodging for himself. I was one day exceedingly surprised when the penny post brought a letter, directed to my son, as it was marked Teddington I opened it, judging it was some business that Mrs. Meade wanted to have transacted; when, O shameful! It was a long letter to the child, who was but sixteen years of age, and she is four years older than I am, with a direction to him to meet her at a coffeehouse in London, and an offer of marriage to him.
I really could scarce believe the true and credible avouchment of my own eyes. Bless me! She amazed me! Yet, thinking this might be counterfeit, I showed it to the boy, and desired he would go, and see into this matter, neither of us being acquainted with her hand, which was a desperate bad one. He went accordingly, and stayed most part of the evening abroad: when he returned, he said he had enquired after everywhere, and could not learn any tidings of her; so I conceive this letter was either wrote by some enemy of hers, or else for sport, by some of the girls at Teddington, in order to send him on a wild goose chase.
About six weeks after the captain's death an officer inquired for me; as I did not know him I asked, what commands he had for me? He desired to know of me, whether I was not a near relation to Captain Meade? To which, answering in the affirmative, I desired the gentleman to sit, for he looked as if he had something of importance to deliver. "Pray, Madam," said he, "can you inform me what is become of the captain's widow? My reason for inquiring is this; a prior wife has set up a claim to the pension, and produced a certificate, which we believe to be a counterfeit, as it is dated twenty years ago, and 'tis but reasonable to think she would, in that time, have asserted her just rights. But this is not all, the officers have made a collection for the lady he acknowledged, and the children. But there is a report spread, that she's married to a boy, young enough to be her son, who was a helper in the captain's stable. This has damped the charity of those who, had she even been deceived by the captain, would have assisted her."
I told him I had often heard the captain relate that, in his younger days, he got in a league with one Mrs. Meadows, who, after having been divorced her husband, set up a coffeehouse, where he boarded and lodged: he found her in every respect so unfaithful to him, that he quitted her. Not long after she broke; and being in distress, applied to captain Meade, who, in consideration of farmer friendship, agreed to give annually £20 provided she retired; which she agreed to.
"I can't, Sir, said I, "help thinking this is some piece of her contrivance:" "'tis very possible, Madam," returned he, "and if you would be so kind to inquire into it, that these reports may be confuted, it would be the utmost consequence was the future welfare of the widow and orphans of your deceased relation. I shall pay my respects to you again in two or three days." The gentlemen left me, and after a good deal of searching amongst Mrs. Meade's acquaintance, I learned she lodged in the Strand. There I went, and found her in a very indifferent lodging; the children were in deep mourning, but Madam herself was decked out very gay. After customary compliments, I told her I was surprised to see her out of mourning: "Why, Cawzan," for that was her manner of pronunciation, "I am married." "What, already," returned I, "ere the man you seemed to dote on, even to extravagance, is cold in his grave." "Cold," says she, "aye, he's cold enough, and rotten too, by this time." "Maybe you made him so before death." "Why should you think so?" "Because you seem to have thrown off common decency: and is this all the respect you pay to so good a husband?" In answer to this, and to my great surprise, she assured me, she never was married to the captain in her life.
Here was hypocrisy! (That sly fiend who escapes all but the piercing eye of God) in the utmost perfection, if one may make use of such an epithet to such a devilish sin. To live in fornication, yet go to the communion without the least purpose of amendment of life, and to pretend such strong affection to a man, whose very memory she showed she hated, I shall ever after this suspect the sincerity of such an overacted fondness.
I told her my errand, and that I was really sorry she had put it out of my power to vindicate her conduct; which, out of regard to the poor children, I would gladly have done. She told me, Dr. Hales approved of her proceeding, and so she did not care what I thought. Though I am certain this must have been false, for the doctor had such high notions of conjugal fidelity, that he was true to the ashes of his spouse which he lost when he was but a very young man, and having an agreeable person, a sweet temper, and unbounded learning, might no doubt have raised his fortune by a second marriage.
Amongst other instances of her hypocrisy, this woman used to pretend, that even small beer got into her head, and would severely censure any lady who drank a glass of wine, yet now, though it was but nine o'clock in the morning she called for a dram, drank it off, and would have had me follow her example, but I had no inclination to such a breakfast. Besides, having no other estate but my head, upon which were hourly demands, it was by no other means my interest to destroy it.
I took my leave; and, when I related this to my son, the boy laughed excessively, and, as he then had no manner of respect for her, he told me, he had gone to her according to her appointment, that she had treated him with two bottles of Mountain, and pressed him hard to marry her: indeed I remember, when he came home, I sorely had been drinking, but he said some young gentleman of Ireland, whom he met, gave him a bottle of wine.
However, sometime after, she made him pay for his liquor, for she opened a punch-house, which I believe she still keeps, at least she did when I left London; she wrote a letter to my son, to desire to see him; accordingly he went; and Madam Temperance carried him into the dining room, and ordered her husband, who served in quality of waiter, to bring up a bowl of Arrack-punch and half a dozen glasses of jelly. The boy was well pleased with this sumptuous fare; but when the good cheer was ended, she demanded payment and he was obliged to part with his week's earning, which he had just received. What could the most mercenary prostitute have done worse?
But I believe she is sufficiently punished, for I was well assured the groom took the liberty of correcting her, and nobody pitied her.
I think the philosopher was in the wrong who wished for windows in the human breast; how miserable must we have been, when we beheld those whom we esteemed friends, under specious appearance, plotting our destruction; the object of our love, even in the midst of well-feigned rapture, wishing themselves in the arms of another; the son who bows his knee in filial reverence to his hoary sire, cursing the gout, pitargo, and the rheum, for ending him no sooner. In short, the scenes would be too shocking; they would quite embitter life.
Those philosophical gentlemen, who have searched into the secrets of nature, have admired the wisdom of Providence, in kindly concealing from us manythings, which known, would make us wretched: I am sure it was well for poor captain Meade this woman's breast was not transparent.
They have farther observed, that were our perceptions stronger than they are, the senses, which convey pleasure to us, would become the instruments of intolerable pain.
The touch, if tremblingly alive all o'er,
Would smart and agonise at every pore.
Or quick effluvia darted to the brain,
Die of a rose, in aromatic pain.
Should nature thunder in our opened ears,
And stun us with the music of the spheres,
Pope's Essay on Man.
How terrible must be our condition?
Most married persons, even in the happiest wedlock, which is, at best, but tolerable, look back with secret regret on the sweet hours of freedom, when no anxiety reigned, such as the care of the family, the sickness, or disobedience of children, the total loss of them, and a thousand troubles which perplex the married life, and yet no sooner are they single, but they run into the same toils again, hardly affording time for decent mourning: strange infatuation! In which, I think, the ladies more excusable than the men, since their weakness may make them want a protector; yet they who can have resolution enough to know no second bride-bed but the grave, certainly claim a higher degree of respect and veneration.
In this amiable light shines present lady Dowager Meade, who, though left a widow, in the Bloom of her youth and beauty, the widow of a gentleman old enough to be her father, who lost her sole guardian to their offspring, turned all her thoughts to the improvement of her children's minds, and fortunes, to both of which heaven crowned her goodness with success, and the world with honour.
I could mention another great lady, not unallied to her, who though she has many virtues, as I have acknowledged my first volume, being left exactly in the same situation, was so faithful a steward for her son, that with his rents, which she received during his minority, she purchased an estate for herself; a thousand pounds a year jointure not being sufficient for her, neither would she come to any account with him for the produce of his estate. The gentleman had too high a sense of filial piety to commence any suit in law against his mother, though she was married to a second husband, much younger than herself, and has been
Like to step-dame, or a dowager,
"Long withering out a young man's revenue."
I am sure, Mr. Pilkington, I pray heartily for your life, lest I should ever be such a fool as to engaging new scenes of trouble; for if I could not keep your heart, properly due to me, at a time when the flattering world called me agreeable,
Much less would my declining age,
A second husband's love engage;
Nor from the dregs of life could I receive,
What the first sprightly running could not give.
And now, to convince you, that I bear no malice to you, I would tell you an authentic truth, true as the gospel; for one truth is, even by mathematical demonstration, adequate to another.
I was, since I came to Dublin, invited to a widower's house to dinner: as his business called him out, he had left orders for my reception; your youngest son was with me, and we were shown into a parlour, where a gentleman sat reading my first volume. I did not interrupt him, as he seemed to be deeply engaged. The master of the house coming in, and saying, "Mrs. Pilkington, I am very glad to see you, and your son;" made the gentleman look at us attentively: after dinner, he told us, he had a bond and judgement entered on it against you, at the suit of Mr. Clark, the brewer, that hitherto he had been compassionate, supposing us to be such creatures as your imagination had painted us out to the world to be. But, said he, now I am convinced of my error, I shall show him no further mercy. My boy starting up, cried, "What do you mean to do to my father?" "Nothing," said Mr. Edwards, "only to try how we will brook imprisonment, 'tis full as fit for him as for your mother." For my own part I was weak enough to burst into tears, and your son swore a good privateer oath, that he would shoot any man who should offer to distress his father.
Mr. Edward seemed surprised, as judging, no doubt, we should have rejoiced in your calamity, as you had done in ours; yet being of a generous, humane disposition, he was touched with our sorrows, and granted that liberty you now enjoy to our intercession: you know the person, and, if I set down a falsehood, let him disprove me.
Upon my word, I must contradict the witty Mr. Congreve, who says,
Heaven has no rage, like love to hatred turned,
Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.
For I do not hate you. I am in an apathy, a cool suspense from pleasure, and from pain, both of which I must acknowledge I received from you; but that was when you wrote in my praise; and, at the very same time, said everything disagreeable to me: was not this done to deceive the world? "I will make them believe I love her; and, as she has too much pride and decency to complain of me, I will indulge my pleasure abroad, with Miss N—y S—d—s [his present wife], or the widow, or any w—e."
I can't indeed say, but Miss S—d—s's father owed a favour to Mr. Pilkington, who kindly taking compassion on his necessities, when his lady was not satisfied with his keeping a mistress in the house with her, and insisted on her being dismissed: Mr. Pilkington, ever humane, received her to his habitation with open arms, gave the old gentleman free ingress and egress, for which he gratefully permitted the Parson to go to bed with his daughter, indeed I should have pitied her, had she been deceived by the report of my death, so industriously spread, into marriage; but she had it under my own hands, that I was living, for I did the creature the honour, s—t as she is, to write to her, in order to prevent her being imposed on. I think the form of matrimony really wants an explanation, if we go according to the strict letter of the law. What a happy state must a young woman imagine herself entering into, where she is to be loved, honoured, cherished, nay, even worshipped; she has a protector to the hour of death, who is to forsake all, even his parents, for her, if it be required, who endows her with his fortune, and promises all this solemnly at the altar.
Then follow the words, those whom God has joined, let no man put asunder.
Now let us see how this is really to be interpreted, at least how far this covenant is usually kept.
No sooner is the honeymoon expired but the fawning servant turns a haughty Lord: instead of honouring his wife, 'tis odds if he treats her with common civility; he shall tell her, to her face, he wishes her death, in order to marry another. The custom authorises this free way of speaking; yet I never knew it agreeable to any wife, nor did I ever doubt but the husband spoke in the sincerity of his heart.
As for our being endowed with the worldly goods of our husbands, it is known that there are so little apt to share with us, that it has always been found necessary, in a marriage settlement, to stipulate for pin-money, a very useful clause even to the husband, and it is much better that his wife should have a share of his fortune, than be obliged to a gallant for a trifle, which gratitude may make her repay in too tender a manner.
Indeed the last article against divorcement, I entirely disapprove of, and am glad it has seemed good to the wisdom of the church to act in direct contradiction to it. This has made numbers easy, and, as they tell us, 'tis not lawful to separate on any cause, save that of adultery. A woman of spirit, who is married to a sordid disagreeable wretch, has nothing to do but to make him a cuckold, and then welcome thrice dear liberty. Yet methinks the husbands should, in justice, return to their wives, when they abandon them, the dowry they brought with them. Now, lest my word the husband should say by this rule, I should have nothing, who had not a portion regularly paid, and yet was a perpetual fortune to him, I'll tell him a story.
The Countess of Eglantine, one of the greatest beauties in Scotland, fell under the displeasure of our Lord, for no other cause but having brought him seven daughters, all charming as this fair Northern lass, and never a son: on this his Lordship ensured her, he was determined to sue for a divorce. The lady told him, she would readily agree to a separation, provided he gave her back what he had with her. He, supposing she meant pecuniary affairs, assured her she should have her fortune to the last penny. "Nay, nay, my Lord," said she, "that winna do; return to me my youth, beauty, and virginity, and dismiss me as soon as you please." His Lordship being unable to answer this demand, spoke no more of parting with his lady, and, ere the year expired, she made him the glad father of a lovely boy, whose birth restored love and harmony to his noble parents. This was related to me by the late Lord Primrose, and therefore I believe it.
But now, Mr. P—n, though I presented you with this piece, don't think I meant you should take a hint, and endeavour to end our matrimonial warfare in the same manner: no, no, though you linger about the door in an evening, in your long cloak, and slops; and that I do believe thee to be my spouse, by the amorous glances darted through thy spy-glass, at the window of my sacred and sequestered bower, where no profane thing, priest, dog, nor worm, dare enter, I am resolved to remain obdurate. Sooner shall lambs make love to lambs, tigers to tigers, and every creature couple with its foe, as the poet wittily expresses it, than I unite with thee.
Yet verily thou dost manifest some tokens of grace, inasmuch as thou darest not to contradict the truth; I fancy when thy pen-using talents perished, thy pen-making ones shot forth; which have been so fortunate as to recommend thee more effectually to a certain B—'s favour, than could ten hundred thousand folios, sprung from thy shallow brain.
And truly this is an useful accomplishment; I wish I possessed it, 'twould save me some pence in the year; but there are different talents are bestowed on different people; I must even rest contented with such as I have,
And the sooner will I wear
My plectrum to the stump in using of it, nay,
Not blacker tube, nor of a shorter size,
Smokes Cambrio-Briton versed in pedigree,
Who on a cargo of famed Cestrian cheese,
High over shadowing rides.
Philip's Splendid Shilling.
Than mine shall be,
—ere once my learned pate
Ducks to a golden fool:
I make no application.
There are many strange ways of getting into the favour of the great, pimping, lying, flattering: who can be proof against the force of such united virtues? For your great men who have too much honour to pay a just debt never fail to reward the servant of their vices; and it may be, some odd knack recommends them, where those baser appliances are not required. On which I have thought of this story not quite foreign to the present purpose.
A man who had spent a good part of his life in driving pins into a wall, on the point of each he would with infinite dexterity throw a pea, his fame spread even to the Emperor, who desired to see this matchless son of science: overjoyed he came, showed his trick to the infinite pleasure of the spectators, the Emperor highly applauded him, and as he supposed this must be a work of long practice to arrive at such a proficiency in it, he demanded of him how many years he had spent in training it; the fellow being willing to enhance his own merits, assured the monarch he had spent thirty years in it; on which the Emperor ordered him thirty bastinadoes on the soles of his feet, for having so much misspent his time.
And, my dear husband, if you have your desert, you merited just such a reward from this applying time in trifles. Writing one good sermon, or useful book, both of which when I knew you you were as capable of as most young men, would have tended more to your reputation than any merely mechanical art.
But in short, I sincerely pity you, and if ever you want a shilling, let me but know it, and if I have the good fortune to have a guinea subscription, for gentlemen seldom send me any smaller coin, you shall not go without one.
The dignified clergy indeed have been niggardly to me. Yet not against them all do I bring this accusation, many of them have even a bleeding humanity for the distress of their fellow creatures; and have not only pitied, but assisted me; and while I can in that noble list enrol the sacred names of Berkeley and Delany, patterns of virtue in their lives, really apostolic in their doctrine, winning straying souls with goodness and humility, learned as far as humanity can soar; surely no other of the clergy need to send me a message when they subscribe, not to divulge so terrible a secret: I always in this case judge there is more fear than charity in their contributions. But here I must remember a certain cross Dean, to whom, as my father was physician, I took the liberty of applying. My son went with the letter; he came out, and cried, "Boy," opening his ponderous and toothless jaws, "what do you want?" "An answer, Sir," said he, "Why, then my answer is, I won't." My son protested he was quite startled at his ferocious features and stentorian voice. Yet, after all, we laughed away our indignation, as he was really not worth it.
This admirable orator ought to have a larger rostrum than the narrow limits of a pulpit to display his graceful action, and never enough to be admired grimace. A theatre would suit his genius; a puppet one I mean, where glorious Punch himself must yield the prize.
I remember once to have seen this Reverend Flamen, in his lengthened dress, ascend St. Andrew's pulpit, where, recollecting the enormous iniquities of the congregation, he of a sudden gave so furious a toss to his head, like a mettlesome horse hard reined, that back flew his wig and down flew his sermon; which not being well secured, fluttered in numerous leaves about the church, scattered like the ungodly, as chaff before the wind; the sleepers awoke, the old men who dream the dreams, and the virgins who saw visions, started from their downy trance; and he, willing at least, to give us his benediction, cried aloud, "Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire, which that you may all do, &c. &c. &c."
The late Lady Rawden, not long after she became a widow, invited the Dean as her parish minister, to dinner; the lady went to take the air, and Sir John, then a child, was in the parlour; the Dean fell into chat with the sweet boy, and amongst other questions said, "Do you know me?" "No, Sir;" "Why I am Dean C—, your parish minister." Poor Master innocently verified the old proverb, that children speak truth, for he cried out, "Oh indeed, I heard my mamma say, you were the worst preacher in Dublin:" His reverence's wrath was hereupon so raised, that he failed not to reproach the lady, who, to pacify him, corrected the poor child: however she could not avoid relating the story to me: which I heard from Lady Rawdon, at Mrs. Percival's, to the infinite laughter of the auditors, and which I from henceforth consign to fame in these my immortal labours.
I was much obliged to Sir John's humanity in London, which I gratefully acknowledge. But there is one great man I cannot pass over; great, according to Sergeant Kite's definition of one, for he is full six foot high, his fortune raised from the noble spirit of malt; for I do remember, like Prince Henry, that poor creature's small beer, which his father sold to mine, and from the golden grains arose a princely fortune, from the humble dray appeared a coach, such as ambassadors use when in public locations, they by their state give us a picture of the grandeur of the potentate they represent.
For if the man such honour have,
What must be his, who keeps the knave?
Not that I would hence infer all ambassadors to be rogues, further than lying a little for the good of their King and country.
It was this worthy gentleman who told them at White's that I had nothing to publish. I had quick intelligence of his favour; after which obligation he came to visit me, and would have been very kind to me because I was a gentlewoman, a person he could depend on; and he was then in distress, being at a distance from his lady and native country, to be sure I ought to have been charitable, but that I always stood in the way of my own preferment; and another unlucky circumstance for my swain was, that I remembered the deplorable condition to which he reduced his first wife, who died of his love, as did also his child, the nurse it was given to, and her husband. Noble achievements worthy of your illustrious birth and lineage. For,
'Tis you can taint the sweetest joy,
And in the shape of love destroy.
However, I should have passed you over in silence, but that you told a nobleman here, I had been quite compliant to your desire: why then you prove yourself a generous lover, in sending me five British shillings for a book. A wondrous bounty really; why your neighbour the B— always pays a moidore commutation for adultery; and sure you ought to give more than a man, who by the power committed to him from above, is entitled to give himself absolution.
Your hoary canting sire was a votary to Venus, even in old age. When a certain widow, and her dancing daughter lodged at Glasnevin, a young gentleman who was much enamoured of the younger dame, used to visit her every evening; as he did not care to have it known, he went in through a low window to Miss's bedchamber: it happened that miss being abroad, the venerable pair made choice of that place, to indulge the gentler passions: the young gentleman came according to custom, and without ceremony threw up the sash, flew in, and unfortunately started from their downy couch the Reverend Elder and the chaste matron.
Miss following her mother's example, resigned her virgin charms to you, and lost at once her health and reputation.
This might have been my unhappy lot, but that however careless I have been about reputation, I was always determined not to put my own precious person into any peril.
Now says my reader, if he be a giber, how this prating old woman, who certainly never had any temptation, boasts of chastity: Ay, 'tis no matter, I have had so many amorous epistles, odes, songs, Anacreontics, Sapphics, lyrics, and Pindarics, in praise of my mind and person too, sent to me since I came to Ireland, that I believe some gentlemen, though I cannot, have found me out to be a marvellous proper woman.
I'll get my room hung around with looking-glasses,
And entertain a score or two of tailors,
And study fashions to adorn my body.
And some time or other, as I find it is the mode in London, for the ladies to publish the triumphs of their eyes, and how many men fell a prey to their luxury; or, as Dr. Young says,
Had ever nymph such reason to be glad?
In duel fell three lovers, two run mad.
Though I cannot indeed produce such dreadful proofs of my beauty as some of them; nor choose I to have my print exhibited before my work, but testimonies of authors with regard to it, I hope I may be allowed. The same vanity Mr. Pope shows in the vindication of his wit, learning and humanity may be pardoned in a female, in the vindication of that far nobler part, external loveliness, for a mind in a woman is of little consequence. Dr. Young seems of a different mind, but great authors sometimes vary: as it is now my interest to be of his side the question, I shall give his opinion, and who knows if it should chance to be true, but my admirers may be real ones.
What's female beauty but an air divine,
Through which the mind's all gentle graces shine;
They like the sun irradiate all between,
The body charms, because the soul is seen.
Hence some we see are captives of a face,
They know not why, of no peculiar grace.
And so much for what I never had, except according to his judgement. I put in my claim, and will, like Socrates*, dispute the prize even with Alcibiades. [*Note: see Xenophon's banquet.]
Now I have mentioned this small but inimitable well wrote book, which was recommended to me by Dr. Swift, and which I in return commend to all such of my fair readers as have a taste for real wit, in which the divine Socrates as conspicuously shone, as he did in purity of life and constancy in martyrdom, that though they peruse it with care, as it will refine their ideas and improve their judgements, polish their style, show them true beauty, and lead them gently and agreeably to its prime origin and source; here they will find
Not so harsh and rugged as some falsely think,
But musical as is Apollo's lute;
And a perpetual feast of nectar'd sweets,
Where no crude surfeit reigns.
I must here observe in my tracing authors through each other, Xenophon and Plato borrowed from Socrates, whose disciples they were. Xenophon acknowledges it as freely as I do the instructions I received from Dr. Swift. Lord Shaftesbury's Search after Beauty, is copied from Socrates, Mr. Pope's Ethics stolen from both; and the learned Mr. Hutchison's Beauty and Harmony, an imitation of the great philosophers and excellent moralists first mentioned.
Had a Mr. Hutchison stopped at this book, by which he had acquired some degree of reputation, both as a writer, a divine, and a mathematician, he had done wisely; but oh! His Essay on the Passions overturned his scarce established praise; if it has any meaning, it is like dark veiled Cotyto, in her Ebon chair, close curtained round, impenetrably obscure, or from his flames,
No light, but rather darkness visible.
I really thought it was the defect of my head that made me not comprehend this piece, till I heard the present Lord Bishop of Elphin, whose learning or judgement were never yet doubted, declare he did not understand it. After all, whether the defect lay in the book or the B—p let the reader determine.
Wallace's Religion of Nature Delineated, though frequently intermingled with mathematical proofs, is yet so plain, that it demonstrates the author's thoughts clearly; which whoever does, can never fail to write with equal perspicuity. But learning seems encumbered with words or technical terms signifying nothing; and our schoolmasters, lest our children should attain it too soon if they should lead them to the fountain from whence the streams of knowledge flow copious to quench rather to increase that desire of it which we observe from their first prattling infancy, choose rather to make them begin at the bottom of some rivulet, from whence, with infinite difficulty, when they have waded about halfway, they are obliged to retire by the command of another, then begin at another, till wearied they give over, and hate the fruitless, endless, unprofitable toil. I believe that formerly they had a better method of instructing than what is now practised. I judge this by the eloquence shown by the youth of those agents, and the beautiful pieces of poetry still extant, some of them styled the minor poets: perhaps to distinguish them from the venerable ancients, or on account of the juvenile years of the authors.
Perhaps nature in her prime creation was productive of more strength and beauty even in the mind, that this time, when luxury and excess pull down our rose-cheeked youth, emaciate their bodies, and enervate their understandings; for mind and body are so closely united, that whatever effects the one, must of consequence affect the other.
I hope my reader will pardon my reflections on the works of those valuable writers I have mentioned, for I mean no disrespect to their sacred memories, but as I am accused of being a plagiary myself, which I own I am, my intention is to prove all writers to be thieves as well as their humble servant, Shakespeare alone excepted.
Some of my learned correspondents send me word I do not write these my own memoirs; why I fancy were I to publish their epistles, the world would not believe that any of them were my assistants; but their modesty makes them conceal their names, and I have no curiosity to discover them.
With such all authors steal their works or buy,
Garth did not write his own dispensary.
But authors are little too fond of fame to let any one run away with it from them, or a tolerable performance pass for the work of another; I speak from experience; I have wrote for numbers, and do still, but no human creature ever helped me out with a single line, if they did latest year against me, and my writings be torn to fragments, or condemned to flames.
And talking of burning, puts me in mind of dear Lord Kingsborough, who because he saw that I endeavoured to do but barely justice to his inimitable pen, bid me burn all his letters, upon which in a passion, I snatched up my pen, even before his face, and scribbled the following lines.
To the right Hon. The Lord Kingsborough.
How could my dear Lord make me such a request?
I flatter myself, you are only in jest;
Those epistles which all my soft raptures inspire,
Do you think I could bear to commit to the fire;
Like Mutius, I'd put my own hand in the flame,
For the elements used to compose your loved name:
Should I promise obedience, I surely should lie,
Give me a more gentle command, I'll comply;
But here I should baffle the best of your art,
For each line you have wrote, is engraved on my heart.
[For the benefit of the illiterate, to whom these lines may appear as obscure as some in Persius, let them read the works of Livy and Pythagoras, and mayhap they may guess at the meaning, if they cannot, their time at least will be innocently employed, till they can come at the grand Arcana of the Rosicrucians, or discover the longitude.]
His Lordship was so humane, as not to insist on my obedience; and now my Lord, I tell you publicly, that, not the Grim Tyrant Death shall divorce me from the inestimable treasure I possess, they shall rest with me in the grave, next to my heart.
When every motion, sense, and pulse, is o'er,
And even my Kingsborough beloved no more.
I have often, my Lord, reflected with pleasure, on the blessing my father gave me, when he brought your Lordship into the world; while according to the midwife's phrase, you were one of his children, and consequently my brother, for I must prove a kindred to you, though I fetch it from Japheth; as I've have been long buried to my brother, and by your Lordship's bounty, have acquired a kind of second birth.
Newborn I may a nobler brother claim,
And joined to thine immortalise my name.
Pardon my presumption if I am too bold, 'tis owing to your Lordship's indulgence both to my scribbling and prattling vein. So
You must excuse and nymph of letters,
Thus poets often treat their betters.
But I think I must speak in the superlative mood, and call you best of men; for what day of your life passes, without a worthy deed to crown it? Your virtue would sigh to lose one.
Indeed my Lord, I love you, and if you are too great to be beloved,
Be greater greater still, and be adored.
Now in return, I beg a place in your friendship, where, if I grow, the harvest is your own.
But oh! I am sick of many griefs,
And this frail tenement of clay,
Must quickly, very quick decay.
But, perhaps all things are ordered for the best, on which hope, I relate what I know to be truth.
A captain of a man-of-war took a fancy to despise his wife, and engage with another woman: the wife took it patiently, till at last he had the impudence to tell her, he would either bring his harlot to live with her, or she and his three children should turn out: the lady was confounded at so strange a proposal, and begged three days' time to consider of it; and then she would give him a determinate answer: he agreed: she told her affliction to a friend, and begged her advice; on which they resolved to consult Dr. Potter, late Lord Archbishop of Canterbury: accordingly they took a boat, and went to Lambeth: the good prelate proposed an invocation to the Almighty to direct their counsels: after prayers he desired the lady not, by any means, to quit her house, but to acquiesce in her husband's desire, and let him bring the woman home, and, "Depend on it," said he, "God will assist you, and what is at present appears on evil, will turn out a blessing to you:" so, giving them his benediction, they departed full of hope of an happy issue.
The husband, who flattered himself that the wife would quit the house, was not a little astonished to find her quite submissive to his commands, and consenting to live with his mistress.
Accordingly he ordered his chariot, that his wife prepare dinner, and went for his harlot, whom he brought home triumphant, and handed into the dining room; the wife received her with a civility that confounded and enraged her, she brought her a glass of Lisbon wine, and then left her with the captain, who, in a few minutes came down, and seeing all things ready for dinner, ordered his wife to go and bring the lady down. She obeyed, but Madam called her a hundred names, flew at the captain, beat him, and put herself in such a rage, that she fell into fits, was seized with a fever, and died.
After this catastrophe, the captain seriously reflecting on the submission and virtue of his wife, thus addressed her: "My dear, if I thought there was a possibility of your pardoning my past errors, and never reproaching me with them, I do assure you, I would never fall into them again, but make a faithful tender husband to you." The lady burst into joyful tears at this happy change, and kindly assured him, she would never even think of what was past: she told him it was by the archbishop's advice she had acted with the moderation she now found to be so happy in the event; and they both went to thank the venerable prelate, who truly partook in their joy. The captain died about a year after, and left his whole fortune to his lady, who lives an honourable window at Greenwich.
Thus we may see, if we persevere in our duty, the Almighty is not slow to hear, nor reward;
But, when we sink beneath a load of grief,
By unforeseen expedients brings relief.
I was told a pretty circumstance of his Grace, when he was at Westminster School: it seems he stood terribly in awe of the rod, and having committed some mistake that deserved chastisement, which Dr. Busby was very liberal in bestowing, he was ready to die with the apprehension of it; when a good bold-spirited lad, taking compassion on him, owned the fault, and took the whipping; for which his timid friend promised to be grateful, if ever it came in his way to serve him: they both took holy orders, but met not till many years after, when his Grace was an Archbishop, his friend remained a curate; but time, which brings all things about, so ordered it, that the Archbishop and the curate met at a nobleman's house: His Grace, hearing him named, recollected both the gentleman, the whipping, and his own promise of gratitude; and finding the curate had no preferment, he gave him a very good living.
I hope these incidents would not be disagreeable to my readers, as I really set down nothing but what I know to be truth, which is more than most of our modern memorialists can say, who present us with heaps of improbabilities, and expect implicit faith from us; and if what some of them have told us to be genuine, though it may redound to their profit, it never can to their honour; for their actions are neither worthy being recorded, nor their writings of being read; the true end of writings being to give instruction with pleasure, which, whoever is so happy to do, may justly hope for a place in the Temple of Fame: but
All humankind will needs be wits,
Though millions miss for one that hits:
Our chilling climate, hardly bears,
A sprig of bays in fifty years,
Yet every fool his claim alleges,
As if it grew in common hedges.
And having once more quoted our unrivalled Dean, and being well assured no part of my work can be half so agreeable or entertaining to the public, as that which relates to him, I shall, as far as in my power, present them with his lively portraiture. The most minute circumstances relating to so great a man cannot, I hope, be deemed trivial; since we find by experience, that the night scene, so beautifully drawn by Shakespeare, between Brutus and his domestics, sleeping in his tent, the little incident of his taking the lute out of the boy's hand, and saying, when he fell asleep,
This is a sleepy tune:—oh murderous sleep,
Layest thou thy laden mace upon my boy,
That plays thee music? Gentle knave, good night:
I will not do thee so much wrong to wake thee;
If thou dost nod, thou breakest thy instrument,
I'll take it from thee, and, good boy, good night.
Do we not love him more in this amiable view of him, than in all his conquests; or that sad act whereby he thought to give his country liberty? The world are sufficiently acquainted with the Dean's public character, be it then my task to trace him in private life; for there only it is we can frame a true judgement of any person, the rest is frequently mere outside.
When the Dean was at Bellcamp, at the house of the Reverend Dr. Grattan, he wrote to Dr. Delany, to come and dine with him, mighty Thomas Thumb, and her serene Highness of Lilliput, meaning my husband and me: accordingly we went; the Dean came out to meet us, and I, by agreement, hiding my face, Mr. Pilkington told him they had picked up the girl on the road, and desired to know whether they might bring her in? He, guessing who it was, said, "Let her show her face, and if she be likely, we'll admit her." On this I took down my fan, and said, "Oh, indeed Sir, I am:" "Well then," said he, "give me your hand." He led me into a parlour, where there were twelve clergyman, and said, those fellows coming in had brought a wench with them; but, added he, "We'll give her a dinner, poor devil! And keep the secret of our brethren:"—as most of the gentlemen knew me, we were very merry on this odd introduction.
"Pox on you, you slut," said the Dean, "you gave me a hint from my polite conversation, which I have pursued: you said, it would be better to throw it into dialogue; and suppose it to pass amongst the great; I have been improved by you:" "O dear Sir," said I, "'tis impossible you should do otherwise." "Matchless sauciness!" returned he: "Well, but I'll read you the work;" which he did with infinite humour, to our high entertainment.
It was Christmas time, and froze very hard: the Dean, meditating revenge, set the wine before a great fire, the corks of the wine being secured with pitch and resin; which began, in a little while, to melt: no sooner did the Dean perceived they were fit for his purpose, but he slyly rubbed his fingers on them, and daubed my face all over. Instead of being vexed, as he expected I would, I told him he did me great honour in sealing me for his own. "Plague on her," said he, "I can't put her out of temper;" yet he seemed determined to do it, if possible, for he asked the company, if they had ever seen such a dwarf? And insisted, that I should pull off my shoes till he measured me: to this I had no inclination to submit, but he was an absolute Prince, and resistance would have little availed me; so when I obeyed, he said, "why, I suspected you had either broken stockings, or foul toes, and in either case should have delighted to have exposed you."
He then made me stand up against the wainscot, leaned his hand as heavy as he could upon my head, till I shrunk under the weight, almost half my proportion; then making a mark with his pencil he affirmed, I was but three foot two inches high.
Dinner was brought up, and I being, like Mrs. Qualmsick the curate's wife, always a-breeding, could not eat any; the gentlemen guessing at my circumstances, by my decreasing face, and increasing waist, were so over-obliging to know what I liked best; that at last I told the Dean, I wished I was a man, that I might be treated with less ceremony: "Why," said the Dean, "it may be you are:" "I wish, Sir," said I, "you would put the question to the company, and accordingly to their votes, that my sex be determined." "I will," said he; "Pilkington, what say you?" "A man, Sir:" they all took his word; and in spite of petticoats, I was made a man of after dinner: I was obliged to put a tobacco pipe in my mouth; but they so far indulged me, as to let it be an empty one, as were the Dean's, Dr. Delany's, and my husband's.
The Dean asked me, could I play cribbage? I said I could: upon which he called for cards; but, upon recollection, said, he would not play with a beggar, for he should stand no chance; for if he won, he would not take the money, and if he lost, he must in honour pay. "But why a beggar, Mr. Dean," said Dr. Delany? "A married curate must of consequence be a beggar," returned he, "and you are another, and pox on me, if I can ever get acquainted with any persons but beggars; and I don't think with this woman, or man here, is on the way of producing another." "Then, Sir, I hope you would be so kind to stand godfather, which will secure it from so hard a fate." "So!" said he, "more demands upon me! Well, if it be a boy, I don't much care if I do; but if it be a little bitch I never answer for her."
A day or two after this the Dean came to town, and summoning a Senatus Consultum, as he called those few friends whom he particularly regarded; he placed us round a great table, where he told us, we were an empanelled jury; and he placed himself at the head of it, where he sat as judge. He then told us, the reason why we were summoned. "Mr. Grattan's favourite hen was put to death by an unlucky stroke of a whip, by one of my fellows, as I supposed. I accused them, and they denied the fact, but as murderer always will come to light, I found the hen's head and neck in the seat of my chaise-box; and now I want to convict the criminal:" accordingly he ordered his three men servants to come before us, and related the following story to them: "When Dr. Donne, afterwards Dean of Saint Paul's, London, took possession of the first living he ever had, being a speculative man, he took a walk into the churchyard, where the Sexton was digging a grave, and throwing up a skull, the doctor took it up, to contemplate thereon; and found a small sprig, or headless nail sticking in the temple, which he drew out secretly, and wrapped it up in the corner of his handkerchief; he then demanded of the gravedigger, whether he knew whose skull that was? He said he did, very well; declaring it was a man's who kept a brandy shop, an honest drunken fellow, who one night taking two quarts of that comfortable creature, was found dead in his bed the next morning. "Had he a wife?" said the doctor. "Yes, Sir:" "Is she living?" "Yes:" "What character does she bear?" "A very good one; only indeed the neighbours reflected on her, because she married the day after her husband was buried; though, to be sure, she had no great reason to grieve after him." This was enough for the doctor, who under pretence of visiting or his parishioners called on her; he asked her several questions, and amongst others, what sickness her first husband died of? She giving him the same account he had before received, he suddenly opened the handkerchief, and cried, in an authoritative voice, "Woman, do you know this nail?" She was struck with horror at the unexpected demand, and instantly owned the fact: "And so, fellow," said Dean Swift, "do you know this head?" The criminal confessed his fault, and the jury brought him in guilty of henslaughter, in his own defence, for he declared he was hungry, and did eat it, having no malice prepense to it, but rather love. On account of his sincerity, and our intercession, the Dean pardoned him.
Mr. Grattan had presented the Dean with a small cask of fine ale, of which he was very choice; good malt-liquor not being easily purchased even in Ireland. On Sunday evening the Dean's set of intimates came as usual, to pass it with him, and he being in high good humour, said, he would treat us with a part of this ale. I had the honour of being entrusted with the key of the cellar, with a particular order to hold the candle in such a position, that it might drop into the tankard; as also not to put the spigot fast in, but let the drink run about. After receiving his commands, which I promised punctually to obey, I went down, but had scarce opened the door, when Dr. Delany and Dr. Sheridan were with me. O breach of trust, unpardonable! We sat down on a bench, and each of us drank; but he laughed so heartily at cheating the Dean, that he stole down, having some suspicion, that where there was a woman, and two clergymen, there might be a plot, and surprised us: I, in imitation of his servant, told him, the parsons seduced me, and I did drink: "Pox choke you all," said he.
In vain did I, with all the moving eloquence of a female orator, plead for pardon: the key was taken from me, and Mr. Rochford was, before my face, invested with my honours; and I, oh fatal sentence! condemned to be sock-washer to the blackguard boy, who waited on the under butler's under butler.
I would have persuaded Mr. Rochford to plead in my behalf, but he was obdurate as adamant; especially as by my disgrace he rose. However, not long after, I presented him with an humble petition, wherein I failed not to extol the neatness of the boy's feet, since they came into my hands, insomuch
—That not the nicest nose
Could, in the dog days, smell his toes.
And, as a reward, I was made inspectoress-general of all the drinking vessels; but no more entrusted with the key of the cellar: to say the truth, I could not well vindicate my conduct in that important point.
The Dean had twenty of those agreeable whims, which kept us all cheerful, as was his intent; for I suppose my readers will believe, that neither he nor we valued the ale, but for the jest's sake.
No man living told a story to more advantage than the Dean; there never was a word too little or too much in it, it was always apt, full, clear, and concise, truly epigrammatic.
It would be well for their readers, if some of our writers had learned this happy art; but they draw out their tales to a tiresome length, dwelling on every trivial circumstance, and omitting things of greater consequence, and when they would seem wise, they grow obscure.
Thus the small silk-worm spins her slender store,
And labourers till she clouds herself all oe'r.
The Dean told me, he did remember that he had not laughed above twice in his life, once at some trick a mountebank's Merry-Andrew played; and the other time was at the circumstance of Tom Thumb's killing the ghost; and, I can assure Mr. Fielding, the Dean had a high opinion of his wit, which must be a pleasure to him, as no man was ever better qualified to judge, possessing it so eminently himself.
Yet was he so free from any vain ostentation of it, that he could suit his converse to the talents of his company; insomuch that, I believe, had they proposed to play push-pin, or talk nonsense, he would have complied even with the latter, if it had been in his power.
I have known him fill up rhymes, given after the manner of the French, though he had found it true musical rhythm, so esteemed by the ancients; nay, he could deal in the
Pun ambiguous, or conundrum quaint.
Which some book-learned blockheads, for such I have seen, with each a store of lumber, crude and undigested in their brains, would no doubt have scorned: but, as Horace observes, there is a sweetness in sometimes mingling folly with wisdom; and I am well convinced no person, without a good understanding, can even play the fool agreeably.
Triflers can't even in trifling excel,
For only soiled bodies polish well.
One night, that I had the honour to be in as polite a set of company as ever Europe bred, they took a fancy that each of them would imitate the voice of a different animal, either bird or beast, each having fixed on what suited their inclination; would not any one, who had refused to join in the frolic, have seemed ridiculous? 'Tis true, indeed, this was attended with one mortifying consequence; for the servants, feared at the hideous yelling, and concluding we were all fighting, ran hastily to part us, but finding all was right, they left us; however, we heard them laugh heartily at our entertainment.
As I have often mentioned the Dean's charity, one ill conferred instance of it cannot, I believe, but make my readers smile:
He observed a woman, whose whole estate was a sieve of fruit, which she had in a stall, where she sat footing worn-out stockings. Seeing the woman very decent, and always at work, he judged her to be a proper person for him to assist; especially as, by the report of her neighbours, she was a very honest woman. The Dean as to why she did not try to borrow twenty pounds, and set up a handsome fruit-shop. "Alas-a-day, Sir," said she, "who would trust a poor creature like me with such a sum?" "Why," said he, "if I thought you would improve it, I would lend it you." The woman promised fair and the Dean lent her the money; and at the same time wrote down the particular kinds of fruit he would have her furnish herself with. She was to let him know when she was stocked, and he promised to recommend her to customers.
The woman, overjoyed at her good fortune, went about five o'clock next morning to a gardener's, produced her bill of fare, on which they, judging by her appearance that she could not pay for such a cargo, laughed at her. This provoked the pride of the new-raised beggar; who, to convince them of her wealth, produced it to their astonished view; upon which they altered their note, and as it was a cold morning, said, that "bargains were never made with dry lips." They drew in the poor woman to drink plentifully of hot-pot [brandy and ale mixed], which soon left her stupid in the alehouse; but not they had first done her the favour to rob her.
When she came in little to herself, the woman of the house demanded payment; the fellows being gone. She was going to pay the reckoning, but alas, her money was gone to: it was in vain for her to enquire for it, everybody disavowed the fact; but the gardener, out of his great charity, gave her a basket of windfalls, with which she was obliged, seeing no remedy, to return to her original poverty.
The Dean vainly looked for the product of his charity; he could neither see shop, nor woman, for she kept out of his way, at length he happened in church to be seized with the colic, and went out in the middle of service; and who stood at the church-door but the very person? He stopped, and demanded, why he had not heard from her, and how she proceeded? Upon this the woman flew into a rage, abused him all the way to his own house, told him, that his cursed money had bewitched her; that all the neighbours knew she was a modest, virtuous, sober woman, and that he had made her turn whore and drunkard, the Dean ran in, clapped the door upon her, and begged the protection of his domestics against the mad woman.
And here I must observe, that if the Dean was very justly satirical on the vices of human kind, yet when he fell on infirmities, he seemed to have done a displeasing act to heaven, inasmuch as he was punished with them all in a remarkable manner; he lived to be a Struldbrugg, helpless as a child, and unable to assist himself.
I say not this as any reflection to his sacred memory, heaven forbid I should; but with all the reverence I have for the Dean, I really think he sometimes chose subjects unworthy of his muse, and which could serve no other end except that of turning the reader's stomach, as it did my mother's, who upon reading the Lady's Dressing Room, instantly threw up her dinner.
Here I digress, oddly enough, on a whimsical circumstance. Having once had the honour of being known to Lady * * * * * *, I took the liberty of applying to her for a subscription; her niece came out, and mistaking the person who brought the letter for me, said, "Her lady wondered at my impudence, to apply to her, when I know how I used Sir * * * * * *:" but if ever I used him, or he me, then am I no two-legged creature; for, to my knowledge, I never even saw him; if the man did dare to contradict me, I would make him eat a piece of my pen: but how used him? Not unlawfully, I hope. Did your ladyship ever see me lewdly lolling on a love-bed with him? No, if we ever met, he was supported by two reverend prelates, proper supporters for a Christian hero; but I never heard that the gentleman was addicted to women; so that I hope I may rest uncensured by him, and also by your L—p.
I do this, Madam, in regard to the gentleman's character, for my own is of no consequence.
'Tis bare-bit, and gnawn by treason's
And pray now, Sir C—, for to thee I call, but with no friendly voice—what time? what day? what hour did I ever disoblige you? The injuries you have done me, I freely forgive, and
If you please,
Will honour you with panegyric lays.
But then take notice you must come down handsomely; you are not Lord Kingsborough, nor will my verse flow spontaneous.
His virtues might the humblest bards inspire,
And fill their bosoms with poetic fire.
So now, for ever and for ever farewell, Brutus! If we do meet again, why we shall laugh, if not, why surely we shall never weep; a more inspiring theme demands my attention: so, Sir Knight of the Oracle, adieu, if thou diest before me, as you should, since you stepped into the world thirty years ere my dim speck of entity was animated; I have wrote your epitaph, which I beg you may have engraved on your tombstone; lest you should not, I will raise you a monument more lasting than brass.
I presume, by the information of your boots, you have read Horace, take your encomium.
Here lies the greatest man that e'er was born,
All womankind sincerely did he scorn,
And kept the good old proverb in his mind,
He that won't go before—must go behind.
And if my printer should dare to put a dash or blank in your illustrious name, I will in capitals insert it, and you know,
When in bold capitals expressed,
The dullest reader takes the jest.
This, Sir, I give you as a farther proof of my impudence, in which I own your family to have far the superiority to mine; for though some of them did execution in the well-fought field, yet none of them were condemned to suffer one. So read this, and then to breakfast with what appetite you may.
But after all I have said, I bear you no ill-will; but you began with me this tennis-game, and I have matched my racket to the balls; and, depend on it, whoever begins with me, I bear the motto of the thistle:
Nemo me impune lacessit.
The hour now came, when the Dean's promise was to be claimed; as I brought forth a son, I wrote to him, but he was in the country, and in five days the boy died: the Dean did not return till I was a fortnight brought to bed.
He came directly to visit me: Mr. Pilkington opened the door for him, and brought him up to me. After wishing me joy, asked, where was his godson elect? I told him, in heaven: "The Lord be praised," said he, "I thought there was some good news in the way, your husband looked so brisk. Pox take me, but I was in hopes you were dead yourself, but is pretty well as it is, I have saved by it, and should have got nothing by you."
He drank a little caudle with me, and then went away, about an hour after his servant brought me a letter, and a great bundle of brown paper, sealed with the utmost care, and twisted around with I know not how many yards of pack-thread, my curiosity led me to read the letter before I examined the contents of the paper, which, to the best of my knowledge, was this:
I send you a piece of plum-cake, which I did intend should be spent as your christening; if you have any objection to the plums, or do not like to eat them, you may return them to,
your sincere friend and servant,
I now examined the contents of the paper, in which I found a piece of gingerbread, in which were stuck four guineas, wrapped in white paper, on the outside of each was wrote plum.
I sent the Dean a real piece of plum-cake, with this answer:
I have heard that ostriches could digest iron, but you give me a harder task, when you bid me eat gold; but suppose I should, like the rich streams of the Tagus, flow potable gold, the interpretation of which is, that I mean to drink your health this minute, in a glass of sack; and am, with the utmost respect, Sir,
Your ever devoted servant,
Just when he had fixed Mr. Pilkington to be chaplain to alderman Barber, the Dean received from Spain, from one Mr. Wogan, a green velvet bag, in which was contained the adventures of Eugenius; as also an account of the courtship and marriage of the Chevalier, to the Princess Sobieski, wherein he represents himself to have been a principal negotiator. It was wrote in the novel style, but a little heavily: there was also some of the Psalms of David, paraphrased in Miltonic verse, and a letter to the Dean, with remarks on the Beggar's Opera: in which he says he believes the people of England and Ireland had quite lost all remains of elegance and taste, since their top entertainments were composed of scenes of highwaymen, and prostitutes, who all remain unpunished and triumphant in their crimes. He concluded with paying the Dean the compliment of entreating him to correct the work.
The Dean said, he did not care to be troubled with it, and bid Mr. Pilkington take it to London, and look it over at his leisure, which accordingly he did.
He was scarce gone, but the Dean came to me for the bag; I told him my husband had, according to his commands, taken it with him. He protested he never gave him any such permission, that I was impudent to say it, and my husband more so to do it; the conclusion of which was; that he ordered me to write to him to return it immediately; and lest I should forget it, he gave me a very good beating. Well; I writ Mr. Pilkington an account of the Dean's wrath, and he sent me the fatal bag by a clergyman: I directly carried it to the Dean, and hoped it would be pleased, by my punctual and ready obedience to his will; but far otherwise it fell out, for the Dean flew into a passion, for my daring to presume to write for it, and gave me another beating.
But did not this more resemble the actions of a lunatic than of a gentleman of superior wit and knowledge? Indeed, I believe too much learning had turned his head, or too deep a search into the secrets of nature; as nothing can escape his observation. And this wrong turn in his brain, I fancy had possessed him a long time before it was taken notice of, as numberless proofs might be produced; and even amongst the facts that I have related there are some strong instances of it; had he been less witty, it would sooner have been taken notice of; but, as the poet observes,
Great wit to madness sure is near allied,
And thin partitions do their bounds divide.
The first proof he gave of his incivility was affronting the Lord Lieutenant, at the Lord Mayor's table, who, because he had not paid his compliments to him in due form, he very civilly accosted by the extraordinary title of, You, fellow with the blue string. Some little time after this he invited two clergymen to take the air with him, and when he got them into a coach, he did so belabour them and knock their heads together, that they were obliged to cry out for assistance.
From this he fell into a deep melancholy, and knew nobody; I was told the last sensible words he uttered, were on this occasion: Mr. Handel, when about to quit Ireland, went to take his leave of him: the servant was a considerable time, ere he could make the Dean understand him; which, when he did, he cried "O! A German, and a genius! A prodigy! Admit him." The servants did so, just to let Mr. Handel behold the ruins of the greatest wit that ever lived along the tide of time, where all at length are lost.
If aught else relating to him, should occur to my remembrance, I will faithfully relate it; as I am certain it cannot but be acceptable to the public, whose interest he had ever more at heart, and whose liberties on all occasions, he warmly and nobly asserted.
'Tis mine, O honoured shade, to celebrate thy goodness, without extenuating thy faults; I deal impartially, which is the true task of an historian, and I would inscribe thy tombstone, were I permitted; but without characters, fame lives long. Thine will last, while wit or genius is admired in this sublunary globe.
However disagreeable it may be to me, I find I must prosecute my own history, till my leaving London, to which metropolis I never intend to return, as has been insinuated, in order to hurt my subscription: while ever I can find means of subsisting in my native country, where I have received more favour, than I could reasonably hope for, I should esteem myself not only ungrateful, but unjust to raise contributions on the public, and carry the money from this poor Ireland, to spend it in a rich and opulent city.
Besides my days of vanity are over. The woods, groves, fountains, sacred recesses, dear to the muses, would be my choice, even had I a fortune to entitle me to enjoy the splendour of a court in its utmost magnificence. O how I languish for retirement; even as the heart panteth after the water brooks, so longeth my soul after it; where I might sit upon sunless side of some romantic mountain, forest-crowned. I wish my best and dearest friend, would take this into consideration, and in some part of his wide extended domains, afford his Muse an humble heritage.
I should not then be distracted with fears of an imperious landlord's threats. No; your happy tenant would pay her debt in weeds, which, when I once told your Lordship, you very politely answered, that such verses as mine were the finest flowers in the garden of the Muses.
I must here relate to your Lordship, a little circumstance which happened to me lately. I took a lodging in Drumcondra Lane; the two ladies, (sisters), who keep the house, kindly invited me to dinner; it was very natural for me to enquire what persons of distinction lived in our neighbourhood; they told me Lord Kingsborough had lately purchased a house in it, a most worthy fine gentleman. I happened to express so much pleasure, at hearing this agreeable piece of news, and at the same time so warmly joined in their sentiments, that one of the ladies said: "Well, Madam, though you have made a mystery of your name, I am certain you are Mrs. Pilkington. I am sure you are the person; because you speak of his Lordship, in the very same style you have wrote of him. I have the two volumes."
As I found they were prepossessed in Mrs. Pilkington's favour, I confessed they had guessed right. But whenever I want concealment, if your Lordship is mentioned, I would take care to be silent. Otherwise I shall soon betray myself, as out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh. Though I am afraid, that like holy David, it would be grief, and pain to me, and while I sat musing the fire would kindle; the sacred fire of friendship and gratitude, would unlock my tongue and give me utterance, even though I had been born dumb.
Why, my dear Lord, were but a few persons of distinction, in your way of thinking, Earth itself would become a paradise: no more would the sorrowful sighing of the prisoner, nor the voice of lamentation be heard in our streets, and 'tis with infinite pleasure, I see our long stained nobility, who were only famous for undoing, and built their characters on rapes and ruin, now almost to a man, not only just, but beneficent; not only learned themselves, but encouragers of science in others. If amongst our country's worthies, I name you Lord Molesworth, who have distinguished yourself in fields and Senates, in the seats of the Muses, and academic groves, whose well tried valour has approved itself; not in rashness, but a noble intrepidity and scorn of death, whenever your God, your King, or country, required your service, I hope it will not offend you, to say, may your God, your King, and country, make you as happy, as my much obliged, and most truly grateful heart sincerely wishes, shall ever be my ardent prayer.
Your Lordship has kindly visited the virtues of my father on his daughter. I am sure I had no other claim, to the favours or honours for which I am indebted to your Lordship, and for which I rest your faithful servant.
At length, through strange vicissitudes, and variety of misfortunes, finding I could get no relief from Ireland, I determined, with my son, to revisit it; and though late in life, try my fortune in Hibernia. But how to compass a journey and a voyage without money, was really a difficult task; to this end I set my wits to work, to find out whether any persons of my own country were in London, from whom, by revealing my distress, I could hope for relief. At length I learned, that Dr. Delany was there, who never rejected the petition of the afflicted, even though they had no other merit to recommend them, but that of anguish. My suit was granted in the most compassionate and obliging manner; accompanied by his tears for my misfortunes, and prayers for the preservation of my soul and body. And sure the orisons of one so good, must have uncommon efficacy in them, to turn the sinner, and confirm the just in well-doing, while his own example strengthens all his precepts.
How different was the reception I met with, at the hands of this worthy man, from the rough return made to my solicitations, for a subscription from Lady* * * *; who, "wondered at my impudence in applying to her."
Ladies, let me entreat you will drop that nasty poor word impudent, at least don't annex it to my name, who never yet had the assurance to appear in any public place, since I came last to this kingdom; nor ever to apply in person for a favour. But a woman who has suffered in reputation, knows not what to do; it is all impudence, though her betters have more; for that in the captain is but a choleric word, which in the soldier is flat blasphemy.
Upon my word, if instead of the impudence I am charged with; you would call me a desolate afflicted wretch, you would speak the truth; for poor Lætitia is become the football of fortune; but why should I complain? when the Son of Man says, that the foxes had holes, and he himself had no place to lay his head in! Answer me some of the great, learned, and pious divines; why is our blessed Redeemer styled the Son of Man? When we are told, that a virgin should conceive, that the power of the highest should overshadow her! How was he then the Son of Man? We are all ordered to apply to our heavenly Father, and therefore may style ourselves the children of God; why then is there any exception made in this case?
I hardly dare allow myself the liberty of thinking, lest I should do it too deeply, and reason be my disease, and yet I believe it was given me to follow and search after truth; where then shall I find it? Not on Earth, no more than peace or justice, who are long fled from these lower regions. Boldly then let me pursue them, even to the high place, from whence they sprung; the seat of calms and ease, the mansions of the blest, where holy hope and constant faith, shall be lost in fruition of that happiness, which hath not yet entered into the heart of man to conceive.
Mr. Woolaston's Religion of Nature Delineated, shows us powerfully, how much a lie must offend the Creator; as I am taxed with numerous quotations, which are tedious (as some of my readers tell me) I shall not borrow one from him, but refer the learned to his inimitable work; though I am persuaded, no person who has not a clear head, can taste his beauties: and truly, I have paid myself no small compliment here; but, as it is written, e'en let it pass.
And here, Mr. Blake [Note:*Ignatius Blake, Esq.] permit me to tell you, though no person can more revere your every amiable quality than I do, yet as the objection you started to my philosophic doctrine, of the ocean's having no bottom, has deprived me of rest ever since, I could find in my heart to be angry with you; you asked me then, how I could account for islands, which must have a foundation? I am not sure of that, perhaps they float like Delos. 'Tis demonstrable that wherever we dig deep, we find water, not salt indeed like that of the sea; but may it not be purified by running through the veins of the Earth, and arise to us in fresh fountains, mineral streams, or milky currents, such as Mallow affords. Our foundation we know is on the waves, our building on the great deep: this was so at the first creation; then, when the Windows of Heaven were opened, and the deep abyss or receptacle of waters broke up; what had we but the ruins of a world to inhabit, the fragments of which may swim; at least, most worthy Sir, I can find no better solution, for the doubt you raised in my mind, pray consider the question yourself, and if your learning, which I own is extensive, be adequate to your virtue, you are better qualified to give me an answer, than most men living.—Now do I know I give your modesty pain, but amongst other instances of my impudence, I could not forbear this.
And had I never honoured you, for your own goodness, yet your answer when I asked you, did you love Lord Kingsborough? "Who knows him, but must love him" would have commanded my respect and best wishes, and they both sincerely attend you. And here, my polite Roman [Note:*John Brown of the Neal, Esq., then going to take his trial] my friend, beloved by all, but the malicious and unworthy, who persecute you for no other cause, but that you excel in courage and learning; accept of my thanks, for the many fine encomiums you have bestowed on me; think of me as one incapable of pursuing the advice you gave me, of forsaking a friend in the hour of calamity. Sure 'tis then our duty, to administer consolation, as far as our power extends; the fortunate wanted not: your magnanimity of soul there is up against the storms of fortune, and
Amidst the noise of chains and keys,
Thou canst of Cupid sing;
The warders their hoarse bawling cease,
And drawers watch thy string.
But, says my reader, what have I to say to your philosophy, or particular attachments? Proceed in your story; inform us how you got to Ireland? Well, now you have reminded me of it, I think I will. To confess the truth, I had like to have forgotten myself, my thoughts are apt to wander to eternity, and
Like Pompey's transported to regions of day,
Disdain to be tied to a mansion of clay.
After receiving the worthy Dr. Delany's bounty, which was sufficient to pay every debt I owed in London; which, as I was cautious in contracting any, a sum, though less, would have paid. But I had not a sufficiency to answer the expense of travelling charges, for two persons. The Parliament was dissolved, the nobility gone to enjoy the sweets of spring, April having decked all things in fresh and fragrant bloom; all, but wretched humankind, from whom, once parted, it no more returns, to blush or beautify the cheek again. But let us not sorrow after that, as those who have no hope beyond this life; if we can go on stained to this world, which is almost impossible to do, or seeing the errors of our ways, forsake them, we have assurance given us, of a joyful and triumphant resurrection.
Mark with what hope, upon the furrowed plain,
The cheerful ploughman casts the pregnant grain;
There hid, as in a grave, a while it lies,
Till the revolving season bids it rise;
Till nature's genial power, command a birth,
And potent call it, from the teeming earth;
Then large increase, the buried treasure yields,
And with full harvest crowns the plenteous fields.
I wrote, in order to gain relief, to a prelate of Ireland, then resident in London; I sent the letter by the daughter of a dissenting clergyman, of whose honour and virtue I was confident. He received her civilly, read over my letter, and declared he did not know me; but as he had some slight knowledge of my family, there was a guinea for me. This answered no end: but yet he gave me some comfort by bidding her call again, and he would think of something for my service: accordingly, in a weeks time she went again, and again; till at length his Lordship vouchsafed to send out a very rough answer, not in the least befitting his function or dignity, especially to one whom he knew from her infancy, to be a woman of good birth, and education.
But I resolving to be as chuffy as he, sent him in reality another Epistle, not over-courteous I own, yet it wrought a better effect, than my complaining one produced, for his gentleman came to me early next morning, with a very civil letter; and produced ten guineas, to my unspeakable joy; but there was a drawback on my happiness, for I was obliged to return ten shillings change, which I very reluctantly complied with.
With this sum my son and I quitted London, and being on the saving scheme, took places in the wagon. A most tiresome way of travelling! May morning we set forth, our slow-paced cattle were adorned with ribands and flowers, and till then, I never understood the meaning of the vulgar expression, of being as fine as a horse, for it seems it is customary on this month, to present the waggoners with a riband, at every inn; till our flea-bitten nags, were almost blinded by the tawdry parti-coloured flowing honours of their heads. I was really almost fatigued to death, for I was called up at three o'clock in the morning, though perhaps you don't set out till five. Tea or coffee, none to be had, unless in some of the towns: indeed, if I could, like our driver, eat a breakfast of salt beef and cabbage at that squeamish hour, it was laid there ready. They bait not all day; so one might have an appetite by evening, but it happened not so to me. The heat and dust quite deprived me of any inclination to food, and especially to the rough fare provided.
My chief delight was listening to the Nightingale, who then warbled forth her love-laboured song, to indulge the pleasure of hearing the soft warbler, pour forth her plaintive and harmonious lay: I used when we were near our resting-place to alight and walk through the flower-enamelled meads, filled with cowslips, primroses, and wild violets, for
In rural scenes the soul of beauty reigns,
The soul of pleasure lives in rural scenes.
My son and I found out a sweet place, canopied with woodbine, which had enringed itself in plaits about a large apple tree, whose blossoms shed perfumes, while the whole season warbled round our heads; we seated ourselves under the wide spreading shade, listening with delight to those wild musicians. Suddenly the boy cried out, "Oh mamma what shall I do?" "What is the matter, child?" "Look at my leg:" I did so, and behold a snake had twisted up it; I, though heartily startled, had presence of mind sufficient, to beg he would not strike it; he took my advice, though indeed both he and I were ready to faint, and the evil worm crawled away, without doing him any prejudice. But not being well assured that all the serpent race, sworn foe to man, might be so complaisant, I was never after tempted to sit down in Albion's fruitful fields.
We lodged this night at a strange old village, whose name I have forgot; I believe the inn had formerly been a convent, by the numerous little cells and cloisters, small windows, almost darkened with jessamine and vines, it had a most romantic melancholy air, fit for studious contemplation, but not replenished with rich repast, or cheerful wine. The next day being Sunday, a day of rest, which took up our quarters at another inn, where we got a chicken and a pint of wine, and lived sumptuously.
We then walked out to see what kind of curiosity this place afforded, worth remark; but finding none, we strayed out on a common, when the first object which struck my site, was that of a man suspended high in the air, hanging in chains on a gibbet; shocking as it was, it engaged my attention; I concluded it must have been a most undutiful son, when the birds of prey had devoured him, and the ravens picked out his eyes. Suddenly I was surprised the voice of a man, who cried, "O my dear cousin Paddy, I wish those who put you there for nothing, were there themselves." I looked about, and saw fifteen or twenty men and women lying in a dry ditch; I would have fled, but considering that it might not be safe, I rather chose to walk at an easy pace: one of the fellows made up to us, and asked where we were going; I told him to our country, Ireland. "Arrah," said he, "are you a Catholic?" I said I was! Upon which he said, "Faith, poor Paddy Lawler, who hangs there was a good one." "And what, Sir, brought him to so unfortunate an end?" "Why," said he, "he was in love with a proud scornful hussy, and she slighted him, so he met her in this place, and because she wouldn't accept of his civility, he lent her a knock on the head, and so he got his will of her. She died the next day, after she had given information against him; to be sure her skull was broke, but he did not design that."
While he was telling me this story, I trembled, but made the best speed I could to the village, being infinitely more frightened at him, that I had been at the snake. He accompanied us there, for which I returned him thanks; how sincerely my readers may judge. But I made a virtue of necessity, and gave him fair words. "Now," said he, "are not all these heretics damned rogues?" "Aye," said I, "and I hope our true King will put all villains to death." "Arrah, give me your fist for that;" I was obliged to comply. When I got to the inn I told him, I should be glad of his company, but that I had a jealous husband, who would certainly kill me, if he found any man in my company. "Damn the rogue," said he, "if I was you, I would make him a cuckold in a crack." I desired he would please to accept of a pot of drink, which he did, and making a leg, walked off leaving us unmolested, and I blessed God I had purchased life at so cheap a rate.
That soft answers turn away wrath, is most assured; for I remember some years ago, when the Cavan rabble were up in arms, my mother, sister, and I, went to pay a visit at Rathfarnham, to the lady of our excellent Recorder [Note:*Eaton Stannard, Esq., who resigned.] On our return home, we were surrounded by a pack of these wretches, who ordered my father's coachman to pull off his hat to them, which he refusing, and they being all armed with short thick oak tree clubs, they swore we should not ride in a coach, and they walk; my mother, with surprising presence of mind, said "Gentlemen, you are very welcome to the coach, my daughter and I will walk, to oblige you with it," which, villains, ruffians, and murderers as they were, they would not permit, but only desired we might huzza for them, this notwithstanding our terror, we cheerfully did; and my mother said, "Gentlemen, perhaps you are dry," and gave them a crown, with which they were so well pleased, that they huzza'd for us, offering to guard us safe to town; but she alleging that would be too much trouble, they left us with a kind assurance, that they would drink our healths, and fight for us any time we stood in need of their protection.
Nothing material happened to us till we got to Chester; we took a survey of the Cathedral Church, which had nothing like beauty to recommend it, any more than the old black walls which environ part of the city.
Next day we set out for Parkgate, which was crowded with nobility and gentry, waiting for a fair wind; here we were so long detained, that my purse was quite exhausted, even my last shilling gone; this was a sad situation, we were fixed to a point without any power of moving one way or another, wanting the necessary agent, money. There was but one way left, which was even to apply to lady Kildare, who was there; but being ashamed to do it in my name, I e'en did it in my son's, who waited on her ladyship with it, met a favourable reception, and brought home a guinea. The wind sprung up fair and we embarked on board the Racehorse. As I am always deadly sick at sea, I chose to keep on deck, as long as I possibly could. My son being well inured to the watery element, skipped about, and sung marine songs. Most of the passengers went to their cabins, when Mr. Hudson, the clergyman, seeing my boy speak to me, asked me, was not that young lad's name Pilkington? I said "Yes!" "I thought so", said he, "for he is very like Mr. Pilkington the clergyman;" "He has some cause to be so, sir, for he is his son." "How can you answer for that, Madam?" "Why indeed, Sir, I have some cause of knowledge of it, for I am that worthy divine's wife, and the boy's mother." The gentlemen confessed the force of my plea, and expressed great compassion for us both; and I do verily believe, had he known our circumstances, he would have added relief to pity.
He seemed to be alerted and worthy gentleman, which I had a better opportunity of discovering, as he, my son, myself, and a gentleman whom I did not know, sat all night in Lady Kildare's coach, which was lashed upon deck. We there were becalmed, and amongst other things, Mr. Hudson said, that had he ever been so unfortunate to take a common woman, and she had brought forth a son so like him, as mine was to my husband, he would at least have concluded that to be his own.
Upon which I related to him a true story. A servant maid who had lived with Mr. Pilkington in Ireland, inquired of the persons who kept the next house, who were the new lodgers they had got, the name made her but more inquisitive, and she begged I would permit her to see me, but as I had met with many a trick in life, I bid my son and daughter sit behind the bed curtain, and then desired her to come up; I asked her, did she know me; she said no indeed! But she had lived with one Mr. Pilkington in Ireland, who had turned his wife out of doors; and that he lived on Lazar's Hill. "And what," said I, "were the names of the children?" "Why," returned she, "there was Master Billy, Miss Betty, and Master Jack!" "And how came you to leave him?" "Why, indeed he was beating Miss and Master sadly, and I asked him why he did it? He said because they were none of his! 'Oh, Sir,' said I, 'Sure Master Jack is yours, for he is your own picture.' 'Aye,' said he, 'the mother was thinking of me when he was got.'" "In truth, sir," said she, "I don't doubt that, for I believe you were the nearest person to her;" for which offence, she was directly dismissed. And could he have found matter against her life, he would have prosecuted her.
The children knew her, and whatever little favours she had by stealth done for them in my exile, I did my utmost to return to her. A benefit is seldom lost.
At length the day broke and discovered us my native earth; I hailed the motherland which gave me birth, but knowing how little money I had, did not choose to land at Dunleary, which must be attended with more expense, than I had any possibility of answering: the other passengers all went ashore; 'twas about three o'clock, and my boy and I waited in the ship, not doubting but we should be soon at Ringsend; but it happened otherwise, for we were becalmed; we once more took our seats in the coach, and found there the hammer cloth, in which I wrapped myself, and fell fast asleep. In the night I was awakened by the terrible curses of the captain of the ship, who swore dreadfully we should be that moment lost. I dropped the glass, and asked them what was the matter; he said he had fallen asleep, and trusted the ship to one who had directly thrown us on the North Bull. "And are we then to be lost?" "I see no remedy, we shall strike in a minute." I pulled my son, who laughed at my fears, which really were very great. The ship struck upon a sandbank, with such force, that it rebounded on another, and beat it almost to pieces. However, the morning arose, that gilded all the flowery plains, and presented to our view a most agreeable prospect, both of land and water, the tide left our ship on the strand, so that without expense or difficulty, we walked to Ringsend.
Here we took a little decent lodging, till I could be able to remove to Dublin, and I immediately despatched my son, with a letter to a nobleman, whom I had formerly seen as my father's; who obligingly sent me a guinea: this enabled me to dismiss my lodging; my son brought me a coach, in which we put our portmanteau, and removed to an apartment he had taken for me at a small rent in Aungier Street.
Well, reader, I have now brought you with me to Hibernia; where you will suppose the daughter of a gentleman so universally esteemed, as Dr. Van Lewen, would, after so long an exile, have surely found some friends.
I wrote a very mannerly epistle to my beloved spouse, in which I slightly mentioned his merciless treatment of me, and his poor children; and told him, that if he would pay me the sixty-five pounds, for which I had his bond in Counsellor Smith's hands, I would not only forego the interest, which amounted to a considerable sum, but also immediately leave the kingdom; provided also, he would give me assurance, that he would take care of his youngest son. I leave every person of candour, to judge whether or not this was a fair proposal: as I most solemnly protested to Almighty God, that I had no other intention, as there was not at that time, above forty pages of my first volume wrote; however he scorned to send me an answer of any kind. Well, I wrote again, yet still his reverence was silent as the grave.
This I confess a little incensed me; and first determined me in the design, of publicly vindicating my innocence, and laying open, for universal benefit, his unparalleled character; in which, if I have erred, 'tis through tenderness, as his actions,
Call virtue hypocrite,
Pluck the fair rose from a young innocent love,
And plant a blister there.—
I wrote to Counsellor Smith, and told him how Mr. Pilkington had treated me, and withal informed him, that if he had too much lenity to sue him for my lawful right, I insisted on his delivering me the bond, that I might put it in force, for the relief of myself and my child.
The counsellor was at a loss how to act in so critical point. He knew Mr. Pilkington's talent, of traducing every person, who did not act in compliance to his inclination; and, on the other hand, justice compelled him to think I had a right to be paid, what had so long and so unlawfully been withheld from me, and by which I was drove to such extremities in London.
He therefore wrote to him, and I suppose acquainted him, how much it was out of his power, as an honest man, to defend him from the consequences of that bond. Mr. Pilkington finding all his policy of no effect in this particular affair, condescended to honour the councillor with the most stupid epistle, in which he insinuated, "that his motive for giving that bond, was in order to make me live virtuously for the future, which he could sufficiently prove I had not done." [Produce your evidence Mr. Parson.] "That if he was allowed only such time to pay it, as his circumstances would not allow, he would try what remedy he could obtain from a court of equity, when a full state of the case was laid before them." These are pretty near the words; I wish you had, my dear spouse, as it must have given pleasure to any court, to see you look conscience in the face.
But not to be tedious, after much trouble and vexation of spirit, I procured from him twenty pounds at one payment, with which I took a little rural habitation near Bow Bridge.
I wrote a letter to my dear old friend, Mr. Cibber, and told him, that however improbable it might seem to him, I had actually twenty pounds in my pocket; and added, that I had
A little room to lodge a friend,
A river at my garden's end,
and wanted nothing, but the delights of his conversation, to make my situation completely agreeable. I believe Mr. Cibber had not then heard of my expedition, so that my letter must have surprised him. By the return of the post, I received from his dear hand the following humorous Epistle.
To Mrs. Lætitia Pilkington, &c.
Thou frolicsome farce of fortune: What! is there then another act to come of you yet? I thought you had some time ago, made your final exit. Well, but without wit or compliment, I am glad to hear you are so tolerably alive. I have your agreeable narrative from Dublin before me, and shall, as you desire, answer every paragraph in its turn, without once considering its importance or connection. In the first place, you say I have for many years been the kind preserver of your life. In this, I think I have no great merit, as you seem to set so little value on it yourself, otherwise you would have considered, that poverty was the most helpless handmaid, that ever waited on a high-spirited lady. You seem to have a glimpse of a new world before you; think a little how we were to squeeze through the crowd, with such a bundle at your back, and do not suppose it possible, you can have a grain of wit, till you have twenty pounds clear in your pocket; with half that sum, a greater sinner than you, may look the Devil in the face.
Few people of sense would turn their backs on a woman of wit, that does not look as if she came to borrow money of them; but when want brings her to her wits' end, every fool will have wit enough to avoid her.
I am not sure your spouse's having taken another wife, before you came over, might not have proved the only means, of his becoming a better husband to you; for had he picked up a fortune, the hush of your prior claim to him, might be worth a better separate maintenance, than what you are now likely to get out of him.
As to my health and spirits, they are as usual, and full as strong as anybody's that has enjoyed them the same number of years.
If the value I have for you, gives you any credit in your own country, pray stretch it as far as you think it can be serviceable to you, for underneath all the rubbish of your misfortunes, I could see your merit sparkle like a lost jewel. I have no greater pleasure, than in placing my esteem on those, who can feel and value it. Had you been born to a large fortune, your shining qualities might have put half the rest of your sex out of countenance. If any of them are uncharitable enough to call this flattery, tell them what a poor devil you are, and let that silence them.
I hope you have but one volume of your works in the press, because if it meets with any success, I believe I could give you some natural hints, which in the easy dress of your pen, might a good deal enliven it.
You pay your court very ill to me, by depreciating the natural blessings on your side the water: pray what have we to boast of, that you want, but wealth and insolent dominion? Are not the glory of God's creation there?—Woman, lovely woman there, in their highest lustre! I have seen several and frequent samples of them here; and have heard of many, not only from yourself, but others, who for the agreeable entertainment of social life, have not their equal play-fellows in old England.
And pray what would life be worth without them? Dear soft souls, for now too they are lavish of favours, which in my youth, they would have trembled to trust me with. In a word, if instead of the sea, I had only the dry ground Alps to get over, I should think it but a trip to Dublin; in the meantime, we must even compound for such interviews, as the post or packet can bring or send, to
Your real friend and servant,
I communicated this letter to Lord Chief Baron Bowes, the Hon. Arthur Hill Esq.; and several persons of taste, were infinitely delighted with it, as they were with many others, which I had from Mr. Cibber, and which would considerably have embellished my work, had I not the misfortune to lose them, by lending them to a man of distinction, who by some accident mislaid them; so I must e'en entertain you, with the neat product of my own brain.
Mr. Victor, whom I have mentioned in my second volume, and who was now treasurer of the Theatre Royal in Smock Alley, came to visit me several times, and frequently favoured us with an order to see the play, as we were upon a very friendly and familiar footing. My son used, when he had an inclination, to call on my friend for a pass; one night he sent once or twice for that purpose, when the gentleman was abroad? What does the giddy creature do, but awkwardly counterfeit his hand to an order for two. He told me that, and said he was sure Mr. Victor would not deny it, when he was informed who had taken that freedom with his name. I laughed at the reflection of the jest, when it came to be known, as Mr. Victor had had the boy in his arms when an infant. Accordingly we took the coach, went to the play, and the forgery seemed to pass extremely well. The first act was scarce begun, when a person entered, and as the house was thin of company, tapped my son on the shoulder. I did not apprehend the cause of it, but began to grow on easy when I found him stay a full hour; at length they returned, and informed me, that he had been, at the instigation of Mr. Sh—n, arrested by two constables, from whom he was only delivered by the solicitations of Mr. Victor. This greatly astonished me, as I thought Mr. Sh—n ought to have had a little more respect for the son of a clergyman, especially as he was well convinced, that as I knew his father, (whom the Dean entertained more as a buffoon, than a friend or companion) and his mother, I had a power of furnishing the word with some anecdotes, which were hitherto unrevealed; but the scheme of letting my son escape was not any vanity in him, but obeyed to catch me going out, whom they imagined they should discover by the boy; but it happened that a gentleman handed me out, by which this generous intent was frustrated.
His little deformed brother had the assurance to tell my son some nights after, that Mr. Sh—n would esteem any satire I wrote on him a panegyric; which when I heard, in order to oblige him with the compliments to his taste, I enclosed to Mr. Victor the following lines, to be forwarded to his mightiness.
To Mr. Sh—n.
Fain would the Muse record thy crimes,
And leave them to succeeding times;
But finds it difficult to trace,
The vices of thy motley race;
Whether thy insolence and pride,
Spring from thy S—l father's side.
That pedant, who with rod in hand,
Could in his paltry school command,
And underneath his cruel yoke,
Many a generous spirit broke;
Who else were formed in camps to shine,
Or grace the noble patriot line:
Or didst thou from thy dam inherit,
Thy sordid avaricious spirit,
Of whom I heard old Swift declare,
So many vices were her share,
That were her sex created all,
Pure as the first before the fall;
And but her crimes through all distributed,
The best would merit to be gibbeted.
Thy father he applauded next,
Studying a wench more than a text;
Who having got of money store,
Lavishing all upon a whore,
Was sent to hell, his latest journey,
By her base brother an attorney;
Such be thy fate, thou wretch accursed,
Or else with spleen and envy burst;
Or with thy uncle, brave McFadden,
Whose infamy thy soul is clad in,
To free the suffering Sage and and nation,
Be doomed like him to transportation.
But who thy destiny can alter?
Thy very looks, presage a halter.
Oh may I live to hail that day,
When the glad players shall survey,
Their tyrant stripped of all command,
High on the well fixed ladder stand.
And taking thence, one glorious swing,
How will they spout, "God save the King?"
Then shall those clothes, in which disguise,
You'd seem a Lord to vulgar eyes.
Did not thy base and abject mien,
Betray the beggar's brat within,
Be by thy kinsman hangman worn,
And still a scoundrel thief adorn.
This, Sir, I most humbly beg your acceptance of, as 'tis indeed the only thing which I could without dissimulation say of you.
I was told, that this worthy gentleman, in a letter to the inimitable Mr. Garrick, said, "We shine like Castor and Pollux, you adorn Great Britain, while I illuminate Hibernia." Nothing sure, but his matchless ignorance, could have drawn so disproportionate a parallel. I remember the first time I had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Garrick perform, it was in the character of King Lear; I was in one of the boxes, and when he came to the mad scene, I was so much affected at it, that I got up insensibly, and was going out, till I was waked, like one from a trance, by the lady who accompanied me, pulling me by the sleeve, and demanding where I was going? And to say the truth,
He made me marble, with too much conceiving.
I am certain no person was ever capable of making the audience feel a part, which they did not sincerely do themselves; and I'm convinced, Mr. Garrick never played a part, wherein he did not, through the whole performance, believe himself the man; whereas Pollux, as Sh—n modestly styles himself, is no other than Tom Sh—n, though he change dress and periwig twenty times a night; he is indeed, Semper Eadam, worse and worse, as my countryman has it.
This brings to my memory, a story of a very eminent player, who was to perform the part of Hannibal. A nobleman behind the scenes, took the liberty to give a twitch to one tie of his peruke. The enraged hero turned on his heel, and with his martial truncheon, smote the peer over the cheek
A blow, by heaven! And from an actor's hand!
He did not stab him, for that were poor revenge.
But when he came off the stage, my Lord told him, he believed he thought himself really Hannibal, when he can give with impunity such an indignity, to a man of his consequence. "My Lord," said the player, "if I did not think myself Hannibal, I should never be able to make the audience do so."—So much for theatrical affairs.
I now began seriously to resolve on publishing my writings, and to that end had proposals printed. Persons were first a little timorous, lest I should print a list of subscribers, and by that means they might unwittingly give offence; but when I declared no names should be inserted, I had a numerous contribution, from all the nobility, clergy, and gentry; amongst whom, when I name our excellent Lord Chancellor, in whom titles and honours had made no alteration, but that of increasing his politeness, munificence, and liberality, to every individual; our patriot Speaker; and the worthy Recorder Eaton Stannard, Esq.; I believe no person of distinction, will blush to have their names mentioned.
Well, at length my first volume was finished, and I wrote a bantering letter to Sir J—n F—ke, to whom I have the dishonour to be allied, to tell him, that I intended to dedicate it to him, Nemine Con. He, whose mind is truly pictured in his ill favoured face, told my son, that for himself, everybody would take it as a thing done to make him ridiculous, since he had not any accomplishments, that might merit an encomium, which indeed was true, except 'tis his matchless impudence, in keeping possession of an estate, which his own mother the Lady —, told him he had no more right to, than to the Dukedom of Burgundy.
When his supposed father, Sir B—ph F—ke died, this young spark was an Ensign in the army, and stepping at once into affluence, he being naturally of a covetous disposition, refused to pay his mother the jointure which she claimed, and was going to commence a suit with her; when one morning she called on him and said, "Hark ye, Sir John, do you resolve to go to law with me for what is my right?" He begged to be excused, but told her, self-preservation was the first law of nature; "So it is Sir," said she, calling him by his real father's name; "then you're no longer Sir J—n F—ke which I will go instantly and make public."
He fell dutifully on his knees, entreated her pardon for his disobedience, and promised for the future to pay all proper resignation to her superior understanding.—This, Sir John, you and many others know to be fact.
He pointed out to me, as a subject for everlasting praise, my beloved Lord Kingsborough, then Sir Robert King, and though I had not the felicity I have since experienced of a personal acquaintance with him, yet the character pleased me, and accordingly I wrote a trifling dedication, far inferior to his merit, which notwithstanding he kindly accepted, and sent me the following letter:
I return you my thanks for the favour of your dedication, which though I am sensible is too high a compliment, yet my vanity will not permit me to refuse. I beg you will take the trouble to send your servant to me tomorrow morning, and you'll oblige,
Your devoted humble servant,
I accordingly sent my son, who returned with a letter, in which were enclosed two notes for ten pounds each. The letter was only this:
I once more return you thanks for the favour you intended me, and have the honour to be,
Your devoted humble servant,
An obliging and easy manner of conferring the highest favours, is what few even amongst the most polite have been able to arrive at, a perfection which alone is given to adorn a Marlborough or a Kingsborough.
But alas, how vain, how fleeting were all the joys I ever proposed to myself. This nobleman, in whose esteem I imagined myself to be so deeply riveted, that not fortune, time, or fate, could ever displace me, was, as I have since learned, by the insinuations of one Clancy, an old blind beggar, whose wants I had often supplied, both in London and Dublin, persuaded to believe, that I had spoken disrespectfully of his Lordship; and that my son said he would print his letters, and sell them for halfpence apiece; all which was most notoriously false: however it had such an effect, that his Lordship came to me, and giving me ten guineas in a sort of commanding tone, desired me to give him his letters; I burst into tears, and told him, I would resign them, (or even anything if possibly dearer) to his pleasure. I went to my drawer, took as many as I could find, and delivered them as I would,
The ruddy drops that visit my sad heart.
He took them abruptly, and departing, told me he would send in the morning for the remainder of them; he left me in a condition which I am utterly incapable of describing. A circumstance so unlooked for, sunk me into a train of the most gloomy reflections, which might have been attended with fatal consequences, had not the entrance of some agreeable company dissipated my present reflections.
The next morning before I was up a chairman came and knocked at the door; the servant asked who he wanted: he said he came from Lord Kingsborough, and must see Mrs. Pilkington herself; he told him I was not up; but he swore and stormed, saying he would not leave the place till he had his Lord's letters from me. I happened to overhear him, and desired the maid to tell the chairman, I would send to his Lordship presently; I according arose, and piqued at the usage I had received from the fellow, I must confess with shame, I wrote a little warmly on the subject to my Lord, and without allowing myself time for thought despatched it off.
For I bear anger as the flint bears fire,
Which much enforced, shows a hasty spark,
And straight is cool again.
The fatal epistle had scarce left my hand, ere my heart was agitated with the most sensible remorse. I in vain despatched a messenger after the first,
'Twas passed, 'twas gone,'twas irrecoverable;
It reached his hands, and he only sent for answer, "'Tis very well."
I believe the judicious part of my readers, must have apprehended that the sin of ingratitude is not amongst the number of mine, since I have endeavoured through my work, if possible, to make the contrary conspicuous, by rendering due praise to all my benefactors. Yet what could my beloved Lord imagine, but that he had bestowed all his favours on an unworthy person?
I did not believe that after all the anguish of mind I had sustained through my life, anything could move my philosophy, (which had made me determined never to be overjoyed or surprised, at any advancement in life, nor dejected or cast down at any adversity on this side Futurity) so much as this.
Downy repose was a stranger to my pillow, and I fell a prey to the greatest languor and heaviness of soul. However as I knew his Lordship was filled with the milk of human pity, I imagined, by apology for the rash act, I should be blessed with his forgiveness, and renewal of his friendship to me, to which end I wrote the following lines:
To the right Honourable the Lord Kingsborough.
No more my Lord with pleasure I expect,
Your friendly aid my weakness to protect.
Lost to those transports, you have oft inspired,
And every happiness my soul desired;
Or where for succour, whither shall I fly,
But buried in unheard-of sorrows die?
The soul of pity dwells not in a slave,
But kind compassion dignifies the brave.
At Darius' woes, great Philip's warlike son
Was moved, when conquests and when toils were done.
Each godlike hero has a tender part,
And woes like mine, would melt a savage heart.
Ere long my soul had no desire in view,
No hope or wish, but that of pleasing you.
One smile from you would make a rich amends,
For shattered fortune, and the loss of friends:
Esteemed by you, I could with ease survey
My name and honour, to the world a prey.
But now no more, I'm ravished with that voice,
Whose sacred sound bids agony rejoice:
The vernal blooms no longer give me ease,
Nor painted violets my fancy please.
Each darling object but elates my grief,
And Death's cold hand can only give relief.
Yet, when Lætitia shall exist no more,
But dust to dust, as she must short, restore,
Shed one kind tear of pity on her hearse,
Thou matchless subject of her latest verse;
And let no stone or marble ever tell
What woes her children, or herself, befell:
But, mixed and covered, with forgotten clay,
Time shall dissolve her memory away.
His Lordship sent me the following answer, which only added more weight to my oppressed soul.
I am extremely honoured, by that esteem and friendship which you profess for in your really fine copy of verses; yet, when I reflect on a late letter of yours, which I still have by me, I cannot help thinking myself as unworthy of your praises, as I was of your threats.
Your very humble servant,
I concluded from this letter, that I had lost all the share in his esteem, that I once flattered myself I was possessed of; which shows the instability of human affairs.
And here, gentle reader, my story and my life draw to a period. I am convinced, from the present situation of my health, that I shall never live to see this volume published. It is the only legacy I have to leave my poor boy, who, I fear, will meet with many enemies, on account of my writings, when it will be out of my power to protect him. But Oh! ye good and great, to you and the Almighty I commend him; and hope the tenderness which melted you to compassionate my woes, will incline you to assist him. Believe me, my dear Lord Kingsborough, no creature living holds your Lordship in higher esteem than he, and, as you told me in one of your letters, your inclinations were, and endeavours should be, to serve him, let not the memory of my offence prevent your keeping that promise sacred.