I promised in my proposals for printing this volume by subscription, to give the readers a key to the first, second, and third volumes, in this place; but having been advised by some judicious friends, that such a thing would only tend to create ill blood, and excite a resentment too powerful to be withstood by so inconsiderable a person as myself, it has been thought expedient to furnish them with an account of my mother's death; which I am the more capable of doing, as I remained with her to her last moments.
She had been a long time in a declining state of health, having an extreme bad stomach, and digestion: nor did she imagine that nature could have held out as long as it did.
She never seemed in the least uneasy at the knowledge of her approaching end; often declaring, that if she could take me with her to felicity, she would leave this world without reluctance.
And indeed, I am not surprised, that her maternal love extended so far, as she even then foresaw the calamities which I have since sustained; and knew, that if the world, at her first setting out as a writer, with her extraordinary talents, scarce afforded her bread, my fate must be even harder, except I met the patronage of some illustrious person.
And Providence seemed inclinable to comply with her wish; for, in the latter end of June, 1751, I was seized with a most violent pleuretic fever, which I got by an extreme cold, I sent for Dr. Fergus, a most eminent physician, and worthy gentleman; my mother was at this time so weak as to be obliged to keep her bed: when the doctor saw me, and heard the symptoms of my disorder, he told me I was a dead man; that I should have applied some days sooner, since he was now of opinion it had got too far the ascendancy over me for any cure to be affected: however, he ordered me to be blooded four times that day, and then went up to my mother's apartment.
She asked him his advice upon her own case and mine; and he told her a little too frankly, that nature might do something for my recovery, but that her death was inevitable; she smiling, said to him, that the worms would have but a poor feast of her, she being quite worn away.
Well, I was blooded according to his order, and the fever abated considerably. I had the next night an excessive perspiration, which carried off all the symptoms except a little weakness.
In the morning a young lady, who honoured me with a particular regard, came to see me. She was so excessively delighted at my speedy and unexpected recovery, that she resolved to spend the day with me; and my poor mother, ever willing to contribute to my satisfaction, told the nurse-keeper that she found herself much better, and desired she might be brought to my apartment; accordingly she lifted my mother like a child, in her arms, and placed her in an elbow-chair by my bedside: she affected, in order to please me, to be extremely cheerful; and the young lady kneeled down, and asked her blessing; telling her she wanted to have a wedding in the house instead of a burying from it. My mother, who retained her spirits and good humour to the last, gave us both her blessing very devoutly, and her sincere permission to marry. I had a small chicken dressed for my dinner, of which my mother partook, but stomach her was too weak to keep it, or a glass of wine, which she drank after it; so she was obliged to be carried to bed.
After her departure, as the weather was vastly warm, I ordered the maid to open the sash window; and, in the meantime, comes the doctor; we were just going to drink tea: this gentleman is a little nearsighted; but seeing the sash up, and the company in the room, "What," said he, "this poor boy' s gone; I thought so!" and was going out: "No, Sir," said I, "I am still alive:" "Alive!" said he, "and what are all these people doing here?" He immediately went and darkened the window, taking the company by the shoulders, and carried them out; he then charged the nurse-keeper, not to open the window, nor let any person talk to me for a week.
I thought this prescription a little hard, as I imagined myself quite well: accordingly the next morning I sent the nurse out, got up, dressed myself, and went to my poor mother; she was agreeably surprised to see me, but upon opening the curtains, I found she had a great cast in her eyes, which shocked me extremely, and she told me, that everything appeared double to her; I did not give her to understand, that I perceived it, but told her, she looked better than I had known her do a long time. She said the doctor had given her over: "Why so he did me, Madam, and yet you see I'm alive; and if you would take my prescription, I daresay you will make a fibber of him."
She said she would, and I proposed, that my spouse as I called Miss C—m, and she, and I, should the next morning go to Chapelizod, a place about three miles from Dublin, and spend the day. She seemed quite pleased with my request, and sent to have a landau bespoke for that purpose.
In the morning she was up and dressed before me, and was as sprightly as I had ever seen her, though quite weak, insomuch that she was obliged to be carried into the machine and out again.
We set out before breakfast, and went through the Phoenix Park, it was a fine day, and we had the landau opened; the fresh air vastly revived her, and she repeated a good many lines of the poem on the Windsor Forest; she even complained of being hungry. When we came to the tavern, I ordered some tea; and to my infinite surprise, my mother called for a plate of ham, and some oil and vinegar, ate very hearty, and drank two glasses of white wine.
The readers may judge that I was overjoyed at seeing so fair a prospect of her recovery; she after made a shift to walk down into the flower garden, and seemed to enjoy the balmy fragrance with great inward satisfaction. I then went in, and bespoke dinner, which was young ducks, and green peas; my mother lay down and slept till it was ready, at which she rose, and ate very hearty: there happened to be a couple of gentleman in the house of our acquaintance, who after dinner joined company with us; and my mother told them that the doctor had given her over, but she was resolved to outlive the whole faculty. In short, she related twenty agreeable stories to our infinite entertainment.
Little did I imagine, that our present joy was only the prologue to the grief I too soon after received. We did not leave Chapelizod till ten at night, when we all set out in the landau; I know not whether the air might not have been very fatal to her, for no sooner were we got a hundred yards, but she began to cough, and continued so all night, during which I sat up with her.
We lodged at this time in the house of one Shiel, in Phraper Lane, Dublin: we had a first and second floor, for which we constantly paid ten shillings and sixpence a week; the man of the house had been a parish clerk, and had held that dignity under my father for some years; he afterwards turned farrier, or horse-doctor, in which meeting with no success, he came to Dublin, took a house which he let to lodgers, except the parlours and kitchen, and commenced a famous quack; I question whether the most eminent of that profession in London, which I take to be R—k, ever tried more salutary methods to destroy the human species, than this profound Æsculapius had done, nor with more success; whom we shall hereafter distinguish by the title of Dr. Shiel.
This wretch, who was ignorant beyond conception, was a compound of pragmatism and hypocrisy, his eyes were eternally bent to heaven, with the most solemn and austere aspect, while his heart was perpetrating the destruction of all who had the misfortune to be thrown into his house.
The first instance which convinced me of it, was this; the light guineas were now cried down, so that people would scarcely accept them on any account. The Doctor was very particular every Saturday to call for his money; being the most avaricious mortal I had seen. It happened one evening, that we had no money in the house but these guineas, one of which was very remarkable and wanted six shillings. This I gave to him, and allowed him the deficiency. In a few days after, every light guinea which my mother had, she sold, and took current guineas for them. She had exactly five weight ones in her purse one morning that I went out, she left her pocket hanging on a chair; as she was never suspicious of any one. When I returned, she was going to send me to pay some cash; but what should I see the light guinea I had some days before giving Shiel. The thing astonished me; I asked if she had been in the room, she said no, nor any person besides nurse; this nurse, under the rose, was much addicted to liquor, I called her, and examined her closely about the matter, she strenuously denied her knowing anything of it; at length, by threats and entreaties, she confessed that Shiel had given her half a pint of rum to change them in her pocket, he assuring her it was the same thing.
I now besought my mother's permission to lay the old canting r—l in Newgate, but she begged, that I would let her die in peace, and not cause her last moments to be disturbed with contention; she further conjured me not to mention it till she was either dead, or in some other lodging. In compliance to her request, I dropped the affair.
But notwithstanding her desire of quietness, this bloodhound, for such alone I can style him, resolved to hasten her exit; for the next day watching his opportunity, when I was out, he came up, and with an austere countenance demanded three weeks' rent, which was that day due to him, she told him in a faint voice that I was gone for money, and would pay him at my return; but he swore he would not be trifled with any longer; and if she did not instantly pay him, he would turn her into the street.
Imagine what a shock this behaviour must be to one in her feeble condition; she could make no answer, but burst into tears. Come, Madam, said the inhuman cannibal, these arts won't pass with me; give me either my money, or value for it, or by G—d you shall go out of this lodging. She gave him the keys of her drawers, and desired him to take any movables he thought proper for his security, and entreated for Christian charity he would leave the room, as his presence was baneful to her.
This was all he aimed at, so very modestly helped himself to everything that was valuable, and left the room.
I returned soon after, I was greatly surprised, to see my poor mother trembling, and pale, so that she scarce seemed to live; she fainted looked up at me, and said, "My dear child, that villain Shiel has been the death of your mother; I knew I had not long to exist, but sure it was cruel to stab at half an hour of my frail life."
I could scarce contain the various passions rising in my breast; love, pity, horror, and resentment, reciprocally took place, and I should doubtless have gone and taken his life, but that filial duty withheld me from adding to my dear mother's affliction.
I prevailed on her to take a little mulled wine, after which she went to bed; and I found on the table these lines, which were the last she ever wrote:
My Lord, my saviour, and my God,
I bow to thy correcting rod;
Nor will I murmur or complain,
Though every limb be filled with pain;
Though my weak tongue its aid denies,
And daylight wounds my wretched eyes.
I sat up with her all this night, during which she slept little for the heavy cough on her lungs; but she retained her senses so well, that she entertained me with many stories, and repeated part of a poem written on Mrs. Waller. "I believe, Madam," said I, "she's a subscriber to you;" "Yes," said she, "she paid the money to my father." I now found her brain begin to grow defective; which gave the most piercing anguish to my heart I had ever received.
She dozed a little about four o'clock in the morning; and when she awoke, told me, she had a mighty agreeable dream; which was, that her father came to her in a mourning coach and six; and told her he was very angry she had been so long ill, and yet never sent for him whom she knew was always ready to assist her: "I am come," continued he, "to bring you out of all your troubles;" and with that, took her in his arms, like a child, and carried her away in the coach.
My boding heart readily interpreted this dream, as indeed did her own; "My dear," said she, "you know the usage I have received from your father, together with the knowledge I have that there are but few good clergymen to be found, have ever made me declare that I would permit none of them to visit me in my last hours, except dear Dr. Delany: however, since he is from town, and the world would add impiety to all they have said of me, if I don't have some one of them, pray send for the curate of this parish;" I accordingly did, and we all joined in prayer; after which she fell into a good deal of discourse with him, and they drank a glass of wine together: he asked her if she forgave my father; and she related the following story to him.
There was an honest Irish papist, on his deathbed, and when the priest was going to give them absolution, asked the sick man, if he freely forgave all his enemies? Otherwise he could not administer the sacrament to him; the man replied, "Arragh faith, father, I do forgive everyone only Teddy Brennan, that pounded my cow." "Nay, but," said the priest, "you must forgive him also, or I cannot absolve you;" "Well," said he, "father, if I die, I will forgive him; but if I live, I never can. Will that do?" said the sick man. "Arragh faith," said the priest, "it won't do, it must do;" and accordingly proceeded.
"So, Sir," said she, "if I die I do forgive him; and I wish the God whom he has offended may do the same; but if I live, mark you that, Master Parson, I never will."
The clergyman departed, and in about an hour's time came a great long letter, written, I suppose, at the desire of Dr. Shiel, by some of the enthusiastical Methodists, of which Dublin is now the chief receptacle in his Majesty's dominions; it was written in their whining style, declaring that she, my mother, was damned beyond redemption; that she was now on the brink of hell; and that not the blood of the Lamb could intercept her.
We both laughed at this fantastic contrivance, she only wished for strength to be able to answer it properly; but alas, that she never had.
This day she retained her senses tolerably to the evening, when she began to talk incoherently. I sat up till four in the morning, at which time I grew very heavy: "What," said she, "cannot you watch and pray a moment, till this bitter cup passes from me; a moment, and I should be no more: Come," said she, "kneel down, and take my blessing, and the last adieu." With a heart rent in twain, I complied, and she later hand on my head, and said very devoutly, "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, bless you; the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost, protect and guard you, and bring you safe to everlasting peace, where I go before you; for, surely, my dear child, I believe, through Christ, I shall be happy hereafter."
The words made so deep an impression on my soul, that I could not help repeating them; and I do it more particularly, because some people have been cruel enough to say, she died an atheist, but surely every person, who examines her writings, will find that she was a sincere believer in the doctrines of Christianity, as taught by the Church of England; the perpetual benefit of which I hope she now enjoys. I remember in the beginning of her illness, she called me to her; and said, I have anything to request, and you must by no means deny me, but promise on your life, your honour, and your soul, to perform it; I told her, as I had not often disobeyed her, she need not be so particular in charging me; "Tis this," said she, "in a few days you'll lose your poor little mother; and as you know I have no money, your father undoubtedly will bury me, and, perhaps, may propose putting my remains in his family burial place, but if you suffer that, you have my heavy curse; nay, if it's possible, I will come from the grave to resent it. Lay me by my dear father, and let our kindred ashes mingled together, for, were I put in the ground with your father,
The miracle of Thebes would be renewed,
And the dividing flames burn different ways.
These were her very words. [Note: She and her father are buried in Saint Ann's Church, Dawson Street.] "Now," said she, "if ever you grow rich, erect a square marble stone over me; and let this inscription be on it;
Here lieth, near the body of her honoured father,
JOHN VAN LEWEN, M.D.
the mortal part of
MRS. LÆTITIA PILKINGTON,
whose spirit hopes for that peace,
through the infinite merit of Christ,
which a cruel and merciless world never afforded her.
I sincerely promised to obey her injunction. But to return:—between five and six her breath grew short, and her eyesight failed, I went, and embracing our hand, which was now almost lifeless, asked if she knew me: "Yes," said she, "you are my eldest son, come from the college for my blessing; you might have called before, but God bless you." It seemed as if her not being permitted to see him disturbed her last moments. She then desired me to kneel down and pray by her, which I did, still keeping her hand in mine, I found it grow cold, and heavy, and looking up just saw her expire with a sigh.
I now beheld the most tender and endearing mother departed from me: my only prop and succour gone: while I saw myself ready to be exposed to all the malice of fortune. I too well before experienced the obdurate temper of my father, to hope any favour from him. However, summoning up all my philosophy, and reposing my entire confidence in divine providence, I left that scene of sorrow and lamentation, and retired to take a little repose.
I had some days before this secured all my mother's manuscripts in the hands of a friend, which was very fortunate for me, since the moment old Shiel heard she was dead, he ran into the dining room, and secured everything he could lay hands on; after which he went to inform my father of the long wished and joyful news. He could scarce credit it at first; but when the pious Mr. Shiel assured him on the word of a Christian, that he spoke truth, my father, with great composure, said "It had been well for her, to have died some years ago," old Shiel assured him, that he believed she would not have died this bout, but for the fright he gave her in her sickness; for which kind office my father could not but thank him.
He gave immediate orders for her funeral, which you may depend on it was not profuse; he allowed her, however, a decent oak coffin and shroud, and the nurse-keeper told me, that Shiel was so unparalleled a wretch, that she could scarce keep him out of the room while she stripped the corpse, which the moment she had done, and put her shroud on, he came and took the linen in which she died, and secured that also.
When I arose in the morning, the old hypocrite asked me to breakfast with him, and endeavoured to comfort me, by saying my father was too good a Christian to let me want; and that as the cause of his anger to me was now removed, by the death of my mother, the effect would undoubtedly cease.
I told him I expected nothing from him, nor should I, though infinitely distressed, make any application to him; that nature instructed me to love and protect my mother, whose cause my duty prompted me to espouse, of which I could not be ashamed, since I would do it, were it to be done again.
He said I ought to submit to my father, and write to him; "and," said he, "those papers and letters you have, send them to him, which would prove your respect, and I will engage to mediate matters so well between you, that he shall allow you twenty pounds a year, though he won't see you."
As I am too apt to be credulous, had any person, but this man, whom my soul abhorred, made such overtures, I should have thought there was something in it, but if the harmony of Angels proceeded from his lips, whom I looked on as the murderer of my dear mother, it would to me be hateful as the hissing of serpents.
However, I listened to him, and answered that those papers would certainly obtain money from me, and promises were often broke; that as to twenty pounds a year, my father would as soon give twenty of his teeth; but if the officious Mr. Shiel would prevail on my father to give me fifty pounds, I would not only resign them, but would go to some part of the world, where he should never hear of me.
The latter part of this my father would readily agree to, nay have given me his blessing at my departure, but not a word of the nine and forty pieces. Indeed another pious divine offered me a sum of money to go to America, which because I did not consent to, he has since utterly rejected me; but a little time would show the world his motives for that, and open a very unexpected seemed to the public; and though I have not kept my promise to him in making the affair known before now, yet I take this opportunity of informing his reverence that I have not forgot him.
In short, the doctor (Shiel I mean) went to my father, and told my conditions; but he only laughed, and said I had not my mother's genius, and would quickly fall into contempt, therefore he very fairly set me at defiance; and shall I dare to paint anything against him, he had interest enough to send me over the water. I am sorry for the disagreeable necessity I am under of speaking or writing anything to displease him, but facts may be related, I hope, without offence.
The next day Mr. Faulkner inserted the following paragraph in his paper.
Yesterday morning died Mrs. Lætitia Pilkington.
And the author of Pue's Occurrences, one of the worst papers published there, (I suppose by my father's direction) inserted a very false and scandalous paragraph, while Mr. Esdall, who is a gentleman of known worth and integrity, published a genteel encomium on her.
A few days after I wrote the following little piece, which, as was almost my first attempt in rhyme, and unsought particular subject, I hope the readers will pardon me for introducing it here.
On the death of my beloved mother.
And shall no mournful elegaic lay,
Thy matchless worth and excellence display?
From me, at least, 'tis but a poor amends,
Thou tenderest mother, and thou best of friends;
While, from my eyes, the streaming sorrows run,
Accept this tribute from thy darling son;
Who, taught by thee, in melting numbers tells
What agonising pain his bosom swells;
What dreadful anguish preys upon his mind,
That thou art fled and he remains behind:
Pleased if with you he might ascend the sky,
To the bright regions of felicity,
But here no joy, no comfort, no delight,
Can charm his fancy, or divert his sight:
Wilt thou from never-fading bliss descend,
Me from the storms of fortune to defend?
Midst the rude strokes of adverse fate protect,
Or in sweet visions all my ways direct:
Alas! Too many blessings wait on thee,
To know one anxious, tender pang for me.
Yet sure the pure celestial joys above,
Cannot extirpate thy maternal love;
Which, with a care, description that surpassed,
Defended me from each untimely blast;
Raised me to knowledge in each polished art,
Refined my manners, and improved my heart;
Taught me from pleasing, sacred truths to know,
The source from whence perpetual mercies flow;
Then, to the throne of never dying worth,
Taught me to pour my supplications forth.
May that transcendent power, which called you hence,
Be still my shield, my refuge, and defence,
Till the grim tyrant kindly ends my pain,
And we, enraptured, meet in Heaven again.
I never communicated these lines to anyone; and now transcribe them only from my memory.
Since, by writing this little account, I have obtained the honour of speaking to the public, it gives me an opportunity of saying something in favour of myself, who I am convinced have been misrepresented to them, and for which, I hope, I shall be excused, as self-preservation is the first law of nature. There are many persons of some note in life, who have, on hearing me mentioned, cried, "Oh, horrid dog, shocking fellow, &c." Pray, gentlemen and ladies, for what? Where are my accusers; lest the name the particular crimes for which I deserved those epithets, or else not mention me at all.
My Lord Stafford, I think, is the only instance which English history furnishes us with, of a person being condemned for accumulated treason; nay, even he had a fair hearing for his life: but these people are for condemning me unheard, for no particular fault, only that such and such people say so and so.
A consciousness of this has made me resolved to write my own life, by which means only I shall have a power of setting things in a clear light, and of adjusting many present ambiguities; and, though I confess the public are burdened with things of this kind already, many of which have no tendency to reform the manners of the age, but rather vitiate them; yet I flatter myself, among the variety of real incidents, and whimsical revolutions I have met with, they may find as well entertainment as matter to moralise on.
As I do by no means assume the name of a writer, so the public may be assured I shall never attempt satire; if my betters have faults, that's no affair of mine; I am to pursue my own story. A man who can't put up with a tweak by the nose, and a foot in the rump, is not fit to live in this fashionable world; I therefore assure the public, beforehand, that I will be quite passive; and though I name the error, not the man; by which manner of proceeding, it is not improbable that by the time I am fourscore, I may have an annuity of forty pounds a year; upon the hopes of which I may reasonably subsist and keep up my spirits. And in this I strictly follow the advice of a certain great man in Ireland, whose place of abode is not remote from the Phoenix Park; and whose acquirements have justly raised him from obscurity to opulence; his extensive plans in building have excited a universal admiration of his taste in architecture. This worthy person I applied to, after the death of my mother; and informed him, that I was possessed of some letters, which he had in her lifetime been pleased to honour her with; and that as her papers would, undoubtedly, fall into the hands of a printer, I thought proper, lest the publication of them might be offensive to him, to give him this information.
He sent his compliments by the messenger, and desired to see me the next morning. I accordingly waited on him; and though my circumstances were not in the flow, yet, in order to convince him that I had no lucrative motive in addressing him, I put the letters under a cover, and sent them in before me.
I was then introduced to his presence; he received me with the utmost good manners, desiring me to sit: "Young man," said he, "I have had a letter from you lately, concerning some writings of mine to your mother; she was a lady, whom I regarded, on account of her father and family, whom I well knew; and therefore I corresponded with, and assisted her, my letters you have here sent me; and, young man, I'll keep them; and will keep you a piece of advice better than gold, if you follow it.
"There has been lately at my house his G—e the P—te ******* and several other persons of the most eminent stations in this kingdom, and discoursing of your mother's writings, introduced you; and it was said, that you had taken the liberty to write to several great men, very much in the style of your mother; they imagined, when she was dead, they should have heard no more of the matter; but you seemed to keep her spirit alive. Now, young man," said he, "consider you are not a woman, from whom even a blow cannot hurt honour: we tolerated those things in her, which, in you, would be culpable in the highest degree; in short, if you have any talents, as I am told you have, apply them to make friends, instead of troubling your head about the follies of mankind; find out their virtues, and make that your theme." "Indeed, Sir, that," said I, "will be a difficult matter." "In short, Sir," continued he, "if you do not apply your genius, according to the will of your superiors, care will be taken to send you out of the kingdom before you are aware of it."
I thanked him sincerely for his admonition, which I determined from that moment to establish as my principle; and, on my return through the Park, upon examining the affair, found it more rational to suppose, that I should live by writing panegyric than satire, I resolved to try the experiment, and, at the same time, determined to bestow random praise, no matter to me though the person I addressed was tainted with the most diabolical vices, I was to form the supposed virtues and graces for my own copious idea. The first I exerted my talent on, was the son of a bashaw, then resident in these dominions; and one whose wise interposition in the S—te matters of that kingdom, have made him so much the darling of the grateful people, and so far raised envy on this side the water, that on his return, instead of acclamations he is accosted with sneers and hisses, where ever he appears; while he, conscious of his innate worth, sheds a contemptuous smile on the senseless idiots, who are weak enough to censure his superior abilities.
I remember to have heard him receive the applause of the Senate house, for telling Mr. S—r, that as the season was far advanced, and the gentleman desirous of return to their seats, he thought it best to p—ge the P—t till April ensuing.
This sublime piece of elocution was matter enough for me, who, from my present system, you'll allow was a professed sycophant; I accordingly wrote some lines on the occasion, which were not of consequence enough to subsist till this time, therefore cannot be here recited. I waited on his L—p, and put them into his hand as he stepped into his chariot; he received them, and drove off; the next morning I waited in the same place, till he was going out, and had the honour of a gracious smile; upon which, I lived elegantly that day. The succeeding morning, I received, what? A familiar nod! Upon which I subsisted tolerably, till five that afternoon. At that time indeed, some extraordinary emotion in my stomach, gave me to understand, that nods and smiles, though conferred by the sons of bashaws, will not fill the belly.
The indifferent success of my first enterprise made me almost determine, never to attempt anything more in that way, though an affair of like nature, which happened some time before, might, if I had common sense, have been sufficient to deter me.
As I was walking one day, pensive and penniless to Henry Street, I saw some footmen and chairman with white gloves and cockades; and on enquiring the occasion, was told that Lord H—th was that day married to Miss K—g; I immediately ran to a coffeehouse, called for pen, ink, and paper, and wrote a flaming epithalamium, which I as suddenly dispatched, resolving to have the start of all Grub Street. His L—dship came out and told the messenger, that when Mr. Pilkington wrote better verses, he would send him a reward.
I was at this time in a window opposite to his Lordship, who saw the man come over and deliver me the answer; I took the pen, and before his face, wrote extempore the following truth:
To the right honourable the Lord H—th.
In a coffee-house hurried, and pressed by my fate,
I wrote a few lines to get something to eat;
Perhaps, though the subject, a dunce might inspire,
The want of subsistence has slackened my fire;
But if your kind Lordship, that want will supply,
No man shall write faster, nor better than I.
His Lordship sent word it was very well: it may be so, thought I, but faith I found it very ill.
I could not avoid repeating the story, in some companies I after fell into, and whether they resented the reception I meant, or had some former pique to that N—n, I shall not pretend to say, but shortly after, the following epigram was handed about;
When in proper terms, we dullness would clothe,
We say you're as dull as the hill that's in H—th*;
But would you give the dullness the force of record,
Say that everything stupid resembles my L—d.
*[Note: 'Tis frequent in Dublin, to say you are as stupid as the Hill of Howth.]
I should be sorry, by producing these pieces, to be thought to harbour the least resentment, for the fate of my marriage poem; the judgement of a P—r must ever be superior to that of the insect, called a scribbler, whose views extend no farther than a dinner, or a shilling, and I only relate these little anecdotes, to show that I am quite incapable of resenting anything my superiors are pleased to do.
As this is the first time I have been blessed with an opportunity, of addressing the polite world, I find myself much inclined to prate, though I already begin to fear I shall be censured for this impertinent intrusion, where I am an entire stranger; yet as I have got so far, and my publisher, who is a man of real taste, and distinguished abilities, neither of which, my printer is destitute of; as they, I say, have not yet rejected any part of this Appendix as nonsense, I have a strange inclination to venture upon a page or two more.
I remember to have seen amongst my mother's papers, an advertisement which she intended to have published in London; and as it contains some humour, here I recite it as well as I can recollect:
"Since it is become customary with every person, to advertise the talents, they either in reality or imagination possess; I have been told I have a stock on my hands, which is of no manner of use to me, and having sold everything, but the gift of God to me, if any Simon will purchase I will dispose of it as follows:
"If any illiterate divine, from Cambridge or Oxford, has a mind to show his parts in a London pulpit, let him repair to me, and he shall have a sermon, not stolen from Barrow, Tillotson, or other eminent preachers, as is frequently the practice, with those who have sense enough to do it; but fire-new from the mint. If any painter has a mind to commence bard without wit, and join the sister arts, I also will assist him. If anyone wants a copy of commendatory verses, to prefix to his work, or a flattering dedication, to a worthless Great Man; or any poor person, a memorial or petition, properly calculated to dissolve the walls of stone and flint which environ the hearts of rich men, P—tes in particular; any print-seller, lines to put under his humorous, comic, or serious representations; any player an occasional prologue or epilogue; any Beau a handsome billet-doux, from a fair incognita; any old maid, a copy of verses in her praise; any lady, of high address, and low quality, such as are generally the ladies of the town, an amorous melting delicate epistle; any projector a paragraph in praise of his scheme; any extravagant prodigal, a letter of recantation to his honoured father; any Minister of St—te, an apology for his conduct, which those gentlemen frequently want; any undertaker a funeral elegy; or any stonecutter an epitaph; or in short, anything in the poetical way; shall be dispatched in the most private, easy, and genteel manner by applying to me, and that at the most reasonable rates."
I think this advertisement may seriously now serve for me, since I find I have no means of subsisting, but by a smallest smattering of wit, which is somehow incoherent to me, to which I do assure the readers, nothing but necessity could make me have recourse. I too well know, that the greatest geniuses in that way, have been scarce able to keep a coat to their backs; therefore if some generous, noble, or humane person, would bestow on me a small annuity, which might barely set me above want, I would reside all pretensions to the pen, into the hands of those, who by education, and native endowments, are better qualified to use it. Some persons of rank who are inclined to banter, tell me they would by no means deprive the world of their entertainment, by giving me a provision; but if they will please to consider, that one leisure-well-finished line, is of more importance, than volumes written in a hurry, they will be of another mind. If the great Mr. Dryden had been possessed of an easy affluent fortune, his works, which are now almost buried in oblivion, would have been had in much greater esteem than they are; since 'tis impossible to think, but a person of so extensive a capacity, must at one time or other have produced something excellent.
And since I have said so much, one thing more, truth, gratitude, and honour, compels me to say, which is in relation to Mr. James Worsdale, so often mentioned in these memoirs. I'm sorry I'm obliged to confess, that I think my mother carried her resentment too far, in describing the character of this gentleman; but all persons who have any superior qualification, have generally some imperfection adequate to it, which is done by Providence, to show us, that none are perfect on Earth. Thus we see, an Apollo in music, a swine in his appetite: thus Swift, unrivalled in wit, was a slave to peevishness and ill temper, which obscured his merit, in the most social hour; and my mother, who possessed a pretty manner of writing, was apt to fall too hard, on those whom she imagined herself injured by.
However, I am convinced Mr. Worsdale never did, nor intended injury to her, or any other person, as his good-natured to a fault, and as he has said himself,
Anxious to gain, but not to keep his pelf,
A friend to every creature but himself.
And this is a truth that I can assert, having lived some years in his house, which was truly hospitable to every indigent person that fell in his knowledge, but particularly such as had any pretensions to merit.
What my mother has said of him proceeded from some little pique, and therefore I hope people who read it, will only laughed at her humour, but not seriously reflect on it, to the disadvantage of a person, who is incapable of acting but with honour, justice, and integrity, which will be more fully in my power to demonstrate, in the little account I intended to give of my own life.
And though it would exceed the small limits I am prescribed, to apologise to every particular person, pointed at in this volume, yet I hope they would be humane enough, to harbour no resentment against me, for anything it contains, since I have before specified the necessity I was under of publishing it, and as many characters are there, of which I am really ignorant; so it would be impossible to break in upon the connection of one part with another, by making alterations, or leaving any part out.
There were some persons, whom my mother was highly obliged to, and to whom, had she lived to complete this work, she would have returned her acknowledgements publicly; one of them was the Earl of Clanrickard, a nobleman of most illustrious descent, and one who conspicuously retains the united virtues of his ancestors. My mother having wrote his Lordship a letter for a subscription, he sent her in return a most polite epistle, which I have now the honour to possess, in which his Lordship promised shortly to favour her with a visit, and in some time he came. After having sat for about half an hour chatting, he told her, he had promised to subscribe to her works, but that he imagined a poem in her praise, written by himself, would be of infinitely more service to her; upon which he delivered her a sheet of paper, and she really believing him serious, was about to open it. "Pardon me, Madam," said my Lord, "you must not read my verses while I am present, or you'll offend my modesty." She laid the paper down, and shortly after my Lord took his leave. When she opened it, she found a draft on Dillon and Company for twenty pounds. I hope I shall obtain his Lordship's forgiveness for the freedom I here take of mentioning his name; but I think such actions, and such alone compose his life, ought not to be obscured; and though doubtless this is but a trivial instance of the munificence and honour of that worthy nobleman, yet as my mother was an entire stranger, and that his Lordship did it purely in compassion to her sufferings and regard to her talents, she ever esteemed both the gift, and the manner it was given in, as the genteelest thing that could possibly be done: and as she did not survive to speak her sentiments on that occasion, I hope I shall be pardoned for attempting it.