Memoirs of Mrs. Margaret Leeson
I've often heard
Two things averr'd,
By my dear Grand-Mama;
To be as sure,
As light is pure,
Or knavery in Law.
He who will prove,
Once false in Love,
Will make all truth a scoff;
And every woman that has—you know what
Will never leave it off
FULL EIGHTEEN MONTHS had passed and yet no letter: still I lived in daily expectation, when one morning Mr. C— (the gentleman who had brought me the letter from Lawless, when he sailed from Dublin) came to enquire if I had heard from his friend. I told him if I had I should certainly have come to acquaint him with it, as I knew their intimate friendship. He then begged I would not be uneasy at his acquainting me with what he had heard.—This is a very common, but a very absurd way of prefacing disagreeable news, as the very request excites an alarm; and if the news must be affecting, how foolish to expect that trifling precaution will prevent disquiet.—However, I promised I would not be uneasy; although at that moment very much so, from the expectation of hearing I knew not what. Mr. C— then told me Mr. Lawless's uncle, and his brother, had each got a letter from him; on hearing which, he had been to them to make an enquiry if there was not one for him, or me—but there was none. Notwithstanding the preparation for this displeasing intelligence, and my saying I would not be affected by anything I could hear, my heart sunk in me at this proof of his neglect. My pride was mortified, and my self-love greatly hurt, and my resentment roused. What! (cried I suddenly exclaiming), cruel, base, deceitful, ungenerous man! Have I so long kept myself faithful to thee for this return! Have I, for this, lived in obscurity, and refused the ample and generous offers of several gentlemen, to be thus neglected? No, I will no longer entertain any affection for thee! From this moment I will tear thee from my heart! From this hour I hate, I loathe, I detest thee; and I swear I will yield myself to the first agreeable and profitable offer that is made to me.
Though I had formed this resolution in respect to another connection, I did not immediately put it into execution: So numerous were my admirers, that I was bewildered in my choice, and hesitated where to fix. I then regretted that I had refused Captain Mathews, as I might have lived with him in a genteel style, he having then an income, on which, by proper management, we might have been comfortably supported; but he was gone to England, and out of my reach. The principal of my admirers, who was a single man (for my whole life through, I never was fond of those who were married) was an amiable young gentleman, who had been very sedulously after me, whilst taking his degrees for the Church, in the College. He renewed his acquaintance with me, and I gave him more encouragement than before. He came to see me every morning, and when I permitted, would send in supper and wine, and stay some hours with me. I was pleased with his perseverance, and made him hope that in a short time I would meet his wishes.
But the ill-usage of Lawless, had changed me to what I never was before. In short, I was become a complete Coquet. I entertained everyone who fluttered about me, I received every present that was offered, accepted of every entertainment that was made for me; gave them all hopes, yet yielded to none. I was disgusted with the man of my heart, therefore gave my heart to none. I looked upon all men as my lawful prey, and wished to punish the crimes of one on the whole sex; to get all I could from each, and grant nothing in return. I applied to myself the words of Millwood, who I sought to imitate in everything but her cruelty.
Women, by, whom ye are, the source of joy,
With cruel arts ye labour to destroy;
A thousand ways our ruin ye pursue
Yet blame in us those arts first taught by you.
O may from hence each violated maid,
By cruel, barb'rous faithless man betray'd;
When robb'd of innocence and virgin fame,
From their destruction raise a nobler name;
To right her sex's wrongs devote her mind
And future Millwoods prove, to plague mankind.
Yet notwithstanding I had began a kind of course of coquetry, my natural turn was not adapted to continue long in it. Though I perfectly reconciled my conduct towards men, under the colour of just retaliation, my passions were not totally extinguished by the long time I had waited for the return of Mr. Lawless. Mr. L——, my young clergyman, was amiable both in person and manners. I made him, at length, a promise of yielding, and even fixed the evening when he was to come to my house. Yet, that very day, I appointed to sup with a gentleman at the Rose and Bottle, in Dame-street. I went, the supper was elegant, and the pleasure was enhanced by a band of music, of which I was ever very fond, and which I always insisted on having, to enliven our repast, when I agreed to sup with any gentleman. The evening had nearly concluded with every possible hilarity, when a chairman came and brought me a letter, which he was to deliver to me only. I went down to him in the hall, I found it was from Mr. L——, who requested me to come home as he was then waiting for me, and had sent his own chair, lest I could not conveniently procure one at that hour. I then recollected my promise to him; and, somewhat warmed and elevated with Champagne I had drank, I stepped into the chair without the least hesitation, without either cloak or hat, both of which I had left above in the room where I had supped; as I knew if I went or sent up for them they would not have been given to me; and my company would have prevented my going to my first engagement with Mr. L——, I therefore went home as I was, and left my company to think what they pleased, and console themselves for my sudden departure as welll as, or how they pleased.
When I came home I found the agreeable Mr. L——, waiting for me with great anxiety, fearful lest I would not come, and happy at my appearance. Champagne is a wine I never loved, but only it was dear, and I liked to put those who treated me to as much expense as I could. What I had drank had so exhilarated my spirits, that I threw off all reserve, forgot all my resolutions, and—admitted him to a bed, that no man but Lawless had entered with me for many years. When I awakened in the morning, I was as perfectly tranquil, and thought as little about it, as any modest widow when she takes her second husband; but the servants all the next day, cried "their old master was forgotten."
From that day Mr. L—— lived with me, and supported me in the most abundant manner. I soon proved with child, of which he was not a little proud, and for several months we continued a very agreeable life. At length, he had occasion to go into the country to see his friends, and left me a sum of money, fully sufficient for all expenses till his return. But alas! I could not wait for that. Having gone so far in the road of Variety, I could not be confined to one man. Gratitude indeed, ought to have made me as faithful to Mr. L——, as I had ever been to Mr. Lawless; but Love, the sole bond of fidelity was wanting. I had began to slide down the steep declivity of Vice, whereon those who venture seldom stop till they reach the bottom. I had contracted an acquaintance with a Mr. Cashel, he was young, gay, handsome, and an undoubted gentleman, but he had no money. As I had admitted his visits for some time, I entertained a liking for him, and soon took him to supply the place and absence of Mr. L——.—Learn, ye keepers!—how much ye deceive yourselves, when ye imagine ye can engage a woman to yourselves alone. No, be ye certain there can be no sure and permanent connection between the two sexes, unless Virtue is the cement; of this the following event will be a most convincing proof; if any proof can be wanting to confirm a truth, that lies open to every person's reason and reflection.
When Mr. L—— returned, he had lodgings of his own, and he came to me as usual. He had sent in supper and wine, as he was accustomed to do. As Mr. Cashel was then in my house, I was greatly perplexed how I should act between the man who generously supported me, and him who had not a single guinea to give me: But affection at that time prevailed with me more than interest. I concealed him whom I admired, whilst I let in him who admired me. As I was then very big with child, I pretended indisposition; and made that my excuse for entreating Mr. L———not to sleep with me that night. With the utmost gentleness and good-nature he acquiesced with my desire, totally unsuspicious of my real motive; and departed, leaving Mr. Cashel master of the field. The next night, Mr. L——— met me at the theatre. Here the same infatuation possessed me, and hurried me to act a part which was not only absurd, but exposed me to great uneasiness. Conscious that I could impose upon him as I pleased, I told him that my present condition would render it very improper for a time to come, to admit him to my bed, to which I could not agree till after my lying-in, I therefore, strongly recommended him to fill up that chasm with some other woman. For some time he hesitated, but at length he seemed as half consenting to my proposal. I then asked him, what he thought of Miss Netterville (alias Kitty Cut-a-dash,) he said he should like her very well, and I promised to gain her consent.
What inconsistent creatures are women, when under the influence of their passions! Here, although it was my interest to keep well with Mr. L———, who was my sole support; yet, my passion for my other Spark, who was almost penniless, prompted me giddily to estrange him from me, and even to turn a procuress for his pleasure. I vainly imagined it would be only looked upon by him as a temporary amusement. That I could still maintain my ascendency over him; and could recall him when I pleased.—Foolish, deceitful, deceived woman!
Having thus broke the ice, I congratulated myself on my cleverness, and invited Kitty home with us to supper. I took her aside and told her Mr. L———had not slept with me since his return to town; that I was fonder of Cashel than of him, and would advise her to take Mr. L——— off of my hands, and to receive him for a time. Adding that he was very generous, and she would find her account in this connection. To this she readily agreed, as she never piqued herself on constancy to anyone, and we fixed that we would sup with her the next night, and I would leave him with her. Accordingly we went the next evening, to her house in Grafton-street, where after we had supped elegantly, I took my leave of them and came home alone.