Peg Plunkett's Memoirs - CHAP. XIII.

Memoirs of Mrs. Margaret Leeson



If he swagger, let him not come here: no, by my faith: I mustlive among my neighbours, I'll no swaggerers here: I am in good name and fame with the best: I have not lived all this while to have swaggering now. Shut the door I pray you.


——his addiction was to courses vain;
His companies unfetter'd, rude and shallow;
His hours fill'd up with riots, banquets, sports
And never noted in him any study,
Any retirement, any sequestration
From open haunts.

            When we came back to Dublin, I found Mr. Lawless had not returned rich from America. However, though disappointed in my expectation of money from him, gratitude prevailed on me to admit him into my house, where we each provided for our separate expenses. He had excused himself to me for his not writing, as he alleged that the war had prevented a free inter- course of letters between the two countries. I seemed to admit the excuse, though it was evident the correspondence, if partly impeded was not totally stopped: witness the letters he had sent to his relations, though none to me or his friend. My love for him no longer existed, yet, such is the frailty of woman, that I became with child; and when I was about eight months gone an event happened, that made too much noise, and was too serious in its consequences to be admitted.

            At that time, Dublin was infested with a set of beings, who, however they might be deemed gentlemen by their birth, or connexions, yet, by their actions, deserved no other appellation than that of RUFFIANS. They were then called Pinking-dindies, and deriving boldness from their numbers, committed irregularities, abhorrent to humanity; and gave affronts when together, which singly they would not have had courage even to attempt. They ran drunk through the streets, knocking down whoever they met; attacked, beat, and cut the watch; and with great valour, broke open the habitations of unfortunate girls, demolished the furniture of their rooms, and treated the unhappy sufferers with a barbarity and savageness, at which, a gang of drunken coal-porters would have blushed. At the head of this infamous set was a man, who, though of a noble family, disgraced it then by his behaviour; and who has since made his name famous for contriving to mount nearer to Heaven than he had any reason for expecting ever to arrive.

            This person took it into his head, without any provocation, to use me in the same manner that others had had been treated. He came one evening to my house in Drogheda-street, at the head of a numerous gang of his associates, and insisted on being admitted. On my refusal they smashed all my windows, broke the hall-door, and entered through the shattered panels. They then demolished all the furniture of the parlours; and with drawn weapons, searched the house to find Mr. Lawless, whose head they swore they would cut off, and carry away in triumph on the point of their swords; though he had not given offence to either of the party. Luckily he was absent. This shock, with the ill-treatment I received from these self-called gentlemen, at a time when my being so very big with child, would have moved compassion in the hearts of wild Indians, threw me into a fit. I lay as dead, when some of my neighbours took me out lifeless, and carried me in that state to one of their houses.

            Still these ruffians continued their outrage, till the watch came. They then turned and gave battle, and many cuts and hurts were received on both sides. At length, the riot continuing, to the terror of the whole street, the then Sheriffs (two of the best and most vigilant that Dublin ever boasted,) Messrs Moncrieffe and Worthington, arrived with a party of the military, at whose approach the rioters dispersed.

            When these magistrates had restored peace I was brought back, and after three weeks was delivered by Surgeon Vance, of a dead child, with one of its legs broke, in consequence of the injuries I had received from these valorous Heroes. The little girl too that I had by Mr. L——, was at the time of this affray laying with her nurse in the two-pair of stairs floor, and was so frightened that she took a fit of screeching, and never recovered of her terror, but died in consequence of the fright. Thus these magnanimous warriors, actually murdered two helpless infants, bruised and maltreated their defenceless mother, destroyed the furniture of a house, terrified a whole neighbourhood, and wounded some of the watch—for FUN.—How void their hearts must be of humanity and true bravery; and how destitute of sense must be their addled brains, who can act in this manner: and whilst they act thus, and usurp the respectable name of gentlemen, can have no pretence to courage! But to return.

            When the two worthy Sheriffs had seen all quiet, they departed, leaving a guard of military to protect the house. The next morning, the street was crowded with people, to look at the disorder in which the house was left. However, I got it repaired before night, at a considerable expense, and had a guard of soldiers for a whole week. I lodged examinations against seven of these savages, with their ring-leaders at the head of them, and offered large rewards for apprehending them. When Mr. Balloon heard I had began a prosecution, he swore he would shoot me; and I on my part, openly declared I would keep a case of pistols in my pocket, and blow his brains out if he approached me. The minor ruffians dispersed, when they found examinations lodged, some went to the country, and others to different parts. Their Chief thought his being of a noble family, would be his protection and enable him to brazen it out: and some of the lads of the College, who were dissipated enough to be his companions, came repeatedly to my house, to intimidate me, and threaten what they would do if I treated them as I had done their friends: for they would not only demolish what was within it, but would pull down my own house itself. I answered, if they did I would build it up again, and make them pay the expense. At length, by paying high, I got Mr. Balloon apprehended and lodged in Newgate, for he could not be admitted to bail, unless the medical gentlemen declared I was out of danger, which they did not do; and when I was delivered of the dead child as I mentioned, Surgeon Vance, declared he was ready to depose on oath, that the child had been dead from the time I was so misused, and was actually killed from the injuries I had received. I then said, as soon as I could get abroad, I would lodge fresh examinations against the prisoner for the murder of my infant. Counsellor Wolfe, declared if I did, it would surely hang him. This spread great alarm, the Baronet, his brother, had striven to get him bailed, suggesting that a malignant fever raged in the gaol; and requested that if he could not be bailed he might be removed to the Sheriffs' house, but all in vain. The Sheriffs and some other respectable persons applied to me, and at their entreaty I dropped the prosecution for the murder of the child, but continued that for the breaking of my house. At length, the trial came on before Judge Henn. I had a cloud of witnesses of the riot, assault, and destruction of my property, the jury gave their verdict of guilty, and he was sentenced to be fined and confined. I then obtained a fiat for my damages. When the time of his confinement expired, and his fine to the crown was paid, he thought I had forgotten him, and would proceed no farther; but revenge is sweet. I carried on my suit for my damages. A second trial ensued, in which he was cast; and I had him arrested for the amount, and again put him into Newgate. Green-wax processes issued against the other rioters, which kept them out of town, but I proceeded no farther against them; as I at length, got paid all the damages the law awarded me from their Chief. Thus ended my intercourse with that gentleman. I was so far from malice when all was over, that when he was about to go up in the balloon from Ranelagh-gardens, as I thought no less than that he would be drowned, I heartily forgave, and shook hands with him. But taught by this affair, I never after would have any acquaintance with Collegians, nor ever entertained one of them.

            While these prosecutions were depending, when urged to drop them, I have often gave as a reason for my refusal that revenge is sweet. My readers must have already seen (and will in the course of these memoirs, see frequent other circumstances) that I seldom failed of not only resenting any affront or ill-treatment given here, but have taken a pleasure in avenging myself of enemies, in proportion to the degree of the offence. Hence I may be judged to have been of an implacable temper, though I really was not, according to the ideas I entertained of revenge and implacability. I was ever humane and generous, ready to pity and assist others in distress, which I have frequently done to my own injury. I have often forgiven offences, when the offending party has confessed the offence, and sued for pardon. But I ever found it hard to overlook insults that touched my pride. In the case of this riot, my injuries were great; but my pride was as much wounded as my person. The offenders took the wrong way of mollifying me, and averting my resentment. Instead of apology, they employed menaces. They constantly added fresh irritations: and as I took no revenge but that which the laws of my country sanctioned, I cannot even now, think I carried it too far. Zanga says,


What is revenge but courage to call in
Our honour's debts.

            It is true, some of my more grave and serious acquaintance have urged the precept, to turn one cheek to him who has smote the other But this requires surely some modification, and was never designed to be literally obeyed. It can never mean that we should expose ourselves to fresh affronts, rather than to take vengeance by the means of magistrates and of laws, made on purpose to defend mankind against insults, by the punishment of those who commit them. It must also suppose that the injury is tolerable, or that those who suffer it, can sustain it without much loss, or much inconveniency to their families. For we cannot think, that the Author of that precept can command good, quiet, peaceable and inoffensive persons, to suffer themselves to be beaten or wounded by the wicked: to expose their lives to the hazard of losing them, or their property to be spoiled, rather than make their complaints to the magistrates. If that were to be the case, there would be an end to all civil society, in which the inoffensive cannot be preserved against the violent, but by means of the law, and the magistrates who execute them. Besides, if I could have over-looked all the miseries I had sustained, as far as regarded myself, I was bound to avenge them by the laws, out of my duty to the community at large; for as they were done from mere wantonness, had they gone unpunished, that would have served only to embolden the perpetrators, to have extended their insolence and riotous abuse to others. Therefore, I am, I think, fully justified in what I did respecting the above outrage.

            Not being willing to interrupt the thread of my narrative, I purposely ommited several anecdotes that occurred; as they were a kind of extraneous matter that had no immediate connection with my adventures, with the several gentlemen I have mentioned. But as they may afford some amusement, I shall close this chapter with a few of them.

            Whilst I was in my highest prosperity, I was told the celebrated Miss Catley had spoken very scurrilously of me at the house of a gentleman where I visited; I therefore, resolved to. affront her openly the first time I could meet her. Some days elapsed without an opportunity, my passion had not cooled, but was rather irritated by the delay. I could no longer contain myself, but went to her lodgings. She not being at home I hastened to the play-house, thinking I should find her at rehearsal, but she was gone from thence also. About two days after, as I was driving down Fownes's-street, I saw her come out of the stage-door. I bid the postilion stop, and I called to her. She came to the carriage door, when I asked how she could presume to revile me, and speak of me in so scandalous a manner as she had done. She denied she had ever said anything about me; adding, that whoever told me was an infamous liar, and if I believed them nobody would believe me. So saying she turned away; when, not thinking her reply in any degree satisfactory, I, filled with spite, called her a little street-walking, London ballad-singer, and told her I would have her hissed every time she came upon the stage. About an hour after, I saw her coming along Dame-street, and wanted to have another wrangle with her, as my spleen was far from being exhausted, by the few words I had said, bitter as they were. I accordingly stopped at a Mercer's shop, at the corner of Parliament-street, that I might speak to her as she passed; and again repeated my former words; She immediately caught up one of her sons that was with her, went into the shop, and fainted, or at least pretended so to do. A chair was got for her, and took her home, when she told her friend, Colonel Lascelles, I had used her so ill that she had fainted, and must have satisfaction of me. The Colonel sent for an attorney, and had her examinations drawn, in which she swore I had ordered my postilion to drive over her, and her bastards. This I solemnly declare was a falsehood, for such words never came from my lips; not did such a thought enter my mind. However, she positively swore it; and the Colonel declared he would get the bills found against me, if it cost him five hundred pounds. He was so enraged, that his dear mild lady should be offended, that he became like Cain, he was wroth and his countenance fell. However next morning, after the examinations was sworn, a friend I had at the Aldermanic Board, sent privately to inform me to get bail ready, or I should inevitably be taken by constables; which disgrace he wished me to avoid. I was not long getting bail for my appearance, which being given, I was to remain unmolested till the commission. During that interval, the Colonel was indefatigable in his endeavours with the grand jury, to get the bills found against me, but when it came before them, my interest proved better than his, and the Petticoat prevailed over the Sword and Gorget. Some of the gentlemen observed to the rest, that it would be a pity not to favour a woman, who, by spending considerable sums amongst the traders of this city, was of service to it, preferable to a woman who was only a bird of passage; who came here to pick up all she could from the public, and then carry it to another country; as it was well known that Catley never laid out a single farthing in Dublin that she could avoid. On this consideration, and that nothing but bare words had passed, and no assault, the bill was thrown out, to the great mortification of the Warbler and her Champion, and my no small joy and exultation.

            Much about that time, intending to go [to] the play, I had sent my servant to keep places in the lattice for me and Sally Hayes. When I went to the theatre, about eight o'clock, the box-keeper told me that there were three ladies in the places that I had taken. I was much surprised and could scarce believe him, telling him that no one would dare to usurp my places. However, when we came into the box, I saw three females filling the front seat, and my servant sitting behind, I asked him aloud, why he suffered those ladies to get into my places? He answered, they took them by force in spite of me. O! ho! said I, if that is the case I must see what is to be done: for I engage I will send them as smartly out, as they got in. So saying, I got to the seat behind them, and tapped one of them on the shoulder; when she turned her face I knew them to be a nobleman's daughters. But rank had no terrors for me, when what I thought my property was concerned. I requested mildly that they would let me have my places: one replied, her servant had kept the seats for her, and she would keep them. I touched her shoulder again, and speaking a little louder, said, well! if I cannot get them out by fair means I must be a little rougher. She made no answer but turned her eyes to the stage. Why ladies, said I, there is not a gentleman in the house, but by your sitting before me will think you are some girls of my acquaintance, and visit you as such.—But now I think of it, I am mistaken in my conclusion, for indeed you are too ugly to be of my profession; particularly should they see you by day-light, they will be off Indeed you won't do.—Seeing they were unmoved by this sarcasm, I resolved to try other means, and thrusting one foot between two of them, I soon made room for the other, and seated myself on their hips. Though the daughters of a peer, they were also well known to be what are styled, Peter's children, every finger furnished with a fish-hook, or at least with bird-lime, for whatever they could touch stuck to them. I therefore, called out to Sally Hayes, "Don't you think it was very lucky I did not wear my diamonds to-night? and doubly so that I left my purse at home, for it would soon have been made lighter, as I have got amongst robbers. Yet, I have one comfort, a lady of my character is a gentleman's companion, but a thief is not."—In a few minutes the ladies decamped, leaving me and Sally mistresses of the field of battle.




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