Peg Plunkett's Memoirs - CHAP. XVI.

Memoirs of Mrs. Margaret Leeson



Odd's me, the fellow has put me into such a titteration
That I tremble from head to foot. Me! who am approached
With reverence, by Church-wardens, and the Heads of the parish.
But I'll take the scurvy Knave down, I'll have him
Nobus, aye! and his Roysters, too, I'll warrant you!

            SUCH had been my inconsiderateness in my expenses, that when I landed on George's-quay, I had just two shillings left in the world. This indeed, paid Wybrants's boat; but I had my trunks to clear at the Customhouse, my passage in the packet to pay, and a coach to hire. However, I thought very little about it, I had friends in Dublin, and was come to where the celebrity of my name would open the sluices of profit. I apologised to the Captain, and telling him who I was, requested he would call on me next day in Mecklenburgh-street, where I was then going; and procured a chair from College-green, to carry me there.

            When I came to Mecklenburgh-street, words cannot express the joy with which Sally Hayes, and Mrs. Hall received me. I desired they would pay for my chair, for I was returned to Dublin, ten pounds worse than a beggar. They with great cordiality gave me what money I wanted, and when the Captain came the next morning, I gave him two guineas for his civility in taking my word. The next business was to get my baggage from the Custom-house. I went myself, and was welcomed to Dublin, by several of the gentlemen there, who said they were happy to see me returned. One of the searchers having asked me for my keys, in order to examine my trunks, several of the officers cried, O fie, sure they would not suspect me for having any contraband goods, and they would engage that I had nothing but my own apparel. The trunks were discharged unsearched, to my great satisfaction, as indeed I trembled, lest sundry articles I had brought over, for presents, and for my own use, should have been seized, as they were liable to have been if seen.

            When my things were got home and unpacked, I made myself very grand by distributing a great number of presents. To some I gave gowns, to some caps and feathers, rings and buckles to ladies, and pocket-books to gentlemen, till I had distributed my whole cargo. This procedure made it thought I had returned from London, much richer than I went, and the idea of wealth produces always a degree of respect: as people are generally more ready to pay court, and assist those they are sensible does not want it. And the real state of my finances was never suspected, nor ever known but to Sally Hayes, and Mrs. Hall.

            The next day I dressed and went into town, and as Sally and I walked, we made very striking figures with bell-hoops, which I had brought over, and as they were the first ever worn in Dublin, we were greatly stared at. The mercers and linen-drapers, were glad to see me, as I was a very good friend to them, as I wore my petticoats trimmed half a yard up, and always obliged gentlemen who presented me with clothes, to buy three times as much silk, or other materials as was really necessary. Everyone we met, of my acquaintance, seemed very happy at my return; and indeed, I found myself of more consequence than I thought I had been; so that I said to myself, Well, Peggy you will not long be poor.

            When we returned home, I had visits from a great many gentlemen; all welcomed me home, some gave me a bank note, some sent in wine, some came out of friendship, and others out of curiosity. Some of those who would scarce look at me before, came to see how I looked since I came from London, and how far my visit to that city had improved me. In short, the concourse was great that evening, and for the most part of the night.

            I continued with Mrs. Hall, till I could procure a house for myself, which I soon did, in Wood-street, for the second time: not a little one as before, but one that was large and convenient; with a large waste ground behind it, which at a considerable expense, I converted into an elegant garden, where I lived very comfortable for one year, with one of my old lovers.

            Just at this juncture, Mr. Georgi and Signor Carnavalli, had taken the Theatre in Smock-ally, for the performance of Italian operas, two nights in the week; and as the Signor thought himself a very great man, he endeavoured to establish new rules never before introduced in Dublin. The chief of which, was to exclude on his nights every lady of my description, from admission into the theatre. He was advised not to attempt such an innovation, but he persisted in his resolution. When I heard of Carnavalli's intention, I was much displeased, and determined he should abandon his design. On the first night he opened, I was otherwise engaged and could not go, but Mrs. Hall, and Miss Townley, went. They were just seated in one of the lattices, when the Signor came up to them, and turned them out. He told them all the seats there were set, and they might go to the gallery. The two ladies, like cowards submitted, and quitted their seats. The next morning they called on me, and told me how they had been treated. I rated them soundly for their pusillanimity, and declared that if I had been there, the Italian Thing would have found it very difficult to turn me out, after I had once got in: but that I would try if he would dare to make such an attempt with me. On the ensuing night, I went with a Mrs. Judge; but was rather unfortunate in my companion, who was the most cowardly female I ever saw. When we entered the box-room, the two door-keepers, Jackson and Wilton, were planted at their different posts. I got to the stairs that led up to the lattices, when Jackson followed and took me by the arm, saying, Madam, you cannot go there. I asked the reason of my being refused admittance, to where I frequently sat, when he replied, it was the orders of Mr. Carnavalli, and I cannot disobey them. I struggled for some time and strove to force my way up, but he being stronger than me, took me in his arms and carried me back into the box-room, and on setting me down gave me a push. Irritated with such behaviour, I gave him a slap in the face, with my whole strength. My companion stood by all the time of our contention, with her mouth gaping, and not offering to give me the least assistance. Had Sally Hayes been with me, it would have been quite otherwise, and Jackson would have carried some marks of our resentment. But this was not the case, they detained the box ticket, for which I had paid at the door; spoiled all my clothes, by their pulling and dragging me, and I lost one of my earrings. I stood in this manner, and sent round for Carnavalli, when he came, I asked him if it was his order I should be excluded from a place for which I had paid. He said yes, and that I should never go in whilst his operas lasted. Very well, Sir, I answered, you'll abide by the consequences; and I'll bet you a hundred guineas I will. I then took a chair and came home, crying all the way for spite and through vexation. I had not long been at home, when four of the first noblemen in the kingdom, came to condole with me for the usage I had suffered; and said if I did not make an example of Carnavalli and his servants, I deserved every ill-treatment such fellows could give. I was ever very prompt to take revenge for insults, and told their lordships that my resentment did not want advice to give it an edge.

            This was on Wednesday night, and the following Saturday was to be the next opera night. The next morning, I went and consulted an eminent barrister, with whom I was very intimate; and pursuant to his advice, on Saturday morning I lodged examinations, and procured warrants against them for an assault, and for robbing me, by detaining the ticket for which I had paid. I sent and desired Mr. Roe, the keeper of Newgate, to be with me a few minutes before six, and got four of the most desperate, ill-looking fellows of bailiffs, that Dublin could afford, to attend me. I then took a coach, and directed the catchpoles to keep in sight of the coach, and to come up when I should cry Holloa! Boys. Thus prepared, I drove to the theatre, and to the stage-door, as I knew that would best answer my purpose, as I should not be so soon known there. I knew Carnavalli was the first fiddle, and by the hour, must be at that time in the orchestra. When the coach was close to the stage-door, my coachman told the door-keeper, that there was a gentleman there who wanted to subscribe, and Mr. Carnavalli was sent for; he came in two or three minutes, without his hat, to receive the subscription money. When he came to the coach-side, and saw I was in it he gave a start, and would have returned into the house; but at that moment, I gave the signal of Holloa! Boys. the bailiffs came up and took him. He began to talk, when I said, "fellow, I have nothing to say to you. Here gentlemen! take this ruffian, and leave him in the centre of Newgate, and I shall accompany you myself."—I called them gentlemen, and clever gentlemen indeed they were, for I believe each had twenty or thirty scars in his pretty face. I went with my gentlemen, and their prisoner Carnavalli, without his hat, his well powdered hair, drenched with the pour of the rain, which luckily fell at that time; and dropping his spangles as he went. When I saw him safe lodged in Newgate, we all returned to the box-door, I directed the fellows to stay without, whilst I alighted and went in. There were locks put on the lower doors, I suppose, in order to keep me out, and the moment the door-keepers saw me they ran to lock them. Jackson and Wilson, were quite ignorant of what had been done to their master, which was unknown to all but the bailiffs, the coachman and myself. I said to Jackson. O fie! won't you let me in? he answered, indeed I can't, it's my orders. I cried out, Holloa! Boys. my four gentlemen came up, and I told them to take these two scoundrels, and leave them where they had left their master; and be sure you conduct them through the rain, without their hats. I then turned to a great company that was in the box-room and lobby, and making a profound courtesy, said, "Ladies and gentlemen, I am extremely sorry to deprive you of the pleasure, you may expect from this night's entertainment; but I have sent Mr. Carnavalli, the first fiddle, to Newgate, and am now sending two of his domestics after him, lest he should want company or attendants:"—and away I went, leaving them all in amazement. I conducted the door-keepers to Newgate, and then went home in the highest content; and slept sweeter that night, than I had done for a considerable time before.

            The next day being Sunday, there was a review of the Volunteers in the Phoenix Park, and the weather being very fine, drew a great concourse of persons of all ranks. To be sure, I went there in high style, and as the adventure of last night, had ran through every circle, I was the great object of attention, and was particularly stared at by multitudes. I had the satisfaction to be congratulated for my spirit, by most of the gentlemen present. I replied, that I had not yet done with the fellows. Several ladies of the sisterhood, also accosted me with their thanks for my asserting their rights. I told them it was more than they deserved, since they were so mean spirited, as to submit to the Italian's new-fangled rules. That it was for my own sake I had proceeded as I had done, for no person merited the enjoyment of any rights, who had not the courage to assert and maintain them.

            Although I had taken these steps with Carnavalli, and his door-keepers, yet, I was not contented. Their punishment was not my main object, which was to get free admission to the lattices on the opera nights; and this I was determined to obtain, even by force. The following Wednesday, was to be the next night, and I was resolved to be thoroughly prepared. I accordingly requested two gentlemen, who I knew had no aversion to what they called, kicking up a dust, at any time, to go with me to the opera, and support me; and promised to give them tickets. They readily assured me of their assistance; indeed, they were two of a kind of Bucks, that though they were always well dressed, had seldom a shilling in their pockets, therefore, they could never afford the opera. They thought, to be there with their swords, and fiercely cocked hats, would make them appear great and grand; and that they should be taken for somebodies.

            This arrangement was settled, but I had no occasion of putting it in practice. Carnavalli and his fellows had procured bail, and were at large. And when I went to Daly's play on the Tuesday night, Mr. Tresham, his box-keeper, after wishing me joy of my victory, told me that Mr. Carnavalli presented me with the freedom of the house; and that Jackson and Wilton, had refused to keep the doors any longer, lest I should get them knocked on the head. I thanked Mr. Tresham for his information, and said I was determined to come sometimes to the opera, but not at the expense of such a shabby fellow, as I was well able to pay for my seat; and he had made the offer of the freedom of the house, out of fear.

            I then went to the opera without any riot or molestation; though I went there but seldom, and that only that I might be seen by the audience, to have triumphed over Carnavalli's new rules. As I had gained my point, I did not take any farther steps against the fellows, but let the prosecution drop; to the great satisfaction of the Italian fiddler, who was much terrified lest I should proceed: and became as abject, as before he had been insolent. But all poltroons, are tyrants, when they have an opportunity of exercising their despotism.


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