Memoirs of Mrs. Margaret Leeson
Though our revels are scorn'd by the Grave and the Wise,
Yet they practise all day, what they seem to despise.
Examine mankind, from the great to the small
Each mortal's disguis'd, the whole world is a Ball.
Sing Tansara rara Masks All.
I have for some chapters, forborne to make any reflections on my conduct. Indeed how could I? it would not bear reflection; and my readers will doubtless, make many in their own minds, much to my disadvantage. This, I own will be just, and I have nothing to say in my defence. I had entered so deep into a series of errors, and so plunged into the whirl-pool of dissipation, that I became engulfed therein. My eyes were blinded, that they beheld not the evil. My ears became deaf to admonition, had even anyone attempted to admonish me; which alas! none offered to do. My success in one plan, gave me courage to go on to another. My wants were all supplied by others, through vanity or folly; and, I was led to look upon the men who surrounded me merely as my tools, made only to minister to my expenses, or contribute to my pleasure. Everyone with whom I congregated, male or female, seemed to shut the door against thought, and incite me to fresh irregularities. I had my pride flattered by having attained a celebrity, and an eminence in the line I had unfortunately taken. I was looked up to as a kind of pattern to the ladies of the sisterhood; and many men thought it an addition to their character as Bucks, choice spirits and men of fashion, to be acquainted with me; nay, divers have made it their brag, that they had spent their evening with me, who were never once admitted within my doors. My capital error was, in the entering into the course of life I led; for once when in, I had no means of getting out of it. Nor do I even now, know one single line, situated as I was, I could have embraced for support. The miseries of poverty, which I had so severely felt, were not forgotten; and their remembrance only urged me the more, to prevent falling into like circumstances, by any means within my reach. Living in splendour, enjoying every luxury of dress, table or show, no matter from which source they were derived, made me resolve not to quit the means of gaining the end. Thus, I went on in a circle of pleasures, one commencing where another ended. As for character, I had totally disregarded it, or to speak plainer, I had acquired one character, in which I gloried; and which to me, supplied the place of any other: and I was made to cry out with Falstaff, "Why 'tis my vocation. 'Tis no sin for one to labour in one's vocation." Not but I often entertained thoughts of amendment, though I knew not the day when I should begin it, but put it off from time to time; saying, for many years, with Prince Hal,
——When this loose behaviour I throw off
And pay the debt I have not promised,
By how much better than my word I am
By so much shall I falsify men's fears:
And, like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My Reformation, glittering o'er my faults
Shall show more goodly, and attract more eyes,
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.
I'll so offend, to make offence a skill
Redeeming time, when men think least I will.
I have already related some anecdotes, showing my temper and frame of mind, and shall before I pursue my narrative give another, to show how far not only impunity, but success, had emboldened me to proceed to any length.
An order had been given by government, that there should be no more Masquerades, on account of some disturbances that had happened. This spirited me up to have one of my own, at my own house, to show how much I disregarded all law or order, let the consequences be what they might. I sent and got two hundred tickets printed, and gave them away amongst my male and female acquaintance, and fixed the night for the first of May. My intention ran like wild-fire through the city. Those who had tickets applauding me for my spirit; and those who could not procure any, condemning me for my impudence, as they called it. For a fortnight before the appointed time, I had above twenty busy visitors of the latter class, trying to dissuade, or frighten me from my attempt. They told me, if I persisted my house would be pulled down about my ears, for acting contrary to the order of government, with which the whole town was acquainted, and I could not therefore, plead ignorance. However, as I had gone to a considerable expense, I was resolved to go on. I had my house laid out in a most elegant style, and had five hundred coloured lamps, of blue, lilac and green. When the night came I got Mr. Robinson, the high constable to attend, with a guard; an eminent shoe-maker, (Mr. Warren) and a Mr. Smith, were my door-keepers. At six o'clock, the street was full from end to end, and I really began to be frightened for fear of the mob. About seven they began to be somewhat riotous, and swore they would demolish all the windows, if I and Sally Hayes, did not come put and shew ourselves immediately. I sent them word we would comply with their desires as soon as we were dressed. But before we could get ready, one of the ruffians threw a large stone, and broke a pane of glass in one of the dining-room windows; then indeed, my heart began to flutter. However, I put the best face I could on the matter, and with Sally Hayes went to the upper step of the door, and shewed ourselves to the mob: who, after a few minutes, gave us a huzza, and told us to go in, for they were satisfied, and no damage should happen. But they would not let one of the company go into the house, till they had shewed themselves; and then let them quietly proceed.
The company then began to flock in very fast. Sally and I wore fancy dresses. A fortune-teller, very characteristically dresed; Mr. Pearson, who supported it with much humour.—A jockey, by Captain Hamilton.—Mr. Jones in a domino.—Mr. McNeil, a sailor.—Mrs. Hall, a pie-woman. Kitty Cut-a-dash, an orange-girl.—Nancy Weems, a nun.—Miss Townly, a flower-girl.—Miss Redding, a ballad-singer.—Mrs. Healy, a cast-clothes woman.—Mr. Gibton, a sailor.—Mr. Cashel, a sweep.—Mr. Crawford, a domino.—Mr. Meares, a clown.-Lord St. Lawrence, a whipper-in.—Numbers of dominos and sailors.—Lord Westport, a blind fiddler.—Lord Headfort, a drummer.—Lord Molesworth, a coach man, the best in England or Ireland.—Mr. Finlay, a gardincr. In short, I did not distinguish a tithe of them, as they did not unmask at supper.
The supper consisted of everything the season afforded and money could purchase; it was elegantly laid out in the two-pair of stairs street-room, and with the wines, gave general satisfaction. The back-room, contained the only bed in the house (all the others being removed) and for that bed I had put myself to a great expense, the furniture being of new muslin, richly spangled. It was kept locked up, being designed for the Duke of Leinster, who, after all the preparation, never came.
After supper we all came down into the drawing-room, where a band of music struck up, and we danced till six in the morning, when the company departed. I then paid the musicians and the guard, gave them plenty of drink, and then went to sleep in the Duke's bed; and thus ended my masquerade, of which government took not the least notice.