Memoirs of Mrs. Margaret Leeson
WHEN I had committed the foregoing sheets to the press, I requested an old friend (who was well acquainted with both books and men) to peruse them, and give his candid opinion. He took some time to consider them attentively, and communicated his thoughts in the following letter:
"—— Street, Dec. 12, 1794.
"I have read that part of your memoirs, with the perusal of which you favoured me, and must own I was highly pleased. You have kept strictly to your promise at your outset; and whilst you have candidly acknowledged your errors, have accompanied them with such reflections as totally prevent them from being seductive; and render them very fit to be put into the hands of young females, to serve (as you remark, yourself) as a chart by which they may avoid the rocks and sands, on which many are wrecked. Many of your adventures are amusing, some very laughable, and others excite our pity at your early sufferings. Whilst, altogether, they give an instructive view of the vices and follies of human kind.
"The original letters you have interspersed are satisfactory; and, as you say, form a striking contrast of the tempers and abilities of the writers. But you have acted rather partially; you have given us more of the epistolary correspondence of the gentleman you style your favourite BOB, than of the two others. I agree that there appears more of affection and genius in them; but the public hath little to do with the mere affection part of them, which concerns yourself alone; and if the other gentlemens' letters contain what is amusing to the reader, they merit as much attention, in one particular especially; that is, we find by your narrative they all three were travellers, and to different parts. Mr. L——s to America, Mr. C——, to the West Indies, and your favourite BOB to the East. Some of the itinerary remarks of the latter you have given; but why not those of the others? As, you say, they corresponded with you, doubtless some of their letters contain some accounts of their voyages, that might be acceptable to the reader. The cursory observations of travellers in their private letters, which are not written with a design of publication, are often as agreeable as the remarks and descriptions of tour writers.
"If therefore, you have any such letters, and have room towards the close of your second volume, it is my opinion, you would do well to insert them, or give them by way of Appendix. For, as I perceive, your third volume will contain matters of recent date, the letters, at which I hint, could not come into that with any degree of propriety, as they were written some years since.
Madam, your friend and well-wisher,
This friend's hint struck me very forcibly; and I have accordingly looked over my correspondence, and selected from it such letters as seem to me to come under the scope of his idea; and shall close this volume therewith—But my friend seems to have forgot, that I had no letter from Mr. Lawless, while he was abroad.
"Barbadoes, May 26, 1784
"We arived here yesterday, after a remarkable fine passage of about six weeks from the time we sailed from Cove: we had very fine weather, except two or three days; we had squally weather the 6th and 7th of May, where we parted with the rest of the transports, and do not expect there arival for seven or eight days.
"Barbadoes is reckoned the most beautiful and healthful, of any of the Windward Islands; and I only regret we are not to remain here; we dine to-day with the Governor, and to go to a ball in the evening. I would wait to give you a description of it, but the packet sails at three o'clock to-day, and could not have an opportunity of writeing to you perhaps wile we remained here. For, as soon as the other transports arive, we go to Anteaque and St Christopher's.
"I forgot to mention to you, that I put into Madeira the 18th, were we got a pipe of Madeira wine; but remained there only eight hours, and had not an opportunity of writeing to you.
"My dear Leeson, from the time we parted with you, your heavenly person never left my sight, your image was allways before me, and thought of nothing but the blissful moments we spent together. And although you were fond of another man, and your showing me his letters made me jealous and distacted for a moment; but, when I again thought of the length of way you came to see me, made me love you in spite of myself. The instant I got to Cork, I got your dear pickture set in as elegant a manner as I possibly could: I constantly wear it on my finger, and kiss it a hundred times a day.
"I can't say any more, as the man is called to take my letter on board.
"Don't write to me until you receive another letter from me, as perhaps I will never ceive it."
"Brimstone-hill, St. Christopher's,
Nov. 4, 1784.
My dearest Leeson,
"The instant I received your long wished-for, and most heavenly letter, I seized it with rapture, and every line I read gave me fresh vigour, and animated my poor debilitated spirits. When you mentioned Circular Road, Rotundo, Plays, and all the public amusements, I sighed, and brought to my recollection the many times I have been with you, and the many blissful moments I spent in your company. I once flattered myself, my dear Leeson, we should some time or other, be completely happy. But when I came to the part of your letter, where you mentioned BOB, all my hopes were blasted; and every pleasing reflection my poor heart could possibly suggest, were totoly vanished! I stop'd—considered, and thought of the past pleasures, I never could repeat.—Your long wished-for lover will be at last happy. I saw a gentleman here, who informed me he was getting, or had got into some young regiment; and that they were going home immediately, and believed the were now on their passage home.
"Since I have been so unfortunate as to give you my affection, while you were fond of another man: I am my own persecutor, and have no one to blame but myself. While I was connected with you, I loved you sincerely, and seriously thought of no other woman; you are in possession of my heart, and while I think of your being with another, who loves you as I do, is enough to distract me. I suppose this letter will make you one of the happiest women existing. For, as to Bob's going home, is as certain, as that I am in the island of St Kitt's, if he got a commission, for I know that all the troops that are in the East Indies, are to be relieved in Spring, if not already. And suppose, he only wanted to surprise you, when he mentioned two years; for, if he is in any regiment in the East Indies, you may expect to see him next Summer.—And I—must content myself with this reflection! The woman I love is to be in the arms of another, to be in a broiling climate, which is subject to every calamity of the climes, and never to see my native country. My foreboding spirit, suggested some extraordinary event had happened: for, a few nights ago, after my usual custom of kissing your pickture. I lef it on the table, the window being up, it was blown of, and fell in a mug of water, that was by the bedside, which disfigured it as you see: I send it to you, in hopes you will replease its former beauty; I expect it shortly, and will think it an age, until I have it once more in my possession. Ten thousand thanks for the ribon you sent me, and it must partly supply the place of the ring, and will ware it to my wach, until I get it.
"I have been a witness to two earthquakes and a hurrican, since I came to this country; the hurrican, I suppose you must have heard of, in the news-papers.—But it is impossible that pen can describe, or that your imagination, can form any conception of the scen of horror, that presented to our view in the morning. You would see fields of sugar-canes, whirled in the air, and scattered over the face of the country; trees were torn up at a blast, and driven about at the mercy of the wind; windmills blown down; the fixtures, and stills of several hundred weight, were wrenched from the ground, and battered to pieces; even houses, were no protection; you would see the roofs of some blown off at a blast, while others were tottering, imagining every moment, the would come down, and crush to death the unfortunate inhabitants.
"I have nothing particular to tell you, there is no news of any sort, in this part of the world, only what I have mentioned; so must conclude, with giving my best wishes to P. Butler, and all friends. Hedges sends his respects to you, D. Butler, likewise. I believe I will be shortly removed to Antique, when I am I will let you know. Adieu, my dear Leeson; every blessing attend you. The next letter I receive from you, I suppose, will be the news of Bob's arival in England.
"Your's, my dear Leeson,
The above two were the only letters I received from the West Indies. However, as I have some more of Bob's letters from the East, I insert the following.
"Cape of Good Hope,
25th Dec., 1783.
"I have the pleasure of informing my darling love, that I arrived safe this day, after a good passage so far; which is reckoned the longest half between England and India: I should have written on my passage from Martinica, had anything happened that could have afforded you the smallest entertainment. Indeed weather, and the heat of the ship, has been so great that it was almost impossible to stay below: there are twelve gentlemen passengers besides servants; the ship only a little larger than the one you dined in at Spithead; it is at sea where we are obliged to shut every air-hole, you will easily judge very disagreeable; the captain, who is a very fine spirited young man, is very fond of me, which makes everyone in the ship very attentive; indeed I have the good fortune of pleasing almost everyone, which is not very easy, as there are so many parties in almost every ship; but you know one of the last requests you made of me was, not to quarrel, which I shall ever attend to in every occurrence where my honour is not called in question; indeed I shall attend to everything I think could please you, if you were present, and live in hopes of our once more meeting to be happy, and never to part, which I do not despair of; and be assured, the farther I am from you, the more deeply is your image rivetted in my soul; all the little occurrences that ever happened between us come into my mind when awake, and when a-sleeping, I dream of you every moment; I one time think myself in Dublin, and you and me riding; at another, I fancy that I had returned, and you would not see me—that you preferred someone else; and I leave you to judge what my feelings must be when I dreamed, that at another time I thought I had got a fortune, and that you and I were driving in a phaeton; then indeed was I completely happy; but, alas! it was all but a dream. We shall remain here but a few days, and shall then, I believe, go to Madras, which we shall reach in two months, if we are looky, from whence I shall hire a two months' passage to Bombay, where I hope I shall be well received. If I had a hope of seeing you at that time, how happy I could make myself, but shall exist on the idea of your being so, and endeavour to reconcile myself to fate. The climate of Bombay is remarkable healthy, almost as moderate as England, I'm told;—I think with myself if I had a little house there, and you with me, I should live content for ever, but that would be too much for me even to hope; how oft at night do I clasp you in my loving arms, and wake, and find it all a vain dream. I hope you are enjoying yourself with every diversion the town affords, from home. I dreamed once that my father was dead. I shall hope to hear from you shortly after my arrival at Bombay.
"The ship that carries this is just ready to sail, but you may depend on hearing from me by every opportunity, which is all the comfort I can now afford you; may you be as happy as I shall be wretched, till we again meet; says.
"Your own doting little
The soul don't from the body part,
With half the anguish or the smart,
That I now tear thee from my heart,
Which I so freely gave thee.
"I embrace the present opportunity to tell you that I am well. I had a long letter written to you of, many sides, containing an account of everything that occurred to me since I had the happiness of writing to you last; but unfortunately my servant has stolen it, with my pocket book. I have had many losses by the villainy of servants; at one time my watch, shoe, knee buckles, hat, and twenty-five pounds; at another, four guineas, a great part of my linen, and pocket book: these were losses I could but ill afford; however, I am resolved to make the best of every misfortune or accident. But why do I tell you such things that I know will give you pain, and can afford me no pleasure to relate; but the satisfaction I have in communicating everything to you that relates to myself, as I would know how affectedly you would sigh for me, and say, My Bob; should I never have the happiness of returning, how eagerly shall I kneel before you till I hear from your lovely lips, come to me, my Bob, for ever. I have applied for a commission in the 36th; I believe my recommendation is gone home; should I have the good fortune to obtain it, I may hope to be in England in three years, perhaps two, an age, you'll say. But the fates have decreed it, and we must submit, and then my darling the pleasure I should have in telling you everything about India, a place nineteen thousand miles from where you are; and perhaps never again to be called away. I have met with many here that I little suspected. Callage, who I have heard you mention; but I avoided him cautiously. He came out, I believe, in the navy. I remember a Mr. Lawler at your house the night that M'Dermott cut his hand with the glass; he is now lieutenant and quarter master to the 102d regiment; he treated me with a great deal of attention, and we often drank your health in half pint bumpers. Should you see him in Dublin, he'll mention me to you; I dare say, he expects to be there in about a year. He has made some money, by bearing two posts, and seems to spend it freely, as most people do here. Would you believe it that Miss Scriven, who lived at the Green (you must have heard of her), arrived here this week, married to a writer. I never was more surprised in my life than when I saw her; but nothing is strange under the sun. I am now embarked on board the Defence, a 74 gun ship; we sail for Bombay to-morrow, where I hope to be blessed with a letter from my heavenly Peggy; with what rapture I shall gaze on it, and eagerness break the seal. May every blessing shower down upon thy head, my heavenly darling. It is now one year since I left England; if I could promise myself with any degree of certainty a sight of you, my delight, I could exist on the bare thought. I have been very unlucky in not finding the people I was recommended to. I mentioned to you that general Mathews, on whom I chiefly relied, was taken prisoner and poisoned. Mrs. Dixon's son suffered the same fate; he was eldest captain and chief confidant to the general. I shall make every enquiry with respect to his affairs when I reach Bombay; I shall show her letters to him, and will do everything in my power to represent her situation in the most lively colours, that something may be done for her. I am told he died very rich, but what has, or will become of his property, is very uncertain. Mrs. Pierson's son is very well, I am told by those who have seen him lately. He was in all the campaign until within a few days of the capture of general Mathews, and was fortunately left behind in a small fort. I have received more attention from one letter that Brown gave me than all the others I had to this place. His brother is now a captain in General Burgoyne's light dragoons, quartered near this. I have met with a Mr. Gibbons since I came here, the very person I heard you and Sally speak of: he is an officer of this establishment, has been a long time a prisoner, and has got leave to go home for his health: he is indeed the most emaciated man I ever saw. Whether he goes to Dublin, or not I don't know with certainty, but suppose he will: I also met a Mr. Baily, who knew your picture immediately. This place is amazingly stupid, and very inhospitable to strangers. I have scarcely been acquainted with a single family since I came here. I'm told Bombay is much better in that respect, but miserably poor: the heat here is excessive. I assure my love, I sleep generally in the open air, with no other covering than a pair of drawers. How different that, my love, from your charming bed and heavenly arms. But why do I intoxicate my brain with the idea of what, perhaps I may never enjoy; yet, yet, I will hope and live in anxious expectation. Did you but know the feelings that distract me at this moment, you would give a tear to your ever doting Bob, for my heavenly delight I may with truth say, I'll never change, nor time, nor place, my faith shall move. I dreamed last night I had got five hundred pounds a year, and was going home to purchase a company; would to heaven it were reality; I then might say I had a prospect of being really happy, which is not to be expected I fear in this unfortunate kind of world. I shall write to you on my arrival at Bombay. May I entreat you by everything that is sacred, by everything that is lovely, by your own darling self to take care of your health, as I know you have a constitution, if taken care of, is equal to anything; therefore, my love, do it a little justice, that I may once again gaze on that lovely form, whose image is ever before my eyes. There is no entertainment in this stupid place; nothing like a public place, only a ball once a fortnight, and concert once a fortnight. This is very different from Dublin, you will say; where you have something pleasant every night. The amusement of this country is riding or driving phaetons. It is hardly possible to walk any distance until one is accustomed to the heat. I have had a gentleman's phaeton and horses generally to attend me for these last two months, a beautiful pair of greys. O God, if I had you in it with me; the horses are very handsome and amazingly sprightly; you judge I drove in style, and astonished the natives. I can say but little about myself. I have been very near wanting money, but never absolutely, still got a supply in time. I have been obliged to live on my own bottom, which is very expensive. We cannot get the plainest dinner less than a pagado, which is eight shillings sterling. I hear that Brown is on his way coming out; so that I shall hope to see him on my arrival at Bombay; if I do not, I shall think you have forgot me; the very thought is worse than death, but that can never be the case, for my darling is too good. I shall write you particularly when I get to Bombay. I am distracted with dreams every night, which makes me imagine that something has happened at home since my departure. Should it be in my favour, you may expect me in England very soon. Let my fate be what it may, my prayers shall ever be for your happiness; which I think your own goodness of heart will ever ensure you. I shall conclude, with offering prayers for your happiness, let what will befall your doting,
END OF VOL II.