Peg Plunkett's Memoirs - CHAP. XXIX.

Memoirs of Mrs. Margaret Leeson


SOME TIME after, the Abcderian Society for the relief of reduced and superannuated teachers, began to gain ground; I sent two guineas to Mr. McC覧e their secretary, desiring him to enroll me as the principal of Pitt street boarding-school; however the honest worthy Puritan, not choosing to be so taken in, sent the following note, and my money back.


"John McC覧 presents his compliments to Mrs. Leeson, cannot think of enrolling her with the several very respectable ladies who keep boarding-schools in this city, and who are a honour not only to all ladies in their line, but to human nature; if Mrs. Leeson chooses a subject for ridicule, she has pitched upon a very improper person in McC覧, and a very unfit one in the Abcderian Society, which is composed of some of the most respectable persons, of all descriptions in the community; however if Mrs. Leeson persists in bestowing her charity, McC覧 has no objection to accept of her subscription as a honorary member; however she must excuse him from entering her as a teacher, as her gaits of going, would ill suit the pupils of the other professors; nor can McC覧 with propriety return her name among the subscribers, for insertion in Watson's Almanack, which would only subject the other boarding-school ladies to ridicule."

On the receipt of this note, I dispatched my messenger back with the money which McC覧 had returned, desiring him to enter me under what class he pleased, and assuring him, whatever degree of respectability he might please to place the other superintendents of boarding-schools in, I thought myself not inferior to any of them; Nature I told him was my goddess預nd she, he could not deny as a classical man, had been worshipped from the earliest period; Eve herself took nature as her guide and tutoress, and all her children had travelled ever since in her divine foot-steps; I at the same time invited Mr. McC覧 to my academy, where I told him, stoic as he was, I would hold him one hundred guineas, before he and I parted I would make him confess my hypothesis to be just. McC覧 returned no answer to this polite invitation, which made me believe he was afraid of encountering me and my goddess.憂ust at this time the woman of Ireland, having come to an arbitration with poor Magee, who married her in one of his paroxysms of insanity, came to my house to spend some time; she was then in possession of about 300l. which she made a shift to squeeze from honest Jack, on giving him a release; for she absolutely was married to him at a certain house in Great Britain-street, where also the nuptials were celebrated in great style; on her joining my squad, she told me in what elegance the printer had kept her for about two months, her own chariot, footmen, and coachmen in laced liveries, her house in College-green, and another at the Rock, confessing he had squandered away on her and suite upwards of three thousand pounds, and that he never would have discarded her, had it not been for her own overbearing conduct and tyranny; in consequence of which he swore "he'd astonish her", and giving her a cruel (as she termed it) horse-whipping, turned her naked out of doors at about two o'clock in the morning; by this we see the instability of all sublunary matters, the woman of Ireland basely flagellated, and turned almost naked into the streets like any common prostitute, with a lacerated back; why be it so,

"Priam from fortune's lofty summit fell;
Great Alexander, midst his conquests mourn'd:
Heroes and Demi-gods, have known their sorrows;
Caesar has wept, and she has had her fall."

At last Buck W覧y (who had returned from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, as an atonement for his sins, and to win some considerable wagers) for the honour of the thing, in order merely to have it to say, he had Mrs. Magee, the Woman of Ireland, in keeping, took her from my house, after paying me for her board and lodging, and making me a very handsome present into the bargain; indeed I was not sorry to get rid of that exalted lady, as she became extremely troublesome, and was beside too fond of the native; and I often imagined she had imbibed part of the mania of her worthy spouse, and a worthier man, jesting apart, never existed; and I am happy to hear, at this present writing, that my poor honest friend, though still at Swift's, by his own choice, is perfectly in his reason; and now that his intellects are meliorated, and that he has lost all his eccentricities, is one of the best and most agreeable companions (by every account I could hear, for I never had the pleasure of his company since he became a ward of Chancery) in the kingdom. Indeed it would be a thousand pities anything should go amiss with him, as he is one of the best of men, and kind for him, as there does not exist better characters than his worthy old father, his brother the worthy William Magee of Belfast, and indeed all his family.

In about a fortnight after I had got a good riddance of the woman of Ireland, Miss McPherson from Banbridge called to see me; she looked wretchedly, and appeared in great distress and upon impatiently enquiring into her story, she told me, she and her unfortunate sister had been seduced by the late and present M覧 of D覧, father and son; that the present man had cruelly disordered her wretched sister, and afterwards suffered her to languish under the disease, without affording her the smallest relief, or medical assistance, till she died; that for her part, her fate was milder, for her hoary old lecher was extremely fond of her; had her picture drawn by the late Jos. Wilson of Belfast, in various attitudes, dressed and naked; kept her in the most exalted style, introduced her among his tenantry and dependants, at all the Hillsborough balls and entertainments, and so thrust her down the throats of all the little country squires, squireens and squirts, and their ladies, in the vicinity of his residence; that she generally went by the title of the Marchioness of 覧; that at length, her most noble antiquarian beginning to tire of attempting what he was not by any means equal to, bestowed her fair hand upon a little inferior lowlived revenue officer, for whom he had procured an employment in the revenue; that she had willingly embraced the proposal, in order to get rid of her old tormentor, which was not the case, for by the permission and orders of her mean-spirited rascally husband, she was obliged to obey the mandates of her old teasing friend, who frequently sent for her to spend the night with him; that at last it pleased Providence to take her patron of fumbling memory from her, and shortly afterwards her accommodating spouse; in consequence of which the present M覧s refusing to allow her the smallest support, and finding herself despised by those who in better days courted her acquaintance, she had ventured up to this city in quest of adventures, and begged my assistance to forward her in her amorous career; though I saw nothing in McP覧n that could promise any emolument, yet as 'twas my constant study to alleviate the miseries of all the woe-worn animals who applied to me for relief, I heartily welcomed her to Pitt-street, lent her five guineas to get a change or two of linen, which she stood very much in want of, and pushed her into company by the title of the ci-devant M覧ss, which had the desired effect, and procured her a few gallants, who would never have noticed her as plain Molly McPherson. While this lady was in the character of my Proteg馥, another sham Marchioness came to pay her a visit; she was a lady who had been in high keeping with the late worthy honest Marquis of A覧, who had no fault on earth, but too great an attachment to the brandy bottle, in which he'd indulge with any of his own servants, from the hour he rose in the morning, till he'd get so drunk as not to be able to walk through the streets; and many and many a time, has this most noble peer visited me in that state預 state of utter stupefaction. Among other no less curious anecdotes which this lady amazed us with, was an assurance, that though the Marquis had kept her in her coach for several years, she had in all that time no sort of connection with him; with astonishment, we both asked her in a breath, for what purpose he had kept her? "for merely the unspeakable pleasure" answered she archly, "of picking, washing, and cleaning my pretty little toes, which he took great delight in, and in which pleasurable, innocent, and inoffensive pastime he as often spent hours; 'twas the greatest gratification to him on earth, nor did he (said she) indulge in any other, as in all the time we spent together, he never was even rude enough to give me a kiss; however I amply made up for the time I lost with this poor drunken peerless Peer, as the instant he left me, I sent for my poor friend Frank Mc G覧, and with him enjoyed every luxury of love,傭oth laughing heartily at 覧's whimsical letch.' She told me, however, that her friend who was a married man, and had at that time an excellent employment in La Touche's bank, was some time before the Marquis's death obliged to abscond, he having made too free with the cash, his connection with her, having given him too great a taste for dissipation and debauchery of all kinds. Observing that my two Marchionesses were extremely fond of each other, I invited my fair visitor, for she really was a charming creature, to spend some time in my house en famille, which she, nothing loth, gladly accepted of, in consequence of which I also introduced her as the titular Marchioness Dowager of A覧 to all my friends, and very shortly she became a great favourite, for she was a sprightly, gay, agreeable woman, sung an arch song with a great deal of humour, and often has set the table in a roar with whimsical accounts of her toe-picking Marquis of harmless memory.

柚y mock Marchionesses drew a great deal of company, for as I said before, they had much to say for themselves, and the very name of receiving civilities from ladies, who had been favourites of the first men in the kingdom, was such a stimulus to the gay, the unthinking and the giddy, that neither of my Marchionesses ever slept a night unoccupied while they remained in Pitt-street, which was near nine months, during which time they realized upwards of three hundred pounds each, besides paying me very genteely and honourably; and then took flight for England, accompanied with two veteran officers, one a Lieutenant Colonel, the other a Major, who took such a liking to them, that for the last three months, they were scarcely ever out of my house; and though the younger of them was past his grand climacteric, yet they both confessed they had never been better pleased in their lives羊epeating the old adage, "that old cocks tread sure", and so it really happened, for McPherson left the kingdom great with child so much for the nobility.

And now I shall descend to the lady of a celebrated itinerant pedlar, one Bennett, well known in the Masonic world, by a humorous song that was composed on him, on his applying to a most respectable lodge to be admitted one of their fraternity, with the reception he met with from them; a full, witty and whimsical account of which, with notes critical and explanatory, my readers will find in the edition of Ahiman Rezon (printed by my dear and worthy friend Tommy Wilkinson of Winetavern-street) dedicated to the Master, Wardens, and Brethren of the Orange Lodge of Belfast, beginning with


"How Bennett was made, a pedlar by trade,
A Mason of whimsical order;
We stript him quite bare, deprived him of hair,
And painted his skin like a border, &c. &c."

Mrs. Elizabeth Bennett, alias Betty Quigley, was as fine a woman as ever I beheld; a face like an angel, a complexion equal to the lily and the rose, bewitching eyes, and a bosom like hillocks of driven snow, which rose, as Chesterfield said, in his elegant song of "Fanny blooming fair," than which the English language can't possibly produce a better, "suing to be pressed." Mrs. Bennett, when she came to my house, was about forty, quite in the embonpoint order, which was the rage, and why not? when the heir apparent sighed for nothing less, than fat, fair, and forty,謡ith b覧m and b覧b覧s in abundance, just such a woman was Mrs. Bennet, with a luscious county of Kerry brogue which rendered her all captivating; on her introduction to me she accosted me with "Arrah my dear Mrs. Leeson, or Mrs. Plunkit傭ut by my soul I know you better by the name of Plunkit, for I have been after hearing of you since I was dat high, you see I have come all the phay from Waterford, to be after spending a few days in your mighty agreeable company, and I have brought you a prisant or two to ensure my whelcome;" on which she drew from her pocket, a piece of the most beautiful embroidered muslin I ever beheld, which she told me she had smuggled, with a variety of other valuables, from the East India fleet, when they lay in the river Shannon, which was the first place she had been tempted to share her person with any man but her husband; that in the town of Tralee some revenue officers had seized a great parcel of goods from her, after she had returned from the fleet, and that in order to have them restored, her husband being then in Cork gaol, she had permitted one of the principal officers to take what liberties he pleased with her, in consequence of which, as she remained in sweet Tralee for upwards of eight months, she brought poor Bennett home all the contraband goods, with a chopping boy into the bargain, whom she was delivered of in about two months after her return. However Bennett could not relish the latter, though she honestly told him, she had prostituted herself for his sake, in order to regain his property; and this in some degree appeased him, especially when he was told the officer was the gentleman who officiated as master, when he was initiated into the mysteries of freemasonry in the county of Cork: she also informed me, that Bennett having been released from prison, by virtue of an insolvent act, they had taken up their abode in Waterford, where they kept a little shop since the year 1780; that however as her husband grew old he grew peevish, and at length became intolerable, continually upbraiding her with her faux pas, and beating and abusing her constantly, in consequence of which she had scraped all she could together, money and effects, and had come up to town, in order to make the most of her person she possibly could, and she had no doubt of success, as she'd be quite a new face on the town, and if her glass did not deceive her, she was still what the men call a damn'd good piece, and so she must have been, as in all my life I never saw, with all her vulgarity, a more dashing looking woman, nor with all, a more innocent or generous creature; indeed she fascinated all who conversed with her; her open innocent, sweet countenance, her broad county of Kerry brogue, "haw dau you dau my sweet friend," pronouncing the i's and u's so divinely broad, in short all-together, that is, the tout ensemble, she was everything a man could possibly wish; in fact she was what the French call a "je ne sais quoi": This darling woman lived with me, esteemed by all who knew her, until a countryman of her own, a Mr. O'Falvey, fell desperately in love with her, and by flattery, presents, and promises, prevailed on her to accompany him to that romantic earthly paradise Killarney, from whence I received a letter from her, not a month ago, expressive of her gratitude and the sense she entertained of the civilities I had shown her, and promising when an opportunity offered, to send me various rarities which that country spontaneously abounded with; she also mentioned the happy state she was in; that Bennett was no more, and that her dear Falvey, by whom she was then with child, had made a honest woman of her, as the poor dear simpleton termed her marriage to us, which at once showed my girls and I the naivet of the heart; but as blind Billy Jenkins often says, "we were not angry with her", 'twas merely the effusions of a honest simple heart. In her letters she also informed me she kept her coach and was visited by all the neighbouring families, who paid her every respect she could possibly wish for.

Another of my visitors, was a fair lady of the name of Mrs. Roberts耀he was a foundling, whom the unnatural parent left at the door of a Mr. Roberts, Batchelor's-walk; he caused her to be sent to nurse, and reared her at his own expense, until she was ten years old, when the spirit of infamy began to appear.-Mr. R覧 was very fond of her, and used to have her in his office, out of which she contrived to take a hundred pound bank note, which she gave to a John Cunningham, a cadet servant, who visited the girls of the house, and who was hanged a few months afterwards for the robbery of the North mail.柚r. R. good natured enough, sent Mary to board and lodge with a woman in the county Wicklow, near the Dargle, when in a little time she became acquainted with a Mr. N覧 B覧, who prevailed on her to quit her lodgings and go home with him, where she did not long behave herself prudently. He came home one night intoxicated, with a large sum of money, fifty guineas of which she, though young (only twelve years old) found means to conceal in the folds of her petticoats, which being discovered by B覧, he dismissed her, giving her but a solitary guinea for her past services.祐he immediately set off from the Cross-roads, and meeting a carman, who told her he was going to Dublin, she embraced the opportunity and went with him; he left her in a cellar in Mary's-lane, which we called a preferrer's for under servants; here she took lodgings at the moderate rate of sixpence a week. Not long after she was noticed by a Mr. H覧 of the Custom House, who being amorously inclined, hired her; she lived with this gentleman some short time; though short, she found means to ease him of a great part of his property, which was considerable, but he, inclined to dissipation, did not discover his inamorata until reduced to the last extremity; she being young, and he being unwilling to expose himself, after getting the duplicates of clothes and some few articles of plate, turned her off: being now deprived of every friend, and money, except what trifle she had after leaving H覧, she became troublesome to every passenger, by means of a notorious set of robbers who she became acquainted with傭eing smart and pretty, they employed her as a decoy duck, she picked up every unwary person, and brought them into lanes appointed by this banditti, by whom the unfortunate men were stripped of money and wearing apparel葉he chief places for these depredations were a lane in Jervis-street, Boot-lane, Green-street and Marlborough-green; among these fellows was one Lynch, a robber, of infamous memory, who took her to himself, and prevented any more street walking; he took rooms for her in Grafton-lane, and lived with her until he finished his career at the end of a rope in front of the New Prison柚ary being left sole heiress of this man's plunder, took a house in Strand-street, where she employed a few of her former thieving acquaintances, to assist her in depriving her unfortunate guests of every moveable; and her ingenuity was such, that at night she appeared as a grey headed old woman, and by day as a smart girl; by this means she evaded justice, and having saved some money in this very profitable employment, she quit her retirement and purchased a house in Abbey-street, where she became so troublesome that the neighbours resented her as a nuisance, and she was expelled that street by the grand jury, whereupon she purchased a house in Camden-street, where she now lives: I beg leave to add, that this lady would never have had a place in my memoirs, but that she introduced herself to me as an innocent country girl, whose parents abandoned her, and wished to put herself under my protection; but a very short period indeed, discovered to me the very dangerous inmate I had, for she improved on my old acquaintance C覧e, and probably would have plundered me of the whole of my property, had I not discovered her in time; I hope therefore the unwary will be on their guard against her, which indeed was my only motive for her introduction here.

My next boarder was a Margaret Whittle, alias P覧rt覧r; she was the daughter of a very respectable farmer in the county of Wicklow, she married the unfortunate and wretched P覧r, when very young, he being the son of a much esteemed clergyman in Whittle's neighbourhood, and a magistrate of the county; soon after she was married to the besotted P覧r, he set up an extensive shop in Dublin, where my unfortunate heroine first became acquainted with a Lieutenant W覧ms, brother-in-law to the famous Mrs. Sinnott, who procured through her influence with her Rt. Hon. Paramour, a commission for him in the army: for we all know,


"A beauteous sister, or convenient wife,
Are prizes in the lottery of life."

After W覧ms's appointment in the army, he and his sister-in-law frequently visited Mrs. P覧r, until poor P覧r failed; after which W覧ms entirely took up his residence there, and Mrs. P覧r in consequence, declined any longer intimacy with Sinnott; the fact was, she was well inclined to commence business in that line herself; else distress could not have occasioned her lapse from virtue, as she plundered her unfortunate husband on his failure, of near three hundred pounds in specie, and a vast quantity of clothes and jewels, which she was absolutely in possession of, when she became a votary of the Paphian Queen of fond desires, Mrs. Sinnott has been often heard to declare, she would exert every nerve and sinew to serve Mrs. P覧r in her new mode of life, and wished of all things on earth to fix her in some situation in her own line,預 demi-rep of some consequence, with her coach and suite of servants; but the depraved P覧r was far from being discreet, if she was, no lady of the ton would have had a better chance;


"With her stand by, clear the way."

In fact, before she was two months on the town, she became so common, that Mrs. Sinnott broke off all connection with her; and yet notwithstanding her abandonment, the unfortunate P覧r, is happy to share her favour with every ruffian who can "a crown afford," honestly confessing his own weakness, but declaring that it totally proceeds from his affection for her, exclaiming that,

"Angels were painted fair to look like her."

He some time ago made some effort to get into the army, and applied by memorial to the commander in chief for that purpose: however, that great and good character, on hearing of P覧's conduct, declared he would not disgrace the military character, by recommending such a contented nincompoop to any appointment in the service, lest,


"Boys should hoot the cuckold as he passes."

P覧's conduct being too gross for my acquaintance, I gave her warning to quit Pitt-street, and forgave her some trifle she owed me, in consequence of her speedy compliance; as I was apprehensive if she remained much longer with me, she'd bring a reflection on the credit of my house, which was always the resort of the most luxurious and licentious votaries of the little God, but never of the abandoned and depraved.

[Note: Mrs. Porter now figures away in a neat furnished house in Mark-street, where she has a resort of the best company; particularly a noble D覧 who is passionately fond of her; her chief delight, is boasting to her votaries of the presents she receives from her "noble slave," as she terms him, particularly a DIAMOND RING, a late offerihg of his, to this frail beauty.]

The evening of the day that Mrs. P覧 took her departure, a Mrs. Dalzell from the county Down, begged leave to see me; she was a fine person of a woman, with a beautiful face and gilt to the water edge, a very soleil royal; she was accompanied by another pretty little woman of her own complexion, a Mrs. B覧, yclept the Bantry Ginger; these ladies told me, they had the misfortune both to be married to creatures whom they, from their souls despised, poor contented cuckolds, who would gladly make the most of them. Mrs. D覧 told me she kept a tavern in the town of Belfast, where she had left her cara sposa, who was himself a butter-buyer of some eminence; and Mrs. B覧 informed me her husband had been a carpenter of some repute in the county of Cork, had afterwards commenced pedlar, and latterly, after having made a good deal of money through her exertions, had set up a shop in this city, where he was doing well, but yet his ignorance and vulgarity were so conspicuous, she was ashamed to be seen in his company, or to acknowledge him for a husband: both the ladies indeed seemed to vie with each other who should abuse her dear partner most; and both, I do verily believe, had sufficient cause; Mrs. Dalzell in particular, who was a charming agreeable woman, with a pleasing Scotch accent, whereas Mrs. B覧 appeared to be a little termagant, a vulgar Munster broganier vixen, with nothing to recommend her but her complexion; they both honestly acknowledged, they had in their time formed many connections; and the lively Dalzell laughing told me, she had frequently, when her husband had got inebriated in the forenoon (which had often been the case and gone to bed), invited her gallant up to his room, and obliged him to gratify his and her desires in the very bed with her snoring hog, and by his side, to the no small terror of her affrighted friend, who was apprehensive of Dalzell's waking and finding him in her arms; however she told me, she delighted in trying the constancy, bravery, and prowess of her paramour in this manner, and no doubt it was a tryal with a vengeance, as her poor lover stood a chance of being murdered, or if he escaped death, of being ruined by a suit, instituted against him for crim. con. but little did the volatile lascivious Dalzell care for the fate of either husband or gallant, so she had satisfied her own whims, and had her laugh; indeed she has declared to me, the wicked devil, she often sported in her amorous dalliances more than was necessary, on purpose if possible to waken her stupid somniferous brute, and make him sensible of the manner she returned his infamous and besotted treatment, and slight of her world of charms; and I must confess, she was wife fit for any man in Europe; she also sung charmingly; among many other compositions was the following, which she told me, was addressed to herself by a Mr. F覧ch覧r, who first caused her to stray from the paths of virtue and morality.


"When first I saw, then just eighteen,
My sweet Dalzell appear,
Methought 'twas love's majestic queen,
With her enchanting air;
I gaz'd! I wish'd! I lov'd! I sigh'd!
I doted on her charms;
Ye Gods what cruel fates deny'd,
This treasure to my arms?
And shall a stupid brute refuse,
Such bliss, by Heaven design'd,
When lovely, she might justly choose
A sentimental mind.
Think not, my fair, on censuring crowds,
Who envy you, your worth;
Your spotless fame, above the clouds,
Shall daily blazon forth:
Then grant to him, who loves you well,
The greatest bliss above;
And free from torment worse than hell,
A soul who's chain'd to love:
Give to his arms your lovely self,
That he may boast that bliss,
Above parade or worldly pelf,
To die upon a kiss."

This sweet though eccentric woman lived with me very near a year, after which, having made some money, she took it into her head to go off to America, that glorious land of liberty, and where that was, it was her country, where she soon got married to a very wealthy planter, with whom she lives contented and happy. As for the Bantry Ginger, her husband was arrested for debts she had contracted to a large amount and thrown into prison; and she herself, by what I can understand, is contented now to char about the prison, and dispense her favours around, for a casual support: for my part I have always hated her, an insignificant, vulgar, presuming creature, of very dishonest principles, who has made shift to cheat and rob me, in the space of a very short time, of upwards of forty guineas容xclusive of which, she thought proper to pilfer from every man who had connection with her, who all complained of her base, mercenary disposition. I must here premise to my moral readers, and I hope I may have many, that I would not have admitted these last two married ladies, or any others in that line, to an asylum in my nunnery, had they not given me perfect assurances they had followed that course of life for a length of time; that their husbands were well apprised of their profligacy, and that they were determined to take their own way; no, no, 'tis well known I never consented to the deflowering of virgin innocence; the seduction of a married woman, nor did I ever with my will, wish to entertain a married man in my house; but if it should so happen, I always took care they should meddle with no lady, if I could help it, who was not perfectly safe; many married women have applied to me, in the absence of their husbands, for lodgings for a few nights, without success; I even refused a certain lady well known in the fashionable world, and her spirited admirer, an appointment in my house to carry on their intrigue, in consequence of which they were obliged to resort to other methods, which led to a discovery, and turned the parties into ridicule and contempt; even a Reverend Divine, and the seduced wife of his friend and patron, I treated in the same manner, reprimanding her in very severe terms, and telling him he was a scandal and disgrace to his cloth; but enough of this digression, I must not tire the reader with numberless applications of this kind that occurred every day, but proceed to my own story.


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