Memoirs of Mrs. Margaret Leeson
ON THEIR departure I seriously set to work, and in less than three months had the materials for the volume ready for transcription;—living all the time quite retired, and seeing no creature except my priest and amanuensis,—the former of whom being of a liberal education, had the kindness to look over my manuscript and correct it: he told me the public were by no means well pleased with my former production, and that whoever my editor was, he did not avail himself of my hints and copy, as he should have done, and much regretted that he had not at that period the satisfaction of knowing me, as he should have endeavoured to render the work more worthy the public attention. There were a few more friends who had assisted me in my distress, and whom it would have been the highest ingratitude to be denied to: the only lady of my former acquaintance, who made any enquiries about me was Miss Love, who sent me several presents from time to time, and offered me (with the consent of her kind keeper,) an apartment in her house, if I thought proper to accept of it: But I was determined for the remainder of my life not to give the world the least handle to take hold of—I knew very well, That
"On eagles' wings immortal scandal fly,
Whilst virtuous actions are but born and die."
And had I gone to lodge with the generous good-natured Miss Love, it would be immediately imagined that I had turned (like the dog to the vomit) to my old vicious course of life.—I judged with Caesar, that "it would not be sufficient for me to be honest, if all the world did not believe me to be so."—Indeed I became so bashful, and had contracted within these few months past, so much of the mauvaise honte, as the French call it, that I absolutely was ashamed to be seen abroad; and I could not if I was offered a thousand pounds for it, sit one hour in my own quondam favourite box at the Theatre Royal: in fact from being a bold masculine termagant, I became one of the most timid mild creatures on earth, quite sentimental,—without a sentence tending to lewdness or blasphemy.—This will show what custom can do: I, who had been in the habit of every vice for the space of thirty years and upwards, to be so reformed in the course of about a year and half:—Indeed I can attribute my wonderful reformation as supernatural, and an inspiration from the God of nature himself; only to conceive, that the whole wonderful work should originate, with my reprimanding two fashionable swindlers for dishonesty; and this puts me in mind of a story I heard at Bath, when I went there for an importation of impures:—A remarkable profligate, and a great blasphemer, was riding by a Catholic chapel, under very heavy thunder and lightning, and on seeing the poor people, on the road contiguous to the mass house, crossing and blessing themselves, he began to turn them into ridicule, by crossing his horse, cursing, swearing and gibing, when a flash of lightning struck him to the ground, and killed him on the spot; this caused a great alarm through the country, and everybody concluded,—the impious blasphemer was overtaken by the vengeance of Heaven, and of course would be damned. But on the Sunday following, to the amazement of the gazing multitude, there was found growing on his grave (by the bye I believe it to be all fable,) a beautiful leaf, with the annexed exhortation and verse in letters of gold:
Don't judge, lest you should be judged. For,
"Between the stirrup and the ground,
I mercy craved, and mercy found."
There can be no doubt of repentant sinners' finding mercy with their maker:—and I was determined not to trust in Chesterfield's wicked lines:
"Sin then, dear girl for Heaven's sake,
Sin on, and be forgiven;
Sin on, and by repentance make
A holyday in Heaven."
As I could not with propriety make a personal application, I was determined to send my proposals everywhere; and accordingly thro' the medium of the Penny-post, enclosed them to every creature whose name I found in Wilson's Directory and Watson's Almanack; and from numbers received very handsome subscriptions:—I often wished I had as much bronze in my face, as Mrs. J—— E—— M. the English poetess, who certainly is a credit to the kingdom she came from; then should I by my exertions, have realized a handsome fortune; but poor Mrs. B——tt——r herself, that elegant charming sentimental writer, was never more timid or backward in forwarding a subscription than I was, I could certainly address any person by letter, but it was death to me to make a personal application. One evening in the dusk I muffled myself up, and ventured for the sake of the air, to take a walk in Stephen's-green, which was within a few yards of my lodging, and on my return, to my utter mortification and surprise, found a deserted unprotected girl I had hired to go of errands for me, had carried off all my clothes, with a small tea-chest, in which I had upwards of thirty guineas; being the full amount of the subscriptions I had received from friends, to whom I had enclosed my proposals, this was a severe blow I was by no means prepared for: Gracious God! exclaimed I, to what further miseries am I reserved! To have my all, I may say, taken from me, by an ungrateful wretch, whom I had taken in for charity;—the very identical Mary Neill, whom the unaccountable Hamilton Rowan, made such a ridiculous rout about.—All I had left now was the two guineas, and a few shillings I had in my pocket, when I walked out, with the bare clothes on my back, which were the very worst I had, as I only wrapped an old plaid about me; the vile creature, who by what I learned afterwards was viciously inclined, did not even leave me a change of linen.— Mrs. T—— indeed, my good-natured landlady, did all she could to comfort me, assuring me I should not want while she had it, bidding me trust still in a Divine Providence, who never deserts those who merit protection, and reminding me of my own expressions to herself, when I had so often been relieved:—and indeed the words were scarcely out of her mouth, when I received a letter from the Earl of Bristol,—that patriotic, eccentric, little prelate,—with an enclosure of fifty pounds:—My acquaintance with this noble and reverend Peer was short but singular — about sixteen years before, when I had been in London, he was introduced to me, and his lively manner made such an impression on me, that I consented to have him for a bed-fellow for one night:—The morning after, he made a thousand apologies for his want of cash, and solemnly promised I should not be a loser by indulging him;—however I thought no more of it, nor possibly ever would, only the pressure of misfortunes fell heavy on me, in consequence of which he occurred to me, and I made enquiry for his address, and wrote to him a few months before, among a number of my old acquaintances, without ever expecting any answer, or that he even would recollect such a person as I ever existed;—the event proved I was mistaken, and skewed the generosity and gratitude of this worthy and honourable Peer.—The rara avis in terris. Oh! Providence divine, exclaimed I (dropping on my knees,) thou wonder working God, how has the wretched Plunket merited this goodness?—After some little time in fervent prayer, I arose up and embracing my landlady acknowledged the truth of the observation she made, declaring I would never again, let what would befall me, distrust in a divine and watchful providence. The next morning as I was at breakfast, I was most agreeably surprised at a visit from Debby Dowd, my generous charitable smuggler, who so critically relieved Mrs. Edmonds and I in the height of our distress. She came, she told me, to know if I wanted anything in her way, and if I did I was extremely welcome to take what I pleased till I could pay her: and accordingly I bought a few yards of muslin from her, the making of a cloak, and two pounds of Gunpowder tea, at prime cost, as she would receive no more; and paid her the money she had lent me; but all I could do, I could not prevail on her to take payment for the tea and other matters, she had given poor Mrs. Edmonds and I.—She told me her situation was vastly improved since she had seen me last, that her husband whom she honestly owned, she never could endure was dead, and that she was then married to one O'Connor, a very eminent shop-keeper in Castleisland; and that in fact, she was under no necessity to travel, but that as she had for a long time been used to it, she could not avoid now and then taking an excursion; however, she said, she travelled then in a little cabriolet, which she drove herself, with her goods under her, and only once or twice a year:—on her road to this city, when she came to purchase goods, stopped at such towns, as she thought might turn out to advantage; she also pressed me to take an airing with her and spend the day in some outlet or other, and accordingly to gratify my generous benefactress, who would take no denial, I complied, and we spent the day at the Three-tun-tavern at the Black-rock, where the worthy landlord, Bishop, paid us every attention, and gave us every delicacy (and unquestionably his house, independent of his own civility and accommodating manners, is the best place of entertainment in that charming place) the season could afford, and at a very moderate price. On our return to town it was rather late, we were stopped near Baggotrath Castle by three armed villains, who were proceeding to rifle our pockets, when two gentlemen, who I had formerly known, a Mr. P——l and Mr. W——, hearing our cries, galloped up to our assistance, and rescued us from our assailants, who took to their heels and made their escape, but not without loss of blood, as one of our deliverers fired at the most desperate of the rogues, on his snapping a pistol at him, and wounded him; as appeared by the tracts of his blood for a considerable length of way, and notwithstanding all our enquiries and endeavours, the three by some means or other escaped; this adventure appeared in the public prints the next day, in the most delicate manner, without mentioning any name;—indeed since my misfortunes thickened upon me, all the Printers in the city have treated me in the genteelest manner, never mentioning my name with disrespect, the account of the robbery was merely this:
"Last night as two ladies were returning from the Rock rather late, their carriage was stopped by three armed foot-pads, who would have robbed them, had it not been for the timely interference of two gentlemen who happened luckily to ride up, just as the miscreants were proceeding to violence; one of whom was desperately wounded, notwithstanding which they all escaped, though closely pursued for a considerable way."
Though my name was not announced in the papers, yet it was generally believed I was one of the persons who had been stripped; and Mr. Daly the generous manager of the Theatre Royal, who was not only my very great admirer once, but particular friend, hearing of my melancholy situation, intimated to me, that he would give me a benefit free of every expense; not in my own name, as that would damn the business among the ladies of the ton; but in that of a distressed lady, &c. &c.—You may judge I accepted of this generous offer, and once more intruded on my particular friends, by written applications, and inclosing them bills and tickets, in consequence of which as both play and entertainments were got up with all the strength of the company, which was an excellent one, I cleared upwards of ninety pounds, and would have a good deal more, had I not been cheated by a number of buckeens and swindling blackguards, my former acquaintances, who actually forced their services on me, to stand, sell and receive tickets at the different doors; and to my cost, when it was too late, I was acquainted with the motive of their disinterested offers; humanity alone prevents me from giving these jockeys' names at full length:—the most specious of these friendly swindlers were Mr. M—— of High-street, Tom C—— of Francis-street, and Mr. S—— of Ormond-quay; there were many more who kindly interfered to sell tickets for me, and ungenerously pocketed the produce, and never accounted with me for one of them; particularly one C——, formerly a Small-beer Brewer, a quondam keeper of the Sheriff's prison,—the Rev. Mr. K——, a valiant priest, who accompanied Colonel D—— to the Continent as a priestly recruiting crimp, to annihilate the French,—the widow of poor N—— of poetical memory, who insinuated herself into my good graces, and pretended to be my friend;—a Mr. Johnny G——n a shoe-maker, and a great devotee; and a number of others who are not worth animadverting on.