The Memoirs of a Lady of Quality thumbnail

The Memoirs of a Lady of Quality

“I was supplied with money for my journey by my good friend L–; and, after a short and pleasant passage, arrived at the Hague, where I stayed two months, and parted with S–, on whom I settled an annuity of five-and-twenty pounds, payable out of the provision which I had or might obtain from my husband. The same allowance had I prevailed upon Lord B– to grant to another maid, who attended me while I lived in his house.

“I did not much relish the people in Holland, because they seemed entirely devoted to self-interest, without any taste for pleasure or politeness; a species of disposition that could not be very agreeable to me, who always despised money, had an unbounded benevolence of heart, and loved pleasure beyond every other consideration. When I say pleasure, I would not be understood to mean sensuality, which constitutes the supreme happiness of those only who are void of sentiment and imagination. Nevertheless, I received some civilities in this place, and, among the rest, the reputation of having for my lover the king of P–‘s minister, who was young and airy, and visited me often; circumstances that were sufficient to lay me under the imputation of an amour, which I frequently incurred without having given the least cause of suspicion.

“Having taken leave of my Dutch friends, I departed from the Hague, in company with an English woman, whom I had chosen for that purpose, and arrived at Antwerp with much difficulty and danger, the highway being infested with robbers. After having reposed myself a few days in this city, I hired a coach for myself, and set out with my companion for Brussels; but, before we reached Mechlin, our vehicle was attacked by two hussars, who, with their sabres drawn, obliged the coachman to drive into a wood near the road. I at first imagined that they wanted to examine our passports, but was soon too well convinced of their design; and, though very much shocked at the discovery, found resolution enough to suppress my concern, so that it should not aggravate the terrors of the young woman, who had almost died with apprehension. I even encouraged her to hope for the best; and, addressing myself to the robbers in French, begged, in the most suppliant manner, that they would spare our lives; upon which one of them, who was a little fellow, assured me, in the same language, that we had nothing to fear for our persons.

“When we were conveyed in a state of dreadful suspense about three-quarters of a mile into the wood, the ruffians came into the coach, and, taking my keys, which I kept ready in my hand for them, opened three large trunks that contained my baggage, and emptying them of everything but my hoops and a few books, packed up their booty in a cloth; then robbed me of my money and jewels, even to my shoe-buckles and sleeve-buttons, took my footman’s laced hat, and gave it, by way of gratification, to a peasant, who came from behind the bushes, and assisted them in packing.

“This affair being despatched, they ordered us to return to the road by a different way from that in which we were carried into the wood; and mounting their horses, rode off with the plunder, though not before the little fellow, who was the least ferocious of the two, had come and shaken me by the hand, wishing us a good journey; a compliment which I heartily returned, being extremely well pleased with the retreat of two such companions, who had detained us a whole half-hour; during which, notwithstanding the assurance I had received, I was in continual apprehension of seeing their operation concluded with the murder of us all; for I supposed they were of that gang who had some time before murdered a French officer, and used a lady extremely ill, after having rifled her of all she had.

“Having thus undergone pillage, and being reduced to the extremity of indigence in a foreign land, it is not to be supposed that my reflections were very comfortable; and yet, though I sustained the whole damage, I was the only person in the company who bore the accident with any resolution and presence of mind. My coachman and valet seemed quite petrified with fear; and it was not till I had repeated my directions that the former drove farther into the wood, and took the first turning to the right, in order to regain the road, according to the command of the robbers, which I did not choose to disobey.

“This misfortune I suffered by the misinformation I received at Antwerp, where I would have provided myself with an escort, had not I been assured that there was not the least occasion to put myself to such extraordinary expense. And, indeed, the robbers took the only half-hour in which they could have had an opportunity of plundering us; for we no sooner returned into the highway, than we met with the French artillery coming from Brussels, which was a security to us during the rest of our journey. We were afterwards informed at a small village, that there was actually a large gang of deserters, who harboured in that wood, from which they made excursions in the neighbourhood, and kept the peasants in continual alarms.

“Having proceeded a little way, we were stopped by the artillery crossing a bridge; and, as the train was very long, must have been detained till night, had not a soldier informed me, that, if I would take the trouble to come out of my coach, and apply to the commandant, he would order them to halt, and allow me to pass. I took the man’s advice, and was by him conducted, with much difficulty, through the crowd, to some officers, who seemed scarce to deserve the name; for, when I signified my request, they neither rose up, nor desired me to sit down; but, lolling in their chairs, with one leg stretched out, asked, with an air of disrespectful raillery.

where I was going; and when I answered, “To Paris,” desired to know what I would do there.

“I, who am naturally civil where I am civilly used, and saucy enough where I think myself treated with disregard, was very much piqued at their insolent and unmannerly behaviour, and began to reply to the impertinent questions very abruptly; so that a very tart dialogue would have ensued, had not the conversation been interrupted by a tall, thin, genteel young French nobleman, an officer in the army, who, chancing to come in, asked with great politeness, what I would please to have. I then repeated my desire, and produced my passports, by which he learned who I was. He immediately gave orders that my coach should pass; and afterwards visited me at Paris, having obtained my permission, and taken my address at parting; while the others, understanding my name and quality, asked pardon for their impolite carriage, which they told me was owing to the representation of the soldier, who gave them to understand that I was a strolling actress.

“I could not help laughing heartily at this mistake, which might have proceeded from the circumstances of my appearance, my footman having been obliged to change hats with the peasant, and myself being without buckles on my shoes and buttons on my riding-skirt, while my countenance still retained marks of the fear and confusion I had undergone. After all, perhaps the fellow was a droll, and wanted to entertain himself at my expense. The day was so far consumed in these adventures, that I was obliged to take up my lodgings at Mechlin, where I addressed myself to the intendant, giving him an account of the disaster I had met with, and desiring I might have credit at the inn, as our whole company could not raise the value of a sixpence. This gentleman, though a provincial, was polite in his way, and not only granted my request, but invited me to lodge at his own house. I accordingly gave him my company at supper, but did not choose to sleep at his quarters, because he appeared to be what the French call un vieux debauche.

“Next day, he sent a trumpet to the general, with a detail of my misfortune, in hopes of retrieving what I had lost; but, notwithstanding all possible search, I was fain to put up with my damage, which, in linen, laces, clothes, and baubles, amounted to upwards of seven hundred pounds, a loss which never deprived me of one moment’s rest; for, though I lodged at a miserable inn, and lay in a paltry bed, I slept as sound as if nothing extraordinary had happened, after I had written to London and Paris, directing that the payment of my bills of credit might be stopped. Indeed, I know of but two misfortunes in life capable of depressing my spirits, namely, the loss of health and friends; all others may be prevented or endured.

The articles of that calamity which I chiefly regretted, were a picture of Lord W–, and some inimitable letters from Mr. B–.

“From Mechlin I proceeded to Brussels, where, being known, I got credit for some necessaries, and borrowed twenty guineas to defray the expense of my journey to Paris. Having consulted with my friends about the safest method of travelling through Flanders, I was persuaded to take places in the public voiture; and accordingly departed, not without fears of finding one part of the country as much infested with robbers as another. Nor were these apprehensions assuaged by the conversation of my fellow-travellers, who, being of the lower sort of people, that delight in exaggerating dangers, entertained me all the way with an account of all the robberies and murders which had been committed on that road, with many additional circumstances of their own invention. After having been two days exposed to this comfortable conversation, among very disagreeable company, which is certainly one of the most disagreeable situations in life, I arrived at Lisle, where, thinking the dangerous part of the journey was now past, I hired a post-chaise, and in two days more reached Paris without any further molestation.

“Upon my arrival in the capital, I was immediately visited by my old acquaintances, who, hearing my disaster, offered me their clothes, and insisted upon my wearing them, until I could be otherwise provided. They likewise engaged me in parties, with a view of amusing my imagination, that I might not grow melancholy in reflecting upon my loss; and desired me to repeat the particulars of my story forty times over, expressing great surprise at our not being murdered, or ravished at least. As for this last species of outrage, the fear of it never once entered my head, otherwise I should have been more shocked and alarmed than I really was. But it seems this was the chief circumstance of my companion’s apprehension; and I cannot help observing, that a homely woman is always more apt to entertain those fears, than one whose person exposes her to much more imminent danger. However, I now learned, that the risk I ran was much greater than I imagined it to be, those ruffians being familiarized to rape as well as murder.

“Soon after my appearance at Paris, I was favoured with the addresses of several French lovers; but I never had any taste for foreigners, or indeed for any amusement of that kind, except such as were likely to be lasting, and settled upon a more agreeable footing than that of common gallantry. When I deviated from this principle, my conduct was the effect of compulsion, and therefore I was never easy under it, having been reduced to the alternative of two evils, the least of which I was obliged to choose, as a man leaps into the sea, in order to escape from a ship that is on fire.

“Though I rejected their love, I did not refuse their company and conversation; and, though my health was considerably impaired by the shock I received in my last adventure, which was considerably greater than I at first imagined, and affected my companion so much, that she did not recover her spirits till she returned to England, I say, though I was for some time a valetudinarian, I enjoyed myself in great tranquility for the space of ten months, during which I was visited by English, Scotch, and French, of all parties and persuasions; for pleasure is of no faction, and that was the chief object of my pursuit; neither was I so ambitious of being a politician, as to employ my time and thoughts upon subjects which I did not understand. I had admirers of all sides, and should have spent my time very much to my liking, had not I felt my funds sensibly diminish, without any prospect of their being repaired; for I had been obliged to lay out a great part of the sum allotted for my subsistence, in supplying my companion, my servant, and myself with necessaries, in lieu of those which we had lost.

“Having before my eyes the uncomfortable prospect of wanting money in a strange place, I found myself under the necessity of returning to England, where I had more resources than I could possibly have among foreigners; and with that view wrote to Lord –‘s agents, desiring that I might be enabled to discharge my obligations at Paris, by the payment of my pin-money. Thus a negotiation commenced, and his lordship promised to remit money for the clearance of my Paris debts, which amounted to four hundred pounds: but he would not advance one farthing more, though I gave him to understand, that, while he protracted the agreement, I must inevitably be adding to my encumbrances, and that I should be as effectually detained by a debt of twenty pounds, as if I owed a thousand. Notwithstanding all my representations, he would not part with one shilling over the net sum which I at first stipulated; so that all my measures were rendered abortive, and I found it altogether impracticable to execute those resolutions I had formed in his favour.

“Thus did he for a mere trifle embarrass the woman for whom he professed the most unlimited love, and whose principles he pretended to hold in the utmost veneration. Indeed, his confidence in my integrity was not without foundation; for many wives, with one half of my provocation, would have ruined him to all intents and purposes; whereas, notwithstanding all the extraordinary expenses to which I had been exposed by his continual persecution, he never paid a shilling on my account except one thousand pounds, exclusive of the small allowance which was my due. In a word, so much time elapsed before my lord could prevail upon himself to advance the bare four hundred, that I was involved in fresh difficulties, from which I found it impossible to extricate myself; and though I had occasion to write a letter to my benefactor Lord –, in which I expressed my acknowledgment of past favours, I could not venture to solicit more, even when I was encouraged by a very obliging answer, wherein he declared, that the good qualities of my mind and heart would bind him to me in friendship for ever.

“While I ruminated on my uncomfortable situation, which would neither permit me to return to England, nor to stay much longer where I was, a young Englishman of immense fortune took Paris in his way from Italy, accompanied by a most agreeable Scotchman of very good sense and great vivacity. It was my good or ill fortune to become acquainted with these gentlemen, who, having seen me at the opera, expressed a desire of being known to me, and accordingly favoured me with a visit one afternoon, when the brisk North Briton engrossed the whole conversation, while the other seemed fearful and diffident even to a degree of bashfulness, through which, however, I could discern a delicate sensibility and uncommon understanding.

There was in his person, which was very agreeable, as well as in his behaviour, a certain naivete that was very pleasing; and, at this first interview, we relished each other’s company so well, that a sort of intimacy immediately commenced, and was carried on in a succession of parties of pleasure, in the course of which I found him fraught with all the tenderness and sentiment that render the heart susceptible of the most refined love; a disposition that immediately made me partial to him, while it subjected his own heart to all the violent impressions of a passion, which I little imagined our correspondence would have produced.

“Nevertheless, I was far from being displeased with my conquest, because his person and qualifications, as well as his manner of address, were very much to my liking, and recommended him in a particular manner to my affection. Indeed, he made greater progress in my heart than I myself suspected; for there was something congenial in our souls, which, from our first meeting, I believe, had attracted us, unknown to ourselves, under the notions of friendship and regard, and now disclosed itself in the most passionate love.

“I listened to his addresses, and we were truly happy. His attachment was the quintessence of tenderness and sincerity, while his generosity knew no bounds. Not contented with having paid twelve hundred pounds on my account, in the space of one fortnight, he would have loaded me with present after present, had I not absolutely refused to accept such expensive marks of his munificence. I was even mortified at those instances of his liberality, which my situation compelled me to receive, lest, being but little acquainted with my disposition, he should suspect me of being interested in my love, and judge my conduct by the malicious reports of common fame, which, he afterwards owned, had at first obtained such credit with him, that he believed our mutual attachment would not be of long duration. But, in this particular, he was soon undeceived.

His heart, though naturally adapted for the melting passion, had hitherto escaped untouched by all the ladies of Italy and France; and, therefore, the first impressions were the more deeply fixed.

As he was unpractised in the ways of common gallantry and deceit, the striking simplicity in his character was the more likely to engage the heart of one who knew the perfidy of the world, and despised all the farce and bombast of fashionable profession, which I had always considered as the phrase of vanity and ostentation, rather than the genuine language of love. Besides, gratitude had a considerable share in augmenting my affection, which manifested itself in such a warm, cordial, artless manner, as increased his esteem, and riveted his attachment; for he could easily perceive, from the whole tenor of my conduct, that my breast was an utter stranger to craft and dissimulation; yet I was at first fearful of contracting any engagement with him, because, being younger than me, he might be more apt to change, and the world might be malicious enough to suppose I had practised upon his inexperience; but, conscious of my own integrity, I set slander at defiance, trusting to my own behaviour, and his natural probity, for the continuance of his love. Though we did not live together in the same house, the greatest part of our time was spent in each other’s company; we dined and supped at the same table, frequented public places, went upon parties to the country, and never parted, but for a few hours in the night, which we passed in the utmost impatience to meet again.

“In this agreeable manner did the days roll on, when my felicity was interrupted by a fit of jealousy with which I happened to be seized. I had contracted an acquaintance with a young married lady, who, though her personal attractions were but slender, was upon the whole an agreeable, cheerful, good-natured companion, with a little dash of the coquette in her composition. This woman being in very indigent circumstances, occasioned by some losses her husband had sustained, no sooner had an opportunity of seeing and conversing with my lover, than she formed the design of making a conquest of him. I should have forgiven her for this scheme, whatever pangs it might have cost me, had I believed it the effect of real passion; but I knew her too well to suppose her heart was susceptible of love, and accordingly resented it. In the execution of her plan, she neglected nothing which she thought capable of engaging his attention. She took all opportunities of sitting near him at table, ogled him in the most palpable manner, directed her whole discourse to him, trod upon his toes; nay, I believe, squeezed his hand. My blood boiled at her, though my pride, for some time, enabled me to conceal my uneasiness; till at length her behaviour became so arrogant and gross, that I could no longer suppress my indignation, and one day told my lover that I would immediately renounce his correspondence.

“He was greatly alarmed at this unexpected declaration; and, when he understood the cause of it, assured me, that, for the future, he would never exchange one word with her. Satisfied with this mark of his sincerity and regard, I released him from his promise, which he could not possibly keep, while she and I lived upon any terms; and we continued to visit each other as usual, though she still persisted in her endeavours to rival me in his affection, and contracted an intimacy with his companion, who seemed to entertain a passion for her, that she might have the more frequent opportunities of being among us; for she had no objection against favouring the addresses of both. One evening, I remember, we set out in my coach for the opera; and, in the way, this inamorata was so busy with her feet, that I was incensed at her behaviour; and, when we arrived at the place, refused to alight; but, setting them down, declared my intention of returning home immediately. She was so much pleased with this intimation, that she could not conceal the joy she felt at the thoughts of conversing with him, uninterrupted by my presence; an opportunity with which I had never favoured her before. This open exultation increased my anger and anxiety. I went home; but, being still tortured with the reflection of having left them together, adjusted myself in the glass, though I was too angry to take notice of my own figure, and without further delay returned to the opera.

“Having inquired for the box in which they sat, I took possession of one that fronted them, and, reconnoitring them, without being perceived, had the satisfaction of seeing him removed to as great a distance from her as the place would permit, and his head turned another way. Composed by this examination, I joined them without further scruple, when my young gentleman expressed great joy at my appearance, and told me he was determined to have left the entertainment, and come in quest of me, had I not returned at that instant.

“In our way homewards, my rival repeated her usual hints, and with her large hoop almost overshadowed my lover from my view; upon which my jealousy and wrath recurred with such violence, that I pulled the string as a signal for the coachman to stop, with a view of getting out, and going home afoot; a step which would have afforded a new spectacle to the people of Paris. But I reflected in a moment upon the folly of such a resolution, and soon recollected myself, by calling my pride to my assistance. I determined, however, that she should act no more scenes of this kind in my presence, and that same night insisted upon my lover’s dropping all intercourse and connection with this tormentor. He very cheerfully complied with my desire, and was even glad of an occasion to break off his acquaintance with a person about whom I had plagued him so much.

“Thus was I freed from the persecution of one of those creatures, who, though of little consequence in themselves, are yet the pests of society, and find means to destroy that harmony which reigns between two lovers, by the intrusion of a loose appetite, void of all sensibility and discretion; having no feelings themselves, they cannot sympathize with those of other people; and do mischief out of mere wantonness.

“My lover being obliged to go to England, had settled me in a genteel house in Paris, with a view of returning when his affairs should be adjusted; but, when the time of his departure approached, he began to be uneasy at the prospect of separation, and, in order to alleviate his anxiety, desired me to accompany him to Calais, where we stayed together three or four days, during which the dread of parting became more and more intense; so that we determined upon my following him into England at the first opportunity, where I should live altogether incog. that I might be concealed from the inquiries and attempts of my lord. Even after this resolution was fixed, we parted with all the agonies of lovers who despair of ever meeting again; and the wind blowing very high after he had embarked, increased my fears. But, by the return of the packet-boat I was blessed with the report of his being safe arrived in England, and had the satisfaction of perusing his letters by every post.

“My admirer being thus detached from me, my thoughts were entirely employed in concerting some private method of conveying myself to him. As I would not trust myself in the common packet, for fear of being discovered, after having revolved divers schemes, I determined to transport myself in one of the Dutch fishing-boats, though I knew the passage would be hazardous; but, in a case of such interesting concern, I overlooked all danger and inconvenience. Before I put this resolution in practice, I was so fortunate as to hear of a small English vessel, that arrived in Calais with a prisoner of war, in which I embarked, with my companion and another lady, who lived with me for some time afterwards; and, when we came on board, discovered that the ship was no other than a light collier, and that her whole company amounted to no more than three men. Nevertheless, though the sea was so rough, and the weather so unpromising, that no other boat would venture to put to sea, we set sail, and, between two storms, in about three hours arrived in safety in Dover.

“From hence my first companion went to her friends in the stage-coach, while the other lady and I hired an open post-chaise, though it snowed very hard, and, without any accident, performed our journey to London, where I met with my lover, who flew to my arms in all the transports of impatient joy; and, doubtless, I deserved his affection for the hardships, perils, and difficulties I had undergone to be with him; for I never scrupled to undertake anything practicable, in order to demonstrate the sincerity of what I professed. In consequence of our plan, I assumed a fictitious name, and never appeared in public, being fully satisfied and happy in the company and conversation of the man I loved; and, when he went into the country, contented myself with his correspondence, which he punctually maintained, in a series of letters, equally sensible, sincere, and affectionate.

“Upon his return to town for the remainder of the season, he devoted the greatest part of his time to our mutual enjoyment; left me with reluctance, when he was called away by indispensable business, and the civility which was due to his acquaintance, and very seldom went to any place of public entertainment, because I could not accompany and share with him in the diversion; nay, so much did I engross his attention, that one evening, after he had been teased into an agreement of meeting some friends at a play, he went thither precisely at the appointed hour, and, as they did not arrive punctually at the very minute, he returned to me immediately, as much rejoiced at his escape as if he had met with some signal deliverance. Nor was his constancy inferior to the ardour of his love. We went once together to a ball in the Haymarket, where, in the midst of a thousand fine women, whose charms were enhanced by the peculiarity of the dresses they wore, he remained unshaken, unseduced, preserving his attachment for me in spite of all temptation.

“In the summer, he provided me with a house in the neighbourhood of his own; but the accommodations being bad, and that country affording no other place fit for my residence, he brought me home to his own seat, and, by that step, raised such a universal clamour; though I saw no company, and led such a solitary life, that nothing but excessive love could have supported my spirits. Not but that he gave me as much of his time as he could possibly spare from the necessary duties of paying and receiving visits, together with the avocations of hunting, and other country amusements, which I could not partake. Formerly, indeed, I used to hunt and shoot, but I had left off both, so that I was now reduced to the alternative of reading and walking by myself; but love made up for all deficiencies to me, who think nothing else worth the living for. Had I been blessed with a partner for life, who could have loved sincerely, and inspired me with a mutual flame, I would have asked no more of fate. Interest and ambition have no share in my composition; love, which is pleasure, or pleasure, which is love, makes up the whole. A heart so disposed cannot be devoid of other good qualities; it must be subject to the impressions of humanity and benevolence, and enemy to nothing but itself. This you will give me leave to affirm, in justice to myself, as I have frankly owned my failings and misconduct.

“Towards the end of summer, my heart was a little alarmed by a report that prevailed, of my lover’s being actually engaged in a treaty of marriage; however, I gave little credit to this rumour till I was obliged to go to town about business, and there I heard the same information confidently affirmed. Though I still considered it as a vague surmise, I wrote to him an account of what I had heard; and, in his answer, which is still in my possession, he assured me, with repeated vows and protestations, that the report was altogether false. Satisfied with this declaration, I returned to his house; and, though the tale was incessantly thundered in my ears, still believed it void of all foundation, till my suspicion was awakened by a very inconsiderable circumstance.

“One day, on his return from hunting, I perceived he had a very fine pair of Dresden ruffles on his shirt, which I could not suppose he would wear at such a rustic exercise; and, therefore, my fears took the alarm. When I questioned him about this particular of his dress, his colour changed; and though he attempted to elude my suspicion, by imputing it to a mistake of his servant, I could not rest satisfied with this account of the matter, but inquired into the truth with such eagerness and penetration, that he could not deny he had been to make a visit. By degrees, I even extorted from him a confession, that he had engaged himself further than he ought to have proceeded, without making me acquainted with his design, though he endeavoured to excuse his conduct, and pacify my displeasure, by saying, that the affair would not be brought to bear for a great while, and, perhaps, might never come to a determination but he was in great confusion, and, indeed, hardly knew what he said.

“I would have quitted his house that moment, had not he beforehand obtained a promise that I would take no rash resolution of that kind, and put it out of my power to procure any method of conveyance by which I could make my retreat. I gave no vent to reproaches, but only upbraided him with his having permitted me to return, in ignorance, to the country, after I was once fairly gone; upon which he swore that he could not bear the thoughts of parting with me.

This declaration was a mystery at that time, but I have been since so fully satisfied of his reasons for his conduct, that I heartily acquit him of all injustice to me. And, indeed, it is my sincere opinion, that, if ever young man deserved to be happy, he is certainly entitled to that privilege; and, if I may be allowed to judge, has a heart susceptible of the most refined enjoyment.

“The violence of the grief and consternation which I suffered from this stroke having a little subsided, I deliberated with myself about the measures I should take, and determined to leave his house some day when he should be abroad. I was encouraged in this resolution by the advice of our Scotch friend, who came about this time from London, on a visit to his fellow-traveller. We thought such an abrupt departure would be less shocking than to stay and take a formal leave of my lover, whose heart was of such a delicate frame, that, after I told him I should one day withdraw myself in his absence, he never came home from the chase, or any other avocation, without trembling with apprehension that I had escaped.

“After he had been some time accustomed to these fears by my previous intimation, I at length decamped in good earnest, though my heart ached upon the occasion, because I left him loving and beloved; for his affection was evident, notwithstanding the step he had taken by the advice and importunity of all his relations, who laid a disagreeable restraint upon his inclinations, while they consulted his interest in every other particular.

“While I halted in the next great town, until I could be supplied with fresh horses, I was visited by a gentleman who had been formerly intimate with my lover; but a breach had happened in their friendship, and he now came to complain of the treatment he had received. Perceiving that I was not in a humour to listen to his story, he shifted the conversation to my own, and observed, that I had been extremely ill-used. I told him that I was of a different opinion; that it was not only just, but expedient, that a young man of Mr. –‘s fortune should think of making some alliance to strengthen and support the interest of his family; and that I had nothing to accuse him of but his letting me remain so long in ignorance of his intention. He then gave me to understand, that I was still ignorant of a great part of the ill-usage I had received; affirming, that, while I lived in his house, he had amused himself with all the common women in that town, to some of whom this gentleman had personally introduced him.

“At first, I could not believe this imputation; but he supported his assertion with so many convincing circumstances, that I could no longer doubt the truth of them; and I felt so much resentment, that my love vanished immediately into air. Instead of proceeding on my journey to London, I went back a considerable way, and sent a message desiring to see him in a little house, about midway between his own habitation and the town from whence I came. He obeyed my summons, and appeared at the place appointed, where I reproached him with great bitterness. He pleaded guilty to the charge, so far as acknowledging that he had corresponded with other women lately, in order to get the better of his affection for me, but the experiment had failed, and he found that he should be for ever miserable.

“I did not look upon this candid confession as a sufficient atonement for his past dissimulation, and, in the sharpness of my revenge, demanded a settlement, which he peremptorily refused; so that for the present we held each other in the utmost contempt. Indeed, I afterwards despised myself for my condescension, which was owing to the advice of my companion, supported and inflamed by the spirit of resentment. Nevertheless, he begged that I would return to his house, or stay all night where I was; but I was deaf to his entreaties, and, after a great deal of ironical civility on my side, I took my leave, and went away; yet, before I set out, I looked back, and saw him on horseback, with such an air of simplicity and truth, as called up a profound sigh, notwithstanding all that had passed in our conversation.

“Upon my arrival in London, I took lodgings in Leicester-fields, and answered a letter which I had some months before received from my lord, telling him that I would go home to him, without stipulating for any terms, to try what effect my confidence would have upon his generosity. He readily embraced the offer, and took a house in St. James’s-street, where I proposed to comply with his humour in everything that was consistent with my own peace and tranquility.

“Meanwhile, my lover passed his time very disagreeably in the country, with his friend, of whom, it seems, he had conceived some jealousy, which was increased by a letter I wrote to that gentleman, till he was made acquainted with the contents, which he read over forty times; and then his passion breaking out with more violence than ever, he not only expressed his feeling, in an epistle which I immediately received, but when he came to town suffered such agonies of despair as I had never seen before, except in Lord B–.

It was then in my power to have taken ample revenge upon him, as well as upon my insolent rival, who had insisted upon my leaving his house in a very abrupt manner, though he absolutely refused to gratify her malice, for he was now disposed to do anything for my satisfaction. But I knew his worth, and had too much regard for his reputation to advise him to act inconsistent with his honour.

“About this time, many tender feelings and sorrowful partings happened between us, till the marriage knot was tied, when he sent me a bank-note for a thousand pounds, by way of specimen, as he called it, of his friendship, and of what he would do for me, should I ever want his assistance. This mark of his generosity I received in a most tender billet, which I shall never part with, together with his picture set in diamonds.

“I now employed my thoughts in keeping measures with my lord; we lay in the same apartment, and for the first four or five months I neither dined nor supped abroad above twice; and then he knew where I was, and approved of my company. But all this complacency and circumspection had no effect upon his temper, which remained as capricious and dissatisfied as ever. Nay, to such a provoking degree did this unhappy humour prevail, that one day, in the presence of his lawyer, he harangued upon my misconduct since our last reunion; and very freely affirmed, that every step I had taken was diametrically opposite to his will.

“Conscious of the pains I had been at to please him, I was so incensed at these unjust invectives, that, starting up, I told him he was a little dirty fellow; and would have left the house immediately, had not his lawyer, and others, who were in the room, interposed, and by dint of argument and importunity diverted me from my purpose.

By the bye, I have been informed by a person of rank, that my lord discovered exactly the same disposition in his father’s lifetime, and only changed the subject of his complaint from the word father to that of wife. Indeed, he takes all opportunities of plaguing my dear parent, as he has just sagacity enough to know, that this is the most effectual way he can take to distress me.

“After repeated trials, I have given up all hopes of making him happy, or of finding myself easy in my situation, and live with him at present to avoid a greater inconvenience. Not that his ill-nature is all the grievance of which I complain; exclusive of the personal disgust I entertain for him, his folly is of that species which disobliges rather than diverts, and his vanity and affectation altogether intolerable; for he actually believes himself, or at least would impose himself upon mankind, as a pattern of gallantry and taste; and, in point of business. a person of infinite sagacity and penetration. But the most ridiculous part of his character is his pretended talent for politics, in which he so deeply concerns himself, that he has dismissed many a good servant, because he suspected him of having wrong connections; a theme upon which he has often quarrelled with me, even almost to parting, accusing me with holding correspondence with the earls of B– and C–, and Mr. H– V–, though I never had the least acquaintance with any of these gentlemen, except the earl of C–, to whom I have not spoken these ten years past.

“In short, I have often been at a loss to know, whether he was more mad and malicious in those fits of enthusiasm, wherein he seemed transported with zeal for the commonwealth, and tormented me with his admonitions out of all temper and patience. At length, however, I contrived an expedient which freed me from these troublesome expostulations, and silenced him effectually on the score of politics.

This was no other than an open avowal of being connected with all those people whom I have named. Indeed, I knew him too well to believe there was anything solid in his intention or professions, even when he carried himself so far as to demand a private audience of the k–, in order to communicate a scheme for suppressing the rebellion; and that being denied, solicited the duke of D–‘s interest, for permission to raise and head a regiment of Kentish smugglers. Nay, to such a pitch did his loyalty soar, that he purchased a firelock of particular mechanism, calculated for the safety of the bearer, in case he had been placed sentinel at his Majesty’s door, and kept his horses ready caparisoned, with a view of attending his sovereign to the field. Notwithstanding all these pompous preparations, had he been put to the proof, he would have infallibly crept out of his engagements, through some sneaking evasion, his imagination being very fertile in such saving pretences.

Yet he will talk sometimes so fervently, and even sensibly, on the subject, that a stranger would mistake him for a man of understanding, and determined zeal for the good of his country.

“Since my last return to his house, that act of parliament passed, by which he was enabled to pay his debts, and, among the rest, a thousand pounds of my contracting, the only burden of that kind I ever entailed upon him, exclusive of my pin-money, which was never regularly paid; nor would he have been subject to this, had he not, by his persecution and pursuit, exposed me to an extraordinary expense. I have also had it in my power to reward some of my faithful Abigails; in particular, to relieve from extreme distress that maid to whom, as I have already observed, Lord B– granted an annuity, which she had sold: so that she was reduced to the most abject poverty; and I found her in a dismal hole, with two infants perishing for want; a spectacle which drew tears from my eyes, and indeed could not but make deep impression upon a heart like mine, which the misery of my fellow-creatures never failed to melt.

“Nor did I upon this occasion forget the attachment and fidelity of my other woman Mrs. S–, who, hearing I was robbed in my passage through Flanders, had generously relinquished the allowance I had settled upon her at parting. The exercise of such acts of humanity and benevolence, and the pleasure of seeing my dear and tender parent often, in some measure alleviate the chagrin to which I am subject from the disagreeable disposition of my lord, who, consistent with his former inconsistency, upon our last reconciliation, cheerfully agreed to a proposal I made of having concerts in the house, and even approved of the scheme with marks of particular satisfaction. But, before one half of the winter was expired, he found means to banish all the company, beginning with Lord R– B–, who, as he walked up-stairs one evening, was stopped by a footman, who plainly told him he had orders to say to him in particular, that his lordship was not at home; yet the very next day, perceiving that nobleman and me walking together in the park, he joins us with an air of alacrity, as if no such thing had happened, and even behaved to Lord R– with the most fawning complaisance. His deportment was equally absurd and impertinent to the rest of his friends, who forsook us gradually, being tired of maintaining any friendly communication with such a disagreeable composition of ignorance and arrogance. For my own part, I look upon him as utterly incorrigible; and, as fate has subjected me to his power, endeavour to make the bitter draught go down, by detaching myself as much as possible from the supposition that there is any such existence upon earth.

Indeed, if I had not fatal experience to the contrary, I should be apt to believe that such a character is not to be found among the sons of men; because his conduct is altogether unaccountable by the known rules and maxims of life, and falls entirely under the poet’s observation, when he says,

“‘Tis true, no meaning puzzles more than wit.”

© Talebooks.com 2007-2017

Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Bookangel.co.uk - free and bargin ebooks and book reviews