pity and be glad to serve a person they believe unhappy upon their account. It came into my head, out of a high point of generosity (for which I wish myself hanged), to do this creature all the good I possibly could, since 'twas impossible to make them happy their own way. I advised him very strenuously to sell out of the subscription, and in compliance to my advice he did so; and in less than two days saw he had done very prudently. After a piece of service of this nature, I thought I could more decently press his departure, which his follies made me think necessary for me. He took leave of me with so many tears and grimaces (which I can't imagine how he could counterfeit) as really moved my compassion; and I had much ado to keep to my first resolution of exacting his absence, which he swore would be his death. I told him that there was no other way in the world I would not be glad to serve him in, but that his extravagances made it utterly impossible for me to keep him company. He said that he would put into my hands the money that I had won for him, and desired me to improve it, saying that if he had enough to buy a small estate, and retire from the world, 'twas all the happiness he hoped for in it. I represented to him that if he had so little money as he said, 'twas ridiculous to hazard at all. He replied that 'twas too little to be of any value, and he would either have it double or quit. After many objections on my side and replies on his, I was so weak to be overcome by his entreaties, and flattered myself also that I was doing a very heroic action, in trying to make a man's fortune though I did not care for his addresses. He left me with these imaginations, and my first care was to employ his money to the best advantage. I laid it all out in stock, the general discourse and private intelligence then scattered about being of a great rise. You may remember it was two or three days before the fourth subscription, and you were with me when I paid away the money to Mr. Binfield. I thought I had managed prodigious well in selling out the said stock the day after the shutting the books (for a small profit) to Cox and Cleeve, goldsmiths of very good reputation. When the opening of the books came, my men went off, leaving the stock upon my hands, which was already sunk from near nine hundred pounds to four hundred pounds. I immediately writ him word of this misfortune, with the sincere sorrow natural to have upon such an occasion, and asked his opinion as to the selling the stock remaining in. He made me no answer to this part of my letter, but a long eloquent oration of miseries of another nature. I attributed this silence to his disinterested neglect of his money; but, however, resolved to make no more steps in his business without direct orders, after having been so unlucky. This occasioned many letters to no purpose; but the very post after you left London, I received a letter from him, in which he told me that he had discovered all my tricks; that he was convinced I had all his money remaining untouched: and he would have it again, or he would print all my letters to him; which though, God knows, very innocent in the main, yet may admit of ill constructions, besides the monstrousness of being exposed in such a manner. I hear from other people that he is liar enough to publish that I have borrowed the money of him; though I have a note under his hand, by which he desires me to employ it in the funds, and acquits me of being answerable for the losses that may happen. At the same time, I have attestations and witnesses of the bargains I made, so that nothing can be clearer than my integrity in this business; but that does not hinder me from being in the utmost terror for the consequences (as you may easily guess) of his villany; the very story of which appears so monstrous to me, I can hardly believe myself while I write it; though I omit (not to tire you) a thousand aggravating circumstances. I cannot forgive myself the folly of ever regarding one word he said; and I see now that his lies have made me wrong several of my acquaintances, and you among the rest, for having said (as he told me) horrid things against me to him. 'Tis long since that your behaviour has acquitted you in my opinion; but I thought I ought not to mention, to hurt him with you, what was perhaps more misunderstanding, or mistake, than a designed lie. But he has very amply explained his character to me. What is very pleasant is, that, but two posts before, I received a letter from him full of higher flights than ever. I beg your pardon (dear sister) for this tedious account; but you see how necessary 'tis for me to get my letters from this madman. Perhaps the best way is by fair means; at least, they ought to be first tried. I would have you, then (my dear sister), try to make the wretch sensible of the truth of what I advance, without asking for the letters, which I have already asked for. Perhaps you may make him ashamed of his infamous proceedings by talking of me, without taking notice that you know of his threats, only of my dealings. I take this method to be the most likely to work upon him. I beg you would send me a full and true account of this detestable affair (enclosed to Mrs. Murray). If I had not been the most unlucky creature in the world, his letter would have come while you were here, that I might have shewed you both his note and the other people's. I knew he was discontented, but was far from imagining a possibility of this thing. I give you a great deal of trouble, but you see I shall owe you the highest obligation if you can serve me: the very endeavouring of it is a tie upon me to serve you the rest of my life without reserve and with eternal gratitude."
"I am now at Twickenham: 'tis impossible to tell you, dear sister, what agonies I suffer every post-day; my health really suffers so much from my fears, that I have reason to apprehend the worst consequences. If that monster acted on the least principles of reason, I should have nothing to fear, since 'tis certain that after he has exposed me he will get nothing by it. Mr. Wortley can do nothing for his satisfaction I am not willing to do myself. I desire not the least indulgence of any kind. Let him put his affair into the hands of any lawyer whatever. I am willing to submit to any examination; 'tis impossible to make a fairer offer than this is: whoever he employs may come to me hither on several pretences. I desire nothing from him, but that he would send no letters nor messages to my house at London, where Mr. Wortley now is. I am come hither in hopes of benefit from the air, but I carry my distemper about me in an anguish of mind that visibly decays my body every day. I am too melancholy to talk of any other subject. Let me beg you (dear sister) to take some care of this affair, and think you have it in your power to do more than save the life of a sister that loves you."
"I give you many thanks (my dear sister) for the trouble you have given yourself in my affair; but am afraid 'tis not yet effectual. I must beg you to let him know I am now at Twickenham, and that whoever has his procuration may come here on divers pretences, but must by no means go to my house at London. I wonder you can think Lady Stafford has not writ to him; she shewed me a long plain letter to him several months ago; as a demonstration he received it, I saw his answer. 'Tis true she treated him with the contempt he deserved, and told him she would never give herself the trouble of writing again to so despicable a wretch. She is willing to do yet further, and write to the Duke of Villeroi about it, if I think it proper. Remond does nothing but lie, and either does not, or will not, understand what is said to him. You will forgive me troubling you so often with this business; the importance of it is the best excuse; in short,
'—'tis joy or sorrow, peace or strife. 'Tis all the colour of remaining life.'
I can foresee nothing else to make me unhappy, and, I believe, shall take care another time not to involve myself in difficulties by an overplus of heroic generosity.
"I am, dear sister, ever yours, with the utmost esteem and affection. If I get over this cursed affair, my style may enliven."
"I have just received your letter of May 30th, and am surprised, since you own the receipt of my letter, that you give me not the least hint concerning the business that I writ so earnestly to you about. Till that is over, I am as little capable of hearing or repeating news, as I should be if my house was on fire. I am sure, a great deal must be in your power; the hurting of me can be in no way his interest. I am ready to assign, or deliver the money for L500 stock, to whoever he will name, if he will send my letters into Lady Stafford's hands; which, were he sincere in his offer of burning them, he would readily do. Instead of that, he has writ a letter to Mr. W. [Wortley] to inform him of the whole affair: luckily for me, the person he has sent it to assures me it shall never be delivered; but I am not the less obliged to his good intentions. For God's sake, do something to set my mind at ease from this business, and then I will not fail to write you regular accounts of all your acquaintance."
[July (?), 1721.]
"I cannot enough thank you, dear sister, for the trouble you give yourself in my affairs, though I am still so unhappy to find your care very ineffectual. I have actually in my present possession a formal letter directed to Mr. Wortley to acquaint him with the whole business. You may imagine the inevitable eternal misfortunes it would have thrown me into, had it been delivered by the person to whom it was intrusted. I wish you would make him sensible of the infamy of this proceeding, which can no way in the world turn to his advantage. Did I refuse giving the strictest account, or had I not the clearest demonstration in my hands of the truth and sincerity with which I acted, there might be some temptation to this baseness; but all he can expect by informing Mr. Wortley is to hear him repeat the same things I assert; he will not retrieve one farthing, and I am for ever miserable. I beg no more of him than to direct any person, man or woman, either lawyer, broker, or a person of quality, to examine me; and as soon as he has sent a proper authority to discharge me on enquiry, I am ready to be examined. I think no offer can be fairer from any person whatsoever; his conduct towards me is so infamous, that I am informed I might prosecute him by law if he was here; he demanding the whole sum as a debt from Mr. Wortley, at the same time I have a note under his hand signed to prove the contrary. I beg with the utmost earnestness that you would make him sensible of his error. I believe 'tis very necessary to say something to fright him. I am persuaded, if he was talked to in a style of that kind, he would not dare to attempt to ruin me. I have a great inclination to write seriously to your lord about it, since I desire to determine this affair in the fairest and the clearest manner. I am not at all afraid of making any body acquainted with it; and if I did not fear making Mr. Wortley uneasy (who is the only person from whom I would conceal it), all the transactions should have been long since enrolled in Chancery. I have already taken care to have the broker's depositions taken before a lawyer of reputation and merit. I deny giving him no satisfaction; and after that offer, I think there is no man of honour that would refuse signifying to him that as 'tis all he can desire, so, if he persists in doing me an injury, he may repent it. You know how far 'tis proper to take this method, I say nothing of the uneasiness I am under, 'tis far beyond any expression; my obligation would be proportionable to any body that would deliver me from it, and I should not think it paid by all the services of my life."
[Twickenham, June (?), 1721.]
"Having this occasion, I would not omit writing, though I have received no answer to my two last. The bearer is well acquainted with my affair, though not from me, till he mentioned it to me first, having heard it from those to whom Remond had told it with all the false colours he pleased to lay on. I shewed him the formal commission I had to employ the money, and all the broker's testimonies taken before Delpeeke, with his certificate. Your remonstrances have hitherto had so little effect, that R. [Remond] will neither send a letter of attorney to examine my accounts, or let me be in peace. I received a letter from him but two posts since, in which he renews his threats except I send him the whole sum, which is as much in my power as it is to send a million. I can easily comprehend that he may be ashamed to send a procuration, which must convince the world of all the lies he has told. For my part, I am so willing to be rid of the plague of hearing from him, I desire no better than to restore him with all expedition the money I have in my hands; but I will not do it without a general acquittance in due form, not to have fresh demands every time he wants money. If he thinks that he has a larger sum to receive than I offer, why does he not name a procurator to examine me? If he is content with that sum, I only insist on the acquittance for my own safety. I am ready to send it to him, with full license to tell as many lies as he pleases afterwards. I am weary with troubling you with repetitions which cannot be more disagreeable to you than they are to me. I have had, and still have, so much vexation with this execrable affair, 'tis impossible to describe it. I had rather talk to you of any thing else, but it fills my whole head."
Lady Mary was no coward, but when she heard that Remond intended to come to London in connection with this business, she was at first in despair However, she summoned her courage to aid, and asked Lady Mar to tell him that if he was spoiling for a fight she would do her best to indulge him.
"I send you, dear sister, by Lady Lansdowne this letter, accompanied with the only present that was ever sent me by that monster. I beg you to return it immediately. I am told he is preparing to come to London. Let him know that 'tis not at all necessary for receiving his money or examining my accounts; he has nothing to do but to send a letter of attorney to whom he pleases (without exception), and I will readily deliver up what I have in my hands, and his presence will not obtain one farthing more: his design then can only be to expose my letters here. I desire you would assure him that my first step shall be to acquaint my Lord Stair with all his obligations to him, as soon as I hear he is in London; and if he dares to give me further trouble, I shall take care to have him rewarded in a stronger manner than he expects; there is nothing more true than this; and I solemnly swear, that if all the credit or money that I have in the world can do it, either for friendship or hire, I shall not fail to have him used as he deserves; and since I know this journey can only be designed to expose me, I shall not value what noise is made. Perhaps you may prevent it; I leave you to judge of the most proper method; 'tis certain no time should be lost; fear is his predominant passion, and I believe you may fright him from coming hither, where he will certainly find a reception very disagreeable to him."
[Footnote 4: John Dalrymple, second Earl of Stair (1673-1747), British Ambassador at Paris, 1715-1720.]
"September 6, 1721.
"I have consulted my lawyer, and he says I cannot, with safety to myself, deposit the money I have received into other hands, without the express order of Remond; and he is so unreasonable, that he will neither send a procuration to examine my accounts, or any order for me to transfer his stock into another name. I am heartily weary of the trust, which has given me so much trouble, and can never think myself safe till I am quite got rid of it: rather than be plagued any longer with the odious keeping, I am willing to abandon my letters to his discretion. I desire nothing more of him than an order to place his money in other hands, which methinks should not be so hard to obtain, since he is so dissatisfied with my management; but he seems to be bent to torment me, and will not even touch his money, because I beg it of him. I wish you would represent these things to him; for my own part, I live in so much uneasiness about it, that I sometimes weary of life itself."
[October (?) 1721.]
"I cannot forbear (dear sister) accusing you of unkindness that you take so little care of a business of the last consequence to me. R. [Remond] writ to me some time ago, to say if I would immediately send him L2,000 sterling, he would send me an acquittance. As this was sending him several hundreds out of my own pocket, I absolutely refused it; and, in return, I have just received a threatening letter, to print I know not what stuff against me. I am too well acquainted with the world (of which poor Mrs. Murray's affair is a fatal instance), not to know that the most groundless accusation is always of ill consequence to a woman; besides the cruel misfortune it may bring upon me in my own family. If you have any compassion either for me or my innocent children, I am sure you will try to prevent it. The thing is too serious to be delayed. I think (to say nothing either of blood or affection), that humanity and Christianity are interested in my preservation. I am sure I can answer for my hearty gratitude and everlasting acknowledgment of a service much more important than that of saving my life."
In Lady Mary's correspondence there is no further reference to this sorry business, and so it cannot be said how it ended. Nor can it be decided whether Remond really believed he had been swindled or whether he was just a blackmailer.
The intimacy between Lady Mary and Pope is especially interesting because it culminated in one of the most famous quarrels in the literary annals of this country, and second only to that between Pope and Addison.
When Lady Mary went abroad in 1716 Pope, who always wanted to make the best of both worlds, thought, it has been related by his biographers, of what dramatic situation describing the separation of lovers would best suit him to express his feelings, and he found exactly what he wanted on the supposed authentic letters of Eloisa to Abelard. Pope sent Lady Mary a volume of his poems, saying: "Among the rest you have all I am worth, that is, my works. There are few things in them but what you have already seen, except the 'Epistle of Eloisa to Abelard,' in which you will find one passage that I cannot tell whether to wish you should understand or not."
Pope corresponded with Lady Mary during the two years of her stay abroad. The first letter from Pope begins:
"So natural as I find it is to me to neglect every body else in your company, I am sensible I ought to do anything that might please you, and I fancied upon recollection, our writing the letter you proposed was of that nature. I therefore sate down to my part of it last night, when I should have gone out of town. Whether or no you will order me, in recompense, to see you again, I leave to you, for indeed I find I begin to behave myself worse to you than to any other woman, as I value you more, and yet if I thought I should not see you again, I would say some things here, which I could not to your person. For I would not have you die deceived in me, that is, go to Constantinople without knowing that I am to some degree of extravagance, as well as with the utmost reason, madam, your, etc."
Some passages from Pope's subsequent letters must be given to indicate the lines on which this correspondence was conducted.
"You may easily imagine how desirous I must be of correspondence with a person who had taught me long ago, that it was as possible to esteem at first sight, as to love; and who has since ruined me for all the conversation of one sex and almost all the friendship of the other. I am but too sensible, through your means, that the company of men, wants a certain softness to recommend it, and that of women wants everything else. How often have I been quietly going to take possession of that tranquility and indolence I had so long found in the country, when one evening of your conversation has spoiled me for a solitaire too! Books have lost their effect upon me, and I was convinced since I saw you, that there is something more powerful than philosophy, and since I heard you, that there is one alive wiser than all the sages. A plague of female wisdom! it makes a man ten times more uneasy than his own. What is very strange, Virtue herself, when you have the dressing of her, is too amiable for one's repose. What a world of good might you have done in your time, if you had allowed half the fine gentlemen who have seen you to have but conversed with you! They would have been strangely caught, while they thought only to fall in love with a fair face, and you had bewitched them with reason and virtue, two beauties that the very fops pretend to have an acquaintance with."
"August 20, 1716.
"You will find me more troublesome than ever Brutus did his evil genius, I shall meet you in more places than one, and often refreshen your memory before you arrive at your Philippi. These shadows of me (my letters) will be haunting you from time to time, and putting you in mind of the man who has really suffered by you, and whom you have robbed of the most valuable of his enjoyments, your conversation. The advantage of learning your sentiments by discovering mine, was what I always thought a great one, and even with the risk I run of manifesting my own indiscretion. You then rewarded my trust in you the moment it was given, for you pleased and informed me the minute you answered. I must now be contented with slow returns. However, it is some pleasure, that your thoughts upon paper will be a more lasting possession to me, and that I shall no longer have cause to complain of a loss I have so often regretted, that of anything you said, which I happened to forget. In earnest, Madam, if I were to write you as often as I think of you, it must be every day of my life. I attend you in spirit through all your ways, I follow in books of travel through every stage, I wish for you, fear for you through whole folios, you make me shrink at the past dangers of dead travellers, and when I read an agreeable prospect or delightful place, I hope it yet subsists to give you pleasure. I inquire the roads, the amusements, the company of every town and country you pass through, with as much diligence, as if I were to set out next week to overtake you. In a word no one can have you more constantly in mind, not even your guardian-angel (if you have one), and I am willing to indulge so much Popery as to fancy some Being takes care of you who knows your value better than you do yourself. I am willing to think that Heaven never gave so much self-neglect and resolution to a woman, to occasion her calamity, but am pious enough to believe those qualities must be intended to her benefit and her glory."
Pope's letters of this period to Lady Mary were all written in a strain of adulation, which may well have pleased Lady Mary and must certainly have amused her. She can, however, scarcely have been led into any self-deception as regards the sincerity of her correspondent, in spite of the fact that in one of the earliest epistles he addressed to her he subscribed himself: "I am, with all unalterable esteem and sincerity, Madam, your most faithful, obedient, humble servant." Yet, no doubt, she was pleased enough to read: "I communicated your letter to Mr. Congreve; he thinks of you as he ought, I mean as I do, for one always thinks that to be just as it ought.... We never meet but we lament over you: we pay a kind of weekly rites to your memory, when we strew flowers of rhetoric and offer such libations to your name as if it were a profaneness to call toasting." Well, alcoholic refreshment by any other name is just as potent. It must have been grateful and comforting to be told when in exile: "I must tell you, too, that the Duke of Buckingham has been more than once your high priest in performing the office of your praises: and upon the whole I believe there are few men who do not deplore your departure, as women that sincerely do."
Most excellent Pope, who would play at make-believe. It is almost a pity that he could not persuade the lady that he meant even a tithe of what he wrote to her. Listen to him again: "For my part, I hate a great many women for your sake, and undervalue all the rest. 'Tis you who are to blame, and may God revenge it upon you, with all those blessings and earthy prosperities which the divines tell us, are the cause of our perdition: for if He makes you happy in this world, I dare trust your own virtue to do it in the other." These poets!
Lady Mary took all this in the right way, and as love-letters appraised them at their true value. "Perhaps you'll laugh at me for thanking you very gravely for all the obliging concern you express for me," she wrote from Vienna in September, with, perhaps, just a touch of irony. "'Tis certain that I may, if I please, take the fine things you say to me for wit and raillery; and it may be, it would be taking them right. But I never in my life was half so well disposed to believe you in earnest; and that distance which makes the continuation of your friendship improbable, has very much increased my faith for it, and I find that I have (as well as the rest of my sex), whatever face I set on't, a strong disposition to believe in miracles." As regards the rest, her side of the correspondence was matter-of-fact to such a degree that it suggests that she adopted that tone in order to lease him. Her replies can scarcely have given Pope any satisfaction. From Vienna she gave him a detailed account of the opera and the theatre; from Belgrade she told him of the war and of an Arabic scholar and also of the climate; from Adrianople she discoursed of the Hebrus, of the lads of the village, of Addison and Theocritus, pays him compliments on his translation of Homer, and a copy of some Turkish verses; and so on. The most striking thing about her letters is the absence of the personal note, which is so often introduced when she was writing to others. They read more like essays than communications to a friend.
Pope, in a letter dated September 1, 1718, sent Lady Mary a copy of his verses.
ON JOHN HUGHES AND SARAH DREW
When Eastern lovers fear'd the fun'eral fire On the same pile the faithful pair expire! Here pitying Heav'n that virtue mutual found, And blasted both, that it might neither wound. Hearts so sincere th' Almighty saw well pleas'd, Sent his own lightning and the victims seiz'd.
I Think not by vig'rous judgment seiz'd, A pair so faithful could expire; Victims so pure Heav'n saw well pleas'd, And snatch'd them in celestial fire.
II Live well, and fear no sudden fate: When God calls virtue to the grave; Alike 'tis justice, soon or late, Mercy alike to kill or save. Virtue unmov'd can hear the call. And face the flash that melts the ball.
These verses she acknowledged in a letter which, written while on the homeward path, she sent from Dover, where she arrived at the beginning of November.
"I have this minute received a letter of yours, sent me from Paris. I believe and hope I shall very soon see both you and Mr. Congreve; but as I am here in an inn, where we stay to regulate our march to London, bag and baggage, I shall employ some of my leisure time in answering that part of yours that seems to require an answer.
"I must applaud your good nature, in supposing that your pastoral lovers (vulgarly called haymakers) would have lived in everlasting joy and harmony, if the lightning had not interrupted their scheme of happiness. I see no reason to imagine that John Hughes and Sarah Drew were either wiser or more virtuous than their neighbours. That a well-set man of twenty five should have a fancy to marry a brown woman of eighteen, is nothing marvellous; and I cannot help thinking, that, had they married, their lives would have passed in the common track with their fellow parishioners. His endeavouring to shield her from the storm, was a natural action, and what he would have certainly done for his horse, if he had been in the same situation. Neither am I of opinion, that their sudden death was a reward of their mutual virtue. You know the Jews were reproved for thinking a village destroyed by fire more wicked than those that had escaped the thunder. Time and chance happen to all men. Since you desire me to try my skill in an epitaph, I think the following lines perhaps more just, though not so poetical as yours:
Here lies John Hughes and Sarah Drew; Perhaps you'll say, what's that to you? Believe me, friend, much may be said On this poor couple that are dead. On Sunday next they should have married; But see how oddly things are carried! On Thursday last it rain'd and lighten'd; These tender lovers, sadly frighten'd, Shelter'd beneath the cocking hay, In hopes to pass the storm away; But the bold thunder found them out (Commissioned for that end, no doubt), And, seizing on their trembling breath, Consign'd them to the shades of death. Who knows if 'twas not kindly done? For had they seen the next year's sun, A beaten wife and cuckold swain Had jointly curs'd the marriage chain; Now they are happy in their doom, For P. has wrote upon their tomb.
"I confess, these sentiments are not altogether so heroic as yours; but I hope you will forgive them in favour of the two last lines. You see how much I esteem the honour you have done them; though I am not very impatient to have the same, and had rather continue to be your stupid living humble servant, than be celebrated by all the pens in Europe.
"I would write to Mr. Congreve, but suppose you will read this to him, if he enquires after me."
The Montagus take a house at Twickenham—Lady Mary's liking for country life—Neighbours and visitors—Pope—Bononcini, Anastasia Robinson, Senesino—Lord Peterborough—Sir Geoffrey Kneller—Henrietta Howard—Lord Bathurst—The Duke of Wharton—His early history—He comes to Twickenham—His relations with Lady Mary—Horace Walpole's reference to them—Pope's bitter onslaught on the Duke—An Epilogue by Lady Mary—"On the death of Mrs. Bowes"—The Duke quarrels with Lady Mary.
Pope went to live at Twickenham in 1718, and it was generally believed that it was by his persuasion that the Montagus rented a house in that little riverside hamlet. It was not until 1722 that they bought "the small habitation."
Lady Mary divided her time between London and Twickenham, but apparently enjoyed herself more at her country retreat. "I live in a sort of solitude that wants very little of being such as I would have it," she wrote to her sister, Lady Mar, in August, 1721. As a matter of fact, the solitude was more imaginary than real, for round about there was a small colony of friends.
She was, indeed, very rarely lonely. "My time is melted away in almost perpetual concerts," she told her sister. "I do not presume to judge, but I'll assure you I am a very hearty as well as an humble admirer. I have taken my little thread satin beauty into the house with me; she is allowed by Bononcini to have the finest voice he ever heard in England. He and Mrs. Robinson and Senesino lodge in this village, and sup often with me: and this easy indolent life would make me the happiest in the world, if I had not this execrable affair [of Remond] still hanging over my head." To Anastasia Robinson there is more than one allusion in Lady Mary's correspondence, and she gives a most amusing account of an incident in that lady's career.
"Could one believe that Lady Holdernesse is a beauty, and in love? and that Mrs. Robinson is at the same time a prude and a kept mistress? and these things in spite of nature and fortune. The first of these ladies is tenderly attached to the polite Mr. Mildmay, and sunk in all the joys of happy love, notwithstanding she wants the use of her two hands by a rheumatism, and he has an arm that he cannot move. I wish I could send you the particulars of this amour, which seems to me as curious as that between two oysters; and as well worth the serious enquiry of the naturalists. The second heroine has engaged half the town in arms, from the nicety of her virtue, which was not able to bear the too near approach of Senesino in the opera; and her condescension in accepting of Lord Peterborough for her champion, who has signalised both his love and courage upon this occasion in as many instances as ever Don Quixote did for Dulcinea. Poor Senesino, like a vanquished giant, was forced to confess upon his knees that Anastasia was a nonpariel of virtue and beauty. Lord Stanhope, as dwarf to the said giant, joked of his side, and was challenged for his pains. Lord Delawar was Lord Peterborough's second; my lady miscarried—the whole town divided into parties on this important point. Innumerable have been the disorders between the two sexes on so great an account, besides half the house of peers being put under arrest. By the providence of Heaven, and the wise cares of his Majesty, no bloodshed ensued. However, things are now tolerably accommodated; and the fair lady rides through the town in triumph, in the shining berlin of her hero, not to reckon the essential advantage of L100 a month, which 'tis said he allows her."
This story is, as a matter of fact, not far removed from the truth. It omits, however, the fact that Lord Peterborough, then about sixty years of age, had married Anastasia Robinson in 1722; but the marriage was secret, although Lady Oxford was present at the ceremony, and it was not made public until thirteen years later, although long before there were many who suspected it. He died in the same year that the announcement was made. His widow survived him by a score of years.
Sir Godfrey Kneller had a house at Twickenham, and, at the instigation of Pope, sat to him for her portrait, upon which the following lines (generally ascribed to Pope) were written:
"The playful smiles around the dimpled mouth. That happy air of majesty and truth; So would I draw (but oh! 'tis vain to try, My narrow genius does the power deny;) The equal lustre of the heav'nly mind, Where ev'ry grace with every virtue's join'd; Learning not vain, and wisdom not severe, With greatness easy, and with wit sincere; With just description show the work divine, And the whole princess in my work should shine."
Mrs. Howard, afterwards the Countess of Suffolk, was a neighbour from 1723, when the Prince of Wales, whose mistress she was, provided her with funds for the purchase of Marble Hill. However, though, of course, she and Lady Mary were acquainted, there was at no time any intimacy between them. Lady Mary, in fact, does not appear to have liked Henrietta Howard. At least she on more than one occasion tittle-tattled about her. "The most surprising news is Lord Bathurst's assiduous court to their Royal Highnesses, which fills the coffee-houses with profound speculations. But I, who smell a rat at a profound distance, do believe in private that Mrs. Howard and his lordship have a friendship that borders upon 'the tender.'
"And though in histories, learned ignorance Attributes all to cunning or to chance, Love in that grave disguise does often smile, Knowing the cause was kindness all the while."
So Lady Mary wrote to Lady Mar in 1724, and shortly after returned to the subject in another epistle: "You may remember I mentioned in my last some suspicions of my own in relation to Lord Bathurst, which I really never mentioned, for fifty reasons, to anyone whatsoever; but, as there is never smoke without some fire, there is very rarely fire without some smoke. These smothered flames, though admirably covered with whole heaps of politics laid over them, were at last seen, felt, heard, and understood; and the fair lady given to understand by her commanding officer, that if she showed under other colours, she must expect to have her pay retrenched. Upon which the good Lord was dismissed, and has not attended the drawing-room since. You know one cannot help laughing, when one sees him next, and I own I long for that pleasurable moment."
To Twickenham came Philip, Duke of Wharton, and leased a villa, later called The Grove, at the farther end of the hamlet from London. Of all the lads of the village there was none for wildness like unto him. Born in 1698, and therefore nine years younger than Lady Mary, he had at an early age made himself conspicuous by unbridled excesses. Soon after the death of his father, Thomas, first Marquess of Wharton, in 1715, his conduct created so much scandal at home, that his guardians sent him abroad in the custody of a tutor. To the horror of that unfortunate person, his charge enrolled himself as an adherent of the Pretender, and went to pay his respects at Avignon. The Duke had talent beyond the ordinary. He could write fairly well, make an excellent speech, and had a keen sense of wit. When he went to Paris, the British Ambassador, Lord Stair, took it upon himself to give this madcap some sound advice. He extolled the virtues of the late Marquess of Wharton, and, "I hope," he said, "you will follow so illustrious an example of fidelity to your Prince and love to your country." "I thank your Excellency for your good counsel," replied the visitor courteously, "and as your Excellency had also a worthy and discerning father, I hope that you will likewise copy so bright an example, and tread in all his footsteps,"—an effective though a brutal rejoinder, for the first Lord Stair had betrayed his Sovereign. Young Wharton, on his return, however, showed by his conduct that his visit to Avignon had been little more than a prank, for while he had accepted a dukedom from the Pretender, he, in 1718, being still a minor, accepted a dukedom from the British Sovereign—the single instance of such a dignity being conferred upon a minor.
Wharton, who did everything in haste, had in his seventeenth year eloped with Martha, daughter of Major-General Richard Holmes, and married her in the Fleet on March 2, 1715. As was only to be expected from a person so volatile he from the beginning neglected his wife; but, as is put quaintly in that unreliable work, Memoirs of a Certain Island adjacent to the Kingdom of Utopia, which was concocted by Mrs. Eliza Haywood, "after some years of continu'd extravagance, the Duke, either through the natural Inconsistency of his Temper, or the Reflection how much he had been drawn in by his unworthy Companions to embezel his Estate ... began to think there were Comforts in Retirement; and falling into the Conversation of the sober part of Mankind, more than he had done, was persuaded by them to take home his Dutchess.... He brought her to his House; but Love had no part in his Resolution. He lived with her indeed but she is with him as a Housekeeper, as a Nurse." The relations were, however, more intimate than Mrs. Haywood believed, for in March, 1719, a son was born to them.
"The Duke of Wharton has brought his Duchess to town, and is fond of her to distraction; in order to break the hearts of all other women that have any claim on him," Lady Mary wrote to Lady Mar. "He has public devotions twice a day, and assists at them in person with exemplary devotion; and there is nothing pleasanter than the remarks of some pious ladies on the conversion of such a sinner."
The letter from which the above passage is an extract must have been written not later than the early spring of 1720, for after that date the Duke and Duchess of Wharton did not again live together. The immediate cause of the separation was that Wharton had forbidden his wife to come to London where small-pox was raging at the time. She, however, whether irked by the dulness of the country, or thinking by her presence to guard her husband against those temptations to which he was prone, followed him to the town, where the infant sickened of the epidemic and died. After one great scene, they never met again.
There is mention of the Duke in another letter of Lady Mary to Lady Mar, dated February, 1724:
"In general, gallantry never was in so elevated a figure as it is at present. Twenty very pretty fellows (the Duke of Wharton being president and chief director) have formed themselves into a committee of gallantry. They call themselves Schemers; and meet regularly three times a week, to consult on gallant schemes for the advantage and advancement of that branch of happiness.... I consider the duty of a true Englishwoman is to do what honour she can to her native country; and that it would be a sin against the pious love I bear the land of my nativity, to confine the renown due to the Schemers within the small extent of this little island, which ought to be spread wherever men can sigh, or women wish. 'Tis true they have the envy and curses of the old and ugly of both sexes, and a general persecution from all old women; but this is no more than all reformations must expect in their beginning."
More than one writer has asserted that it was the wit and beauty of Lady Mary that drew him thither. At the time the Duke was twenty-four and the lady nine years older. Certainly he paid her marked attention, but as he paid marked attention to all women who had not a hump or a squint— sometimes, maybe, he even overlooked the squint—it is as impossible to say whether he was in love with her as it is to assert that she was in love with him. From the little that is known of their intimacy, it would seem that they were merely good comrades—good comrades of the type that might bite or scratch at any moment. Horace Walpole, who was more than usually malicious where Lady Mary was concerned, could scarcely induce himself to allow her any qualities. "My Lady Stafford," he wrote to George Montagu in 1751, "used to live at Twickenham when Lady Mary Wortley and the Duke of Wharton lived there; she had more wit than both of them. What would I give to have had Strawberry Hill twenty years ago! I think anything but twenty years. Lady Stafford used to say to her sister, 'Well, child, I have come without my wit to-day'; that is, she had not taken her opium, which she was forced to do if she had any appointment, to be in particular spirits."
[Footnote 5: Claude Charlotte, Countess of Stafford, wife of Henry, Earl of Stafford, and daughter of Philibert, Count of Grammont, and Elizabeth Hamilton, his wife.]
Horace Walpole alluded to Lady Mary and the Duke in "The Parish Register of Twickenham":
"Twickenham, where frolic Wharton revelled Where Montagu, with locks dishevelled. Conflict of dirt and warmth combin'd, Invoked—and scandalised the Nine."
What Pope thought of the Duke he expressed with the utmost vigour:
"Wharton, the scorn and wonder of our days, Whose ruling passion was the lust of praise: Born with whate'er could win it from the wise, Women and fools must like him, or he dies: Though wondering senates hung on all he spoke. The club must hail him master of the joke. Shall parts so various aim at nothing new? He'll shine a Tully and a Wilmot too. Then turns repentant, and his God adores With the same spirit that he drinks and whores; Enough, if all around him but admire, And now the punk applaud, and now the friar. Thus with each gift of nature and of art, And wanting nothing but an honest heart; Grown all to all; from no one vice exempt, And most contemptible, to shun contempt: His passion still, to covet general praise, His life, to forfeit it a thousand ways; A constant bounty which no friend has made; An angel tongue, which no man can persuade; A fool, with more of wit than half mankind; Too rash for thought, for action too refined: A tyrant to his wife his heart approves; A rebel to the very king he loves; He dies, sad outcast of each church and state, And, harder still! flagitious, yet not great. Ask you why Wharton broke through every rule? 'Twas all for fear the knaves should call him fool."
The Duke wrote a play on Mary Queen of Scots—of which only four lines have been preserved:
"Sure were I free, and Norfolk were a prisoner, I'd fly with more impatience to his arms, Than the poor Israelite gaz'd on the serpent. When life was the reward of every look."
It is usually stated that this play was written at some time between 1728 and 1730, but it is certain that it was begun at this time— probably it was never finished. Perhaps only the scenario was drawn up, and a few scenes outlined; but that so much at least was done while the author was at Twickenham is proved conclusively by the fact that at this time Lady Mary composed for the play an epilogue, designed to be spoken by Mrs. Oldfield.
"What could luxurious woman wish for more. To fix her joys, or to extend her pow'r? Their every wish was in this Mary seen. Gay, witty, youthful, beauteous, and a queen. Vain useless blessings with ill-conduct join'd! Light as the air, and fleeting as the wind. Whatever poets write, and lovers vow. Beauty, what poor omnipotence hast thou? Queen Bess had wisdom, council, power and laws; How few espous'd a wretched beauty's cause? Learn thence, ye fair, more solid charms to prize, Contemn the idle flatt'rers of your eyes. The brightest object shines but while 'tis new. That influence lessens by familiar view. Monarchs and beauties rule with equal sway, All strive to serve, and glory to obey, Alike unpitied when depos'd they grow— Men mock the idol of their former vow. Two great examples have been shown to-day, To what sure ruin passion does betray, What long repentance to short joys is due, When reason rules, what glory must ensue. If you will love, love like Eliza then, Love for amusement, like those traitors, men. Think that the pastime of a leisure hour She favor'd oft—but never shar'd her pow'r. The traveller by desert wolves pursued, If by his heart the savage foe's subdu'd, The world will still the noble act applaud, Though victory was gain'd by needful fraud. Such is, my tender sex, our helpless case, And such the barbarous heart, hid by the begging face, By passion fir'd, and not withheld by shame, They cruel hunters are, we trembling game. Trust me, dear ladies, (for I know 'em well), They burn to triumph, and they sigh to tell: Cruel to them that yield, cullies to them that sell. Believe me, 'tis far the wiser course, Superior art should meet superior force: Hear, but be faithful to your int'rest still: Secure your hearts—then fool with whom you will."
At Twickenham the Duke seems in some degree to have relied for his entertainment upon his pen. There he wrote his articles for the True Briton, and also indited various trifles in verse. Never neglecting an opportunity to indulge his humour, when Lady Mary Wortley Montagu wrote a poem on the untimely death of a friend, he could not refrain from presenting her with a parody.
ON THE DEATH OF MRS. BOWES
By Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
"Hail, happy bride! for thou art truly bless'd, Three months of rapture crown'd with endless rest. Merit like yours was Heav'n's peculiar care, You lov'd—yet tasted happiness sincere: To you the sweets of love were only shown, The sure succeeding bitter dregs unknown. You had not yet the fatal change deplor'd The tender lover for th' imperious lord, Nor felt the pains that jealous fondness brings, Nor wept that coldness from possession springs, Above your sex distinguish'd in your fate, You trusted—yet experienc'd no deceit. Soft were your hours, and wing'd with pleasure flew, No vain repentance gave a sign to you, And if superior bliss heav'n can bestow, With fellow-angels you enjoy it now."
By the Duke of Wharton
"Hail, Poetess! for thou art truly blest, Of wit, of beauty, and of love possest, Your muse does seem to bless poor Bowes's fate, But far 'tis from you to desire her state, In every line your wanton soul appears. Your verse, tho' smooth, scarce fit for modest ears, No pangs of jealous fondness doth thou shew. And bitter dregs of love thou ne'er didst know: The coldness that your husband oft has mourn'd, Does vanish quite, when warm'd on Turkish ground. For Fame does say, if Fame don't lying prove, You paid obedience to the Sultan's love. Who, fair one, then, was your imperious Lord? Not Montagu, but Mahomet the word: Great as your wit, just so is Wortley's love, Your next attempt will be on thund'ring Jove, The little angels you on Bowes bestow. But gods themselves are only fit for you."
No writer of verses likes to have fun poked at them, even in the form of friendly banter, but Lady Mary seems to have borne the affliction admirably.
Two persons with such impish humour could not but frequently find themselves at loggerheads, but their liking for each other's society was genuine, and quarrels were followed by peace-making. "Sophia [as she nicknamed the young man] and I have been quite reconciled, and are now quite broke, and I believe not likely to piece up again," Lady Mary wrote to her sister. This was in February, 1725, and a little later in the year the breach was widened by the really outrageous conduct of the Duke:
"Sophia and I have an immortal quarrel; which though I resolve never to forgive, I can hardly forbear laughing at. An acquaintance of mine is married, whom I wish very well to: Sophia has been pleased, on this occasion, to write the most infamous ballad that ever was written; where both the bride and bridegroom are intolerably mauled, especially the last, who is complimented with the hopes of cuckoldom, and forty other things equally obliging, and Sophia has distributed this ballad in such a manner as to make it pass for mine, on purpose to pique the poor innocent soul of the new-married man, whom I should be the last of creatures to abuse. I know not how to clear myself of this vile imputation, without a train of consequences I have no mind to fall into. In the mean time, Sophia enjoys the pleasure of heartily plaguing both me and that, person."
Probably this "immortal quarrel" would have been made up, but at the beginning of July the Duke went abroad never to return. "Sophia is going to Aix-la-Chapelle, and thence to Paris," Lady Mary wrote to Lady Mar. "I dare swear she'll endeavour to get acquainted with you. We are broke to an iremediable degree. Various are the persecutions I have endured from her this winter, in all of which I remain neuter, and shall certainly go to heaven from the passive meekness of my temper."
A FAMOUS QUARREL
Pope and Lady Mary—He pays her compliments—His jealousy of her other admirers—The cause of his quarrel with her—His malicious attacks on her thereafter—Writes of her as "Sappho"—Lady Mary asks Arbuthnot to protect her—Molly Skerritt—Lady Stafford—Lady Mary's malicious tongue and pen—Mrs. Murray—"An Epistle from Arthur Grey"—Lady Mary, Lord Hervey, and Molly Lepell—Death of the Earl of Kingston—Lady Gower—Lady Mar—Marriage of Lady Mary's daughter.
Of Pope, it is curious to relate, though he was a near neighbour, she saw less and less. It has been suggested that the first rift in the lute was her parody of his verses about the lovers struck by lightning; but even he, most sensitive of men, can scarcely have been seriously offended. So far as is known, only two letters passed between them after 1719.
"I pass my time in a small snug set of dear intimates, and go very little into the grand monde, which has always had my hearty contempt" (she wrote to Lady Mar in the spring of 1722). "I see sometimes Mr. Congreve, and very seldom Mr. Pope, who continues to embellish his house at Twickenham. He has made a subterranean grotto, which he has furnished with looking-glass, and they tell me it has a very good effect. I here send you some verses addressed to Mr. Gay, who wrote him a congratulatory letter on the finishing his house. I stifled them here, and I beg they may die the same death at Paris, and never go further than your closet:
'Ah, Friend, 'tis true—this truth you lovers know— In vain my structures rise, my gardens grow, In vain fair Thames reflects the double scenes Of hanging mountains, and of sloping greens: Joy lives not here; to happier seats it flies, And only dwells where Wortley casts her eyes.
What is the gay parterre, the chequer'd shade, The morning bower, the ev'ning colonnade, But soft recesses of uneasy minds, To sigh unheard in, to the passing winds? So the struck deer in some sequestrate part Lies down to die, the arrow at his heart; There, stretch'd unseen in coverts hid from day, Bleeds drop by drop, and pants his life away.'
It may here be remarked that in Epistle VIII of the Moral Essays Pope had a line:
"And other beauties envy Wortley's eyes";
but in a reprint of the poem he substituted [Lady] "Worsley" for "Wortley" in order to give the impression that "Wortley" had been a misprint.
Pope's quarrel with Lady Mary began in or about 1722. The cause is obscure. Many reasons have been advanced. Lady Mary in her correspondence gives no clue as to the breach.
It has been said that it arose out of the fact that Pope lent the Montagus a pair of sheets and that they were returned unwashed, to the great indignation of his mother who lived with him. It is difficult to believe this.
Others have it that he was jealous of the favour which Lady Mary accorded to the Duke of Wharton and Lord Hervey. Certainly he lampooned the Duke, and he was never weary of writing insultingly about the other.
Most probable is the account given by Lady Louisa Stuart, Lady Mary's grand-daughter, which is to the effect that Pope made a declaration of love, and that Lady Mary received it with shrieks of laughter. If Pope were serious, it must have galled him indeed, though nothing can excuse the malignity with which he pursued her for years and years. And if he were not in earnest, he would probably have been nearly, if not quite, as indignant.
Anyhow, it is a sorry story, and a blot on the scutcheon of the poet, who, good-hearted as he usually was, was cursed by the gift, refined to a rare degree, of alienating his friends, more often than not for some fancied slight. Addison he lampooned, and from Dennis and Philips he parted company. "Leave him as soon as you can," Addison had warned Lady Mary. "He will certainly play you some devilish trick else: he has an appetite for satire." Lady Mary presently must have wished that she had followed this sage counsel.
When Pope fought, he fought with the gloves off; and not the sex or the age or the standing of the subject of his wrath deterred him a whit.
"Have I, in silent wonder, seen such things As pride in slaves, and avarice in kings; And at a peer, or peeress, shall I fret, Who starves a sister, or forswears a debt?"
Thus Pope in the First Dialogue of the Epilogue to the Satires. The reference to forswearing a debt, is, of course, to the Remond business; "who starves a sister" is an allusion to Lady Mary and Lady Mar.
[Footnote 6: See p. 200 of this work.]
Pope returned to the attack again and again. In The Satires of Dr. John Donne Versified, he inserted the following lines, although there is nothing in the original to warrant the stroke at Lady Mary:
"Yes, thank my stars! as early as I knew This town, I had the sense to hate it too: Yet here, as e'en in hell, there must be still One giant vice, so excellently ill. That all beside, one pities, not abhors: As who knows Sappho, smiles at other whores."
Again, in the Epistle to Martha Blount:
"As Sappho's diamonds with her dirty smock; Or Sappho at her toilet's greasy task, With Sappho radiant at an evening mask."
Pope would not admit that he alluded to Lady Mary as Sappho, but everyone realised that this was so. Lady Mary, much distressed, begged Lord Peterborough to urge Pope to refrain. The mission was undertaken reluctantly, and the result was scarcely satisfactory. "He said to me," Lord Peterborough wrote to Lady Mary, "what I had taken the liberty of saying to you, that he wondered how the town would apply these lines to any but some noted common woman; that he would yet be more surprised if you should take them to yourself; he named to me four remarkable poetesses and scribblers, Mrs. Centlivre, Mrs. Heywood, Mrs. Manley, and Mrs. Behn, assuring me that such only were the objects of his satire."
Much upset, Lady Mary wrote the following letter to Arbuthnot:
January 3 .
"I have perused the last lampoon of your ingenious friend, and am not surprised you did not find me out under the name of Sappho, because there is nothing I ever heard in our characters or circumstances to make a parallel, but as the town (except you, who know better) generally suppose Pope means me, whenever he mentions that name, I cannot help taking notice of the horrible malice he bears against the lady signified by that name, which appears to be irritated by supposing her writer of the Verses to the Imitator of Horace. Now I can assure him they were wrote (without my knowledge) by a gentleman of great merit, whom I very much esteem, who he will never guess, and who, if he did know, he durst not attack; but I own the design was so well meant, and so excellently executed, that I cannot be sorry they were written. I wish you would advise poor Pope to turn to some more honest livelihood than libelling; I know he will allege in his excuse that he must write to eat, and he has now grown sensible that nobody will buy his verses except their curiosity is piqued to it, to see what is said of their acquaintance; but I think this method of gain so exceeding vile that it admits of no excuse at all.—Can anything be more detestable than his abusing poor Moore, scarce cold in his grave, when it is plain he kept back his poem, while he lived, for fear he should beat him for it? This is shocking to me, though of a man I never spoke to and hardly knew by sight; but I am seriously concerned at the worse scandal he has heaped on Mr. Congreve, who was my friend, and whom I am obliged to justify, because I can do it on my own knowledge, and, which is yet farther bring witness of it, from those who were then often with me that he was so far from loving Pope's rhyme, both that—and his conversation were perpetual jokes to him, exceeding despicable in his opinion, and he has often made us laugh in talking of them, being particularly pleasant on that subject. As to Pope's being born of honest parents, I verily believe it, and will add one praise to his mother's character, that (though I only knew her very old) she always appeared to me to have much better sense than himself. I desire, sir, as a favour, that you would show this letter to Pope, and you will very much oblige, sir,
"Your humble servant."
Lady Mary was not a person, after severe chastisement, to turn the other cheek, and Pope was well aware of it. He believed that more than one social satire upon him came from her pen; and he especially suspected her of having written, or anyhow of having had a hand in the composition of A Pop upon Pope, in which an account was given of a whipping in Ham Walk which was said to have been administered to him. The poet was so furious—he regarded it as an indirect attack on his physical deformity, of which he was always so conscious—that he actually inserted an announcement in the papers that no such incident had ever occurred— thereby drawing yet more attention to the lampoon. "You may be certain I shall never reply to such a libel as Lady Mary's," he wrote to Fortescue. "It is a pleasure and comfort at once to find out that with so much mind as so much malice must have to accuse or blacken my character, it can fix upon no one ill or immoral thing in my life and must content itself to say, my poetry is dull and my person ugly."
Lady Mary, in a letter to Arbuthnot, denied the authorship of A Pop upon Pope:
"Since I saw you I have made some inquiries, and heard more, of the story you was so kind to mention to me. I am told Pope has had the surprising impudence to assert he can bring the lampoon when he pleases to produce it, under my own hand; I desire he may be made to keep to this offer. If he is so skilful in counterfeiting hands, I suppose he will not confine that great talent to the gratifying his malice, but take some occasion to increase his fortune by the same method, and I may hope (by such practices) to see him exalted according to his merit, which nobody will rejoice at more than myself. I beg of you, sir (as an act of justice), to endeavour to set the truth in an open light, and then I leave to your judgment the character of those who have attempted to hurt mine in so barbarous a manner. I can assure you (in particular) you named a lady to me (as abused in this libel) whose name I never heard before, and as I never had any acquaintance with Dr. Swift am an utter stranger to all his affairs and even his person, which I never saw to my knowledge, and am now convinced the whole is a contrivance of Pope's to blast the reputation of one who never injured him. I am not more sensible of his injustice, than I am, sir, of your [sic] candour, generosity, and good sense I have found in you, which has obliged me to be with a very uncommon warmth your real friend, and I heartily wish for an opportunity of showing I am so more effectually than by subscribing myself your very
Whether, in spite of her denial, Lady Mary had a hand in A Pop upon Pope cannot be said; but it is certainly safe to believe that the following lines were written by her, in conjunction, the gossip of the day had it, with Lord Hervey, with some assistance from Mr. Wyndham, then tutor to the Duke of Cumberland:
"VERSES ADDRESSED TO THE IMITATOR OF THE FIRST SATIRE OF THE SECOND BOOK OF HORACE.
By a Lady
"Nor thou the justice of the world disown. That leaves thee thus an outcast and alone: For though in law the murder be to kill, In equity the murder is the will. Then while with coward hand you stab a name, And try at least to assassinate our fame, Like the first bold assassin be thy lot, Ne'er be thy guilt forgiven or forgot; But as thou hat'st by hatred by mankind, And with the emblem of thy crooked mind Marked on thy back, like Cain, by God's own hand, Wander like him accursed through the land."
It was this malignant attack upon his person that inspired Pope's lines in the Epistle to Arbuthnot:
"Once, and but once, his heedless youth was bit, And liked that dangerous thing, a female wit. Safe, so he thought, though all the prudent chid; He writ no libels, but my lady did; Great odds, in amorous or poetic game, Where woman's is the sin, and man's the shame."
With the following extract from a letter written by Lady Mary from Florence in 1740 this unpleasing incident may be dismissed:
"The word malignity, and a passage in your letter, call to my mind the wicked wasp of Twickenham: his lies affect me now no more; they will be all as much despised as the story of the seraglio and the handkerchief, of which I am persuaded he was the only inventor. That man has a malignant and ungenerous heart; and he is base enough to assume the mask of a moralist, in order to decry human nature, and to give a decent vent to his hatred of man and woman kind.—But I must quit this contemptible subject, on which a just indignation would render my pen so fertile, that after having fatigued you with a long letter, I would surfeit you with a supplement twice as long."
At Twickenham Lady Mary interested herself in planning alterations in the house and gardens. "There is a sort of pleasure," she said, "in shewing one's own fancy on one's own ground." The longer she stayed at the riverside, the better she liked it. "I am at present at Twickenham," she wrote in July, 1723, "which is become so fashionable, and the neighbourhood so much enlarged, that 'tis more like Tunbridge or the Bath than a country retreat."
"I am now at the same distance from London that you are from Paris, and could fall into solitary amusements with a good deal of taste; but I resist it, as a temptation of Satan, and rather turn my endeavours to make the world as agreeable to me as I can, which is the true philosophy; that of despising it is of no use but to hasten wrinkles" (she wrote to Lady Mar in 1725). "I ride a good deal, and have got a horse superior to any two-legged animal, he being without a fault. I work like an angel. I receive visits upon idle days, and I shade my life as I do my tent-stitch, that is, make as easy transitions as I can from business to pleasure; the one would be too flaring and gaudy without some dark shades of t'other; and if I worked altogether in the grave colours, you know 'twould be quite dismal. Miss Skerritt is in the house with, me, and Lady Stafford has taken a lodging at Richmond: as their ages are different, and both agreeable in their kind, I laugh with the one, or reason with the other, as I happen to be in a gay or serious humour; and I manage my friends with such a strong yet with a gentle hand, that they are both willing to do whatever I have a mind to."
"Molly," that is, Maria Skerritt or Skirrett, is best known for her connection with Sir Robert Walpole. There was nothing clandestine about the relationship: it was openly avowed. Miss Skerritt, who was the daughter of a London merchant, had great good looks and an ample fortune, and Walpole declared that she was indispensable to his happiness. She was received everywhere, and moved in fashionable society. It was to Lady Walpole and Molly Skerritt that Gay alluded in the song that he put in the mouth of Macheath (who was meant for Robert Walpole):
"How happy could I be with either, Were t'other dear Charmer away!"
Lady Walpole survived until the summer of 1738, and after her death the others married. The second Lady Walpole died of a miscarriage in June, 1739, to the great and enduring sorrow of her husband. For the surviving child, Walpole, when he accepted a peerage in 1742, secured the rank of an earl's daughter.
Lady Mary now spent her time between London and Twickenham. At Court, she was as popular as ever with the King; and she was liked in literary circles, and on good terms with Young, Arbuthnot, Garth, and the rest of the set. "I see every body but converse with nobody but des amies choisses; in the first rank of these are Lady Stafford and dear Molly Skerritt, both of whom have now the additional merit of being old acquaintances, and never having given me any reason to complain of either of 'em. I pass some days with the Duchess of Montagu, who might be a reigning beauty if she pleased. I see the whole town every Sunday, and select a few that I retain to supper. In short, if life could be always what it is, I believe I have so much humility in my temper I could be contented without anything better than this two or three hundred years but, alas!
'Dulness, and wrinkles, and disease, must come, And age, and death's irrevocable doom.'"
Lady Mary, who had some two-score years still to live, began at this time to deplore her increasing age. "For my own part," she wrote to Lady Mar, "I have some coteries where wit and pleasure reign, and I should not fail to amuse myself tolerably enough, but for the d——d d——d quality of growing older every day, and my present joys are made imperfect by fears of the future." However, this depression was not always on her, and later she was writing:
"I think this is the first time in my life that a letter of yours has lain by me two posts unanswered. You'll wonder to hear that short silence is occasioned by not having a moment unemployed at Twickenham; but I pass many hours on horseback, and, I'll assure you, ride stag-hunting, which I know you'll stare to hear of. I have arrived to vast courage and skill that way, and am as well pleased with it as with the acquisition of a new sense: his Royal Highness [the Prince of Wales] hunts in Richmond Park, and I make one of the beau monde in his train. I desire you after this account not to name the word old woman to me any more: I approach to fifteen nearer than I did ten years ago, and am in hopes to improve every year in health and vivacity."
Lady Mary's tongue made her many enemies in society, and when her tongue failed her she brought her pen into action. Her love of scandal must have gone far to make her unpopular, and if her letters to her sister at Paris had been published she would have found herself with scarcely a friend in the world.
Correspondence between Lady Mary, from London or Twickenham, to her sister, the Countess of Mar, at Paris, was a very one-sided affair. This was, in part, owing to the fact that Lord Mar was, of course, suspect, and that letters to him or to members of his family and household were (in all probability) intercepted in this country. Lady Mary, who had suspected this more than once, became more and more convinced that her suspicions were justified. "I have writ to you at least five-and-forty letters, dear sister, without receiving any answer, and resolved not to confide in post-house fidelity any more, being firmly persuaded that they never came to your hands, or you would not refuse one line to let me know how you do, which is and ever will be of great importance to me." That was written at Christmas, 1722, and though in the meantime Lady Mary heard from her sister, she realised that if she wanted her letters to arrive she must be careful as to the topics upon which she discoursed. "Letters are so surely opened, I dare say nothing to you either of our intrigues or duels, both of which would afford great matter of mirth and speculation." The difficulties of communication did not decrease. "I have writ to you twice since I received yours in answer to that I sent by Mr. de Caylus," she remarked a little later; "but I believe none of what I send by the post ever come to your hands, nor ever will while they are directed to Mr. Waters, for reasons that you may easily guess. I wish you would give me a safer direction; it is very seldom I can have the opportunity of a private messenger, and it is very often that I have a mind to write to my dear sister."
Lady Mary, of course, often stayed in London, and in her correspondence are many references to her friends and her doings.
"Operas flourish more than ever, and I have been in a tract of going every time," she wrote to her sister in April, 1723. "The people I live most with are none of your acquaintance; the Duchess of Montagu excepted, whom I continue to see often. Her daughter Belle is at this instant in the paradisal state of receiving visits every day from a passionate lover, who is her first love; whom she thinks the finest gentleman in Europe, and is, besides that, Duke of Manchester. Her mamma and I often laugh and sigh reflecting on her felicity, the consummation of which will be in a fortnight. In the mean time they are permitted to be alone together every day and all the day."
Mary's very best vein is the following letter, written about the same time, and also addressed to her sister:
"I am yet in this wicked town, but purpose to leave it as soon as the Parliament rises. Mrs. Murray and all her satellites have so seldom fallen in my way, I can say little about them. Your old friend Mrs. Lowther is still fair and young, and in pale pink every night in the Parks; but, after being highly in favour, poor I am in utter disgrace, without my being able to guess wherefore, except she fancied me the author or abettor of two vile ballads written on her dying adventure, which I am so innocent of that I never saw [them]. A propos of ballads, a most delightful one is said or sung in most houses about our dear beloved plot, which has been laid firstly to Pope, and secondly to me, when God knows we have neither of us wit enough to make it. Mrs. Hervey lies-in of a female child. Lady Rich is happy in dear Sir Robert's absence, and the polite Mr. Holt's return to his allegiance, who, though in a treaty of marriage with one of the prettiest girls in town (Lady Jane Wharton), appears better with her than ever. Lady Betty Manners is on the brink of matrimony with a Yorkshire Mr. Monckton of L3,000 per annum: it is a match of the young duchess's making, and she thinks matter of great triumph over the two coquette beauties, who can get nobody to have and to hold; they are decayed to a piteous degree and so neglected that they are grown constant and particular to the two ugliest fellows in London. Mrs. Pulteney condescends to be publicly kept by the noble Earl of Cadogan; whether Mr. Pulteney has a pad nag deducted out of the profits for his share I cannot tell, but he appears very well satisfied with it. This is, I think, the whole state of love; as to that of wit, it splits itself into ten thousand branches; poets increase and multiply to that stupendous degree, you see them at every turn, even in embroidered coats and pink-coloured top-knots; making verses is almost as common as taking snuff, and God can tell what miserable stuff people carry about in their pockets, and offer to their acquaintances, and you know one cannot refuse reading and taking a pinch. This is a very great grievance, and so particularly shocking to me, that I think our wise lawgivers should take it into consideration, and appoint a fast-day to beseech Heaven to put a stop to this epidemical disease, as they did last year for the plague with great success."
Another typical letter from Lady Mary contains a story of the class that strongly appealed to her:
"The most diverting story about town at present is in relation to Edgcombe; though your not knowing the people concerned so well as I do, will, I fear hinder you from being so much entertained by it. I can't tell whether you know a tall, musical, silly, ugly thing, niece to Lady Essex Roberts, who is called Miss Leigh. She went a few days ago to visit Mrs. Betty Tichborne, Lady Sunderland's sister, who lives in the house with her, and was denied at the door; but, with the true manners of a great fool, told the porter that if his lady was at home she was very positive she would be very glad to see her. Upon which she was shewed up stairs to Miss Tichborne, who was ready to drop down at the sight of her, and could not help asking her in a grave way how she got in, being denied to every mortal, intending to pass the evening in devout preparation. Miss Leigh said she had sent away her chair and servants, with intent of staying till nine o'clock. There was then no remedy, and she was asked to sit down; but had not been there a quarter of an hour when she heard a violent rap at the door, and somebody vehemently run up stairs. Miss Tichborne seemed much surprised, and said she believed it was Mr. Edgcombe, and was quite amazed how he took it into his head to visit her. During these excuses enter Edgcombe, who appeared frighted at the sight of a third person. Miss Tichborne told him almost at his entrance that the lady he saw there was perfect mistress of music, and as he passionately loved it, she thought she could not oblige him more than by desiring her to play. Miss Leigh very willingly sat to the harpsichord; upon which her audience decamped to the adjoining room, and left her to play over three or four lessons to herself. They returned, and made what excuses they could, but said very frankly they had not heard her performance, and begged her to begin again; which she complied with, and gave them the opportunity of a second retirement. Miss Leigh was by this time all fire and flame to see her heavenly harmony thus slighted; and when they returned, told them she did not understand playing to an empty room. Mr. Edgcombe begged ten thousand pardons, and said, if she would play Godi, it was a tune he died to hear, and it would be an obligation he should never forget. She made answer she would do him a much greater favour by her absence, which she supposed was all that was necessary at that time; and ran down stairs in a great fury to publish as fast as she could; and was so indefatigable in this pious design, that in four-and-twenty hours all the people in town had heard the story. My Lady Sunderland could not avoid hearing this story, and three days after, invited Miss Leigh to dinner, where, in the presence of her sister and all the servants, she told her she was very sorry she had been so rudely treated in her house; that it was very true Mr. Edgcombe had been a perpetual companion of her sister's these two years, and she thought it high time he should explain himself, and she expected her sister should act in this matter as discreetly as Lady K. [Katherine] Pelham had done in the like case; who had given Mr. Pelham four months to resolve in, and after that he was either to marry her or to lose her for ever. Sir Robert Sutton interrupted her by saying, that he never doubted the honour of Mr. Edgcombe, and was persuaded he could have no ill design in his family. The affair stands thus, and Mr. Edgcombe has four months to provide himself elsewhere; during which time he has free egress and regress; and 'tis seriously the opinion of many that a wedding will in good earnest be brought about by this admirable conduct.
"I send you a novel instead of a letter, but, as it is in your power to shorten it when you please, by reading no farther than you like, I will make no excuses for the length of it."
Lady Mary had contracted an intimacy with Griselda Baillie, the wife of Mr. (afterwards Sir A.) Murray, of Stanhope, after her return from abroad, and there is frequent mention of her in the correspondence; but the friendship came to an abrupt end in 1725.
"Among the rest a very odd whim has entered the little head of Mrs. Murray: do you know she won't visit me this winter?" Lady Mary wrote to Lady Mar. "I, according to the usual integrity of my heart, and simplicity of my manners, with great naivete desired to explain with her on the subject, and she answered that she was convinced that I had made the ballad upon her, and was resolved never to speak to me again. I answered (which was true), that I utterly defied her to have any one single proof of my making it, without being able to get any thing from her, but repetitions that she knew it. I cannot suppose that any thing you have said should occasion this rupture, and the reputation of a quarrel is always so ridiculous on both sides, that you will oblige me in mentioning it to her, for 'tis now at that pretty pass, she won't curtsey to me whenever she mets me, which is superlatively silly (if she really knew it), after a suspension of resentment for two years together."
Mrs. Murray had had an unpleasant adventure with her footman, Arthur Grey, who had broken into her bedroom. Lady Mary had written and circulated An Epistle from Arthur Grey, and later another, and an improper, ballad had appeared under the title of Virtue in Danger. Mrs. Murray was firmly convinced that both pieces came from the same pen.
Lady Mar, on receipt of the above letter, proposed to act as peacemaker. "I give you thanks for the good offices you promise with regard to Mrs. Murray," Lady Mary wrote to her in reply, "and I shall think myself sincerely obliged to you, as I already am on many accounts. 'Tis very disagreeable in her to go about behaving and talking as she does, and very silly into the bargain."
"Mrs. Murray is in open war with me in such a manner as makes her very ridiculous without doing me much harm; my moderation having a very bright pretence of shewing itself" (she wrote to Lady Mar). "Firstly, she was pleased to attack me in very Billingsgate at a masquerade, where she was as visible as ever she was in her own clothes. I had the temper not only to keep silence myself, but enjoined it to the person with me; who would have been very glad to have shewn his great skill in sousing upon that occasion. She endeavoured to sweeten him by very exorbitant praises of his person, which might even have been mistaken for making love from a woman of less celebrated virtue; and concluded her oration with pious warnings to him, to avoid the conversation of one so unworthy his regard as myself, who to her certain knowledge loved another man. This last article, I own, piqued me more than all her preceding civilities. The gentleman she addressed herself to had a very slight acquaintance with me, and might possibly go away in the opinion that she had been confidante in some very notorious affair of mine. However, I made her no answer at the time, but you may imagine I laid up these things in my heart; and the first assembly I had the honour to meet her at, with a meek tone of voice, asked her how I had deserved so much abuse at her hands, which I assured her I would never return. She denied it in the spirit of lying; and in the spirit of folly owned it at length. I contented myself with telling her she was very ill advised, and thus we parted. But two days ago, when Sir Geoffrey Kneller's pictures were to be sold, she went to my sister Gower, and very civily asked if she intended to bid for your picture; assuring her that, if she did, she would not offer at purchasing it. You know crimp and quadrille incapacitate that poor soul from ever buying any thing; but she told me this circumstance; and I expected the same civility from Mrs. Murray, having no way provoked her to the contrary. But she not only came to the auction, but with all possible spite bid up the picture, though I told her that, if you pleased to have it, I would gladly part with it to you, though to no other person. This had no effect upon her, nor her malice any more on me than the loss of ten guineas extraordinary, which I paid upon her account. The picture is in my possession, and at your service if you please to have it. She went to the masquerade a few nights afterwards, and had the good sense to tell people there that she was very unhappy in not meeting me, being come there on purpose to abuse me. What profit or pleasure she has in these ways I cannot find out. This I know, that revenge has so few joys for me, I shall never lose so much time as to undertake it."
So early as 1721, Lady Mary, writing to Lady Mar, mentions that "the most considerable incident that has happened a good while, was the ardent affection that Mrs. Hervey and her dear spouse took to me. They visited me twice or thrice a day, and were perpetually cooing in my rooms. I was complaisant a great while; but (as you know) my talent has never lain much that way. I grew at last so weary of those birds of paradise, I fled to Twickenham, as much to avoid their persecutions as for my own health, which is still in a declining way." Lady Mary did not like Lady Hervey, the beautiful "Molly" Lepell, whom Gay eulogised:
"Hervey, would you know the passion You have kindled in my breast? Trifling is the inclination That by words can be expressed.
In my silence see the lover; True love is by silence known; In my eyes you'll best discover, All the power of your own."
[Footnote 7: The Hon. John Hervey (1696-1743), younger son of John, first Earl of Bristol; known as Lord Hervey after the death of his elder brother Carr in 1723; Vice-Chamberlain of George II's Household, 1730; created Baron Hervey of Ickworth, 1733, Lord Privy Seal, 1740-1742.]
For Hervey, however, Lady Mary came to have a strong liking that many believed to have, as she would have said, bordered upon "the tender"; although it is on record that she once remarked that she divided the human race into men, women, and Herveys. They met whenever they could; when they could not meet they corresponded. Pope bitterly resented the intimacy between Lady Mary and Hervey, and in the Epistle of Arbuthnot gave vent to the malignity with which his soul had been for years overflowing:
"P. Let Sporus tremble.
A. What? That thing of silk; Sporus, that mere white curd of ass's milk? Satire or sense, alas! can Sporus feel? Who breaks a butterfly on the wheel?
P. Yet let me flap this bug with gilded wings, This painted Child of dirt, that stinks and stings; Whose buzz the witty and the fair annoys, Yet wit ne'er tastes and beauty ne'er enjoys: So well-bred spaniels civilly delight In mumbling of the game they dare not bite. Eternal smiles his emptiness betray, As shallow streams run dimpling all the way. Whether in florid impotence he speaks, And, as the prompter breathes, the puppet squeaks; Or at the ear of Eve, familiar toad. Half froth, half venom, spits himself abroad, In pun, or politics, or tales, or lies. Or spite, or smut, or rhymes, or blasphemies. His wit all see-saw, between that and this, Now high, now low, now make up, now miss, And he himself one vile antithesis. Amphibious thing! that acting either part, The trifling head, or the corrupted heart; Fop at the hostel, flatterer at the board, Now trips a lady, and now struts a Lord. Eve's tempter thus the Rabbins have expressed, A cherub's face—a reptile all the rest. Beauty that shocks you, parts that none can trust, Wit that can creep, and pride that licks the dust."
[Footnote 8: Queen Caroline.]
This was a heavy price to pay for the favours even of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.
Whatever the relations between Lady Mary and Hervey, Lady Hervey was not indulgent to them, which may have inspired Lady Mary to write to her sister: "Lady Hervey, by aiming too high, has fallen very low; and is reduced to trying to persuade folks she has an intrigue, and gets nobody to believe her; the man in question taking a great deal of pains to clear himself of the scandal." Lady Hervey and Mrs. Murray were active partisans of Lord Grange in his persecution of Lady Mary, and aided him in his attempts to get possession of her sister, Lady Mar.
The bad terms on which Lady Mary and Lady Hervey were is most clearly defined by Lady Louisa Stuart: "At the time of Lady Mary Wortley's return home [in 1762, after an absence abroad of more than twenty years], Lady Hervey was living in great intimacy with Lady Bute, for whom she professed, and it is believed really felt, the highest esteem and admiration. On hearing of her mother's arrival, she came to her, owning herself embarrassed by the fear of giving her pain or offence, but yet compelled to declare that formerly something had passed between her and Lady Mary which made any renewal of their acquaintance impossible; therefore, if she forbore visiting her, she threw herself upon Lady Bute's friendship and candour for pardon. No explanation followed. Lady Bute, who must have early seen the necessity of taking care not to be entangled in her mother's quarrels, which, to speak truth, were seldom few in number, only knew that there had been an old feud between her, Lady Hervey, and Lady Hervey's friend, Mrs. (or Lady) Murray; the particulars of which, forgotten even then by everybody but themselves, may well be now beyond recall."
During this period there were several domestic happenings in Lady Mary's family.
On March 5, 1726, died her father, the Duke of Kingston. After the accession of George I, the Marquess of Dorchester (as he then was) was high in favour at Court, and honours were showered upon him with a lavish hand. He was in 1714 appointed Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire, and in the same year Chief Justice in Eyre, north of Trent, which latter dignity he held for two years. In August, 1715, he was created Duke of Kingston upon Hull, in the county of Yorkshire. He held the high office of Lord Privy Seal from 1716 to 1719 in the Administrations of Townshend and Stanhope, in the latter year becoming Lord President of the Council. When Walpole became First Lord of the Treasury, the Duke again became Lord Privy Seal, and held the post until his death. He was given the Garter in 1719, and was four times named as one of the Lord Justices of the Realm during the King's absences from England on visits to Hanover. He had married, secondly, Isabella, fifth daughter of William Bentinck, first Earl of Portland, by his first wife, Anne, daughter of Sir Edward Villiers, who survived him two years.
The Duke had never really forgiven Lady Mary for eloping. Her defiance of him hurt his pride inordinately. Everyone else to some degree at least he could control; his young daughter not at all. Only so far were they ever reconciled that he would occasionally visit the Montagus at their London house and play with the children.
In his later years the Duke's health was unsatisfactory, but it was not thought that the end was so near. "I have now to tell you of the surprising death of my father, and a great deal of surprising management of the people about him, which I leave informing you until another time, being now under some spirit of hurry myself," Lady Mary wrote to Lady Mar in March, 1726. "I am unfeignedly sorry that I cannot send you word of a considerable legacy for yourself." On April 15 she supplemented this account; but not to a degree to make it very intelligible:
"To be sure, the shock must be very great to you whenever you heard it; as indeed it was to us all here, being so sudden. It is to no purpose now to relate particulars, but only renewing our grief. I can't forbear telling you the Duchess has behaved very oddly in endeavouring to get the guardianship of the young Duke and his sister, contrary to her husband's will; but the boy, when he was fourteen, confirmed the trustees his grandfather left; so that ended all disputes; and Lady Fanny is to live with my aunt Cheyne. There is a vast number of things that have happened, and some people's behaviour so extraordinary in this melancholy business, that it would be great ease of mind if I could tell it you; but I must not venture to speak too freely in a letter."
A week or so later, some further details were forthcoming:
"I received yours, dear sister, this minute, and am very sorry both for your past illness and affliction; though au bout du compte, I don't know why filial piety should exceed fatherly fondness. So much by way of consolation. As to the management at that time—I do verily believe, if my good aunt and sister had been less fools, and my dear mother-in-law less mercenary, things might have had a turn more to your advantage and mine too; when we meet, I will tell you many circumstances which would be tedious in a letter. I could not get my sister Gower to join to act with me, and mamma and I were in an actual scold when my poor father expired; she has shewn a hardness of heart upon this occasion that would appear incredible to any body not capable of it themselves. The addition to her jointure is, one way or other, L2000 per annum; so her good Grace remains a passable rich widow, and is already presented by the town with a variety of young husbands; but I believe her constitution is not good enough to let her amorous inclinations get the better of her covetous."
Lady Mary was very angry, because she heard that at the end her father had really expressed a great deal of kindness to her, and even a desire of talking to her, which the Duchess would not permit. However, he left her in his will, she having married without a settlement, L6,000 for her separate use during her life, with reversion to her daughter.
As regards the heir, she wrote: "The Duke of Kingston has hitherto had so ill an education, 'tis hard to make any judgment of him; he has spirit, but I fear he will never have his father's good sense. As young noblemen go, 'tis possible he may make a good figure among them."
The young Duke was sent to France, and there was much discussion as to what should be done with his sister, Lady Frances Pierrepont. Her having L400 per annum for maintenance, has, Lady Mary remarked ironically, "awakened the consciences of half her relations to take care of her education, and (excepting myself) they have all been squabbling about her. My sister Gower carries her off to-morrow morning to Staffordshire. The lies, twaddles, and contrivances about this affair are innumerable. I should pity the poor girl if I saw she pitied herself."
Lady Gower did not long enjoy her victory over her friends and her fond relations, for she died in June, 1727.
In May, 1732, Lord Mar died at Aix-la-Chapelle. Lady Mary's sister, Lady Mar, in later years suffered from mental irregularity. Her brother-in-law, James Erskine, Lord Grange, endeavoured to secure possession of her person by some process of law, but was thwarted by Lady Mary, who obtained a warrant from the King's Bench. For years Lady Mar remained in her sister's custody. She survived until 1761. There was a rumour that Lady Mary treated her badly, but there is no reason to believe that there was any substantial ground for the accusation.
Lady Mary's daughter, Mary, married in 1736, John Stuart, third Earl of Bute, the favourite of the Princess of Wales, and afterwards Prime Minister.
ON THE CONTINENT (1739-1744)
Lady Mary leaves England—She does not return for twenty years—Montagu supposed to join her—The domestic relations of the Montagus—A septennial act for marriage—Lady Mary corresponds with her husband—Dijon—Turin—Venice—Bologna—Florence—The Monastery of La Trappe—Horace Walpole at Florence—His comments on Lady Mary and her friends—Reasons for his dislike of her—Rome—The Young Pretender and Henry, Cardinal York—Wanderings—Cheapness of life in Italy—Lady Mary's son, Edward—He is a great trouble to his parents—His absurd marriage—His extravagance and folly—Account of his early years—He visits Lady Mary at Valence—Her account of the interviews.
In July, 1739, Lady Mary went abroad. She did not return until the beginning of 1762, a few months before her death.
She went abroad without her husband, and, indeed, they never met again. At first, apparently, he had intended to join her—at least so she gave Lady Pomfret to understand:
"You have put me to a very difficult choice, yet, when I consider we are both in Italy, and yet do not see one another, I am astonished at the capriciousness of my fortune" (she wrote from Venice late in 1739). "My affairs are so uncertain, I can answer for nothing that is future. I have taken some pains to put the inclination for travelling into Mr. Wortley's head, and was so much afraid he would change his mind, that I hastened before him in order (at least) to secure my journey. He proposed following me in six weeks, his business requiring his presence at Newcastle. Since that, the change of scene that has happened in England has made his friends persuade him to attend parliament this session: so that what his inclinations, which must govern mine, will be next spring I cannot absolutely foresee. For my own part, I like my own situation so well that it will be a displeasure to me to change it. To postpone such a conversation as yours a whole twelvemonth is a terrible appearance; on the other hand, I would not follow the example of the first of our sex, and sacrifice for a present pleasure a more lasting happiness. In short, I can determine nothing on this subject. When you are at Florence, we may debate it over again."
So little is known of the domestic relations of the Montagus that it is hazardous to advance a conjecture. One writer has suggested that there was a quarrel over money, but there are no grounds to support this. Another has it that Lady Mary's flirtations or intrigues did not meet with her husband's approval. Yet another thinks that Montagu found his wife with her sharp tongue, very ill to live with.
The Montagus had been married for seven-and-twenty years; their younger child was now twenty-one. Since Montagu assisted Lady Mary as a girl with her Latin studies, they do not seem to have had much in common. Lady Mary cut a figure in the social world; Montagu was a nonentity in political life and seemed content so to be. Perhaps they were tired of each other, and welcomed a separation that at the outset was intended only to be temporary. "It was from the customs of the Turks that I first had the thought of a septennial bill for the benefit of married persons," Lady Mary once said to Joseph Spence; and it is more than likely that she would have taken advantage of such an Act of Parliament had it been in existence.
That there was no definite breach is evident from the fact that husband and wife corresponded, though it must be confessed that her letters to her husband are almost uniformly dull, except when the topic is their son. On the other hand, there was certainly no especial degree of friendship between them, and in one of her letters Lady Mary said pointedly: "You do not seem desirous to hear news, which makes me not trouble you with any." For the rest there are descriptions of the places which Lady Mary visited and an account of the people she met.
Lady Mary proceeded from Dover to Calais, and thence to Dijon, where she arrived in the middle of August. Wherever she went she found herself among friends. "There is not any town in France where there is not English, Scotch or Irish families established; and I have met with people who have seen me (though often such as I do not remember to have seen) in every town I have passed through; and I think the farther I go, the more acquaintance I meet," she told her husband. At Dijon there were no less than sixteen families of fashion. Lord Mansel had lodgings in the house with her at Dijon, and Mrs. Whitsted, a daughter of Lord Bathurst, resided in the same street. She met Lady Peterborough, and just missed the Duke of Rutland, at St. Omer. At Port Beauvoisin she ran across Lord Carlisle.