HotFreeBooks.com
Lady Mary Wortley Montague - Her Life and Letters (1689-1762)
by Lewis Melville
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

From Turin, she travelled, on the advice of Lord Carlisle, to Vienna, which he declared was the best place in Italy in which to stay. The fact that it was the intention of Lady Pomfret to remove from Sienna to Vienna was the deciding factor. She liked the latter city so well that she remained there until August of the following year (1740). It had one great merit in Lady Mary's eyes, that it was cheap. Next to that, she derived pleasure from the consideration with which she was treated. "I like this place extremely, and am of opinion you would do so too: as to cheapness, I think 'tis impossible to find any part of Europe where both the laws and customs are so contrived purposely to avoid expenses of all sorts; and here is a universal liberty that is certainly one of the greatest agrements in life. We have foreign ambassadors from all parts of the world, who have all visited me. I have received visits from many of the noble Venetian ladies; and upon the whole I am very much at my ease here. If I was writing to Lady Sophia, I would tell her of the comedies and operas which are every night, at very low prices; but I believe even you will agree with me that they are ordered to be as convenient as possible, every mortal going in a mask, and consequently no trouble in dressing, or forms of any kind." So Lady Mary wrote to Lady Pomfret on October 10; and a few days later she supplemented the information in a letter to her husband:

"I find myself very well here. I am visited by the most considerable people of the town, and all the foreign ministers, who have most of them made great entertainments for me. I dined yesterday at the Spanish ambassador's, who even surpassed the French in magnificence. He met me at the hall-door, and the lady at the stair-head, to conduct me through the long apartment; in short, they could not have shown me more honours, if I had been an ambassadress. She desired me to think myself patrona del casa, and offered me all the services in her power, to wait on me where I pleased, &c. They have the finest palace in Venice. What is very convenient, I hear it is not at all expected I should make any dinners, it not being the fashion for anybody to do it here but the foreign ministers; and I find I can live here very genteelly on my allowance. I have already a very agreeable general acquaintance; though when I came, here was no one I had ever seen in my life, but the Cavaliere Grimani and the Abbe Conti. I must do them [the] justice to say they have taken pains to be obliging to me. The Procurator brought his niece (who is at the head of his family) to wait on me; and they invited me to reside with them at their palace on the Brent, but I did not think it proper to accept of it. He also introduced me to the Signora Pisani Mocenigo, who is the most considerable lady here. The Nuncio is particularly civil to me; he has been several times to see me, and has offered me the use of his box at the opera. I have many others at my service, and, in short it, is impossible for a stranger to be better received than I am. Here are no English, except a Mr. Bertie and his governor, who arrived two days ago, and who intends but a short stay."

Lady Mary thoroughly enjoyed herself at Venice, where she found a variety of occupations to occupy her time. In the mornings she was "wrapt up among my books with antiquarians and virtuosi"; in the afternoons there were visits to pay and receive; in the evenings dinners (at other people's expense—which fact did not detract from her pleasure), assemblies, and the theatre and the opera. In fact, she found there every delight except scandal, but that she did not miss, because she said, she "never found any pleasure in malice." So strange a thing is human nature that perhaps she believed it!

"Upon my word, I have spoken my real thoughts in relation to Venice; but I will be more particular in my description, lest you should find the same reason of complaint you have hitherto experienced" (she wrote in November to Lady Pomfret). "It is impossible to give any rule for the agreeableness of conversation; but here is so great a variety, I think 'tis impossible not to find some to suit every taste. Here are foreign ministers from all parts of the world, who, as they have no Court to employ their hours, are overjoyed to enter into commerce with any stranger of distinction. As I am the only lady here at present, I can assure you I am courted, as if I was the only one in the world. As to all the conveniences of life, they are to be had at very easy rates; and for those that love public places, here are two playhouses and two operas constantly performed every night, at exceeding low prices. But you will have no reason to examine that article, no more than myself; all the ambassadors having boxes appointed them; and I have every one of their keys at my service, not only for my own person, but whoever I please to carry or send. I do not make much use of this privilege, to their great astonishment. It is the fashion for the greatest ladies to walk the streets, which are admirably paved; and a mask, price sixpence, with a little cloak, and the head of a domino, the genteel dress to carry you everywhere. The greatest equipage is a gondola, that holds eight persons, and is the price of an English chair. And it is so much the established fashion for everybody to live their own way, that nothing is more ridiculous than censuring the actions of another. This would be terrible in London, where we have little other diversion; but for me, who never found any pleasure in malice, I bless my destiny that has conducted me to a part where people are better employed than in talking of the affairs of their acquaintance. It is at present excessive cold (which is the only thing I have to find fault with), but in recompense we have a clear bright sun, and fogs and factions things unheard of in this climate."

Certainly everybody did the utmost to make Venice agreeable to Lady Mary. With all her good opinion of herself and of her position, she found herself treated with more distinction than she "could possibly expect." When, on Christmas Eve, she went to see the ceremony of High Mass celebrated by the Doge, she was surprised to find that he had set aside for her and the Prince of Wolfenbuttel a gallery, to which none were admitted but their parties. "A greater compliment could not have been paid me if I had been a sovereign Princess." To her husband she wrote: "It is impossible to be better treated, I may even say more courted, than I am here."

All the English who came to Venice, as a matter of course paid their respects to Lady Mary.

"Lord Fitzwilliam arrived here three days ago; he came to see me the next day, as all the English do, who are much surprised at the civilities and familiarity which I am with the noble ladies. Everybody tells me 'tis what never was done but to myself; and I own I have a little vanity in it, because the French ambassador told me when I first came, that though the Procurator Grimani might persuade them to visit me, he defied me to enter into any sort of intimacy with them: instead of which they call me out almost every day on some diversion or other, and are desirous to have me in all their parties of pleasure. I am invited to-morrow to the Foscarini to dinner, which is to be followed by a concert and a ball, where I shall be the only stranger, though here are at present a great number come to see the regatta, which is fixed for the 29th of this month, N.S. I shall see it at the Procurator Grimani's, where there will be a great entertainment that day. My own house is very well situated to see it, being on the Grand Canal; but I would not refuse him and his niece, since they seem desirous of my company, and I shall oblige some other ladies with my windows. They are hired at a great rate to see the show."

There was just one fly in the ointment. "I am impatient to hear good sense pronounced in my native tongue; having only heard my language out of the mouths of boys and governors for these five months" (she complained to Lady Pomfret). "Here are inundations of them broke in upon us this carnival, and my apartment must be their refuge; the greater part of them having kept an inviolable fidelity to the languages their nurses taught them; their whole business abroad (as far as I can perceive) being to buy new clothes, in which they shine in some obscure coffee-house, where they are sure of meeting only one another; and after the important conquest of some waiting gentlewoman of an opera queen, whom perhaps they remember as long as they live, return to England excellent judges of men and manners. I find the spirit of patriotism so strong in me every time I see them, that I look on them as the greatest blockheads in nature; and, to say truth, the compound of booby and petit maitre makes up a very odd sort of animal."

It was not until the middle of August (1740) that Lady Mary left Venice, going first to Bologna, where she stayed a day or two "to prepare for the dreadful passage of the Apennines." On her way to Florence, she visited the monastery of La Trappe—her account of which may be given as a companion portrait to that of the nunnery printed in an earlier chapter.

"The monastery of La Trappe, is of French origin, and one of the most austere and self-denying orders I have met with. In this gloomy retreat it gave me pain to observe the infatuation of men, who have devoutly reduced themselves to a much worse condition than that of the beasts. Folly, you see, is the lot of humanity, whether it arises in the flowery paths of pleasure, or the thorny ones of an ill-judged devotion. But of the two sorts of fools, I shall always think that the merry one has the most eligible fate; and I cannot well form a notion of that spiritual and ecstatic joy, that is mixed with sighs, groans, hunger, and thirst, and the other complicated miseries of monastic discipline. It is a strange way of going to work for happiness to excite an enmity between soul and body, which Nature and Providence have designed to live together in union and friendship, and which we cannot separate like man and wife when they happen to disagree. The profound silence that is enjoined upon the monks of La Trappe is a singular circumstance of their unsociable and unnatural discipline, and were this injunction never to be dispensed with, it would be needless to visit them in any other character than as a collection of statues; but the superior of the convent suspended in our favour that rigorous law, and allowed one of the mutes to converse with me, and answer a few discreet questions. He told me that the monks of this order in France are still more austere than those of Italy, as they never taste wine, flesh, fish, or eggs; but live entirely upon vegetables. The story that is told of the institution of this order is remarkable, and is well attested, if my information is good. Its founder was a French nobleman whose name was Bouthillior de Rance, a man of pleasure and gallantry, which were converted into the deepest gloom of devotion by the following incident. His affairs obliged him to absent himself, for some time, from a lady with whom he had lived in the most intimate and tender connexions of successful love. At his return to Paris he proposed to surprise her agreeably, and, at the same time, to satisfy his own impatient desire of seeing her, by going directly and without ceremony to her apartment by a back stair, which he was well acquainted with—but think of the spectacle that presented itself to him at his entrance into the chamber that had so often been the scene of love's highest raptures! his mistress dead—dead of the small-pox—disfigured beyond expression—a loathsome mass of putrified matter—and the surgeon separating the head from the body, because the coffin had been made too short! He stood for a moment motionless in amazement, and filled with horror—and then retired from the world, shut himself up in the convent of La Trappe, where he passed the remainder of his days in the most cruel and disconsolate devotion.—Let us quit this sad subject."

The news that Lady Mary was coming to Florence came to the ears of Horace Walpole, who was staying there. If he had not yet made her acquaintance, he certainly knew much about her. "On Wednesday we expect a third she-meteor," he wrote to Richard West, July 31, 1740. "Those learned luminaries the Ladies Pomfret and Walpole[9] are to be joined by the Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. You have not been witness to the rhapsody of mystic nonsense which these two fair ones debate incessantly, and consequently cannot figure what must be the issue of this triple alliance: we have some idea of it. Only figure the coalition of prudery, debauchery, sentiment, history, Greek, Latin, French, Italian and metaphysics; all, except the second, understood by halves, by quarters, or not at all. You shall have the journals of this notable academy." Walpole sent, some seven weeks later, an account of the lady to the Hon. Henry Seymour Conway: "Did I tell you Lady Mary Wortley is here? She laughs at my Lady Walpole, scolds my Lady Pomfret, and is laughed at by the whole town. Her dress, her avarice, and her impudence must amaze any one that never heard her name. She wears a foul mob, that does not cover her greasy black locks, that hang loose, never combed or curled, mazarine blue wrapper, that gapes open and discovers a canvas petticoat. Her face swollen violently on one side is partly covered with a plaister, and partly with white paint, which for cheapness she has bought so coarse, that you would not use it to wash a chimney."

[Footnote 9: The wife of the eldest son of Sir Robert Walpole, who in 1723 was created Baron Walpole. He later succeeded as (second) Earl of Orford.]

In another letter, to Richard West (October 2, 1740), Walpole gives an account of the "Academy." "But for the Academy, I am not of it; but frequently in company with it," he wrote. "Tis all disjointed. Madame ——,[10] who, though a learned lady, has not lost her modesty and character, is extremely scandalised with the two other dames, especially with Moll Worthless,[11] who knows no bounds. She is at rivalry with Lady W—— [12] for a certain Mr.——, whom perhaps you knew at Oxford.... He fell into sentiments with my Lady W., and was happy to catch her at platonic love; but as she seldom stops there, the poor man will be frightened out of his senses when she shall break the matter to him, for he never dreamt that her purposes were so naught. Lady Mary is so far gone that to get him from the mouth of her antagonist, she literally took him out to dance country dances at a formal ball, where there was no measure kept in laughing at her.... She played at Pharaoh two or three times at Princess Craon's, where she cheats horse and foot. She is really entertaining: I have been reading her works, which she lends out in manuscript; but they are too womanish: I like few of her performances."

[Footnote 10: Lady Pomfret.] [Footnote 11: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.] [Footnote 12: Lady Walpole.]

Lady Mary was, of course, entirely ignorant of Horace Walpole's feelings about her, of which naturally he showed no sign in social intercourse with her. "I saw him often both at Florence and Genoa, and you may believe I know him," she told her daughter. "I was well acquainted with Mr. Walpole at Florence, and indeed he was particularly civil to me," she wrote on another occasion. "I have great encouragement to ask favour of him, if I did not know that few people have so good memories to remember so many years backwards as have passed since I have seen him. If he has treated the character of Queen Elizabeth with disrespect [in A Catalogue of the Royal and Noble Authors of England], all the women should tear him to pieces, for abusing the glory of their sex. Neither is it just to put her in the list of authors, having never published anything, though we have Mr. Camden's authority that she wrote many valuable pieces, chiefly Greek translations. I wish all monarchs would bestow their leisure hours on such studies: perhaps they would not be very useful to mankind; but it may be asserted, for a certain truth, their own minds could be more improved than by the amusements of quadrille or Cavagnole."

Lady Mary need not have feared that Walpole had forgotten her; he bore her much in mind to his dying day, and found never a kind thing to say about her. It may be presumed that his animosity arose from the fact that Lady Mary had championed Molly Skerritt against his mother, when Miss Skerritt was living openly as the mistress of Sir Robert Walpole. Yet, though he wrote so abusively about her, he concerned himself with a new edition of the Court Poems, though with what right has never transpired. "I have lately had Lady Mary Wortley's Ecloques published; but they don't please, though so excessively good," he wrote to Sir Horace Mann, November 24, 1747. "I say so confidently, for Mr. Chute agrees with me: he says, for the Epistle from Arthur Grey, scarce any woman could have written it, and no man; for a man who had had experience enough to paint such sentiments so well, would not have had warmth enough left. Do you know anything of Lady Mary? Her adventurous son is come in Parliament, but has not opened."

From Florence, Lady Mary repaired to Rome. There, she did not see the Chevalier de St. George, but she did see his two sons, Charles Edward, the Young Pretender, and Henry, Cardinal York. "The eldest seems thoughtless enough, and is really not unlike Mr. Lyttelton in his shape and air," she wrote to Montagu. "The youngest is very well made, dances finely, and has an ingenuous countenance; he is but fourteen years of age. The family live very splendidly, yet pay everybody, and (wherever they get it) are certainly in no want of money."

Lady Mary seems to have had no prepared itinerary, but to have wandered as the spirit moved her—Naples, Leghorn, Turin, Genoa. The cheapness of Italy appealed to her frugal mind.

"The manners of Italy are so much altered since we were here last, the alteration is scarce credible. They say it has been by the last war. The French, being masters, introduced all their customs, which were eagerly embraced by the ladies, and I believe will never be laid aside; yet the different governments make different manners in every state. You know, though the republic is not rich, here are many private families vastly so, and live at a great superfluous expense: all the people of the first quality keep coaches as fine as the Speaker's, and some of them two or three, though the streets are too narrow to use them in the town; but they take the air in them, and their chairs carry them to the gates. The liveries are all plain: gold or silver being forbidden to be worn within the walls, the habits are all obliged to be black, but they wear exceeding fine lace and linen; and in their country-houses, which are generally in the faubuurg, they dress very rich, and have extreme fine jewels. Here is nothing cheap but houses. A palace fit for a prince may be hired for fifty pounds per annum; I mean unfurnished. All games of chance are strictly prohibited, and it seems to me the only law they do not try to evade: they play at quadrille, piquet, &c., but not high. Here are no regular public assemblies. I have been visited by all of the first rank, and invited to several fine dinners, particularly to the wedding of one of the house of Spinola, where there were ninety-six sat down to table, and I think the entertainment one of the best I ever saw. There was the night following a ball and supper for the same company, with the same profusion. They tell me that all their great marriages are kept in the same public manner. Nobody keeps more than two horses, all their journeys being post; the expense of them, including the coachman, is (I am told) fifty pounds per annum. A chair is very near as much; I give eighteen francs a week for mine. The senators can converse with no strangers during the time of their magistracy, which lasts two years. The number of servants is regulated, and almost every lady has the same, which is two footmen, a gentleman-usher, and a page, who follows her chair.

Certainly the simple life appealed to Lady Mary, but much as she liked Geneva the cost of living irked her. "Everything is as dear as it is at London," she complained to her husband in November, 1741. "'Tis true, as all equipages are forbidden, that expense is entirely retrenched.... The way of living is absolutely the reverse of that in Italy. Here is no show, and a great deal of eating; there is all the magnificence imaginable, and no dinners but on particular occasions; yet the difference of the prices renders the total expense very near equal.... The people here are very well to be liked, and this little republic has an air of the simplicity of old Rome in its earliest age. The magistrates toil with their own hands, and their wives literally dress their dinners against their return from their little senate. Yet without dress and equipage 'tis as dear living here for a stranger, as in places where one is obliged to both, from the price of all sort of provision, which they are forced to buy from their neighbours, having almost no land of their own." How much more agreeable, from Lady Mary's point of view, was Chambery: "Here is the most profound peace and unbounded plenty that is to be found in any corner of the universe; but not one rag of money. For my part, I think it amounts to the same thing, whether one is obliged to give several pence for bread, or can have a great deal of bread for a penny, since the Savoyard nobility here keep as good tables, without money, as those in London, who spend in a week what would be here a considerable yearly revenue. Wine, which is equal to the best burgundy, is sold for a penny a quart, and I have a cook for very small wages, that is capable of rivalling Chloe."

"My girl gives me great prospect of satisfaction, but my young rogue of a son is the most ungovernable little rake that ever played truant," Lady Mary wrote to Lady Mar in July, 1727, when the boy was fourteen and the girl nine years old.

It has already been mentioned that young Edward, who was placed at Westminster School at the early age of five, ran away. In fact, he ran away more than once. "My blessed offspring has already made a great noise in the world," his mother told Lady Mar in July, 1726. "That young rake, my son, took to his heels t'other day and transported his person to Oxford; being in his own opinion thoroughly qualified for the University. After a good deal of search we found and reduced him, much against his will, to the humble condition of a schoolboy. It happens very luckily that the sobriety and discretion is of my daughter's side; I am sorry the ugliness is so too, for my son grows extremely handsome." The lad was incorrigible. In the following year he disappeared for some months, to be found selling fish at Blackwall.

"My cousin is going to Paris, and I will not let her go without a letter for you, my dear sister, though I was never in a worse humour for writing" (the anxious mother wrote to her sister). "I am vexed to the blood by my young rogue of a son; who has contrived at his age to make himself the talk of the whole nation. He is gone knight-erranting, God knows where; and hitherto 'tis impossible to find him. You may judge of my uneasiness by what your own would be if dear Lady Fanny was lost. Nothing that ever happened to me has troubled me so much; I can hardly speak or write of it with tolerable temper, and I own it has changed mine to that degree I have a mind to cross the water, to try what effect a new heaven and a new earth will have upon my spirit."

Later, Edward ran away again, joining the crew of a ship going to Oporto, and was not discovered in that city until a considerable period had elapsed since his flight.

He capped all his follies by marrying at the age of twenty a woman of no social standing and much older than himself.

His parents were at their wits' end. It was hopeless to treat him as a rational being. His wife was induced to accept a pension to leave him, and he himself was put in charge of a keeper. Several times he had to be kept in close confinement. He was, however, by no means devoid of brains, and in the autumn of 1741 he had sufficiently recovered to be entered as a student at the University of Leyden. His allowance was L300 a year, which he found so insufficient for the indulgence of his tastes that he was soon considerably in debt.

In Lady Mary's correspondence there are many letters to her husband about their son.

"Genoa, Aug. 15, 1741.

"I am sorry to trouble you on so disagreeable a subject as our son, but I received a letter from him last post, in which he solicits your dissolving his marriage, as if it was wholly in your power, and the reason he gives for it, is so that he may marry more to your satisfaction. It is very vexatious (though no more than I expected) that time has no effect, and that it is impossible to convince him of his true situation. He enclosed this letter in one to Mr. Birtles, and tells me that he does not doubt that debt of L200 is paid. You may imagine this silly proceeding occasioned me a dun from Mr. Birtles. I told him the person that wrote the letter, was, to my knowledge, not worth a groat, which was all I thought proper to say on the subject."

"Lyons, April 23, 1742.

"I am very glad you have been prevailed on to let our son take a commission: if you had prevented it, he would have always said, and perhaps thought, and persuaded other people, you had hindered his rising in the world; though I am fully persuaded that he can never make a tolerable figure in any station of life. When he was at Morins, on his first leaving France, I then tried to prevail with him to serve the Emperor as volunteer; and represented to him that a handsome behaviour one campaign might go a great way in retrieving his character; and offered to use my interest with you (which I said I did not doubt would succeed) to furnish him with a handsome equipage. He then answered, he supposed I wished him killed out of the way. I am afraid his pretended reformation is not very sincere. I wish time may prove me in the wrong. I here enclose the last letter I received from him; I answered it the following post in these words:

"'I am very glad you resolve to continue obedient to your father, and are sensible of his goodness towards you. Mr. Birtles showed me your letter to him, in which you enclosed yours to me, where you speak to him as your friend; subscribing yourself his faithful humble servant. He was at Genoa in his uncle's house when you was there, and well acquainted with you; though you seem ignorant of everything relating to him. I wish you would make such sort of apologies for any errors you may commit. I pray God your future behaviour may redeem the past, which will be a great blessing to your affectionate mother.'

"I have not since heard from him; I suppose he knew not what to say to so plain a detected falsehood. It is very disagreeable to me to converse with one from whom I do not expect to hear a word of truth, and who, I am very sure, will repeat many things that never passed in our conversation. You see the most solemn assurances are not binding from him, since he could come to London in opposition to your commands, after having so frequently protested he would not move a step except by your order. However, as you insist on my seeing him, I will do it, and think Valence the properest town for that interview; it is but two days' journey from this place; it is in Dauphine.

"I shall stay here till I have an answer to this letter. If you order your son to go to Valence, I desire you would give him a strict command of going by a feigned name. I do not doubt your returning me whatever money I may give him; but as I believe, if he receives money from me, he will be making me frequent visits, it is clearly my opinion I should give him none. Whatever you may think proper for his journey, you may remit to him."

"Lyons, April 25 [1742].

"On recollection (however inconvenient it may be to me on many accounts), I am not sorry to converse with my son. I shall at least have the satisfaction of making a clear judgment of his behaviour and temper: which I shall deliver to you in the most sincere and unprejudiced manner. You need not apprehend that I shall speak to him in passion. I do not know that I ever did in my life. I am not apt to be over-heated in discourse, and am so far prepared, even for the worst on his side, that I think nothing he can say can alter the resolution I have taken of treating him with calmness. Both nature and interest (were I inclined to follow blindly the dictates of either) would determine me to wish him your heir rather than a stranger; but I think myself obliged both by honour, conscience and my regard for you, no way to deceive you; and I confess, hitherto I see nothing but falsehood and weakness through his whole conduct. It is possible this person may be altered since I saw him, but his figure then was very agreeable and his manner insinuating. I very well remember the professions he made to me, and do not doubt he is as lavish of them to other people. Perhaps Lord Carteret may think him no ill match for an ugly girl that sticks upon his hands. The project of breaking his marriage shows at least his devotion counterfeit, since I am sensible it cannot be done but by false witness. His wife is not young enough to get gallants, nor rich enough to buy them.

"I make choice of Valence for our interview as a town where we are not likely to find any English, and he may if he pleases be quite unknown; which it is hardly possible to be in any capital town either of France or Italy.

"Lyons, May 2 [1742].

"I received this morning yours of April 12, and at the same time the enclosed which I send you. Tis the first I have received since the detection of that falsehood in regard to Mr. Birtles. I always send my letters open, that Mr. Clifford (who has the character of sense and honesty) might be witness of what I said; and he not left at liberty to forge orders he never received. I am very glad I have done so, and am persuaded that had his reformation been what you suppose it, Mr. Clifford would have wrote to me in his favour. I confess I see no appearance of it. His last letter to you, and this to me, seems to be no more in that submissive style he has used, but like one that thinks himself well protected. I will see him, since you desire it, at Valence; which is a by-town, where I am less likely to meet with English than any town in France; but I insist on his going by a feigned name, and coming without a servant. People of superior fortunes to him (to my knowledge) have often travelled from Paris to Lyons in the diligence; the expense is but one hundred livres, L5 sterling, all things paid. It would not be easy to me, at this time, to send him any considerable sum; and whatever it is, I am persuaded, coming from me, he would not be satisfied with it, and make his complaints to his companions. As to the alteration of his temper, I see the same folly throughout. He now supposes (which is at best downright childish) that one hour's conversation will convince me of his sincerity. I have not answered his letter, nor will not, till I have your orders what to say to him."

[Avignon] May 6 [1742].

"I here send you enclosed the letter I mentioned of your son's; the packet in which it was put was mislaid in the journey; it will serve to show you how little he is to be depended on. I saw a Savoyard man of quality at Chambery, who knew him at Venice, and afterwards at Genoa, who asked me (not suspecting him for my son) if he was related to my family. I made answer he was some relation. He told me several tricks of his. He said, that at Genoa he had told him that an uncle of his was dead and had left him L5,000 or L6,000 per annum, and that he was returning to England to take possession of his estate; in the meantime he wanted money; and would have borrowed some of him, which he refused. I made answer that he did very well. I have heard of this sort of conduct in other places; and by the Dutch letters you have sent me I am persuaded he continues the same method of lying which convinces me that his pretended enthusiasm is only to cheat those that can be imposed on by it. However, I think he should not be hindered accepting a commission. I do not doubt it will be pawned or sold in a twelvemonth; which will prove to those that now protect him how little he deserves it. I am now at Avignon, which is within one day's journey of Valence."

"Avignon, May 23 [1742].

"I received this morning yours of April 12 and 29th, and at the same time one from my son at Paris, dated the 4th instant. I have wrote to him this day, that on his answer I will immediately set out to Valence, and shall be glad to see him there. I suppose you are now convinced I have never been mistaken in his character; which remains unchanged, and what is yet worse, I think is unchangeable. I never saw such a complication of folly and falsity as in his letter to Mr. Gibson. Nothing is cheaper than living in an inn in a country town in France; they being obliged to ask no more than twenty-five sous for dinner, and thirty for supper and lodging, of those that eat at the public table; which all the young men of quality I have met have always done. It is true I am forced to pay double, because I think the decency of my sex confines me to eat in my chamber. I will not trouble you with detecting a number of other falsehoods that are in his letters. My opinion on the whole (since you give me leave to tell it) is, that if I was to speak in your place, I would tell him, 'That since he is obstinate in going into the army, I will not oppose it; but as I do not approve, I will advance no equipage till I know his behaviour to be such as shall deserve my future favour. Hitherto he has always been directed, either by his own humour, or the advice of those he thought better friends to him than myself. If he renounces the army, I will continue to him his former allowance; notwithstanding his repeated disobedience, under the most solemn professions of duty. When I see him act like a sincere honest man, I shall believe well of him; the opinion of others, who either do not know him or are imposed on by his pretences, weighs nothing with me."

On May 30 Lady Mary went from Avignon to Valence, where about a week later her son visited her. She at once sent a full account to Montagu.

"Avignon, June 10 [1742.]

"I am just returned from passing two days with our son, of whom I will give you the most exact account I am capable of. He is so much altered in his person, I should scarcely have known him. He has entirely lost his beauty, and looks at least seven years older than he is; and the wildness that he always had in his eyes is so much increased it is downright shocking, and I am afraid will end fatally. He is grown fat, but is still genteel, and has an air of politeness that is agreeable. He speaks French like a Frenchman, and has got all the fashionable expressions of that language, and a volubility of words which he always had, and which I do not wonder should pass for wit with inconsiderate people. His behaviour is perfectly civil, and I found him very submissive; but in the main, no way really improved in his understanding, which is exceedingly weak; and I am convinced he will always be led by the person he converses with either right or wrong, not being capable of forming any fixed judgment of his own. As to his enthusiasm, if he had it, I suppose he has already lost it; since I could perceive no turn of it in all his conversation. But with his head I believe it is possible to make him a monk one day and a Turk three days after. He has a flattering, insinuating manner, which naturally prejudices strangers in his favour. He began to talk to me in the usual silly cant I have so often heard from him, which I shortened by telling him I desired not to be troubled with it; that professions were of no use where actions were expected; and that the only thing could give me hopes of a good conduct was regularity and truth. He very readily agreed to all I said (as indeed he has always done when he has not been hot-headed). I endeavoured to convince him how favourably he has been dealt with, his allowance being much more than, had I been his father, I would have given in the same case. The Prince of Hesse, who is now married to the Princess of England, lived some years at Geneva on L300 per annum. Lord Hervey sent his son at sixteen thither, and to travel afterwards, on no larger pension than L200; and, though without a governor, he had reason enough, not only to live within the compass of it, but carried home little presents for his father and mother, which he showed me at Turin. In short, I know there is no place so expensive, but a prudent single man may live in it on L100 per annum, and an extravagant one may run out ten thousand in the cheapest. Had you (said I to him) thought rightly, or would have regarded the advice I gave you in all my letters, while in the little town of Islestein, you would have laid up L150 per annum; you would now have had L750 in your pocket; which would have almost paid your debts, and such a management would have gained you the esteem of the reasonable part of mankind. I perceived this reflection, which he had never made himself, had a very great weight with him. He would have excused part of his follies, by saying Mr. G. had told him it became Mr. W.'s son to live handsomely. I made answer, that whether Mr. G. had said so or no, the good sense of the thing was noway altered by it; that the true figure of a man was the opinion the world had of his sense and probity, and not the idle expenses, which were only respected by foolish or ignorant people; that his case was particular, he had but too publicly shown his inclination to vanities, and the most becoming part he could now act would be owning the ill use he had made of his father's indulgence, and professing to endeavour to be no further expense to him, instead of scandalous complaints, and being always at his last shirt and last guinea, which any man of spirit would be ashamed to own. I prevailed so far with him that he seemed very willing to follow this advice; and I gave him a paragraph to write to G., which I suppose you will easily distinguish from the rest of his letter. He asked me if you had settled your estate. I made answer, that I did not doubt (like all other wise men) you always had a will by you; but that you had certainly not put anything out of your power to change. On that, he began to insinuate, that if I could prevail on you to settle the estate on him, I might expect anything from his gratitude. I made him a very clear and positive answer in these words: 'I hope your father will outlive me, and if I should be so unfortunate to have it otherwise, I do not believe he will leave me in your power, But was I sure of the contrary, no interest nor no necessity shall ever make me act against my honour or conscience; and I plainly tell you, that I will never persuade your father to do anything for you till I think you deserve it.' He answered by great promises of future good behaviour, and economy. He is highly delighted with the prospect of going into the army; and mightily pleased with the good reception he had from Lord Stair, though I find it amounts to no more than telling him he was sorry he had already named his aides-de-camp, and otherwise should have been glad of him in that post. He says Lord Carteret has confirmed to him his promise of a commission.

"The rest of his conversation was extremely gay. The various things he has seen has given him a superficial universal knowledge. He really knows most of the modern languages, and if I could believe him, can read Arabic, and has read the Bible in Hebrew. He said it was impossible for him to avoid going back to Paris; but he promised me to lie but one night there, and go to a town six posts from thence on the Flanders road, where he would wait your orders, and go by the name of Mons. du Durand, a Dutch officer; under which name I saw him. These are the most material passages, and my eyes are so much tired I can write no more at this time. I gave him 240 livres for his journey."

No amount of admonition had any effect upon Edward. At the age of thirty he was as irresponsible as he was when he was thirteen years old. He promised his mother at Avignon most solemnly to reform, and at once got into mischief. "I am persuaded," Lady Mary said, "whoever protects him will be very soon convinced of the impossibility of his behaving like a rational creature."

Avignon, November 20, 1743.

"As to my son's behaviour at Montelimart, it is nothing more than a proof of his weakness; and how little he is to be depended on in his most solemn professions. He told me that he had made acquaintance with a lady on the road, who has an assembly at her house at Montelimart, and that she had invited him thither. I asked immediately if she knew his name. He assured me no, and that he passed for a Dutch officer by the name of Durand. I advised him not go thither, since it would raise a curiosity concerning him, and I was very unwilling it should be known that I had conversed with him, on many accounts. He gave me the most solemn assurances that no mortal should know it; and agreed with me in the reasons I gave him for keeping it an entire secret; yet rid straight to Montelimart, where he told at the assembly that he came into this country purely on my orders, and that I had stayed with him two days at Orange; talking much of my kindness to him, and insinuating that he had another name, much more considerable than that he appeared with. I knew nothing of this, till several months after, that a lady of that country came hither, and meeting her in company, she asked me if I was acquainted with Monsieur Durand. I had really forgot he had ever taken that name, and made answer no; and that if such a person mentioned me, it was probably some chevalier d'industrie who sought to introduce himself into company by a supposed acquaintance with me. She made answer, the whole town believed so, by the improbable tales he told them; and informed me what he had said; by which I knew what I have related to you.

"I expect your orders in relation to his letters."

Edward was still anxious to join the army, and his parents were not averse to the scheme. Lady Mary, however, thought that certain precautions should be taken in the event of his securing a commission. "It is my opinion," she wrote to Montagu in January, 1744, "he should have no distinction, in equipage, from any other cornet; everything of that sort will only serve to blow his vanity and consequently heighten his folly. Your indulgence has always been greater to him than any other parent's would have been in the same circumstances. I have always said so, and thought so. If anything can alter him, it will be thinking firmly that he has no dependence but on his own conduct for a future maintenance."

Edward obtained a commission, and was present at Fontenoy.

On his return to England, in 1747, he was elected to Parliament for the family borough of Huntingdon. This he held until 1754, when he was returned for the borough of Bossiney, in Cornwall, which he represented for the next eight years.

Of his subsequent career it is not necessary to say anything here, except that his father left him an annuity of L1,000 a year, to be increased to L2,000 on his mother's death. Lady Mary in her will bequeathed him one guinea.



CHAPTER XIV

LADY MARY AS A READER

Her fondness for reading—Her difficulty to get enough books while abroad—Lady Bute keeps her supplied—Lady Mary's catholic taste in literature—Samuel Richardson—The vogue of Clarissa Harlowe—Lady Mary tells a story of the Richardson type—Henry Fielding—Joseph Andrews—Tom Jones—Her high opinion of Fielding and Steele—Tobias Smollett—Peregrine Pickle—Lady Vane's Memoirs of a Lady of Quality—Sarah Fielding—Minor writers—Lord Orrery's Remarks on Swift—Bolingbroke's works—Addison and Pope—Dr. Johnson.

In her quiet retreat, Lady Mary found plenty of time for books. "I yet retain and carefully cherish my taste for reading," she wrote to her daughter in 1752. "If relays of eyes were to be hired like post-horses, I would never admit any but select companions: they afford a constant variety of entertainment, and is almost the only one pleasing in the enjoyment and inoffensive in the consequence."

Her trouble was that she could not get books enough to occupy her time. She was always asking Lady Bute to send her some, and was duly grateful when they reached her. "I fancy you are now saying, 'tis a sad thing to grow old; what does my poor mamma mean by troubling me with criticisms on books that nobody but herself will ever read? You must allow something to my solitude." And again: "I thank God my taste still continues for the gay part of reading. Wiser people may call it trifling, but it serves to sweeten life to me, and is worst better than the generality of conversation."

Lady Mary's taste in books was catholic. She has seen the "Memoirs of her old friend, the Duchess of Maryborough," but would be glad of the Apology for a late Resignation and of Colin Campbell's books on Architecture. She has read Mrs. Lennox's The Female Quixote, and much of Sarah Fielding; and she desires Henry Fielding's posthumous works, with his Memoirs of Jonathan Wild and The Journey to the Next World; also the Memoirs of Verocand, a man of pleasure, and those of a Young Lady. "You will call all this trash, trumpery, etc.," she said to her daughter. "I can assure you I was more entertained by G. Edwards than H. St. John, of whom you have sent me duplicates. I see new story books with the same pleasure your eldest daughter does a new dress, or the youngest a new baby. I thank God, I can find playthings for my age. I am not of Cowley's mind, that this world is

'A dull, ill-acted comedy;'

nor of Mr. Philips's, that it is

'A too well-acted tragedy.'

"I look upon it as a very pretty farce, for those that can see it in that light. I confess a severe critic, that would examine by ancient rules, might find many defects, but 'tis ridiculous to judge seriously of a puppet-show. Those that can laugh, and be diverted with absurdities, are the wisest spectators, be it of writings, actions, or people."

Presently Lady Mary is asking for books the names of which she has seen in the-newspapers: "Fortunate Mistress, Accomplished Rake, Mrs. Charke's Memoirs, Modern Lovers, History of Two Orphans, Memoirs of David Ranger, Miss Mostyn, Dick Hazard, History of a Lady Platonist, Sophia Shakespear, Jasper Banks, Frank Hammond, Sir Andrew Thompson, Van a Clergyman's Son, Cheantles and Celemena. I do not doubt at least the greater part of these are trash, lumber, etc.; however, they will serve to pass away the idle time, if you will be so kind as to send them to your most affectionate mother."

Richardson Lady Mary liked in spite of herself, as so many others then and since have done, though it is true that she spoke of the "very extraordinary (and I think undeserved) success of Pamela, which, she said, was all the fashion at Paris and Versailles, and is still the joy of the chambermaids of all nations."

"I was such an old fool as to weep over Clarissa Harlowe, like any milkmaid of sixteen over the ballad of the Lady's Fall" (she wrote to her daughter). "To say truth, the first volume softened me by a near resemblance of my maiden days; but on the whole 'tis most miserable stuff. Miss How, who is called a young lady of sense and honour, is not only extreme silly, but a more vicious character than Sally Martin, whose crimes are owing at first to seduction, and afterwards to necessity; while this virtuous damsel, without any reason, insults her mother at home and ridicules her abroad; abuses the man she marries; and is impertinent and impudent with great applause. Even that model of affection, Clarissa, is so faulty in her behaviour as to deserve little compassion. Any girl that runs away with a young fellow, without intending to marry him, should be carried to Bridewell or to Bedlam the next day. Yet the circumstances are so laid as to inspire tenderness, notwithstanding the low style and absurd incidents; and I look upon this and Pamela to be two books that will do more general mischief than the works of Lord Rochester. There is something humorous in R. Random, that makes me believe that the author is H. Fielding. I am horribly afraid I guess too well the writer of those abominable insipidities of Cornelia, Leonora, and the Ladies' Drawing Room."

"This Richardson is a strange fellow," she said in another letter. "I heartily despise him, and eagerly read him, nay, sob over his works in a most scandalous manner."

"I have now read over Richardson—he sinks horribly in his third volume (he does so in his story of Clarissa). When he talks of Italy, it is plain he is no better acquainted with it than he is with the kingdom of Mancomugi. He might have made his Sir Charles's amour with Clementina begin in a convent, where the pensioners sometimes take great liberties, but that such familiarity should be permitted in her father's house, is as repugnant to custom, as it would be in London for a young lady of quality to dance on the ropes at Bartholomew fair: neither does his hero behave to her in a manner suitable to his nice notions. It was impossible a discerning man should not see her passion early enough to check it, if he had really designed it. His conduct puts me in mind of some ladies I have known, who could never find out a man to be in love with them, let him do or say what he would, till he made a direct attempt, and then they were so surprised, I warrant you! Nor do I approve Sir Charles's offered compromise (as he calls it). There must be a great indifference as to religion on both sides, to make so strict a union as marriage tolerable between people of such distinct persuasions. He seems to think women have no souls, by agreeing so easily that his daughters should be educated in bigotry and idolatry.—You will perhaps think this last a hard word; yet it is not difficult to prove, that either the papists are guilty of idolatry, or the pagans never were so. You may see in Lucian (in his vindication of his images), that they did not take their statues to be real gods, but only the representations of them. The same doctrine may be found in Plutarch; and it is all the modern priests have to say in excuse for their worshipping wood and stone, though they cannot deny, at the same time, that the vulgar are apt to confound that distinction."

Lady Mary frequently re-read Richardson, and not seldom referred to them in her correspondence.

"It is certain there are as many marriages as ever. Richardson is so eager for the multiplication of them, I suppose he is some parish curate, whose chief profit depends on weddings and christenings. He is not a man-midwife; for he would be better skilled in physic than to think fits and madness any ornament to the characters of his heroines: though his Sir Charles had no thoughts of marrying Clementina till she had lost her wits, and the divine Clarissa never acted prudently till she was in the same condition, and then very wisely desired to be carried to Bedlam, which is really all that is to be done in that case. Madness is as much corporal distemper as the gout or asthma, never occasioned by affliction, or to be cured by the enjoyment of their extravagant wishes. Passion may indeed bring on a fit, but the disease is lodged in the blood, and it is not more ridiculous to attempt to relieve the gout by an embroidered slipper, than to restore reason by the gratification of wild desires.

"Richardson is as ignorant in morality as he is in anatomy, when he declares abusing an obliging husband, or an indulgent parent, to be an innocent recreation. His Anna How and Charlotte Grandison are recommended as patterns of charming pleasantry, and applauded by his saint-like dames, who mistake pert folly for wit and humour, and impudence and ill nature for spirit and fire. Charlotte behaves like a humorsome child, and should have been used like one, and*** well whipped in the presence of her friendly confidante Harriet. Lord Halifax very justly tells his daughter, that a husband's kindness is to be kindly received by a wife, even when he is drunk, and though it is wrapped up in never so much impertinence. Charlotte acts with an ingratitude that I think too black for human nature, with such coarse jokes and low expressions as are only to be heard among the lowest class of people. Women of that rank often plead a right to beat their husbands, when they don't cuckold them; and I believe this author was never admitted into higher company, and should confine his pen to the amours of housemaids, and the conversation at the steward's table, where I imagine he has sometimes intruded, though oftener in the servants hall: yet, if the title be not a puff, this work has passed three editions. I do not forgive him his disrespect of old china, which is below nobody's taste, since it has been the D. of Argyll's, whose understanding has never been doubted either by his friends or enemies.

"Richardson never had probably money enough to purchase any, or even a ticket for a masquerade, which gives him such an aversion to them; though his intended satire against them is very absurd on the account of his Harriet, since she might have been carried off in the same manner if she had been going from supper with her grandmamma. Her whole behaviour, which he designs to be exemplary, is equally blamable and ridiculous. She follows the maxim of Clarissa, of declaring all she thinks to all the people she sees, without reflecting that in this mortal state of imperfection, fig-leaves are as necessary for our minds as our bodies, and 'tis as indecent to show all we think, as all we have. He has no idea of the manners of high life: his old Lord M. talks in the style of a country justice, and his virtuous young ladies romp like the wenches round a maypole. Such liberties as pass between Mr. Lovelace and his cousins, are not to be excused by the relation. I should have been much astonished if Lord Denbigh should have offered to kiss me; and I dare swear Lord Trentham never attempted such an impertinence to you."

Lady Mary was in sore trouble about Richardson. She would not like him, she was angry with him, yet could never away with him. When she heard of an adventure at Lovere, she, who herself had a gift for novel-writing, must needs send an account of it to Lady Bute, saying that it exactly resembled and, she believed, was copied from Pamela. "I know not under what constellation that foolish stuff was wrote, but it has been translated into more languages than any modern performance I ever heard of," she added. "No proof of its influence was ever stronger than this story, which in Richardson's hands would serve very well to furnish out seven or eight volumes: I shall make it as short as I can."

As an example of Lady Mary's skill in narrative, her account of the Richardsonian adventure is well worth reprinting.

"Here is a gentleman's family, consisting of an old bachelor and his sister, who have fortune enough to live with great elegance, though without any magnificence, possessed of the esteem of all their acquaintance, he being distinguished by his probity, and she by her virtue. They are not only suffered but sought by all the best company, and indeed are the most conversable, reasonable people in the place. She is an excellent housewife, and particularly remarkable for keeping her pretty house as neat as any in Holland. She appears no longer in public, being past fifty, and passes her time chiefly at home with her work, receiving few visitants. This Signora Diana, about ten years since, saw, at a monastery, a girl about eight years old, who came thither to beg alms for her mother. Her beauty, though covered with rags, was very observable, and gave great compassion to the charitable lady, who thought it meritorious to rescue such a modest sweetness as appeared in her face from the ruin to which her wretched circumstances exposed her. She asked her some questions, to which she answered with a natural civility that seemed surprising; and finding the head of her family (her brother) to be a cobbler, who could hardly live by that trade, and her mother too old to work for her maintenance, she bid the child follow her home; and sending for her parent, proposed to her to breed the little Octavia for her servant. This was joyfully accepted, the old woman dismissed with a piece of money, and the girl remained with the Signora Diana, who bought her decent clothes, and took pleasure in teaching her whatever she was capable of learning. She learned to read, write, and cast accounts, with uncommon facility; and had such a genius for work, that she excelled her mistress in embroidery, point, and every operation of the needle. She grew perfectly skilled in confectionary, had a good insight into cookery, and was a great proficient in distillery. To these accomplishments she was so handy, well bred, humble and modest, that not only her master and mistress, but everybody that frequented the house, took notice of her. She lived thus near nine years, never going out but to church. However, beauty is as difficult to conceal as light; hers began to make a great noise. Signora Diana told me she observed an unusual concourse of pedling women that came on pretext to sell penn'orths of lace, china, etc., and several young gentlemen, very well powdered, that were perpetually walking before her door, and looking up at the windows. These prognostics alarmed her prudence, and she listened very willingly to some honourable proposals that were made by many honest, thriving tradesmen. She communicated them to Octavia, and told her, that though she was sorry to lose so good a servant, yet she thought it right to advise her to choose a husband. The girl answered modestly, that it was her duty to obey all her commands, but she found no inclination to marriage; and if she would permit her to live single, she should think it a greater obligation than any other she could bestow. Signora Diana was too conscientious to force her into a state from which she could not free her, and left her to her own disposal. However, they parted soon after; whether (as the neighbours say) Signor Aurelio Ardinghi, her brother, looked with too much attention on the young woman, or that she herself (as Diana says) desired to seek a place of more profit, she removed to Bergamo, where she soon found preferment, being strongly recommended by the Ardinghi family. She was advanced to be first waiting-woman to an old countess, who was so well pleased with her service, she desired, on her death bed, Count Jeronimo Sosi, her son, to be kind to her. He found no repugnance to this act of obedience, having distinguished the beautiful Octavia from his first sight of her; and, during the six months that she had served in the house, had tried every art of a fine gentleman, accustomed to victories of that sort, to vanquish the virtue of this fair virgin. He has a handsome figure, and has had an education uncommon in this country, having made the tour of Europe, and brought from Paris all the improvements that are to be picked up there, being celebrated for his grace in dancing, and skill in fencing and riding, by which he is a favourite among the ladies, and respected by the men. Thus qualified for conquest, you may judge of his surprise at the firm yet modest resistance of this country girl, who was neither to be moved by address, nor gained by liberality, nor on any terms would be prevailed on to stay as his housekeeper, after the death of his mother. She took that post in the house of an old judge, where she continued to be solicited by the emissaries of the count's passion, and found a new persecutor in her master, who, after three months' endeavour to corrupt her, offered her marriage. She chose to return to her former obscurity, and escaped from his pursuit, without asking any wages, and privately returned to the Signora Diana. She threw herself at her feet, and, kissing her hands, begged her, with tears, to conceal her at least some time, if she would not accept of her service. She protested she had never been happy since she left it. While she was making these submissions, Signor Aurelio entered. She entreated his intercession on her knees, who was easily persuaded to consent she should stay with them, though his sister blamed her highly for her precipitate flight, having no reason, from the age and character of her master, to fear any violence, and wondered at her declining the honour he offered her. Octavia confessed that perhaps she had been too rash in her proceedings, but said, that he seemed to resent her refusal in such a manner as frighted her; she hoped that after a few days' search he would think no more of her; and that she scrupled entering into the holy bands of matrimony, where her heart did not sincerely accompany all the words of the ceremony. Signora Diana had nothing to say in contradiction to this pious sentiment; and her brother applauded the honesty which could not be perverted by any interest whatever. She remained concealed in their house, where she helped in the kitchen, cleaned the rooms, and redoubled her usual diligence and officiousness. Her old master came to Lovere on pretence of adjusting a lawsuit, three days after, and made private inquiry after her; but hearing from her mother and brother (who knew nothing of her being here) that they had never heard of her, he concluded she had taken another route, and returned to Bergamo; and she continued in this retirement near a fortnight.

"Last Sunday, as soon as the day was closed, arrived at Signer Aurelio's door a handsome equipage in a large bark, attended by four well-armed servants on horseback. An old priest stepped out of it, and desiring to speak with Signora Diana, informed her he came from the Count Jeronimo Sosi to demand Octavia; that the count waited for her at a village four miles from hence, where he intended to marry her; and had sent him, who was engaged to perform the divine rite, that Signora Diana might resign her to his care without any difficulty. The young damsel was called for, who entreated she might be permitted the company of another priest with whom she was acquainted: this was readily granted; and she sent for a young man that visits me very often, being remarkable for his sobriety and learning. Meanwhile, a valet-de-chambre presented her with a box, in which was a complete genteel undress for a lady. Her laced linen and fine nightgown were soon put on, and away they marched, leaving the family in a surprise not to be described.

"Signor Aurelio came to drink coffee with me next morning: his first words were, he had brought me the history of Pamela. I said, laughing, I had been tired with it long since. He explained himself by relating this story, mixed with great resentment for Octavia's conduct. Count Jeronimo's father had been his ancient friend and patron; and this escape from his house (he said) would lay him under a suspicion of having abetted the young man's folly, and perhaps expose him to the anger of all his relations, for contriving an action he would rather have died than suffered, if he had known how to prevent it. I easily believed him, there appearing a latent jealousy under his affliction, that showed me he envied the bridegroom's happiness, at the same time he condemned his extravagance.

"Yesterday noon, being Saturday, Don Joseph returned, who has got the name of Parson Williams by this expedition: he relates, that when the bark which carried the coach and train arrived, they found the amorous count waiting for his bride on the bank of the lake: he would have proceeded immediately to the church; but she utterly refused it, till they had each of them been at confession; after which the happy knot was tied by the parish priest. They continued their journey, and came to their palace at Bergamo in a few hours, where everything was prepared for their reception. They received the communion next morning, and the count declares that the lovely Octavia has brought him an inestimable portion, since he owes to her the salvation of his soul. He has renounced play, at which he had lost a great deal of time and money. She has already retrenched several superfluous servants, and put his family into an exact method of economy, preserving all the splendour necessary to his rank. He has sent a letter in his own hand to her mother, inviting her to reside with them, and subscribing himself her dutiful son: but the countess has sent another privately by Don Joseph, in which she advises the old woman to stay at Lovere, promising to take care she shall want nothing, accompanied with a token of twenty sequins, which is at least nineteen more than ever she saw in her life.

"I forgot to tell you that from Octavia's first serving the old lady, there came frequent charities in her name to her poor parent, which nobody was surprised at, the lady being celebrated for pious works, and Octavia known to be a great favourite with her. It is now discovered that they were all sent by the generous lover, who has presented Don Joseph very handsomely, but he has brought neither letter nor message to the house of Ardinghi, which affords much speculation."

Lady Mary followed this narrative with her reflections. She was sure that all these adventures proceeded from artifice on one side and weakness on the other. "An honest, tender mind," she says, "is betrayed to ruin by the charms that make the fortune of a designing head, which, when joined with a beautiful face, can never fail of advancement, except barred by a wise mother, who locks up her daughters from view till nobody cares to look on them." She instanced the case of "my poor friend" the Duchess of Bolton, who "was educated in solitude, with some choice books, by a saint-like governess: crammed with virtue and good qualities, she thought it impossible not to find gratitude, though she failed to give passion; and upon this plan threw away her estate, was despised by her husband, and laughed at by the public." Lady Mary compared the case of the Duchess with that of "Polly, bred in an ale-house, and produced on the stage, who has obtained wealth and title, and found the way to be esteemed." This particular instance hardly furnishes the basis for the general rule laid down by her: "So useful is early experience—without it half of life is dissipated in correcting the errors that we have been taught to receive as indisputable truths." According to all accounts Charles Paulet, third Duke of Bolton, was at the age of twenty-eight forced by his father to marry Lady Anne Vaughan, only daughter and heiress of John, Earl of Carbery. When the old Duke died in 1722 they separated. Some years later the Duke took for his mistress Lavinia Fenton, the "Polly" in Gay's "Beggar's Opera." On the death of his wife in 1751 he married her.

Henry Fielding, was Lady Mary's second cousin; but there had never been any intimacy between them, although some acquaintance. The novelist was eighteen years the younger. In 1727, when he was twenty and near the beginning of his career as a playwright, he had consulted her about his comedy, "Love in Several Masques," of which, when it was published in the following year, he sent her a copy. "I have presumed to send your Ladyship a copy of the play which you did me the honour of reading three acts last spring and hope it may meet as light a censure from your Ladyship's judgment as then; for while your goodness permits me (what I esteem the greatest and indeed only happening of my life) to offer my unworthy performances to your perusal, it will be entirely from your sentence that they will be regarded or disesteemed by me." Fielding wrote Lady Mary another letter about four years later: "I hope your Ladyship will honour the scenes which I presume to lay before you, with your perusal. As they are written on a model I never yet attempted, I am exceedingly anxious less they should find less mercy from you than my lighter productions. It will be a slight compensation to 'The Modern Husband' that your Ladyship's censure will defend him from the possibility of any other reproof, since your least approbation will always give me pleasure, infinitely superior to the loudest applauses of a theatre. For whatever has passed your judgment may, I think, without any imputation of immodesty, refer want of success to want of judgment in an audience. I shall do myself the honour of waiting upon your Ladyship at Twickenham to receive my sentence."

One evening when she arrived home, after having ridden twenty miles in the moonlight, she found a box of books, and pouncing upon her cousin Fielding's works, sat up all night reading.

"I think Joseph Andrews better than his Foundling.[13] I believe I was the more struck with it, having at present a Fanny in my own house, not only by the name, which happens to be the same, but the extraordinary beauty, joined with an understanding yet more extraordinary at her age, which is but few months past sixteen: she is in the post of my chambermaid. I fancy you will tax my discretion for taking a servant thus qualified; but my woman, who is also my housekeeper, was always teasing me with her having too much work, and complaining of ill-health, which determined me to take her a deputy; and when I was at Lovere, where I drank the waters, one of the most considerable merchants there pressed me to take this daughter of his: her mother has an uncommon good character, and the girl has had a better education than is usual for those of her rank; she writes a good hand, and has been brought up to keep accounts, which she does to great perfection; and had herself such a violent desire to serve me, that I was persuaded to take her: I do not yet repent it from any part of her behaviour. But there has been no peace in the family ever since she came into it; I might say the parish, all the women in it having declared open war with her, and the men endeavouring at treaties of a different sort: my own woman puts herself at the head of the first party, and her spleen is increased by having no reason for it, the young creature never stirring from my apartment, always at needle, and never complaining of anything."

[Footnote 13: The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling.]

Later Lady Mary has more to say about Fielding's books:

"H. Fielding has given a true picture of himself and his first wife, in the characters of Mr. and Mrs. Booth, some compliments to his own figure excepted; and, I am persuaded, several of the incidents he mentions are real matters of fact. I wonder he does not perceive Tom Jones and Mr. Booth are sorry scoundrels. All these sort of books have the same fault, which I cannot easily pardon, being very mischievous. They place a merit in extravagant passions, and encourage young people to hope for impossible events, to draw them out of the misery they chose to plunge themselves into, expecting legacies from unknown relations, and generous benefactors to distressed virtue, as much out of nature as fairy treasures. Fielding has really a fund of true humour, and was to be pitied at his first entrance into the world, having no choice, as he said himself, but to be a hackney writer, or a hackney coachman. His genius deserved a better fate; but I cannot help blaming that continued indiscretion, to give it the softest name, that has run through his life, and I am afraid still remains. I guessed Random to be his though without his name. I cannot think Ferdinand Count Fathom wrote by the same hand, it is every way so much below it."

Adventures of Roderick Random_ (1748) and _The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom_ (1753) were published anonymously. Lady Mary was not the only one to attribute _Roderick Random_ to Fielding, and it was actually translated into French in his name.

When Lady Mary heard of Fielding's death, she expressed deep regret:

"I am sorry for H. Fielding's death, not only as I shall read no more of his writings, but I believe he lost more than others, as no man enjoyed life more than he did, though few had less reason to do so, the highest of his preferment being raking in the lowest sinks of vice and misery. I should think it a nobler and less nauseous employment to be one of the staff-officers that conduct the nocturnal weddings. His happy constitution (even when he had, with great pains, half demolished it) made him forget everything when he was before a venison pasty, or over a flask of champagne; and I am persuaded he has known more happy moments than any prince upon earth. His natural spirits gave him rapture with his cook-maid, and cheerfulness when he was fluxing in a garret. There was a great similitude between his character and that of Sir Richard Steele. He had the advantage both in learning and, in my opinion, genius: they both agreed in wanting money in spite of all their friends, and would have wanted it, if their hereditary lands had been as extensive as their imagination; yet each of them was so formed for happiness; it is a pity he was not immortal."

Writing of imaginative prose literature generally, Lady Mary wrote:

"The general want of invention which reigns among our writers, inclines me to think it is not the natural growth of our island, which has not sun enough to warm the imagination. The press is loaded by the servile flock of imitators. Lord B. [Bolingbroke] would have quoted Horace in this place. Since I was born, no original has appeared excepting Congreve and Fielding, who would, I believe, have approached nearer to his excellences, if not forced by necessity to publish without correction, and throw many productions into the world he would have thrown into the fire if meat could have been got without money, or money without scribbling. The greatest virtue, justice, and the most distinguishing prerogative of mankind, writing, when duly executed, do honour to human nature; but when degenerated into trades, are the most contemptible ways of getting bread. I am sorry not to see any more of Peregrine Pickle's performances: I wish you would tell me his name."

It appears strange that Lady Mary should have been ignorant, when she wrote the above passage in July or August, 1755, of the authorship of Roderick Random, for in January of that year she had evinced an interest in Smollett: "I am sorry my friend Smollett loses his time in translations; he has certainly a talent for invention, though I think it flags a little in his last work. Don Quixote is a difficult undertaking: I shall never desire to read any attempt to redress him. Though I am a mere piddler in the Spanish language, I had rather take pains to understand him in the original than sleep over a stupid translation."

Peregrine Pickle, however, Lady Mary had read shortly after its appearance in 1751:

"I began by your direction with Peregrine Pickle. I think Lady Vane's Memoirs[14] contain more truth and less malice than any I ever read in my life. When she speaks of her own being disinterested, I am apt to believe she really thinks herself so, as many highwaymen, after having no possibility of retrieving the character of honesty, please themselves with that of being generous, because, whatever they get on the road, they always spend at the next ale-house, and are still as beggarly as ever. Her history, rightly considered, would be more instructive to young women than any sermon I know. They may see there what mortifications and variety of misery are the unavoidable consequences of gallantries. I think there is no rational creature that would not prefer the life of the strictest Carmelite to the round of hurry and misfortune she has gone through. Her style is clear and concise, with some strokes of humour, which appear to me so much above her, I can't help being of opinion the whole has been modelled by the author of the book in which it is inserted, who is some subaltern admirer of hers. I may judge wrong, she being no acquaintance of mine, though she has married two of my relations. Her first wedding was attended with circumstances that made me think a visit not at all necessary, though I disobliged Lady Susan by neglecting it; and the second, which happened soon after, made her so near a neighbour, that I rather choose to stay the whole summer in town than partake of her balls and parties of pleasure, to which I did not think it proper to introduce you; and had no other way of avoiding it, without incurring the censure of a most unnatural mother for denying you diversions that the pious Lady Ferrers permitted to her exemplary daughters. Mr. Shirley has had uncommon fortune in making the conquest of two such extraordinary ladies, equal in their heroic contempt of shame, and eminent above their sex, the one for beauty, and the other wealth, both which attract the pursuit of all mankind, and have been thrown into his arms with the same unlimited fondness. He appeared to me gentile [sic], well bred, well shaped and sensible; but the charms of his face and eyes, which Lady Vane describes with so much warmth, were, I confess, always invisible to me, and the artificial part of his character very glaring, which I think her story shows in a strong light."

[Footnote 14: Frances Anne Hawes (1713-1788) married Lord William Douglas in 1731, and after his death, William, second Viscount Vane, in 1735. She was notorious for profligacy and extravagance of all kinds. She was responsible for the scandalous Memoirs of a Lady of Quality which she paid Smollett to insert in Peregrine Pickle.]

Of minor novelists Lady Mary had also something to say from time to time.

"Sally [Fielding] has mended her style in her last volume of David Simple, which conveys a useful moral, though she does not seem to have intended it: I mean, shows the ill consequences of not providing against casual losses, which happen to almost everybody. Mrs. Orgueil's character is well drawn, and is frequently to be met with. The Art of Tormenting, the Female Quixote[15] and Sir C. Goodville are all sale work. I suppose they proceed from her pen, and heartily pity her, constrained by her circumstances to seek her bread by a method, I do not doubt, she despises. Tell me who is that accomplished countess she celebrates. I left no such person in London; nor can I imagine who is meant by the English Sappho mentioned in Betsy Thoughtless, whose adventures and those of Jenny Jessamy, gave me some amusement."

[Footnote 15: By Charlotte Lennox.]

"I have read The Cry[16] and if I would write in the style to be admired by good Lord Orrery, I would tell you The Cry made me ready to cry, and the Art of Tormenting tormented me very much. I take them to be Sally Fielding's, and also the Female Quixote; the plan of that is pretty, but ill executed: on the contrary, the fable of The Cry is the most absurd I ever saw, but the sentiments generally just; and I think, if well dressed, would make a better body of ethics than Bolingbroke's. Her inventing new words, that are neither more harmonious or significant than those already in use, is intolerable.

[Footnote 16: By Sarah Fielding and Miss Collier.]

"The next book I laid my hand on was The Parish Girl which interested me enough not to be able to quit it till it was read over, though the author has fallen into the common mistake of romance-writers; intending a virtuous character, and not knowing how to draw it; the first step of his heroine (leaving her patroness's house) being altogether absurd and ridiculous, justly entitling her to all the misfortunes she met with.

"Candles came (and my eyes grown weary), I took up the next book, merely because I supposed from the title it could not engage me long. It was Pompey the Little,[17] which has really diverted me more than any of the others, and it was impossible to go to bed till it was finished. It was a real and exact representation of life, as it is now acted in London, as it was in my time, and as it will be (I do not doubt) a hundred years hence, with some little variation of dress, and perhaps government. I found there many of my acquaintance. Lady T. and Lady O. are so well painted, I fancied I heard them talk, and have heard them say the very things there repeated....

[Footnote 17: By Francis Coventry.]

"I opened my eyes this morning on Leonora, from which I defy the greatest chemist in morals to extract any instruction; the style most affectedly florid, and naturally insipid, with such a confused heap of admirable characters, that never were, or can be, in human nature. I flung it aside after fifty pages, and laid hold of Mrs. Philips, where I expected to find at least probable, if not true facts, and was not disappointed. There is a great similitude in the genius and adventures (the one being productive of the other) between Madame Constantia and Lady Vane: the first mentioned has the advantage in birth and, if I am not mistaken, in understanding: they have both had scandalous lawsuits with their husbands, and are endowed with the same intrepid assurance. Con. seems to value herself also on her generosity, and has given the same proofs of it. The parallel might be drawn out to be as long as any of Plutarch's; but I dare swear you are already heartily weary of my remarks, and wish I had not read so much in so short a time, that you might not be troubled with my comments; but you must suffer me to say something of the polite Mr. Ste, whose name I should never have guessed by the rapturous description his mistress makes of his person, having always looked upon him as one of the most disagreeable fellows about town, as odious in his outside as stupid in his conversation, and I should as soon have expected to hear of his conquests at the head of an army as among women; yet he has been, it seems, the darling favourite of the most experienced of the sex, which shows me I am a very bad judge of merit. But I agree with Mrs. Philips, that, however profligate she may have been, she is infinitely his superior in virtue; and if her penitence is as sincere as she says, she may expect their future fate to be like that of Dives and Lazarus."

Lady Mary received from her daughter a copy of Lord Orrery's Remarks on the Life and Writings of Jonathan Swift, published in 1751, six years after the death of Swift. This book so aroused the ire of Lady Mary that, writing of it, she attacked everyone concerned.

"Lord Orrery's work has extremely entertained, and not at all surprised me, having the honour of being acquainted with him, and knowing him for one of those danglers after wit, who, like those after beauty, spend their time in humbly admiring, and are happy in being permitted to attend, though they are laughed at, and only encouraged to gratify the insatiate vanity of those professed wits and beauties who aim at being publicly distinguished in those characters. Dean Swift, by his lordship's own account, was so intoxicated with the love of flattery, he sought it amongst the lowest of the people, and the silliest of women; and was never so well pleased with any companions as those that worshipped him while he insulted them. It is a wonderful condescension in a man of quality to offer his incense in such a crowd, and think it an honour to share a friendship with Sheridan, &c., especially being himself endowed with such universal merit as he displays in these Letters, where he shows that he is a poet, a patriot, a philosopher, a physician, a critic, a complete scholar, and most excellent moralist; shining in private life as a submissive son, a tender father, and zealous friend. His only error has been that love of learned ease which he has indulged in a solitude, which has prevented the world from being blest with such a general, minister, or admiral, being equal to any of these employments, if he would have turned his talents to the use of the public. Heaven be praised, he has now drawn his pen in its service, and given an example to mankind that the most villanous actions, nay, the coarsest nonsense, are only small blemishes in a great genius. I happen to think quite contrary, weak woman as I am. I have always avoided the conversation of those who endeavour to raise an opinion of their understanding by ridiculing what both law and decency obliges them to revere; but, whenever I have met with any of those bright spirits who would be smart on sacred subjects, I have ever cut short their discourse by asking them if they had any lights and revelations by which they would propose new articles of faith? Nobody can deny but religion is a comfort to the distressed, a cordial to the sick, and sometimes a restraint on the wicked; therefore, whoever would argue or laugh it out of the world, without giving some equivalent for it, ought to be treated as a common enemy: but, when this language comes from a churchman, who enjoys large benefices and dignities from that very Church he openly despises, it is an object of horror for which I want a name, and can only be excused by madness, which I think the Dean was strongly touched with. His character seems to me a parallel with that of Caligula; and had he had the same power would have made the same use of it. That emperor erected a temple to himself, where he was his own high priest, preferred his horse to the highest honours in the state, professed enmity to [the] human race, and at last lost his life by a nasty jest on one of his inferiors, which I dare swear Swift would have made in his place. There can be no worse picture made of the Doctor's morals than he has given us himself in the letters printed by Pope. We see him vain, trifling, ungrateful to the memory of his patron, the Earl of Oxford, making a servile court where he had any interested views, and meanly abusive when they were disappointed, and, as he says (in his own phrase), flying in the face of mankind, in company with his adorer Pope. It is pleasant to consider, that, had it not been for the good nature of these very mortals they contemn, these two superior beings were entitled, by their birth and hereditary fortune, to be only a couple of link-boys. I am of opinion their friendship would have continued, though they had remained in the same kingdom: it had a very strong foundation—the love of flattery on the one side, and the love of money on the other. Pope courted with the utmost assiduity all the old men from whom he could hope a legacy, the Duke of Buckingham, Lord Peterborough, Sir G. Kneller, Lord Bolingbroke, Mr. Wycherley, Mr. Congreve, Lord Harcourt, &c., and I do not doubt projected to sweep the Dean's whole inheritance, if he could have persuaded him to throw up his deanery, and come to die in his house; and his general preaching against money was meant to induce people to throw it away, that he might pick it up. There cannot be a stronger proof of his being capable of any action for the sake of gain than publishing his literary correspondence, which lays open such a mixture of dulness and iniquity, that one would imagine it visible even to his most passionate admirers, if Lord Orrery did not show that smooth lines have as much influence over some people as the authority of the Church in these countries, where it cannot only veil, but sanctify any absurdity or villany whatever. It is remarkable that his lordship's family have been smatterers in wit and learning for three generations: his grandfather has left monuments of his good taste in several rhyming tragedies, and the romance of Parthenissa. His father began the world by giving his name to a treatise wrote by Atterbury and his club, which gained him great reputation; but (like Sir Martin Marall, who would fumble with his lute when the music was over) he published soon after a sad comedy of his own, and, what was worse, a dismal tragedy he had found among the first Earl of Orrery's papers. People could easier forgive his being partial to his own silly works, as a common frailty, than the want of judgment in producing a piece that dishonoured his father's memory.

"Thus fell into dust a fame that had made a blaze by borrowed fire. To do justice to the present lord, I do not doubt this fine performance is all his own, and is a public benefit, if every reader has been as well diverted with it as myself. I verily believe it has contributed to the establishment of my health."

Nor was Lady Mary more kindly about the writings and character of Lord Bolingbroke, for whom she had always had a feeling even more of hatred than disapproval.

"I have now read over the books you were so good to send, and intend to say something of them all, though some are not worth speaking of" (she wrote to her daughter). "I shall begin, in respect to his dignity, with Lord Bolingbroke, who is a glaring proof how far vanity can blind a man, and how easy it is to varnish over to one's self the most criminal conduct. He declares he always loved his country, though he confesses he endeavoured to betray her to popery and slavery; and loved his friends, though he abandoned them in distress, with all the blackest circumstances of treachery. His account of the Peace of Utrecht is almost equally unfair or partial: I shall allow that, perhaps, the views of the Whigs, at that time, were too vast and the nation, dazzled by military glory, had hopes too sanguine; but sure the same terms that the French consented to, at the treaty of Gertruydenberg, might have been obtained; or if the displacing of the Duke of Marlborough raised the spirits of our enemies to a degree of refusing what they had before offered, how can he excuse the guilt of removing him from the head of a victorious army, and exposing us to submit to any articles of peace, being unable to continue the war? I agree with him, that the idea of conquering France is a wild, extravagant notion, and would, if possible, be impolitic; but she might have been reduced to such a state as would have rendered her incapable of being terrible to her neighbours for some ages: nor should we have been obliged, as we have done almost ever since, to bribe the French ministers to let us live in quiet. So much for his political reasonings, which, I confess, are delivered in a florid, easy style; but I cannot be of Lord Orrery's opinion, that he is one of the best English writers. Well-turned periods or smooth lines are not the perfection either of prose or verse; they may serve to adorn, but can never stand in the place of good sense. Copiousness of words, however ranged, is always false eloquence, though it will ever impose on some sort of understandings. How many readers and admirers has Madame de Sevigne, who only gives us, in a lively manner and fashionable phrases, mean sentiments, vulgar prejudices, and endless repetitions? Sometimes the tittle-tattle of a fine lady, sometimes that of an old nurse, always tittle-tattle; yet so well gilt over by airy expressions, and a flowing style, she will always please the same people to whom Lord Bolingbroke will shine as a first-rate author. She is so far to be excused, as her letters were not intended for the press; while her labours to display to posterity all the wit and learning he is master of, and sometimes spoils a good argument by a profusion of words, running out into several pages a thought that might have been more clearly expressed in a few lines, and, what is worse, often falls into contradiction and repetitions, which are almost unavoidable to all voluminous writers, and can only be forgiven to those retailers whose necessity compels them to diurnal scribbling, who load their meaning with epithets, and run into digressions, because (in the jockey phrase) it rids the ground, that is, covers a certain quantity of paper, to answer the demand of the day. A great part of Lord B.'s letters are designed to show his reading, which, indeed, appears to have been very extensive; but I cannot perceive that such a minute account of it can be of any use to the pupil he pretends to instruct; nor can I help thinking he is far below either Tillotson or Addison, even in style, though the latter was sometimes more diffuse than his judgment approved, to furnish out the length of a daily Spectator. I own I have small regard for Lord B. as an author, and the highest contempt for him as a man. He came into the world greatly favoured both by nature and fortune, blest with a noble birth, heir to a large estate, endowed with a strong constitution, and, as I have heard, a beautiful figure, high spirits, a good memory and a lively apprehension, which was cultivated by a learned education: all these glorious advantages being left to the direction of a judgment stifled by unbounded vanity, he dishonoured his birth, lost his estate, ruined his reputation, and destroyed his health, by a wild pursuit of eminence even in vice and trifles.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse