"I found the duke exactly in the place where I had left him: I asked him a thousand pardons for having made him wait so long, and thanked him a thousand times for his complaisance. He told me I jested, that such compliments were unusual among friends; and to convince me that he had cordially rendered me this piece of service, he would, by all means, hold my horse while I was mounting. I returned him his cloak, bade him good night, and went back to my lodgings, equally satisfied with my mistress and my rival. This," continued he, "proves that a little patience and address are sufficient to disarm the anger of the fair, to turn even their tricks to a man's advantage."
It was in vain that the Chevalier de Grammont diverted the court with his stories, instructed by his example, and never appeared there but to inspire universal joy; for a long time he was the only foreigner in fashion. Fortune, jealous of the justice which is done to merit, and desirous of seeing all human happiness depend on her caprice, raised up against him two competitors for the pleasure he had long enjoyed of entertaining the English court; and these competitors were so much the more dangerous, as the reputation of their several merits had preceded their arrival, in order to dispose the suffrages of the court in their favour.
They came to display, in their own persons, whatever was the most accomplished either among the men of the sword, or of the gown. The one was the Marquis de Flamarens, the sad object of the sad elegies of the Countess de la Suse, the other was the president Tambonneau, the most humble and most obedient servant and admirer of the beauteous Luynes. As they arrived together, they exerted every endeavour to shine in concert: their talents were as different as their persons; Tambonneau, who was tolerably ugly, founded his hopes upon a great store of wit, which, however, no person in England could find out; and Flamarens, by his air and mien, courted admiration, which was flatly denied him.
They had agreed mutually to assist each other, in order to succeed in their intentions; and therefore, in their first visits, the one appeared in state, and the other was the spokesman. But they found the ladies in England of a far different taste from those who had rendered them famous in France: the rhetoric of the one had no effect on the fair sex, and the fine mien of the other distinguished him only in a minuet, which he first introduced into England, and which he danced with tolerable success. The English court had been too long accustomed to the solid wit of Saint Evremond, and the natural and singular charms of his hero, to be seduced by appearances; however, as the English have, in general, a sort of predilection in favour of anything that has the appearance of bravery, Flamarens was better received on account of a duel, which, obliging him to leave his own country, was a recommendation to him in England.
Miss Hamilton had, at first, the honour of being distinguished by Tambonneau, who thought she possessed a sufficient share of wit to discover the delicacy of his; and, being delighted to find that nothing was lost in her conversation, either as to the turn, the expression, or beauty of the thought, he frequently did her the favour to converse with her; and, perhaps, he would never have found out that he was tiresome, if, contenting himself with the display of his eloquence, he had not thought proper to attack her heart. This was carrying the matter a little too far for Miss Hamilton's complaisance, who was of opinion that she had already shown him too much for the tropes of his harangues: he was therefore desired to try somewhere else the experiment of his seducing tongue, and not to lose the merit of his former constancy by an infidelity which would be of no advantage to him.
He followed this advice like a wise and tractable man; and some time after, returning to his old mistress in France, he began to lay in a store of politics for those important negotiations in which he has since been employed.
It was not till after his departure that the Chevalier de Grammont heard of the amorous declaration he had made: this was a confidence of no great importance; it, however, saved Tambonneau from some ridicule which might have fallen to his share before he went away. His colleague, Flamarens, deprived of his support, soon perceived that he was not likely to meet in England with the success he had expected, both from love and fortune: but Lord Falmouth, ever attentive to the glory of his master, in the relief of illustrious men in distress, provided for his subsistence, and Lady Southesk for his pleasures: he obtained a pension from the king, and from her everything he desired; and most happy was it for him that she had no other present to bestow but that of her heart.
It was at this time that Talbot, whom we have before mentioned, and who was afterwards created Duke of Tyrconnel, fell in love with Miss Hamilton. There was not a more genteel man at court: he was indeed but a younger brother, though of a very ancient family, which, however, was not very considerable either for its renown or its riches; and though he was naturally of a careless disposition, yet, being intent upon making his fortune, and much in favour with the Duke of York, and fortune likewise favouring him at play, he had improved both so well that he was in possession of about forty thousand pounds a year in land. He offered himself to Miss Hamilton, with this fortune, together with the almost certain hopes of being made a peer of the realm, by his master's credit; and, over-and-above all, as many sacrifices as she could desire of Lady Shrewsbury's letters, pictures, and hair; curiosities which, indeed, are reckoned for nothing in housekeeping, but which testify strongly in favour of the sincerity and merit of a lover.
Such a rival was not to be despised; and the Chevalier de Grammont thought him the more dangerous, as he perceived that Talbot was desperately in love; that he was not a man to be discouraged by a first repulse; that he had too much sense and good breeding to draw upon himself either contempt or coldness by too great eagerness; and, besides this, his brothers began to frequent the house. One of these brothers was almoner to the queen, an intriguing Jesuit, and a great match-maker: the other was what was called a lay-monk, who had nothing of his order but the immorality and infamy of character which is ascribed to them; and withal, frank and free, and sometimes entertaining, but ever ready to speak bold and offensive truths, and to do good offices.
When the Chevalier de Grammont reflected upon all these things, there certainly was strong ground for uneasiness: nor was the indifference which Miss Hamilton showed for the addresses of his rival sufficient to remove his fears; for being absolutely dependent on her father's will, she could only answer for her own intentions: but Fortune, who seemed to have taken him under her protection in England, now delivered him from all his uneasiness.
Talbot had for many years stood forward as the patron of the distressed Irish: this zeal for his countrymen was certainly very commendable in itself; at the same time, however, it was not altogether free from self-interest: for, out of all the estates he had, through his credit, procured the restoration of to their primitive owners, he had always obtained some small compensation for himself; but, as each owner found his advantage in it, no complaint was made. Nevertheless, as it is very difficult to use fortune and favour with moderation, and not to swell with the gales of prosperity, some of his proceedings had an air of haughtiness and independence, which offended the Duke of Ormond, then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, as injurious to his Grace's authority. The Duke resented this behaviour with great spirit. As there certainly was a great difference between them, both as to their birth and rank, and to their credit, it had been prudent in Talbot to have had recourse to apologies and submission; but such conduct appeared to him base, and unworthy for a man of his importance to submit to: he accordingly acted with haughtiness and insolence; but he was soon convinced of his error; for, having inconsiderately launched out into some arrogant expressions, which it neither became him to utter nor the Duke of Ormond to forgive, he was sent prisoner to the Tower, from whence he could not be released until he had made all necessary submissions to his Grace: he therefore employed all his friends for that purpose, and was obliged to yield more to get out of this scrape than would have been necessary to have avoided it. By this imprudent conduct he lost all hopes of marrying into a family, which, after such a proceeding, was not likely to listen to any proposal from him.
[A very exact account of this transaction is given by Lord Clarendon, by which it appears, that Talbot was committed to the Tower for threatening to assassinate the Duke of Ormond. —Continuation of Clarendon, p. 362.]
It was with great difficulty and mortification that he was obliged to suppress a passion which had made far greater progress in his heart than this quarrel had done good to his affairs. This being the case, he was of opinion that his presence was necessary in Ireland, and that he was better out of the way of Miss Hamilton, to remove those impressions which still troubled his repose: his departure, therefore, soon followed this resolution.
Talbot played deep, and was tolerably forgetful: the Chevalier de Grammont won three or four hundred guineas of him the very evening on which he was sent to the Tower. That accident had made him forget his usual punctuality in paying the next morning whatever he had lost over-night; and this debt had so far escaped his memory, that it never once occurred to him after he was enlarged. The Chevalier de Grammont, who saw him at his departure, without taking the least notice of the money he owed him, wished him a good journey; and, having met him at court, as he came to take his leave of the king: "Talbot," said he, "if my services can be of any use to you during your absence, you have but to command them: you know old Russell has left his nephew as his resident with Miss Hamilton: if you please, I will act for you in the same capacity. Adieu, God bless you: be sure not to fall sick upon the road; but if you should, pray remember me in your will." Talbot, who, upon this compliment, immediately recollected the money he owed the Chevalier, burst out a-laughing, and embracing him: "My dear Chevalier," said he, "I am so much obliged to you for your offer, that I resign you my mistress, and will send you your money instantly." The Chevalier de Grammont possessed a thousand of these genteel ways of refreshing the memories of those persons who were apt to be forgetful in their payments. The following is the method he used some years after with Lord Cornwallis: this lord had married the daughter of Sir Stephen Fox,—treasurer of the king's household, one of the richest and most regular men in England. His son-in-law, on the contrary, was a young spendthrift, was very extravagant, loved gaming, lost as much as any one would trust him, but was not quite so ready at paying. His father-in-law disapproved of his conduct, paid his debts, and gave him a lecture at the same time. The Chevalier de Grammont had won of him a thousand or twelve hundred guineas, which he heard no tidings of, although he was upon the eve of his departure, and he had taken leave of Cornwallis in a more particular manner than any other person. This obliged the Chevalier to write him a billet, which was rather laconic. It was this:
"Pray remember the Count de Grammont, and do not forget Sir Stephen Fox."
To return to Talbot: he went away more concerned than became a man who had voluntarily resigned his mistress to another: neither his stay in Ireland, nor his solicitude about his domestic affairs, perfectly cured him; and if at his return he found himself disengaged from Miss Hamilton's chains, it was only to exchange them for others. The alteration that had taken place in the two courts occasioned this change in him, as we shall see in the sequel.
We have hitherto only mentioned the queen's maids of honour, upon account of Miss Stewart and Miss Warmestre the others were Miss Bellenden, Mademoiselle de la Garde and Mademoiselle Bardou, all maids of honour, as it pleased God.
Miss Bellenden was no beauty, but was a good-natured girl, whose chief merit consisted in being plump and fresh-coloured; and who, not having a sufficient stock of wit to be a coquette in form, used all her endeavours to please every person by her complaisance. Mademoiselle de la Garde, and Mademoiselle Bardou, both French, had been preferred to their places by the queen dowager: the first was a little brunette, who was continually meddling in the affairs of her companions; and the other by all means claimed the rank of a maid of honour, though she only lodged with the others, and both her title and services were constantly contested.
It was hardly possible for a woman to be more ugly, with so fine a shape; but as a recompense, her ugliness was set off with every art. The use she was put to, was to dance with Flamarens, and sometimes, towards the conclusion of a ball, possessed of castanets and effrontery, she would dance some figured saraband or other, which amused the court. Let us now see in what manner this ended.
As Miss Stewart was very seldom in waiting on the queen, she was scarcely considered as a maid of honour: the others went off almost at the same time, by different adventures; and this is the history of Miss Warmestre, whom we have before mentioned, when speaking of the Chevalier de Grammont.
Lord Taaffe, eldest son of the Earl of Carlingford, was supposed to be in love with her; and Miss Warmestre not only imagined it was so, but likewise persuaded herself that he would not fail to marry her the first opportunity; and in the mean time she thought it her duty to entertain him with all the civility imaginable. Taaffe had made the Duke of Richmond his confidant: these two were particularly attached to each other; but still more so to wine. The Duke of Richmond, notwithstanding his birth, made but an indifferent figure at court; and the king respected him still less than his courtiers did: and perhaps it was in order to court his majesty's favour that he thought proper to fall in love with Miss Stewart. The Duke and Lord Taaffe made each other the confidants of their respective engagements; and these were the measures they took to put their designs in execution. Little Mademoiselle de la Gardet was charged to acquaint Miss Stewart that the Duke of Richmond was dying of love for her, and that when he ogled her in public it was a certain sign that he was ready to marry her, as soon as ever she would consent.
Taaffe had no commission to give the little ambassadress for Miss Warmestre; for there everything was already arranged; but she was charged to settle and provide some conveniences which were still wanting for the freedom of their commerce, such as to have free egress and regress to her at all hours of the day or night: this appeared difficult to be obtained, but it was, however, at length accomplished.
The governess of the maids of honour, who for the world would not have connived at anything that was not fair and honourable, consented that they should sup as often as they pleased in Miss Warmestre's apartments, provided their intentions were honourable, and she one of the company. The good old lady was particularly fond of green oysters, and had no aversion to Spanish wine: she was certain of finding at every one of these suppers two barrels of oysters; one to be eaten with the party, and the other for her to carry away: as soon, therefore, as she had taken her dose of wine, she took her leave of the company.
It was much about the time that the Chevalier de Grammont had cast his eyes upon Miss Warmestre, that this kind of life was led in her chamber. God knows how many ham pies, bottles of wine, and other products of his lordship's liberality were there consumed!
In the midst of these nocturnal festivals, and of this innocent commerce, a relation of Killegrew's came up to London about a lawsuit: he gained his cause, but nearly lost his senses.
He was a country gentleman, who had been a widower about six months, and was possessed of fifteen or sixteen thousand pounds a-year: the good man, who had no business at court, went thither merely to see his cousin Killegrew, who could have dispensed with his visits. He there saw Miss Warmestre; and at first sight fell in love with her. His passion increased to such a degree that, having no rest either by day or night, he was obliged to have recourse to extraordinary remedies; he therefore early one morning called upon his cousin Killegrew, told him his case, and desired him to demand Miss Warmestre in marriage for him.
Killegrew was struck with wonder and astonishment when he heard his design: nor could he cease wondering at what sort of creature, of all the women in London, his cousin had resolved upon marrying. It was some time before Killegrew could believe that he was in earnest; but when he was convinced that he was, he began to enumerate the dangers and inconveniences attending so rash an enterprise. He told him that a girl educated at court, was a terrible piece of furniture for the country; that to carry her thither against her inclination, would as effectually rob him of his happiness and repose, as if he was transported to hell; that if he consented to let her stay, he needed only to compute what it would cost him in equipage, table, clothes, and gaming-money, to maintain her in London according to her caprices; and then to cast up how long his fifteen thousand a-year would last.
His cousin had already formed this computation; but, finding his reason less potent than his love, he remained fixed in his resolution; and Killegrew, yielding at length to his importunities, went and offered his cousin, bound hand and foot, to the victorious fair. As he dreaded nothing more than a compliance on her part, so nothing could astonish him more than the contempt with which she received his proposal. The scorn with which she refused him, made him believe that she was sure of Lord Taaffe, and wonder how a girl like her could find out two men who would venture to marry her. He hastened to relate this refusal, with all the most aggravating circumstances, as the best news he could carry to his cousin; but his cousin would not believe him: he supposed that Killegrew disguised the truth, for the same reasons he had already alleged; and not daring to mention the matter any more to him, he resolved to wait upon her himself. He summoned all his courage for the enterprise, and got his compliment by heart; but as soon as he had opened his mouth for the purpose, she told him he might have saved himself the trouble of calling on her about such a ridiculous affair; that she had already given her answer to Killegrew; and that she neither had, nor ever should have, any other to give; which words she accompanied with all the severity with which importunate demands are usually refused.
He was more affected than confounded at this repulse: everything became odious to him in London, and he himself more so than all the rest: he therefore left town, without taking leave of his cousin, went back to his country seat, and thinking it would be impossible for him to live without the inhuman fair, he resolved to neglect no opportunity in his power to hasten his death.
But whilst, in order to indulge his sorrow, he had forsaken all intercourse with dogs and horses; that is to say, renounced all the delights and endearments of a country squire, the scornful nymph, who was certainly mistaken in her reckoning, took the liberty of being brought to-bed in the face of the whole court.
An adventure so public made no small noise, as we may very well imagine: all the prudes at court at once broke loose upon it; and those principally, whose age or persons secured them from any such scandal, were the most inveterate, and cried most loudly for justice. But the governess of the maids of honour, who might have been called to an account for it, affirmed that it was nothing at all, and that she was possessed of circumstances which would at once silence all censorious tongues. She had an audience of the queen, in order to unfold the mystery; and related to her majesty how everything had passed with her consent, that is to say, upon honourable terms.
The queen sent to inquire of Lord Taaffe, whether he acknowledged Miss Warmestre for his wife: to which he most respectfully returned for answer, that he neither acknowledged Miss Warmestre nor her child, and that he wondered why she should rather father it upon him than any other. The unfortunate Warmestre, more enraged at this answer than at the loss of such a lover, quitted the court as soon as ever she was able, with a resolution of quitting the world the first opportunity.
Killegrew, being upon the point of setting out upon a journey, when this adventure happened, thought he might as well call upon his afflicted cousin in his way, to acquaint him with the circumstance; and as soon as he saw him, without paying any attention to the delicacy of his love, or to his feelings, he bluntly told him the whole story: nor did he omit any colouring that could heighten his indignation, in order to make him burst with shame and resentment.
We read that the gentle Tiridates quietly expired upon the recital of the death of Mariamne; but Killegrew's fond cousin falling devoutly upon his knees, and lifting up his eyes to Heaven, poured forth this exclamation:
"Praised be the Lord for a small misfortune, which perhaps may prove the comfort of my life! Who knows but the beauteous Warmestre will now accept of me for a husband; and that I may have the happiness of passing the remainder of my days with a woman I adore, and by whom I may expect to have heirs?" "Certainly," said Killegrew, more confounded than his cousin ought to have been on such an occasion, "you may depend upon having both: I make no manner of doubt but she will marry you as soon as ever she is recovered from her lying-in; and it would be a great ill-nature in her, who already knows the way, to let you want children: however, in the meantime I advise you to take that she has already, till you get more."
Notwithstanding this raillery, all that was said did take place. This faithful lover courted her, as if she had been the chaste Lucretia, or the beauteous Helen: his passion even increased after marriage, and the generous fair, first out of gratitude, and afterwards through inclination, never brought him a child of which he was not the father; and though there have been many a happy couple in England, this certainly was the happiest.
Some time after, Miss Bellenden, not being terrified by this example, had the prudence to quit the court before she was obliged so to do: the disagreeable Bardou followed her soon after; but for different reasons. Every person was at last completely tired of her saraband, as well as of her face; and the king, that he might see neither of them any more, gave each a small pension for her subsistence. There now only remained little Mademoiselle de la Garde to be provided for neither her virtues nor her vices were sufficiently conspicuous to occasion her being either dismissed from court, or pressed to remain there: God knows what would have become of her, if a Mr. Silvius, a man who had nothing of a Roman in him except the name, had not taken the poor girl to be his wife. We have now shown how all these damsels deserved to be expelled, either for their irregularities, or for their ugliness; and yet, those who replaced them found means to make them regretted, Miss Wells only excepted.
She was a tall girl, exquisitely shaped: she dressed very genteel, walked like a goddess; and yet, her face, though made like those that generally please the most, was unfortunately one of those that pleased the least: nature had spread over it a certain careless indolence that made her look sheepish. This gave but a bad opinion of her wit: and her wit had the ill-luck to make good that opinion: however, as she was fresh coloured, and appeared inexperienced, the king, whom the fair Stewart did not render over nice as to the perfections of the mind, resolved to try whether the senses would not fare better with Miss Wells's person than fine sentiments with her understanding: nor was this experiment attended with much difficulty: she was of a loyal family; and her father having faithfully served Charles the First, she thought it her duty not to revolt against Charles the Second. But this connection was not attended with very advantageous circumstances for herself; some pretended that she did not hold out long enough, and that she surrendered at discretion before she was vigorously attacked; and others said, that his majesty complained of certain other facilities still less pleasing. The Duke of Buckingham made a couplet upon this occasion, wherein the king, speaking to Progers, the confidant of his intrigues, puns upon the name of the fair one, to the following purport:
When the king felt the horrible depth of this Well, "Tell me, Progers," cried Charlie, "where am I? oh tell! Had I sought the world's centre to find, I had found it, But this Well! ne'er a plummet was made that could sound it."
[Edward Progers, Esq., was a younger son of Philip Progers, Esq., of the family of Garreddin, in Monmouthshire. His father was a colonel in the army, and equerry to James I. Edward was early introduced to court, and, after having been page to Charles I., was made groom of the bed-chamber to his son, while Prince of Wales. He attached himself to the king's interest during the war with the parliament, with laudable fidelity. The following letter, from which antiquaries may derive the minute information that Charles II. did wear mourning for a whole year for his father, serves to shew the familiar style which Charles used to Progers, as well as his straitened circumstances while in the island of Jersey.
"Progers, I wold have you (besides the embroidred sute) bring me a plaine riding suite, with an innocent coate, the suites I haue for horsebacke being so spotted and spoiled that they are not to be seene out of this island. The lining of the coate, and the petit toies are referred to your greate discretion, provided there want nothing when it comes to be put on. I doe not remember there was a belt, or a hat-band, in your directions for the embroidred suite, and those are so necessarie as you must not forget them.
"Jearsey, 14th Jan. old stile, 1649. CHARLES R."]
Miss Wells, notwithstanding this species of anagram upon her name, and these remarks upon her person, shone the brightest among her new companions. These were Miss Levingston, Miss Fielding, and Miss Boynton, who little deserve to be mentioned in these memoirs; therefore we shall leave them in obscurity until it please fortune to draw them out of it.
This was the new establishment of maids of honour to the queen. The Duchess of York, nearly about the same time, likewise recruited hers; but showed, by a happier and more brilliant choice, that England possessed an inexhaustible stock of beauties. But before we begin to speak of them, let us see who were the first maids of honour to her royal highness, and on what account they were removed.
Besides Miss Blague and Miss Price, whom we have before mentioned, the establishment was composed of Miss Bagot and Miss Hobart, the president of the community. Miss Blague, who never knew the true reason of her quarrel with the Marquis de Brisacier, took it up upon that fatal letter she had received from him, wherein, without acquainting her that Miss Price was to wear the same sort of gloves and yellow riband as herself, he had only complimented her upon her hair, her fair complexion, and her eyes marcassins. This word she imagined must signify something particularly wonderful, since her eyes were compared to it; and being desirous, some time afterwards, to know all the energy of the expression, she asked the meaning of the French word marcassin. As there are no wild boars in England, those to whom she addressed herself, told her that it signified a young pig. This scandalous simile confirmed her in the belief she entertained of his perfidy. Brisacier, more amazed at her change, than she was offended at his supposed calumny, looked upon her as a woman still more capricious than insignificant, and never troubled himself more about her; but Sir Yarborough, of as fair a complexion as herself, made her an offer of marriage in the height of her resentment, and was accepted: chance made up this match, I suppose, as an experiment to try what such a white-haired union would produce.
Miss Price was witty; and as her person was not very likely to attract many admirers, which, however, she was resolved to have, she was far from being coy when an occasion offered: she did not so much as make any terms: she was violent in her resentments, as well as in her attachments, which had exposed her to some inconveniences; and she had very indiscreetly quarrelled with a young girl whom Lord Rochester admired. This connection, which till then had been a secret, she had the imprudence to publish to the whole world, and thereby drew upon herself the most dangerous enemy in the universe: never did any man write with more ease, humour, spirit, and delicacy; but he was at the same time the most severe satirist.
Poor Miss Price, who had thus voluntarily provoked his resentment, was daily exposed in some new shape: there was every day some new song or other, the subject of which was her conduct, and the burden her name. How was it possible for her to bear up against these attacks, in a court, where every person was eager to obtain the most insignificant trifle that came from the pen of Lord Rochester? The loss of her lover, and the discovery that attended it, was only wanting to complete the persecution that was raised against her.
About this time died Dongan, a gentleman of merit, who was succeeded by Durfort, afterwards Earl of Feversham, in the post of lieutenant of the duke's life guards. Miss Price having tenderly loved him, his death plunged her into a gulf of despair; but the inventory of his effects had almost deprived her of her senses: there was in it a certain little box sealed up on all sides: it was addressed in the deceased's own handwriting to Miss Price; but instead of receiving it, she had not even the courage to look upon it. The governess thought it became her in prudence to receive it, on Miss Price's refusal, and her duty to deliver it to the duchess herself, supposing it was filled with many curious and precious commodities, of which perhaps she might make some advantage. Though the duchess was not altogether of the same opinion, she had the curiosity to see what was contained in a box sealed up in a manner so particularly careful, and therefore caused it to be opened in the presence of some ladies, who happened then to be in her closet.
All kinds of love trinkets were found in it; and all these favours, it appeared, came from the tender-hearted Miss Price. It was difficult to comprehend how a single person could have furnished so great a collection; for, besides counting the pictures, there was hair of all descriptions, wrought into bracelets, lockets, and into a thousand other different devices, wonderful to see. After these were three or four packets of letters, of so tender a nature, and so full of raptures and languors so naturally expressed, that the duchess could not endure the reading of any more than the two first.
Her royal highness was sorry that she had caused the box to be opened in such good company; for being before such witnesses, she rightly judged it was impossible to stifle this adventure; and, at the same time, there being no possibility of retaining any longer such a maid of honour, Miss Price had her valuables restored to her, with orders to go and finish her lamentations, or to console herself for the loss of her lover, in some other place.
Miss Hobart's character was at that time as uncommon in England, as her person was singular, in a country where, to be young, and not to be in some degree handsome, is a reproach; she had a good shape, rather a bold air, and a great deal of wit, which was well cultivated, without having much discretion. She was likewise possessed of a great deal of vivacity, with an irregular fancy: there was a great deal of fire in her eyes, which, however, produced no effect upon the beholders and she had a tender heart, whose sensibility some pretended was alone in favour of the fair sex.
Miss Bagot was the first that gained her tenderness and affection, which she returned at first with equal warmth and sincerity; but perceiving that all her friendship was insufficient to repay that of Miss Hobart, she yielded the conquest to the governess's niece, who thought herself as much honoured by it as her aunt thought herself obliged by the care she took of the young girl.
It was not long before the report, whether true or false, of this singularity, spread through the whole court, where people, being yet so uncivilized as never to have heard of that kind of refinement in love of ancient Greece, imagined that the illustrious Hobart, who seemed so particularly attached to the fair sex, was in reality something more than she appeared to be.
Satirical ballads soon began to compliment her upon these new attributes; and upon the insinuations that were therein made, her companions began to fear her. The governess, alarmed at these reports, consulted Lord Rochester upon the danger to which her niece was exposed. She could not have applied to a fitter person: he immediately advised her to take her niece out of the hands of Miss Hobart; and contrived matters so well that she fell into his own. The duchess, who had too much generosity not to treat as visionary what was imputed to Miss Hobart, and too much justice to condemn her upon the faith of lampoons, removed her from the society of the maids of honour, to be an attendant upon her own person.
Miss Bagot was the only one who was really possessed of virtue and beauty among these maids of honour: she had beautiful and regular features, and that sort of brown complexion, which, when in perfection, is so particularly fascinating, and more especially in England, where it is uncommon. There was an involuntary blush almost continually upon her cheek, without having anything to blush for. Lord Falmouth cast his eyes upon her: his addresses were better received than those of Miss Hobart, and some time after Cupid raised her from the post of maid of honour to the duchess to a rank which might have been envied by all the young ladies in England.
The Duchess of York, in order to form her new court, resolved to see all the young persons that offered themselves, and, without any regard to recommendations, to choose none but the handsomest.
At the head of this new assembly appeared Miss Jennings and Miss Temple; and indeed they so entirely eclipsed the other two, that we shall speak of them only.
Miss Jennings, adorned with all the blooming treasures of youth, had the fairest and brightest complexion that ever was seen: her hair was of a most beauteous flaxen: there was something particularly lively and animated in her countenance, which preserved her from that insipidity which is frequently an attendant on a complexion so extremely fair. Her mouth was not the smallest, but it was the handsomest mouth in the world. Nature had endowed her with all those charms which cannot be expressed, and the graces had given the finishing stroke to them. The turn of her face was exquisitely fine, and her swelling neck was as fair and as bright as her face. In a word, her person gave the idea of Aurora, or the goddess of the spring, "such as youthful poets fancy when they love." But as it would have been unjust that a single person should have engrossed all the treasures of beauty without any defect, there was something wanting in her hands and arms to render them worthy of the rest: her nose was not the most elegant, and her eyes gave some relief, whilst her mouth and her other charms pierced the heart with a thousand darts.
With this amiable person she was full of wit and sprightliness, and all her actions and motions were unaffected and easy: her conversation was bewitching, when she had a mind to please; piercing and delicate when disposed to raillery; but as her imagination was subject to flights, and as she began to speak frequently before she had done thinking, her expressions did not always convey what she wished; sometimes exceeding, and at others falling short of her ideas.
Miss Temple, nearly of the same age, was brown compared with the other: she had a good shape, fine teeth, languishing, eyes, a fresh complexion, an agreeable smile, and a lively air. Such was the outward form; but it would be difficult to describe the rest; for she was simple and vain, credulous and suspicious, coquettish and prudent, very self-sufficient and very silly.
As soon as these new stars appeared at the duchess's court, all eyes were fixed upon them, and every one formed some design upon one or other of them, some with honourable, and others with dishonest intentions. Miss Jennings soon distinguished herself, and left her companions no other admirers but such as remained constant from hopes of success: her brilliant charms attracted at first sight, and the charms of her wit secured her conquests.
The Duke of York having persuaded himself that she was part of his property, resolved to pursue his claim by the same title whereby his brother had appropriated to himself the favours of Miss Wells; but he did not find her inclined to enter into his service, though she had engaged in that of the duchess. She would not pay any attention to the perpetual ogling with which he at first attacked her. Her eyes were always wandering on other objects, when those of his royal highness were looking for them; and if by chance he caught any casual glance, she did not even blush. This made him resolve to change his manner of attack: ogling having proved ineffectual, he took an opportunity to speak to her; and this was still worse. I know not in what strain he told his case; but it is certain the oratory of the tongue was not more prevailing than the eloquence of his eyes.
Miss Jennings had both virtue and pride, and the proposals of the duke were consistent with neither the one nor the other. Although from her great vivacity one might suppose that she was not capable of much reflection, yet she had furnished herself with some very salutary maxims for the conduct of a young person of her age. The first was, that a lady ought to be young to enter the court with advantage, and not old to leave it with a good grace: that she could not maintain herself there but by a glorious resistance, or by illustrious foibles and that, in so dangerous a situation, she ought to use her utmost endeavours not to dispose of her heart until she gave her hand.
Entertaining such sentiments, she had far less trouble to resist the duke's temptations, than to disengage herself from his perseverance: she was deaf to all treaties for a settlement, with which her ambition was sounded: and all offers of presents succeeded still worse. What was then to be done to conquer an extravagant virtue that would not hearken to reason? He was ashamed to suffer a giddy young girl to escape, whose inclinations ought in some manner to correspond with the vivacity that shone forth in all her actions, and who nevertheless thought proper to be serious when no such thing as seriousness was required of her.
After he had attentively considered her obstinate behaviour, he thought that writing might perhaps succeed, though ogling, speeches, and embassies had failed. Paper receives everything, but it unfortunately happened that she would not receive the paper. Every day billets, containing the tenderest expressions, and most magnificent promises, were slipped into her pockets, or into her muff: this, however, could not be done unperceived; and the malicious little gipsy took care that those who saw them slip in, should likewise see them fall out, unperused and unopened; she only shook her muff, or pulled out her handkerchief; as soon as ever his back was turned, his billets fell about her like hail-stones, and whoever pleased might take them up. The duchess was frequently a witness of this conduct, but could not find in her heart to chide her for her want of respect to the duke. After this, the charms and prudence of Miss Jennings were the only subjects of conversation in the two courts: the courtiers could not comprehend how a young creature, brought directly from the country to court, should so soon become its ornament by her attractions, and its example by her conduct.
The king was of opinion that those who had attacked her had ill-concerted their measures; for he thought it unnatural that she should neither be tempted by promises, nor gained by importunity: she, especially, who in all probability had not imbibed such severe precepts from the prudence of her mother, who had never tasted any thing more delicious than the plums and apricots of Saint Albans. Being resolved to try her himself, he was particularly pleased with the great novelty that appeared in the turn of her wit, and in the charms of her person; and curiosity, which at first induced him to make the trial, was soon changed into a desire of succeeding in the experiment. God knows what might have been the consequence, for he greatly excelled in wit, and besides he was king: two qualities of no small consideration. The resolutions of the fair Jennings were commendable, and very judicious; but yet she was wonderfully pleased with wit; and royal majesty prostrate at the feet of a young person, is very persuasive. Miss Stewart, however, would not consent to the king's project.
She immediately took the alarm, and desired his majesty to leave to the duke, his brother, the care of tutoring the duchess's maids of honour, and only to attend to the management of his own flock, unless his majesty would in return allow her to listen to certain proposals of a settlement which she did not think disadvantageous. This menace being of a serious nature, the king obeyed; and Miss Jennings had all the additional honour which arose from this adventure: it both added to her reputation, and increased the number of her admirers. Thus she continued to triumph over the liberties of others without ever losing her own: her hour was not yet come, but it was not far distant; the particulars of which we shall relate as soon as we have given some account of the conduct of her companion.
Though Miss Temple's person was particularly engaging, it was nevertheless eclipsed by that of Miss Jennings; but she was still more excelled by the other's superior mental accomplishments. Two persons, very capable to impart understanding, had the gift been communicable, undertook at the same time to rob her of the little she really possessed: these were Lord Rochester and Miss Hobart: the first began to mislead her by reading to her all his compositions, as if she alone had been a proper judge of them. He never thought proper to flatter her upon her personal accomplishments; but told her that if heaven had made him susceptible of the impressions of beauty, it would not have been possible for him to have escaped her chains; but not being, thank God, affected with anything but wit, he had the happiness of enjoying the most agreeable conversation in the world without running any risk. After so sincere a confession he either presented to her a copy of verses, or a new song, in which whoever dared to come in competition in any respect with Miss Temple was laid prostrate before her charms, most humbly to solicit pardon: such flattering insinuations so completely turned her head that it was a pity to see her.
The duchess took notice of it, and well knowing the extent of both their geniuses, she saw the precipice into which the poor girl was running headlong without perceiving it; but as it is no less dangerous to forbid a connection that is not yet thought of, than it is difficult to put an end to one that is already well established, Miss Hobart was charged to take care, with all possible discretion, that these frequent and long conversations might not be attended with any dangerous consequences: with pleasure she accepted the commission, and greatly flattered herself with success.
She had already made all necessary advances to gain possession of her confidence and friendship; and Miss Temple, less suspicious of her than of Lord Rochester, made all imaginable returns. She was greedy of praise, and loved all manner of sweetmeats, as much as a child of nine or ten years old: her taste was gratified in both these respects. Miss Hobart having the superintendence of the duchess's baths, her apartment joined them, in which there was a closet stored with all sorts of sweetmeats and liqueurs: the closet suited Miss Temple's taste, as exactly as it gratified Miss Hobart's inclination, to have something that could allure her.
Summer, being now returned, brought back with it the pleasures and diversions that are its inseparable attendants. One day, when the ladies had been taking the air on horseback, Miss Temple, on her return from riding, alighted at Miss Hobart's, in order to recover her fatigue at the expense of the sweetmeats, which she knew were there at her service; but before she began she desired Miss Hobart's permission to undress herself, and change her linen in her apartment; which request was immediately complied with: "I was just going to propose it to you," said Miss Hobart, "not but that you are as charming as an angel in your riding habit; but there is nothing so comfortable as a loose dress, and being at one's ease: you cannot imagine, my dear Temple," continued she, embracing her, "how much you oblige me by thus free unceremonious conduct; but, above all, I am enchanted with your particular attention to cleanliness: how greatly you differ in this, as in many other things, from that silly creature Jennings! Have you remarked how all our court fops admire her for her brilliant complexion, which perhaps, after all, is not wholly her own; and for blunders, which are truly original, and which they are such fools as to mistake for wit: I have not conversed with her long enough to perceive in what her wit consists; but of this I am certain, that if it is not better than her feet, it is no great matter. What stories have I heard of her sluttishness! No cat ever dreaded water so much as she does: fie upon her! Never to wash for her own comfort, and only to attend to those parts which must necessarily be seen, such as the neck and hands."
Miss Temple swallowed all this with even greater pleasure than the sweetmeats; and the officious Hobart, not to lose time, was helping her off with her clothes, while the chambermaid was coming. She made some objections to this at first, being unwilling to occasion that trouble to a person, who, like Miss Hobart, had been advanced to a place of dignity; but she was overruled by her, and assured that it was with the greatest pleasure she showed her that small mark of civility. The collation being finished, and Miss Temple undressed: "Let us retire," said Miss Hobart, "to the bathing closet, where we may enjoy a little conversation secure from any impertinent visit." Miss Temple consented, and both of them sitting down on a couch: "You are too young, my dear Temple," said she, "to know the baseness of men in general, and too short a time acquainted with the court to know the character of its inhabitants. I will give you a short sketch of the principal persons, to the best of my knowledge, without injury to any one; for I abominate the trade of scandal.
"In the first place, then, you ought to set it down as an undoubted fact that all courtiers are deficient either in honesty, good sense, judgment, wit, or sincerity; that is to say, if any of them by chance possess some one of these qualities, you may depend upon it he is defective in the rest: sumptuous in their equipages, deep play, a great opinion of their own merit, and contempt of that of others, are their chief characteristics.
"Interest or pleasure are the motives of all their actions: those who are led by the first would sell God Almighty, as Judas sold his Master, and that for less money. I could relate you a thousand noble instances of this, if I had time. As for the sectaries of pleasure, or those who pretend to be such, for they are not all so bad as they endeavour to make themselves appear, these gentlemen pay no manner of regard either to promises, oaths, law, or religion; that is to say, they are literally no respecters of persons; they care neither for God nor man, if they can but gain their ends. They look upon maids of honour only as amusements, placed expressly at court for their entertainment; and the more merit any one has, the more she is exposed to their impertinence, if she gives any ear to them; and to their malicious calumnies, when she ceases to attend to them. As for husbands, this is not the place to find them; for unless money or caprice make up the match, there is but little hopes of being married: virtue and beauty in this respect here are equally useless. Lady Falmouth is the only instance of a maid of honour well married without a portion; and if you were to ask her poor weak husband for what reason he married her, I am persuaded that he can assign none, unless it be her great red ears and broad feet. As for the pale Lady Yarborough, who appeared so proud of her match, she is wife, to be sure, of a great country bumpkin, who, the very week after their marriage, bid her take her farewell of the town for ever, in consequence of five or six thousand pounds a year he enjoys on the borders of Cornwall. Alas! poor Miss Blague! I saw her go away about this time twelvemonth, in a coach with four such lean horses, that I cannot believe she is yet half way to her miserable little castle. What can be the matter! all the girls seem afflicted with the rage of wedlock, and however small their portion of charms may be, they think it only necessary to show themselves at court in order to pick and choose their men: but was this in reality the case, the being a wife is the most wretched condition imaginable for a person of nice sentiments. Believe me, my dear Temple, the pleasures of matrimony are so inconsiderable in comparison with its inconveniences, that I cannot imagine how any reasonable creature can resolve upon it: rather fly, therefore, from this irksome engagement than court it. Jealousy, formerly a stranger to these happy isles, is now coming into fashion, with many recent examples of which you are acquainted. However brilliant the phantom may appear, suffer not yourself to be caught by its splendour, and never be so weak as to transform your slave into your tyrant: as long as you preserve your own liberty, you will be mistress of that of others. I will relate to you a very recent proof of the perfidy of man to our sex, and of the impunity they experience in all attempts upon our innocence. The Earl of Oxford fell in love with a handsome, graceful actress belonging to the duke's theatre, who performed to perfection, particularly the part of Roxana, in a very fashionable new play, insomuch that she ever after retained that name: this creature being both very virtuous and very modest, or, if you please, wonderfully obstinate, proudly rejected the addresses and presents of the Earl of Oxford. This resistance inflamed his passion: he had recourse to invectives, and even to spells; but all in vain. This disappointment had such effect upon him that he could neither eat nor drink; this did not signify to him; but his passion at length became so violent, that he could neither play nor smoke. In this extremity love had recourse to Hymen; the Earl of Oxford, one of the first peers of the realm, is, you know, a very handsome man: he is of the order of the garter, which greatly adds to an air naturally noble. In short, from his outward appearance, you would suppose he was really possessed of some sense; but as soon as ever you hear him speak, you are perfectly convinced of the contrary. This passionate lover presented her with a promise of marriage, in due form, signed with his own hand: she would not, however, rely upon this, but the next day she thought there could be no danger, when the earl himself came to her lodgings attended by a clergyman, and another man for a witness: the marriage was accordingly solemnized with all due ceremonies, in the presence of one of her fellow players, who attended as a witness on her part. You will suppose, perhaps, that the new countess had nothing to do but to appear at court according to her rank, and to display the earl's arms upon her carriage. This was far from being the case. When examination was made concerning the marriage, it was found to be a mere deception: it appeared that the pretended priest was one of my lord's trumpeters, and the witness his kettle drummer. The parson and his companion never appeared after the ceremony was over; and as for the other witness, they endeavoured to persuade her that the Sultana Roxana might have supposed, in some part or other of a play, that she was really married. It was all to no purpose, that the poor creature claimed the protection of the laws of God and man, both which were violated and abused, as well as herself, by this infamous imposition: in vain did she throw herself at the King's feet to demand justice: she had only to rise up again without redress; and happy might she think herself to receive an annuity of one thousand crowns, and to resume the name of Roxana, instead of Countess of Oxford. You will say, perhaps, that she was only a player; that all men have not the same sentiments as the earl; and, that one may at least believe them, when they do but render justice to such merit as yours. But still do not believe them, though I know you are liable to it, as you have admirers; for all are not infatuated with Miss Jennings: the handsome Sydney ogles you; Lord Rochester is delighted with your conversation; and the most serious Sir Lyttleton forsakes his natural gravity in favour of your charms. As for the first, I confess his figure is very likely to engage the inclinations of a young person like yourself; but were his outward form attended with other accomplishments, which I know it is not, and that his sentiments in your favour were as real as he endeavours to persuade you they are, and as you deserve, yet I would not advise you to form any connections with him, for reasons which I cannot tell you at present.
"Sir Lyttleton is undoubtedly in earnest, since he appears ashamed of the condition to which you have reduced him; and I really believe if he could get the better of those vulgar chimerical apprehensions, of being what is vulgarly called a cuckold, the good man would marry you, and you would be his representative in his little government, where you might merrily pass your days in casting up the weekly bills of housekeeping, and in darning old napkins. What a glory would it be to have a Cato for a husband, whose speeches are as many lectures, and whose lectures are composed of nothing but ill-nature and censure!
"Lord Rochester is, without contradiction, the most witty man in all England; but then he is likewise the most unprincipled, and devoid even of the least tincture of honour; he is dangerous to our sex alone; and that to such a degree that there is not a woman who gives ear to him three times, but she irretrievably loses her reputation. No woman can escape him, for he has her in his writings, though his other attacks be ineffectual; and in the age we live in, the one is as bad as the other in the eye of the public. In the mean time nothing is more dangerous than the artful insinuating manner with which he gains possession of the mind: he applauds your taste, submits to your sentiments, and at the very instant that he himself does not believe a single word of what he is saying, he makes you believe it all. I dare lay a wager, that from the conversation you have had with him, you thought him one of the most honourable and sincerest men living; for my part I cannot imagine what he means by the assiduity he pays you not but your accomplishments are sufficient to excite the adoration and praise of the whole world; but had he even been so fortunate as to have gained your affections, he would not know what to do with the loveliest creature at court: for it is a long time since his debauches have brought him to order, with the assistance of the favours of all the common street-walkers. See then, my dear Temple, what horrid malice possesses him, to the ruin and confusion of innocence! A wretch! to have no other design in his addresses and assiduities to Miss Temple, but to give a greater air of probability to the calumnies with which he has loaded her. You look upon me with astonishment, and seem to doubt the truth of what I advance; but I do not desire you to believe me without evidence: 'Here,' said she, drawing a paper out of her pocket, 'see what a copy of verses he has made in your praise, while he lulls your credulity to rest, by flattering speeches and feigned respect.'"
After saying this, the perfidious Hobart showed her half-a-dozen couplets full of strained invective and scandal, which Rochester had made against the former maids of honour. This severe and cutting lampoon was principally levelled against Miss Price, whose person he took to pieces in the most frightful and hideous manner imaginable. Miss Hobart had substituted the name of Temple instead of Price, which she made to agree both with the measure and tune of the song. This effectually answered Hobart's intentions: the credulous Temple no sooner heard her sing the lampoon, but she firmly believed it to be made upon herself; and in the first transports of her rage, having nothing so much at heart as to give the lie to the fictions of the poet: "Ah! as for this, my dear Hobart," said she, "I can bear it no longer: I do not pretend to be so handsome as some others; but as for the defects that villain charges me with, I dare say, my dear Hobart, there is no woman more free from them: we are alone, and I am almost inclined to convince you by ocular demonstration." Miss Hobart was too complaisant to oppose this motion; but, although she soothed her mind by extolling all her beauties, in opposition to Lord Rochester's song, Miss Temple was almost driven to distraction by rage and astonishment, that the first man she ever attended to should, in his conversation with her, not even make use of a single word of truth, but that he should likewise have the unparalleled cruelty falsely to accuse her of defects; and not being able to find words capable of expressing her anger and resentment, she began to weep like a child.
Miss Hobart used all her endeavours to comfort her, and chid her for being so much hurt with the invectives of a person whose scandalous impostures were too well known to make any impression: she however advised her never to speak to him any more, for that was the only method to disappoint his designs; that contempt and silence were, on such occasions, much preferable to any explanation, and that if he could once obtain a hearing, he would be justified, but she would be ruined.
Miss Hobart was not wrong in giving her this counsel: she knew that an explanation would betray her, and that there would be no quarter for her if Lord Rochester had so fair an opportunity of renewing his former panegyrics upon her; but her precaution was in vain: this conversation had been heard from one end to the other, by the governess's niece, who was blessed with a most faithful memory; and having that very day an appointment with Lord Rochester, she conned it over three or four times, that she might not forget one single word, when she should have the honour of relating it to her lover. We shall show in the next chapter, what were the consequences resulting from it.
MEMOIRS OF COUNT GRAMMONT, VOLUME 6.
By Anthony Hamilton
EDITED, WITH NOTES, BY SIR WALTER SCOTT
OTHER LOVE INTRIGUES AT THE ENGLISH COURT.
The conversation before related was agreeable only to Miss Hobart; for if Miss Temple was entertained with its commencement, she was so much the more irritated by its conclusion this indignation was succeeded by the curiosity of knowing the reason why, if Sidney had a real esteem for her, she should not be allowed to pay some attention to him.
As soon as they retired from the closet, Miss Sarah came out of the bath, where during all this conversation, she had been almost perished with cold, without daring to complain. This little gipsy had, it seems, obtained leave of Miss Hobart's woman to bathe herself unknown to her mistress; and having, I know not how, found means to fill one of the baths with cold water, Miss Sarah had just got into it, when they were both alarmed with the arrival of the other two. A glass partition enclosed the room where the baths were, and Indian silk curtains, which drew on the inside, screened those that were bathing. Miss Hobart's chamber-maid had only just time to draw these curtains, that the girl might not be seen to lock the partition door, and to take away the key, before her mistress and Miss Temple came in.
These two sat down on a couch placed along the partition, and Miss Sarah, notwithstanding her alarms, had distinctly heard, and perfectly retained the whole conversation. As the little girl was at all this trouble to make herself clean, only on Lord Rochester's account, as soon as ever she could make her escape she regained her garret; where Rochester, having repaired thither at the appointed hour, was fully informed of all that had passed in the bathing room. He was astonished at the audacious temerity of Hobart, in daring to put such a trick upon him; but, though he rightly judged that love and jealousy were the real motives, he would not excuse her. Little Sarah desired to know whether he had a real affection for Miss Temple, as Miss Hobart said she supposed that was the case. "Can you doubt it," replied he, "since that oracle of sincerity has affirmed it? But then you know that I am not now capable of profiting by my perfidy, were I even to gain Miss Temple's compliance, since my debauches and the street-walkers have brought me to order."
This answer made Miss Sarah very easy, for she concluded that the first article was not true, since she knew from experience that the latter was false. Lord Rochester was resolved that very evening to attend the duchess's court, to see what reception he would meet with after the fine portrait Miss Hobart had been so kind as to draw of him. Miss Temple did not fail to be there likewise, with the intention of looking on him with the most contemptuous disdain possible, though she had taken care to dress herself as well as she could. As she supposed that the lampoon Miss Hobart had sung to her was in everybody's possession, she was under great embarrassment lest all those whom she met should think her such a monster as Lord Rochester had described her. In the mean time, Miss Hobart, who had not much confidence in her promises never more to speak to him, narrowly watched her. Miss Temple never in her life appeared so handsome every person complimented her upon it; but she received all the civilities with such an air, that every one thought she was mad; for when they commended her shape, her fresh complexion, and the brilliancy of her eyes: "Pshaw," said she, "it is very well known that I am but a monster, and formed in no respect like other women: all is not gold that glisters; and though I may receive some compliments in public, it signifies nothing." All Miss Hobart's endeavours to stop her tongue were ineffectual; and continuing to rail at herself ironically, the whole court was puzzled to comprehend her meaning.
When Lord Rochester came in, she first blushed, then turned pale, made a motion to go towards him, drew back again, pulled her gloves one after the other up to the elbow; and after having three times violently flirted her fan, she waited until he paid his compliments to her as usual, and as soon as he began to bow, the fair one immediately turned her back upon him. Rochester only smiled, and being resolved that her resentment should be still more remarked, he turned round and posting himself face to face: "Madam," said he, "nothing can be so glorious as to look so charming as you do, after such a fatiguing day: to support a ride of three long hours, and Miss Hobart afterwards, without being tired, shows indeed a very strong constitution."
Miss Temple had naturally a tender look, but she was transported with such a violent passion at his having the audacity to speak to her, that her eyes appeared like two fireballs when she turned them upon him. Hobart pinched her arm, as she perceived that this look was likely to be followed by a torrent of reproaches and invectives.
Lord Rochester did not wait for them, and delaying until another opportunity the acknowledgments he owed Miss Hobart, he quietly retired. The latter, who could not imagine that he knew anything of their conversation at the bath, was, however, much alarmed at what he had said; but Miss Temple, almost choked with the reproaches with which she thought herself able to confound him and which she had not time to give vent to, vowed to ease her mind of them upon the first opportunity, notwithstanding the promise she had made; but never more to speak to him afterwards.
Lord Rochester had a faithful spy near these nymphs: this was Miss Sarah, who, by his advice, and with her aunt's consent, was reconciled with Miss Hobart, the more effectually to betray her: he was informed by this spy, that Miss Hobart's maid, being suspected of having listened to them in the closet, had been turned away; that she had taken another, whom in all probability, she would not keep long, because, in the first place, she was ugly, and, in the second, she eat the sweetmeats that were prepared for Miss Temple. Although this intelligence was not very material, Sarah was nevertheless praised for her punctuality and attention; and a few days afterwards she brought him news of real importance.
Rochester was by her informed, that Miss Hobart and her new favourite designed, about nine o'clock in the evening to walk in the Mall, in the Park; that they were to change clothes with each other, to put on scarfs, and wear black-masks: she added, that Miss Hobart had strongly opposed this project, but that she was obliged to give way at last, Miss Temple having resolved to indulge her fancy.
Upon the strength of this intelligence, Rochester concerted his measures: he went to Killegrew, complained to him of the trick which Miss Hobart had played him, and desired his assistance in order to be revenged: this was readily granted, and having acquainted him with the measures he intended to pursue, and given him the part he was to act in this adventure, they went to the Mall.
Presently after appeared our two nymphs in masquerade: their shapes were not very different, and their faces, which were very unlike each other, were concealed with their masks. The company was but thin in the Park; and as soon as Miss Temple perceived them at a distance, she quickened her pace in order to join them, with the design, under her disguise, severely to reprimand the perfidious Rochester; when Miss Hobart stopping her: "Where are you running to?" said she; "have you a mind to engage in conversation with these two devils, to be exposed to all the insolence and impertinence for which they are so notorious?" These remonstrances were entirely useless: Miss Temple was resolved to try the experiment: and all that could be obtained from her, was, not to answer any of the questions Rochester might ask her.
They were accosted just as they had done speaking: Rochester fixed upon Hobart, pretending to take her for the other; at which she was overjoyed; but Miss Temple was extremely sorry she fell to Killegrew's share, with whom she had nothing to do: he perceived her uneasiness, and, pretending to know her by her clothes: "Ah! Miss Hobart," said he, "be so kind as look this way if you please: I know not by what chance you both came hither, but I am sure it is very apropos for you, since I have something to say to you, as your friend and humble servant."
This beginning raising her curiosity, Miss Temple appeared more inclined to attend him; and Killegrew perceiving that the other couple had insensibly proceeded some distance from them: "In the name of God," said he: "what do you mean by railing so against Lord Rochester, whom you know to be one of the most honourable men at court, and whom you nevertheless described as the greatest villain, to the person whom of all others he esteems and respects the most? What do you think would become of you, if he knew that you made Miss Temple believe she is the person alluded to in a certain song, which you know as well as myself was made upon the clumsy Miss Price, above a year before the fair Temple was heard of? Be not surprised that I know so much of the matter; but pay a little attention, I pray you, to what I am now going to tell you out of pure friendship: your passion and inclinations for Miss Temple are known to every one but herself; for whatever methods you used to impose upon her innocence, the world does her the justice to believe that she would treat you as Lady Falmouth did, if the poor girl knew the wicked designs you had upon her: I caution you, therefore, against making any farther advances, to a person, too modest to listen to them: I advise you likewise to take back your maid again, in order to silence her scandalous tongue; for she says everywhere, that she is with child, that you are the occasion of her being in that condition, and accuses you of behaving towards her with the blackest ingratitude, upon trifling suspicions only: you know very well, these are no stories of my own invention; but that you may not entertain any manner of doubt, that I had all this from her own mouth, she has told me your conversation in the bathing-room, the characters you there drew of the principal men at court, your artful malice in applying so improperly a scandalous song to one of the loveliest women in all England; and in what manner the innocent girl fell into the snare you had laid for her, in order to do justice to her charms. But that which might be of the most fatal consequences to you in that long conversation, is the revealing certain secrets, which, in all probability, the duchess did not entrust you with, to be imparted to the maids of honour: reflect upon this, and neglect not to make some reparation to Sir Lyttleton, for the ridicule with which you were pleased to load him. I know not whether he had his information from your femme-de-chambre, but I am very certain that he has sworn he will be revenged, and he is a man that keeps his word; for after all, that you may not be deceived by his look, like that of a Stoic, and his gravity, like that of a judge, I must acquaint you, that he is the most passionate man living. Indeed, these invectives are of the blackest and most horrible nature: he says it is most infamous, that a wretch like yourself should find no other employment than to blacken the characters of gentlemen, to gratify your jealousy; that if you do not desist from such conduct for the future, he will immediately complain of you; and that if her royal highness will not do him justice, he is determined to do himself justice, and to run you through the body with his own sword, though you were even in the arms of Miss Temple; and that it is most scandalous that all the maids of honour should get into your hands before they can look around them.
"These things, madam, I thought it my duty to acquaint you with: you are better able to judge than myself, whether what I have now advanced be true, and I leave it to your own discretion to make what use you think proper of my advice; but were I in your situation, I would endeavour to reconcile Lord Rochester and Miss Temple. Once more I recommend to you to take care that your endeavours to mislead her innocency, in order to blast his honour, may not come to his knowledge; and do not estrange from her a man who tenderly loves her, and whose probity is so great, that he would not even suffer his eyes to wander towards her, if his intention was not to make her his wife."
Miss Temple observed her promise most faithfully during this discourse: she did not even utter a single syllable, being seized with such astonishment and confusion, that she quite lost the use of her tongue.
Miss Hobart and Lord Rochester came up to her, while she was still in amazement at the wonderful discoveries she had made; things in themselves, in her opinion, almost incredible, but to the truth of which she could not refuse her assent, upon examining the evidences and circumstances on which they were founded. Never was confusion equal to that with which her whole frame was seized by the foregoing recital.
Rochester and Killegrew took leave of them before she recovered from her surprise; but as soon as she had regained the free use of her senses, she hastened back to St. James, without answering a single question that the other put to her; and having locked herself up in her chamber, the fast thing she did, was immediately to strip off Miss Hobart's clothes, lest she should be contaminated by them; for after what she had been told concerning her, she looked upon her as a monster, dreadful to the innocence of the fair sex, of whatever sex she might be: she blushed at the familiarities she had been drawn into with a creature, whose maid was with child, though she never had been in any other service but hers: she therefore returned her all her clothes, ordered her servant to bring back all her own, and resolved never more to have any connection with her. Miss Hobart, on the other hand, who supposed Killegrew had mistaken Miss Temple for herself, could not comprehend what could induce her to give herself such surprising airs, since that conversation; but being desirous to come to an explanation, she ordered Miss Temple's maid to remain in her apartments, and went to call upon Miss Temple herself, instead of sending back her clothes; and being desirous to give her some proof of friendship before they entered upon expostulations, she slipt softly into her chamber, when she was in the very act of changing her linen, and embraced her. Miss Temple finding herself in her arms before she had taken notice of her, everything that Killegrew had mentioned, appeared to her imagination: she fancied that she saw in her looks the eagerness of a satyr, or, if possible, of some monster still more odious; and disengaging herself with the highest indignation from her arms, she began to shriek and cry in the most terrible manner, calling both heaven and earth to her assistance.
The first whom her cries raised were the governess and her niece. It was near twelve o'clock at night: Miss Temple in her shift, almost frightened to death, was pushing back with horror Miss Hobart, who approached her with no other intent than to know the occasion of those transports. As soon as the governess saw this scene, she began to lecture Miss Hobart with all the eloquence of a real duenna: she demanded of her, whether she thought it was for her that her royal highness kept the maids of honour? whether she was not ashamed to come at such an unseasonable time of night into their very apartments to commit such violences? and swore that she would, the very next day, complain to the duchess. All this confirmed Miss Temple in her mistaken notions: and Hobart was obliged to go away at last, without being able to convince or bring to reason creatures, whom she believed to be either distracted or mad. The next day Miss Sarah did not fail to relate this adventure to her lover, telling him how Miss Temple's cries had alarmed the maids of honour's apartment, and how herself and her aunt, running to her assistance, had almost surprised Miss Hobart in the very act.
Two days after, the whole adventure, with the addition of several embellishments, was made public: the governess swore to the truth of it, and related in every company what a narrow escape Miss Temple had experienced, and that Miss Sarah, her niece, had preserved her honour, because, by Lord Rochester's excellent advice, she had forbidden her all manner of connection with so dangerous a person. Miss Temple was afterwards informed, that the song that had so greatly provoked her, alluded to Miss Price only: this was confirmed to her by every person, with additional execrations against Miss Hobart, for such a scandalous imposition. Such great coldness after so much familiarity, made many believe, that this adventure was not altogether a fiction.
This had been sufficient to have disgraced Miss Hobart at court, and to have totally ruined her reputation in London, had she not been, upon the present, as well as upon a former occasion, supported by the duchess: her royal highness pretended to treat the whole story as romantic and visionary, or as solely arising from private pique: she chid Miss Temple, for her impertinent credulity: turned away the governess and her niece, for the lies with which she pretended they supported the imposture; and did many improper things in order to re-establish Miss Hobart's honour, which, however, she failed in accomplishing. She had her reasons for not entirely abandoning her, as will appear in the sequel.
Miss Temple, who continually reproached herself with injustice, with respect to Lord Rochester, and who, upon the faith of Killegrew's word, thought him the most Honourable man in England, was only solicitous to find out some opportunity of easing her mind, by making him some reparation for the rigour with which she had treated him: these favourable dispositions, in the hands of a man of his character, might have led to consequences of which she was not aware; but heaven did not allow him an opportunity of profiting by them.
Ever since he had first appeared at court he seldom failed being banished from it, at least once in the year; for whenever a word presented itself to his pen, or to his tongue, he immediately committed it to paper, or produced it in conversation, without any manner of regard to the consequences the ministers, the mistresses, and even the king himself, were frequently the subjects of his sarcasms; and had not the prince, whom he thus treated, been possessed of one of the most forgiving and gentle tempers, his first disgrace had certainly been his last.
Just at the time that Miss Temple was desirous of seeing him, in order to apologize for the uneasiness which the infamous calumnies and black aspersions of Miss Hobart had occasioned both of them, he was forbid the court for the third time: he departed without having seen Miss Temple, carried the disgraced governess down with him to his country seat, and exerted all his endeavours to cultivate in her niece some dispositions which she had for the stage; but though she did not make the same improvement in this line, as she had by his other instructions, after he had entertained both the niece and the aunt for some months in the country, he got her entered in the king's company of comedians the next winter; and the public was obliged to him for the prettiest, but at the same time, the worst actress in the kingdom.
[Though no name is given to this lady, there are circumstances enough mentioned to fix on the celebrated Mrs. Barry, as the person intended by the author. Mrs. Barry was introduced to the stage by Lord Rochester, with whom she had an intrigue, the fruit of which was a daughter, who lived to the age of thirteen years, and is often mentioned in his collection of love-letters, printed in his works, which were written to Mrs. Barry. On her first theatrical attempts, so little hopes were entertained of her, that she was, as Cibber declares, discharged the company at the end of the first year, among others that were thought to be a useless expense to it. She was well born; being daughter of Robert Barry, Esq., barrister at law; a gentleman of an ancient family and good estate, who hurt his fortune by his attachment to Charles I.; for whom he raised a regiment at his own expense. Tony Aston, in his Supplement to Cibber's Apology, says, she was woman to lady Shelton of Norfolk, who might have belonged to the court. Curl, however, says, she was early taken under the patronage of Lady Davenant. Both these accounts may be true. The time of her appearance on the stage was probably not much earlier that 1671; in which year she performed in Tom Essence, and was, it may be conjectured, about the age of nineteen. Curl mentions the great pains taken by Lord Rochester in instructing her; which were repaid by the rapid progress she daily made in her profession. She at last eclipsed all her competitors, and in the part of Monimia established her reputation. From her performance in this character, in that of Belvidera, and of Isabella, in the Fatal Marriage, Downes says she acquired the name of the famous Mrs. Barry, both at court and in the city. "Mrs. Barry," says Dryden, in his Preface to Cleomenes, "always excellent, has in this tragedy excelled herself, and gained a reputation beyond any woman I have ever seen on the theatre." "In characters of greatness," says Cibber, "Mrs. Barry had a presence of elevated dignity; her mien and motion superb, and gracefully majestic; her voice full, clear, and strong; so that no violence of passion could be too much for her; and when distress or tenderness possessed her, she subsided into the most affecting melody and softness. In the art of exciting pity, she had a power beyond all the actresses I have yet seen, or what your imagination can conceive. In scenes of anger, defiance, or resentment, while she was impetuous and terrible, she poured out the sentiment with an enchanting harmony; and it was this particular excellence for which Dryden made her the above-recited compliment, upon her acting Cassandra in his Cleomenes. She was the first person whose merit was distinguished by the indulgence of having an annual benefit play, which was granted to her alone in King James's time, and which did not become common to others till the division of this company, after the death of King William and Queen Mary."]
About this time Talbot returned from Ireland: he soon felt the absence of Miss Hamilton, who was then in the country with a relation, whom we shall mention hereafter. A remnant of his former tenderness still subsisted in his heart, notwithstanding his absence, and the promises he had given the Chevalier de Grammont at parting: he now therefore endeavoured to banish her entirely from his thoughts, by fixing his desires upon some other object; but he saw no one in the queen's new court whom he thought worthy of his attention: Miss Boynton, however, thought him worthy of hers. Her, person was slender and delicate, to which a good complexion and large motionless eyes gave at a distance an appearance of beauty, that vanished upon nearer inspection: she affected to lisp, to languish, and to have two or three fainting-fits a day. The first time that Talbot cast his eyes upon her she was seized with one of these fits: he was told that she swooned away upon his account: he believed it, was eager to afford her assistance; and ever after that accident showed her some kindness, more with the intention of saving her life, than to express any affection he felt for her. This seeming tenderness was well received, and at first she was visibly affected by it. Talbot was one of the tallest men in England, and in all appearance one of the most robust; yet she showed sufficiently that she was willing to expose the delicacy of her constitution, to whatever might happen, in order to become his wife; which event perhaps might then have taken place, as it did afterwards, had not the charms of the fair Jennings at that time, proved an obstacle to her wishes.
I know not how it came to pass that he had not yet seen her; though he had heard her much praised, and her prudence, wit, and vivacity equally commended; he believed all this upon the faith of common report. He thought it very singular that discretion and sprightliness should be so intimately united in a person so young, more particularly in the midst of a court where love and gallantry were so much in fashion; but he found her personal accomplishments greatly to exceed whatever fame had reported of them.
As it was not long before he perceived he was in love, neither was it long before he made a declaration of it: as his passion was likely enough to be real, Miss Jennings thought she might believe him, without exposing herself to the imputation of vanity. Talbot was possessed of a fine and brilliant exterior, his manners were noble and majestic: besides this, he was particularly distinguished by the favour and friendship of the duke; but his most essential merit, with her, was his forty thousand pounds a-year, landed property, besides his employments. All these qualities came within the rules and maxims she had resolved to follow with respect to lovers: thus, though he had not the satisfaction to obtain from her an entire declaration of her sentiments, he had at least the pleasure of being better received than those who had paid their addresses to her before him.
No person attempted to interrupt his happiness; and Miss Jennings, perceiving that the duchess approved of Talbot's pretensions; and after having well weighed the matter, and consulted her own inclinations, found that her reason was more favourable to him than her heart, and that the most she could do for his satisfaction was to marry him without reluctance.
Talbot, too fortunate in a preference which no man had before experienced, did not examine whether it was to her heart or to her head that he was indebted for it, and his thoughts were solely occupied in hastening the accomplishment of his wishes: one would have sworn that the happy minute was at hand; but love would no longer be love, if he did not delight in obstructing, or in overturning the happiness of those who live under his dominion.
Talbot, who found nothing reprehensible either in the person, in the conversation, or in the reputation of Miss Jennings, was however rather concerned at a now acquaintance she had lately formed; and having taken upon him to give her some cautions upon this subject, she was much displeased at his conduct.
Miss Price, formerly maid of honour, that had been set aside, as we have before mentioned, upon her leaving the duchess's service, had recourse to Lady Castlemaine's protection: she had a very entertaining wit: her complaisance was adapted to all humours, and her own humour was possessed of a fund of gaiety and sprightliness which diffused universal mirth and merriment wherever she came. Her acquaintance with Miss Jennings was prior to Talbot's.
As she was thoroughly acquainted with all the intrigues of the court, she related them without any manner of reserve to Miss Jennings, and her own with the same frankness as the others: Miss Jennings was extremely well pleased with her stories; for though she was determined to make no experiment in love, but upon honourable terms, she however was desirous of knowing from her recitals, all the different intrigues that were carrying on: thus, as she was never wearied with her conversation, she was overjoyed whenever she could see her.
Talbot, who remarked the extreme relish she had for Miss Price's company, thought that the reputation such a woman had in the world might prove injurious to his mistress, more especially from the particular intimacy there seemed to exist between them: whereupon, in the tone of a guardian rather than a lover, he took upon him to chide her for the disreputable company she kept. Miss Jennings was haughty beyond conception, when once she took it into her head; and as she liked Miss Price's conversation much better than Talbot's, she took the liberty of desiring him "to attend to his own affairs, and that if he only came from Ireland to read lectures about her conduct, he might take the trouble to go back as soon as he pleased." He was offended at a sally which he thought ill-timed, considering the situation of affairs between them; and went out of her presence more abruptly than became the respect due from a man greatly in love. He for some time appeared offended; but perceiving that he gained nothing by such conduct, he grew weary of acting that part, and assumed that of an humble lover, in which he was equally unsuccessful; neither his repentance nor submissions could produce any effect upon her, and the mutinous little gipsy was still in her pouts when Jermyn returned to court.
It was above a year since he had triumphed over the weakness of Lady Castlemaine, and above two since the king had been weary of his triumphs: his uncle, being vile of the first who perceived the king's disgust, obliged him to absent himself from court, at the very time that orders were going to be issued for that purpose; for though the king's affections for Lady Castlemaine were now greatly diminished, yet he did not think it consistent with his dignity that a mistress, whom he had honoured with public distinction, and who still received a considerable support from him, should appear chained to the car of the most ridiculous conqueror that ever existed. His majesty had frequently expostulated with the countess upon this subject: but his expostulations were never attended to; it was in one of these differences that he, advising her rather to bestow her favours upon Jacob Hall, the rope-dancer, who was able to return them, than lavish away her money upon Jermyn to no purpose, since it would be more honourable for her to pass for the mistress of the first, than for the very humble servant of the other, she was not proof against his raillery. The impetuosity of her temper broke forth like lightning: she told him "that it very ill became him to throw out such reproaches against one, who, of all the women in England, deserved them the least; that he had never ceased quarrelling thus unjustly with her, ever since he had betrayed his own mean low inclinations; that to gratify such a depraved taste as his, he wanted only such silly things as Stewart, Wells, and that pitiful strolling actress,—[Probably Nell Gwyn.]—whom he had lately introduced into their society." Floods of tears from rage, generally attended these storms; after which, resuming the part of Medea, the scene closed with menaces of tearing her children in pieces, and setting his palace on fire. What course could he pursue with such an outrageous fury, who, beautiful as she was, resembled Medea less than her dragons, when she was thus enraged!
The indulgent monarch loved peace; and as he seldom contended for it on these occasions without paying something to obtain it, he was obliged to be at great expense, in order to reconcile this last rupture: as they could not agree of themselves, and both parties equally complained, the Chevalier de Grammont was chosen, by mutual consent, mediator of the treaty. The grievances and pretensions on each side were communicated to him, and what is very extraordinary, he managed so as to please them both. Here follow the articles of peace, which they agreed to:
"That Lady Castlemaine should for ever abandon Jermyn; that as a proof of her sincerity, and the reality of his disgrace, she should consent to his being sent, for some time, into the country; that she should not rail any more against Miss Wells, nor storm any more against Miss Stewart; and this without any restraint on the king's behaviour towards her that in consideration of these condescensions, his majesty should immediately give her the title of duchess, with all the honours and privileges thereunto belonging, and an addition to her pension, in order to enable her to support the dignity."
[The title of Duchess of Cleveland was conferred on her 3rd August, 22 Charles II., 1670.]
As soon as this peace was proclaimed, the political critics, who, in all nations, never fail to censure all state proceedings, pretended that the mediator of this treaty, being every day at play with Lady Castlemaine, and never losing, had, for his own sake, insisted a little too strongly upon this last article.
Some days after, she was created Duchess of Cleveland, and little Jermyn repaired to his country-seat: however, it was in his power to have returned in a fortnight; for the Chevalier de Grammont, having procured the king's permission, carried it to the Earl of St. Alban's: this revived the good old man; but it was to little purpose he transmitted it to his nephew; for whether he wished to make the London beauties deplore and lament his absence, or whether he wished them to declaim against the injustice of the age, or rail against the tyranny of the prince, he continued above half a year in the country, setting up for a little philosopher, under the eyes of the sportsmen in the neighbourhood, who regarded him as an extraordinary instance of the caprice of fortune. He thought the part he acted so glorious, that he would have continued there much longer had he not heard of Miss Jennings: he did not, however, pay much attention to what his friends wrote to him concerning her charms, being persuaded he had seen equally as great in others: what was related to him of her pride and resistance, appeared to him of far greater consequence; and to subdue the last, he even looked upon as an action worthy of his prowess; and quitting his retreat for this purpose, he arrived in London at the time that Talbot, who was really in love, had quarrelled, in his opinion, so unjustly with Miss Jennings.
She had heard Jermyn spoken of as a hero in affairs of love and gallantry. Miss Price, in the recital of those of the Duchess of Cleveland, had often mentioned him, without in any respect diminishing the insignificancy with which fame insinuated he had conducted himself in those amorous encounters: she nevertheless had the greatest curiosity to see a man, whose entire person, she thought, must be a moving trophy, and monument of the favours and freedoms of the fair sex.
Thus Jermyn arrived at the right time to satisfy her curiosity by his presence; and though his brilliancy appeared a little tarnished by his residence in the country; though his head was larger, and his legs more slender than usual, yet the giddy girl thought she had never seen any man so perfect; and yielding to her destiny, she fell in love with him, a thousand times more unaccountably than all the others had done before her. Everybody remarked this change of conduct in her with surprise; for they expected something more from the delicacy of a person who, till this time, had behaved with so much propriety in all her actions.