[p. vii] My Lord,
With a mind that overflows with gratitude, I solicited the honour of laying this work at your feet -- and the happiness of being thought worthy of his Grace of Montague's patronage, is too flattering not to excite in me a wish to make it known. -- But in attempting to address you, I find myself, like Phaeton, unequal to the task, and justly punished for my presumption.
To address your Grace in terms befitting the occasion, would require the masterly pen of a DRYDEN. And even that would prove indadqeuqate, were it not actuated by a heart impressed with the gratitude, admiration, and respect, which mine glows with. You, my Lord, who are blest with the sentiments of a Titus, and who were born to make the wretched happy will, I flatter [p. viii] myself, forgive the ambition which prompted me to request this honour.
When I first had the happiness of being noticed by your noble consort, my youthful heart was elated with transport; as the being honoured with the approbation of a Lady of the most refined taste, the most distinguished judgment, every mental accomplishment, together with every virtue, convinced me that I was not totally undeserving of it. From this epocha I date my theatrical advancement. The success I met with, I was greatly indebted to her Ladyship's patronage for. She stamped the effigy which made me appear sterling.
But it is not in my power to enumerate the favours I have received from your Grace's famliy; particularly from Lord Brudenell, of whom I have often spoken with gratitude in the course of my "Apology." The numberless marks of approbation I have been honoured with by such distinguished characters, gives me a merit with myself; and I cannot esteem myself unhappy, [p. ix] even in my distress, as it has procured me the honour of your Grace's notice.
The many tokens I have received of your munifence were doubly enhanced by the worth of the elevated giver; whose virtues ennolbe all titles .The Earl of Cardigan could receive no addition ot his honours from a ducal coronet. -- Permit me, my Lord, to unite my prayers with the numerous indigents who are daily fed by your bounty, and who lift up their hearts to bless you. -- Long, long may your Grace be happy in the esteem of your royal master, -- be revered by your illustrious pupil -- be admired by the good -- and adored by the unfortunate -- and may your amiable progeny for ages shew themselves worthy of such a fire. The sensations of gratitude with which my bosom glows, are too great for language to express. And this last honour you have conferred upon me, in permitting me thus publicly to adddress you, expands my heart with pleasure; as it assures me of your Grace's continued patronage.
[p. x] If I am fortunate enough to afford some entertainment, by the perusal of the following pages, to the person I most respect on earth, it will give me inexpressible satisfaction. The unhappy life I lay before your Grace, has no other merit than the truth of the facts which are therein recited. I have not the presumption to impose myself as an authoress: nor should I ever have attempted to appear in print, had I not been stimulated by repeated calumnies, which have been heared upon me, and which would not suffer me to rest, even in indigence and obscurity.
Could I have published the letter annexed to my "Apology," as I proposed, some years ago, I flatter myself I should have appeared in a more eligible point of view than I have done. My errors, whatever they have been, will, I hope, be riewed with lenity, and my misfortunes be pitied, by your Grace; who though spotless yourself, possess a heart, which feels compassion for the faulty, and a soul to relieve their distress.
[p. xi] From my earliest days have I been taught to look upon to your Grace as a being of superior nature ot the most elevated race of mortals. Long before I could suppose I should be so eminently honoured with your bounty, have I held you in this distinguished estimation. And often have I heard the noble Lord that adopted me declare, that his Grace of Montague was one of the witteiest men breathing, but his son-in-law the best.
I acknowedge that I can only boast of one claim to your Grace's favour, and that is founded on my sincerity; which has been an innate in my bosom from my cradle. And with this assurance I flatter myself your Grace will do me the honour to believe, that I have neither aggravated my injustices. nor sytemic
Had I the power to express my sensibility for the many favours bestowed upon me, I would attempt to convey to your Grace, my published acknowlegements [p. xii]; but I humbly trust you will accept the tribute of a grateful heart, which, whilst it beats, will be with the profoundest respect,