[p. 60] What little merit I had, was soon after rendered more conspicuous by my undertaking the part of Eudosia, in The Siege of Damascus, at a night's notice, on the sudden indisposition of Mrs. Pritchard. Upon these occasions, the audience are always peculiarly indulgent, and so I found them. The public thought they discovered from this promptitude, indelible marks of genius, much superior to those naturally to be expected from a girl so recently engaged in a profession, a perfect knowledge of which was only to be attained by a length of time, and the closest application.
I had likewise, about this period, the happiness to acquire the approbation and patronage of two ladies of the first distinction; the late Dutchess of Montague, then Lady Cardigan, and her Grace of Queensberry. Both these ladies favoured me with their support, so far as to grace the theatre when ever I performed. An attention which was the more flattering, as the latter had not honoured a playhouse with her presence since the death of her favourite Gay.
As Mr. Rich could not afford, from the receipts of the theater, to allow me a salary [p. 61] equal to the success I met with, and the capital parts I performed, he gave me a benefit, free of all expences, upon one of his own nights, in order to prevent discord in the company. Though the public appeared to be much interested in my favour, yet as I had but few friends, except those who out of civility to Mr. Quin espoused my interest. I had very little reason to expect that it would prove lucrative.
Some days before that fixed for my benefit, I received a message whilst I was at the theatre, to be at Queensburry-House the next day by twelve o'clock. As I thought it likewise incumbent on me to wait on the Countess of Cardigan, who had honoured me with equal marks of approbation. I dressed myself early, and, taking a chair, went first to Privy-Garden. I had there every reason to be pleased with the reception her ladyship gave me, who joined politeness to every virtue.
But at Queensberry-House, my reception was far otherwise. Her Grace was determined to mortify my vanity, before she promoted my interest. Quite elated with Lady Cardigan's flattering behavior, I ordered the chairmen to proceed to Queensberry-House. Soon after the rat-tat had been given, and my name announced to the porter, the groom of the chambers appeared. I desired him to acquaint her Grace, that I [p. 62] was come to wait upon her. But how was I surprised, when he returned and informed me, that her Grace knew no such person! My astonishment at this message was greatly augmented, by the certainty I entertained of a ready admittance. I assured the domestic, that it was by the Dutchess's own directions, that I had taken the liberty to wait on her. To which he replied, that there must have been some mistake in the delivery of it. In this mortifying situation, I had nothing to do, but to return home. Ludicrous and humiliating as the foregoing scene must be, I cannot avoid relating it, as it may serve as a lesson to many, who too readily give way to the impulses of vanity. Young minds are naturally prone to it. Mine consequently was. And this well-timed rebuke, however gratifying, was the greatest proof of regard her Grace could have given me.
I went home with no very pleasing sensations, as I expected to receive the taunts of a female relation upon the occasion, who had lately arrived form Ireland, and on whom my mother doated. As this person wil be frequently mentioned in the course of my narrative, and was the cause of many of the inconveniences I afterwards suffered, it may not be amiss to acquaint you, that her deformrd body was a fit receptable for her depraved mind.
According to Hogarth's rules, indeed, her person may be said to abound in all the graces annexed to the idea of beauty, as she had not a straight line about her. And her mind was no less crooked than her body. She had taken a dislike to me on her first coming over; but for what reason I cannot account; and her aversion seemed to increase with success on stage. To such a height was it now risen, that it was the cause of much unhappiness to me. So that I was at length obliged to complain to Mrs. Jackson, who requested my mother to provide for her elsewhere, but without affect.
According to my expectations, I had no sooner returned form Queensberry-House, and informed my mother of the reception, I had met with there, than this relation persuaded her that the invitation was merely a chimera of my own brain, generated by my insupportable vanity. So virulent was her behavior, that in order to avoid her sarcasms, I pretended business at the theatre, in the evening, and went there.
Upon my entering the Green-Room, I was accosted by Prince Lobkowitz, who was then here in a public character, requesting a box at my benefit, for the corps diplomatique . Afer thanking his Highness for the honour intended me, I informed him they might be accommodated with stage-box; and sending for the house-keeper, desire he would make [p. 64] an entry in his book to this purpose. But how great was my surprise, when he acquainted me I had not a box to dispose of; every one, except those of the Countess of Cardigan, the Dutchess Dowager of Leeds, and Lady Shaftesbury, being retained for her Grace the Dutchess of Queensberry. I could not help thinking but the man was joking, as he himself had delivered me the message from her Grace the night before, and that I found to be a deception. He however still persisted in what he said, and further added, that the Dutchess had likewise sent for two hundred and fifty tickets. This made me more at a loss to account for the cavalier treatment I had received in the morning.
Here, lest you complain of the length of my letters, I will leave off.