An Apology for the Life of George Anne Bellamy

Letter XIII

Jan. 18, 17--.

[p. 75] I soon found that my elopement had been most grossly misrepresented in the news-papers. Every thing that ill-nature could suggest, was lavishly bestowed upon me, notwithstanding I was innocent of the least depravity of the kind imputed to me, even in thought. I wrote to my mother to endeavour to retrieve her favour, which I had so unmeritedly lost; but she returned my letters unopened. I had no apparel but what I had on, and the relation I have mentioned prevented any from being sent me. The vexation and fright which my disappearance had occasioned to Mrs. Jackson, affected that lady so much, that she was confined to her bed; else I might have expected her kind interference in my behalf.

[p. 76] Mrs. Mirvan, the person where I lodged, very obligingly procured me necessaries, and did every thing in her power to comfort me. But her endeavours were ineffectual. I could not forbear viewing with horror my wretched situation, every hope being now extinguished, as my mother's misguided tenderness had exposed me, in the course of two days, to the censure of the whole town.

What was now to be done! I had no friend, no person to look up to for protection. Though every circumstance tended to exculpate me; and though Mrs. Mirvan could vouch for me, that I had not received a visit from a single person since I had been in her house; any declarations of my innocence would be now needless; for to whom could I make them? My mother was inexorable to every application; Mrs. Jackson was not within the reach of application, my inveterate kinswoman, like another Cerberus, guarding every avenue; my brother had left town; and I as too much deperssed by the public scandal to attempt a reinstatement in the theatrical line.

The anguish of mind I felt from all these considerations so greatly affected my frame, that a slow fever was the consequence, which nearly brought me to the grave.

"The sting of slander strikes her venom deep." 1

[p. 77] And never did poor creature suffer more shame and distress of mind from a real crime, than I did from a supposed one.

The fever at length yielding to my youth and the goodness of my constitution, I was ordered into the country by my physician, for the re-establishment of my strength. As I needed some pecuniary assistance to do this, having no money with me, Mrs. Mirvan kindly offered to supply my wants, and I was necessitated to accept of her offer. After considering for some time of a proper place to resort to on this occasion, I fixed on paying a visit to a female relation of my mother's, who lived at Braintree in Essex. The family of his relation being Quakers, there was little probability of their having heard of my disgrace. A few months before, a sister of Mrs.Clarke's, which was my cousin's name, had bequeathed me three three hundred pounds on condition that I never went on the stage; but my engagement at Covent-Garden having disanulled her legacy, it had never been claimed.

As soon as I was enabled by my kind hostess, to make proper preparation for my journey, I set out in the stage coach; taking care to observe the lesson, with regard to my dress, which her Grace of Queensberry had given me; that is, I had adopted Horace's maxim of simplex munditiis. This attention to the simplicity and neatness of my apparel [p. 78] answered a purpose I had not foreseen or designed; it so far deceived Mrs. Clarke, that she concluded I was one of her own sect, which procured me the more cordial reception. The whole family were so prejudiced in my favour by this unintended deception, that the best of every thing Clarke-Hall afforded was bestowed upon me with the greatest cheerfulness. I had not indeed dressed myself with the studied formality of a rigid Quaker, but only so plain and neat as to entitle me to the denomination of a wet Quaker; a distinction that arises chiefly from the latter's wearing ribbands, gauzes, and lace. I admire many of the principles of this apparently honest, sincere, and cleanly people; but have not many instances fallen within your observation, Madame, where a broad-brimmed hat and sad-coloured coat, or a green apron and plain linen, have covered a prouder heart than all the gay pomp of a birth-day suit? I think I have been able to make such a remark more than once.

My pallid countenance presenting a sure indication of my having been ill, and of the necessity there was for my coming into the country; this, added to the natural want of curiosity in my cousins, prevented me from being obliged to frame excuses for my visit. They luckily suposed I cam to claim my legacy, and received me with great good-will. [p. 79] The day after my arrival, they paid me the interest due on it, which enabled me to remit the friendly Mrs. Mirvan a part of what I stood indebted to her; and in a few days, without inquiring whether I had not forfeited it, they paid me the whole sum. I acknowledge that I made no scruple of receiving what they did not stand in need of, as they werr in very opulent cirumstanced, and had no children.

After the perturbations I had lately experienced, this sweet place appeared a paradise to me. Peace, plenty, contenet, and innocence, accompanied by cheerfulness, their sure attendant, seemed to have taken up their abode here, preferring this humble situation to the lofty domes and splendid cares of higher ranks. And here for some time I enjoyed perfect tranquillity.

Thus tranquil and happy, I will put an end to my letter, before any rude reverse breaks in to interrupt my felicity.

G. A. B.

  1. Robert Dodsley's 1782 tragic play, Cleone; Bellamy had become identified with this role by the time of her writing her autobiography.

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