An Apology for the Life of George Anne Bellamy

Letter XV

Feb. 8, 17--.

[p. 87] I rose early the next morning, with an intention of going to Ingatestone, at which place lived a young lady, who during a visit at my cousin's had favoured me with a pressing invitation to spend some time with her. Both my relations made use of their utmost persuasions to prevail upon me to stay with them longer; but when they found me resolute, they permitted me to go. Mrs Clarke, however, insisted upon my accepting some presents. Among these was "Barclay's Apology,"1 which some years after proved of the most essential service to me. I left Clarke-Hall about nine o'clock in my cousin's chaise, and upon my arrival at Ingatestone, found to my great disappointment, that Miss White, which was the young lady's name, and all her family, were gone to London, to be present at the yearly meeting of their sect. Upon this I ordered the servant to drive to the best inn; after whch I discharged him, and sent him home.

Whilst my dinner was getting ready, I sauntered to the end of the town; and being [p. 88] struck with the prospect that appeared before me, I ascended a hill at some distance, in order to have the more extensive view. It is not in the power of language to do jusice to the picture which here presented itself, although but an inland country. At the bottom of the hill on which I stood, there was a farm-house, surrounded with fields, that spoke the industry, as well as opulence of the owner; for I have observed that small farms, occupied by indigent people, are seldom kept in that order and neatness whch large ones are.

After gratifying my sight with this rural scene for some time, I thought it proper to return. Before I hsd got far, I observed something gliding towards me which appaered to be shining; and what should it be but a serpent, which my fear magnified to an enormous size. I ran to avoid it, and in my fright leaped over a stile; which I had no sooner done, than a boy, who stood near it, desired I would not proceed, as there was a very vicious bull in the adjacent pasture. Thus situated between Scylla and Charybdis, I knew not which to run the risk of, the beast or the reptile. But the boy assuring me the serpent should not hurt me as he had a good stick, and would defend me from it, I chose the lesser evil of the two, and was escorted my by my rustic champion over the next field. My knight, howevey, had not so [p. 89] much of the true spirit of chivalry in him, as to refuse a gratification for his services; and he returned as well pleased with a sixpence I bestowd upon him, as ever knight errant did with a scarf received from the hands of his fair mistress at a tournament, or the thanks of a distressed damsel whom he had released from the hands of her ravisher.

As I walked the remainder of the way towards the town, the thought beeing probably inspired by the sight of the serpent, I could not help imagining my situation similar to that of our first parent Eve, on her expulsion from Paradise; wandering forlorn, without friends, or even a place of abode, and Providence alone my guide. Nay worse did I fancy my lot to be; as our great mother had a companion to cheer the tedious way, and partake of her future fortune; one who loved her so well, as voluntarily to forget his blissful state, to accompany her in her exile, and combat unknown evils. Whilst my side was left all unguarded.

My mind was so totally occupied with these gloomy thoughts that I should have prolonged my walk till the declining sun had warned me to return, had I not been apprehensive of meeting more vicious bulls and enomous serpents. Urged therefore, rather by fear than appetite, I re-entered the gate of the inn; and my landlady appearing to be a decent [p. 90] woman, and very communicative, as I wished to seek out an eligible residence in the town or neighbourhood, I requested the pleasure of her company to dine with me.

During our dinner she informed me that Lord Petre had a noble house and estate adjoining to that town; adding that his Lordship's family was one of the worthiest in the world, although they were Roman-Catholics. I could not help smiling at this reservation; which she observing, begged my pardon; saying "I fear, Madam, you are one." I replied, "I am indeed an unworthy one." As I spoke, the starting tear glistened in my eye, at the recollection of my remissness in the duties of the religion I professed. I however smothered the upbraidings of my mind, and inquired who lived at the farm-house, which was so pleasantly situated at some distance from the town. She informed me that it belonged to a rich farmer, but they were Papishes. I then desired she woull instruct me in the distinction between Roman-Catholics and Papishes, as she termed them. "Lord, Miss," answered she, "sure you know the difference between a Hind and a Lord?" At any other time, the woman's curious explanation would have afforded me some diversion; but at present my mind was too much engrossed by the wish to obtain admission into the farm I had [p. 91] seen, to take that notice of her supposed wit she expected me to do.

I then informed her, that as I had come to Ingatestone upon a visit to Miss White, and should be very much disappointed to return without having seen her, I should be greatly obliged to her, if she could prevail on the farmer to board and lodge me till that young lady came back from London. "That's impossible," returned my hostess, "for I find you are a Quaker istead of a Catholic." I assured her again that I was of that persuasion, and would soon convince the farmer's family that I was so. A messenger was now dispatched to make inquiry whether my proposal would be agreeable; with whom Mrs. Williams, the farmer's wife returned; and the good woman being as much pleased with me as I as with her, we soon came to an agreement.

In the evening I went to my new place of abode; where the first person I saw was my little champion, who ran to salute me. I was then introduced to all the family, which consisted of the farmer, his wife, two sons, one of whom was a widower with two children, the other a bachelor, and several domestics. This was the state of the family I was now become a member of; a family of industry and true happiness. At ngiht I was shown into a neat bed-chamber, which had been fitted up by the late Mrs. Williams, the [p. 92] widower's wife, in a superior style to any other part of the house, for her own use, and which I found stored with books, I should not have expected to meet with in such a residence. This circumstance gave me infinite pleasure, as my passion for reading was rather increased than relaxed, by my being debarred that enjoyment at Clarke-Hall. Morning and evening, Mr. Williams read prayers to the whole familiy, not a cow-boy being excused from attending. At our meals a cheerfulness sat on every counteance, except that of the widower, who seemed to retain a decent sorrow for his late lost partner. Mrs Williams appeared to pay greater attention to this son than to the other; not, as she said, from her having more affection for him, but because his situation had claim which the other, who was unthinkingly happy had not. My kind host gained admittance for me on Sundays and holidays, into Lord Petre's chapel. And in my present peaceful residence, partly owing to this circumstance, I felt a tranquillity which I had never enjoyed since my return from my ever-regretted convent.

From many instances in my letters, particularly from the whole of this, you see that I have attended to your injunctions of relating the minutest circumstances of my life. The minutiae, you say, lead to the elucidation of greater events. I have, therefore, [p. 93] though they may be considered as frivolous by the public, when they are laid before them, and sometimes prove tedious to you, obeyed your commands, at the expence, perhaps of my literary fame. Having made this observation, I will bid you, for the present, adieu!

G. A. B.

  1. Barclay's Apology, is a defense and exposition of the principles of Quakerism by Robert Barclay (1648-1690) in 1676. Barclay wrote it in Latin and almost immediately translated it into English.

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