An Apology for the Life of George Anne Bellamy

Letter XVI

Feb. 13, 17--.

[p. 93] During my stay at this retired abode, I often wrote to my mother, but never could obtain an answer. I was the more surprised at this, as Mr. Moore had informed my cousin Clarke, that it was generally believed that I was innocent of any acquiescence in my elopement. After having resided in this tranquil place for some weeks, I one evening took a walk to the field where the serpent had alarmed me, in order to enjoy once more the prospect that had then so delighted me. Upon this eminence there was a large tree, under the spreading boughs of which seats were placed for the accommodation of those who came to enjoy the view; and on one of these I placed myself. Having tired the eye; and satisfied the curiosity, I had recourse to a book which I had brought with me, to prolong my indulgence [p. 94] on this sweet spot. The book which I had put in my pocket, happened to be Mrs Rowe's Letters from the Dead to the Living1; in which I read, till the subject had thrown a gloom over my mind. I arose to return home; when presently I thought I saw my mother's apparition making towards me. Her figure was so remarkable, and so strongly was the impression of her beloved form imprinted on my memory, that I could not be deceived. I immediately conjectured that her silence had been occasioned by her death; and, heated as my imagination was, by the subject I had just been reading, concluded she was come to upbraid me with being the occasion of it. The supposition that I had been the fatal, though innocent, cause of her dissolution, so overwhelmed my spirits, that I fell senseless on the flowery carpet of nature. But what transports did I feel, to find myself, on my recovery, really clasped in her arms! It was she herself. "Happy, happy hour!" I cried, enraptured, "do I once more receive the endearments of a parent!" The voice of forgiveness could not have been more acceptable to me, had I really been culpable.

As soon as my perturbations at this unexpected happiness were a little subsided, I inquired of my mother, what had occasioned the alteration in her sentiments that I now experienced. She informed me that her [p. 95] relation, who had provide such an invetereate enemy to me, was lately dead; and that after her decease, they discovered that she had secreted everr one of my letters, the whole being found among her papers. My mother acknowledged that my silence had greatly exasperated Mrs. Jackson and herself against me, but still she could not help severely reproaching herself at times, for discarding a young creature like me, without having been well assured of my guilt. Had she but reflected a moment, she said, upon the circumstances, attending my elopement, she must have been convinced of my innocence; for if I had been accessary to it, I should have taken my little wardrobe and other necessaries with me, as well as the profits arising from my benefits; which I had insisted on her keeping in her possession. Every circumstance now, she confessed, appeared in a different light, and pleaded as much in my behalf, as they had before, when viewed through a false medium, seemed to condemn me. "Being thus," continued my mother, "from the discovery of my relation's treacherous conduct, and the tesitmony of concurrent circumstances, perfectly convinced of your innocence, and having likewise now obtained your address, I hastened on the wings of maternal affection, to atone for my unkind and inconsiderate behaviour. Finding you from [p 95] home on my arrival at the farm,and Ms. Williams pointing out the way you had taken, my impatience would not suffer me to wait your return."

After thanking my mother again and again, for this renewal of her tenderness, and having given her a just and true account of every thing which had befallen me since last I saw her, I could not help blaming her for suspecting me, even for a moment, of deceit. Sincerity I told her I valued myself upon. She hads been an inmate of my bosom from the first hour that knoweldge had darted her beams on my infant mind. That she had blessed me through life with her loved society; and notwithstanding her friendship had often cost me dear, yet I trusted she would attend me to the grave.

Having thus eased our labouring hearts of the burthen which had sat heavy on us both for so long at ime, we walked towards the farm. As we went along, I thanked, in many a silent ejaculation, that Being who had brought about this pleasing revolution in my affairs; and that by such unexpected means. "The ways of Heaven indeed," said I, in a mental exclamation, "are dark and intricate. Puzzled with mazes, and perpelxed with errors, our understanding graces them in vain; nor sees with how much art the windings run, nor where the regular confusion ends."

It was with concern I heard from my mother that my good friend Mrs. Jackson, who had been for some time a widow, had married again, very indiscreetly, to an Irish gentleman of the law, by name Kelly; and that she was preparing to accompany him to Ireland. As my attachment to that lady was founded both on affection and gratitude, the intelligence I had just received imbittered in some degree my newly-revived happiness. But as my mother's tenderness was now as excessive as her rensentment had been vehement; this, joined to tte natural vivacity of my disposition, soon restored my spirits to their usual hilarity.

My mother having brought me apparel suited to the season, vanity, which, notwithstanding all my mortifications, was still alive in my heart, impelled me to appear, the following Sunday, in a gayer dress than I had done since I had been here. It is true I had never lost sight of that plain neatness which I had adopted upon coming into the country; but the addition of some very fine laces given me by Mrs. Jackson, and the being accoutred, upon the whole, more fashionably, excited enquiries which till now had never existed. Whilst I was the neat, simple, silent, inoffensive girl, I passed uncensured; and the good people with whom I resided shewed me every respect, and doated upon me. But when, encouraged by the stranger [p. 98] who had come from London, I appeared the gay, sprightly, well-dressed fine lady, they viewed me with pity mixed with contempt. From the behaviour of these rustics may probably be acquired a surer criterion of the garb and demeanour that betokens simplicity of manners, and innocence of heart, than from all the scientific rules of philosophy, or the moral precepts of divines.

Had I duly profited by this incident, which I ought to have considered as well-meant reporoof, I should have been content with a humble line of life. But the happiness attendant on simlpicity and innocence, was not to be my lot. Pride prompted me to believe, that it was my indispensable duty to support my parent in a genteeler style than her pension would admit of; and no other method presented itself for doing this, than returning to my theatrical profession. This consequently I concluded on.

I had no sooner formed the resolution of treading the stage once more, than the calm retreat I had lately been so fond of, grew irksome to me. -- Rural walks, moss-grown seats, spreading trees, books, and contemplation, lost their charms -- The prospects I had so often viewed with rapture and delight, were no longer pleasing to my eye. -- The stillness of a country life palled upon my imagination. -- The wholesome viands, the nut-brown ale, the fresh-gathered fruits, [p. 99] the hearty welcome, the cheerful gibe, and all the pleasures of a rustic table, were now distasteful to me. -- I welcomed in idea, all the gay scenes into which I was about to enter, together with their inseparable concomitants, noise, riot, dissipation, folly, and pain.

G. A. B.

  1. Friendship in Death: In Twenty Letters from the Dead to the Living. To which are added, Letters Moral and Entertaining, In Prose and Verse. In Three Parts (London, 1728)., belonging to the "graveyard" school of literature in the early 18th century and anticipating many of the motives of the later cult of sensibility was written by Elizabeth Rowe (1674-1737), eighteenth century poet and essayist. See Henry Steckner, Elizabeth Singer Rowe, the Poetess of Frome: A Study in 18th Century English Pietism (Bern: Peter Lang, 1973); Madelyn Forell Marshall, ed. introd. The Poetry of Elizabeth Singer Rowe (1674-1737) (Lewiston, Ontario: Edwin Meller Press, 1987).

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