An Apology for the Life of George Anne Bellamy

Letter XXV

April 17, 17--

[p. 167] Forgive the abrupt conclusion of my last. Every tender sensation was aroused, when the loss of such dear and [p. 168] valued friends became even by anticipation, the subject of my pen. The trickling tear would not be repelled. I will however now endeavour to proceed with more composure.

It being impossible for me to leave my mother in the situation she was reduced to by the late melancholy incident, I sent an apology to my respected patroness, informing her, at the same time, of the cause. From the many disagreeable circumstances whch had lately occurred, one upon another, my mind took as serious a turn as when I lived in retirement at the Farmer's at Ingatestone. I lost my vivacity, and delighted more in being alone than in company. To this, the frequent visits of Mr. Crump, who I now found courted me by proxy, made no little addition. His being always a constant attendant at my mother's parties rendered home disagreeable to me.

My mother endeavoured to find out the cause of a change so totally contrary to my natural disposition, but in vain. Having heard me speak warmly in praise of the outward attractions of Medlicote, she was apprehensive that the superficial qualifications of that empty man had captivated me. But when she reflected that she had as frequently heard me declare that I would not marry him, were he disengaged and offered me his hand; placing a confidence in that sincerity which had ever been my boast, her fears [p. 169] vanished relative to hm. What then could be the cause? for a cause there must be. This peplexed her. And as she was very disirous of seeing me married to Mr. Crump, preferring easy circumstances to happiness, she was anxious to find out and remove it.

Whilst I appeared in public, she was niether surprized nor displeased at seeing verses addressed to me from one dying swain or other; but my praise having been frequently resounded by an unknown Strephon, since the theater had been shut up, and I lived a more recluse life, her fears were excited by it. And layng aside the sorrow she had lately suffered for her deceased friend, substituted in its room anxiety for her living daughter. So suspicious now was she become of my having entered into some tender engagement without her consent, that even the strongest testimony of affection that I could give her, that of almost constantly staying at home with her, could not remove her apprehensions. It even added to them, as she considered such novel behaviour only as a contrivance to hear the oftener from this favoured admirer.

Upon my mother's intrusting Mr. Crump with her suspicions, she also took the alarm, and never rested till he had discovered the author of the verses which had been the cause of their fears, and, as they supposed, of the alteration of my temper.

[p. 170] In the neighbourhood of our residence lived a gentlewoman who was related to most of the Catholics of distinction in the kingdom of Ireland. She had married a Mr. Kendall, belonging to the Custom-House, by whom she had several children. Finding, however, her husband's income inadequate to the support of so large a family, she had, agreeable to the advice of her friends, set up a subscription card-assembly. Her daughters likewise employed themselves in making the linen of their relations, for which they were generally well paid.

As this assembly was kept in Britain-Street, which joined to Summer-Hill, where we resided; having been often invited to go to it, I one day sent my name down, and went the same evening. I had the honour of being personally known to most of the company. There was a young gentleman, however, whom I could not recollect that I had ever seen before, though, as I was afterwards informed, he had been my constant attendant and admirer at the theatres. His name was Jephson, and he was of Trinity-College. Whilst I sat at cards, this youth was rivetted to the back of my chair; and upon my getting up to go home, he requested leave to escort me.

When we reached my mother's, without having the least idea of giving her umbrage or room for censure, I asked him in, that I might have an opportunity of introducing him [p. 171] to her. I could not help observing, that she received him with unusual formality and reserve. As soon as he was gone, my mother asked me how long I had been acquainted with Mr. Jephson? I told her, with a composure that staggered her, that to the best of my knowledge I had not seen him till that night. Not satisfied with that declaration, she desired that I would give her my honour to what I had said. To which I replied, with an insolence that stabs me to the heart as I repeat it, "I will never given my honour, Madame, to any one who dares to dispute my word."

I had no sooner uttered the word dares, than the impropriety of it immediately struck me. And every time the conversation occurs to my memory, I feel an inexpressible pang at my having presumed to make use of it to a parent. -- Remorse and disquietude ought to be the portion of al lthose who lose sight of the duty they owe to their parents. -- Honour thy father and mother -- how strong the injunction! -- and how pleasing the reward -- that thy days may be long, &c. Next to the reverence due from us to the universal Parent of mankind, stands the duty we owe our earthly parents; one is equally as obligatory as the other. Thank Heaven! it was only in this instance, and this was not from the heart, that I ever knowingly offended the author of my birth. I twas my misfortune to be tenacious to a degree, relative to the [p. 172] attribute I so much valued myelf on, sincerity; and whatever seemed to reflect on that, gave me offence. I was conscious of my petulance (to call it by no harsher name) the moment it escaped me; yet, reluctant to acknowledge my error, or to submit, as I ought to have done, I ordered the horses to be put to, before my mother was up, and set off to join my beloved friends.

Alarmed at my perseverance, and knowing my temper was to be moulded to her own wishes by gentle means, but, if controuled, that it would run retrograde, even to the extreme of obstinacy, she sent a messeneger to me with a letter the next day. In it she requested that I would excuse what she said the day before, it being the result of her apprehensions for my welfare, as she had been informed that Mr. Jephson, the young gentleman who had seen me home, was the enamorato who had sung my praises so frequently of late. To which she added, that the unusual reserve and gloom which had for some time clouded my brow, seemed to confirm her suspicions; which is well founded, as she hoped they were not, must prove destructive to my happiness, he being entirely dependent on his relations, and had it not in his power to provide for me as she could wish.

My mother's condescension affected me the more, as I was by this time, from the reflections whch I had leisure to indulge, truly [p. 173] sensible that I had been to blame; and the more so, from her dependent situation on me, which ought to have made me more circumspect in my duty towards her, and the more careful of giving her offence. There is a delicacy in this point, of which unthinking and vulgar minds are not susceptible; but it weighs much with every well-bred person, and all such as have just idea of propriety of conduct. I wrote her consequentlly a submissive answer, and informed her that I would return the next day. But an express arriving with an account that Lord Lansborough a near relation of Colonel Butler's, was dangerously ill, we all returned to Dublin the same evening.

I was not displeased at being obliged to return so soon, as I was miserable till I made an atonement to my mother for my undutiful behaviour. She received me with that pleasure which is ever united with real affection, and I never spent an evening with more satisfaction. Being thus reconciled to each other, and that confidence whcih had hitherto subsisted between us being restored, she desired me to inform her, without any reserve, of the cause of my late thoughtfulness. I acquainted her, with truth, that it solely arose from the precariousness of my present situation, which every day became more and more disagreeable to me. I then recapitulated the following circumstances:

[p. 174] In the first place I was apprehensive that as soon as the theatre was opened again Mr. Sheridan would appear in the characters of Antony, Romeo, &c. and from playing with a person so disqualified by nature for such parrts, I too much feared I should lose in some measure the reputation I had gained. -- In the next place, the declining health of my worthy and much-loved Mrs. Butler gave me great uneasiness. And as she proposed going to Spa for her recovery, and after that to the South of France, it would be a very very long time before I had the happiness to see her again, if ever I did. -- To these causes of sorrow may be added the loss of Miss St. Leger's company. A friend for whom I had the tenderest regard, and who had staid but a short month in Dublin. Mrs. O'Hara was likewise confined to her room, by which I was deprved of being with her so much as duty and affection prompted. -- The last, but not the least reason of my disquiet, was my apparent ingratitude to Mr. Quin. My leaving England without consulting him on the engagement I was about to enter into, or even without taking leave of him, often struck me forcibly, and gave me many a pang. A false modesty, I now preceived, had made me avoid that dear man. Instead of considering him as my Mentor, and unbosoming myself to him upon every occasion that required the counsel of experience and probity, I left the country in which [p. 175] he resided. From him should I have always been sure of meeting with relief, compassion, and comfort. My regard for him was truly filial. Whilst I loved him, I dreaded his frowns more than any misfortune which could befall me. But bashfulness conquered affection. -- With sincerity and truth thus did I unfold to my mother the causes of that alteration in my demeanour, which she could not account for. As there is a confidence attending innate rectitude that commands belief, she readily gave credit to my assertions, and was convinced of the propriety of my feelings.

My vanity prompts me to conclud this letter with some lines, my Inamorato Mr. Jephson wrote upon me in the character of Belvidera1.

"Hail child of Nature, and the pride of Art!
"Equally form'd to glad and pain the heart.
"Thro' various passions you accomplish'd           shine,
"Your looks expressive speak the coming           line.
"Ador'd whle living, with applause you die;
"Each judge beholds you with a Jaffier's eye.

  1. The heroine of Thomas Otway's tragic Venice Preserved. Bellamy was already identified as a tragic actress.

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