An Apology for the Life of George Anne Bellamy

Letter XXVII

April 29, 17--

[p. 184] I could not leave a kingdom where I had met with so favourable a reception in public; where I had received so many civilities from persons of the highest rank; and where I was honoured with the friendship of some of the most amiable of my own sex; without yielding to the whispers of gratitude, and returning back one, tributary sigh. But such a variety of circumstances having rendered a longer abode in Ireland disagreeable, I own it was not without great satisfaction, that I found myself once more in England.

[p. 185] Upon our arrival in London my mother wrote to Mr. Garrick, informing him of it. Happening to be in town, he immediately sent to us, requesting we would dine with him that day. He had at that time apartments in King-Street, Covent-Garden, and we had hired lodgings in Southampton-Street. He received us with that cheerfulness and civility which constituted a part of his character. During our visit we laughed over many incidents which had happened whilst were together in Ireland; particularly, the consequential present he had received from my dear friend Mrs. Butler. And he much regretted, that it was not in his power, from the present situation of his company, to admit me into it; Mrs. Cibber, Mrs. Clive, and Mrs. Pritchard, engrossing all the principal characters. At parting he requested, that nothing might interrupt the harmony which then subsisted between us. As I had not then heard of the declaration he had made, relative to his never engaging me upon any terms, as before mentioned, I promised to continue on a friendly footing with him.

I inquired after my valued friend Mr. Quin, and was informed that he was at Bath, to which place he usually retired during the recess. As soon as Mr. Rich heard of our return, he sent Mr. Bencraft, a performer for whom he had a particular friendship, and who therefore resided with him, to give us [p. 186] an invitation to pay him a visit at Cowley, where he then was. As I was very desirous to see the sweet spot, of the beauties of which I had heard so much talk, I did not hesitate, for my own part, to become his guest; but was prevented, for the present, by an engagement of my mother's.

This place, which was the summer residence of Mr. Rich, and to which he was making very considerable improvements, formerly belonged to the well known Mrs. Montford, now Mrs. Vanbruggen, wife to the promising actor of that name, who was unfortunately murdered as he was escorting the celebrated Mrs. Bracegirdle home from the theatre. On Mrs. Montford was the justly celebrated and well-known ballad of Black-eyed Susan written by Mr. Gay. Lord Berkeley's partiality for this lady induced him to leave her at his decease three hundred pounds a year, on condition that she never married. His Lordship likewise purchased Cowley for her, and she besides received from him, at times, very considerable sums. After this she fell in love with that very capital actor, Mr. Booth, but the desire of retaining her annuity prevented her from being joined in the bands of wedlock with the lover, whom she preferred to numbers that were candidates for her favour. This consideration obstructing, the union could not take place, and Mr. Booth soon found another mate.

[p. 187] Mrs. Vanbruggen had contracted an intimacy with Miss Santlow, a lady celebrated as a dancer, and esteemed a tolerable actress. She was the declared favourite of Secretary Craggs, through whose liberality she became possessed of a fortune sufficient to enable her to live independent of the stage. What Mrs. Vanbruggen could not effect, Miss Santlow did. Mr Booth, transferring his attention from the former to the latter, soon obtained possession both of her person and fortune. Mrs Vanbruggen no sooner heard of the perfidy of her lover, and the ingratitude of her friend, than she gave way to a desperation that deprived her of her senses. In this situation she was brought from Cowley to London, that the best advice might be procured for her.

As during the most violent paroxysms of her disorder she was not outrageous, and now and then a ray of reason beamed through the cloud that overshadowed her intellects, she was not placed under any rigourous confinement, but suffered to go about the house. One day, during a lucid interval, she asked her attendant what play was to be performed that evening? and was told, that it was Hamlet. In this piece, whilst she had been on the stage, she had always met with great applause in the character of Ophelia. The recollection stuck her; and with that cunning which is usually allied to insanity, she found means to elude the care of her servants, and got to theatre; [p. 188] where concealing herself till the scene in which Ophelia was to make her appearance in her insane state, she pushed on the stage before her rival, who played the character that night, and exhibited a far more perfect representation of madness than the utmost exertions of mimic art could do. She was in truth, Ophelia herself, to the amazement of the performers, as well as of the audience. Nature having made this last effort, her vital powers failed her. On her going off, she prophetically exclaimed, "It is all over!" -- And, indeed, that was soon the case, for as she was conveying home (to make use of the concluding lines of another sweet ballad of Gay's wherein her fate is so truly described) "She was like a lily drooping, then bowed her head and died.*."

I heard the foregoing incident related by Colley Ciber, at Lord Tyrawley's, during our residence at Bushy, to which place he frequently came. But I have not repeated it in a manner that pleases me. My language will not reach my conceptions, nor my conceptions my sensibility. -- Oh for the pen of a Sterne to retouch it!1. -- But it cannot be -- I must therefore be content to jogg on in the humble line I have hitherto done.

[p. 189] I need not add, that such a moving catastrophe must naturally affect a mind so susceptible of the tender passions as mine, and make me wish to see the residence of the fair Unfortunate, whenever an opportunity offered. My mother, however, having another engagement upon her hands, I was obliged to suppress my curiosity till the later end of the summer.

A nephew of her's, a Mr. Crawford, an attorney, had lately married the widow Silvester, who was possessed of a very large fortune. From him she received a pressing invitation to pass some time with them at Watford, in Hertfordshire. As this was near the abode of my dear Miss St. Leger, who resided with her uncle, Lord Doneraile, at the Grove, near Cashioberry-Park, the seat of the Earl of Essex, I more readily agreed to attend my mother, and postpone the acceptance of Mr. Rich's invitation.

It will be here necessary to give a description of my cousin Crawford, as I shall too often have occasion to introduce him in the subsequent pages. He was a short fat man, as to his stature, with a tolerable good face. So much for his person. As to his his mind, it was not more correspondent to the rules of beauty. He was endowed with great cunning, vainly fond of being esteem a wit, and praised to a degree. His mother was that step-sister of my mother, who, as I have before related, lived with Mrs. Godfrey, and through the munificence of that [p. 190] lady had accumulated a considerable fortune. This induced Mr. Crawford, an eminent attorney, in partnership with Mr. Greenhill of the Temple, to solicit her hand in marriage, which she gave him. It was not long, however, before she was left a widow with his son, about three years of age, and a very considerable addition to her fortune. 2 His cara sposa whom he had married for her fortune, notwithstanding he had a very considerable on of his own, was old enough to be his mother. Nature had not been very liberal to her, either in the charrmes of her person or mind. And even that little understanding she was blessed with was totally clouded by [p. 191] a stupefaction arising from I will not say what. Whatever it was, her husband took care that it should not fail of a supply, to prevent certain remonstrances, usually termed curtain lectures, which were the consequence of his own frailties.

With person of this cast, to be obliged to associate for six weeks or two months, agreable to a promise made by my mother, you may be asusred was not a little mortifying to your humble servant .And it would have been much mnore so, had it not been for the frequent visits I made to the Grove, and the walks I took in the delightful park belonging to the Earl of Essex, which lay continuous to my cousin's hosue. To Miss St. Leger was I likewise indebted for another source of comfort and amusement, who lent me books from Lorrd Doneraile's library.

Mr. Crawford's table was well served; to which, as he kept a pack of fox-hounds and a good stud of hunters for the use of himself and friends, there was usually no want of country gentlemen who delighted in that sport. From things being thus situated, it was not to be supposed that, with my tastes for reading and other kind of company, I staid much at home; especially as it was soon rendered more disagreeagle by the addition of a son and heir to this worthy family, who came to inherit his father's virtues, and his mother's great qualifications. The attention of my good [p. 192] parent being totally engaged by her amiable niece, and the new relation she had just presented her with, her nephew took this opportunity to set out for London, to regale himself with his friends the sheriffs officers, and ladies of easy virtue.

One day, as I sat reading Dryden's Virgil, on a bench in Lord Essex's park, an old gentleman came and seated himself by me. After sitting a little while, he asked me the subject of my studies? Upon my telling him, he seemed to be surprised that a girl of my age should have either taste or erudition enough to understand works of that kind. Piqued at this supposition, I undertook to vindicate my sex from the want of knowledge in literature generally imputed to them. I told him there would not be the least room for such a reflection, did not the lords of the creation take care that we should not eclipse them in this respect. The old gentleman then said, "As that is your opinion, I suppose you would have a female parliament." To which I replied, "I do not know that the present is much better, for I do not hear of any thing that is done among them, but scolding like old women."

This threw my new companion into a violent fit of laughter, from which when he was recovered, he was pleased to say, "that if ever he should have a daughter, he [p. 193] hoped it would be just such a one as me." Then pulling out his watch he continued, "I am sorry to leave you, Miss, but I must go to dinner, which I do not think I shall like, as the relation I am come to see is gone to London, and the good woman in the straw." Concluding from these circumstances that the old gentleman was come to see my cousin, I informed him that I was upon a visit at the same house; and as it was near three o'clock, I got up, when he did, to return home.

As we walked along together, he asked me some questions relative to the character and circumstances of Mr. Crawford. I candidly imparted to him, my sentiments on the subject; and though I was then unacquainted with my relation's want of principle, I could observe that the character I gave him did not seem to make a very favourable impression on my companion. Just as we arrived at the door, he desired I would inform Mrs. Crawford, that Mr. Sykes would be glad to wish her joy of her son. On hearing the name of Sykes, I could not have been more terrified had his brother-in-law, Captain Bellamy, my mother's husband, unshrouded himself, and stood before me. I was just composed enough to stammer out, "I will, Sir;" and then I hastily entered the house.

Having informed Mrs. Crawford of the name of her visitor, as he had requested, I [p. 194] ran to acquaint my mother with it also; who was as much alarmed as myself. But as it had dropped in the course of conversation that he was to return to London, upon some very particular business, the next morning, we thought it most prudent for her not to appear during that day. And this was no injudicious determination; as I found the old gentleman did not seem to have the most favourable opinion of our sex, and if provoked, as he probably might have been with her, would not have stopped short of brutality. Had therefore my mother fallen in his way he might have revenged, in too rough a manner, her imposition on his brother-in-law, Captain Bellamy.

As it was now too late to expect the master of the family home that day, I endeavoured to entertain my companion as well as I could during the evening. I could not help thinking that he seemed to eye me at times with a glance of pity and suspicion. The sequel will verify the observation of Shakespere, "That the thief suspects each bush an officer." He however, upon the whole, appeared to be pleased with my company, and when we separated paid me many compliments; and that with a plain sincerity, which greatly flattered me. He set off early in the morning. But in the evening, when he made his bow (to use a theatrical expression) he left me a token of his generosity, [p. 195] opulence, and liberality, for the little gentleman who had just entered upon the stage of life, with a desire that I would stand godmother.

I fear this narrative part of my history will not prove entertaining to yuou; but as many other circumstances, yet to be related, are dependent upon it, I find it necessary to insert these. I will, however, cut it as short as possible.

G. A. B.

*The reason Colley Cibber has taken on notice of so remarkable a circumstance in his Apology, must be owing to his friendship for Mrs. Booth, whos was alive when he wrote it. (Bellamy's note).

  1. Bellamy refers to Laurence Sterne's famous gift for pathos; she probably alludes to both Tristram Shandy and A Sentimental Journey.
  2. Jonathan Wilde was a famous crook and the villain-hero of a novel by Henry Fielding (1707-1754).

Contact Ellen Moody.
Pagemaster: Jim Moody.
Page Last Updated 22 May 2007