An Apology for the Life of George Anne Bellamy


May 4, 17--

[p. 195] When my fat cousin returned, he brought with him a train of jolly companions to hunt the next day. As soon as I fell in his way, he accosted me with saying "Well, Miss! I have blown you. The codger was very inquisitive, when I met him; yet, notwithstanding, he likes you. But" -- Here I stopped him, as I was apprehensive of a stroke of what he termed wit, at the expence of my mother. She luckily was not present, or most certainly she would not have kept within the bounds of good manners, had her nephew popped out what was upon his tongue. In a short time he resumed the conversation; telling me he [p. 196] was sorry that old Square-toes was obliged, by the failure of a house at Antwerp, to go out of town immediately; "otherwise, who knows," said he, "but that by the help of your tongue and my cellar, we may have taken him in!"

A blush threw its crimson veil over my face as he said this. Upon observing which, he recollected himself, and thus continued: "Hay, don't blush, I only meant that we would have tried to get him to make a will in our favour." I dwell the longer on this conversation, which I give verbatim, as it will furnish you with some insight into the character of my upright cousin, and prepare your mind for an event which happened some years after. Though I had taken a dislike to my relation as a man, yet he might be, for aught I know, what is usually denominated a good attorney. The meaning of which I take to be, that he kept within the limits of the law, and was as honest as his profession would allow him to be. As this does not require any great delicacy of sentiment, and I consider people as accountable for no more than they know, I contented myself with despising him in silence.

I never wish to cast undue reflections on any profession, but it seems to be the general opinion, that there are, comparatively, very few men of real integrity in that branch of law. The axiom "That what ever one [p. 197] says must be true," is founded on reason and experience. I have been convinced of the truth of it, in this point, to my cost. Whether this propensity to dishonesty arises from the opportunities which so freqently present themselves in the practice of the law, and tempt the professors to avail themselves of them; or whether a turn of mind to take advantage both of friend and foe, of client as well as opponent, be imbibed by the very study of it, I will not pretend to determine. But so it is; to the sorrow and cost of miliions.

As I much wished to be at Mr. Rich's, where I should have the pleasure of the company of my former intimates, his daughters; company far more agreeable to me than what I now enjoyed; I prevailed on my mother to shorten her visit. At length the wished-for day arrived. Mr. Rich sent his carriage, and we soon found ourselves at Cowley. Here we were received with the greatest cordiality by the master of the family, and with unfeigned joy by the younger part of it; but with formality and reserve by the mistress of the house. This lady, having been converted to Methodism, now thought of nothing but praying and accumulating wealth for herself and her spouse. For those good people seldom neglect that grand concern, however they may [p. 198] censure such worldly wisdom in the unconverted.

Upon the death of his first wife Mr. Rich had married this lady. Her name before that event took place was Mrs. Stevens. She had formerly been bar-maid at Bret's Coffee-House, was afterwards an actress, but had been several years his housekeeper. She was at ttat time in a very mediocre situation in the theatre. She had been the intimate firend of Miss Nassau, who succeeded Miss Fenton, afterward Dutchess of Bolton, in Gay's Polly Peachum1. By her advice, as I have been informed, Miss Nassau put herself under the protection of the late earl of Orford, son of the famed Sir Robert Walpole. By the further management of Mrs. Rich, a match was brought about between a brother of her's, whose name was Wilford , and a sister of that lady's. This was insuring Mr. Wilfrod a fortune, as Lord Orford was at that time Auditor of he Exchequer, and had numberless places in his gift. Mr. Wilford was accordingly provided for; and was upon a visit with his wife, at Cowley, when we arrived there.

We likewise found there Mrs. Ward from the theatre at Edinburgh, whom Mr. Rich had engaged for the ensuing season. She was accompanied by a frightful being, to whom she gave the title of husband. This [p. 199] lady had one of the most beautiful faces I ever beheld. But her figure was vulgar to a degree. By the stoop and magnitude of her shoulder, it might be imagined that she had formerly carried milk-pails. Her beauty would have been much more conspicuous in that line, or with a chain and knife fastened to her apron-string, than in the character of a queen or young princess. Yet, notwithstanding this dissimilitude of appearance, and being pregnant into the bargain, it was determined that she should debute in Cordelia, the youngest daughter of King Lear.

In conversation with Mr. Rich upon an engagement with me, my mother informed him of the terms offered me by Mr. Garrick, through Mr. Delany, the season before last; and as he made no objection to the salary, she concluded that his intention was to give me the same sum. When we returned to town the manager informed me that he intended Mrs. Ward should make her appearance as soon as possible, her pregnancy rendering such a step necesssary; and that he considered me as a happy corps de reserve. Mrs. Woffington, highly offended at her quondam admirer, Mr. Garrick's chusing ratther to appear with Mrs. Pritchard than with her, had engaged herself with Mr. Rich; and was to pen the campaign with her capital [p. 200] part, that of Sir Harry Wildair.2 -- Theatrical revolutions are as frequent, and owe their rise to the same principles, as those in the political world. -- Pique, resentment, ambition, or interest, which ever motive happens to preponderate, brings them about. And the arrangement lasts in both as long as convenience suits.

G. A. B.


  1. For the first performance of Gay's Beggar's Opera and Lavinia Fenton's role in it, see The First Production. Lavinia Fenton (1708-1760) lived for a long while with Charles Paulet, 3rd Duke of Bolton; he married her after his wife's death.
  2. Sir Harry Wildair was the hero of George Farquhar's (1677-1707) The Constant Couple, a comic breeches part.

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