An Apology for the Life of George Anne Bellamy

Letter IV.

London, October 2, 17--.

[p. 22] I was born on St. George's day, 1733, some months too soon for Captain Bellamy to claim any degree of consanguinity with me. As soon as Lord Tyrawley had [p. 23] gained intelligence, after my mother's departure from Lisbon, of the place ofher destination; he wrote to his adjutant, Captin Pye, who resided near Fingal, the town where she had settled, to request, if she should prove pregnant in time to conclude it was the effect of her visit to his lordshipo, that his lady would take the infant under her care as soon as it was born, without suffering my mother, if possible, to see it. This severe injunction of his lordship proceeded from his entertaining a belief, that her sudden retreat from Lisbon was not in consequence of her having formed an honourable connection with Captain Bellamy, but through the natural depravity of her passions, and the fickleness of her disposition. I was, therefore, agreeable to his Lordship's directions, taken from my mother soon after my birth, and put under the care of a nurse, with whom I continued till I was two years old. At that time the regiment returning to barracks in Dublin, Mrs. Pye, whose kindness I shall never forget, and whose memory I shall ever revere, took me from the nurse, and carried me with her.

Here, Madam, I must beg leave to entertain you with an anecdote of my nurse, which exhibits such a proof of the attachment and fidelity of the lower class of the Irish, as does them infinite honour. It [p. 24] never occurs to my mind, but it excites the tenderest sensations; and I should deem myself ungrateful in the extreme, were I not always to mention her name with respect.

It happened that the summer in the midst of which I was taken from the care of my foster-mother, was uncommonly hot. Notwithstanding this, so excessive was the good woman's affection for me, that she walked every day from the village in which she lived, to the barracks, which were three miles distant, and with a child sucking at her breast. The intense heat, united with the affliction she felt at my being taken from her, had such an effect upon her constitution, that it brought on an inflammatory fever, which put an end to her life. It is a custom in many parts of Ireland, to convey the remains of the dead to those for whom, whilst living, they appeared to have the sincerest regard; and the custom was not neglected upon the decease of my worthy nurses. Captain Pye's servants having risen one morning, upon some occasion or other, earlier than usual, and left the street door open; as I lay in bed, I heard my foster-father's voice audbily uttering what is vulgarly called the Irish howl. Ah! why did you die? with all its plaintive eloquence, distinctly reached my ear. Alarmed at the well-known sound, I hastily leaped out of bed, and ran almost naked into the street; [p. 25] where, to my great grief, even at that early age, I found the lamentation now become universal around the body of my poor nurse, whose affection for me had cost her her life -- Why, O thou great Disposer of events! why was I born to be the cause of unhappiness, and even death to those who really loved me; whilst thy inscrutable decrees have made me subservient to those, whose vows "were false as dicer's oaths," and whose views were only the promotion of their own pleasure or interest?

When I had nearly obtained the age of four years, Captain Pye receved directions from Lord Tyrawley to send me to France for education. His Lordship had been intimate with the unfortunate Colonel Frazer in his youthful days. And though their political principles were diametrically opposite, humanity induced him to make some provision for the Coonlel's only daughter, who was now left an orphan and destitute of support. True philanthropy will not suffer a difference either in political or religious principles to restrain its dictates.

This young lady, who was somewhat older than myself, and very amiable both in person and disposition, was fixed on by Lord Tyrawley to be my companion to France; and Mrs. Pye attended us herself to London, in order to equip us with such necessaries as [p. 26] we wanted, and to enquire out the most eligible convent in which to place us.

Whilst we were in London, the maid-sevant who had the care of me, seeing my mother's name in the play-bills of Covent-Garden-Theatre, imagined she should not be an unacceptable visitor, if she took me to pay my respects to her. She accordingly inquired where my mother lodged; and, without asking her mistress's consent, led me to her. We were instantly ushered up stairs, whe e we found my mother in a genteel dress. Though I was too young to experience any attraction from her beauty, yet her fine clothes pleased me much, andIi ran towards her with great freedom. But what concern did my little heart feel, when she rudely pushed me from her, and I heard her exclaim, after viewing me with attention for some moments, "My God! what have you brought me here? this goggle-eyed, splatter-faced,1 gabbart-mouthed wretch is not my child! take her away!" I had been so accustomed to endearments, that I was the more sensibly affected at this unexpected saluation, and I went away as much disgusted with my mother as she could be with me.

Mrs. Pye havin prevailed upon Mrs. Dunbar, an Irish lady who lived at Boulogne, to take Miss Frazer and myself under [p. 27] her protection, we accompanied her to France. Strict orders were given that I should not be contradicted, and that if I disliked one convent, we should be removed to another. The money necessary for our support was to be remitted to Mr. Smith, a wine-merchant in the town, to whom the same injunctions were given.

On our arrival at Boulogne we were placed in the convent of the Nunciats, situated in the lower town. We had not been there long, before a nun was immured between the walls, the punishment usually inflicted on those of the sisters who unfortunately break their vow of chastity. The infliction of this horrid punishment affected Miss Frazer so much, and the dirtiness of the convent was so intolerably offensive, even to me, though but a child that we determined to get removed. We accordingly applied to Mrs. Smith for this purpose, who in a short time came and conduted us to the convent of the Ursulines in the upper town. On mentioning the name of the convent, even at this distant period, I cannot help exclaiming, "Dear, happy, much-regretted mansion! thou sweet abode of tranquillity and delight! how supremely blessed should I have been, had I remained till this hour within thy sacred walls!"

Here I continued till I had attained the eleventh year of my age; when the mandate, [p. 28] the dreadful mandate arrived, which bid us perpare for our return. With what heart-felt pangs did I receive it! Having no knowledge of the nobleman to whom I was indebted for my being and subsistence; and the contemptuous manner in which my mother had treated me still dwelling on my remembrance; I had not the least desire to see either of them. To stay in the convent, and still to be accompanied by my much-loved Maria, was the utmost of my wishes. The whole community, indeed, the sisters as well as the pensioners, treated me with great kindness. But one of the nuns perfectly idolized me. When I took my leave of her, my feelings were such as I am not able to descirbe. Their pungency was far beyond what a girl of my age could be supposed to experience. I have often thought they were a sure presage of the miseries which have attended me through life; not only such as have arisen from my own indiscretions, but those which owe their foundation to the complicated machinations of the worst of men. The former I shall recite in the following part of my narrative, without attempting to palliate, or excuse them, satisfied that noting but the sincerest contrition will now avail. The latter I shall give an account of which the strictest regard to candour and truth; and whilst I forgive, [p. 29] which Chistianity bids me do, I shall not spare.

Being now about to take my leave of France, and, at the same time, of the happy age of puerility, innocence, and peace, I shall at this regretted aera put an end to my letter, with only assuring you that I shall ever be, through every stage of my life,

Your ever grateful,
G. A. B

  1. A coal-boat is so called in Ireland.

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