An Apology for the Life of George Anne Bellamy

Letter XXXI.

London, June 5th, 17--.

[p. 16] After being delivered from the apprehensions Lord Byron had occasioned, I thought myself perfectly happy. I was, [p .17] however, doomed to sustain fresh unhappiness from another quarter; and that was from my mother's Irish friend Mr. Crump, in whose favour she was constantly teizing me. They had carried on a correspondence together ever since we came from Ireland. But that I did not wonder at; as my mother had met with great success in the profession he had advised her to engage in, and she had occasion frequently to send him over commissions for linens.

As I always made it a point never to read a letter belonging to another, even if open, esteeming it a breach of the most sacred of trusts, many of his epistles to her lay carelessly scattered about, without my ever looking into one of them. An accident, however, soon happened, which obliged me, contrary to my resolutions, to inspect the last she received from him.

Mr. Quin thinking that the force of the company lay in comedy, he introduced me into every piece which contained a characer suited to my figure and age. As he was excellent in the Double Dealer,1 and Mrs. Woffington was well received in Lady Touchwood, I had an opportunity of appearing in Lady Froth; a character which would afford ample room for the exertion of my fancy and humour. I accordingly performed it, and met with better success than I had reason [p. 18] to hope, as it was a part the inimitable Clive had been long in possession of.2

Whether the applause I had received, or the brilliancy of my dress, or some other cause, occasioned it, I know not; but I was elevated by an uncommon flow of spirits on the first night of its performance. Thus chearful, as I sat in the green room, who should enter it but Mr. Montgomery, whom I had already mentioned as an admirer of mine. The unexpected sight of that gentleman greatly surprised me; and wtihout considering how preposterous such a step might appear to the rest of the performers, I found myself involuntarily led by some impulse, to which I had till now been a stranger, to get up to receive him as he approached me. Such a mark of distinction could not pass unnoticed by him, and he seemed to receive it with inexpessible transport.

Nor did it pass unobserved by Mrs.Woffington. The tender respect he shewed me seemed to hurt her pride. As to the other female performers present, they were all, except Mrs. Ward, persons of more respectable characters. They loved their husbands, minded their business, and found too much employment in their own families, to trouble themselves with the concerns of others.

Mr. Metham found means to inform me, during the short conversation we had [p. 19] together (for I was looked upon as a prude by the company, a longer one would have been imprudent) that his mother was dead, by which he was come into possession of a good estate, together with the name of Metham. As the attention of a person, whose dress, deportment, and appearance, proclaimed him a man of fashion, seemed to excite the jealousy of Mrs. Woffington, who expected to have the tribute of admiration from every one first paid to her, I put an end, as soon as possible, to our tete-a-tete. But at the conclusion of the play, Mr. Metham accosted me again, and desired permission to wait on me the next morning. This I told him I could not grant; at the same time frankly informing him, that my reason for so doing so, was because my mother would not consent to my admitting any male visitor in the quality of a lover. He then begged to be allowed to write to me; which I did not refuse. Upon this we parted.

The entering into this correspondence, obliged me to request O'Bryen, who had attended us to England, to pay a particular attention to taking in my letters, so that they might not fall into my mother's hands. I have already informed you that this lady, notwithstanding her royal descent, had not had the education she had consequently a right to expect. In truth, she could neither read nor write; which sometimes led her into [p. 20] errors, when those crooked things called letters, were the only guides she had to direct her. Thus it happened, that one day finding a letter in the parlour, she concluded it was one that I had dropped, and accordingly brought it to me.

Without examining whether it belonged to me or not, I put it hastily into my pocket. And it was not tilI had occasion to search for another, wherein mention was made of a masquerade, that I discovered it. Pulling it out with three others which I had received in the course of the day, I then perceived that it was an epistle from my Hibernian admirer to my mother. At the same time a dash annexed to the word daughter exciting my curiosity, I was tempted to break through the rule I had hitherto so inviolably observed. The line ran thus: "Dear Madam, I believe your loved daugher cannot withstand the power of --- ." As I could not understand the meaning of this sentence, and indeed was very indifferent about it, I threw the letter aside, without perusing the remainder of it.

The next evening I appeared in the character of Alicia.3 As soon as my part was concluded, Mr. Quin, with a pleasure sparkling in his fine eyes, that I had never seen them express before off the stage, bid me stop and kneel to the first person I met in the scene-room; a place I was obliged to [p. 21] pass as I went to undess. As I could not comprehend at first what Mr. Quin meant, alternate hope and fear rendered me motionless for some time. At length my heart presaged who it was. When mustering all my courage, and judging from the pleasantness of my patron's countenance, that I had not much to fear, I entered the room. I need not, I suppose, inform you, that I found there Lord Tyrawley. As soon as I saw him I threw myself at his feet, crying out at the same time, with an emotion that is not to be expressed, "My dear Lord, forgive me!"

His Lordship having raised me, he embraced me with the utmost tenderness; and if I could judge from his voice, was no less affected than myself. He then desired me to hasten home, as Quin and he intended supping at my apartments. His Lordship informed me, that he had received from Mr. Quin such an account of me, as had given him the highest saisfaction; and which corroborated what he had heard in Ireland, from a person, who, when alive, loved me as well as that gentleman did. Concluding frorm this, that my dear Mrs. O'Hara had paid the last debt of nature, I burst afresh into tears. -- though gratitude impelled me to bestow this tender tribute on her loved memory, yet I checked it as soon as possible, and blamed myself for giving [p. p 22] way to so improper, though customary a sensation. As she was one of the best of women, I could not doubt her happiness; and sorrow, as that was the case, according to my ideas, is only self-love. The living, who are left in this vale of tears, are rather to be wept for; the dead, where, from a well spent life, they have the assurance of happiness that my dear aunt had, are objects of envy, not of grief.

Mr. Quin allowed his Lordship and myself an hour for private conversation before he came. And as the next day happened to be a holiday, we were not obliged to separate at an early hour. Indeed, Mr. Quin seldom kept early hours, unless he was obliged to do so by indisposition. My mother was not permitted to join us; and his Lordship gave me a severe injunction never to request that he would see either of the ladies of my family as he was determined never to speak to or know them. He delivered me two rings; one of which, being a large pink diamond, was very valuable; the other a fancy ring; both of which had been left me by Mrs. O'Hara. I apprehend this was not the whole of my legacy; but as his Lordship took no notice of any thing else, I could not with propriety ask him.

I now thought myself the happiest of human beings. Restored to the affections of [p. 23] the two people I most valued, and loved almost to adoration by the man I preferred to all others, my satisfaction was unbounded. Nor do I believe that any three people in the world were happier than my company and myself; each enjoying an equal place in my affections, though the claims of each were of a different naure. -- Great are the pleasures arising from susceptibiilty! -- Many indeed, and exquisite, are likewise the pains attendant on it. -- The inexpressible pleasures of making happy, by a mutual reciprocation of beneficient acts and tender comminciations, greatly overpays, however, the disdadvantage of possessing a susceptible heart -- The enlarged mind alone is capable of these mental enjoyments -- By the liberal-minded, therefore, are the delicate sensations I speak of, only to be comprehended. -- To the million they are caviare. -- As they are the only source of real happiness in this life, they doubtless, when rendered more pure and perfect, will constitute our felicity in "that undiscovered country, from whose bourne no traveller returns."

I am now about to enter upon a topic of a different nature from any that has hitherto found a place in my epistles; but althoughtit appears not to make a part of my own concerns, I flatter myself that a story so interesting, and flowing immediately from the fountain-head, from which its authenticity [p. 24] is undoubted, will not make you consider the time required in the perusal of it misemployed.

G. A. B.

  1. Bellamy was thought at her best in tragic and pathetic parts. William Congreve's (1760-1729) Doubler Dealer is an unusual choice for itself too. It was not popular when first played, was attacked by Collier for immorality, and was a subversive play for the time.
  2. Catherine Clive (1711-1785) known as a comic actress and singer. See The life of Mrs. Catherine Clive,: With an account of her adventures on and off the stage, a round of her characters, together with her correspondence by Percy Hetherington Fitzgerald (1888: rpt. NY: Blom, 1971).
  3. A character in Rowe's Jane Shore. See above.

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