An Apology for the Life of George Anne Bellamy

Letter XXXV.

London, June 21, 17--.

[p. 46] The same evening,when Lord Tyrawley came to sup with me as usual, I informed him of the ill treatment I had received. His Lordship seemed displeased that I did not carry my first resolution of quitting the theatre into execution. Notwithstanding his Lordship was reconciled to me, and he still continued to live at such an expence as to involve himself annually, although in receipt of immense sums from his employments and commission, I could not help observing that he made no offer of furnishing me with a provision adequate to the emoluments I reaped from my profession. As I considered the affront I had received from the proprietor, of the highest magnitude to my theatrical consequence, I own I was much surprised at his being so lukewarm upon the occasion.

A few minutes, however, explained the mystery. For looking kindly at me, his Lordship said, " Pop! you do not love me so well as you did even fome few weeks ago." Struck at the truth of the accusation, a conscious blush spread itself over my face, and I remained silent. "Why do you not speak?" continued he. "If your heart is engaged to a proper object, I will [p. 47] give him your hand. I flattered myself indeed, that your affection for me was so unbounded, that you would have left the choice to me."

This alone could have restored to me the power of speech. Mr. Crump's letter seemed now to be fully explained; and the dash appeared to have been fubstituted in the room of Lord Tyrawley's name. I told his Lordship, that as nothing should tempt me to lose sight of sincerity, I would freely acknowledge to him, that though I loved and revered him much, I felt a strong presentiment in favour of another. But unless his Lordship would give me time to examine into the real state of my heart, I must beg to be excused from making him acquainted with the name of the person.

His Lordship having heard of the adventure of the chair and the note, already related, and having been likewise informed that Mr. Bullock's father had sworn that he never would see or speak to his son again, if he married me; and considering, likewise, that he himfelf could not offer a fortune with me sufficient to mollify the old gentleman; his Lordfhip, (for the first time I ever heard him swear, although a soldier) told me with an oath, that he already knew the person, and I might rest allured he never would consent to an union with him.[p. 48]

The addresses I had some time backed received from Mr. Bullock, who had been ordered by his father, immediately on their discovery to return to college, not recurring to my mind, I concluded it was Mr. Metham his Lordship was thus exasperated againft. I was consequently thunderstruck. His Lordship continued in an ill humour during the remainder of his stay; and it was the first time I ever felt a pleasure at our separation.

The next morning, I acquainted Mr. Metham, by letter, that I was very unhappy at something which had happened, but did not explain myself. This opposition of his Lordship to the person I esteemed, (for to him I fupposed it, by mistake, to be intended) endeared him to me a thousand times, if possible, more than he had already been. And what was before only a transient quiet partiality, now became a violent impetuous affection. A heart engaged in such a seet, sch a bewitching entanglement as mine was, could not bear controul. Oppostion, now perceived, but added fuel to the flame. And however great my respect for Lord Tyrawley might have been, it was not to be set in competition with claims of a tenderer nature.

My benefit was now to take place in a few days; and the three preceding nights I was to perform for those of Mr. Quin, Mrs. Woffington, and Mr. Ryan. The former chose [p. 49] for his benefit, the very play in which I had been deprived, during my emigration to Ireland, as already mentioned, of my regalia. Here Mrs. Woffington was, as her right, adorned with it, and appeared moft characteristically as the enchantress of all hearts. Her beauty (for I must give every one their due) beggared all defcription. I appeared again in white satin; not indeed, as I had then improperly done, as Anthony's favourite mistrels, but as his rejected wife.

The Dutchess of Queensberry being at Mr. Quin's benefit, her partiality for me shewed itself in a more flattering light than it had done on a former occasion. At the conclusion of the piece, she desired me to secure her boxes for my own benefit. As I could not suppofe that her Grace intended to interest herself fo strenuoufly in my behalf, as she had before; and as I was now, by experience, become acquainted with the whimsicalness of her Grace's dispofition; I was at a loss what number to set down for her. I thought it, therefore, better to leave it to chance, than to run the risk of offending her.

Her Grace having expressed a desire of being admitted into the green-room, which she had been informed was superior to a drawing-room, for the wit and politeness to met with there, I begged leave to have the honour to attend her Grace to it, after the performance was over. This offer she [p. 50] was pleased to accept. Accordingly as soon as my part of Octavia was concluded, which was in the fourth act, without staying to undress, to shew my readiness to obey her Grace's commands, I threw a cloak around me, and went into the stage-box where her Grace was, and placed myself, as she directed, behind her.

My being seated in so conspicuous a point of view, behind a lady who was looked up to as one of the first characters in the kingdom, as well for her extraordinary qualities, as for her title, attracted the attention of the whole house. Mr. Quin, as he afterwards informed me, notwithstanding he well knew 'her Grace's partiality for me, never experienced a more agreeable furprize than when he faw me thus fituated. It is neceiTary you fliould know that.her Grace was at this time disgusted with the court, upon account of her favourite, Gay.

Upon her Grace's quitting the box, there was an univeral applause; which would have sent her home in great good humour (for she was still fond of these tokens of public approbation) had not the ensuing scene, to which her curiosity led her, justly given her Grace offence. Having ushered the Dutchess behind the scenes, upon my opening the green-room door, such a scene presented itself as I had never been witness to before. As it was usual for many perfons of the first [p. 51] rank to meet in the green-room after the play, and amuse themfelves with playing at Woman or Head against the chimney-piece, which thousands were sometimes won and lost in an evening, I expected to find that the performers had retired, and that none but quality were there. Instead of which the first thing that struck our view was the Faor Egyptian Queen, with a pot of porter in hand, crying out, "Confufion to all order. Let Liberty thrive." The table was surrounded by suitable company, and covered with mutton pies.

The Dutchefs had entered with the greatest good humour impressed on her, countenance, and all the dignity annexed to her station.Judge then what her Grace's feelings must be at beholding fuch a contrast to what she had been taught to expect; such a specimen of green-room wit and politenefs. She slood for some moments in a state of amazement. Nor was her introductress in a less unpleasant situatinn. At length recovering herself a little, shee exclaimed, "Is hell broke loose?" Then turning about, she hurried to her chair, to appearance more dead than alive. As her Grace left me, she gve me a ftrict injunction not to return back to that room, and to be with her the next morning. Could any thing have happened more mal-a-propos; or have .given her Grace [p. 52] so disgusting an idea of the inside of a theatre?

The following day, the Dutchess received me with civility, but at the same time there was a something in her manner that was by no means pleasing.Softness and delicacy ought to be the distinguishing characteristics of the female sex.And these qualities have been sometimes happily blended in minds with Roman fortitude and Amazonian courageWithout them, the most brilliant qualifications lose their most attractive graces.Her Grace enquired whether I lived with the actors? A question which seemed to imply, that she considered actors and actresses in no better light than gypsies; and that we were only separated from each other in our most retired hours, by a blanke. I however endeavoured to convince her Grace, that those who trod the stage held the mirror of virtue, and whilst they entertained, furnished the mind with inftructions; being in every respect very different from those impostors who played upon the weaker part of mankind.

Her Grace smiled at these distinctions, and thus retorted on me : "Why really by what I faw last night, I should imagine that if there is any difference, it lies in favour of the Norwood Diviners." From this decision againft us, I found that my [p. 53] assertions had made but very little impression on her Graces's mind; and I was obliged to give up the cause I had undertaken. Indeed I could not pretend to excufe the levity which had given her Grace too much reason to establish such a conjecture. I cannot however miss the opportunity this incident offers, to observe, how cautious every woman ought to be, not to give the least appearance of offence to decency; and could wish to recommend the following lines to my own sex, requesting, at the same time, that they would impress them strongly on their memory, and join them with their daily orisons,

Come Decency, celestial maid,
Descend from heaven to beauty's aid

My friend and adviser, Mr. Quin, fixed upon The Double Dealer1, for my benefit. A play replete with wit, and not unexceptionable for its levity, to call it by no harsher name. The same patronesses, however, who had honoured me with their prefence at my first benefit, and who were enticed by the brightest patterns of virtue in the whole kingdom, graced the boxes that night. So flattering a proof of distinction gave me the greatest pleafure. And the more so, as Lord Tyrawley seemed for the first time to enjoy so singular a mark of public approbation. [p. 54]

The emoluments which accrued from my benefit were not so considerable as those of my preceding night. For this there appeared two evident reafons. The first was, that those who encouraged me whilst I was considered as a young performer, did not think their assistance so necessary now I was established, especially as I had since found a protector in Lord Tyrawley. The second was, that the gentlemen were kept at a distance by a belief that Mr. Metham was a favoured lover. It is true his Lordship afforded me some pecuniary assistance; but as for any other, he wore a short sword very, quietly by his side, except when called upon to draw it in defence of his King and country. And as to the latter, appearances are not always to be trusted to.

I am now about to recall to my memory the first step I have reason to look back upon with real regret. For although some of the past scenes of my life may be deemed imprudent, and led me into many inconveniencies, yet no lasting physiological and direct pyschological bad effects flowed from them, and the scandal which attended them was unmerited and transient. Would I could say the same of that which is to furnish a subject for my next letter. But I, will not anticipate.The corrosive reflections due to my errors will arise fast enough as I proceed.

G. A. B.

  1. The Double Dealer by William Congreve (1670-1729)

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