[p. 55] A few nights after my benefit, Lord Tyrawley came into the room smiling, and said, with pleasure sparkling in his eyes, "Pop, I have got you a husband!" I replied, "I then hope my Lord you have found out my choice." I had no sooner said this, than his Lordship's countenance was in an instant clouded.And after a pause (not like a pause in music, when art can reach to no higher a. pitch of harmony; it was rather a pause productive of a crash of discord) his Lordship assumed just such a look as I suppose he should have done if he had been about to face an enemy. He then threw a letter upon the table with an air of a Bajazet1; saying at the fame time, "There, read that.I have given my word, which I will not break for you nor the whole world; therefore no trifling; for I will be obeyed." Having pronounced this dreadful sentence, he hopped off as fast as he could to his chair, leaving me to read the letter at my leisure.
Had his Lordship insisted in the same authoritative manner upon my taking the man of my choice, I believe in my heart I should have refused him. My temper could neverer brook compulsion. And though no [p. 56] person can more approve of obedience and subordination, in all cases where it is due, than myself; yet were not the orders for the observance of these to be issued in gentle terms, I should certainly act retrogade to them.
The letter his Lordship threw on the table was from Crump. By the tenor of which I found that every thing had been settled relative to my marriage with him, before his Lordship left Dublin. He therein further informs my Lord, that he was to be in town the next evening, and intended himself the honour of meeting his Lordship at my apartments in Tavistock-street. He adds, that he had delivered his Lordship's letter to Captain Johnson, who said he was much concerned to lose his Lordship's agency, but the occasion was a sufficient excuse.
At first I was going to wish my mother joy of the success of her scheme; but on confederation, I thought it better to say nothing about it till I had acquainted Mr. Metham with it. I accordingly sat down with a mind agitated with indignation, instead of its being depressed with grief; and wrote him a letter from which he could have no room to doubt his being the entire matter of my affections. 'Tis true I had already given him reason to believe this, by admitting his addresses as I had done; but I never before acknowledged to him the real state of my heart. [p. 57]
The alternate joy and grief which my letter occasioned in his mind, robbed him for a time, as he as since informed me, of recollection. Till at length his anger was aroused at the thoughts of my being treated with so much indignity. For my own part, the resentment I felt prevented tears from flowing, as they otherwise would have done. My face was therefore properly enlightened with that spirit of disdain which was suited to the character of Lady Fanciful in The Provoked Wife2 which I was to play the same evening. And the presence of Mr. Crump in the front row of the pit, who was the first object that struck my eyes, proved an additional incitement towards keeping my anger alive.
Poor Metham stood behind the scenes, though naturally too florid for a fine gentleman, as pale and dejected as if he had been the disappointed lover instead of the favoured one. The person who persormed the part of lady Brute, and who had before made observations on our conduct, attributed this dejection to some love quarrel, especially as he did not follow me as ufua, into the green-room.
We are now arrived at the most important crisis of my fate ; the moment which was to determine the tenor of my future life. The die was to be thrown, and my happiness to be the stake.My heart flutters at [p. 58] the recollection.But I will endeavour to still it, and proceed.At the beginning of the fifth act, as I was crossing the back of the scenes, in order to go on the stage from the opposite fide, Mr. Metham met me, and conjured me to let him speak one word with me in the hall. As the prompter never rings the bell for the music to cease till he sees all those who are to begin the act ready to go on, I complied for a moment with his request. But I was no sooner got without the door, than he caught me up in his arms, and hurrying through the passage, placed me in a coach that his valet had ready to receive me.
At firft I was so surprised at the unexpected >enlevement, that I could not recollect myself. And when my scattered senses relumed their powers, I candidly acknowledge, that my love for the dear youth was so well eftablished, that I was neither sorry nor offended at the step he had taken. But the mind of my enamoured Strephon was agitated by other sensations. He was so apprehensive of incurring my displeasure by such a desperate mode of proceeding, that the florid colour which usually glowed on his cheeks now entirely forsook them. Finding me, however, not so displeafed as he expected, the apprehensions that had chilled his blood, gave way. to warmer ideas, and more agreeable agitations.
[p. 59] The coach soon set us down at a ready furnished house in Leiceister-street, Leicester-fields; where I was immediately supplied with necessary apparel by Mrs. Studwick, the mistress of itThe audience at the theatre, as I afterwards learnt, being out of all patience at so unusual a continuation of the music, made the noise they generally do upon such occasions. This called Mr. Quin from his dressing-room, which lay contiguous to the stage, to enquire the reason of it. Lady Fanciful was repeatedly called, but no Lady Fanciful answered.It was now found that a real rape (if a running away with, where there is is no resistance, might be so termed) had interrupted the progress of the play. Nothing remained to be done, but to acquaint the house with what had unexpectedly happened. Mr. Quin accordingly, in the character of Sir John Brute, which he was performing, made an apology to the audience, by informing them, that he was come to beg their excuse for the fantastical girl of quality, whole company they would unfortunately be disappointed of at the conclusion of the piece, as she had left Heart-free, upon finding an admirer that was made on purpose for her*.
[p.60] Terror, love, and resentment, which ruled by turns in my heart, banished reflection for some time. But it soon returned with accumulated force. One moment I blamed myself for yielding to the ardour of my lover, and the impulse of my affection; the next I was angry with myself for suffeing the least doubt of his honour to interrupt my present delirium. I now was become a topic for numberless paragraphs in the public prints. But Mrs. Woffington, as I have already informed you, through her good wifhes to me, had anticipated that surprize which the event would otherwise have occasioned.
An attempt to gain the forgiveness of Lord Tyrawley, would have been attended with as great a prospect of success, as to remove the Colossus from Rhodes to a distant country, at the time it was standing. His Lordship, who had still an eye for beauty, had enlisted under the banner of the lady just mentioned. A circumstance that feemed likely to render a reconciliation the less attainable.
Some doubts being now cleared away, which Mr. Metham had harboured with resfpect to my regard for him, his fondness for me was carried to the most extravagant pitch. He introduced me to his sister, Mrs. Dives, and to all his friends; and from the tender respect he shewed me, joined to the most unremitted attention, every one feemed [p. 61]convinced that he intended to make me his wife.
My mother, from being one of the pure ones, had changed her religion to that of a methodist; and being regenerated, was become too immaculate for me to hope that my error would meet with pardon from her. I wrote to Mrs. O'Hara, who immediately brought me my cloaths and ornaments. But my mother thinking I mould have no occasion for money, now I had chosen a protector for myself, very prudently kept that to console herfelf with, during my absence. I was in hopes that gaining me a father-in-law, would have been a consequence of my elopement; but Mr. Crump, I found, returned to Ireland without a wife, and Captain Johnson still continued to act as agent to Lord Tyrawley.
Mr. Quin had always been averse to the propofal made me by my Lord of marrying Crump; but his Lordship, judging from his own disposition and conduct, of his motive, had told him, that he supposed his opposition proceeded from his being interested; which silenced this best of friends, and prevented his ever after renewing the topic. He wrote to me, and indeed, informed me, that though he could not at present wait on me, in compliment to his Lordship, he would pay me a visit in the summer, when he supposed we should go into Yorkshire.
My beloved acquaintance, Miss St. [p. 62] Leger, was now oftener with me than ever; she being privately courted by Major Burton, Mr Metham's most intimate friend. This lady favoured me with her company and countenance the more readily, as the Major had assured her that his friend fully intended to marry me. An assurance which quieted my apprehensions relative to that wished-for event for the present. And the high opinion I had of Mr. Metham's honour, confirmed my hopes. But unfortunately for us both I was not acquainted with his caprice. -- The woman who trusts her fame to the honour of a man, has not only the chances arising from satiety against her, but she has likewise much to fear from fickleness of disposition; a foible natural to nine-tenths of the sex. And when to these is added the fear of that ridicule and contempt which custom has annexed to a post-marriage (if I may so term it) the probability is much against her ever finding the honour she trusted to, genuine. "At lovers perjuries they fay, Jove laughs," exclaims the great dramatic developer of human nature, supposing the belief of the axiom to be universally established. And if the vows of lovers are not, at the time, made with this reservation; satiety, caprice, or shame, whisper the unfettered twain to take advantage of it. -- Exceptions, I believe, there are; but these, I fear, will be found to be but few.