An Apology for the Life of George Anne Bellamy

Letter XXXVII.

London, Aug 15, 17--.

[p. 63] In a short time we went to York. Here Mr. Metham took an elegant house of Mr. Strickland.. The reason of this gentleman's having it was on account of his having just lost his lady, and with her a good estate. His affection not suffering her to be waked during her illness, to sign fome deed which was necessary, an estate that belonged to her went away at her decease. This determined him to go abroad, to lament the lots he had sustained.

The garden wall of our new house joined to a monastery; and the ground on which the house and garden stood, had formerly belonged to it. This was a great object to me, and I soon found it a source of great comfort. For though my lover's fondness was unabated, his numberless friends, and likewife his father, who lived forty miles from the city in which we resided, claimed so much of his company that I had very little of it. Being a keen sportsman, he was also very intimate with Lord Downe. So that, except during the race week, I scarcely saw any human being but the servants.

I therefore esteemed myself exceedingly fortunate, in commencing an acquaintance with the chaplain of the adjacent seminary. [p. 64] This gentleman I found to be an honour to the sacerdotal function. For learning and good sense, there were very few who exceeded him. And he preferred the quiet of the retirement he was now situated in, to any preferment he could attain in the busy world. To his kind instructions was I indebted for a return of those sentiments I had early imbibed in my loved cloister at Boulogne.Sentiments replete with peace and satisfaction. Religion is the only rock on which the wearied restless mind can safely anchor, amidst the impetuous billows of this fluctuating life.If, now and then, the gentle breath of Zephyrus wafts us towards the wished-for shore, the prosperous gale is but short-lived, and soon dies away. The ruder and more lasting blasts of Boreas succeed, and drive the unmanageable bark into all the dangers of the tempestuous deep.

The ladies belonging to the seminary, at first objected to my visits, as my character was doubtful; but when I informed Mr. Blunt, which was the name of the chaplain, that I had not the least doubt but that Mr. Metham's honour, which had never been questioned, and his affection for me, would induce him to make me honourable amends for the disgraceful cloud in which he had for the present shrouded me, I readily procured admittance among them. I could have added, that a more forcible inducement for the [p. 65] performance of his promife, was about to take place, than even either of these; and that was the probability of my presenting him with his picture in minature; an event that he expressed the most earnest desire of seeing accomplished.

The acquaintance I thus formed with this society, soon increased to a cordial intimacy. The ladies joined to an exemplary piety, a chearfulness which is always a sure attendant on innocence and virtue; and their company soon became a source of happiness to me, which compensated, in some degree, for the long absence of the man I loved. In some degree, I say; for though prudery and affectation may wish to throw a veil over our passions, I must candidly acknowledge, that to a soul dissolved by that sweet, and as yet unalloyed intercourse, that fervent love, which subsisted between Metham and myself, every other enjoyment afforded but a substituted satisfaction, and would not stand in competition with it.

Upon the terrace of our garden there remained a door which led into that of the convent. This door, with the consent of the community, I ordered to be opened; which procured me the happiness of two or three of the ladies company, attended by the old gentleman, (who, with the wisdom of age, still retained the good humour and sprightliness of youth) as often as a due attendance [p. 66] to the concerns of my family would admit; and whenever Mr. Metham's absence rendered some companions needful.

These absences now became more frequent than usual; the Marquis of Rockingham, the Earls of Burlington and Scarborough, and Lord Downe, sharing his vsfits by turns. Growse shooting claimed his attention in Autumn, and hunting in winter. So that during the seven months we resided in Trinity-lane, York, I may with safety affirm, that he was not at home for seven weeks, put his returns all together. It is true, he wrote to me constantly during his absences, and his letters glowed with affection and sincerity; but I could not help at last remarking, that they bordered too much on adulation.

I must here, by way of relief to the rapid continuation of my tale, entertain you with a droll circumstance; which happened in the race week, and into which I was led by the remains of my natural vanity. A nobleman who had a horse to run for the plate at York races, was at our house for some days. As his Lordship was intitled by his rank to the seat of honour, he of course, during dinner, sat at my right hand. But I could not help observing, that his eye was constantly and steadily fixed upon me. I took little notice of it at first, thinking it was occasioned by the attractive power of my charms, and that good manners would in time induce his [p. 67] Lordship to behave with more decorum. Seeing, however, that my face was still the chief object to, which his eye was directed, I grew much disconcerted and abashed. But having, at length, recovered from the little prudery I had contracted in Ireland, I complained to Mr. Metham of the rudenefs of his friend. He could not avoid smiling whilst I made my complaint; and, as a perfect acquittal of his Lordshi. from any design to offend me, he informed me, that the eye which had been always so steadily fixed upon me, and excited my alarms, was only an innocent glass eye, and therefore could not convey any improper information; as it was immoveable all day, and rested at night very quietly upon the table. My vanity received a check by the incident, and I joined in the laugh which it had occasioned.

On the fixth of December. I was taken so ill, that the nurse who had been some time with me, declared it to be my labour. Mr. Metham was then at Ferry-bridge, but was immediately sent for. On his return, he insisted upon sending for a man-midwife; but this I would by no means agree to. My false modesty here visited me a second time. And, as at first, it had prevented me from clearing up my reputation after being carried off by the Earl of -----, so now it had to have cost me my life. For the apprehensions arising. from my delicacy, [p. 68] prompted me to smother my pains, till my life was in danger; which in the end brought on a forced labour, and obliged me to have recourse to that assistance I had strove to avoid.

It is a matter of great furprize to me, that as female practitioners in midwifery are in general inexpert, women prefer having an , till necessity obliges him to be called in. Those who, out of a mistaken modesty, do this, not only risk the lives of themselves and infants, but, if difficulties render it necessary that a doctor should be called in, are informed by it of their danger, at a time when no addition ought to be made to their terror. And if, through their continued obstinacy, their lives should be lost, they are, in my opinion, guilty of felt-murder.

The eleventh day of my illness, my ever regretted George Metham, first saw the light; and, I may truly say, blest> me, in making me the mother of a man child; as his loss afterwards not only deprived me of a good child, but of a sincere and affectionate friend; and had death spared him, he would now, I doubt not, have made my old age comfortable.

Mr. Metham was like a distracted man till I was pronounced to be out of danger. He had wrote to my mother to intreat her to come to York on account of my illness; [p. 69] which, to our mutual surprize, she confented to. And to her presence I attribute in a great meafure, my recovering so soon as I did. After her arrival, she never let my lover have a moment's peace, whenever they were together, till he promised to make me his wife. And as he was a man of unblemished honour, she rested perfectly satisfied with this declaration, and was reconciled to me.

She now transferred all her attention and tenderness to my little boy. Of this she gave a most striking proof, by suffering him to sleep in the same bed with her, when he had taken the fmall pox, notwithstanding she had never had that dreadful disbrder, and was very apprehensive of it. As the nurse that suckled her little grandson was young, and consequently inclined to heaviness, she took this affectionate step to prevent any disagreeable consequences that might arise from her negligence.

G. A. B.

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