An Apology for the Life of George Anne Bellamy

Letter XL.

London, Sept 13, 17--.

When I arrived at the Wells, I met with a mortification, which was rendered the more extreme by the vain imaginations I had given way to during my journey. A proof of the impropriety of indulging those waking dreams. I think I never felt so much from the most degrading cirrcumstance of my life, as from the humiliating situation I was thrown into by it.

Mr. St. Leger, whose intimacy with Mr. Metham, and the long acquaintance that had subsisted between myself and him, placed upon terms of the utmoft freedom and familiarity, was my first visitor. As soon as he entered, I ran to receive him in my usual free way; when I could not help observing that he accosted me with a cool respect, in Iieu of that gaiety with which he was accustomed to approach me. Upon my enquiring the reason, he informed me, that he was paying his addresses to Miss Butler, (with whom, as related, I was formerly very intimate) and hoped in a few days to be made happy. That the occasion of his visit was a request which that lady's mother had to make to me: She intreated to know frorn me, begging pardon at the same time for the liberty [p. 97] she was taking, whether 'I was really married to Mr. Metham, as report said: If not although she had a very great regard for me, it would not be in the power of either herself or her daughter to take notice of me. This, he added, would be productive of a very mortifying reception at the rooms, there being a number of Irish nobility and gentry at the Wells, who had been acquainted with me at her house in Dublin, and who naturally would follow her example.

This was a thunderbolt to my vanity. I could not sustain the unexpected shock. All my vain ideas of self-consequence vanished in a moment; and I found myself a despicable wretch, unworthy the patronage of one of the best of women. As soon, as I could recover myself, I thanked him for having saved me, by this timely visit, from so public a mortification as I must have experienced, had I gone to the rooms., I begged he would give my respects to Mrs. Butler and her daughter, and inform them, that I was, and ever should be truly sensible of the marks of friendship with which they had honoured me; and that I should ever retain the most grateful sense of their goodness. but that I should feel that I was unworthy of ever having been so happy, could I repay them with deception. I must therefore cacdidly acknowledge that notwitftanding I [p. 98] had had every reafon to believe Mr. Metham would make me his wife, and hse had actually given me leave to assume that character, the ceremony had not as yet passed. I added, that since upon this account I could not hope for the honour of her notice, I would immediately return to London.

Mr. St. Leger persuaded me to wait the event; as he wsas certain my frankness would have a much better effect, than if I had endeavoured to impose a falsehood on the ladies. He said, as there was a ball that evening; and Mrs. Butler and her daughter were there; he should not have an opportunity of making her acquainted with my unexampled sincerity, as he was pleased to term it, till the next morning. He gave it that epithet, he told me, because to his knowledge the deception would never have been discovered, had I chose to, have made ufe of it; as Mr. Metham, upon such an occafion, would readily have supported me in it.

But I was refolute. And, after Mr. St. Leger's departure, the consequences of the evening, fully confirmed my resolution to return to town, For some of my good friends, who had heard of my arrival, coming to see me, cards were proposed. As I wished to hide the chagrin that Mr. St Leger's conversation had occasioned, I readily joined in the proposal; and fitting down, found, when the company broke up, that out of two hundred and odd pounds i had brought with me, I only retained twelve guineas; and out of these I had a week's lodging to pay, which amounted to half of them

The next morning I set out on my return, with only one folitary half-guinea in my purse, and a mind still more exhausted. So humble was it; that I could not trace the least refemblance of the Imperial Dido in it, whom, on my approach, I had vainly compared myself -- Thus ended my adventure at Tunbridge Wells. And a most delightful one, to exprefs myself in the true Hibernian dialect) to be sure; it was; it was

On my journey back, I dined at Bromley; but when the bill was brought in, I was obliged to my hand-maid, O'Bryen; for being enabled to discharge it. This descendant from kings not only assisted me with her purf'e upon this occasion, but administered comfort to me; which I was equally in want of. Observing that I was much affected at what had passed at Tunbridge, which could not be concealed from her, she endeavoured to keep up my spirits; by assuring me, that she had not the least doubt, but that next summer, she should see me doubly repaid for the chagrin l had sustained there, by the reputation I should acquire in France. "For Madam," said fhe, "will you not then be esteemed as bright a pattern of virtue, [p. 99] through your rejecting the offers of so great a man as the French King? take my word for it you will."

This well-timed observation of my faithful Irish woman, drove from my mind that dejection which had a few moments before overwhelmed it; and raised me in my own opinion, nearly to the same elevated pitch of consequence I had assumed during my journeydown. -- How happy is it for our sex, that the most humiliating impressions do not leave indelible marks on the heart! -- Vanity is ever buoyant, and when it only foars to an allowable height, it is by no means censurable.-It then answers the noblest purpofe's, and is productive of the beft consequences; which, without staying to enumerate them, I shall comprize in a wish to render themselves pleasing.

I was set down in Frith-Street, the same evening, without meeting with any impediment, and without a shilling in my poccket towards paying for the four coach and two saddle horses I had thought necessary to my pomp. This, however, was a matter of little concern to me, as I could send to Mr. Brudenell for a recruit, who seldom left town, even during the summer seafon. I accordingly sent to him, and on my informing him of my wants, he immediately accommodated me with twenty guineas.

As my Flemish boy, Peter was standing [p. 101] at the door waiting for the return of the messenger I had sent to Mr Brudenell, before whose arrival the extra horfes could not be discharged, two gentlemen passed by. Upon observing the equipage, the elder of the two, addressing the other, wondered whose it was. To which my boy pertly replied, "My mistress's." Ah! returned the same gentleman, "I should be glad to know who is to pay for it!" They then went on . Poor Peter, who could not brook any indignity offered to his mistress, immediately came to inform me of the event; which so much affected him, that the tears stood in his eyes.

Seeing the lad so much hurt, I called him a fool, and asked him why he did not tell the rude man that it belonged to him, if he had no objection. The messenger not being returned, the coach still stood at the door, and Peter had resumed his station, when the same gentlemen repassed. Upon which, Peter hearing the remark repeated, addressed the elder of them as I had hinted he should have done before. To this the gentleman said he could not have the least objection; and without any ceremony, they'walked up stairs, to the no small surprise of Peter and myself.

Who should the gentlemen be, but Mr. Fox and his commis Mr. Calcraft. l own I was much startled when they entered, having [p. 102] never seen Mr. Fox but once before. I had, indeed, had the happinefs of being introduced to his lady by the daughters of the Earl of Albermarle. Those ladies had honoured me with peculiar marks of distinction; particularly the late Lady Caroline and the Marchioness of Tavistock. Here I must ftop to bedew the memory of those two best of women, with a tear of the sincerest affection. The latter in particular claims tears of gratitude, mingled with blood warm springing from my heart; and these she has. My mind still retains the livelieft impressions of her goodness. The last time I had the happiness of seeing her, (I will not call it by so cold a name as honour) she assured me of a retreat which would have secured me an independency for life. And which, besides, would have given me an opportunity of enjoying her loved society, whenever the engagements annexed to her exalted situation would afford her leisure; an object of infinitely more consequence to me than render ing me independent.

At the time her ladyship gave me this assurance, she was in perfect health; yet I felt a presentiment that I should never see her more. A presage as sure to rmee, as to those who, we are told, possess the painful gift of second sight; and through every period of my wretched life, it has been the dreadful augerer of all my misfortunes. -- The attainment [p. 103] of this instinctive intelligence is not to be accounted for; but I can appeal to every observant person, whether they have not found this species of foreknowledge sometimes arise in their minds --This digression, as it is a debt of gratitude, which is at all times acceptable to the Deity, will not, I flatter myself prove unacceptable to you or my readers.

G. A. B.

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