The Autobiography of Anne Halkett

[She borrows money to settle a large part of her debt, marries Halkett, and resumes close relationship with his youngest daughter, pp. 100 - 105]

[p. 100] I was above a twelvemonth indeavouring all I could so to setle my affaires that I might have given Sir James some incouragementt to come to mee, which hee often designed to doe, butt I diswaded him from itt till itt might bee with more sattisfaction to himselfe, for I knew itt would bee butt a trouble to him to stay long att London or returne withoutt mee, and the ill succese I had (in my proposalls to my brother [Henry]) would make one of them nesesary.1

Butt Sir James patience beeing long tried, hee would nott bee hindred any longer, butt towards the latter end of the yeare 1655 hee came to London, where I att that time had come for two or three days, and hee returned with mee to Charleton to my sister's house, where hee staid for the most part while hee continued in England. The constancy of his affection, and the urgency of his desiring mee to marry, made mee now unite all the interest I had either by relation or freindship to gett mony, if nott to pay all I owed, yett such as was most presing; and to accomodate my selfe in some way suitable for [p. 101] what I designed.

I imployed some againe to try my brother [Henry], who (though one of the best natured men living) could nott bee prevailed with either to lend or ingage for one peny for mee; butt I did nott blame him, since the hindrance was from another hand,2 and that disapointmentt came to make mee more highly value the kindnese of my brother Newton [Elizabeth's husband], who voluntarily lentt mee three hundred pound, and the Countese of Devonshire [Lady Elizabeth Cavendish] two hundred, which was an obligation that I shall never forgett, nor what paines Mr. Neale tooke for mee to perswade her Las [Ladyship], and was bound with mee to her for the mony.3 I wish I had as much power to requite as I have memory to retaine the sence of those undeserved favors, and that my reflecting upon them may raise up my thoughts to the adoration and praise of Him who is the fountaine of mercy, and from whom only all blesings are derived.

After this money was receaved and paid where itt was most nesesary, and that I had sattisfied all that I knew any thing was due to, I wentt to London for some few days, where Sir James came to mee in order to conclude our mariage, which I could nott now in reason longer deferre, since the greatest objections I had made against itt was removed, and that I was fully convinced noe man living could doe more to deserve a wife then hee had done to obleige mee; and therfore I intended to give him my selfe, though I could secure him of nothing more, and that was my regrett that I could nott bring him a fortune as great as his affection to recompence his long expectation.

Itt was nott withoutt many debates with my selfe that I came att last to bee determined to marry, and the most prevalentt argument that perswaded mee to incline to itt was the extreordinary way that Sir James tooke even in silence to speake what hee thought nesesary to conceale till itt apeared to bee fitt for avowing, and then nott to bee discouraged from all the inconveniences that threatned his pursuit was what I could nott butt looke upon as ordered by the wise and good providence of the Allmighty, whom to resist or nott make use of so good an opertunity as by his mercy was offred to mee I thought might bee offencive to his devine Majestie, who in justice [p. 102] might deliver mee up to the power of such sins as might bee a punishmentt for nott making use of the offer of grace to preventt them. And this consideration beeing added to Sir Jameses worth ended the contraversy.

However, lest I might have beene mistaking, or Mr. D. [David] Dickson in his opinion, who thought itt lawfull for mee to marry, I entred nott into that state withoutt most solemne seeking the determined will of God, which by fasting and prayer I suplicated to be evidenced to mee, either by hedging up my way with thornes that I might nott offend him, or that hee would make my way plaine before his face, and my paths righteous in his sight. And as I beged this with the fervor of my soule, so itt was with an intire resignation and resolution to bee contentt with what ever way the Lord should dispose of mee. To this I may add Saint's Paul's attestation, "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blesed for evermore, knoweth that I lie nott." (2 Cor. xi. 31.)

Affter this day's devotion was over, every thing that I could desire in order to my mariage did so pleasingly concurre to the consumation of itt, and my owne mind was so undisturbed and so freed of all kind of doupts, that with thankefullnese I receaved itt as a testimony of the Lord's aprobation, and a presage of my future hapinese; and, blesed bee his name! I was nott disapointed of my hope.

Upon Satturday the first of March, 1655-6, Sir James and I wentt to Charleton, and tooke with us Mr. Gaile, who was chaplaine to the Countese of Devonshire, who preached (as hee some times used to doe) att the church the next day, and affter super hee married us in my brother Newton's closett, none knowing of itt in the familly or beeing presentt butt my brother and sister and Mr. Neale; though, conforme to the order of those that were then in power, who allowed of noe mariage lawfull butt such as were maried by one of there Justices of Peace, that they might object nothing against our mariage, affter the evening sermon my sister [Elizabeth, Lady Newton] pretending to goe see Justice Elkonhead who was nott well, living att Woolwitch, tooke Sir James and mee with her in the coach, and my brother [Henry, Elizabeth's husband, Anne's brother-in-law] and Mr. Neale wentt another way affoott and mett us there, [p. 103] and the Justice performed what was usuall for him att that time, which was only holding the Derectory in his hand, asked Sir James if hee intended to marry mee, hee answered Yes; and asked if I intended to marry him, I said Yes. Then says hee, "I pronounce you man and wife." So calling for a glase of sacke, hee drunk and wished much hapinese to us; and wee left him, having given his clarke mony, who gave in parchmentt the day and wittneses, and attested by the Justice that hee had maried us. Butt if itt had nott beene done more solemnly afterwards by a minister I should nott beleeved it lawfully done.4

Affter I was maried I staid butt a short while with my sister, and concealed my mariage from all except some particular persons that either relation or freindship made mee have confidence of, for itt was nott a time for any that honored the King to have any puplicke celebration; and another reason for performing itt privately was that aboutt ten days before I was maried Mrs. Cole, who was Maitland's wife, had arested mee againe,5 and I was forced to give in new baile, who were such as I owned my intention of marying, and going imediately affter for Scottland, and obliging my selfe to keepe them harmelese. I left the managementt of itt to him who before I had imployed for my atturny [Mr Neale], who was so confidentt shee could never recover two pence of mee that hee said hee would bee contentt to pay what ever should bee determined by the judges against mee, for hee said hee could prove by very good wittneses that shee said (when her former bill was cast over the barre), "Well, I will have one that shall sweare to the purpose, though I should give him ten pound for his paines."

Hee [Mr Neale] beeing an understanding active man, and giving mee such assurance, made mee with the lese disturbance leave London, for if I had had any aprehension of what affter fell outt I might have easily prevented the prejudice shee did mee; for 3 yeare affter my atturny died, and my baile beeing in the country, shee gott outt a judgementt against mee privately, so that none ever heard of itt that was concerned in mee.

And though itt cost mee a great deale of trouble and expence (which to this day I am owing for to Mr. Neale) [p. 104] to had (sic) that judgement reduced, yett found itt imposible, because itt was confirmed by the Act of Indempnity, made by the King when his Majestie first came home, which was much outt of my way, as well as injurious to many others. Butt that was my misfortune, which I had felt the weight of more heavily if att the same time the King had nott beene graciously pleased to grant mee 500 pound outt of the Exchequer.6 Butt of this I shall have more occation to speake hereaffter.

Sir James and I having taken leave of our friends, came safe withoutt any ill accidentt (in the post coach) the lengh of Bow Bridge, within mile of Yorke; and there wee had so remarkable a deliverance that I cannott omitt the relation of itt.

There was none in the coach butt Sir James and I, his man and my woman, and a big fatt gentleman whose name I forgott, butt hee was one that had imploymentt under the Bishop of Durham. Aboutt a quarter of a mile before wee came to the bridge that gentleman had lighted outt to walke a litle, and came in and satt on the side of the coach which was contrary to the place hee was in before, which contributed much to our safety, for Sir James and hee beeing on the one side of the coach, and his man in that boot, Crew's weight and mine was the less considerable, who were next to the danger. Butt all of us had unevitable beene drowned and had our neckes broke, withoutt an extreordinary providence; for 6 horses beeing in the coach, and the postillion nott carefull how hee entred the bridge, which was butt narrow, withoutt any ledges upon itt, and built of the fashion of a bow, from which itt had the name, hee driving carelesly, both the wheeles of that side where I satt wentt over the bridge, which the coachman seeing, cried out, "Wee are all lost," and flung himselfe outt of the coach boxe, and to escape hurt his leg very ill, so that hee could hardly gett up to pull the horses to him; nor was there scarce roome upon the bridge to give any assistance.

Butt that which was our preservation was some good angell I thinke (sentt by his Master), who, seeing the danger wee were in, held the coach behind all the way till itt was off the bridge. Itt was so extreordinary a [p.105] deliverance that wee knew nott how to bee thankefull enough to God Allmighty who had given itt, butt resolved to reward the man who had beene instrumentall in itt;7 butt when wee all came outt of the coach att the end of the bridge, and inquired for the man, there was none to be seene, nor had wee all that day mett or overtaken any travailer, only that man was seene by Hary Macky and the coachman to hold up the coach along the bridge, butt they both declared they never saw him before nor affter the danger, and that which made itt apeare the more strange was that hee seemed to bee butt a poore man, and such doth nott usually doe any service withoutt seeking a recompense. Butt whatever hee was, itt was hee the Lord made use of as a meanes of our safety, and the less wee knew of his comming, the more wee had reason to bee thankefull to Him who brought him there.

When wee came to Yorke, and related what wee had escaped, itt was the admiration of all that heard itt. The coachman and postillion was very penitentt for there fault, and therfore wee forgave them; butt would make noe more use of them, for wee hired another coach to Newcastle, where Sir James had apointed his owne horses and servantts to meett him, because hee intended to see his sisters as hee wentt home, which hee did, and wee came safe withoutt any other accidentt to the Cavers, where I was receaved with much kindness by all, butt most from Sir Jameses daughter, who I had left there, and was very well pleased to returne home with mee, which shee did affter some days stay att Cavers.8

[1 I have divided the sentence (replacing a semi-colon with a period) and the last sentence of the next paragraph (again replacing a semi-colon with a period). EM]

[2 Anne probably refers to Henry's wife, her sister-in-law, Anne Bayning Murray. Loftis sides with the wife, "the mother of a large family" (Loftis, Memoirs, 206n.) Cumming allows Anne Bayning Murray could have been "parsimonious," but also says she had five children, see Cumming, AH, 672. The real questions to answer are, How much did Anne owe? and how did she come to owe such sums she was unwilling to burden Halkett and even at the end of her life her creditors were still harassing her? EM]

[3 She needed 500 pounds to put Halkett out of danger for responsibility for her debts. Once she married him, her creditors could go after him.

Again Anne is relying on early relationships. Elizabeth (born Cecil), Lady Cavendish, Countess of Devonshire, wife of William Cavendish, the 4th Earl of Devonshire, and an active Royalist (Loftis, Memoirs, 206n, 236n) was also a niece of Edward, Lord Howard of Escrick, the father of Thomas Howard who had courted Anne earlier in her life. The father had not been against the marriage. Anne lived with his daughter, Anne Howard, at Naworth Castle, and the friendship was not broken. See She is pursued by Thomas Howard, She goes to live with Anne Howard. Mr Neale seems to have been a friend of Anne's in London who arranges loans for her; he comes to the wedding too. EM]

[4 Simon Couper also records how Anne fasted and prayed and finally decided that God had provided Halkett, 1701 Life, 29. Again, there had been legislated different changes in marital customs, including the demand there always be a civil ceremony and idea that if you had a civil ceremony, you did not have to go to church or church official for a religious ceremony. See Chris Durston, "'Unhallowed Wedlock': The Regulation of Marriage During the English Revolution," The Historical Journal, 31:1 (1988):45-59. Anne's attitude that the ritual must be done in church with an ordained minister was common. Neale, the family lawyer, is also there as witness.

It's at the point Simon Couper announces Anne's marriage to Halkett that he lists Halkett's previous family: "Sir James had been married to the Excellent Lady, Daughter of Skelmorlie, and niece to the Earl of Argyle." They had two sons, Sir Charles [the heir], James, knighted by Charles II" and two daughters, "Mary, married to Sir William Bruce of Kinross; and Anna, to Sir Andrew Ker of Cavers," 1701 Life, pp. 29-30. He tells nothing of the specific debts or two arrests. EM]

[5 Mrs Cole was the woman who had Anne arrested earlier; Mr Maitland is Mrs Cole's husband. See London: the last of Bampfield, p 98. The attorney is again Mr Neale. It's extraordinary how little emphasis Anne gives this; by contrast in her letters to Thomas Killigrew, Aphra Behn becomes hysterical when she's thrown in debtors' prison. I assume Behn was in danger of physical (sexual) harassment and Anne Murray was not. Behn hadn't Murray's connections. See W. J. Cameron, New Light on Aphra Behn. Auckland, 1961. EM]

[6 The Act of Indemnity passed by the convention Parliament in 1660 pardoned everyone for had taken part in the rebellion (except for 50 named individuals). Thus Mrs Cole who is apparently a Republican and brought about the forfeiture of Anne's bail is protected from retributive action. Anne still doesn't approve of it because like Mrs Cole (whom, however, she does not at all see herself in), she'd have gone after people vulnerable to her through law. Neale may have died in 1659 as Loftis writess "the grant was made, 20 November 1662, 'to Lady Ann Hacket, in consideration of her zeal and sufferings'" (Loftis, Memoirs, 206n). EM]

[7 Anne is determined to find overt signs of God's approval for her marriage to Halkett. From the text Henry Macky is probably a servant of Sir James's. EM]

[8 As above, London ... , p. 95n. 1, Cavers is the home of Sir James's sisters in southern Roxburgheshire. One of them is Grizell Halkett, wife of Sir Thomas Ker, with whom Sir James has left his younger daughter. Anne Halkett now returns to Edinburgh as a beloved wife and trusted step-mother. She had been parted from Anna for a year and seven months.

Loftis notes that neither of Sir James's sons are mentioned in the memoir (this of course is as we have it). Simon Couper's 1701 biography was dedicated to "the Lady Dowager of Pitfirren," the widow of Sir James's oldest son, Charles (who died in 1697), and the biographer says the relationship between Anne Halkett and Sir Charles's family was cordial; however, Sir Charles was an "influential man" in Fifeshire, "a member of the Scottish parliament for 9 nine years. Yet Anne had to support herself by teaching" (Loftis, Memoirs, pp 206-207n). The obvious conclusion is that Halkett's sons did not approve of his marriage to a woman with an ambiguous reputation and would not condone it or support Anne when she was widowed. See Edinburgh: through her connection to Margaret Howard Boyle, she attempts to help Halkett, p. 107n3. EM]

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