It was not long after these Turns of Fortune, that I had the real Affliction of losing my dear and indulgent Father; and so was left the only Consolation of my widow'd Mother. I shall not mention the Grief, Care, and Trouble which attended this great Change; these Things being natural and known to every-body: Therefore, I shall pass them over in Silence, as I was forced to undergo it with Submission.
When our Griefs were a little compos'd, and our Affairs adjusted, so that the World knew what Fortune I had to depend upon, and that in my own Power, there wanted not Pretenders to my Person; so that now was the Time to act the Coquet, if I had lik'd the Scene; but that never was my Inclination; for as I never affected the formal Prude, so I ever scorn'd the impertinent Coquet. Amongst this Train of Pretenders, (some of which address'd to my Mother, and some privately to me) I think there is nothing worth Remark, but what your Ladyship may guess, by a Copy or two of Verses writ on these Occasions.
You'd little Reason to complain of me,
Or my Unkindness, or Indifferency,
Since I, by many a Circumstance, can prove,
That Int'rest was the Motive of your Love.
But Heav'n it-self despises that Request,
Whose sordid Motive's only Interest.
No more can honest Maids endure to be
The Objects of your wise Indifferency.
Such wary Courtship only shou'd be shown
To cunning, jilting Baggages o'th' Town.
'Tis faithful Love's the Rhetorick that persuades,
And charms the Hearts of silly Country Maids.
But when we find, your Courtship's but Pretence,
Love were not Love in us, but Impudence.
At best, I'm sure, to us it needs must prove,
What e'er you think on't, most injurious Love.
For had I of that gentle Nature been,
As to have lov'd your Person, Wit, or Mien,
How many Sighs & Tears it wou'd have cost,
And fruitless Expectations by the Post?
Saying, He is unkind. — O no! his Letter's lost;
Hoping him sick, or lame, or gone to Sea;
Hop'd any thing but his Inconstancy.
Thus, what in other Friends, cause greatest Fear,
To desperate Maids, their only Comforts are.
This I through all your Blandishments did see,
Thanks to Ill-Nature, that instructed me.
Thoughts of your Sighs, sometimes wou'd plead for you;
But Second Thoughts again wou'd let me know,
In gayest Serpents strongest Poysons are,
As sweetest Rose-trees, sharpest Prickles bear.
And so it proves, since now it does appear,
That all your Flames and Sighs only for Money were.
As Beggars for their Gain, turn blind and lame,
On the same score, a Lover you became.
Yet there's a Kindness in this feign'd Amour,
It teaches me, ne'er to believe Man more:
Thus blazing Comets are of good Portent,
When they excite the People to repent.
These Amours affected me but little, or rather not at all; For the Troubles of the World lighting upon me, a thousand Disappointments attended me, when deprived of my Father. Alas! we know not the real Worth of indulgent, tender Parents, 'till the Want of them teach us by a sad Experience: And none experienc'd this more than myself: deceitful Debtors, impatient Creditors, distress'd Friends, peevish Enemies, Law-suits, rotten Houses, Eye-servants, spightful Neighbours, impertinent and interested Lovers, with a thousand such Things to terrify and vex me, nothing to consolate or assist me, but Patience and God's Providence.
When my Mother and I had accommodated our Affairs, we endeavour'd to make ourselves easy, by putting off our Country Incumbrance, and so went to live at London.
Here I was, as if I was born again: This was a new Life to me, and very little fitted the Shape of my Rural Fancy; for I was wholly form'd to the Country in Mind and Manners; as unfit for the Town, as a Tarpaulin for a States-man; the Town to me was a Wilderness, where, methought, I lost my self and my Time; and what the World there calls Diversion, to me was Confusion. The Park, Plays, and Operas, were to me but as so much Time thrown away. I was a Stranger to every-body, and their Way of Living; and, I believe, my stiff Air and awkard Mien, made every-body wish to remain a Stranger to me. The Assemblèes, Ombre, and Basset-Tables, were all Greek to me; and I believe my Country Dialect, to them, was as unintelligible; so that we were neither serviceable nor pleasant to each other. Perhaps some or other of the Company, either out of Malice to expose me, or Complaisance to entertain me in my own Way, would enter into the Praise of a Country Life, and its plentiful Way of Living, amongst our Corn, Dairies, and Poultry, 'till by Degrees, these bright Angels would make the Ass open its Mouth, and upon their Demand, tell how many Pounds of Butter a good Cow would make in a Week; or how many Bushels of Wheat a good Acre of Land would produce; Things quite out of their Sphere or Element: And amongst the rest, the Decay of the Wooll-Trade is not to be omitted; and, like a true Country Block-head, grumble against the Parliament, for taking no better Care of the Country-Trade, by prohibiting Cane-Chairs and Wainscot; by which means, the Turkey-work, Tapistry, and Kidderminster Trades were quite lost; and in them the great Manufacture of the Nation; and not only so, but perpetual Fires intail'd on the City of London. Thus I, one of the free-born People of England, thought I had full Privilege to rail at my Betters. Sometimes, and in some Places, perhaps, Part of the Company, who knew a little of my Bookish Inclinations, would endeavour to relieve that Silence which the Ignorance of the Town laid upon me; and enter into a Discourse of Receipts, Books, and Reading. One ask'd me, If I lik'd Mrs. Phillips, or Mrs. Behn best? To whom I reply'd, with a blunt Indignation, That they ought not to be nam'd together: And so, in an unthinking, unmannerly Way, reproach'd the Lady that endeavour'd to divert and entertain me; she having that Moment been pleased to couple them. By this Blunder, Madam, said Galesia, you see how far one is short, in Conversation acquired only by Reading; for the many Plays and pretty Books I had read, stood me in little stead at that Time, to my great Confusion; for though Reading inriches the Mind, yet it is Conversation that inables us to use and apply those Riches or Notions gracefully.
At the Toilet, I was as ignorant a Spectator as a Lady is an Auditor at an Act-Sermon in the University, which is always in Latin; for I was not capable to distinguish which Dress became which Face; or whether the Italian, Spanish, or Portugal Red, best suited such or such Features; nor had I a Catalogue of the Personal or Moral Defects of such or such Ladies, or Knowledge of their Gallantries, whereby to make my Court to the Present, at the Cost of the Absent; and so to go the World round, 'till I got thereby the Reputation of ingaging and agreeable Company. However, it was not often that the whole Mystery of the Toilet, was reveal'd to my Country Capacity; but now and then some Aunt, or Governess, would call me to a Dish of Chocolate, or so; whilst the Lady and her officious Madamoiselle, were putting on those secret Imbellishments which illustrated her Beauties in the Eyes of most of the fine bred Beholders. But some petulant, antiquated Tempers, despised such Ornaments, as not having been used in good Queen Bess's Days; nor yet in the more Modern Court of Oliver Cromwel. As to myself, I was like a Wild Ass in a Forest, and liv'd alone in the midst of this great Multitude, even the great and populous City of London.
When Duty and good Days call'd me to Church, I thought I might find there some Compeeresses, or Persons of my own Stamp, and amongst the Congregation behave my self like others of my Sex and Years; But, alas! there were Locks and Keys, Affronts from Pew-keepers, crowding and pushing by the Mob, and the gathering Congregation gazing upon me as a Monster; at least I fancied so. When patient waiting, and Pocket opening to the Pewkeeper, had got me a Place, I thought to exercise the Duty that call'd me thither: But, alas! the Curtesies, the Whispers, the Grimaces, the Pocket Glasses, Ogling, Sighing, Flearing, Glancing, with a long &c. so discompos'd my Thoughts, that I found I was as unfit for those Assemblies, as those others before nam'd, where a verbal Conversation provided against those mute Entertainments; which my Clownish Breeding made me think great Indecencies in that Sacred Place; where nothing ought to be thought on, much less acted, but what tended to Devotion, and God's Glory; so that I was here likewise alone in the midst of a great Congregation. Thus you see, Madam, how an Education, purely Country, renders one unfit to live in the great World, amongst People of refin'd and nice Breeding; and though I had bestow'd Time and Pains in Book-Acquests, a little more than usual; yet it was but lost Labour to say the best of it: However, I did not repent; for though it had suppress'd and taken Place of that nice Conversation belonging to the Ladies, yet it furnish'd me with Notions above the Trifles of my Sex, wherewith to entertain my self in Solitude; and likewise, when Age and Infirmities confin'd my dear Mother within-doors, and very much to her Chamber, I paid my Duty to her with Pleasure, which otherwise might have seem'd a Constraint, if not in some Degree omitted, had my Thoughts been levell'd at those gaudy Pleasures of the Town, which intangle and intoxicate the greater Part of Woman-kind. Now, I believe, it was this retired Temper which pleas'd a certain Person a little in Years, so as to make his Addresses to me, in order to an Espousal. This was approv'd of by my Friends and Relations; amongst the rest, my young Kinsman, whom I mention'd to your Ladyship, a Student at the University, writ me a very fine persuasive Copy of Verses on the Subject of Marriage, which I have lost; but the Answer to those Verses appear here amongst the other Paper-Rubbish.
When Friends Advice with Lovers Forces joyn,
They conquer Hearts more fortified than mine.
Mine open lies, without the least Defence;
No Guard of Art; but its own Innocence;
Under which Fort it could fierce Storms endure:
But from thy Wit I find no Fort secure.
Ah! why would'st thou assist mine Enemy,
Whose Merits were almost too strong for me?
For now thy Wit makes me almost adore,
And ready to pronounce him Conqueror:
But that his Kindness then would grow, I fear,
Too weighty for my weak Desert to bear:
I fear 'twou'd even to Extreams improve;
For Jealousy, they say's th' Extream of Love.
Even Thou, my dear Exilius, he'd suspect;
If I but look on thee, I him neglect.
Not only Men, as innocent as thou,
But Females he'd mistrust, and Heaven too.
Thus best things may be turn'd to greatest Harm,
As the Lord's Prayer said backward, proves a Charm.
Or if not thus, I'm sure he wou'd despise,
And under-rate the easy-gotten Prize,
Forgetting the Portent o'th' willing Sacrifice.
These and a thousand Fears my Soul possess;
But most of all my own Unworthiness:
Like dying Saints, that wish for coming Joys,
But humble Fears their forward Wish destroys.
What shall I do, then? Hazard the Event?
You say, old Damon's All that's excellent.
If I miss him, the next some 'Squire may prove,
Whose Dogs and Horses, shall have all his Love.
Or some debauch'd Pretender to lewd Wit,
Or covetous, conceited, unbred Cit.
As the brave Horse, who late in Coach did neigh,
Is forc'd at last to tug a nasty Dray.
I suppose, I need not desire your Ladyship to believe, that what seems here to be said in Favour of Damon, is rather Respect to my Kinsman's Persuasions, than any real Affection for him; who being a little in Years, was not much capable of raising a Passion in a Heart not hospitable enough to receive a Guest of this kind; especially having found so much Trouble with those that had lodg'd there heretofore. Wherefore this Affair pass'd by, with Indifferency on both Sides: And my Mother and I remain'd at Quiet, we not thinking of any-body; nor any-body thinking of us: And thus we liv'd alone (at least in our Actions) in the midst of Multitudes.
Our Lodging was near Westminster-Abbey, for the Benefit of those frequent and regular Services there performed. For my own Part, I chose the early Prayers, as being free from that Coquettry, too much appearing at the usual Hour: Besides, there one has the Opportunity, to offer all the Accitions of the Day to Heaven, as the First-fruits, which heretofore was a most acceptable Sacrifice. By this, methought, all the Actions of the following Day were sanctified; or, at least, they seem'd to be agitated by a Direction from Heaven. The Comers thither appear'd to me to resort really there about what they pretended; and the Service of God seem'd to be the true Motive of their Actions. But, good Heaven! how was I surpriz'd at a Transaction I will relate, though not appertaining to my-self or my Story.
There was an elderly Man, in a graceful comely Dress suitable to his Years, who seem'd to perform his Devotions with Fervor and Integrity of Heart; nevertheless, this wicked Wight, pick'd up a young Girl in order to debauch her; which was in this manner. Immediately when they came out of the Chapel, he began to commend the young People he saw there, for leaving their Morning-Slumbers, to come and serve God in his Sanctuary: "In particular, You, Sweet-heart, (addressing to one lately come out of the Country) have hardly yet any Acquaintance, to ingage you to meet upon an Intrigue or Cabal; (at least I guess so by your Mien and Garb) but come hither purely for God's Worship, which is extremely commendable, and ought to be encourag'd. Come, pretty Maid, come along with me, and I will give you a Breakfast, together with good Instructions how to avoid the Vices of the Town, of which I am convinced you are thoroughly ignorant." Thus this old Whorson play'd the Devil for God's sake, according to the Proverb, and took this young Innocent into a House of very ill Repute.
It was not long e'er this poor Wretch began to find herself ill and out of Order: She came to me, hearing that I had some Skill in Physick; but I perceiving her Distemper to be such as I did not well understand, nor cared to meddle withal, recommended her to a Physician of my Acquaintance, who was more used to the immodest Harangues necessary on such Occasions. I calling to mind, that this was she, who had been seduced at the early Prayers, was a little curious to know the Manner of her Undoing.
She told me, That the Person who misled her, was a Goldsmith, living in good Repute in that Quarter of the Town. He gave her a great deal of good Counsel to avoid the Beaus and Gallants of the Town; which if she did, and behav'd herself modestly and discreetly, he said, she should want for nothing; for he would be a Father to her: bad her meet him again on the Morrow, and he would bring a Ring, and therewith espouse her. Which accordingly he did, and put the Ring on the Wedding Finger, and took her for his Left-hand Wife. By this Fallacy, was this silly Girl ruin'd. They continued this their Commerce for some time; he giving her many Treats and Presents; 'till, by degrees, he grew weary, diminished his Favours, met her but seldom, and at last took no Notice of her. Whether she was lewd with any other Person, and got the Venereal Distemper, and so disoblig'd him, or what other Reason, I know not; but she being abandon'd by her Gallant, and disabled by her Illness, was reduc'd to great Distress, and from Time to Time was forced to sell what she had to relieve her Necessities. The Ring she kept 'till the last, that being the Pledge of his Love, and pretended Constancy; but then was forc'd to seek to make Money of that vile Treasure, the Snare that had intangled both Body and Souls Now this silly Creature never knew directly where this her Gallant liv'd. I suppose his Cunning conceal'd that from her; whether by Sham or directly refusing to tell her, I know not: But she ignorantly stumbled on his Shop to sell this Ring; where finding an elderly Matron, she address'd herself to her to buy it. The good Gentlewoman seeing her Husband's Mark on the Ring, and calling to mind, that she had miss'd such a one some time ago, seiz'd the Girl, in order to carry her before a Justice to make her prove where, and how, she came by that Ring. The poor Wretch, all trembling, told her, That a Gentleman had given it her; but indeed, she did not know where he lived. Whereupon the Gentlewoman reply'd, That if she could not produce the Person that gave it her, she must be prosecuted as a Felon, and as such, undergo what the Course of Law should allot her; and accordingly order'd her immediately into the Hands of a Constable, to have her before a Justice. At this Moment, it so happen'd, that the Master of the Shop came in; at which the poor trembling, frighted Creature, cry'd out, O Madam! this is the Gentleman that gave me the Ring. You impudent Slut, reply'd he, I know you not; get you gone out of my Shop! and so push'd her out. She being glad to get thus quit, hasted away, leaving the Man and his Wife to finish the Dispute between themselves.
Behold, Madam, what an odd Piece of Iniquity was here. That a Man in Years shou'd break his Morning's Rest, leave his Wife, House, and Shop at Random, and expose himself to the chill Morning Air, to act the Hypocrite and Adulterer; ruin an innocent young Creature, under the Pretence of a ridiculous Sham-Marriage, and at the same Time exhaust that Means which should support his Family and his Credit, is to me wonderful to conceive. At last the poor Creature was abandon'd to all Misery, even Hunger and a nauseous Disease; between which she must have inevitably perish'd, a loathsome Example of Folly and Lewdness; but that the Doctor to whom I had recommended her, got her into an Hospital, from whence, after her Cure, she went away to the Plantations, those great Receptacles of such scandalous and miserable Miscreants.
Pardon, Madam, this long Digression, which is not out of an Inclination to rake in such Mud, which produces nothing but Offence to the Senses of all vertuous Persons; but it came into my Way to shew how much I was mistaken, in the Vertue and Piety of some of those early Devotees. Not that I mean by this or the like Example, to condemn all who there daily make their Addresses to Heaven: But to shew you, that in all Places, and at all Times, my Country Innocence render'd me a kind of a Solitary in the midst of Throngs and great Congregations. But though I found my self thus alone in Morals, yet I no where found a personal Solitude; but all Places full; all Persons in a Hurry; suitable to what that great Wit, Sir John Denham, says;
— With equal Haste they run,
Some to undo, and some to be undone.
At home, at our own Lodging, there was as little Quiet, between the Noise of the Street, our own House, with Lodgers, Visiters, Messages, Howd'ye's, Billets, and a Thousand other Impertinencies; which, perhaps, the Beau World wou'd think Diversion, but to my dull Capacity were mere Confusion. Besides which, several People came to me for Advice in divers sorts of Maladies, and having tolerable good Luck, I began to be pretty much known. The Pleasure I took in thus doing good, much over-balanced the Pains I had in the Performance; for which benign kind Disposition, I most humbly bless my great Creator (the free Disposer of all Blessings) for having compos'd me of such a Temper, as to prefer a vertuous or a charitable Action, before the Pomps or Diversions of the World, though they shou'd be accompanied with Riches and Honours; which, indeed, I did not injoy, nor expect; therefore happy, that my Inclinations corresponded with my Circumstances. The Truth is, I know not but that Pride and Vanity might, in some Degree, be united to this Beneficence; for I was got to such a Pitch of helping the Sick, that I wrote my Bills in Latin, with the same manner of Cyphers and Directions as Doctors do; which Bills and Recipes the Apothecaries fil'd amongst those of the Doctors: And this being in particular one of my Sex, my Muse wou'd needs have a Finger in the Pye; and so a Copy of Verses was writ on the Subject; which, perhaps, your Ladyship may like so as to put them in your Screen. They are as follow:
I hope I sha'n't be blam'd, if I am proud
To be admitted in this learned Croud.
For to be proud of Fortune so sublime,
Methinks, is rather Duty than a Crime.
Were not my Thoughts exalted in this State,
I should not make thereof due Estimate:
And, sure, one Cause of Adam's Fall, was this,
He knew not the just Worth of Paradise.
But with this Honour I'm so satisfy'd,
The Ancients were not more, when Deify'd.
'Tis this makes me a fam'd Physician grow,
As Saul 'mongst Prophets turn'd a Prophet too.
The Sturdy Gout, which all Male-Power withstands,
Is overcome by my soft Female Hands.
Not Deb'rah, Judith, or Semiramis,
Cou'd boast of Conquest half so great as this;
More than they slew, I save, in this Disease.
Now Blessings on you All, you Sons of Art,
Who what your selves ne'er knew, to me impart,
Thus Gold, which by th' Sun's Influence does grow,
Does that i'th' Market, Phoebus cannot do.
Bless'd be the Time, and bless'd my Pains & Fate,
Which introduc'd me to a Place so great!
False Strephon too, I almost now cou'd bless,
Whose Crimes conduc'd to this my Happiness.
Had he been true, I'd liv'd in sottish Ease,
Ne'er study'd ought, but how to love and please;
No other Flame, my Virgin Breast had fir'd,
But Love and Life together had expir'd.
But when, false Wretch! he his forc'd Kindness pay'd,
With less Devotion than e'er Sexton pray'd,
Fool that I was! to sigh, weep, almost dye,
Little fore-thinking of this present Joy;
Thus happy Brides shed Tears, they know not why.
Vainly we praise this Cause, or laugh at that,
Whilst the Effect, with its How, Where, & What,
Lies Embrio in the Womb of Time or Fate.
Of future Things we very little know,
And 'tis Heav'ns Kindness, that it should be so;
Were not our Souls, with Ignorance so buoy'd,
They'd sink with Fear, or overset with Pride.
So much for Ignorance there may be said,
That large Encomiums might thereof be made.
But I've digress'd too far; so must return,
To make the Medick-Art my whole Concern,
Since by its Aid, I've gain'd this honour'd Place,
Amongst th' immortal Æsculapian-Race:
That if my Muse, will needs officious be,
She must to this become a Votary.
In all our Songs, its Attributes rehearse,
Write Recipes, as Ovid Law, in Verse.
To Measure we'll reduce Febrific-Heat,
And make the Pulses in true Numbers beat.
Asthma and Phthisick chant in Lays most sweet;
The Gout and Rickets too, shall run on Feet.
In fine, my Muse, such Wonders we will do,
That to our Art, Mankind their Ease shall owe;
Then praise and please our-selves in doing so.
For since the Learn'd exalt and own our Fame,
It is no Arrogance to do the same,
But due Respects, and Complaisance to them.
Thus, Madam, as People before a Looking-glass, please themselves with their own Shapes and Features, though, perhaps, such as please no-body else; just so I celebrated my own Praise, according to the Proverb, for want of good Neighbours to do it for me; or rather, for want of Desert to ingage those good Neighbours. However, I will trouble your Ladyship with relating one Adventure more, which happen'd in this my Practice.
There came to me a Person in Quality of a Nurse who, though in a mean servile Station, had something in her Behaviour and Discourse, that seem'd above her Profession: For her Words, Air, and Mien, appeared more like one entertaining Ladies in a Drawing-Room, than a Person whose Thoughts were charg'd with the Care of her sick Patients, and Hands with the Pains of administring to her own Necessities. As we were in Discourse of the Business she came about, we were interrupted by a certain Noise in the Street, a little more than usual; which call'd our Curiosity to the Window; where pass'd by a noble fine Coach, with many Foot-men running bare-headed on each side, with all other Equipage and Garniture suitable; which made a splendid Figure, deserving the Regards of People the least curious. The Coach being pass'd, I turn'd me about, and found the good Nurse sunk in a fainting Fit, which was a little surprizing; but calling my Maid, with a little Endeavour, we brought her to herself; we ask'd her the Cause of this sudden Disorder? Whether she was accustom'd to those Fits? or, Whether any sudden Surprize or Reflection had seiz'd her? She reply'd, That indeed it was a sudden Surprize: The Sight of that great Coach, had affected her Spirit, so as to cause in her that Disorder. Whereupon I told her, I should be oblig'd to her, if she thought fit to inform me what Person or Occasion had caus'd in her so violent an Effect. To which she reply'd, That a Person of his Grandeur who was in the Coach, ought not to be nam'd with one of her mean Condition: Nevertheless, said she, you appearing to be a Gentlewoman of Prudence and Vertue, I will tell you my Story, without the least Disguise.
My Father, said she, was the younger Son of a Country Gentleman, and was a Tradesman of Repute in the City: He gave me a Gentlewoman-like Education, as became his Family, and the Fortune he was able to bestow upon me; for he had no Child but my self, which, perhaps, was the Cause that I was more taken Notice of than I should have been otherwise. Amongst many that cast their Eyes upon me, a certain young Clerk of the Inns of Court, of a piercing Wit, graceful Mien, and flowing Eloquence, found Opportunity to make an Acquaintance with me, and as soon to make his Addresses to me. Alas! my unguarded Heart soon submitted to the Attacks of his Wit and ingaging Behaviour; and all this without the Knowledge of my Father; which was the easier accomplish'd, I having no Mother. I will not repeat to you, continu'd she, the many Messages, Letters, and little Presents, which attended this secret Amour, there being therein no more than ordinary on such an Occasion.
Now though we had been careful and cunning enough to keep this from the Knowledge of my Father, yet Jealousy soon open'd the Eyes of a Lover; for the Foreman of my Father's Shop, designing me for himself, found out our Correspondence, and discovered the same to my Father: At which he was very much displeas'd, knowing that the young Gentleman had little or no Foundation, but his own Natural Parts, and his Education, to recommend him for a Husband to a City Heiress. Hereupon my Father forbad me his Company, charging me to have no manner of Correspondence with him, upon pain of his utmost Displeasure. But, alas! my Affections were too far ingag'd, to let Duty have the Regency; and not only my Affections, but my faithful Word given in Promise of Marriage to this young Gentleman; which I kept from my Father, assuring him of a ready Obedience to his Commands.
Thus things pass'd some time in Silence and Secrecy, 'till my Father had an Opportunity to marry me to a wealthy Citizen; wherewith he press'd me very earnestly to comply. But his Trade was none of the Genteelest, neither his Education nor Person at all polite, nor was he very suitable in Years: These Things were disagreeable in themselves; but worst of all, my Word given to my young Lawyer, render'd the Difficulty almost unsurmountable. I had not Courage to let my Father know the Truth; which if I had, perhaps, I had been never the better; for the more I seem'd to dislike this other Proposal, the more my Father's Aversion grew towards my young Lawyer, as supposing him to be the Obstacle that barr'd me from my Duty, as he really was, in a great degree. But Things did not hold long in this Posture; for my Father press'd on the Marriage with the utmost Earnestness, using Promises and Threatnings, 'till at last my Weakness (for I cannot call it Obedience) made me comply. After I was married, I lived in plenty enough for some Years. In the mean Time, my Father married a young Wife, by whom he had many Children, which depriv'd me of all future Hopes of receiving any Benefit by his Bounty. But to shorten my Story, by such time as I had liv'd a Wife about Seven Years, my Father dy'd, and my Husband broke, by which I was reduc'd to a low Ebb of Fortune; and he being a Man of no Family, had no Friends to assist or raise him; and with this Fall of Fortune, his Spirit sunk withal, so that he had not Courage to strive or grapple, or turn any thing about, 'till he had spent the utmost Penny. Whether this Ruin proceeded from Losses by Sea and Land, to which great Dealers are obnoxious, or from the immediate Hand of Heaven, for my Breach of Vow to my young Lawyer, I know not; but our Distress grew greater and greater, 'till I was forc'd to betake my self to the Imployment of a Nurse; and my Husband to be Labourer at St. Paul's, which is his present Occupation. In the mean time, my young Lawyer grew into Fame, by his acute Parts, which he imploy'd in serving the Royal-Cause, 'till he is become that great Man you saw pass by: which sudden Sight gave me such Confusion, that I cou'd no longer support my self, but sunk into the Chair next the Place where I stood.
Thus ended she her Story; which is indeed not a little extraordinary, though scarcely sufficient to merit your Ladyship's Attention. Nevertheless, the good Woman's Humility, Patience, and Industry, are greatly to be commended, and ought to be an Example to many, even her Superiors as well as her Inferiors; she being so true a Pattern of Patience, humble Condescension, and Diligence, that I think I may apply to her a Couplet I wrote on a particular Occasion, amongst some of my Poems:
Where Fortune wou'd not with her Wish comply,
She made her Wish bear Fortune Company.
Thus, Madam, I rubb'd on, in the midst of Noise and Bustle, which is every where to be found in London; but Quiet and Retreat scarce any where. At last I found out a Closet in my Landlady's Back-Garret which I crept into, as if it had been a Cave on the Top of Parnassus; the Habitation of some unfortunate Muse, that had inspir'd Cowley, Butler, Otway, or Orinda, with Notions different from the rest of Mankind; and for that Fault, were there made Prisoners. Here I thought I found my own poor despicable Muse given to Orinda as her Waiting-maid; and it was, perhaps, some of the worst Part of that great Lady's Punishment, to be constrain'd to a daily Correspondence with so dull a Creature. However, this Hole was to me a kind of Paradise; where I thought I met with my old Acquaintance as we hope to do in the other World. Here I tumbled over Harvey and Willis at Pleasure: My impertinent Muse here found me; and here we renew'd our old Acquaintance. Sometimes I wou'd repel her Insinuations; and sometimes again accept her Caresses; as appears by the following Invocation.
Cease, prithee, Muse, thus to infest
The barren Region of my Breast,
Which never can an Harvest yield,
Since Weeds of Noise o'er-run the Field.
If Interest wont oblige thee to it,
At least let Vengeance make thee do it;
'Cause I thy Sweets and Charms oppose,
In bidding Youth become thy Foes.
But nought, I see, will drive thee hence,
Threats, Business, or Impertinence.
But still thou dost thy Joys obtrude
Upon a Mind so wholly rude,
As can't afford to entertain
Thee, with the Welcome of one Strain.
Few Friends, like thee, wou'd be so kind,
To come where Interest does not bind;
And fewer yet return again,
After such Coldness and Disdain.
But thou, kind Friend, art none of those;
Thy Charms thou always do'st oppose
Against Inquietude of Mind;
If I'm displeas'd, still thou art kind;
And with thy Spells driv'st Griefs away,
Which else wou'd make my Heart their Prey.
And fill'st their empty Places too,
With Thoughts of what we ought to do.
Thou'rt to my Mind so very good,
Its Consolation, Physick, Food.
Thou fortify'st it in Distress;
In Joy augment'st its Happiness:
Inspiring me with harmless Rhimes,
To praise good Deeds, detest all Crimes.
Then, gentle Muse, be still my Guest;
Take full Possession of my Breast.
Thus, Madam, in my Garret-Closet, my Muse again took Possession of me: Poetry being one of those subtle Devils, that if driven out by never so many firm Purposes, good Resolutions, Aversion to that Poverty it intails upon its Adherents; yet it will always return and find a Passage to the Heart, Brain, and whole Interior; as I experienced in this my exalted Study: Or, to (use the Phrase of the Poets) my Closet in the Star-Chamber; or the Den of Parnassus.
Out of this Garret, there was a Door went out to the Leads; on which I us'd frequently to walk to take the Air, or rather the Smoke; for Air, abstracted from Smoke, is not to be had within Five Miles of London. Here it was that I wish'd sometimes to be of Don Quixote's Sentiments, that I might take the Tops of Chimneys, for Bodies of Trees; and the rising Smoke for Branches; the Gutters of Houses, for Tarras-Walks; and the Roofs for stupendous Rocks and Mountains. However, though I could not beguile my Fancy thus, yet here I was alone, or, as the Philosopher says, never less alone. Here I entertain'd my Thoughts, and indulg'd my solitary Fancy. Here I could behold the Parliament-House, Westminster-Hall, and the Abbey, and admir'd the Magnificence of their Structure, and still more, the Greatness of Mind in those who had been their Founders; one Place for the establishing good Laws; another for putting them in Practice; the Third for the immediate Glory of God; a Place for the continual singing his Praise, for all the Blessings bestow'd on Mankind. But with what Amazement did I reflect, how Mankind had perverted the Use of those Places design'd for a general Benefit: and having been reading the Reign of King Charles the First, I was amaz'd, to think how those Law-Makers cou'd become such Law-Confounders, as the History relates. Was it Ambition, Pride or Avarice? For what other wicked Spirit entred amongst them, we know not; but something infernal sure it was, that push'd or persuaded them to bring so barbarous an Enterprize to so sad a Conclusion. Ambition sure it cou'd not be, for every one cou'd not be King, nor indeed cou'd any one reasonably hope it. Neither cou'd it be Pride, because in this Action they work'd their own Disgrace. It must certainly therefore be Covetousness; for they hop'd to inrich themselves by the Ruins of the Church and State, as I have heard; though the Riches were of small Durance. These kind of Thoughts entertained me; some of which, I believe, are in Writing, amongst my other Geer.
Covetousness we may truly call, The Dropsie of the Mind, it being an insatiable Thirst of Gain: The more we get, the more we desire, and the more we have, the less willing are we to part with any. It was a wise Remark of him that said, A Poor Man wants Many things, but the Covetous Man wants All things; for a covetous Man will want Necessaries, rather than part with his Gold; and unless we do part with it, it is of no use to us; since we can't eat, drink, or warm ourselves by it: And, as of itself it can neither feed, warm, nor cloath us, so neither can it make us Ploughshares, Pruning-hooks, Weapons of Defence, or other Utensils worthy the Value we set upon it. Yet this shining Earth commands this Lower-Orb, and for it we often sell our Friends, King, Country, Laws, and even our eternal Happiness. Thus Avarice brings many to that Region where the Coveting of Thirty Pieces of Silver brought the most abominable of all Traitors.
Then I turn'd my Eyes on Westminster-Hall, that noble Structure, which contains the several Courts of Justice, where those good Laws, made in the other High Court, are put in practise. But how far this Intention is perverted, God knows, and the World daily informs us. For Truth is too often disguised, and Justice over-ballanced, by means of false Witnesses, slow Evidences to Truth, avaritious Lawyers, poor Clients, Perjury, Bribery, Forgery, Clamour, Party, Mistakes, Misapprehensions, ill-stating the Case, Demurrs, Reverses, and a thousand other Shifts, Querks and Tricks, unknown to all but Lawyers.
From hence I turn'd my Eyes on the Abbey, and wondred to behold it standing; when so many stately Edifices and stupendous Piles were demolished. Whether its Revenues were too small to be coveted, or too large to be hop'd for, I could not tell; but I believe the Stones were neither more nor less Criminal than those of their Fellow-Dilapidations. So I concluded these Considerations, with a Couplet of Sir John Denham's.
Is there no temp'rate Region to be known,
Betwixt their torrid and our frigid Zone?
I return'd into my Closet, or rather my Den of Dulness, for the Retreat of such a Student deserves not the Name of a Study. Here I cast mine Eyes on a very fine Epistle in Verse from my Friends at Cambridge; whereupon I sat me down to answer it, which was to dissuade them from Poetry, notwithstanding their great Genius towards it, express'd even in that Epistle. Which Answer be pleas'd to take as follows.
Dear Friends, if you'll be rul'd by me,
Beware the Charms of Poetry;
And meddle with no fawning Muse,
They'll but your harmless Love abuse.
Tho' Cowley's Mistress had a Flame,
As pure and lasting as his Fame;
And to Orinda they were ty'd,
That nought their Friendship cou'd divide;
Yet now they're all grown Prostitutes,
And wantonly admit the Suits
Of any Fop, that will pretend
To be their Lover, or their Friend.
Tho' they to Wit, no Homage pay,
Nor can the Laws of Verse obey,
But ride poor Six-foot out of Breath,
And rack a Metaphor to Death;
Yet still, as little as they know,
Are Fav'rites of the Muses now.
Then who wou'd honour such a She,
Where Fools their happier Rivals be?
We surely may conclude there's none,
Unless they're drunk with Helicon;
Which is a Liquor that can make
A Dunce set up for Rhyming Quack;
A Liquor of so strange a Temper,
As all our Faculties does hamper;
That whoso drinks thereof is curs'd
To a continu'd Rhyming Thirst.
Unknown to us, like Spell of Witch,
It strikes the Mind into an Itch;
Which being scrubb'd by Praise, thereby
Becomes a spreading Leprosy;
As hard to cure, as Dice or Whore,
And makes the Patient, too, as poor:
For Poverty as sure attends
On Poets, as on Rich-Mens Friends:
Wherefore I'd banish it my Breast.
Rather than be to Fools a Jest,
I'd to old Mammon be a Bride,
Be ugly as his Ore untry'd;
Do every Thing for sordid Ends,
Caress my Foes, betray my Friends;
Speak fair to all; do good to none;
Not care who's happy, who's undone;
But run where Int'rest pushes one;
Do any thing to quench poetick Flame,
And beg my Learned Friends to do the same.
Looking over what I had wrote, I remember I did not like it; for instead of praising what they had sent me, as it deserv'd, giving them Thanks, begging them to continue the same Favour to me and the World, I, in an uncouth, disobliging Manner, oppos'd their Ingenuity; by which I very little deserved any more such agreeable Entertainments. Moreover, casting an Eye on the other Poem, which I had wrote but a Day or two before, in which I had kindly treated and cajol'd my Muse; and then again on my Friends witty Epistle; so that between these Three, my Thoughts danc'd the Hay, like the Sun and Moon in the Rehearsal, and thereby made an Eclipse in my Resolution. But as I have heard, that in some Countries they go with Pans and Kettles, and therewith make a Noise; whether to wake the Sun out of his imagin'd Sleep, or raise him from the Dead, I know not: But, in like manner, a hasty Knocking at the Door of the Leads; disappointed this my Ecliptick Dance. I speedily open'd the Door, and there found a Gentlewoman of a graceful Mien and genteel Dress: She hastily rush'd in, and begg'd me to fasten the Door, and then to introduce her to the Gentlewoman of the House: To which I consented, and so descended with her to my Landlady's Apartment, where we found her, together with my Mother. After I had inform'd them of the Adventure of her coming over the Leads, in at the Garret-Door, they courteously receiv'd her, and desir'd to know wherein they cou'd be further serviceable.
She told them, That although her Crimes render'd her too confus'd to relate her Story; yet, her distressed Condition obliged her to an undisguised Recital.
I am, said she, Daughter to a worthy Country Gentleman, of an ancient Family and large Possessions; who lived suitable to the Rank and Station in which Heaven had plac'd him. He and my Mother were esteemed by Persons of all Ranks, as indeed they deserv'd; for they were beneficent to every body; Neighbours, Relations, Servants, Poor and Rich, all had a Share in their Generosity, Kindness, or Charity. Their Tenants gather'd Estates under them; Their Servants gain'd wherewith to become Masters in their Old Age; Their Table and Cellar were always free and open to the Freeholders, and Tradesmen, who came to pay their Respects to them; Their Park and Gardens were at the Service of any of the neighbouring Gentry, that were not Masters of such Conveniencies: Their Persons were amiable, and their Discourse agreeable and entertaining. Thus they pass'd their Days in Plenty and Honour, 'till their unhappy Off-spring gave a new Byass to their Bowl of Life, which had hitherto rolled on with such Evenness, as testified the steady Hand of those that gave the Cast . My Brother being grown to Years of Maturity, listed himself in all the Lewdness of the Age; by which he contracted so many and such gross Infirmities, that a thorough Recovery of his Health is despaired of.
Now my Parents, who had been always affectionate towards me, became extreamly fond, humouring me even to a Fault, especially since I made such ill Use of their Tenderness: For by means of this extra-ordinary Indulgence, I grew troublesome to Servants, impertinent to my Betters, rude and disobliging to my Equals, harsh and insulting to my Inferiors; in short, I behav'd my self, as if all the World were created for me only, and my Service. In the mean Time, Fondness so blinded my Parents, that they saw no Fault in me, nor I in my self, which was my great Misfortune.
Now, whether this humoursome, impertinent way made me disagreeable to Young Gentlemen, I know not; but though my Fortune was considerable, and my Person such as you see, not contemptible, yet nobody made any Overtures of Marriage to me, or to my Parents on my behalf; at least, that I know of.
Amongst, many whom my Father's Quality and Munificence brought to our House, there was a certain fine Gentleman cast his Eyes on me, with a Tenderness unbefitting my Youth, and his Circumstances, he being a married Man; but notwithstanding that, I suffered his Insinuations to penetrate my Soul. His Looks and Gestures demonstrated a violent Passion; but his Words were always dress'd up in Vertue and Honour; and the frequent Theme of his Discourse was on Platonick Love, and the happy State any Two might injoy, that lived together in such a chaste Affection. In these kind of Discourses we pass'd many Hours; sometimes in Walks, sometimes in Arbours, and oftentimes in my Chamber, 'till very late Hours. At last, the Mask of Platonick Love was pull'd off, and a personal Injoyment concluded the Farce, compos'd of many deceitful Scenes, and wicked Contrivances. In a little Time I began to perceive my self pregnant, to that degree, that I daily fear'd others should take notice of it. There was no way left to escape the Fury of my Parents and his Wife, but by Flight, which we put in Execution; pretending to go beyond-Sea, the better to avoid Search. But instead thereof, he brought me to a House in your Neighbourhood; and there left me. What is become of him, I know not, nor dare inquire. The Officers of the Parish being inform'd of my being here, in this Condition, came to inquire into the Matter; but my Landlady being aware thereof, convey'd me through her Garret over the Leads of Westminster Hall, and so into your Garret.
And now, Gentlewomen, behold what a miserable Creature is before you. I cannot bear being carried before a Justice on this Account; I shall sooner lay violent Hands on my self; which I pray God forbid. Therefore, dear Ladies, advise me what to do, or how to proceed.
After a little Consideration, my Landlady, with much Goodness, sent for the Officers of the Parish, to ingage on her behalf; that they might leave her in Repose, 'till Time should find out the Gentleman; or get some Accommodation with her Parents; after which she sent her Maid with her to her Lodging; recommending her to the Care of her Landlady, with Assurance of Payment.
She being gone, we began to descant on the poor miserable Creature's Distress; withal much applauding the Charity of our good Landlady, to a Person so wholly a Stranger. No, indeed, reply'd the good Gentlewoman, she is not quite a Stranger to me, for I was heretofore very well acquainted with her Parents, who were really worthy good People; but since the Birth of this Girl, her Father has chang'd his generous beneficent Temper; and as she grew up in Beauty, he grew the more Niggardly; of which I could give you a particular Instance, but shall reserve it to another Opportunity; and always wish, that Parents would never set their Hearts so much on great Provisions for their Children, as to refuse Charity to any miserable Object that addresses them, as did this Gentleman; but rely on God's Providence for their Posterity, as well as their own Riches, Frugality or Industry.
This Adventure, Madam, as it prov'd a Consolation to this distressed Creature; so it prov'd a Misfortune to me; for hereupon my Mother prohibited me my Garret-Closet, and my Walk on the Leads; lest I should encounter more Adventures, not only like this, but perhaps more pernicious: So that being depriv'd of my solitary Retreat, your Ladyship cannot expect much of Verse or Poetick Fancies whereof to make Patches at present.
Methinks, reply'd the Lady, I should expect some doleful Ditty, upon being depriv'd of this your beloved Solitude. On this Occasion I fancy you like Ovid, when banish'd from all his Pleasures and Injoyments in the glorious City of Rome; you being depriv'd of what you preferr'd before all them; which shews, there is no Possibility of making People happy against their Will. Some are happy in a Cottage; others can scarce endure Life but in a Palace. Some take great Delight in Fields, Woods, and Rural Walks: others again, in lofty Buildings, glorious Apartments, sumptuous Entertainments, Balls, Dancings, Shows, and Masquerades.
'Tis true, Madam, reply'd Galesia; and this makes me reflect, how useless, or rather pernicious, Books and Learning are to our Sex. They are like Oatmeal or Charcoal to the deprav'd Appetites of Girls; for by their Means we relish not the Diversions or Imbellishments of our Sex and Station; which render us agreeable to the World, and the World to us; but live in a Stoical Dulness or humersome Stupidity. However, I comply'd with my Mother, and made Inclination submit to Duty; and so endeavour'd to make a Vertue of this Necessity, and live like others of my Rank, according to Time, Place and Conveniency.
My dear Mother now growing aged, began to be very desirous to see me established in a married State; daily inculcating to me, That we, in a manner, frustrate the End of our Creation, to live in that uncouth kind of Solitude, in which she thought I too much delighted, and which she believed would grow upon me, when God should take her away: At what Time, I should then have no body to consolate, protect or assist me; urging, That I ought not to pass my Time in idle Dreams on Parnassus, and foolish Romantick Flights, with Icarus; whose waxen Wings fail'd him so as to let him fall into the Sea; which indeed purchas'd him a Name, but became the perpetual Record of his Folly: And such a Name, such a Record, I should be glad, said she, you would avoid, by becoming a good Mistress of a Family; and imploy your Parts in being an obedient Wife, a discreet Governess of your Children and Servants; a friendly Assistant to your Neighbours, Friends, and Acquaintance: This being the Business for which you came into the World, and for the Neglect of this, you must give an Account when you go out of it. These were Truths which Reason would not permit me to oppose; but my Reflections on Bosvil's Baseness, gave me a secret Disgust against Matrimony. However, her often repeated Lectures, call'd for Compliance, especially Fortune seeming at that Time to concur with my Mother's Counsel, in the following manner.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:05