Letters from Turkey, by Mary Wortley Montagu

Letter lii.

Dover. — Reflections on the fates of John Hughes and Sarah Drew — epitaph on them.

To Mr P——.

Dover, Nov. 1. O. S. 1718.

I Have this minute received a letter of yours, sent me from Paris. I believe and hope I shall very soon see both you and Mr Congreve; but as I am here in an inn, where we stay to regulate our march to London, bag and baggage, I shall employ some of my leisure time, in answering that part of yours, that seems to require an answer.

I MUST applaud your good nature, in supposing, that your pastoral lovers (vulgarly called hay-makers) would have lived in everlasting joy and harmony, if the lightning had not interrupted their scheme of happiness. I see no reason to imagine, that John Hughes and Sarah Drew, were either wiser or more virtuous than their neighbours. That a well-set man of twenty-five should have a fancy to marry a brown woman of eighteen, is nothing marvellous; and I cannot help thinking, that had they married, their lives would have passed in the common track with their fellow parishioners. His endeavouring to shield her from a storm, was a natural action, and what he would have certainly done for his horse, if he had been in the same situation. Neither am I of opinion, that their sudden death was a reward of their mutual virtue. You know the Jews were reproved for thinking a village destroyed by fire, more wicked than those that had escaped the thunder. Time and chance happen to all men. Since you desire me to try my skill in an epitaph, I think the following lines perhaps more just, tho’ not so poetical as yours.

Here lies John Hughes and Sarah Drew;

Perhaps you’ll say, What’s that to you?

Believe me, friend, much may be said

On that poor couple that are dead.

On Sunday next they should have married;

But see how oddly things are carried!

On Thursday last it rain’d and lighten’d,

These tender lovers sadly frighten’d,

Shelter’d beneath the cocking hay,

In hopes to pass the time away,

But the BOLD THUNDER found them out,

(Commission’d for that end no doubt)

And seizing on their trembling breath,

Consign’d them to the shades of death.

Who knows if ’twas not kindly done?

For had they seen the next year’s fun,

A beaten wife and cockold swain

Had jointly curs’d the marriage chain:

Now they are happy in their doom,


I CONFESS, these sentiments are not altogether so heroic as yours; but I hope you will forgive them in favour of the two last lines. You see how much I esteem the honour you have done them; though I am not very impatient to have the same, and had rather continue to be your stupid living humble servant, than be celebrated by all the pens in Europe.

I WOULD write to Mr C——; but suppose you will read this to him, if he inquires after me.


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