THE conversation before related was agreeable only to Miss Hobart; for, if Miss Temple was entertained with its commencement, she was so much the more irritated by its conclusion: this indignation was succeeded by the curiosity of knowing the reason why, if Sidney had a real esteem for her, she should not be allowed to pay some attention to him. The tender-hearted Hobart, unable to refuse her any request, promised her this piece of confidence, as soon as she should be secure of her conduct towards Lord Rochester: for this she only desired a trial of her sincerity for three days, after which, she assured her, she would acquaint her with every thing she wished to know. Miss Temple protested she no longer regarded Lord Rochester but as a monster of perfidiousness, and vowed, by all that was sacred, that she would never listen to him, much less speak to him, as long as she lived.
As soon as they retired from the closet. Miss Sarah came out of the bath, where, during all this conversation, she had been almost perished with cold without daring to complain. This little gypsy had, it seems, obtained leave of Miss Hobart's woman to bathe herself unknown to her mistress; and having, I know not how, found means to fill one of the baths with cold water, Miss Sarah had just got into it, when they were both alarmed with the arrival of the other two. A glass partition inclosed the room where the baths were, and Indian silk-curtains, which drew on the inside, screened those that were bathing. Miss Hobart's chambermaid had only just time to draw these curtains, that the girl might not be seen, to lock the partition door, and to take away the key, before her mistress and Miss Temple came in.
These two sat down on a couch placed along the partition, and Miss Sarah, notwithstanding her alarms, had distinctly heard, and perfectly retained the whole conversation. As the little girl was at all this trouble to make herself clean, only on Lord Rochester's account, as soon as ever she could make her escape, she regained her garret; where Rochester, having repaired thither at the appointed hour, was fully informed of all that had passed in the bathing-room. He was astonished at the audacious temerity of Hobart, in daring to put such a trick upon him; but, though he rightly judged that love and jealousy were the real motives, he would not excuse her. Little Sarah desired to know, whether he had a real affection for Miss Temple, as Miss Hobart said she supposed that was the case. "Can you doubt it," replied he, "since that oracle of sincerity has affirmed it? But then you know that I am not now capable of profiting by my perfidy, were I even to gain Miss Temple's compliance, since my debauches and the streetwalkers have brought me to order."
This answer made Miss Sarah very easy, for she concluded that the first article was not true, since she knew from experience that the latter was false. Lord Rochester was resolved that very evening to attend the duchess's court, to see what reception he would meet with after the fine portrait Miss Hobart had been so kind as to draw of him. Miss Temple did not fail to be there likewise, with the intention of looking on him with the most contemptuous disdain possible, though she had taken care to dress herself as well as she could. As she supposed that the lampoon Miss Hobart had sung to her was in every body's possession, she was under great embarrassment lest all those whom she met should think her such a monster as Lord Rochester had described her. In the mean time, Miss Hobart, who had not much confidence in her promises never more to speak to him, narrowly watched her. Miss Temple never in her life appeared so handsome: every person complimented her upon it; but she received all these civilities with such an air, that every one thought she was mad; for when they commended her shape, her fresh complexion, and the brilliancy of her eyes: "Pshaw," said she, "it is very well known that I am but a monster, and formed in no respect like other women: all is not gold that glisters; and though I may receive some compliments in public, it signifies nothing." All Miss Hobart's endeavours to stop her tongue were ineffectual; and, continuing to rail at herself ironically, the whole court was puzzled to comprehend her meaning.
When Lord Rochester came in, she first blushed, then turned pale, made a motion to go towards him, drew back again, pulled her gloves one after the other up to the elbow; and after having three times violently flirted her fan, she waited until he paid his compliments to her as usual, and as soon as he began to bow, the fair one immediately turned her back upon him. Rochester only smiled, and being resolved that her resentment should be still more remarked, he turned round, and posting himself face to face: "Madam," said he, "nothing can be so glorious as to look so charming as you do, after such a fatiguing day: to support a ride of three long hours, and Miss Hobart afterwards, without being tired, shews indeed a very strong constitution."
Miss Temple had naturally a tender look, but she was transported with such a violent passion at his having the audacity to speak to her, that her eyes appeared like two fire-balls when she turned them upon him. Hobart pinched her arm, as she perceived that this look was likely to be followed by a torrent of reproaches and invectives.
Lord Rochester did not wait for them, and delaying until another opportunity the acknowledgments he owed Miss Hobart, he quietly retired. The latter, who could not imagine that he knew any thing of their conversation at the bath, was, however, much alarmed at what he had said; but Miss Temple, almost choked with the reproaches with which she thought herself able to confound him, and which she had riot time to give vent to, vowed to ease her mind of them upon the first opportunity, notwithstanding the promise she had made; but never more to speak to him afterwards.
Lord Rochester had a faithful spy near these nymphs: this was Miss Sarah, who, by his advice, and with her aunt's consent, was reconciled with Miss Hobart, the more effectually to betray her: he was informed by this spy, that Miss Hobart's maid, being suspected of having listened to them in the closet, had been turned away; that she had taken another, whom, in all probability, she would not keep long, because, in the first place, she was ugly, and, in the second, she eat the sweetmeats that were prepared for Miss Temple. Although this intelligence was not very material, Sarah was nevertheless praised for her punctuality and attention; and a few days afterwards, she brought him news of real importance.
Rochester was by her informed, that Miss Hobart and her new favourite designed, about nine o'clock in the evening, to walk in the Mall, in the Park; that they were to change clothes with each other, to put on scarfs, and wear black masks: she added, that Miss Hobart had strongly opposed this project, but that she was obliged to give way at last, Miss Temple having resolved to indulge her fancy.
Upon the strength of this intelligence, Rochester concerted his measures: he went to Killegrew, complained to him of the trick which Miss Hobart had played him, and desired his assistance in order to be revenged: this was readily granted, and having acquainted him with the measures he intended to pursue, and given him the part he was to act in this adventure, they went to the Mall.
Presently after appeared our two nymphs in masquerade: their shapes were not very different, and their faces, which were very unlike each other, were concealed with their masks. The company was but thin in the Park; and as soon as Miss Temple perceived them at a distance, she quickened her pace in order to join them, with the design, under her disguise, severely to reprimand the perfidious Rochester; when Miss Hobart stopping her: "Where are you running to?" said she; "have you a mind to engage in conversation with these two devils, to be exposed to all the insolence and impertinence for which they are so notorious?" These remonstrances were entirely useless: Miss Temple was resolved to try the experiment: and all that could be obtained from her, was, not to answer any of the questions Rochester might ask her.
They were accosted just as they had done speaking: Rochester fixed upon Hobart, pretending to take her for the other; at which she was overjoyed; but Miss Temple was extremely sorry she fell to Killegrew's share, with whom she had nothing to do: he perceived her uneasiness, and, pretending to know her by her clothes: "Ah! Miss Hobart," said he, "be so kind as look this way if you please: I know not by what chance you both came hither, but I am sure it is very apropos for you, since I have something to say to you, as your friend and humble servant."
This beginning raising her curiosity, Miss Temple appeared more inclined to attend him; and Killegrew perceiving that the other couple had insensibly proceeded some distance from them: "In the name of God," said he: "what do you mean by railing so against Lord Rochester, whom you know to be one of the most honourable men at court, and whom you nevertheless described as the greatest villain, to the person whom of all others he esteems and respects the most? What do you think would become of you, if he knew that you made Miss Temple believe she is the person alluded to in a certain song, which you know as well as myself was made upon the clumsy Miss Price, above a year before the fair Temple was heard of? Be not surprised that I know so much of the matter; but pay a little attention, I pray you, to what I am now going to tell you out of pure friendship: your passion and inclinations for Miss Temple are known to every one but herself; for whatever methods you used to impose upon her innocence, the world does her the justice to believe that she would treat you as Lady Falmouth did, if the poor girl knew the wicked designs you had upon her: I caution you, therefore, against making any further advances, to a person, too modest to listen to them: I advise you likewise to take back your maid again, in order to silence her scandalous tongue; for she says everywhere that she is with child, that you are the occasion of her being in that condition, and accuses you of behaving towards her with the blackest ingratitude, upon trifling suspicions only: you know very well, these are no stories of my own invention: but that you may not entertain any manner of doubt, that I had all this from her own mouth, she has told me your conversation in the bathing-room, the characters you there drew of the principal men at court, your artful malice in applying so improperly a scandalous song to one of the loveliest women in all England; and in what manner the innocent girl fell into the snare you had laid for her, in order to do justice to her charms. But that which might be of the most fatal consequences to you in that long conversation, is the revealing certain secrets, which, in all probability, the duchess did not intrust you with, to be imparted to the maids of honour: reflect upon this, and neglect not to make some reparation to Sir Charles Lyttleton, for the ridicule with which you were pleased to load him. I know not whether he had his information from your femme-de-chambre, but I am very certain that he has sworn he will be revenged, and he is a man that keeps his word; for after all, that you may not be deceived by his look, like that of a Stoic, and his gravity, like that of a judge, I must acquaint you, that he is the most passionate man living. Indeed, these invectives are of the blackest and most horrible nature: he says it is most infamous, that a wretch like yourself should find no other employment than to blacken the characters of gentlemen to gratify your jealousy; that if you do not desist from such conduct for the future, he will immediately complain of you; and that if her royal highness will not do him justice, he is determined to do himself justice, and to run you through the body with his own sword, though you were even in the arms of Miss Temple; and that it is most scandalous that all the maids of honour should get into your hands before they can look around them.
"These things, madam, I thought it my duty to acquaint you with: you are better able to judge than myself, whether what I have now advanced be true, and I leave it to your own discretion to make what use you think proper of my advice; but were I in your situation, I would endeavour to reconcile Lord Rochester and Miss Temple. Once more I recommend to you to take care that your endeavours to mislead her innocency, in order to blast his honour, may not come to his knowledge; and do not estrange from her a man who tenderly loves her, and whose probity is so great, that he would not even suffer his eyes to wander towards her, if his intention was not to make her his wife."
Miss Temple observed her promise most faithfully during this discourse: she did not even utter a single syllable, being seized with such astonishment and confusion, that she quite lost the use of her tongue.
Miss Hobart and Lord Rochester came up to her, while she was still in amazement at the wonderful discoveries she had made; things in themselves, in her opinion, almost incredible, but to the truth of which she could not refuse her assent, upon examining the evidences and circumstances on which they were founded. Never was confusion equal to that with which her whole frame was seized by the foregoing recital.
Rochester and Killegrew took leave of them before she recovered from her surprise; but as soon as she had regained the free use of her senses, she hastened back to St. James's, without answering a single question that the other put to her; and having locked herself up in her chamber, the first thing she did was immediately to strip off Miss Hobart's clothes, lest she should be contaminated by them; for after what she had been told concerning her, she looked upon her as a monster, dreadful to the innocence of the fair sex, of whatever sex she might be; she blushed at the familiarities she had been drawn into with a creature, whose maid was with child, though she never had been in any other service but hers: she therefore returned her all her clothes, ordered her servant to bring back all her own, and resolved never more to have any connection with her. Miss Hobart, on the other hand, who supposed Killegrew had mistaken Miss Temple for herself, could not comprehend what could induce her to give herself such surprising airs, since that conversation; but being desirous to come to an explanation, she ordered Miss Temple's maid to remain in her apartments, and went to call upon Miss Temple herself, instead of sending back her clothes; and being desirous to give her some proof of friendship before they entered upon expostulations, she slipt softly into her chamber, when she was in the very act of changing her linen, and embraced her. Miss Temple finding herself in her arms before she had taken notice of her, every thing that Killegrew had mentioned appeared to her imagination: she fancied that she saw in her looks the eagerness of a satyr, or, if possible, of some monster still more odious; and disengaging herself with the highest indignation from her arms, she began to shriek and cry in the most terrible manner, calling both heaven and earth to her assistance.
The first whom her cries raised were the governess and her niece. It was near twelve o'clock at night: Miss Temple in her shift, almost frightened to death, was pushing back with horror Miss Hobart, who approached her with no other intent than to know the occasion of those transports. As soon as the governess saw this scene, she began to lecture Miss Hobart with all the eloquence of a real duenna: she demanded of her, whether she thought it was for her that her royal highness kept the maids of honour? whether she was not ashamed to come at such an unseasonable time of night into their very apartments to commit such violences? and swore that she would, the very next day, complain to the duchess. All this confirmed Miss Temple in her mistaken notions; and Hobart was obliged to go away at last, without being able to convince or bring to reason creatures, whom she believed to be either distracted or mad. The next day Miss Sarah did not fail to relate this adventure to her lover, telling him how Miss Temple's cries had alarmed the maids of honour's apartment, and how herself and her aunt, running to her assistance, had almost surprised Miss Hobart in the very act.
Two days after, the whole adventure, with the addition of several embellishments, was made public: the governess swore to the truth of it, and related in every company what a narrow escape Miss Temple had experienced, and that Miss Sarah, her niece, had preserved her honour, because, by Lord Rochester's excellent advice, she had forbidden her all manner of connection with so dangerous a person. Miss Temple was afterwards informed, that the song that had so greatly provoked her, alluded to Miss Price only: this was confirmed to her by every person, with additional execrations against Miss Hobart, for such a scandalous imposition. Such great coldness after so much familiarity, made many believe that this adventure was not altogether a fiction.
This had been sufficient to have disgraced Miss Hobart at court, and to have totally ruined her reputation in London, had she not been, upon the present, as well as upon a former occasion, supported by the duchess: her royal highness pretended to treat the whole story as romantic and visionary, or as solely arising from private pique: she chid Miss Temple, for her impertinent credulity; turned away the governess and her niece, for the lies with which she pretended they supported the imposture; and did many improper things in order to re-establish Miss Hobart's honour, which, however, she failed in accomplishing. She had her reasons for not entirely abandoning her, as will appear in the sequel.
Miss Temple, who continually reproached herself with injustice, with respect to Lord Rochester, and who, upon the faith of Killegrew's word, thought him the most honourable man in England, was only solicitous to find out some opportunity of easing her mind, by making him some reparation for the rigour with which she had treated him: these favourable dispositions, in the hands of a man of his character, might have led to consequences of which she was not aware: but heaven did not allow him an opportunity of profiting by them.
Ever since he had first appeared at court, he seldom failed being banished from it, at least once in the year; for, whenever a word presented itself to his pen, or to his tongue, he immediately committed it to paper, or produced it in conversation, without any manner of regard to the consequences: the ministers, the mistresses, and even the king himself, were frequently the subjects of his sarcasms; and had not the prince, whom he thus treated, been possessed of one of the most forgiving and gentle tempers, his first disgrace had certainly been his last.
Just at the time that Miss Temple was desirous of seeing him, in order to apologize for the uneasiness which the infamous calumnies and black aspersions of Miss Hobart had occasioned both of them, he was forbid the court for the third time: he departed without having seen Miss Temple, carried the disgraced governess down with him to his country seat, and exerted all his endeavours to cultivate in her niece some dispositions which she had for the stage; but though she did not make the same improvement in this line as she had by his other instructions, after he had entertained both the niece and the aunt for some months in the country, he got her entered in the king's company of comedians the next winter; and the public was obliged to him for the prettiest, but, at the same time, the worst actress in the kingdom.
About this time Talbot returned from Ireland: he soon felt the absence of Miss Hamilton, who was then in the country with a relation, whom we shall mention hereafter. A remnant of his former tenderness still subsisted in his heart, notwithstanding his absence, and the promises he had given the Chevalier de Grammont at parting: he now therefore endeavoured to banish her entirely from his thoughts, by fixing his desires upon some other object: but he saw no one in the queen's new court whom he thought worthy of his attention: Miss Boynton, however, thought him worthy of hers. Her person was slender and delicate, to which a good complexion, and large motionless eyes, gave at a distance an appearance of beauty, that vanished upon nearer inspection: she affected to lisp, to languish, and to have two or three fainting-fits a day. The first time that Talbot cast his eyes upon her, she was seized with one of these fits: he was told that she swooned away upon his account: he believed it, was eager to afford her assistance; and ever after that accident, shewed her some kindness, more with the intention of saving her life, than to express any affection he felt for her. This seeming tenderness was well received, and at first she was visibly affected by it. Talbot was one of the tallest men in England, and in all appearance one of the most robust; yet she shewed sufficiently, that she was willing to expose the delicacy of her constitution to whatever might happen, in order to become his wife; which event perhaps might then have taken place, as it did afterwards, had not the charms of the fair Jennings, at that time, proved an obstacle to her wishes.
I know not how it came to pass that he had not yet seen her; though he had heard her much praised, and her prudence, wit, and vivacity, equally commended; he believed all this upon the faith of common report. He thought it very singular that discretion and sprightliness should be so intimately united in a person so young, more particularly in the midst of a court, where love and gallantry were so much in fashion; but he found her personal accomplishments greatly to exceed whatever fame had reported of them.
As it was not long before he perceived he was in love, neither was it long before he made a declaration of it: as his passion was likely enough to be real, Miss Jennings thought she might believe him, without exposing herself to the imputation of vanity. Talbot was possessed of a fine and brilliant exterior, his manners were noble and majestic: besides this, he was particularly distinguished by the favour and friendship of the duke; but his most essential merit, with her, was his forty thousand pounds a year, landed property, besides his employments. All these qualities came within the rules and maxims she had resolved to follow with respect to lovers: thus, though he had not the satisfaction to obtain from her an entire declaration of her sentiments, he had at least the pleasure of being better received than those who had paid their addresses to her before him.
No person attempted to interrupt his happiness; and Miss Jennings perceiving that the duchess approved of Talbot's pretensions, and after having well weighed the matter, and consulted her own inclinations, found that her reason was more favourable to him than her heart, and that the most she could do for his satisfaction was to marry him without reluctance.
Talbot, too fortunate in a preference which no man had before experienced, did not examine whether it was to her heart, or to her head, that he was indebted for it, and his thoughts were solely occupied in hastening the accomplishment of his wishes: one would have sworn that the happy minute was at hand; but love would no longer be love, if he did not delight in obstructing, or in overturning, the happiness of those who live under his dominion.
Talbot, who found nothing reprehensible either in the person, in the conversation, or in the reputation of Miss Jennings, was however rather concerned at a new acquaintance she had lately formed; and having taken upon him to give her some cautions upon this subject, she was much displeased at his conduct.
Miss Price, formerly maid of honour, that had been set aside, as we have before mentioned, upon her leaving the duchess's service, had recourse to Lady Castlemaine's protection: she had a very entertaining wit: her complaisance was adapted to all humours, and her own humour was possessed of a fund of gaiety and sprightliness, which diffused universal mirth and merriment wherever she came. Her acquaintance with Miss Jennings was prior to Talbot's.
As she was thoroughly acquainted with all the intrigues of the court, she related them without any manner of reserve to Miss Jennings, and her own with the same frankness as the others: Miss Jennings was extremely well pleased with her stories; for though she was determined to make no experiment in love, but upon honourable terms, she however was desirous of knowing from her recitals, all the different intrigues that were carrying on: thus, as she was never wearied with her conversation, she was overjoyed whenever she could see her.
Talbot, who remarked the extreme relish she had for Miss Price's company, thought that the reputation such a woman had in the world might prove injurious to his mistress, more especially from the particular intimacy there seemed to exist between them: whereupon, in the tone of a guardian, rather than a lover, he took upon him to chide her for the disreputable company she kept. Miss Jennings was haughty beyond conception, when once she took it into her head; and as she liked Miss Price's conversation much better than Talbot's, she took the liberty of desiring him "to attend to his own affairs, and that if he only came from Ireland to read lectures about her conduct, he might take the trouble to go back as soon as he pleased." He was offended at a sally which he thought ill-timed, considering the situation of affairs between them: and went out of her presence more abruptly than became the respect due from a man greatly in love. He for some time appeared offended; but perceiving that he gained nothing by such conduct, he grew weary of acting that part, and assumed that of an humble lover, in which he was equally unsuccessful: neither his repentance nor submissions could produce any effect upon her, and the mutinous little gipsy was still in her pouts, when Jermyn returned to court.
It was above a year since he had triumphed over the weakness of Lady Castlemaine, and above two since the king had been weary of his triumphs. His uncle, being one of the first who perceived the king's disgust, obliged him to absent himself from court, at the very time that orders were going to be issued for that purpose; for though the king's affections for Lady Castlemaine were now greatly diminished, yet he did not think it consistent with his dignity, that a mistress, whom he had honoured with public distinction, and who still received a considerable support from him, should appear chained to the car of the most ridiculous conqueror that ever existed. His majesty had frequently expostulated with the countess upon this subject; but his expostulations were never attended to; it was in one of these differences, that he, advising her rather to bestow her favours upon Jacob Hall, the rope-dancer, who was able to return them, than lavish away her money upon Jermyn to no purpose, since it would be more honourable for her to pass lor the mistress of the first, than for the very humble servant of the other, she was not proof against his raillery. The impetuosity of her temper broke forth like lightning. She told him, "that it very ill became him to throw out such reproaches against one, who, of all the women in England, deserved them the least; that he had never ceased quarrelling thus unjustly with her, ever since he d betrayed his own mean low inclinations; that to gratify such a depraved taste as his, he wanted only such silly things as Stewart, Wells, and that pitiful strolling actress, whom he had lately introduced into their society." Floods of tears, from rage, generally attended these storms; after which, resuming the part of Medea, the scene closed with menaces of tearing her children in pieces, and setting his palace on fire. What course could he pursue with such an outrageous fury, who, beautiful as she was, resembled Medea less than her dragons, when she was thus enraged!
The indulgent monarch loved peace; and as he seldom contended for it, on these occasions, without paying something to obtain it, he was obliged to be at great expense, in order to reconcile this last rupture: as they could not agree of themselves, and both parties equally complained, the Chevalier de Grammont was chosen, by mutual consent, mediator of the treaty. The grievances and pretensions on each side were communicated to him, and what is very extraordinary, he managed so as to please them both. Here follow the articles of peace, which they agreed to:
"That Lady Castlemaine should for ever abandon Jermyn; that as a proof of her sincerity, and the reality of his disgrace, she should consent to his being sent, for some time, into the country; that she should not rail any more against Miss Wells, nor storm any more against Miss Stewart; and this without any restraint on the king's behaviour towards her: that in consideration of these condescensions, bis majesty should immediately give her the title of duchess, with all the honours and privileges thereunto belonging, and an addition to her pension, in order to enable her to support the dignity."
As soon as this peace was proclaimed, the political critics, who, in all nations, never fail to censure all state proceedings, pretended that the mediator of this treaty, being every day at play with Lady Castlemaine, and never losing, had, for his own sake, insisted a little too strongly upon this last article.
Some days after, she was created Duchess of Cleveland, and little Jermyn repaired to his country-seat: however, it was in his power to have returned in a fortnight; for the Chevalier de Grammont, having procured the king's permission, carried it to the Earl of Saint Alban's: this revived the good old man; but it was to little purpose he transmitted it to his nephew; for whether he wished to make the London beauties deplore and lament his absence, or whether he wished them to declaim against the injustice of the age, or rail against the tyranny of the prince, he continued above half a year in the country, setting up for a little philosopher, under the eyes of the sportsmen in the neighbourhood, who regarded him as an extraordinary instance of the caprice of fortune. He thought the part he acted so glorious, that he would have continued there much longer had he not heard of Miss Jennings: he did not, however, pay much attention to what his friends writ to him concerning her charms, being persuaded he had seen equally as great in others: what was related to him of her pride and resistance, appeared to him of far greater consequence; and to subdue the last, he even looked upon as an action worthy of his prowess; and quitting his retreat for this purpose, he arrived in London at the time that Talbot, who was really in love, had quarrelled, in his opinion, so unjustly with Miss Jennings.
She had heard Jermyn spoken of, as a hero in affairs of love and gallantry. Miss Price, in the recital of those of the Duchess of Cleveland, had often mentioned him, without in any respect diminishing the insignificancy with which fame insinuated he had conducted himself in those amorous encounters: she nevertheless had the greatest curiosity to see a man, whose entire person, she thought, must be a moving trophy, and monument of the favours and freedoms of the fair sex.
Thus Jermyn arrived at the right time to satisfy her curiosity by his presence; and though his brilliancy appeared a little tarnished, by his residence in the country; though his head was larger, and his legs more slender than usual, yet the giddy girl thought she had never seen any man so perfect; and yielding to her destiny, she fell in love with him, a thousand times more unaccountably than all the others had done before her. Every body remarked this change of conduct in her with surprise; for they expected something more from the delicacy of a person, who, till this time, had behaved with so much propriety in all her actions.
Jermyn was not in the least surprised at this conquest, though not a little proud of it; for his heart had very soon as great a share in it as his vanity. Talbot, who saw with amazement the rapidity of this triumph, and the disgrace of his own defeat, was ready to die with jealousy and spite; yet he thought it would be more to his credit to die, than to vent those passions unprofitably; and shielding himself under a feigned indifference, he kept at a distance to view how far such an extravagant prepossession would proceed.
In the mean time, Jermyn quietly enjoyed the happiness of seeing the inclinations of the prettiest and most extraordinary creature in England declared in his favour. The duchess, who had taken her under her protection, ever since she had declined placing herself under that of the duke, sounded Jermyn's intentions towards her, and was satisfied with the assurances she received from a man, whose probity infinitely exceeded his merit in love: he therefore let all the court see that he was willing to marry her, though, at the same time, he did not appear particularly desirous of hastening the consummation. Every person now complimented Miss Jennings upon having reduced to this situation the terror of husbands, and the plague of lovers: the court was in full expectation of this miracle, and Miss Jennings of a near approaching happy settlement; but in this world one must have fortune in one's favour, before one can calculate with certainty upon happiness.
The king did not use to let Lord Rochester remain so long in exile: he grew weary of it, and being displeased that he was forgotten, he posted up to London to wait till it might be his majesty's pleasure to recall him.
He first took up his habitation in the city, among the capital tradesmen and rich merchants, where politeness indeed is not so much cultivated as at court; but where pleasure, luxury, and abundance reign with less confusion, and more sincerity. His first design was only to be initiated into the mysteries of those fortunate and happy inhabitants; that is to say, by changing his name and dress, to gain admittance to their feasts and entertainments; and, as occasion offered, to those of their loving spouses: as he was able to adapt himself to all capacities and humours, he soon deeply insinuated himself into the esteem of the substantial wealthy aldermen, and into the affections of their more delicate, magnificent, and tender ladies: he made one in all their feasts, and at all their assemblies; and, whilst in the company of the husbands he declaimed against the faults and mistakes of government, he joined their wives in railing against the profligacy of the court ladies, and in inveighing against the king's mistresses: he agreed with them, that the industrious poor were to pay for these cursed extravagances; that the city beauties were not inferior to those of the other end of the town, and yet a sober husband in this quarter of the town was satisfied with one wife; after which, to out-do their murmurings, he said, that he wondered Whitehall was riot yet consumed by fire from heaven, since such rakes as Rochester, Killegrew, and Sidney were suffered there, who had the impudence to assert, that all the married men in the city were cuckolds, and all their wives painted. This conduct endeared him so much to the cits, and made him so welcome at their clubs, that at last he grew sick of their cramming and endless invitations.
But, instead of approaching nearer the court, he retreated into one of the most obscure corners of the city; where, again changing both his name and his dress, in order to act a new part, he caused bills to be dispersed, giving notiee, of "The recent arrival of a famous German doctor, who, by long application and experience, had found out wonderful secrets, and infallible remedies." His secrets consisted in knowing what was past, and foretelling what was to come, by the assistance of astrology: and the virtue of his remedies principally consisted in giving present relief to unfortunate young women in all manner of diseases, and all kinds of accidents incident to the fair sex, either from too unbounded charity to their neighbours, or too great indulgence to themselves.
His first practice being confined to his neighbourhood, was not very considerable; but his reputation soon extending to the other end of the town, there presently flocked to him the women attending on the court, next, the chambermaids of ladies of quality, who, upon the wonders they related concerning the German doctor, were soon followed by some of their mistresses.
Among all the compositions of a ludicrous and satirical kind, there never existed any that could be compared to those of Lord Rochester, either for humour, fire, or wit; but, of ail his works, the most ingenious and entertaining is that which contains a detail of the intrigues and adventures, in which ae was engaged, while he professed medicine and astrology in the suburbs of London.
The fair Jennings was very near getting a place in this collection; but the adventure that prevented her from it, did not, however, conceal from the public her intention of paying a visit to the German doctor.
The first chambermaids that consulted him were only those of the maids of honour; who had numberless questions to ask, and not a few doubts to be resolved, both upon their own and their mistresses' accounts. Notwithstanding their disguise, he recognized some of them, particularly Miss Temple's and Miss Price's maids, and her whom Miss Hobart had lately discarded: these creatures all returned either filled with wonder and amazement, or petrified with terror and fear. Miss Temple's chambermaid deposed, that he assured her, she would have the small-pox, and her mistress the great, within two months at farthest, if her aforesaid mistress did not guard against a man in woman's clothes. Miss Price's woman affirmed, that, without knowing her, and only looking in her hand, he told her at first sight, that, according to the course of the stars, he perceived that she was in the service of some good-natured lady, who had no other fault than loving wine and men. In short, every one of them, struck with some particular circumstance relating to their own private affairs, had either alarmed or diverted their mistresses with the account, not failing, according to custom, to embellish the truth, in order to enhance the wonder.
Miss Price, relating these circumstances one day to her new friend, the devil immediately tempted her to go in person, and see what sort of a creature this new magician was. This enterprise was certainly very rash; but nothing was too rash for Miss Jennings, who was of opinion that a woman might despise appearances, provided she was in reality virtuous. Miss Price was all compliance, and thus having fixed upon this glorious resolution, they only thought of the proper means of putting it into execution.
It was very difficult for Miss Jennings to disguise herself, on account of her excessive fair and bright complexion, and of something particular in her air and manner; however, after having well considered the matter, the best disguise they could think of was to dress themselves like orange-girls. This was no sooner resolved upon, but it was put in execution: they attired themselves alike, and, taking each a basket of oranges under their arms, they embarked in a hackney-coach, and committed themselves to fortune, without any other escort than their own caprice and indiscretion.
The duchess was gone to the play with her sister: Miss Jennings had excused herself under pretence of indisposition: she was overjoyed at the happy commencement of their adventure; for they had disguised themselves, had crossed the park, and taken their hackney-coach at Whitehall-gate, without the least accident. They mutually congratulated each other upon it, and Miss Price taking a beginning so prosperous as a good omen of their success, asked her companion what they were to do at the fortune-teller's, and what they should propose to him.
Miss Jennings told her, that, for her part, curiosity was her principal inducement for going thither; that, however, she was resolved to ask him, without naming any person, why a man, who was in love with a handsome young lady, was not urgent to marry her, since this was in his power to do, and by so doing he would have an opportunity of gratifying his desires. Miss Price told her, smiling, that without going to the astrologer, nothing was more easy than to explain the enigma, as she herself had almost given her a solution of it, in the narrative of the Duchess of Cleveland's adventures.
Having by this time nearly arrived at the play-house, Miss Price, after a moment's reflection, said, that since fortune favoured them, a fair opportunity was now offered to signalize their courage, which was to go and sell oranges in the very play-house, in the sight of the duchess and the whole court. The proposal being worthy of the sentiments of the one, and of the vivacity of the other, they immediately alighted, paid off their hack, and, running through the midst of an immense number of coaches, with great difficulty they reached the play-house door. Sidney, more handsome than the beautiful Adonis, and dressed more gay than usual, alighted just then from his coach: Miss Price went boldly up to him, as he was adjusting his curls; but he was too much occupied with his own dear self, to attend to any thing else, and so passed on without deigning to give her an answer. Killegrew came next, and the fair Jennings, partly encouraged by the other's pertness, advanced towards him, and offered him her basket, whilst Price, more used to the language, desired him to buy her fine oranges. "Not now," said he, looking at them with attention; "but if thou wilt to-morrow morning bring this young girl to my lodgings, I will make it worth all the oranges in London to thee;" and while he thus spoke to the one, he chucked the other under the chin, examining her bosom. These familiarities making little Jennings forget the part she was acting, after having pushed him away with all the violence she was able, she told him with indignation, that it was very insolent to dare -- "Ha! ha!" said he, "here's a rarity indeed! a young w---- , who, the better to sell her goods, sets up for virtue and pretends innocence!" Price immediately perceived that nothing could be gained by continuing any longer in so dangerous a place; and taking her companion under the arm, she dragged her away, while she was still in emotion, at the insult that had been offered to her.
Miss Jennings, resolving to sell no more oranges on these terms, was tempted to return, without accomplishing the other adventure; but Price having represented to her the disgrace of such cowardly behaviour, more particularly after having before manifested so much resolution, she consented to go and pay the astrologer a short visit, so as they might be enabled to regain the palace before the play was ended.
They had one of the doctor's bills for a direction, but there was no occasion for it; for the driver of the coach they had taken, told them he knew very well the place they wanted, for he had already carried above a hundred persons to the German doctor's: they were within half a street of his house, when fortune thought proper to play them a trick.
Brounker had dined by chance with a merchant in that part of the city, and just as he was going away, they ordered their coach to stop, as ill luck would have it, just opposite to him: two orange-girls in a hackney-coach, one of whom appeared to have a very pretty face, immediately drew his attention; besides, he had a natural curiosity for such objects.
Of all the men at court, he had the least regard for the fair sex, and the least attention to their reputation: he was not young, nor was his person agreeable; however, with a great deal of wit, he had a violent passion for women. He did himself justice respecting his own merit; and, being persuaded that he could only succeed with those who were desirous of having his money, he was at open war with all the rest. He had a little country-house four or five miles from London always well stocked with girls: in other respects he was a very honest man, and the best chess-player in England.
Price, alarmed at being thus closely examined by the most dangerous enemy they could encounter, turned her head the other way, bid her companion do the same, and told the coachman to drive on. Brounker followed them unperceived on foot; and the coach having stopped twenty or thirty yards farther up the street, they alighted. He was just behind them, and formed the same judgment of them, which a man much more charitable to the sex must unavoidably have done, concluding that Miss Jennings was a young courtesan upon the look-out, and that Miss Price was the mother-abbess. He was, however, surprised to see them have much better shoes and stockings than women of that rank generally wear, and that the little orange-girl, in getting out of a very high coach, shewed one of the handsomest legs he had ever seen; but as all this was no obstruction to his designs, he resolved to purchase her at any rate, in order to place her in his seraglio.
He came up to them, as they were giving their baskets in guard to the coachman, with orders to wait for them exactly in that place. Brounker immediately pushed in between them: as soon as they saw him, they gave themselves up for lost; but he, without taking the least notice of their surprise, took Price aside with one hand, and his purse with the other, and began immediately to enter upon business, but was astonished to perceive that she turned away her face, without either answering or looking at him: as this conduct appeared to him unnatural, he stared her full in the face, notwithstanding all her endeavours to prevent him: he did the same to the other; and immediately recognized them, but determined to conceal his discovery.
The old fox possessed a wonderful command of temper on such occasions, and having teazed them a little longer, to remove all suspicions he quitted them, telling Price; "that she was a great fool to refuse his offers, and that her girl would not, perhaps, get so much in a year, as she might with him in one day; that the times were greatly changed, since the queen's and the duchess's maids of honour forestalled the market, and were to be had cheaper than the town ladies." Upon this he went back to his coach, whilst they blessed themselves, returning heaven their most hearty thanks for having escaped this danger without being discovered.
Brounker, on the other hand, would not have taken a thousand guineas for this rencounter; he blessed the Lord that he had not alarmed them to such a degree as to frustrate their intention; for he made no doubt but Miss Price had managed some intrigue for Miss Jennings: he therefore immediately concluded, that at present it would be improper to make known his discovery, which would have answered no other end but to have overwhelmed them with confusion.
Upon this account, although Jermyn was one of his best friends, he felt a secret joy in not having prevented his being made a cuckold, before his marriage; and the apprehension he was in of preserving him from that accident, was his sole reason for quitting them with the precautions afore-mentioned.
Whilst they were under these alarms, their coachman was engaged in a squabble with some blackguard boys, who had gathered round his coach in order to steal the oranges: from words they came to blows: the two nymphs saw the commencement of the fray as they were returning to the coach, after having abandoned the design of going to the fortuneteller's. Their coachman being a man of spirit, it was with great difficulty they could persuade him to leave their oranges to the mob, that they might get off without any farther disturbance: having thus regained their hack, after a thousand frights, and after having received an abundant share of the most low and infamous abuse applied to them during the fracas, they at length reached St. James's, vowing never more to go after fortune-tellers, through so many dangers, terrors, and alarms, as they had lately undergone.
Brounker, who from the indifferent opinion he entertained of the fair sex, would have staked his life that Miss Jennings did not return from this expedition in the same condition she went, kept his thoughts, however, a profound secret; since it would have afforded him the highest satisfaction to have seen the all-fortunate Jermyn marry a little street-walker, who pretended to pass for a pattern of chastity, that he might the day after his marriage congratulate him upon his virtuous spouse; but heaven was not disposed to afford him that satisfaction, as will appear in the sequel of these memoirs.
Miss Hamilton was in the country, as we before mentioned; at a relation's: the Chevalier de Grammont bore this short absence of hers with great uneasiness, since she would not allow him permission to visit her there, upon any pretence whatever; but play, which was favourable to him, was no small relief to his extreme impatience.
Miss Hamilton, however, at last returned. Mrs. Wetenhall (for that was the name of her relation) would by all means wait upon her to London, in appearance out of politeness; for ceremony, carried beyond all bearing, is the grand characteristic of country gentry: yet this mark of civility was only a pretence, to obtain a peevish husband's consent to his wife's journey to town. Perhaps he would have done himself the honour of conducting Miss Hamilton up to London, had he not been employed in writing some remarks upon the ecclesiastical history, a work in which he had long been engaged: the ladies were more civil than to interrupt him in his undertaking, and besides it would entirely have disconcerted all Mrs. Wetenhall's schemes.
This lady was what may be properly called a beauty, entirely English, made up of lilies and roses, of snow and milk, as to colour; and of wax, with respect to the arms, hands, neck, and feet; but all this without either animation or air: her face was uncommonly pretty; but there was no variety, no change of countenance in it: one would have thought, she took it in the morning out of a case, in order to put it up again at night, without using it in the smallest degree in the daytime. What can I say of her! nature had formed her a baby from her infancy, and a baby remained till death the fair Mrs. Wetenhall. Her husband had been destined for the church; but his elder brother dying just at the time he had gone through his studies of divinity, instead of taking orders, he came to England, and took to wife Miss Bedingfield, the lady of whom we are now speaking.
His person was not disagreeable, but he had a serious contemplative air, very apt to occasion disgust: as for the rest, she might boast of having one of the greatest tbeologists in the kingdom for her husband: he was all day poring over his books, and went to bed soon, in order to rise early; so that his wife found him snoring when she came to bed, and when he arose he left her there sound asleep: his conversation at table would have been very brisk, if Mrs. Wetenhall had been as great a proficient in divinity, or as great a lover of controversy as he was; but being neither learned in the former, nor desirous of the latter, silence reigned at their table, as absolutely as at a refectory.
She had often expressed a great desire to see London; but though they were only distant a very short day's journey from it, she had never been able to satisfy her curiosity: it was not therefore without reason, that she grew weary of the life she was forced to lead at Peckham. The melancholy retired situation of the place was to her insupportable; and as she had the folly, incident to many other women, of believing sterility to be a kind of reproach, she was very much hurt to see that she might fall under that suspicion; for she was persuaded, that although heaven had denied her children, she nevertheless had all the necessary requisites on her part, if it had been the will of the Lord. This had occasioned her to make some reflections, and then to reason upon those reflections; as for instance, that since her husband chose rather to devote himself to his studies, than to the duties of matrimony, to turn over musty old books, rather than attend to the attractions of beauty, and to gratify his own pleasures, rather than those of his wife, it might be permitted her to relieve some necessitous lover, in neighbourly charity, provided she could do it conscientiously, and to direct her inclinations in so just a manner, that the evil spirit should have no concern in it. Mr. Wetenhall, a zealous partisan for the doctrine of the casuists, would not perhaps have approved of these decisions; but he was not consulted.
The greatest misfortune was, that neither solitary Peckham, nor its sterile neighbourhood, presented any expedients, either for the execution of the afore-mentioned design, or for the relief of poor Mrs. Wetenhall: she was visibly pining away, when through fear of dying either with solitude or of want, she had recourse to Miss Hamilton's commiseration.
Their first acquaintance was formed at Paris, whither Mr. Wetenhall had taken his wife half a year after they were married, on a journey thither to buy books. Miss Hamilton, who from that very time greatly pitied her, consented to pass some time in the country with her, in hopes by that visit to deliver her, for a short time at least, out of her captivity; which project succeeded according to her wish.
The Chevalier de Grammont, being informed of the day on which they were to arrive, borne on the wings of love and impatience, had engaged George Hamilton to go with him, and meet them some miles out of London. The equipage he had prepared for the purpose corresponded with his usual magnificence; and on such an occasion, we may reasonably suppose he had not neglected his person: however, with all his impatience, he checked the ardour of the coachman, through fear of accidents; rightly judging that upon a road prudence is preferable to eagerness. The ladies at length appeared, and Miss Hamilton, being in his eyes ten or twelve times more handsome than before her departure from London, he would have purchased with his life so kind a reception as she gave her brother.
Mrs. Wetenhall had her share of the praises, which at this interview were liberally bestowed upon her beauty, for which her beauty was very thankful to those who did it so much honour; and as Hamilton regarded her with a tender attention, she regarded Hamilton as a man very well qualified for putting in execution the little projects she had concerted with her conscience.
As soon as she was in London, her head was almost turned, through an excess of contentment and felicity: every thing appeared like enchantment to her in this superb city; more particularly, as in Paris she had never seen any thing farther than the Rue Saint Jaques, and a few booksellers' shops: Miss Hamilton entertained her at her own house, and she was presented, admired, and well received at both courts.
The Chevalier de Grammont, whose gallantry and magnificence were inexhaustible, taking occasion, from this fair stranger's arrival, to exhibit his grandeur, nothing was to be seen but balls, concerts, plays, excursions by land and by water, splendid collations and sumptuous entertainments. Mrs. Wetenhall was transported with pleasures, of which the greatest part were entirely new to her; she was greatly delighted with all, except now and then at a play, when tragedy was acted, which she confessed she thought rather wearisome: she agreed, however, that the show was very interesting, when there were many people killed upon the stage, but thought the players were very fine handsome fellows, who were much better alive than dead.
Hamilton, upon the whole, was pretty well treated by her, if a man in love, who is never satisfied until the completion of his wishes, could confine himself within the bounds of moderation and reason: he used all his endeavours to determine her to put in execution the projects she had formed at Peckham: Mrs. Wetenhall, on the other hand, was much pleased with him. This is the Hamilton who served in the French army with distinction: he was both agreeable and handsome. All imaginable opportunities conspired to favour the establishment of an intimacy, whose commencement had been so brisk, that in all probability it would not languish for a conclusion; but the more he pressed her to it, the more her resolution began to fail, and regard for some scruples, which she had not well weighed, kept her in suspense: there was reason to believe that a little perseverance would have removed these obstacles; yet this at the present time was not attempted. Hamilton, not able to conceive what could prevent her from completing his happiness, since in his opinion the first and greatest difficulties of an amour were already overcome, with respect to the public, resolved to abandon her to her irresolutions, instead of endeavouring to conquer them by a more vigorous attack. It was not consistent with reason, to desist from an enterprise, where so many prospects of success presented themselves, for such inconsiderable obstacles; but he suffered himself to be intoxicated with chimeras and visions, which unseasonably cooled the vigour of his pursuit, and led him astray in another unprofitable undertaking.
I know not whether poor Wetenhall took the blame upon herself; but it is certain, she was extremely mortified upon it. Soon after, being obliged to return to her cabbages and turkeys at Peckham, she had almost gone distracted: that residence appeared a thousand times more dreadful to her, since she had been initiated into the amusements of London; but as the queen was to set out within a month for Tunbridge Wells, she was obliged to yield to necessity, and return to the philosopher, Wetenhall, with the consolation of having engaged Miss Hamilton to come and live at her house, which was within ten or twelve miles of Tunbridge, as long as the court remained there.
Miss Hamilton promised not to abandon her in her retirement, and farther engaged to bring the Chevalier de Grammont along with her, whose humour and conversation extremely delighted her; and the Chevalier de Grammont, who on all occasions started agreeable raillery, engaged on his part to bring George Hamilton, which words overwhelmed her with blushes.
The court set out soon after to pass about two months in the place, of all Europe the most rural and simple, and yet, at the same time, the most entertaining and agreeable.
Tunbridge is the same distance from London, that Fontainebleau is from Paris, and is, at the season, the general rendezvous of all the gay and handsome of both sexes. The company, though always numerous, is always select: since those who repair thither for diversion, ever exceed the number of those who go thither for health, every thing there breathes mirth and pleasure: constraint is banished, familiarity is established upon the first acquaintance, and joy and pleasure are the sole sovereigns of the place.
The company are accommodated with lodgings, in little, clean, and convenient habitations, that lie straggling and separated from each other, a mile and a half all around the Wells, where the company meet in the morning: this place consists of a long walk, shaded by spreading trees, under which they walk while they are drinking the waters: on one side of this walk is a long row of shops, plentifully stocked with all manner of toys, lace, gloves, stockings, and where there is raffling, as at Paris, in the Foire de Saint Germain: on the other side of the walk is the market: and, as it is the custom here for every person to buy their own provisions, care is taken that nothing offensive appears on the stalls. Here young, fair, fresh-coloured country girls, with clean linen, small straw hats, and neat shoes and stockings, sell game, vegetables, flowers, and fruit: here one may live as well as one pleases: here is, likewise, deep play, and no want of amorous intrigues. As soon as the evening conies, every one quits his little palace to assemble on the bowling-green, where, in the open air, those who choose dance upon a turf more soft and smooth than the finest carpet in the world.
Lord Muskerry had, within two or three short miles of Tunbridge, a very handsome seat called Summer-hill: Miss Hamilton, after having spent eight or ten days at Peckham, could not excuse herself from passing the remainder of the season at his house; and, having obtained leave of Mr. Wetenhall, that his lady should accompany her, they left the melancholy residence of Peckham, and its tiresome master, and fixed their little court at Summer-hill.
They went every day to court, or the court came to them. The queen even surpassed her usual attentions in inventing and supporting entertainments: she endeavoured to increase the natural ease and freedom of Tunbridge, by dispensing with, rather than requiring, those ceremonies that were due to her presence; and, confining in the bottom of her heart that grief and uneasiness she could not overcome, she saw Miss Stewart triumphantly possess the affections of the king without manifesting the least uneasiness.
Never did love see his empire in a more flourishing condition than on this spot: those who were smitten before they came to it, felt a mighty augmentation of their flame; and those who seemed the least susceptible of love, laid aside their natural ferocity, to act in a new character. For the truth of the latter, we shall only relate the change which soon appeared in the conduct of Prince Rupert.
He was brave and courageous, even to rashness; but cross-grained and incorrigibly obstinate: his genius was fertile in mathematical experiments, and he possessed some knowledge of chemistry: he was polite even to excess, unseasonably; but haughty, and even brutal, when he ought to have been gentle and courteous: he was tall, and his manners were ungracious: he had a dry hard-favoured visage, and a stern look, even when he wished to please; but, when he was out of humour, he was the true picture of reproof.
The queen had sent for the players, either that there might be no intermission in the diversions of the place, or, perhaps, to retort upon Miss Stewart, by the presence of Nell Gwyn, part of the uneasiness she felt from hers: Prince Rupert found charms in the person of another player, called Hughes, who brought down, and greatly subdued his natural fierceness. From this time, adieu alembics, crucibles, furnaces, and all the black furniture of the forges: a complete farewell to all mathematical instruments and chemical speculations: sweet powder and essences were now the only ingredients that occupied any share of his attention. The impertinent gipsy chose to be attacked in form and proudly refusing money, that, in the end, she might sell her favours at a dearer rate, she caused the poor prince to act a part so unnatural, that he no longer appeared like the same person. The king was greatly pleased with this event, for which great rejoicings were made at Tunbridge; but nobody was bold enough to make it the subject of satire, though the same constraint was not observed with other ridiculous personages. There was dancing every day at the queen's apartments, because the physicians recommended it, and no person thought it amiss; for even those who cared least for it, chose that exercise to digest the waters rather than walking. Lord Muskerry thought himself secure against his lady's rage for dancing; for, although he was ashamed of it, the princess of Babylon was, by the grace of God, six or seven months advanced in pregnancy; and, to complete her misfortune, the child had fallen all on one side, so that even Euclid would have been puzzled to say what her figure was. The disconsolate lady seeing Miss Hamilton and Mrs. Wetenhall set out every morning, sometimes on horseback, and sometimes in a coach, but ever attended by a gallant troop to conduct them to court, and to convey them back, she fancied a thousand times more delights at Tunbridge than in reality there were, and she did not cease, in her imagination, to dance over at Summer-hill all the country dances which she thought had been danced at Tunbridge. She could no longer support the racking torments which disturbed her mind, when relenting heaven, out of pity to her pains and sufferings, caused Lord Muskerry to repair to London, and kept him there two whole days: as soon as ever he had turned his back, the Babylonian princess declared her resolution to make a trip to court.
She had a domestic chaplain who did not want sense, and Lord Muskerry, for fear of accidents, had recommended her to the wholesome counsels and good prayers of this prudent divine; but in vain were all his preachings and exhortations to stay at home; in vain did he set before her eyes her husband's commands, and the dangers to which she would expose herself in her present condition; he likewise added, that her pregnancy being a particular blessing from heaven, she ought therefore to be so much the more careful for its preservation, since it cost her husband, perhaps, more trouble than she was aware of, to obtain it. These remonstrances were altogether ineffectual: Miss Hamilton, and her cousin Wetenhall, having the complaisance to confirm her in her resolution, they assisted in dressing her the next morning, and set out along with her: all their skill and dexterity were requisite to reduce her shape into some kind of symmetry; but, having at last pinned a small cushion under her petticoat on the right side, to counteract the untoward appearance the little infant occasioned, by throwing itself on the left, they almost split their sides with laughter, assuring her at the same time that she looked perfectly charming.
As soon as she appeared, it was generally believed that she had dressed herself in a farthingale, in order to make her court to the queen; but every person was pleased at her arrival: those who were unacquainted with the circumstances, assured her in earnest that she was pregnant with twins; and the queen, who envied her condition, notwithstanding the ridiculous appearance she then made, being made acquainted with the motive of her journey, was determined to gratify her inclinations.
As soon as the hour for country-dances arrived, her cousin Hamilton was appointed her partner: she made some faint excuses at first, on account of the inconvenient situation she was then in; but soon suffered them to be overcome, in order, as she said, to shew her duty to the queen; and never did a woman in this world enjoy such complete satisfaction.
We have already observed, that the greatest prosperity is liable to the greatest change: Lady Muskerry, trussed up as she was, seemed to feel no manner of uneasiness from the motion in dancing; on the contrary, being only apprehensive of the presence of her husband, which would have destroyed all her happiness, she danced with uncommon briskness, lest her ill stars should bring him back before she had fully satisfied herself with it. In the midst, therefore, of her capering in this indiscreet manner, her cushion came loose without her perceiving it, and fell to the ground, in the very middle of the first round. The Duke of Buckingham, who watched her, took it up instantly, wrapped it up in his coat, and, mimicking the cries of a new-born infant, he went about inquiring for a nurse for the young Muskerry among the maids of honour.
This buffoonery, joined to the strange figure of the poor lady, had almost thrown Miss Stewart into hysterics; for the princess of Babylon, after this accident, was quite flat on one side, and immoderately protuberant on the other. All those, who had before suppressed their inclinations to laugh, now gave themselves free scope, when they saw that Miss Stewart was ready to split her sides. The poor lady was greatly disconcerted: every person was officious to console her; but the queen, who inwardly laughed more heartily than any, pretended to disapprove of their taking such liberties.
Whilst Miss Hamilton and Mrs. Wetenhall endeavoured to refit Lady Muskerry in another room, the Duke of Buckingham told the king, that, if the physicians would permit a little exercise immediately after a delivery, the best way to recover Lady Muskerry was to renew the dance as soon as ever her infant was replaced: this advice was approved, and accordingly put in execution. The queen proposed, as soon as she appeared, a second round of country-dances; and Lady Muskerry accepting the offer, the remedy had its desired effect, and entirely removed every remembrance of her late mishap.
Whilst these things were passing at the king's court, that of the Duke of York took a journey on the other side of London: the pretence of this journey was to visit the county whose name he bore; but love was the real motive. The duchess, since her elevation, had conducted herself with such prudence and circumspection, as could not be sufficiently admired: such were her manners, and such the general estimation in which she was held, that she appeared to have found out the secret of pleasing every one; a secret yet more rare than the grandeur to which she had been raised: but, after having gained universal esteem, she was desirous of being more particularly beloved; or, more properly speaking, malicious Cupid assaulted her heart, in spite of the discretion, prudence, and reason with which she had fortified it.
In vain had she said to herself a hundred times, that, if the duke had been so kind as to do her justice by falling in love with her, he had done her too much honour by making her his wife; that, with respect to his inconstant disposition, which estranged him from her, she ought to bear it with patience, until it pleased heaven to produce a change in his conduct; that the frailties on his part, which might to her appear injurious, would never justify in her the least deviation from her duty; and, as resentment was still less allowable, she ought to endeavour to regain him by a conduct entirely opposite to his own. In vain was it, as we have said before, that she had long resisted Love and his emissaries by the help of these maxims: how solid soever reason, and however obstinate wisdom and virtue may be, there are yet certain attacks which tire by their length, and, in the end, subdue both reason and virtue itself.
The Duchess of York was one of the highest feeders in England: as this was an unforbidden pleasure, she indulged herself in it, as an indemnification for other self-denials. It was really an edifying sight to see her at table. The duke, on the contrary, being incessantly in the hurry of new fancies, exhausted himself by his inconstancy, and was gradually wasting away; whilst the poor princess, gratifying her good appetite, grew so fat and plump, that it was a blessing to see her. It is not easy to determine how long things would have continued in this situation, if Love, who was resolved to have satisfaction for her late conduct, so opposite to the former, had not employed artifice, as well as force, to disturb her repose.
He at first let loose upon her resentment and jealousy, two mortal enemies to all tranquillity and happiness. A tall creature, pale-faced, and nothing but skin and bone, named Churchill, whom she had taken for a maid of honour, became the object of her jealousy, because she was then the object of the duke's affection. The court was not able to comprehend how, after having been in love with Lady Chesterfield, Miss Hamilton, and Miss Jennings, he could have any inclination for such a creature; but they soon perceived that something more than unaccountable variety had a great share in effecting this conquest.
The duchess beheld with indignation a choice which seemed to debase her own merit in a much greater degree than any of the former; at the very instant that indignation and jealousy began to provoke her spleen, perfidious Cupid threw in the way of her passions and resentments the amiable, handsome Sidney; and, whilst he kept her eyes fixed upon his personal perfections, diverted her attention from perceiving the deficiency of his mental accomplishments: she was wounded before she was aware of her danger; but the good opinion Sidney had of his own merit did not suffer him long to be ignorant of such a glorious conquest; and, in order more effectually to secure it, his eyes rashly answered every thing which those of her royal highness had the kindness to tell him, whilst his personal accomplishments were carefully heightened by all the advantages of dress and show.
The duchess, foreseeing the consequences of such an engagement, strongly combated the inclination that hurried her away; but Miss Hobart, siding with that inclination, argued the matter with her scruples, and, in the end, really vanquished them. This girl had insinuated herself into her royal highness's confidence by a fund of news with which she was provided the whole year round: the court and the city supplied her; nor was it very material to her whether her stories were true or false, her chief care being that they should prove agreeable to her mistress: she knew, likewise, how to gratify her palate, and constantly provided a variety of those dishes and liquors which she liked best. These qualifications had rendered her necessary; but, desirous of being still more so, and having perceived both the airs that Sidney gave himself, and what was passing in the heart of her mistress, the cunning Hobart took the liberty of telling her royal highness, that this unfortunate youth was pining away solely on her account; that it was a thousand pities a man of his figure should lose the respect for her which was most certainly her due, merely because she had reduced him to such a state, that he could no longer preserve it; that he was gradually dying away on her account in the sight of the whole court; that his situation would soon be generally remarked, except she made use of the proper means to prevent it; that, in her opinion, her royal highness ought to pity the miserable situation into which her charms had reduced him, and to endeavour to alleviate his pain in some way or other. The duchess asked her what she meant by "endeavouring to alleviate his pain in some way or other." "I mean, Madam," answered Miss Hobart, "that, if either his person be disagreeable, or his passion troublesome, you will give him his discharge; or, if you choose to retain him in your service, as all the princesses in the world would do in your place, you will permit me to give him directions from you for his future conduct, mixed with a few grains of hope, to prevent his entirely losing his senses, until you find a proper occasion yourself to acquaint him with your wishes." "What!" said the duchess, "would you advise me, Hobart, you, who really love me, to engage in an affair of this nature, at the expense of my honour, and the hazard of a thousand inconveniences? If such frailties are sometimes excusable, they certainly are not so in the high station in which I am placed: and it would be an ill requital, on my part, for his goodness, who raised me to the rank I now fill, to" ------ "All this is very fine," interrupted Miss Hobart; "but, is it not very well known, that he only married you because he was importuned so to do? Since that I refer to yourself, whether he has ever restrained his inclination a single moment, giving you the most convincing proofs of the change that has taken place in his heart, by a thousand provoking infidelities? Is it still your intention to persevere in a state of indolence and humility, whilst the duke, after having received the favours, or suffered the repulses of all the coquettes in England, pays his addresses to the maids of honour, one after the other, and at present places his whole ambition and desires in the conquest of that ugly skeleton, Churchill? What! Madam, must then your prime of life be spent in a sort of widowhood, in deploring your misfortunes, without ever being permitted to make use of any remedy that may offer? A woman must be endowed with insuperable patience, or with an inexhaustible degree of resignation, to bear this. Can a husband, who disregards you both night and day, really suppose, because his wife eats and drinks heartily, as, God be thanked, your royal highness does, that she wants nothing else than to sleep well too? Faith, such conduct is too bad: I therefore once more repeat, that there is not a princess in the universe who would refuse the homage of a man like Sidney, when a husband pays his addresses elsewhere."
These reasons were certainly not morally good; but had they been still worse, the duchess would have yielded to them, so much did her heart act in concert with Miss Hobart, to overthrow her discretion and prudence.
This intrigue began at the very time that Miss Hobart advised Miss Temple not to give any encouragement to the addresses of the handsome Sidney. As for him, no sooner was he informed, by the confidant Hobart, that the goddess accepted his adoration, than he immediately began to be particularly reserved and circumspect in his behaviour, in order to divert the attention of the public; but the public is not so easily deceived as some people imagine.
As there were too many spies, too many inquisitive people, and critics, in a numerous court, residing in the midst of a populous city, the duchess, to avoid exposing the inclinations of her heart to the scrutiny of so many inquisitors, engaged the Duke of York to undertake the journey before mentioned, whilst the queen and her court were at Tunbridge.
This conduct was prudent; and, if agreeable to her, was far from displeasing to any of her court, except Miss Jennings: Jermyn was not of the party; and, in her opinion, every party was insipid in which he was not one of the company. He had engaged himself in an enterprise above his strength, in laying a wager, which the Chevalier de Grammont had laid before, and lost: he betted five hundred guineas, that he would ride twenty miles in one hour upon the same horse in the high road. The day he had fixed upon for this race was the very same in which Miss Jennings went to the fortune-teller's.
Jermyn was more fortunate than her in this undertaking. He came off victorious; but as his courage had far exceeded the strength of his constitution, in this exertion to win the wager, he got a violent fever into the bargain, which brought him very low. Miss Jennings inquired after his health; but that was all she dared to do. In modern romances, a princess need only pay a visit to some hero, abandoned by his physicians, a perfect cure would be wrought in three days; but since Miss Jennings had not been the cause of Jermyn's fever, she was not certain of relieving him from it, although she had been sure that a charitable visit would not have been censured in a malicious court. Without therefore paying any attention to the uneasiness she might feel upon the occasion, the court set out without him. She had, however, the gratification to testify her ill-humour throughout the whole journey, by appearing displeased with every thing which seemed to afford satisfaction to all the rest of the company.
Talbot made one of the company; and flattering himself, that the absence of a dangerous rival might produce some change in his favour, he was attentive to all the actions, motions, and even gestures, of his former mistress. There was certainly enough fully to employ his attention. It was contrary to her disposition to remain long in a serious humour. Her natural vivacity hurried her away, from being seemingly lost in thought, into sallies of wit, which afforded him hopes that she would soon forget Jermyn, and remember that his own passion was the first she had encouraged. However, he kept his distance, notwithstanding his love and his hopes, being of opinion, that it ill became an injured lover to betray either the least weakness, or the smallest return of affection, for an ungrateful mistress, who had deserted him.
Miss Jennings was so far from thinking of his resentments, that she did not even recollect he had ever paid his addresses to her; and her thoughts being wholly occupied upon the poor sick man, she conducted herself towards Talbot, as if they never had had any thing to say to each other It was to him that she most usually gave her hand, either in getting into or out of the coach; she conversed more readily with him than any other person, and, without intending it, did every thing to make the court believe she was cured of her passion for Jermyn in favour of her former lover.
Of this he seemed likewise convinced, as well as the rest; and thinking it now proper to act another part, in order to let her know that his sentiments with respect to her were still the same, he had resolved to address her in the most tender and affectionate manner upon this subject. Fortune seemed to have favoured him, and to have smoothed the way for his intended harangue: he was alone with her in her chamber; and, what was still better, she was rallying him concerning Miss Boynton; saying, "that they were undoubtedly much obliged to him, for attending them on their journey, whilst poor Miss Boynton had fainting-fits at Tunbridge, at least twice every day, for love of him." Upon this discourse, Talbot thought it right to begin the recital of his sufferings and fidelity, when Miss Temple, with a paper in her hand, entered the room. This was a letter in verse, which Lord Rochester had written some time before, upon the intrigues of the two courts; wherein, upon the subject of Miss Jennings, he said: "that Talbot had struck terror among the people of God, by his gigantic stature; but that Jermyn, like a little David, had vanquished the great Goliath." Jennings, delighted with this allusion, read it over two or three times, thought it more entertaining than Talbot's conversation, at first heartily laughed at it, but soon after, with a tender air, "poor little David!" said she, with a deep sigh, and turning her head on one side during this short reverie, she shed a few tears, which assuredly did not flow for the defeat of the giant. This stung Talbot to the quick; and, seeing himself so ridiculously deceived in his hopes, he went abruptly out of the room, vowing never to think any more of a giddy girl, whose conduct was regulated neither by sense nor reason; but he did not keep his resolution.
The other votaries of love, who were numerous in this court, were more successful, the journey being undertaken solely on that account. There were continual balls and entertainments upon the road; hunting, and all other diversions, wherever the court halted in its progress. The tender lovers flattered themselves with the thought of being able to crown their happiness as they proceeded in their journey; and the beauties who governed their destiny did not forbid them to hope. Sidney paid his court with wonderful assiduity. The duchess made the duke take notice of his late perfect devotion to his service: his royal highness observed it, and agreed that he ought to be remembered upon the first opportunity, which happened soon after.
Montagu, as before mentioned, was master of the horse to the duchess: he was possessed of a great deal of wit, had much penetration, and loved mischief. How could she bear such a man near her person, in the present situation of her heart? This greatly embarrassed her; but Montagu's elder brother having, very à-propos, got himself killed where he had no business, the duke obtained for Montagu the post of master of the horse to the queen, which the deceased enjoyed; and the handsome Sidney was appointed to succeed him in the same employment to the duchess. All this happened according to her wish; and the duke was highly pleased that he had found means to promote these two gentlemen at once, without being at the least expense.
Miss Hobart greatly applauded these promotions: she had frequent and long conversations with Sidney, which, being remarked, some did her the honour to believe it was upon her own account; and the compliments that were made her upon the occasion she most willingly received. The duke, who believed it at first, observed to the duchess the unaccountable taste of certain persons, and how the handsomest young fellow in England was infatuated with such a frightful creature.
The duchess confessed that taste was very arbitrary; the truth whereof he himself seemed to be convinced of, since he had fixed upon the beauteous Helen for his mistress. I know not whether this raillery caused him to reflect for what reasons he had made his choice; but it is certain he began to cool in his affections for Miss Churchill; and perhaps he would entirely have abandoned this pursuit, had not an accident taken place, which raised in him an entirely new inclination for her.
The court having halted for a few days in a fine open country, the duchess was desirous of seeing a greyhound course. This diversion is practised in England upon large downs, where the turf, eaten by the sheep, is particularly green, and wonderfully even. She was in her coach, and all the ladies on horseback, every one of them being attended by her squire; it therefore was but reasonable that the mistress should likewise have her squire. He accordingly was at the side of her coach, and seemed to compensate for his deficiencies in conversation, by the uncommon beauty of his mien and figure.
The duke attended Miss Churchill, not for the sake of besieging her with soft flattering tales of love, but, on the contrary, to chide her for sitting so ill on horseback. She was one of the most indolent creatures in the world; and although the maids of honour are generally the worst mounted of the whole court, yet, in order to distinguish her, on account of the favour she enjoyed, they had given her a very pretty, though rather a high-spirited, horse; a distinction she would very willingly have excused them.
The embarrassment and fear she was under had added to her natural paleness. In this situation, her countenance had almost completed the duke's disgust, when her horse, desirous of keeping pace with the others, set off in a gallop, notwithstanding her greatest efforts to prevent it; and her endeavours to hold him in, firing his mettle, he at length set off at full speed, as if he was running a race against the duke's horse.
Miss Churchill lost her seat, screamed out, and fell from her horse. A fall in so quick a pace must have been violent; and yet it proved favourable to her in every respect; for, without receiving any hurt, she gave the lie to all the unfavourable suppositions that had been formed of her person, in judging from her face. The duke alighted, in order to help her. She was so greatly stunned, that her thoughts were otherwise employed than about decency on the present occasion; and those who first crowded around her found her rather in a negligent posture. They could hardly believe that limbs of such exquisite beauty could belong to Miss Churchill's face. After this accident, it was remarked that the duke's tenderness and affection for her increased every day; and, towards the end of the winter, it appeared that she had not tyrannized over his passion, nor made him languish with impatience.
The two courts returned to London much about the same time, equally satisfied with their respective excursions; though the queen was disappointed in the hopes she had entertained of the good effects of the Tunbridge waters.
It was about this time that the Chevalier de Grammont received a letter from the Marchioness de Saint Chaumont, his sister, acquainting him that he might return when he thought proper, the king having given him leave. He would have received this news with joy at any other time, whatever had been the charms of the English court; but, in the present situation of his heart, he could not resolve to quit it.
He had returned from Tunbridge a thousand times deeper in love than ever; for, during this agreeable excursion, he had every day seen Miss Hamilton, either in the marshes of melancholy Peckham, or in the delicious walks of cheerful Summerhill, or in the daily diversions and entertainments of the queen's court; and whether he saw her on horseback, heard her conversation, or observed her in the dance, still he was persuaded that Heaven had never formed an object in every respect more worthy of the love, and more deserving of the affection, of a man of sense and delicacy. How then was it possible for him to bear the thoughts of leaving her? This appeared to him absolutely impracticable; however, as he was desirous of making a merit with her, of the determination he had made to neglect his fortune, rather than to be separated from her charms, he shewed her his sister's letter; but this confidence had not the success he expected.
Miss Hamilton, in the first place, congratulated him upon his recall: she returned him many thanks for the sacrifice he intended to make her; but as this testimony of affection greatly exceeded the bounds of mere gallantry, however sensibly she might feel this mark of his tenderness, she was however determined not to abuse it. In vain did he protest that he would rather meet death, than part from her irresistible charms; and her irresistible charms protested that he should never see them more, unless he departed immediately. Thus was he forced to obey. However, he was allowed to flatter himself, that these positive orders, how harsh soever they might appear, did not flow from indifference; that she would always be more pleased with his return than with his departure, for which she was now so urgent; and having generously given him assurances that, so far as depended upon herself, he would find, upon his return, no variation in her sentiments during his absence, he took leave of his friends, thinking of nothing but his return, at the very time he was making preparations for his departure.
Memoirs of Count Grammont