Born: James Crichton (The Admirable), celebrated scholar, 1561; St. Francis de Sales, celebrated Catholic divine, 1567, Sales, Savoy; Dionysius Petau, chronologer (De Doctrinâ Temporum), 1583, Orleans; King William IV of England, 1765, St. James's Palace; Augustin Louis Cauchy, mathematician, 1789, Paris.
Died: John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, statesman, beheaded in the Tower, 1553; Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, celebrated letter-writer, 1762.
Feast Day: Saints Bonosus and Maximilian, martyrs, 363. St. Richard, bishop of Andria, confessor, 12th century. St. Bernard Ptolemy, founder of the Olivetans, 1348. St. Jane Frances de Chantal, widow and abbess, 1641
LADY MARY WORTLEY MONTAGU
Lady Mary Pierrepont (afterwards Lady Mary Wortley Montagu) was the eldest daughter of the Earl of Kingston (created Marquis of Dorchester in 1706, and Duke of Kingston in 1715) and Lady Mary Fielding. She was born in 1690, at 'Moresby, in Nottinghamshire. She had one brother and two sisters. Her mother died in 1694. As she grew up, she became remarkable for the beauty of her person, an obvious superiority of intellect, and a fondness for reading and study. With some assistance from Burnet, bishop of Salisbury, she acquired a knowledge of the Latin language, and in 1710, had completed a translation of Epictetus from the Latin version.
Mr. Edward Wortley Montagu, eldest son of the Hon. Sydney Montagu, and grandson of the Earl of Sandwich, happened one day to meet Lady Mary Pierrepont in the apartment of his sister Miss Anne Wortley. He was charmed with her beauty, her cultivated mind, her wit; and when he learned that she could read Latin, and wanted to peruse Quintus Curtius, but did not possess a copy, he sent her in a few days a superb edition of that author, together with some complimentary verses. This introduction led to a correspondence, a courtship, and proposals of marriage, which were at first accepted by Lord Dorchester, but finally rejected when Mr. Wortley refused to settle his landed estates on his eldest son, if he should have one, irrevocably, whatever might be the character and conduct of that son. Lord Dorchester chose a person for husband to Lady Mary, to whom she had a decided aversion. The consequence was, that she eloped with Mr. Wortley Montagu, and they were married in 1712. Their only son was born in 1713, their only daughter in 1716.
Edward Wortley Montagu was a good scholar, and having travelled much, was skilled in modern languages. He was a man of clear understanding, much attached to polite literature, and was acquainted with Garth, Congreve, Steele, and Addison. He was a member of parliament for the borough of Huntingdon, and soon after the accession of George I, obtained a seat at the Treasury-board. For some years after her marriage, Lady Mary resided in various places, at Hinchinbroke (the seat of Lord Sandwich), at Huntingdon, at hired houses in Yorkshire, and in London. She was then 'beautiful exceedingly,' and was distinguished for her wit and gaiety. Lady Mary and her husband kept up an intercourse with the wits above mentioned and others, including Pope, with whom, however, during this period, they seem to have had only a very general acquaintance.
In August 1716, Mr. Wortley Montagu being appointed ambassador to Turkey, he and his wife proceeded to Constantinople, a part of the world then very unfamiliar, compared with what it has since become. Lady Mary's quick and penetrating mind could not fail to be struck by a social scene so different from anything else in Europe, and she wrote of all she saw to her sister, the Countess of Mar. When the pair returned from the East in 1718, they took a furnished house at Twickenham, at the suggestion of Pope, who had entered into a correspondence with Lady Mary during her absence; but even then the intercourse between Lady Mary and Pope does not appear to have been frequent. In a letter to her sister, the Countess of Mar, dated Twickenham, 1720, she says:
I see sometimes Mr. Congreve, but very seldom Mr. Pope, who continues to embellish his house at Twickenham. He has made a subterranean grotto, which he has furnished with looking-glasses, and they tell me it has a very good effect.
Pope, however, visited Lady Mary occasionally till 1721, when the estrangement between them seems to have originated with Pope, who, in a well-known letter to Lord Hervey, says, 'neither had I the least misunderstanding with that lady, till after I was the author of my own misfortune by discontinuing her acquaintance.' The causes of the subsequent quarrel between them are only conjecturally and imperfectly known. Mr. W. Moy Thomas, in the first volume of his new edition (the third) of Lord Wharncliffe's Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, 1861, has entered into a full and minute investigation of her character and conduct; and has been enabled, with the aid of letters and other manuscripts which remain, to wipe away or neutralise the stains of filthy slander with which Pope, Horace Walpole, and others, had befouled her. It is to be fully admitted that this clever woman was wanting in delicacy, and sometimes allowed her love of satire and pleasantry to outrun her discretion; but of gross errors of conduct there is no reason to believe her guilty.
One grievous blight to her happiness arose from the conduct of her son, which was eccentric almost to madness. Shocked by his depravity, the father ultimately made use of the power which he had reserved to himself, and disinherited his son, leaving his vast property, amounting to £1,300,000, to the family of the Earl of Bute (the prime-minister of George III), who in 1736 had married his only daughter.
Lady Mary had, for some time, suffered from ill health, and about 1738, her face became disfigured by an eruption, which shut her out from general society, and from which she continued to suffer during the rest of her life. Her husband was almost constantly absent, looking after the great coalfields in Yorkshire and Durham, which had fallen to him by inheritance; the conduct of her son had become a source of scandal and extreme grief; her sister, Lady Mar, had become insane; and the coarse slanders of Pope and his party were a constant annoyance. Under these circumstances, and probably with the hope of recovering her health, she took the resolution of residing in the warm south. She left England in July 1739, and after visiting the principal cities of Italy, fixed her residence at Louvere, on the shore of Lake Iseo, north-west of Brescia. There she occupied a palace, and amused herself with her garden, her silk-worms, and her vineyard. About 1758, she settled at Venice, where she resided till the death of Mr. Wortley Montagu in 1761. She was now upwards of seventy-one years of age, but in compliance with the solicitations of her daughter, Lady Bute, to whom she wrote on the subject of their common loss in terms of deep grief, she set out for England in the winter of 1761. She reached the shores of her native land in January 1762, and on the 21st of August following, died of a cancer in her breast.
Lady Mary kept a journal or diary, which was begun at the time of her marriage, and was continued almost to the day of her death. It was very voluminous, and passed, after her decease, into the hands of Lady Bute, who always kept it under lock and key, and shortly before her death committed it to the flames. In this diary, during her first absence from England, she had copied her own letters to her correspondents, and from it, after her return home, she compiled the celebrated. Turkish Letters, which were circulated in manuscript among her friends during her lifetime, but were not published till 1763. On her last return home she had given a copy to Mr. Sowden, a clergy-man of Rotterdam, 'to do what he pleased with,' and he sold it for £500 to Lord Bute, who intended to suppress it. In the interval between the gift and the sale, the manuscript had been copied (without Mr. Sowden's knowledge, as he affirmed), and was published in three volumes, under the editor-ship of Captain Cleland, a literary man of notoriety at that time, who in 1767, published a fourth volume, which is suspected to have been a forgery of his own.
The first publication of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's works, was under the editorship of Mr. Dallaway in 1803, in five volumes. He professed to have printed them from the original manuscripts in the possession of the Marquis of Bute, and the works were preceded by an indifferently written life. In 1837, appeared The Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Edited by her Great-Grandson, Lord Wharncliffe, 3 vols. 8vo. The chief value of this edition, which is little more than a reprint of Dallaway's, with a few notes of correction and explanation, is an introduction under the title of Biographical Anecdotes, by Lady Louisa Stuart, daughter of Lord and Lady Bute, and grand-daughter of Lady Mary. Lady Louisa was born in 1757, and was consequently in her eightieth year when these lively and interesting 'Anecdotes' were published in 1837.
A gentleman in America has projected a work to be published under the title of The Book of Uncommon Prayer. Any one conversant with books of anecdote, will readily bethink him of much suitable material for such a volume. Perhaps no more appropriate example than the following, from an old copy of Fog's Journal, has ever appeared:
O Lord, thou knowest that I have nine houses in the city of London, and likewise that I have lately purchased an estate in fee-simple in the county of Essex. Lord, I beseech Thee to preserve the two counties of Essex and Middlesex from fires and earthquakes; and as I have a mortgage in Hertfordshire, I beg Thee likewise to have an eye of compassion on that county. And, Lord, for the rest of the counties, Thou mayest deal with them as Thou art pleased. 0 Lord, enable the Bank to answer all their bills, and make all my debtors good men. Give a prosperous voyage and return to the Mermaid sloop, which I have insured; and Lord, Thou hast said, 'That the days of the wicked are short,' and I trust Thou wilt not forget Thy promises, having purchased an estate in reversion of Sir J. P., a profligate young man. Lord, keep our fund from sinking; and if it be Thy will, let there be no sinking fund. Keep my son Caleb out of evil company, and from gaming -houses. And sanctify, 0 Lord, this night to me, by preserving me from thieves and fire, and make my servant honest and careful, whilst I, Thy servant, lie down in Thee, 0 Lord. Amen.
PUPPETS A HUNDRED AND FIFTY YEARS AGO
The annexed singular hand-bill, which we find, with its curious vignette heading, in an odd volume of literary curiosities, was published probably towards the end of the seventeenth century. It presents an interesting illustration of the amusements of that period.
At PUNCH'S Theatre. For the Entertainment of the Four Indian Kings, viz.
(A) The Emperor Tee Yee Neen Ho Ga Rose. (B) King Sa Ga Yean Qua Rah, Tow. (C) King E Tow oh Koam. (D) King Oh Nee Yeatlh Tow no Mow.
This present Munday, May 1, at Seven a-Clock
At the Upper End of St. Martin's Lane, joyning to Litchfield-Street, will be Presented a NEW OPERA, Performed by a Company of Artificial Actors, who will present you with an incomparable Entertainment, call'd:
The Last Year's CAMPAIGNE.
With the Famous Battle fought between the Confederate Army (Commanded by the Duke of Marlborough) and the French in the Woods near Blaguiers. With several Comic Entertainments of Punch in the Camp. Also, variety of Scenes; with a most Glorious Prospect of both Armies, the French in their Entrenchments and the Confederates out; where will be seen several Regiments of Horse and Foot Engaged in Forcing the French Lines. With the Admirable Entertainments of a Girl of Five Years old Dancing with Swords.