Page images
PDF
EPUB

don by Isaac Netto,-whose name is all I can bring back to mind,—and dedicate it to my dear aunt, Anna Maria Salusbury. A set of pearl and garnet ornaments, which I gave afterwards to Lady Keith, was my shining recompense; but such was my father's conduct, she never did love him. My mother she respected, and dear Doctor Collier, a constant guest, did all he could to keep us all happy in one another. Felicity, in this world, however, lasts not long. Poor Lady Salusbury died, at forty-one years old, of dropsy in the breast, and uncle said he had no kindness but for me. I think I did share his fondness with his stud; our stable was the first for hunters of enormous value, for racers, too; and our house, after my aunt's death, was even haunted by young men who made court to the niece, and expressed admiration of the horses. Every suitor was made to understand my extraordinary value. Those who could read, were shown

[ocr errors]

my verses; those who could not, were judges of my prowess in the field. It was my sport to mimic some, and drive others back, in order to make Dr. Collier laugh, who did not perhaps wish to see me give a heart away which he held completely in his hands, since he kindly became my preceptor in Latin, logic, rhetoric, &c.

We began, I think, before I was thirteen years old. On the day I was sixteen he confessed sixty-four, I remember, and said he was just four times my age, so I suppose he was. The difference or agreement never crossed my mind, nor seemed to have crossed his. A friendship more tender, or more unpolluted by interest

or by vanity, never existed; love had no place at all in the connection, nor had he any rival but my mother. Their influence was of the same kind, and hers the strongest; but it was not till after poor papa's death that I observed she looked on Collier with a jealous eye. We were scarce all of us enough to manage with my father's red-hot temper. It was daily endangering our

alienation of Sir Thomas Salusbury's fondness, which the arrival of a new neighbour put still more to hazard. We should have made home more agreeable.

My uncle would not then have run to the smiling widow of Wellbury -just at our Park gate - the Honourable Mrs. King, whose blandishments drew him from dear Offley, and made our removal to our London House less painful. The summer before this removal had produced to me a new vexation. Lord Halifax was become lieutenant of Ireland, and my father made one of his numerous escort, delighting to attend his patron through his own country, and show him the wonders of Wales. Mamma and I remained at Offley doing the honours. Doctor Collier was in London upon business. My uncle had been to town for a night or two, and returned to tell us what an excellent, what an incomparable young man he had seen, who was, in short, a model of perfection, ending his panegyric by saying that he was a real sportsman. Seeing me disposed to laugh, he looked very grave; said he expected us to like him, and that seriously. The next day Mr. Thrale followed his eulogist, and applied himself so diligently to gain my mother's attention — aye, and her heart, too,—

[ocr errors]

that there was little doubt of her approving the pretensions of so very showy a suitor if suitor he was to me, who certainly had not a common share in the compliments he paid to my mother's wit, beauty, and elegance.

His father, he said, was born in our village at Offley, of mean parents, but had made a prodigious fortune, by his merits and the people all looked with admiration at his giving 5s. to a poor boy who lay on the bank, because he was sure his father had been such a boy. In a week's time the country catched the notion up that Miss Salusbury's husband had been suddenly found by meeting Sir Thomas at the house of Mr. Levinz, a wellknown bon vivant of those days,-they were not then called amphitryons,-who kept a gay house and a gay lady at Brompton, where he entertained the gay fashionists of 1760. The chaplain of Offley Place, a distant relation of ours,-uncle I think to this Sir Robert Salusbury whom you met once in Park Street (Bath),—having undisclosed hopes of his own to get the heiress, not only took alarm, but cunningly conveyed that alarm to my father, who, when he came home, said he saw his girl already half disposed of without his own consent, and swore I should not be exchanged for a barrel of porter, &c.

Vain were all my assurances that nothing resembled love less than Mr. Thrale's behaviour: vain my promises that no step on my part should be taken without his concurrence; although I clearly understood, and wrote Dr. Collier word so, that my uncle made

this marriage the condition of his favour quite apparently, and that certain ruin would follow my rejection. The letter, perhaps, still exists in which I declared my resolution to adhere to the maxims of filial duty he had taught me, and refuse (when I should be asked) any offer, however tempting, that should seek to seduce me from his authority under which both myself and my mother were placed. By this time the brothers quarrelled and met no more. My father took us to London. My uncle solaced himself with visiting the widow; and after a miserable winter, which visits from Mr. Thrale to my mother-rendered terrifying to me every day from papa's violence of temper, a note came, sent in a sly manner, from Dr. Collier, to tell me (it was written in Latin) that Sir Thomas would certainly marry Mrs. King the Sunday following, and begged I would not say a syllable till the next day, when he would come and break the dreadful tidings to my father.

My countenance, however, showed, or his acuteness discovered, something he did not like; an accusation followed, that I received clandestine letters from Mr. Thrale, a circumstance I had certainly every just reason to deny, and felt extremely hurt, of course, at seeing myself disbelieved. After a fruitless and painful contest for many hours of this cruel evening, my spirits sunk, I fainted, and my father, gaining possession of the fatal billet, had to ask my pardon -poor unhappy soul! and in this fond misery spent we the hours till four o'clock in the morning. At nine we rose; he to go across the park in search of my maternal uncle, Sir

с з

Lynch Salusbury Cotton, from whom, and from Dr. Crane, Prebendary of Westminster, he meant to seek counsel and comfort. Me, to the employment of calling our medical friend, Herbert Lawrence, to dinner by a billet of earnest request. All of us were ill, but by the time he came, my father died, and was brought us home a corpse, before the dining hour. This was December 1762, fifty-three years ago exactly. Yet are not my feelings blunted!

The Will gave to my mother his Bachygraig House, and estate for life, charged with 5000l. for me; to which my uncle, in consideration perhaps of my poor father's having paid every expense of his education at Cambridge, perhaps in recollection of having lost him a farm of 100l. a year, added 5000l. more; with which (and expectations of course) Mr. Thrale deigned to accept my undesired hand, and in ten months from my poor father's death, were both the marriages he feared accomplished.

My uncle went himself with me to church, gave me away, dined with us at Streatham Park, returned to Hertfordshire, wedded the widow, and then scarce ever saw or wrote to either of us; leaving me to conciliate as I could, a husband who was indeed much kinder than I counted on, to a plain girl, who had not one attraction in his eyes, and on whom he never had thrown five minutes of his time away, in any interview unwitnessed by company, even till after our wedding-day was done!

My mother staid with us, however, so did her niece,

« PreviousContinue »