A Blighted Life/Section 3

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A Blighted Life by Rosina Bulwer Lytton
Section 3

In reply to this "Strange Story," before Sir L_____'s other blasphemous "Strange Story," that that brute DICKENS just published, I wrote to Lord LYNDHURST to say that in the first place I never should have sent in that vulgar, cavalier way, without writing a note to him for my papers; in the next, it was strange he should have forgotten my present address! and only remember my former one at Llangollen, since BOTH addresses were equally mentioned in the papers he said he had left with his porter for me. But that such being the case, it behoved him for his own honour (?!) to stir in the matter, and find out who had got the letter he wrote to me at Llangollen, out of the Llangollen post-office, and who the woman was who had called for the papers, with the infamous lie that I had sent her. And the first step towards this was to tell the date of the letter he had written to me, and the day, and then the office in London at which the letter had been posted; and next, to employ Mr. PEACOCK, the Solicitor of the post-office, to sift out the affair, as, like a true-born Briton, he of course would be likely to put more zeal into his measures if employed by Lord LYNDHURST to detect an affront and fraud practised upon him, than merely an outrage and an injustice practised upon me, or every other defenceless woman in England. To this I received a palpably shuffling and wide of the mark note from Lord LYNDHURST, and the farce was gone through of writing to that vile fellow D_____, at Llangollen, who actually had the effrontery to pretend that no such letter had ever arrived at Llangollen post-office for me. Then how--as I told my Lord LYNDHURST, could the swindlers who called for my papers have known where to do so, but for the information contained in the letter? unless, indeed, the letter was a myth, and his lordship, to make things pleasant to the party, had kindly made over my papers to my Lord DERBY'S creditable Colonial Secretary? which was the only other possible solution of the affair. D_____ then wrote to me, "did I suppose that after my great kindness to his poor wife, in her last illness, which he should never forget, that he could do anything to injure me?" To which I replied yes, that was the very reason why he would; as I had never yet served anyone, in much, or in little, that they had not repaid me by the basest ingratitude, treachery, and injury--of some kind. My Lord LYNDHURST, finding I would not be quiet, though the old Tory jobbing attorney Mr. C_____ H_____, under the pretence of setting Mr. PEACOCK to work, but in reality to seize the golden opportunity of scraping personal acquaintance with an old Tory law lord, and by joinning issue with him, to make things pleasant to the party, and crush and gag their victim a little more. So, finding that I was not the platic, swallow-anything Fool that men think women ought to be, and which for the propagation and comfortable impunity of their vice, too many women are, my Lord LYNDHURST sent down his nephew and private secretary, Mr. RICHARD CLARKE, to see what he could do in the much-ado-about-nothing-humbug line. I boldly taxed him with this Divorce Bill being a job concocted between Lord LYNDHURST and Mother NORTON. "Well," said he, "you put it in such a point blank way, that I cannot deny it." You can, if you like, said I, or anything else, but I'm not bound to believe you. I then taxed D_____ with having a finger in the pie with regard to the swindle of my papers; knowing the creditable way in which, years ago, his acquaintance with Lord LYNDHURST (which was his first political stepping stone, after poor fool of a WYNDHAM LEWIS had paid his election expenses at Maidstone) had begun, maely, by their joint property with three more in Lady SYKES. "Oh," said Mr. CLARKE, "D_____ and Lord LYNDHURST are two. D_____ has not crossed our threshold for ages; and we all nearly fell off of our chairs laughing at breakfast, the other morning, at the capital, and to the life facsimile you gave in that imaginary conversation you put into his mouth, in your last letter to Lord LYNDHURST." But Mr. RICHARD CLARKE could do nothing for me, for I assure dhim that disgraceful affair should not rest between Lord LYNDHURST, me, and the post. I then, as a pis aller1, got General THOMPSON to present a petition in the House of Commons demanding an inquiry into the fate of the papers sent to Lord LYNDHURST, of which I could obtain no clear or satisfactory account. The poor superannuated Conservative peer, from his place in the House of Lords, mumbled some circumlocution rubbish about his being the last man to be guilty of want of courtesy to a lady.--Hang his courtesy!! his justice and common honesty were what I wanted, and not his courtesy; but it is precisely those two exotics which are not to be had in this accursed land of crime and cant, and so this infamy ended in smoke, as most things do in the two Houses of Humbug down at Westminster. I need not tell you, from the day I ordered her out of Llangollen to this, dear Miss G_____ never brought any action against me. No doubt your Orthodox English Conventioanlity is greatly shocked at my "coarse," "violent," "unladylike language"! But you must make some allowance (though English people never do, being wisely and justly only shocked and scandalized at terrible results, while they remain perfectly placid and piano2 upon terrible causes); but I was going to say you must make some allowance for a person writhing under nearly life-long, unparalled, ever-recurring, and never-redressed outrages,--and suffering from a chronic indigestion of falsehood, hypocrisy, and unscrupulous villainy. No wonder, then, that the other day I cordially sympathised with a man who said, that though no more fires blazed, or faggots crackled in Smithfield--for which thank GOD--he should like to make a bonfire of all the fine benevolent sentiments DICKENS, Sir EDWARD LYTTON, and Mrs. NORTON ever wrote, with those of that other scoundrel LAWRENCE STERNE, and placing the three former within smelting heat of the flames, collect an equivalent quantity of ink to all they had ever used in gulling the public, and force the black-lie-vehicle down their throats! It was this same man who wittily said, constituting himself Advocatus Diaboli3, when a whole room full of people were crying out against the utter trash and horrible immorality of Mrs. NORTON'S last book--"Well, now, I like the book, for it may be considered Mrs. NORTON'S oral confession, her peccavi4, in fact, as it so clearly and abundantly proves that there is not a single Traviata5 'dodge' in all Babylon that she is not practicall up to." Which sally was recived with peals of laughter, and "Hear, Hear's."--Talking of the humbug and omnipresence of Self in Authors, how thoroughly characteristic was that vainglorious "In Memoriam" of poor THACKERAY by Mr. DICKENS in this month's Cornhill; it being a mere stalking-horse to parade his own importance and repeat the compliments poor THACKERAY had paid him, though there were so many other and better things the public would all have rather heard of good THACKERAY. It was also a way of letting the groundlings know that his son, Master DICKENS had been at Eton, though he took good care not to tell them that Miss BURDETT COUTTS had paid for him there. For she can do these supererogatory display things, and build churches, though she cannot give a private unknown guinea to her starving relations, of which, like everyone else, she has some. I like Mr. TROLLOPE'S "In Memoriam" much better, and from the extracts I have read from his wishy-washy vulgar Novels, I did not think he could have written so well. Only I wish he had not opened with that tag Latin quotation; for though Latin is all very well, and indeed at times necessary for terseness' sake to add force to sense or satire, real feeling generally finds expression in our mother tongue.

After this LYNDHURST swindle of my papers, Miss R_____ went to her brother, who was then in London: this was in the autumn of 1857. The part Mr. H_____ had acted on that occasion first raised my suspicions against him: but alas, what is the use of a phrophetic spirit, when one has nobody to help one? That is no visible earthly hep: and no wonder if long before this time I had reversed the injunction to fear GOD and love my neighbour, for I love GOD more and more however much bitter wrong He may for some inscrutably wise purpose allow, but I fear my neighbour most "consumedly." Sir LIAR had of course found out my new abode by the LYNDHURST conspiracy, so the creature lost no time in being at his dirty work again. Accordingly, towards the end of October I was brought up a card with "Mrs. S___LL___" upon it, accompanied by a message that the lady (!) wanted particularly to see me. I enquired where this lady came from, and was told she had just arrived from London by the train; had engaged a bed here, but had not vestige of luggage, or any servant with her. I told them to say I was not well enough to see any one; and to repeat that answer while she remained; and that whatever business she wanted to see me upon she could state in writing. I then told them to send Mrs. C_____ to me; and when she came I begged of her to watch this woman narrowly, as I strongly suspected she was some fresh Spy of that infamous wretch Sir L. The next morning Mrs. C_____ came to report herself, and said she was sure she was some "infamous baggage," by her theatrical manner; and saying that she would get a divorce from her husband, if she knew where he was; but she did not know whether he was dead or alive, or anything about him (that there could be no doubt of), that she had come here to teach music and give theatrical readings, for which she wanted to hire Mrs. C_____'s ball-room, which Mrs. C_____ refused to let to her, she then asked all sorts of questions about me, and said she must see me. Mrs. C_____ coolly told her that the word was rather inappropriate. She then, it appears first by bribery, and then by bullying, sought to make the chamber-maid tell her the number of my bed-room, and to give her a room next to it; upon which the chamber-maid very nearly insulted her, but thought it better to trick her instead, so took her to a room on the second floor, and quite in another wing of the house. The next momrning she returned to the charge of trying to see me, and gave her a written prospectus of all the great masters who had taught her singing and the harp, and all the great people whom she had taught; but in this list I did not fail to remakr that both the teachers and the taught were all conveniently dead; this and the mention of the harp brought a sudden conviction into my mind who the soi-disant6 Mrs. S___LL___ really was, especially when Mrs. C_____ talked of her exceeding vanity about her personal appearance (though now an old woman), and above all about her hand, and when I asked for a personal description of her, and the inventory given was the pale hay-coloured hair, faded blue eyes, and aquiline nose, I felt sure that she was no other than the soi-disant Mrs. BEAUMONT, alias Miss LAURA DEACON, for whom I and my children had been turned out of a home: who had with some half-dozen predecessors been the mistress of Colonel KING when he lived at Craven Cottage, Fulham, and who, when he discovered the game she was carrying on with Sir LIAR, turned her off; however settling £200 a year upon his poor deformed eldest child by her, GEORGIANA--which £200 a year I was told was all she had to live upon; as Sir LIAR with his usual generosity (!) now gave her nothing; though when he kept her in his fine Pompeian house in Hill-street, and the wretch dared to take my name (as she did after at petty German courts, which was done by her monster Keeper, of course, not only to insult but to defame me), a bill of £300 for a grand piano came in to me from D'ALMAINE, that this wretch had had; for which blunder poor D'ALMAINE made me very possible apology. You will see precisely why I bore you with all these details. When I told Mrs. C_____ my suspicions, she said she would get her out of the town as soon as possible, but first warn the tradespeople about her, or she might run up bills in my name as part of her instructions. "Do," said I, "for I understand she never pays any one." Mrs. C_____ did so--therefore she did not succeed in hiring the assembly or any other rooms for her readings, or getting any pupils. And Mrs. C_____ insisted upon her leaving this hotel, which she did; going to Weston-super-Mare, but forgetting to pay her hotel bill here, which she has never done to this day. About three weeks after Mrs. C_____ brought me word that she was still at Weston, teaching singing in the boarding school of a Miss R_____, but that Miss R_____ had said she knew this Mrs. S___LL___ to be a woman of such character that she would not be seen in the street with her. No wonder English misses are whay they are, when this is a specimen of English schoolmistresses. Upon hearing this I set off to Weston to call upon this Miss R_____, and asked her if it was true that she had said so? She replied, "Yes--I certainly did say so." "What," cried I, starting up with indignation, "you dare place a woman about the young girls confided to your care whom you know to be so infamous that you would not be seen in the street with her? Shame, shame upon you." "Oh," said the "genteel" Mis R_____: "I only do it for their singing, she teaches in such a very superior manner to the provincial teachers, and can teach them so much more." "Of that I have no doubt," I said, leaving Miss R_____'s room, and house. I then went to ROGERS'S hotel to see if they knew anything about her, and Mrs. ROGERS said she had slept there one night, but that Mr. ROGERS had turned her out the next morning: and that there was a Mr. and Mrs. S_____ staying in the hotel, Mr. S_____ being a solicitor and a most dissipated man; and that one day he met the waiter on the stairs carrying up Mrs. S___LL___'s card to Mrs. S_____, and that he (Mr. S_____) took the card off the salver, and looking at it said, "Pooh! pooh! Mrs. S___LL___ indeed, come, tell her that I know who she is, and not to presume to try it on by attempting to scrape acquaintance with my wife." Having gained this additional information, I went to Whereat's library, where seeing her programmes for a reading from the 'Lady of Lyons,' I wrote under her name, "alias Mrs. BEAUMONT, alias Miss LAURA DEACON, maitresse en titre7 to Sir E_____ B_____ L_____ and half a score more," and I told ARTHUR KINGLAKE, the Weston magistrate, he had better warn the tradespeople about her, as she paid no one. He said she was already in debt all over theplace. About a week after this I was favoured with a letter from a pettifogging solicitor in Bath, as Mr. P_____, upon the part of Mrs. S___LL___, to say that if I did not instantly send her £50, she would bring an action against me for defemation. To which I replied she must be aware that no one having the misfortune to be dependant upon Sir E_____ B_____ L_____ ever had £5, let alone £50, at their disposal; but as for the action, the sooner he brought it the better: only according to my knowledge of English law, the little contretemps of Mr. S___LL___ being lost or mislaid, might render it a difficult process. However, after several more applications for the £50, I was duly served with a summons to appear in the Queen's Bench at the suit of Mrs. MARIA S___LL___ "she having obtained the permission of Sir E_____ B_____ L_____ and Mr. L_____ to bring the said action." But not a word about Mr. S___LL___. I wrote to Mr HENRY H_____ in London, Mr. C_____ H_____'s brother and partner, to put in an appearance for me; Mr. C_____ H_____ being conveniently ill at Longport. I was obliged to employ a little rptile of an attorney of this town of the name of T_____ (by the bye he has a niece, a young lady of 18, qui chasse bien de race8, for she has just been distinguishing herself in divers cases of shoplifting, and stole a valuable casolette of Lady TAUNTON'S at the recent ball given to Captain SPEKE. I now saw that my best card would be to send him to London to that profligate attorney Mr. S_____, who said he knew all about her, and ascertain beyond a doubt her real name. But Mr. H_____, ever alive to the interests of the Conservative party, telegraphed in hot haste for this Mr. T_____ to go to him; and no doubt to give him his lesson in the particular trickery and chicanery required to foil me and protect the party. I can only hope that where he is now gone, his fidelity may be rewarded by meeting many distinguished members of "the party" who will there be able to thank him warmly! Well, the reptile T_____ went to town, and his report was that Mr. S_____ had said, "Well, I first knew her years ago, when I was articled to old BICKET. She used to come to our office about a deed of annuity for £200, that a Colonel somebody was settling upon her, and was a lovely young creature then." "But her name, her name, Mr. T_____," I broke in. "Oh, her name," said the wretch, biting his lips and his ears burning scarlet, "why I--a--that is--I ascertained positively that she is a married woman, but I quite failed in finding out her name"!!!!!

"Do you take me for an idiot," said I, "that you dare trump up such a clumsy, bare-faced lie? Your instructions have been to sell me, in order to screen that unprincipled blackguard Sir E_____ L_____ and the 'party,' and therefore not to divulge his infamous mistress's name to me, forgetting in your shallow craft, that of all things marriage requires identity, and that you could not have positively ascertained that this creature was a married woman, which you know she is not, and yet have failed to find out in what name she was married"!! After muttering something about my being so sharp upon him, the wretch pretended to be highly offended, and rushed out of the room. For truly says ALFONSO KARR, On ne peut avoir de plus grand tort, que d'avoir raison contre tout le monde. Et moi, j'ai ce grand tort la, et on ne me la pardonne pas9.

This contemptible fellow did not again make his appearance till three days before the sham action was to come on. "Let me advixe you, Lady L_____," said the wretch, "to try to stop it by buying off Mrs. S___LL___'s solicitor. I'll manage it for you for a £5 note." "In the first place," said I, gulping down my rage, and trying to be calm, "I think £5 more than all the attorneys in England body and soul are worth. In the next place you and Mr. H_____ must really think my folly quite commensurate to your and his knavery and to Sir E_____ L_____'s infamy. But tell him, or tell both of them for me, that were this room piled with gold up to the ceiling, and I was suffocating under it, I would not give a single coin of it to play that ruffian's game, and write myself an ass, to have it said I had bribed them to stop a sham action that they can never bring."

"Oh well, if you won't be advised by your solicitor"——"I never asked your advice, I employed you to do my work, and like most of your tribe, you have done the Devil's instead, and sold me--but I won't sell myself to please you." No sooner did the special pleader in London see the citation to the Queen's Bench, when I sent it up, than he said, "Lady L_____ is quite right; this bears farce and fraud upon the face of it"; and accordingly the day before S___LL___ was to come one, the suit was withdrawn. What a pity I did not oblige them buyint it off; and what could that charming injured man Sir E_____ L_____ do, but incarcerate such a wretch in a madhouse, which is the only safe place for wives not wanted, and who won't and can't be fooled?

Remarkably true as far as that loathsome brute Sir E_____ is concerned, is JEAN PAUL'S assertion, that the past and the future are written in every face, for what a fiendish past and what a hellish future are written in that worst bad man's face. HOTTEN wrote to me the other day saying that in the memoir of THACKERAY he is bringing out, THACKERAY'S feud with Sir L_____ is alluded to, but it is stated it was subsequently arranged; but it is not all clearly how, and could I give him any particulars on the subject? I said I could not, and that I had always respected THACKERAY'S loathing of and utter contempt for the charlatan and arch hypocrite, as he had never personally injured or offended THACKERAY, who only honestly detested him for his unredeemedly infamous life, and the intense meanness of his nature. I had never heard of any intercourse being effected between them, but if there had been any such jobbed up, no doubt the vau-rien10 venal literary clique to which he belonged had concocted it (most likely the blackguard DICKENS). Well, after the S___LL___ affair, the ruffian tried his old plan of starving me out by not paying the beggarly pittance he professed to give me, though he had been warned by friends (if he has any, for though plenty of cameraderie, there is and can be no friendship among the wicked) and foes, not to drive me to extremities. "Truly," says RICHTER, "the devil invented seeking and his grandmother waiting," and I was nearly worn out with both. The month of June, 1858, had arrived, and the Hertford election was to take place on the 8th, a Wednesday, I think. The Sunday before I was in bed with one of my splitting headaches, from ceaseless worry of mind and want fo rest. I got up, and in perfect agony prayed to GOD to direct me, to send me some help in my cruel, cruel position. I went back to bed exhausted, and the sudden thought struck me, I would go to the Hertford election, and publicly expose the riffian. Aye; but how? I was penniless, and three quarters in Mrs. C_____'s debt. Never mind; she was a good woman, and I did put her goodness to the test. I rang for her and said, "Mrs. C_____, I am deeply in your debt; but I want to get more into it. I want to go to Hertford, and publicly expose that monster; you must lend me the money to do so, and come with me, for I cannot go alone; it is your only chance of being paid. I know the dastardly, cowardly villain well; public exposure is the only thing his rottenness fears. For as long as I can beggar myself in rascally lawyers, whom he can always 'manage,' or trust to the timid, and imbecile milk and waterings of soi-disant friends, who are in reality my worst enemies, and rivet the wrong their pusillanimity succumbs to, the Fiend only laughs at me and them." "Very well," said she, "I'll do it." "Then, like a good soul, you must do more. I want some giant posters printed, to placard all over the town of Hertford, with simply these words:

"'Lady B_____ L_____ requests the Electors of Herts to meet her at the Corn Exchange this day, Wednesday, June 8, 1858, before going the the Hustings.'"

But I told her not to get them done at a common printing office, so as to have it talked of all over this town. She said she'd have them done at the private printing-office of my chemist, whom she could trust. On the Tuesday, by the 3.20 p.m. train, we started, but instead of going the direct way by London--for fear of meeting Sir LIAR or any of his gang--we went a round which, with the usual delays of the trains, made it 11 at night before we got to Bedford; so that the last train to Hertford had started half-an-hour before, and it was three mortal hours before post horses could be got for love or money; which threw us out dreadfully, and oh those mortal hours of slow crawling with jaded horses, the remaining miles; and when at last we arrived my head was burning and I had cold shivers in every limb; while there was the pale summer moon setting on the one side, and the red summer sun rising on the other; so that as usual I was between two fires, as I entered the little dirty mean town of Hertford and drove up to the 'Dimsdale Arms.' Mrs. C_____ I told to give the boots of the inn a sovereign, to instantly (it was then 5 o'clock a.m.), paste up my posters all over the town; and he worked so zealously that before seven the were all over the town.

Endnotes[edit]

  1. pis aller: last resort
  2. piano: soft
  3. Advocatus Diaboli: Devil's Advocate
  4. peccavi: sin
  5. traviata: straying woman
  6. soi-disant: so-called
  7. maitresse en titre: mistress in title
  8. qui chasse bien de race: who is a flirt
  9. On ne peut . . . la pardonne pas: ????
  10. vau-rien: worthless