A Blighted Life/Section 6

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A Blighted Life by Rosina Bulwer Lytton
Section 6

And now comes the most horrible and cruel part of this history, and which is so painful to me to write, or rather to excavate out of the desolate grave of all my hopes, where it has lain buried for the last five years and a half, and where I thought it would remain till GOD had mercy on me and I was buried with it. But it would have been impossible to tell you all the rest without telling this too; or you would really think me not only mad, but a liar, that I had not in our Courts of Justice, or more frequently of Injustice, fully exposed, and got at least as much redress as public indignation and condemnation can afford to the Victim, when bestowed upon the perpetrators of such dastardly and chronic and complex infamy. But Sir EDWARD does not do his fiendish work by halves. He knew that from me he could neither expect mercy nor longer forbearance. So he, with demoniacla and unscrupulous astuteness baited the trap with the two lacerated hearts of both Mother and Child; for he knew that even to expose him I would not, and could not, expose my own son--whom GOD forgive--though I firmly believe that he, at first, was as much duped as I was. For though under ordinary circumstances--he was well aware, from bitter experience, that he could not believe in any promise his father ever made--still he naturally thought that after standing upon the brink of such a ruinous Abyss, and having been only saved by nature's great miracle, a Mother's Love--he would for once in fear and trembling have kept faith with his victims wholly and solely in his own sordid and selfish interest. And so this truly unhappy young martyr did evil that good might come of it; and that, as be at the time told me, he might buy his Mother back at any price. It is WALTER SCOTT, I think, who says--"There can be no Virtue without Truth, and there can be no Truth without Moral Courage." But where was this poor predestined young victim to acquire that? when the whole course of his accursed literary training was to develope his intellect, and stultify his moral qualitites, by, from his youth denying to his naturally gental and affectionate nature the holy vigils of a Mother's care, and the humanizing and heart-expanding influences of HOME. While the diplomatic obligations of his detestable profession could not fail to weaken to annihilation that plebeian appendage called conscience; so surely does custom blunt and familiarize either the worst or most frightful things. No wonder then that I should have no admiration for, but a positive contempt for, mere intellect; as intellect without a moral fulcrum is, of all the Devil's levers, the one that raises the most fearful preponderances of evil, and causes them to float buoyantly and triumphantly over the world. But I must get on, and get over this last heartquake of mine as rapidly as I can. GOD knows I would not injure him in the world's estimation (little as it is worth) more than he has already injured himself; and GOD, I am convinced, has punished him far more than He has thought fit to afflict me. Five years and a half since this crowning iniquity have I waited, hoping against hope that now, that he was no longer a Boy, he would shake off the glamour of his father's terrorism, and show some spark of manliness and human feeling, if only as a sort of expiatory conscience tax to GOD. But when was conscience, courage, or feeling, ever evinced by either a B_____ or a L_____? For the rest of this disgraceful history, I should be only too glad if you proclaimed it at the market cross. But that I am very sure you will not do; as I am fully aware of the requirements of literary amenities and social conventionalities; and therefore it is that I have lived too long alone with GOD, and the bitter sorrows He has sent me, not to gauge everything by simple Truth, unalloyed by expediency; and, perhaps too, as ESMOND says, "I have seen too much of success in life to take off my hat and huzza to it, in its gilt coach, as it passes." I am also fully aware of literary posthumous chivalry, and its Bayard courage! upon the safe vantage ground of posterity! therefore, when I have been dead some hundred years,--how pens will start from their inkstands, like swords from their scabbards, to avenge me!1 while Electric Caligraphy will not have left sufficient ink in Christendom to blacken Sir EWARD, the CÆSAR BORGIA of the nineteenth century (with the beauty and the courage left out) up to his natural hue. Gentlemen of 1964, I cannot find words to thank you--for all I shall have to say then, is what I pray now--Implora Pace!2

Well, on the evening after my return from Richmond, while I was at tea, the door was thrown open and Miss R_____ was announced. I reproached myself with ingratitude at the time, but she was more antipathetic to me than ever; her manner was so brusque, coarse, and unfeeling--meeting me for the first time in such a place. And she did look so dreadfully ugly, and so additionaly dirty! a great tour de fource! that I recoiled from her touch, and when she said, without any preparation in that sharp, shrill, cracked bell of a voice of hers, "Shure I've brought your son to see you," I felt almost as though she had knocked me down, and burst out crying--"Then," said I, "I won't see him; he has never acted like a son to me; and I suppose his infamous father is springed in his own trap, and he has sent his son to get him out of it." For two hours ineffectually, for I would not yeild to this evident bullying, did Miss R_____, with her usual want of tact, want of feeling, and coarse uncouthness, irritate every nerve in my body. I may as well here give you the keynote of her character. It is an inane and egregious vanity--and a mania pour se faire personnage;3 one of that dangerous class of meddling fools, who are for ever rushing in "where angels fear to tread." She was indeed "a thing of shreds and patches," made up of the fragments of other person's thoughs and opinions--which she invariably retailed as her own. In all things a mere ape and echo. During the Crimean War, she read up the leaders in the Times, and Mr. RUSSELL'S letters, and then though herself quite competent to argue with, or rather to dictate to the first military authorities, past, or present. Vilely ill-educated, or rather not educated at all, she could not open her mouth without mutilating the QUEEN'S English, and, like "The Wife of Bath," her "French was French of Bow," or, rather of Boœtia--"for French of Paris knew she none," and her grotesque and barbaric pronunciation of what she called such, was worthy of Sir EDWARD himself! or of that other universal genius (in his own opinion) Mr. W_____ R_____. She also had, like most vain fools, a literary mania, and a great ambition to appear very blue. I am confident, from her subsequent ingratitude towards me, who, as she acknowledge to my son, was the only benefactress she had ever had, that next to her fear, by my incarceration for life, of losing an excellent milch cow, which she had no chance of replacing, her motive in writing to the papers, and making my iniquitous abduction public, was that she thought by so doing she should put herself forward, and become quite a heroine. I am also certain that when Sir LIAR got hold of her, and that other patent scoundrel E_____ J_____ (who had been plied for him by that little Red Rat, COCKBURN--as of course it does not do for a Chief Justice to appear in dirty work, all English virtue, being strictly PUBLIC!), seeing the empty, heartless, vain, unprincipled ass they had to deal with, they fooled her to the very top of her bent; the rascally Q.C. telling her, that he, Sir LIAR'S ame damnée4, had only undertaken the business in my and my son's interest; and what a thing ti would be for her to heal family differences! and what a proud position for her, a young girl (39), to be the sole pivot that could keep the DERBY Ministry in! and E_____ J_____, knowing that there was no friend like a woman, and no head like a woman's, when dictated to by her heart. All this I learned from herself after; but where it struck me, like an electric flash, how they had fooled, and sold--or rather bought--her, for I was the sold! was her saying, the day I left H_____'s stronghold, and we were driving to town, as she pointed out of the window to the Asylum for Idiots, on the left-hand side of the road, and said, with one of her vain-glorious chuckles, "As E_____ J_____ said, 'we won't put you there, Miss R_____!'" "Then," said I, "I am certain that he, and his infamous client, must have fooled you to their heart's content." I have no doubt, too, that when she heard the jingle of the thimbles, about keeping the DERBY Ministry in! and she being the sole pivot! that could secure the Cabinet!! a vista opened to her of all the salons in London; ibid, the becoming an honorary member of all the literay cliques; and ditto, of her being made free of the sesame of all the backstairs in Downing-street! To say nothing of her having fallen desperately in love with Mr. L_____! (poor fellow, how soon his punishment over-took him), whom she used to rave about as the bo-eye-dale (alias beau ideal) of what a young poet ought to be; so handsome, so elegant, so charming! and I have no doubt in the plenitude of her imbecile conceit, she thought she would fasten herself on me, as a daughter-in-law, for the rest of my life. What a pity she could not hear the loathing disgust that her bo-eye-dale used to speak of her with. At all events, it is some comfort to know how those he-villains--the brand new Baronet, and the outlawed, swindling Q.C.--squeezed the orange and then threw away the rind, and when they had got all they wanted of her, kicked her off in a way quite worthy of them. And it is also a consolation, that, as a Frenchman said to me, when she used to be talking about her cost hume de cheval5 (Amazone), as she called her habit, "Ah! madame, quel bonheur puisque que cette drolesse la c'en est amourachée de monsieur votre fils qu'elle ne peut jamais devenir cotre belle-fille!"6

And now, before telling you what remains of this terrible history I must exonerate my unhappy Son from ever having gone such lengths in impious falsehood and hypocrisy, as to have written that disgusting "Dedication of Lucile" to his infamous father's "loved" and honoured name. He never did write it; but how could a son publicy disclaim it, and say my father is a Liar and a Forger? Of course he could not. But where he is eternally to be blames is for ever having let weakness and subserviency come to that; when, instead of thanks for having thrown himself into the breach to save his fiend father from the crushing disgrace of a full exposé of the Mad House Conspiracy, he found that unscrupulous monster only wanted him to tell more lies, and forge new springes for his Victim Mother, he should have unhesitatingly and firmly refused, and said--No, sir, I have done everything I could, and more than I ought, to screen you; setting facts, and truth, and my own feelings, and all justice, at defiance to do so; but if you now intend to break faith, and go back from all you promised in a moment of imminent peril, you cannot expect me to write myself down a Coward or a Villain by deserting and betraying the Mother, through whose unexampled forbearance and noble self-abnegation I was alone able to serve you. For had not my poor, generous Mother accepted me as a hostage, you know the QUEEN'S dominions would not have bribed her to forego the public redress she was so more than entitled to. But this would have been honest and true; and how could Sir E_____'s son, pupil, and tool, be either? And, alas! the Bible is right--as the twig is bent, so will it grow. Poor, poor, unfortunate young martyr! as his Fiend Father has crushed my life from out its setting, so has he crushed that young and once bright soul from out its orbit, and sent it erring through the tenebrous nebula of his own Avernus. Poor young victim! truly

"His honour, rooted in dishonour stood
 And faith, unfaithful! made him falsely true."7

For if you only knew his opinion of and feeling towards that vile Father, you would not wonder that after, through sheer moral cowardice, having been made to run counter to all his feelings and his whole nature, and play the part of a sort of Judas tranie Tartufe!8 he should have written in that heart-cry of his, called "Last Words," that appeared three years ago in the Cornhill Magazine.

"But what will the angels say, when they are looking for me?"

They will tell him perhaps that his Mother pitied even while she despised him. There are some persons who can manage to love, and yet despise; I cannot, as I told him; for with me contempt is a moral bourne from which no affection ever returns. But I am not angry with him. Oh no, I wish I was; for that would pass. No, I am not angry with him; I have left him all I have in the world--not money, for I have none; but all my pictures, books, bronzes, rare carvings, and rarer historical enamel portraits, and miniatures, including a most exquisite one of la belle Ferronière, that belonged to FRANCOIS PREMIER, and a fine miniature of Madame DE MONTESPAN, set in a diamond bracelet, which had belonged to her son, the Duc DE MAINE! also a fine miniature of the great Lord STRAFFORD, and that most beautiful miniature of Lord BYRON that Lady CAROLINE LAMB left me; my large Sèvres jewelled Ecrelles, with a portrait of LOUIS Quinze9 on it, which he gave to poor MARIE ANTOINETTE when she was Dauphine; and which she gave to the Comte D'ARTOIS (CHARLES Dix10), who gave it to his cousin, the Duc DE BOILLON, and he it was left it to my mother. All my bijouterie11 I have also left him, but with a solemn injunction in my will, on pain of GOD'S judgement! that he should never desecrate the grave of the Mother he had so cruelly betrayed, and inhumanly neglected, by any tombstone, verbiage, or any impious posthumous sentimentalities! in Poems or Magazines.--Amen.

And yet with all my knowledge of and unlimited faith in the diabolical villainy of Sir EDWARD, there is still a mystery of iniquity about his unhallowed power (divorced as it is from all affection and respect) over his truly unfortunate Son, that even I cannot fathom, nor even guess at. But I must get to the end as quickly as possible; for much as I have tried to condense this complex tissue of iniquity, which after all is but a drop in the great ocean of it, in which I have been plunged; it would have been quite unintelligible to you, as a stranger to both the actors, and their actions, had I not, in narrating the latter, put you in some degree au fait12 to the former.

Endnotes[edit]

  1. See also
    • A Blighted Marriage by David Lytton Cobbold Cobbold of Knebworth, Baron ISBN 0953711617
    • An Uncommon Criminal by Patricia Miles & Jill Williams
    • The Collected Letters of Rosina Bulwer Lytton ed. by Marie Mulvey-Roberts and Steve Carpenter
    • Letters of the late Edward Bulwer, Lord Lytton, to his wife: With extracts from her MSS. "Autobiography" and other documents by Edward Bulwer Lytton ISBN 0404088848
  2. Implora Pace!: Bid for Peace!
  3. pour se faire personnage: to appear to be a great person
  4. ame damnée: damned soul
  5. cost hume de cheval: ????
  6. Ah! . . . belle-fille!: Ah! madam, thankfully this hussy, who has become enamoured with your son, can never be your daughter-in-law!
  7. Judas tranie Tartufe: a cross between Judas and Tartufe
  8. quinze: fifteen, i.e. Louis XV
  9. dix: ten, i.e. Charles X
  10. bijouterie: jewelry
  11. au fait: incidentally