A Blighted Life/Section 1
The following is a true Woman's Record of sad suffering. Her wrongs have driven her half mad, and we do not wonder that it should be so, for she has sought redress in vain from almost every source. Her trampler and her tyrant was always victorious in every conflict. The QUEEN, as she most usually does with all criminals, took him by the hand; petted, favoured and promoted him; while his Victim was driven from Society into poverty and exile, and was for years the unceasing object of abuse, slander and libel. God pity her! May God protect and avenge her! Excuse her language, O Reader, whenever it seems "strong," for it is the cry of an indignant and broken heart--it is the wild shriek of Right, crushed under the heel of insolent and guilty Might.
SIR--Time was, ere I grew too sick of fiction, or rather of the hollow unprincipled vaux rien1, who for the most part trade upon it, that your and THACKERAY'S works were the only novels that I read; because they were the only ones independent of their indisputable talent* that bore the Hall mark of sincerity, and of conveying the real feelings and opinions of the writers; and not written up to the market standard, whether the twaddle was to be about very little children, which costs nothing--on paper--or underfed and overbirched boys; to say nothing of that great charm, that intellectual aroma of their being written by educated gentlemen. But your Novel I have not read, having a horror of all things that emanate from or appear under the auspices of that patent Humbug, Mr. CHARLES DICKENS, or any of his clique, and it is only the having seen in the "Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine" for this month, a review of your Novel, and an extract of your Notice, and requesting all persons in various ranks of life, who by letter or viva voce2, during the last five years have told you of some persons incarcerated in asylums, &c.3, &c., &c., and inviting fresh communications, &c., &c., &c., which induces me to furnish you with a few additional facts as to the incarceration--villainy--so much in vogue. But don't mistake my motive in so doing. I want you to do nothing for me; for nothing can now be done, and if it could, je connais mon Angleterre trop bien4 not to know that the English to a man are the most sordid, selfish, time-serving tuft-hunters in the whold world; Mammon being their only god, and Self high priest: and moreover I am too fully aware, after 25 years' bitter experience, that wherever the literary element enters, there camaraderie, expediency, clap-trap, treachery, moral cowardice and concrete meaness are sure to follow. There is such a thing as cheap chivalry, as well as cheap philanthropy, which are the only sorts à la porte de Messieurs les litterateurs Anglais5. And it makes all the difference in the world to make a cheval de bataille6 (and become a hero upon it) of a poor man's wrongs, who has no powerful foes to bring their masked batteries to bear upon his champion--aye, or in the event of the victim's being a chimney sweep's wife--for the same reason there is nothing easier than for chivalry to make a desperate and victorious onslaught upon Soot, as psychologically as well as horticulturally that pulverised darkness would only make the laurels flourish the more luxuriantly. But change the venue and let the victim only be in the upper sphere of life, without father, mother, or money, while her infamous husband not only with his brother done dirty work for every government for the last 30 years, and moreover being a litterateur whose grossly immoral plagiaries had been be-puffed by a venal press as immortal works, for value received in government interest, and invitations to their vulgar wives--shew me the man in England who would move a finger that might make this Infernal Machine of occult power explode against himself to save any woman from being incarcerated in fifty mad-houses and bechameled afterwards in minced meat, as small as that into which Puss in Boots threatened to cut the reapers and to save the lurch of your true motto.
A Dieu deplait.7
*Genius was written originally, but was obliterated, and talent substituted for it.
The Chivalric Philanthropists in question would immediately and most conveniently feel that "no man had a right to interfere between another man and his wife, as this, of course, came under the category of strictly private and family affairs." To say nothing of the real gist of the matter, to wit the Freemasonry which exists among "gentlemen," (?) that each gentleman's vices should be held sacred by any other gentleman, as there is no knowing when their own turn may come. So the non-intervention plan is by far the best, alias the safest, both for Parliamentary and Philantropic humbug. How well my meanest of all villains, and most unlimited of all blackguards knew this, when years ago, after one of his brutal outbursts of personal violence, the cowardly reptile said to me: "Remember, Madame, you have neither father nor brother, and therefore you are completely in my power." When, 23 years ago, I and my then infant children were turned out of our home, to make room for one of this loathsome brute's then strumpets, Miss LAURA DEACON, Serjeant TALFOURD had just cooked up his sham popularity-catching Custody of Infants' Bill. A silly friend of mine persuaded me to send my case to him, as one of the strongest and most flagrant that could possibly be. I pointed out to her that he also wrote Plays and Poems; and knowing what utter blackguards you "literary men" are in this country--for as old LANDOR says, "there is a spice of the scoundrel in them all"--and therefore he was not likely to risk either the puffery or the persecution of that literary political ruffian. And I was the Cassandra as I always am, for the "learned Serjeant" kept my papers a few days and then returned them to me, saying, "he was very sorry he had not time to look at them." A pretty person to bring a Bill into Parliament, who had not the time to look into the most flagrant abuses that necessitated the change in the law. True, GOD'S judgement overtook this hypocrite at last; for he who never went to bed sober, after a most eloquent diatribe against drunkenness the Bacchanalian Judge fell back stone dead, instead of a son ordinaire8 dead drunk. But how could this country be anything but the Land of Cant and Crime it is, when we see the irredeemably infamous men who occupy the highest places in literature and politics in England at the present day? Men whose triumphant vices and poisonous example are enough to breed rottenness in the very marrow of the nation. And they have done so; more especially their impious hypocrisy. When GOD was on earth the only sin he had no mercy on was hypocrisy. And why? Because it is a rank and blasphemous forgery on Heaven. When the late Sir ROBERT PEEL wanted to make Lord LYNDHURST Lord Chancellor, he could not do so because of the £15,000 unpaid damages hanging on him about his crim.-con.9 with Lady SYKES, whereupon Mr. BARING the present Lord ASHBURTON said, "I'll pay the damages for COPLEY if you'll give me a peerage," and this creditable guardian of public morals (which, of course are only preserved by private debauchery) had not been six months Lord Chancellor before he had another crim.-con. with Lady G., during the trial for which, poor Lord G. cut his throat. But he, the moral cause of the tragedy, lived to concoct at the instigation of one of the most infamous of our extensive aristocratic Traviataocracy10, MESSALINA NORTON, our present job Divorce Court, and to die, puffed by a venal press as if he had been a saint or a demi-god. Faugh! how sick it all makes one. Then see we not still living, to false-weight the scales of justice, that other precious legal DON JUAN and doer of dirty work dessous les cartes11, for his old college chum, the Chief Justice Sir ALEXANDER COCKBURN, who, as DENISON, the law reporter of the Times, said the other day, was "about the most unprincipled scoundrel in England," passing his whole time in debauching the wife or daughter of every man who came in his way. So with all this Diabolus ex machina12 up the backstairs, like the onions in SYDNEY SMITH'S salad, "unsuspected, animating the whole," you may imagine the fearful odds a poor legal Victim with "neither Father, Brother, nor Money" has against her! But never mind, "wait for the end." Dieu et mon droit13, and the indomitable hatred and colossal contempt of them all with which I am nerved makes me feel that, single-handed and alone as I have before partially been, I shall yet effectually be more than a match for these immund reptiles. This is a long Proem, but it was almost necessary to make you comprehend this of necessity condensed and therefore not over-clear because not categorical résumé of such a tissue of complex and chronic iniquity before coming to the culminating atrocity of Sir _____'s mad-house conspiracy; which, beyond the details you have asked to be supplied with from all quarters, of course can have no earthly interest for you, who once truly remarked in a note I received from you, that "for themost part the fine feelings or rather fine sentiments of Authors were all fused in their inkstands for general circulation, which left them none for their own personal use." And yet verily, I think LAMARTINE is right when he says, "Si l'on savait tout on ne serait indifferent a rien14."
To begin at the beginning of the Mad-house Conspiracy episode, for the Ruffian long ago began his lies in Paris, having put an infamous libel in his lick-dust ame damnée15, the Court Journal, about my having insulted his brother at a ball at Lady AYLMER'S to which Lord AYLMER had forbidden the brother to be asked, and to which, therefore, he was not asked. For this gross lie and libel, my solicitor, a Mr. _____ _____, then and ever a red-hot Tory, instantly brought an action against Sir _____'s tools, as Sir L. then called himself a Whig, and got me for my counsel Sir F. POLLOCK, the present Chief Baron. The defence the dastardly wretches set up in court was that I had fabricated this gross libel against myself, to bring myself before the public!!! Whereupon my consel remarked that even in a Court of Justice I was not free from the base calumnies of my unscrupulous enemies. Bref16, I gained this action, costs and damages against them, but pray bear in mind the name of my (as I thought) devoted attorney, Mr. _____ _____, who, as the sequel will show, was only a devoted and unscrupulous jobber to the Tory faction. Well, as I said before, to begin at the beginning of the Mad-house Conspiracy episode, I had taken a cottage in the Fulham-road in 1852, but being very poor I was obliged to furnish it by degrees and after drawing-rooms and library, had only furnished my own bed-room and dressing-room, when, with my usual good luck, a most--to me--loathsomely disgusting person, from her extreme personal dirt, hideousness, and inanity, came down to me crying one code wet November day, saying her relation, Mrs. LOUDON (Mrs. CORN-LAW LOUDON, who says COBDEN stole all her fame from her), had literally turned her into the streets, that she had not a sou17; knew no one in London but me, who she thought would have compassion on her, and both her brothers were away. What could I do? Had I had ready money to pay for lodging I would have done so; but I had not a farthing till a publisher's (of the name SHOBERL) bills for between £400 and £500 became due. Then my poor pretty furniture, among which I would rather have let loose a whole litter of pigs! Oh! it was a horrible dilemma; but not being made of stone cemented with mud, as I ought to be, with the infamous name I had the irreparable misfortune to be branded with at the matrimonial galleys, I gulped all my difficulties and disgusts, and sent for an upholsterer in hot haste to furnish at a year's credit a bedroom (which should have been a sty for this biped swine), and as my intention was to let my cottage whenever I left town, there was no use in furnishing it less well than the rest of my little gem of a house, which I had done cheaply enough, picking up the things by degrees for ready money. Alas, in one week the housemaid came to me with tears in her eyes to come and see the wreck; and truly the Augean stable must have been the beau ideal18 of neatness and cleanliness to it. The honest creature stayed with me a year in my poor cottage, I finding her not only in evening dresses, but in clothes from head to foot, as I did for three years after in other places, being, of coruse, therefrom obliged to do without essentials for myself. At the end of that year, my swindling publisher, SHOBERL, went smash, and I did not get a penny; but the obliging uphosterer came down upon me with an exorbitant fancy bill for the furnishing Miss R_____'s room, more in amount than any three other rooms in the house. I really felt stunned, or rather crushed, as if an elephant had trodden down my heart. I was for four months ineffectually trying to let my cottange, and as ineffectually (tied up as I was on a beggarly pittance of £400 a year for that monster's life, irregularly paid) trying to borrow money. At length a good Samaritan at the Stock Exchange, a stranger of course, and his good, excellent unattorney-like lawyer, poor Mr. HODGONS, now als dead, said he had heard such a good character of my honesty from the best judges, or at least the most impartial ones, the creditors, that he most humanely and generously lent me £1000 at £5 per cent for 10 years, and paying £100 a year off the principal, and insuring both Sir _____'s and my own life. With this fearful drain on my already disgraceful pittance, as you may suppose, I could not stay in London. My friends, by way of economising, asked me to go on visits to them; so I went first to Lady HOTHAM at Brighton, and then to other friends there, but soon found out that there is nothing so expensive as visiting in great houses, and dressing and going out, &c., &c., &c. So after a short trip to Paris with Lady HOTHAM, I went to bury myself in a little village in Wales (Llangollen), where the people about the country were good enough to come and see me, but I honestly told them I could not afford to go and see them, as I was even obligted to give up my maid, which to me was indeed a bitter, bitter privation. Then it was, being at a village inn alone, that that cowardly brute Sir _____ thought he had beau jeu19; and sent down first a vulgar old woman calling herself Mrs. P_____ with her "darter" and one of Sir _____'s bastards (of whom I could give you an incident quite fit for anovel, but too long to insert here), the said P_____ scraping an acquaintance with me upon the plea of her being an American, which she acted to the life by obtruding herself upon me at all hours, breakfast and dinner, and in my bedroom before I was up of a morning, and of course she had as good a right to be in the hotel as I had. One day, before I came into the dining-room, she had helped me to soup. I found her with her bonnet on, and before I had the time to eat the soup, she pretended she had had a sudden summons to London and was off. I had no sooner eaten the soup than before dinner was over I was seized with the most agonizing pains and violent retchings. My Doctor gave me antidotes; and said some attempt had benn made to poison me, but the dose had not been sufficient. This seemed to be confirmed by my (in about three weeks) getting a letter from old P_____ (which letter I have got), with another from another old adventuress, calling herself Mme. S_____, who, being at K_____ with some more of Sir ____'s elegant acquaintances, says she overheard the whole plot to incarcerate me in a Mad-house, and so have me gradually made away with. She also sent me a copy of a letter, which she says (?) she sent to Sir _____, after I was incarcerated, saying if a hair of mine was injured she would denounce him publicly as the black villain he was. Well, to return to old P_____'s letter. In it she seemed seized with a remorse of conscience--her grandchild having died suddenly, and that she was off to Paris, but could not go without warning me "for GOD'S sake to be upon my guard, as a person would be sent down whose name would begin with G, and to attract my attention, in order to scrape acquiantance with me, she would have little black King Charles dog," as old P_____ herself had had.
Before I come to spy No. 2, Miss G_____'s arrival, I must tell you of three other personages in this infamous dramatis personæ20. Soon after my arrival at Llangollen, a man calling himself "Mr. LEIGHTON," and purporting to be a theatrical manager, wrote to me for permission to dramatise my novel of _____, which I gave him; but this correspondence extended over so many months without anything being done, his letters being dated Theatres Royal, Southampton, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, in short, every provincial theatre in the kingdom, that I, of course, began to see this was some fresh villainy of Sir _____, who, after cutting the ground from under me in every unimaginably mean way, by preventing my earning the bread he will not give me, no doubt thought it a rare jest to fool me into the supposition that one of my books, which is a ready made drama, was going to be dramatised. But one has only to look at his hideous face, and that of that other brute, DICKENS, to see that every bad passion has left the impress of its cloven hoof upon their fiendish lineaments. However, as HAYDON the painter told old MELBOURNE years ago, "Any scamp who trades in politics is considered a fit companion for Lords," and my Lord DERBY seems to have a foible for most unpricipled and disreputable scamps, and such adventures as D_____ and Sir _____ are admirably calculted for 'Nyanziang' at our exceptionally stupid and inane Court, before our Royal BETTY FOY, "the idiot mother of an idiot boy."
But to return to Llangollen. I luckily kept all the soi-disant21 Mr. LEIGHTON'S letter, and the Llangollen post office was kept by a druggist of the name of G_____ D_____, while next to his shop was a gin shop kept by a very low person of the name of J_____, who had formerly had something to do with minor theatres and had narrowly escaped transportation for some of his malpractices. He and this D_____ were great cronies, and aprivate door in a passage of J_____'s gin-shop opened into the post office department of D_____'s shope. Bear all this in mind. This J_____ was then living with the maid of a woman with whom he had formerly intrigued, and whose whole family he had ruined. Well, as soon as I got old P_____'s letter of warning, I put all the people of the 'Hand Hotel' on their guard, and as it was then the depth of winter, no tourists came to Llangollen, and I told them to be sure and let me know if anyone whose name began with a G came to stay there. About ten days after this, BRELLISFORD, the waitress, came to me, and said an old woman looking like a housekeeper had just arrived from the station to take apartments for "her young lady," a Miss G_____, who had just lost her mother, and who intended to spend some time at Llangollen. BRELLISFORD, who had been by me put in possession of old P_____'s letter, answered her sharply that it was very strange that a young lady who had lost her mother had no friends to go to, but should come to such a desolate out-of-the-way place, to which the old woman made no reply. I then told BRELLISFORD to let me see (unseen) this old woman, and to be sure and let me know when the young lady arrived. Soon after B_____ came up in haste to say the old woman was going to the Post, and that I could see her from the window. I ran to it, and who should I see but old TATE, Sir L_____'s housekeeper!!! The young lady did not arrive till two nights after; a most hideous vulgar-looking creature, past 40, with fiery red face. The morning after her arrival, old TATE left in haste for London, telling Mrs. P_____, the woman of the Inn, that she had a large dinner to attend to. For six mortal days Miss G_____ was unable to fire her first shot, for even old P_____'s old King Charles "Tiney," who had been re-christened "Prince" for the new campaign, had only succedded in getting a snap from my Blenheim Tiger on the stairs, unaccompanied by his mistress. For I was waiting for the enemy's first move before I opened my batteries. It appears that the very first day at dinner, so well acquainted was she with the carte du pays22 from her predecessors, that she accosted the waitress by her somewhat uncommon name of "BRELLISFORD," asking her to carve a chicken. "Pray," said the latter, "how did you know my name?" Miss G_____ coloured and stammered and said she'd heard her called so. "That you haven't since you've been in this house, for all the servants call me SARAH." On the seventh day, instead of resting from her labours, the amiable G_____ could hold out no longer, and apropos de bottes23 asked BRELLISFORD at dinner "If I never went out?" "Seldom in the winter," was the reply. "Dear me," said Grogblossom, returning to the charge, "I wish Lady _____ would take a drive with me." Though of course the vulgar wretch, a la DICKENS, said "ride."--"Not very likely," said B., "after that other (emphasising the word) vulgar old Spy of that bad man, Sir _____ _____, Mrs. P_____ playing the games she did here, Lady _____ is not likely to ben any more, no one knows who, force themselves upon her." "Spies," re-echoed Grogblossom, "dear me, what can he have to spy her about. Every one knows what a profligate bad man he is; but at all events, I am no in a sphere of life to know Sir _____ _____ as an acquaintance, and I'm far too respectable to do his dirty work." "Then," said BRELLISFORD, firing up as she snatched the last dish off the table, "if you are not in a spear of life to know Sir _____, who is just fit for the likes o you, how dare you presume to ask, or to think, that her ladyship would go out with you?" and slamming ot the door, with an excellent imitation of thunder, she hurried down the passage, and came to my room to report "that Miss GET-NOTHING'S," as she always called her, impudence, and tell me the whole conversation. Whereupon, I instantly wrote a short note saying that if Miss G_____ did not take hereself off instantly to her infamous employer, I would have her forcibly ejected. This note I took myself, and, opening the door, flung it without going in, on the round table, in the middle of the room. A full quarter-of-an-hour after she got up a series of screnes, doing duty for dysterics, and rang the bell violently for Mrs. P_____, telling her that I had insulted her (G_____) in the most violent and unprovoked manner, and that I must be mad (c'etait la sa consigne24). Old P_____ came to me in great consternation, saying, "I should not have taken the law into my own hands." "You never mind that," said I, "but go back and tell her that if she does not leave this to-morrow morning, I'll find a way of making her; and if she feels herself aggrieved, and don't know what to do, I'll ter her--namely, if she is not a Spy of that Cowardly Ruffian, Sir _____ _____'s, sent to finish the job old P_____ begun, let her instantly go to her lawyer, and instruct him to bring an action against me for defamation." Mrs. P_____ returned in a very short time to say that Miss G_____ had said very humbly she would go as soon as she possibly could; but she had come in such a hurry she had had to buy a flannel petticoat!!! on her arrival (idem old P_____'s darter25, to whom the same romantic incident of travel had happened), and that she must write for money (ditto old P_____'s "darter" again), having none, and she could not possibly get an answer before the day after to-morrow.
- vaux rien: literally "worth nothing", worthless; garbage, drecks, good-for-nothings
- viva voce: by word of mouth
- &c.: Etc.
- je connais mon Angleterre trop bien: I know my England too well
- à la porte de Messieurs les litterateurs Anglais: at the doorsteps of the English literary gentleman
- cheval de bataille: battle horse
- Dict sans faict,/A Dieu deplait.: "Sayings without facts/Displease God."
- a son ordinaire: common
- crim.-con.: criminal conversation
- traviata: straying woman
- dessous les cartes: to be in the know
- Diabolus ex machina: devil from the machine (in reference to Deus ex machina)
- Dieu et mon droit: God and my right
- Si l'on savait tout on ne serait indifferent a rien: If one knew everything one would not be indifferent to anything
- ame damnée: damned soul
- bref: in short
- sou: coin, i.e. "penny" or "dime" in modern parlance
- beau ideal: ideal beauty
- beau jeu: good game
- dramatis personæ: cast of characters
- soi-disant: so-called
- carte du pays: chart of the land; lay of the land
- apropros de bottes: "apropos of boots", a phrase used to change the subject; unexpectedly, out of the blue
- c'etait la sa consigne: it was his orders
- idem . . . darter: ditto . . . daughter