A Blighted Life/Section 2
Now Sir _____ was at that time flaring up at Leeds, lecturing at Mechanics' Institute upon "The Holiness of Truth" to the "snobs," and the Sacredness of Provity!! till, as a lady who wrote me word of it said, she wondered the earth did not open and swallow the blasphemous monster. I told SARAH BRELLISFORD to be sure and bring my any letter or letters that came to Miss G_____ on the morning she expected the indispensable remittance, not to open or destroy them, or intercept them, as her friend Sir _____ would have done; but merely to see the superscription, that is, the handwriting of the remittance letter. Well, it came, with Sir _____'s unmistakable mean scrawl, and crest on the seal, and the Leeds postmark, and no mistake, and two hours after Miss G_____ was bundled off. She was scarcely gone when I got letters from London imploring me to be on my guard, as these G_____'s lived at Brighton, and the one sent to Llangollen had a carriage always ready on the road, in order, if I could be found out walking, to kidnap me, and carry me off to a Madhouse, as Sir _____ was giving out all over London, via Mr. ROBERT BELL, one of DICKEN'S literary clique, that I was quite mad, and also by his infamous ame damnée1, the infamous attorney, L_____. Now this L_____, you must know, Sir _____ himself told me years ago, "intrigued with his own sister, to save the expense of a mistress!" A fitting tool, truly, for so loathsome a ruffian as the bran new baronet! And the attorney boasts with his sardonic grin, "Oh! Sir _____ _____, he must do whatever I please." After I had put Miss G_____ to flight, I wrote to Lady HOTHAM and several others at Brighton, to find out who and what those G_____'s were, and telling them of the Madhouse Conspiracy en train2. To which I got back an ocean of English twaddle and conventional cant, telling me not to talk of spies and madhouse conspiracies in the 19th century, but to remember that I lived in a free country (very free, for any villainy to be practised with impunity, where there is money to pay for it, a position to cover it, or Lords PALMERSTONS, DERBYS, LYNDHURSTS, or Chief Justice COCKBURNS, who so long as they do the public humbug well in verbal sounding brass, can and do employ the most infamous tools to do their private dirty work, and of course are in duty bound to screen and protect the said tools in all their own little personal crimes and enormitites), and above all, I was told to remember that however bad Sir _____ might be, he knew the laws of his country, and couldn't (couldn't he, when it is done every day!) incarcerate me without a public (oh, dear) and full enquiry about all my sayings, and goings, and habits, which would be the very best thing that could hapen to me, as he had so many years ground me down to poverty, as to effectually make me a dead letter; so that all the lies he so indefatigably disseminated about me went by default. However, as one evening Lady HOTHAM was repeating at dinner the sapient advice that she had writte to me to her Brighton Doctor, a Dr. T_____, who lives in Regency-square there, and another gentleman, an acquaintance of min, Dr. T_____ said, "G_____, G_____! Stop; I do know some people who know two Miss G_____s. My wife and I are going to a party to-morrow night, and I'll try and find out what I can about those Miss G_____s." "Do," said the other gentleman, "and as I must return to town to-morrow, be so good as to write and let me know what you do find out, that I may tell Lady _____, as I don't at all agree with Lady HOTHAM about the madhouse conspiracy being a chimera of hers." Accordingly, the day after the party, this gentleman received the following letter from Dr. T_____, which he sent me, and which I have got. It began: "Dear Sir,--I went to the party I told you of last night, and sure enough who should be there but a Miss G_____ who was boasting that Sir E_____ L_____ was a great friend of theirs, and that her sister had just returned form Llangollen, where she had seen that horrid wife of his (a lie, for she had not seen me), who was quite mad, but she was happy to say also, so ill, that she could not live a week. Poor Lady L_____, it is really too hard," Dr. T_____ goes on to say--but I need not trouble you with the rest of the letter.
The summer after this I got out of the hotel into a lodging, small, but very nicely furnished, of which I took the whole except the parlours, which, as the woman only asked 25 shillings a week for the, I told her on no account to let them to any one, but if she had an offer to do so I would pay her for them rather than have any other lodger in the house, after all I had suffered. Nothing could exceed the attention and prevoyante3 civility of these people. But when I had been there about three weeks, to my great horror and indignation, in the teeth of her promise, she informed me that she had let the parlour to a lady and gentleman, as they had given her two guineas a week for them; this alarmed me more, whereupon this silly woman, to reassure me, told me she was a lady of the highest connections, a Mrs. B_____, as she herself had told her she was related to Lord This and the Marquis of That. I said, my good Mrs. P_____, depend upon it by her giving you more than you asked for your rooms, and bragging about her great relations, she is not a gentlewoman, but some improper person or other. The next morning the plot began to thicken, and up came a great disgusting dish of raw trout with Mr. B_____'s compliments, as he had been out fishing, though Mrs. P_____ let out that he had bought them of Mrs. J_____ at the gin-shop. I returned them saying I was much obliged, but I never ate river fish. Through the windows I had the felicity of seeing Mr. and Mrs. B_____. He looked a something between a retired undertaker and a methodist parson in a rusty black coat and a dirty white cravat and shoes and stockings of a morning; and she was a perfect hybrid (with long black ringlets, a staring silk Stuart plaid dress, and very short petticoats) between a ballet girl at a fifth-rate theatre and a Regent's-street social evil, who did not attend the midnight meetings. I have since heard from indisputable authority that these vulgar wretches are always with Sir _____ at K_____ and Ventnor, and elsewhere, that he took to intriguing with that raw-boned frau, Madame ERNST, and dedicating his Balderdashiana in 'Blackwood' to her paralysed gorilla of a husband, ERNST the fiddler, whose society must be delightful to a man who is as deaf as a post, and who, before he was so, in point of music did not know "BOB and JOAN" from "GOD save the QUEEN," and who does not know one word of German. For of all his literary charlataneries, his pretended translation of _____ _____ was the most iniquitous, as at them it was he slaved his poor young daughter to death. His French is execrable and ridiculous enough; still he can read and undertand it, though he does call naïveté navetty!! which is almost as marvellous a travesty as that other woful attempt at an admirable CRICHTON and an omniscient genius(?), Mr. W_____ R_____, who calls VOLTAIRE--VOLL-TAIRE, so as to rhyme with NOLL; and who seems strongly to confound notoriety with fame, and therefore went to the trouble and expense of going to Africa to so usefully enlighten the world by informing it that when he attempted to kiss the African young ladies, they ran away! Why--he need not have gone so far to make that discover, as "my dear husband to a toad-stool" (which is a fair bet, the venemous reptile against the poisonous fungus), had he made the experiment in England every young lady, to a crinoline, would have done the same. The singularly antipathique young gentleman who, after favouring me with a brisk correspondence which I knew must have some covert meaning, as an Englishman never does anything without a sordid or selfish motive, last June did me the honour of inflicting upon me a three days' visit, ostensibly en route to Tenby to see his parents, of whom he spoke in a depreciating contemptuous manner that quite disgusted me, as if, poor silly people, they were quite below par, and unworthy of having such a son--I beg pardon, such a genius(?) of a son. With true English good breeding he hunted me up the day before I could possibly receive him, but however stupid he might have been to me, I daresay it was agreeable enough to him; as I understand he spent his nights down in the bar, which I should think was a much more congenial place to him than a drawing-room. When he went, as I thought, to Tenby, he wrote me word he had gone back to Oxfordshire, "and his parents would keep," as upon getting to Reading he found he had no money! This was so very like all the Sir _____'s innumerable myrmidons, that it gave me as I wrote a cold shudder; as I could not but solve the mystery of his correspondence and invasion by setting him down as one of Sir _____'s spies, in which idea I am confirmed by his after getting or not getting what he wanted, just like a true English boor, and with his insane literary mania and evident absence of principle, I have no doubt he would be glad to ingratiate himself with that infamous man on any terms. A friend of mine suggested to me as a solution of his visit, that perhaps he had heard that I was such a fool, as the dear, selfish English say, in helping others, when I so sorely needed help myself, that he might have wanted to borrow money; but though I may be able to skin myself in £20 or £30, he surely coud not suppose that any one condemned to the miserable and disinherited life I lead could have any hundreds to lend him towards ministering to his overweening and senseless vanity? I have seen his book, feeling no interest in it after seeing him; but I was silly enough two or three years ago to give him a volume of Essays that I had written in great haste, thinking he might sell them for a few pounds; and I should not be the least surprised if every thought in them (originality certainly not being his forte) were, a la Sir L_____, made to do duty as his reflections in "Savage Africa." The kissing episode I have quoted was sent me by a lady in a newspaper extract to make me laugh, which it did most heartily. Now to return to the dear B_____, whom I understand with the Swiss drab of a governess whom Sir _____ seduced long ago at Malvern, and whom recently in that pretty _____ trial about the crystal ball he improvised as his cook! thinking, no doubt, that as the devil sends cooks and also concubines, it was all the same thing, and cook sounded better in a Court of Justice. So these B_____s and the Swiss Traviata4 form the corps d'armee5 of his spirit-rapping establishment, which is this great man's mode of combining spirit and matter: the vice being the real, and his genius the ideal, or non est6.
Well, Mr. B_____, I suppose by way of doing his spiriting gently, that is, not distrubing the spirits (except those in the brandy bottle, to which he gave no quarter, but always full measure), used always to take off those pretty dust undertaker's shoes of his to steal up and down stairs, which I suppose meant that if I was going out of the drawing-room I might not be deterred from doing so by hearing a step upon the stairs.
A few evenings after I had returned the trout caught in the lake of Gin-eva down at J_____'s, the evening being very sultry, I was obliged to leave my drawing-room door slightly ajar, when, to my horror, who should come tripping in with a basket of strawberries but the social amateur evil, dressed, or rather undressed, to a pitch that would have alarmed even an art student. She made me a sort of theatrical speech in which she introduced herself and her strawberries. I never eat strawberries any more than trout; and in the absence of Wenham-lake ice, my reception of her must have been most refreshing, or rather refrigerating. Nothing daunted, this intensely vulgar piece of effrontery (who, I understand, is a natural daughter of that horrid old scamp, Lord LOWTHER: hence her high connexions) spread her furbelows, and, uninvited, seated herself; and seeing the shoeless undertaker creeping upstaris, she had the crowning imperticence to call him in, and introduce him to me, I visibly petrifying the while, and not replying to a single thing he said; till the he B_____, by way of saying something pleasant, remarked that DICKENS was a wonderful man. "A wonderful brute and humbug he certainly is," said I. The she B_____ then began, with a volubility that reminded one of one of CHARLES MATTHEWS'S patter songs, to recount to me a spirit-rapping story of an umbrella that had been left in a corner, and suddenly took it in its head--its ivory dog's head at the end of the handle--to turn round, walk across the room, and walk downstairs; whereupon I said in an insinuating voice: "Will you both have the goodness to show me how it went downstairs?" At which Mr. B_____ indulged in a loud guffaw, and gently and elegantly knocking his two thumbnails together, as if he had been trying vivisection on a flea, said, "Not bad; not bad." I then rose, and very stiffly announced that I had drank tea, was going to bed, and could not offer them any wine and water, as I never drank wine; whereupon this "charming woman," turning briskly to the undertaker, said, "B_____, run down, and bring up the wine and spirits." I said, "Not here, pray," and darting into my bedroom, locked the door.
The next day came a note from Mrs. B_____, expressing her great sympathy with all I had sufferend; and as the cuisine was not particularly good at those lodgings, would I do them the favour of dining with them at the hotel? I sent down a verbal message to say I never dined out. The next day the pair took their departure for London; but the people of the house became suddenly and unbearably insolent; and although I had taken the rooms for six months certain, said I must leave them immediately, as they had let them. This was pleasant, for lodgings are difficult to get at Llangollen, and worse than that, it wanting six weeks to the time I shyould receive my parish allowance, and also to the time when the two months' rent would become due, I had not a sou7 wherewith to meet this sudden and unfair demand in the teeth of a written agreement. But my kind old Dr. PRICE not only came to the rescue, rating these vile people soundly, and telling them they would repent their shameful conduct before they were much older (which they did), but he kindly got me another lodging higher up in the same road, in which I had not been install a week when Dr. PRICE wrote to me, saying that horrid woman Mrs. B_____, and a woman she called her maid, were installed in my old lodgings. I put on my bonnet and went out to pass the house, nad what should I see but Mrs. B_____ and her soi-disant8 maid sitting on the sill of the open drawing-room window, with a salver between them with two decanters of wine on it, and glasses in their hands, over which they were laughing and singing; and as soon as they saw me they set up a perfect about.
Two nights after this, the lady and her maid were literally drummed out of the place for roaring and screaming about the streets with me, at between one and two in the morning, and disturbing the quiet village. So Mrs. P_____ and her brother did not get much by their infamy to me, and to their highly conected Patroness Mrs. B_____, more especially as I lodge a complaint of their conduct with the Baptist minister, who lectured them publicly in chapel for it. A fortnight after Mrs. B_____'s expulsion, Mr. B_____ came donw solo, and went to the Chester races, in an open carriange and four, with those two blackguards, J_____ of the Gin Shop, and D_____ of the Post-office, driving past my windows, shouting and roaring and waving their hats; and previous to his departure, B_____ wrote me a most infamous anonymous letter, beginning that "he had the QUEEN's and _____'s permission to sleep with me"--which letter was precisely in the same hand-writing as all those puporting to be from Mr. L_____, the soi-disant Theatrical Manager, which infamous letter, and all the rest, I have got. Upon this crowning outrage inflicted by that far more ruffianly B_____'s myrmidons, I sent for Mr. WHALLEY, the Magistrate, the present member for Peterborough--(Maynooth WHALLEY), and he told J_____ he would take away his licence. I, of course, could not stay in a place where I had been so outraged and persecuted; and then it was I wrote to a friend of mine to engage me rooms in some Hotel in this dead-letter town; and sending all my luggage on to London, directed to a Mrs. WILSON, for her to forward them here; I took a young person who used to make my dresses at Llangollen as my maid, coming on here without any luggage but a carpet bag with "passenger" on it, so that none of the Llangollen people knew where I was going, by which means Sir _____ completely lost the track of his victim, which made him so furious that when good Mr. HODGSON went to receive my pittance, as he always did, Sir _____ and the ruffian L_____ vowed they would not pay it till they had a clergyman's certificate! to say I was alive! which was, of course, as they though, a clever plan to find out where I was; but Mr. HYDE my solicitor, whose country place was at Sangport, 16 miles from this and who was then alive, and had not yet found his account in selling me "to screen the party," wrote to say, that if my beggarly pittance was not snstantly paid, Sir _____ should have the best of all assurances that I was alive, as he, Mr. HYDE, would drive down to K_____ with me to take possession, and remain there with me to protect me. So the dastardly brute was foiled for the nonce. Soon after I came here Miss R_____ again was homeless, and gave me the benefit--no, the discipline--of her company, and worried me into sending a statement of my case to Lord LYNDHURST, who was then, with MESSALINA NORTON, concocting the job of the Divorce Court. Apropos of the latter, she is such an awful hypocrite, quite of Sir _____'s calibre, that they would have made a matchless pair, because she is actually a proverb for vrutalising servants and governesses. I see in to-day's Times she has a long and charmingly benevolent letter advocating the cause of Poor Servants against their not sufficiently considerate masters and mistresses! Oh! why does not the Devil foreclose his mortgage upon those three such hypocrites, Mother NORTON, Sir _____, and DICKENS, and drive them and their fine sentiments round his dominions. Sir _____ at least would not be quite new to the lash, as years ago, when that infamous Mrs. NORTON kept her amateur house of ill-fame in Bolton-row, and Sir _____ was intriguing with a cousin of hers, a Mrs. BARTON, the wife of a clergyman--some "good-natured friend" wrote to Mr. BARTION and told him if he would go at such an hour to Mrs. NORTON'S and walk up into the back bedroom, he would find Sir _____ with his wife. He did so and horsewhipped Sir _____. Whereupon MESSALINA, putting her arms akimbo, said, "If you are such a d_____d fool that you cannot manage a little affair of this sort without being found out, you must go elsewhere." The uninitiated keep wondering how the Examiner could puff that intensely trashy and immensely infamous last book of Mrs. NORTON'S. But those who know that she used to intrigue with that hideous old ALBANY FONBLANQUE, and any other dirty editor that came in her way, for a puff, don't wonder at all. If any of Mrs. NORTON'S ill-used servants were to write to the Times, illustrating by a few facts her practical benevolence and consideration towards them, I should just like to see the Times printing them, though thanks to our wheel within wheel of Humbug within Humbug, and Sham upon Sham, the Times can do its cheap brummagem philanthropy and championship of the oppressed as well as any other "Tartuffe" in the kingdom. And yet this most vile woman (with plenty of others of the same sort) is received at "our Virtuous Court," and quite worthy of being so, by the little selfish sensuous Inanity who rules over it, the Murderess of poor Lady FLORA HASTINGS, and the amiable daughter who did all she could to hold up her own mother with Sir JOHN CONROY. Poor excellent Prince ALBERT a rara avis9--a man who had principle and acted up to it, from the smallest to the greatest things,--knowing neither truckling nor expediency, had a life of it! happy he to have so soon escaped, and gone home to a more congenial sphere, where he invented the great treasure of good deeds, while still a labourer here.--But to return to the LYNDHURST affair: I told Miss R_____ that my sending my case to Lord L_____ was like writing in water; nothing would come of it. Still, I drew it up as briefly as I could, with a full statement of the last Llangollen infamy; but fortunately I was obstinate in my own common sense and would not yield to the sapient Mis R_____'s advice to send him some infamous letters of Sir R_____'s, which he, the ruffian, has denied on oath! For what are perjuries to one who has lived upon them as MITHRIDATES did on poisons, till they have become his daily food? Neither did I send him any original documents, beyond my own written statement of facts. So well am I aware, with regard to the thimble-rig of Politics, of what my fate would be, no matter who were the ins or the outs. I told Lord LYNDHURST not to take the trouble of writing, but merely make his secretary acknowledge the receipt of my papers till he returned them with his opinion. But two months passed and I had no acknowledgment of even the receipt of the packet. I then wrote again, expressing my surprise at this, when I received a not from Lord LYNDHURST, beginning, "My dear lady L_____." Cool, from a man I did not know personally. This is the note--
"My dear Lady L_____, in the hurry of business I mislaid your present address, and therefore wrote to you at Llangollen, telling you that I had read your papers, and written my opinion on them, and that they were left with my porter ready for you whenever you sent for them. Ten days after I had despatched my letter to you, a young woman called at my house, saying she had been sent by Lady L_____ for her papers, and my porter gave her the packet addressed to you. Therefore I was much surprised on the receipt of your letter this morning, saying you had not received the papers.--Believe me, yours faithfully, LYNDHURST."
- ame damnée: damned soul
- en train: in motion
- prevoyante: provident
- traviata: straying woman
- corps d'armee: body of arms
- non est: non-existant
- sou: coin; "penny" or "dime" in modern parlance
- soi-disant: so called
- rara avis: a rare or unique person