Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 38.djvu/267

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

know of their relations; and if, as is probable, the declaration was meant to be taken in a poetic sense, the laughter was painfully sincere. The more serious the cause the greater is the excuse for Pope's subsequent malignity, though no excuse can be more than a slight palliation. A coarse lampoon upon Lady Mary by Swift, 'The Capon's Tale,' first published in the 'Miscellany' of 1826, implies that the quarrel had begun, and hints at previous lampoons attributed to her. Pope's references to 'Sappho' are in the 'Dunciad,' bk. ii. 1. 136 (1728, and note added in 1729); the 'Epistle to Lord Bathurst' (1732), 11. 121-2; the 'Imitation of the 1st Satire of the 2nd Book of Horace' (1732-3), 11. 83-4; the 'Epistle to Martha Blount' (1734-5), 11. 25-6; the 'Epistle to Arbuthnot' (1734-5), 11. 368-9; 'Versification of Donne' (1735), i. 6; and the 'Epilogue to the Satires' (1738), i. 113, ii, 19. Pope was apparently the aggressor in this warfare, although it seems that he suspected Lady Mary of being concerned in a previous libel called 'A Pop upon Pope' (1728), a story of his being whipped in revenge for the 'Dunciad' (see Carruthers, Pope, 1857, pp. 258-9, and Pope Works, x. 119). When the atrocious allusion in the 'Imitations of Horace' appeared, Lady Mary asked Peterborough to remonstrate with Pope. Pope made the obvious reply that he wondered that Lady Mary should suppose the lines to apply to any but some notoriously abandoned woman. It is of course impossible to prove who was in Pope's head when he wrote, but he certainly endeavoured to confirm the application to Lady Mary when it was made by the town (see Mr. Courthope's remarks in Pope's Works, iii. 279-84). The 'Verses addressed to an Imitator of Horace by a Lady,' published in 1733, are generally attributed to Lady Mary, in co-operation with her friend and fellow-victim to Pope's satire, Lord Hervey (see Courthope in Pope's Works as above, and v. 259-61). They insult Pope's family and person with a brutality only exceeded by his own. His base insinuations probably injured Lady Mary's reputation in her time. Two of the points to which he refers, that she 'starved a sister' and 'denied a debt' (Epilogue to Satires}, were of importance in her history.

A Frenchman named Rémond (who is described in St.-Simon's Memoirs, 1829, xvii. 306) made love to her; and, though she did not encourage his passion, she seems to have written some imprudent letters to him. She thought that she would get rid of him handsomely by making some money for him in the South Sea speculation. He gained something by selling out on her advice, but left the money in her hands to be again invested. In one of his last letters (22 Aug. 1720) Pope had advised her to buy at a time when the stock was rapidly declining in value. Whether she lost on her own account does not appear; but the 900l. which she invested for Rémond soon sank in value to 400l. He then claimed the repayment of the original sum as a debt, and threatened to publish her letters. She was certainly alarmed, and especially anxious to keep the matter from her husband, who was severe in all questions of money. Our knowledge of the affair is derived from her letters upon the subject to Lady Mar. Horace Walpole, who saw them, gave a distorted version of their purport to Sir Horace Mann. But in fact, although they show her to have been imprudent, they refute any worse imputation upon her character or her honesty. Rémond appears to have spread reports which must have reached Pope, who knew something of the South Sea speculation. The story about her sister refers to Lady Mar, who was for a time disordered in mind. Her brother-in-law, James Erskine, lord Grange [q. v.], famous for the violent imprisonment of his wife, tried also to get hold of Lady Mar. Lady Mary obtained a warrant from the king's bench in 1731, and was for some time her sister's guardian. There does not appear to be any ground for a charge of harsh treatment. Lady Mary was on very friendly terms with Lord Hervey, and on hostile terms with his wife. Her favour was courted by Young, of the 'Night Thoughts,' who in 1726 consulted her about his tragedy, 'The Brothers,' and by her second cousin, Fielding, who dedicated his first comedy to her in 1727, and asked her to read his 'Modern Husband.' She managed to be on good terms with the redoubtable Sarah, duchess of Marlborough; but she seems to have made enemies by her satirical wit. In 1739 she went abroad, for reasons which have not been explained. Her letters to her husband imply that they still remained on friendly terms, and she speaks of him to their daughter with apparent affection. She told a correspondent that he had been detained by business till she was tired of waiting, and went abroad, expecting him to follow in six weeks (to Lady Pomfret, from Venice, n.d., probably in 1740). In any case, they did not again meet. She left England in July 1739, and travelled to Venice. In the autumn of 1740 she went to Florence, where she met Horace Walpole, who gives a disgusting account of her slovenly appear-