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Charms by accepting, by submitting sways,
The allusion to her affection for her sister, is just and beautiful; but the compliment to her temper is understood not to have been quite merited-perhaps, was rather administered as a corrective; for Martha was weak and captious; and Pope, who had suffered what torments a female wit could inflict, possibly found that peevishness and folly have also their désagrémens. He complains frequently, in his letters to Martha, of the difficulty of pleasing her, or understanding her wishes. Methinks, had I been a poet, or Pope, I would rather bave been led about in triumph by the spirited, accomplished Lady Mary, than “ chained to the footstool of two paltry girls.”
They used to employ him constantly in the most trifling and troublesome commissions, in which he had seldom even the satisfaction of contenting them. He was accustomed to send them little presents almost daily, as concert tickets, ribands, fruit, &c. He once sent them a basket of peaches, which, with an affectation of careless gallantry, were separately wrapped in part of the manuscript translation of the Iliad: and he humbly requests them to return the wrappers, as he had no other copy.
On another occasion he sent them fans, on which were inscribed his famous lines,
• Come, gentle air," th'Eolian shepherd said, &c. Martha Blount was not so kind or so attentive to Pope in his last illness as she ought to have been. His love for her seemed blended with his frail existence; and when he was scarcely sensible to any thing else in the world, he was still conscious of the charm of her presence.
66 When she came into the room,” says Spence, “it was enough to give a new turn to his spirits, and a temporary strength to him."
She survived him eighteen years, and died unmarried at her house in Berkeley Square, in 1762. She is described,
about that time, as a little, fair, prim old woman, very lively, and inclined to gossip. Her undefined connexion with Pope, though it afforded matter for mirth and wonder, never affected her reputation while living; and has rendered her name as immortal as our language and our literature. One cannot help wishing that she had been more interesting, and more worthy of her fame.
POPE AND LADY
In the same year with Martha Blount, and about the same age, died Lady Mary W. Montagu. Every body knows that she was one of Pope's early loves. She had, for several years, suspended his attachment to his first favourites, the Blounts; and she really deserved the preference. But the issue of this romantic attachment was the most bitter, the most irreconcilable enmity. The cause did not proceed so much from any one particular offence on either side, but rather from a multitude of trifling causes, arising naturally out of the characters of both.
When they first met, Pope was about six-and-twenty; and from the recent publication of the “Rape of the Lock," and “The Temple of Fame," &c., had reached the pinnacle of fashion and reputation. Lady Mary was in her twenty-third year, lately married to a man she loved, and had just burst upon the world in all the blaze of her wit and beauty. Her masculine acquirements and powers of mind-her strong good sense-her extensive views-her frankness, decision, and generosity-her vivacity, and her bright eyes, must altogether have rendered her one of the most fascinating, as she really was one of the most extraordinary, women that ever lived.
There stands, in a conspicuous part of this great city, a certain monument, erected, it is said, at the cost of the ladies of Britain; but in a spirit and taste which, I trust, are not those of my countrywomen at large. Is this our patriotism? We may applaud the brave, who go forth to battle to defend us, and preserve inviolate the sanctity of our hearths and homes; but does it become us to lend our voice to exult in victory, always bought at the expense of
suffering, and aggravate the din and the clamour of warwe, who ought to be the peace-makers of the world, and plead for man against his own fierce passions? A huge brazen image stands up, an impudent (false) witness of our martial enthusiasm ; but who amongst us has thought of raising a public statue to Lady Wortley Montagu! to her who has almost banished from the world that pest which once extinguished families and desolated provinces? To her true patriotic spirit,—to her magnanimity, her generous perseverance, in surmounting all obstacles raised by the outcry of ignorance, and the obstinacy of prejudice, we owe the introduction of inoculation ;-she ought to stand in marble beside Howard the good.*
I should imagine that a strong impression must have been made on Lady Mary's mind by an incident which occurred just at the time she left England for Constantinople. Lord Petre,—he who is consecrated to fame in the Rape of the Lock, as the ravisher of Arabella Fermour's hair,—died of the small-pox at the age of threeand-twenty, just after his marriage with a young and beautiful heiress; his death caused a general sympathy, and added to the dread and horror which was inspired by this terrible disease: eighteen persons of his family had died of it within twenty-seven years. In those days it was not even allowable to mention, or allude to it in company,
Mr. Wortley was appointed to the Turkish embassy in 1716, and his wife accompanied him. The letters which passed between her and Pope, during her absence, are well known. In point of style and liveliness, the superiority is on the lady's side; but the tone of feeling in Pope is better, more earnest; bis language is not always within the bounds of that sprightly gallantry with which a man naturally ad
* In Litchfield Cathedral stands the only memorial ever raised, by pube lic or private gratitude, to Lady Mary; it is a cenotaph, with Beauty weeping the loss of her preserver, and an inscription, of which the following words form the conclusion :—"To perpetuate the memory of such benevolence, and to express her gratitude for the benefit she herself received from this alleviating art, this monument is erected by Henrietta loge, relict of Theodore William Inge, and daughter of Sir John Wrot. tesley Bart., in 1789.” One would like to have known the woman who raised this monument.
dresses a young, beautiful, and virtuous woman, who had condescended to allow his homage.*
In one of his letters, written immediately after her departure, he asks her how he had looked ? how he had be. haved at the last moment? whether he had betrayed any deeper feeling than propriety might warrant ? “For if," he says, “my parting looked like that of a common ac. quaintance, I am the greatest of all hypocrites that ever decency made.” And in a subsequent letter he says, very feelingly and significantly, “ May that person (her hus.' band) for whom you have left the world, be so just as to prefer you to all the world. I believe his good sense leads him to do so now, as gratitude will hereafter. May you continue to think him worthy of whatever you have done! may you ever look upon him with the eyes of a first lover, nay, if possible, with all the unreasonable happy fondness of an unexperienced one, surrounded with all the enchantments and ideas of romance and poetry! I wish this from my heart; and while I examine what passes there in regard to you, I cannot but glory in my own heart, that it is capable of so much generosity."
This was sufficiently clear. I need scarcely remark en passant, that Pope's generosity and wishes were all en pure perte; his spitefulness must have been gratified by the sequel of Lady Mary's domestic bliss; her marriage ended in disgust and aversion; which, on her separation from Mr. Wortley, subsided into a good-humoured indifference.t
After a union of twenty-seven years, she parted from him and went to reside abroad. There were errors on both sides; but I am obliged to admit that Lady Mary, with all her fine qualities, had two faults,-intolerable and unpardonable faults in the eyes of a husband or a lover. She wanted softness of mind, and refinement of feeling, in
* “ You shall see (said Lady Mary referring to these letters) what a goddess he made of me in some of them, though he makes such a devil of me in his writings afterwards, without any reason that I know of."Spence.
+ I remember seeing, I think, in one of D'Israeli's works a fragment of some lines which Lady Mary wrote on her husband, and wbich er. pressed the utmost bitterness of female scorn.