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she is a very great vindicator of all present proceedings, but in such a manner as if she were under no concern further than her own conviction, and wondering how anybody can think otherwise. And the danger is, that she may come in time to believe herself; which, under a change of princes, and a great addition of credit, might have bad consequences. She is a most unconscionable dealer; for, in return of a few good words, which she gives to her lords and gentlemen daily waiters before their faces, she gets ten thousand from them behind her back, which are of real service to her character. The credit she has is managed with the utmost thrift: and whenever she employs it, which is very rarely, it is only upon such occasions where she is sure to get much more than she spends. For instance, she would readily press sir Robert Walpole to do some favor for colonel Churchill, or Doddington; the prince, for a mark of grace to Mr. Shutz; and the princess, to be kind to Mrs. Clayton. She sometimes falls into the general mistake of all courtiers, which is that of not suiting her talents to the abilities of others, but thinking those she deals with to have less art than they really possess, so that she may possibly be deceived when she thinks she deceives.
In all offices of life, except those of a courtier, she acts with justice, generosity, and truth. She is ready to do good as a private person, and I would almost think in charity that she will not do harm as a courtier, unless to please those in chief power.
In religion she is at least a latitudinarian, being not an enemy to books written by the free-thinkers; and herein she is the more blameable, because she has too much morality to stand in need of them, requiring only a due degree of faith for putting her in the road to salvation. I speak this of her as a private lady, not as a court favorite; for, in the latter capacity, she can show neither faith aor works.
If she had never seen a court, it is not impossible that she might have been a friend.
She abounds in good words, and expressions of good wishes, and will concert a hundred schemes for the service of those whom she would be thought to favor; schemes that sometimes arise from them, and sometimes from herself; although, at the same time, she very well knows them to be without the least probability of succeeding. But, to do her justice, she never feeds or deceives any person with promises, where she does not at the same time intend a degree of sincerity.
She is, upon the whole, an excellent companion for men of the best accomplishments, who have nothing to desire or expect.
What part she may act hereafter in a larger sphere, as lady of the bed-chamber to a great queen, (upon supposing the death of his present majesty [George I.] and of the earl of Suffolk, to whose title her husband succeeds,) and in high esteem with a king, neither she nor I can foretell. My own opinion is natural and obvious; that her talents as a courtier will spread, enlarge, and multiply to such a degree, that her private virtues, for want of room and time to operate, will be laid up clean (like clothes in a chest), to be used and put on, whenever satiety, or some reverse of fortune, or increase of ill health (to which last she is subject) shall dispose her to retire. In the meantime, it will be her wisdom to take care that they may not be tarnished or moth-eaten, for want of airing and turning at least once a-year.
ON THE DEATH OF
MRS. JOHNSON, [STELLA.]
This day, being Sunday, January 28, 1727-8, about eight o'clock at night, a servant brought me a note, with an account of the death of the truest, most virtuous, and valuable friend that I, or perhaps any
other person, was ever blessed with. She expired about six in the evening of this day; and as soon as I am left alone, which is about eleven at night, I resolve, for my own satisfaction, to say something of her life and character.
She was born at Richmond, in Surrey, on the 13th day of March, in the year 1681. Her father was a younger brother of a good family in Nottinghamshire, her mother of a lower degree; and indeed she had little to boast of her birth. I knew her from six years old, and had some share in her education, by directing what books she should read, and perpetually instructing her in the principles of honor and virtue; from which she never swerved in any one action or moment of her life. Sho was sickly from her childhood until about the age of fifteen; but them grew into perfect
“I wish I could tell you any agreeable news of what your heart is concerned
but I have a sort of quarrel with Mrs. Howard, for not loving herself so well as she does her friends, for those she makes happy, but not herself. There is a sort of sadness about her, which grieves me, and which I have learned by experience will increase upon an indolent (I will not say an affected) resignation to it. It will dose in men, and much more in women, who have a natural softness which sinks them even when reason does not." --Pore, Letters to a Lady.
was looked upon as one of the most Tod utiful, graceful;
and agreeable young women in London, only a little too fat. Her hair was blacker than a raven, and every feature of her face in perfection. She lived generally in the country, with a family where
. she contracted an intimate friendship with another lady of more advanced
years. I was then, to my mortification, settled in Ireland; and about a year after, going to visit my friends in England, I. found she was a little uneasy upon the death of a person on whom she had some dependence. Her fortune, at that time, was in all not above 15001., the interest of which was but a scanty maintenance in so dear a country for one of her spirit. Under this consideration, and indeed very much for my own satisfaction, who had few friends or acquaintance in Ireland, I prevailed with her and her dear friend and companion, the other lady, to draw what money they had into Ireland, a great part of their fortune being in annuities
funds. Money was then ten per cent. in Ireland, besides the advantage of returning it, and all necessaries of life at half the price. They complied with my advice, and soon after came over; but I, happening to continue some time longer in England, they were much discouraged to live in Dublin, where they were wholly strangers. She was at that time about nineteen years old, and her person was soon distinguished. But the adventure looked so like a frolic, the censure held for some time, as if there were a secret history in such a removal; which, however, soon blew off by her excellent conduct. She came over with her friend in the year 1700; and they both lived together until this day, when death removed her from us. For some years past, she had been visited with continual ill health ; and several times, within these last two years, her life was despaired of. But, for this twelvemonth past, she never had a day's health; and, properly speaking, she has been dying six months, but kept alive, almost against nature, by the generous kindness of two physicians, and the care of her friends. Thus far I writ the same night between eleven and twelve.
Never was any of her sex born with better gifts of the mind, or who more improved them by reading and conversation. Yet her memory was not of the best, and was impaired in the latter years of her life. But I cannot call to mind that I ever once heard her make a wrong judgment of persons, books, or affairs. Her advice was always the best, and with the greatest freedom, mixed with the
greatest decency. She had a gracefulness, somewhat more than human, in every motion, word, and action. Never was so happy a conjunction of civility, freedom, easiness, and sincerity. There seemed to be a combination among all that knew her, to treat her with a dignity much beyond her rank; yet people of all sorts were never more easy than in her company. Mr. Addison, when he was in Ireland, being introduced to her, immediately found her out; and, if he had not soon after left the kingdom, assured me he would have used all endeavors to cultivate her friendship. A rude or conceited coxcomb passed his time very ill, upon the least breach of respect; for, in such a case, she had no mercy, but was sure to expose him to the contempt of the standers-by, yet in such a manner as he was ashamed to complain, and durst not resent.
All of us who had the happiness of her friendship agreed unanimously, that, in an afternoon or evening's conversation, she never failed, before we parted, of delivering the best thing that was said in the company. Some of us have written down several of her sayings, or what the French call bons mots, wherein she excelled beyond belief. She never mistook the understanding of others; nor ever said a severe word, but where a much severer was deserved.
Her servants loved, and almost adored her at the same time. She would, upon occasions, treat them with freedom; yet her demeanor was so awful, that they durst not fail in the least point of respect. She chid them seldom, but it was with severity, which had an effect upon them for a long time after.
January 29. My head aches, and I can write no more.
This is the night of the funeral, which my sickness will not suffer me to attend. It is now nine at night; and I am removed into another apartment, that I may not see the light in the church, which is just over-against the window of bed-chamber.
With all the softness of temper that became a lady, she had the personal courage of a hero. She and her friends having removed their lodgings to a new house, which stood solitary, a parcel of rogues, armed, attempted the house, where there was only one boy. She was then about four-and-twenty; and having been warned to apprehend some such attempt, she learned the management of a pistol; and the other women and servants being half dead with fear, she stole softly to her dining-room window, put on a black hood to preyent being seen, primed the pistol fresh, gently lifted up the sash, and taking her aim with the utmost presence of mind, discharged
the pistol, loaden with bullets, into the body of one villain, who stood the fairest mark. The fellow, mortally wounded, was carried off by the rest, and died the next morning; but his companions could not be found. The duke of Ormond had often drunk her health to me upon that account, and had always a high esteem for her. She was, indeed, under some apprehension of going in a boat, after some danger she had narrowly escaped by water, but she was reasoned thoroughly out of it. She was never known to cry out, or discover any fear, in a coach or on horseback; or any uneasiness by
; those sudden accidents with which most of her sex, either by weakness or affectation, appear so much disordered.
She never had the least absence of mind in conversation, or given to interruption, or appeared eager to put in her word, by waiting impatiently until another had done. She spoke in a most agreeable voice, in the plainest words, never hesitating, except out of modesty before new faces, where she was somewhat reserved; nor, among her nearest friends, ever spoke much at a time. She was but little versed in the common topics of female chat: scandal, censure, and detraction never came out of her mouth; yet, among a few friends, in private conversation, she made little ceremony in discovering her contempt of a coxcomb, and describing all his follies to the life; but the follies of her own sex she was rather inclined to extenuate or to pity. When she was once convinced, by open facts, of any
breach of truth or honor in a person of high station, especially in the church, she could not conceal her indignation, nor hear them named without showing her displeasure in her countenance; particularly one or two of the latter sort, whom she had known and esteemed, but detested above all mankind, when it was manifest that they had sacrificed those two precious virtues to their ambition, and could much sooner have forgiven them the common immoralities of the laity.
Her frequent fits of sickness, in most parts of her life had prevented her from making that progress in reading which she would otherwise have done. She was well versed in the Greek and Roman story, and was not unskilled in that of France and England. She spoke French perfectly, but forgot much of it by neglect and sickness. She had read carefully all the best books of travels, which serve to open and enlarge the mind. She understood the Platonic and Epicurean philosophy, and judged very well of the defects of the latter. She made very judicious abstracts of the best books she had read. She understood the nature of government, and could