Read CHAPTER XIII of Lady Mary Wortley Montague Her Life and Letters (1689-1762), free online book, by Lewis Melville, on

ON THE CONTINENT (1739-1744)

Lady Mary leaves England She does not return for twenty years Montagu supposed to join her The domestic relations of the Montagus A septennial act for marriage Lady Mary corresponds with her husband Dijon Turin Venice Bologna Florence The Monastery of La Trappe Horace Walpole at Florence His comments on Lady Mary and her friends Reasons for his dislike of her Rome The Young Pretender and Henry, Cardinal York Wanderings Cheapness of life in Italy Lady Mary’s son, Edward He is a great trouble to his parents His absurd marriage His extravagance and folly Account of his early years He visits Lady Mary at Valence Her account of the interviews.

In July, 1739, Lady Mary went abroad. She did not return until the beginning of 1762, a few months before her death.

She went abroad without her husband, and, indeed, they never met again. At first, apparently, he had intended to join her at least so she gave Lady Pomfret to understand:

“You have put me to a very difficult choice, yet, when I consider we are both in Italy, and yet do not see one another, I am astonished at the capriciousness of my fortune” (she wrote from Venice late in 1739). “My affairs are so uncertain, I can answer for nothing that is future. I have taken some pains to put the inclination for travelling into Mr. Wortley’s head, and was so much afraid he would change his mind, that I hastened before him in order (at least) to secure my journey. He proposed following me in six weeks, his business requiring his presence at Newcastle. Since that, the change of scene that has happened in England has made his friends persuade him to attend parliament this session: so that what his inclinations, which must govern mine, will be next spring I cannot absolutely foresee. For my own part, I like my own situation so well that it will be a displeasure to me to change it. To postpone such a conversation as yours a whole twelvemonth is a terrible appearance; on the other hand, I would not follow the example of the first of our sex, and sacrifice for a present pleasure a more lasting happiness. In short, I can determine nothing on this subject. When you are at Florence, we may debate it over again.”

So little is known of the domestic relations of the Montagus that it is hazardous to advance a conjecture. One writer has suggested that there was a quarrel over money, but there are no grounds to support this. Another has it that Lady Mary’s flirtations or intrigues did not meet with her husband’s approval. Yet another thinks that Montagu found his wife with her sharp tongue, very ill to live with.

The Montagus had been married for seven-and-twenty years; their younger child was now twenty-one. Since Montagu assisted Lady Mary as a girl with her Latin studies, they do not seem to have had much in common. Lady Mary cut a figure in the social world; Montagu was a nonentity in political life and seemed content so to be. Perhaps they were tired of each other, and welcomed a separation that at the outset was intended only to be temporary. “It was from the customs of the Turks that I first had the thought of a septennial bill for the benefit of married persons,” Lady Mary once said to Joseph Spence; and it is more than likely that she would have taken advantage of such an Act of Parliament had it been in existence.

That there was no definite breach is evident from the fact that husband and wife corresponded, though it must be confessed that her letters to her husband are almost uniformly dull, except when the topic is their son. On the other hand, there was certainly no especial degree of friendship between them, and in one of her letters Lady Mary said pointedly: “You do not seem desirous to hear news, which makes me not trouble you with any.” For the rest there are descriptions of the places which Lady Mary visited and an account of the people she met.

Lady Mary proceeded from Dover to Calais, and thence to Dijon, where she arrived in the middle of August. Wherever she went she found herself among friends. “There is not any town in France where there is not English, Scotch or Irish families established; and I have met with people who have seen me (though often such as I do not remember to have seen) in every town I have passed through; and I think the farther I go, the more acquaintance I meet,” she told her husband. At Dijon there were no less than sixteen families of fashion. Lord Mansel had lodgings in the house with her at Dijon, and Mrs. Whitsted, a daughter of Lord Bathurst, resided in the same street. She met Lady Peterborough, and just missed the Duke of Rutland, at St. Omer. At Port Beauvoisin she ran across Lord Carlisle.

From Turin, she travelled, on the advice of Lord Carlisle, to Vienna, which he declared was the best place in Italy in which to stay. The fact that it was the intention of Lady Pomfret to remove from Sienna to Vienna was the deciding factor. She liked the latter city so well that she remained there until August of the following year (1740). It had one great merit in Lady Mary’s eyes, that it was cheap. Next to that, she derived pleasure from the consideration with which she was treated. “I like this place extremely, and am of opinion you would do so too: as to cheapness, I think ’tis impossible to find any part of Europe where both the laws and customs are so contrived purposely to avoid expenses of all sorts; and here is a universal liberty that is certainly one of the greatest agréments in life. We have foreign ambassadors from all parts of the world, who have all visited me. I have received visits from many of the noble Venetian ladies; and upon the whole I am very much at my ease here. If I was writing to Lady Sophia, I would tell her of the comedies and operas which are every night, at very low prices; but I believe even you will agree with me that they are ordered to be as convenient as possible, every mortal going in a mask, and consequently no trouble in dressing, or forms of any kind.” So Lady Mary wrote to Lady Pomfret on October 10; and a few days later she supplemented the information in a letter to her husband:

“I find myself very well here. I am visited by the most considerable people of the town, and all the foreign ministers, who have most of them made great entertainments for me. I dined yesterday at the Spanish ambassador’s, who even surpassed the French in magnificence. He met me at the hall-door, and the lady at the stair-head, to conduct me through the long apartment; in short, they could not have shown me more honours, if I had been an ambassadress. She desired me to think myself patrona del casa, and offered me all the services in her power, to wait on me where I pleased, &c. They have the finest palace in Venice. What is very convenient, I hear it is not at all expected I should make any dinners, it not being the fashion for anybody to do it here but the foreign ministers; and I find I can live here very genteelly on my allowance. I have already a very agreeable general acquaintance; though when I came, here was no one I had ever seen in my life, but the Cavaliere Grimani and the Abbe Conti. I must do them [the] justice to say they have taken pains to be obliging to me. The Procurator brought his niece (who is at the head of his family) to wait on me; and they invited me to reside with them at their palace on the Brent, but I did not think it proper to accept of it. He also introduced me to the Signora Pisani Mocenigo, who is the most considerable lady here. The Nuncio is particularly civil to me; he has been several times to see me, and has offered me the use of his box at the opera. I have many others at my service, and, in short it, is impossible for a stranger to be better received than I am. Here are no English, except a Mr. Bertie and his governor, who arrived two days ago, and who intends but a short stay.”

Lady Mary thoroughly enjoyed herself at Venice, where she found a variety of occupations to occupy her time. In the mornings she was “wrapt up among my books with antiquarians and virtuosi”; in the afternoons there were visits to pay and receive; in the evenings dinners (at other people’s expense which fact did not detract from her pleasure), assemblies, and the theatre and the opera. In fact, she found there every delight except scandal, but that she did not miss, because she said, she “never found any pleasure in malice.” So strange a thing is human nature that perhaps she believed it!

“Upon my word, I have spoken my real thoughts in relation to Venice; but I will be more particular in my description, lest you should find the same reason of complaint you have hitherto experienced” (she wrote in November to Lady Pomfret). “It is impossible to give any rule for the agreeableness of conversation; but here is so great a variety, I think ’tis impossible not to find some to suit every taste. Here are foreign ministers from all parts of the world, who, as they have no Court to employ their hours, are overjoyed to enter into commerce with any stranger of distinction. As I am the only lady here at present, I can assure you I am courted, as if I was the only one in the world. As to all the conveniences of life, they are to be had at very easy rates; and for those that love public places, here are two playhouses and two operas constantly performed every night, at exceeding low prices. But you will have no reason to examine that article, no more than myself; all the ambassadors having boxes appointed them; and I have every one of their keys at my service, not only for my own person, but whoever I please to carry or send. I do not make much use of this privilege, to their great astonishment. It is the fashion for the greatest ladies to walk the streets, which are admirably paved; and a mask, price sixpence, with a little cloak, and the head of a domino, the genteel dress to carry you everywhere. The greatest equipage is a gondola, that holds eight persons, and is the price of an English chair. And it is so much the established fashion for everybody to live their own way, that nothing is more ridiculous than censuring the actions of another. This would be terrible in London, where we have little other diversion; but for me, who never found any pleasure in malice, I bless my destiny that has conducted me to a part where people are better employed than in talking of the affairs of their acquaintance. It is at present excessive cold (which is the only thing I have to find fault with), but in recompense we have a clear bright sun, and fogs and factions things unheard of in this climate.”

Certainly everybody did the utmost to make Venice agreeable to Lady Mary. With all her good opinion of herself and of her position, she found herself treated with more distinction than she “could possibly expect.” When, on Christmas Eve, she went to see the ceremony of High Mass celebrated by the Doge, she was surprised to find that he had set aside for her and the Prince of Wolfenbuttel a gallery, to which none were admitted but their parties. “A greater compliment could not have been paid me if I had been a sovereign Princess.” To her husband she wrote: “It is impossible to be better treated, I may even say more courted, than I am here.”

All the English who came to Venice, as a matter of course paid their respects to Lady Mary.

“Lord Fitzwilliam arrived here three days ago; he came to see me the next day, as all the English do, who are much surprised at the civilities and familiarity which I am with the noble ladies. Everybody tells me ’tis what never was done but to myself; and I own I have a little vanity in it, because the French ambassador told me when I first came, that though the Procurator Grimani might persuade them to visit me, he defied me to enter into any sort of intimacy with them: instead of which they call me out almost every day on some diversion or other, and are desirous to have me in all their parties of pleasure. I am invited to-morrow to the Foscarini to dinner, which is to be followed by a concert and a ball, where I shall be the only stranger, though here are at present a great number come to see the regatta, which is fixed for the 29th of this month, N.S. I shall see it at the Procurator Grimani’s, where there will be a great entertainment that day. My own house is very well situated to see it, being on the Grand Canal; but I would not refuse him and his niece, since they seem desirous of my company, and I shall oblige some other ladies with my windows. They are hired at a great rate to see the show.”

There was just one fly in the ointment. “I am impatient to hear good sense pronounced in my native tongue; having only heard my language out of the mouths of boys and governors for these five months” (she complained to Lady Pomfret). “Here are inundations of them broke in upon us this carnival, and my apartment must be their refuge; the greater part of them having kept an inviolable fidelity to the languages their nurses taught them; their whole business abroad (as far as I can perceive) being to buy new clothes, in which they shine in some obscure coffee-house, where they are sure of meeting only one another; and after the important conquest of some waiting gentlewoman of an opera queen, whom perhaps they remember as long as they live, return to England excellent judges of men and manners. I find the spirit of patriotism so strong in me every time I see them, that I look on them as the greatest blockheads in nature; and, to say truth, the compound of booby and petit maitre makes up a very odd sort of animal.”

It was not until the middle of August (1740) that Lady Mary left Venice, going first to Bologna, where she stayed a day or two “to prepare for the dreadful passage of the Apennines.” On her way to Florence, she visited the monastery of La Trappe her account of which may be given as a companion portrait to that of the nunnery printed in an earlier chapter.

“The monastery of La Trappe, is of French origin, and one of the most austere and self-denying orders I have met with. In this gloomy retreat it gave me pain to observe the infatuation of men, who have devoutly reduced themselves to a much worse condition than that of the beasts. Folly, you see, is the lot of humanity, whether it arises in the flowery paths of pleasure, or the thorny ones of an ill-judged devotion. But of the two sorts of fools, I shall always think that the merry one has the most eligible fate; and I cannot well form a notion of that spiritual and ecstatic joy, that is mixed with sighs, groans, hunger, and thirst, and the other complicated miseries of monastic discipline. It is a strange way of going to work for happiness to excite an enmity between soul and body, which Nature and Providence have designed to live together in union and friendship, and which we cannot separate like man and wife when they happen to disagree. The profound silence that is enjoined upon the monks of La Trappe is a singular circumstance of their unsociable and unnatural discipline, and were this injunction never to be dispensed with, it would be needless to visit them in any other character than as a collection of statues; but the superior of the convent suspended in our favour that rigorous law, and allowed one of the mutes to converse with me, and answer a few discreet questions. He told me that the monks of this order in France are still more austere than those of Italy, as they never taste wine, flesh, fish, or eggs; but live entirely upon vegetables. The story that is told of the institution of this order is remarkable, and is well attested, if my information is good. Its founder was a French nobleman whose name was Bouthillior de Rance, a man of pleasure and gallantry, which were converted into the deepest gloom of devotion by the following incident. His affairs obliged him to absent himself, for some time, from a lady with whom he had lived in the most intimate and tender connexions of successful love. At his return to Paris he proposed to surprise her agreeably, and, at the same time, to satisfy his own impatient desire of seeing her, by going directly and without ceremony to her apartment by a back stair, which he was well acquainted with but think of the spectacle that presented itself to him at his entrance into the chamber that had so often been the scene of love’s highest raptures! his mistress dead dead of the small-pox disfigured beyond expression a loathsome mass of putrified matter and the surgeon separating the head from the body, because the coffin had been made too short! He stood for a moment motionless in amazement, and filled with horror and then retired from the world, shut himself up in the convent of La Trappe, where he passed the remainder of his days in the most cruel and disconsolate devotion. Let us quit this sad subject.”

The news that Lady Mary was coming to Florence came to the ears of Horace Walpole, who was staying there. If he had not yet made her acquaintance, he certainly knew much about her. “On Wednesday we expect a third she-meteor,” he wrote to Richard West, July 31, 1740. “Those learned luminaries the Ladies Pomfret and Walpole are to be joined by the Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. You have not been witness to the rhapsody of mystic nonsense which these two fair ones debate incessantly, and consequently cannot figure what must be the issue of this triple alliance: we have some idea of it. Only figure the coalition of prudery, debauchery, sentiment, history, Greek, Latin, French, Italian and metaphysics; all, except the second, understood by halves, by quarters, or not at all. You shall have the journals of this notable academy.” Walpole sent, some seven weeks later, an account of the lady to the Hon. Henry Seymour Conway: “Did I tell you Lady Mary Wortley is here? She laughs at my Lady Walpole, scolds my Lady Pomfret, and is laughed at by the whole town. Her dress, her avarice, and her impudence must amaze any one that never heard her name. She wears a foul mob, that does not cover her greasy black locks, that hang loose, never combed or curled, mazarine blue wrapper, that gapes open and discovers a canvas petticoat. Her face swollen violently on one side is partly covered with a plaister, and partly with white paint, which for cheapness she has bought so coarse, that you would not use it to wash a chimney.”

In another letter, to Richard West (October 2, 1740), Walpole gives an account of the “Academy.” “But for the Academy, I am not of it; but frequently in company with it,” he wrote. “Tis all disjointed. Madame , who, though a learned lady, has not lost her modesty and character, is extremely scandalised with the two other dames, especially with Moll Worthless, who knows no bounds. She is at rivalry with Lady W for a certain Mr. , whom perhaps you knew at Oxford.... He fell into sentiments with my Lady W., and was happy to catch her at platonic love; but as she seldom stops there, the poor man will be frightened out of his senses when she shall break the matter to him, for he never dreamt that her purposes were so naught. Lady Mary is so far gone that to get him from the mouth of her antagonist, she literally took him out to dance country dances at a formal ball, where there was no measure kept in laughing at her.... She played at Pharaoh two or three times at Princess Craon’s, where she cheats horse and foot. She is really entertaining: I have been reading her works, which she lends out in manuscript; but they are too womanish: I like few of her performances.”

Lady Mary was, of course, entirely ignorant of Horace Walpole’s feelings about her, of which naturally he showed no sign in social intercourse with her. “I saw him often both at Florence and Genoa, and you may believe I know him,” she told her daughter. “I was well acquainted with Mr. Walpole at Florence, and indeed he was particularly civil to me,” she wrote on another occasion. “I have great encouragement to ask favour of him, if I did not know that few people have so good memories to remember so many years backwards as have passed since I have seen him. If he has treated the character of Queen Elizabeth with disrespect [in A Catalogue of the Royal and Noble Authors of England], all the women should tear him to pieces, for abusing the glory of their sex. Neither is it just to put her in the list of authors, having never published anything, though we have Mr. Camden’s authority that she wrote many valuable pieces, chiefly Greek translations. I wish all monarchs would bestow their leisure hours on such studies: perhaps they would not be very useful to mankind; but it may be asserted, for a certain truth, their own minds could be more improved than by the amusements of quadrille or Cavagnole.”

Lady Mary need not have feared that Walpole had forgotten her; he bore her much in mind to his dying day, and found never a kind thing to say about her. It may be presumed that his animosity arose from the fact that Lady Mary had championed Molly Skerritt against his mother, when Miss Skerritt was living openly as the mistress of Sir Robert Walpole. Yet, though he wrote so abusively about her, he concerned himself with a new edition of the Court Poems, though with what right has never transpired. “I have lately had Lady Mary Wortley’s Ecloques published; but they don’t please, though so excessively good,” he wrote to Sir Horace Mann, November 24, 1747. “I say so confidently, for Mr. Chute agrees with me: he says, for the Epistle from Arthur Grey, scarce any woman could have written it, and no man; for a man who had had experience enough to paint such sentiments so well, would not have had warmth enough left. Do you know anything of Lady Mary? Her adventurous son is come in Parliament, but has not opened.”

From Florence, Lady Mary repaired to Rome. There, she did not see the Chevalier de St. George, but she did see his two sons, Charles Edward, the Young Pretender, and Henry, Cardinal York. “The eldest seems thoughtless enough, and is really not unlike Mr. Lyttelton in his shape and air,” she wrote to Montagu. “The youngest is very well made, dances finely, and has an ingenuous countenance; he is but fourteen years of age. The family live very splendidly, yet pay everybody, and (wherever they get it) are certainly in no want of money.”

Lady Mary seems to have had no prepared itinerary, but to have wandered as the spirit moved her Naples, Leghorn, Turin, Genoa. The cheapness of Italy appealed to her frugal mind.

“The manners of Italy are so much altered since we were here last, the alteration is scarce credible. They say it has been by the last war. The French, being masters, introduced all their customs, which were eagerly embraced by the ladies, and I believe will never be laid aside; yet the different governments make different manners in every state. You know, though the republic is not rich, here are many private families vastly so, and live at a great superfluous expense: all the people of the first quality keep coaches as fine as the Speaker’s, and some of them two or three, though the streets are too narrow to use them in the town; but they take the air in them, and their chairs carry them to the gates. The liveries are all plain: gold or silver being forbidden to be worn within the walls, the habits are all obliged to be black, but they wear exceeding fine lace and linen; and in their country-houses, which are generally in the faubuurg, they dress very rich, and have extreme fine jewels. Here is nothing cheap but houses. A palace fit for a prince may be hired for fifty pounds per annum; I mean unfurnished. All games of chance are strictly prohibited, and it seems to me the only law they do not try to evade: they play at quadrille, piquet, &c., but not high. Here are no regular public assemblies. I have been visited by all of the first rank, and invited to several fine dinners, particularly to the wedding of one of the house of Spinola, where there were ninety-six sat down to table, and I think the entertainment one of the best I ever saw. There was the night following a ball and supper for the same company, with the same profusion. They tell me that all their great marriages are kept in the same public manner. Nobody keeps more than two horses, all their journeys being post; the expense of them, including the coachman, is (I am told) fifty pounds per annum. A chair is very near as much; I give eighteen francs a week for mine. The senators can converse with no strangers during the time of their magistracy, which lasts two years. The number of servants is regulated, and almost every lady has the same, which is two footmen, a gentleman-usher, and a page, who follows her chair.

Certainly the simple life appealed to Lady Mary, but much as she liked Geneva the cost of living irked her. “Everything is as dear as it is at London,” she complained to her husband in November, 1741. “’Tis true, as all équipages are forbidden, that expense is entirely retrenched.... The way of living is absolutely the reverse of that in Italy. Here is no show, and a great deal of eating; there is all the magnificence imaginable, and no dinners but on particular occasions; yet the difference of the prices renders the total expense very near equal.... The people here are very well to be liked, and this little republic has an air of the simplicity of old Rome in its earliest age. The magistrates toil with their own hands, and their wives literally dress their dinners against their return from their little senate. Yet without dress and equipage ’tis as dear living here for a stranger, as in places where one is obliged to both, from the price of all sort of provision, which they are forced to buy from their neighbours, having almost no land of their own.” How much more agreeable, from Lady Mary’s point of view, was Chambéry: “Here is the most profound peace and unbounded plenty that is to be found in any corner of the universe; but not one rag of money. For my part, I think it amounts to the same thing, whether one is obliged to give several pence for bread, or can have a great deal of bread for a penny, since the Savoyard nobility here keep as good tables, without money, as those in London, who spend in a week what would be here a considerable yearly revenue. Wine, which is equal to the best burgundy, is sold for a penny a quart, and I have a cook for very small wages, that is capable of rivalling Chloe.”

“My girl gives me great prospect of satisfaction, but my young rogue of a son is the most ungovernable little rake that ever played truant,” Lady Mary wrote to Lady Mar in July, 1727, when the boy was fourteen and the girl nine years old.

It has already been mentioned that young Edward, who was placed at Westminster School at the early age of five, ran away. In fact, he ran away more than once. “My blessed offspring has already made a great noise in the world,” his mother told Lady Mar in July, 1726. “That young rake, my son, took to his heels t’other day and transported his person to Oxford; being in his own opinion thoroughly qualified for the University. After a good deal of search we found and reduced him, much against his will, to the humble condition of a schoolboy. It happens very luckily that the sobriety and discretion is of my daughter’s side; I am sorry the ugliness is so too, for my son grows extremely handsome.” The lad was incorrigible. In the following year he disappeared for some months, to be found selling fish at Blackwall.

“My cousin is going to Paris, and I will not let her go without a letter for you, my dear sister, though I was never in a worse humour for writing” (the anxious mother wrote to her sister). “I am vexed to the blood by my young rogue of a son; who has contrived at his age to make himself the talk of the whole nation. He is gone knight-erranting, God knows where; and hitherto ’tis impossible to find him. You may judge of my uneasiness by what your own would be if dear Lady Fanny was lost. Nothing that ever happened to me has troubled me so much; I can hardly speak or write of it with tolerable temper, and I own it has changed mine to that degree I have a mind to cross the water, to try what effect a new heaven and a new earth will have upon my spirit.”

Later, Edward ran away again, joining the crew of a ship going to Oporto, and was not discovered in that city until a considerable period had elapsed since his flight.

He capped all his follies by marrying at the age of twenty a woman of no social standing and much older than himself.

His parents were at their wits’ end. It was hopeless to treat him as a rational being. His wife was induced to accept a pension to leave him, and he himself was put in charge of a keeper. Several times he had to be kept in close confinement. He was, however, by no means devoid of brains, and in the autumn of 1741 he had sufficiently recovered to be entered as a student at the University of Leyden. His allowance was L300 a year, which he found so insufficient for the indulgence of his tastes that he was soon considerably in debt.

In Lady Mary’s correspondence there are many letters to her husband about their son.

“Genoa, Au, 1741.

“I am sorry to trouble you on so disagreeable a subject as our son, but I received a letter from him last post, in which he solicits your dissolving his marriage, as if it was wholly in your power, and the reason he gives for it, is so that he may marry more to your satisfaction. It is very vexatious (though no more than I expected) that time has no effect, and that it is impossible to convince him of his true situation. He enclosed this letter in one to Mr. Birtles, and tells me that he does not doubt that debt of L200 is paid. You may imagine this silly proceeding occasioned me a dun from Mr. Birtles. I told him the person that wrote the letter, was, to my knowledge, not worth a groat, which was all I thought proper to say on the subject.”

“Lyons, April 23, 1742.

“I am very glad you have been prevailed on to let our son take a commission: if you had prevented it, he would have always said, and perhaps thought, and persuaded other people, you had hindered his rising in the world; though I am fully persuaded that he can never make a tolerable figure in any station of life. When he was at Morins, on his first leaving France, I then tried to prevail with him to serve the Emperor as volunteer; and represented to him that a handsome behaviour one campaign might go a great way in retrieving his character; and offered to use my interest with you (which I said I did not doubt would succeed) to furnish him with a handsome equipage. He then answered, he supposed I wished him killed out of the way. I am afraid his pretended reformation is not very sincere. I wish time may prove me in the wrong. I here enclose the last letter I received from him; I answered it the following post in these words:

“’I am very glad you resolve to continue obedient to your father, and are sensible of his goodness towards you. Mr. Birtles showed me your letter to him, in which you enclosed yours to me, where you speak to him as your friend; subscribing yourself his faithful humble servant. He was at Genoa in his uncle’s house when you was there, and well acquainted with you; though you seem ignorant of everything relating to him. I wish you would make such sort of apologies for any errors you may commit. I pray God your future behaviour may redeem the past, which will be a great blessing to your affectionate mother.’

“I have not since heard from him; I suppose he knew not what to say to so plain a detected falsehood. It is very disagreeable to me to converse with one from whom I do not expect to hear a word of truth, and who, I am very sure, will repeat many things that never passed in our conversation. You see the most solemn assurances are not binding from him, since he could come to London in opposition to your commands, after having so frequently protested he would not move a step except by your order. However, as you insist on my seeing him, I will do it, and think Valence the properest town for that interview; it is but two days’ journey from this place; it is in Dauphiné.

“I shall stay here till I have an answer to this letter. If you order your son to go to Valence, I desire you would give him a strict command of going by a feigned name. I do not doubt your returning me whatever money I may give him; but as I believe, if he receives money from me, he will be making me frequent visits, it is clearly my opinion I should give him none. Whatever you may think proper for his journey, you may remit to him.”

“Lyons, April 25 .

“On recollection (however inconvenient it may be to me on many accounts), I am not sorry to converse with my son. I shall at least have the satisfaction of making a clear judgment of his behaviour and temper: which I shall deliver to you in the most sincere and unprejudiced manner. You need not apprehend that I shall speak to him in passion. I do not know that I ever did in my life. I am not apt to be over-heated in discourse, and am so far prepared, even for the worst on his side, that I think nothing he can say can alter the resolution I have taken of treating him with calmness. Both nature and interest (were I inclined to follow blindly the dictates of either) would determine me to wish him your heir rather than a stranger; but I think myself obliged both by honour, conscience and my regard for you, no way to deceive you; and I confess, hitherto I see nothing but falsehood and weakness through his whole conduct. It is possible this person may be altered since I saw him, but his figure then was very agreeable and his manner insinuating. I very well remember the professions he made to me, and do not doubt he is as lavish of them to other people. Perhaps Lord Carteret may think him no ill match for an ugly girl that sticks upon his hands. The project of breaking his marriage shows at least his devotion counterfeit, since I am sensible it cannot be done but by false witness. His wife is not young enough to get gallants, nor rich enough to buy them.

“I make choice of Valence for our interview as a town where we are not likely to find any English, and he may if he pleases be quite unknown; which it is hardly possible to be in any capital town either of France or Italy.

“Lyons, May 2 .

“I received this morning yours of April 12, and at the same time the enclosed which I send you. Tis the first I have received since the detection of that falsehood in regard to Mr. Birtles. I always send my letters open, that Mr. Clifford (who has the character of sense and honesty) might be witness of what I said; and he not left at liberty to forge orders he never received. I am very glad I have done so, and am persuaded that had his reformation been what you suppose it, Mr. Clifford would have wrote to me in his favour. I confess I see no appearance of it. His last letter to you, and this to me, seems to be no more in that submissive style he has used, but like one that thinks himself well protected. I will see him, since you desire it, at Valence; which is a by-town, where I am less likely to meet with English than any town in France; but I insist on his going by a feigned name, and coming without a servant. People of superior fortunes to him (to my knowledge) have often travelled from Paris to Lyons in the diligence; the expense is but one hundred livres, L5 sterling, all things paid. It would not be easy to me, at this time, to send him any considerable sum; and whatever it is, I am persuaded, coming from me, he would not be satisfied with it, and make his complaints to his companions. As to the alteration of his temper, I see the same folly throughout. He now supposes (which is at best downright childish) that one hour’s conversation will convince me of his sincerity. I have not answered his letter, nor will not, till I have your orders what to say to him.”

[Avignon] May 6 .

“I here send you enclosed the letter I mentioned of your son’s; the packet in which it was put was mislaid in the journey; it will serve to show you how little he is to be depended on. I saw a Savoyard man of quality at Chambéry, who knew him at Venice, and afterwards at Genoa, who asked me (not suspecting him for my son) if he was related to my family. I made answer he was some relation. He told me several tricks of his. He said, that at Genoa he had told him that an uncle of his was dead and had left him L5,000 or L6,000 per annum, and that he was returning to England to take possession of his estate; in the meantime he wanted money; and would have borrowed some of him, which he refused. I made answer that he did very well. I have heard of this sort of conduct in other places; and by the Dutch letters you have sent me I am persuaded he continues the same method of lying which convinces me that his pretended enthusiasm is only to cheat those that can be imposed on by it. However, I think he should not be hindered accepting a commission. I do not doubt it will be pawned or sold in a twelvemonth; which will prove to those that now protect him how little he deserves it. I am now at Avignon, which is within one day’s journey of Valence.”

“Avignon, May 23 .

“I received this morning yours of April 12 and 29th, and at the same time one from my son at Paris, dated the 4th instant. I have wrote to him this day, that on his answer I will immediately set out to Valence, and shall be glad to see him there. I suppose you are now convinced I have never been mistaken in his character; which remains unchanged, and what is yet worse, I think is unchangeable. I never saw such a complication of folly and falsity as in his letter to Mr. Gibson. Nothing is cheaper than living in an inn in a country town in France; they being obliged to ask no more than twenty-five sous for dinner, and thirty for supper and lodging, of those that eat at the public table; which all the young men of quality I have met have always done. It is true I am forced to pay double, because I think the decency of my sex confines me to eat in my chamber. I will not trouble you with detecting a number of other falsehoods that are in his letters. My opinion on the whole (since you give me leave to tell it) is, that if I was to speak in your place, I would tell him, ’That since he is obstinate in going into the army, I will not oppose it; but as I do not approve, I will advance no equipage till I know his behaviour to be such as shall deserve my future favour. Hitherto he has always been directed, either by his own humour, or the advice of those he thought better friends to him than myself. If he renounces the army, I will continue to him his former allowance; notwithstanding his repeated disobedience, under the most solemn professions of duty. When I see him act like a sincere honest man, I shall believe well of him; the opinion of others, who either do not know him or are imposed on by his pretences, weighs nothing with me.”

On May 30 Lady Mary went from Avignon to Valence, where about a week later her son visited her. She at once sent a full account to Montagu.

“Avignon, June 10

“I am just returned from passing two days with our son, of whom I will give you the most exact account I am capable of. He is so much altered in his person, I should scarcely have known him. He has entirely lost his beauty, and looks at least seven years older than he is; and the wildness that he always had in his eyes is so much increased it is downright shocking, and I am afraid will end fatally. He is grown fat, but is still genteel, and has an air of politeness that is agreeable. He speaks French like a Frenchman, and has got all the fashionable expressions of that language, and a volubility of words which he always had, and which I do not wonder should pass for wit with inconsiderate people. His behaviour is perfectly civil, and I found him very submissive; but in the main, no way really improved in his understanding, which is exceedingly weak; and I am convinced he will always be led by the person he converses with either right or wrong, not being capable of forming any fixed judgment of his own. As to his enthusiasm, if he had it, I suppose he has already lost it; since I could perceive no turn of it in all his conversation. But with his head I believe it is possible to make him a monk one day and a Turk three days after. He has a flattering, insinuating manner, which naturally prejudices strangers in his favour. He began to talk to me in the usual silly cant I have so often heard from him, which I shortened by telling him I desired not to be troubled with it; that professions were of no use where actions were expected; and that the only thing could give me hopes of a good conduct was regularity and truth. He very readily agreed to all I said (as indeed he has always done when he has not been hot-headed). I endeavoured to convince him how favourably he has been dealt with, his allowance being much more than, had I been his father, I would have given in the same case. The Prince of Hesse, who is now married to the Princess of England, lived some years at Geneva on L300 per annum. Lord Hervey sent his son at sixteen thither, and to travel afterwards, on no larger pension than L200; and, though without a governor, he had reason enough, not only to live within the compass of it, but carried home little presents for his father and mother, which he showed me at Turin. In short, I know there is no place so expensive, but a prudent single man may live in it on L100 per annum, and an extravagant one may run out ten thousand in the cheapest. Had you (said I to him) thought rightly, or would have regarded the advice I gave you in all my letters, while in the little town of Islestein, you would have laid up L150 per annum; you would now have had L750 in your pocket; which would have almost paid your debts, and such a management would have gained you the esteem of the reasonable part of mankind. I perceived this reflection, which he had never made himself, had a very great weight with him. He would have excused part of his follies, by saying Mr. G. had told him it became Mr. W.’s son to live handsomely. I made answer, that whether Mr. G. had said so or no, the good sense of the thing was noway altered by it; that the true figure of a man was the opinion the world had of his sense and probity, and not the idle expenses, which were only respected by foolish or ignorant people; that his case was particular, he had but too publicly shown his inclination to vanities, and the most becoming part he could now act would be owning the ill use he had made of his father’s indulgence, and professing to endeavour to be no further expense to him, instead of scandalous complaints, and being always at his last shirt and last guinea, which any man of spirit would be ashamed to own. I prevailed so far with him that he seemed very willing to follow this advice; and I gave him a paragraph to write to G., which I suppose you will easily distinguish from the rest of his letter. He asked me if you had settled your estate. I made answer, that I did not doubt (like all other wise men) you always had a will by you; but that you had certainly not put anything out of your power to change. On that, he began to insinuate, that if I could prevail on you to settle the estate on him, I might expect anything from his gratitude. I made him a very clear and positive answer in these words: ’I hope your father will outlive me, and if I should be so unfortunate to have it otherwise, I do not believe he will leave me in your power, But was I sure of the contrary, no interest nor no necessity shall ever make me act against my honour or conscience; and I plainly tell you, that I will never persuade your father to do anything for you till I think you deserve it.’ He answered by great promises of future good behaviour, and economy. He is highly delighted with the prospect of going into the army; and mightily pleased with the good reception he had from Lord Stair, though I find it amounts to no more than telling him he was sorry he had already named his aides-de-camp, and otherwise should have been glad of him in that post. He says Lord Carteret has confirmed to him his promise of a commission.

“The rest of his conversation was extremely gay. The various things he has seen has given him a superficial universal knowledge. He really knows most of the modern languages, and if I could believe him, can read Arabic, and has read the Bible in Hebrew. He said it was impossible for him to avoid going back to Paris; but he promised me to lie but one night there, and go to a town six posts from thence on the Flanders road, where he would wait your orders, and go by the name of Mons. du Durand, a Dutch officer; under which name I saw him. These are the most material passages, and my eyes are so much tired I can write no more at this time. I gave him 240 livres for his journey.”

No amount of admonition had any effect upon Edward. At the age of thirty he was as irresponsible as he was when he was thirteen years old. He promised his mother at Avignon most solemnly to reform, and at once got into mischief. “I am persuaded,” Lady Mary said, “whoever protects him will be very soon convinced of the impossibility of his behaving like a rational creature.”

Avignon, November 20, 1743.

“As to my son’s behaviour at Montelimart, it is nothing more than a proof of his weakness; and how little he is to be depended on in his most solemn professions. He told me that he had made acquaintance with a lady on the road, who has an assembly at her house at Montelimart, and that she had invited him thither. I asked immediately if she knew his name. He assured me no, and that he passed for a Dutch officer by the name of Durand. I advised him not go thither, since it would raise a curiosity concerning him, and I was very unwilling it should be known that I had conversed with him, on many accounts. He gave me the most solemn assurances that no mortal should know it; and agreed with me in the reasons I gave him for keeping it an entire secret; yet rid straight to Montelimart, where he told at the assembly that he came into this country purely on my orders, and that I had stayed with him two days at Orange; talking much of my kindness to him, and insinuating that he had another name, much more considerable than that he appeared with. I knew nothing of this, till several months after, that a lady of that country came hither, and meeting her in company, she asked me if I was acquainted with Monsieur Durand. I had really forgot he had ever taken that name, and made answer no; and that if such a person mentioned me, it was probably some chevalier d’industrie who sought to introduce himself into company by a supposed acquaintance with me. She made answer, the whole town believed so, by the improbable tales he told them; and informed me what he had said; by which I knew what I have related to you.

“I expect your orders in relation to his letters.”

Edward was still anxious to join the army, and his parents were not averse to the scheme. Lady Mary, however, thought that certain precautions should be taken in the event of his securing a commission. “It is my opinion,” she wrote to Montagu in January, 1744, “he should have no distinction, in equipage, from any other cornet; everything of that sort will only serve to blow his vanity and consequently heighten his folly. Your indulgence has always been greater to him than any other parent’s would have been in the same circumstances. I have always said so, and thought so. If anything can alter him, it will be thinking firmly that he has no dependence but on his own conduct for a future maintenance.”

Edward obtained a commission, and was present at Fontenoy.

On his return to England, in 1747, he was elected to Parliament for the family borough of Huntingdon. This he held until 1754, when he was returned for the borough of Bossiney, in Cornwall, which he represented for the next eight years.

Of his subsequent career it is not necessary to say anything here, except that his father left him an annuity of L1,000 a year, to be increased to L2,000 on his mother’s death. Lady Mary in her will bequeathed him one guinea.