Read MRS. MARY CHANDLER of The Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753) Vol. V, free online book, by Theophilus Cibber, on

Was born at Malmsbury in Wiltshire, in the year 1687, of worthy and reputable parents; her father, Mr. Henry Chandler, being minister, many years, of the congregation of protestant dissenters in Bath, whose integrity, candour, and catholick spirit, gained him the esteem and friendship of all ranks and parties.  She was his eldest daughter, and trained up carefully in the principles of religion and virtue.  But as the circumstances of the family rendered it necessary that she should be brought up to business, she was very early employed in it, and incapable of receiving that polite and learned education which she often regretted the loss of, and which she afterwards endeavoured to repair by diligently reading, and carefully studying the best modern writers, and as many as she could of the antient ones, especially the poets, as far as the best translations could assist her.

Amongst these, Horace was her favourite; and how just her sentiments were of that elegant writer, will fully appear from her own words, in a letter to an intimate friend, relating to him, in which she thus expresses herself:  “I have been reading Horace this month past, in the best translation I could procure of him.  O could I read his fine sentiments cloathed in his own dress, what would I, what would I not give!  He is more my favorite than Virgil or Homer.  I like his subjects, his easy manner.  It is nature within my view.  He doth not lose me in fable, or in the clouds amidst gods and goddesses, who, more brutish than myself, demand my homage, nor hurry me into the noise and confusion of battles, nor carry me into inchanted circles, to conjure with witches in an unknown land, but places me with persons like myself, and in countries where every object is familiar to me.  In short, his precepts are plain, and morals intelligible, though not always so perfect as one could have wished them.  But as to this, I consider when and where he lived.”

The hurries of life into which her circumstances at Bath threw her, sat frequently extremely heavy upon a mind so intirely devoted to books and contemplation as hers was; and as that city, especially in the seasons, but too often furnished her with characters in her own sex that were extremely displeasing to her, she often, in the most passionate manner, lamented her fate, that tied her down to so disagreeable a situation; for she was of so extremely delicate and generous a soul, that the imprudences and faults of others gave her a very sensible pain, though she had no other connexion with, or interest in them, but what arose from the common ties of human nature.  This made her occasional retirements from that place to the country-seats of some of her peculiarly intimate and honoured friends, doubly delightful to her, as she there enjoyed the solitude she loved, and could converse, without interruption, with those objects of nature, that never failed to inspire her with the most exquisite satisfaction.  One of her friends, whom she highly honoured and loved, and of whose hospitable house, and pleasant gardens, she was allowed the freest use, was the late excellent Mrs. Stephens, of Sodbury in Gloucestershire, whose feat she celebrated in a poem inscribed to her, inserted in the collection she published.  A lady, that was worthy of the highest commendation her muse could bestow upon her.  The fine use she made of solitude, the few following lines me wrote on it, will be an honourable testimony to her.

  Sweet solitude, the Muses dear delight,
  Serene thy day, and peaceful is thy night! 
  Thou nurse of innocence, fair virtue’s friend,
  Silent, tho’ rapturous, pleasures thee attend. 
  Earth’s verdant scenes, the all surrounding skies
  Employ my wondring thoughts, and feast my eyes,
  Nature in ev’ry object points the road,
  Whence contemplation wings my soul to God. 
  He’s all in all.  His wisdom, goodness, pow’r,
  Spring in each blade, and bloom in ev’ry flow’r,
  Smile o’er the meads, and bend in ev’ry hill,
  Glide in the stream, and murmur in the rill
  All nature moves obedient to his will. 
  Heav’n shakes, earth trembles, and the forests nod,
  When awful thunders speak the voice of God.

However, notwithstanding her love of retirement, and the happy improvement she knew how to make of it, yet her firm belief that her station was the appointment of providence, and her earnest desire of being useful to her relations, whom she regarded with the warmest affection, brought her to submit to the fatigues of her business, to which, during thirty-five years, she applied herself with, the utmost diligence and care.

Amidst such perpetual avocations, and constant attention to business, her improvements in knowledge, and her extensive acquaintance with the best writers, are truly surprising.  But she well knew the worth of time, and eagerly laid hold of all her leisure hours, not to lavish them away in fashionable unmeaning amusements; but in the pursuit of what she valued infinitely more, those substantial acquisitions of true wisdom and goodness, which she knew were the noblest ornaments of the reasonable mind, and the only sources of real and permanent happiness:  and she was the more desirous of this kind of accomplishments, as she had nothing in her shape to recommend her, being grown, by an accident in her childhood, very irregular in her body, which she had resolution enough often to make the subject of her own pleasantry, drawing this wise inference from it, “That as her person would not recommend her, she must endeavour to cultivate her mind, to make herself agreeable.”

And indeed this she did with the greatest care; and she had so many excellent qualities in her, that though her first appearance could never create any prejudice in her favour, yet it was impossible to know her without valuing and esteeming her.

Wherever she professed friendship, it was sincere and cordial to the objects of it; and though she admired whatever was excellent in them, and gave it the commendations it deserved, yet she was not blind to their faults, especially if such as she apprehended to be inconsistent with the character of integrity and virtue.  As she thought one of the noblest advantages of real friendship, was the rendering it serviceable mutually to correct, polish, and perfect the characters of those who professed it, and as she was not displeased to be kindly admonished herself for what her friends thought any little disadvantage to her character, so she took the same liberty with others; but used that liberty with such a remarkable propriety, tenderness, and politeness, as made those more sincerely esteem her, with whom she used the greatest freedom, and has lost her no intimacy but with one person, with whom, for particular reasons, she thought herself obliged to break off all correspondence.

Nor could one, who had so perfect a veneration and love for religion and virtue, fail to make her own advantage of the admonitions and reproofs she gave to others:  and she often expressed a very great pleasure, that the care she had of those young persons, that were frequently committed to her friendship, put her upon her guard, as to her own temper and conduct, and on a review of her own actions, lest she should any way give them a wrong example, or omit any thing that was really for their good.  And if she at any time reflected, that her behaviour to others had been wrong, she, with the greatest ease and frankness, asked the pardon of those she had offended; as not daring to leave to their wrong construction any action of hers, lest they should imagine that she indulged to those faults for which she took the liberty of reproving them.  Agreeable to this happy disposition of mind, she gave, in an off-hand manner, the following advice to an intimate friend, who had several children, whom she deservedly honoured, and whom she could not esteem and love beyond his real merits.

  To virtue strict, to merit kind,
  With temper calm, to trifles blind,
  Win them to mend the faults they see,
  And copy prudent rules from thee. 
  Point to examples in their sight,
  T’avoid, and scorn, and to delight. 
  Then love of excellence inspire,
  By hope their emulation fire,
  You’ll gain in time your own desire.

She used frequently to complain of herself, as naturally eager, anxious, and peevish.  But, by a constant cultivation of that benevolent disposition, that was never inwrought in any heart in a stronger and more prevailing manner than in hers, she, in a good measure, dispossest herself of those inward sources of uneasiness, and was pleased with the victory she had gained over herself, and continually striving to render it more absolute and complete.

Her religion was rational and prevalent.  She had, in the former part of her life, great doubts about christianity, during which state of uncertainty, she was one of the most uneasy and unhappy persons living.  But her own good sense, her inviolable attachment to religion and virtue, her impartial inquiries, her converse with her believing friends, her study of the best writers in defence of christianity, and the observations she made on the temper and conduct, the fall and ruin of some that had discarded their principles, and the irregularities of others, who never attended to them, fully at last released her from all her doubts, and made her a firm and established christian.  The immediate consequence of this was, the return of her peace, the possession of herself, the enjoyment of her friends, and an intire freedom from the terror of any thing that could befall her in the future part of her existence.  Thus she lived a pleasure to all who knew her, and being, at length, resolved to disengage herself from the hurries of life, and wrap herself up in that retirement she was so fond of, after having gained what she thought a sufficient competency for one of her moderate desires, and in that station that was allotted her, and settled her affairs to her own mind, she finally quitted the world, and in a manner agreeable to her own wishes, without being suffered to lie long in weakness and pain, a burthen to herself, or those who attended her:  dying after about two days illness, in the 58th year of her age, Sep, 1745.

She thought the disadvantages of her shape were such, as gave her no reasonable prospect of being happy in a married state, and therefore chose to continue single.  She had, however, an honourable offer from a country gentleman of worth and large fortune, who, attracted merely by the goodness of her character, took a journey of an hundred miles to visit her at Bath, where he made his addresses to her.  But she convinced him that such a match could neither be for his happiness, or her own.  She had, however, something extremely agreeable and pleasing in her face, and no one could enter into any intimacy of conversation with her, but he immediately lost every disgust towards her, that the first appearance of her person tended to excite in him.

She had the misfortune of a very valetudinary constitution, owing, in some measure, probably to the irregularity of her form.  At last, after many years illness, she entered, by the late ingenious Dr. Cheney’s advice, into the vegetable diet, and indeed the utmost extremes of it, living frequently on bread and water; in which she continued so long, as rendered her incapable of taking any more substantial food when she afterwards needed it; for want of which she was so weak as not to be able to support the attack of her last disorder, and which, I doubt not, hastened on her death.  But it must be added, in justice to her character, that the ill state of her health was not the only or principal reason that brought her to, and kept her fixed in her resolution, of attempting, and persevering in this mortifying diet.  The conquest of herself, and subjecting her own heart more intirely to the command of her reason and principles, was the object she had in especial view in this change of her manner of living; as being firmly persuaded, that the perpetual free use of animal food, and rich wines, tends so to excite and inflame the passions, as scarce to leave any hope or chance, for that conquest of them which she thought not only religion requires, but the care of our own happiness, renders necessary.  And the effect of the trial, in her own case, was answerable to her wishes; and what she says of herself in her own humorous epitaph,

  That time and much thought had all passion extinguish’d,

was well known to be true, by those who were most nearly acquainted with her.  Those admirable lines on Temperance, in her Bath poem, she penned from a very feeling experience of what she found by her own regard to it, and can never be read too often, as the sense is equal to the goodness of the poetry.

  Fatal effects of luxury and ease! 
  We drink our poison, and we eat disease,
  Indulge our senses at our reason’s cost,
  Till sense is pain, and reason hurt, or lost. 
  Not so, O temperance bland! when rul’d by thee,
  The brute’s obedient, and the man is free. 
  Soft are his slumbers, balmy is his rest,
  His veins not boiling from the midnight feast. 
  Touch’d by Aurora’s rosy hand, he wakes
  Peaceful and calm, and with the world partakes
  The joyful dawnings of returning day,
  For which their grateful thanks the whole creation pay,
  All but the human brute.  ’Tis he alone,
  Whose works of darkness fly the rising sun. 
  ’Tis to thy rules, O temperance, that we owe
  All pleasures, which from health and strength can flow,
  Vigour of body, purity of mind,
  Unclouded reason, sentiments refin’d,
  Unmixt, untainted joys, without remorse,
  Th’ intemperate sinner’s never-failing curse.

She was observed, from her childhood, to have a fondness for poetry, often entertaining her companions, in a winter’s evening, with riddles in verse, and was extremely fond, at that time of life, of Herbert’s poems.  And this disposition grew up with her, and made her apply, in her riper years, to the study of the best of our English poets; and before she attempted any thing considerable, sent many small copies of verses, on particular characters and occasions, to her peculiar friends.  Her poem on the Bath had the full approbation of the publick; and what sets it above censure, had the commendation of Mr. Pope, and many others of the first rank, for good sense and politeness.  And indeed there are many lines in it admirably penn’d, and that the finest genius need not to be ashamed of.  It hath ran through several editions; and, when first published, procured her the personal acknowledgments of several of the brightest quality, and of many others, greatly distinguished as the best judges of poetical performances.

She was meditating a nobler work, a large poem on the Being and Attributes of God, which was her favourite subject; and, if one may judge by the imperfect pieces of it, which she left behind her in her papers, would have drawn the publick attention, had she liv’d to finish it.

She was peculiarly happy in her acquaintance, as she had good sense enough to discern that worth in others she justly thought was the foundation of all real friendship, and was so happy as to be honoured and loved as a friend, by those whom she would have wished to be connected with in that sacred character.  She had the esteem of that most excellent lady, who was superior to all commendation, the late dutchess of Somerset, then countess of Hertford, who hath done her the honour of several visits, and allowed her to return them at the Mount of Marlborough.  Mr. Pope favoured her with his at Bath, and complimented her for her poem on that place.  Mrs. Rowe, of Froom, was one of her particular friends.  ’Twould be endless to name all the persons of reputation and fortune whom she had the pleasure of being intimately acquainted with.  She was a good woman, a kind relation, and a faithful friend.  She had a real genius for poetry, was a most agreeable correspondent, had a large fund of good sense, was unblemished in her character, lived highly esteemed, and died greatly lamented,