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LEE THE AMERICAN. Illustrated.




Lady Mary Worlley Muidayu




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Lady Mary VrorUey Moidagu




With Illustrations


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Published October iqib

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Out, hyperbolical fiend I talkesi thou nothing but of ladies?

Twelfth Night.


The nine portraits contained in this volume are pre-
liminary studies or sketches for the series of portraits
of American women which will follow my Union por-
traits. Such a collection of portraits of women will
certainly fill a most important section in the gallery
of historical likenesses selected from the whole of
American history, which it is my wish to complete, if

There is always a certain impertinence about a man's
attempt to portray the characters of women. And this
impertinence is not got rid of by the charming, but not
wholly felicitous, epigraph of Sainte-Beuve's Portraits
de Femmes: "Avez vous done etefemme. Monsieur, pour
pretendre ainsi nous connditre? "— "Non, Madame, je
ne suis pas le devin Tiresias, je ne suis qu'un humble mor-
tel qui vous a beaucoup aimees'' There is, however, an
equal impertinence in trying to portray the characters
of men, indeed of anybody but one's self, and though
this last undertaking is always delightful, it is apt to
lead to even more astonishing results than accompany
one's attempts upon others. While endeavoring con-
stantly to strengthen and deepen the accuracy of my
portraits as regards mere fact, I yet become more and
more convinced that their value must be more in sug-
gestion and stimulation than in any reliable or final
presentment of character. Such presentments do not



The selection of portraits in this volume has grown
in a rather haphazard way. Although the types de-
picted differ from one another, sometimes with marked
contrast, still, if I had planned the series deliberately
as a whole, I should have picked out figures more rep-
resentative of entirely different hnes of life. A disad-
vantage, much more marked in portraying women
than in portraying men, is the necessity of dealing with
exceptions rather than with average personages. The
psychographer must have abundant material, and usu-
ally it is women who have lived exceptional lives that
leave such material behind them. The psychography
of queens and artists and authors and saints is little,
if any, more interesting, than that of your mother or
mine, or of the first shopgirl we meet. I would paint the
shopgirl's portrait with the greatest pleasure, but the
material is lacking.

It will be noted, also, that none of these portraits
presents the modern woman. Eugenie de Guerin is the
latest in date and she is about as modern as Eve. The
projection of woman into the very middle of the stage
of active life, her participation on equal terms in almost
all the lines of man's achievement, are effecting the
vastest social revolution since the appearance of Chris-
tianity. The outcome of this revolution is something
no man — or woman — can foresee. But its most
obvious and perhaps principal effect is in moulding the
life, character, and habits of man. Woman already
dominates our manners, our morals, our literature, our
stage, our private finances. She proposes to dominate
our politics. And it is by no means sure that she will


not end by the subjugation of our intelligence. This
feminine supremacy obtains, if I am correctly in-
formed, in the kingdom of the spiders and also, accord-
ing to some seers, in the most advanced development
of the planetary worlds. While such a conquest must,
of course, to some extent, react upon the conqueror, it
seems probable that the fundamental instincts of the
feminine temperament are what they were a thousand,
or two thousand years ago, and that the new woman
remains the same old woman in a little different garb,
which propensity to a little different garb is the oldest
thing about her.

As I have already explained in the preface to *' Union
Portraits," the word "Portrait" is very unsatisfac-
tory, in spite of the high authority of Sainte-Beuve.
Analogies between different arts are always misleading
and this particular analogy is particularly objection-
able. Critics, otherwise kindly, have urged that a por-
trait takes a man only at one special moment of his life
and may therefore be quite untrue to the larger lines
of his character. This is perfectly just, and the word
"psychographs" should be substituted for "portraits."
Psychography aims at precisely the opposite of photog-
raphy. It seeks to extricate from the fleeting, shifting,
many-colored tissue of a man's long life those habits of
action, usually known as qualities of character, which
are the slow product of inheritance and training, and
which, once formed at a comparatively early age, usu-
ally alter little and that only by imperceptible degrees.
The art of psychography is to disentangle these habits
from the immaterial, inessential matter of biography,



to illustrate them by touches of speech and action that
are significant and by those only, and thus to burn
them into the attention of the reader, not by any
means as a final or unchangeable verdict, but as some-
thing that cannot be changed without vigorous think-
ing on the part of the reader himself.

But "Psychographs of Women," on the back of a
book, is as yet rather startling for the publisher, for
the purchaser, and even for me.

Gamaliel Bradford

Wellesley Hills, Mass.
May 26, 1916

I. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu . . 1
II. Lady Holland 23

III. Miss Austen 45

IV. MADA.ME D'Arblay .... 67
V. Mrs. Pepys 89

VI. Madame de Sevigne . . . . Ill

VII. Madame du Deffand . . . .133

VIII. Madame de Choiseul . . .155

IX. Eugenie de Guerin .... 177


Lady Mary Wortley Montagu . Frontispiece
After the painting by Sir Godfrey Kneller

Elizabeth, Lady Holland . . . .24
After the painting by Fagan

Jane Austen 46

After the water-color drawing by her sister in the
possession of W. Austen Leigh, Esq.

Madame D'Arblay 68

After the painting by Edward Francis Burney in

Mrs. Pepys as St. Katharine . . .90

From an engraving by Hollyer after the painting by

Madaaie de S^vigne 112

After the original pastel by Nanteuil

Madajme du Deffand 134

From an engraving after the painting by Carmon-

Madame de Choiseul 156

From a photogravure in Le Due et la Duchesse de
Choiseul, by Gaston Maugras, after a portrait owned
by the Comte de Ludre



Lady Mary Wortley Montagu


Lady Mary Pierrepont.
Born London, May 26, 1689.
Married Edward Wortley Montagu,

August 16, 1712.
In Constantinople 1716-1718.
In Italy 1739-1761.
Husband died 1761.
Died London, August 21, 1762.



L.\DY AIary Wortley Montagu (born Pierrepont)
wrote poems, essays, and translations of some note in
her own day, of none in ours. She also wrote letters
which can never die, letters less charming, indeed, than
Madame de Sevigne's because the writer was less
charming, but full of light for the first half of the
eighteenth century and also for Lady Mary herself.
I do not refer so much to the celebrated letters from
Constantinople, because those were probably arranged
and edited for literary purposes, but to the general
correspondence, which throbs and vibrates and spar-
kles like a live thing.

The writer knew quite well what she was doing.
Speaking of Madame de Sevigne's productions she
says: "Mine will be full as entertaining forty years
hence." And, perhaps with a touch of jealousy not
wholly uncharacteristic, she depreciates her French
predecessor, "who only gives us, in a lively manner
and fashionable phrases, mean sentiments, vulgar
prejudices, and endless repetitions. Sometimes the
tittle-tattle of a fine lady, sometimes the tittle-tattle
of an old nurse, always tittle-tattle." Those who find
the divine tittle-tattle of "Notre Dame des Rochers"
not only among the liveliest, but among the most



human and even the wisest, things in Hterature, will
not be the less ready to appreciate Lady Mary, who
has her own tittle-tattle as well as her own wisdom and
liveliness. How easy she is, how ready, and how grace-
ful. Her letters, she says, are "written with rapidity
and sent without reading over." This may be true and
may not. At any rate, they have, at their best, the
freshness of first thoughts, the careless brilliancy of a
high-bred, keen-witted woman, talking in her own
parlor, indifferent to effect, y©t naturally elegant, in
her speech, as in her dress and motion.

With what vivacity she touches everything and
everybody about her, "a certain sprightly folly that
(I thank God) I was born with" she calls it, but it is
only folly in the sense of making dull things gay and
sad things tolerable. See how she finds laughter in the
imminence of sea peril. An ancient English lady "had
bought a fine point head, which she was contriving to
conceal from the custom-house oflficers. . . . When the
wind grew high, and our little vessel cracked, she fell
heartily to her prayers, and thought wholly of her soul.
When it seemed to abate, she returned to the worldly
care of her head-dress, and addressed herself to me:
'Dear madam, will you take care of this point? If it
should be lost! — Ah, Lord, we shall all be lost! —
Lord have mercy on my soul ! — Pray, madam, take
care of this head-dress.' This easy transition from her
soul to her head-dress, and the alternate agonies that
both gave her, made it hard to determine which she
thought of greatest value."

In the constant imminence of life's world perils Lady



Mary had still by her this resource of merriment, which
some call flippancy, but which, by any name, is not
without its comforts.

True, such a glib tongue or pen is a dangerous play-
thing and liable to abuse. Lady Mary's ow^n daughter
said that her mother was too apt to set down people of
a meek and gentle character for fools. People of any
character, perhaps, whenever the wayward fancy
struck her. She darted her shafts right and left. They
stung and they clung, for they were barbed, if not poi-
soned. Sometimes they made near friends as cold as
strangers. Too often they turned indifferent strangers
into enemies. Enemies, too many. Lady Mary had all
her life, and they seized on her weak points and ampli-
fied or invented ugly things about her till those who
admire her most find defence somewhat difficult.

Yet she did not gloat over evil. " 'T is always a
mortification to me to observe there is no perfection in
humanity." Her unkindness was far more on her
tongue than in her heart. "This I know, that revenge
has so few joys for me, I shall never lose so much time
as to undertake it." She had the keenest sense of
human sorrow and suffering: "I think nothing so ter-
rible as objects of misery, except one had the God-like
attribute of being able to redress them." What she
could do to redress them she did. In her efforts to
introduce inoculation for smallpox she surely proved
herself one of the greatest benefactors of humanity.
In many smaller things, also, she was kindly and sym-
pathetic. And what pleases me most is that she makes
little mention of such deeds herself. One is left to divine



them from curt, half-sarcastic remarks in other con-
nections. Thus, during her long residence in Italy, it
appears that she ministered to her neighbors both in
body and soul. " I do what good I am able in the vil-
lage round me, which is a very large one; and have
had so much success, that I am thought a great physi-
cian, and should be esteemed a saint if I went to mass."
Later she had much ado to keep the people from erect-
ing a statue to her. But she shrank from love in Italy
which was sure to breed laughter in England.

Also, even in her bursts of ill-nature, she had a cer-
tain reserve, a certain control, a certain sobriety. In-
deed, she compliments herself, in old age, on her free-
dom from petulance. "To say truth, I think myself an
uncommon kind of creature, being an old woman with-
out superstition, peevishness, or censoriousness." This
is, perhaps, more than we could say for her. But in
youth and age both she loved moderation and shunned
excess. When she was twenty-three, she wrote, "I
would throw off all partiality and passion, and be calm
in my opinion." She threw them off too much, she was
too calm, she was cold. Walpole called her letters too
womanish, but Lady Craven thought they must have
been written by a man. Most readers will agree with
Lady Craven. Even her vivacity lacks warmth. And
it is here that she most falls short of the golden sun-
shine of Madame de Sevigne. Lady Mary is not quite
the woman, even in her malice. Through her wit,
through her thought, through her comment on life,
even through her human relations runs a strain of
something that was masculine.



Nowhere is this more curious and amusing than in
her love and marriage. She was beautiful, and knew it,
though the smallpox, by depriving her of eyelashes,
had given a certain staring boldness to her eyes. When
she was over thirty, she "led up a ball" and "believed
in her conscience she made one of the best figures
there." When she was old, for all her philosophy, she
did not look in a glass for eleven years. "The last
reflexion I saw there was so disagreeable, I resolved to
spare myself such mortifications for the future."

She fed her youthful fancy with the vast fictions
then in fashion and the result w^as a romantic head and
a cool heart. These appear alternately in her strange
correspondence with her lover and future husband,
Edward Wortley Montagu. W^hen they first met, the
gentleman admired her learning — at fourteen ! And
Latinity seems to have drawn them together quite as
much as love. There was a sister. Miss Anne Wortley,
and sisters are of great use on such occasions. Lady
Mary wrote to her in language of extravagant regard,
and Miss Wortley wrote back — at her brother's dic-
tation. Then it became obviously simpler for the
lovers to write direct.

Obstacles arose. Mr. Wortley Montagu would make
no settlement on his wife. Lady Mary's father would
not hear of a marriage without one, and hunted up
another suitor, rich — and unacceptable. There was
doubt, debate, delay — and then an elopement. Lady
Mary eloping! What elements of comedy! And her
letters make it so.

That she loved her lover as much as she could love is


evident. "My protestations of friendship are not like
other people's, I never speak but what I mean, and
when I say I love, 't is for ever." "I am willing to
abandon all conversation but yours. If you please I
will never see another man. In short, I will part with
anything for you, but you. I will not have you a
month to lose you for the rest of my life." "I would
die to be secure of your heart, though but for a mo-

Yet this apparent passion is tempered with doubt
and reversal. She cannot make him happy, nor he her.
"I can esteem, I can be a friend, but I don't know
whether I can love." "You would be soon tired with
seeing every day the same thing." No, it is all folly.
Cancel it, break it up, throw it over. Begin again, a
new life, a new world. She will write to him no more.
"I resolve against all correspondence of the kind; my
resolutions are seldom made, and never broken."

This one is broken in a few days. Again she loves,
again she hopes. Everything shall be right, so far as
it lies with her. "If my opinion could sway, nothing
should displease you. Nobody ever was so disinter-
ested as I am." And yet once more cold analysis
twitches her sleeve, murmurs in her ear. "You are the
first I ever had a correspondence with, and I thank
God I have done with it for all my life." "When I
have no more to say to you, you will like me no longer."

Then she blows the doubts away, makes her stolen
marriage, gives all to love, and in the very doing of it,
lets fall one word that shows the doubter more than
ever (italics mine): "I foresee all that will happen on


this occasion. I shall incense my family in the highest
degree. The generality of the world will blame my
conduct . . . ; yet, '/ is possible^ you may recompence
ever>- thing to me." How two little words will show a
heart !

And afterwards? She fared pretty much as she
expected. Love hardened into marriage with some,
not unusual, hours of agony. " I cannot forbear any
longer telling you, I think you use me very unkindly."
When he fails to write to her, she cries for two hours.
Then all becomes domestic, and decorous, and as it
should be; and her matured opinion of marriage agrees
very well with the previsions of her youth. "Where
are people matched? I suppose we shall all come right
in Heaven; as in a country dance, the hands are
strangely given and taken, while they are in motion,
at last all meet their partners when the jig is done."

Perhaps because she showed no great conjugal affec-
tion, there was plenty of gossip about affection less
legitimate. Pope lavished rhetorical devotion on her.
She laughed at it and, I fear, at him. In consequence
he lampooned her with the savage spite of an eight-
eenth-century poet. She said unkind things about Sir
Robert Walpole and Sir Robert's son said unkind
things about her, mentioned some lovers by name, and
implied many others. Lady Mary's careful editors
have dealt with these slanders most painstakingly; and
though in one case, that of an Itahan adventure, they
have overlooked a passage in Sir Horace Mann's let-
ters oddly confirmatory of Walpole, I think they have
cleared their heroine with entire success.



After all, Lady Mary's best defense against scandal
is her own temperament and her own words. It is true,
those who have lived a wild life are often the first to
exclaim against it. But in this case the language bears
every mark of being prompted by observation rather
than experience. She says of the notorious Lady Vane :
"I think there is no rational creature that would not
prefer the life of the strictest Carmelite to the round of
hurry and misfortune she has gone through."

Lady Mary's long sojourn in Italy towards the close
of her life did much to increase suspicion in regard to
her relations with her husband. Her greatest admirers
have not been able to explain clearly why she wished
to exile herself in such a fashion. But the tone in
which, during the whole period, she writes both to Mr.
Wortley Montagu and of him, is absolutely incompa-
tible with any serious coldness between them. "My
most fervent wishes are for your health and happiness."
And again: "I have never heard from her since, nor
from any other person in England, which gives me the
greatest uneasiness; but the most sensible part of it is
in regard of your health, which is truly and sincerely
the dearest concern I have in this world."

Lady Mary had two children, and as a mother she is
very much what she is as a wife, reasonable, prudent,
devoted, but neither clinging nor adoring. She had,
indeed, a happy art of expressing maternal tenderness,
as of expressing everything, by which I do not imply
that her feelings were not sincere, but simply that they
were not very vital or very overwhelming. When she
sets out on her travels, she is heartbroken over the



perils and exposures for her son: "I have long learnt to
hold myself at nothing; but when I think of the fatigue
my poor infant must suffer, I have all a mother's fond-
ness in my eyes, and all her tender passions in my
heart." But her language about this same son, when
grown to manhood, is somewhat astounding. He was a
most extraordinary black sheep, wasted money, con-
tracted debts, gambled, liked evil occupations and
worse company, varied a multiplicity of wives with a
multiplicity of religions, was once in jail, and never
respectable. All this Lady Mary deplores, but she is
not driven to despair by it; on the contrary, she ana-
lyzes his character to his father with singular cold so-
berness. " It is very disagreeable to me to converse with
one from whom I do not expect to hear a w^ord of truth,
and, who, I am very sure, will repeat many things
that never passed in our conversation." Or, more gen-
erally, " I suppose you are now convinced I have never
been mistaken in his character; which remains un-
changed, and what is yet worse, I think is unchange-
able. I never saw such a complication of folly and
falsity as in his letter to Mr. G."

Her daughter. Lady Bute, she was fond of. "Your
happiness," she writes to her, "was my first wish, and
the pursuit of all my actions, divested of all self-
interest." Nevertheless, she lived contentedly without
seeing her for twenty years.

That Lady Mary was a good manager domestically
hardly admits of doubt; but I find no evidence that she
loved peculiarly feminine occupations, though she does
somewhere remark that she considers certain types of



learned ladies "much inferior to the plain sense of a
cook maid, who can make a good pudding and keep the
kitchen in good order." Among her numerous benefac-
tions in Italy was the teaching of her neighbors how to
make bread and butter.

It is said that her servants loved her, not unnatu-
rally, if she carried out her own maxim: "The small
proportion of authority that has fallen to my share
(only over a few children and servants) has always
been a burden, . . . and I believe every one fmds it so
who acts from a maxim . . . that whoever is under
my power is under my protection." She was a natural
aristocrat, however, both socially and politically, and
any leveling tendencies that she may have cherished in
the ardor of youth, vanished entirely with years and
experience. "Was it possible for me to elevate anybody
from the station in which they were born, I now would
not do it: perhaps it is a rebelhon against that Provi-
dence that has placed them; all we ought to do is to
endeavour to make them easy in the rank assigned
them." And elsewhere, in a much more elaborate pas-
sage, she expresses herself with a deliberate haughtiness
of rank and privilege which has rarely been surpassed.
In her youth, she says, silly prejudice taught her that
she was to treat no one as an inferior. But she has
learned better and come to see that such a notion made
her "admit many familiar acquaintances, of which I
have heartily repented every one, and the greatest
examples I have known of honor and integrity have
been among those of the highest birth and fortunes."
The English tendency to mingle classes and level dis-



tinctions will, she believes, have some day fatal con-
sequences. How curious, in so keen a wit, the failure
to foresee that just this English social elasticity would
avert the terrible disaster which was to befall the neat
gradations of French order and system!

Lady Mary was not only practical in her household,
but in all the other common concerns of life. Few
women have pushed their husbands on in the world
with more vigorous energy- than is shown in the letters
she writes to Mr. Wortley Montagu, urging him to
drop his difTidence and claim what he deserv^es. "No
modest man ever did, or ever will, make his fortune."

As regards money, also, she was eminently a woman
of business — too eminently, say her enemies. One
reason alleged for her quarrel with Pope is his well-
meant advice which brought her large losses in South
Sea speculation. However much one may like and
admire her, it is impossible wholly to explain away
Walpole's picture of her sordid avarice, which cannot

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Online LibraryGamaliel BradfordPortraits of women → online text (page 1 of 13)