Page images
[blocks in formation]

verses-serenaded her through an Italian donna, invited her to suppers, at which the delicacies of the season were served without regard to the purveyor's account, and to which, coy as she was, she consented to come, and clenched the engagement with a ring, on which was the motto, “ Tibi Soli.” Nay, the Beau had been educated, and had some knowledge of “ the tongues,” so that he added to these attentions the farther one of a song or two translated from the Greek. The widow ought to have been pleased, and was. One thing only she stipulated, namely, that the marriage should be private, lest her relations should forbid the banns.

Having brought her so far, it was not likely that the fortune-hunter would stick at such a mere trifle, and accordingly an entertainment was got up at the Beau's own rooms, a supper, suitable to the rank and wealth of the widow, provided by some obligingly credulous tradesman; a priest found —for, be it premised, our hero had changed so much of his religion as he had to change in the reign of James II., when Romanism was not only fashionable, but a sure road to fortune --and the mutually satisfied couple swore to love, honor, and obey one another till death them should part.

The next morning, however, the widow left the gentleman's lodgings, on the pretext that it was injudicious for her friends to know of their union at present, and continued to visit her sposo

and sup somewhat amply at his chambers from time to time. We can imagine the anxiety Orlando now felt for a check - book at the heiress's bankers, and the many insinuations he may have delicately made, touching ways and means. We can fancy the artful excuses with which these hints were put aside by his attached wife. But the dupe was still in happy ignorance of the trick played on him, and for a time such ignorance was bliss. It must have been trying to him to be called on by Mrs. Villars for the promised douceur, but he consoled himself with the pleasures of hope.

Unfortunately, however, he had formed the acquaintance of a woman of a very different reputation to the real Mrs. Delean, and the intimacy which ensued was fatal to him.

When Charles II. was wandering abroad, he was joined, among others, by a Mr. and Mrs. Palmer. The husband was a stanch old Romanist, with the qualities which usually accompanied that faith in those days—little respect for morality, and a good deal of bigotry. In later days he was one of the victims of Titus Oates, but escaped, and eventually died in Wales in 1705, after having been James II.'s embassador to Rome. This, in a few words, is the history of that Roger Palmer, afterward Lord Castlemaine, who sold his wife—not



at Sinithfield, but at Whitehall—to His Majesty King Charles II., for the sum of one peerage-an Irish one, taken on consideration.

Mrs. Palmer belonged to one of the oldest families in England, and could trace her descent to Pagan de Villiers, in the days of William Rufus, and a good deal farther among the nobles of Normandy. She was the daughter of William, second Viscount Grandison, and rejoiced in the appropriate name of Barbara, for she could be savage occasionally.

She was very beautiful, and very wicked, and soon became Charles's mistress. On the Restoration she joined the king in England, and when the poor neglected queen came over, was foisted upon her as bedchamber-woman, in spite of all the objections of that ill-used wife. It was necessary to this end that she should be the wife of a peer; and her low-minded husband actually accepted the title of Earl of Castlemaine, well knowing to what he owed it. Pepys, who admired Lady Castlemaine more than any woman in England, describes the husband and wife meeting at Whitehall with a cold ceremonial bow; yet the husband was there, using the court power which his own shame procured for him. A quarrel between the two, strangely enough on the score of religion, her ladyship insisting that her child should be christened by a Protestant clergyman, while his lordship insisted on the ceremony being performed by a Romish priest, brought about a separation, and from that time Lady Castlemaine, lodged in Whitehall, began her empire over the king of England. That man,“ who never said a foolish thing, and never did a wise one," was the slave of this imperious and most impudent of women. She forced him to settle on her an immense fortune, much of which she squandered at the basset-table, often staking a thousand pounds at a time, and sometimes losing fifteen thousand pounds a night.

Nor did her wickedness end here. We have some pity for one, who, like La Vallière, could be attracted by the attentions of a handsome fascinating prince: we pity, though we blame. But Lady Castlemaine was vicious to the very marrow: not content with a king's favor, she courted herself the young gallant of the town. Quarrels ensued between Charles and his mistress, in which the latter invariably came off victorious, owing to her indomitable temper; and the scenes recorded by De Grammont—when she threatened to burn down Whitehall, and tear her children in pieces—are too disgraceful for insertion. She forced the reprobate monarch to consent to all her extortionate demands; rifled the nation's pockets as well as his own; and at every fresh difference, forced Charles to give her some new pension. An intrigue with Jermyn, discovered




and objected to by the king, brought on a fresh and more serious difference, which was only patched up by a patent of the Duchy of Cleveland. The Duchess of Cleveland was even worse than the Countess of Castlemaine. Abandoned in time by Charles, and detested by all people of any decent feeling, she consoled herself for the loss of a real king by taking up with a stage one.

Hart and Goodman, the actors, were successively her cavalieri : the former had been a captain in the army; the latter a student at Cambridge. Both were men of the coarsest minds and most depraved lives. Goodman, in after years, was so reduced that, finding, as Sheridan advised his son to do, a pair of pistols handy, a horse saddled, and Hounslow Heath not a hundred miles distant, he took to the pleasant and profitable pastime of which Dick Turpin is the patron saint. He was all but hanged by his daring robberies, but unfortunately not quite so. He lived to suffer such indigence, that he and another rascal had but one under-garment between them, and entered into a compact that one should lie in bed while the other wore the article in question. Naturally enough the two fell out in time, and the end of Goodman-sad misnomer—was worse than his beginning: such was the gallant whom the imperious Duchess of Cleveland vouchsafed to honor.

The life of the once beautiful Barbara Villiers grew daily more and more depraved: at the age of thirty she retired to Paris, shunned and disgraced. After numerous intrigues, abroad and at home, she put the crowning point to her follies by falling in love with the handsome Fielding when she herself numbered sixty-five summers.

Whether the Beau still thought of fortune, or whether having once tried matrimony, he was so enchanted with it as to make it his cacoethes, does not appear: the legend explains not for what reason he married the antiquated beauty only three weeks after he had been united to the supposed widow. For a time he wavered between the two, but that time was short: the widow discovered his second marriage, claimed him, and in so doing revealed the well-kept secret that she was not a widow; indeed, not even the relict of John Deleau, Esq., of Whaddon, but a wretched adventurer of the name of Mary Wadsworth, who had shared with Mrs. Villars the plunder of the trick. The Beau tried to preserve his dignity, and throw over his duper, but in vain. The first wife reported the state of affairs to the second ; and the duchess, who had been shamefully treated by Master Fielding, was only too glad of an opportunity to get rid of him. She offered Mary Wadsworth a pension of £100 a year, and the sum of £200 in ready money,

£ to prove the previous marriage. The case came on, and Beau



Fielding had the honor of playing a part in a famous state trial.

With his usual impudence he undertook to defend himself at the Old Bailey, and hatched up some old story to prove that the first wife was married at the time of their union to one Brady; but the plea fell to the ground, and the fine gentleman was sentenced to be burnt in the hand. His interest in certain quarters saved him this ignominious punishment, which would, doubtless, have spoiled a limb of which he was particularly proud. He was pardoned: the real widow married a far more honorable gentleman, in spite of the unenviable notoriety she had acquired; the sham one was somehow quieted, and the duchess died some four years later, the more peacefully for being rid of her tyrannical mate.

Thus ended a pretty scandal of the day, in which all the parties were so disreputable that no one could feel any sympathy for a single one of them. How the dupe himself ended is not known. The last days of fops and beaux are never glorious. Brummell died in slovenly penury; Nash in contempt.

. Fielding lapsed into the dimmest obscurity; and as far as evidence goes, there is as little certainty about his death as of that of the Wandering Jew. Let us hope that he is not still alive: though his friends seem to have cared little whether he were so or not, to judge from a couple of verses written by one of them:

6 If Fielding is dead,

And rests under this stone, Then he is not alive

You may bet two to one. “But if he's alive,

And does not lie thereLet him live till he's hanged,

For which no man will care.

« PreviousContinue »