Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

The Complete Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Vol. 3: 1752–1762

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To Lady Frances Steuart3 4 Sept. [1758]

My dear Lady Fanny,

I have been some time in pain for your silence, and at last begun to fear that either some accident had befallen you, or you had been so surfeited with my dullness at Padua you resolved not to be plagued with it when at a distance. These melancholy ideas growing strong upon me, I wrote to Mr.pg 169Duff to inquire after your health.1 I have received his answer this morning: he tells me you are both well and safely arrived at Tubingen; and I take the liberty to put you in mind of one that can never forget you and the chearful hours we have passed together. The weather favoured you according to your prayers; since that time we have had storms, tempests, pestilential blasts, and at this moment such suffocating heat the Doctor2 is sick in bed, and nobody in health in my family excepting myselfe and my Swiss servants, who support our constitutions by hearty eating and drinking, while the poor Italians are languishing on their salads and limonade. I confess I am in high spirits, having succeeded in my endeavor to get a promise of assisting some very worthy people whom I am fond of.3 You know I am enthusiastic in my friendships.

I also hear from all hands of my daughter's prosperity; you, Madam, that are a mother, may judge of my pleasure in her happiness, tho' I have no taste for that sort of felicity. I could never endure with tolerable patience the austerities of a court life. I was saying every day from my heart (while I was condemned to it), 'the things that I would do, those do I not, and the things I would not do, those do I daily';4and I had rather be a Sister of Saint Clara5 than Lady of the Bedchamber to any Queen in Europe.6 It is not age and disappointment that has given me these sentiments; you may see them in a copy of verses sent from Constantinople in my early youth to my uncle Fielding and by his (well intended) indiscretion shewn about, copies taken, and at length miserably printed.7 I own myselfe such a rake, Ipg 170 prefer liberty to chains of diamonds, and when I hold my peace (like King David) it is pain and griefe to me.

  • No fraud the Poet's sacred breast can bear,
  • Mild are our manners and our hearts sincere.
  • Rude and unpolished in the courtier's school,
  • I loathe a knave and tremble at a fool.1

With this rusticity of manners I do not wonder to see my company avoided by all great men and fine ladies. I could tell your ladyship such a history of my calamities since we parted, you will be surprised to hear I have not despaired and dy'd like the sick lyon in Æsop's fables, who so pathetically crys out—Bis videor mori2—when he was kicked by a certain animal I will not name because it is very like a paw word.

Vale.

Padoua, Sept. 4

San Massimo3

I desire this letter (innocent as it is) may be burnt. All my works are consecrated to the fire for fear of being put to more ignoble uses, as their betters have been before them. I beg an immediate answer.

Text Wh MS 509 (transcript)

Address [from 1818, p. 10] To Lady Frances Steuart, at Tubingen, in Suabia.

End. by Lady Frances Padua Septr 7th 1758 the first letter after leaving her at Padua to go back to Tubingen.

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Notes

Editor’s Note
3 LM's summary is addressed to Sir James (CB MS, f. 15).
Editor’s Note
1 A letter to Lady Frances from J. Duff (not identified) accompanied this letter (1818, pp. 13–14).
Editor’s Note
2 Her secretary, Moro.
Editor’s Note
3 LM had begun her campaign, which she pursued for the rest of her life, to assist the Steuart family by having Sir James pardoned. In 1756 Lady Frances had appealed, in vain, to the Duke of Newcastle (Add MS 32, 862, if. 287–8).
Editor’s Note
4 LM here echoes Romans vii. 15, 19.
Editor’s Note
5 A particularly austere order of nuns founded by St. Clare in the thirteenth century.
Editor’s Note
6 LM had never held any Court appointment.
Editor’s Note
7 By Anthony Hammond in A New Miscellany of Original Poems, Translations and Imitations (1720) as 'Verses Written in the Chiask [sic]at Pera overlooking Constantinople … By a Lady' (pp. 95–101), and identified in the table of contents as by 'Lady M. W. M.' Her uncle was William Feilding (see i. 353). In 17, 36 Voltaire quoted (with slight variants) three lines from the verse (Corr., ed. T. Besterman, 1953-64, v. 67). It is printed in 1861, ii. 449–51.
Editor’s Note
1 The first couplet is quoted from Congreve's translation of Ovid's Art of Love, Book III (Complete Works, ed. M. Summers, 1923, iv. 106); the second is adapted from verse by George Granville (Lord Lansdown) in Poems upon Several Occasions (4th ed., 1726, p. 69), of which LM owned a copy (3rd ed., 1721: Sotheby Catalogue, 1 Aug. 1928, p. 87).
Editor’s Note
2 'I seem to die twice': in Fable xiv, called by Roger L'Estrange 'An old Lion kicked by an Asse' (8th ed., 1738).
Editor’s Note
3 A church in Padua; LM's house may have been in the parish.
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