Dorothy Osborne, Lady Temple

G. C. Moore Smith (ed.), The Letters of Dorothy Osborne to William Temple

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She is sorry that her recommendation of a servant came too late. Good nature. Complains of short letters. Would fain know her doom. Death-sentence of five Portuguese and three Conspirators against the Protector. She is to act the title-rôle in The Lost Lady.

Knowlton, Monday 10 July [1654].

I am very sory I spoke too late, for I am confident this was an Excelent Servant;1 hee was in the same house where pg 172I lay2 and I had taken a great ffancy to him upon what was told mee of him and what I saw; the Poore ffellow too was soe pleased that I undertook to inquire out a place for him, that though mine was as I told him uncertain, yet upon the bare hopes ont hee refused two or three good condition's.3 but I shall sett him now at Liberty; and not think at all the worse of him for his good Nature; sure you goe a litle too farr in your condemnation on't; I know it may bee abused as the best things are most subject to bee,4 but in it self tis soe absolutly necessary that where it is wanting nothing can recompence the misse on't; the most contemptible Person in the world if hee has that cannot be Justly hated and the most considerable without it cannot deserve to bee loved; Would to god I had all that good Nature you complaine you have too much of, I could finde wayes Enough to dispose ont amongst my self and my friend's; but tis well where it is and I should sooner wish you more on't then lesse.

I wonder with what confidence you can complaine of my short Letters that are soe guilty your self in the same kinde. I have not seen a Letter this month, yt has been above halfe a sheet; never trust mee if I write more then you, that live in a desolated Country where you might ffinish a Romance of ten Tomes before any body interupted you; I that live in a house the most filled of any since ye Arke, and where I can assure [you?] one has hardly time for the most necessary occasion's.

Well there was never any one thing soe much desired and aprehended5 at the same time as your retourne is by mee, it will certainly I think conclude mee a very happy or a most unfortunate Person. somtimes mee thinks I would faine know my doome, what ever it bee, and at others I dread it soe Extreamly that I am confident the 5 Portugalls and the 3 Plotters wch were tother day condemned6 by the high Court of Justice had not half my fears upon them. I leave you to Judge the constraint I live in, what Alaram's my thought[s] give mee, and yet how unconcern'd this company requires I should bee. they will have me Act my Part in a Play, the Lost Lady7 it is, and I am pg 173she, pray God it bee not an ill Omen. I shall loose my Ey's, and you this Letter, if I make it longer. Farwell I am


July the 10th

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 an Excelent Servant. See L. 68.
Editor’s Note
2 where I lay. In London probably.
Editor’s Note
3 condition's. Situations held by servants. The O.E.D. does not recognize this sense. In his early romance The force of custome Temple writes: 'Varmorin . . meets with a good condition in a Cardinal's house who taken with the excellence of his voice entertaind him in his service.'
Editor’s Note
4 abused as the best things are most subject to bee. Cf. E. Reynolds, Treatise of the Passions, 1658, p. 46: 'Things most useful and excellent in their Regularity, are most dangerous in their abuse.'
Editor’s Note
5 aprehended, dreaded.
Editor’s Note
6 the 5 Portugalls and the 3 Plotters wch were tother day condemned. We have heard of the three plotters (see L. 64, n. 12), one of whom, John Gerard, was condemned to be beheaded on 30 June. With him the crime of the Portuguese is curiously connected.
Dom Pantaleon Sa, a youth of nineteen, brother of the Portuguese ambassador, after nightfall on 21 Nov. 1653 was amusing himself on the promenade of the New Exchange (i.e. near Heams' shop; see L. 13, n. 8), much frequented in the evening as a fashionable lounge, when he conceived himself insulted by a Colonel Gerard, a young Royalist of some note. A scuffle ensued in which Gerard and an attendant of Dom Pantaleon were slightly wounded. Next night Pantaleon returned with fifty armed men, the stall-keepers put up their shutters and the English present tried to keep out of the way. Among them was a young Greenway, who had brought his sister and fiancée to make purchases for his wedding two days later. After conducting the ladies to a place of safety he stepped out to learn the cause of the disturbance and was shot through the head by one of Dom Pantaleon's attendants. Dom Pantaleon with four associates was tried on 5 July by a special commission and all sentenced to death. On 10 July Dom Pantaleon was beheaded on Tower Hill along with John Gerard (who meanwhile had been convicted of conspiracy to murder the Protector), and an English servant of Dom Pantaleon was hanged at Tyburn, the other three being reprieved. (This account is based on S. R. Gardiner, Hist. of Commonw. iii. 79.) See Appendix X.
Editor’s Note
7 the Lost Lady is a play by Sir William Berkeley, who was Governor of Virginia under Charles I and Charles II, and died in 1677. It was printed as 'A Tragy Comedy' in 1638. It is a second-rate work in verse, often not to be distinguished from prose—perhaps indeed prose has frequently been misprinted as verse. If I may quote Judge Parry: 'Dorothy would play Hermione, the heroine. We can imagine her speaking with sympathetic accent lines such as these:
  • With what harsh fate doth Heaven afflict me,
  • That all those blessings which make others happy,
  • Must be my ruin.'
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