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[Dr John Hill], from A Parallel between the Characters of Lady Frail, and the Lady of Quality in Pergrine Pickle

[Dr John Hill], from A Parallel between the Characters of Lady Frail, and the Lady of Quality in Pergrine Pickle

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60 TOBIAS SMOLLETT



She speaks with Rapture of the Joys she felt with her dear Lovers, and declares there is

no Part of it that she would not act over again.

The Character in Lady Frail is of the same Turn in every Particular, but it is

exhibited in a very different Light; the Author tells the Story; and as he professedly tells

us, hangs his Heroine up in terrorem, as a severe Example, and a dreadful Warning to

every young Creature of the same Sex,

A fixed Figure for the Hand of scorn

To point its slowly moving Finger at.1

He goes so far as to assert, that Examples of superior Infamy like this are only

permitted by Providence for this Purpose; and that he exhibits Lady Frail as the Romans

used to do their drunken Slaves, to implant an Odium of the Vice that rendered them

hateful, in the Minds of the rising Generation.

The Works are both far, very far from but the Appearance of Perfection. The Lady of

Quality’s Account of herself in Pickle is a cold, lifeless, spiritless, tedious, insipid and

impertinent Recital of Facts, not one in fifty of which are of the least Importance; a

repeated Detail of the Lady’s running away, and of her Husband’s following her. The

History of Lady Frail is full of Spirit, full of Business, full of Variety, but it is written

with a slovenly Carelessness, an utter Disregard of Ornament, and gives us the Lady

not only without Paint and Patches, but with dirty Fingers.

The author of Pickle is deficient in his Plan; he only gives us the abandoned Wife: It is

easy to conceive, that as the Woman who is a Wife, has been a Maid, and may be a

Widow, the same Propensity to Vice must exhibit itself under very various Forms in

these several States; and that the Picture is too limited, while it conveys Instruction

only to the Adulteress. The Writer of Lady Frail has produced his Heroine on the Stage

of Life unmarried, and has pictured Prostitution in this its first Period: He has married

her after this, and given us the Figure of the Same Woman, actuated by the same

Principles during that State; he has after this unmarried her, and shewn us the Widow

of his original Virgin; and to leave nothing untouched, he has concluded his Picture

with his Widow married again. It is singular, that two Authors, Strangers to one

another, and who, in spite of all that can be pretended to the contrary, appear evidently

to have been writing two mere Romances, and those by perfect Accident on the same

Plan, should happen to fix upon the same kind of Female for their Model, and the same

kind of Lords for her Husbands; and it is most Singular of all, that they should not only

join in banishing the Terms Colin, Strephon, and the like, and using Letters of the

Alphabet as Initials of the Names of Lovers, but that they should both have chosen the

very same Intitials.

The Lady sets out in both upon the same great Principle, that what is called Virtue in

Woman, is not a Virtue; and as a Secondary Maxim to this, that Variety is Pleasure. They both

draw their Lady handsome and accomplished; they both take in a considerable Series of

Years for the Time of the Action. The Author of Lady Frail’s History gives her a



THE CRITICAL HERITAGE 61



proportionate Number of Admirers. But all the World must laugh at the strait-lac’d

Decency of the Lady in Pickle; who relating the Facts herself, hardly allows of more than

Fifteen.

After these Preliminaries, we shall proceed to our intended Parallel, in which the

gentle Reader will be amazed to find the Similarity of Facts, so far as the more

circumscrib’d History goes; and from both which together, he will have before him a

pretty full and fair View of what a Woman of Spirit may do on such an Occasion.

The Term Genuine, an odd Word ascrib’d to the Lady’s Memoirs in Peregrine Pickle,

and which we don’t well know what to make of, shall prejudice us so far however in

the favour of that Performance, that we shall give the Facts related in it as our Text,

and employ those of Lady Frail only by way of Comment: the Reader we are apt to

believe will join with us in allowing these are very happily calculated to explain and fill

up the Lacunae and Deficiencies of the other.

Lady Blank, so we shall chuse to call the Lady in Peregrine, since she has not given

herself any other Denotative in that Performance, than the Emblematic one of a long

Line, produces herself to us at Bath a Virgin of Thirteen, courted by Multitudes, adored

by every Body, but with no more of Courtship than mere innocent Civility; she finally

tells us of a Scotch Captain who was rejected: and this closes the very important Scene

of her Conduct and Adventures, at this gay Place.

Pages 20–1:

Thus have these two Writers led their Woman of Pleasure thro’ the Several Stages

of Dependence on a Father, Marriage with a Man she professes to have loved,

Widowhood, and so much of a second Marriage as might very well reconcile the

Husband to that’s being at a Period to.

Pleasure is her sole View in both Histories, and Variety seems another Word

expressing the same Thing: In the one she has a continued Series of new Objects; in the

other, she who is too warm to be constant to a Husband, is cold enough to be faithful to

a Lover. As both can certainly be no more than imaginary Characters, the

Determination between them is easy; or, were they real ones, the Address of the one,

and Indolence of the other, would very easily point out to us which of the two it is that

has favoured us with that feeling system of maxims under the Title of The Oeconomy of

Female Life.

Pages 31–3:

Such, and so perfectly similar is the Conduct of the Story in these two remarkable

Productions. The Intent is evidently the same in both, to draw a Woman formed by

Nature to charm, qualified to give all the Happiness that Love in its most exalted

Enthusiasm can bestow, and to receive as much; but who, mistaking Appetite for

Sensibility, and Variety for Pleasure, finds, the only Way that such a Woman could

have found to render herself despised.

A State of Neglect, not to say of utter Contempt, is the Period of her Gallantries in

both: but tho’ this falls in very well with the Intent of the Author of Lady Frail, who

sets her up as a Warning to the rest of her sex, surely it but very ill coincides with the Plan



62 TOBIAS SMOLLETT



of the other Writer, who introduces her as a Model for the rest of the Female World:

Nor is her declaring herself not sorry for any thing she has done, but in a very good

Humour to act it all over again, if she should be blest with Opportunities, at all of a

Piece with the uncomfortable State in which she acknowledges herself to be at the

Conclusion, and which could only be the Effect of these Actions. She declares her

Dissatisfaction, as she tells us, a thousand Times, how willing, how desirous her

Husband was to have her with him upon honourable and happy Terms, and that on her

own Conditions.

Characters in considerable Numbers are necessary to be introduced for the carrying

on such a History; but we who are to read it would wish to find Propriety and Variety

in them. The Initials are in general the same in both Histories, and the same Set of Men

perhaps as to Size, Stature and Complexion, are intended to be expressed by them; but

in all other Respects they appear very different People in the Conduct of the Story.

Each of the Authors allows two Husbands to the Lady. Lady Frail, who is constant to

herself, always in Character, and the same Creature from the first Sentence of her

History to the last, is equally criminal during her Life with each; a Love of Pleasure, a

Resolution of snatching at all Opportunities of getting at it, are the striking Parts of her

Character through the whole; but the Lady of Peregrine is half a Dozen different People

in the Course of the Work: She is chaste in her first Husband’s Time, abandoned with

thesecond, constant in her Attachment to one Lover; a Libertine in what she pretends

to be an innocent Attachment with another.

As to the first Husband both Authors agree in his Character; but in regard to the

second, the Author of Peregrine only seems to have thought it necessary to make him a bad

one: The other seems to have imagined the Lady’s Character would appear in a rather

stronger Light on the making it a good one. Some little Impropriety there is, however,

in the Attempt of the former; Since, while he tells us every where that he is a very ill

one, and makes his Conduct the Excuse for the Lady’s, the very Circumstances he

brings in as Proofs of it tend rather the other Way; and as if there was something of

Truth and Reality in the Case, that he must tell whether he would or no, he agrees in

the main, tho’ apparently against his Will with the other, who makes Lady Frail’s

Husband a generous, open-hearted, sensible, disinterested Man.

Page 47:

Upon the whole, the Characters in the two Books are extremely alike in all Things;

but the Light they are represented in is very different: They seem two Portraits of the

same Face, done by two Painters of different Genius and Qualifications. The Lady in

Pergrine Pickle is a Picture of W——’s servilely close to the Course of a Vein, the

Colour of a Knot, or the Number of Hairs in an Eye-lash: punctual in Circumstances of

no Importance, but faint in the Expression of the striking Features: Lady Frail is a

Portrait of H——, full of Fire, full of Spirit, full of Resemblance, but too carelessly

finished not to disgust a judicious Eye; dawb’d, not coloured; and too crudely covered

to be lasting.

FINIS.



THE CRITICAL HERITAGE 63



NOTE

1 The reference is to Othello, IV, ii, 55–6. The quotation should read:



The fixed figure for the time of scorn

To point his slow unmoving finger at.



17.

Anonymous verses on Lady Vane

March 1751



From The London Magazine, March 1751, XX, 135–6. James L.Clifford

attributes these verses to Richard Graves (1715–1804), author of The

Spiritual Quixote, 1773. See The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, ed. James

L.Clifford, Oxford English Novels, 1964, p. xviii.

The HEROINES: or, Modern Memoirs.



In ancient times, some hundred winters past,

When British dames for conscience-sake were chaste,

If some frail nymph, by youthful passion sway’d,

From virtue’s paths incontinent had stray’d;

When banish’d reason re-assum’d her place,

The conscious wretch bewail’d her foul disgrace;

Fled from the world and pass’d her joyless years

In decent solitude and pious tears:

Veil’d in some convent made her peace with Heav’n,

And almost hop’d—by prudes to be forgiven.

Not so of modern wh——s th’illustrious train,

Renown’d Constantia, Pilkington, and—,

Grown old in sin, and dead to am’rous joy,

No acts of penance their great souls employ;

Without a blush behold each nymph advance;

The luscious horoine[sic] of her own romance;

Each harlot triumphs in her loss of fame,

And boldly prints and publishes her shame.



18.

Horace Walpole on Lady Vane

13 March 1751



From The Letters of Horace Walpole, ed. Mrs Paget Toynbee, 16 vol, Oxford

1904, vol. III, p. 37. From a letter to Horace Mann, later Sir Horace

Mann, with whom Smollett was on friendly terms in his last months in

Italy in 1770–1.

There have been two events, not political, equal to any absurdities or follies of former

years. My Lady Vane has literally published the Memoirs of her own life, only

suppressing part of her lovers, no part of the success of the others with her: a degree of

profligacy not to be accounted for; she does not want money, none of her stallions will

raise her credit; and the number, all she had to brag of, concealed! The other is a play….



19.

Dr John Hill on Lady Vane and Smollett

19 April 1751



From Hill’s The Inspector, 1751, No. 14, 74–75. Hill here impugns Lady

Vane as a whore and lampoons Smollett as Mr Smallhead.

This Gentleman was succeeded by three smart Ladies, in the Autumn of their Beauty,

who came to receive an Answer from the Court concerning the Apologies for their

Lives, which they had left there last Month. Genius told them, that they had better

repent than brag of Lives that it was a Shame to have lived; and their Books

were accordingly put upon the Baker’s Basket, and destined by the Court to share the

same Fate with his Papers. What astonished me was, that this Mortification did not

produce one Blush from either of the fair Authors. As they passed by me, my

Companion told me, that the first of these Apologists was a Lady of Quality, the Second

an English, and the third an Irish Prostitute of Note. These Ladies, who went away

laughing, were succeeded by a grave Gentleman, who, with great Confidence of his

Abilities, told the Court his Name was Smallhead, and that he came for the Answer of

the Court concerning the Novel he left there last Month; upon which Genius told him,

that, until he understood more of Human Nature, and could distinguish better between

Satire and Scurrility, he could not have the Leave of the Court to print again. Upon this

four Volumes were added to the Baker’s Basket, to the no small Mortification of Mr

Smallhead; who, turning on his Heel, threatened Vengeance on the Court. Here Fame

placing her Trumpet to that Part which expresses Infamy, with harsh jarring Discords,

played him out of Court. Here a very formidable Figure in a Highland Dress, with Durk

and Pistol by his Side, who called himself Mr Macduff, bag’d Lave to acquent the Coort,

that Mester Smallheed was not a Scotsman, notwithstanding he was thought so; nor did he

ken of what Contry he was.



20.

[Matthew Maty], review of Peregrine Pickle

April 1751



From Journal Britannique, La Haye, 1751, I, 429–31. Translated from

Maty’s French.

The adventures of Peregrine Pickle, which also include those of a lady of quality. The

adventures of Roderick Random have already indicated the talent of our Author in this

genre of writing. He undoubtedly has talent, and much of that vivacity which the

English call humour. But his Portraits are loaded, and his settings are bawdy and

licentious. Childish pranks, naval vulgarity, crude language and observations—these

are the principal ingredients of this faithful picture of the customs of the century. A

modern Julie1 made the Author a present of the story of her intrigues, and since the

piece had been announced in advance, it has contributed more than a little to the debut

of the Work. However, I doubt whether, after having read it, one agrees with the

Heroine that her heart had no part in the errors of her Spirit, and that all her unhappiness

arose from having loved, and having been born a woman. I have read several satires of

her Sex but to my mind this trait prevails over all others.

NOTE

1 The Oxford Classical Dictionary lists several ‘Julias’ noted for their intelligence and

licentiousness.



21.

Lady Henrietta Luxborough, letters

27 May 1751 and 25 August 1751



From two letters to William Shenstone, Letters Written by the Late Right

Honourable Lady Luxborough to William Shenstone, Esq., 1775, pp. 265–6 and

290–1.

Lady Luxborough was sister to Henry St John, Viscount Bolingbroke

(1678–1751), statesman, political theorist, and addressee of Pope’s Essay

on Man.

Peregrine Pickle I do not admire: it is by the author of Roderick Random, who is a

lawyer: but the thing which makes the book sell, is the History of Lady V——, which

is introduced (in the last volume, I think) much to her Ladyship’s dishonour; but

published by her own order, from her own Memoirs, given to the author for that

purpose; and by the approbation of her own hand. What was ever equal to this fact? and

how can one account for it?

As to Peregrine Pickle, I hired it—and that merely for the sake of reading one of the

volumes, wherein are inserted the Memoirs of Lady V——; which, as I was well

acquainted with her, gave me curiosity. The rest of the book is, I think, ill wrote, and

not interesting.



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