COURTSHIP, ELOPEMENT, AND MARRIAGE (1710-1712)
A lengthy courtship—Montagu a laggard lover—Lady Mary and Montagu exchange views on married life—Montagu proposes for her to Lord Dorchester—Dorchester refuses, since Montagu will not make settlements—Montagu’s views on settlements expressed (by Steele) in the Tatler—Although not engaged, the young people continue to correspond—Lord Dorchester produces another suitor for his daughter—She consents to an engagement—The preparations for the wedding—She confides the whole story to Montagu—She breaks off the engagement—She and Montagu decide to elope—She runs up to London—Marriage—Lady Mary’s diary destroyed by her sister, Lady Frances Pierrepont.
After seven years or so of acquaintance, matters at last looked like coming to a head. It would appear that Montagu, tentatively at least, had put the question, because Lady Mary gives her views as to the life they should lead after marriage. She is not averse from travelling; she has no objection to leaving London; in fact, she would be willing to spend a few months in the country, if it so pleased him. It is all so extraordinarily unloverlike. There is too much philosophy about it. Love does not see so clearly.
“Where people are tied for life, ’tis their mutual interest not to grow weary of one another,” she wrote on April 25, 1710. “If I had all the personal charms that I want, a face is too slight a foundation for happiness. You would be soon tired with seeing every day the same thing. Where you saw nothing else, you would have leisure to remark all the defects; which would increase in proportion as the novelty lessened, which is always a great charm. I should have the displeasure of seeing a coldness, which, though I could not reasonably blame you for, being involuntary, yet it would render me uneasy; and the more, because I know a love may be revived which absence, inconstancy, or even infidelity, has extinguished; but there is no returning from a degout given by satiety.”
Perhaps Lady Mary believed that, while it is well to hope for the best, it is sound policy to prepare for the worst.
Montagu may have found some comfort in the lady’s assurance that if she had a choice between two thousand a year or twenty thousand a year she would choose the smaller income.
An apartment in London would satisfy Lady Mary. She would not choose to live in a crowd, but would like to have a small circle of agreeable people—she was very precise as to her desires: actually she wants to see eight or nine pleasant folk. She does not believe that she can find entire happiness in solitude, not even (or perhaps especially not) in a solitude of two; and she is at least as sure that he would not either. Anyhow she has not the slightest intention of taking the chance.
It becomes increasingly clear that she had had about enough of this epistolary philandering, and she indicated this in no uncertain manner. “I will never think of anything without the consent of my family,” she wrote. “Make no answer to this, if you can like me on my own terms. ’Tis not to me you must make the proposals; if not, to what purpose is our correspondence?”