“How the great Dr. Swift would stare at this vile triplet! And then what business have I to make apologies for Lady Vane, whom I never spoke to, because her life is writ by Dr. Smollett, whom I never saw? Because my daughter fell in love with Lord Bute, am I obliged to fall in love with the whole Scots nation? ’Tis certain I take their quarrels upon myself in a very odd way; and I cannot deny that (two or three dozen excepted) I think they make the first figure in all arts and sciences; even in gallantry, in spite of the finest gentlemen that have finished their education at Paris.
“You will ask me what I mean by all this nonsense, after having declared myself an enemy to obscurity to such a degree that I do not forgive it to the great Lord Viscount Bolingbroke, who professes he studied it. I dare swear you will sincerely believe him when you read his celebrated works. I have got them for you, and intend to bring them. Oime! l’huomo. propone, Dio dispone. I hope you won’t think this dab of Italian, that slid involuntarily from my pen, an affectation like his Gallicisms, or a rebellion against Providence, in imitation of his lordship, who I never saw but once in my life: he then appeared in a corner of the drawing-room, in the exact similitude of Satan when he was soliciting the court of Heaven for leave to torment an honest man.”
LAST YEARS (1760-1762)
Lady Mary writes the history of her own times—Her health—Death of Edward Wortley Montagu—His will—Lady Mary ponders the idea of returning to England—She leaves Italy—She is held up at Rotterdam—She reaches London—Horace Walpole visits her—Her last illness—Her fortitude—Her death—She leaves one guinea to her son.
One of Lady Mary’s amusements towards the end of her life was writing the history of her own time. “It has been my fortune,” she said, “to have a more exact knowledge both of the persons and facts that have made the greatest figure in England in this age, than is common; and I take pleasure in putting together what I know, with an impartiality that is altogether unusual. Distance of tie and place has totally blotted from my mind all traces of resentment or prejudice; and I speak with the same indifference to the Court of Great Britain as I should do of that of Augustus Caesar.” Lady Mary, however, merely wrote for her own entertainment, and burnt her manuscript almost as soon as it was composed. It would certainly have made interesting reading; but she never had any idea of publication. “I know mankind too well to think they are capable of receiving the truth, much less of applauding it; or, were it otherwise, applause to me is as insignificant as garlands on the dead.”