The report of my approaching appearance on the stage excited a good deal of interest among the acquaintances and friends of my family, and occasioned a renewal of cordial relations which had formerly existed, but ceased for some time, between Sir Thomas Lawrence and my father and mother.
Lawrence’s enthusiastic admiration for my uncle John and Mrs. Siddons, testified by the numerous striking portraits in which he has recorded their personal beauty and dramatic picturesqueness, led to a most intimate and close friendship between the great painter and the eminent actors, and, subsequently, to very painful circumstances, which estranged him for years from all our family, and forbade all renewal of the relations between himself and Mrs. Siddons which had been so cruelly interrupted.
While frequenting her house upon terms of the most affectionate intimacy, he proposed to her eldest daughter, my cousin Sarah, and was accepted by her. Before long, however, he became deeply dejected, moody, restless, and evidently extremely and unaccountably wretched. Violent scenes of the most painful emotion, of which the cause was inexplicable and incomprehensible, took place repeatedly between himself and Mrs. Siddons, to whom he finally, in a paroxysm of self-abandoned misery, confessed that he had mistaken his own feelings, and that her younger daughter, and not the elder, was the real object of his affection, and ended by imploring permission to transfer his addresses from the one to the other sister. How this extraordinary change was accomplished I know not; but only that it took place, and that Maria Siddons became engaged to her sister’s faithless lover. To neither of them, however was he destined ever to be united; they were both exceedingly delicate young women, with a tendency to consumption, which was probably developed and accelerated in its progress in no small measure by all the bitterness and complicated difficulties of this disastrous double courtship.
Maria, the youngest, an exceedingly beautiful girl, died first, and on her death-bed exacted from her sister a promise that she would never become Lawrence’s wife; the promise was given, and she died, and had not lain long in her untimely grave when her sister was laid in it beside her. The death of these two lovely and amiable women broke off all connection between Sir Thomas Lawrence and my aunt, and from that time they never saw or had any intercourse with each other.
It was years after these events that Lawrence, meeting my father accidentally in the street one day, stopped him and spoke with great feeling of his sympathy for us all in my approaching trial, and begged permission to come and see my mother and become acquainted with me, which he accordingly did; and from that time till his death, which occurred but a few months later, he was unwearied in acts of friendly and affectionate