Page images

No sooner was this contract, the device of their covetousness and the evidence of their shame, swindled from the wretched object of this conspiracy, than its motive became apparent; they avowed themselves the keepers of their melancholy victim; they watched her movements; they dictated her actions; they forbade all intercourse with her own brother; they duped her into accepting bills, and let her be arrested for the amount. They exercised the most cruel and capricious tyranny upon her, now menacing her with the publication of her follies, and now with the still more horrible enforcement of a contract that thus betrayed its anticipated inflictions! Can you imagine a more disgusting exhibition of how weak and how worthless human nature may be, than this scene exposes ? On the one hand, a combination of sex and age, disregarding the most sacred obligations, and trampling on the most tender ties, from a mean greediness of lucre, that neither honour or gratitude or nature could appease, “ Lucri bonus est odor exrequalibet.” On the other hand, the poor shrivelled relic of what once was health, and youth, and animation, sought to be embraced in its infection, and caressed in its infirmity-crawled over and corrupted by the human reptiles, before death had shovelled it to the less odious and more natural vermin of the grave! What an object for the speculations of avarice! What an angel for the idolatry of youth! Gentlemen, when this miserable dupe to her own doting vanity and the vice of others, saw how she was treated when she found herself controlled by the mother, beset by the daughter, beggared by the father, and held by the son as a kind of windfall, that, too rotten to keep its hold, had fallen at his feet to be squeezed and trampled; when she saw the intercourse of her relatives prohibited, the most trifling remembrances of her ancient friendship denied, the very exercise of her habitual charity denounced ; when she saw that all she was worth was to be surrendered to a family confiscation, and that she was herself to be gibbetted in the chains of wedlock, an example to every superannuated dotard, upon whose plunder the ravens of the world might calculate, she came to the wisest determination of her life, and decided that her fortune should remain at her own disposal. Acting upon this decision, she wrote to Mr. Blake, complaining of the cruelty with which she had been treated, desiring the restoration of the contract of which she had been duped, and declaring, as the only

[ocr errors]

means of securing respect, her final determination as to the control over her property. To this letter, addressed to the son, a verbal answer (mark the conspiracy) was returned from the mother, withholding all consent, unless the property was settled on her family, but withholding the contract at the same time. The wretched old woman could not sustain this conflict. She was taken seriously ill, confined for many months in her brother's house, from whom she was so cruelly sought to be separated, until the debts in which she was involved and a recommended change of scene transferred her to Dublin.

There she was received with the utmost kindness by her relative, Mr. Mac Namara, to whom she confided the delicacy and distress of her situation. That gentleman, acting at once as her agent and her friend, instantly repaired to Galway, where he had an interview with Mr. Blake. This was long before the commencement of any action. A conversation took place between them on the subject, which must, in my mind, set the present action at rest altogether; because it must show that the non-performance of the contract originated entirely with the plaintiff himself. Mr. Mac Namara inquired, whether it was not true, that Mr. Blake's own family declined any connection, unless Mrs. Wilkins consented to settle on them the entire of her property? Mr. Blake replied it was. Mr. Mac Namara rejoined, that her contract did not bind her to any such extent. "No," replied Mr. Blake,

“ ” “I know it does not; however, tell Mrs. Wilkins that I understand she has about 5801. a year, and I will be content to settle che odd 80l. on her by way of pocket money." Here, of course, the conversation ended, which Mr. Mac Namara detailed, as he was desired, to Mrs. Wilkins, who rejected it with the disdain, which, I hope, it will excite in every honourable mind. A topic, however, arose during the interview, which unfolds the motives and illustrates the mind of Mr. Blake more than

any observation which I can make on it. As one of the inducements to the projected marriage, he actually proposed the prospect of a 50l. annuity as an officer's widow's pension, to which she would be entitled in the event of his decease! I will not stop to remark on the delicacy of this inducement I will not dwell on the ridicule of the anticipation-I will not advert to the glaring dotage on which he speculated, when he could seriously hold out to a woman of her years the prospect of such an improbable survivor


ship. But I do ask you, of what materials must the man be composed who could thus debase the national liberality! What! was the recompense of that lofty heroism which has almost appropriated to the British navy the monopoly of maritime renown-was that grateful offering which a weeping country pours into the lap of its patriot's widow, and into the cradle of its warrior's orphan—was that generous consolation with which a nation's gratitude cheers the last moments of her dying hero, by the portraiture of his children sustained and ennobled by the legacy of his achievements, to be thus deliberately perverted into the bribe of a base, reluctant, un natural prostitution! Oh! I know of nothing to parallel the self-abasement of such a deed, except the audacity that requires an honourable jury to abetit. The following letter from Mr. Anthony Martin, Mr. Blake's attorney, unfolded the future plans of this unfeeling conspiracy. Perhaps the Gentlemen would wish also to cushion this document? They do not. Then I shall read it. The letter is addressed to Mrs. Wilkins.

"Galway, Jan. 9, 1817. “ Madam,—I have been applied to, professionally, by Lieutenant Peter Blake, to take proceedings against you on rather an unpleasant occasion; but, from every letter of your's, and other documents, together with the material and irreparable loss Mr. Blake has sustained in his professional prospects by means of your proposals to him, makes it indispensably necessary for him to get remuneration from you. Under these circumstances, I am obliged to say, that I have his directions to take immediate proceedings against you, unless he is in some measure compensated for your breach of promise to him. I should feel happy that you would save me the necessity of acting professionally by settling the business, [You see, Gentlemen, money, money, money, runs through the whole amour,) and not suffer it to come to a public investigation, particularly, as I conceive, from the legal advice Mr. Blake has got, together with all I have seen, it will ultimately terminate most honourably to his advantage, and to your pecuniary loss.—I have the honour to remain, Madam, your very humble servant,

“ANTHONY Martin." Indeed, I think Mr. Anthony Martin is mistaken. Indeed, I think no twelve men, upon their oaths will say (even admitting the truth of all he asserts) that it was honourable for a British




officer to abandon the navy on such a speculation—to desert su noble a profession—to forfeit the ambition it ought to have associated—the rank to which it leads—the glory it may confer, for the purpose of extorting from an old woman he never saw, the purchase-money of his degradation! But I rescue the Plaintiff from this disgraceful imputation. I cannot believe that a member of a profession not less remarkable for the valour than the generosity of its spirit—a profession as proverbial for its profusion in the harbour as for the prodigality of its life-blood on the wavea profession ever willing to fling money to the winds, and only anxious that they should waft through the world its immortal banner crimsoned with the record of a thousand victories ! No, nc, Gentlemen; notwithstanding the great authority of Mr. Anthony Martin, I cannot readily believe that any man could be found to make the high honour of this noble service a base, mercenary, sullen pander to the prostitution of his youth! The fact is, that increasing ill health, and the improbability of promotion, combined to induce his retirement on half pay. You will find this confirmed by the date of his resignation, which was immediately after the battle of Waterloo, which settled (no matter how) the destinies of Europe. His constitution was declining, his advancement was annihilated, and, as a forlorn hope, he bombarded the Widow Wilkins !

“War thoughts had left their places vacant:
In their room came, thronging, soft and amorous desires

All telling him how fair-young Hero was.” He first, Gentlemen, attacked her fortune with herself, through the Artillery of the Church, and having failed in that, he now attacks her fortune without herself, through the assistance of the law. However, if I am instructed rightly, he has nobody but himself to blame for his disappointment. Observe, I do not vouch for the authenticity of the fact; but I do certainly assure you, that Mrs. Wilkins was persuaded of it. You know the proverbial frailty of our nature. The gallant lieutenant was not free from it. Perhaps you imagine, that some younger, or according to his taste, some older fair one, weaned him from the widow. Indeed they did not. He had no heart to lose, and yet (can you solve the the paradox ?) his infirmity was love.

As the Poet says

“LOVE-STILL-LOVE." No, it was not to Venus, it was to Bacchus, he sacrificed. With an eastern idolatry he commenced at day-light, and so persevering was his piety till the shades of night, that when he was not on his knees, he could carcely be said to be on his legs! When I came to this passage, I could not avoid involuntarily exclaiming, Oh, Peter, Peter, whether it be in liquor or in love

“None but thyself can be thy parallel!" I see by your smiling, Gentlemen, that you correct my error. I perceive your classic memories recurring to, perhaps, the only prototype to be found in history. I beg his pardon. I should not have overlooked

-the immortal Captain Wattle,

Who was all for love and—a little for the bottle." Ardent as our fair ones have been announced to be, they do not prefer a flame that is so exclusively spiritual. Widow Wilkins, no doubt, did not choose to be singular. In the words of the bard, and, my Lord, I perceive you excuse my dwelling so much on the authority of the muses, because really, on this occasion, the minstrel seems to have combined the powers of poetry with the spirit of prophecy–in the very words of the Bard,

“He asked her, would she marry him-Widow Wilkins answered No-
Then said he, I'll to the Ocean rock, I'm ready for the slaughter,
Oh I'll shoot at my sad image, as it's sighing in the water-

Only think of Widow Wilkins, saying-Go, Peter-Go!" But, Gentlemen, let us try to be serious, and seriously give me leave to ask you, on what grounds does he solicit your verdict ? Is it for the loss of his profession? Does he deserve compensation if he abandoned it for such a purpose--if he deserted at once his duty and his country to trepan the weakness of a wealthy dotard ? But did he, (base as the pretence is,) did he do so? Is there nothing to cast any suspicion on the pretext? nothing in the aspect of public affairs? In the universal peace ? in the un. certainty of being put in commisson ? in the downright impossibility of advancement ? Nothing to make you suspect that he imputes as a contrivance, what was the manifest result of an accidental contingency? Does he claim on the ground of sacrificed affection? Oh, Gentlemen, only fancy what he has lost—if it were but the blessed raptures of the bridal night! Do not suppose I am going to describe it; I shall leave it to the learned Counsel he has selected to compose his epithalamium. I shall not exhibit the venerable trembler-at once a relic and a relict; with a grace

« PreviousContinue »