‘The play’s the thing!’– Hamlet.
Tavistock Hotel, Nov. 1839.
— In reply to your letter, and Fanny’s,
Lord Brougham, it appears, isn’t dead,– though Queen Anne is;
‘Twas a ‘plot’ and a ‘farce’– you hate farces, you say —
Take another ‘plot,’ then, viz. the plot of a Play.
The Countess of Arundel, high in degree,
As a lady possess’d of an earldom in fee,
Was imprudent enough at fifteen years of age,
A period of life when we’re not over sage,
To form a liaison — in fact, to engage
Her hand to a Hop-o’-my-thumb of a Page.
This put her Papa —
She had no Mamma —
As may well be supposed, in a deuce of a rage.
Mr. Benjamin Franklin was wont to repeat,
In his budget of proverbs, ‘Stolen Kisses are sweet;’
But they have their alloy —
Fate assumed, to annoy
Miss Arundel’s peace, and embitter her joy,
The equivocal shape of a fine little Boy.
When, through ‘the young Stranger,’ her secret took wind,
The Old Lord was neither ‘to haud nor to bind.’
He bounced up and down,
And so fearful a frown
Contracted his brow, you’d have thought he’d been blind.
The young lady, they say,
Having fainted away,
Was confined to her room for the whole of that day;
While her beau — no rare thing in the old feudal system —
Disappear’d the next morning, and nobody miss’d him.
The fact is, his Lordship, who hadn’t, it seems,
Form’d the slightest idea, not ev’n in his dreams,
That the pair had been wedded according to law,
Conceived that his daughter had made a faux pas;
So he bribed at a high rate
A sort of a Pirate
To knock out the poor dear young Gentleman’s brains,
And gave him a handsome douceur for his pains.
The Page thus disposed of, his Lordship now turns
His attention at once to the Lday’s concerns;
And, alarm’d for the future,
Looks out for a suitor,
One not fond of raking, nor giv’n to ‘the pewter,’
But adapted to act both the husband and tutor —
Finds a highly respectable, middle-aged, widower,
Marries her off, and thanks Heaven that he’s rid o’ her.
Relieved from his cares,
The old Peer now prepares
To arrange in good earnest his worldly affairs;
Has his will made new by a Special Attorney,
Sickens, takes to his bed, and sets out on his journey.
Which way he travell’d
Has not been unravell’d;
To speculate much on the point were too curious,
If the climate he reach’d were serene or sulphureous.
To be sure in his balance-sheet all must declare
One item — The Page — was an awkward affair;
But, per contra, he’d lately endow’d a new Chantry
For Priests, with ten marks and the run of the pantry.
Be that as it may,
It’s sufficient to say
That his tomb in the chancel stands there to this day,
Built of Bethersden marble — a dark bluish grey.
The figure, a fine one of pure alabaster,
A cleanly churchwarden has cover’d with plaster;
While some Vandal or Jew,
With a taste for virtu,
Has knock’d off his toes, to place, I suppose,
In some Pickwick Museum, with part of his nose;
From his belt and his sword
And his misericorde
The enamel’s been chipp’d out, and never restored;
(Richard Harris Barham)
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