Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
Miss Homespun and My Lady
By Henry Mackenzie (17451831)
From The Mirror
THE SEASON at last arrived in which I was told the town would appear in its gaiety, a great deal of good company being expected at the races. For the races I looked with anxiety, for another reason, my dear Lady was to be here at that period. Of this I was informed by a letter from my sister. From her ladyship I had not heard for a considerable time, as she had been engaged in a round of visits to her acquaintance in the country.
The very morning after her arrival (for I was on the watch to get intelligence of her) I called at her lodgings. When the servant appeared, he seemed doubtful about letting me in; at last he ushered me into a little darkish parlour, where, after waiting about half an hour, he brought me word that his lady could not try on the gown I had brought then, but desired me to fetch it next day at eleven. I now perceived there had been a mistake as to my person; and telling the fellow, somewhat angrily, that I was no mantua-maker, desired him to carry to his lady a slip of paper, on which I wrote with a pencil the well-known name of Leonora. On his going up stairs, I heard a loud peal of laughter above, and soon after he returned with a message, that Lady was sorry she was particularly engaged at present, and could not possibly see me. Think, sir, with what astonishment I heard this message from Hortensia. I left the house, I know not whether most ashamed or angry; but afterwards I began to persuade myself that there might be some particular reasons for Lady s not seeing me at that time, which she might explain at meeting; and I imputed the terms of the message to the rudeness or simplicity of the footman. All that day and the next, I waited impatiently for some note of explanation or inquiry from her ladyship, and was a good deal disappointed when I found the second evening arrive, without having received any such token of her remembrance. I went in rather low spirits to the play. I had not been long in the house, when I saw Lady enter the next box. My heart fluttered at the sight; and I watched her eyes, that I might take the first opportunity of presenting myself to her notice. I saw them soon after, turned towards me, and immediately curtsied with a significant smile to my noble friend, who being short-sighted, it would seem (which however, I had never remarked before), stared at me for some moments, without taking notice of my salute, and at last was just putting up a glass to her eye, to point it at me, when a lady pulled her by the sleeve, and made her take notice of somebody on the opposite side of the house. She never afterwards happened to look to that quarter where I was seated.
Still, however, I was not quite discouraged, and, on an accidental change of places in our box, contrived to place myself at the end of the bench next her ladyships, where there was only a piece of thin board between us. At the end of the act, I ventured to ask her how she did, and to express my happiness at seeing her in town, adding that I had called the day before, but found her particularly engaged. Why yes, said she, Miss Homespun, I am always extremely hurried in town, and have time only to receive a very few visits; but I will be glad if you will come some morning and breakfast with me, but not to-morrow, for there is a morning concert; nor next day, for I have a musical party at home. In short, you may come some morning next week, when the hurry will be over, and if I am not gone out of town, I will be happy to see you. I dont know what answer I should have made; but she did not give me an opportunity; for a gentleman in a green uniform coming into the box, she immediately made room for him to sit between us. He, after a broad stare full in my face, turned his back my way, and sat in that posture all the rest of the evening.
I am not so silly, Mr. Mirror, but I can understand the meaning of all this. My lady, it seems, is contented to have some humble friends in the country, whom she does not think worthy of her notice in town; but I am determined to show her that I have a prouder spirit than she imagines, and shall not go near her either in town or country. What is more, my father shant vote for her friend at next election if I can help it.
What vexes me beyond everything else is, that I had been often telling my aunt and her daughters of the intimate footing I was on with Lady , and what a violent friendship we had for each other; and so, from envy perhaps, they used to nick-name me the Countess, and Lady Leonora. Now that they have got the story of the mantua-maker and the play-house (for I was so angry I could not conceal it), I am ashamed to hear the name of a lady of quality mentioned, even if it be only in a book from the circulating library. Do write a paper, sir, against pride and haughtiness, and people forgetting their country friends and acquaintance, and you will very much oblige, yours, etc.,
P.S.My uncles partner, the young gentleman I mentioned above, takes my part when my cousins joke about intimates with great folks; I think he is a much genteeler and better bred man than I took him for at first.