18 November - Mary Chandler (1687-1745) Jul 14, 2008 22:01:34 GMT 2
Post by moira on Jul 14, 2008 22:01:34 GMT 2
Bath, England where Mary Chandler opened a milliner's shop.
Mary Chandler (1687-1745)[/b]
A True Tale
To Mrs. J-S.
Written at her Request
Why, Madam, must I tell this idle tale?
You want to laugh. Then do so, if you will.
Thus take it, as it was, the best I can;
And laugh at me, but not my little man:
For he was very good, and clean, and civil,
And, though his taste was odd, you own not evil.
You know one loves an apple, one an onion;
One man's a Papist, one is a Socinian:
We differ in our taste, as in opinion.
Not often reason guides us; more, caprice,
Or accident, or fancy: so in this.
His person pleased, and honest was his fame;
Tis true there was no music in his name,
But, had I changed for A the letter U,
It would sound grand, and musically too,
And would have made a figure. At my shop
I saw him first, and thought he'd eat me up.
I stared, and wondered who this man could be,
So full of complaisance, and all to me:
But when he'd bought his gloves, and said his say,
He made his civil scrape, and went away.
I never dreamed I e'er should see him more,
Glad when he turned his back, and shut the door.
But when his wond'rous message he declared,
I never in my life was half so scared!
Fourscore long miles, to buy a crooked wife!
Old too! I thought the oddest thing in life;
And said, 'Sir, you're in jest, and very free;
But, pray, how came you, Sir, to think of me?'
This civil answer I'll suppose was true:
'That he had both our happiness in view.
He sought me as one formed to make a friend,
To help life glide more smoothly near its end,
To aid his virtue, and direct his purse,
For he was much too well to want a nurse.'
He made no high-flown compliment but this:
'He thought to've found my person more amiss.
No fortune hoped; and,' which is stranger yet,
'Expected to have bought me off in debt!
And offered me my Wish, which he had read,
For 'twas my Wish that put me in his head.'
Far distant from my thoughts a husband, when
Those simple lines dropped, honest, from my pen.
Much more, he spake, but I have half forgot:
I went to bed, but could not sleep a jot.
A thing so unexpected, and so new!
Of so great consequenceSo generous too!
I own it made me pause for half that night:
Then waked, and soon recovered from my fright;
Resolved, and put an end to the affair:
So great a change, thus late, I could not bear;
And answered thus: 'No, good Sir, for my life,
I cannot now obey, nor be a wife.
At fifty-four, when hoary age has shed
Its winter's snow, and whitened o'er my head,
Love is a language foreign to my tongue:
I could have learned it once, when I was young,
But now quite other things my wish employs:
Peace, liberty, and sun, to gild my days.
I dare not put to sea so near my home,
Nor want a gale to waft me to my tomb.
The smoke of Hymen's lamp may cloud the skies
And adverse winds from different quarters rise.
I want no heaps of gold; I hate all dress,
And equipage. The cow provides my mess.
'Tis true, a chariot's a convenient thing;
But then perhaps, Sir, you may hold the string.
I'd rather walk alone my own slow pace,
Than drive with six, unless I choose the place.
Imprisoned in a coach, I should repine:
The chaise I hire, I drive and call it mine.
And, when I will, I ramble, or retire
To my own room, own bed, my garden, fire;
Take up my book, or trifle with my pen;
And, when I'm weary, lay them down again:
No questions asked; no master in the spleen
I would not change my state to be a queen.
I do like those concluding lines.
Mary Chandler (1687-1745) was one of a growing number of women poets of the 18th century who were working women, not pseudo-gentry, not gentlewomen. It's usually put (and was at the time) that because she was badly crippled or deformed, she did not marry but instead opened a milliner's shop in Bath nearby the Pump Room where Elizabeth Montagu and her friends, in history called the Bluestockings would sometimes meet). From Chandler's poems she seems not unhappy (a number of friendship poems of great warmth), and the most famous is her long comic (and successful) "Description of Bath." However, it's also said (we all remember what Virgil said about Rumor) that under the "care" of George Cheyne (famous physician who recommended dieting and exercise), she became anorexic (a girl who wanted "out"or was continually made to feel her body was unacceptable). Let us hope not, but if she did deliberately starve herself to death, she had stayed in business successfully for 35 years before that. Her epitaph (18th century poets would write their own ironic epitaphs) does harp again on her looks. It does not begin with her life and success but rather "Here lies a true maid, deformed and old ." Is not it terrible a woman should endlessly judge herself as an object a man might want to go to bed with? Like the comic Horatian "True Tale," her epitaph does have a combination of wry self-acceptance and stalwart Horatian ideals of being content with what you can manage to wrest from life: "Her book and her pen had her moments of leisure".
I like her.
* * *
in The Pump Room, Bath