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Beaux and Belles of England Mrs. Mary Robinson, Written by Herself, With the lives of the Duchesses of Gordon and Devonshire   By: (1758-1800)

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[Frontispiece: The Attempted Abduction Original painting by B. Wesley Rand]

Beaux & Belles of England

Mrs. Mary Robinson

Written by Herself

With the Lives of the Duchesses of Gordon and Devonshire by Grace and Philip Wharton

London

EDITION DE LUXE

INTRODUCTION TO THE ORIGINAL EDITION

The following brief memoirs of a beautiful, engaging, and, in many respects, highly gifted woman require little in the way of introduction. While we may trace same little negative disingenuousness in the writer, in regard to a due admission of her own failings, sufficient of uncoloured matter of fact remains to show the exposed situation of an unprotected beauty or, what is worse, of a female of great personal and natural attraction, exposed to the gaze of libertine rank and fashion, under the mere nominal guardianship of a neglectful and profligate husband. Autobiography of this class is sometimes dangerous; not so that of Mrs. Robinson, who conceals not the thorns inherent in the paths along which vice externally scatters roses; For the rest, the arrangement of princely establishments in the way of amour is pleasantly portrayed in this brief volume, which in many respects is not without its moral. One at least is sufficiently obvious, and it will be found in the cold hearted neglect which a woman of the most fascinating mental and personal attractions may encounter from those whose homage is merely sensual, and whose admiration is but a snare.

EDITOR'S PREFACE

The author of these memoirs, Mary Robinson, was one of the most prominent and eminently beautiful women of her day. From the description she furnishes of her personal appearance, we gather that her complexion was dark, her eyes large, her features expressive of melancholy; and this verbal sketch corresponds with her portrait, which presents a face at once grave, refined, and charming. Her beauty, indeed, was such as to attract, amongst others, the attentions of Lords Lyttelton and Northington, Fighting Fitzgerald, Captain Ayscough, and finally the Prince of Wales; whilst her talents and conversation secured her the friendship and interest of David Garrick, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Charles James Fox, Joshua Reynolds, Arthur Murphy, the dramatist, and various other men of distinguished talent.

Though her memoirs are briefly sketched, they are sufficiently vivid to present us with various pictures of the social life of the period of which she was the centre. Now we find her at the Pantheon, with its coloured lamps and brilliant music, moving amidst a fashionable crowd, where large hoops and high feathers abounded, she herself dressed in a habit of pale pink satin trimmed with sable, attracting the attention of men of fashion. Again she is surrounded by friends at Vauxhall Gardens, and barely escapes from a cunning plot to abduct her, a plot in which loaded pistols and a waiting coach prominently figure; whilst on another occasion she is at Ranelagh, where, in the course of the evening, half a dozen gallants "evinced their attentions;" and ultimately she makes her first appearance as an actress on the stage of Drury Lane, before a brilliant house, David Garrick, now retired, watching her from the orchestra, whilst she played Juliet in pink satin richly spangled with silver, her head ornamented with white feathers.

The fact of her becoming an actress brought about the turning point in her life; it being whilst she played Perdita in "The Winter's Tale" before royalty that she attracted the Prince of Wales, afterward George IV., who was then in his eighteenth year. The incidents which follow are so briefly treated in the memoirs that explanations are necessary to those who would follow the story of her life.

The performance of the play in which the prince saw her, probably for the first time, took place on the 3d of December, 1779. It was not until some months later, during which the prince and Perdita corresponded, that she consented to meet him at Kew, where his education was being continued and strict guard kept upon his conduct... Continue reading book >>




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