My Paper on the Club of Widows has brought me in several Letters; and, among the rest, a long one from Mrs. President, as follows.
'You are pleased to be very merry, as you imagine, with us Widows: And you seem to ground your Satyr on our receiving Consolation so soon after the Death of our Dears, and the Number we are pleased to admit for our Companions; but you never reflect what Husbands we have buried, and how short a Sorrow the Loss of them was capable of occasioning. For my own Part, Mrs. President as you call me, my First Husband I was marry'd to at Fourteen, by my Uncle and Guardian (as I afterwards discovered) by way of Sale, for the Third part of my Fortune. This Fellow looked upon me as a meer Child, he might breed up after his own Fancy; if he kissed my Chamber-Maid before my Face, I was supposed so ignorant, how could I think there was any Hurt in it? When he came home Roaring Drunk at five in the Morning, 'twas the Custom of all Men that live in the World. I was not to see a Penny of Money, for, poor Thing, how could I manage it? He took a handsome Cousin of his into the House, (as he said) to be my Housekeeper, and to govern my Servants; for how should I know how to rule a Family? and while she had what Money she pleased, which was but reasonable for the Trouble she was at for my Good, I was not to be so censorious as to dislike Familiarity and Kindness between near Relations. I was too great a Coward to contend, but not so ignorant a Child to be thus imposed upon. I resented his Contempt as I ought to do, and as most poor passive blinded Wives do, 'till it pleased Heaven to take away my Tyrant, who left me free Possession of my own Land, and a large Jointure. My Youth and Money brought me many Lovers, and several endeavoured to establish an Interest in my Heart while my Husband was in his last Sickness; the Honourable Edward Waitfort was one of the first who addressed to me, advised to it by a Cousin of his that was my intimate Friend, and knew to a Penny what I was worth. Mr. Waitfort is a very agreeable Man, and every Body would like him as well as he does himself, if they did not plainly see that his Esteem and Love is all taken up, and by such an Object, as 'tis impossible to get the better of. I mean himself. He made no doubt of marrying me within Four or Five Months, and begun to proceed with such an assured easie Air, that piqued my Pride not to banish him; quite contrary, out of pure Malice, I heard his first Declaration with so much innocent Surprize, and blushed so prettily, I perceived it touched his very Heart, and he thought me the best-natured Silly poor thing on Earth. When a Man has such a Notion of a Woman, he loves her better than he thinks he does. I was overjoy'd to be thus revenged on him, for designing on my Fortune; and finding it was in my Power to make his Heart ake, I resolved to compleat my Conquest, and entertain'd several other Pretenders. The first Impression of my undesigning Innocence was so strong in his Head, he attributed all my Followers to the inevitable Force of my Charms, and from several Blushes and side Glances, concluded himself the Favourite; and when I used him like a Dog for my Diversion, he thought it was all Prudence and Fear, and pitied the Violence I did my own Inclinations to comply with my Friends, when I marry'd Sir Nicholas Fribble of Sixty Years of Age. You know, Sir, the Case of Mrs. Medlar, I hope you would not have had me cry out my Eyes for such a Husband. I shed Tears enough for my Widowhood a Week after my Marriage, and when he was put in his Grave, reckoning he had been two Years dead, and my self a Widow of that Standing, I married three Weeks afterwards John Sturdy, Esq., his next Heir. I had indeed some Thoughts of taking Mr. Waitfort, but I found he could stay, and besides he thought it indecent to ask me to marry again 'till my Year was out, so privately resolving him for my Fourth, I took Mr. Sturdy for the present. Would you believe it, Sir, Mr. Sturdy was just Five and Twenty, about Six Foot high, and the stoutest Fox-hunter in the Country, and I believe I wished ten thousand times for my old Fribble again; he was following his Dogs all the Day, and all the Night keeping them up at Table with him and his Companions: however I think my self obliged to them for leading him a Chase in which he broke his Neck. Mr. Waitfort began his Addresses anew, and I verily believe I had married him now, but there was a young Officer in the Guards, that had debauched two or three of my Acquaintance, and I could not forbear being a little vain of his Courtship. Mr. Waitfort heard of it, and read me such an insolent Lecture upon the Conduct of Women, I married the Officer that very Day, out of pure Spight to him. Half an Hour after I was married I received a Penitential Letter from the Honourable Mr. Edward Waitfort, in which he begged Pardon for his Passion, as proceeding from the Violence of his Love: I triumphed when I read it, and could not help, out of the Pride of my Heart, shewing it to my new Spouse: and we were very merry together upon it. Alas! my Mirth lasted a short time; my young Husband was very much in Debt when I marry'd him, and his first Action afterwards was to set up a gilt Chariot and Six, in fine Trappings before and behind. I had married so hastily, I had not the Prudence to reserve my Estate in my own Hands; my ready Money was lost in two Nights at the Groom Porter's; and my Diamond Necklace, which was stole I did not know how, I met in the Street upon Jenny Wheadle's Neck. My Plate vanished Piece by Piece, and I had been reduced to downright Pewter, if my Officer had not been deliciously killed in a Duel, by a Fellow that had cheated him of Five Hundred Pounds, and afterwards, at his own Request, satisfy'd him and me too, by running him through the Body. Mr. Waitfort was still in Love, and told me so again; and to prevent all Fears of ill Usage, he desir'd me to reserve every thing in my own Hands: But now my Acquaintance begun to wish me Joy of his Constancy, my Charms were declining, and I could not resist the Delight I took in shewing the young Flirts about Town, it was yet in my Power to give Pain to a Man of Sense: This, and some private Hopes he would hang himself, and what a Glory would it be for me, and how I should be envy'd, made me accept of being third Wife to my Lord Friday. I proposed from my Rank and his Estate, to live in all the Joys of Pride, but how was I mistaken? he was neither extravagant, nor ill-natured, nor debauched? I suffered however more with him than with all my others. He was splenatick. I was forced to sit whole Days hearkening to his imaginary Ails; it was impossible to tell what would please him; what he liked when the Sun shined, made him sick when it rained; he had no Distemper, but lived in constant Fear of them all: my good Genius dictated to me to bring him acquainted with Doctor Gruel; from that Day he was always contented, because he had Names for all his Complaints; the good Doctor furnished him with Reasons for all his Pains, and Prescriptions for every Fancy that troubled him; in hot Weather he lived upon Juleps, and let Blood to prevent Fevers; when it grew cloudy he generally apprehended a Consumption; to shorten the History of this wretched Part of my Life, he ruined a good Constitution by endeavouring to mend it, and took several Medicines, which ended in taking the grand Remedy, which cured both him and me of all our Uneasinesses. After his Death, I did not expect to hear any more of Mr. Waitfort, I knew he had renounced me to all his Friends, and been very witty upon my Choice, which he affected to talk of with great Indifferency; I gave over thinking of him, being told that he was engaged with a pretty Woman and a great Fortune; it vexed me a little, but not enough to make me neglect the Advice of my Cousin Wishwell, that came to see me the Day my Lord went into the Country with Russel; she told me experimentally, nothing put an unfaithful Lover and a dear Husband so soon out of ones Head, as a new one; and, at the same time, propos'd to me a Kinsman of hers; You understand enough of the World (said she) to know Money is the most valuable Consideration; he is very rich, and I am sure cannot live long; he has a Cough that must carry him off soon. I knew afterwards she had given the self-same Character of me to him; but however I was so much persuaded by her, I hastned on the Match, for fear he should die before the time came; he had the same Fears, and was so pressing, I married him in a Fortnight, resolving to keep it private a Fortnight longer. During this Fortnight Mr. Waitfort came to make me a Visit; he told me he had waited on me sooner, but had that Respect for me, he would not interrupt me in the first Day of my Affliction for my dead Lord; that as soon as he heard I was at Liberty to make another Choice, he had broke off a Match very advantageous for his Fortune, just upon the Point of Conclusion, and was forty times more in Love with me than ever. I never received more Pleasure in my Life than from this Declaration, but I composed my Face to a grave Air, and said the News of his Engagement had touched me to the Heart, that in a rash jealous Fit, I had married a Man I could never have thought on if I had not lost all hopes of him. Good-natured Mr. Waitfort had like to have dropped down dead at hearing this, but went from me with such an Air as plainly shewed me he laid all the Blame upon himself, and hated those Friends that had advised him to the Fatal Application; he seemed as much touched by my Misfortune as his own, for he had not the least Doubt I was still passionately in Love with him. The Truth of the Story is, my new Husband gave me Reason to repent I had not staid for him; he had married me for my Money, and I soon found he loved Money to Distraction; there was nothing he would not do to get it, nothing he would not suffer to preserve it; the smallest Expence keep him awake whole Nights, and when he paid a Bill, 'twas with as many Sighs, and after as many Delays, as a Man that endures the Loss of a Limb. I heard nothing but Reproofs for Extravagancy whatever I did. I saw very well that he would have starved me, but for losing my Jointures; and he suffered Agonies between the Grief of seeing me have so good a Stomach, and the Fear that if he made me fast, it might prejudice my Health. I did not doubt he would have broke my Heart, if I did not break his, which was allowed by the Law of Self-defence. The Way was very easy. I resolved to spend as much Money as I could, and before he was aware of the Stroke, appeared before him in a two thousand Pound Diamond Necklace; he said nothing, but went quietly to his Chamber, and, as it is thought, composed himself with a Dose of Opium. I behaved my self so well upon the Occasion, that to this Day I believe he died of an Apoplexy. Mr. Waitfort was resolved not to be too late this time, and I heard from him in two Days. I am almost out of my Weed at this present Writing, and am very doubtful whether I'll marry him or no. I do not think of a Seventh, for the ridiculous Reason you mention, but out of pure Morality that I think so much Constancy should be rewarded, tho' I may not do it after all perhaps. I do not believe all the unreasonable Malice of Mankind can give a Pretence why I should have been constant to the Memory of any of the Deceased, or have spent much time in grieving for so insolent, insignificant, negligent, extravagant, splenatick, or covetous Husband; my first insulted me, my second was nothing to me, my third disgusted me, the fourth would have ruined me, the fifth tormented me, and the sixth would have starved me. If the other Ladies you name would thus give in their Husbands Pictures at length, you would see they have had as little Reason as my self to lose their Hours in weeping and wailing.