1762 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

Elizabeth Montagu to Mrs. Robinson, 8 October 1762; Censura Literaria 3 (1807) 264n.



Lady Mary W. Montagu returned to England, as it were, to finish where she began. I wish she had given us an account of the events that filled the space between. She had a terrible distemper, the most virulent cancer you ever heard of, which soon carried her off. I met her at my Lady Bute's in June; and she then looked well; in three weeks after, at my return to London, I heard she was given over. The hemlock kept her drowsy and free from pain; and the physicians thought, if it had been given early, might possibly have saved her.

She left her son one guinea. He is too much of a sage to be concerned about money, I presume. When I first knew him, a rake and a beau, I did not imagine he would addict himself at once time to Rabbinical learning; and then travel all over the east the great itinerant savant of the world. One has read, that the great believers in the transmigration of souls suppose a man, who has been rapacious and cunning, does penance in the shape of a fox; another, cruel and bloody, enters the body of a wolf. But I believe my poor cousin in his pre-existent state, having broken all moral laws, has been sentenced to suffer in all the various characters of human life. He has run through them all unsuccessfully enough. His dispute with Mr. Needham has been communicated to me by a gentleman of the Museum; and I think he will gain no laurels there. But he speaks as decisively, as if he had been bred in Pharoah's court, in all the learning of the Egyptians. He has certainly very uncommon parts; but too much of the rapidity of his mother's genius.