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be a lady of such quality, why does she lower herself to be a courtesan? She ought to die with shame. As for me, it is my profession; I pretend to nothing better. The King entertains me, and I am constant to him at present. He has a son by me; I profess that he ought to acknowledge him; and I am well assured that he will, for he loves me as well as he loves the Duchess.""
The popular affection for Nell Gwynn was probably due in no small degree to the popular hatred of the Duchess of Portsmouth. The latter was a foreigner and a Papist; the former was English-born and a Protestant. These facts are duly insisted upon in a pasquinade, entitled, “ A Pleasant Battle between Two Lap-dogs of the Utopian Court,” which Mr. Jesse quotes. Part of the argument is, he says, as follows:
“ The English lap.dog here does first begin
The vindication of his lady, Gwynn:
Shows what his lady is, not what she was." The two curs, Tutty (Nell Gwynn's) and Snap-Short (the Duchess of Portsmouth's), discuss with much freedom the qualities of their respective mistresses, who, in the middle of the contention, enter the room, and themselves take up the cudgels :
“ DUCHESS OF PORTSMOUTH.—Pray, Madam, give my dog fair play ; I protest you hinder him with your petticoats; he cannot fasten. Madam, fair play is fair play.
“Madam GWYNN.—Truly, Madam, I thought I knew as well what belonged to dog-fighting as your ladyship: but since you pretend to instruct me in your French dogplay, pray, Madam, stand a little farther; as you respect your own flesh, for my little dog is mettle to the back, and smells a Popish Miss at a far greater distance: pray, Madam, take warning, for you stand on dangerous ground. Haloo, haloo, haloo : ha brave Tutty, ha brave Snap-Short! A guinea on Tutty,—two to one on Tutty: done, quoth Monsieur; begar, begar, we have lost near tousand pound.
“ Tutty it seems beat Snap-short, and the bell
Tutty bears home in victory : farewell !” *
Against Nell Gwynn's many vices, her immorality, her gambling habits, her wild extravagance,* her love of strange oaths, we may set that one great virtue of Charity, which covers, as we know, a multitude of sins. She was generous by nature, and no case of distress came to her knowledge but her hand was immediately open. The story that she persvaded Charles to build Chelsea Hospital may be apocryphal ; but at all events it shows the popular conviction of her goodness of heart. Poor men of genius found in her a liberal benefactress, as Dryden and Butler, Otway and Nathaniel Lee were ready to acknowledge.
Nell Gwynn died at her house in Pall Mall in November, 1687. She was only thirty-eight years of age. It is noticeable that most of the frail beauties and dashing cavaliers of the Merry Monarch's saturnalian reign passed from the scene while still comparatively young. The reason is not far to seek: they lived at high-pressure. "To borrow a phrase from the sporting world, the pace was too fast, and they exhausted their stock of vitality in an endless round of intrigue, revelry, and dissipation. The immediate cause of Nell Gwynn's death was apoplexy. She lingered for some weeks after the first attack, and gave many tokens of her sorrow for the failings and follies
* This may be forgiven, perhaps, to one who rose from indigence to the enjoyment of almost unlimited wealth.
in which she had wasted her feverish life. “Her repentance in her last hours," says Cibber, “I have been unquestionably informed appeared in all the contrite symptoms of a Christian sincerity.”
She was buried in the church of St. Martin's-in-theFields, and Dr. Tenison, the vicar, preached a funeral sermon in which he warmly and frankly praised her kindness of heart and her charities, and bore testimony to the sincerity of her earnestness and the peace of her last hours. This discourse was brought to the notice of Queen Mary, at a later period, in the hope it would injure the Doctor's chances of perferment. But with characteristic good sense the Queen replied :-“I have heard as much; it is a sign that the poor unfortunate woman died penitent; for if I can read a man's heart through his looks, had she not made a pious and Christian end, the Doctor would never have been induced to speak well of her.”
Of the birth or antecedents of Mrs. Hughes the historians of the stage say nothing. She first came before the public in 1663, after the opening of the theatre in Drury Lane, and was the first female representative (it is said) of Desdemona. Less by her artistic than by her personal gifts she charmed the town. When the Court was at Tunbridge Wells in 1668, drinking the waters, rafiling for toys, lace, or gloves, jesting with the country girls in the market, and at evening assembling on the bowlinggreen, where those who liked could dance upon a turf more soft and smooth than the finest carpet in the world,” the Queen sent for the players, and among them came Mistress Hughes, with such a splendour of loveliness that she took captive the grave and reserved Prince Rupert. Abandoning his laboratory, with its alembics, crucibles,
and forges, he laid siege to the proud beauty, and renounced his “chemical speculations " for the more critical study of a woman's varying moods. “The impertinent gipsy,” says Count Hamilton, with his usual indifference to the claims of virtue, “chose to be attacked in form, and proudly refusing money, that in the end, she might sell her favours at a dearer rate, she caused the poor Prince to act a part so unnatural, that he no longer appeared like the same person. The King was greatly pleased with that event, for which great rejoicings were made at Tunbridge -'what a strange condition of society this one fact reveals ! '—but nobody was bold enough to make it the subject of satire, though the same constraint was not observed respecting the follies of other personages.”
The Prince was supposed to have been preceded in her goodwill by Sir Charles Sedley. Pepys, who had had the privilege of saluting her with a kiss in the greenroom at Drury Lane in May, 1668, describes her as “the pretty woman called Pegg, that was Sir Charles Sidley's mistress .. a mighty pretty woman, and seems, but is not, modest.” But the curse of lewdness then rested upon the stage, and scarcely man or woman escaped it.
Margaret Hughes was settled by her princely “protector” in the house at Hammersmith, built by Sir Nicholas Crispe, which, in 1683, the Prince purchased from his nephew, and presented to her. She resided in it for ten years, and then sold it to one Timothy Lanney, “ a scarlet dyer."* She had one daughter by the Prince, Ruperta, who became the wife of General Howe.
* In 1748 it was purchased by Bubb Dodington, and in 1792 by the Margrave of Brandenburg-Anspach, w ho named it “ Brandenburg House." In 1820 it was tenanted by Queen Caroline, wife of George IV.
Among the most prominent figures in Pepys' picturegallery is the pretty, sweet-voiced, lively, and clever Mistress Knipp (or Knep), for whom our immortal diarist had evidently a strong partiality. As an actress she excelled in the parts of fine ladies, ladies' maids, and milk maids; she dressed with taste, acted with intelligence, and sang' with natural skill and feeling. Her delivery of a prologue was always a feat of elocution. Mrs. Knipp was unfortunate in her husband, a horsejockey, who ill-treated and even beat her; but she seems never to have forgotten her duty as a wife, though Mrs. Pepys called her “a wench," and disapproved very strongly of her husband's attentions to the fascinating actress. Her career on the stage extended from 1664 to 1678, during which period she acted sixteen different characters.
The first reference to her in Pepys is under the date .“ December 6th, 1665," when he was spending some merry hours at the house of his friends, Mr. and Mrs. Pierce. “ The best company for music I ever was in in my life,” he says, “and wish I could live and die in it, both for musique and the face of Mrs. Pierce, and my wife, and Knipp, who is pretty enough, but the most excellent, mad-humoured thing, and sings the noblest that ever I heard in my life.”
On the following day the same company met at Pepys' house :-“Most excellent musique we had in abundance, and a good supper, dancing, and a pleasant scene of Mrs. Knipp's rising sick from table, but whispered me it was for some hard word or other her husband gave her just now when she laughed, and was more merry than ordi. nary. But we got her in humour again, and mighty