Robert Bage – Hermsprong: or, Man As He Is Not, 1796

At the extremity of the pleasure ground, bordering on the moor, Lord Grondale, soon after his accession to the estate, had built a sort of pleasure house, an octagon, on an artificial mount. It had obtained the name of the pavilion. In his earlier years, his lordship made of it a sort of temple of fame, and adorned it with the portraits of his own best hunters and racers, and of those who had obtained the greatest renown on the arduous plains of Ascot and Newmarket. This taste declining, these portraits had given place to paintings of another species, capital, no doubt, his lordship having been considered as a connoisseur.

This pavilion Lord Grondale made a kind of sanctum; it was open only to himself, a few of his more particular friends on their annual visit, and once a week perhaps, usually on Sunday evening, to the person or merit. So it happened to be on the eve of that sabbath, so mortifying to Lord Grondale. From thence it was they saw the movements of the parties, as described in our 8th chapter of this volume; which ‘tortured his lordship almost to madness,’ and subjected Mrs. Stone to his stern rebuke, for the mere endeavour to reason him into placidity.

It was several evenings after this, when Lord Grondale had begun to long for a few of Miss Fluart’s sugared sweets, and Miss Fluart to wish he would, that this young lady was strolling the pleasure grounds alone; Miss Campinet having determined that evening to write to Mrs. Garnet; a thing she had attempted every day since her father’s prohibition, but in which she had not yet succeeded to her mind. A few yards from the pavilion, turning a walk, Miss Fluart almost ran against Lord Grondale. The good peer said, with a tone of good nature, “Have I the pleasure to see Miss Fluart here, and alone?”
“Caroline is indolent,” Miss Fluart answered; “she chose the zephyrs of her own apartment, rather than the zephyrs of your lordship’s groves. Oh dear, (she continued) now I think of it, I have long had a desire to take a peep into your lordship’s pavilion, where you have never yet invited me.”
“I invite you now, then,” said Lord Grondale, hobbling up the steps, and unlocking the door.”
“I hear,” says she, ascending, “it is a little palace of paintings.”

The first object which struck her view, was herself, her beauteous self, many times multiplied. This was fascinating no doubt, but she got rid of it as soon as she could, and threw her eye on a lovely piece, representing Jachimo taking notes of the mole cinque spotted on the beauteous bosom of Imogen. The next was Atalanta, straining to recover the ground she had lost by the golden apples; her bosom bare, her zone unloosed, her garments streaming with the wind. From the four following pieces, the pavilion might, not improperly, have been denominated the Temple of Venus. The first gave the goddess rising from the sea. The second, asleep; a copy of Titian. The third, accompanied with Juno and Minerva, appealing to Paris. The fourth, in Vulcan’s net with Mars.

However capital these might be, they were such as ladies are not accustomed to admire in the presence of gentlemen. There was, however, a superb sofa; on which a lady might sit down with all possible propriety. Miss Fluart did sit down; but the prospect from thence rather increased than diminished a little matter of confusion, which she felt on the view of the company she seemed to have got into.

She was rising to leave the pavilion, when his lordship, in the most gallant manner possible, claimed a fine, due he said, by the custom of the manor, from every lady who honoured that sofa by sitting upon it. His lordship meant simply a kiss, which I believe he would have taken respectfully enough, had Miss Fluart been passive; but, I know not why, the lady seemed to feel an alarm, for which probably she had no reason; and was intent only upon running away, whilst his lordship was intent only upon seizing his forfeit. A fine muslin apron was ill-treated upon this occasion; a handkerchief was ruffled, and some beautiful hair had strayed from its confinement, and wantoned upon its owner’s polished neck. She got away, however, from this palace of painting, and its dangerous sofa.

“Upon my word, my dear Miss Fluart,” said his lordship, getting down after her as fast as he was able, “you are quite a prude today. I thought you superior to the nonsense of your sex, the making such a rout about a kiss.”
“A kiss! Lord bless me,” said Miss Fluart, “I thought from the company your lordship had brought me into, and the mode of your attack, you had wanted to undress me.”
Lord Grondale burst into an immoderate laugh, and declared it was the drollest idea in the world. Miss Fluart laughed too, and stopped to hear his lordship’s exculpation; which she accepted without much difficulty, having a favour to ask, that could scarce be granted, except in his lordship’s very best humour.

Whether a kiss refused is more a promoter of love, than a kiss granted, or whether there is any thing inflammatory in pulling a young lady’s cloaths to pieces, it is certain Lord Grondale now found himself very seriously in love.

Robert Bage, 1730 – 1801
Hermsprong: or, Man As He Is Not, 1796

Image:  William Hogarth, Before and After, c.1730-1731, oil on canvas.  ©The Getty Center, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Author: jeh

Jeremy Hunt is Director of the AAJ Press (Art & Architecture Journal / Press) – a writer and consultant on art and public space - creator of art projects - writer on art

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