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April’s Message
by [?]

As Played at Halvergate House, April 9, 1750

“You cannot love, nor pleasure take, nor give,
But life begin when ’tis too late to live.
On a tired courser you pursue delight,
Let slip your morning, and set out at night.
If you have lived, take thankfully the past;
Make, as you can, the sweet remembrance last.
If you have not enjoyed what youth could give,
But life sunk through you, like a leaky sieve.



EARL OF BRUDENEL, father to Lady Marian Heleigh, who has retired sometime into the country.

LORD HUMPHREY DEGGE, a gamester, and Ormskirk’s hireling.

MR. LANGTON, secretary to Ormskirk.

LADY MARIAN HELEIGH, betrothed to Ormskirk, a young, beautiful girl of a mild and tender disposition.


The east terrace of Halvergate House.


PROEM:–Apologia pro Auctore

It occurs to me that we here assume intimacy with a man of unusual achievement, and therefore tread upon quaggy premises. Yet I do but avail myself of to-day’s privilege…. It is an odd thing that people will facilely assent to Don Adriano’s protestation against a certain travestying of Hector,–“Sweet chucks, beat not the bones of the dead, for when he breathed he was a man,”–even while through the instant the tide of romance will be setting quite otherwhither, with their condonation. For in all the best approved romances the more sumptuous persons of antiquity are very guilty of twaddle on at least one printed page in ten, and nobody remonstrates; and here is John Bulmer, too, lugged from the grave for your delectation.

I presume, however, to palliate the offence. The curious may find the gist of what I narrate concerning Ormskirk in Heinrich Löwe’s biography of the man, and will there discover that with established facts I have not made bold to juggle. Only when knowledge failed have I bridged the void with speculation. Perhaps I have guessed wrongly: the feat is not unhuman, and in provision against detection therein I can only protest that this lack of omniscience was never due to malice; faithfully I have endeavored to deduce from the known the probable, and in nothing to misrepresent to you this big man of a little age, this trout among a school of minnows.

Trout, mark you; I claim for Ormskirk no leviathan-ship. Rather I would remind you of a passage from somewhat anterior memoirs: “The Emperor of Lilliput is taller, by almost the breadth of my nail, than any of his court, which alone is enough to strike an awe into his beholders.”

This, however, is not the place to expatiate on Ormskirk’s extraordinary career; his rise from penury and obscurity, tempered indeed by gentle birth, to the priviest secrets of his Majesty’s council,–climbing the peerage step by step, as though that institution had been a garden-ladder,–may be read of in the history books.

“I collect titles as an entomologist does butterflies,” he is recorded to have said: “and I find the gaudier ones the cheapest. My barony I got for a very heinous piece of perjury, my earldom for not running away until the latter end of a certain battle, my marquisate for hoodwinking a half-senile Frenchman, and my dukedom for fetching in a quack doctor when he was sore needed by a lady whom the King at that time delighted to honor.”

It was, you observe, a day of candors.


The Duke of Ormskirk, then (one gleans from Löwe’s pages), dismissed from mind the Audaine conspiracy. It was a pity to miss the salutary effect of a few political executions just then, but after all there was nothing to be done about it. So the Duke turned to the one consolation offered by the affair, and set out for Halvergate House, the home of Marian Heleigh’s father. There one finds him, six days later, deep in a consultation with his secretary, which in consideration of the unseasonable warmth was held upon the east terrace.