The George Beattie Project - A Poet Lost in Time


(Written by George Beattie in September, 1823)

   The narrative of the “Statement of Facts” concludes with my answer to Miss Gibson’s two letters, when a complete reconciliation had taken place.  This statement having reference only, as there stated, to facts supported by writing.
Nothing further is stated in it, and it was not deemed necessary to state more, as I conceived that renewed  engagement to be very ample and conclusive.
   Soon after this, I saw Miss Gibson, who owned having received my letter, and all that had occurred of a disagreeable nature was completely buried in oblivion.   Miss Gibson said she made the request merely to try me, and laughed at the idea of my having taken up the matter seriously.  She also said she wanted a document from me, on the subject of our engagement;  and that my two last letters were quite sufficient, and bound me very completely.
She then voluntarily took a most solemn oath that she would punctually and faithfully fulfil her engagements with me, and never think of retracting while she drew breath.
Miss Gibson then said she wished to reside a short time at the House of Kinnaber, which she had newly come to, and that as soon as arrangements could afterwards be made, our union would take place.
I was happy once more, and had been so since receiving her last letters.  I could not have believed that Miss Gibson could be so unjust and unfeeling as to enter into so many engagements, verbal and written, and afterwards to break them.  I could not have believed, after what had passed on very many occasions betwixt her and me, that she could have been so deliberately cruel, as again and again to raise my hopes, for the purpose of blasting them, or of amusing herself by wantonly sporting with my feelings.  This conduct was the more extraordinary and unaccountable, when it is known that she had been solemnly engaged with me for more than a year previously, and which engagement had been often and often repeated in many different ways during that period.  I now, however, saw for the first time, that attention of others, at least another, had become more agreeable to her than mine;  and that she now actually shunned me,  the very reverse of what had happened previous to that time,  circumstances so obvious, that they were noticed by the public, and were the subject of general conversation.  Although she had not, at least for a year previously, moved the smallest distance from home without acquainting me, she now set off to Edinburgh, without giving me the least intimation of her intention.  She, in a subsequent letter, says, she took this jaunt for the benefit of her health.
That was certainly was not a good reason for concealing the circumstance from me; I was more interested in the state of her health than any other person, herself excepted.
Unless it were possible to place themselves in my situation, no one could have any idea of the state of my mind and feelings at this time,  they admit not of description. 
It was at this period that I wrote out the “Statement of Facts,” and forwarded it to Mr. Gibson at Edinburgh.
If anything may have been wrong in this, considering all, I ought to be held excusable.
After the way in which Miss Gibson had latterly conducted herself towards me, it could have served no end to address her on the subject.  Feeling as I did, I certainly resolved at the moment, to seek whatever redress might be within my reach, and I thought it no more than candid to inform Mr. Gibson, so as he might have no reason afterwards to say I did wrong in concealing the matter from him.  I therefore forwarded the statement to him, while at Edinburgh with Mrs and Miss Gibson.  The packet was delivered into his own hand, by a gentleman to whom I sent it for that purpose, and the following letter from me to Mr. Gibson was enclosed :-

Montrose, 4th June, 1823.

   Dear Sir,  it is with sorrow I feel myself constrained to lay the enclosed State of Facts before you.  There has already been so much writing upon the subject, that little need be said here.  The enclosed explains itself.  As matters now stand, it would have been un-candid not to have put you in possession of these facts, with as little delay as possible. As yet no person, but Miss Gibson, knows anything of the circumstances. This, however, cannot be the case long.  That it will be distressing to Miss Gibson and her relatives, there can be no doubt.  It is impossible, however, they can suffer the one hundredth part of what I have and am suffering.  When you have perused the enclosed, it will be obliging if you will take the trouble of enclosing it, and in case of the parcel being opened by any person in the office, you may direct it in a fictitious name, to my care.
In case I have done anything wrong or strange, it must be imputed to my sufferings. 
I hope you are enjoying your jaunt, and with best wishes,
 I am, Dear Sir, yours, &c.

Geo. Beattie.

   After Mr. Gibson’s arrival from Edinburgh, I met him at a party at Mr. Neill’s of Borrowfield, when he wrote in pencil, on a leaf of his pocket-book, which he handed me :  “I received your letter and Statement;  William took away the Statement after she found it correct,  she has kept it.”

          I received the following letter from Miss Gibson, after her arrival at Kinnaber :-

   Your letter and Memorial my father received some days since.  You have certainly proved what I never denied. 
I only asked you to release me f  rom that engagement, but I find my fortune has too many charms for you, and you are determined to prosecute me or have it.  I certainly will submit to anything, rather than appear in a court of law, even to “misery” and “contempt” ;  therefore I have no alternative, but recollect that at present I will not leave this house.
My parents allow me to decide so far for myself.  You reproach me for going to Edinburgh, on a pleasure jaunt, without informing you of it.  I went for advice concerning my health, and as I am ordered frequent sea excursions, I beg leave to inform you, that I may be off in a few days again, and that one information may serve for all.
I am also ordered to go to Pitcaithly in a short time.  I also understand when you were here, that you gave me up, and I am certain you said you would “vindicate me.”  Have you done so?
But at all events you have not acted towards me with much feeling.  You might at least have written me before you wrote my father;  but he does not interfere.  You will please inform me ( if I do not ask “too” great a favour ), what are your determinations, and put it in the Post-Office, that I may receive it on Thursday morning, and you will oblige.

W. Gibson.

      Kinnaber, 9th June, 1823.

   This letter is addressed “Mr. Smellie, to my care.”
I must certainly have been much overcome and confused, when I sent the following strange answer :-

Montrose, 11th June, 1823.

Dear Madam,  I am this day favoured with your letter of the 9th inst.,  I will not trouble you about my feelings.  I wrote the Memorial in despair.  I could do nothing else.  It was sent off in a moment.  I need not say whether I have repented it.  I am so overwhelmed with misery, that I attempt to fall upon expedients with a view to temporary relief, and in the next instant all appears like a dream.  You still speak of your fortune.  I can not say more upon that head than I have already said.
So far from its having too many charms for me, I would more willingly die that you might be relieved of me;  but this is an event over which I have no control, although I have suffered as much in mind, as would have broken in pieces any frame possessed of less physical health.  You accuse me of selfishness.  I need not make asseverations which you may now think matters of course, but if you knew my thoughts, I am sure I would stand acquitted on that score.
My pleasures, when I had any, were of the simple kind, and could all be gratified without a fortune.
If you are not “totally” changed, I might safely refer to yourself, if you seriously think that any one in existence cares so much for yourself, and so little for your fortune, as I do.  I hope at all events you will change your new opinion as to the sordidness of my disposition.  If you think dispassionately on this subject, and certainly I have no right to offer better advice than I can take to myself, you would find that it is the receipt of your fortune that makes you despise me, and not the fortune that has charms for me.  I know, if you choose, you can take a just view of that or any other matter.
I could mention some that would now worship you, that were very ready previously, to joke me, not in the most delicate manner, upon the report of our connection.  However, this is nothing.  So far from being selfish, if I could believe that I could ever enjoy a moments peace in this world, I would grant your request. 
No doubt, I have little, very little, as it is, but I can not agree to extinguish hope altogether.
I know what would ensue;  and I can not perhaps, prevent this, do what I will.  I am different from almost any other person, that could be placed in the same situation.  My affections have been so totally exclusive that I never could care for another under any circumstances.  I may say, I have never thought about any other than yourself for years, whether you were absent or present;  and whatever I may have written in distress, I find that it is entirely beyond my power to root out, or even in the smallest degree to abate, my affections, even though I should be despised and spurned by the object of them.
This, in the meantime, is my most pitiable case.  What can I do?  You bid be state my determination, at the same time you tell me your own, which, in a manner, leaves me a nonentity. 
I am ready to do whatever you wish.  You could not mention or think of that thing I will not do, if you only hint at it;  all but just give up my interest in yourself,  in mercy do not ask it in the present state of my mind.
Ask me to go to the uttermost ends of the earth, or not to see you, or anything else, and I will obey you in all but that.
I can not do business, I can not look on a book, or sleep;  and what is more distressing than all, I am obliged, as far as I am able, to act my former self, to save appearances;  but this can not be done.
If Colonel Straton were away, I must retire.  This can not continue long.  As I have borne so much, I can bear your classing me with misery and contempt.  I believe you are right after all.  I never had a high opinion of myself, and I can assure you it is now low enough.  If you had a year ago entertained the same opinion of me, which you have so recently adopted, I would have been comparatively  happy at the present moment.  I ask your forgiveness for whatever I have done amiss.  You will grant I have some excuse for not acting in all respects as I ought.
I do not do wrong intentionally,  I am suffering for all.  It is strange that I have been plunged all at once into such a sea of misery.  I stand much more in need of pity than reproach.  I intended to have been at Mr. Neil’s on Saturday, perhaps you are to be there, and our meeting might be disagreeable.  I wish you to drop a single line on the subject;  I can safely send word that I am indisposed.  If you want any thing stated more explicitly, I shall be happy to do it.
Your letter is certainly very acrimonious.  You, however, shall hear no more reproaches from me.
I am sorry I can not consent to break our engagement.

Wishing you every improvement in your health, I am, &c., &c.

Geo. Beattie.  

   In the answer just quoted, I had by some means neglected to take notice of that part of Miss Gibson’s letter, which states:  “I also understood when you were last here, you gave me up, and I am certain you said you would vindicate me.”  These, like the assertions in the same letter, that I must have her fortune or prosecute her,  that she would submit even to misery and contempt, &c.,  are all meant as direct insults.
Miss Gibson presumes that by this means she can not fail to force me to give her up in disgust.
Whatever may now be my feelings on the subject, still the treatment I have latterly experienced is such, that I can not help thinking of retribution.  I can speak with the utmost certainty, that Miss Gibson could not, on the occasion mentioned, or any other, have understood that I gave her up.
She must have understood, and did understand, the very reverse,  she did not wish to be given up at that time. 
I particularly recollect what took place on the occasion alluded to, and Miss Gibson can not deny the truth of it.
After some conversation had taken place between Miss Gibson and me, she asked me how I was looking so ill.
I made no immediate answer, and I confess I was a good deal affected, as she looked very poorly herself.
Miss Gibson then burst into tears, and said she could never forgive herself for having latterly acted towards me as she had done.  I did everything in my power to soothe her,  I mentioned that all this happily was now over, and added, “I will vindicate you, Miss Gibson, but I can not vindicate myself, my conscience does not vindicate me,  I must ever blame myself for making you suffer so much and so unjustly,”  or words to this very effect.
We were both much affected, and fearing that Mrs. Gibson, or some other person, might enter the room, and find us in this situation, we took leave, and Miss Gibson asked me to come back as soon as possible, and said we would both be in high spirits at next meeting.  This is the last time I called.
In two or three days after this, Miss Gibson set off to Edinburgh, accompanied by both her parents.
She did not mention the circumstance to me, although she must have known it was to take place, at that time.
I had forgiven what was past, and on that head only was I to vindicate Miss Gibson;  but I never meant to vindicate any after conduct, unbecoming one in her situation.
Whether her tears proceeded from sorrow for what had happened, or remorse for what was to happen, may now be problematical, after what has taken place, but I could only think of the former, and it may be supposed I would not vindicate the commission of further wrongs against myself;  nor could I have any idea that such would be committed after all that had taken place.

   Miss Gibson returned the following answer to my last letter :-

   Kinnaber, 14th June, 1823.

   I have this moment received yours of the 11th inst.,  and it is now unnecessary to inform you that I was not invited to Borrowfield to-day.  The person who took the letter from the Post-Office had not an opportunity of delivering it to me till this morning.  I know there are people in Montrose who think more of me than they once did, I am well aware;  but were I “free” as air, the person you allude to, could never be more to me than a common acquaintance.
If my letter was acrimonious, recollect that you addressed a Memorial to my father, which you must be aware, was very irritating;  but I beg you will make no more complaints to him of me;  his health is too feeble to permit of his being agitated, without seriously injuring him.  Therefore what you have in future to say, address to myself.
I think I before informed you, that I am ordered frequent change of air, and sea excursions.  I am, on that account, going in a few weeks to Edinburgh, and from thence join my father at Pitcaithly.  I trust when I do go, you will not think of sending such threatening letters after me.  You offer to grant me any request “save” one.
Will you return me all the letters I have ever written you?  If you do so, put them in the Post-Office, that I may get them on Monday morning, and you will oblige,

W. Gibson.

   I never meant to class you with misery and contempt,  far from it,  it was your packet (which my father gave me to read before it was destroyed) that made me “miserable,”  and in it you mentioned me with contempt,  at least I thought so;  but I again beg you will not tease my parents with such things, for they will not interfere on your side.

   To this letter the following answer was sent  :-

Montrose, 21st June, 1823.

   Dear Madam,  I only received yours of the 14th “yesterday” forenoon.  I cannot account for the extraordinary delay. 
Not at first adverting to the date of your letter, as I could not suppose it to be so far back, I though you only wanted an answer on Monday first.  I now find, however, that it was to be called for on Monday last,  it will be nearly a week behind.
The letter was a good deal soiled.  Being put in the Post-Office on Saturday, it would not, at any rate, have been delivered till Monday, as I seldom call for letters on Sunday, and they do not deliver them that day;  but I cannot account for the subsequent delay.  The request you now make is so closely connected with what I made the exception, that I consider they are one in the same;  and will you tell me honestly what you meant should follow the delivery of your letters.
Had I really been disposed to grant your request, it is a task I could not perform;  the enclosing these letters would to me be like shutting the very tomb upon yourself.  I shall now, however, if possible, write sober sense, without moralising or troubling you with my own feelings, which to you, I doubt not, now appear troublesome and impertinent.  I am sure you did not expect that I would send these letters through the Post-Office, besides, you know I had previously declared that I would not part with these, and you promised never again to make the request.  I am still ready to do, however, what I previously promised,  you may rest assured that I will not trouble or interfere with your parents as you seem to apprehend.  This I never intended.
If I did what was wrong in this respect, I have already stated the cause, and expressed my deep regrets.
You know that no one would feel more reluctant than I would, to irritate your father, or hurt his feelings in any respect.
You may also be assured it is not my wish to be troublesome to you;  but you will allow that a person may be treated in such a manner as to induce him to sacrifice everything to obtain whatever redress might be within his reach.
   As you seem disconcerted about the Memorial, I am sorry it was sent;  but after it fell into your own hands, I think you should not have destroyed it.  You do not mention this in your first letter.  I wished to be checked if anything was wrong stated. 
It was my wish to draw up a correct Statement, while the circumstances were recent, to prevent any after misunderstanding.
I beg leave, however, to mention, that I have still an exact copy of this paper.  I do not mention it as a threat, or that it should operate with you as such;  nor do I wish to hurt your feelings,  far from it;  but as you have different times called on me to state my “intentions,”  with regard to yourself and my determinations, &c.,  I would be acting uncandidly if I did not state as distinctly as I possibly can, that as I intend neither to break my word or write, I will not permit the engagement on your part to be evaded,
without seeking every redress, by every means whatever in my power.  This determination I know I will never alter, and it can be of no use at any time to say more on that subject.  I have honestly told you my intentions,  you certainly are not so plain.
I shall not, however, attempt to draw from you any explanation, which you do not wish to communicate yourself.
   I made, perhaps improperly, allusion in my letter to “some”  that would now pay more attention to you than formerly,  you apply this to an individual.  It would have been highly improper in me to have made so pointed an allusion, and I shall not allow
myself even to guess at your application.  It is a subject that I should not have interfered with, and I beg you will excuse me upon grounds already stated.  I most sincerely wish that your health may be benefited by your sea excursions, and change of air, and I am satisfied you have been well advised in this.  I would fain say something more, but I shall refrain.
I am most unwilling to trouble you with complaints, and would wish to suffer in silence.  Notwithstanding every exertion, I get worse and worse.  No effort of reason, or attempt to laugh away my miseries have the least effect.  My health is now suffering much.  I shall seek no remedy.  Will I never be allowed to look upon you again? 
In case anything may happen, I shall seal up and lock past your letters, and leave written instructions as to the delivery to yourself,  so that, in the mean time, you need not be anxious on that ground. 
If I could reveal my misery to any person it might give me some relief.
I was but lately one if the happiest beings in existence, and I am sure I am now the most miserable.

                                                                                                                                                        I am, &c., &c.

Geo. Beattie.

   This ‘Supplement’, and the ‘Statement of Facts’, contain chiefly an account of what can be supported by documents. 
Any thing beyond this is of little consequence.  It would be of no use to enter into a long history of all that has passed betwixt Miss Gibson and myself;  the letters speak so far, and the rest may be imagined.
As we never wanted opportunities of meeting, it is a chance that there was any writing at all.
It may only be necessary further to state, that whatever may now be pretended, I am perfectly satisfied her parents were aware of the intimacy betwixt us, and they did not discourage, on the contrary, they urged my attendance at Stone of Morphie.  Nothing prevented our union previously, but apprehensions as to the extent of our means for living in a married state.  I told Miss Gibson I was saving all I could, and she very often spoke of her prospects from her uncle, which, she said, would make all right.
   When the first accounts of the uncle’s death arrived, I was entrusted with all the secrets.
Miss Gibson was entitled to £3,500 consols, certain.  I presume she thought this sum would not put her beyond my reach.  I was appointed to write for a copy of the Will, and nothing at this time was concealed from me by Miss Gibson or her parents.  As already said, upon Sunday, the 4th May, we had renewed all our engagements.  On the next day, 5th May, the intelligence arrived of what Miss Gibson would be entitled to, as Residuary Legatee, beyond the specific bequest of £3,500 consols.  It was resolved on, therefore, to discard me, to set all our engagements aside, and to give me no further information on the subject;  upon the following day, the 6th May, Miss Gibson wrote me, wishing to be off from all engagements, without telling me of her good fortune, farther than stating that the people in Montrose called it ten times more than it was.  Her father had the civility to write me the following letter on the occasion  :-

Stone of Morphie, 5th May, 1823.

   Dear Sir,  We have this day heard from Messrs. Barclay & Davidson, with a copy of the Testament, and about the amount of the late Mr. Mitchell’s subject at London.  It is not worse than we expected, but he can not say anything about the West India property, until he hears from the executors there, and, how soon he hears from them, is to advise William.
                                                                                                                                                  I am, Dear Sir, yours truly,

R. Gibson.

George Beattie, Esq., Writer, Montrose.


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