Manley, De La Riviere

, an English lady, authoress of a noted piece of scandal called “The Atalantis,” was born in Guernsey, or one of those small islands, of which her father, sir Roger Mauley, was governor. He wa* the second son of an ancient family, and had been a great sufferer for his loyalty in the reign of Charles I. without receiving either preferment or recompense in that of Charles II. He was a man of considerable literary talents, wnich appeared in several publications, particularly his Latin commentaries on the rebellion, under the title of “Commentaria de Rebelhone Anglicana, ab anno 1640 ad annum 1685,” Lond. 1686, 8vo, and of which an English translation was published in 1691; and his “History of the late wars of Denmark,1670. He is also said to have been the author of the first volume of the “Turkish Spy,” which was found among his papers, and continued to its present number of volumes by Dr. Midgley, a physician, who had the care of his papers; but this has been justly doubted (See Marana). His daughter, the subject of this article, received an education suitable to her birth, and gave indications of genius above her years, and, as her biographer says, “much superior to what is usually to be found amongst her sex.” The loss of her parents before she was settled in life, seems to have been peculiarly unfortunate, for her father confided the care of her to his nephew, a married man, who first pretended that his wife was dead, then by a series of seductive manoeuvres cheated her into a marriage. When he could no longer conceal his infamy, he deserted her, and the world tamed its back upon her. While in this situation, she accidentally acquired the | patronage of the duchess of Cleveland, one of Charles II.‘s mistresses, having been introduced to her by an acquaintance to whom she was paying a visit; but the duchess, a woman of a very fickle temper, grew tired of Mrs. Manley in six months, and discharged her upon a pretence that she intrigued with her son. When this lady was thus dismissed, she was solicited by general Tidcomb to pass some time with him at his country-seat; but she excused herself by saying, “that her love of solitude was improved by her disgust of the world; and since it was impossible for her to be in public with reputation, she was resolved to remain concealed.” In this solitude she wrote her first tragedy, called “The Royal Mischief,” which was acted at the theatre in Lincoln’s-inn-fields, in 1696. This play succeeded, and she received such unbounded incense from admirers, that her apartment was crowded with men of wit and gaiety, which proved in the end very fatal to her virtue, and she afterwards engaged in various intrigues. In her retired hours she wrote her four volumes of the “Memoirs of the New Atalantis,” in which she was very free with her own sex, in her wanton description of loveadventures, and with the characters of many high and distinguished personages. Her father had always been attached to the cause of Charles I. and she herself having a confirmed aversion to the Whig ministry, took this method of satirising those who had brought about the revolution. Upon this a warrant was granted from the secretary of state’s office, to seize the printer and publisher of those volumes. Mrs. Mauley had too much generosity to let innocent persons suffer on her account; and therefore voluntarily presented herself before the court of King’s -bench, as the author of the “Atalantis.’ 1 When she was examined before lord Sunderland, then the secretary, he was curious to know from whom she got information of some particulars which they imagined to be above her own intelligence. She pleaded that her only design in writing was her own amusement and diversion in the country, without intending particular reflections and characters; and assured them that nobody was concerned with her. When this was not believed, and the contrary urged against her by several circumstances, she said,” then it must be by inspiration, because, knowing her own innocence, she could account for it no other way.“The secretary replied, that” inspiration used to be upon a good account; but that her writings | were stark naught.“She acknowledged, that” his lordship’s observation might be true; but, as there were evil angels as well as good, that what she had wrote might still be by inspiration.“The consequence of this examination was, that Mrs. Manley was close shut up in a messenger’s house, without being allowed pen, ink, and paper. Her counsel, however, sued out her habeas corpus at the King’s-bench bar, and she was admitted to bail. Whether those in power were ashamed to bring a woman to a trial for this book, or whether the laws could not reach her, because she had disguised her satire under romantic names, and a feigned scene of action, she was discharged, after several times exposing herself in person, to oppose the court before the bench of judges, with her three attendants, the printer, and two publishers. Not long after, a total change of the ministry ensued, when she lived in high reputation and gaiety, and aroused herself in writing poems and letters, and conversing with wits. To her dramatic pieces she now added” Lucius,“the first Christian king of Britain, a tragedy, acted in Drury-lane, in 1717. She dedicated it to sir Richard Steele, whom she had abused in her” New Atalantis,“but was now upon such friendly terms with him, that he wrote the prologue to this play, as Mr. Prior did the epilogue. This was followed by her comedy called the” Lost Lover, or the Jealous Husband,“acted in 1696. She was also employed in writing for queen Anne’s ministry, certainly with the consent and privity, if not under the direction, of Dr Swift, and was the author of” The Vindication of the Duke of Maryborough,“and other pamphlets, some of which would not disgrace the best pen then engaged in the” defence of government. After dean Swift relinquished “The Examiner,” she continued it with great spirit for a considerable time, and frequently finished pieces begun by that excellent writer, who also often used to furnish her with hints for those of her own composition. At this season she formed a connection with Mr. John Barber, alderman of London, with whom she lived in a state of concubinage, as is supposed, and at whose house she died July 11, 1724.

The superior accomplishments of her sex in our days must now place her very low in the scale of female authors; and she seems to have owed her fame in a great measure to her turn for intrigue and for recording intrigues. This will probably ba the opinion of those who will take the | trouble to peruse any of the works already mentioned, of the following: 1. “Letters, one from a supposed nun in Portugal,” Lond. 1696, 8vo. 2. “Memoirs of Europe towards the close of the eighth century,1710, 2 vols. 8vo. 3. “Court Intrigues,1711, 8vo. 4. “Adventures of Rivelle,1714, 8vo. 5. “The Power of Love, in seven novels,1720, 8vo. 6. “A Stage-coach Journey to Exeter,1725, 8vo. 7. “Bath Intrigues,1725, 8vo. 7. "Secret History of Queen Zarah/' 1745, 8vo. The two last, from the dates, must be posthumous, or second editions. 1

1

Gibber’s Lives of the Poets. Notes to Taller and Guardian, edit. 1806. Nichols’s Poems, vol. VII.