Pilkington, Letitia

, an English wit and poetess, of no very eminent rank, was the daughter of Dr. Van Lewen, a gentleman of Dutch extraction, who settled in Dublin, by a lady of good family; and born there in 1712. She had early a strong inclination and taste for letters, especially for poetry; and her performances were considered as extraordinary for her years. This, with a lively manner, drew many admirers; and at length she became the wife of the rev. Matthew Pilkington, a gentleman once known in the poetical world by his volume of Miscellanies, revised by dean Swift, who had reason afterwards to be ashamed of the connection. In a short time Mr. Pilkington grew jealous, as she relates, not of her person, but of her understanding; and her poetry, which when a lover he admired with raptures, was changed now he was become her husband, into an object of envy. During these jealousies, Mr. Pilkington, in 1732, went into England, in order to serve as chaplain to Mr. Barber, lord mayor of London; and absence having brought him into better humour with his wife, he wrote her a very kind letter, in which he informed her that her verses were full of elegance and beauty; that Pope, to whom he had shewn them, longed to see the writer; and that he himself wished her heartily in London. She accepted the invitation, went, and returned with her husband to Ireland, where they were soon after separated, in consequence of a gentleman being | found in her bed-chamber at two o’clock in the morning. Her apology is rather curious: “Lovers of learning, I am sure, will pardon me, as I solemnly declare it was the attractive charms of a new book, which the gentleman would not lend me, but consented to stay till I read it through, that was the sole motive of my detaining him.” Of her guilt, however, no doubts were entertained. “Dr. Delany,” says dean Swift, in a letter to alderman Barber, “is a very unlucky recommender, for he forced me to countenance Pilkington; introduced him to me, and praised the wit, virtue, and humour of him and his wife; whereas he proved the falsest rogue, and she the most profligate w e in either kingdom. She was taken in the fact by her own husband; he is now suing for a divorce, and will not compass it; she is suing for a maintenance, and he has none to give her.

She came afterwards to England, and settled in London; where, Col ley Gibber making interest for her, she lived some time upon contributions from the great; but at length these succours failed, and we find her in the prison of the Marshalsea. After lying nine weeks here, she was released by another effort of her friend Gibber, and then, weary of attending upon the great, she resolved to employ five guineas she had left, in trade; and accordingly, taking a little shop in St. James’s-street, she furnished it with pamphlets and prints. She did not probably succeed in this scheme, for on Aug. 29, 1750, she died at Dublin, in her thirty-ninth year.

Considered as a writer, she holds some rank in dramatic history, as the author of “The Turkish Court, or London Apprentice,” a comedy acted at Dublin in 1748, but never printed. The first act of her tragedy, “The Roman Father,” was no bad specimen of her talents in that way. Her “Memoirs” are written with great sprightliness and wit, and describe the different humours of mankind very naturally, but they must, as to facts, be read with the caution necessary in the Apologies of the Bellamys and Baddelys of our own days. She had a son, John Carteret Pilkington, who also became an adventurer, and somewhat of a poet. He published a volume of his “Memoirs,1760, 4to, and died in 1763. 1

1 Memoirs, 1749, 2 vols. 12mo. Swift’s Works. See Index.--—Cibber's Lives. Biog. Dram.