Beloe, Sexagenarian

Beloe, William. The Sexagenarian; Or, the Recollections of a Literary Life. 2 vols. 2nd ed. London: F. C. and J. Rivington, 1818. 359-61.


In ch. LIII of vol. 1, Beloe writes about a group of women writers that included Helen Maria Williams, Wollstonecraft, Plumptree, and Hays. He refers to them as ‘this class of females’ and he wishes to ‘bring them together and get rid of them at once. Recollection does not regard them with complacency. Indeed, they were so amiable on first acquaintance, (and if the expression may be allowed, they so degenerated afterwards) that memory is oppressed with looking back upon them.’ (359-60). Mary Hays was ‘lively’ in the beginning, and ingenuous, innocent, and interesting. It is not pretended to say who or what perverted her principles, but she was a friend of the Wolstoncraft school, a follower of Helvetius, and a great admirer of Rousseau.

       As ill luck would have it, she must needs write a novel, and as her evil genius prompted, was induced to publish it. What thinkest thou gentle reader, was the outline of the story? Why this: --

       The heroine, Emma Courtney, falls in love, desperately in love, with a youth whom she had never seen at length, she encounters him – worse and worse! – Passion now boils over, and she exercises every female artifice to captivate his affection in return. But it will not do; all her efforts prove ineffectual. What’s next to be done? Why take him by storm; or, which is much the same [361] thing, she voluntarily offers herself to live with him as his mistress.


                         Make me mistress to the man I love.


       But this will not do; he heart proves made of impenetrable stuff: at length, the heroine, compelled by dire necessity, marries, contrary to her inclination, a man she dislikes exceedingly. But still she retains her first passion; and what is more, disregarding the obligations of duty imposed by her new character, she attends on his dying bed, the man for whom she first suffered love. The consequence is almost ludicrously disastrous: -- the husband attaches himself to a female domestic, and to conclude and complete the catastrophe, he finally shoots himself through the head.

       But after all, things might have been yet worse, with respect to this same M. H. She might, like her friends, Mesdames W. and H. M. W. have emigrated to France, and disgraced herself and her country.

     She had the prudence to stay at home. She might have written other still more mischievous, and still more foolish things. It pleased Providence to remove her, and, as we earnestly hope, to forgive her.