John Wesley as The Pious Preacher – but who is Miss D___ple?

Today we offer a little exclusive snippet of extra information to our biography, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott. It concerns something we looked at in the course of our research, but which proved too vague to be included. And so we present it here instead, for our readers to make up their minds on. Does it relate to Grace’s family, or not?

At the very end of 1774, The Town and Country Magazine included another of their infamous Histories of the Téte-à-Téte annexed, this one titled ‘Memoirs of the Pious Preacher and Miss D___mple’.  The Pious Preacher is easily discernible as John Wesley, the Methodist preacher, who had been attacked in the same magazine before.  But Miss D___ple?  The most likely surname for this lady is Dalrymple and this would be a name well known to the readers of the magazine with Grace herself having appeared in her own ‘Téte-à-Téte’ following her indiscretion with Lord Valentia.  The description of Miss D___ple does seem to fit with a daughter of Hugh Dalrymple, Grace’s father.

This young lady is the daughter of an eminent attorney, who made a capital fortune by usury and the rapine of the law.  He gave her a polite education and imagined, with the portion he could bestow on her, that she was entitled to a husband in a man of fashion and family.  Upon the death of his wife he sent for Miss D___ from the boarding-school to superintend his domestic affairs.  She was not about eighteen and though not a regular beauty was a very genteel, agreeable girl.

We know Hugh practised as an attorney, we know Grace at least had attended a convent school and returned home after the death of her mother.  If this is a daughter of Hugh’s, perhaps the mysterious third daughter sometimes alluded to, she would be born c.1750 if she was just under eighteen at her mother’s death in 1767, placing her as a middle sister between Grace and her elder sister Jacintha.

(c) Dr Johnson's House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
John Wesley preaching in Old Cripplegate Church. (c) Dr Johnson’s House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The magazine tells us that this girl fell in love with her father’s clerk and he with her, but her father, when approached to ask if they may marry, ‘would not listen to it, having far more elevated views for his daughter’.  The clerk, having finished his service, went abroad and settled in America.  The bereft Miss D___ple, whilst her father was seeking a match for her, met an army officer.  He, ‘finding he had no chance of succeeding in an honourable way, he used all the artillery of stratagem to succeed upon other terms.  He was too fortunate and the event was very natural.  Upon her being visibly pregnant, her father banished her, his house and the only asylum she could find was at a kinswoman’s, who prefessed midwifry’.

Grace’s sister Jacintha married an army officer, but he at least was in line for inheritance to a fine estate.  If this is indeed a daughter of Hugh Dalrymple, this affair took place before he left for Grenada in the spring of 1772 and presumably before Grace’s marriage in October 1771.  Was this the reason he was so happy to marry his youngest daughter off to Dr. Eliot, not wanting to see her follow in the footsteps of a sister?

The kinswoman attended discourses held by the Pious Preacher and, after helping her to abort the baby, began to remonstrate with Miss D___ple on ‘the heinous sins she had been guilty of… she persuaded Miss D___ to follow her footsteps and be regenerated’.  The Pious Preacher, the magazine states, ‘made a great impression upon our heroine.  He now frequently visited mother Midnight [the kinswoman] and seemed to take particular pains and pleasure to make Miss D___ a convert.  He at length successed to the utmost extent of his wishes and gave her the appellation of his fair Proselyte’.

The article ends with the suggestion that Miss D___ple has borne twins to the Pious Preacher.  No evidence can be found to back up any of the assertions in the article, but it would suggest a reason why, if there were a third Dalrymple sister, she may have been airbrushed from their family history.

Grace, as Mrs E__t in her own Téte-à-Téte alongside Miss D___mple. It's a shame that Grace is in profile or else we might be able to guess at a resemblance between the two women. Images via Lewis Walpole Library.
Grace, as Mrs E__t in her own Téte-à-Téte alongside Miss D___ple. It’s a shame that Grace is in profile or else we might be able to guess at a resemblance between the two women. Images via Lewis Walpole Library.

NB: In an earlier blog post for Laurie Benson, we recounted a night at a Ridotto in 1777, and speculated that a ‘Mother M’ who was mentioned was ‘Mother Mordaunt’, aka Grace’s aunt, Robinaiana Mordaunt, Countess of Peterborough. Here we have another ‘Mother M’ mentioned, seemingly in connection with a close relative of Grace’s, ‘Mother Midnight’, an eighteenth-century term for a midwife or, sometimes, for a bawd.


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