The Rival Dutchess; or, Court Incendiary

In a Dialogue between Madam Maintenon, and Madam M.

Madam Maintenon. I desire you will oblige me in the Request I made to you before of telling me such Passages in your Life as you may reasonably suppose I am a Stranger to.

Madam M. Madam, you have guess'd right, for a considerable part of my Life has been imployed in Love, tho' I deceiv'd the World in their Opinion of me, as to that Particular, as much as ever my forementioned Friend. Especially at Court I was taken for a more modish Lady, that was rather addicted to another Sort of Passion, of having too great a Regard for my own Sex, insomuch that few People thought I would ever have Married; but to free my self from that Aspersion some of our Sex labour under, for being too fond of one another, I was resolved to Marry as soon as I could fix to my Advantage or Inclination.

Madam Maintenon. And does that Female Vice, which is the most detestable in Nature, Reign among you, as it does with us in France, where our young Ladies are that Way debauch'd in their Nunnery Education, so that few People of Quality care now to have their Daughters brought up in those Places?

Madam M. O, Madam, we are arriv'd to as great Perfection in sinning that way as you can pretend to, as you may guess by the following Story. A Lady of Fashion calling for a Comrade of hers, a Pretty Young Creature, to carry her to the Play, a Gentleman of her Acquaintance then visiting her, gave her his Hand to the Coach, where having put the Lady, the Glass was immediately drawn up, and the Innocent Young Lady cried aloud for Help the Gentleman running after, thing some Accident might have happen'd, the Lady desire to go out of the Coach, and be carried home again. The Gentleman was surprised to see the La[d]y in such a Fright, and not guess any Reason for it, conducted her home; but afterwards was inform'd by another Female Friend of hers, that the Lady, who called for her in the Coach, as she apprehended, attempted to Ravish her; what she meant by it the Innocent Young One was a Stranger to; but these Things are no Novelties with us now.

Maintenon. Il est possible?

NOTES: 'Madame M.' is Abigail Masham, Queen Anne's favourite. She displaced Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (who was a distant cousin) in the Queen's favours, and this satire was probably written by Arthur Maynwaring, the Duchess of Marlborough's private secretary. He wrote several other satires on Abigail Masham, including King Abigail: or, The Secret Reign of the She-Favourite (1715), and A New Ballad. To the Tune of Fair Rosamond (1708), in which he hinted at lesbian relations between Abigail and Queen Anne. Sarah Churchil in a letter to the Queen dated 16 July 1708 accused her of destroying her reputation by showing such a great passion for Abigail and by 'having noe inclination for any but one's own sex'. The satire is interesting in showing how early the concept of 'cover marriages' existed.

SOURCE: The Rival Dutchess; or, Court Incendiary, London, 1708, pp. 6-7.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Rival Dutchess, 1708", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 25 February 2003 <>.

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