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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Cock-Lane Ghost and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
By Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford (1717–1797)
 
From Letter to Sir Horace Mann

I AM ashamed to tell you that we are again dipped into an egregious scene of folly. The reigning fashion is a ghost,—a ghost that would not pass muster in the paltriest convent in the Apennine. It only knocks and scratches; does not pretend to appear or to speak. The clergy give it their benediction; and all the world, whether believers or infidels, go to hear it. I, in which number you may guess, go to-morrow; for it is as much the mode to visit the ghost as the Prince of Mecklenburg, who is just arrived. I have not seen him yet, though I left my name for him. But I will tell you who is come too,—Lady Mary Wortley. I went last night to visit her; I give you my honor (and you who know her would credit it me without it), the following is a faithful description. I found her in a little miserable bedchamber of a ready-furnished house, with two tallow candles, and a bureau covered with pots and pans. On her head, in full of all accounts, she had an old black-laced hood, wrapped entirely round, so as to conceal all hair or want of hair. No handkerchief, but up to her chin a kind of horseman’s riding-coat, calling itself a pet-en-l’air, made of a dark green (green I think it had been) brocade, with colored and silver flowers, and lined with furs; boddice laced, a foul dimity petticoat sprig’d, velvet muffeteens on her arms, gray stockings and slippers. Her face less changed in twenty years than I could have imagined: I told her so, and she was not so tolerable twenty years ago that she needed have taken it for flattery; but she did, and literally gave me a box on the ear. She is very lively, all her senses perfect, her languages as imperfect as ever, her avarice greater. She entertained me at the first with nothing but the dearness of provisions at Helvoet. With nothing but an Italian, a French, and a Prussian, all men-servants,—and something she calls an old secretary, but whose age till he appears will be doubtful,—she receives all the world, who go to homage her as Queen Mother, and crams them into this kennel. The Duchess of Hamilton, who came in just after me, was so astonished and diverted that she could not speak to her for laughing. She says that she has left all her clothes at Venice.  1
 
 
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