Tuesday, April 06, 2010

200 guineas a year

So I was reading along in Michael O'Brien's Mrs. Adams in Winter last night when I encountered "the dotty Mrs. Elizabeth Orby Hunter," who Louisa Catherine Adams knew in Berlin.

"Tall, badly dressed, smeared with rouge, she tormented gatherings by her propensity for flaming rows, violent language, hysteria, and weeping," O'Brien writes. "She was, nonetheless, puzzled that all but Mrs. Adams received her visits with 'chilling frigidity.'"

Louisa Adams called Elizabeth Orby Hunter "one of the oddest, and most eccentric women to be sane." When Hunter left Berlin she did so in a brand new carriage, bought specifically for carrying her parrot, a bird "destined to become her heir."

An end note brought me to the delightful The Book of Days and Elizabeth Orby Hunter's will:


'I, Elizabeth Orby Hunter, of Upper Seymour Street, widow, do give and bequeath to my beloved parrot, the faithful companion of 25 years, an annuity for its life of 200 guineas a year, to be paid half-yearly, as long as this beloved parrot lives, to whoever may have the care of it, and proves its identity; but the above annuity to cease on the death of my parrot; and if the person who shall or may have care of it, should substitute any other parrot in its place, either during its life or after its death, it is my positive will and desire, that the person or persons so doing shall refund to my heirs or executors the sum or sums they may have received from the time they did so; and I empower my heirs and executors to recover it from whoever could be base enough to do so. And I do give and bequeath to Mrs. Mary Dyer, widow, now dwelling in Park Street, Westminster, my foresaid parrot, with its annuity of 200 guineas a year, to be paid her half yearly, as long as it lives; and if Mrs. Mary Dyer should die before my beloved parrot, I will and desire that the aforesaid annuity of 200 guineas a year may be paid to whoever may have the care of my parrot as long as it lives, to be always the first paid annuity; and I give to Mrs. Mary Dyer the power to will and bequeath my parrot and its annuity to whomsoever she pleases, provided that person is neither a servant nor a man it must be bequeathed to some respectable female. And I also will and desire that no person shall have the care of it that can derive any benefit from its death; and if Mrs. Dyer should neglect to will my parrot and its annuity to any one, in that case, whoever proves that they may have possession of it, shall be entitled to the annuity on its life, as long as it lives, and that they have possession of it, provided that the person is not a servant or a man, but a respectable female; and I hope my executors will see it is in proper and respectable hands; and I also give the power to whoever possesses it, and its annuity, to any respect-able female on the same conditions. And I also will and desire, that 20 guineas may be paid to Mrs. Dyer directly on my death, to be expended on a very high, long, and large cage for the foresaid parrot. It is also my will and desire, that my parrot shall not be removed out of England. I will and desire that whoever attempts to dispute this my last will and testament, or by any means neglect, or tries to avoid paying my parrot's annuity, shall forfeit whatever I may have left them; and if any one that I have left legacies to attempt bringing in any bills or charges against me, I will and desire that they forfeit whatever I may have left them, for so doing, as I owe nothing to any one. Many owe to me both gratitude and money, but none have paid me either.'

3 comments:

Buried In Print said...

Oh, that's fantastic! I recently found a parrot in fiction, in Pat Barker's Liza's England (also titled Liza's Century); as soon as the parrot came on the scene, I was immediately intrigued!

Emily said...

That is freaking hilarious.

ds said...

Too too too funny! Thanks for the guffaws!