Inquiry does not seem to have been fruitful of any certainty even when prosecuted by minds more loving of minute labour than Johnson's. It seems pretty certain that Pope's own feelings were intimately concerned, but even this opinion has opponents.
'After many and wide inquiries I have been informed that her name was Wainsbury, and that (which is a singular circumstance) she was as ill-shaped and deformed as our author. Her death was not by a sword, but, what would less bear to be told poetically, she hanged herself.' Warton's edition of Pope, 1797, vol. i. p. 336.
Ruffhead, alluded to in the text, simply followed Ayre, and Ayre, being a mere bookmaker who inserted the tale in a work full of blunders, renders his authority worthless. And the above extract from Warton contradicts every part of the account of the unfortunate lady as given in the poem itself.
So many contradictory accounts point almost irresistibly to the conclusion that she was, so far as the story of her life and death are concerned, entirely a fictitious person, though probably the heroine of the poem had some living original, whose real fate and adventures have no analogy to that of the Unfortunate Lady of the poem.
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