Amongst the miscellaneous manuscripts of Robert Bolling (c1730-1775) is this practically picaresque “anecdote” regarding two friends who were Bolling’s contemporaries: Bartholomew Dandridge (the brother of Martha Washington) and Richard Johnson. It was never published and is, in fact, crossed out rather heavily by a later hand, but not so desperately as to render it unreadable. Written in the 1760s, it probably says more about the author’s perspective on gender, culture, and morality among male elites in the late colonial period than it does the subjects’ points of view given that Bolling–a prolific writer of exceptionally bad poetry (with all apologies to the late, great Leo Lemay) that was heavily tinged with misogyny and an almost Gothic sensibility–was one of the more curious figures of his time and place (which, for colonial Virginia, is saying quite something), and not known as a “particular Friend” to any of the parties involved.
Barthol: Dandridge Esqr having lost his wife first Wife married second of the name of Burbridge: After a few years of Marriage he began to suspect an attachment between his Lady and his own particular Friend Dick Johnson one of the gambling horsejockey gentlemen so common in this Country; devoid of Honor Faith & all Generosity of Sentiment. Tis easy to believe their Intimacy cou’d not subsist with such Suspicion in the Breast of Mr Dandridge: The latter left Newcastle where they both resided & went to [blank] in [blank] [where it was] confirmed tis said, by a Letter intercepted in what before was surmised: He forged a Letter from his Wife to Johnson inviting him to a Stable at some Distance from the Mansion House about Twilight on a certain Day. Johnson went with all the Ardor of a keen Lecher, tying his Horse huriedly to the Stable to taste those Embraces which he knew by Experience to be so ravishing. Poor Fellow he found himself closely embraced but not by Mrs Dandridge. An Overseer & his Negroes secured and carried him to the injured Husband. Mr Johnson being stripped & tied received the mosaical Law. His Fortitude was not Proof against [damaged] thinking besides, that Mrs Dandridge realy writ the Letter of Invitation to betray him: he made a general Confession corroborating the scene by a Token of a very delicate Nature. Near Mrs. Dandridge’s offending Member was a Scar. Johnson mentioned & described it. He declared she had told him by what accident twas occasioned. Dandridge a clever worthy young Gentleman was more to be pitied than Johnson: Convinced beyond a Doubt of his Wrongs his Heart became a Prey to Melancholy & his Family most miserable. Husbands shou’d beware principally of their best Friends, & take Care that those Friends be Men of Honor, two Precautions which are very friendly to that tender fragil Existence or Fancy called Chastity.
[Source: Misc. Mss, Brock Collection, Huntington Library]