I have a tongue, madam. Though yours explains well enough why I may not marry your son. You view my circumstances as unfortunate, though I cannot claim even a portion of the misfortune to those whom I most closely resemble. My greatest misfortune would be to marry into a family who would carry me as their shame, as I have been required to carry my own mother - her apparent crime to be born negro, and mine to be the evidence. Since I wish to deny her no more than I wish to deny myself, you will pardon me for wanting a husband who feels forgiveness of my bloodline is both unnecessary and without grace.
— Dido Elizabeth Belle
Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, believed to be by Johann Zoffany.
Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay (1761-1804) was the mixed-race daughter of a British aristocrat. While she was, under colonial law, born into slavery, she was given a unique position. She was educated and given lavish bedroom furnishings. Her work included multiple responsibilities, the most important being that of her uncle’s correspondence, and companion to her cousin. After her fathers death, she became an heiress as she was included into his will. While many of these facts are considered common decency today, Lindsay’s life was rather shocking to many during her time.
LADY ASHFORD: Then let me be clear that I have
understood. Your charge - your
LADY MANSFIELD: (fiercely protective)
That is enough!
DIDO sits staring at the floor. OLIVER cuts in, aggrieved. OLIVER: (to Lady Mansfield)
Is it not true enough, your
ladyship? LADY ASHFORD: whose unfortunate circumstances
of birth, we chose to forgive -
has decided she no longer wishes
the match with my son - a
gentleman and an officer.
OLIVER stares across at DIDO. He speaks quietly. OLIVER: Why, Miss Lindsay?
DIDO is silent.
LADY ASHFORD: (poignant and pained)
Do you feel I have any lesser need to
ensure my child’s wellbeing and
future than you?…(beat)…Does she
still have a tongue?
― Excerpt taken from script
My greatest misfortune would be to marry into a family who would carry me as their shame. As I have been required to carry my own mother, her apparent crime to be born Negro and mine to be the evidence. Since I wish to deny her no more than I wish to deny myself you will pardon me for wanting a husband who feels forgiveness of my bloodline is both unnecessary and without grace.
Dido & Mabel + Dido’s self consciousness and bonding (extract taken from script)
DIDO, in night-clothes, drags a brush through tight
ringlets. She stops, observes, a moment as ELIZABETH runs a
comb through her own silken hair.
You are so beautiful, Bette.
A tentative knock and MABEL enters - DIDO becomes tense.
MABEL speaks gently - strong Welsh accent. […] MABEL pauses as DIDO struggles with her hair.
Can I help you with that, Miss
Lindsay? DIDO struggles once again, wrenching the brush.
You must start from the ends, miss.
DIDO stares at her - a long beat
Candle lit faces… DIDO’s reflection in the mirror - her
hair separated into four sections.
In the reflection BG, ELIZABETH sits serenely watching
MABEL brushing through each section from ends to roots.
My Mam taught me, see?
DIDO stares at her a moment, some kind of pain resonates in
her eyes as her face softens and she begins to relax.