I give your Lordship this account, in answer to your desire to know, if I think him the man he was.
In our conversation at dinner, he was balancing whether he should set out the next morning, or the morning after. But finding he had nothing to do, and Col. Morden being in town, (which, however, I told him not of,) I turned the scale; and he agreed upon setting out to-morrow morning; they to see him embark; and I promised to accompany them for a morning's ride (as they proposed their horses); but said, that I must return in the afternoon.
With much reluctance they let me go to my evening's appointment: they little thought with whom: for Mr. Lovelace had put it as a case of honour to all of us, whether, as he had been told that Mr. Morden and Mr. James Harlowe had thrown out menaces against him, he ought to leave the kingdom till he had thrown himself in their way.
Mowbray gave his opinion, that he ought to leave it like a man of honour as he was; and if he did not take those gentlemen to task for their opprobrious speeches, that at least he should be seen by them in public before he went away; else they might give themselves airs, as if he had left the kingdom in fear of them.
To this he himself so much inclined, that it was with difficulty I persuaded him, that, as they had neither of them proceeded to a direct and formal challenge; as they knew he had not made himself difficult of access; and as he had already done the family injury enough; and it was Miss Harlowe's earnest desire, that he would be content with that; he had no reason, from any point of honour, to delay his journey; especially as he had so just a motive for his going, as the establishing of his health; and as he might return the sooner, if he saw occasion for it.
I found the Colonel in a very solemn way. We had a good deal of discourse upon the subject of certain letters which had passed between us in relation to Miss Harlowe's will, and to her family. He has some accounts to settle with his banker; which, he says, will be adjusted to-morrow; and on Thursday he proposes to go down again, to take leave of his friends; and then intends to set out directly for Italy.
I wish Mr. Lovelace could have been prevailed upon to take any other tour, than that of France and Italy. I did propose Madrid to him; but he laughed at me, and told me, that the proposal was in character from a mule; and from one who was become as grave as a Spaniard of the old cut, at ninety.
I expressed to the Colonel my apprehensions, that his cousin's dying injunctions would not have the force upon him that were to be wished.
'They have great force upon me, Mr. Belford,' said he; 'or one world would not have held Mr. Lovelace and me thus long. But my intention is to go to Florence; and not to lay my bones there, as upon my cousin's death I told you I thought to do; but to settle all my affairs in those parts, and then to come over, and reside upon a little paternal estate in Kent, which is strangely gone to ruin in my absence. Indeed, were I to meet Mr. Lovelace, either here or abroad, I might not be answerable for the consequence.'
He would have engaged me for to-morrow. But having promised to attend Mr. Lovelace on his journey, as I have mentioned, I said, I was obliged to go out of town, and was uncertain as to the time of my return in the evening. And so I am to see him on Thursday morning at my own lodgings.
I will do myself the honour to write again to your Lordship to-morrow night. Mean time, I am, my Lord,
Your Lordship's, &c.
MR. BELFORD, TO LORD M. WEDN. NIGHT, OCT. 4.
I am just returned from attending Mr. Lovelace as far as Gad's-Hill, near Rochester. He was exceeding gay all the way. Mowbray and Tourville are gone on with him. They will see him embark, and under sail; and promise to follow him in a month or two; for they say, there is no living without him, now he is once more himself.
He and I parted with great and even solemn tokens of affection; but yet not without gay intermixtures, as I will acquaint your Lordship.
Taking me aside, and clasping his arms about me, 'Adieu, dear Belford!' said he: 'may you proceed in the course you have entered upon!—Whatever airs I give myself, this charming creature has fast hold of me here— [clapping his hand upon his heart]: and I must either appear what you see me, or be what I so lately was—O the divine creature!' lifting up his eyes——
'But if I live to come to England, and you remain fixed in your present way, and can give me encouragement, I hope rather to follow your example, than to ridicule you for it. This will [for I had given him a copy of it] I will make the companion of my solitary hours. You have told me a part of its melancholy contents; and that, and her posthumous letter, shall be my study; and they will prepare me for being your disciple, if you hold on.
'You, Jack, may marry,' continued he; 'and I have a wife in my eye for you.—Only thou'rt such an awkward mortal:' [he saw me affected, and thought to make me smile:] 'but we don't make ourselves, except it be worse by our dress. Thou art in mourning now, as well as I: but if ever thy ridiculous turn lead thee again to be beau-brocade, I will bedizen thee, as the girls say, on my return, to my own fancy, and according to thy own natural appearance——Thou shalt doctor my soul, and I will doctor thy body: thou shalt see what a clever fellow I will make of thee.
'As for me, I never will, I never can, marry—that I will not take a few liberties, and that I will not try to start some of my former game, I won't promise—habits are not so easily shaken off—but they shall be by way of wearing. So return and reform shall go together.
'And now, thou sorrowful monkey, what aileth thee?' I do love him, my Lord.
'Adieu!—And once more adieu!'—embracing me. 'And when thou thinkest thou hast made thyself an interest out yonder (looking up) then put in a word for thy Lovelace.'
Joining company, he recommended to me to write often; and promised to let me hear quickly from him; and that he would write to your Lordship, and to all his family round; for he said, that you had all been more kind to him than he had deserved.
And so we parted.
I hope, my Lord, for all your noble family's sake, that we shall see him soon return, and reform, as he promises.
I return your Lordship my humble thanks for the honour of your invitation to M. Hall. The first letter I receive from Mr. Lovelace shall give me the opportunity of embracing it. I am, my Lord,
Your most faithful and obedient servant, J. BELFORD.
MR. BELFORD, TO LORD M. THURSDAY MORNING, OCT. 5.
It may be some satisfaction to your Lordship, to have a brief account of what has just now passed between Colonel Morden and me.
We had a good deal of discourse about the Harlowe family, and those parts of the lady's will which still remain unexecuted; after which the Colonel addressed himself to me in a manner which gave me some surprise.
He flattered himself, he said, from my present happy turn, and from my good constitution, that I should live a great many years. It was therefore his request, that I would consent to be his executor; since it was impossible for him to make a better choice, or pursue a better example, than his cousin had set.
His heart, he said was in it: there were some things in his cousin's will and his analogous: and he had named one person to me, with whom he was sure I would not refuse to be joined: and to whom he intended to apply for his consent, when he had obtained mine.* [Intimating, as far as I could gather, that it was Mr. Hickman, son of Sir Charles Hickman; to whom I know your Lordship is not a stranger: for he said, Every one who was dear to his beloved cousin, must be so to him: and he knew that the gentleman who he had thoughts of, would have, besides my advice and assistance, the advice of one of the most sensible ladies in England.]
* What is between crotchets, thus [ ], Mr. Belford omitted in the transcription of this Letter to Miss Howe.
He took my hand, seeing me under some surprise: you must not hesitate, much less deny me, Mr. Belford. Indeed you must not. Two things I will assure you of: that I have, as I hope, made every thing so clear that you cannot have any litigation: and that I have done so justly, and I hope it will be thought so generously, by all my relations, that a mind like your's will rather have pleasure than pain in the execution of this trust. And this is what I think every honest man, who hopes to find an honest man for his executor, should do.
I told him, that I was greatly obliged to him for his good opinion of me: that it was so much every man's duty to be an honest man, that it could not be interpreted as vanity to say, that I had no doubt to be found so. But if I accepted of this trust, it must be on condition—
I could name no condition, he said, interrupting me, which he would refuse to comply with.
This condition, I told him, was, that as there was as great a probability of his being my survivor, as I his, he would permit me to name him for mine; and, in that case, a week should not pass before I made my will.
With all his heart, he said; and the readier, as he had no apprehensions of suddenly dying; for what he had done and requested was really the effect of the satisfaction he had taken in the part I had already acted as his cousin's executor; and in my ability, he was pleased to add: as well as in pursuance of his cousin's advice in the preamble of her will; to wit; 'That this was a work which should be set about in full health, both of body and mind.'
I told him, that I was pleased to hear him say that he was not in any apprehension of suddenly dying; as this gave me assurance that he had laid aside all thoughts of acting contrary to the dying request of his beloved cousin.
Does it argue, said he, smiling, that if I were to pursue a vengeance so justifiable in my own opinion, I must be in apprehension of falling by Mr. Lovelace's hand?—I will assure you, that I have no fears of that sort—but I know this is an ungrateful subject to you. Mr. Lovelace is your friend; and I will allow, that a good man may have a friendship for a bad one, so far as to wish him well, without countenancing him in his evil.
I will assure you, added he, that I have not yet made any resolutions either way. I have told you what force my cousin's repeated requests have with me. Hitherto they have with-held me—But let us quit this subject.
This, Sir [giving me a sealed-up parcel] is my will. It is witnessed. I made no doubt of prevailing upon you to do me the requested favour. I have a duplicate to leave with the other gentleman; and an attested copy, which I shall deposit at my banker's. At my return, which will be in six or eight months at farthest, I will allow you to make an exchange of your's, if you will have it so. I have only now to take leave of my relations in the country. And so God protect you, Mr. Belford! You will soon hear of me again.
He then very solemnly embraced me, as I did him: and we parted.
I heartily congratulate your Lordship on the narrow escape each gentleman has had from the other: for I apprehend that they could not have met without fatal consequences.
Time, I hope, which subdues all things, will subdue their resentments. I am, my Lord,
Your Lordship's most faithful and obedient servant, J. BELFORD.
Several other letters passed between Miss Howe and Mr. Belford, relating to the disposition of the papers and letters; to the poor's fund; and to other articles of the Lady's will: wherein the method of proceeding in each case was adjusted. After which the papers were returned to Mr. Belford, that he might order the two directed copies of them to be taken.
In one of these letters Mr. Belford requests Miss Howe to give the character of the friend she so dearly loved: 'A task, he imagines, that will be as agreeable to herself, as worthy of her pen.'
'I am more especially curious to know,' says he, 'what was that particular disposition of her time, which I find mentioned in a letter which I have just dipt into, where her sister is enviously reproaching her on that score.* This information may enable me,' says he, 'to account for what has often surprised me: how, at so tender an age, this admirable lady became mistress of such extraordinary and such various qualifications.'
* See Vol. I. Letter XLII.
MISS HOWE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. THURSDAY, OCT. 12.
I am incapable of doing justice to the character of my beloved friend; and that not only from want of talents, but from grief; which, I think, rather increases than diminishes by time; and which will not let me sit down to a task that requires so much thought, and a greater degree of accuracy than I ever believed myself mistress of. And yet I so well approve of your motion, that I will throw into your hands a few materials, that may serve by way of supplement, as I may say, to those you will be able to collect from the papers themselves; from Col. Morden's letters to you, particularly that of Sept. 23;* and from the letters of the detestable wretch himself, who, I find, has done her justice, although to his own condemnation: all these together will enable you, who seem to be so great an admirer of her virtues, to perform the task; and, I think, better than any person I know. But I make it my request, that if you do any thing in this way, you will let me see it. If I find it not to my mind, I will add or diminish, as justice shall require. She was a wonderful creature from her infancy: but I suppose you intend to give a character of her at those years when she was qualified to be an example to other young ladies, rather than a history of her life.
*See Letter XLV. of this volume.
Perhaps, nevertheless, you will choose to give a description of her person: and as you knew not the dear creature when her heart was easy, I will tell you what yet, in part, you can confirm:
That her shape was so fine, her proportion so exact, her features so regular, her complexion so lovely, and her whole person and manner so distinguishedly charming, that she could not move without being admired and followed by the eyes of every one, though strangers, who never saw her before. Col. Morden's letter, above referred to, will confirm this.
In her dress she was elegant beyond imitation; and generally led the fashion to all the ladies round her, without seeming to intend it, and without being proud of doing so.*
* See Vol. VII. Letter LXXXI.
She was rather tall than of a middling stature; and had a dignity in her aspect and air, that bespoke the mind that animated every feature.
This native dignity, as I may call it, induced some superficial persons, who knew not how to account for the reverence which involuntarily filled their hearts on her appearance, to impute pride to her. But these were such as knew that they should have been proud of any one of her perfections: judging therefore by their own narrowness, they thought it impossible that the lady who possessed so many, should not think herself superior to them all. Indeed, I have heard her noble aspect found fault with, as indicating pride and superiority. But people awed and controuled, though but by their own consciousness of inferiority, will find fault, right or wrong, with those, whose rectitude of mind and manners their own culpable hearts give them to be afraid. But, in the bad sense of the word, Miss Clarissa Harlowe knew not what pride was.
You may, if you touch upon this subject, throw in these sentences of her's, spoken at different times, and on different occasions:
'Persons of accidental or shadowy merit may be proud: but inborn worth must be always as much above conceit as arrogance.'
'Who can be better, or more worthy, than they should be? And, who shall be proud of talents they give not to themselves?'
'The darkest and most contemptible ignorance is that of not knowing one's self; and that all we have, and all we excel in, is the gift of God.'
'All human excellence is but comparative—there are persons who excel us, as much as we fancy we excel the meanest.'
'In the general scale of beings, the lowest is as useful, and as much a link of the great chain, as the highest.'
'The grace that makes every other grace amiable, is HUMILITY.'
'There is but one pride pardonable; that of being above doing a base or dishonourable action.'
Such were the sentiments by which this admirable young lady endeavoured to conduct herself, and to regulate her conduct to others.
And, in truth, never were affability and complacency (graciousness, some have called it) more eminent in any person, man or woman, than in her, to those who put it in her power to oblige them: insomuch that the benefitted has sometimes not known which to prefer—the grace bestowed, or the manner in which it was conferred.
It has been observed, that what was said of Henry IV. of France, might be said of her manner of refusing a request: That she generally sent from her presence the person refused nearly as well satisfied as if she had granted it.
Then she had such a sacred regard to truth.—You cannot, Sir, expatiate too much upon this topic. I dare say, that in all her letters, in all the letters of the wretch, her veracity will not once be found impeachable, although her calamities were so heavy, the horrid man's wiles so subtle, and her struggles to free herself from them so active.
Her charity was so great, that she always chose to defend or acquit where the fault was not so flagrant that it became a piece of justice to condemn it; and was always an advocate for an absent person, whose discretion was called in question, without having given manifest proofs of indiscretion.
Once I remember, in a large circle of ladies, every one of which [I among the rest] having censured a generally-reported indiscretion in a young lady—Come, my Miss Howe, said she, [for we had agreed to take each other to task when either thought the other gave occasion for it; and when by blaming each other we intended a general reprehension, which, as she used to say, it would appear arrogant or assuming to level more properly,] let me be Miss Fanny Darlington. Then removing out of the circle, and standing up, Here I stand, unworthy of a seat with the rest of the company, till I have cleared myself. And now, suppose me to be her, let me hear you charge, and do you hear what the poor culprit can say to it in her own defence. And then answering the conjectural and unproved circumstances, by circumstances as fairly to be supposed favourable, she brought off triumphantly the censured lady; and so much to every one's satisfaction, that she was led to her chair, and voted a double rank in the circle, as the reinstated Miss Fanny Darlington, and as Miss Clarissa Harlowe.
Very few persons, she used to say, would be condemned, or even accused, in the circles of ladies, were they present; it is generous, therefore, nay, it is but just, said she, to take the part of the absent, if not flagrantly culpable.
But though wisdom was her birthright, as I may say, yet she had not lived years enow to pretend to so much experience as to exempt her from the necessity of sometimes altering her opinion both of persons and things; but, when she found herself obliged to do this, she took care that the particular instance of mistaken worthiness in the person should not narrow or contract her almost universal charity into general doubt or jealousy. An instance of what I mean occurs to my memory.
Being upbraided, by a severe censure, with a person's proving base, whom she had frequently defended, and by whose baseness my beloved friend was a sufferer; 'You, Madam,' said she, 'had more penetration than such a young creature as I can pretend to have. But although human depravity may, I doubt, oftener justify those who judge harshly, than human rectitude can those who judge favourably, yet will I not part with my charity. Nevertheless, for the future, I will endeavour, in cases where the judgment of my elders is against me, to make mine consistent with caution and prudence.'
Indeed, when she was convinced of any error or mistake, (however seemingly derogatory to her judgment and sagacity,) no one was ever so acknowledging, so ingenuous, as she. 'It was a merit,' she used to say, 'next in degree to that of having avoided error, frankly to own an error. And that the offering at an excuse in a blameable manner, was the undoubted mark of a disingenuous, if not of a perverse mind.'
But I ought to add, on this head, [of her great charity where character was concerned, and where there was room for charity,] that she was always deservedly severe in her reprehensions of a wilful and studied vileness. How could she then forgive the wretch by whose premeditated villany she was entangled?
You must every where insist upon it, that had it not been for the stupid persecutions of her relations, she never would have been in the power of that horrid Lovelace. And yet, on several occasions, she acknowledged frankly, that were person, and address, and alliance, to be allowedly the principal attractives in the choice of a lover, it would not have been difficult for her eye to mislead her heart.
When she was last with me, (three happy weeks together!) in every visit the wretch made her, he left her more dissatisfied with him than in the former. And yet his behaviour before her was too specious to have been very exceptionable to a woman who had a less share of that charming delicacy, and of that penetration, which so much distinguished her.
In obedience to the commands of her gloomy father, on his allowing her to be my guest, for that last time, [as it most unhappily proved!] she never would see him out of my company; and would often say, when he was gone, 'O my Nancy! this is not THE man!'—At other times, 'Gay, giddy creature! he has always something to be forgiven for!'—At others, 'This man will much sooner excite one's fears than attract one's love.' And then would she repeat, 'This is not THE man. All that the world says of him cannot be untrue. But what title have I to call him to account, who intend not to have him?'
In short had she been left to a judgment and discretion, which nobody ever questioned who had either, she would soon have discovered enough of him to cause her to discard him for ever.
She was an admirable mistress of all the graces of elocution. The hand she wrote, for the neat and free cut of her letters, (like her mind, solid, and above all flourish,) for its fairness, evenness, and swiftness, distinguished her as much as the correctness of her orthography, and even punctuation, from the generality of her own sex; and left her none, among the most accurate of the other, who excelled her.
And here you may, if you please, take occasion to throw in one hint for the benefit of such of our sex as are too careless in their orthography, [a consciousness of a defect which generally keeps them from writing.]— She was used to say, 'It was a proof that a woman understood the derivation as well as sense of the words she used, and that she stopt not at sound, when she spelt accurately.'
On this head you may take notice, that it was always matter of surprise to her, that the sex are generally so averse as they are to writing; since the pen, next to the needle, of all employments, is the most proper, and best adapted to their geniuses; and this, as well for improvement as amusement: 'Who sees not,' would she say, 'that those women who take delight in writing excel the men in all the graces of the familiar style? The gentleness of their minds, the delicacy of their sentiments, (improved by the manner of their education, and the liveliness of their imaginations, qualify them to a high degree of preference for this employment;) while men of learning, as they are called, (that is to say, of mere learning,) aiming to get above that natural ease and freedom which distinguish this, (and indeed every other kind of writing,) when they think they have best succeeded, are got above, or rather beneath, all natural beauty.'
Then, stiffened and starched [let me add] into dry and indelectable affectation, one sort of these scholars assume a style as rough as frequently are their manners; they spangle over their productions with metaphors; they tumble into bombast: the sublime, with them, lying in words, and not in sentiment, they fancy themselves most exalted when least understood; and down they sit, fully satisfied with their own performances, and call them MASCULINE. While a second sort, aiming at wit, that wicked misleader, forfeit all title to judgment. And a third, sinking into the classical pits, there poke and scramble about, never seeking to show genius of their own; all their lives spent in common-place quotation; fit only to write notes and comments upon other people's texts; all their pride, that they know those beauties of two thousand years old in another tongue, which they can only admire, but not imitate, in their own.
And these, truly, must be learned men, and despisers of our insipid sex!
But I need not mention the exceptions which my beloved friend always made [and to which I subscribe] in favour of men of sound learning, true taste, and extensive abilities; nor, in particular, her respect even to reverence for gentlemen of the cloath; which, I dare say, will appear in every paragraph of her letters wherever any of the clergy are mentioned. Indeed the pious Dr. Lewen, the worthy Dr. Blome, the ingenious Mr. Arnold, and Mr. Tompkins, gentlemen whom she names, in one article of her will, as learned divines with whom she held an early correspondence, well deserved her respect; since to their conversation and correspondence she owed many of her valuable acquirements.
Nor were the little slights she would now-and-then (following, as I must own, my lead) put upon such mere scholars [and her stupid and pedantic brother was one of those who deserved those slights] as despised not only our sex, but all such as had not had their opportunities of being acquainted with the parts of speech, [I cannot speak low enough of such,] and with the dead languages, owing to that contempt which some affect for what they have not been able to master; for she had an admirable facility for learning languages, and read with great ease both in Italian and French. She had begun to apply herself to Latin; and having such a critical knowledge of her own tongue, and such a foundation from the two others, would soon have made herself an adept in it.
But, notwithstanding all her acquirements, she was an excellent ECONOMIST and HOUSEWIFE. And those qualifications, you must take notice, she was particularly fond of inculcating upon all her reading and writing companions of the sex: for it was a maxim with her, 'That a woman who neglects the useful and the elegant, which distinguish her own sex, for the sake of obtaining the learning which is supposed more peculiar to the other, incurs more contempt by what she foregoes, than she gains credit by what she acquires.'
'All that a woman can learn,' she used to say, [expatiating on this maxim,] 'above the useful knowledge proper to her sex, let her learn. This will show that she is a good housewife of her time, and that she has not a narrow or confined genius. But then let her not give up for these those more necessary, and, therefore, not meaner, employments, which will qualify her to be a good mistress of a family, a good wife, and a good mother; for what can be more disgraceful to a woman than either, through negligence of dress, to be found a learned slattern; or, through ignorance of household-management, to be known to be a stranger to domestic economy?'
She would have it indeed, sometimes, from the frequent ill use learned women make of that respectable acquirement, that it was no great matter whether the sex aimed at any thing but excelling in the knowledge of the beauties and graces of their mother-tongue; and once she said, that this was field enough for a woman; and an ampler was but endangering her family usefulness. But I, who think our sex inferior in nothing to the other, but in want of opportunities, of which the narrow-minded mortals industriously seek to deprive us, lest we should surpass them as much in what they chiefly value themselves upon, as we do in all the graces of a fine imagination, could never agree with her in that. And yet I was entirely of her opinion, that those women, who were solicitous to obtain that knowledge of learning which they supposed would add to their significance in sensible company, and in their attainment of it imagined themselves above all domestic usefulness, deservedly incurred the contempt which they hardly ever failed to meet with.
Perhaps you will not think it amiss further to observe on this head, as it will now show that precept and example always went hand and hand with her, that her dairy at her grandfather's was the delight of every one who saw it; and she of all who saw her in it.
Her grandfather, in honour of her dexterity and of her skill in all the parts of the dairy management, as well as of the elegance of the offices allotted for that use, would have his seat, before known by the name of The Grove, to be called The Dairy-house.* She had an easy, convenient, and graceful habit made on purpose, which she put on when she employed herself in these works; and it was noted of her, that in the same hour that she appeared to be a most elegant dairy-maid, she was, when called to a change of dress, the finest lady that ever graced a circle.
* See Vol. I. Letter II.
Her grandfather, father, mother, uncles, aunt, and even her brother and sister, made her frequent visits there, and were delighted with her silent ease and unaffected behaviour in her works; for she always, out of modesty, chose rather the operative than the directive part, that she might not discourage the servant whose proper business it was.
Each was fond of a regale from her hands in her Dairy-house. Her mother and aunt Hervey generally admired her in silence, that they might not give uneasiness to her sister; a spiteful, perverse, unimitating thing, who usually looked upon her all the time with speechless envy. Now-and-then, however, the pouting creature would suffer extorted and sparing praise to burst open her lips; though looking at the same time like Saul meditating the pointed javelin at the heart of David, the glory of his kingdom. And now, methinks, I see my angel-friend, (too superior to take notice of her gloom,) courting her acceptance of the milk-white curd, from hands more pure than that.
Her skill and dexterity in every branch of family management seem to be the only excellence of her innumerable ones which she owed to her family; whose narrowness, immensely rich, and immensely carking, put them upon indulging her in the turn she took to this part of knowledge; while her elder sister affected dress without being graceful in it; and the fine lady, which she could never be; and which her sister was without studying for it, or seeming to know she was so.
It was usual with the one sister, when company was expected, to be half the morning dressing; while the other would give directions for the whole business and entertainment of the day; and then go up to her dressing-room, and, before she could well be missed, [having all her things in admirable order,] come down fit to receive company, and with all that graceful ease and tranquillity as if she had nothing else to think of.
Long after her, [hours, perhaps, of previous preparation having passed,] down would come rustling and bustling the tawdry and awkward Bella, disordering more her native disorderliness at the sight of her serene sister, by her sullen envy, to see herself so much surpassed with such little pains, and in a sixth part of the time.
Yet was this admirable creature mistress of all these domestic qualifications, without the least intermixture of narrowness. She knew how to distinguish between frugality, a necessary virtue, and niggardliness, an odious vice; and used to say, 'That to define generosity, it must be called the happy medium betwixt parsimony and profusion.'
She was the most graceful reader I ever knew. She added, by her melodious voice, graces to those she found in the parts of books she read out to her friends; and gave grace and significance to others where they were not. She had no tone, no whine. Her accent was always admirably placed. The emphasis she always forcibly laid as the subject required. No buskin elevation, no tragedy pomp, could mislead her; and yet poetry was poetry indeed, when she read it.
But if her voice was melodious when she read, it was all harmony when she sung. And the delight she gave by that, and by her skill and great compass, was heightened by the ease and gracefulness of her air and manner, and by the alacrity with which she obliged.
Nevertheless she generally chose rather to hear others sing or play, than either to play or sing herself.
She delighted to give praise where deserved; yet she always bestowed it in such a manner as gave not the least suspicion that she laid out for a return of it to herself, though so universally allowed to be her due.
She had a talent of saying uncommon things in such an easy manner that every body thought they could have said the same; and which yet required both genius and observation to say them.
Even severe things appeared gentle, though they lost not their force, from the sweetness of her air and utterance, and the apparent benevolence of her purpose.
We form the truest judgment of persons by their behaviour on the most familiar occasions. I will give an instance or two of the correction she favoured me with on such a one.
When very young, I was guilty of the fault of those who want to be courted to sing. She cured me of it, at the first of our happy intimacy, by her own example; and by the following correctives, occasionally, yet privately enforced:
'Well, my dear, shall we take you at your word? Shall we suppose, that you sing but indifferently? Is not, however, the act of obliging, (the company so worthy!) preferable to the talent of singing? And shall not young ladies endeavour to make up for their defects in one part of education, by their excellence in another?'
Again, 'You must convince us, by attempting to sing, that you cannot sing; and then we will rid you, not only of present, but of future importunity.'—An indulgence, however, let me add, that but tolerable singers do not always wish to meet with.
Again, 'I know you will favour us by and by; and what do you by your excuses but raise our expectations, and enhance your own difficulties?'
At another time, 'Has not this accomplishment been a part of your education, my Nancy? How, then, for your own honour, can we allow of your excuses?'
And I once pleading a cold, the usual pretence of those who love to be entreated—'Sing, however, my dear, as well as you can. The greater the difficulty to you, the higher the compliment to the company. Do you think you are among those who know not how to make allowances? you should sing, my love, lest there should be any body present who may think your excuses owing to affectation.'
At another time, when I had truly observed that a young lady present sung better than I; and that, therefore, I chose not to sing before that lady —'Fie, said she, (drawing me on one side,) is not this pride, my Nancy? Does it not look as if your principal motive to oblige was to obtain applause? A generous mind will not scruple to give advantage to a person of merit, though not always to her own advantage. And yet she will have a high merit in doing that. Supposing this excellent person absent, who, my dear, if your example spread, shall sing after you? You know every one else must be but as a foil to you. Indeed I must have you as much superior to other ladies in these smaller points, as you are in greater.' So she was pleased to say to shame me. She was so much above reserve as disguise. So communicative that no young lady could be in her company half an hour, and not carry away instruction with her, whatever was the topic. Yet all sweetly insinuated; nothing given with the air of prescription; so that while she seemed to ask a question for information-sake, she dropt in the needful instruction, and left the instructed unable to decide whether the thought (which being started, she, the instructed, could improve) came primarily from herself, or from the sweet instructress.
She had a pretty hand at drawing, which she obtained with very little instruction. Her time was too much taken up to allow, though to so fine an art, the attention which was necessary to make her greatly excel in it: and she used to say, 'That she was afraid of aiming at too many things, for fear she should not be tolerable at any thing.'
For her years, and her opportunities, she was an extraordinary judge of painting. In this, as in every thing else, nature was her art, her art was nature. She even prettily performed in it. Her grandfather, for this reason, bequeathed to her all the family pictures. Charming was her fancy: alike sweet and easy was every touch of her pencil and her pen. Yet her judgment exceeded her performance. She did not practise enough to excel in the executive part. She could not in every thing excel. But, upon the whole, she knew what every subject required according to the nature of it; in other words, was an absolute mistress of the should-be.
To give a familiar instance for the sake of young ladies; she (untaught) observed when but a child, that the sun, moon, and stars, never appeared at once; and were therefore never to be in one piece; that bears, tigers, lions, were not natives of an English climate, and should not therefore have place in an English landscape; that these ravagers of the forest consorted not with lambs, kids, or fawns; nor kites, hawks, and vultures, with doves, partridges, or pheasants.
And, alas! she knew, before she was nineteen years of age, by fatal experience she knew! that all these beasts and birds of prey were outdone, in treacherous cruelty, by MAN! Vile, barbarous, plotting, destructive man! who, infinitely less excusable than those, destroys, through wantonness and sport, what those only destroy through hunger and necessity!
The mere pretenders to those branches of science which she aimed at acquiring she knew how to detect; and from all nature. Propriety, another word for nature, was (as I have hinted) her law, as it is the foundation of all true judgment. But, nevertheless, she was always uneasy, if what she said exposed those pretenders to knowledge, even in their absence, to the ridicule of lively spirits.
Let the modern ladies, who have not any one of her excellent qualities; whose whole time, in the short days they generally make, and in the inverted night and day, where they make them longer, is wholly spent in dress, visits, cards, plays, operas, and musical entertainments, wonder at what I have written, and shall further write; and let them look upon it as an incredible thing, that when, at a mature age, they cannot boast one of her perfections, there should have been a lady so young, who had so many.
These must be such as know not how she employed her time; and cannot form the least idea of what may be done in those hours in which they lie enveloped with the shades of death, as she used to call sleep.
But before I come to mention the distribution she usually made of her time, let me say a few words upon another subject, in which she excelled all the young ladies I ever knew.
This was her skill in almost all sorts of fine needleworks; of which, however, I shall say the less, since possibly you will find it mentioned in some of the letters.
That piece which she bequeaths to her cousin Morden is indeed a capital piece; a performance so admirable, that that gentleman's father, who resided chiefly abroad, (was, as is mentioned in her will,) very desirous to obtain it, in order to carry it to Italy with him, to show the curious of other countries, (as he used to say,) for the honour of his own, that the cloistered confinement was not necessary to make English women excel in any of those fine arts upon which nuns and recluses value themselves.
Her quickness at these sort of works was astonishing; and a great encouragement to herself to prosecute them.
Mr. Morden's father would have been continually making her presents, would she have permitted him to do so; and he used to call them, and so did her grandfather, tributes due to a merit so sovereign, and not presents.
As to her diversions, the accomplishments and acquirements she was mistress of will show what they must have been. She was far from being fond of cards, the fashionable foible of modern ladies; nor, as will be easily perceived from what I have said, and more from what I shall further say, had she much time for play. She never therefore promoted their being called for; and often insensibly diverted the company from them, by starting some entertaining subject, when she could do it without incurring the imputation of particularity.
Indeed very few of her intimates would propose cards, if they could engage her to read, to talk, to touch the keys, or to sing, when any new book, or new piece of music, came down. But when company was so numerous, that conversation could not take that agreeable turn which it oftenest does among four or five friends of like years and inclinations, and it became in a manner necessary to detach off some of it, to make the rest better company, she would not refuse to play, if, upon casting in, it fell to her lot. And then she showed that her disrelish to cards was the effect of choice only; and that she was an easy mistress of every genteel game played with them. But then she always declared against playing high. 'Except for trifles,' she used to say, 'she would not submit to chance what she was already sure of.'
At other times, 'she should make her friends a very ill compliment,' she said, 'if she supposed they would wish to be possessed of what of right belonged to her; and she should be very unworthy, if she desired to make herself a title to what was theirs.'
'High gaming, in short,' she used to say, 'was a sordid vice; an immorality; the child of avarice; and a direct breach of that commandment, which forbids us to covet what is our neighbour's.'
She was exceedingly charitable; the only one of her family that knew the meaning of the word; and this with regard both to the souls and the bodies of those who were the well-chosen objects of her benevolence. She kept a list of these, whom she used to call her Poor, entering one upon it as another was provided for, by death, or any other way; but always made a reserve, nevertheless, for unforeseen cases, and for accidental distresses. And it must be owned, that in the prudent distribution of them, she had neither example nor equal.
The aged, the blind, the lame, the widow, the orphan, the unsuccessful industrious, were particularly the objects of it; and the contributing to the schooling of some, to the putting out to trades and husbandry the children of others of the labouring or needy poor, and setting them forward at the expiration of their servitude, were her great delights; as was the giving good books to others; and, when she had opportunity, the instructing the poorer sort of her honest neighbours, and father's tenants, in the use of them. 'That charity,' she used to say, 'which provides for the morals, as well as for the bodily wants of the poor, gives a double benefit to the public, as it adds to the number of the hopeful what it takes from that of the profligate. And can there be, in the eyes of that God, she was wont to say, who requires nothing so much from us as acts of beneficence to one another, a charity more worthy?'
Her uncle Antony, when he came to settle in England with his vast fortune obtained in the Indies, used to say, 'This girl by her charities will bring down a blessing upon us all.' And it must be owned they trusted pretty much to this presumption.
But I need not say more on this head: nor perhaps was it necessary to say so much; since the charitable bequests in her will sufficiently set forth her excellence in this branch of duty.
She was extremely moderate in her diet. 'Quantity in food,' she used to say, 'was more to be regarded than quality; that a full meal was the great enemy both to study and industry: that a well-built house required but little repairs.'
But this moderation in her diet, she enjoyed, with a delicate frame of body, a fine state of health; was always serene, lively; cheerful, of course. And I never knew but of one illness she had; and that was by a violent cold caught in an open chaise, by a sudden storm of hail and rain, in a place where was no shelter; and which threw her into a fever, attended with dangerous symptoms, that no doubt were lightened by her temperance; but which gave her friends, who then knew her value, infinite apprehensions for her.*
* In her common-place book she has the following note upon the recollection of this illness in the time of her distress:
'In a dangerous illness, with which I was visited a few years before I had the unhappiness to know this ungrateful man! [would to Heaven I had died in it!] my bed was surrounded by my dear relations—father, mother, brother, sister, my two uncles, weeping, kneeling, round me, then put up their vows to Heaven for my recovery; and I, fearing that I should drag down with me to my grave one or other of my sorrowing friends, wished and prayed to recover for their sakes.—Alas! how shall parents in such cases know what to wish for! How happy for them, and for me, had I then been denied to their prayers! But now I am eased of that care. All those dear relations are living still—but not one of them (such as they think, has been the heinousness of my error!) but, far from being grieved, would rejoice to hear of my death.'
In all her readings, and her conversations upon them, she was fonder of finding beauties than blemishes, and chose to applaud but authors and books, where she could find the least room for it. Yet she used to lament that certain writers of the first class, who were capable of exalting virtue, and of putting vice out of countenance, too generally employed themselves in works of imagination only, upon subjects merely speculative, disinteresting and unedifying, from which no useful moral or example could be drawn.
But she was a severe censurer of pieces of a light or indecent turn, which had a tendency to corrupt the morals of youth, to convey polluted images, or to wound religion, whether in itself, or through the sides of its professors, and this, whoever were the authors, and how admirable soever the execution. She often pitied the celebrated Dr. Swift for so employing his admirable pen, that a pure eye was afraid of looking into his works, and a pure ear of hearing any thing quoted from them. 'Such authors,' she used to say, 'were not honest to their own talents, nor grateful to the God who gave them.' Nor would she, on these occasions, admit their beauties as a palliation; on the contrary, she held it as an aggravation of their crime, that they who are so capable of mending the heart, should in any places show a corrupt one in themselves; which must weaken the influences of their good works; and pull down with one hand what they build up with the other.
All she said and all she did was accompanied with a natural ease and dignity, which set her above affectation, or the suspicion of it; insomuch that that degrading fault, so generally imputed to a learned woman, was never laid to her charge. For, with all her excellencies, she was forwarder to hear than speak; and hence, no doubt, derived no small part of her improvement.
Although she was well read in the English, French, and Italian poets, and had read the best translations of the Latin classics; yet seldom did she quote or repeat from them, either in her letters or conversation, though exceedingly happy in a tenacious memory; principally through modesty, and to avoid the imputation of that affectation which I have just mentioned.
Mr. Wyerley once said of her, she had such a fund of knowledge of her own, and made naturally such fine observations upon persons and things, being capable, by the EGG, [that was his familiar expression,] of judging of the bird, that she had seldom either room or necessity for foreign assistances.
But it was plain, from her whole conduct and behaviour, that she had not so good an opinion of herself, however deserved; since, whenever she was urged to give her sentiments on any subject, although all she thought fit to say was clear an intelligible, yet she seemed in haste to have done speaking. Her reason for it, I know, was twofold; that she might not lose the benefit of other people's sentiments, by engrossing the conversation; and lest, as were her words, she should be praised into loquaciousness, and so forfeit the good opinion which a person always maintains with her friends, who knows when she has said enough.—It was, finally, a rule with her, 'to leave her hearers wishing her to say more, rather than to give them cause to show, by their inattention, an uneasiness that she had said so much.'—
You are curious to know the particular distribution of her time; which you suppose will help you to account for what you own yourself surprised at; to wit, how so young a lady could make herself mistress of so many accomplishments.
I will premise, that she was from infancy inured to rise early in a morning, by an excellent, and, as I may say, a learned woman, Mrs. Norton, to whose care, wisdom, and example, she was beholden for the ground-work of her taste and acquirements, which meeting with such assistances from the divines I have named, and with such a genius, made it the less wonder that she surpassed most of her age and sex.
Her sex, did I say? What honour to the other does this imply! When one might challenge the proudest pedant of them all, to say he has been disciplined into greater improvement, than she had made from the mere force of genius and application. But it is demonstrable to all who know how to make observations on their acquaintance of both sexes, arrogant as some are of their superficialities, that a lady at eighteen, take the world through, is more prudent and conversable than a man at twenty-five. I can prove this by nineteen instances out of twenty in my own knowledge. Yet how do these poor boasters value themselves upon the advantages their education gives them! Who has not seen some one of them, just come from the university, disdainfully smile at a mistaken or ill-pronounced word from a lady, when her sense has been clear, and her sentiments just; and when he could not himself utter a single sentence fit to be repeated, but what he had borrowed from the authors he had been obliged to study, as a painful exercise to slow and creeping parts? But how I digress:
This excellent young lady used to say, 'it was incredible to think what might be done by early rising, and by long days well filled up.'
It may be added, that she had calculated according to the practice of too many, she had actually lived more years at sixteen, than they had at twenty-six.
She was of opinion, 'that no one could spend their time properly, who did not live by some rule: who did not appropriate the hours, as nearly as might be, to particular purposes and employments.'
In conformity to this self-set lesson, the usual distribution of the twenty-four hours, when left to her own choice, were as follows:
For REST she allotted SIX hours only.
She thought herself not so well, and so clear in her intellects, [so much alive, she used to say,] if she exceeded this proportion. If she slept not, she chose to rise sooner. And in winter had her fire laid, and a taper ready burning to light it; not loving to give trouble to the servants, 'whose harder work, and later hours of going to bed,' she used to say, 'required consideration.'
I have blamed her for her greater regard to them than to herself. But this was her answer; 'I have my choice, who can wish for more? Why should I oppress others, to gratify myself? You see what free-will enables one to do; while imposition would make a light burden heavy.'
Her first THREE morning hours
were generally passed in her study, and in her closet duties: and were occasionally augmented by those she saved from rest: and in these passed her epistolary amusements.
Two hours she generally allotted to domestic management.
These, at different times of the day, as occasions required; all the housekeeper's bills, in ease of her mother, passing through her hands. For she was a perfect mistress of the four principal rules of arithmetic.
FIVE hours to her needle, drawings, music, &c.
In these she included the assistance and inspection she gave to her own servants, and to her sister's servants, in the needle-works required for the family: for her sister, as I have above hinted, is a MODERN. In these she also included Dr. Lewen's conversation-visits; with whom likewise she held a correspondence by letters. That reverend gentleman delighted himself and her twice or thrice a week, if his health permitted, with these visits: and she always preferred his company to any other engagement.
Two hours she allotted to her two first meals.
But if conversation, or the desire of friends, or the falling in of company or guests, required it to be otherwise, she never scrupled to oblige; and would on such occasions borrow, as she called it, from other distributions. And as she found it very hard not to exceed in this appropriation, she put down
ONE hour more to dinner-time conversation,
to be added or subtracted, as occasions offered, or the desire of her friends required: and yet found it difficult, as she often said, to keep this account even; especially if Dr. Lewen obliged them with his company at their table; which, however he seldom did; for, being a valetudinarian, and in a regimen, he generally made his visits in the afternoon.
ONE hour to visits to the neighbouring poor;
to a select number of whom, and to their children, she used to give brief instructions, and good books; and as this happened not every day, and seldom above twice a-week, she had two or three hours at a time to bestow in this benevolent employment.
The remaining FOUR hours
were occasionally allotted to supper, to conversation, or to reading after supper to the family. This allotment she called her fund, upon which she used to draw, to satisfy her other debits; and in this she included visits received and returned, shows, spectacles, &c. which, in a country life, not occurring every day, she used to think a great allowance, no less than two days in six, for amusements only; and she was wont to say, that it was hard if she could not steal time out of this fund, for an excursion of even two or three days in a month.
If it be said, that her relations, or the young neighbouring ladies, had but little of her time, it will be considered, that besides these four hours in the twenty-four, great part of the time she was employed in her needle-works she used to converse as she worked; and it was a custom she had introduced among her acquaintance, that the young ladies in their visits used frequently, in a neighbourly way, (in the winter evenings especially,) to bring their work with them; and one of half a dozen of her select acquaintance used by turns to read to the rest as they were at work.
This was her usual method, when at her own command, for six days in the week.
THE SEVENTH DAY
she kept as it ought to be kept; and as some part of it was frequently employed in works of mercy, the hour she allotted to visiting the neighbouring poor was occasionally supplied from this day, and added to her fund.
But I must observe, that when in her grandfather's lifetime she was three or four weeks at a time his housekeeper or guest, as also at either of her uncles, her usual distribution of time was varied; but still she had an eye to it as nearly as circumstances would admit.
When I had the happiness of having her for my guest, for a fortnight or so, she likewise dispensed with her rules in mere indulgence to my foibles, and idler habits; for I also, (though I had the benefit of an example I so much admired) am too much of a modern. Yet, as to morning risings, I had corrected myself by such a precedent, in the summer-time; and can witness to the benefit I found by it in my health: as also to the many useful things I was enabled, by that means, with ease and pleasure, to perform. And in her account-book I have found this memorandum, since her ever-to-be-lamented death:—'From such a day, to such a day, all holidays, at my dear Miss Howe's.'—At her return—'Account resumed, such a day,' naming it; and then she proceeded regularly, as before.
Once-a-week she used to reckon with herself; when, if within the 144 hours, contained in the six days, she had made her account even, she noted it accordingly; if otherwise, she carried the debit to the next week's account; as thus:—Debtor to the article of the benevolent visits, so many hours. And so of the rest.
But it was always an especial part of her care that, whether visiting or visited, she showed in all companies an entire ease, satisfaction, and cheerfulness, as if she had kept no such particular account, and as if she did not make herself answerable to herself for her occasional exceedings.
This method, which to others will appear perplexing and unnecessary, her early hours, and custom, had made easy and pleasant to her.
And indeed, as I used to tell her, greatly as I admired her in all methods, I could not bring myself to this, might I have had the world for my reward.
I had indeed too much impatience in my temper, to observe such a regularity in accounting between me and myself. I satisfied myself in a lump-account, as I may call it, if I had nothing greatly wrong to reproach myself, when I looked back on a past week, as she had taught me to do.
For she used indulgently to say, 'I do not think ALL I do necessary for another to do; nor even for myself; but when it is more pleasant for me to keep such an account, than to let it alone, why may I not proceed in my supererogatories?—There can be no harm in it. It keeps up my attention to accounts; which one day may be of use to me in more material instances. Those who will not keep a strict account, seldom long keep any. I neglect not more useful employments for it. And it teaches me to be covetous of time; the only thing of which we can be allowably covetous; since we live but once in this world; and, when gone, are gone from it for ever.'
She always reconciled the necessity under which these interventions, as she called them, laid her, of now-and-then breaking into some of her appropriations; saying, 'That was good sense, and good manners too, in the common lesson, When at Rome, do as they do at Rome. And that to be easy of persuasion, in matters where one could oblige without endangering virtue, or worthy habits, was an apostolical excellency; since, if a person conformed with a view of making herself an interest in her friend's affections, in order to be heeded in greater points, it was imitating His example, who became all things to all men, that He might gain some.' Nor is it to be doubted, had life been spared her, that the sweetness of her temper, and her cheerful piety, would have made virtue and religion appear so lovely, that her example would have had no small influence upon the minds and manners of those who would have had the honour of conversing with her.
O Mr. Belford! I can write no further on this subject. For, looking into the account-book for other particulars, I met with a most affecting memorandum; which being written on the extreme edge of the paper, with a fine pen, and in the dear creature's smallest hand, I saw not before.— This it is; written, I suppose, at some calamitous period after the day named in it—help me to curse, to blast the monster who gave occasion for it!——
APRIL 10. The account concluded! And with it all my worldly hopes and prospects!
I take up my pen; but not to apologize for my execration.—Once more I pray to God to avenge me of him!—Me, I say—for mine is the loss—her's the gain.
O Sir! you did not—you could not know her, as I knew her! Never was such an excellence!—So warm, yet so cool a friend!—So much what I wish to be, but never shall be!—For, alas! my stay, my adviser, my monitress, my directress, is gone!—for ever gone!—She honoured me with the title of The Sister of her Heart; but I was only so in the love I bore her, (a love beyond a sister's—infinitely beyond her sister's!) in the hatred I have to every mean and sordid action; and in my love of virtue; for, otherwise, I am of a high and haughty temper, as I have acknowledged heretofore, and very violent in my passions.
In short, she was the nearest perfection of any creature I ever knew. She never preached to me lessons which she practised not herself. She lived the life she taught. All humility, meekness, self-accusing, others acquitting, though the shadow of the fault was hardly hers, the substance their's, whose only honour was their relation to her.
To lose such a friend—such a guide.—If ever my violence was justifiable, it is upon this recollection! For she lived only to make me sensible of my failings, but not long enough to enable me to conquer them; as I was resolved to endeavour to do.
Once more then let me execrate—but now violence and passion again predominate!—And how can it be otherwise?
But I force myself from the subject, having lost the purpose for which I resumed my pen.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. PARIS, OCT. 14.
—— —— Timor & minae Scandunt eodum quo dominus; neque Decedit aerata triremi; & Post equitem sedet atra cura.
In a language so expressive as the English, I hate the pedantry of tagging or prefacing what I write with Latin scraps; and ever was a censurer of the motto-mongers among our weekly and daily scribblers. But these verses of Horace are so applicable to my case, that, whether on ship-board, whether in my post-chaise, or in my inn at night, I am not able to put them out of my head. Dryden once I thought said very well in these bouncing lines:
Man makes his fate according to his mind. The weak, low spirit, Fortune makes her slave: But she's a drudge, when hector'd by the brave. If Fate weave common thread, I'll change the doom, And with new purple weave a nobler loom.
And in these:
Let Fortune empty her whole quiver on me, I have a soul, that, like an ample shield, Can take in all, and verge enough for more. Fate was not mine: nor am I Fate's—— Souls know no conquerors.——
But in the first quoted lines, considering them closely, there is nothing but blustering absurdity; in the other, the poet says not truth; for CONSCIENCE is the conqueror of souls; at least it is the conqueror of mine; and who ever thought it a narrow one?——But this is occasioned partly by poring over the affecting will, and posthumous letter. What an army of texts has she drawn up in array against me in the letter!—But yet, Jack, do they not show me, that, two or three thousand years ago, there were as wicked fellows as myself?—They do—and that's some consolation.
But the generosity of her mind displayed in both, is what stings me most. And the more still, as it is now out of my power any way in the world to be even with her.
I ought to have written to you sooner; but I loitered two days at Calais, for an answer to a letter I wrote to engage my former travelling valet, De la Tour; an ingenious, ready fellow, as you have heard me say. I have engaged him, and he is now with me.
I shall make no stay here; but intend for some of the Electoral Courts. That of Bavaria, I think, will engage me longest. Perhaps I may step out of my way (if I can be out of my way any where) to those of Dresden and Berlin; and it is not impossible that you may have one letter from me at Vienna. And then, perhaps, I may fall down into Italy by the Tyrol; and so, taking Turin in my way, return to Paris; where I hope to see Mowbray and Tourville; nor do I despair of you.
This a good deal differs from the plan I gave you. But you may expect to hear from me as I move; and whether I shall pursue this route or the other.
I have my former lodgings in the Rue St. Antoine, which I shall hold, notwithstanding my tour; so they will be ready to accommodate any two of you, if you come hither before my return; and for this I have conditioned.
I write to Charlotte; and that is writing to all my relations at once.
Do thou, Jack, inform me duly of every thing that passes.—Particularly, how thou proceededst in thy reformation-scheme; how Mowbray and Tourville go on in my absence; whether thou hast any chance for a wife; [I am the more solicitous on this head, because thou seemest to think that thy mortification will not be complete, nor thy reformation secure, till thou art shackled;] how the Harlowes proceed in their penitentials; if Miss Howe be married, or near being so; how honest Doleman goes on with his empiric, now he has dismissed his regulars, or they him; and if any likelihood of his perfect recovery. Be sure be very minute; for every trifling occurrence relating to those we value, becomes interesting, when we are at a distance from them. Finally, prepare thou to piece thy broken thread, if thou wouldst oblige
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. LONDON, OCT. 25.
I write to show you that I am incapable of slighting even the minutest requests of an absent and distant friend. Yet you may believe that there cannot be any great alterations in the little time that you have been out of England, with respect to the subjects of your inquiry. Nevertheless I will answer to each, for the reason above given; and for the reason you mention, that even trifles, and chit-chat, are agreeable from friend to friend, and of friends, and even of those to whom we give the importance of deeming them our foes, when we are abroad.
First, then, as to my reformation-scheme, as you call it, I hope I go on very well. I wish you had entered upon the like, and could say so too. You would then find infinitely more peace of mind, than you are likely ever otherwise to be acquainted with. When I look back upon the sweep that has been made among us in the two or three past years, and forward upon what may still happen, I hardly think myself secure; though of late I have been guided by other lights than those of sense and appetite, which have hurried so many of our confraternity into worldly ruin, if not into eternal perdition.
I am very earnest in my wishes to be admitted into the nuptial state. But I think I ought to pass some time as a probationary, till, by steadiness in my good resolutions, I can convince some woman, whom I could love and honour, and whose worthy example might confirm my morals, that there is one libertine who had the grace to reform, before age or disease put it out of his power to sin on.
The Harlowes continue inconsolable; and I dare say will to the end of their lives.
Miss Howe is not yet married; but I have reason to think will soon. I have the honour of corresponding with her; and the more I know of her, the more I admire the nobleness of her mind. She must be conscious, that she is superior to half our sex, and to most of her own; which may make her give way to a temper naturally hasty and impatient; but, if she meet with condescension in her man, [and who would not veil to a superiority so visible, if it be not exacted with arrogance?] I dare say she will make an excellent wife.
As to Doleman, the poor man goes on trying and hoping with his empiric. I cannot but say that as the latter is a sensible and judicious man, and not rash, opinionative, or over-sanguine, I have great hopes (little as I think of quacks and nostrum-mongers in general) that he will do him good, if his case will admit of it. My reasons are—That the man pays a regular and constant attendance upon him; watches, with his own eye, every change and new symptom of his patient's malady; varies his applications as the indications vary; fetters not himself to rules laid down by the fathers of the art, who lived many hundred years ago, when diseases, and the causes of them, were different, as the modes of living were different from what they are now, as well as climates and accidents; that he is to have his reward, not in daily fees; but (after the first five guineas for medicines) in proportion as the patient himself shall find amendment.
As to Mowbray and Tourville; what novelties can be expected, in so short a time, from men, who have not sense enough to strike out or pursue new lights, either good or bad; now, especially, that you are gone, who were the soul of all enterprise, and in particular their soul. Besides, I see them but seldom. I suppose they'll be at Paris before you can return from Germany; for they cannot live without you; and you gave them such a specimen of your recovered volatility, in the last evening's conversation, as delighted them, and concerned me.
I wish, with all my heart, that thou wouldst bend thy course toward the Pyraneans. I should then (if thou writest to thy cousin Montague an account of what is most observable in thy tour) put in for a copy of thy letters. I wonder thou wilt not; since then thy subjects would be as new to thyself, as to
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. PARIS, OCT. 16—27.
I follow my last of the 14/25th, on occasion of a letter just now come to hand from Joseph Leman. The fellow is conscience ridden, Jack; and tells me, 'That he cannot rest either day or night for the mischiefs which he fears he has been, or may still further be the means of doing.' He wishes, 'if it please God, and if it please me, that he had never seen my Honour's face.'
And what is the cause of his present concern, as to his own particular? What, but 'the slights and contempts which he receives from every one of the Harlowes; from those particularly, he says, whom he has endeavoured to serve as faithfully as his engagements to me would let him serve them? And I always made him believe, he tells me, (poor weak soul as he was from his cradle!) that serving me, was serving both, in the long run.— But this, and the death of his dear young lady, is a grief, he declares, that he shall never claw off, were he to love to the age of Matthew Salem; althoff, and howsomever, he is sure, that he shall not live a month to an end: being strangely pined, and his stomach nothing like what it was; and Mrs. Betty being also (now she has got his love) very cross and slighting. But, thank his God for punishing her!—She is in a poor way hersell.
'But the chief occasion of troubling my Honour now, is not his own griefs only, althoff they are very great; but to prevent further mischiefs to me; for he can assure me, that Colonel Morden has set out from them all, with a full resolution to have his will of me; and he is well assured, that he said, and swore to it, as how he was resolved that he would either have my Honour's heart's-blood, or I should have his; or some such-like sad threatenings: and that all the family rejoice in it, and hope I shall come short home.
This is the substance of Joseph's letter; and I have one from Mowbray, which has a hint to the same effect. And I recollect now that you were very importunate with me to go to Madrid, rather than to France and Italy, the last evening we passed together.
What I desire of you, is, by the first dispatch, to let me faithfully know all that you know on this head.
I can't bear to be threatened, Jack. Nor shall any man, unquestioned, give himself airs in my absence, if I know it, that shall make me look mean in any body's eyes; that shall give friends pain for me; that shall put them upon wishing me to change my intentions, or my plan, to avoid him. Upon such despicable terms as these, think you that I could bear to live?
But why, if such were his purpose, did he not let me know it before I left England? Was he unable to work himself up to a resolution, till he knew me to be out of the kingdom?
As soon as I can inform myself where to direct to him, I will write to know his purpose; for I cannot bear suspense in such a case as this; that solemn act, were it even to be marriage or hanging, which must be done to-morrow, I had rather should be done to-day. My mind tires and sickens with impatience on ruminating upon scenes that can afford neither variety nor certainty. To dwell twenty days in expectation of an even that may be decided in a quarter of an hour is grievous.
If he come to Paris, although I should be on my tour, he will very easily find out my lodgings. For I every day see some one or other of my countrymen, and divers of them have I entertained here. I go frequently to the opera and to the play, and appear at court, and at all public places. And, on my quitting this city, will leave a direction whither my letters from England, or elsewhere, shall from time to time be forwarded. Were I sure that his intention is what Joseph Leman tells me it is, I would stay here, or shorten his course to me, let him be where he would.
I cannot get off my regrets on account of this dear lady for the blood of me. If the Colonel and I are to meet, as he has done me no injury, and loves the memory of his cousin, we shall engage with the same sentiments, as to the object of our dispute; and that, you know, is no very common case.
In short, I am as much convinced that I have done wrong, as he can be; and regret it as much. But I will not bear to be threatened by any man in the world, however conscious I may be of having deserved blame.
Adieu, Belford! Be sincere with me. No palliation, as thou valuest
MR. BELFORD, TO ROBERT LOVELACE, ESQ. LONDON, OCT. 26.
I cannot think, my dear Lovelace, that Colonel Morden has either threatened you in those gross terms mentioned by the vile Joseph Leman, or intends to follow you. They are the words of people of that fellow's class, and not of a gentleman—not of Colonel Morden, I am sure. You'll observe that Joseph pretends not to say that he heard him speak them.
I have been very solicitous to sound the Colonel, for your sake, and for his own, and for the sake of the injunctions of the excellent lady to me, as well as to him, on that subject. He is (and you will not wonder that he should be) extremely affected; and owns that he has expressed himself in terms of resentment on the occasion. Once he said to me, that had his beloved cousin's case been that of a common seduction, her own credulity or weakness contributing to her fall, he could have forgiven you. But, in so many words, he assured me, that he had not taken any resolutions; nor had he declared himself to the family in such a way as should bind him to resent: on the contrary, he has owned, that his cousin's injunctions have hitherto had the force upon him which I could wish they should have.
He went abroad in a week after you. When he took his leave of me, he told me, that his design was to go to Florence; and that he would settle his affairs there; and then return to England, and here pass the remainder of his days.
I was indeed apprehensive that, if you and he were to meet, something unhappy might fall out; and as I knew that you proposed to take Italy, and very likely Florence, in your return to France, I was very solicitous to prevail upon you to take the court of Spain into your plan. I am still so. And if you are not to be prevailed upon to do that, let me entreat you to avoid Florence or Leghorn in your return, since you have visited both heretofore. At least, let not the proposal of a meeting come from you.
It would be matter of serious reflection to me, if the very fellow, this Joseph Leman, who gave you such an opportunity to turn all the artillery of his masters against themselves, and to play them upon one another to favour your plotting purposes, should be the instrument, in the devil's hand, (unwittingly too,) to avenge them all upon you; for should you even get the better of the Colonel, would the mischief end there?—It would but add remorse to your present remorse; since the interview must end in death; for he would not, I am confident, take his life at your hand. The Harlowes would, moreover, prosecute you in a legal way. You hate them; and they would be gainers by his death; rejoicers in your's—And have you not done mischief enough already?
Let me, therefore, (and through me all your friends,) have the satisfaction to hear that you are resolved to avoid this gentleman. Time will subdue all things. Nobody doubts your bravery; nor will it be known that your plan is changed through persuasion.
Young Harlowe talks of calling you to account. This is a plain evidence, that Mr. Morden has not taken the quarrel upon himself for their family.
I am in no apprehension of any body but Colonel Morden. I know it will not be a mean to prevail upon you to oblige me, if I say that I am well assured that this gentleman is a skillful swordsman; and that he is as cool and sedate as skillful. But yet I will add, that, if I had a value for my life, he should be the last man, except yourself, with whom I would choose to have a contention.
I have, as you required, been very candid and sincere with you. I have not aimed at palliation. If you seek not Colonel Morden, it is my opinion he will not seek you: for he is a man of principle. But if you seek him, I believe he will not shun you.
Let me re-urge, [it is the effect of my love for you!] that you know your own guilt in this affair, and should not be again an aggressor. It would be pity that so brave a man as the Colonel should drop, were you and he to meet: and, on the other hand, it would be dreadful that you should be sent to your account unprepared for it, and pursuing a fresh violence. Moreover, seest thou not, in the deaths of two of thy principal agents, the hand-writing upon the wall against thee.
My zeal on this occasion may make me guilty of repetition. Indeed I know not how to quit the subject. But if what I have written, added to your own remorse and consciousness, cannot prevail, all that I might further urge would be ineffectual.
Adieu, therefore! Mayst thou repent of the past! and may no new violences add to thy heavy reflections, and overwhelm thy future hopes! are the wishes of
Thy true friend, JOHN BELFORD.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. MUNICH, NOV. 11—22.
I received your's this moment, just as I was setting out for Vienna.
As to going to Madrid, or one single step out of the way to avoid Colonel Morden, let me perish if I do!—You cannot think me so mean a wretch.
And so you own that he has threatened me; but not in gross and ungentlemanly terms, you say. If he has threatened me like a gentleman, I will resent his threats like a gentleman. But he has not done as a man of honour, if he has threatened at all behind my back. I would scorn to threaten any man to whom I knew how to address myself either personally or by pen and ink.
As to what you mention of my guilt; of the hand-writing on the wall; of a legal prosecution, if he meet his fate from my hand; of his skill, coolness, courage, and such-like poltroon stuff; what can you mean by it? Surely you cannot believe that such insinuations as those will weaken either my hands or my heart.—No more of this sort of nonsense, I beseech you, in any of your future letters.
He had not taken any resolutions, you say, when you saw him. He must and will take resolutions, one way or other, very quickly; for I wrote to him yesterday, without waiting for this or your answer to my last. I could not avoid it. I could not (as I told you in that) live in suspense. I have directed my letter to Florence. Nor could I suffer my friends to live in suspense as to my safety. But I have couched it in such moderate terms, that he has fairly his option. He will be the challenger, if he take it in the sense in which he may so handsomely avoid taking it. And if he does, it will demonstrate that malice and revenge were the predominant passions with him; and that he was determined but to settle his affairs, and then take his resolutions, as you phrase it.—Yet, if we are to meet [for I know what my option would be, in his case, on such a letter, complaisant as it is] I wish he had a worse, I a better cause. It would be a sweet revenge to him, were I to fall by his hand. But what should I be the better for killing him?
I will enclose a copy of the letter I sent him.
On re-perusing your's in a cooler moment, I cannot but thank you for your friendly love, and good intentions. My value for you, from the first hour of our acquaintance till now, I have never found misplaced; regarding at least your intention: thou must, however, own a good deal of blunder of the over-do and under-do kind, with respect to the part thou actest between me and the beloved of my heart. But thou art really an honest fellow, and a sincere and warm friend. I could almost wish I had not written to Florence till I had received thy letter now before me. But it is gone. Let it go. If he wish peace, and to avoid violence, he will have a fair opportunity to embrace the one, and shun the other.—If not—he must take his fate.
But be this as it may, you may contrive to let young Harlowe know [he is a menacer, too!] that I shall be in England in March next, at farthest.
This of Bavaria is a gallant and polite court. Nevertheless, being uncertain whether my letter may meet with the Colonel at Florence, I shall quit it, and set out, as I intended, for Vienna; taking care to have any letter or message from him conveyed to me there: which will soon bring me back hither, or to any other place to which I shall be invited.
As I write to Charlotte I have nothing more to add, after compliments to all friends, than that I am
Wholly your's, LOVELACE.
MR. LOVELACE, TO WILLIAM MORDEN, ESQ. [ENCLOSED IN THE ABOVE.] MUNICH, NOV. 10—21.
I have heard, with a great deal of surprise, that you have thought fit to throw out some menacing expressions against me.
I should have been very glad that you had thought I had punishment enough in my own mind for the wrongs I have done to the most excellent of women; and that it had been possible for two persons, so ardently joining in one love, (especially as I was desirous to the utmost of my power, to repair those wrongs,) to have lived, if not on amicable terms, in such a way as not to put either to the pain of hearing of threatenings thrown out in absence, which either ought to be despised for, if he had not spirit to take notice of them.
Now, Sir, if what I have heard be owing only to warmth of temper, or to sudden passion, while the loss of all other losses the most deplorable to me was recent, I not only excuse, but commend you for it. But if you are really determined to meet me on any other account, [which, I own to you, is not however what I wish,] it would be very blamable, and very unworthy of the character I desire to maintain, as well with you as with every other gentleman, to give you a difficulty in doing it.
Being uncertain when this letter may meet you, I shall set out to-morrow for Vienna; where any letter directed to the post-house in the city, or to Baron Windisgrat's (at the Favorita) to whom I have commendations, will come to hand.
Mean time, believing you to be a man too generous to make a wrong construction of what I am going to declare, and knowing the value which the dearest of all creatures had for you, and your relation to her, I will not scruple to assure you, that the most acceptable return will be, that Colonel Morden chooses to be upon an amicable, rather than upon any other footing, with
His sincere admirer, and humble servant, R. LOVELACE.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ. LINTZ, NOV. 28. DEC. 9.
I am now on my way to Trent, in order to meet Colonel Morden, in pursuance of his answer to my letter enclosed in my last. I had been at Presburgh, and had intended to visit some other cities of Hungary: but having obliged myself to return first to Vienna, I there met with his letter, which follows:
MUNICH, NOV. 21. DEC. 2.
Your letter was at Florence four days before I arrived there.
That I might not appear unworthy of your favour, I set out for this city the very next morning. I knew not but that the politeness of this court might have engaged, beyond his intention, a gentleman who has only his pleasure to pursue.
But being disappointed in my hope of finding you here, it becomes me to acquaint you, that I have such a desire to stand well in the opinion of a man of your spirit, that I cannot hesitate a moment upon the option, which I am sure Mr. Lovelace in my situation (thus called upon) would make.
I own, Sir, that I have on all occasions, spoken of your treatment of my ever-dear cousin as it deserved. It would have been very surprising if I had not And it behoves me (now you have given me so noble an opportunity of explaining myself) to convince you, that no words fell from my lips, of you, merely because you were absent. I acquaint you, therefore, that I will attend your appointment; and would, were it to the farthest part of the globe.
I shall stay some days at this court; and if you please to direct for me at M. Klienfurt's in this city, whether I remain here or not, your commands will come safely and speedily to the hands of, Sir,
Your most humble servant, WM. MORDEN.
So you see, Belford, that the Colonel by his ready, his even eagerly-expressed acceptance of the offered interview, was determined. And is it not much better to bring such a point as this to an issue, than to give pain to friends for my safety, or continue in suspense myself; as I must do, if I imagined that another had aught against me?
This was my reply:
VIENNA, NOV. 25. DEC. 6.
I have this moment the favour of your's. I will suspend a tour I was going to take into Hungary, and instantly set out for Munich; and, if I can find you not there, will proceed on to Trent. This city, being on the confines of Italy, will be most convenient, as I presume, to you, in your return to Tuscany; and I shall hope to meet you in it on the 3/14th of December.
I shall bring with me only a French valet and an English footman. Other particulars may be adjusted when I have the honour to see you. Till when, I am, Sir,
Your most obedient servant, R. LOVELACE.
Now, Jack, I have no manner of apprehension of the event of this meeting. And I think I must say he seeks me out; not I him. And so let him take the consequence.
What is infinitely nearer to my heart, is, my ingratitude to the most excellent of women—My premeditated ingratitude!—Yet all the while enabled to distinguish and to adore her excellencies, in spite of the mean opinion of the sex which I had imbibed from early manhood.
But this lady has asserted the worthiness of her sex, and most gloriously has she exalted it with me now. Yet, surely, as I have said and written an hundred times, there cannot be such another woman.