'It was my clandestine departure at this period, and the rumours and suspicions to which it gave birth, that again drove my brother from the country. For some months neither he nor my mother knew what was become of me.
'At length her decline, and the extreme affliction of dying and never hearing of me more, occasioned her to prevail on my brother to advertise me in all the papers. This he did, by inserting the initials of my name, and such other tokens as he knew must be intelligible to me, should I read the advertisement; informing me at the same time of the dying state of my mother.
'His plan so far succeeded as to come to my knowledge. I read the paper, was seized with horror at the information, and immediately wrote in answer. It was too late! My mother was dead! and I left in that state of distraction to which by a single moment's weakness I had been thus fatally conducted!
'Grief, despondency, and resentment, took firm possession of my brother's mind. He wrote me a dreadful letter of the state of his feelings; and, though he forebore explicitly to accuse me of my mother's death, I could perceive the thought pervaded his mind. After her funeral, he came up to London; but refused all intercourse with me, once excepted. A few days only after that on which the bishop introduced you to me, he came, knocked at the door, inquired if I were at home, and sent up his name.
'Of all the moments of my life, that was the most awful! A death-like coldness seized me! The sound of my brother's name was horror! I know not what I said to the servant, but the feelings of Mr. Wilmot were too racking for delay: he was presently before me, dressed in deep mourning; I motionless and dead; he haggard, the image of despair; so changed in form that, but for the sharp and quick sighted suspicions of guilt, had I met him, I should have passed him without suspecting him to be my brother.
'I can tell you but little of what passed. His sentences were incoherent, but half finished, and bursting with passion that was neither grief nor rage, nor reproach nor pardon, though a mixture of them all. The chief impression that he left upon my mind was, that he should soon be freed from the torment of existence: not by the course of nature; he complained, with agony, that labour, disappointment, injustice, and contamination itself could not kill him; but die he would!
'From that day to this, I have never seen or heard word of him more. The deep despair with which he uttered his last resolution has kept me in a state of uninterrupted terror. I daily read all the papers I can buy or borrow with the excruciating dread, every paragraph I come to, of catching his name, and, Oh! insufferable horror! reading an account of his death!
'My state of being seems wholly changed! I am no longer the same creature! My faculties, which formerly compared to those of my brother I thought slow even to stupidity, are now awakened to such keenness of discernment that the world is multiplied upon me a million fold! Sometimes it is all intelligence, though of a dark and terrific hue; at other moments objects swarm so thick that they dance confusion, and give me a foretaste of madness, to which I have now a constant fear that I shall be driven. My own deep shame, the loss of the man whom like an idiot I dearly loved, my mother's death, my brother's letter, and particularly his last visit, have altogether given such an impetuosity to my thoughts as I want the power to repel. Whither they will hurry me God only knows. At one interval I imagine the earth contains nothing but evil! At another, strange to tell! all is good! all is wise! all harmonious! and I reproach my own extreme folly for wanting happiness under so perfect a system!
'Nay, there are times in which I persuade myself I have been guilty of no crime! that there is no such thing as crime! and that the distinctions of men are folly, invented by selfishness and continued by ignorance!
'Indeed, I know not whither my thoughts do not range. At one moment, I seem as if I were actually free to penetrate the bowels of the earth, dive into the deep, transport myself with a wish from planet to planet, or from sun to sun, endure all extremes, overcome them, master all resistance, and be myself omnipotent! The very next instant, perhaps, I doubt if I have really any existence! if waking and dreaming be not the same thing! and whether either of them are definable or intelligible! At this very moment, I know not whither my thoughts are wandering! or whether I ought not to snatch up this or the other weapon of death, and instantly strike you breathless, for having dared to listen to my shame!'
While she spoke, her eyes sparkled, and flashed with that wildness which her tongue with such rapid imagery pictured forth. Had it continued, the tumult might have been dangerous; perhaps fatal; but fortunately the firmness and intrepidity of my mind were equal to the scene. With a cool and collected benevolence of look, and with a determined though not severe tone of voice I said: 'My dear Miss Wilmot, be calm; pause a moment; recollect yourself; I am your friend, I hope you will never find another man your foe.'
The idea suggested an opposite association to her active thoughts; in an instant the fire vanished, her eyes were suffused, her features relaxed, and she again burst into tears and sobs. I was careful not to interrupt the tide of passion; it gave relief; and she presently became more calm. Desirous as I was of hearing particulars concerning the bishop, I gladly listened when, after a sufficient pause, she thus resumed her tale.
'You must not wonder, Mr. Trevor, that I do not tell my story in a connected manner. Whenever I think on the subject, the incidents I have related press upon my mind, produce sensations I cannot command, and for a time obliterate less momentous circumstances.
'The part which the bishop acted in this tragic drama is what I have yet to relate. Mr. Wakefield's father, who let me here remark was an unprincipled man and died insolvent, happened professionally, as a lawyer, to have certain temporalities, in the county where he resided, to manage for the bishop. This brought his son acquainted with the character of the prelate. The relationship in which I stood to him'—I interrupted her.
'To whom, madam?'
'I understood he was no relation of yours?'
'He is and is not.'
'He is by marriage, twice removed; not the least by blood. His late lady, a widow when he married her, was the half-sister of my father's first wife; so that by the courtesy of custom he is called my uncle. He is too artful not to have a shelter for his proceedings.—' She continued:
'An adept which as I have before said Mr. Wakefield is, in reading the weak and vicious inclinations of the human heart, he hoped not only to have rid himself of importunity from me, but, by rendering me subservient to this unholy bishop's vile propensities, to have played a deeper game. This is his delight. The pleasure he receives in making other men's follies, passions, and vices, administer to his own, is the greatest he knows. Were he but the cunningest man on earth, he would think himself the greatest.
'His character sympathized with that of the bishop, who was happy to find so artful and so active an agent. It was not till I had been in the prelate's family some time that the whole of their design was explained to me. The bishop frequently used strange, and to me unintelligible expressions; disgusting from any man, but from him inexpressively offensive and odious; yet the full import of them I did not so much as suspect.
'Nor did he omit to make the solemnity of his supposed character an abettor to his hypocrisy. Feelings of compassion, moral affection, and Christian forgiveness were assumed. When I first entered his house he gave me to understand that he was acquainted with my crime; this, after mentioning it as a serious sin, affecting pity, he qualified away, and, as people in all such situations must, talked an incoherent jargon; that God hated and loved such sinners; that religion was all powerful, but that man was frail; that Christ died to save us, and therefore though we should fall, as perhaps the best of us were subject to back slidings, his mercy was all sufficient.
'But on this and every occasion, he was careful to say nothing open and direct, by which he should be detected. If ever he ventured so far as to excite serious questions from me, he was ever ready with evasive answers, and had something like reasoning to offer, in defence of his own manners and in ridicule of prudery. He began with caution, but when he had accustomed me to such discourse, and after I had heard it repeated even in the presence of his clerical companions, of which you, Mr. Trevor, were once a witness, my surprize wore away; the pain it gave me was diminished, and he became less and less reserved.
'Still however he did not venture openly to declare himself; and Mr. Wakefield was too busy, in wasting your mother's fortune and gratifying his own desires, to attend to those of the bishop. But his prodigality, which is excessive, after a time brought him to London; and the bishop imagined that, with his help, my scruples would at last be conquered.
'The trial was made; not by the cautious bishop, but by Mr. Wakefield. How such a proposition, coming from the man whom I had dearly loved, and whose wife in justice I considered myself to be, was received, you, who have a sense of the feelings of a highly injured and justly indignant heart, may conceive!
'Yet, impassioned determined and almost frantic as I was, it was with difficulty he could relinquish his plan. Till that hour, I never believed him so utterly devoid of principle; but he then laid bare his heart, hoping to make me a convert to its baseness. He exulted in the power we should obtain over this sensual prelate, and the sums which by these means we might extort. He looked with transport forward, to the opening which this would afford for projects still much deeper. The vices of the great, with which he might thus become intimate, afforded a field ample as his own vice could wish. Nor could all the impatience of indignation, with which I continually interrupted him, impede that flow which the subject inspired.
'At length, disgusted beyond sufferance, I abruptly left him, and sought relief from the racking sensations which he had excited. He then entered into a correspondence with me, till I threatened to shew his letters to the bishop. This induced him to desist, and for some time I heard from him no more. At last he wrote once again, informing me that you, Mr. Trevor, were come to London; characterizing you as ignorant of the world and easily deceived; telling me that you were intimate with the bishop; and advising me to promote a plan of marriage between us, which he had proposed to the prelate as the best way, in his own phrase, of making all things smooth!
'I hope the deep shame I felt, when the bishop introduced you and made the experiment, was sufficiently visible to convince you how repugnant my feelings were to such a crime!
'The bishop finding his first purpose thus defeated, and himself encumbered by a kind of claimant, which his acknowledging me as a niece had brought upon him, was determined at all events to rid himself of me. Immediately before he left town, he wrote me a letter, telling me that my loss of character was become too public for me to receive any further countenance, from a man under the moral and divine obligations which every bishop of the church of Christ must be; that he was going on a visit to his diocese; that he could not think of taking me, it was too flagrantly improper; and that he advised and expected I should immediately return to my relations; further hoping that I should see the enormity of my conduct, and reform.
'Oh! Mr. Trevor, what a world is this! Had he offered me money, I should have rejected it with disdain! but he had not even that much charity. I instantly quitted the house with a few shillings only in my pocket.
'Mary had lived with me and my mother for some years before my elopement: after my mother's death, my residence in the bishop's family being known, I sent for her up to town and hired her. Her artless affection made her my confidante; my situation required it; and, when she heard the bishop's letter read, the kind creature with honest anger instantly went and gave him warning.
'A quarter's wages was all her wealth; for the earnings of her labour she had constantly expended on her boy, for whom she seems to have more than a mother's affection. She has been my constant comforter. Seeing the tears in my eyes, as we left the bishop's house, with a look of mingled pity and indignation she exclaimed—"Do not grieve, dear madam; though I work my fingers to the bone, you shall not want."'
Miss Wilmot was proceeding with her narrative, when she was interrupted by the hasty entrance of Mary. 'Oh madam,' said she, 'the dear young lady and her maid are below. They were coming up stairs, but I told them that you had a gentleman with you! Whereof at which the young lady seemed a little in amaze; till I gave her to know that it was only a friend of your brother's, a person from our own honest country, and she would then a gone away, but as I said I was sure you would be glad to see her, and would go up a purpose to your own room. So do you go, madam, and I'll run down and tell her.'
Miss Wilmot immediately took her leave; and, though my curiosity was a little awakened, a sense of decorum would not suffer me to endeavour to see her visitor. I therefore shut the door, and, as soon as all was silent on the stairs, I took my hat and walked out; that by changing the scene I might dissipate a part of the melancholy which her story had produced.
Anger unabated: More news of the bishop: Deliberation on the mode of my revenge: The articles answered; and new assailing doubts: A visit to Turl: Advice given and rejected: And former feelings revived
The next morning, when I came to reflect on all that I had heard, I was surprised with the degree in which, by my mother's marriage with Wakefield, I appeared to be implicated in the history. The character of Wakefield, his prodigality, and total want of principle, were all of a dangerous cast. Not satisfied with beggaring my mother, he had projected to marry me to his mistress. The recollection of him roused resentment, and cunning and inventive as he was described to be, I wished for an opportunity of punishing his baseness, teaching him his own insignificance, and treating him with the contempt he deserved. If attacked, I had not yet learned the philosophy of forbearance. Though I have been hurried forward too fast to narrate every little incident as it occurred, yet it cannot be imagined that I all this while neglected to peruse the defence of the articles published in the bishop's name. No: it was my very first employment, on my arrival in town; and though considerable trouble had been bestowed to disfigure the work, as written by me, yet in substance I found it to be the same. The wrongs of Miss Wilmot quickened my feelings, and, angry as I was with Wakefield, I felt emotions of ten fold bitterness against the bishop.
Association easily conjured up the earl, the president, the tutor, Themistocles, and the injustice and disgrace I had suffered at Oxford. The fermentation was so great that I was determined, immediately, to expose them to the broad shame that should drive them from human society.
In this benevolent project I was confirmed by another piece of intelligence. One of the rich sees of the kingdom had become vacant. The king's conge d'elire was issued, and God's holy vicar the Bishop of ***** himself was translated. What could I conclude, but that the defence which I had written had been the cause? I had been made the stepping stone of vice! I remembered the proceeding of the despot, Frederic of Prussia, with the immortal Voltaire: the orange had been squeezed, and the rind thrown to rot in the highway!
My teeth gnashed with the abundance of my wrath, and the impotence of my means. I had hitherto forborne to write from a perplexity of different plans. At one moment I determined to address my foes in the public papers; at another I would concentrate the story, and relate the whole in a pamphlet. Now it should be a history; anon a satirical novel; Asmodeus in London, in which I would draw the characters in such perfection that, without mentioning names, the persons should be visible to every eye. But then this would not be sufficiently serious. Thousands might mistake that for fiction which I wished all the world to know was fact. To give them the least shelter was cowardly to myself, treacherous to society, and encouragement to the criminal.
At last, the pamphlet was the mode on which I determined: and it was begun with all the enthusiasm that the accumulating circumstances could not but inspire, in a being constituted like me. Eager after every species of aggravation, my anger could never be hot enough; the gall of my ink was milk to that of my heart. The bitterness of my feelings was tormenting; words that could burn, contempt that could kill, shame that could annihilate, these and nothing less could satisfy me. Could the serpent revenge fly, how would it dart and sting! Happily for man it can only crawl. That I had been treated with great injustice was true: but of justice my notions were very inadequate; of revenge I had more than enough for a nation.
While hot in the pursuit of this task, I was diverted from it by the publication of an answer to the articles. The moment I saw it advertised, not sufficiently habituated to the vice of indolence myself to recollect that I had an idle footman below, I hurried to the publisher's, purchased it, and returned with a greyhound speed to devour its contents.
Disgusted as I was with the members of the church, and beginning even to doubt of the perfect orthodoxy of the church itself, I still had too high an opinion of my own arguments to imagine the wit of man could overturn them.
My haste had been so great that I had not taken off the paper, in which the pamphlet was wrapped; and in the shop I had read no more than the title-page. What was my surprise when snatching it from my pocket and opening it, I discovered, at the conclusion of a short preface, the name of Turl! it's author!
My emotions were confused. At one moment an answer from him was what I wished; the next it was something like what I feared. In all argument, I had hitherto found him so cool, so collected, and so clear, that, to my imagination, he perhaps was the only man on earth fit to cope with me. But the grating question, 'Was I fit to cope with him?' would now and then recur. I could not but feel that I had, in a certain manner, been subdued and cowed by his greater extent of knowledge, perspicuity, and masculine genius. By thoughts like these my anxiety, if not my ardour, was increased, and I began to read.
My forebodings were fulfilled. The impotence of my arguments was exposed, their absurdity and self-contradiction ridiculed, their evil tendency demonstrated, their falsehood rendered odious, and the author of them treated like a child. My self respect was wounded at every line, each paragraph was a death stab, and I never before felt myself so completely ridiculous.
As a lesson of philosophy it was the most serious, salutary, and impressive I ever received; for though, while reading, I affirmed to myself that every thing urged against me was weak, or ill founded, inconclusive, or absolutely false, yet the arguments returned with increasing and reiterated force, haunting and oppressing me like a painful dream from which I could not awake.
The evil tendency which he proved against my doctrines was the least to be forgotten. As far as I understood myself, I had a sincere love of truth, and an unfeigned desire to benefit, not mislead and oppress, mankind. As the author of the defence, the heavy charge of immorality was brought against me; not by personal attacks on my substitute, the bishop, but by a detail of the consequences of such doctrines.
This event made me pause and consider, though with but little propensity to candour, concerning the pamphlet on which I was then engaged. Consideration however did but seem to confirm me in my purpose. Let my defence be right or wrong, and I had by no means yet decided in the negative, still the turpitude of the bishop and my persecutors was no less flagitious. These incidents once more turned my thoughts toward Turl, whom I knew not whether to admire, love, or hate. I was not so entirely overwhelmed but that I had arguments, at least I had words, at my command. Beside, I felt a wish to communicate to him my projected attack, and perhaps read a part of my pamphlet, that it might, as it certainly must, meet his approbation. I felt satisfied that what he approved could not be wrong. And how disapprove? On former occasions indeed my hopes, in this respect, had been deceived; but now it was impossible! The case was so clear! In the present instance, there could be but one opinion!
Feelings which were not the most honourable to myself, for their source was egotism, had withheld me from visiting him since my return; but these were now subdued, by others that were more imperious. I was not satisfied with requiring his approbation of my plan of vengeance; my choleric vanity challenged him to the lists, and the combat was resolved upon.
As I was going, I recollected the shortness of the period in which his answer had been composed and published, and this did but remind me of the champion I had to encounter.
I found him, as before, tranquily pursuing his labours; except that now he was writing, engaged as I imagined on the grand work he had projected; though his copper and engraving tools lay dispersed by his side. He received me as usual with calmness, but not without an evident mixture of pleasure. Irritable as my feelings were, I had always experienced something infinitely more dissatisfactory in being angry with him than with any other person. In his countenance there was a sedate undeviating rectitude, that, but for my impetuous disdain of all restraint, would have inspired awe; yet, whenever his eye met the eye of another, there was something so benevolent as almost to disarm ill humour.
Replete with new arguments, as I supposed, but which in reality were only a repetition of those I had already adduced, I burst upon him with a multitude of words; defending my own defence of the articles and attacking his answer. He made various ineffectual attempts to arrest my career, and at last was obliged to suffer me to weary myself; after which he calmly replied.
'The best answer I can give, to all you have urged, is to request you will read the defence of the articles and my answer again, with care. Either I am mistaken or you will find every thing you have said already confuted.'
I endeavoured to divert him from this defence by reference, but he continued to urge that he should only weaken his cause by answering desultory arguments in a desultory way; which in the present case would be folly, because his answer was already given in a clear and as he believed conclusive manner.
Finding his purpose not to be shaken, I asked him if he were aware that I was the author of the defence of the articles? He answered that, seeing the bishop's name to the publication, he could not but suppose the bishop himself had been intimately concerned in the writing of the work: but, from what I had formerly told him, he had suspected me to be a fellow-labourer.
'If so,' said I, 'Mr. Turl, how did it happen that you felt no aversion to the confutation, as you suppose, of a man for whom you had professed a regard?'
He replied, 'You, Mr. Trevor, are well acquainted with my answer: "Socrates is my friend, Plato is my friend, but truth is more my friend." If I myself had written falsehood yesterday, and now knew it to be such, I would answer it to day. Would not you?'
It was a home question, and I was silent.
This subject ended, he made some kind and cordial inquiries concerning my present pursuits, and these furnished the opportunity of unburthening my heart. I related to him, with all the indignation which resentment inspired, my whole history; and ended with informing him of my determination to publish the vice and infamy of all the parties to the world. On this a dialogue began.
'Which way will you publish them?'
'In a narrative, that I am now writing.'
'A sense of duty has obliged me to tell you that, in my opinion you have been guilty of several mistakes already: you are now intent upon another.'
'The excess of your anger perverts your judgment, and you cannot write such a narrative without keeping your passions in a vitiated state. Owing to the prejudices of mankind, you will impeach your own credibility. Moderate men will think you rash, the precise will call you a detractor, and the partisans, who are numerous, of the persons you will attempt to expose will raise a cry against you, that will infinitely overpower the equivocal proofs you can produce. It will become a question of veracity, and yours will be invalidated by the improbability, if not of the guilt, at least of the folly of your persecutor's conduct. You cannot reform them, will do yourself much harm, and the world no good. You will not only misemploy your time for the present, but impede your power for the future.'
'If such be the consequences of honestly speaking the truth, what is the conduct that I am to pursue? Am I to be a hypocrite, and listen with approbation while men boast of their vices, glory in their false principles, and proclaim the destructive projects they mean to pursue?'
'Is not silence approbation?'
'Yet your system will not allow me to speak!'
'You accuse my system unjustly: it is the manner of speaking to which it attends. The precaution of speaking so as to produce good, not bad, consequences is the doctrine I wish to inculcate. He that should sweep the streets of pea-shells, lest old women might break their necks, would doubtless have good intentions; yet his office would only be that of a scavenger. Speak, but speak to the world at large, not to insignificant individuals. Speak in the tone of a benevolent and disinterested heart, and not of an inflamed and revengeful imagination! otherwise you endanger yourself, and injure society.'
'What, shall any cowardly regard to my own safety induce me to the falsehood of silence? For is it not falsehood, of the most contemptible and atrocious kind, to forbear publishing such miscreants to the world? It is this base this selfish prudence, that encourages men like these to proceed from crime to crime. Had they been exposed in their first attempt, their effrontery could never have been so enormous. No! I am determined! Were my life to be the sacrifice, I will hold them up a beacon, alike to the wicked and the unwary! Will paint them in the gross and odious colours that alone can characterize their actions, and drive them from the society of mankind!'
'Do you conceive you are now speaking in the spirit of justice, or of revenge?'
He who is resolved not to be convinced does not wish to hear his last argument answered. With this short reply, therefore, I rose, took my hat, made some aukward apology, was sorry we were fated to differ so continually in principle, but each man must act from his own judgment; was obliged to him nevertheless for his sincerity and good intention, and once more took my leave, more angry than pleased, much in the same abrupt manner that I had formerly done. The similarity indeed forced itself upon me as I was quitting the door, and I knew not whether to accuse myself of pettishness, obstinacy, and want of candour; or him of singularity, and an inflexible sternness of opposition. At all events, my purpose of publishing my pamphlet as soon as it should be written was fixed; and to that labour I immediately returned.
Story of Miss Wilmot concluded: Olivia not forgotten: A gaming-table friend characterized: Modern magicians: Suspicious principles: The friend's absence, and return: Allegorical wit, and dangerous advice
Various causes induced me to take the first opportunity of again visiting Miss Wilmot; her story had inspired compassion and respect. She might be in want, and to relieve her would give me pleasure. Beside which I had a number of questions to ask, especially concerning this Wakefield; and some desire to know who and what the young lady, who was so great a favourite with Mary, might be.
In the evening I saw Miss Wilmot; and, in offering her with as much delicacy as possible pecuniary aid, she informed me that fortunately she had found a friend; generous, beneficent, and tender; not less prudent than kind; and, though very young, possessed of a dignity of understanding such as she had never before met in woman. Miss Wilmot spoke with so much enthusiasm that I, whose imagination readily caught fire, felt a redoubled wish to see this angel.
I hinted it to Miss Wilmot, but with apologies; and she replied that the young lady had expressly requested her visits might be private, and her name concealed. I inquired how they had first become acquainted, and learned that it was in consequence of the friendly zeal of Mary, who had a countrywoman that lived servant in the family of this young lady, and from whom she gained intelligence of the liberal and noble qualities of her mistress. The first retreat of Miss Wilmot, after leaving the house of the bishop, was to a poor lodging provided by Mary. From this she was removed by the friendly young lady to her present asylum, till she could find the means of maintaining herself; and had since been supplied with necessaries through the same channel. 'The favours she confers on me,' said Miss Wilmot, 'are not so properly characterised by delicacy, as by a much higher quality; an open and unaffected sensibility of soul; a benevolent intention of promoting human happiness; and an unfeigned heart felt pleasure which accompanies her in the performance of this delightful duty. The particulars I have now related,' continued she, 'were all that remained to be told when I was interrupted by Mary, at our last meeting; and you are now acquainted with my whole story.'
Every conversation that I had with Miss Wilmot confirmed the truth of her own remark, that her intellect had been greatly awakened by the misfortunes in which her mistakes had involved her; and particularly by the deep despondency of her brother. He, Wakefield, and the young lady were the continual topics of her discourse; but her brother the most and oftenest. I was several times a witness that the papers were daily perused by her, with all those quick emotions of dread which she had so emphatically described. The terror of his parting resolution was almost too much for her, and it was with difficulty she preserved her mind from madness. I saw its tendency, and took every opportunity to sooth and calm her troubled spirit; and my efforts were not wholly ineffectual.
In the mean time I did not forget that I was not possessed of the purse of Fortunatus. On the contrary, I had a mighty task before me. The image of Olivia incessantly haunted me. The ineffable beauty of her form, the sweet and never to be forgotten sensibility that she displayed when I first saw her in the presence of Andrews, at Oxford, and the native unaffected dignity of her mind were my constant themes of meditation. Must I behold her in the arms of another? The thought was horror! Yet how to obtain her? If I studied the law, preliminary forms alone would consume years. From the church I was banished. A military life I from principle abhorred; even my half ripe philosophy could not endure the supposition of being a hireling cut-throat. Literature might afford me fame, but of riches gained from that source there was scarcely an example.
From literary merit however men had obtained civil promotion; it must not therefore be neglected. Of such neglect indeed my passionate love of letters would not admit. With respect to law, though infinitely too slow for the rapidity of my desires, still it was good to be prepared for all events. I therefore entered myself of the Temple, and thus began another snail-pace journey of term keeping.
Youth is a busy season, and, though occupations are forced upon it of a nature too serious for its propensities, it fails not to find time for amusement. In St. James's-street, near the palace, was a billiard-table, to which when an inmate with Lord Idford I had resorted. It was frequented by officers of the Guards, and other persons who were chiefly supposed to be men of some character and fashion. Among them I had met a young gentleman of the name of Belmont, remarkable for the easy familiarity of his address, an excellent billiard player, and who had in a manner attached himself to me, by a degree of attention that was engaging. I thought indeed that I discovered contradictory qualities in him; but the sprightliness of his imagination, and the whimsicality of his remarks, compensated for a looseness of principle, which was too apparent to be entirely overlooked.
He frequently turned the conversation on the county of which I was a native, having, as he informed me, and as his discourse shewed, many acquaintance in that county. Since my return to town I had again met him, and he had sought my company with increasing ardour.
Flattered by this preference, and often delighted with the flights of his fancy, I returned his advances with great cordiality. His appearance was always genteel, but from various circumstances I collected that he was not at present rich. His expectations, according to his own account, were great; and his familiar habits of treating every man, be his rank or fashion what it might, seemed to signify that he considered himself their equal.
When we first met, after my return to town, he was desirous I should relate to him where I had been, and what had befallen me: and when he heard that I had visited the county of—he became more pressing to know all that had happened. To encourage me, he gave me the following account of himself.
'For my own part, Mr. Trevor, I am at present under a cloud. I shall sometime or another break forth, and be a gay fellow once again: nor can I tell how soon. I love to see life, and I do not believe there is a man in England of my age, who has seen more of it. Perhaps you will laugh when I tell you that, since we last parted, I have been vagabondizing. You do not understand the term? It offends your delicacy? I will explain.'
He saw he had raised my curiosity, and with a loquacity that sat easy on him, and a vivacity of imagery in which as I have said he excelled, he thus continued.
'Perhaps you will think a gentleman degraded, by having subjected himself to the denomination of a vagrant? Though, no; you have wit enough to laugh at gray-beards, and their ridiculous forms and absurd distinctions. Know then, there is a certain set or society of men, frequently to be met in straggling parties about this kingdom, who, by a peculiar kind of magic, will metamorphose an old barn, stable, or out-house, in such a wonderful manner that the said barn, stable, or out-house, shall appear, according as it suits the will or purpose of the said magicians, at one time a prince's palace; at another a peasant's cottage; now the noisy receptacle of drunken clubs and wearied travellers, called an inn; anon the magnificent dome of a Grecian temple. Nay, so vast is their art that, by pronouncing audibly certain sentences which are penned down for them by the head or master magician, they transport the said barn, stable, or out-house, thus metamorphosed, over sea or land, rocks, mountains or deserts, into whatsoever hot, cold, or temperate region the director wills, with as much facility as my lady's squirrel can crack a nut. What is still more wonderful, they carry all their spectators along with them, without the witchery of broomsticks.
'These necromancers, although whenever they please they become princes, kings, and heroes, and reign over all the empires of the vast and peopled earth; though they bestow governments, vice-royalties, and principalities upon their adherents, divide the spoils of nations among their pimps, pages, and parasites, and give a kingdom for a kiss, for they are exceedingly amorous; yet, no sooner do their sorceries cease, though but the moment before they were reveling and banqueting with Marc Antony, or quaffing nectar with Jupiter himself, it is a safe wager of a pound to a penny that half of them go supperless to bed. A set of poor but pleasant rogues! miserable but merry wags! that weep without sorrow, stab without anger, die without dread, and laugh, sing, and dance to inspire mirth in others while surrounded themselves with wretchedness.
'A thing still more remarkable in these enchanters is that they completely effect their purpose, and make those who delight in observing the wonderful effects of their art laugh or cry, condemn or admire, love or hate, just as they please; subjugating the heart with every various passion: more especially when they pronounce the charms and incantations of a certain sorcerer called Shakspeare, whose science was so powerful that he himself thus describes it.
—'I have oft be-dimm'd The noon-tide sun, call'd forth the mutinous winds, And 'twixt the green sea and the azur'd vault Set roaring war: to the dread rattling thunder Have I given fire, and rifted Jove's stout oak With his own bolt: the strong-bas'd promontory Have I made shake; and by the spurs pluck'd up The pine and cedar: graves, at my command, Have wak'd their sleepers; op'd, and let them forth By my so potent art.'
'I understand you,' said I; delighted with the picture he had drawn. 'Your necessities have obliged you to turn player?'
'Not altogether my necessities,' answered he: 'it was more from a frolic, and to know the world. That is my study, Mr. Trevor. But can you tell me why players, by following their profession, act in some places contrary to all law, and are called strollers, vagabonds, and vagrants, and in others are protected by the law, and dignified with the high and mighty title of his Majesty's Servants?'—
'Indeed I cannot,' said I.
He continued: 'Mark my words; the day will come, Mr. Trevor, when you will discover that there are greater jugglers in the world than your players, wonderful as their art of transformation is. The world is all a cheat; its pleasures are for him who is most expert in legerdemain and cajolery; and he is a fool indeed who is juggled out of his share of them. But that will not I be.'
He then turned the conversation to me, and what had happened during my visit in the country. I was beginning my short narrative, but we were interrupted by an acquaintance, who joined us; and we two or three times met again in the billiard-room, before any opportunity presented itself.
One evening however he followed me out, and required me to discharge my promise. Accordingly I told him all that had occurred; but not without those feelings of indignation which the subject always awakened. He rather seemed diverted than to sympathize in my angry sensations, and asked me 'whether I thought those men, whom the world call swindlers, black-legs, and other hard names, were not at least as honest as many of their neighbours?'
He paid most attention to my mother's story; and, I having characterized Wakefield according to the traits my mother and Miss Wilmot had given me, he observed that 'this Wakefield must certainly be a cunning fellow, and of no mean abilities.'
'In my opinion,' I replied, 'he is an unprincipled scoundrel; and indeed a greater fool than knave; for, with the same ingenuity that he has exerted to make all mankind his enemies, he might have made them all his friends.'
Belmont's answer was remarkable. 'You have this ingenuity yourself, Mr. Trevor; talents which you have exerted, in your own way. Have you made all men your friends?'
I was silent, and after a moment's pause he added—'Come, come! You have spirit and generosity; I will tell you how you can serve me. I have a relation, from whom I could draw a good supply at this moment, if I had but a small sum for travelling expences. Lend me ten guineas: I will be back in a week and repay you.'
The pleasantness of his humour, and the manner in which he had gained upon me, were sufficient to insure him a compliance with this request. I had the money in my pocket, gave it him, and we bade each other adieu; with a promise on his part that 'he would soon be in town again, new moulted and full of feather.'
I must not omit to notice that, having had occasion to hint at Miss Wilmot, in the story I had told him, but without mentioning her name, which he never indeed seemed desirous to know, he put many questions relating to her. He inquired too concerning her brother; and, though he gave no tokens of deep passion, was evidently interested in the whole narrative. His queries extended even to the bishop, and the earl; and he discovered a great desire to be minutely informed of all that related to me. His interrogatories were answered without reserve, for I understood them as tokens of friendship.
In less than a fortnight, I met him again, at the usual place: for he had always been averse to visit me at my lodgings. This I had attributed to motives of vanity; for example, his not having apartments perhaps, such as he wished, to invite me to in return. His appearance, the moment I saw him, spoke his success. His dress was much improved, he sported his money freely, and being engaged at play more than once betted ten pounds upon the hazard. He was successful in his match, in high spirits, welcomed me heartily, and was full of those flights in which his vigorous imagination was so happy.
'Life,' said he, 'Trevor,' putting on his coat after he had done play, 'life is a game at calculation; and he that plays the best of it is the cleverest fellow. Or, rather, calculation and action are husband and wife; married without a possibility of divorce. The greatest errors of Mrs. Action proceed from a kind of headstrong feminine propensity, which she has to be doing before her husband, Mr. Calculation, has given her proper directions. She often pours a spoonful of scalding soup into his worship's mouth, before the relative heat between the liquid and the papillary nerves has been properly determined; at which, in the aforesaid true feminine spirit, she is apt, while he makes wry faces, to burst into a violent fit of laughter.
'Not but that Mrs. Action herself has sometimes very just cause of complaint against her spouse; as most wives have. For example: If, in coming down stairs, Mr. Calculation have made an occasional error but of a unit, and told her ladyship she had only one step more to descend when she had two, she, coming with an unexpected jerk in the increased ratio of a falling body, is very much alarmed; and when the tip of her rose-coloured tongue has happened, on such occasions, to project a little beyond the boundaries prescribed by those beautiful barriers of ivory called her teeth, it has suffered a sudden incision; nay sometimes amputation itself: a very serious mischief; for this is wounding a lady in a tender part.
'What is error? Defect in calculation. What is ignorance? Defect in calculation. What is poverty, disgrace, and all the misfortunes to which fools are subject? Defect in calculation.'
By this time we were in the street, walking arm in arm toward the park, and he continued his jocular allegory.—
'You tell me you have a mind to turn author; and this makes me suspect you understand but little of the algebra of authorship. Could you but calculate the exact number of impediments, doubts, and disappointments attending the trade, could you but find the sum of the objections which yourself, your friends, and your employers will raise, not only against your book but against the best book that ever was or will be written, the remainder would be a query, the produce of which would be a negative quantity, which would probably prevent both Sir and Madam from reading either the nonsense or the good sense, the poetry or the prose, the simple or the sublime, of the rhapsodical, metaphorical, allegorical genius, Hugh Trevor: for in that case I suspect Hugh Trevor would find a more pleasant and profitable employment than the honourable trade of authorship. I have read books much, but men more, and think I can bring my wit to a better market than the slow and tedious detail of an A, B, C, manufactory.'
I laughed and listened, and he presently broke forth with another simile.
'In what is the maker of a book better than the maker of a coat? Needle and thread, pen and ink; cloth uncut and paper unsoiled; where is the preference? except that the tailor's materials are the more costly. In days of yore, the gentlemen of the thimble gave us plenty of stay-tape and buckram; the gentlemen of the quill still give us a quantum sufficit of hard words and parenthesis. The tailor has discovered that a new coat will sit more degage, and wear better, the less it is incumbered by trimmings: but though buckram is almost banished from Monmouth-street, it is still on sale in Paternoster-row.
'I once began to write a book myself, and began it in this very style: Fable, said I, is the cloth, and morality the lining; a good diction makes an excellent facing, satire ensures fashion, and humour duration; and for an author to pretend to write without wit and judgment were as senseless as for a tailor to endeavour to work without materials, or shears to cut them. Periods may aptly be compared to buttons; and button holes are like—
'I could find no simile for button holes, and thank heaven! left off in despair and never wrote another line.
'Take my advice, Trevor; quit all thoughts of so joyless and stupifying a trade! Every blockhead can sneer at an author; the title itself is a sarcasm; and Job, who we are told was the most patient of men, uttered the bitterest wish that ever fell from lips: "Oh that mine enemy had written a book!"
'Beside you are a fellow of spirit, fashion, form, and figure; and if you will but keep company with me may learn a little wit. How many fools are there with full purses, which if you be not as great a fool as any of them, you might find the means to empty? He that is bound by rules, which the rich make purposely to rob the poor of their due, is like crows, scared from picking up the scattered corn by rags and a manikin.'
This discourse gave me no surprise; it was what I imagined to be a free loose mode of talking, that did not correspond with his principles of action. I deemed it a love of paradox, a desire to shew his wit and original turn of thought, and was confirmed in the supposition by his ironical and ludicrous replies, whenever I attempted a serious answer. Such was the history of the beginning of an acquaintance of which the reader will hear more.
An important secret betrayed by Mary: Transporting intelligence: The reverse, or rain after sunshine: The reader entrusted with a secret: Strange behaviour of a false friend: Lover's vows
I did not suffer a day to pass without either seeing or sending to inquire after Miss Wilmot; so that our intercourse was continual. One afternoon, being in my own room, after hearing as I thought footsteps and female voices on the stairs, Mary knocked at my door, and, entering as desired, shewed marks of eagerness on her countenance, the meaning of which a question from me immediately caused her to explain. 'Lord! Sir,' said she, 'you cannot think what a hurry and flurry I be in! And all about you!'
'You shall hear, Sir. My mistress is gone out to take a walk in the park, as I avised her to divart her mellicholy; and so the dear young lady has bin here; Miss—! I had forgotten! I munna tell her name. But if ever there wur an angel upon arth she is one; she says such kind things to my dear mistress, and does not blame her for her fault; for, thof she be as innocent herself as the child unborn, she can pity the misfortins of her own sect, when they a bin betrayed by false hearted men; and all that she says is that we mun take care to be more be-cautioned for the time to come: and then she says it in so sweet, and yet so serus a manner, that I am sure no Christian soul if they'd a heard her would dare do other than as she says. And as for a doing a good turn, I do verily believe she would give the morsel out of her mouth afore a poor creature should be driven to sin and shame for want—'
I interrupted her: she had raised some strong surmises, and I was impatient—'But you forget, Mary; you mentioned something concerning me?'
'Oh lord! yea; a mort o' questions a bin asked; for she talks as familiarity to me as if she wur a poor body herself; which gives me heart, so that I be not afeard to speak. Whereof I could not help telling her a great many things about you; as how, when little more but a child, you saved my life; and consarning your goodness and kind offers to my dear mistress; and how soft hearted and well spoken you wur even to poor me; just for all the world as I said, like her own dear good self. Whereupon it gladdened her heart to hear there wur another good creature, as good as herself. And so she asked ater your name; which, you know that being no secret, I told her, and then it wur, if you had but a seen her! Her face wur as pale as my kerchief! and I asked what ailed her ladyship? And she replied in a faint voice, Nothing. So that I thought there must for sartinly be a summut between you! for she sat down, and seemed to do so! as if a struggling for breath. And I ran for a smelling bottle; whereupon she wur better, and said she did not need it. And so she asked how long you had lived in the house, and whether you looked happy? And I answered and said there wur not a kinder happier creature breathing. So she asked again if I wur quite sure that you wur happy? And I said I wur mortally sartin of it. So then she fetched a deep sigh from the very bottom of her heart, and said she wur glad of it, very glad of it indeed. For, said she, my good Mary, for she often calls me good, which I be very sure is her kindness and not my desarts, my good Mary, said she, I don't wonder that you do love Mr. Trevor for having a saved your life. He once saved my life; which, says she, I shall remember the longest day I have to breathe: and—'
'It is she!' exclaimed I; for I could hold no longer. 'It is Olivia! Benevolent angel! And does she deign to think of me? Does she inquire after me? Am I still in her thoughts?'
'Anan!' said Mary. 'I hope I a betrayed no secrets? For surely, I ha' not mentioned a word of her name.'
Just as I was continuing to question Mary farther, Miss Wilmot returned. I earnestly requested she would come into my apartment, related the discovery I had made, and spoke with all that enthusiasm which the revival of hope and the ardour of passion could inspire. Miss Wilmot sympathized with my feelings; and, with a fervour that spoke the kindness of her heart, hoped she should one day see a pair so worthy of each other blessed to the full accomplishment of their wishes; but she confessed she had her fears, for she thought that the remark, that lovers best calculated to make each other happy were seldom united, was but too true.
I prevailed on her to take tea with me; Mary waited, and I put a thousand questions to her; for my conversation was all on this subject. I could think of nothing else. O how pure was the delight of this discovery! That Olivia should quit the scenes of tumultuous joy, and seek the forlorn and unfortunate, purposely to mitigate their wants, and administer consolation to their woes, was knowledge inexpressibly sweet to the soul! And that she should still remember me! that my very name should raise such commotions in her bosom! that she should delight to hear my praise, and recollect the fortunate moment when I bore her from death with such affection!—It was rapture unspeakable!
I learned from Mary that she lived with her aunt, a few streets distant; and Miss Wilmot informed me that she constantly visited her twice, and sometimes oftener, each week. How did my bosom burn with the wish that she might return that very evening, or at least the next day! In the impatience and ecstacy of hope, I forgot all impediments. Let me but see her; let me but know that she was in the house, and I supposed the moment of perfect bliss would then be come. Happy evening! Never did seductive fancy paint more delicious dreams, or raise up phantoms more flattering to the heart.
Pains and pleasures dance an eternal round. The very next day brought sensations of an opposite kind. My mother had found no person of whom to purchase an annuity in the country; for, the money being her own by my free gift, she had not thought proper to venture it with Thornby; lest under the pretext of monies advanced, he should make she knew not what deduction. She had therefore written to me, soon after I came to London, to find her a purchaser; and after some delay, which the necessity of consulting persons better informed than myself had occasioned, I had advertised the week before and had entered into a negotiation.
Terms were agreed upon, and the rough copy of a deed for that purpose was brought me the same morning that the following letter arrived.
'In spite of my caution, your mother has played the fool once more. She was too suspicious to trust the money in my hands, though I warned her to beware of accidents. I must say she is a very weak woman. Her husband, Mr. Wakefield, has made his appearance, and has trumped up some tale or another to impose upon her, which I am sorry to find is no difficult thing. He has got the money you gave her; so what is to become of her I do not know. She expects he will fetch her away within a month, and keep her like a lady, on the profits of some place at court, which, according to his account, a friend was to procure for him if he could but raise five hundred pounds. You may think how likely he is to keep his promise. I told her my mind in plain terms, and I believe she begins to be in a panic. She dare not write to you, on which I thought it best to let you know the truth at once; for, as I said before, what is to become of her I do not know.
I am, &c.
The train of ideas which the strange contents of this epistle excited was painful in the extreme. The idiot conduct of my mother tempted me to curse, not her indeed, but, according to the narrow limits of prejudice, God and her excepted, all things else! Yet, who but she was the chief actor in this scene of lunatic folly? Was there a woman on earth beside herself that would have been so grossly gulled?
As for her husband, the bitterness of gall was not so choaking as the recollection of him. The sight or sound of his name excited disgust too intense to be dwelt upon! To suffocate him as a monster, or a sooterkin, seemed the only punishment of which he was worthy.
And here it is necessary I should inform the reader of a secret, of which I was myself at that time and long continued to remain utterly ignorant. Belmont, the man who had purposely thrown himself in my way, industriously made himself my intimate, informed me as I supposed of his private affairs and motives of action, inquired minutely into mine, wormed every intelligence I could give that related to myself out of me, designedly attached me to him by intellectual efforts of no mean or common kind (for he saw they delighted me, and they were familiar to him) Belmont, I say, possessed of a pleasing person, a winning aspect, and an address that, though studied with the deepest art, appeared to be open, unpremeditated, and too daring for disguise, this Belmont was no other than the hated Wakefield! Yes, it was Wakefield himself, that by a stratagem which drove me half mad, while it made every drop of blood in his body tingle with triumph, had thus circumvented me! He it was who borrowed the ten guineas from me, by the aid of which he robbed me of five hundred; and then returned to observe how I endured the goad, laugh at my restive antics, and revel in the plunder which he had purloined with so much facility from foolish Trevor, and his still more foolish mother!
But this was not the only trick he had to play me. Secure in the resources of an invention that might have been occupied in pursuits worthy of his powers, his perverted philosophy taught him to employ these resources only for the gratification of passions which he thought it folly to control, and to exult over men whose sordid selfishness he despised, and whose limited cunning was the subject of his derision. He professed himself the disciple of La Rochefoucault and Mandeville, and his practice did not belie his principles.
From the tenor of his discourse, I am persuaded that, had he found me apt at adopting his maxims, he would have unbosomed himself freely, have initiated me in his own arts, and, by making me the associate of his projects, have induced me to look back on the past rather with merriment than anger. As it was, he reserved himself to act with me as with the rest of mankind; to watch circumstances, and turn them to his own purposes whenever opportunity should offer.
This was the man who was the hero of the letter I had just received! A letter that I could neither read nor recollect without being stung almost to frenzy; yet that I could neither forget nor forbear to peruse!
During two hours I traversed my room, and chafed with something like bursting anguish. A few weeks ago, when I had received my legacy of the lawyer, I seemed to be encumbered with wealth. Reflection and the expence at which I now lived, to the visible and quick consumption of a sum I then thought so ample, had since taught me that I was in imminent danger of being reduced to beggary. I had no profession, nor any means of subsistence till a profession could be secured; at least no adequate means, unless by retiring to some humble garret, and confining myself to the society of the illiterate, the boorish, and the brutal, between whose habits and mine there was no congeniality. The very day before, Olivia, ecstatic vision, had risen in full view of my delighted hopes, and, forgetting the tormenting distance which malignant fate had placed between us, I almost thought her mine. The recollection of her now was misery.
Restless, desponding, agonizing, when this thought occurred, I was hastening to go and communicate the accursed news to Miss Wilmot; but an idea started which, after a moment's reflection, induced me to desist. If I told her, the story of Wakefield must again be revived. Olivia too might be informed of circumstances concerning my silly mother, which, selfishness out of the question, motives of delicacy ought to conceal. Such were my arguments at that time: I had not then the same moral aversion to secrecy that I now possess.
I could not however any longer endure the present scene, and to get rid of it hurried away to the billiard table, where, as usual, I found the then supposed Belmont. He was not himself at play, but was engaged in betting. Impatient to unburthen my heart, for as far as my own affairs were concerned I had now no secrets for him, I hurried him out of the room immediately that the game was ended.
The moment we came into the park, I shewed him my letter, and desired him to read. While he perused it, I saw he was more than once violently tempted to laugh.
'Well!' said he, returning it and restraining his titillation, 'is this all?'
'All!' answered I. 'What more would you have? Could the maleficent devil himself do more to drive a man mad?'
He looked in my face! I returned the inquisitive gaze! I saw emotions the very reverse of mine struggling to get vent. His opposing efforts were ineffectual; he could contain himself no longer, and burst into a violent fit of laughter!
Astonished at mirth so ill placed and offensive, I asked what it meant? The tone of my interrogatory was rouzing, and recalled his attention. 'Pshaw! Trevor,' replied he, with a glance of half contemptuous pity, 'you are yet young: you are but at the beginning of your troubles. Your over weening fondness for the musty morality of dreaming dotards, or artful knaves who only made rules that they might profit by breaking them, will be your ruin. I tell you again and again, if you do not prey upon the world, the world will prey upon you. There is no alternative. What! be bubbled out of your fortune by a whining old woman? I am ashamed of you!'
'But that woman is my mother!'
'Yes! and a set of very pretty motherly tricks she has played you! Not that in the first instance it was so much your fault, who were but a boy, as that of your old fool of a grandfather. It is now high time however that you should become a man.'
'My grandfather? Say rather it was the scoundrel Wakefield!'
'You seem very angry with this Wakefield! And why? He appears to me to be a fellow of plot, wit, and spirit. Instead of resentment, were I you, I should be glad to become acquainted with the man who so well perceives the stupidity and folly of the animals around him, laughs at their apish antics, and with so much facility turns their absurd whims to his own advantage.'
'Acquainted! Intuitive rascal! I would cut off his ears! Drag him to the pillory with my own hands! He is unworthy a nobler revenge.'
'Pshaw! Ridiculous! What did your mother want but the gratification of her paltry passions? which were but the dregs and lees of goatish inclination; for with her the pervading headlong torrent of desire was passed. Did she think of morality? She would have sacrificed the youth and high spirits of Wakefield to her own salacious doating. Why should not he too have his wishes? Were his the most criminal; or the least fitted for the faculties of enjoyment?'
'You have not heard me defend my mother's conduct: but his villany to the young lady I formerly mentioned [meaning Miss Wilmot] deserves the execration of every man!'
'That is, as she tells the story. Women, poor simple creatures, are always to be pitied, never blamed! But a little more experience, Trevor, will tell you the devil himself is not half so cunning! Men are universally their dupes; nay their slaves, though called their tyrants. Do not men consume their lives in toils to please them? Who are the chief instigators to what you call vice and folly? Who are the mischief makers of the world? Who incite us to plunder, rob, and cut each other's throats? Who but woman? And is not a little retaliation to be expected? Poor dear souls! Cunning as serpents, Trevor; but, though fond of cooing, not harmless as doves. Crocodiles; that only weep to catch their prey. I once was told of one that died broken hearted; a great beauty, and much bewept by all the maudlin moralizers that knew her. The cause of her grief was a handsome fellow, who of course was a cruel perjured villain. The tale had great pathos, and would have been very tragical, had it but been true. Ages before that in which Jove laughed at them, lover's perjuries were the common topic of scandal, and so continue to be. I have often been reproached in the same way myself, and I once took the trouble to write an apology; for which, as it will suit all true lovers, all true lovers are bound to thank me. Here it is.'
Men's vows are false, Annette, I own: The proofs are but too flagrant grown. To Love I vow'd eternal scorn; I saw thee and was straight forsworn!
In jealous rage, renouncing bliss, When Damon stole a rapturous kiss, I took, with oaths, a long farewell; How false they were thou best can'st tell.
By saints I vow'd, and pow'rs divine, No love could ever equal mine! Yet I myself, though thus I swore, Have daily lov'd thee more and more!
To perjuries thus I hourly swerve; Then treat them as they well deserve: Thy own vows break, at length comply, And be as deep in guilt as I.
'What think you; was not this a valid plea? Are not women apt to take the advice here given them? Lovely hypocrites! They delight in being forced to follow their own inclinations!'
There was no resisting the playfulness of his wit, and the exhilarating whim of his manner. My ill humour soon evaporated; and yielding to the sympathetic gaiety he had inspired, I said to him—'You are a wicked wit, Belmont. But, though I laugh, do not imagine I am a convert to your mandevilian system: it is false, pernicious, and destructive of the end which it pretends to secure.'
'Do not abuse my system, or me either', replied he. 'I tell you I am the only honest man of my acquaintance; and the first effort of my honesty is, as it ought to be, that of being honest to myself.'
'I hear many men profess the same opinions, but I find them acting on different principles.'
'You mistake. You are young, I tell you. Every man's actions are strongly tinged by the principles he professes.'
My countenance became a little more serious—'Surely you do not avow yourself a rascal?'
'Pshaw! Epithets are odious. I do not know the meaning of the word; nor do you.'
Our conversation continued; it relieved me from a bitterness of chagrin from which I was happy to escape. We dined together. His flow of spirits and raillery were unabating; I combated his opinions, he laughed at my arguments, rather than answered them, and, though I even then conceived him to be a very bad moralist, I thought him a delightful companion.
Revenge not forgotten: The visit delayed: Wilmot and his poetical powers: Dreadful intelligence: An appalling picture: A fruitless search; followed by a surprising discovery
Stimulated by the ridicule of Belmont, though I never had a thought of abandoning my mother to want, still I determined, according to the proverb, to let her bite the bridle. Instead of writing, therefore, I waited till she should write to me.
Mean time my pamphlet was the grand object of present pursuit. When I began it, I imagined it would scarcely have been the work of a day, certainly not of a week. I was deceived. To a man who has any sense of justice, who fears to affirm the thing that is not, yet is determined to be inexorable in revenge, no task is so harrassing as that which I had undertaken. Page after page was written, re-written, corrected, interlined, scratched, blotted and thrown in the fire. The work had been three times finished, and three times destroyed. It was a fourth time begun, and still the labour was no less oppressive, irritating, and thorny.
It was in this state at the time that Mary brought me the joyful intelligence relating to Olivia. I had watched with unremitting assiduity during those hours of the day when she had been accustomed to visit Miss Wilmot; but my watchings were fruitless; she came no more.
The fourth day after her last visit, she sent a note to Miss Wilmot, informing her that her aunt was going to Bath for the recovery of her health, to which place it was necessary that she should attend her. The blow was violent, and would have been felt more violently even than it was, had it not been for an event which I must now relate.
The alarms of Miss Wilmot concerning her brother had not been lightly excited: they might rather be called prophetic. She had indeed strongly communicated her terror to me. One morning I was meditating on the subject, and recollecting those early days when gathering the first fruits of genius, I was taught by him to distinguish and enjoy the beauties of its emanations, and the sublimity of its flights. His affection for me, though but a boy, had induced him to give me some short poetical compositions of his own. I was reading them over, with strong feelings, partly of sorrow and partly of indignation, at the folly and injustice of a world that could overlook such merit. One of them in particular, which I had always admired for the simple yet pathetic spirit of poetry in which it was written, I was then perusing. It was the following.
Ho! Why dost thou shiver and shake, Gaffer-Gray! And why doth thy nose look so blue? ''Tis the weather that's cold; 'Tis I'm grown very old, And my doublet is not very new, Well-a-day!'
Then line thy worn doublet with ale, Gaffer-Gray; And warm thy old heart with a glass. 'Nay but credit I've none; And my money's all gone; Then say how may that come to pass? Well-a-day!'
Hie away to the house on the brow, Gaffer-Gray; And knock at the jolly priest's door. 'The priest often preaches Against worldly riches; But ne'er gives a mite to the poor, Well-a-day!'
The lawyer lives under the hill, Gaffer-Gray; Warmly fenc'd both in back and in front. 'He will fasten his locks, And will threaten the stocks, Should he ever more find me in want, Well-a-day!'
The squire has fat beeves and brown ale, Gaffer-Gray; And the season will welcome you there. 'His fat beeves and his beer, And his merry new year Are all for the flush and the fair, Well-a-day!'
My keg is but low I confess, Gaffer-Gray; What then? While it lasts man we'll live. The poor man alone, When he hears the poor moan, Of his morsel a morsel will give, Well-a-day!
In that precise state of mind which associations such as I have described, and a poem like this could excite, when I was alike bewailing the madness and turpitude of mankind, that could be blind to the worth of a man such as Wilmot, while glowing I say and thrilling with these sensations, my breakfast was brought and with it a paper—! What shall I say?—It contained what follows! 'Yesterday a middle aged man, of a genteel and orderly appearance, was seen to walk despondingly beside the Serpentine river. A gentleman, who having met him remarked the agitation of his countenance, suspected his design; and, concealing himself behind some trees at a little distance, watched him, and at last saw him throw himself into the water. The gentleman, who was a good swimmer, jumped in after him; but could not immediately find the body, which after he had brought it out was conveyed to Mary-le-bone watch-house. A few shillings were found in his pocket, but nothing to indicate his name, place of abode, or other information, except a written paper, containing the following melancholy account of himself.
'This body, if ever this body should be found, was once a thing which, by way of reproach among men, was called an author. It moved about the earth, despised and unnoticed; and died indigent and unlamented. It could hear, see, feel, smell and taste with as much quickness, delicacy, and force as other bodies. It had desires and passions like other bodies, but was denied the use of them by such as had the power and the will to engross the good things of this world to themselves. The doors of the great were shut upon it; not because it was infected with disease or contaminated with infamy, but on account of the fashion of the garments with which it was cloathed, and the name it derived from its fore-fathers; and because it had not the habit of bending its knee where its heart owed no respect, nor the power of moving its tongue to gloze the crimes or flatter the follies of men. It was excluded the fellowship of such as heap up gold and silver; not because it did, but for fear it might, ask a small portion of their beloved wealth. It shrunk with pain and pity from the haunts of ignorance which the knowledge it possessed could not enlighten, and guilt that its sensations were obliged to abhor. There was but one class of men with whom it was permitted to associate, and those were such as had feelings and misfortunes like its own; among whom it was its hard fate frequently to suffer imposition, from assumed worth and fictitious distress. Beings of supposed benevolence, capable of perceiving, loving, and promoting merit and virtue, have now and then seemed to flit and glide before it. But the visions were deceitful. Ere they were distinctly seen, the phantoms vanished. Or, if such beings do exist, it has experienced the peculiar hardship of never having met with any, in whom both the purpose and the power were fully united. Therefore, with hands wearied with labour, eyes dim with watchfulness, veins but half nourished, and a mind at length subdued by intense study and a reiteration of unaccomplished hopes, it was driven by irresistible impulse to end at once such a complication of evils. The knowledge was imposed upon it that, amid all these calamities, it had one consolation—Its miseries were not eternal—That itself had the power to end them. This power it has employed, because it found itself incapable of supporting any longer the wretchedness of its own situation, and the blindness and injustice of mankind: and as, while it lived, it lived scorned and neglected, so it now commits itself to the waves; in expectation, after it is dead, of being mangled, belied, and insulted.'
Oh God! what were my feelings while reading this heart appalling story! It contained volumes; and sufficiently spoke the strength of the mind that could thus picture its own sensations. It must be my beloved Wilmot: it could be no one else; or even if it were, the man who thus could feel and thus could write was no less the object of admiration, grief, and a species of regret, of the guilt of which every man partook! It was an act of attainder against the whole world, in the infamy of which each man had his share!
Transfixed with horror as I was, I still had the recollection to conceal the paper from the eye of Miss Wilmot, and that instant to go in quest of the body. The utmost speed and diligence were necessary; she must soon hear of the fatal event, and it was much to be dreaded that this would not be the last act of the tragedy.
According to the indication given in the paper, I went immediately to the watch-house; but was surprised to find that the body was not there. They had heard something of a man throwing himself into the Serpentine river, but could give no farther information.
I then ran to every bone-house and receptacle in the various adjoining parishes; but without success. The only intelligence I could obtain was that the gentleman, who leaped in after the man in order to have saved his life, had taken the body home with him; but no one could direct me where he lived.
The circumstance was distracting! My terrors for Miss Wilmot increased. I knew not what course to pursue. At last I recollected that Turl, from having lived some years in London being acquainted with the manners of the place and possessing great sagacity, might perhaps afford me aid. Personal knowledge of Wilmot he probably had none, for he quitted the grammar school at *** just before Wilmot became its head usher. But I knew not what better to do, and to this, as a kind of last hope, I resorted, and hastened away to his lodgings.
It may well be supposed my tone of mind was gloomy. For a man like Wilmot, with virtues so eminent, sensations so acute, and a mind so elevated, to be thus impelled to seek a refuge in death was a thought that almost made me hate existence myself, and doubt whether I might not hereafter be driven to the same desperate expedient, to escape the odious injustice of mankind. The distraction too which would seize on Miss Wilmot haunted my thoughts; for I was convinced that the intelligence, whenever it should reach her, would prove fatal.
Full of these dismal reflections, I arrived at the door of Turl, knocked, and was desired to come in. Turl rose as I entered, and with him a stranger, who had been seated by his side. A stranger, and yet with features that were not wholly unknown to me. He seemed surprised at the sight of me, examined me, fixed his eyes on me! Memory was very busy! Associating ideas poured upon me! I gazed! I remembered! Heavens and earth! What was my astonishment, what were my transports, when in this very stranger I discovered Mr. Wilmot? Living! Pale, meagre, dejected, and much altered; but living!
Turl was the gentleman in the park, who had observed the deep melancholy visible in his countenance; had fortunately suspected his intention; had brought him out of the water; had discovered favourable symptoms; and, instead of either taking him home or to the watch-house, had conveyed him to St. George's hospital; where he immediately obtained medical aid, that had preserved his life! Turl was the person whose courage, humanity, and wisdom, had prolonged the existence of a man of genius; and who was now exerting all his faculties to render that existence happy to the possessor, and beneficial to the human race! Oh moment of inconceivable rapture! Why are not sensations so exquisite eternal?
I secure Miss Wilmot against the danger of false alarm, and return to hear the history of her brother
Eager as I was to contribute all in my power to tranquilize the mind of Mr. Wilmot, to renew my friendship with him, and to learn his history from himself, I yet made but a short stay, and hastened home to his sister. Fortunately the tragic tale had not reached her; and, without relating circumstances that if abruptly told might have excited alarm, I informed her that I had that moment parted from him, and that now I had found him I should use my utmost endeavour to reconcile him to her once more.
To hear that he was still in being gave an undescribable relief to her mind. It beamed in her countenance, and called up thoughts that soon made her burst into tears.
Having by this information, secured her against the ill effects which might otherwise have followed, I escaped further question from her for the present, by truly telling her I was impatient to return to her brother.
I found the two friends still conversing for friends and sincere ones they were become. The account given by Wilmot of himself had been taken and sent to the newspaper, without the knowledge of Turl; but he had read it, and it was a sufficient index of the mind of the writer: and the behaviour of Turl through the whole affair, as well as the sentiments he uttered in every breath, were enough to convince Mr. Wilmot of his uncommon worth.
On my return, the latter was defending the right of man to commit suicide; which Turl denied; not on the false and untenable ground of superstition, but from the only true argument, the immoral tendency of the act. He was delicate though decisive in his opposition; and only requested Mr. Wilmot to consider, whether to effect the good of the whole be not the true purpose of virtue? Ought not the good of the whole therefore to be its only rule and guide? If so, can the man, who possesses that degree of activity without which he cannot commit suicide, be incapable of being farther useful to society?
Depressed and gloomy as his state of mind was, Mr. Wilmot testified great satisfaction at our rencontre; and the interest which I unfeignedly took in his welfare soon revived all his former affection for me. My veneration for his virtues, love for his genius, and pity for his misfortunes, tended to calm his still fluttering and agitated spirits. Unfortunate as he himself had been, or at least had thought himself, in his love of literature and poetry, it yet gave him pleasure to find that the same passion was far from having abated in me. He called it a bewitching illusion; Turl affirmed it was a beneficial and noble propensity of soul.
We none of us had a wish to separate, for the imagination of each was teeming with that sedate yet full flow of sentiment which, as Milton has so beautifully described, melancholy can give. Mr. Wilmot had supposed his sister was guilty with the bishop; and when I told her story, with the addition of such probable circumstances as I myself had collected, it afforded him very considerable relief to find that the suspicions to which appearances gave birth had been false.
I did not conceal the desire I had to know by what train of accidents he had been led into a state of such deep despondency; and he thus kindly gratified my wish.
HISTORY OF MR. WILMOT
'The narrative given by my sister, which you, Mr. Trevor, have already repeated, precludes the necessity of any detail concerning my origin. Nor is origin in my opinion of the least moment, except as it displays the habits and growth of mind, and shews how the man became such as we find him to be. At what period of my existence that activity of inquiry, and those energetic aspirings began, which to me were afterward the source of the extremes of joy and sorrow, I cannot tell; but I believe the quality of ardour, though probably not born with us, is either awakened in early infancy or seldom if ever attains strength and maturity. I could not only read with uncommon accuracy and ease, while very young, but can remember I made efforts to reason with my father, the major, on what I read, when I was little more than six years old.
'He, though a man rather of irritable feelings than profound research, was not destitute of literature; and encouraged a propensity in me that was flattering to himself, as the father of a boy remarked for his promising talents; which talents he supposed might lead to distinctions that he had been unsuccessfully ambitious to obtain.
'He considered himself as one of the most unfortunate of men. Imagining personal bravery to be the essence of the military character, he had eagerly cherished that quality; and, having given incontestible proofs that he possessed it in an eminent degree, to be afterward overlooked was, in his judgment, too flagrant an instance of public as well as private ingratitude to be ever pardoned. It was the daily subject of his thoughts, and theme of his discourse; and I have great reason to conjecture that the habitual discontent that preyed upon his mind, and embittered his life, especially the latter part of it, communicated itself to me. I was educated in the belief that the world is blind to merit, continually suffers superior virtue to linger in indigence and neglect, and is therefore an odious, unjust, and despicable world.
'I own I have at some few intervals doubted of this doctrine; and supposed in conformity to your opinion, Mr. Turl, that failure is rather the consequence of our own mistakes, impatience, and efforts ill directed, than of society: but the ill success of my own efforts, aided perhaps by the prejudices which I received from my father, have preponderated; and made me it may be too frequently incline to melancholy, and misanthropy. What can be said? Are not the rich and powerful continually oppressing talents, genius, and virtue? Is the general sense of mankind just in its decisions?
'Beside, an appeal to the general sense of mankind is not always in our power; and that the proceedings of individuals are often flagrantly unjust cannot be denied. In the school where I was educated I was a frequent and painful witness of honours partially bestowed; and prizes and applause awarded to others, that were indubitably due to me. When the rich and the powerful visited the seminary, the sons of the rich and the powerful gained all their attention. Conscious as I could not but be of my own superior claims, I was overlooked!
'Perhaps I felt the repetition of these and similar acts of injustice too severely. Yet, are they not odious? I own the remembrance of them ever has been, and is, intensely painful; and the pain is almost unremittingly prolonged by what every man, who is not wilfully blind, must daily see passing in the world. [Mr. Wilmot sighed deeply] Well well! Would I could forget it!
'After many a bitter struggle in my boyish years to rise into notice, few, very few indeed, of which were effectual, I still continued the combat. In due time, as I was told, my efforts were amply rewarded! But how? Instead of being forwarded in those more noble and beneficial pursuits for which I think I had proved myself fitted, the effusions of genius though known were never once remembered. Oh, no! I obtained, with great difficulty and as an unmerited favour a charitable condescension of power that knew not very well if it ought to be so kind to a being so unprotected, yes, I obtained—the office of usher! The honour of mechanically hearing declensions, conjugations, and rules of syntax and prosody, repeated by beings who detested the labour to which they were compelled, was conferred upon me! beings who looked on me, not as a benefactor, but as a tyrant! And tyrants all teachers indubitably are, under our present modes of education.
'Humbled and cowed as my genius was, by the drudgery and obscurity to which it was consigned, I yet had the courage to continue those labours by which alone mind is brought to maturity. Alive as I was to a sense of injustice, I recollected that, even if my powers were equal to all that I myself had fondly hoped from them, there were examples of men with at least equal powers, who had been equally ill treated. Equally did I say? Oh Otway! Oh Chatterton! What understandings, what hearts, had those men who without an effort, without moving a finger (not to do you justice, of that they were incapable, but) to preserve you from famine, could suffer you to perish? It was needless to repine! I consoled and reconciled myself to my fate as well as I was able. I pursued my studies, read the poets of ancient and modern times with unabating avidity, observed the actions and inquired into the motives of men, and made unceasing attempts to develope the human heart.
'Excluded as it were by the pride, luxury, and caprice of the world from expanding my sensations, and wedding my soul to society, I was constrained to bestow the strong affections that glowed consciously within me upon a few. My mother and sister had a large share of them. To skreen them from the indigence, obscurity, and neglect, to which without my aid they must be doomed, was a hope that encouraged me in the bold project I had conceived.
'I determined to dedicate myself to literature, poetry, and particularly to the stage. Essays of the dramatic kind indeed had been made by me very early. At length, I undertook a tragedy; as a work which, if accomplished with the degree of perfection that I hoped it would be, must at once establish my true rank in society, relieve the wants of my family, and be a passport for me to every man of worth and understanding in the world. How little did I know the world! Fond fool! Over credulous idiot! What cares the world for the toils and struggles, the restless days and sleepless nights of the man of genius! I am ashamed to think I could be so miserably mistaken!
'The ardour with which I began my work, the deep consideration I gave to every character, the strong emotions I felt while composing it, the minute attention I paid to all its parts, and the intense labour I bestowed in planning, writing, correcting, and completing it, were such as I believed must insure success.
'Surely mankind can be but little aware of the uncommon anxieties, pains, and talents that must contribute to the production of such a work; or their reception of it, when completed, would be very different! They would not suffer, surely they would not, as they so frequently do, this or that senseless blockhead to frustrate the labour of years, blast the poet's hopes, and render the birth of genius abortive!
'My tragedy at length was written; and by some small number, whose judgment I consulted, was approved: never indeed with that enthusiasm which I, perhaps the overweening author, imagined it must have excited; but it was approved. "I was a young man of some merit; it was more than they had expected." Nay, I have met with some liberal critics, who have appeared modestly to doubt whether they themselves should have written better!
'Before I made the experiment, I had supposed that every man, whose wealth or power gave him influence in society, would start up, the moment it was known that an obscure individual, the usher of a school, had written a tragedy; not only to protect and produce it to the world, but to applaud and honour the author! Would secure him from the possibility of want, load him with every token of respect, and affectionately clasp him to their bosom! The indifference and foolish half-faced kind of wonder, as destitute of feeling as of understanding, with which it was received, by the persons on whom I had depended for approbation and support, did more than astonish me; it pained, disgusted, and jaundiced my mind!
'The only consolation I could procure was in supposing that the inhabitants of the city were I resided, were deficient in literary taste; and that at a more polished place, where knowledge, literature, and poetry were more diffused, I should meet a very different reception. Experience only can cure the unhackneyed mind of its erroneous estimates!
'London however and its far famed theatres were the objects at which my ambition long had aimed; and thither after various doubts and difficulties it was decreed I should go. The profits of my place I had dedicated to the relief of my family, and my mother's great fear was that, going up to London so ill provided, I should perish there for want. Of this I was persuaded there could be no danger, and at length prevailed.
'The danger however was not quite so imaginary as I in the fervour of hope had affirmed it to be. The plan I proposed was to get another usher's place, in or near town, till I could bring my piece upon the stage. This I attempted, and made various applications, which all failed; some because, though I understood Greek, I could not teach merchant's accounts, or spoil paper by flourishes and foppery, which is called writing a fine hand; and others because, as I suppose, persons offered themselves whose airs, or humility, or other usher-like qualifications, that had no relation to learning, pleased their employers better than mine.
'I soon grew weary of these degrading attempts and turned my thoughts to a more attractive resource. While in the country, I had frequently sent little fugitive pieces, to be inserted in periodical publications; and now, on inquiry, I found there were people who were paid for such productions. I made the experiment; and after a variety of fruitless efforts succeeded in obtaining half a guinea a week from an evening paper; which I supplied with essays, little poetical pieces, and other articles, much faster than they chose to print them.
'In the interim, the grand object for which I had left the country was not neglected. It is a common mistake to imagine that, to get a piece upon the stage, it is necessary to procure a patron, by whom it shall be recommended. To this I was advised; and, in consequence of this advice, wrote letters to three different persons, whose rank in society I imagined would insure a reception at the theatre to the piece which they should protect. I supposed that every such person, who should hear of a poet who had written a tragedy, would rejoice in the opportunity of affording him aid, and instantly stand forth his patron.
'In this spirit I wrote my three letters; and received no answer to any one of them! Amazed at this, I went to the houses of the great people I had addressed; but my face was unknown! Not one of them was at home! I could gain no admission! When now and then suffered to wait in the hall, I saw dancing-masters, buffoons, gamblers, beings of every species that could mislead the head and corrupt the heart, come and go without ceremony; but to a poet all entrance was denied; for such chosen society he was unfit. The very rabble, with which these pillared lounging places swarm, looked on him with a suspicious and half contemptuous eye; that insolently inquired what business had he there? Were the slaves and menials of Maecenas such? Was it thus at the Augustan court; when the lord of the conquered world sat banqueting with Virgil on his right hand and Horace on his left?
'Why did I read and remember stories so seductive? Why did I foolishly place all my happiness in the approbation of the great vulgar or the small; forgetting that approbation neither adds to virtue nor diminishes? Perhaps, and indeed I fear, my mind was warped. Yet surely the neglect and even odium in which the unobtruding man of genius is at present overwhelmed, is a damning accusation against the rich and titled great.
'It was long however before I entirely disdained these abject and fruitless efforts. On one occasion I was fortunate enough, as I absurdly thought, to get introduced to a Marquis. It was an awful honour, to which I was unused; and instead of addressing him with the frothy and impertinent levity which characterized his own manners, and which he encouraged in the creatures that were admitted to his familiarity, I stood confounded, expecting he should have read my play, which I had transcribed for his perusal, have understood the value of the poet who could write it, and have been anxious to relieve that acuteness of sensibility which overclouded and hid the man of genius in the timid, abashed, and too cowardly author. He spoke to me indeed, nay condescended to repeat two or three of the newest literary anecdotes that had been retailed to him from the blue-stocking-club, and then civilly dismissed me to give audience to a Dutch bird-fancier, who had brought him a piping bulfinch. But I saw him no more, he was never afterward at home. I was one of a class of animals that a Marquis never admits into his collection. My tragedy when applied for by letter was returned; with "sorrow that indispensible engagements had prevented him from reading it; but requested a copy as soon as it should appear in print." For which, should such a strange event have come to pass, I suppose I should have been insulted with the gift perhaps of one guinea, perhaps of five. And thus a Marquis discharged a duty which his rank and power so well enabled him to perform! But, patience! The word poet shall be remembered with everlasting honour, when the title Marquis shall—Pshaw!
'On another occasion an actress, who, strange to tell, happened very deservedly to be popular, and whom before she arrived at the dignity of a London theatre I had known in the country, recommended me to a dutchess. To this dutchess I went day after day; and day after day was subjected for hours to the prying, unmannered, insolence of her countless lacquies. This time she was not yet stirring, though it was two o'clock in the afternoon; the next she was engaged with an Italian vender of artificial flowers; the day after the prince and the devil does not know who beside were with her; and so on, till patience and spleen were at daggers drawn.
'At last, from the hall I was introduced to the drawing-room, where I was half amazed to find myself. Could it be real? Should I, after all, see a creature so elevated; so unlike the poor compendium of flesh and blood with which I crawled about the earth? Why, it was to be hoped that I should!
'Still she did not come; and I stood fixed, gazing at the objects around me, longer perhaps than I can now well guess. The carpet was so rich that I was afraid my shoes would disgrace it! The chairs were so superb that I should insult them by sitting down! The sofas swelled in such luxurious state that for an author to breathe upon them would be contamination! I made the daring experiment of pressing with a single finger upon the proud cushion, and the moment the pressure was removed it rose again with elastic arrogance; an apt prototype of the dignity it was meant to sustain.—Though alone, I blushed at my own littleness!
'Two or three times, the familiars of the mansion skipped and glided by me; in at this door and out at that; seeing yet not noticing me. It was well they did not, or I should have sunk with the dread of being mistaken for a thief; that had gained a furtive entrance, to load himself with some parcel of the magnificence that to poverty appeared so tempting!
'This time however I was not wholly disappointed: I had a sight of the dutchess, or rather a glimpse. "Her carriage was waiting. She had been so infinitely delayed by my lord and my lady, and his highness, and Signora! Was exceedingly sorry! Would speak to me another time, to-morrow at three o'clock, but had not a moment to spare at present", and so vanished!
'Shall I say she treated me proudly, and made me feel my insignificance? No. The little that she did say was affable; the tone was conciliating, the eye encouraging, and the countenance expressed the habitual desire of conferring kindness. But these were only aggravating circumstances, that shewed the desirableness of that intercourse which to me was unattainable. I say to me, for those who had a less delicate sense of propriety, who were more importunate, more intruding, and whose forehead was proof against repulse, were more successful. By such people she was besieged; on such she lavished her favours, till report said that she impoverished herself; for a tale of distress, whether feigned or real, if obtruded upon her, she knew not how to resist.
'What consolation was this to me? I was not of the begging tribe. I came with a demand at sight upon the understanding, which whoever refused to pay disgraced themselves rather than the drawer.
'She mistook my character, and the next day at three o'clock, instead of seeing me herself, sent me ten guineas in a note, by her French maitre d'hotel; which chinked as they slided from side to side, and proclaimed me a pauper! My heart almost burst with indignation! Yet, coward that I was! I wanted the fortitude to refuse the polluted paper! I thought it would be an affront, and still fed myself with the vain hope of procuring from her that countenance to my own labours which I imagined they deserved, and which therefore I did not think it any disgrace to solicit. The disgrace of reducing men of merit to such humiliating situations was not mine.