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THE HISTORY OF
Volume VI - Letter 21
MISS BYRON. IN CONTINUATION.
Sunday Noon, Oct. 15.
We were told, there would be a crowded church this morning, in expectation of seeing the new humble servant of Miss Byron attending her thither: For it is every-where known, that Sir Charles Grandison is come down to make his addresses to the young creature who is happy in every one's love and good wishes, and all is now said to have been settled between him and us, by his noble sister, and Lord G. and Dr. Bartlett, when they were with us.—And we are to be married—O my dear Lady G! you cannot imagine how soon. You see what credit you did us by your kind visit, my dear.
Many of the neighbourhood seemed disappointed, when they saw me led in by my uncle, as Mr. Deane led my aunt, and Nancy and Lucy only attended by their brother. But it was not long before Mr. Greville, Mr. Fenwick, and Sir Charles, entered and went into the pew of the former, which is over-against ours. Mr. Greville and Mr. Fenwick bowed low to us, severally, the moment they went into the pew, and to several others of the gentry.
Sir Charles had first other devoirs to pay: To false shame, you have said, he was always superior. I was delighted to see the example he set. He paid us his second compliments with a grace peculiar to himself. I felt my face glow, on the whispering that went round. I thought I read in every eye, admiration of him, even through the sticks of some of the Ladies fans.
What a difference was there between the two men and him, in their behaviour, throughout both the service, and sermon! Yet who ever beheld two of the three so decent, so attentive, so reverent, I may say, before? Were all who call themselves gentlemen (thought I, more than once) like this, the world would yet be a good world.
Mr. Greville had his arm in a sling. He seemed highly delighted with his guest; so did Mr. Fenwick. When the sermon was ended, Mr. Greville held the pew-door ready opened, to attend our movements; and when we were in motion to go, he, taking officiously Sir Charles's hand, bent towards us. Sir Charles met us at our pew-door: He approached us with that easy grace peculiar to himself, and offered, with a profound respect his hand to me.
This was equal to a public declaration. It took every-body's attention. He is not ashamed to avow in public, what he thinks fit to own in private.
I was humbled more than exalted by the general notice. Mr. Greville (bold, yet low man! made a motion, as if he gave the hand that Sir Charles took. Mr. Fenwick offered his hand to Lucy. Mr. Greville led my aunt; and not speaking low (subtle as a serpent!) My plaguy horse, said he, looking at his sling, knew not his master. I invite myself to tea with you, madam, in the afternoon. You will supply my lame arm, I hope, yourself.
There is no such thing as keeping private one's movements in a country-town, if one would. One of our servants reported the general approbation. It is a pleasure, surely, my dear Ladies, to be addressed to by a man of whom every one approves. What a poor figure must she make, who gives way to a courtship from a man whom every-body blames her for encouraging! Such women indeed generally confess indirectly the folly, by carrying on the affair clandestinely.
O my dear! I have been strangely disconcerted by means of Mr. Greville. He is a strange man. But I will lead to it in course.
We all went to church again in the afternoon. Every-body who knew Mr. Greville, took it for a high piece of politeness in him to his guest, that he came twice the same day to church. Sir Charles edified every-body by his cheerful piety. Are you not of opinion, my dear Lady G. that wickedness may be always put out of countenance by a person who has an established character for goodness, and who is not ashamed of doing his duty in the public eye? Methinks I could wish that all the profligates in the parish had their seats around that of a man who has fortitude enough to dare to be good. The text was a happy one to this purpose: The words of our Saviour: 'Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father, with the holy Angels.'
Sir Charles conducted my aunt to her coach, as Mr. Greville officiously, but properly for his views, did me. We found Mr. Fenwick at Selby-house talking to my grandmamma on the new subject. She dined with us; but, not being very well, chose to retire to her devotions in my closet, while we went to church, she having been at her own in the morning.
We all received Mr. Greville with civility. He affects to be thought a wit, you know, and a great joker. Some men cannot appear to advantage without making their friend a butt to shoot at. Fenwick and he tried to play upon each other, as usual. Sir Charles lent each his smile; and, whatever he thought of them, showed not a contempt of their great-boy snip-snap. But, at last, my grandmamma and aunt engaged Sir Charles in a conversation, which made the gentlemen so silent, and so attentive, that had they not flashed a good deal at each other before, one might have thought them a little discreet.
Nobody took the least notice of what had passed between Mr. Greville and Sir Charles, till Mr. Greville touched upon the subject to me. He desired an audience of ten minutes, as he said; and, upon his declaration, that it was the last he would ever ask of me on the subject; and, upon my grandmamma's saying, Oblige Mr. Greville, my dear; I permitted him to draw me to the window.
His address was nearly in the following words; not speaking so low, but every one might hear him, tho' he said aloud, Nobody must but me:
I must account myself very unhappy, madam, in having never been able to incline you to show me favour. You may think me vain: I believe I am so: But I may take to myself the advantages and qualities which every-body allows me. I have an estate that will warrant my addresses to a woman of the first rank; and it it is free, and unincumbered. I am not an ill-natured man. I love my jest, 'tis true; but I love my friend. You good women generally do not like a man the less for having something to mend in him. I could say a great deal more in my own behalf, but that Sir Charles Grandison (looking at him) quite eclipses me. Devil fetch me, if I can tell how to think myself any-thing before him. I was always afraid of him. But when I heard he was gone abroad, in pursuit of a former Love, I thought I had another chance for it.
Yet I was half-afraid of Lord D. His mother would manage a Machiavel. He has a great estate; a title; he has good qualities for a nobleman. But when I found that you could so steadily refuse him, as well as me; There must be some man, thought I, who is lord of her heart. Fenwick is as sad a dog as I; it cannot be he. Orme, poor soul! she will not have such a milk-sop as that, neither—
Mr. Orme, Sir, interrupted I, and was going to praise him—But he said, I will be heard out now: This is my dying speech; I will not be interrupted.
Well then, Sir, smiling, come to your last words, as soon as you can.
I have told you, before now, Miss Byron, that I will not bear your smiles. But now smiles or frowns, I care not. I have no hopes left; and I am resolved to abuse you before I have done.
Abuse me! I hope not, Sir.
'Hope not!' What signify your hopes, who never gave me any? But hear me out. I shall say some thing that will displease you; but more of another nature. I went on guessing who could be the happy man. That second Orme, Fowler, cannot be he, thought I. Is it the newly-arrived Beauchamp? He is a pretty fellow enough [I had all your footsteps watched, as I told you I would.] No, answered I myself, she refused Lord D. and a whole tribe of us, before Beauchamp came to England—Who the devil can he be?—But when I heard that the dangerous man, whom I had thought gone abroad to his matrimonial destiny, was returned, unmarried; when I heard that he was actually coming northward; I began to be again afraid of him.
Last Thursday night I had intelligence, that he was seen at Dunstable in the morning, in his way towards us. Then did my heart fail me. I had my spies about Selby-house: I own it. What will not Love and Jealousy make a man do? I understood, that your uncle and Mr. Deane, and a tribe of servants for train-sake, were set out to meet him. How I raved! How I cursed! How I swore!—They will not surely, thought I, allow my rival, at his first visit, to take up his residence under the same roof with this charming Witch!
Witch! Mr. Greville—
Witch! Yes, Witch! I called you ten thousand names, in my rage, all as bad as that. Here, Jack, Will, Tom, George, get ready instantly each a dozen firebrands! I will light up Selby-house for a bonfire, to welcome the arrival of the invader of my freehold! And prongs and pitchforks shall be got ready to push every soul of the family back into the flames, that not one of it may escape my vengeance—
Horrid man! I will hear no more.
You must! You shall! It is my dying speech, I tell you.—
A dying man should be penitent.
To what purpose?—I can have no hope. What is to be expected for or from a despairing man?—But then I had intelligence brought me, that my rival was not admitted to take up his abode with you. This saved Selby-house. All my malice then was against the George at Northampton. The keeper of it owes, said I to myself, a hundred thousand obligations to me; yet to afford a retirement to my deadliest foe!—But 'tis more manly, thought I, in person, to call this invader to account, if he pretends an interest at Selby-house; and to force him to relinquish his pretensions to the Queen of it; as I had made more than one gallant fellow do before, by dint of bluster.
I slept not all that night. In the morning I made my visit at the inn. I pretend to know, as well as any man, what belongs to civility and good manners: but I knew the character of the man I had to deal with: I knew he was cool, yet resolute. My rage would not let me be civil; and if it would, I knew I must be rude to provoke him. I was rude. I was peremptory.
Never was there such cold, such phlegmatic contempts passed upon man, as he passed upon me. I came to a point with him. I heard he would not fight: I was resolved he should. I followed him to his chariot. I got him to a private place; but I had the devil, and no man, to deal with. He cautioned me, by way of insult, as I took it, to keep a guard. I took his hint. I had better not; for he knew all the tricks of the weapon. He was in with me in a moment, I had no sword left me, and my life was at the mercy of his. He gave me up my own sword—Cautioned me to regard my safety—Put up his; withdrew.—I found myself sensible of a damnable strain. I had no right-arm. I slunk away like a thief. He mounted his triumphal car; and pursued his course to to the Lady of Selby-house. I went home, cursed, swore, fell down, and bit the earth.
My uncle looked impatient: Sir Charles seemed in suspense, but attentive. Mr. Greville proceeded:
I got Fenwick to go with me, to attend him at night, by appointment. Cripple as I was, I would have provoked him: He would not be provoked: And when I found that he had not exposed me at Selby-house; when I remembered that I owed my sword and my life to his moderation; when I recollected his character; what he had done by Sir Hargrave Pollexfen; what Bagenhall had told me of him: Why the plague, thought I, should I (hopeless as I am of succeeding with my charming Byron, whether he lives or dies) set my face against such a man? He is incapable either of insult or arrogance: Let me (Fenwick advised a scheme) let me make him my friend to save my pride, and the devil take the rest, Harriet Byron, and all—
Wicked man!—You was dying a thousand words ago—I am sick of you!—
You have not, madam, heard half my dying words yet—But I would not terrify you—Are you terrified?—
Indeed I am.
Sir Charles motioned as if he would approach us; but kept his place, on my grandmamma's saying, Let us hear his humour out: Mr. Greville was always particular.
Terrified, madam! What is your being terrified to the sleepless nights, to the tormenting days, you have given me? Cursing darkness, cursing light, and most myself!—O madam! with shut teeth, What a torment of torments have you been to me!—Well, but now I will hasten to a conclusion, in mercy to you, who, however, never showed me any—
I never was cruel, Mr. Greville—
But you was; and most cruel, when most sweet-tempered. It was to that smiling obligingness that I owed my ruin! That gave me hope: that radiance of countenance; and that frozen heart!—O you are a dear deceiver!—But I hasten to conclude my dying speech—Give me your hand!—I will have it—I will not eat it, as once I had like to have done.—'And now madam, hear my parting words—You will have the glory of giving to the best of men, the best of wives. Let it not be long before you do; for the sake of many, who will hope on till then. As your Lover, I must hate him: As your Husband, I will love him. He will, he must, be kind, affectionate, grateful, to you; and you will deserve all his tenderness. May you live (the ornaments of human nature as you are) to see your children's children; all promising to be as good, as worthy, as happy, as yourselves! And, full of years, full of honour, in one hour may you be translated to that Heaven where only you can be more happy, than you will be, if you are both as happy as I wish and expect you to be!'
Tears dropped on my cheek, at this unexpected blessing; so like that of the wicked prophet of old, blessing where he was expected to curse.
He still held my hand—I will not, without your leave, madam—May I, before I part with it?—He looked at me as if for leave to kiss my hand, bowing his head upon it.
My heart was opened. God bless you, Mr. Greville! as you have blessed me—Be a good man, and he will.—I withdrew not my hand.
He kneeled on one knee; eagerly kissed my hand, more than once. Tears were in his own eyes. He arose, hurried me to Sir Charles, and holding to him my then, through surprise, half-withdrawn hand—Let me have the pride, the glory, Sir Charles Grandison, to quit this dear hand to yours. It is only to yours that I would quit it—Happy, happy, happy, pair!—None but the brave deserves the fair.—
Sir Charles took my hand—Let this precious present be mine, said he (kissing it), mine, with the declared assent of every one here; and presented me to my grandmamma and aunt. I was frighted by the hurry the strange man had put me into—
May I but live to see her yours, Sir! said my grandmamma, in a kind of rapture!
The moment he had put my hand into Sir Charles's, he ran out of the room, with the utmost precipitation. He was gone, quite gone, when he came to be enquired after; and every-body was uneasy for him, till we were told, by one of the servants, that he took from the window of the outward parlour his hat and sword; and by another, that he met him, his servant after him, hurrying away, and even sobbing as he flew.—Was there ever so strange a man?
Don't you pity Mr. Greville, my dear?
Sir Charles was generously uneasy for him.
Mr. Greville, said Lucy (who had always charity for him) has frequently surprised us with his particularities; but I hope, from the last part of his behaviour, that he is not the free-thinking man he sometimes affects to be thought. I flatter myself, that Sir Charles had a righter notion of him than we, in what he said of him yesterday.
Sir Charles waited on my grandmamma home; so we had him not to supper. We are all to dine with her to-morrow. Your brother, you may suppose, will be a principal guest.
Monday Morning, Oct. 16.
I have a Letter from my Emily; by which I find, she is with you; tho' she has not dated it. You was very kind in showing the dear girl the overflowings of my heart in her favour. She is all grateful love, and goodness. I will soon write to her, to repeat my assurances, that my whole power shall always be exerted to do her pleasure. But you must tell her, as from yourself, that she must have patience. I cannot ask her guardian such a question as she puts, as to her living with me, till I am likely to succeed. Would the sweet girl have me make a request to him, that shall show him I am supposing myself to be his, before I am so? We are not come so far on our journey by several stages. And yet, from what he intimated last night, as he waited on my grandmamma to Shirley-manor, I find, that his expectations are forwarder than it will be possible for me to answer: And I must, without intending the least affectation, for common decorum-sake, take the management of this point upon myself. For, my dear, we are every one of us here so much in Love with him, that the moment he should declare his wishes, they would be as ready to urge me to oblige him, were he even to limit me but to two or three days; as if they were afraid he would not repeat his request.
I have a Letter from Mr. Beauchamp. He writes, that there are no hopes of Sir Harry's recovery. I am very sorry for it. He does me great honour to write to me to give him consolation. His is a charming Letter—So full of filial piety!—Excellent young man! He breathes in it the true spirit of his friend.
Sir Charles and his Beauchamp, and Dr. Bartlett, correspond, I presume, as usual. What would I give to see all Sir Charles writes that relates to us!
Mr. Fenwick just now tells us, that Mr. Greville is not well, and keeps his chamber. He has my cordial wishes for his health. His last behaviour to me appears, the more I think of it, more strange, from such a man. I expected not that he would conclude with such generous wishes. Nancy, who does not love him, says, that it was such an overstrain of generosity from him, that it might well over-set him. Did you think that our meek Nancy could have said so severe a thing? But meekness offended (as she once was by him) has an excellent memory, and can be bitter.
We are preparing now to go to Shirley-manor. Our cousins Patty and Kitty Holles will be there at dinner. They have been for a few weeks past at their aunt's, near Daventry. They are impatient to see Sir Charles. Adieu, my dearest Ladies! Continue to love
Your HARRIET BYRON.
LA STORIA DI
Volume VI - lettera 21
Volume VI - Letter 22
MISS BYRON. IN CONTINUATION.
Monday Night, October 16.
We have been very happy this day at my grandmamma's. Your brother makes himself more and more beloved by all my friends; who yet declare, that they thought they could not have loved him better than they did before. My cousin Holles's say, they could sooner lay open their hearts to him, than to any man they ever saw; yet their freedom would never make them lose sight of their respect.
He told me, that he had breakfasted with Mr. Greville. How does he conciliate the mind of every one to him! He said kind and compassionate things of Mr. Greville; and so unaffectedly!—I was delighted with him. For, regardful as he would be, and is, of his own honour; no low, narrow jealousy, I dare say, will ever have entrance into his heart. Charity thinketh no evil! Of what a charming text is that a part (Note: 1 Cor. 13, 5)!—What is there equal to it, in any of the writings of the philosophers?
My dear Miss Byron, said he to me, Mr. Greville loves you more than you can possibly imagine. Despairing of success with you, he has assumed airs of bravery; but your name is written in large letters in his heart. He gave me, continued he, the importance of asking my leave to love you still.—What ought I to have answered?—
What did you answer, Sir?
That so far as I might presume to give it, I gave it. Had I the honour, added I, of calling Miss Byron mine, I would not barely allow your love of her; I would demand it.—Have I not assured you, Mr. Greville, that I look upon you as my friend?
You will quite subdue Mr. Greville, Sir, said I. You will, by the generosity of your treatment of him, do more than any-body else ever could—You will make him a good man.
Mr. Greville, madam, deserves pity, on more accounts than one. A wife, such a one as his good Angel led him to wish for, would have settled his principles. He wants steadiness: But he is not, I hope, a bad man. I was not concerned for his cavalier treatment of you yesterday, but on your own account; lest his roughness should give you pain. But his concluding wishes, and his preference of a rival to himself, together with the manner of his departure, unable as he was to withstand his own emotions, and the effect it had upon his spirits, so as to confine him to his chamber, had something great in it—And I shall value him for it, as long as he will permit me.
Sir Charles and my grandmamma had a good deal of talk together. Dearly does she love to single him out. What a pretty picture would they make, could they be both drawn so as not to cause a profane jester to fall into mistakes; as if it were an old Lady making Love to a handsome young man.
Let me sketch it out—See, then, the dear Lady, with a countenance full of benignity, years written by venerableness, rather than by wrinkles, in her face; dignity and familiarity in her manner; one hand on his, talking to him: His fine countenance shining with modesty and reverence, looking down, delighted, as admiring her wisdom, and not a little regardful of her half-pointing finger (Let that be, for fear of mistakes) to a creature young enough to be her granddaughter; who, to avoid showing too much sensibility, shall seem to be talking to two other young Ladies (Nancy and Lucy, suppose); but, in order to distinguish the young creature, let her, with a blushing cheek, cast a fly eye on the grandmamma and young gentleman, while the other two shall not be afraid to look more free and unconcerned.
See, my dear, how fanciful I am: But I had a mind to tell you, in a new manner, how my grandmamma and Sir Charles seem to admire each other.
Mr. Deane and he had also some talk together; my uncle joined them: And I blushed in earnest at the subject I only guessed at from the following words of Mr. Deane, at Sir Charles's rising to come from them to my aunt and me, who both of us sat in the bow-window. My dear Sir Charles Grandison, said Mr. Deane, you love to give pleasure: I never was so happy in my life, as I am in view of this long-wished-for event. You must oblige me: I insist upon it.
My aunt took it, as I did.—A generous contention! said she. O my dear! we shall all be too happy. God grant that nothing may fall out to disconcert us! If there should, how many broken hearts—
The first broken one, madam, interrupted I, would be the happiest: I, in that case, should have the advantage of every-body.
Dear love! you are too serious (Tears were in my eyes): Sir Charles's unquestionable honour is our security!—If Clementina be steadfast; if life and health be spared you and him—If—
Dear, dear madam, no more Ifs! Let there be but one If, and that on Lady Clementina's resumption. In that case, I will submit; and God only [as indeed He always ought] shall be my reliance for the rest of my life.
Lucy, Nancy, and my two cousin Holles's came and spread, two and two, the other seats of the bow-window [there are but three] with their vast hoops: undoubtedly, because they saw Sir Charles coming to us. It is difficult, whispered I to my aunt [petulantly enough], to get him one moment to one's self. My cousin James (Silly youth! thought I) stopped him in his way to me: but Sir Charles would not long be stopped: He led the interrupter towards us; and a seat not being at hand, while the young Ladies were making a bustle to give him a place between them [tossing their hoops above their shoulders on one side] and my cousin James was hastening to bring him a chair; he threw himself at the feet of my aunt and me, making the floor his seat.
I don't know how it was; but I thought I never saw him look to more advantage. His attitude and behaviour had such a Lover-like appearance—Don't you see him, my dear?—His amiable countenance, so artless, yet so obliging, cast up to my aunt and me: His fine eyes meeting ours; mine, particularly, in their own way; for I could not help looking down, with a kind of proud bashfulness, as Lucy told me afterwards. How affected must I have appeared, had I either turned my head aside, or looked stiffly up, to avoid his!
I believe, my dear, we women in courtship don't love, that men, if ever so wise, should keep up to us the dignity of wisdom; much less that they should be solemn, formal, grave—Yet are we fond of respect and observance too.—How is it?—Sir Charles Grandison can tell.—Did you think of your brother, Lady G. when you once said, that the man who would commend himself to the general favour of us young women, should be a Rake in his address, and a Saint in his heart? Yet might you not have chosen a better word than Rake? Are there not more clumsy and foolish Rakes, than polite ones; except we can be so mistaken, as to give to impudence the name of agreeable freedom?
Sir Charles fell immediately into the easiest (shall I say the gallantest?) the most agreeable conversation, as if he must be all of a piece with the freedom of his attitude; and mingled in his talk, two or three very pretty humorous stories; so that nobody thought of helping him again to a chair, or wishing him in one.
How did this little incident familiarise the amiable man, as a still more amiable man than before, to my heart! In one of the little tales, which was of a gentleman in Spain serenading his mistress; we asked him, if he could not remember a sonnet he spoke of, as a pretty one? He, without answering, sung it in a most agreeable manner; and, at Lucy's request, gave us the English of it.
It is a very pretty sonnet, I will ask him for a copy, and send it to you, who understand the language.
My grandmamma, on Sir Charles's singing, beckoned to my cousin James who going to her, she whispered him. He stepped out, and presently returned with a violin, and struck up, as he entered, a minuet-tune Harriet, my love! called out my grandmama. Without any other intimation, the most agreeable of men, in an instant, was on his feet, reached his hat, and took me out.
How were we applauded! How was my grandmamma delighted! The words charming couple, were whispered round, but loud enough to be heard. And when we had done, he led me to my seat with an air that had all the real fine gentleman in it. But then he sat not down as before.—
I wonder if Lady Clementina ever danced with him.
My aunt, at Lucy's whispered request, proposed a dance between Sir Charles and her. You, Lady G. observed, more than once, that Lucy dances finely. Insulter! whispered I to her, when she had done, you know your advantages over me!—Harriet, replied she, what do good girls deserve, when they speak against their consciences?
My grandmamma afterwards called upon me for one lesson on the harpsichord; and they made me sing.
An admirable conversation followed at tea, in which my grandmother, aunt, my Lucy, and Sir Charles, bore the chief parts; every other person delighting to be silent.
Had we not, Lady G. a charming day?
In my next I shall have an opportunity, perhaps, to tell you what kind of a travelling companion Sir Charles is. For, be pleased to know, that for some time past a change of air, and a little excursion from place to place, have been prescribed for the establishment of my health, by one of the honestest physicians in England. The day before Sir Charles came into these parts, it was fixed, that to-morrow we should set out upon this tour. On his arrival, we had thoughts of postponing it; but, having understood our intention, he insisted upon its being prosecuted; and, offering his company, there was no declining the favour, you know, early days as they, however, are: And altho' every body abroad talks of the occasion of his visit to us; he has been so far from directing his servants to make a secret of it, that he has ordered his Saunders to answer to every curious questioner, that Sir Charles and I were of longer acquaintance than yesterday. But, is not this, my dear, a cogent intimation that Sir Charles thinks some parade, some delay, necessary? Yet don't he and we know how little a while ago it is, that he made his first declaration? What, my dear (should he be solicitous for an early day) is the inference? My uncle, too, so forward, that I am afraid of him.
We are to set out to-morrow morning. Peterborough is to be our furthest stage, one way. Mr. Deane insists, that we shall pass two or three days with him. All of us, but my grandmamma, are to be of his party.
O my dear Lady G. what a Letter is just brought me, by the hand that carried up mine on Saturday! Bless me! what an answer!—This wicked wish!—But I have not time to enter into so large a field. Let me only say, That for some parts I most heartily thank you and dear Lady L.; for others, I do not; and imagine Lady L. would not have subscribed her beloved name, had she read the whole. What charming spirits have you, my dear, dear Lady G.!—But, Adieu, my ever-amiable Ladies, both!
Volume VI - lettera 22
Volume VI - Letter 23
MISS BYRON. IN CONTINUATION.
Thrapston, Tuesday Even. October 17.
We passed several hours at Boughton (Note: The seat of the late Duke of Montagu), and arrived here in the afternoon. Mr. Deane had insisted that we should put up at a nephew's of his, in the neighbourhood of this town. The young gentleman met us at Oundle, and conducted us to the house. I have got such a habit of scribbling, that I cannot forbear applying to my pen at every opportunity. The less wonder, when I have your brother for my subject; and the two beloved sisters of that brother to write to.
It would be almost impertinent to praise a man for his horsemanship, who in his early youth was so noted for the performance of all his exercises, that his Father and General W. thought of the military life for him. Ease and unaffected dignity distinguish him in all his accomplishments. Bless me, madam! said Lucy to my aunt, on more occasions than one, this man is every-thing!
Shall I own, that I am retired to my pen, just now, from a very bad motive? Anger. I am, in my heart, even peevish with all my friends, for clustering so about Sir Charles, that he can hardly obtain a moment (which he seems to seek for too) to talk with me alone. My uncle [He does dote upon him] always inconsiderately stands in his way; and can I say to a man so very inclinable to raillery, that he should allow me more, and himself less, of Sir Charles's conversation? I wonder my aunt does not give my uncle a hint. But she loves Sir Charles's company as well as my uncle.
This, however, is nothing to the distress my uncle gave me at dinner this day. Sir Charles was observing, upon the disposition of one part of the gardens at Boughton, That Art was to be but the handmaid of Nature—I have heard, Sir Charles, said my uncle, that you have made that a rule with you at Grandison-hall. With what pleasure should I make a visit there to you and my niece—
He stopped. He needed not: He might have said anything after this. Sir Charles looked as if concerned for me; yet said, that would be a joyful visit to him. My aunt was vexed for my sake. Lucy gave my uncle such a look!—
My uncle afterwards indeed apologised to me—Ads-heart, I was a little blunt, I believe. But what a duce need there be these niceties observed when you are sure?—I am sorry, however—But it would out—Yet you, Harriet, made it worse by looking so silly.
What, Lady G. can I do with this dear man? My uncle, I mean. He has been just making a proposal to me, as he calls it, and with such honest looks of forecast and wisdom—Look-ye, Harriet—I shall be always blundering about your scrupulosities. I am come to propose something to you that will put it out of my power to make mistake—I beg of you and your aunt to allow me to enter with Sir Charles into a certain subject; and this not for your sake—I know you won't allow of that—But for the ease of Sir Charles's own heart. Gratitude is my motive, and ought to be yours. I am sure he loves the very ground you tread upon.
I besought him for every sake dear to himself, not to interfere in the matter; but to leave these subjects to my aunt and me.—Consider, Sir, said I, consider, how very lately the first personal declaration was made.
I do, I will consider every-thing—But there is danger between the cup and the lip.
Dear Sir (my hands and eyes lifted up) was all the answer I could make. He went from me hastily, muttering good-naturedly against Femalities.
Deane's Grove, Oct. 18.
Mr. Deane's pretty box you have seen. Sir Charles is pleased with it. We looked in at Fotheringay-castle (Note: The prison of Mary Queen of Scots), Milton (Note: The seat of Earl Fitzwilliam), &c. Mr. Charles Deane, a very obliging and sensible young gentleman, attended his uncle all the way.
What charming descriptions of fine houses and curiosities abroad did Sir Charles give us when we stopped to bait, or to view the pictures, furniture, gardens, of the houses we saw!
In every place, on every occasion, on the road, or when we alighted, or put up, he showed himself so considerate, so gallant, so courteous, to allow who approached him, and so charitable!—Yet not indiscriminately to every-body that asked him: But he was bountiful indeed, on representation of the misery of two honest families. Beggars born, or those who make begging a trade, if in health, and not lame or blind, have seldom, it seems, any share in his munificence: But persons fallen from competence, and such as struggle with some instant distress, or have large families, which they have not ability to maintain; these, and such as these, are the objects of his bounty. Richard Saunders, who is sometimes his almoner, told my Sally, that he never goes out but somebody is the better for him: and that his manner of bestowing his charity is such, as, together with the poor peoples blessings and prayers for him, often draws tears from his eyes.
I have over-heard a dialogue that has just now passed between my uncle and aunt. There is but a thin partition between the room they were in, and mine; and he spoke loud; my aunt now low; yet earnest only, not angry. He had been proposing to her, as he had done to me, to enter into a certain subject, in pity to Sir Charles: None had he for his poor niece. No doubt, but he thought he was obliging me; and that my objection was only owing to Femality, as he calls it; a word I don't like. I never heard it from Sir Charles.
My aunt was not at all pleased with his motion. She wished, as I had done, that he would not interfere in these nice matters. He took offence at the exclusion because of the word nice. She said, He was too precipitating, a great deal: She did not doubt but Sir Charles would be full early in letting me know his expectations.
She spoke more decisively than she is used to do. He cannot bear her chidings, tho' ever so gentle. I need not tell you, that he both loves and reveres her; but, as one of the lords of the creation, is apt to be jealous of his prerogatives. You used to be diverted with his honest particularities.
What an ignoramus you women and girls make of me, Dame Selby! said he. I know nothing of the world, nor of men and women, that's certain. I am always to be documented by you and your minxes! But the duce take your niceties: You don't, you can't, poor souls, as you are, distinguish men. You must all of you go on in one rig-my-roll way; in one beaten track. Who the duce would have thought it needful, when a girl, and we all were wishing till our very hearts were bursting, for this man, when he was not in his own power, would think you must now come with your hums, and your haws, and the whole circum-roundabouts of female nonsense, to stave off the point your hearts and souls are set upon? I remember, Dame Selby, tho' so long ago, how you treated your future Lord and Master when you prank'd it, as Lady and Mistress. You vexed my very Soul, I can tell you that! And often, and often, when I left you, I swore bitterly, that I never would come again as a Lover—tho' I was a poor forsworn wretch—God forgive me!
My dear Mr. Selby, you should not remember past things. You had very odd ways—I was afraid, for a good while, of venturing with you at all—
Now, Dame Selby, I have you at a why-not, or I never had; tho', by the way, your un-evenness increased my oddness.—But what oddness is in Sir Charles Grandison? If he is not even, neither you nor I were ever odd. What reason is there for him to run the Female gauntlope? I pity the excellent man; remembering how I was formerly vexed myself—I hate this shilly-shally fooling; the know your-mind and not know-your-mind nonsense. As I hope to live and breathe, I'll, I'll, I'll blow you all up, without gunpowder or oatmeal, if an honest gentleman is thus to be fooled with; and after such a Letter too from his friend Jeronymo, in the names of the whole family, Lady G. for my money! [Ah, thought I, Lady G. gives better advice than she even wishes to know how to take!] I like her notion of parallel lines!—Sir Charles Grandison is none of your gew-gaw-whip-jacks, that you know not where to have. But I tell you, Dame Selby, that neither you nor your niece know how, with your fine souls, and fine sense, to go out of the common femality-path, when you get a man into your gin, however superior he is to common infanglements, and low chicanery, and dull and cold forms, as Sir Charles properly called them, in his address to the little pug's-face. [I do love her, with all her pretty ape's tricks: For what are you all, but, right or wrong, apes of one another?] And do you think, with all your wisdom, he sees not through you? He does; and, as a wise man, must despise you all, with your femalities and forsooths—
No femality, Mr. Selby, is designed—No—
I am impatient, Dame Selby, light of my eye, and dear to my heart and soul, as you are; I will take my own way, in this. I have no mind that the two dearest creatures in the world, to me, should render themselves despisable in the eyes of a man they want to think highly of them. And here if I put in, and say but a wry word, as you think it—I am to be called to account.—
My dear, did you not begin the subject? said my aunt.
I am to be closetted, and to be documentized, proceeded he—Not another word of your documentations, Dame Selby! I am not in a humour to bear them: I will take my own way—And that's enough.
And then, I suppose, he stuck his hands in his sides, as he does when he is good-humouredly angry; and my aunt, at such times, gives up, till a more convenient opportunity, and then she always carries her point (And why? Because she is always reasonable); for which he calls her a Parthian woman.
I heard her say, as he stalked out royally, repeating, that he would take his own way; I say no more, Mr. Selby—Only consider—
Oy, and let Harriet consider, and do you consider, Dame Selby: Sir Charles Grandison is not a common man.
I did not let my aunt know that I heard this speech of my uncle: She only said to me, when she saw me, I have had a little debate with your uncle: We must do as well as we can with him, my dear. He means well.
Thursday Morning, October 19.
After breakfast, first one, then another, dropped away, and left only Sir Charles and me together. Lucy was the last that went; and the moment she was withdrawn, while I was thinking to retire to dress, he placed himself by me: Think me not abrupt, my dear Miss Byron, said he, that I take almost the only opportunity which has offered of entering upon a subject that is next my heart.
I found my face glow. I was silent.
You have given me hope, madam: All your friends encourage that hope. I love, I revere, your friends. What I have now to petition for, is, A confirmation of the hope I have presumed upon. CAN you, madam (the Female delicacy is more delicate than that of man can be) unequally as you may think yourself circumstanced with a man who owns that once he could have devoted himself to another Lady; CAN you say, that the man before you is the man whom you CAN, whom you DO, prefer to any other?
He stopped; expecting my answer.
After some hesitations, I have been accustomed, Sir, said I, by those friends whom you so deservedly value, to speak nothing but the simplest truth. In an article of this moment, I should be inexcusable, if—
I stopped. His eyes were fixed upon my face. For my life I could not speak; yet wished to be able to speak—
If, If what, madam? and he snatched my hand, bowed his face upon it, held it there, not looking up to mine. I could then speak—If thus urged, and by SIR CHARLES GRANDISON—I did not speak my heart—I answer—Sir—I CAN—I DO. I wanted, I thought, just then, to shrink into myself.
He kissed my hand with fervour; dropped down on one knee; again kissed it—You have laid me, madam, under everlasting obligation: And will you permit me, before I rise—loveliest of women, will you permit me, to beg an early day?—I have many affairs on my hands; many more in design, now I am come, as I hope, to settle in my native country for the rest of my life. My chief glory will be, to behave commendably in the private life. I wish not to be a public man; and it must be a very particular call, for the Service of my King and Country united, that shall draw me out into public notice. Make me, madam, soon, the happy husband I hope to be. I prescribe not to you the time: But you are above empty forms. May I presume to hope, it will be before the end of a month to come?
He had forgot himself. He said, he would not prescribe to me.
After some involuntary hesitations—I am afraid of nothing so much, just now, Sir, said I, as appearing, to a man of your honour and penetration, affected. Rise, Sir, I beseech you! I cannot bear—
I will, madam, and rise as well as kneel, to thank you, when you have answered a question so very important to my happiness.
Before I could resume, Only believe me, madam, said he, that my urgency is not the insolent urgency of one who imagines a Lady will receive as a compliment his impatience. And if you have no scruple that you think of high importance, add, I beseech you, to the obligation you have laid him under to your condescending goodness (and add with that frankness of heart which has distinguished you in my eyes above all women) the very high one, of an early day.
I looked down—I could not look up—I was afraid of being thought affected—Yet how could I so soon think of obliging him?
He proceeded—You are silent, madam!—Propitious be your silence! Allow me to enquire of your aunt, for your kind, your condescending acquiescence. I will not now urge you further: I will be all hope.
Let me say, Sir, that I must not be precipitated. These are very early days.
Much more was in my mind to say; but I hesitated—I could not speak. Surely, my dear Ladies, it was too-too early an urgency. And can a woman be wholly unobservant of custom, and the laws of her Sex?—Something is due to fashion in dress, however absurd that dress might have appeared in the last age (as theirs do to us) or may in the next: And shall not those customs which have their foundation in modesty, and are characteristic of the gentler Sex, be entitled to excuse, and more than excuse?
He saw my confusion. Let me not, my dearest life, distress you, said he. Beautiful as your emotion is, I cannot enjoy it, if it give you pain. Yet is the question so important to me; so much is my heart concerned in the favourable answer I hope for from your goodness; that I must not let this opportunity slip, except it be your pleasure that I attend your determination from Mrs. Selby's mouth.—Yet that I choose not, neither; because I presume for more favour from your own, than you will, on cold deliberation, allow your aunt to show me. Love will plead for its faithful votary in a single breast, when consultation on the supposed fit and unfit, the object absent, will produce delay. But I will retire, for two moments. You shall be my prisoner mean time. Not a soul shall come in to interrupt us, unless it be at your call. I will return, and receive your determination; and if that be the fixing of my happy day, how will you rejoice me!
While I was debating within myself, whether I should be angry or pleased, he returned, and found me walking about the room.—Soul of my hope, said he, taking with reverence my hand; I now presume that you can, that you will, oblige me.
You have given me no time, Sir: But let me request, that you will not expect an answer, in relation to the early day you so early ask for, till after the receipt of your next Letters from Italy. You see how the admirable Lady is urged; how reluctantly she has given them but distant hopes of complying with their wishes. I should be glad to wait for the next Letters; for those, at least, which will be an answer to yours, acquainting them, that there is a woman with whom you think you could be happy. I am earnest in this request, Sir. Think it not owing to affectation.
I acquiesce, madam. The answer to those Letters will soon be here. It will indeed be some time before I can receive a reply to that I wrote in answer to Jeronymo's last Letter. I impute not affectation to my dearest Miss Byron. I can easily comprehend your motive: It is a generous one. But it befits me to say, that the next Letters from Italy, whatever may be their contents, can now make no alteration on my part. Have I not declared myself to your friends, to you, and to the world?
Indeed, Sir, they may make an alteration on mine, highly as I think of the honour Sir Charles Grandison does me by his good opinion. For, pardon me, should the most excellent of women think of resuming a place in your heart—
Let me interrupt you, madam.—It cannot be, that Lady Clementina, proceeding, as she has done, on motives of piety, zealous in her religion, and all her relations now earnest in another man's favour, can alter her mind. I should not have acted with justice, with gratitude, to her, had I not tried her steadfastness by every way I could devise: Nor, in justice to both Ladies, would I allow myself to apply for your favour till I had her resolution confirmed to me under her own hand after my arrival in England. But were it now possible that she should vary, and were you, madam, to hold your determination in my favour suspended; the consequence would be this; I should never, while that suspense lasted, be the husband of any woman on earth.
I hope, Sir, you will not be displeased. I did not think you would so soon be so very earnest. But this, Sir, I say, Let me have reason to think, that my happiness will not be the misfortune of a more excellent woman, and it shall be my endeavour to make the man happy who only can make me so.
He clasped me in his arms with an ardor—that displeased me not—on reflexion—But at the time startled me. He then thanked me again on one knee. I held out the hand he held not in his, with intent to raise him; for I could not speak. He received it as a token of favour; kissed it with ardor; arose; again pressed my cheek with his lips. I was too much surprised to repulse him with anger: But was he not too free? Am I a prude, my dear? In the odious sense of the abused word, I am sure, I am not: But in the best sense, as derived from prudence, and used in opposition to a word that denotes a worse character, I own myself one of those who would wish to restore it to its natural respectable signification, for the sake of virtue; which, as Sir Charles himself once hinted (Note: Vol. 4), is in danger of suffering by the abuse of it; as Religion once did, by that of the word Puritan.
Sir Charles, on my making towards the door that led to the stairs, withdrew with such a grace, as showed he was capable of recollection.
Again I ask, was he not too free? I will tell you how I judge that he was: When I came to conclude my narrative to my aunt and Lucy, of all that passed between him and me, I blushed, and could not tell them how free he was. Yet you see, Ladies, that I can write it to you two.
Sir Charles, my uncle, and Mr. Deane, took a little walk, and returned just as dinner was ready. My uncle took me aside, and whispered to me; I am glad at my heart and soul the ice is broken. This is the man of true spirit—Ads-heart, Harriet, you will be Lady Grandison in a fortnight, at furthest, I hope. You have had a charming confabulation, I doubt not. I can guess you have, by Sir Charles's declaring himself more and more delighted with you. And he owns, that he put the question to you.—Hay, Harriet!—Smiling in my face.
Every one's eyes were upon me. Sir Charles, I believe, saw me look as if I were apprehensive of my uncle's raillery. He came up to us: My dear Miss Byron, said he, in my uncle's hearing, I have owned to Mr. Selby, the request I presumed to make you. I am afraid that he, as well as you, think me too bold and forward. If you do, madam, I ask your pardon: My hopes shall always be controlled by your pleasure.
This made my uncle complaisant to me. I was re-assured. I was pleased to be so seasonably relieved.
Friday Morning, October 20.
You must not, my dear Ladies, expect me to be so very minute: if I am, must I not lose a hundred charming conversations? One, however, I will give you a little particularly.
Your brother desired leave to attend me in my dressing-room—But how can I attempt to describe his air, his manner, or repeat the thousand agreeable things he said? Insensibly he fell into talking of future schemes, in a way that punctillo itself could not be displeased with.
He had been telling me, that our dear Mr. Deane, having been affected by his last indisposition had desired my uncle, my aunt, and him, to permit him to lay before them the state of this affairs, and the kind things he intended to do by his own relations; who however, were all in happy circumstances. After which, he insisted upon Sir Charles's being his sole executor, which he scrupled, unless some other person were joined with him in the trust: But Mr. Deane, being very earnest on this head, Sir Charles said, I hope I know my own heart. My dear Mr. Deane, you must do as you please.
After some other discourse, I suppose, said I, the good man will not part with us till the beginning of next week.
Whenever you leave him, answered he, it will be to his regret; it may therefore as well be soon: But I am sorry, methinks, that he, who has qualities which endear him to every one, should be so much alone as he is here. I have a great desire, when I can be so happy as to find myself a settled man, to draw into my neighbourhood friends who will dignify it. Mr. Deane will, I hope, be often our visitor at the Hall. The love he bears to his dear god-daughter will be his inducement; and the air and soil being more dry and wholesome than this so near the fens, may be a means to prolong his valuable life.
Dr. Bartlett, continued he, has already carried into execution some schemes which relate to my indigent neighbours, and the lower class of my tenants. How does that excellent man revere Miss Byron!—My Beauchamp, with our two sisters and their Lords, will be often with us. Your worthy cousin Reeves's, Lord W. and his deserving Lady, will also be our visitors, and we theirs, in turn. The Mansfield family are already within a few miles of me: And our Northamptonshire friends!—Visitors and visited—What happiness do I propose to myself, and the beloved of my heart!—And if (as you have generously wished) the dear Clementina may be happy, at least not unhappy, and her brother Jeronymo recover? what, in this world, can be wanting to crown our felicity?
Tears of joy strayed down my cheek, unperceived by me, till they fell upon his hand, as it had mine in it. He kissed them away. I was abashed. If my dear Miss Byron permit me to go on, I have her advice to ask.—I bowed my assent. My heart throbbed with painful joy: I could not speak.
Will it not be too early, madam, to ask you about some matters of domestic concern? The lease of the house in St. James's Square is expired. Some difficulties are made to renew it, unless on terms which I think unreasonable. I do not easily submit to imposition. Is there any-thing that you particularly like in the situation of that house?
Houses, Sir, nay, Countries, will be alike to me, in the company of those I value.
You are all goodness, madam. I will leave it to my sisters, to enquire after another house. I hope you will allow them to consult you, as any one may offer. I will write to the owner of my present house (who is solicitous to know my determination, and says he has a tenant ready, if I relinquish it) that it will be at his command in three months time. When my dear Miss Byron shall bless me with her hand, and our Northamptonshire friends will part with her, if she pleases, we will go directly to the Hall.
I bowed, and intended to look as one who thought herself obliged.
Restrain, check me, madam, whenever I seem to trespass on your goodness. Yet how shall I forbear to wish you to hasten the day that shall make you wholly mine?—You will the rather allow me to wish it, as you will then be more than ever your own mistress; tho' you have always been generously left to a discretion that never was more deservedly trusted to. Your will, madam, will ever comprehend mine.
You leave me, Sir, only room to say, that if gratitude can make me a merit with you, that began with the first knowledge I had of you; and it has been increasing ever since—I hope I never shall be ungrateful.
Tears again strayed down my check. Why did I weep?
Delicate sensibility! said he. He clasped his arms about me—But instantly withdrew them, as if recollecting himself—Pardon me, madam! Admiration will sometimes mingle with reverence. I must express my gratitude as a man—May my happy day be not far distant, that I may have no bound to my joy!—He took my hand, and again pressed it with his lips. My heart, madam, said he, is in your hand: You cannot but treat it graciously.
Just then came in my Nancy [Why came she in?] with the general expectation of us to breakfast!—Breakfast!—What, thought I, is breakfast!—The world, my Charlotte—But hush!—Withdraw, fond heart, from my pen! Can the dearest friend allow for the acknowledgement of impulses so fervent, and which, writing to the moment, as I may say, the moment only can justify revealing?
He led me down-stairs, and to my very seat, with an air so noble, yet so tender—My aunt, my Lucy, every-body—looked at me. My eyes betrayed my hardly-conquered emotion.
Sir Charles's looks and behaviour were so respectful, that every one addressed me as a person of increased consequence. Do you think, Lady G. that Lord G's and Lord L's respectful behaviour to their wives do not as much credit to their own hearts, as to their Ladies? How happy are you, that you have recollected yourself, and now encourage not others, by your example, to make a jest of a husband's Love!—Will you forgive me the recollection, for the sake of the joy I have in the reformation?—
I have read this Letter, just now, to my aunt and Lucy, all except this last saucy hint to you. They clasped me each in their arms, and said, They admired him, and were pleased with me. Instruct me, my dear Ladies, how to behave in such a manner, as may show my gratitude (I had almost said my Love); yet not go so very far, as to leave the day, the hour every-thing, to his determination!
But, on reading to my aunt and Lucy what I had written, I was ashamed to find, that when he was enumerating the friends he hoped to have near him, or about him, I had forgot to remind him of my Emily. Ungrateful Harriet!—But don't tell her that I was so absorbed in Self, and that the conversation was so interesting, that my heart was more of a passive than an active machine at the time. I will soon find, or make, an occasion to be her solicitress. You once thought that Emily, for her own sake, should not live with us; but her heart is set upon it. Dear creature! I love her! I will sooth her! I will take her to my bosom!—I will, by my sisterly compassion, entitle myself to all her confidence! She shall have all mine. Nor shall her guardian suspect her.—I will be as faithful to her secret, as you and Lady L. were (thankfully I remember it!) to mine. Don't you think, my dear, that if Lady Clementina [I how to her merit whenever I name her to myself] had had such a true, such a soothing friend, to whom she could have revealed the secret that oppressed her noble heart, while her passion was young, it would have been attended with such a deprivation of her reason, as made unhappy all who had the honour of being related to her?
O my dear Lady G! I am undone! Emily is undone! We are all undone!—I am afraid so!—My intolerable carelessness!—I will run away from him! I cannot look him in the face!—But I am most, most of all, concerned for my Emily!
Walking in the garden with Lucy, I dropped the last sheet, marked 6, this Letter (Note: Beginning, Why did I weep?).
I missed it not till my aunt this minute told me, that Sir Charles, crossing the walk which I had just before quitted, stooped, and took up a paper. Immediately my heart misgave me. I took out my Letter: I thought I had it all—But the fatal, fatal sixth sheet, is wanting: That must be what he stooped for, and took up. What shall I do!—Sweet Emily! now will he never suffer you to live with him. All my own heart laid open too!—Such prattling also!—I cannot look him in the face!—How shall I do, to get away to Shirley-manor, and hide myself in the indulgent bosom of my grandmamma?—What affectation, after this, will it be, to refuse him his day!—But he demands audience of me. Could any-thing (O the dear Emily!) have happened more mortifying to
Your HARRIET BYRON?
Volume VI - lettera 23
Volume VI - Letter 24
MISS BYRON. IN CONTINUATION.
Friday afternoon, October 20.
I was all confusion when he, looking as unconscious as he used to do, entered my dressing-room. I turned my face from him. He seemed surprised at my concern. Miss Byron, I hope, is well. Has anything disturbed you, madam?
My paper, my paper! You took it up—For the world I would not—The poor Emily!—Give it me; Give it me; and I burst into tears.—
Was there ever such a fool? What business had I to name Emily;
He took it out of his pocket. I came to give it to you; putting it into my hand. I saw it was your writing, madam: I folded it up immediately: It has not been unfolded since: Not a single sentence did I permit myself to read.
Are you sure, Sir, you have not read it? nor any Part of it!—
Upon my honour, I have not.
I cleared up at once. A blessed reward, thought I, for denying my own curiosity, when pressed by my Charlotte, to read a Letter clandestinely obtained!
A thousand, thousand thanks to you, Sir, for not giving way to your curiosity. I should have been miserable, perhaps, for months, had you read that paper.
You now indeed raise my curiosity, madam. Perhaps your generosity will permit you to gratify it; tho' I should not have forgiven myself, had I taken advantage of such an accident.
I will tell you the contents of some parts of it, Sir.
Those which relate to my Emily, if you please, madam. The poor Emily, you said.—You have alarmed me. Perhaps I am not to be quite happy!—What of poor Emily! Has the girl been imprudent?—Has she already—What of the poor Emily?
And his face glowed, with impatience.
No harm, Sir, of Emily!—Only a request of the dear girl! [What better use could I have made of my fright, Lady G?] But the manner of my mentioning it, I would not for the world you should have seen.
No harm, you say!—I was afraid, by your concern for her—But can you love her, as well as ever? If you can, Emily must still be good.
I can: I do.
What then, dear madam, of poor Emily? Why poor Emily?—
I will tell you. The dear girl makes it her request, that I will procure of you one favour for her: Her heart is set upon it.
If Emily continue good, she shall only signify her wish, and I will comply. If I am not a Father to her, is she not fatherless?
Allow me, Sir, to call you kind! good! humane!
What I want of those qualities, Miss Byron will teach me, by her example.—But what would my Emily?—
She would live with her guardian, Sir—
With me, madam?—And with you, madam—Tell me, own to me, madam, And with you?
That is her wish—
And does my beloved Miss Byron think it a right wish to be granted; Will she be the instructing friend, the exemplary sister, now in that time of the dear girl's life, when the eye, rather than the judgment, is usually the director of a young woman's affections?
I love the sweet Innocent: I could wish her to be always with me.
Obliging goodness! Then is one of my cares over. A young woman, from Fourteen to Twenty, is often a troublesome charge upon a Friendly heart. I could not have asked this favour of you. You rejoice me by mentioning it. Shall I write a Letter, in your name, to Emily?
There, Sir, is pen, ink, and paper.
In your name, madam?
I bowed assent; mistrusting nothing.
He wrote; and doubling down, showed me only these words—'My dear Miss Jervois, I have obtained for you the desired favour—Will you not continue to be as good as you have hitherto been?—That is all which is required of my Emily, by her ever affectionate'—
I instantly wrote, 'Harriet Byron.'—But, Sir, what have you doubled down?
Charming confidence!—What must he be, who could attempt to abuse it?—Read, madam, what you have signed.—
I did. How my heart throbbed.—And could Sir Charles Grandison, said I, thus intend to deceive? Could Sir Charles Grandison be such a plotter? Thank God you are not a bad man.
After the words, I have obtained for you the desired favour, followed these:
'You must be very good. You must resolve to give me nothing but joy; joy equal to the love I have for you, and to the sacrifice I have made to oblige you. Go down, my love, as soon as you can, to Grandison-hall: I shall then have one of the sisters of my heart there to receive me. If you are there in less than a fortnight, I will endeavour to be with you in a fortnight after. I sacrifice, at least, another fortnight's punctilio to oblige you. And will you not continue to be as good as you have hitherto been? That is all which is required of my Emily, by, &c.'
Give me the paper, Sir; holding out my hand for it.
Have I forfeited my character with you, madam?—holding it back, with an air of respectful gaiety.
I must consider, Sir, before I give you an answer.
If I have, why should I not send it away; and, as Miss Byron cannot deny her hand-writing, hope to receive the benefit of the supposed deceit? Especially as it will answer so many good ends: For instance, your own wishes in Emily's favour; as it will increase your own power of obliging; and be a means of accelerating the happiness of a man whose principal joy will be in making you happy.
Was it not a pretty piece of deceit, Lady G? Shall I own, that my heart was more inclined to reward than punish him for it? And really, for a moment, I thought of the impracticableness of complying with the request, as if I was seriously pondering upon it, and was sorry it was not practicable. To get away from my dear Mr. Deane, thought I, who will not be in haste to part with us; some female bustlings to be got over on our return to Selby-house; proposal renewed, and a little paraded with [Why, Lady G. did you tell me that our Sex is a foolish Sex?]; the preparation; the ceremony; the awful ceremony! the parting with the dearest and most indulgent friends that ever young creature was blessed with; and to be at Grandison-hall, all within one month!—Was there ever so precipitating a man?
I believe verily, that I appeared to him as if I were considering of it; for he took advantage of my silence, and urged me to permit him to send away to Emily what he had written; and offered to give reasons for his urgency: Written as it is, said he, by me, and signed by you, how will the dear girl rejoice at the consent of both, under our hands! And will she not take the caution given her in it from me, as kindly as she will your mediation in her favour?
Sure, Sir, said I, you expect not a serious answer!—Upon his honour, he did—How, Sir! Ought you not rather to be thankful, if I forgive you, for letting me see that Sir Charles Grandison was capable of such an artifice, tho' but in jest; and for his reflection upon me, and perhaps meant on our Sex, as if decorum were but punctilio? I beg my Lucy's pardon, added I, for being half-angry with her when she called you a designer.
My dearest creature, said he, I am a designer. Who, to accelerate a happiness on which that of his whole life depends, would not be innocently so? I am, in this instance, selfish: But I glory in my selfishness; because I am determined, if power be lent me, that every one, within the circle of our acquaintance, shall have reason to congratulate you as one of the happiest of women.
Till this artifice, Sir, showed me what you could do, were you not a man of the strictest honour, I had nothing but affiance in you. Give me the paper, Sir; and, for your own sake, I will destroy it, that it may not furnish me with an argument, that there is not one man in the world who is to be implicitly confided in by a woman.
Take it, madam (presenting it to me, with his usual gracefulness); destroy it not, however, till you have exposed me as such a breach of confidence deserves, to your aunt, your Lucy—To your uncle Selby; and Mr. Deane, if you please.
Ah, Sir! you know your advantages! I will not, in this case, refer to them: I could sooner rely, dearly as they love their Harriet, on Sir Charles Grandison's justice, than on their favour, in any debate that should happen between him and me.
There never, madam, except in the case before us, can be room for a reference: Your prudence, and my gratitude, must secure us both. Even now, impatient as I am to call you mine, which makes me willing to lay hold of every opportunity to urge you for an early day, I will endeavour to subdue that impatience, and submit to your will. Yet let me say, that if I did not think your heart one of the most laudably unreserved, yet truly delicate, that woman ever boasted, and your prudence equal, you would not have found me so acquiescent a Lover, early as you suppose my urgency for the happy day.
And is it not early, Sir? Can Sir Charles Grandison think me punctilious?—But you will permit me to write to Miss Jervois myself, and acquaint her with her granted wish, if—
If! No if, madam—Whatever you think right to be done, in this case, that do. Emily will be more particularly your ward than mine, if you condescend to take the trust upon you.
You will be pleased, dear Lady G. to acquaint Emily with the grant of her wish: She will rejoice. God give the dear creature reason for joy; and then I shall have double pleasure in having contributed to her obtaining of it. But, on second thoughts, I will write to her myself; for I allow not that she shall see or hear read every-thing I write to you. [Shall I own to you, that my grandmamma, and aunt, and Lucy, are of your mind? They all three wish]—But who can deny the dear Innocent the grant of a request on which she has so long set her heart? And would it not be pity, methinks I hear the world say, some time hence, especially if any mishap [God forbid it!] should befall her, that Sir Charles Grandison, the most honourable of men, should so marry, as that a young Lady of innocence and merit, and mistress of a fortune, which, it might be foreseen, would encourage the attempts of designing men, could not have lived with his wife?—Poor child!—Then would the world have shaken its wise head (allow the expression); and well for me if it had judged so mildly of me.
Our dear Mr. Deane, tho' reluctantly, has consented that we shall leave him on Monday next. We shall set out directly for Selby-house, where we propose to be the same night. My aunt and I have been urgent with him to go back with us; but he is cross, and will be excused.
Just now Lucy tells me, that Mr. Deane declared to my uncle, aunt, and her, that he will not visit us at Selby-house till we send for him and the settlements together, which he will have ready in a week—Strange expedition! Sure they are afraid your brother will change his mind, and are willing to put it out of the poor man's power to recede! Lucy smiles at me, and is sure, she says, that she may in confidence reveal all these matters to me, without endangering my life. My next Letter will be from Selby-house.
While that life continues, my dear Ladies, look upon me as assuredly
Yours HARRIET BYRON?
Volume VI - lettera 24
Volume VI - Letter 25
LADY G. TO MISS BYRON.
Monday, Oct. 23.
Go on, go on, with your narratives, my dear. Hitherto Caroline and I know not how either much to blame you, or totally to acquit you of parade the man and his situation considered; and the state of your heart for so many months past; every one of your friends—consenting, shall I say?—more than consenting—ardent, to be related to him. Hark ye, Harriet, let me whisper you—My brother, whether he come honestly, or not, by his knowledge, I dare say, thinks not so highly of the Free-masonry part of marriage as you do—You start. O Charlotte! you cry—And, O Harriet! too—But, my dear girl, let my brother see, that you think (and no woman in the world does, if you don't) that the true modesty, after hearts are united, is to think little of parade, and much of the social happiness that awaits two worthy minds united by Love, and conformity of sentiment—After all, we are silly creatures, Harriet: We are afraid of wise men. No wonder that we seldom choose them, when a fool offers. I wish I knew the man, however, who dare to say this in my hearing.
Your grandmother Shirley is more than woman: My brother prodigiously admires her. I think you may trust to her judgment, if you suppose him too precipitating. Your aunt is an excellent woman! But I never knew a woman or man, who valued themselves on delicacy, and found themselves consulted upon it, but was apt to over-do the matter. Is not this a little, a very little, Mrs. Selby's case? Let her know, that I bid you ask this question of herself: She must be assured that I equally love and honour her; so won't be angry.
Your uncle is an odd, but a very honest Dunstable soul! Tell him, I say so; but withal, that he should leave women to act as women, in these matters. What a duce, what a pize, would he expect perfection from them? He, whose arguments always run in the depreciating strain? If he would, ask him, Where should they have it, conversing, as they are obliged to do, with men? Men for their fathers, for their brothers, for their uncles—They must be a little silly, had they not a fund of silliness in themselves.—But I would not have them be most out in matters where they should be most in.
I think, however, so does Lady L. that so far as you have proceeded, you are tolerable; tho' not, half so clever as he, considering situations. Upon my word, Harriet, allowing for every-thing, neither of Sir Charles Grandison's sisters expected that their brother would have made so ardent, so polite, a Lover. He is so prudent a man, and that once had like to have been one of your, even your objections.—Yet so nobly sincere—so manly. O that my ape—But come, Harriet, as men go in this age of monkeys and Sir Foplings, Lord G. (for all you ) is not to be despised. I, as a good wife ought, will take his part, whoever runs him down. Where much is not given, much, and-so-forth—
I have told Emily the good news: I could not help it, tho' you promise to write to her.
Poor thing! she is all ecstasy! she is not the only one who seeks, as her greatest good, what may possibly prove her greatest misfortune. But, for her sake for your sake, and my brother's, I hope, under your directing eye, and by prudent management (the flame so young) a little cold water will do; and that if it will blaze, it may be directed towards Beauchamp's house.
Let me whisper you again, Harriet—Young girls finding themselves vested with new powers, and a set of new inclinations, turn their staring eyes out of themselves; and the first man they see, they imagine, if he be a single man, and but simpers at them, they must receive him as a Lover: Then they return downcast for ogle, that he may ogle on without interruption. They are soon brought to write answers to Letters which confess flames the writer's heart never felt. The girl doubts not her own gifts, her own consequence; she wonders that her father, mother, and other friends, never told her of these new-found excellencies: She is more and more beautiful in her own eyes, as he more and more flatters her. If her parents are a-verse, the girl is per-verse; and the more, the less discretion there is in her passion. She adopts the word constancy; she declaims against persecution; she calls her idle flame, LOVE; which only was a Something she knew not what to make of—and, like a wandering bee, had it not settled on this flower, would on the next, were it either bitter or sweet.
And this generally, with the thoughtless, is the beginning and progress of that formidable invader, miscalled Love; a word very happily at hand, to help giddy creatures to talk with, and look without confusion of face on, a man telling them a thousand lies, and hoping, perhaps by illaudable means, to attain an end not in itself illaudable, when duty and discretion are, the one the guide, the other the gentle restraint.
But as to Emily—I depend on her principles, as well as on your affectionate discretion (when you will be pleased, among ye, to permit my brother to be actually yours) for restraining her imagination. There never beat in Female bosom an honester heart. Poor thing! she is but a girl! And who is the woman, or child, that looks on my brother without love and reverence?
For Emily's sake, you see, you must not have too many of your honest uncle's circum-roundabouts. He makes us laugh. I love to have him angry with his Dame Selby. Dear Harriet! when your heart's quite at ease, give us the courtship of the odd soul to the light of his eyes; his oddness, and her delicacy! A charming contrast! You did help us to a little of it once, you know. Theirs, on the woman's side, could not be a match of Love at first: But who so happy as they? I am convinced, Harriet, that Love on one side, and discretion on the other, is enough in conscience; and, in short, much better than Love on both: For what room can there be for discretion, in the latter case? The man is guilty of an heterodoxy in Love, you know, who is prudent, or but suspected of being so!—Ah! Harriet, Harriet! once more I say, we women are foolish creatures in our Love-affairs; and know not what's best for ourselves.—In your style—'Don't you think so, Lucy?'—Yet I admire Lucy—She got over an improperly-placed Love; and now, her mad fit over [We have all little or much of it; begun, as I told you how] she is so cool, so quiet, so sedate—Yet once I make no doubt, looking forward to her present happy quiescence, would have thought it a state of insipidity. Dearly do we love racketing; and, another whisper, some of us to be racketed—But not you! you are an exception. Yes, to be sure!—But I believe you'll think me mad.
We like my brother's little trick upon you in the Billet he wrote, and which you signed, as if to Emily. You see how earnest he is, my dear. I long for his next Letters from Italy. I think that is a lucky plea enough for you, if you suppose parade necessary.
We have got Everard among us again. The sorry fellow—O Harriet! had you seen him, with his hat upon his two thumbs, bowing, cringing, blushing, confounded, when first he came into my royal presence—But I, from my throne, extended the golden sceptre to him, as I knew I should please my brother by it. He sat down when I bid him, twisted his lips, curdled his chin, hemm'd, stole a look of reverence at me, looked down when his eyes met mine; mine bold as innocence, his conscious as guilt; hemm'd again, turned his hat about; then with one of his not quite-forgotten airs of pertness, putting it under his arm, shook his ears, tried to look up, then his eye sunk again under my broader eye.—O my dear!—What a paltry creature is a man vice-bitten! and sensible of detected folly, and obligation!
Sir Charles has made a man of him, once more. His dress is as gay as ever; and, I dare say, he struts as much in it as ever, in company that knows not how he came by it. He reformed!—Bad habits are of the Jerusalem artichoke-kind; once planted, there is no getting them out of the ground.
Our good Dr Bartlett is also with us, at present: He is in hopes of seeing my brother in town—'In town,' Harriet!—and the great affair un-solemnised!—Woe be to you, if—But let's see how you act when left to yourself. Prudent people, in other's matters are not always prudent in their own; especially in their Love-affairs. A little over-nicety at setting out, will carry them into a road they never intended to amble in; and then they are sometimes obliged to the less prudent to put them in the path they set out from. Remember, my dear, I am at hand, if you bewilder yourself.
Dr. Bartlett tells us, that my brother has extricated this poor creature from his entanglements with his woman, by his interposition only by Letter: Some money, I suppose. The Doctor desires to be silent, on the means; but hints, however, that Everard will soon be in circumstances not unhappy.
I have got the Doctor to explain himself. Every day produces some new instances of women's follies. What would poor battered rakes and younger brothers do, when on their last legs, were it not for good-natured widows?—Ay, and sometimes for forward maids? This wretch, it seems, has acquitted himself so handsomely in the discharge of the 100l. which he owed to his wine-merchant's relict, and the Lady was so full of acknowledgements, and obligations, and all that, for being paid but her due, that he has ventured to make addresses to her (Love, as it is called): and is well received. He behaves with more spirit before her, I suppose, than he does before me.
The widow had a plain, diligent, honest man, before. She has what is called taste, forsooth, or believes she has. She thinks Mr. Grandison a finer gentleman than him who left her in a condition to be thought worthy of the address of a gayer man. She prides herself, it seems, in the relation that her marriage will give her to a man of Sir Charles Grandison's character. Much worse reasons will have weight, when a woman finds herself inclined to change her condition. But Everard is very earnest that my brother should know nothing of the matter till all is over: So you (as I) have this piece of news in confidence. Lady L. has not been told it. His cousin, he says, who refused him his interest with Miss Mansfield, Lady W's sister, because he thought a further time of probation, with regard to his avowed good resolutions, necessary, would perhaps, for the widow's sake, if applied to, put a spoke in his wheel.
Everard, I can hardly allow myself to call him Grandison, avows a vehement passion for the widow. She is rich.—When they are set out together in taste, as she calls it, trade, or business, her first rise, quite forgot, what a gay, what a frolic dance will she and her new husband, in a little while, lead up, on the grave of her poor, plain, despised one!
'Tis well, 'tis well, my dear Harriet, that I have a multitude of faults myself [Witness, to go no further back, this Letter] or I should despise nine parts of the world out of ten.
I find that Sir Charles, and Beauchamp, and Dr. Bartlett, correspond. Light is hardly more active than my brother, nor lightning more quick, when he has any-thing to execute that must or ought to be done. I believe I told you early, that was a part of his character. You must not then wonder, or be offended [Shall I use the word offended, my dear?] that you, in your turn, now he has found himself at liberty to address you, should be affected by his adroitness and vivacity in your Femalities, as uncle Selby calls them: Aptly enough, I think; tho' I do not love that men should be so impudent, as either to find us out, or abuse us. You cannot always, were you to think him too precipitating, separate bad qualities from good in the same person; since, perhaps, the one is the constitutional occasion of the other. Could he, for example, be half so useful a friend as he is, if he were to dream over a Love-affair, as you would seem to have him; in other words, gape over his ripened fruit till it dropped into his yaw-yaw-yawning mouth? He'll certainly get you, Harriet, within, or near, his proposed time. Look about you: He'll have you, before you know where you are. By hook, as the saying is, will he pull you to him, struggle as you will (he has already got hold of you) or by crook; inviting, nay compelling you, by his generosity, gentle shepherd-like, to nymph as gentle. What you do, therefore, do with such a grace as may preserve to you the appearance of having it in your power to lay an obligation upon him. It is the opinion of both his sisters, that he values you more for your noble expansion of heart, and not ignorant, but generous frankness of manners, yet mingled with dignity; than for—even—your Beauty, Harriet—Whether you, who are in such full possession of every grace of person, care, as a woman, to hear of that, or not. His gay parterre similitude you remember, my dear. It is my firm belief, that those are the greatest admirers of fine flowers, who love to see them in their borders, and seldomest pluck the fading fragrance. The other wretches crop, put them in their bosoms, and in an hour or two, rose, carnation, or whatever, after one parting smell, throw them away.
He is very busy, wherever he is. At his inn, I suppose, most. But he boasts not to you, or anybody, of what he does.
He writes now-and-then a Letter to aunt Nell, and she is so proud of the favour—Look you here, niece; Look you here!—But I sha'n't show you all he writes.—On go the spectacles—for she will not for the world part with the Letter out of her hands.—She reads one paragraph, one sentence, then another—On and off go the spectacles, while she conjectures, explains, animadverts, applauds; and so goes on till she leaves not a line unread: Then folding it up carefully in its cover, puts it in her Letter or Ribband-case, which shall I call it? For having but few Letters to put in it, the case is filled with bits and ends of ribands, patterns, and-so-forth, of all manner of colours, faded and fresh; with intermingledoms of gold-beaters skin, plasters for a cut finger, for a chopped lip, a kibe, perhaps for corns; which she dispenses occasionally very bountifully, and values herself, as we see at such times by a double chin made triple, for being not unuseful in her generation. Chide me, if you will; the humour's upon me; hang me, if I care: You are only Harriet Byron, as yet. Change your name, and increase your consequence.
I have written a long Letter already; and to what end? Only to expose myself, say you? True enough. But now, Harriet, to bribe you into passing a milder censure, let me tell you all I can pick up from the Doctor, relating to my brother's matters. Bribe shall I call this, or gratitude, for your free communications.
Matters between the Mansfields and the Keelings are brought very forward. Hang particulars: Nobody's affairs lie near my heart, but yours. The two families have already begun to visit. When my brother returns, all the gentry in the neighbourhood are to be invited, to rejoice with the parties on the occasion.
Be so kind, my dear, as to dismiss the good man, as soon as your punctilio will admit. We are contented, that while he lays himself out so much in the service of others, he should do something for himself. You, my dear, we look upon as a high reward for his many great and good actions. But as he is a man who has a deep sense of favours granted, and values not the blessing the more, when it ought to be within his reach, because it is dear (as is the case of the sorry fellows in general) I would have you consider of it—that's all.
The Doctor tells me, also, that the wicked Bolton's ward is dead; and that every-thing is included, to Sir Charles's satisfaction, with him; and the Mansfields (reinstated in all their rights) are once more a happy family.
Sir Hargrave is in a lamentable way; Dr. Bartlett has great compassion for him. Would you have me pity him, Harriet?—You would, you say—Well, then, I'll try for it: As it was by his means you and we, and my brother, came acquainted, I think I may. He is to be brought to town.
Poor Sir Harry Beauchamp! He is past recovery. Had the physicians given him over when they first undertook him, he might, they say, have had a chance for it.
I told you, that Emily's mother was turned Methodist. She has converted her husband. A strange alteration! But it is natural for such sort of people to pass from one extreme to another. Emily every now-and-then visits them. They are ready to worship her for her duty and goodness. She is a lovely girl: She every day improves in her person, as well as in her mind. She is sometimes with me; sometimes with Lady L; sometimes with aunt Eleanor; sometimes with your Mrs. Reeves—We are ready to fight for her: But you will soon rob all of us. She is preparing for her journey to you. Poor girl! I pity her. Such a conflict in her mind, between her love of you, and tenderness for her guardian! Her Anne has confessed to me, that she weeps one half of the night; yet forces herself to be lively in company—After the example of Miss Byron, she says, when she visited you at Selby house. I hope, my dear, all will be right. But to go to live with a beloved object—I don't understand it. You, Harriet, may. I never was in Love, God help me!
I am afraid the dear girl does too much for her mother. As they have so handsome an annuity, 400 l. a year, so much beyond their expectation; I think she should not give, nor should they receive, any-thing considerable of her, without her guardian's knowledge. She is laying out a great deal of money in new clothes, to do you and her guardian credit—on your nuptials, poor thing! she says, with tears in her eyes—but whether of joy, or sensibility, it is hard to decide; but I believe of both.
What makes me imagine she does more than she should, is, that a week ago she borrowed fifty guineas of me; and but yesterday came to me—I should do a very wrong thing, said she, blushing up to the ears, should I ask Lady L. to lend me a sum of money till my next quarter comes due, after I made myself your debtor so lately: But if you could lend me thirty or forty guineas more, you would do me a great favour.
My dear! said I; and stared at her!
Don't question, don't chide me, this one time. I never will run in debt again: I hate to be in debt. But you have bid me tell you all my wants.
I will not, my love, say another word. I will fetch you fifty guineas more.
More, my dear Lady G! that is a pretty rub: But I will always, for the future, be within bounds: And don't let my guardian know it—He would kill me, by his generosity; yet perhaps, in his own heart, wonder what I did with my money. If he thought ill of me, or that I was extravagant, it would break my heart.
Only, my dear, said I, remember that 400 l. a year—Mrs. O’Hara cannot want any-thing to be done for her now.
Don't call her Mrs. O’Hara! She is very good: Call her my mother.
I kissed the sweet girl, and fetched her the other fifty guineas.
I thought it not amiss to give you this hint, my dear, against she goes down to you. But do you think it right, after all, to have her with my brother and you?
Lady L. keeps close—She fasts, cries, prays, is vastly apprehensive: She makes me uneasy for her and myself. These vile men! I believe I shall hate them all. Did they partake—But not half so grateful as the blackbirds: They rather look big with insolence, than perch near, and sing a song to comfort the poor souls they have so dreadfully mortified. Other birds, as I have observed (sparrows, in particular) sit hour and hour, he's and she's, in turn; and I have seen the hen, when her rogue has stayed too long, rattle at him, while he circles about her with sweeping wings, and displayed plumage, his head and breast of various dyes, ardently shining, peep, peep, peep; as much as to say, I beg your pardon, love—I was forced to go a great way off for my dinner.—Sirrah! I have thought she has said, in an unforgiving accent—Do your duty now—Sit close—Peep, peep, peep—I will, I will, I will—Away has she skimmed, and returned to relieve him—when she thought fit.
Don't Laugh at us, Harriet, in our mortified state [Begone, wretch—What have I done, madam? staring! What have you done!—My sorry fellow came in, wheedling, courting, just as I was pitying two meek sisters: Was it not enough to vex one?] Don't laugh at us, I say—If you do!—May my brother, all in good time, avenge us on you, prays, in malice,
Volume VI - lettera 25
Volume VI - Letter 26
MISS BYRON TO LADY G.
Wedn. Evening, Oct. 25.
Fie upon you, Lady G! What a Letter have you written! There is no separating the good from the bad in it. With what dangerous talents are you entrusted! and what use do you make of them! I have written two long Letters, continuing my narrative of our proceedings; but I must take you to severe task for this before me; and this and they shall go together.
Wicked wit! What a foe art thou to decent cheerfulness!—In a woman's hand such a weapon! What might we not expect from it, were it in a man's? How you justify the very creatures of that Sex, whom you would be thought to despise!
But you say, you would not allow in a man, the liberties you yourself take with your own Sex. How can you, my dear, be so partial to your faults, yet own them to be such? Would you rank with the worst of sinners? They do just so.
I may be a fool: I may be inconsistent: I may not know how with a grace to give effect to my own wishes: I may be able to advise better than act—Most pragmatical creatures think they can be counsellors in another's case, while their own affairs, as my uncle would say, lie at sixes and sevens. But how does this excuse your freedoms with your whole Sex—With the Innocents of it, more particularly?
Let me say, my dear, that you take odious, yes, odious, liberties; I won't recall the word: Liberties which I cannot, tho' to shame you, repeat. Fie upon you, Charlotte!
And yet you say, that neither you nor Lady L. know how to blame me much, tho', the man considered, you will not totally acquit me of parade; and in another place, that so far as we have proceeded, we have behaved tolerably. Why, then, all this riot?—yes, riot, Charlotte! against us, and against our Sex? What, but for riot's sake?
'The humour upon you!'—The humour is upon you, with a witness! 'Hang you, if you care!'—But, my dear, it would be more to your credit if you did care; and if you checked the wicked humour.—Do you think nobody but you has such talents? Fain would I lower you, since, as it is evident, you take pride in your licence—Forgive me, my dear—Yet I will not say all I think of your wicked wit. Think you, that there are not many who could be as smart, as surprising, as you, were they to indulge a vein of what you call humour? Do you think your brother is not one? Would not he be too hard for you at your own weapons? Has he not convinced you that he could? But he, a man, can check the overflowing freedom.
But if I have set out wrong with your brother, I will do my endeavour to recover my path. You greatly oblige me with your conducting hand: But what necessity was there for you to lead me through briars and thorns, and to plunge me into two or three dirty puddles, in order to put me into the right path, when it lay before you in a direct line, without going a bow-shot about?
Be pleased, however, to consider situation, on my side, as well as on your brother's: I might be a little excusable for my awkwardness, perhaps, were it considered, that the notion of a double or divided Love, on the man's part, came often into my head; indeed could not be long out; the Lady so superlatively excellent! his affection for her, so allowably, as well as avowedly, strong! Was it possible to avoid little jealousies, little petulances, when slights were imaginable? The more, for the excellency of the man; the more for my past weakness of so many months? I pretend not, my dearest Charlotte, to be got above nature: I know I am a weak silly girl: I am humbled in the sense I have of his and Clementina's superior merits. True Love will ever make a person think manly of himself, in proportion as she thinks highly of the object. Pride will be up, sometimes; but in the pull two ways, between that and mortification, a torn coat will be the consequence: And must not the tatterdemallion (What a new language will my uncle teach me!) then look simply?
You bid me ask my aunt—You bid me tell my uncle—Naughty Charlotte! I will ask, I will tell, them, nothing. Pray write me a Letter next, that I can read to them. I skipped this passage—Read that—'um—'um—'um—Then skipped again—Hey-day! What's come to the girl, cried my uncle? Can Lady G. write what Harriet cannot read? [There was a rebuke for you, Charlotte!] For the love of God, let me read it!—He bustled, laughed, shook his shoulders, rubbed his hands, at the imagination—Some pretty roguery, I warrant: Dearly do I love Lady G. If you love me, Harriet, let me read; and once he snatched one of the sheets. I boldly struggled with him for it—For shame, Mr. Selby, said my aunt. My dear, said my grandmother, if your uncle is so impetuous, you must show him no more of your Letters.
He then gave it up—Consider, Charlotte, what a fine piece of work we should have had with my uncle, had he read it through!
But, let me see,—What are the parts of this wicked Letter, for which I can sincerely thank you?—O my dear, I cannot, cannot, without soiling my fingers, pick them out—Your intelligences, however, are among those which I hold for favours.
Poor Emily! that is a subject which delights, yet saddens, me—We are laudably fond of distinguishing merit. But your brother's is so dazzling—Every woman is one's rival. But no more of my Emily! Dear creature! the subject pains me!—Yet I cannot quit it.—You ask, If, after all, I think it right that she should live with me?—What can I say? For her sake, perhaps, it will not: Yet how is her heart set upon it! For my own sake, as there is no perfect happiness to be expected in this life, I could be content to bear a little pain, were that dear girl to be either benefited or pleasured by it. Indeed I love her, at my heart—And, what is more—I love myself for so sincerely loving her.
In the wicked part of your Letter, what you write of your aunt Eleanor—But I have no patience with you, sinner as you are against light, and better knowledge! and derider of the infirmities, not of old maids, but of old age!—Don't you hope to live long, yourself? That worthy Lady wears not spectacles, Charlotte, because she never was so happy as to be married. Wicked Charlotte! to owe such obligation to the generosity of good Lord G. for taking pity of you in time [Were you Four or Five-and-twenty when he honoured you with his hand at St. George's church?] and yet to treat him as you do, in more places than one, in this very Letter!
But I will tell you what I will do with this same strange Letter—I will transcribe all the good things in it. There are many which both delight and instruct; and some morning, before I dress for the day, I will [Sad task, Charlotte! But it shall be by way of penance for some of my faults and follies!] transcribe the intolerable passages; so make two Letters of it. One I will keep to show my friends here, in order to increase, if it be possible, their admiration of my Charlotte; the bad one I will present to you. I know I shall transcribe it in a violent hurry—Not much matter whether it be legible, or not—The hobbling it will cause in the reading, will make it appear worse to you, than if you could read it as glibly as you write. If half of it be illegible, enough will be lest to make you blush for the whole, and wonder what sort of a pen it was that somebody, unknown to you, put into your standish.
After all, spare me not, my ever-dear, my ever-charming friend! spare only your self: Don't let Charlotte run away from both G's. You will then be always equally sure of my admiration and love. For dearly do I love you, with all your faults; so dearly, that when I consider your faults by themselves, I am ready to arraign my heart, and to think there is more of the roguery of my Charlotte in it than I will allow of.
One punishment to you, I intend, my dear—In all my future Letters, I will write as if I had never seen this your naughty one. Indeed I am in a kind of way, faulty or not, that I cannot get out of, all at once; but as soon as I can, I will, that I may better justify my displeasure at some parts of your Letter, by the observance I will pay to others. That is a sweet sentence of my Charlotte's: 'Change your name, and increase your consequence.' Reflect, my dear—How naughty must you have been, that such a charming instance of goodness could not bribe to spare you
Your ever-affectionate and grateful
Volume VI - lettera 26
Volume VI - Letter 27
MISS BYRON. IN CONTINUATION.
Selby-house, Tuesday Morning, Oct. 24.
Mr. Deane would not go back with us. He laid a strict charge upon me, at parting, not to be punctilious.
I am not, my dear Lady G. Do you think I am? The men are their own enemies, if they wish us to be open-hearted and sincere, and are not so themselves. Let them enable us to depend on their candour, as much as we may on that of Sir Charles Grandison, and the women will be inexcusable, who shall play either the prude or coquet with them. You will say, I am very cunning, perhaps, to form at the same time a rule from, and an excuse for, my own conduct to this excellent man: But be that as it will, it is truth.
We sent our duty last night to Shirley-manor; and expect every moment the dear parent there with us.
She is come. I will go down; and if I get her by myself, or only with my aunt and Lucy, I will tell her a thousand thousand agreeable things, which have passed since last I had her tender blessing.
We have had this Greville and this Fenwick here. I could very well have spared them. Miss Orme came hither also, uninvited, to breakfast; a favour she often does us. I knew not at first how to behave to Sir Charles before her: She looked so jealous of him! so cold! Under her bent brow she looked at him: Yes, and No, were all her answers, with an air so stiff!—But this reserve lasted not above a quarter of an hour. Sir Charles addressed himself to me, with so much respect; to her, with so polite a freedom; that she could not hold her shyness.
Her brow cleared up; her eyes looked larger, and more free: Her buttoned-up pretty mouth opened to a smile: She answered, she asked, questions; gave her required opinion on more topics than one, and was again all Miss Orme.
Every-body took great notice of Sir Charles's fine address to her, and were charmed with him; for we all esteem Mr. Orme, and love his sister. How pleasant it was to see the sunshine break out in her amiable countenance, and the gloom vanishing, by degrees!
She took me out into the lesser parlour—What a strange variable creature am I! said she: How I hated this Sir Charles Grandison, before I saw him! I was vexed to find him, at first sight, answer what I had heard of him; for I was resolved to dislike him, tho' he had been an angel! But, ah, my poor brother!—I am afraid, I myself shall be ready to give up his interest!—No wonder, my dear Miss Byron, that nobody else would do, when you had seen this man!—But still, let me bespeak your pity for my brother!—Would to Heaven you had not gone to London!—What went you thither for?
Sir Charles kindly enquired of her after Mr. Orme's health; praised him for his character; wished his recovery; and to be allowed to cultivate the friendship of so worthy a man: And all this with an air so sincere;—But good men must love one another.
Sir Charles has just now declared to my aunt, that he thinks of going up to town, or to Grandison-hall, I forget if they told me which, to-morrow or next day: Perhaps he knows not to which himself. I was surprised. Perhaps he is tired with us. Let me recollect—Thursday was Se'nnight; Why indeed he has been down with us twelve days!—No less!
But he has no doubts, no suspenses from us, to keep Love awake: His path is plain and smooth before him. He has demanded his day: We think we cannot immediately, and after so short a time past since his declaring himself, give it him—And why should he lose his precious time among us? I suppose he will be so good as to hold himself in readiness to obey our summons—He expects a summons from us, perhaps!—
O my dear Lady G! am I not perverse? I believe I am. Yet where there is room, from past circumstances, to dread a slight, tho' none may be intended, and truly as I honour and revere Lady Clementina, my mind is not always great enough (perhaps from consciousness of demerit) to carry itself above apprehension and petulance, noble as is the man.
My uncle is a little down upon it; and why? Because, truly, my grandmamma has told him, that it is really too early yet to fix the day; and he reverences, as every body does, her judgment.
But why, he asks, cannot there be preparation making? Why may not something be seen going forward?
What? before the day is named? my aunt asks—As Harriet had desired to have his next Letters arrive before she directly answered his question, she could not recede.
He went from them both greatly dissatisfied, and exclaiming against women's love of power, and never knowing how to make a right use of it.
A message from Sir Charles. He desires to attend me. I believe I shall be a little sullen: I know my heart: It is all his own; and I am loth to disoblige him—But he was far, far more attendant on Lady Clementina's motions: Don't you think so, Lady G? But she was all excellence—Well—But hush!—I say no more!—
I will give you an account of our conversation. I verily believe, that, had he not touched the poor snail with too hasty a finger, which made her shrink in again into her shell, I might have been brought to name the week, tho' not the day.
But I will not anticipate.
He entered with a very polite and affectionate air. He enquired after my health, and said, I looked not well—Only vexed, thought I!
It is impossible, I believe, to hold displeasure in the presence of a beloved object, with whom we are not mortally offended. My dearest Miss Byron, said he, taking my passive hand, I am come to ask your advice on twenty subjects. In the first place, here is a Letter from Lady G. recommending to me a house near her own [He gave it to me. I read it]. Should you, madam, approve of Grosvenor Square?
I was silent: You will guess how my captious folly appeared to him, by what he said to me. He respectfully took my hand—Why so solemn, dear madam? Why so silent? Has any-thing disturbed you? Some little displeasure seems to hang upon that open countenance. Not at me, I hope?
Yes it is, thought I! But I did not intend you should see it.—I cleared up; and without answering his question, said, It is in the neighbourhood of Lady L. I hope?
Thank you, madam, for that hope—It is. Nor far from your cousin Reeves's.
I can have no objection, Sir.
I will refer myself, on this subject, if you please, to my sisters, and Lord G. He values himself on his taste in houses and furniture, and will be delighted to be put into commission with my sisters on this occasion: Or shall I stay till the happy day is over, and leave the choice wholly to yourself?
Lady G. Sir, seems pleased with the house. She writes, that there is somebody else about it. It may not, then, be to be had.
Shall I then commission her to take it directly?
What you please, Sir.
He bowed to me, and said, Then that matter is settled. And now, madam, let me own all my arts. You would penetrate into them, if I did not. You see that the great question is never out of my view—I cannot but hope and believe, that you are above regarding mere punctilio.—Have you, my dearest Miss Byron, thought, can you think, of some early weak, in which to fix my happy day?—Some preparation on your part, I presume, will be thought necessary: As to mine, were you to bless me with your hand next week, I should be aforehand in that particular.
I was silent. I was considering how to find some middle way that should make non-compliance appear neither disobliging, nor affected.
He looked up at me with Love and Tenderness in his aspect; but, having no answer, proceeded:
Your uncle, madam, and Mr. Deane, will inform you, that the settlements are such as cannot be disapproved of. I expect every day some slight tokens of my affection for my dear Miss Byron, which will be adorned by the lovely wearer: I have not been so extravagant in them, as shall make her think I build on toys for her approbation. She will allow me to give her my notions on this subject. In the article of personal appearance, I think that propriety and degree should be consulted, as well as fortune. Our degree, our fortune, madam, is not mean? but I, who always wished for the revival of Sumptuary Laws, have not sought, in this article, to emulate Princes. In my own dress, I am generally a conformist to the fashion. Singularity is usually the indication of something wrong in judgment. I rather perhaps dress too showy, tho' a young man, for one who builds nothing on outward appearance: But my father loved to be dressed. In matters which regard not morals, I choose to appear to his friends and tenants, as not doing discredit to his magnificent spirit (Note: Miss Byron observes, Vol. 1, Letter 26, that Sir Charles's dress and equipage are rather gay than plain. She little thought, at that time, that he had such a reason for it as he here suggests). I could not think it becoming, as those perhaps do, who have the direction of the royal stamp on the coin, to set my face the contrary way to that of my predecessor. In a word, all my father's steps, in which I could tread, I did; and have chosen rather to build upon, than demolish, his foundations.—But how does my vanity mislead me! I have vanity, madam; I have pride, and some consequential failings, which I cannot always get above: But, anxious as I ever shall be for your approbation, my whole heart shall be open to you; and every motive, every spring of action, so far as I can trace it, be it to my advantage or not, shall be made known to you. Happy the day that I became acquainted with Dr. Bartlett! He will tell you, madam, that I am corrigible. You must perfect, by your sweet conversation, un-coupled with fear, what Dr. Bartlett has so happily begun; and I shall then be more worthy of you than at present I am.
O, Sir, you do me too much honour! You must be my monitor. As to the ornaments you speak of, I hope I shall always look upon simplicity of manners a grateful return to the man I shall vow to honour, and a worthy behaviour to all around me, as my principal ornaments!
His eyes glistened. He bowed his face upon my hand, to hide, as I thought, his emotion. Excellent Miss Byron! said he: Then, after a pause, Now let me say, that I have the happiness to find my humble application to you acceptable to every one of your friends. The only woman on earth whom, besides yourself, I ever could have wished to call mine, and all her ever-to-be respected family (pleading their own sakes) join their wishes in my favour; and, were you to desire it, would, I am sure, signify as much to you under their own hands. I know not whether I could so far have overcome my own scruples in behalf of your delicacy (placing myself, as persons always ought when they hope for favour, in the granter's place) as to supplicate you so soon as I have done, but at the earnest request of a family, and for the sake of a Lady, I must ever hold dear. The world about you expects a speedy celebration. I have not, I own, been backward to encourage the expectation: It was impossible to conceal from it the motive of my coming down, as my abode was at an inn. I came with an equipage, because my pride (How great is my pride! permitted me not to own that I doubted. Have you, madam, a material objection to an early day? Be so good to inform me, if you have. I wish to remove every shadow of doubt from your heart.
I was silent. He proceeded:
Let me not pain you, madam!—lifting my hand to his lips—I would not pain you for the world. You have seen the unhappy Olivia! You have perhaps heard her story from herself. What must be the cause upon which self partiality cannot put a gloss? Because I knew not how (It was shocking to my nature) to repulse a Lady, she took my pity for encouragement. Pity from a Lady of a man, is noble—The declaration of pity from a man for a woman, may be thought a vanity bordering upon insult. Of such a nature is not mine—She has some noble qualities—from my heart, for her character's sake, I pity Olivia! and the more, for that violence of temper which she never was taught to restrain. If, madam, you have any scruples on her account, own them: I will, for I honestly can, remove them.
O Sir! None! None!—Not the least, on that unhappy Lady's account—
Let me say, proceeded he, that Olivia reveres you, and wishes you (I hope cordially, for she is afraid still of your sister-excellence) to be mine. Give me leave to boast (It is my boast), that tho' I have had pain from individuals of your Sex, I can look back on my past life, and bless God that I never, from childhood to manhood, WILFULLY gave pain either to the MOTHERLY or SISTERLY heart (Note: See his mother's written acknowledgment to this purpose, Vol. 2, Letter 20); nor from manhood to the present hour, to any other woman.
O Sir! Sir!—What is it you call pain, if at this instant (and I said it with tears) that which your goodness makes me feel, is not so?—The dear, the excellent Clementina! What a perverseness is in her fate! She, and she only, could have deserved you!
He bent his knee to the greatly-honoured Harriet—I acknowledge with transport, said he, the joy you give me by your magnanimity; such a more than sisterly magnanimity to that of Clementina. How nobly do you authorise my regard for her!—In you, madam, shall I have all her excellencies, without the abatements which must have been allowed, had she been mine, from considerations of Religion and Country. Believe me, madam, that my Love of her, if I know my heart is of such a nature, as never can abate the fervour of that I vow to you. To both of you, my principal attachment was to MIND: Yet let me say, that the personal union, to which you discourage me not to aspire, and the duties of that most intimate of all connexions, will preserve to you the due preference; as (allow me to say) it would have done to her, had she accepted of my vows.
O Sir! believe me incapable of affectation, of petulance, of disguise! My heart (Why should I not speak freely to Sir Charles Grandison?) is wholly yours!—It never knew another Lord! I will flatter myself, that, had you never known Lady Clementina, and had she not been a prior Love, you never would have had a divided heart!—What pain must you have had in the conflict! My regard for you, bids me acknowledge my own vanity, in my pity for you!
I gushed into tears—You must leave me, Sir—I cannot bear the exaltation you have given me!
I turned away my face: I thought I should have fainted.
He clasped me to his bosom: He put his cheek to mine: For a moment we neither of us could speak.
He broke the short silence. I dread the effects on your tender health, of the pain I, or rather your own greatness of mind, give you. Beloved of my heart! kissing my cheek, wet at that moment with the tears of both, forgive me!—And be assured, that Reverence will always accompany my Love. Will it be too much, just now, to re-urge the day that shall answer the wishes of Clementina, of her noble brothers, of all our own friends, and make you wholly mine?
His air was so noble; his eyes showed so much awe, yet such manly dignity, that my heart gave way to its natural impulse—Why, Sir, should I not declare my reliance on your candour? My honour, in the world's eye, I entrust to you: But bid men not do an improper thing, left my desire of obliging you should make me forget myself.
Was not this a generous resignation? Did it not deserve a generous return? But he, even Sir Charles Grandison, endeavoured to make his advantage of it. Letters from Italy unreceived! as if he thought my reference to those a punctilio also.
What a deposit!—Your honour, madam, is safely entrusted. Can punctilio be honour?—It is but the shadow of it. What but that stands against your grant of an early day?—Do not think me misled by my impatience to call you mine, to take an undue advantage of your condescension. Is it not the happiness of both that I wish to confirm? And shall I suffer false delicacy, false gratitude, to take place of the true?—Allow me, madam—But you seem uneasy—I will prolong the time I had intended to beg you would permit me to limit you to. Let me request from you the choice of some one happy day before the expiration of the next fourteen—
Nothing, madam, happening in my behaviour to cause you to revoke the generous trust: From abroad there cannot.
He looked to be in earnest in his request: Was it not almost an ungenerous return to my confidence in him? Twelve days only had elapsed since his personal declaration; the Letters from Italy which he had allowed me to wait for, unreceived; Lady D. one of the most delicate-minded of women, knowing too my preferable regard for your brother: And must not the hurry have the worse appearance for that? No preparation yet thought of: My aunt thinking his former urgency, greatly as she honours him, rather too precipitating—My spirits, hurried before, were really affected. Do not call me a silly girl, dearest Lady G: I endeavoured to speak; but, at the instant, could not distinctly.
I am sorry, madam, that what I have said has so much disturbed you. Surely, some one day in the fourteen—
Indeed, indeed, Sir, interrupted I, you have surprised me: I did not think you could have wished so to limit me—I did not expect—
What, loveliest of women! will you allow me to expect? The day is still at your own choice. Revoke not, however, the generous concession, till Mrs. Shirley, Mrs. Selby, and our Lucy, are consulted. Will you, dearest madam, be determined by them?
Say, not, Sir, to any of them, after such an instance of my confidence in you—for the honour of your accustomed generosity, say it not—that you could so limit me; and I will endeavour to forget it.
Consider, my dearest Miss Byron—
I believe my grandmamma is come, said I—
They are all goodness: They will indulge me. I will tell you, madam, taking my hand, and seating me, what is my intention, if you approve of it. All the country suppose that my application for your favour meets with encouragement: They expect, as I have told you, a speedy solemnisation. I took my lodgings at some little distance from you, at a place of public entertainment; perhaps (pardon me, madam, for the sake of my ingenuousness) with some view, that the general talk [See, Lady G! it is well he is a good man!] would help to accelerate my happy day: But, madam, to continue my daily visits from thence, when my happiness is supposed to be near, will not perhaps look so well [We are to be studious of looks, it seems]—Indeed I would not be thought to despise the world's opinion: The world, when it will have patience to stay till it is master of facts, is not always wrong: It can judge of others, better than it can act itself—The change of my lodgings to others in this house, or in Shirley-manor, will not perhaps be allowed till I am blessed with the hand of the dearest relation of both: I therefore think of going up to town, declaredly (Why not?) to prepare for our nuptials; and to return near the time agreed upon for the happy celebration. Then will either this house, or Shirley-manor, be allowed to receive the happiest of men.
He stopped: I was silent. He proceeded, looking tenderly, yet smilingly, in my downcast face, still holding my hand:—And now, dearer to me than life, let me ask you—Can you think it an unpardonable intrusion on your condescending goodness, that I make the time of my return to my Miss Byron not over-tedious?—Fourteen days, were you to go to the extent of them, would be an age to me, who have been for so many days past the happiest man that a person in expectation can be. I do assure you, madam, that I had not the insolence to suppose I was making you a request that was rather expected to be forgiven, than complied with. I thought myself not ungenerous to the confidence you reposed in me, that I gave you so much time. I thought of a week, and began apologising, lest you should think it too short; but, when I saw you disturbed, I concluded with the mention of a fortnight. My dearest creature, think me not unreasonable in my expectations of your compliance—
What, Sir! in a fortnight?—
As to preparations, madam, you know the pleasure my sisters will have in executing any commissions you will favour them with on so joyful an occasion. Charlotte had not so much time for preparation. But were not every-thing to be in readiness by the chosen day, there will be time enough for all you wish, before you would perhaps choose to see company—Consider, my dearest life, that if you regard punctilio merely; punctilio has no determinate end: Punctilio begets punctilio. You may not half a year hence imagine that to be sufficiently gratified. Again I say, Do you, madam, consider: Let me adhere to the fourteen days, and within them crown the hope you gave me.
Within them!—Sir! I did not expect—
You tell me, my beloved Miss Byron, interrupted he, what you did not expect—Tell me, I beseech you, mistress as you are of one of the noblest of female hearts, what you did expect, when you condescended to make me the compliment, that, were it to be carried into effect, would engage my utmost gratitude.
I had not thought of any particular time: But I could not have made you that compliment, had I thought of a day so very early.
You have, madam, you ought to have, the option: Yet I own, that your declared generous confidence in me had elated me. The temptation was too great for me, not to wish to make use of the power you had, as I thought, put into my hands: And allow me to say, that I cannot give up my hope till your grandmamma and aunt decide that I ought.
How, Sir!—And can you thus adhere?—But I will allow of your reference—
And be determined by their advice, madam?
But I will not trust you, Sir, with pleading your own cause.
Are you not arbitrary, madam?
In this point, if I am, ought I not to be so?
Yes, if you will resume a power you had so generously resigned.
May I not, Sir, when I think it over-strained in the hands of the person to whom, in better hopes, it was delegated?
That, dear Lady, is the point to be tried. You consent to refer the merits of it to your grandmamma and aunt?
If I do, Sir, you ought not to call me arbitrary.
It is gracious, bowing, in my sovereign Lady, to submit her absolute will and pleasure to arbitration.
Very well, Sir!—But will you not submit to my own award?
Tell me dear Miss Byron, tell me, if I do, how generous will you be?
I was far from intending—
Was, madam—I hope I may dwell upon that word, and repeat my question?
Am, Sir. I am far from intending—
No more, dear madam. I appeal to another tribunal.
Well, Sir, I will endeavour to recollect the substance of this conversation, and lay it, in writing, before the judges you have named. Lucy shall be one.
You will permit me, madam, to see your state of the case, before you lay it before the judges?
No, Sir! None but they must see it, till it makes part of a Letter to Lady G. who then shall show it only to Lady L.
It is the harder to be thus prescribed to, my dear Miss Byron, because—
What, Sir, in my day?—
That was what I was going to urge, because mine will never come. Every day, to the end of my life, will be yours [Dear man!]—Only, Sir, as I deserve your kindness, I wish not for it on other terms. And you shall be then sole judge of my deserts. I will not appeal to any other tribunal.
He gracefully bowed. I think, said he, smiling, I must withdraw my intended appeal: I am half-afraid of my judges; and perhaps ought to rely wholly on your goodness.
No, no, Sir! Your intention is your act. In that sense you have appealed to Caesar (Note: Alluding to Festus's answer to St. Paul, Acts 25, 12).
I never before was in Love with despotism. You mention writing to my sisters: You correspond with them, I presume, as you formerly did with our Lucy. Let me tell you, madam, that you had not been Miss Byron, FOURTEEN days after I was favoured with the sight of those Letters, had I been at liberty to offer you my heart, and could I have prevailed on you to accept it. Your distress, your noble frankness of heart—
And let me own, Sir, as an instance of the frankness you are pleased to encourage, that gratitude for the deliverance you so nobly gave me, had as much power over my heart, as the openness of mine, and my distress, could have over yours.
Sweet excellence!—Complete your generous goodness to a grateful heart; it is a grateful one; and shorten the days of your single power, in order to enlarge it!
Lucy appeared; but seeing us engaged in conversation, was about to retire: But he, stepping to her, and taking both her hands—OUR Lucy, obligingly, said he, you must come in—You are to be one judge of three in a certain cause, that will come before you—And I hope—
No prejudgings, Sir Charles, said I—You are not to plead at all—
Yet deeply interested in the event, Miss Selby! said he.
A bad sign, cousin Byron! said Lucy. I begin already to doubt the justice of your cause.
When you hear it, Lucy, make, as you usually do, the golden rule yours, and I have nothing to fear.
I tell you, before-hand, I am inclined to favour Sir Charles. No three judges can be found, but will believe, from his character, that he cannot be wrong.
But from mine, that I may! O my Lucy! I did not expect this from my cousin. You must not, I think, be one of my judges.
To this place, I have shown my three judges. The following is their determination, drawn up by the dear Lady president, my grandmamma:
Sir Charles Grandison, against Harriet Byron. Et é Contra.
We, the underwritten, do find, upon the case laid before us by the said Harriet, That, in the whole conversation between the said Sir Charles and her, she has behaved herself with that true virgin delicacy, yet with that laudable unreservedness, that might be expected from her character, and his merits. We think, the gentleman has the advantage of the Lady in the arguments for the early day contended for; and, if she had defended herself by little artifices and disguises, we should have had no scruple to decide against her: But as she has shown, throughout the conversation, noble instances of generosity, trust reposed, and even acknowledged affection; we recommend to them both a compromise.
We allow, therefore, Sir Charles Grandison to pursue his intentions of going up to town, declaredly to prepare for the happy day; and recommend it to Harriet, in consideration of the merits of the requester (who lays his whole heart open before her, in a manner too generous not to meet with a like return) to fix as early a day as in prudence she can.
For the rest, May the Almighty shower down his blessings on both! May all their contentions, like this, be those of Love, and true Delicacy! May they live together many, very many, happy years, an example of conjugal felicity! And may their exemplary virtues meet with an everlasting reward!—So prays! so subscribes!
To-morrow morning, when Sir Charles comes to breakfast, this paper will be presented to him by my grandmamma.
I wonder whether Sir Charles writes to Dr. Bartlett an account of what passes here. If he does, what would I give to see his Letters! and particularly, what he thinks of the little delays he meets with! But do, dear Lady G. acquit me of affectation and parade. Indeed it is not that. I hope he himself acquits me, and censures himself; for, upon my word, he is unreasonably hasty.
I could not but express a little curiosity about his hint of Lady Olivia's favourable opinion of me, tho' not at the time; and he was so good as to show me, and my grandmamma and aunt, a most extraordinary character which she gave me in a long Letter. I saw it was a long Letter (I was very Eve-ish, my dear). Lucy said afterwards, that I did so leer at it: An ugly word, importing slyness! and, after I was angry at myself for giving her the idea that put her upon applying it, I chid her for using it.
Lady Olivia writes such high things, my dear! I blushed—I did not, could not, deserve them. I always pitied her, you know; but now you cannot imagine how much more than ever I pitied her. Do all of us, indeed, as the men say, love flattery?—I did not think I did—I shall find out all the obliquities of my heart, in time. I was supposed once to be so good a creature—as if none other were half so good!—Ah, my partial friends! you studied your Harriet in the dark; but here comes the sun darting into all the crooked and obscure corners of my heart; and I shrink from his dazzling eye; and, compared to Him (and Clementina, let me add) appear to myself such a Nothing—
Nay, I have had the mortification, once or twice, to think myself less than the very Olivia, upon whom, but lately, secure of my mind's superiority to her mind, I looked down with a kind of proud compassion: And whence this exaltation of Olivia, and self-humiliation?—Why, from her magnifying beyond measure the poor Harriet, and yielding up her own hopes, entreating him, as she does, to address me; and that with such honourable distinction, as if my acceptance of him were doubtful, and a condescension.
I wish I could procure you a copy of what your brother read to me—Ah, my dear! it is very soothing to my pride!—But what is the foundation of that pride? Is it not my ambition to be thought worthily of by the best of men? And does not praise stimulate me to resolve to deserve praise? I will endeavour to deserve it. But, my dear, this Olivia, a fine figure herself, and loving in spite of discouragement, can praise, to the object of her Love, the person, and still more, the mind, of her rival!—Is not that great in Olivia? Could I be so great, if I thought myself in danger from her?
Volume VI - lettera 27
Volume VI - Letter 28
MISS BYRON. IN CONTINUATION.
Selby-house, Wedn. Oct. 25.
Sir Charles came not this morning till we were all assembled for breakfast. I had begun to think, whether, if I had been Sir Charles, and he had been Miss Byron, I would not have been here an hour before, expecting the decision of the judges to whom a certain cause was referred. O my dear Lady G.! how narrow minded I am, with all my quondam heroism! The knowledge of his past engagements with the excellent Clementina, and of his earnest wishes then to be hers, makes me, on every occasion that can be tortured into an appearance of neglect or coldness, so silly!—Indeed I am ashamed of myself. But all my petulance was dispelled, the instant he shone upon us.
Well, my dear Ladies, said he, the moment he took his place, whisperingly to my grandmamma (who sat between my aunt and Lucy), Is sentence given?
It is, Sir Charles—He took my hand, cross my Nancy's lap, as she sat between him and me—I have hopes, my dear Miss Byron [from the foolishness in my looks, I suppose] that you are cast.
Have patience, Sir, said I—It is well that the best of us are not always to be our own carvers.
He looked, Lucy said afterwards, with eyes of love upon me, and of apprehension on his judges; and the discourse turned upon different subjects.
I retired as soon as breakfast was over; and he demanded his sentence.
My uncle was, as he called it, turned out of door before my grandmamma gave your brother the paper.
Sir Charles read it—You are not serious upon it, Sir Charles, said my grandmamma.—I am infinitely obliged to you, Ladies, replied he. I love to argue with my dear Miss Byron: I must attend her, this moment.
He sent up Sally before him, and came up. I was in my closet; and scrupled not to admit him.
Henceforth, my dearest dear Miss Byron, said he, the moment he approached me (as I stood up to receive him) I salute you undoubtedly mine—And he saluted me with ardor—I knew not which way to look—So polite a Lover as I thought him!—Yet never man was so gracefully free!—It remains now, madam, proceeded he, still holding my hand, to put to trial your goodness to me [You have done that already, thought I!] in the greater question, by which I am to conduct myself for the next week, or ten days.
Week or ten days, thought I! Surely, Sir, you are an encroacher.
You see, Sir, said I, when a little recovered, what judges who, on such points as these, cannot err, have determined.
Yes, they can, interrupted he: As Ladies, they are parties—But I submit. Their judgment must be a law to me—I will go up to town, as they advise. I cannot, however, be long absent from you. When I return, I will not put up at a public place. Either your uncle, or your grandmother, must allow me to be their guest. This will oblige you, I hope, even for dear punctilio sake, to honour me with your hand very soon after my return.
He paused: I was silent. His first address had put me out. Remember, madam, I said, resumed he, that I cannot be long absent: You are above being governed by mere punctilio. Add to the obligations your generous acceptance of me has laid me under—Why sighs my Angel? [It was, my dear Lady G. an involuntary sigh!]—For the world, I would not give you either sensible or lasting pain. But if the same circumstances would make your nomination of a day as painful to you, some time hence, as now, then bless me with as early a day as you CAN give me, to express myself in the words of my judges.
This, Sir, said I (but I hesitated, and looked down) is one of the solemn points which precede one of the most solemn circumstances of my life. You seem more in earnest for an early day than I could have expected. When I have declared that affectation has no part in the more distant compliance, I may be allowed, by the nicest of my own Sex, to lay open to a man so generous, tho' so precipitating, my whole heart. Indeed, Sir, it is wholly yours—I blushed, as I felt, and turned away my face. It was a free declaration: But I was resolved to banish affectation. He bowed profoundly on my hand, and kissed it. Gratitude looked out in his eyes, and appeared in his graceful manner, tho' attentively silent.
You was my deliverer, proceeded I. An esteem founded on gratitude, the object so meritorious, ought to set me above mere forms—Our judges say that you have the advantage in the argument.
I will lay no stress, madam, on this part of their judgment in my favour—To your goodness, and to that so nobly-acknowledged esteem, I wholly refer myself.
I myself think, proceeded I, that you have the advantage in the argument—All that is in my power, I would wish to do, to oblige you—
Condescending goodness!—Again he bowed on my hand.
Do you think, Sir—
Why hesitates my Love?
Do you think, six weeks—
Six ages, my dearest, dearest creature?—Six weeks! For Heaven's sake, madam—He looked, he spoke, impatience.
What can a woman, who has owned your title to expect to be obliged, say?—let me, at least, ask (and I unaffectedly hesitated) a month, Sir—from this day—And that you will acknowledge yourself not perversely or weakly treated.
He dropped on one knee, and kissing my hand, once, twice, thrice, with rapture, Within the month! then I hope—I cannot live a month from you—Allow me to return in the first fortnight of the month—
O Sir! and take up your residence with us, on your return.
Undoubtedly, madam.—Consider, Sir—Do you also, dearest madam, consider; and banish me not from you for so very long a time.
My heart wanted, I thought, to oblige him; but to allow him to return sooner, as he was to take up his abode with us, what was that, but, in effect, complying with his first proposal?
Permit me, Sir, to retire. Indeed you are too urgent.
He asked my excuse; but declared, that he would not give up his humble plea (humble he called it) unless my grandmamma and aunt told him, that he ought.
On his leaving me to return to company below, he presented me with four little boxes. Accept, my beloved Miss Byron, said he, of these trifles. I received them not till this morning. While I had the Day to hope from you, my heart would not suffer me to offer them, least you should suspect me mean enough to imagine an influence from them. I oblige myself by the tender, and I comply with custom, which I am fond of doing, whenever I can innocently do it. But I know, that you, my dear Miss Byron, value the heart more than a thousand times the value of these—Mine, madam, is yours, and will be yours to the end of my life.
What could I say?—My heart, on recollection, reproaches me for my ungraceful acceptance. I curtsied. I was silly. Sir Charles Grandison only can be present to every occasion.
He looked as if my not refusing them was a favour more than equivalent to the value of the presents. My dearest life! said he, on my putting them on my toilette, how much you oblige me!—Shall I conduct you to our friends below? Will you acquaint your grandmamma and aunt with our debate, and my bold expectation?
I stood still. He took my hand, pressed it with his lips, and, with a reverence more than usually profound, as if he had received instead of conferred a favour, withdrew. Never was a present so gracefully made! I cannot describe the grace with which he made it.
My uncle, it seems, as soon as he went down, asked him, How we had settled the great affair? My grandmamma and aunt in a breath, as he paid his compliments to them, asked him, If their Harriet had been good?—or, as good as he expected?
Miss Byron, said he, has taken more time than I could have wished she had. A month, she talks of.
Has she complied so far? said my grandmamma. I am glad of it. I was afraid she would have insisted upon more time—So was I, said my aunt. But who can withstand Sir Charles Grandison? Has the dear girl given you the very day, Sir?
No, madam. If she had, I should have hoped it would have been considerably within the month. As yet, Ladies, I hope it will.
Nay, Sir Charles, if you are not pleased with a month, said my aunt—Hush, dear Ladies!—Here comes the Angel.—Not a word, I beseech you, on that side of the question—She will think, if you applaud her, that she has consented to too short a term—You must not make her uneasy with herself.
Does not this look as if he imagined there was room for me to be so?—I almost wish—I don't know what I wish; except I could think but half so well of myself as I do of him: For then should I look forward with less pain in my joy than now too often mingles with it.
Your brother excused himself from dining with us: That Greville has engaged him. Why would he permit himself to be engaged by him? Greville cannot love him: He can only admire him, and that everybody does, who has been but once in his company. Miss Orme, even Miss Orme, is in Love with him. I received a note from her while your brother was with us. These are the contents:
Dear Miss Byron,
I am in Love with your young Baronet. It is well that your Beauty and your Merit secure you, and make every other woman hopeless. To see and know Miss Byron, is half the cure, unless a woman were presumption itself. O my poor brother!—But will you let me expect you, and as many of the dear family as you can bring, at breakfast to-morrow morning?—Sir Charles Grandison, of course. Show your own obligingness to me, and your power over him, at the same time. Your cousin Holles's will be with me, and three sister-toasts of York; besides that Miss Clarkson of whose Beauty and Agreeableness you have heard me talk. They long to see you. You may come. Poor things! how will they be mortified! If any one of them can allow herself to be less lovely than the others, she will be least affected by your superiority. But let me tell you, that Miss Clarkson, had she the intelligence in her eyes that Somebody else has, and the dignity with the ease, would be as charming a young woman. But we are all prepared, I to love, they to admire, your gentleman. Pray, pray, my dear, bring him, or the disappointment will kill
Your KITTY ORME.
Lucy, acquainting Sir Charles with the invitation, asked him, if he would oblige Miss Orme. He was at our command, he said—So we shall breakfast tomorrow at The Park.
But I am vexed at his dining with us to-day. So little time to stay with us! I wish him to be complaisant to Mr. Greville; but need he be so very obliging? There are plots laying for his company all over the county. We are told, there is to be a numerous assembly, all of gentlemen, at Mr. Greville's. Mr. Greville humorously declares, that he hates all women, for the sake of one.
We have just opened the boxes. O my dear Lady G! your brother is either very proud, or his fortune is very high! Does he not say, that he always consults fortune, as well as degree, in matters of outward appearance? He has not, in these presents, I am sure, consulted either the fortune or degree of your Harriet—Of your happy Harriet, I had like to have written: But the word happy, in this place, would have looked as if I thought these jewels an addition to my happiness. How does his bounty insult me, on my narrow fortune!—Narrow, unless he submit to accept of the offered contributions of my dear friends—Contributions!—Proud Harriet! how art thou, even in thy exaltation, humbled!—Trifles, he called them! The very ornamenting one's self with such toys, may, in his eye, be thought trifling, tho' he is not above complying with the fashion, in things indifferent: But, the cost and beauty of these jewels considered, they are not trifles. The jewel of jewels, however, is his heart! How would the noble Clementina—Hah, Pen! Heart, rather, Why, why, just now, this check of Clementina?—I know why—Not from want of admiration of her; but when I am allowing my heart to open, then does—Something here, in my inmost bosom [Is it Conscience?] strike me, as if it said, Ah, Harriet!—Triumph not; rejoice not! Check the overflowings of thy grateful heart!—Art thou not an invader of another's right?
Volume VI - lettera 28
Volume VI - Letter 29
MISS BYRON. IN CONTINUATION.
Thursday Morning, Oct. 27.
I will hurry off a few lines. I am always ready before these fiddling girls: Lucy and Nancy, I mean. Never tedious, but in dressing! They will over-do the morning appearance. I could beat them. So well acquainted with propriety as they are; and knowing the beauty of elegant negligence. Were I not afraid of Lucy's repartee; and that she would say I was laying out for a compliment; I would tell them they had a mind to try to eclipse Miss Clarkson, and the Yorkshire Ladies. Your brother supped, as well as dined, at that Greville's. Fie upon him! I did not think he had so little command of himself!—Vain Harriet! Perhaps he chose to be rather there than here, for novelty-sake. I shall be saucy, by-and-by. He is below, strongly engaged in talk with my aunt—About me, I suppose: Ay, to be sure! methinks your Ladyship says. He can talk of nobody else!—Well, and what if one would wish he could not! [What are these girls about?] No less than one-and-twenty gentlemen at Greville's, besides the Prince of them all. They all were ready to worship him. Fenwick looked in just now, and tells us so. He says, that your brother was the liveliest man in the company. He led the mirth, he says, and visibly exerted himself the more, finding the turn of the conversation likely to be what might be expected from such a company of all men. Wretches! Can twenty of them, when met, be tolerable creatures, not a woman among them, to soften their manners, and give politeness to their conversation?—Fenwick says, they engaged him at one time into talk of different regions, customs, usages. He was master of every subject. Half a score mouths were open at once whenever he spoke, as if distended with gags, was his word; and every one's eyes broader than ever they were observed to be before. Fenwick has humour; a little: Not much; only by accident. So unlike himself at times, that he may pass for a different man. His aping Greville, helps his oddness.—How I ramble! You'll think I am aping my dear Lady G. Mocking's catching!—[O these girls!]—I think time lost when I am not writing to you. You cannot imagine what a thief I am to my company. I steal away myself, and get down, before I am missed, half a score times in a couple of hours. Sir Charles sung to the wretches: They all sung. They encored him without mercy.—He talks of setting out for town on Saturday, early. Lord bless me! what shall I do, when he is gone?—Do you think I say this? If I do, I am kept in countenance: Every-body says so, as well as I—But ah, Lady G.!—He has invited all the gentlemen, the whole Twenty-one, and my cousin James, and my uncle, to dine with him at his inn, tomorrow!—Inn! nasty inn! Why did we let him go thither?—I am afraid he is a reveller. Can he be so very good a man? O yes, yes, yes! wicked Harriet! What is in thy heart, to doubt it? A fine reflexion upon the age; as if there could not be one good man in it! and as if a good man could not be a man of vivacity and spirit! From whom can spirits, can cheerfulness, can debonnairness, be expected, if not from a good man?—I will show these girls, by the quantity I have written, how they have made me wait. Prating I suppose, to my Sally, about Sir Charles: They can talk of nobody else.—Ready! Yes, you dear creatures! So you ought to have been a leaf and half of my writing ago!—Adieu, Lady G. till our return from Miss Orme's.
Just come back from Miss Orme's. Sir Charles and my grandmamma are now got together, in serious talk. I know I was the subject, by the dear parent's looking often smiling upon me, as I sat at distance, and by his eyes (taking the reference, as I may call it, of her's) turned as often towards me; so I stole up to my pen.
We were very politely treated by Miss Orme. Miss Clarkson is a charming young Lady: The three Yorkshire sisters are lovely women. Sir Charles has told us, that mere Beauty attracts only his eyes, as fine flowers do in a gay parterre. I don't know that, my dear: That's the philosophical description of himself. The same men and women are not always the same persons. The Ladies, one and all, when his back was turned, declared, that he was the gallantest man they ever were in company with. He said the easiest, politest things, they ever heard spoken.—They never were in his company before: They might else have heard as fine. Such dignity they observed (so does every-body), yet so much ease, in all he said, as well as in his whole behaviour—Born to be a public man, would his pride permit him to aim at being so!—Not a syllable, however, but what might be said to each with the strictest truth. Sir Charles Grandison [It is Lucy's observation, as well as mine] addresses himself to women, as women, not as goddesses; yet does honour to the persons, and to the sex. Other men, not knowing what better to say, make Angels of them, all at once. The highest things are ever said by men of the lowest understandings; and, their bolts once shot, the poor souls can go no further. So silly!—Has not your Ladyship some of these in your eye, who make out the rest, by grinning in our faces, in order to convince us of their sincerity? Complimental men don't consider, that if the women they egregiously flatter were what they would have them believe they think them, they would not be seen in such company.
But what do you think the elder sister of the three said of your brother?—She was sure, those eyes, and that vivacity and politeness, were not given him for nothing. Given him for nothing! What a phrase is that! In short, she said, that practice had improved his natural advantages. This I have a good mind to say of her—Either she had not charity, or her heart has paid for enabling its mistress to make such an observation. Practice! What meant she by the word?—Indeed your brother was not quite so abstractedly inattentive, I thought, to the Beauty of Miss Clarkson, but he might give some little shadow of ground for observation to a censorious person.
I sometimes think, that, free and open as his eyes are, his character might suffer, if one were to judge of his heart by them. Lord L. I remember, once said, that Ladies abroad used to look upon him as their own man, the moment they beheld him.—Innocently so, no doubt, and in their conversation-assemblies. Poor Lady Olivia, I suppose, was so caught! at an unhappy moment, perhaps when her caution was half-asleep, and she was loth to have it too rudely awakened. But ought I, your Harriet, to talk of this?—Where was my caution, when I suffered myself to be surprised?—O but my gratitude was my excuse. Who knows what Olivia might have to plead?—We have not her whole story, you know. Poor Lady! I pity her! To cross the seas, as she did!—Ineffectually!
But can you bear this pen-prattling; the effects of a mind more at ease than it ever expected to be?
I will go down. Can I be so long spared? I am just thinking, that were I one of the creatures called Coquettes, the best way to attract attention, when it grew languid, is, to do as I do from zeal in writing to you—Be always going out and returning, and not staying long enough in a place to tire one's company, or suffer them to turn their eyes upon any-body else. Did you ever try such an experiment, Charlotte? But you never could tire your company. Yet I think you have a spice of that character in yours. Don't you think so, yourself?—But don't own it, if you do—Hey-day! What's the matter with me! I believe by my flippancy I am growing quite well, and as saucy as I used to be—Poor Lady Clementina! I wish she were happy! Then should I be so.
My dear Lady G. we had a charming conversation this day: My grandmamma and your brother bore the principal parts in it. It began with dress, and fashion, and such-like trifling subjects; but ended in the noblest. You know my grandmamma's cheerful piety. Sir Charles seemed at first only designing to attend to her wisdom; but she drew him in. O my dear! he seems to be, yet not to know it, as good a man, as she is a woman! Yet years so different!—But austerity, uncharitableness, on one hand; ostentation, affectation, on the other; these are qualities which can have no place in his heart. Such a glorious benevolence! Such enlarged sentiments!—What a happy, thrice happy woman, thought I, several times, must she be, who shall be considered as a partaker of his goodness! Who shall be blest not only in him, but for him; and be his, and he hers, to all eternity!
My aunt once, in the conclusion of this conversation, said, How happy would it be, if he could reform certain gentlemen of this neighbourhood! And as they were so fond of his company, she hoped he would attempt it.
Example, he answered, and a silent one, would do more with such men than precept. They have Moses, and the prophets. They know when they do wrong, and what is right. They would be afraid of, and affronted at, a man pretending to instruct them. Decency, from such men, is as much as can be expected. We live in such an age, added he, that I believe more good may be done by seeming to relax a little, than by strictness of behaviour. Yet I admire those, who, from a full persuasion of their duty, do not relax; and the more, if they have got above moroseness, austerity, and uncharitableness.
After dinner, Mr. Milbourne, a very good man, minister of a Dissenting congregation in our neighbourhood, accompanied by Dr. Curtis, called in upon us. They are good friends; made so by the mediation of my grandmamma, some years ago, when they did not so well understand each other. Dr. Curtis had been with us more than once, since Sir Charles was our visitor. He greatly admires him, you need not doubt. It was beautiful, after compliments had passed between Sir Charles and the gentlemen, to see the modest man shine out in your brother's behaviour. Indeed he was free and easy, but attentive, as expecting entertainment and instruction from them; and leading each of them to give it in his own way.
They stayed but a little while; and when they were gone, Sir Charles said, He wanted no other proof of their being good men, than they gave by their charity, and friendship to each other. My uncle, who, you know, is a zealous man for the Church, speaking a little severely of persons whom he called Schismatics; O Mr. Selby! said Sir Charles, let us be afraid of prescribing to tender consciences. You and I, who have been abroad, in countries where they account us worse than Schismatics, would have been loath to have been prescribed to, or compelled, in articles for which we ourselves are only answerable to the common Father of us all!
I believe in my conscience, Sir Charles, replied my uncle, if the truth were known, you are of the mind of that King of Egypt, who said, He looked upon the diversity of religions in his kingdom with as much pleasure as he did on the diversity of flowers in his garden.
I remember not the name of that King of Egypt, Mr. Selby; but I am not of his mind. I should not, if I were a king, take pleasure in such a diversity: But as the examples of Kings are of great force, I would, by making my own as faultless as I could, let my people see the excellence of my persuasion, and my uniform practical adherence to it; instead of discouraging erroneous ones by unjustifiable severity. Religious zeal is generally a fiery thing: I would as soon quarrel with a man for his Face, as for his Religion. A good man, if not over-heated by zeal, will be a good man, whatever be his faith; and should always be entitled to our esteem, as he is to our good offices as a fellow-creature.
The Methodists, Sir Charles; What think you of the Methodists! Say you love 'em; and, and, and, adds-dines, you shall not be my nephew.
You, now, my dear Mr. Selby, make me afraid of you. You throw out a menace, the only one you could perhaps think of, that would make me temporise.
You need not, you need not, be afraid, Sir Charles, said my uncle, laughing! What say you, Harriet? Need he? Hay? looking in my downcast face. Why speak you not, lovely Love? Need Sir Charles, if he had disobliged me, to have been afraid?—Hay?
Dear Sir! you have not of a long time been so—
So, what, Harriet? So, what, dearest? looking me quite down.
Fie, Mr. Selby! said my grandmamma. Sir Charles, stepping to me, very gallantly took my hand—O Mr. Selby, you are not kind, said he: But allow me to make my advantage of your unkindness. My dear Miss Byron, let you and I withdraw; in compassion to Mr. Selby, let us withdraw: We will not hear him chidden, as I see the Ladies think he ought to be.
And he hurried me off. The surprise made me appear more reluctant than I was in my heart.
Every one was pleased with his air and manner; and by this means he relieved himself from subjects with which he seemed not delighted, and obtained an opportunity to get me to himself.
Here had he stopped, he would have been welcome: But hurrying me into the Cedar-parlour; I am jealous, my Love, said he; putting his arm round me: You seemed loth to retire with me. Forgive me: But thus I punish you, whenever you give me cause: And, dear Lady G. he downright kissed me—My lip; and not my cheek—and in so fervent a way—I tell you every-thing, my Charlotte—I could have been angry—had I known how, from surprise. Before I could recollect myself, he withdrew his arm; and, resuming his usual respectful air, it would have made me look affected, had I then taken notice of it. But I don't remember any instance of the like freedom used to Lady Clementina.
My lovely Love, said he, to express myself in your uncle's style, which is that of my heart, tell me, Can you have pity for a poor man, when he is miserable, who, on a certain occasion, showed you none? See what a Letter Sir Hargrave Pollexfen has written to Dr. Bartlett; who asks my advice about attending him.
I obtained leave to communicate it to you, my dear Ladies. Be pleased to return it to me. I presume, you will read it here.
Dear Dr. Bartlett,
Can your company be dispensed with by the best of men, for one, two, three days?—I have not had a happy hour since I saw you and Sir Charles Grandison at my house on the Forest. All is gloom and horror in my mind: My despondency is, must be, of the blackest kind. It is blacker than remorse: It is all repining; but no repentance: I cannot, cannot, repent. Lord God of Heaven and Earth, what a wretch am I! with such a fortune; such estates! I am rich as Croesus, yet more miserable than the wretch that begs his bread from door to door; and who oftener meets repulses, than relief. What a glorious choice has your patron made! Youth unbroken; conscience his friend; he cannot know an enemy. O that I had lived the life of your patron! I cannot see a creature who does not extol him. My wine-merchant's name is Danby—Good God! What stories does he tell of him! Lord Jesus! What a heart must he have, that would permit him to do such things as Danby reports of him, of his own knowledge! While I—As young a man as himself, for what I know—With power to do good, as great, perhaps greater, than his own.—Lord! Lord! Lord! what a hand have I made of it, for the last three or four years of my life! who might have reached Threescore-and-ten with comfort! whereas now, at Twenty-eight, I am on the very brink of the grave. It appears to me as ready dug: It yawns for me: I am neither fit to die, nor to live. My days are dreadful: My nights are worse: My bed is a bed of nettles, and not of down. Not one comfortable thought, not one good action, to revolve, in which I had not some vile gratification to promote! Wretched man! It is come home to me, with a vengeance.
You prayed by me: You prayed for me. I have not been so happy since—Come, and make me easy—happy I can never be, in this world—For pity, for charity sake, come and teach me how to bear life, or how to prepare for its cessation. And if Sir Charles Grandison would make me one more visit, would personally join in prayer with you and me, a glimpse of comfort would once more dart in upon my mind.
Try your interest with him, my dear Sir, in my behalf; and come together. Where is he?—The great God of Heaven and Earth prosper to him all his wishes, be he where he will, and be they what they will. Every-body will find their account in his prosperity. But I! what use have I made of the prosperity given me?—Merceda gone to his account: Bagenhall undone: Jordan shunning me! Narrow-soul'd Jordan! He is reformed; but not able to divide the man from the crime, he thinks he cannot be in earnest, but by hating both. God help me! I cannot, now, if I would, give him a bad example! He need not be afraid of my staggering him in his good purposes.
One favour, for God's sake, procure for me—It s, that the man whose life once I sought, and thought myself justified by the provocation; who afterwards saved mine, for a time saved it, reserved as I was for pains, for sufferings, in mind and body, worse than death—That this man will be the Executor of my last Will. I have not a friend left. My relations are hungering and watching for my death, as birds of prey over a field of battle. My next heirs are my worst enemies, and most hated by me. Dear Sir Charles Grandison, my deliverer, my preserver, from those bloody Frenchmen, if you are the good man I think you, complete your kindness to him whom you have preserved; and say, you will be his Executor. I will (because I must) do justice to the pretensions of those who will rejoice over my remains; and I will leave you a discretionary power, in articles wherein you may think I have shown hatred. For justice-sake, then, be my Executor. And do you, good Bartlett, put me in the way of repentance; and I shall then be happy. Draw me up, dear Sir, a Prayer, that shall include Confusion. You cannot suppose me too bad a man, in a Christian sense. Thank God, I am a Christian in belief, tho' I have been a Devil in practice. You are a heavenly-minded man; give me words which may go to my heart; and tell me what I shall say to my God.
Tell Sir Charles Grandison, that he owes to me the service I request of him. For if he had not interposed so hellishly as he did, on Hounslow-heath, I had been the husband of Miss Byron in two hours; and she would have thought it her duty to reform me: And, by the Great God of Heaven, I swear, it was my intention to be reformed, and to make her, if I could have had but her Civility, tho' not her Love, the best of husbands. Lord God of Heaven and Earth! what a happy man had I then been!—Then had I never undertaken that damned expedition to France, which I have rued ever since. Let your patron know how much I owe to him my unhappiness, and he will not, in justice, deny any reasonable, any honest request, that I shall make him.
Lord help me! What a long Letter is here! My Soul complains on paper: I do nothing but complain. It will be a relief, if your patron and you will visit, will pray for, will pity,
The most miserable of men,
Your brother's eye followed mine, as I read. I frequently wept. In a soothing, tender, and respectful manner, he put his arm round me, and, taking my own handkerchief, unresisted, wiped away the tears as they fell on my cheek. These were his soothing words as my bosom heaved at the dreadful description of the poor man's misery and despair: Sweet humanity!—Charming sensibility—Check not the kindly gush!—Dew-drops of Heaven! wiping away my tears, and kissing the handkerchief—Dew-drops of Heaven, from a mind, like that Heaven, mild and gracious!—Poor Sir Hargrave!—I will attend him.
You will, Sir! That is very good of you!—Poor man! What a hand, as he says, has he made of it!
A hand, indeed! repeated Sir Charles, his own benign eyes glistening.
And will you be his Executor, Sir?—You will, I hope?
I will do any-thing that my dear Miss Byron wishes me to do; any-thing that may comfort the poor man, if indeed he has not a person in whom he ought to confide, whether he is willing to do so, or not. My endeavour shall be, to reconcile him to his relations: Perhaps he hates them because they are likely to be his heirs: I have known men capable of such narrowness.
When we came to the place where the unhappy man mentions my having been likely to be his in two hours time, a chillness came over my heart; I shuddered. Ah, Sir! said I, how grateful ought I to be to my deliverer!
Ever-amiable goodness! resumed he, How have I been, how am I, how shall I be, rewarded?—With tender awe he kissed my cheek—Forgive me, Angel of a woman! A man can show his Love but as a man. Your heart is the heart I wish it to be! Love, Humanity, Graciousness, Benevolence, Forgiveness, all the amiable qualities which can adorn the Female mind, are, in perfection, yours! Be your Sister-excellence happy! God grant it! and I shall be the happiest man in the world. You, madam, who can pity your oppressor when in misery, can allow of my grateful remembrance of that admirable woman.
Your tender remembrance of Lady Clementina, Sir, will ever be grateful to me.—God Almighty make her happy!—for your sake! for the sake of your dear Jeronymo; and for mine!
There spoke Miss Byron, and Clementina, both in one! Surely you two are informed by one mind! What is distance of countries! What obstacles can there be, to dissever Souls so paired!
But, Sir!—Must Clementina be compelled to marry? Must the woman who has loved Sir Charles Grandison; who stills avows her Love, and only prefers her God to him; be obliged to give her hand to another man?
Would to Heaven that her friends, tender, indulgent, as they have always been to her, would not drive too fast! But how can I, of all men, remonstrate to them in this case, when they think nothing is wanting to obtain her compliance, but the knowledge that she never can be mine?
O Sir! you shall still call her yours, if the dear Lady changes her resolution, and wishes to be so—Ought you not?
And could Miss Byron—
She could, she would, interrupted I—Yet dear, very dear, I am not ashamed to own it, would now the resignation cost me!
I never, but by such a trial, can be as great as Clementina!—Then could I, as she does, take comfort in the brevity of human life. Never, never, would I be the wife of any other man. And shall the nobler Clementina be compelled?
Good God! lifting by his hands and eyes, With what noble minds hast thou distinguished these two women!—Is it for this, madam, that you wish to wait for the next Letters from Italy? I have owned before, that I presumed not to declare myself to you till I was sure of Clementina's adherence to a resolution so nobly taken. We will, however, expect the next Letters. My situation has not been happy. Nothing but the consciousness of my own integrity (excuse, madam, the seeming boast) and a firm trust in Providence, could, at certain times, have supported me.
My mind, my Charlotte, seemed too high wrought. Seeing me much disturbed, he resumed the subject of Sir Hargrave's Letter, as a somewhat less-affecting one. You see, my dearest Miss Byron, said he, a kind of necessity for my hastening up. Another melancholy occasion offers: Poor Sir Harry Beauchamp desires to see me, before he dies.—What a chequered life is this!—I received Sir Hargrave's Letter to Dr. Bartlett, and this intimation from my Beauchamp, by a particular dispatch, just before I came hither. I grudge the time I must lose to-morrow: But we must make some sacrifices to good neighbourhood and civility. Poor Greville had a view, by inviting all his neighbours and me, to let himself down with a grace, in a certain case. He made a merit of his resignation to me, before all the company; every one of which admired my dear Miss Byron. Well received as I was, by every gentleman then present, I could not avoid inviting them, in my turn; but I will endeavour to recover the time. Have I your approbation, madam, for setting out on Saturday morning, early?—I am afraid I must borrow of the Sunday some hours, on my journey. But visiting the sick is an act of mercy.
You will be so engaged to-morrow, Sir, said I, with your numerous guests (and my uncle and cousin James will add to the number) that I suppose we shall hardly see you before you set out (early, as you say that will be) on Saturday morning.
He said, He had given orders already (and, for fear of mistakes, should enforce them to-night) for the entertainment of his guests; and he would do himself the pleasure of breakfasting with us in the morning.—Dear Lady Clementina, forgive me!—I shall not, I am afraid, know how to part with him, tho' but for a few weeks.—How could you let him depart from you; you knew not but it would be for ever?—But you are a wonder of a woman!—I am, at least at this present writing, a poor creature, compared to you!
I asked his leave to show my grandmamma and aunt and my Lucy, as well as his two sisters, Sir Hargrave's Letter. He wished that they only should see it.
The perusal cost the three dear friends just named some tears. My grandmamma, Lucy tells me (for I was writing to you when they read it) made some fine observations upon the different situations in which the two gentlemen find themselves at this time. I myself could not but recollect the gay, fluttering figure that the poor Sir Hargrave made at Lady Betty William's, perpetually laughing; and compare it with the dark scene he draws in the Letter before me; all brought about in so short a space!
There are, I am told, worse men than this: Were those who are but as bad, to be apprized of the circumstances of Sir Hargrave's story, as fully as we know them, would they not reflect and tremble at his fate, even tho' that of Merceda (whose exit, I am told, was all horror and despair) and of the unhappy Bagenhall, were not taken into the shocking account?
This last wretch, it seems, his spirits and constitution both broken, is gone, nobody knows whither, having narrowly escaped in person, from an execution that was out against him, body and goods; the latter all seized upon: his wife, and an unhealthy child, and she big with another, turned out of doors; a mortgagee in possession of his estate: The poor woman wishing but for means to transport herself and child to her mean friends at Abbeville; a collection set on foot in her neighbourhood, for that purpose, failing; for the poor man was neither beloved, nor pitied.
These particulars your brother's trusty Richard Saunders told my Sally; and in confidence, that your brother, a little before he came down, being acquainted with her destitute condition, sent her, by him, twenty guineas. He never saw a deeper scene of distress, he said.
The poor woman on her knees, received the bounty; blessed the donor; owned herself reduced to the last shilling; and that she thought of applying to the parish for assistance to carry her over.
Sir Charles stayed not to supper. My grandmamma, being desirous to take leave of her favourite in the morning, has been prevailed upon to repose here to-night.
I must tell you, my Charlotte, all my fears, my feelings, my follies: You are now, you know, my Lucy. Something arises in my heart, that makes me uneasy: I cannot account to myself for this great and sudden change of behaviour in Greville. His extraordinary civilities, even to fondness, to your brother! Are they consistent with his blustering character, and constant threatenings of any man who was likely to succeed with me? A turn of behaviour so sudden! Sir Charles and he in a manner strangers, but by character—And did he not so far prosecute his menaces, as to try, wicked wretch! what bluster and a drawn sword would do, and smart for it? Must not that disgrace incense him?—My uncle says, he cannot be a true spirit; witness his compromise with Fenwick, after a rencounter, which being reported to be on my account, had like to have killed me at the time. And if not a true spirit, may he not be treacherous? God preserve your Brother from all secret as well as open attacks! And do you, my dear Ladies, forgive the tender folly of
Your HARRIET BYRON.
Volume VI - lettera 29
Volume VI - Letter 30
MISS BYRON. IN CONTINUATION.
Friday Morn. Eight o'Clock, October 27.
The apprehensions with which I was so weak as to trouble you, in the conclusion of my last, laid so fast hold of my mind, that, going immediately from my pen to my rest, I had it broken and disturbed by dreadful, shocking, wandering dreams. The terror they gave me, several times awakened me; but still, as I closed my eyes, I fell into them again. Whence, my dear, proceed these ideal vagaries, which, for the time, realise pain or pleasure to us, according to their hue or complexion, or rather according to our own?
But such contradictory vagaries never did I know in my slumbers. Incoherences of incoherence!—For example—I was married to the best of men: I was not married: I was rejected with scorn, as a presumptuous creature. I sought to hide myself in holes and corners. I was dragged out of a subterraneous cavern, which the sea had made when it once broke bounds, and seemed the dwelling of howling and conflicting winds; and when I expected to be punished for my audaciousness, and for repining at my lot, I was turned into an Angel of light; stars of diamonds, like a glory, encompassing my head: A dear little baby was put into my arms. Once it was Lucy's; another time it was Emily's; and at another time Lady Clementina's!—I was fond of it, beyond expression.
I again dreamed I was married: Sir Charles again was the man. He did not love me. My grandmamma and aunt, on their knees, and with tears, besought him to love their child; and pleaded to him my love of him of long standing, begun in gratitude; and that he was the only man I ever loved. O how I wept in my dream! My face and bosom were wet with my real tears.
My sobs, and my distress and theirs, awakened me; but I dropped asleep, and fell into the very same reverie. He upbraided me with being the cause that he had not Lady Clementina. He said, and so sternly! I am sure he cannot look so sternly, that he thought me a much better creature than I proved to be: Yet methought, in my own heart, I was not altered. I fell down at his feet. I called it my misfortune, that he could not love me: I would not say it was his fault. It might, perhaps, be his misfortune too!—And then I said, Love and Hatred are not always in one's power. If you cannot love the poor creature who kneels before you, that shall be a cause sufficient with me for a divorce: I desire not to fasten myself on the man who cannot love me. Let me be divorced from you, Sir—You shall be at liberty to assign any cause for the separation but crime. I will bind myself never, never to marry again; but you shall be free—And God bless you, and her you can love better than your poor Harriet.—Fool! I weep as I write!—What a weak creature, I am, since I have not been well!
In another part of my reverie he loved me dearly; but when he nearly approached me, or I him, he always became a ghost, and flitted from me. Scenes once changed from England to Italy, from Italy to England: Italy, I thought, was a dreary wild, covered with snow, and pinched with frost: England, on the contrary, was a country glorious to the eye; gilded with a sun not too fervid; the air perfumed with odours, wafted by the most balmy Zephyrs from orange-trees, citrons, myrtles and jessamines. In Italy, at one time, Jeronymo's wounds were healed; at another, they were breaking out afresh. Mr. Lowther was obliged to fly the country: Why, did not appear. There was a fourth brother, I thought; and he, taking part with the cruel Laurana, was killed by the General. Father Marescotti was at one time a martyr for his Religion; at another, a Cardinal; and talked of for Pope.
But still, what was more shocking, and which so terrified me that I awoke in a horror which put an end to all my reveries (for I slept no more that night)—Sir Charles, I thought was assassinated by Greville. Greville fled his country for it, and became a vagabond, a Cain, the Accursed, I thought, of God and Man—I, your poor Harriet, a widow; left in the most calamitous circumstance that a woman can be in—Good Heaven!—But, avaunt, recollection!—Painful, most painful recollection of ideas so terrible! none of your intrusions—
No more of these horrid, horrid incongruities, will I trouble you with! How have they run away with me! I am hardly now recovered from the tremblings into which they threw me!
What, my dear, is the reason, that tho' we know these dreams, these fleeting shadows of the night, to be no more than dreams, illusions of the working mind, fettered and debased as it is by the organs through which it conveys its confined powers to the grosser matter, body, then sleeping, inactive, as in the shades of death; yet that we cannot help being strongly impressed by them, and meditating interpretation of the flying vapours, when reason is broad awake, and tells us, that it is weakness to be disturbed at them?—But Superstition is, more or less, I believe, in every mind, a natural defect. Happily poised is that mind, which, on the one hand, is too strong to be affected by the slavish fears it brings with it; and, on the other, runs not into the contrary extreme, Scepticism, the parent of infidelity!
You cannot imagine, my dear, the pleasure I had, the more for my various dream, when your brother, so amiably serene, Love, Condescension, Affability, shining in his manly countenance, alighted, as I saw him through my window, at the same time I had the call to breakfast—Dear Sir! I could have said, Have not you been disturbed by cruel, perplexing, contradictory visions! Souls may be near, when Bodies are distant. But are we not one Soul? Could yours be unaffected, when mine was so much disturbed?—But, thank God, you are come? Come safe, unhurt, pleased with me! My fond arms, were the ceremony passed, should welcome you to your Harriet. I would tell you all my disturbances from the absurd illusions of the past night, and my mind should gather strength from the confession of its weakness.
He talked of setting out early to-morrow morning. His first visit, he said, should be to Sir Harry Beauchamp; his next to Sir Hargrave Pollexfen. Poor Sir Harry! he said, and sighed for him.
Tender-hearted man! as Clementina often called your brother! he pitied Lady Beauchamp. His poor Beauchamp!—The loss of a father, he said, where a great estate was to descend to the son, was the test of a noble heart. He could answer for the sincerity of his Beauchamp's grief, on this trying occasion. Of what joy, said he [sitting between two of the best of women, equally fond of him, speaking low] was I, was my father, deprived! He had allowed me to think of returning to the arms of his paternal love. I make no doubt, but on looking into his affairs (his son, perhaps his steward) he would have done for his daughters, what I have done for my sisters. We should both of us have had a new life to begin, and pursue: A happy one, from my duty and his indulgence, it must have been. I had planned it out.—With all humility I would, by degrees, have laid it before him, first one part, then another, as his condescension would have countenanced me.
Vile, vile reveries!—Must not this young man be the peculiar care of Heaven? How could my disturbed imagination terrify me but in a dream, that the machinations of the darkest mind (as his must be [Greville is not so bad a man] who could meditate violence against virtue so sacredly guarded) could be permitted to prevail against his life!
My grandmamma once, with tears in her eyes, as he talked of taking leave, laid her hand upon his, and instantly withdrew it, as if she thought the action too free. He took her hand, and, with both his, lifted it to his lips—Venerable goodness! he called her. She looked so proud, and so comforted! every one so pleased!—It is a charming thing to see blooming youth fond of declining age!
They dropped away one by one, and I found myself left alone with him. Sweetly tender was his address to me! How shall I part with my Harriet? said he. My eyes were ready to overflow. By a twinkling motion, I thought to disperse over the whole eye the self-felt too ready tear: My upper-lip had the motion in it, throbbing, like the pulsation which we call the life-blood—I was afraid to speak, for fear of bursting into a fit of tenderness; yet was conscious that my very silence was more expressive of tenderness than speech could have been. With what delight did his eager eye (as mine, now-and-then glancing upward, discovered) meditate my downcast face, and silent concern! Yet such was his delicacy, that he took not that notice of it, in words, which, if he had, would have added to my confusion: It was enough for him, that he saw it. As he was contented silently to enjoy the apparent affection, I am not sorry he did see it. He merited even open and unreserved assurances of Love. But I the sooner recovered my spirits, for his delicate non-observance. I could not, circumstanced as we were, say I wished for his speedy return; yet, my dear, my purest wishes were, that he would not be long absent. My grandmamma pleases herself with having the dear man for her inmate, on his return: There is therefore no need, for the sake of the world's speech, to abridge my month; yet ought we to be shy of giving consequence to a man who through delicacy is afraid to let us see that he assumes consequence from our speechless tenderness for him?—He restored me to speech, by a change of subject—
Two melancholy offices shall I have to perform, said he, before I have the honour to attend again my dearest Miss Byron: What must be the heart that melts not at another's woe!—As to Sir Hargrave, I don't apprehend that he is near his end; as is the case of poor Sir Harry. Sir Hargrave labours under bodily pains, from the attack made upon him in France, and from a constitution ruined perhaps by riot: And, having nothing of consolation to give himself from reflexion on his past life, as we see by his Letter, his fears are too strong for his hopes. But shall I tell him, if I find it will give him comfort, that you wish his recovery, and are sorry for his indisposition? Small crevices let in light, sometimes upon a benighted imagination. He must consider his attempt upon your free-will (tho' not meant upon your honour) as one of the enormities of his past life.
I was overpowered with this instance of his generous goodness Teach me, Sir, to be good, to be generous, to be forgiving—like you!—Bid me do what you think proper for me to do—Say to the poor man, whose insults upon you in his challenge were then my terror (O how much my terror!) in my name say, all that you think will tend to give him consolation.
Sweet excellence! Did I ever hope to meet in woman with such an enlargement of heart!—Clementina only, of all the women I ever knew, can be set in comparison with you: And had she been granted to me, the union of minds between us from difference of Religion, could not have been so perfect, as yours and mine must be.
Greatly gratified as I was by the compliment, I was sorry, methought, that it was made me at the expense of my Sex. His words, 'Did I ever hope to meet in woman with such an enlargement of heart!' piqued me a little. Are not women as capable as men, thought I, of enlarged sentiments?
The leave he took of me was extremely tender. I endeavoured to check my sensibility. He departed with the blessings of the whole family, as well as mine. I was forced to go up to my closet: I came not down till near dinner-time; I could not; and yet my uncle accompanied my cousin James to Northhampton: So that I had no apprehensions of his raillery. One wants trials sometimes, I believe, to make one support one's self with some degree of outward fortitude, at least. Had my uncle been at home, I should not have dared to have given so much way to my concern: But soothing and indulgence, sometimes, I believe, add to our imbecility of mind, instead of strengthening our reason.
My uncle made it near eleven at night before he returned, with my cousin James. Not one of the company, at his quitting it, seemed inclinable to move. He praised the elegance of the entertainment, and the ease and cheerfulness, even to vivacity, of Sir Charles. How could he be so lively!—How many ways have men to divert themselves, when any-thing arduous attacks them!—While we poor women!—But your town-diversions—Your Ranelaghs, Vauxhalls—bid fair to divert such of us as can carry ourselves out of ourselves!—Yet are we likely to pay dear for the privilege; since we thereby render our Sex cheap in the eyes of men, harden our fronts, and are in danger of losing that modesty, at least of outward behaviour, which is the characteristic of women!
He is gone: Gone indeed! Went early this morning. Every mouth was last night, it seems, full of his praises: The men admire him as much as the women. I am glad of it, methinks; since that is an indirect confession, that there are few among them like him. Not so much superiority over our Sex therefore, in the other, in general, with their enlarged hearts. Have not we a Clementina, a Mrs. Shirley, and a long &c?—I praise you not, my dear Lady L. and Lady G. to your faces; so I leave the &c. untranslated. We do so look upon one another here! Are so unsatisfied with ourselves! We are not half so good company as we were before Sir Charles came among us. How can that be? But my Grandmamma has left us too!—that's one thing. She is retired to Shirley-manor, to mortify, after so rich a regale: Those were her words.
I hope your brother will write to us. Should I not have asked him? To be sure he will; except his next Letters from Italy should be—But, no doubt, he will write to us. Mr. Greville vows to my uncle, he will not come near me. He can less and less, he says, bear to think of my marrying; tho' he does what he can to comfort himself with reflecting on the extraordinary merit of the man, who alone, he says, can deserve me. He wishes the day were over; and the D—l's in him, he adds, if the irrevocableness of the event does not cure him. Mr. Fenwick had yesterday his final answer from Lucy; and he is to set out on Monday for Carlisle. He declares, that he will not return without a wife: So, thank Heaven, his heart is whole, notwithstanding his double disappointment.
But my heart is set on hearing how the excellent Clementina takes the news of your brother's actual address, and probability of succeeding. I should not think it at all surprising, if, urged as she is, to marry a man indifferent to her (the Lord of her heart unmarried) she should retract—O my Charlotte!—What a variety of strange, strange, What-shall-I-call them? would result from such a retractation and renewal of claim! I never thought myself superstitious; but the happiness before me is so much beyond my merit, that I can hardly flatter myself, at times, that it will take place.
What think you, my dear, made me write so apprehensively?—My aunt had just shown me a Letter she had written to you—desiring you—to exercise for us your fancy, your judgment. I have no affectation on this subject—I long ago gave affectation to the winds—But so hasty!—So undoubting!—Are there not many possibilities, and some probabilities, against us?—Something presumptuous!—Lord bless me, my dear, should any-thing happen—Jewels bought, and already presented—Apparel—How would all these preparations aggravate! My aunt says, he shall be obliged: Lucy, Nancy, the Miss Holles's, join with her. They long to be exercising their fancies upon the patterns which they suppose your Ladyship and Lady L. will send down. My uncle hurries my aunt. So as something is going forward, he says, he shall be easy. There is no resisting so strong a tide: So let them take their course. They are all in haste, my dear, to be considered as relations of your family; and to regard all yours as kindred of ours. Happy, happy, the band, that shall tie both families together!
Volume VI - lettera 30
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