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sey, I will meet you at the Shepherd and Shepherdess on Sunday after dinner, and then we will talk more of the matter.-I am, dear Jack,
Your most obedient servant.
LETTER LXXXIX. The six following are genuine, and passed between a
Gentleman and Lady some time ago, but were never before published.
From the Gentleman. Madam,—It was a question among the Stoics, whether the whole of human life afforded most pleasure or pain? for my own part, I have always wished to consider things in the fairest light, but I often find my resolution weakened ; and when I think to act the philosopher, I feel myself nothing but a man. When my late wife died, ahout two „years ago, I proposed making the tour of England, that by mixing with strangers, my thoughts might be led from fruitless reflection on the loss I had sustained ; a loss which none but myself knows. It is true, it has been so far successful, that it has tauglit me two things ; first, resignation to the will of heaven ; and, secondly, that I am still unhappy in the want of a female partner. The agreeable company at the house of your worthy brother, obliged me to spend more time at York than I at first intended ; nor did I know, until I had proceeded some miles, that I should be obliged once more to return. In short, madam, I am a second time in love ; and although you may be disposed to laugh, yet I assure you that I am in real earnest ; your own dear self is the object. But perhaps you will ask, How happens all this? I answer, that I cannot tell how it happens. But I am really fond of domestic life, and am once more resolved to alter my condition.
I cannot flatter, and I think both you and I have lived long enough to judge for ourselves. There was something pleased me much in the prudent manner you conducted the affairs of your brother's house ; but, as he is on the point of being married, that employment will cease when the other event takes place. I did not hear that you was engaged by promise to any other; and as you have heard something concerning my family, character, and circumstances, you are more able to judge whether my present proposals are for your interest. In case you have any objections to my having children, I can only say that they will be easily answered. I have told you before, that I have only two young daughters, now at a boarding-school, and I have settled each of their marriage portions, and the remainder is entirely for myself; and without being any real prejudice to my children, is more than sufficient for us both. As to the common objection against being a step-mother, I think it may be easily answered, when I tell you, that my children will treat you with all manner of respect. I do not imagine you can esteem me the worse for loving my children, I have too good an opinion of you to think so; and as for the odious appellations usually thrown out against step-mothers, they can only be considered by a lady of your sensibility, as the effect of prejudice, operating upon vulgar minds, occasioned by the conduct of some inhuman wretches who are a disgrace to society, and who would have acted in the same manner had they been placed in another station of life. Your own good sense will point out the propriety of what I say. From what I have written, you will be able to judge, whether or not the proposals I have now made, are apparently for your real advantage. All that I desire is, to live in amity and friendship with the woman on whom I have placed my affections, as long as I am in the world. Every thing in my power shall be exerted to make you as happy as possible, as I think, if I am not mistaken, every part of your conduct will entitle you to deserve it. I hope you will not defer sending me an answer, as I shall wait for it with the utmost impatience. I am, madam,
Yours sincerely and affectionately.
The Lady's Answer. Sir,–) have just received your letter, and fox my own part must say, that you have acted the philosopher extremely well. I thought that love-letters had not usually been extracted from Seneca or Epictetus: but why do I wonder, when even a lady now alive went through the drudgery of learning the Greek language, in order to acquire the honour of being the translator of the latter. However, she has got far enough, and I have not any intention of following her, but shall consider my lover's philosophical letter.
Whilst you remained at our house, I must acknowledge that your company was agreeable ; and your assiduity to please arose from a consciousness of your merit as a gentleman, although, at that time, neither my brother nor myself had the most distant thoughts of ever hearing such a proposal as your letter contains. It is our common practice to entertain strangers in the same manner we did you, which is consistent with old English hospitality, and something like the conduct of the ancient patriarchs.
The proposals which you have sent me are of too serious a nature to be treated lightly, they require to be considered with the greatest attention ; especially as a wrong step of that sort not only destroys all hopes of temporal happiness, but what is infinitely worse, often endangers that which is eternal. I doubt not but you have seen many fatal instances of this melancholy truth, viz. That those who were bound by the most solemn engagements to go hand in hand through affluence and poverty, have often prevented the one, and hasten those afflictions inseparably connected with the other. The consideration of those things present us with a glaring proof of the corruption of human nature in general, and particularly its most desirable state, pretended conjugal felicity. The causes from which unhappiness arises in families are various ; and although I never was a wife, yet I have seen many fatal instances of their pernicious effects. You yourself seem to be aware of this, in the objections stated in your letter; and although I have convincing proofs that your circumstances are consistent with your representation of them, yet the second objection is not so easily answered, nor indeed have you done it to my satisfaction. Your answers to the common objection made against step-mothers, are altogether rational; they are what reason will at all times dictate, and prudence on every occasion require ; but you will excuse me if I tell you sincerely that even in the opinion of the thinking part of the world, the life of a step-mother is far more disagreeable than you endeavour to persuade me. All eyes are upon them, and even their virtues are often construed into faults. I acknowledge that it could never enter into the mind of a rational creature (I mean one who is really so) that a woman should tyrannize over two orphans, for no other reason save only that their mother was their father's former wife. This would prove her guilty of three of the most odious crimes
capable of being committed in the conjugal state. First, inhumanity to the deceased mother; secondly, cruelty to the surviving children ; and lastly, a total disrespect for the husband : for what woman would esteem the man, or what regard could she think he would have for her children, if he did not treat, or cause to be treated with tenderness, those who were born of a woman equally dear to him as herself? But you know, sir, that we live in the world, and few, I believe, would choose to have their lives rendered unhappy, if they could possibly avoid it. Your character, circumstances, and accomplishments, might entitle you to a much better wife than me ; but I confess the above reasons weigh strongly in my mind against such a connexion; and unless they were answered more to my satisfaction than what you have already done, I should choose still to remain as I am. In the meantime, I shall be glad, at all times, to hear from you, and am,—Your sincere well-wisher.
The Gentleman's Reply. Madam,,I have always thought, that there are none more ready to condemn the conduct of others, than those who are most guilty themselves, and of this your letter is a convincing proof. Do not be surprised, for I am really in earnest. You have accused me of acting the philosopher, whilst you seem much better acquainted with those sages than myself. But pray, madam, is it any great fault to write a love letter in a serious strain ? or should every thing on that subject be only a jumble of incoherent nonsense ? should the lover divest himself of the man, and, because he prefers a woman to the rest of the sex, must he act the part of a fool to obtain