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Tearning 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 our assiduity to please arose from a consciousness of your merit as a gentle. man, 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 proposal which you have sent me is of too serious a nature to be treated lightly; it requires 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, throught affluence and poverty, have often prevented the one, and hastened those afflictions inseparably, connected with the other. The consideration of those things presents 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 arise in families are various; and although 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 ofthem, yet thesecond objection is not so easily answered, nor indeed have you done it to my satisfaction. Your answer to the common objections 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 it I tell you sincerely, that even in the opinion of the thinking part of the world, the life of a stepmother is far more disagreeable than you endeavour to persuade me. All eyes are upon them, and even their virtues are often construed into faults. Iacknowledge 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 or three 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 survivingchildren; and lastly, a total disrespect for her 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 mean time I shall be glad at all times to hear from you, and am Your sincere well-wisher.
The gentleman's reply.
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 di.. vest himself of the man; and because he prefers a woman to the rest of her sex, must he act the part of a fool to obtain her? I dare venture to say you will answer in the negative. Your letter contains so many prudential reasons for refusing my offers, that I should be stupid indeed if I did not consider them as the result of a well-informed judgment. All the objections I have against them, is that they appear too much grounded on popular censure. I believe you are well
acquainted with the world, and you know that the best actions have been misrepresented, and the most amiable characters traduced. Nor has this been confined to any one single station in life; it has diffused itself through them all; and although its baneful influence has often rendered innocence miserable, yet the prudent will despise it with that contempt it so justly merits. Virtue is its own reward; and happiness,
Deaf to folly's call,
Attends the music of the mind.
Whilst a woman of your great good sense has the answers of a good conscience in approbation of your conduct, how insignificant must the envious censure of malice appear, when compared with real peace of mind! Indeed, I think you have carried your objections against being a stepmother rather too far, and I think I shall not be guilty of blasphemy, when I call your refinement of sentiment, false delicacy. However, as I said before, I am really in earnest; and if have not formed an erroneous judgment, you are the only person I have yet conversed with, since I became a widower, with whom I think I can live happy. And will you, madam, be so cruel as to remain obstinate in rejecting my suit? I do not think it is consistent with your good nature; and although I think it is beneath a generous mind to purchase a wife, yet I shall be willing to inake your settlement equal to your wishes, besides a sufficiency for your children, if we should be blest with any. Your answer to this is impatiently expected by
Your real admirer.
From the lady in answer.
PERUSED your letter, and begin to be afraid that I have tampered with you too long, to conceal the real sentiments of my mind from one so justly entitled to know them as you are. My objections, I assure you, sir, were not the effect of levity, but arose from the most mature deliberation; nor would I, on any account, impose on the man to whom I intended to give my hand, and consequently my heart. This would have been a crime, attended with more aggravating circumstances than any which you have mentioned
and less entitled to an excuse. Hypocrisy is the same under whatever character it appears; and the person who is guilty of it in the smallest matters, will be equally so in the greatest. Your answer to my objections are altoge ther satisfactory; and I am now convinced that I may be your wife, and at the same time, at least a nominal mother to your children: I say nominal, for although I should on all occasions consider myself obliged to act with humanity to your children, as well as my own, yet I may still be named by the above appellation. However, as your person, company, and conversation were agreeable, and your character stands unimpeached, I am almost inclined to try that life to which I have been hitherto a stranger. It is, I assure you, with diffidence, and if attended with any unfavourable circumstances, may possibly be more my fault than yours. We cannot foresee future events, and are therefore obliged to leave them to the direction of an unerring Providence. I shall, therefore, not detain you any longer, but only to inform you, that my brother was married yesterday to Miss Bright; may every happiness attend them both in time and in eternity. You will receive a letter inclosed from him, and you may be assured that I have not now any objection against being connected with you for life. The time fixed for that period depends entirely on your own choice and appointment, and I think you cannot reasonably desire more. All that I expect, nay all that I desire, is only to be treated consistently with the professions you have already made. If so, I think I cannot fail of being as happy as is consistent with the state of affairs in this world, and I do not look for miracles. Às you will doubtless be much hurried before you set out for London, one letter more will be sufficient until I see you; in the mean time (as the Jews say may you rest content and happy.
I am, &c.
Sir, KNOW not of any gentleman who ever yet honoured me with their company, for whom I have a greater regard than yourself; and the agreeable hours we have spent toge
ther cannot be equalled unless they are repeated. When I read your first letter to my sister, I considered your proposal of marriage as the highest honour that possibly could be conferred on our family and yet, without partiality, I firmly believe that the woman to whom you have paid your addresses, has merit equal to any in the world. She returned from the boarding-school about ten years ago, during which time she has superintended the affairs of my family, and conducted them with such prudence, as is seldom met with in one of her years. Many offers have been made to her by fox-hunters in our neighbourhood, but their charac ters were so totally opposite to her sentiments, that she rejected them with the utmost disdain, although apparently. beneficial. My sister, sir, has much more refined notions, than to pay any more regard to affluence than what would procure her an independent subsistence; and too great a regard to her conscience, than to sacrifice her peace of mind to enjoy the greatest earthly grandeur. To use her own words, she considers riches as laying her under an additional obligation to act for the good of her fellow-creatures, as a faithful steward of that Almighty Being, who has declared that he will exact a strict account from his creatures, in what manner they have used those gifts, which his unbounded liberality has bestowed. Her leisure hours have been speut in reading; and when I have met with her in the garden, or in the fields, she has constantly in her hand either Milton, Thomson, or Young, but most frequently her Bible. It may possibly occur to your thoughts, that what I have said in commendation of a beloved sister, arises from a fraternal affection: but I do assure you, sir, that I could: not help repeating her many accomplishments, were you an utter stranger, and even a married man. A person destitute of virtue and sensibility might remain ignorant for! ever of my sister's merits; but by one of your worth, I' doubt not but they will be estimated according to their real value. Light and darkness cannot dwell together; nor can those of opposite tempers ever be happy; but where there is an intellectual, as well as a corporeal union, nothing in this life can interfere with the rational enjoyments. But I' had almost forgot that I am writing to one who is well acquainted with these things; nor should I have enlarged so much, had not regarded your friendship and interest on the one hand, and my sister's happiness on the other. Yet