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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 dispise it with that contempt it so justly merits. Virtue is its own reward ; and happiness,
Deaf to folly's call,
Whilst a woman of your great good sense has the answer 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 step-mother rather too far, and I think I shall not be guilty of blasphemy, when I call your refinement of sentiment fälse delicacy. However, as I said before, I am really in earnest; and if I have notformed an erroneous judge ment, 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 make your settlement equal to your wishes, besides a suf ficiency 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. Sir,- 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 matter, will be equally so in the greatest. Your answer to my objections are altogether 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, 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 at
tend them both in time and eternity. You will receive a letter enclosed 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. As you will doubtless be much hurried before you set out for London, one letter more will be sufficient until I see you ; in the meantime (as the Jews say) may you rest content and happy.
I am, &c. LETTER XCIII.
The Brother's Letter. Sir, I know not of any gentleman who ever honoured me with their company, for whom I have a greater regard than yourself : and the agreeable hours we have spent together 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 characters 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 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 spent 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 the 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, 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 I not regarded your friendship and interest on the one hand, and my sister's happiness on the other. Yet, not to detain you longer, my consent for a happy union is not only at your service, but as I said before, I shall consider it as a very happy event; but I have not the least doubt of your ever repenting of your choice. I have heard that your secular affairs call for your attendance in London ; when those are settled, I shall be glad to hear from you, and likewise of my sister and you being happily joined in marriage ; in the meantime she is at my house, where you may freely correspond ; and am- -Your well-wisher.
LETTER XCIV. From the Gentleman, after his arrival in London,
to the Lady in the Country. My dear,-For so I must now call you : I arrived here last night, and embrace this opportunity of writing.
What a busy place is London ! what a variety of strange faces, and a continual hurry of business ; the citizens acquiring fortunes by trade, whilst the nobility and gentry are squandering away those estates left them by their ancestors ! but such has always been the conduct of mankind in trading nations. One sows, another reaps, whilst a third enjoys the fruit of their labour. For my own part, I am neither fond of gaiety nor solitude. In all things there is a medium, which ought to be preferred to extremes. A sudden elevation to affluence or grandeur, and a sudden fall from either, are equally dangerous ; the one too often plunges the person into all sorts of immorality, whilst the effect of the other is commonly despair. I would choose to spend three months every year in London, and the remainder in the country. This is my opinion ; it is a more rational scheme than the present mode