Page images

dition of mind might be disappoint- had already given, and which was ing to a fervent lover, but it is a decisive enough. pretty attitude for the young soul,

“Reading over your letter as fast as and one which charms the spec- ever I could," she recommences abrupttator. Mary Pierrepont looks a ly, “and answering it with the same very different creature from Mary ridiculous precipitation, I find one part Wortley Montagu. She is standing of it escaped my sight and the other I

mistook in several places. Your on the brink of the transition when

letter is to tell me you should think the following letters pass between yourself undone if you married me; her and her lover. The first which but if I could be so tender as to confess we shall quote refers apparently to I should break my heart if you did not, his first proposal :

then you would consider whether you

would or no; but yet you hoped you “Give me leave to say it (I know it should not. I take this to be the right sounds vain)," writes the spirited and interpretation of —even your kind, sensible girl, with a mingling of indig- ness can't destroy me of a sudden. nation in her candour, “I know how hope I am not in your power. I would

I to make a man of sense happy; but give a good deal to be satisfied, &c.' then that man must resolve to contri.

You would have me say that bute something towards it himself. I i

am violently in love; that is, finding have so much esteem for you, I should

you think better of me than you debe very sorry to hear that you were un

sire, you would have me give you a just happy, but for the world I would not

cause to contemn you. I doubt much be the instrument of making you so; whether there is a creature in the which, in the humour you are, is hardly world humble enough to do that. I to be avoided, if I am your wife. You should not think you more unreasondistrust me--I can neither be easy nor able if you were in love with my face, loved when I am distrusted. Nor do

and asked me to disfigure it to make I believe your passion for me is what you you easy. I have heard of some nuns pretend it-at least I am sure, were I who made use of this expedient to secure in love, I could not talk as you do their own happiness; but amongst all Few women would have wrote so plain the Popish saints and martyrs I never as I have done, but to disgemble is read of one whose charity was sublime among the things I never do. I take enough to make themselves deformed more pains to approve my conduct to

or ridiculous to restore their lovers to myself than to the world, and would

peace and quietness.” not have to accuse myself of a minute's deceit. I wish I loved you enough to

Perhaps the young man who redevote myself to be for ever miserable ceived these letters was wise enough for the pleasure of a day or two's hap- to see that the smart of wounded piness. I cannot resolve upon it. You pride in them was too sharp to be must think otherwise of me, or not at compatible with absolute indifferall. I don't enjoin you to burn this letter-I know you will. 'Tis the first

ence; at least, he seems to have I ever wrote to one of your sex, and

taken them as no decisive answer, shall be the last. You may never ex

and to have pursued his suit in a pect another. I resolve against all way which clearly points him out correspondence of the kind-my re- as the original type of many gentlesolutions are seldom made, and never men who have since enlightened broken

and entertained the world, from Notwithstanding this very de- Mr Rochester and Felix Holt termined conclusion, the same daydown to the detestable prigs of or perhaps the next morning, throws American fiction-gentlemen who new lights on the lover's letter carry on their wooing by a series of which had drawn from her this insults and lectures. Mary Pierrespirited reply; and, forgetting her pont was not a meek heroine, but resolve, Lady Mary puts pen to still she seems to have yielded in paper once more, to repeat and some degree to the tantalising power strengthen and enforce in a woman- of this strange kind of wooing. ish way which bas not yet gone out She struggles, she resists, she breaks of fashion, the answer which she out into little appeals ; she restates

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

her case, sometimes indignantly, would be soon tired of seeing every sometimes half tenderly, and bids day the same thing. When you him farewell over and over again. saw nothing else, you would have But perhaps the lady doth protest leisure to remark all the defects, too much. It is evident that she which would increase in proportion had no desire to terminate the cor- as the novelty lessened, which is alrespondence, which must have been

ways a great charm.” an exciting break to the dulness This composed state of mind, of the Thoresby parlour. “While however, does not last long. Next I foolishly fancied you loved me," time she writes it is again with the I , she cries-brought up to this pitch, determination of saying farewell it is apparent, by much aggrava- for ever. tion--"there is no condition of life I could not have been happy in

“I begin to be tired of my humility,”

she exclaims. “I have carried my with you, so very much I liked you complaisances to you farther than I -I might say loved, since it is the ought. You make new scruples, you last thing I'll ever say to you. This have a great deal of fancy, and your is telling you sincerely my greatest distrusts being all of your own making, weakness;

and now I will oblige are more immovable than if there were you with a new proof of generosity and grandmothers always tell us that

some real ground for them. Our aunts -I'll never see you more. I shall avoid all public places, and this is they are constant, 'tis only when they

men are a sort of animals that, if ever the last letter I shall send. If you are ill-used. 'Twas a kind of paradox write, be not displeased that I send I never could believe. Experience has it back unopened. I shall force taught me the truth of it. You are my inclinations to oblige yours ;

the first I ever had a correspondence and remember that you have told with, and I thank God I have done me I could not oblige you more

with it for all my life.

I have

not the spirits to dispute any longer than by refusing you.” The next

You say you are not deterpage, however, shows a change of mined ; let me determine for you, and sentiment. There is no longer ques- save you the trouble of writing again. tion of a last letter, an eternal Adieu for ever! Make no answer. I separation ; on the contrary, she wish, among the variety of your acdiscusses calmly her own character quaintance, you may find some one to and his mistaken estimate of it, of thinking, should you try them all


please you, and can't help the vanity and even goes into such a matter you won't find one that will be so sinof detail as the comparative excel- cere in their treatment, though a thou. lences of life in the country and sand more deserving, and every one life in town. “You think if you happier.” married me I should be passion

Then it is the lover who comes ately fond of you one month, and in, tantalising and tantalised :of somebody else the next," she says; “but neither would happen. “Every time I see you," writes Mr I can esteem, I can be a friend, but Wortley, on his side, gives me a fresh I don't know whether I can love. proof of your not caring for me; yet I

How Expect all that is complaisant and beg you will meet me once more. easy, but never what is fond in me.

could you pay me that great compli.

ment of loving the country for life, When people are tied for life," when you would not stay with me a the young philosopher goes on dis- few minutes longer ? Who is the happy cussing the disadvantages of retire- man you went to ? I agree with you,

I ment, which her lover seems to am often so dull I cannot explain my have proposed, "'tis their mutual meaning, but will not own the expresinterest not to grow weary of one

sion was so very obscure when I said if another. If I had all the personal opinion. Why need I add, i see what

I had you I should act against my charms I want, a face is too slight is best for me? I contemn what I do, a foundation for happiness. You and yet I fear I must do it. If you

with you.


can't find it out that you are going that will happen. I shall incense to be unhappy, ask your sister, who my family in the highest degree. agrees with you in everything else, and she will convince you of your rashness

The generality of the world will in this. She knows you don't care for blame my conduct, and the relame, and that you will like me less and

tions and friends of will less every year, perhaps every day of invent a thousand stories of me; your life. You may with a little care yet 'tis possible you may recomplease another as well, and make him pense everything to me. In this less timorous. It is possible I too may letter, wbich I am fond of, you please some of those that have but promise me all I wish. Since I little acquaintance; and if I should be preferred by a woman for being the first

writ so far I received your Friday among her companions, it would give letter. I will be only yours, and I me as much pleasure as if I were the will do what you please.” first man in the world. Think again, And accordingly“ early Monday and prevent a misfortune from falling morning” they ran away, upon both of us."

It is the pleasant privilege of This letter concludes with instruc- fiction to end here. In such tions how they are to meet in the where could there be found a more house of Steele by aid of his wife. charming, raceful story? People And so the duel goes on. It is who had spoken their minds so like the scene in Molière, which freely to each other before their he repeats in several of his come- marriage, whose love had been tried dies, between offended lovers. No by so many frets, and one of whom doubt the great dramatist repeat- at last concluded the matter in such ed it because the quarrel of the beautiful dispositions, what could two, their fury, their eternal fare- they do but live happy ever after ? well, their stolen looks, their re- “I will be only yours, and I will do lenting, and the sudden leap into what you please.' What prettier each other's grasp of their eager ending could close the youthful reluctant hands, was such a piece tender tale ? Alas! the story of of pretty fooling as no audience this Lady Mary did not end with could resist. And here, in real Eng. these words, but only began. lish flesh and blood, in laced coat There is something humbling and quilted petticoat, in peruke and disappointing in dropping and powder, stand Dóris and Do- down to the calm level of ordinary rimène, performing their charming life, after that moment of exalted interlude. By-and-by matters be- sentiment and idealism. The hapcome more serious. The formal piest and the least pretentious negotiations are broken off, and marriage shares this revulsion with there is the other lover, who offers the most showy and the most un£500 a-year of pin-money and a bouse fortunate. After that strain of in town, and on whose behalf Lord passionate feeling, that sense of Dorchester lays out £400 in wed- new life beginning, those noble ding-clothes. Things come to such resolutions and beautiful dreams, a pitch at last that there is nothing to wake and find after all that for it but“ a coach to be at the door the obstinate earth is still the early Monday morning," and an same, that the still more obstientire surrender into the hands of nate self is unchanged, and that the honourable if aggravating bride- life falls back into its accustomed groom. “I tremble for what we channel, taking incredibly little

. are doing," the girl writes, in a heed of that one alteration of cirfright, on the evening of the Fri- cumstances which, before it was day before this momentous day. made, seemed so radical and over• Are you sure you shall love me whelming, is hard upon any susfor ever? Shall we never separate ? ceptible imagination. Neither bride I fear and I hope I foresee all nor bridegroom in the case be

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

fore us seem to have entertained events that have happened in your any high-flown expectations ; but absence, excepting that a goodyet it is not very long before natured robin - redbreast kept me Lady Mary begins to feel that a company almost the whole aftercareless husband is a much less noon with so much good-humour piquant and amusing interlocutor and humanity as gives me faith for than a disapproving lover. It is the piece of charity ascribed to evident that she spent a great part these little creatures in the 'Chilof the first few years of her mar- dren in the Wood.”Some time after ried life alone. She writes to the this she becomes indignant: “I am errant husband, at first with pleas- alone, without any amusement to ant expressions of her happiness take up my thoughts; I am in cirin being his, but afterwards with cumstances in which melancholy is alternations of petulance and melan- apt to prevail even over all amusecholy and repentance for both. “I ments, dispirited and alone, and assist every day at public prayers you write me quarrelling letters. . in this family,” she says in what Should I tell you that I am unit is evident is her first letter, a easy, that I am out of humour and month or two after the marriage, out of patience, should I see you when her heart is soft with unac- half an hour the sooner ?-customed happiness, and moved, in and then the poor young creature consequence, to a superficial reli- is penitent, and excuses herself for giousness, “and never forget in complaining. The bright, beautimy private ejaculations how much ful, high-spirited young woman, I owe to heaven for making me removing from one doleful country yours.” This blessed state of af- house to another, estranged from fairs, however, does not last very all her natural friends, bearing all long. Within the first year a pen- the physical ills natural in the cirsive sense of loneliness comes over cumstances, consuming her heart the young wife; she does not com- in enforced solitude, while the curplain, but she wonders at his mudgeon of a husband, the cause absence and his silence ; now and of all her troubles, amuses himself then she is sick and sad, and in the great world, and writes her, moralises : “Life itself, to make it when he writes at all, “ quarrelsupportable, should not be con- ling letters,” are set forth before sidered too nearly," she says. “It us with the greatest distinctness. is a maxim with me to be young Poor Lady Mary had, apparently, (the poor soul was three - and - no high religious or any other kind twenty !) as long as one can ; there of principle to support her. She was is nothing can pay one for that in- not a woman of the noblest kind, valuable ignorance which is the nor is her character a model one companion of youth ; those san- in any way: yet her courage, and guine groundless hopes, and that spirit, and patience; her eagerness lively vanity which makes all the to make the best of everything ; happiness of life. To my extreme the comfort she takes in the kind mortification, I grow wiser every robin and the old letters; her enday.” A little later she calls her durance ; her fancies ; her ocfortitude to her, and is obstinately casional little outbursts, make up contented. “I discovered an old a picture at once pretty and affecttrunk of papers,” she writes from ing. Had she been less reasonable the solitude of Hinchinbroke, and more passionate, the story of “which to my great diversion I what was evidently an unsuitable found to be the letters of the first and uncomfortable marriage would Earl of Sandwich. ... I walked no doubt have been more dramatic. yesterday two hours on the terrace But the age was one in which peo—these are the most considerable ple were very composed in their


[ocr errors]

I am weary


affections; and she, it is apparent sits awkwardly upon me. from first to last, was an eminently of it, and must beg of you to write me unimpassioned woman. But that

no more if you cannot bring yourself she was chilled, wounded, mortified, business or diversions may have en

to write otherwise. Multiplicity of lowered in her own estimation, and gaged you, but all people tind time to cut short in all possible blossom- do what they have a mind to. If your ing of her affections, is clear inclination is gone, I had rather never enough. We wonder, if the story receive a letter from you than one which had been traced after marriage of in lieu of comfort for your absence gives all our modern heroes whose rôle it

me a pain even beyond it." is to scold and find fault, like Mr Notwithstanding all this, no Wortley, whether a similar result

sooner does the political horizon might not be perceptible? The change, and an opening become consequence in this case to all visible for Wortley, if he can avail readers will be a hearty pity and himself of it, in public life, than liking for Lady Mary, and a whole- his wife springs eager to his side to some contempt for the

encourage and stimulate him. And pedant whom, by bad luck, she very strange to be uttered by a ad made the controller of her

young woman of four-and-twenty, heart and fate.

from the depths of rustic quiet, Matters had come to such a pass do these exhortations sound. The between the two who, by a runaway period is just after the accession of marriage, had given what is gene- George I.-a new reign, a new era rally supposed the strongest evi- —when all the possibilities of power dence of love, within two years and influence lay before any new after, that the young wife was man who had force enough to seize moved to formal remonstrance. them. Probably Lady Mary's faith

"I cannot forbear any longer telling in her husband's superiority had you," she writes, “I think you use me begun to fail, and, in consequence, very unkindly. I don't say so much of she is great on the merits of boldyour absence as I should do if you was in the country and I in London, be- which she evidently tries to per-.

ness in opposition to modesty, cause I would not have you believe that I am impatient to be in town when I suade herself is all he wants to

Here is the opensay I am impatient to be with you; insure success. but I am very sensible I parted with ing note of the trumpet with which, you in July, and 'tis now the middle of in mingled flattery and menace, she November. As if this was not hard- attempts to stir him up :ship enough, you do not tell me you are sorry for it. You write seldom, and “Though I am very impatient to see with so much indifference as shows you you, I would not have you, by hastenhardly think of me at all. I complain ing to come down, lose any part of your of ill-health, and you only say you interest. . . I am glad you think of hope it is not so bad as I make it. You serving your friends. I hope it will never inquire after your child.

put you in mind of serving yourself. I You should consider solitude, and need not enlarge upon the advantages spleen the consequence of solitude, is of money--everything we see and everyapt to give the most melancholy ideas, thing we hear puts us in remembrance and thus needs at least tender letters of it. If it were possible to restore and kind expressions to hinder uneasi. liberty to your country, or limit the ness almost inseparable from absence. encroachments of the prerogative, by I am very sensible how far I ought to reducing yourself to a garret, I should be contented when your affairs oblige be pleased to share so glorious a poverty you to be without me. I would not with you ; but as the world is and will have you do yourself any prejudice, but be, 'tis a sort of duty to be rich that it a little kindness will cost you nothing. may be in one's power to do good... I have concealed as long as I can riches being another word for power, the uneasiness the nothingness of your towards the obtaining of which the letters have given me under an affected first necessary qualification is impuindifference; but dissimulation always dence, and (as Demosthenes said of pro

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »