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Mil. LOVELACE TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.
Friday, July 7. I Have three of thy letters at once before me to answer; in each of which thou complainest of my silence; and in one of them tellest me, that thou canst not live without I scribble to thee every day, or every other day at least.
Why, then, die, Jack, if thou wilt. What heart, thinkest thou, can I have to write, when I have lost the only subject worth writing upon?
Help me again to my angel, to my Clarissa: and thou shalt have a letter from me, or writing at least, part of a letter, every hour. All that the charmer of my heart shall say, that will I put down: every motion, every air of her beloved person, every look will I try to describe; and when she is silent, I will endeavour to tell thee her thoughts, either what they are, or what I would have them to be—so that, having her, I shall never want a subject. Having lost her, my whole soul is a blank: the whole creation round me, the elements above, beneath, and every thing I behold (for nothing can I enjoy) are a blank without her.
O return, return, thou only charmer of my soul! Return to thy adoring Lovelace! What is the light, what the air, what the town, what the country, what's any thing without thee? Light, air, joy, harmony, in my notion, are but parts of thee; and could they be all expressed in one word, that word would be Clarissa.
O my beloved Clarissa, return thou then; once more return to bless thy Lovelace, who now hy the loss of thee, knows the value of the jewel he has slighted; and rises every morning but to curse the sun that shines upon every body but him!
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Weli, but Jack, 'tis a surprising thing to me, that the dear fugitive cannot be met with: cannot be heard of. She is so poor a plotter (for plotting is not her talent) that I am confident, had I been at liberty, I should have found her out before now; although the different emissaries I have employed about town, round the adjacent villages, and in Miss Howe's vicinage, have hitherto failed of success. But my lord continues so weak and lowspirited, that there is no getting from him. I would not disoblige a man whom I think in danger still: for would his gout, now it has got him down, but give him, like a fair boxer, the rising blow, all would be over with him. And here [pox of his fondness for me! it happens at a very bad time] he makes me sit hours together entertaining him with my rogueries (a pretty amusement for a sick man!) And yet whenever he has the gout, he prays night and morning with his chaplain. But what must his notions of religion be, who, after he has nosed and mumbled over his responses, can give a sigh or groan of satisfaction, as if he thought he had made up with heaven; and return with a new appetite to my stories ?—Encouraging them, by shaking his sides with laughing at them, and calling me a sad fellow in such an accent, as shews he takes no small delight in his nephew.
The old peer has been a sinner in his day, and suffers for it now: a sneaking sinner, sliding, rather than rushing, into vices, for fear of his reputation: or rather, for fear of detection, and positive proof; for these sort of fellows, Jack, have no
VOL. VI. O
real regard for reputation.—Paying for what he never had, and never daring to rise to the joy of an enterprise at first hand, which could bring him within view of a tilting, or of the honour of being considered as the principal man in a court of justice.
To see such an old Trojan as this, just dropping into the grave, which I hoped ere this would have been dug, and filled up with him; crying out with pain, and grunting with weakness; yet in the same moment crack his leathern face into an horrible laugh, and call a young sinner charming varlet, encoreing him, as formerly he used to do the Italian eunuchs; what a preposterous, what an unnatural adherence to old habits!
My two cousins are generally present when I entertain, as the old peer calls it. Those stories must drag horribly, that have not more hearers and applauders, than relaters.
Ay, Belford, applauders, repeat I; for although these girls pretend to blame me sometimes for the Jacts, they praise my manner, my invention, my intrepidity.—Besides, what other people call blame, that call I praise: I ever did; and so I very early discharged shame, that cold-water damper to an enterprising spirit.
These are smart girls; they have life and wit; and yesterday, upon Charlotte's raving against me upon a related enterprise, I told her, that I had had it in debate several times, whether she were or were not too near of kin to me: and that it was once a moot point with me, whether I could not love her dearly for a month or so: and perhaps it was well for her, that another pretty little puss started up, and diverted me, just as I was entering upon the course..
They all three held up their hands and eyes at once. But I observed, that though the girls exclaimed against me, they were not so angry at this plain speaking, as I have found my beloved upon hints so dark, that I have wondered at her quick apprehension.
I told Charlotte, that, grave as she pretended to be in her smiling resentments on this declaration, I was sure I should not have been put to the expense of above two or three stratagems, (for nobody admired a good invention more than she) could I but have disentangled her conscience from the embarrasses of consanguinity.
She pretended to be highly displeased: so did her sister for her. I told her, that she seemed as much in earnest as if she had thought me so; and dared the trial. Plain words, I said, in these cases, were more shocking to their sex than gradatim actions. And I bid Patty not be displeased at my distinguishing her sister; since I had a great respect for her likewise.
An Italian air, in my usual careless way, a halfstruggled-for kiss from me, and a shrug of the shoulder by way of admiration, from each pretty cousin, and Sad, sad fellow, from the old peer, attended with a side-shaking laugh, made us all friends.
There, Jack!—Wilt thou, or wilt thou not, take this for a letter? There's quantity, I am sure.— How have I filled a sheet (not a short-hand one indeed) without a subject! My fellow shall take this; for he is going to town. And if thou canst think tolerably of such execrable stuff, I will soon send thee another.
MR. LOVELACE TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ..
Six, Saturday morning, July 8. Have I nothing new, nothing diverting in my whimsical way, thou askest, in one of thy three letters before me, to entertain thee with ?—AncD thou tellest me, that, when I have least to narrate, to speak in the Scottish phrase, I am most diverting. A pretty compliment, either to- thyself, or to me. To both indeed !—A sign that thou hast as. frothy a heart as I a head. But canst thou suppose, that this admirable woman is not all, is not every thing with me? Yet I dread to think of her too; for detection of all my contrivances, I doubt, must come next.
The old pees is also full of Miss Harlowe: and so are my cousins. He hones I will not be such a dog [there's a specimen of* his peer-like dialect] as to think of doing dishonourably by a woman of so much merit, beauty, and fortune; and he says of so good a family. But I tell him, that this is a> string he must not touch; that it is a very tender point: in short is my sore place; and that I am afraid he would handle it too roughly, were I to put myself in the power of so ungentle an operator.
He shakes his crazy head. He thinks all is. not as it should be between us; longs to have me present her to him as my wife; and often tells me what great things he will do, additional to his former proposals; and what presents he will make on the birth of the first child. But I hope the whole of his estate will be in my hands before such an event takes place. No harm in hoping, Jack! Lord M. says, were it not for hope, the heart would break.