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How often, in answer to my repeated intreaties that you would give my Daughter a regular detail of the Misfortunes and Adventures of your Life, have you said "No, my freind, never will I comply with your request till I may be no longer in Danger of again experiencing such dreadful ones."
Surely that time is now at hand. You are this day 55. If a woman may ever be said to be in safety from the determined Perseverance of disagreeable Lovers and the cruel Persecutions of obstinate Fathers, surely it must be at such a time of Life.
ALTHO' I cannot agree with you in supposing that I shall never again be exposed to Misfortunes as unmerited as those I have already experienced, yet to avoid the imputation of Obstinacy or ill-nature, I will gratify the curiosity of your Daughter; and may the fortitude with which I have suffered the many afflictions of my past Life, prove to her a useful lesson for the support of those which may befall her in her own.
AS the Daughter of my most intimate freind, I think you entitled to that knowledge of my unhappy story, which your Mother has so often solicited me to give you.
My Father was a native of Ireland and an inhabitant of Wales; my Mother was the natural Daughter of a Scotch Peer by an Italian Opera-girl -- I was born in Spain, and received my Education at a Convent in France.
When I had reached my eighteenth Year, I was recalled by my Parents to my paternal roof in Wales. Our mansion was situated in one of the most romantic parts of the Vale of Uske. Tho' my Charms are now considerably softened and somewhat impaired by the Misfortunes I have undergone, I was once beautiful. But lovely as I was, the Graces of my Person were the least of my Perfections. Of every accomplishment accustomary to my sex, I was Mistress. When in the Convent, my progress had always exceeded my instructions, my Acquirements had been wonderfull for my age, and I had shortly surpassed my Masters.
In my Mind, every Virtue that could adorn it was centered; it was the Rendez-vous of every good Quality and of every noble sentiment.
A sensibility too tremblingly alive to every affliction of my Freinds, my Acquaintance, and particularly to every affliction of my own, was my only fault, if a fault it could be called. Alas! how altered now! Tho' indeed my own Misfortunes do not make less impression on me than they ever did, yet now I never feel for those of an other. My accomplishments too, begin to fade -- I can neither sing so well nor Dance so gracefully as I once did -- and I have entirely forgot the Minuet Dela Cour.
OUR neighbourhood was small, for it consisted only of your Mother. She may probably have already told you that, being left by her Parents in indigent Circumstances, she had retired into Wales on eoconomical motives. There it was, our freindship first commenced. Isabel was then one and twenty. Tho' pleasing both in her Person and Manners, (between ourselves) she never possessed the hundredth part of my Beauty or Accomplishments. Isabel had seen the World. She had passed 2 Years at one of the first Boarding-schools in London; had spent a fortnight in Bath and had supped one night in Southampton.
"Beware, my Laura, (she would often say) Beware of the insipid Vanities and idle Dissipations of the Metropolis of England; Beware of the unmeaning Luxuries of Bath and of the stinking fish of Southampton."
"Alas! (exclaimed I) how am I to avoid those evils I shall never be exposed to? What probability is there of my ever tasting the Dissipations of London, the Luxuries of Bath, or the stinking Fish of Southampton? I who am doomed to waste my Days of Youth and Beauty in an humble Cottage in the Vale of Uske."
Ah! little did I then think I was ordained so soon to quit that humble Cottage for the Deceitfull Pleasures of the World.
ONE Evening in December, as my Father, my Mother, and myself were arranged in social converse round our Fireside, we were, on a sudden, greatly astonished by hearing a violent knocking on the outward Door of our rustic Cot.
My Father started -- "What noise is that," (said he). "It sounds like a loud rapping at the door" -- (replied my Mother). "It does indeed," (cried I). "I am of your opinion; (said my Father) it certainly does appear to proceed from some uncommon violence exerted against our unoffending door." "Yes (exclaimed I) I cannot help thinking it must be somebody who knocks for admittance."
"That is another point (replied he); We must not pretend to determine on what motive the person may knock -- tho' that someone does rap at the door, I am partly convinced."
Here, a second tremendous rap interrupted my Father in his speech, and somewhat alarmed my Mother and me.
"Had we not better go and see who it is? (said she) The servants are out." "I think we had," (replied I).
"Certainly, (added my Father) by all means." "Shall we go now?" (said my Mother). "The sooner the better," (answered he). "Oh! let no time be lost" (cried I).
A third, more violent Rap than ever, again assaulted our ears. "I am certain there is somebody knocking at the Door," (said my Mother). "I think there must," (replied my Father). "I fancy the servants are returned; (said I) I think I hear Mary going to the Door." "I'm glad of it (cried my Father) for I long to know who it is."
I was right in my conjecture; for Mary instantly entering the Room, informed us that a young Gentleman and his Servant were at the door, who had lossed their way, were very cold, and begged leave to warm themselves by our fire.
"Won't you admit them?" (said I). "You have no objection, my Dear?" (said my Father). "None in the World" (replied my Mother).
Mary, without waiting for any further commands, immediately left the room and quickly returned, introducing the most beauteous and amiable Youth I had ever beheld. The servant, she kept to herself.
My natural sensibility had already been greatly affected by the sufferings of the unfortunate stranger and no sooner did I first behold him, than I felt that on him the happiness or Misery of my future Life must depend.
THE noble Youth informed us that his name was Lindsay -- for particular reasons, however, I shall conceal it under that of Talbot. He told us that he was the son of an English Baronet, that his Mother had been many years no more, and that he had a Sister of the middle size. "My Father (he continued) is a mean and mercenary wretch -- it is only to such particular freinds as this Dear Party that I would thus betray his failings. Your Virtues, my amiable Polydore (addressing himself to my father), yours Dear Claudia, and yours my Charming Laura, call on me to repose in you my confidence." We bowed. "My Father, seduced by the false glare of Fortune and the Deluding Pomp of Title, insisted on my giving my hand to Lady Dorothea. ``No, never,'' exclaimed I. ``Lady Dorothea is lovely and Engaging; I prefer no woman to her; but know, Sir, that I scorn to marry her in compliance with your Wishes. No! Never shall it be said that I obliged my Father.''" We all admired the noble Manliness of his reply. He continued:
"Sir Edward was surprized; he had perhaps little expected to meet with so spirited an opposition to his will. ``Where, Edward in the name of wonder (said he) did you pick up this unmeaning gibberish? You have been studying Novels, I suspect.'' I scorned to answer: it would have been beneath my dignity. I mounted my Horse and followed by my faithful William, set forwards for my Aunt's."
"My Father's house is situated in Bedfordshire, Aunt's in Middlesex, and tho' I flatter myself with being a tolerable proficient in Geography, I know not how it happened, but I found myself entering this beautifull Vale which I find is in South Wales, when I had expected to have reached my Aunt's."
"After having wandered some time on the Banks of the Uske without knowing which way to go, I began to lament my cruel Destiny in the bitterest and most pathetic Manner. It was now perfectly dark, not a single star was there to direct my steps, and I know not what might have befallen me, had I not at length discerned thro' the solemn Gloom that surrounded me a distant Light, which, as I approached it, I discovered to be the chearfull Blaze of your fire. Impelled by the combination of Misfortunes under which I laboured, namely Fear, Cold, and Hunger, I hesitated not to ask admittance, which at length I have gained; and now, my Adorable Laura (continued he, taking my Hand) when may I hope to receive that reward of all the painfull sufferings I have undergone during the course of my attachment to you, to which I have ever aspired. Oh! when will you reward me with Yourself?"
"This instant, Dear and Amiable Edward," (replied I). We were immediately united by my Father, who, tho' he had never taken orders, had been bred to the Church.
WE remained but a few days after our Marriage in the Vale of Uske. After taking an affecting Farewell of my Father, my Mother, and my Isabel, I accompanied Edward to his Aunt's in Middlesex. Philippa received us both with every expression of affectionate Love. My arrival was indeed a most agreeable surprize to her, as she had not only been totally ignorant of my Marriage with her Nephew, but had never even had the slightest idea of there being such a person in the World.
Augusta, the sister of Edward, was on a visit to her when we arrived. I found her exactly what her Brother had described her to be -- of the middle size. She received me with equal surprize, though not with equal Cordiality, as Philippa. There was a disagreeable Coldness and Forbidding Reserve in her reception of me which was equally Distressing and Unexpected; none of that interesting Sensibility or amiable Simpathy in her manners and Address to me when we first met, which should have Distinguished our introduction to each other. Her Language was neither warm nor affectionate, her expressions of regard were neither animated nor cordial; her arms were not opened to receive me to her Heart, tho' my own were extended to press her to mine.
A short Conversation between Augusta and her Brother, which I accidentally overheard, encreased my dislike to her, and convinced me that her Heart was no more formed for the soft ties of Love than for the endearing intercourse of Freindship.
"But do you think that my Father will ever be reconciled to this imprudent connection?" (said Augusta).
"Augusta (replied the noble Youth) I thought you had a better opinion of me, than to imagine I would so abjectly degrade myself as to consider my Father's Concurrence in any of my Affairs, either of Consequence or concern to me. Tell me, Augusta, tell me with sincerity; did you ever know me consult his inclinations, or follow his Advice in the least trifling Particular, since the age of fifteen?"
"Edward (replied she) you are surely too diffident in your own praise. Since you were fifteen only! My Dear Brother, since you were five years old, I entirely acquit you of ever having willingly contributed to the Satisfaction of your Father. But still, I am not without apprehensions of your being shortly obliged to degrade yourself in your own eyes by seeking a Support for your Wife in the Generosity of Sir Edward."
"Never, never Augusta will I so demean myself. (said Edward) Support! What Support will Laura want which she can receive from him?"
"Only those very insignificant ones of Victuals and Drink," (answered she).
"Victuals and Drink! (replied my Husband in a most nobly contemptuous Manner) and dost thou then imagine that there is no other support for an exalted Mind (such as is my Laura's) than the mean and indelicate employment of Eating and Drinking?"
"None that I know of, so efficacious," (returned Augusta).
"And did you then never feel the pleasing Pangs of Love, Augusta? (replied my Edward) Does it appear impossible to your vile and corrupted Palate, to exist on Love? Can you not conceive the Luxury of living in every Distress that Poverty can inflict, with the object of your tenderest Affection?"
"You are too ridiculous (said Augusta) to argue with; perhaps, however, you may in time be convinced that..."
Here I was prevented from hearing the remainder of her speech, by the appearance of a very Handsome Young Woman, who was ushered into the Room at the Door of which I had been listening. On hearing her announced by the Name of "Lady Dorothea," I instantly quitted my Post and followed her into the Parlour, for I well remembered that she was the Lady proposed as a Wife for my Edward by the Cruel and Unrelenting Baronet.
Altho' Lady Dorothea's visit was nominally to Philippa and Augusta, yet I have some reason to imagine that (acquainted with the Marriage and arrival of Edward) to see me was a principal motive to it.
I soon perceived that tho' Lovely and Elegant in her Person, and tho' Easy and Polite in her Address, she was of that Inferior order of Beings with regard to Delicate Feeling, tender Sentiments, and refined Sensibility, of which Augusta was one.
She staid but half an hour and neither, in the Course of her Visit, confided to me any of her secret thoughts, nor requested me to confide in her any of Mine. You will easily imagine, therefore, my Dear Marianne, that I could not feel any ardent affection or very sincere Attachment for Lady Dorothea.
LADY DOROTHEA had not left us long before another visitor, as unexpected a one as her Ladyship, was announced. It was Sir Edward, who informed by Augusta of her Brother's marriage, came doubtless to reproach him for having dared to unite himself to me without his Knowledge. But Edward, foreseeing his Design, approached him with heroic fortitude as soon as he entered the Room, and addressed him in the following Manner.
"Sir Edward, I know the motive of your Journey here -- You come with the base Design of reproaching me for having entered into an indissoluble engagement with my Laura without your Consent. But Sir, I glory in the Act. -- It is my greatest boast, that I have incurred the displeasure of my Father!"
So saying, he took my hand and whilst Sir Edward, Philippa, and Augusta were doubtless reflecting with Admiration on his undaunted Bravery, led me from the Parlour to his Father's Carriage, which yet remained at the Door, and in which we were instantly conveyed from the pursuit of Sir Edward.
The Postilions had at first received orders only to take the London road; as soon as we had sufficiently reflected, However, we ordered them to Drive to M----, the seat of Edward's most particular freind, which was but a few miles distant.
At M----, we arrived in a few hours; and on sending in our names, were immediately admitted to Sophia, the Wife of Edward's freind. After having been deprived during the course of 3 weeks of a real freind (for such I term your Mother), imagine my transports at beholding one most truly worthy of the Name. Sophia was rather above the middle size; most elegantly formed. A soft languor spread over her lovely features, but increased their Beauty. -- It was the Characteristic of her Mind. -- She was all Sensibility and Feeling. We flew into each other's arms and after having exchanged vows of mutual Freindship for the rest of our Lives, instantly unfolded to each other the most inward secrets of our Hearts. -- We were interrupted in the delightfull Employment by the entrance of Augustus (Edward's freind), who was just returned from a solitary ramble.
Never did I see such an affecting Scene as was the meeting of Edward and Augustus.
"My Life! my Soul!" (exclaimed the former) "My Adorable Angel!" (replied the latter), as they flew into each other's arms. It was too pathetic for the feelings of Sophia and myself -- We fainted alternately on a sofa.
TOWARDS the close of the day, we received the following Letter from Philippa.
"Sir Edward is greatly incensed by your abrupt departure; he has taken back Augusta with him to Bedfordshire. Much as I wish to enjoy again your charming society, I cannot determine to snatch you from that of such dear and deserving Freinds -- When your Visit to them is terminated, I trust you will return to the arms of your
We returned a suitable answer to this affectionate Note, and after thanking her for her kind invitation, assured her that we would certainly avail ourselves of it, whenever we might have no other place to go to. Tho' certainly nothing could, to any reasonable Being, have appeared more satisfactory than so gratefull a reply to her invitation, yet I know not how it was, but she was certainly capricious enough to be displeased with our behaviour and in a few weeks after, either to revenge our Conduct, or releive her own solitude, married a young and illiterate Fortune-hunter. This imprudent Step (tho' we were sensible that it would probably deprive us of that fortune which Philippa had ever taught us to expect) could not, on our own accounts, excite from our exalted Minds a single sigh; yet fearfull lest it might prove a source of endless misery to the deluded Bride, our trembling Sensibility was greatly affected when we were first informed of the Event. The affectionate Entreaties of Augustus and Sophia that we would for ever consider their House as our Home, easily prevailed on us to determine never more to leave them. In the society of my Edward and this Amiable Pair, I passed the happiest moments of my Life; Our time was most delightfully spent, in mutual Protestations of Freindship, and in vows of unalterable Love, in which we were secure from being interrupted by intruding and disagreeable Visitors, as Augustus and Sophia had, on their first Entrance in the Neighbourhood, taken due care to inform the surrounding Families, that as their Happiness centered wholly in themselves, they wished for no other society. But alas! my Dear Marianne, such Happiness as I then enjoyed was too perfect to be lasting. A most severe and unexpected Blow at once destroyed every sensation of Pleasure. Convinced as you must be from what I have already told you concerning Augustus and Sophia, that there never were a happier Couple, I need not, I imagine, inform you that their union had been contrary to the inclinations of their Cruel and Mercenary Parents; who had vainly endeavoured with obstinate Perseverance to force them into a Marriage with those whom they had ever abhorred; but with an Heroic Fortitude worthy to be related and admired, they had both constantly refused to submit to such despotic Power.
After having so nobly disentangled themselves from the shackles of Parental Authority, by a Clandestine Marriage, they were determined never to forfeit the good opinion they had gained in the World, in so doing, by accepting any proposals of reconciliation that might be offered them by their Fathers -- to this farther tryal of their noble independance, however, they never were exposed.
They had been married but a few months when our visit to them commenced, during which time they had been amply supported by a considerable sum of Money which Augustus had gracefully purloined from his unworthy father's Escritoire, a few days before his union with Sophia.
By our arrival their Expenses were considerably encreased, tho' their means for supplying them were then nearly exhausted. But they, Exalted Creatures! scorned to reflect a moment on their pecuniary Distresses, and would have blushed at the idea of paying their Debts. -- Alas! what was their Reward for such disinterested Behaviour! The beautifull Augustus was arrested and we were all undone. Such perfidious Treachery in the merciless perpetrators of the Deed will shock your gentle nature, Dearest Marianne, as much as it then affected the Delicate Sensibility of Edward, Sophia, your Laura, and of Augustus himself. To compleat such unparalelled Barbarity, we were informed that an Execution in the House would shortly take place. Ah! what could we do but what we did! We sighed and fainted on the sofa.
[Go to Joan Hassall woodcut illustration]
WHEN we were somewhat recovered from the overpowering Effusions of our Grief, Edward desired that we would consider what was the most prudent step to be taken in our unhappy situation, while he repaired to his imprisoned freind to lament over his misfortunes. We promised that we would, and he set forwards on his journey to Town. During his absence we faithfully complied with his Desire, and after the most mature Deliberation, at length agreed that that the best thing we could do was to leave the House; of which we every moment expected the Officers of Justice to take possession. We waited, therefore, with the greatest impatience for the return of Edward, in order to impart to him the result of our Deliberations. But no Edward appeared. In vain did we count the tedious Moments of his Absence -- in vain did we weep -- in vain even did we sigh -- no Edward returned. -- This was too cruel, too unexpected a Blow to our Gentle Sensibility -- we could not support it -- we could only faint. At length collecting all the Resolution I was Mistress of, I arose, and after packing up some necessary Apparel for Sophia and myself, I dragged her to a Carriage I had ordered, and we instantly set out for London. As the Habitation of Augustus was within twelve miles of Town, it was not long e'er we arrived there, and no sooner had we entered Holbourn than, letting down one of the Front Glasses, I enquired of every decent-looking Person that we passed "If they had seen my Edward?"
But as we drove too rapidly to allow them to answer my repeated Enquiries, I gained little, or indeed, no information concerning him. "Where am I to Drive?" said the Postilion. "To Newgate, Gentle Youth (replied I), to see Augustus." "Oh! no, no, (exclaimed Sophia) I cannot go to Newgate; I shall not be able to support the sight of my Augustus in so cruel a confinement -- my feelings are sufficiently shocked by the recital of his Distress, but to behold it will overpower my Sensibility." As I perfectly agreed with her in the Justice of her Sentiments, the Postilion was instantly directed to return into the Country. You may perhaps have been somewhat surprised, my Dearest Marianne, that in the Distress I then endured, destitute of any support, and unprovided with any Habitation, I should never once have remembered my Father and Mother or my paternal Cottage in the Vale of Uske. To account for the seeming forgetfullness I must inform you of a trifling circumstance concerning them which I have as yet never mentioned. The death of my Parents a few weeks after my Departure, is the circumstance I allude to. By their decease I became the lawfull Inheritress of their House and Fortune. But alas! the House had never been their own, and their Fortune had only been an Annuity on their own Lives. Such is the Depravity of the World! To your Mother I should have returned with Pleasure, should have been happy to have introduced to her my charming Sophia, and should with Chearfullness have passed the remainder of my Life in their dear Society in the Vale of Uske, had not one obstacle to the execution of so agreeable a scheme, intervened; which was the Marriage and Removal of your Mother to a distant part of Ireland.
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