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Anna St. Ives by Thomas Holcroft

Part 6 out of 11

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you, Captain, are a man of honour also; for which I give up the coal
to your ginerosity; in raison whereof hush is the word. And so in
that case, I remain your most obedient humble sarvant. But if not,
why the bull dogs must bark.

PHELIM MAC FANE

Is it not a pity, Louisa, that so much courage and ability should be
perverted to such vile ends? The man, by means of the wealth he had so
rapidly collected in this manner, had secured more than one spy among
the Bow-street runners. This we learned from Peggy's brother; and it is
confirmed by the event; for he has forsaken all his former haunts, and
it is conjectured is either gone off for the continent, or, which is
more probable, is lying concealed till he can discover how far he is
in danger. He was constantly provided with disguises, has been to sea,
and is intimately acquainted with the manners of the vulgar; so that,
were any strict search made, he would not easily be caught. But he need
not fear; his supposed enemy takes no delight in blood; and this he
will probably soon learn, and soon again be upon the town.

You wonder, no doubt, how Frank should recognise a man who, attempting
to rob us on a dark night, had stationed himself at the head of the
carriage. Had he seen no more of him, he would have been in little
danger of detection. But, on one of the visits which Frank made to
Webb, the brother of Peggy, he had met him on the stairs. Mr. Mac Fane
as he descended was opposite the window on the landing place, and his
face was full in the light; while Frank could scarcely be seen by him,
being then several steps below him. His countenance is a remarkable
one; it has a deep scar above the left eye; and Frank, suspecting him
to be the accomplice of the man he was going to visit, had fixed it in
his memory.

Frank has since been talking very seriously with this brother of Peggy;
and appears to have convinced him that his present profession is as
much that of a thief as his former. However, in this short space of
time, without understanding the vile arts of a gambler, he has
collected between two and three hundred pounds. Such is the folly with
which money is squandered at these places. While Mr. Mac Fane is
absent, he thinks himself in no danger; and should he return, he has
been promised the protection of our family, which he thinks a
sufficient guarantee; being rather afraid of him as a desperado than as
an accuser. Webb has therefore agreed to take a shop, and exercise his
trade as a master. He is a man of quick intellects; and,
notwithstanding all that he has done, has many good propensities. As a
proof of these, his poor sister, the kind Peggy, has infinite affection
for him; and is sure now that he will do well.

Sir Arthur and Edward have both been very sincere and hearty in their
thanks to Frank: to which he answers, and answers truly, it was a
stroke rather of good fortune than of foresight. But he has gained
himself a character; and they are partly of opinion, that every thing
must prosper which he undertakes. Aunt Wenbourne too overflows in his
praise. Edward is her favourite; and Frank stands now almost as high on
her list as he was but a little while ago the reverse; for Edward is
continually talking of him to her, and every word he says is orthodox.
But opinions like these are too light, too full of prejudice, too
mutable to be of much value.

Clifton kept away all the evening; however, after hearing the whole
story, he was obliged to acknowledge that, let his other qualities be
what they would, he could not have been so successful as Frank in this
affair; because he could have known nothing of Mr. Mac Fane. But he did
not forget that this was an accident, unforeseen at the time when Frank
was trusted.

My constant rule, of equanimity of temper, has restored him to his
wonted good-humour. But I perceive he regrets the possibility of any
man equalling him in the esteem of those whose friendship he
cultivates. Alas! Why does he not rather seek to surpass them, than to
envy their virtues?

He says he will propose an eulogium on Frank, and give a prize himself
to the French Academy; for he finds he will never get sufficiently
praised in England. He never knew so eternal a theme for panegyric. In
fine, it is evident, in despite of his efforts to conceal it, that his
jealousy increases: and I suspect he feels this last decision against
him more sensibly than any preceding circumstance.

Adieu. Most truly and dearly, your own

A. W. ST. IVES

LETTER LXXI

_Coke Clifton to Guy Fairfax_

_London, Dover Street_

War! Fairfax, war!--It is declared!--Open war!--My wrathful spirits are
in a blaze, and I am determined. Hear and blame me if you can. But do I
not know you? Does not the temper of your letters tell me you will
applaud my just anger, and fixed revenge?

Yes, Fairfax, longer to palliate, or wilfully be blind to the partial
edicts and haughty ordonnances of this proud beauty, were idiotism!
She has presumed too far; I am not quite so tame a creature as she
supposes. She shall find I am not the clay, but the potter. I will
mould, not be moulded. Poltron as I was, to think of sinking into the
docile, domesticated, timid animal called husband! But the lion's paws
are not yet pared; beware then, my princess!

The lady would carry it with a high hand, Fairfax. But let her!
If I not note her freaks, if I forget her imperious caprice, if
my embittered mind slumber in its intents, say not I am the
proud-spirited Clifton you once knew; that prompt, bold, and
inflexible fellow, whom arrogance could rouse, and injury inflame,
but a suffering, patient ass; a meek pitiful thing, such as they
would make me!

Wonder not that I now am angry, but that I have so long been torpid. A
little phrensy has restored the palsied soul to life, and again has put
its powers in motion. I'll play no more at questions and commands--Or,
if I do, it shall only be to make sure of my game. I have been
reproved, silenced, tongue-tied, brow-beaten; have made myself an ape,
been placed behind the door, and have shewed tricks for her diversion.
But I am not muzzled yet: they shall find me one of the _ferae
naturae._

A most excellent project, forsooth! When I am sufficiently familiarized
to contradiction, rebuke, fillips on the forehead, and raps on the
knuckles, she will then hear me my prayers, pack me off peaceably to
bed for tonight, and graciously bestow a pat and a promise upon me for
tomorrow! There is danger in the whim, lady; beauteous though you are,
and invincible as you may think yourself. Model me!--No!--I am of a
metal which not even your files can touch. You cannot knead,
dough-bake, and temper me to your leaven.

Fairfax, she had fascinated me! I own it! There is such incantation, in
the small circle of her eye, as mortal man scarcely can resist! I
adored her; nay still adore! But she knows me not. I have a soul of
fire. She has driven me beyond the limits of patience.

Her wisdom degenerates into rhodomontade. She will prescribe the hour
and minute when she shall begin to love. She does not pretend to love
me yet; and, if she did, her looks, her manner would betray the
falsehood of her heart.

Yet let me not wrong her, vexed though I am. Double dealing is not her
error: she is sufficiently sincere.

Why would I hide it from myself? Her partialities all lead another way:
ay and her passions too, if passions she have. But this most
incomprehensible, this tormenting, incoherent romance of determining
not to have any, I believe from my soul, in part produces the effect
she intends, and almost enables her to keep her determination!

Still and eternally, this fellow! This Frank! Oh that I were an
Italian, and that my conscience would permit me to deal him the
stilletto!--Let him beware!--He is employed, preferred, praised! It is
eulogium everlasting! Had Fame as many trumpets as she has tongues and
lies, they would all be insufficient. And not only she but the whole
family, father, brother, aunts, the devil knows who, each grateful soul
is oozing out the froth of its obligations!

Had they less cause, perhaps I should be less irritated: but he has
rescued the poor being of a brother, Edward St. Ives, who had neither
courage nor capacity to rescue himself, from the gripe of a gambler.
This Edward, who is one of the king's captains, God bless him, and who
has spent his fortune in learning the trade, not of a man of war, but
of a man of fashion, having lost what ready money he had, staked his
honour against a cogger of dice, and was presently tricked out of three
thousand guineas; which he was too poor in pocket to pay, and, if I
guess right, too poor in spirit afterward to face the ruffian whom he
had made his companion.

So Mr. Henley, and it please, you, was chosen, by father and daughter.
Though she owns she proposed it first; for she does not scruple to own
all which she does not scruple to act. The holy mission was his, to
dole out salutary documents of reproof, and apothegms of Epictetus; and
to try whether he could not release the bird-limed owl. I was
overlooked! I am unfit for the office! I am but little wiser than the
booby brother! Whereas Solomon himself, and the seven sages to boot,
are but so many men of Gotham, when he is present. The quintessence of
all the knowledge, wit, wisdom, and genius that ever saw the sun, from
the infantine days of A B C and king Cadmus, to these miraculous times
of intuition and metaphysical legerdemain, is bottled up in, his brain;
from which it foams and whizzes in our ears, every time discretion can
be induced to draw the cork of silence.--Once again, let him beware!

I then am selected for no other purpose but for her morality to make
experiments upon.--She is called wife, and wife she may be; nay wife
she is, or at least all other women, she being present, are intolerably
foolish. But, by heaven, this is no proof of her wisdom! I am the
scape-goat!--I!--Be it so!--Should she be caught in her own springe,
who can say I am to blame?

She has seen my anger, for I could not hide it; but she has seen it
only in part. A hypocrite she wants, and a hypocrite she shall I have.
I will act the farce which she is composing; let her look to the
catastrophe.

I begin to think that marriage and I shall never meet; for, if I
withstand her, woman cannot tempt me. And her I shall withstand. At
least I never will have her till I have humbled her; and then perhaps I
shall not be in the humour. And yet my heart tells me that I shall. For
in spite of all its anger, in spite of her injustice and glaring
indifference, the remembrance of which puts me in a fever, it would be
misery to know her, recollect her, and live without her.

But, patience! Her pride shall first be lowered. I must command, not be
commanded: and, when my clemency is implored, I will then take time to
consider.

My brain is in a ferment, and its various engines are already in
commotion. She herself, her hated favourite, her father, her brother,
her aunt, her uncle, her maid, every creature that surrounds her must
each and all contribute to my purposes and plots. Parts fit for the
actors must be assigned. The how and what I know not yet precisely, for
I have scarcely sketched the canvas; but I have conceived some bold and
masterly strokes, and I foresee the execution must be daring and
impassioned. I am in haste to begin, and my hot oscillatory spirits can
with difficulty be tamed to the still pause of prudence and
premeditation: they are eager for the fight, and think caution a tardy
general, if not a coward.

I know not how it is, but when I am angry, very angry, I feel as if I
were in my element. My blood delights to boil, and my passions to
bubble. I hate still water. An agitated sea! An evening when the fiery
sun forebodes a stormy morning, and the black-based clouds rise, like
mountains with hoary tops, to tell me tempests are brewing! These give
emotion and delight supreme! Oh for a mistress such as I could imagine,
and such as Anna St. Ives moulded by me could make! One that could vary
her person, her pleasures, and her passions, purposely to give mine
variety! Whose daily and nightly study all should centre in me, and my
gratifications! Whose eyes should flash lightning to rouse the chilled
sensations, and shed appeasing dews to quench the fire of rage. These
are the objects in which I could delight; these the devotions I
require. Change for me. A true English day; in which winter and summer,
hail, rain, and sunshine meet and mingle.

I had almost forgotten one chief cause of my resentment; though the
most fortunate one I could have wished for to promote my purpose. This
Sir Arthur dallies with me. I find, from various items which the
candour of her mind has suffered to escape, that the motive is poverty.
I am glad of it. I will urge and hurry her into a promise to be mine.
The generosity of her temper will aid me. I will plead the injury done
me by hesitation. I feel it, and therefore my pleadings will be
natural. It is her pride to repair the wrongs which others commit. This
pride and this heroism of soul, which I must acknowledge in her are
unaffected, shall be the main engines with which I will work. Without
these perhaps I might despair; but with them hold myself secure of
victory.

Yes, lady of the high sciences, you must descend, and let my star mount
the horizon! The gathering clouds must eclipse your effulgence, while I
shine chief of the constellation!

As for the rest of the family, more or less, they are all fools;
therefore are neither to be feared nor pitied. On her perhaps I may
have compassion, when I have taught her contrition, and when she knows
me for her superior.

I have written a volume, yet have not half disburthened my labouring
mind. Oh that I could present the picture to you complete! That I could
paint her as she is; all beauty, all excellence, all kindness, all
frost! That I could shew the sweet enthusiast in the heyday insolence
of her power; pretending to guide, reform, humble, and subjugate me;
while love and vengeance swell my heart, hypocrisy smooths my face, and
plots innumerable busy my brain! It is a fruitful, rich, resplendent
scene; of which, Fairfax, you have no conception. Me you have known,
intimately, and are honest enough to own you have admired: but of her
all ideal tracings are contemptible!

Nor should this knight of the magic lanthorn be forgotten; this Nestor
junior; this tormenting rival--Oh how I could curse! He who stands, as
ready as if Satan had sent him, to feed the spreading flames with oil!
He fills his place on the canvas. And who knows but I may teach him,
yet, to do his office as he ought? How would it delight me! There is an
intemperance of superiority which no human patience can support, nor
any acts of kindness compensate. A triumph over her will indeed be a
triumph over him, and therefore doubly delicious!

I grant he forbears to prate of the life he gave me. But am I not
reminded of the oppressive gift every time he dares to contradict me?
Would I endure his interference as I do; would I be shouldered and
butted at, by him; would I permit his opinion to be asked, or his
dogmas to silence me, were I not burthened with this unasked benefit?

Infatuated lunatic, as I was! But I am in the school of prudence, at
present; and suppose I shall learn a little some time; though I do not
know when; since, I am told, it is not easy to learn a trade one hates.

Mean while I pay my court assiduously to the two peers, Evelyn and Fitz
Allen, who at present are both in town. Nothing must be neglected,
nothing left unprepared. Vigilance, foresight, and cunning must do
their office, and will soon be in full employment: of what kind I
cannot yet determine; or whether it must be open war or covert, or
both; but my augury predicts the scene will soon be all life, all
agitation, all enjoyment. Commotion is my element, battle my delight,
and conquest my heaven!

This is my hour of appointment: she is expecting me, yet my crowding
thoughts will with difficulty allow me to lay down the pen: they rise
in armies, and I could write world without end, and never come to an
amen. But I must begone. Adieu.

I imagine that by this time you are at Paris; or will be before the
arrival of this letter; which, according to your directions, I shall
superscribe _Poste restante._

C. CLIFTON

LETTER LXXII

_Anna Wenbourne St. Ives to Louisa Clifton_

_London, Grosvenor Street_

Need I tell my affectionate friend how great the pleasure is which I
receive from her letters, and from that free communication of thought
which so effectually tends to awaken the best emotions of mind, and
make us emulate each other's virtues? Like her I sit down, now while
memory is awake, to relate such material incidents as have happened
since last I wrote.

The anger of Clifton is softened into approbation. The most generous
minds are liable, from the acuteness of their sensibility, to be
unjust. We are once again very good friends.

Not but we have just been engaged in a very impassioned scene. The
subject of family consent was revived by him; and, as I intended, I
informed him that delay seemed inevitable.

The struggle of his feelings, when he heard it, appeared to be violent.
His exclamations were characteristic of his habitual impetuosity; the
strength of them excited sensations, and alarms, which prove the power
he has over the passions. Oh how I desire to see that power well
directed! How precious, how potent will it then become!

One thing, and only one, he vehemently affirmed, could appease the
perturbation of his mind, and preserve him from wretchedness which none
but those who felt like him could conceive--

And what, I asked, was that?--

He durst not speak it--Yet speak he must, plead he must. Should he
fail, phrensy, despair, he knew not what, be something fearful would
indubitably follow--

Again, what was it?--

Might he hope? It depended on me; and denial and distraction were the
same--

He made me shudder! And, serious when I heard it though I found his
demand to be, his manner inspired a confused dread of something
repugnant; something eminently wrong.

He ventured at last to speak. I believe he watched his moment. The
passions, Louisa, however disturbed, are always cunning. He demanded a
promise, solemn and irrevocable, to be his.

Such a promise, I answered, was unnecessary; and, if at all, could only
be given conditionally--

There were no conditions to which he was not ready to subscribe--

I replied, too much readiness denoted too little reflection; and not
fortitude sufficient to fulfil such conditions.

Fortitude could never fail him, having me not only for an example but a
reward. Again he repeated, without my promise, my sacred promise, he
really and seriously feared distraction! That this was weakness he was
ready to allow: but if it were true, and true it was, should I want
love, I yet had too much benevolence not to desire to avert
consequences which, beyond all others, are horrible to imagination.

He has surely very considerable knowledge of the human heart; for his
tone and manner produced all the effect he intended. I had foreseen the
probability of such a request, though not all the urgency with which it
was made, and had argued the question of right and wrong. My conclusion
had been that such a promise, with certain provisos, was a duty; and
accordingly I gave it; stipulating power to retract, should experience
teach us that our minds and principles could not assimilate.

At first he was not satisfied. Intreaties the most importunate that
language could supply were repeated, that I should make no such
exceptions. They were impossibilities; needless, but tormenting.
Finding however that I was resolved, he softened into acquiescence,
thanked me with all the transports which might be expected from him,
and kissed my hand. He would not have been so satisfied, had I not very
seriously repulsed the encroaching freedoms which I had lately found
him assuming; since which he is become more guarded.

What latent inconsistency is there, Louisa, in my conduct, which can
incite the alarms to which I feel myself subject? The moment I had made
the promise I shuddered; and, while acting from the strongest sense of
duty, and the most ardent desire of doing good, I felt as if the act
were reprehensible and unjust.--It is the words of Frank that are the
cause: on them my mind dwells, and painfully repeats them, as if in a
delirium: like a singing in the ear, the tolling of death-bells, or the
burthen of some tragic ditty, which memory, in its own despite, harps
upon, and mutters to itself!--'_He is certain that I act from mistaken
principles!--To the end of time he shall persist in thinking me his by
right!_'

There must be something amiss, something feeble in my mind, since the
decision of reason cannot defend me from the awe which this surely too
hasty, too positive assertion inspires! It haunts my very dreams!

Clifton left me; and, being gone, I went into the parlour. Frank was
there. He had a book in his hand, and tears in his eyes. I never beheld
a look more melancholy. Capable as he is of resisting the cowardice of
self-complaint and gloom, still there are moments, I perceive, in which
he can yield; and, sighing over others woes, can cast a retrospective
glance on self. He had been reading the Julia of Rousseau. The picture
given by St. Preux of his feelings had awakened sympathy too strong to
be resisted.

We fell into conversation. I wished to turn his thoughts into a more
cheerful channel; but my own partook too much of the same medium, not
to assimilate themselves in part to his languor.

You seem pensive, Frank. What is the subject of your meditations?

The sorrows of St. Preux, madam.

Then you are among the rocks of Meillerie? Or standing a partaker of
the danger of Julia on the dreadful precipice?

No, madam. The divine Julia is dead!--[Had you heard the sigh he gave,
Louisa--!] I am at a passage which I suspect to be still more sublime.
I am sure it is equally heart-rending.

Ay!--Which is that?

It is Clara, at the table of Wolmar; where the child, with such
simplicity, conjures up the infantine but almost perfect semblance of
the dead. If ever laughter inspired the horrors of distraction, it was
the laugh of Clara!

It is a wonderful passage. But I find you were rather contemplating the
sorrows of the friend than of the lover.

Pardon me, madam. I was considering, since the friend was thus on the
very brink of despair, what must be the force of mind which could
preserve the lover.

Friendship and love, in such minds, are the same.

Perhaps so, madam.

Can there be any doubt?

When the lover and the friend are united, the heart is reluctant to own
its feelings can be equalled.

Ought you not to avoid such a book, Frank; at least for the present?

If it led me into error; otherwise not. I think I know what were the
author's mistakes; and he not only teaches but impresses, rivets,
volumes of truth in my mind.

The recollection of what had just passed with Clifton forced itself
upon me, Louisa; it made me desirous of putting a question to Frank on
the subject, and I asked--

What is your opinion of promises?

I think them superfluous, nugatory, and therefore absurd.

Without exception?

Yes--We cannot promise to do wrong: or, if we do, cannot
perform--Neither can we, without guilt, refrain from doing right;
whether we have or have not promised.

Some glimpse of this truth, for I perceive it to be one, had shot
across my mind; but not with the perspicuity of your proposition--I am
inclined to be a rude interrogator: I have another question to ask [He
bowed]--I own you are seldom wrong, and yet I hope--[I remember,
Louisa, that I gave a deep sigh here; and it must not be concealed]--I
hope that you have been wrong, once in your life.

Madam!

But perhaps you have changed your opinion--Do you still think as you
did?--Are you still _certain that I act from mistaken principles?_ [He
instantly understood me--Had you seen his look, Louisa--!]

I am, madam.

And _shall persist to the end of time?_

To the end of time.

I could not bear it, Louisa. I burst away.

What rash impulse was it that hurried me forward to tempt this
trial?--Alas! It was the vain hope, for vain it appears to be, he might
have retracted.

My heart is too full to proceed--Heaven bless you!--Heaven bless you,
my dear friend!--You see how weak I am.

A. W. ST. IVES

LETTER LXXIII

_Frank Henley to Oliver Trenchard_

_London, Grosvenor Street_

Oliver, I must fly!--There is neither peace nor safety for me if I
remain--Resolution begins to faint under these repeated and oppressive
struggles--Life is useless, virtue inefficient, time murdered, and I
must fly!--Here I can do nothing but doubt, hope, despair, and linger
in uncertainty: my body listless, my mind incoherent, my days wasted in
vain reveries on absurd possibilities, and my nights haunted by the
confused phantoms of a disturbed and sickly brain!--I must fly!

But whither?--I know not!--If I mean to be truly master of my
affections, seas must separate us! Impossibility must be made more
impossible!--'Tis that, Oliver, which kills me, that ignis fatuus of
false hope--Were she even married, if her husband were not immortal, I
feel as if my heart would still dwell and feed on the meagre May-be! It
refuses to renounce her, and makes a thousand and a thousand efforts to
oblige me again to urge its just claims.

I am in the labyrinth of contradictions, and know not how to get out.
My own feelings, my remarks on hers, the looks, actions and discourse
of this dangerous lover are all embroiled, all incongruous, all
illusory. I seem to tempt her to evil by my stay, him I offend, and
myself I torment--I must therefore begone!

Oliver, our hearts are united!--Truth and principle have made them one,
and prejudice and pride have not the power to dissever them!--She
herself feels this intimately, yet persists in her mistake. I think,
Oliver, it is not what the world or what she understands by love which
occasions this anarchy of mind. I think I could command and reprove my
passions into silence. Either I mistake myself, or even now, situated
as I am, I could rejoice were there a certainty, nay were there but
strong probabilities, that her favourite purpose on Clifton should be
effected. But the more I meditate, and my hours, days, and weeks pass
away and are lost in meditation on this subject, the more does my mind
persist in its doubts, and my heart in its claims.

Surely, Oliver, she is under a double mistake! Surely her reasonings
both on him and me are erroneous.

I must be honest, Oliver, and tell thee all my feelings, fears, and
suspicions. They may be false. I hope they are, but they exist. I
imagine I perceive in him repeated and violent struggles to appear what
he is not, nay what I doubt he would despise himself for being!

Is not this an unjustifiable, a cruel accusation? Why have I this keen
this jealous sensibility? Is it not dishonourable to my understanding?

Yet should there be real danger, and I blind to it! Should I neglect to
warn her, or rather to guard and preserve her from harm, where shall I
find consolation?

Oliver! There are times when these fears haunt me so powerfully that my
heart recoils, my blood freezes, and my whole frame is shaken with the
terrific dream!--A dream?--Yes, it must be a dream! If not, the
perversion of his mind and the obduracy of his heart are to me wholly
incomprehensible!

I must be more guarded--Wrongfully to doubt were irreparably to injure!
My first care must be to be just.

Mark, Oliver, how these wanderings of the mind mislead and torment me!
One minute I must fly, to recover myself, and not to disturb and
way-lay others; the next I must stay, to protect her who perhaps is
best able to protect herself!

I have no plan: I labour to form one in vain. That single channel into
which my thoughts are incessantly impelled is destructive of all order
and connexion. The efforts of the understanding are assassinated by the
emotions of the heart; till the reproaches of principle become
intolerable, and the delusions of hope distracting!--A state of such
painful inutility is both criminal and absurd.

The kindness of the father, brother, and aunt, the sympathising
tenderness which bursts from and overcomes the benign Anna, the delay
of the marriage--Oliver!--I was recapitulating the seeming inspirations
of my good angel, and have conjured up my chief tormentor!--This
delay!--Where does it originate?--With whom?--With--! I must fly!--This
of all motives is the most irrefragable! I must fly!--But when, or how,
or where, what I must undertake, whither go, or what become, is yet all
vague and incoherent conjucture.

F. HENLEY

LETTER LXXIV

_Sir Arthur St. Ives to Abimelech Henley_

_London, Grosvenor Street_

Mr. Henley,

It is now some time since I received your letter. It astonished and I
must say offended me so much, that I do not yet know what answer to
return. You say I have thrown you into a quandary, Mr. Henley; and I
can very sincerely return your compliment, Mr. Henley; for nothing can
be more unintelligible than your whole letter is to me, Mr. Henley. And
I must say, I think it not very grateful in you, Mr. Henley, nor in my
opinion very proper, to write me such a letter, Mr. Henley; that is as
far as I understand its meaning, Mr. Henley. I have no desire, Mr.
Henley, to quarrel with you, if I can help it; but I must say I think
you have forgotten yourself, Mr. Henley. It is very unlike the manner
in which you have been used to comport yourself to me, Mr. Henley; for,
if I understand you rightly, which I own it is very difficult to do,
you threaten me with foreclosures, Mr. Henley; which I must say, Mr.
Henley, is very improper demeanour from you to me, Mr. Henley. Not that
I seek a rupture with you, Mr. Henley; though I must say that all this
lies very heavy upon my mind, Mr. Henley.

You insinuate that you are grown rich, I think, Mr. Henley. So much the
better for you. And you seem to know, Mr. Henley, that I am grown poor:
or I think, Mr. Henley, you would not have written to me in a style
which I could almost be tempted to call impertinent, but that I wish to
avoid a quarrel with you, Mr. Henley, unless you force me to it. There
is law as you say, Mr. Henley, for every man; but law is a very fretful
and indeed fearful thing, to which you know I am averse, Mr. Henley.
Not but there are proceedings, Mr. Henley, which may lead me to
consider how far it is necessary.

I must say, Mr. Henley, that my astonishment is very great, after
writing me word, as you did, that I might have the money, which I took
very kindly of you, that you should now contradict yourself so
flagrantly [I am obliged to repeat it, Mr. Henley] and tell me it is
not to be had. What you mean by the whats, and the whys, and the
wherefores being forthcoming, is really above my capacity, Mr. Henley;
and I request you would speak plainly, that I may give a plain answer.

You say you can keep your hat on your head, and look your betters in
the face, Mr. Henley. May be so. But I leave it to your better judgment
to consider, Mr. Henley, whether you ought to forget that they are your
betters.

There are indeed, as you tell me, wheels within wheels, Mr. Henley; for
I find that you, and not my son, are in possession of the Edgemoor
estate. God bless us all, and give us clean hands and hearts, Mr.
Henley! I say no more! Though I must say that, when I heard it, my hair
almost stood an end!

You talk a great deal about somebody's son, Mr. Henley. You have
puzzled me much; but I think you must mean your own son. Though what
you mean beside is more than I can divine. I am very unwilling, Mr.
Henley, to think any thing to your disadvantage; and I must say that I
could wish you would not speak by ifs, and ands, and innuendos; but let
me know at once what you mean, and all you mean, and then I shall know
how to act.

Your son, I own, is a very excellent young gentleman; a very
extraordinary young gentleman; and no person can be more ready to
acknowledge his merits than I, and my whole family. You seem offended
with my offer of a commission for him; which I own astonishes me; for I
must say, Mr. Henley, that I thought I was doing you an act of
kindness. Not that I blame your prudence, sir; or your aversion to the
prodigal spendthrifts, who too frequently are fond of red coats and
cockades, which are so offensive to your notions of prosperity.

I am not unwilling to own that I, and all my family, are even under
obligations to your son. For which reason I am the more inclined to
overlook what I must say does not please me, in your last very
unexpected letter. Let me tell you, Mr. Henley, that I cannot but hope
you will think better of it; and that you will use your kind endeavours
to get me the money, according to your promise, which I shall take very
friendly of you, sir; and shall be willing to do any thing for your
son, in that case, for your sake as well as for his own, which reason
can require.

I beg, Mr. Henley, you will consider very seriously of this; and I
should hope you would not forget former times, and the very many
favours which, in my life, I have done you. I do assure you, sir, I
have the utmost desire to continue on a good understanding with you;
but I think I have some right to expect your compliance from motives of
reason, not to say of gratitude. So, committing this to your
consideration, and expecting an agreeable answer, I remain, sir, as
usual,

A. ST. IVES

LETTER LXXV

_Abimelech Henley to Sir Arthur St. Ives_

Most Onnurable Sir,

_Wenbourne-Hill_

It doth appear as how your onnur be amisst. Whereby I did a partly a
queery as much; thof so be as it be no fault of mine. For why? There be
reasons and causes. For when as a man has a nothink to fear of nobody,
I am of a mind that a may pen his thofts to any man. Why not? Always a
savin and exceptin your onnurable onnur.

And ast for a man's a portin himself, there be times and seasons for
all thinks. Whereof as Friar Bacon said to Friar Bungy and of the
Brazen-head, A time was--A time is--And a time is past. And ast for a
threatening about foreclosures, why what have I to say to a gentleman,
if a will not redeem his mortgages when the time be? The law must look
to it, to be sure. Always a savin and exceptin your onnurable onnur,
still say I. So that it be altogether compus mentus that quarrels and
rupturs are none of my seekin. Whereby your onnurable onnur will look
to that. No man can deny that every man has a rite to his own. For why?
A pays scot and lot, and has a nothink for it but law.

And ast for a man's a growin of rich, why as I do take it a's a not the
worse for that. And ast for a man's a growin of poor, why a what had I
to do, thof so be that some be wise and some be otherwise? Whereof so
long as the rhino do ring, the man is the man, and the master's the
master. A's a buzzard in grain that do flicker, and fleer, and tell a
gentleman a be no better nur a bob gudgeon, a cause a do send the
yellow hammers a flying; for thof it might a be happen to be true
enough, a would get small thanks for his pains. Every man eat his meat,
and he that do like cut his fingers. The foolish hen cackles, and the
cunning quean chuckles. For why? A has her chalk and her nest egg
ready. Whereof I tout and trump about at no man, an a do not tout and
trump about at me. Always a savin and exceptin your onnurable onnur;
and not a seekin of quarrels and rupturs, an they do not seek me.
Otherwise, why so. Plain and positive; that's best, when a man do find
the shoe to pinch.

And ast for law, why he that has a got the longest head will have a
most on't for money: and he that has a got the longest purse will
behappen not to be the first to cry peccavi. Whereof if a man do don
his hat on his head, an a see good cause, why not? For I do a warrant a
will see good cause, an a do doff it under his arm.

Whereby every why has a wherefore. Any fool can a put down his five
nothings; but a's a clever kinchin an a can place a so much as a I
afore 'em. Whereof the first frost that brings a white crow may, in
sitch a case, behappen to shew him his betters. For why? A's a got
wherewithall to get more: and a knows the trick on't too, or a would a
never a got so much. Whereby an it comes to a huff an a gruff, a may
not chuse to be arm a kimbo'd, any more nur another; for a may be
happen to have a Rowland for an Oliver. A may behappen to be no
Jack-a-farthin weazle-faced whipster. A may have stock and block to go
to work upon; and may give a rum for a glum: always a savin and
exceptin your onnurable onnur. Showin whereby as I want no quarrels nur
rupturs, but peace and good will towards men, if so be as the whys and
the wherefores do a bear me out.

Whereof thof a man be but a Mister, a may behappen to buy and sell a
knight of the shire: that is under favour, and a savin and exceptin of
your onnurable onnur. For why? I be as ready to a quit my hands of
quarrels and rupturs as another.

Whereby if the Edgemoor estate be mine, why it is my own. For why? Bein
it was my cash that a covered it. Whereof his younk onnur was all a
mort, and a down in the mouth, when a did come to me. The world was
wide, and a might a gone further and a fared worse. A's a dolt indeed
that will part with money, and not have money's worth. Whereby I had a
bin starvin, and pinchin, and scrapin, and coilin, and moilin; in heat
and in cold; up a early and down a late; a called here and a sent
there; a bidden and a chidden, and a forbidden to boot; every body's
slave forsooth; whereby I am now my own master. Why not? Who can gain
say it? Mayhap a savin and exceptin of your onnurable onnur; witch is
as it may be. For why? I wants a nothink to do with quarrels and
rupturs, no more nur another; but that's as thinks shall turn out.

Whereby one man's hair mayhap may stand an end as well as another's,
exceptin that I wears a wig. An I give the kole, I'll have the dole.
And ast for somebody's son, if so be as a man be to be twitted a thisn,
after all the gunpowder pistols and bullets, and scowerins, and firms,
and bleedins, and swimmins, and sinkins, and risks, and rubs, and sea
scapes, and shore scapes, at home and abroad, by land and by water, and
savins of precious lives and precious cash, why if so be as all this be
to stand for nothink, it is a time for a man to look about'n.

To be sure your onnur is so good as to say my son is a younk gentleman,
and so forth. Whereby this gracious and ever mercy fool lovin kindness
would go to the cockles of my heart; ay and my chitterlins would crow,
and I should sing O be joyfool, if so be as I did find as words wus any
think but wind. Whereof when your onnurable onnur is compulsionated,
willy nilly, to be so all bountifool as to profess to the ownin of
obligations, why that is summut. But fair speeches wonnot heal broken
pates; and a mouthfool of moonshine will send a man hungry to bed.
Promise may be a fair dog, but Performance will catch the hare.

Whereby had thinks a bin as they might a bin, why then indeed it would
a bin summut. But as to the wherewithalls of the twenty thousand
pounds, being as it be, why the think is unpossable to be done. For
why? The case is altered. Whereof it is best to be downright. Will is
free, and money for me.

Whereby this marriage match with the Clifton family, had my oar bin
asked, would never a bin of my advizin. For why? I shall not give my
lard to butter my neighbour's bacon.

And ast for favours received, why may be so. But what then? Since if so
be thof it wus sometimes fair, why it wus sometimes foul. And a good
man may behappen to be all as much as a good master. And if a man have
a spent his whole lifetime in a pickin, and a cullin, and a coinin, and
a furbishin up fine words, to tickle the ears of fine folks, why a
ought in all conscience to get the wherewithalls for his pains. For if
an a gentleman will eat pine apples a must not expect to pay for
pippins. Always as aforesaid a savin and exceptin your onnurable onnur.
So that if quarrels and rupturs will come, they may not a be said to be
of my seekin.

Bein as I am, ever and amen, with all pious jakillations and jubilees
of blessins and praise, never failin to pray for due time to repent us
of all our manifold sins and wickedness, God of his mercy be good unto
us, and save us and deliver us, on our death bed, from the everlastin
flamin sulphur of the burnin lake. Amen, an it be his holy will!
Umbelly beggin leave to superscribe meself,

ABIMELECH HENLEY

LETTER LXXVI

_Anna Wenbourne St. Ives to Louisa Clifton_

_London, Grosvenor Street_

I have had a scene with Frank, which affected me much, and which has
occasioned another quarrel, or kind of a quarrel, with Clifton. Sir
Arthur had just left the room. He had been asking Frank whether there
were any possible way by which he could serve him. We all were his
debtors; very deeply; and he should be happy to find any mode of
discharging the obligation. Sir Arthur spoke with an earnestness which,
in him, is by no means customary. But Frank had nothing to ask, nothing
to propose.

I was sitting at my harpsichord, amusing myself; and, Sir Arthur being
gone, stopped to tell Frank how sincerely I joined in Sir Arthur's
feelings.

I have nothing, madam, said he, to hope from Sir Arthur: but to you I
have a request to make, which you would greatly oblige me should you
grant--

I trembled, Louisa. I was afraid of some new contest of the passions; a
revival of ideas which I myself had so lately, and so inadvertently,
called to mind. I am persuaded the blood forsook my cheeks, when I
asked him what it was: for Frank, with a tenderness in his voice that
was indeed honourable to his heart, prayed, conjured me not to be
alarmed--It was a trifle--He would be silent--He would not give me a
moment's pain to gratify a million of such silly wishes.

He both moved and revived me. It could not be any thing very dreadful,
and I entreated him to speak. There was nothing he could ask I would
refuse.

He hesitated, and I then became urgent. At last he named--His
song!--Again, Louisa, he almost struck me to the heart!--He feared he
offended me; but there was something so enchanting in the air that he
could not forget it, could not resist the wish to possess a copy.

It was impossible to refuse. I went to my papers, and brought it. The
evil spirit of thoughtlessness possessed me, and when I delivered it I
asked--Is there any thing else?--

Your kindness, madam, said he, is unalterable. Could I?--Durst I--?

What?--

He paused--

Speak!--

He laid the song upon the music-desk, and looked----No no--I will not
attempt to tell you how!

Words were needless; they could not petition with such eloquence--A
barbarian could not have refused. I rambled over the keys, hemmed, and
endeavoured to collect myself. At last a sense of propriety, of reason,
of principle, came to my aid, and bade me be master of my mind. I began
to sing, but no effort could enable me to give that expression of which
I had before found the words so susceptible.

Could you think it, Louisa? Do you now foresee, do you forebode what
happened?--Your brother came in!--

To have stopped, to have used evasion, to have had recourse to
falsehood would have turned an act of virtue into contemptible vice. I
continued. Clifton came and looked over my shoulder. The music was on
one sheet of paper, the words were on another, in the writing of Frank.
Your brother knew the hand.

When I had ended, Frank took both the papers, thanked me, and retired.
I could perceive the eyes of Clifton sparkle with emotion; I might
almost say rage. He would have spoken, but could not; and I knew not
how safely to begin.

At length, a consciousness of not having done or at least intended to
do wrong gave me courage. I determined not to wait to be questioned: I
asked him how he liked the song.

Oh! Exceedingly!--It was very fine!--Very fine!

The words are Mr. Henley's.

I imagined as much, madam.

I thought them expressive, and amused myself with putting a tune to
them.

I am as good as a witch!

How did you like the subject?

What subject, madam?

Of the words.

I really don't know--I have forgotten--

Nay, you said you thought them very fine! Oh! Yes!--True!--Very
fine!--All about love--I recollect.

Well, and having so much faith in love, you do not think them the worse
for that.

Oh, by no means!--But I thought you had.

Love in a song may be pardonable.

Especially, madam, if the song be written by Mr. Henley.

Clifton!--You almost teach me to despair!--You do not know me!--Perhaps
however I am more to blame than you, at present. Timidity has given me
some appearance of conscious guilt, which my heart disavows. But, as
there is scarcely any error more dangerous to felicity than suspicion,
I own I am sorry to see you so frequently its slave. Never think of
that woman for a wife, in whom you cannot confide. And ask yourself
whether I ought to marry a man who cannot discover that I merit his
confidence?

I find, indeed, implicit faith to be as necessary in love as in
religion--But you know your power, madam.

An indifferent spectator would rather say you know yours.

You will not go, madam, and leave me thus?

I must.

In this misery?

I have letters to write, and visits to pay.

You cannot be so cruel?--By heaven, madam, this torment is more than
nature can support!

Less impetuosity, Clifton; less raptures, and more reason.

You would have me rock, madam! Unfeeling marble!

I would have you a man; a rational, and, if possible, a wise one. Stay
at least for a moment!--Hear me!--Do not leave me in these doubts!

What doubts?--Do I not tell you the words are Mr. Henley's? The air is
mine. If setting them were any guilt, it is a guilt of which I am not
conscious. Shew me that it is criminal and I will instantly retract. We
must either overcome these narrow, these selfish propensities, or we
shall hope in vain to be happy.

I--I--I make no accusation--

Do but examine before you accuse, and I will patiently hear and
cheerfully answer to accusation. If you think it wrong in me not to
treat virtue and genius with neglect, bring me your proofs, and if I
cannot demonstrate their fallacy I will own my error. Let me add, the
accusation of reason is a duty; from which, though painful, we ought
not to shrink. It is the mistaken accusation of the passions only at
which justice bids the heart revolt.

Here, Louisa, once again I left him, with struggles apparently more
acute than the former. And my own mind is so affected, so oppressed as
it were by crowds of ideas, that I do not yet know whether this were an
accident to be wished, or even whether I have entirely acted as I
ought. My mind will grow calmer, and I will then begin the scrutiny.

I am minute in relating these particulars, because I am very desirous
of doing right. And who is so capable of being my judge, or who so
anxious I should not err, as my dear Louisa, my friend, my sister?

All good be with you!

A. W. ST. IVES

LETTER LXXVII

_Coke Clifton to Guy Fairfax_

_London, Dover-Street_

Oh, Fairfax, if my choler rose when last I wrote, where shall I now
find words hot enough to paint the phrensy of my soul?--How could I
rage and rave!--Is it come to this?--So barefaced!--So fearless!--So
unblushingly braved!--

Fairfax, I came upon them!--By surprise!--My alert and watchful spirit,
an adept in such arts, accustomed to them, and rendered suspicious by
practice and experience, foreboded some such possibility--My knock at
the door was counterfeit. I strode up stairs to the drawing-room,
three steps at a time--Swiftly and suddenly--I opened the door--There
they sat!--Alone!--She singing a miserable ditty, a bead-roll of
lamentable rhymes, strung together by this Quidam!--This
Henley!--Nay!--Oh!--Damnation!--Read and tremble!--Read and aid me to
curse!--Set by her!--Ay!--A ballad--A love complaint--A most doleful
woe-begone elegy; of sorrows, sufferings, fate, despair, and death;
scribbled by him, and set and sung by her!--By her!--For his comfort,
his solace, his pleasure, his diversion!--I caught them at it!--Nay
they defied me, despised the wrath that drank up the moisture of my
eyes, blazed in my blood, and scorched my very soul!--

And after this will I blench? Will I recant the denunciations which
legitimate vengeance had pronounced?--

Fairfax--I am not certain that I do not hate her!--No!--Angelic
sorceress!--It is not hatred, neither--But it is a tumult, a congregate
anarchy of feelings which I cannot unravel; except that the first
feature of them is revenge!--Roused and insulted as I am, not all her
blandishments can dazzle, divert, or melt me! Were mountains to be
moved, dragons to be slain, or lakes of liquid fire to be traversed, I
would encounter all to attain my end!--Yes--My romance shall equal
hers. No epic hero, not Orpheus, Aeneas, or Milton's Lucifer himself,
was ever more determined. I could plunge into Erebus, and give
battle to the legion phantoms of hell, to accomplish my fixed
purpose!--Fixed!--Fixed!--Hoot me, hiss at me, despise me if I turn
recreant! No--Then may all who ever heard the name of Coke Clifton make
it their byword and their scoff; and every idiot curl the nose and
snuff me to scorn!

Recollect but the various affronts I have received, Fairfax, from her
and [Oh patience!] Her inamorato! For is he not so?--Wrongs, some of
which irritate most because they could not be resented; insults, some
petty some gigantic, which ages could not obliterate; call these to
mind, and then think whether my resolves be not rock-built! Insolent
intrusion has been his part from the first moment to the last. The
prince of upstarts, man could not abash him, nor naked steel affright!
On my first visit, entrance was denied by him! Permission was asked of
a gardener's son, and the gardener's son sturdily refused! I argued! I
threatened!--I!--And arguments and threats were so much hot breath, but
harmless! Attempts to silence or to send him back to his native barn
alike were baffled; and I, who planned his removal, was constrained to
petition for his stay. Yes, constrained!--It was do it, or!--Oh!--Be
faithful to me, memory!--He was elected president of opinions and
disputes, past, present and to come. Appeals must all be made to him,
and his sentence was definitive. Law or gospel, physics or metaphysics;
himself alone superior to college, court, or convocation. Before him
sunk scholiast and schools. In his presence the doctors all must stand
uncapped: the seraphic, the subtle, and the singular; the illuminated,
the angelic, and the irrefragable to him, were tyros all. Our censor
in private, and in public our familiar: like a malignant demon, no
respect, no place, no human barriers could exclude him. On no side
could the offended eye turn, and not find him there. Disgraced by his
company, counteracted by his arrogance, insulted by his sarcasms;
obliged to accept the first of favours, life, at his hands; his
apparent inferior in the moment of danger; my ministry rejected for
his, nay contemned, in a case where the gentleman, the man of the
world, and the man of honour merited undoubted preference; and, as the
climax of injury, wronged in my love!--Rivalled!--Furies!--

And she!--Has she been less contumelious, less annoyant, less
tormenting?--His advocate, his abettor, his adulator, with me only
she was scrupulous and severe. I generously and almost instantly
forgot all former resolves, and would have thrown myself into her
arms--Unconditionally--I, who had been accustomed to give the law,
not to receive. I assumed not the dictator. I, whose family, courage,
person, and parts have made me a favourite with the brave and fair,
though flushed with success, far from claiming superiority, I came to
cast myself, my freedom, and my trophies at her feet--Came, and was
rejected! Bargained with at least; put off with ifs and possibilities!

I must stop--Must think no more--Or the hurrying blood will burst my
veins, or suffocate my swelling heart, and impede just retribution for
these and all my other thousand wrongs, which only can be avenged by
calm and subtle foresight--Yet think not that the smallest of them is
forgotten--Oh no!--

Well then, calm will I be; for I can be, will be any thing rather than
not attain this supreme of pleasures, divine vengeance! Yes, anger must
be bridled: it has now a second time made me tread backward more than
all the steps I had taken in advance. My brain is labouring for some
certain and uniform plan, but is at present so disturbed that thought
can preserve no settled train.

Previous to this second childish overflow of passion [for if I would
succeed childish it is] I had played a master stroke, in which indeed I
must own passion was for once my best ally. With most ardent
importunity, I with great difficulty wrested a promise from her to be
mine. These romancers, Fairfax, hold love promises to be binding and
sacred. And this obtained I thought a fair foundation for my fabric.

The current of my thoughts is now wholly turned to this subject. A
thousand manoeuvres crowding present themselves; nor can I say how many
must be employed. I have generally found my brain rich in expedients,
and I think it will not fail me now. I recollect having mentioned the
maid, Laura: she is secured, and has been for some time past. The
fondness of the fool with one less expert would be dangerous; but I
have taught her to rail at me occasionally to her mistress, and to
praise the favorite, who has never lately been any great favorite with
her, having as I guess overlooked her when she had kinder inclinations.
She was tickled with the contrivance, which promised to secure her so
well from the suspicion of her mistress, and she acts her part
tolerably. In fact her mistress seems a being without suspicion,
superior to it, and holding it in contempt--So much the better!

This fellow, this king of the cucumber-beds must be removed. I know
not yet the means, but they must be found. Present he is dangerous;
absent he may perhaps be taught to act his part with safety and effect.
My ideas are not yet methodised, but I have a confused foresight of
various modes by which this and much more may and must be accomplished.

But no common efforts can be successful--Deep--Deep must be the plot by
which she is to be over-reached, the pit into which she must fall: and
deep it therefore shall be. There is no art I will not practise, no
restraint to which I will not submit, no desperate expedient to which I
will not have recourse to gratify my soul's longing--I will be
revenged!--The irrevocable decree is gone forth--I will be
revenged!--Fairfax, you soon shall hear of me and my proceedings.
Farewell.

C. CLIFTON

LETTER LXXVIII

_Anna Wenbourne St. Ives to Louisa Clifton_

_London, Grosvenor Street_

This letter, dear friend of my heart, is begun in a very melancholy
mood. How easy it is to undertake; how difficult to overcome! With
what facility did I say to myself--Thus will I do, and thus--How firmly
did I promise! Truth appeared so beautiful, so captivating, so
omnipotent, that armed by her an infant could not but conquer.
Perseverance alone was requisite, and I could persevere. The solid
basis of the earth should almost shake ere I would waver!--Poor, vain
creature!--Surely, Louisa, we are not all so--Heaven forbid!--

Why am I thus? Why does my heart faint within me? Indeed, Louisa, I
begin to fear I have vaunted of powers I do not possess; and prescribed
to myself duties too dignified, too mighty for me--And must I abandon
an enterprise I deemed so noble?--I have meditated on it, Louisa, till
I could weep--

I will not yet despair. At least one effort more, and a strong one, I
will make--Alas! I am weary of this promising. My braggart strength is
impotency, or little better. But I will do my best; and truth,
sincerity, and good intent must be my trust.

My present determination is to relate to your brother all that has
passed between me and Frank. I will once more state my feelings, my
principles, and my plan. The purity of my heart must be my shield. To
contend thus is painful; yet most willingly would I contend, were it
productive of the good at which I aim. But instead of gaining ground I
seem to lose. Oh that I were more wise, that I better knew the human
heart, and that I well could wield the too gigantic weapons of truth!
But I fear they are above my force, and pity my own imbecility.

The hour of appointment is come. Clifton will soon be here. I have been
preparing my mind, taxing my memory, and arranging my thoughts. Oh that
this effort may be more successful than the past! Did he but know all
the good I wish him, his heart would surely not feel anger--He shall
not die, said Frank!--Can I forget it?--How did my soul glow within me,
when, hopeless but the moment before, I beheld nature again struggling
for existence, and returning life once more stir in the convulsive lip!
How did my ears tingle with--'He shall not die!'--I saw a noble quality
exerted, and thought it was but to wish and to have, to imitate and to
succeed--The brother of my Louisa!--A mind too that might out-soar the
eagle, and gaze on the sun of truth!

There must be some cause for my failure, if I fail--With true
simplicity of heart I can say, most earnestly do I wish to do right:
most ardently would I endeavour to prove myself a friend worthy of
Louisa Clifton, and of Frank Henley!--Perhaps the latter is the
cause?--If I have done him wrong, Heaven forgive me! For I think, were
I convicted of it, I could not forgive myself!

The servant has told me Clifton is below. I must take a few minutes to
breathe--I must collect myself. Oh for the tongues of mediating angels!

A. W. ST. IVES

LETTER LXXIX

_Anna Wenbourne St. Ives to Louisa Clifton_

_London, Grosvenor Street_

When last my Louisa heard from me, my mind was depressed. I almost
despaired of the great task I had undertaken. I had likewise an
immediate duty, a disburthening of my soul, a kind of confession of
facts to make, from which education has falsely accustomed us to shrink
with pain, and my spirits were overclouded. This rigorous duty is
performed; hope again begins to brighten, and my eased heart now feels
more light and cheerful.

Not but it still is tremulous with the sensations by which it has just
been thrilled. I seem to have risen from one of the most interesting
and I believe I may add awful scenes, in which I have ever been
engaged. The recesses of the soul have been searched; that no
retrospective accusation of want of absolute and perfect candour might,
as of late it too often has done, rise to assault me.

I found Clifton in the parlour. His look was more composed, more
complacent, and remarkably more thoughtful than it had lately been. I
began with stating that the feelings of my heart required every act,
every thought of mine, that had any relation whatever to him, should be
fully and explicitly known. I conjured him to have the goodness to
determine not to interrupt me; that I might perform this office, clear
my conscience, and shew my heart unveiled, undisguised, exactly as it
was; and that he might at once reject it, if it were either unworthy
his acceptance or incompatible with his principles.

He promised compliance and kept his word. I never knew him a listener
so long, or with such mute patience. I had as I may say studied the
discourse which I made to him, and which I thus began.

It will not be my intention, Mr. Clifton, in what I am going to say, to
appear better or worse than I am. Should I be partial to myself, I wish
you to detect me. There is nothing I so much desire as a knowledge of
my own failings. This knowledge, were it truly attained, would make the
worst of us angels. Our prejudices, our passions, and our ignorance
alone deceive us, and persuade us that wrong is right.

I have before acquainted you of the project of Mrs. Clifton and Sir
Arthur, for our union. I have told you of the unfeigned friendship, the
high admiration, and the unbounded love I have for your sister: or in
other words for her virtues. A short acquaintance shewed me that your
mind had all the capacity to which the most ardent of my hopes aspired.
It had indeed propensities, passions, and habits, which I thought
errors; but not incurable. The meanest of us have our duties to fulfil,
which are in proportion to our opportunities, and our power. I imagined
that a duty of a high but possible nature presented itself, and called
upon me for performance.

You no doubt will smile at my vanity, but I must be sincere. By
instruction, by conversation, and by other accidents, it appeared to me
that I had been taught some high and beneficial truths and principles;
which you, by contrary instruction, conversation, and accidents, had
not attained. Convinced that truth is irresistible, I trusted in the
power of these truths rather than of myself, and said here is a mind to
which I am under every moral obligation to impart them, because I
perceive it equal to their reception. The project therefore of our
friends was combined with these circumstances, which induced me
willingly to join their plan; and to call my friend sister was an
additional and delightful motive. It appeared like strengthening those
bonds between us which I believe no human force can break.

An obstacle or rather the appearance of an obstacle somewhat
unexpectedly arose. From my childhood I had been in part a witness of
the rising virtues of young Mr. Henley. Difference of sex, of
situation, and of pursuits, prevented us till lately from being
intimate. I had been accustomed to hear him praised, but knew not all
the eminence with which it was deserved. He was my supposed inferior,
and it is not very long since I myself entertained some part of that
prejudice. I know myself now not to be his equal.

A recollection of combining circumstances convinced me that he had for
some time, and before I suspected it, thought on me with partiality. He
believes there is great affinity in our minds; he avows it, and with a
manly courage becoming his character, which abhors dissimulation, has
since confessed an affection for me; nay has affirmed that unless I
have conceived some repugnance to him, which I have not nor ever can
conceive, I ought as a strict act of justice to myself and him to
prefer him before any other.

I should acknowledge the cogency of the reasons he assigns, and
certainly entertain such a preference, did it not appear to me that
there are opposing and irreconcileable claims and duties. It is my
principle, and perhaps still more strongly his, that neither of us must
live for ourselves, but for society. In the abstract our principle is
the same; but in the application we appear to differ. He thinks that
the marriage of two such people can benefit society at large. I am
persuaded that the little influence which it would have in the world
would be injurious, and in some sort fatal to the small circle for
which I seem to exist, and over which my feeble influence can extend.

For these reasons only, and in compliance with what I believe to be the
rigorous but inflexible injunctions of justice, have I rejected a man
whom I certainly do not merit: a man whose benevolent heart, capacious
mind, and extraordinary virtues are above my praise, and I almost fear
beyond my attainment.

My memory will not furnish me with every word and incident that have
passed between us; and if it would such repetition would be tedious.
But I wish you clearly to understand that Mr. Henley has made these
declarations to me: that my mode of acting and my reasons have been
such as I have mentioned; that I am not myself so perfectly satisfied
with these reasons but that I sometimes am subject to recurring doubts;
and that I do at present and while I have thought or sense shall
continue to admire his genius and his virtue.

If what he has said or what I have done be offensive to you, if you
cannot think highly of him and innocently of me, if my thoughts
concerning him can possibly be stained with a criminal tinge in your
eyes, it becomes you, and I now most solemnly call upon you, as a man
disdaining deceit, at once to say so, and here to break off all further
intercourse. Esteem, nay revere him I do and ever must; and instead of
being guilty for this, my principles tell me the crime would be to
esteem and revere him less.

I trust in the frankness of my heart for the proof of its sincerity. My
determination is to have a clear and unspotted conscience. Purity of
mind is a blessing beyond all price; and it is that purity only which
is genuine or of any value. The circumstance I am going to relate may
to you appear strange, and highly reprehensible--Be it so.--It must be
told.

We never had but one conversation in which the subject of marriage, as
it related to him and me, was directly and fairly debated. He then
behaved as he has done always with that sincerity, consistency, and
fortitude, by which he is so peculiarly characterised. A conversation
so interesting, in which a man of such uncommon merit was to be
rejected by a woman who cannot deny him to be her superior, could not
but awaken all the affections of the heart. I own that mine ached in
the discharge of its duties, and nothing but the most rooted
determination to abide by those duties could have steeled it to
refusal--It was a cruel fortitude!

But while it ached it overflowed; and to you more especially than to
any other person upon earth, I think it necessary to say that, at a
moment when the feeling of compassion and the dread of being unjust
were excited most powerfully in my bosom, paradoxical as it may seem,
my zeal to demonstrate the integrity and innocence of my mind induced
me to--kiss him!

I scarcely can proceed----There are sensations almost too strong to be
subdued--The mind with difficulty can endure that mistake, that
contortion, which can wrest guilt out of the most sublime of its
emanations--However, if it were a crime, of that crime I am guilty--I
pretend not to appear other than I am; and what I am it is necessary at
this moment that you should know.

This conversation and this incident happened on the day on which you
met him in the corridor, coming from my chamber. A day, Mr. Clifton,
worthy of your remembrance and of your emulation; for it afforded some
of the strongest proofs of inflexible courage of which man is at
present capable. He had been robbed of the hope dearest to his heart,
had been rejected by the woman he had chosen to be the friend and
companion of his life, had been enjoined the task of doing all possible
good to his rival, which he had unconditionally promised, and he left
her to--receive a blow from this rival's hand!

Far be it from me, Mr. Clifton, to wish to give you pain, or insult
your feelings!--Oh no!--I retrace the picture only because I think it
one of the most instructive lessons, for private life, the stores of
memory can supply.

I must further inform you that but a few days ago I questioned him,
whether he had not changed his opinion concerning me; hoping that after
mature reflection he might have thought, as I do, that to refuse him
was a duty. But he persists in believing it to be an error. He does not
however obtrude his thoughts upon me: on the subject of love an
anchorite could not be more silent, or a brother more delicate. That
one conversation excepted, he has made no further attempts. A few words
were indirectly said, when, as I have just told you, I questioned him;
but they were excited by me.

With respect to the song, at which you have last taken offence, its
brief history is that it was written, or at least first seen by me,
soon after our arrival in France. I found it on my music-desk; and I
dare affirm it had been left there by mistake, not design. I supposed
it to be his from the hand-writing; and I set it because it affected
me.

The day on which you found me singing it to him was the first on which
it was ever mentioned by him to me; and then, after he had been pressed
by Sir Arthur to know how he could serve him, a copy of it was begged
from me as the only favour the family could bestow!--He has done us
many favours! Favours which we shall never have an opportunity to
repay! Though my hands are impotent, ere my thoughts can be restrained
from being just to his worth I must be convinced there is guilt in
those thoughts.

How to address myself now personally to you, Mr. Clifton, I scarcely
know. The world perhaps would call my views extravagant, my pretensions
impertinent, and my plan absurd.--The world must do its will--In the
progress toward truth, I have presumed to think you several steps
behind me. I have proposed to myself in some sort to be your
instructress. I have repeated my plan to the person whom you perhaps
may consider as your rival; I have required his aid, and have avowed
that I think him very considerably your superior. Each and all of these
may be and I suppose are offensive; but the proceedings of rectitude
never can be dark, hidden, and insidious. When I have said all that I
think of you I should hope you will be more inclined to believe me
equitable.

There are many leading principles in which we differ; and concerning
which till we agree to proceed to marriage would be culpable. These you
were at first eager to examine; but finding the side you took not so
clear and well-established as you had imagined, displeased by
contradiction, and, in the spirit of that gallantry which you profess
to admire, being willing to appear complaisant to the female to whom
you pay your addresses, you have lately declined discussion. You think
no doubt that the lover ought to yield, and the husband to command;
both of which I deny. Husband, wife, or lover, should all be under the
command of reason; other commands are tyranny. Reason and not
relationship alone can give authority.

You think that the claims of birth to superiority are legitimate: I
hold them to be usurpations. I deem society, and you self, to be the
first of claimants. Duels with you are duties, with me crimes. Suicide
you allow to be generally an act of insanity, but sometimes of virtue.
I affirm that no one, who is not utterly useless in society, or who
cannot by dying be of greater use than by living, can have a right over
his own life: and of the existence of such a being I doubt. You
maintain that what you possess is your own: I affirm it is the property
of him who wants it most.

These are essential differences. Nor are these all, but perhaps they
are more than sufficient to end the alliance we were seeking.

Not that I desire to end it--Far, far the reverse!--You, Mr. Clifton,
are so highly gifted, so distinguished in the rank of intellect, and
have a mind of such potency, that to behold its powers employed in the
cause of truth, to be myself instrumental in a work so worthy, and
afterward to become the fast and dearest friend of such a mind is a
progression so delightful, so seducing, that for a time I laboured to
persuade myself of its possibility.

These hopes begin to fade; and, did you know how much this circumstance
afflicts me, you would at least absolve me from all charge of
indifference.

Habits and prejudices which are sanctioned by the general practice, and
even by numbers who are in many respects eminently wise and virtuous,
are too stubborn to be overcome by the impotent arguments of a young
female; with whom men are much more prone to trifle, toy, and divert
themselves, than to enquire into practical and abstract truth. In the
storm of the passions, a voice so weak would not be heard.

That all these impediments should be removed I begin to believe but
little probable; and, till they are removed, as we are we must remain.

The obstacles to marriage are indeed so numerous that I perceive
calculation to be very much in favour of celibacy: I mean respecting
myself. I ask not riches; but of wealth of mind my expectations by some
would be called extravagant. Yet lower these expectations I cannot; for
that would be to relax in principle.

I ended; and your brother still sat patient and willing to listen, had
I desired to continue. After a short pause, he replied--The profound
attention I have paid, madam, will I hope convince you I have not been
an idle listener. Your words, or at least the substance of them, have
sunk deep in my heart. Your desire that I should remember them scarcely
can equal mine. To me, madam, they are so important that the moment I
return home, confident as I usually am of my memory, I will not trust
it now, but commit them to writing.

What your motives are for this unusual care, or whether you do or do
not feel yourself offended, Mr. Clifton, it is not possible for me to
divine: but, as I think it alike unjust to conceal what I have done or
what I have said, however mistaken my words or actions may have been, I
will spare you the trouble of writing, if you think proper, and send
you a tolerably correct transcript of my thoughts tomorrow morning. I
can easily repeat them, assisted by some memorandums that I have
already made, and by the strength of my recollection and my feelings,
which I think are in no danger of a sudden decay.

You will infinitely oblige me, madam, and I will endeavour to profit by
the favour. My mind is at present as much awake to the subject as
yours--I hope you are not unwilling to converse with me on the topics
on which we may happen to differ?

Unwilling?--Oh no!--It was your unwillingness that led me almost to
despair--But are you in earnest?--Truly and sincerely in earnest?

In earnest, madam: truly and sincerely in earnest.

And will you really reflect, seriously, deeply, on the subject in
question?

As deeply, madam, as you yourself could wish.

Mr. Clifton, your present tone and manner rejoice me!--You half revive
my hopes!--But let me conjure you to be sincere with your own heart.
Examine every thing I have said; every thing; especially what relates
to Frank Henley. All that I have observed of your temper, from first to
last, obliges me thus seriously to warn you.

Fear not, madam; I will obey your injunctions. I will examine with all
the severity you could wish--The cup may have its bitters, but its
contents must be swallowed--You will not judge ill of me, madam, for my
frankness?

Oh no! Be frank, be true, be worthy of yourself!

Such as you would have me, madam, I must become--All I request is that
you would aid me in the task.

And are you indeed as determined as you seem to be?

I am, madam. [I never before, Louisa, saw your brother look or speak
with such firmness.] You have been kindly pleased to say you once
prescribed it as a duty to yourself to teach, or attempt to teach me
your principles.

Not mine, but the principles of truth. Cool and fair enquiry is all I
wish. Should any of your principles be better founded than mine, I
shall be most happy to become your scholar. I am aware how impossible
it is that any two people should think exactly alike on any one
subject, much less on all; but on certain great leading points, were
you and I to continue as opposite as we are, and were we to marry,
felicity could not be the consequence.

Let us hope, madam, it is possible we should make a marriage of
opinions, which you think as necessary as of persons.

Quite!--Quite!--Let me conjure you however not to deceive yourself!
Pretend to no conviction you do not feel; nor degrade the honest
sincerity of your heart by any unworthy indulgence of desire!

Here, Louisa, our conversation ended. Company came in, and the
customary occupations of the day took place. But it is with heartfelt
pleasure I add that your brother behaved as if he had forgotten his
former character, and was at last firmly resolved to assume a new one.
I have often endeavoured to encourage hope, but never before felt it in
any thing like the same degree. He cannot but be in earnest; his
determination for the first time to commit all I had said to writing is
an indubitable proof!--May the same propensities continue and
increase!--'He shall not die' will again be the burthen of my
song!--What a noble mind might his become!--Might?--Let us once more be
bold and say will!--Oh that to do were as easy as to say!

A. W. ST. IVES

END OF VOLUME IV

VOLUME V

LETTER LXXX

_Coke Clifton to Guy Fairfax_

_London, Dover-Street_

Before you proceed with my letter, Fairfax, read the inclosed
paper![1]--Read!--The hand-writing is hers!--It is addressed to me! Was
repeated to me! Is transcribed for me!--Transcribed by herself!--Read!
And if it be possible believe in your own existence! Believe if you can
that all you see, all you hear, the images that swim before your eyes
and the world itself are real, and no delusion!--For my part I begin to
doubt!--Read!--Oh that I were invisible and standing by your side!

[Footnote 1: A copy given by Anna to Clifton, as she had promised him,
of all that she had said in her last conversation.]

Well!--Have you ended?--And do you still continue to breathe?--Are you
not a statue?--Would not the whole universe denounce me liar if,
knowing me, I were to tell it that words like these were not only
spoken to me but are written, lest I should forget the maddening
injuries they contain?--What! Make me her confessor?--Me?--No secret
sin, of thought, word, or deed, concealed!--All remembered, all
recited, all avowed!--Sins committed with the hated Henley!--Sins
against love, against Clifton!--Does she imagine I can look on a paper
like this and, while my eye shoots along the daring the insulting line,
not feel all the fires that now devour me?--Surely she is frantic!

These things, Fairfax, are above my comprehension! My I amazement must
be eternal, for I never shall be able to understand them.--What! Tell
me, Clifton, of her amorous debates with such a fellow? Appoint him her
head-usher over me? Announce him my rival? Meet my eye unabashed and
affirm him to be my superior? Inform me of the deep hold he has taken
of her heart? Own she kissed him?

Once again it is incredible! Nay most and still more incredible; for,
strange to say and yet more strange for her to do, even this received
such a varnish from her lips, her eyes, her beauties, her irradiating
zeal, that reason everlastingly renounce me if I scarcely knew, while
she spoke, whether it were not the history of some sylph, some heavenly
spirit she was reciting?

Yes, Fairfax! There was a moment, a short but dangerous moment, at
which so charmed was I by her eloquence, so amazed by her daring
sincerity, so moved by the white candour of a soul so seeming pure,
that, possessed by I know not what booby devil of generosity, I was on
the point of throwing myself at her feet, confessing the whole guilt of
my intents, and proclaiming myself her true and irrevocable convert!

And this before the breath that uttered these injuries was cold!

The siren!--All the beauteous witcheries that ever yet were said or
sung do not equal her!--Circe, Calypso, Morgana, fairy or goddess,
mortal or immortal, knew not to mix the magic cup with so much art!

Not that it was her arguments. What are they? It was her bright her
beaming eyes, her pouting beauteous lips, her palpitating ecstatic
bosom, her--I know not what, except that even this was not
all!--No!--There was something still more heavenly!--An emanating
deity!--The celestial effulgence of a divine soul, that flowed with
fervour almost convulsive!

Had you witnessed her elevated aspirations!--Such swelling passions so
mastered, so controlled, till then I never beheld! Like the slow pause
of the solemn death-bell, the big tear at stated periods dropped; but
dropped unheeded. Though she could not exclude them, her stoic soul
disdained to notice such intrusive guests!--Her whole frame shook with
the warfare between the feelings and the will--And well might it shake!

I went prepared, and lucky it was that I did. My fixed determination
was to be silent, that I might profit by what I should hear. That one
dangerous moment excepted, I was firm!--Firm!--Not to be moved; though
rocks would, had they listened!

Yes, Fairfax, I did my part. Not that I am certain that to fall at her
feet like a canting methodist, own myself the most reprobate of
wretches, whine out repentance, and implore forgiveness at the all
sufficient fountain of her mercy would not be the very way to impose
upon her best.

I begin indeed to be angry at myself for not having yet resolved on one
consistent plan. Schemes so numerous present themselves, and none
without its difficulties and objections, that to determine is no easy
task. Circumstances in part must guide me. I must have patience. At
present I can only prepare and keep in readiness such cumbrous engines
as this phlegmatic foggy land of beef and pudding can afford. I must
supply the fire, if I find it necessary to put the machines in motion.

But, having decreed her fall, my spirits are now alert, and there is
not a being that surrounds me to whom imagination does not assign a
possible part: and that the part should be well-suited to the person
must be my care.

My first exercise must be on myself. Apathy or the affectation of
apathy must be acquired--Inevitably must be--My passions must be
masked: I must pretend to have conquered them. In their naked and
genuine form they are indecent, immoral, impure, I know not what! But
catch a metaphysical quirk, and let vanity and dogmatic assertion stand
sponsors and baptize it _a truth_, and then raptures, extravagance, and
bigotry itself are deities! Be then as loud, as violent, as intolerant
as the most rancorous of zealots, and it is all the sublime ardour of
virtue.

Yes! I must learn to ape their contempt of all and every terrene
object, motive, and respect!

Inclose the strange paper I sent you and return it in your next. I sent
it in her own hand-writing, that your eyes might have full conviction.

I took a copy of it, but I have since recollected I may want the
original. The time may come when she may assail me with accusation and
complaint: I will then present that paper, and flash guilt upon her!

I am much deceived if I do not observe in this gardening and improving
knight a want of former cordiality, a decrease of ardour, and perhaps a
wish to retract--Why let him!--To the daughter's deadly sins let him
add new: it will but make invention more active, and revenge more keen!
I will have an eye upon him: I half hope my suspicions are true!

The aunt Wenbourne too still continues to give laud unto Mr.
Henley!--Damn Mr. Henley!--But she may be necessary; and, as she is
entirely governed by the gull Edward, I must submit to bring myself
into his favour. The thing may easily be done.

The lordly uncle Fitz-Allen is secure. I frequently dine with him on
what he calls his open day; he being overwhelmed with business, as
blockheads usually are; and I do not fail to insinuate the relationship
in which, if care be not taken, he may hereafter chance to stand to a
gardener's son. His face flames at the supposition, and his red nose
burns more bright! What will it do, should I make him my tool, when he
finds to what good purpose he has been an abettor? Be that his concern;
it neither is nor ever shall be mine.

But none of these are the exact agent I want; nor have I found him yet.
They at best can only act as auxiliaries. Laura indeed may be eminently
useful; but the plotting, daring, mischievous, malignant yet subaltern
imp incarnate, that should run, fly, dive, be visible and invisible,
and plunge through frost or fire to execute my behests, is yet to be
discovered.

Were I in Italy, disburse but a few sequins and battling legions would
move at my bidding: but here we have neither cicisbeos, carnivals,
confessors, bravoes nor sanctuaries. No--We have too few priests and
too much morality for our noble corps to flourish in full perfection.

I know not that all this may be necessary, but I suspect it will, and I
must prepare for the worst; for I will accomplish my purpose in despite
of hell or honesty!--Ay, Fairfax, will!--Gentle means, insinuation, and
hypocrisy shall be my first resource; and if these fail me, then I will
order my engines to play!

I have been once more reading my copy of this unaccountable paper, and
though every word is engraven in my memory, it dropped from my hand
with new astonishment! Her history of her Mr. Henley, the yearnings of
her heart toward him, and her unabashed justification of all she has
said, all she has thought and all she has done are not to be paralleled
in the records of female extravagance.

She comes however to the point at last--Calculation is in favour of
celibacy--For once, lady, you are in the right!--We may appear to agree
on cases more dubious, but on that it will be miraculous if we ever
hereafter differ.

I cannot but again applaud myself, for keeping my preconcerted
resolution of silence and reserve so firmly. I rejoice in my fortitude
and my foresight; for her efforts were so strenuous, and her emotions
so catching, that had I been less prepared all had been lost.

C. CLIFTON

LETTER LXXXI

_Coke Clifton to Guy Fairfax_

_London, Dover Street_

Yes, yes, Fairfax! She takes the sure and resolute road to ruin, and
travels it with unwearied ardour!--What think you she has done now?--An
earthquake would have been more within my calculation!--She labours
hard after the marvellous!--She has been angling again in the muddy
pool of paradox, and has hooked up a new dogma!--And what is it?--Why
nothing less than an asseveration that the promise she made me is not
binding!--Promises are non-entities: they mean nothing, stand for
nothing, and nothing can claim.

So be it--It is a maxim, divine apostate, that will at least serve my
turn as effectually as yours. To own the truth, I never thought
promises made to capricious ladies stood for much; nor were my scruples
at present likely to have been increased. If she, a woman, be simple
enough to have faith in the word of man, 'tis her fault. Let her look
to it!

This is not all: the doctrine is not of her own invention! Mr. Henley,
the eternal Mr. Henley again appears upon the scene, from which he is
scarcely ever a moment absent!--Were it possible I could relent, she is
determined I shall not. But they are both down in my tablets, in large
and indelible characters; on the black list; and there for a time at
least they shall remain.

My plan, Fairfax, is formed; and I believe completely. When I was first
acquainted with her, as you know, my meaning was honest and my heart
sincere. I was a fool at least for a fortnight; for that was the
shortest period before I began at all to waver. I was indeed deeply
smitten! Nor is desire cooled: delay, opposition, and neglect have only
changed its purpose. She soon indeed taught me to treat her in some
manner like the rest of her sex, and to begin to plot. 'Tis well for me
that I have a fertile brain: and it had been well for her could she
have been contented with the conquest she had made, and have treated me
with generosity equal to my deserts. But a hypocrite she has made me,
and a hypocrite she shall find me; ay and a deep one.

She has herself given me my clue: she has laid open her whole heart.
She has the fatuity to mimic the perfect heroine! Tell her but it is a
duty, and with the Bramin wives she would lie down, calmly and
resolutely, on the burning pile!

Well then! I will tell her of a duty of which she little dreams! Yes,
she shall grant every thing I wish as an act of duty! I will convince
her it is one! I! The pretty immaculate lamb must submit in this point
to become my pupil; and it shall go hard or I will prove as subtle a
logician as herself.

What say you, Fairfax? Is not the project an excellent one? Is it not
worthy of the sapient Doctor Clifton? Shall I lose reputation, think
you, by carrying it into effect?

I am already become a new man. My whole system is changed. She begins
to praise me most unmercifully; and, while my very heart is tickled
with my success, the lengthened visage of inspired quaker when the
spirit moved was never more demure! I am too pleased, too proud of my
own talents, not to persist.

Already I am a convert to one of _her truths_. Do laugh, Fairfax! I
have acknowledged that you and your footman are equal! Is it not
ridiculous? However I am convinced! Ay and convinced I will remain,
till time shall be. She shall teach me a truth a day!--Yet, no--I must
not learn too fast; it may be suspicious: though I would be as speedy
as I conveniently can in my progress.

The zeal of disputation burns within her; and, as I tell you, I am
already one of her very good boys, because the pursuit of my own
project makes me now as willing to listen and hunt after deductions,
such as I want, as she is to teach and to supply me with those
deductions. She starts at no proposition, however extravagant, if it do
but appear to result from any one of her favourite systems, of which
she has a good round number. Rather than relinquish the least of them,
she would suppose the glorious sun a coal-pit; and his dazzling rays no
better than volumes of black smoke, polished and grown bright on their
travels by attrition. She professes it to be the purpose of her life to
free herself from all prejudices. But here she has the modesty to add
the saving clause--'If it be practicable.'

Could she, Fairfax, have a more convenient hypothesis? Do you not
perceive its fecundity? And, the task being so very difficult, will it
not be benevolent in me to lend her my assistance? What think you? Is
it not possible to prove that marriage is a mere prejudice?

She shall find me willing to learn many or perhaps all of her
doctrines; and in return I desire to teach her no more than one of
mine. Can any thing be more reasonable, more generous? Nay, I will go
further! I will not teach it her; she shall have all the honour of
teaching it to me! Can man do more?

The most knotty and perplexed part of my plan was to find a contrivance
to make the gardener's son an actor in the plot. The thing is
difficult, but not impossible. I have various stratagems and schemes,
in the choice of which I must be guided by circumstances. That which
pleases me most is to invite him to sit in state, the umpire of our
disquisitions.

I think I can depend upon myself, otherwise there would be danger in
the project. But if I act my part perfectly, if I have but the
resolution to listen coolly to their quiddities, sometimes to oppose,
sometimes to recede, and always to own myself conquered on the points
which suit me best, I believe both the gentleman and the lady will be
sufficiently simple to suppose that in all this there will be nothing
apocryphal. They will imagine the gilt statue to be pure gold. I shall
be numbered among their elect! I shall rise from the alembic a saint of
their own subliming! Shall be assayed and stamped current at their
mint!

Yet I must be cautious. I would put my hand in the fire ere undertake
so apparently mad a scheme, with any other couple in Christendom.
Considering how very warm--Curses bite and tingle on my tongue at the
recollection!--Considering I say how very warm I know their
inclinations toward each other to be, nothing but the proofs I have had
could prompt me to commence an enterprize so improbable. But the
uncommonness of it is a main part of its merit; and I think I know the
ground I have to travel so well that I do not much fear I should lose
my road.

I am aware that the enemy I have most to guard against is myself. To
pretend a belief in opinions I despise, to sit with saturnine gravity
and nod approbation when my sides are convulsed with laughter, to ape
admiration at what reason contemns and spurns, and to smooth my
features into suavity while my heart is bursting with gall at the
intercourse they continually hold, of becks and smiles and approving
kind epithets, to do all this is almost too much for mortal man! But I
have already made several essays on myself, and I find that the
obstinate resolution which an insatiable thirst of ample retribution
inspires is not to be shaken, and renders me equal even to this task.

I am well aware however what dangerous quicksands the passions are; and
that a good pilot is never sparing of soundings. I will therefore not
only keep a rigorous watch upon myself, but take such measures as shall
enable me to exclude or retain the grub-monger, as I shall think fit,
during our conversations.

Thus you are likely soon to hear more of our metaphysics; nay, if you
be but industrious, enough to enable you to set up for yourself, and
become the apostle of Paris. I know no place where, if you have but a
morsel of the marvellous to detail, you will find hearers better
disposed to gape and swallow.

C. CLIFTON

LETTER LXXXII

_Anna Wenbourne St. Ives to Louisa Clifton_

_London, Grosvenor-Street_

A fortnight has almost elapsed since I last wrote to my Louisa, till my
heart begins to cry shame at the delay. Could I plead no other excuse
than the trifling occupations of a trifling world I must sign my own
condemnation; but your brother has afforded me better employment. Our
frequent conversations on many of the best and most dignified of moral
enquiries, his acute remarks and objections, and the difficult problems
he has occasionally given me to solve, have left me in no danger of
being idle.

Oh, Louisa, how exquisite is the pleasure I feel, to see him thus
determined, thus incessant in his pursuit! A change so fortunate and so
sudden astonishes while it delights!--May it continue!--May it
increase!--May?--Vain unworthy wish!--It must--The mind having once
seized on the clue of truth can neither quit its hold nor become
stationary; it is obliged to advance. And when its powers are equal to
those of Coke Clifton, ought we to wonder at its bold and rapid
flights?

Still the conquests he daily makes over his own feelings cannot but
surprise. His struggles are evident, but they are effectual. He even
resolutely casts off the strong prejudices he had conceived against
Frank Henley, invites him to aid us in our researches, and appeals to
him to explain and decide.

'Let us if we wish to weed out error be sincere in our efforts, and
have no remorse for our prejudices.'

This is his own language, Louisa! Oh that I could fully communicate the
pleasure this change of character gives me to my friend. Yes, the
restraint which too frequent contradiction lays him under will soon
wear off, and how great will then be the enthusiasm with which he will
defend and promulgate truth!

Nor is it less delightful to observe the satisfaction which this reform
sometimes gives to Frank Henley. At others indeed he owns he is
disturbed by doubt: but he owns it with feelings of regret, and is
eager to prove himself unjust.

Yet respecting me his thoughts never vary--Alas! Louisa, I still 'am
his by right.' His tongue is silent, but his looks and manner are
sufficiently audible. I surely have been guilty of the error I so much
dreaded; my cause was strong, but my arguments were feeble; I have
prolonged the warfare of the passions which I attempted to eradicate;
or rather have left on his mind a deep sense of injustice committed by
me--! The thought is intolerable!--Excruciating!

But oh with what equanimity, with what fortitude does he endure his
imagined wrongs! Pure most pure must that passion be which at once
possesses the strength of his and his forbearance! There are indeed but
few Frank Henleys!

Surely, Louisa, I may do him justice?--Surely to esteem the virtuous
cannot merit the imputation of guilt?--Who can praise him as he
deserves? And can that which is right in others be wrong in me?--Yet
such are the mistakes to which we are subject, I scarcely can speak or
even think of him without suspecting myself of committing some culpable
impropriety!

Pardon, Louisa, these wanderings of the mind! They are marauders which
uniform vigilance alone can repel. They are ever in arms, and I obliged
to be ever alert. But it is petty warfare, and cannot shake the
dominion of truth.

My feelings have led me from the topic I intended for the chief subject
of this letter.

The course of our enquiries has several times forced us upon that great
question, 'the progress of mind toward perfection, and the different
order of things which must inevitably be the result.' Yesterday this
theme again occurred. Frank was present; and his imagination, warm with
the sublimity of his subject, drew a bold and splendid picture of the
felicity of that state of society when personal property no longer
shall exist, when the whole torrent of mind shall unite in enquiry
after the beautiful and the true, when it shall no longer be diverted
by those insignificant pursuits to which the absurd follies that
originate in our false wants give birth, when individual selfishness
shall be unknown, and when all shall labour for the good of all.

A state so distant from present manners and opinions, and apparently so
impossible, naturally gave rise to objections; and your brother put
many shrewd and pertinent questions, which would have silenced a mind
less informed and less comprehensive than that of our instructor.

At last a difficulty arose which to me wore a very serious form; and as
what was said left a strong impression on my memory, I will relate that
part of the conversation. Observe, Louisa, that Clifton and Frank were
the chief speakers. Your brother began.

I confess, sir, you have removed many apparently unconquerable
difficulties: but I have a further objection which I think
unanswerable.

What is it?

Neither man nor woman in such a state can have any thing peculiar: the
whole must be for the use and benefit of the whole?

As generally as practice will admit: and how very general that may be,
imperfect as its constitution was, Sparta remained during five hundred
years a proof.

Then how will it be possible, when society shall be the general
possessor, for any man to say--_This is my servant?_

He cannot: there will be no servants.

Well but--_This is my child?_

Neither can he do that: they will be the children of the state.

Indeed!--And what say you to--_This is my wife?_--Can appropriation
more than for the minute the hour or the day exist? Or, among so
disinterested a people, can a man say even of the woman he loves--_She
is mine?_

[We paused--I own, Louisa, I found myself at a loss; but Frank soon
gave a very satisfactory reply.]

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