Part 7 out of 11
You have started a question of infinite importance, which perhaps I am
not fully prepared to answer. I doubt whether in that better state of
human society, to which I look forward with such ardent aspiration, the
intercourse of the sexes will be altogether promiscuous and
unrestrained; or whether they will admit of something that may be
denominated marriage. The former may perhaps be the truth: but it is at
least certain that in the sense in which we understand marriage and the
affirmation--_This is my wife_--neither the institution nor the claim
can in such a state, or indeed in justice exist. Of all the regulations
which were ever suggested to the mistaken tyranny of selfishness, none
perhaps to this day have surpassed the despotism of those which
undertake to bind not only body to body but soul to soul, to all
futurity, in despite of every possible change which our vices and our
virtues might effect, or however numerous the secret corporal or mental
imperfections might prove which a more intimate acquaintance should
bring to light!
Then you think that some stipulation or bargain between the sexes must
take place, in the most virtuous ages?
In the most virtuous ages the word bargain, like the word promise, will
be unintelligible--We cannot bargain to do what is wrong, nor can we,
though there should be no bargain, forbear to do what is right, without
Whence it results that marriage, as a civil institution, must ever be
Yes. It ought not to be a civil institution. It is the concern of the
individuals who consent to this mutual association, and they ought not
to be prevented from beginning, suspending, or terminating it as they
Clifton addressed himself to me--What say you to this doctrine, madam?
Does it not shock, does it not terrify you?
As far as I have considered it, no. It appears to be founded on
incontrovertible principles; and I ought not to be shocked that some of
my prejudices are opposed, or at being reminded that men have not yet
attained the true means of correcting their own vices.
Surely the consequences are alarming! The man who only studied the
gratification of his desires would have a new wife each new day; and
the unprotected fair would be abandoned to all the licentiousness of
Frank again replied--Then you think the security of women would
increase with their imagined increase of danger; and that an
unprincipled man, who even at present if he be known is avoided and
despised, would then find a more ready welcome, because as you suppose
he would have more opportunities to injure?
I must own that the men fit to be trusted with so much power are in my
opinion very few indeed.
You are imagining a society as perverse and vitiated as the present: I
am supposing one wholly the contrary. I know too well that there are
men who, because unjust laws and customs worthy of barbarians have
condemned helpless women to infamy, for the loss of that which under
better regulations and in ages of more wisdom has been and will again
be guilt to keep, I know, sir, I say that the present world is infested
by men, who make it the business and the glory of their lives to bring
this infamy upon the very beings for whom they feign the deepest
affection!--If ever patience can forsake me it will be at the
recollection of these demons in the human form, who come tricked out in
all the smiles of love, the protestations of loyalty, and the arts of
hell, unrelentingly and causelessly to prey upon confiding innocence!
Nothing but the malverse selfishness of man could give being or
countenance to such a monster! Whatever is good, exquisite, or
precious, we are individually taught to grasp at, and if possible to
secure; but we have each a latent sense that this principle has
rendered us a society of detestable misers, and therefore to rob each
other seems almost like the sports of justice.
For which reason, sir, were I a father, I think I should shudder to
hear you instructing my daughters in your doctrines.
I perceive you wholly misconceive me; and I very seriously request,
pray observe, sir, I very seriously request you to remember that I
would not teach any man's daughters so mad a doctrine as to indulge in
sensual appetites, or foster a licentious imagination. I am not the
apostle of depravity. While men shall be mad, foolish, and dishonest
enough to be vain of bad principles, women may be allowed to seek such
protection as bad laws can afford--It is an eternal truth that the
wisdom of man is superior to the strength of lions; but I would not
therfore turn an infant into a lion's den.
I am glad to be undeceived. I thought it was scarcely possible you
should mean what your words seemed to imply--At present I understand
you; and I again confess my surprise to find so much consistency, and
so many powerful arguments on a question in favour of which I thought
nothing rational could be advanced. You have afforded me food for
reflection, and I thank you. I shall not easily forget what has been
Tell me, my dear Louisa, are you not delighted with this dialogue; and
with the candour, the force of thinking, and what is still better the
virtuous fears of your brother? His mind revolted at the mischief which
it seemed to forbode he was happy at being undeceived. And, with
respect to argument, I doubt whether he forgot any one of the most
apparently formidable objections to what is called the levelling
system. But he was pleased to learn that this is only giving a good
cause a bad name. Such a system is infinitely more opposite to
levelling than the present; since the very essence of it is that merit
shall be the only claimant, and shall be certain of pre-eminence.
The satisfaction I feel, my friend, is beyond expression. To have my
hopes revived and daily strengthened, after fearing they must all be
relinquished, increases the pleasure. It is great and would be unmixed
but for--Well, well!--Let Clifton but proceed and Frank will no longer
say--'To the end of time'--! You know the rest, Louisa--All good be
A. W. ST. IVES
P.S. I thought I had forgotten something. When Frank had retired, your
brother with delightful candour praised the great perspicuity as well
as strength with which he argued. He added there was one circumstance
in particular in his principles concerning marriage, although they had
at first appeared very alarming, which was highly satisfactory: and
this was the confidence they inspired. 'Nothing, he said, gave his
nature so much offence as the suspicions with which, at present, our
sex view the men. About two years ago he had a partiality for a
Neapolitan lady, and thought himself in love with her: but in this he
was mistaken; it was rather inclination than passion. He knew not at
that time what it was to love. Neither this Neapolitan lady, though
beautiful and highly accomplished, nor any other woman his feelings
told him could inspire pure affection, who was incapable of confiding
in herself; and, wanting this self-confidence, of confiding in her
lover. Suspicion originates in a consciousness of self defect. Those
who cannot trust themselves cannot be induced to trust others.'
Thus justly, Louisa, did he continue to reason. Nor could I forbear to
apply the doctrine to myself: I have been too distrustful of him; my
conscience accused me, and I am resolved to remedy the fault. I have
always held suspicion to be the vice of mean and feeble minds: but it
is less difficult to find rules by theory than to demonstrate them by
I am sorry, my dear Louisa, to hear that the infirmities of Mrs.
Clifton increase. But these are evils for which we can at present find
no remedy; and to which we must therefore submit with patience and
_Coke Clifton to Guy Fairfax_
_London, Dover Street_
I will not suppose, Fairfax, you seek to compliment me, when you say
you enjoy the exuberant heat of soul, the fire that pervades my
epistles. I am glad you do. I shall not think the worse of your
talents. Many a line have I written in all the burst of feeling, and
not a few in all the blaze of wit, and have said to myself,--Should he
not understand me now?--Why if he should not, dulness everlasting be
his portion!--But you take the sure way to keep up my ardour. While I
perceive you continue to enjoy I shall continue to be communicative. A
sympathetic yawner I may be, but I do not believe I am often the first
I knew not half my own merits. I act my part to admiration. 'Tis true
the combining circumstances are all favourable. I must be a dunce
indeed if in such a school I should want chicanery. Our disputations
have been continual; nor have I ever failed to turn them on the most
convenient topics. But none of them have equalled the last; managed as
it was with dexterity by me, and in the very spirit I wished by my
opponents. I speak in the plural; for I took care to have them both
present. Several remarks which I had heard from him assured me he
would second my plan; which was no less than to prove marriage a
farce!--Would you have believed, Fairfax, I should have had the
temerity to step upon a rock so slippery; and to have requested
this Archimago of Adam's journeymen [Adam you know being the world's
head-gardener] to stay and lend me his support?--Yet thus audacious
was I; and courage as it ought has been crowned with success!
The thought was suggested by themselves; and, had you or I or any of us
vile marriage haters been declaiming against the saffron god, and his
eternal shackles, I doubt whether the best of us could have said any
thing half so much to the purpose!--Is it not excellent?--
Then had you heard me preach, ay, me myself, against libertines and
By the by, Don Cabbage-plant had the insolence to say two or three
devilish severe things, dishonourable to the noble fraternity of us
knights of the bed-chamber, which if I forget may woman never more have
cause to remember me!
However I brought him to own,--I--[Do laugh!] by my very great
apprehensions of the effects of such a doctrine, that though marriage
be a bad thing it is quite necessary, at present, for the defence of
the weaker vessels and modest maidenhood. Ay and I applauded him for
his honest candour! I was glad I had misunderstood him! Thanked him for
all his profound information! In short made him exactly what I wished,
my tool! And a high-tempered tool he is, by the aid of which I will
shew myself a most notable workman!--
Not but the fellow's eye was upon me. I could observe him prying,
endeavouring to search and probe me. But I came too well prepared.
Instead of shrinking from the encounter, my brow contracted increasing
indignation; and my voice grew louder, as I stood forth the champion of
chaste virginity and sanctimonious wedlock!--The scene, in the very
critical sense of the phrase, was high comedy!--
It was well, Fairfax, they went no farther than Paris: had either of
them only reached Turin I had been half undone! And had they touched at
Naples, Rome, Venice, or half a dozen other fair and flourishing
cities, my character for a pretty behaved, demure, and virtuous
gentleman had been irremediably ruined!
Upon my soul I cannot put it out of my head!--Had you heard me
remonstrate what a horrid thing it would be to have marriage destroyed,
and us honest fellows turned loose among the virgins, from whom we
should catch and ravish each a new damsel every new day, and had you
seen what a fine serious undertaker's face I put upon the business,
your heart would have chuckled! To the day of your death it would never
have been forgotten!
Perhaps you will wonder how I could draw such a doctrine from these
spinners of hypothesis. I will tell you. I had heard them severally
maintain--Try to guess what!--Not in seven years, though you were to do
nothing else.--You I suppose like me have heard that liberty, security,
and property are the three main pillars of political happiness?--Well
then, these professors maintain that individual property is a general
evil!--What is more, they maintain it by such arguments as would puzzle
college, council, or senate to refute. But that I am determined never
to torment my brain about such quips and quillets, may I turn Turk if
they would not have made a convert of me, and have persuaded me that an
estate of ten thousand a year was a very intolerable thing!
My intention was to keep my countenance, but to laugh at them in my
heart most incontinently. However, I soon found my side of the question
was not so perfectly beyond all doubt, nor theirs quite so ridiculous
as I had imagined.
'Tis true, I went predetermined to be convinced, and to take all they
should tell me for gospel. I had a conclusion of my own to draw, and if
I could but lead to that, I cared not how much I granted.
I know not whether this predisposition in me was of any advantage to
their argument, though I think it was not; for, so ready was the
solution to every difficulty, I boldly ventured to state objections
which I meant to have kept out of sight, lest I should myself overturn
a system that suited my purpose. I perceived their eagerness, saw there
was no danger that they should stop at trifles even if I should happen
to throw them a bone to pick, and the readiness of each reply raised my
curiosity. I fearlessly drew out my heavy artillery, which they with
ease and safety as fearlessly dismounted. With a breath my strong holds
were all puffed down, like so many houses of cards.
By this however my main business was done more effectually. We came to
it by fair deduction. It was not abruptly introduced; it was major,
minor, and consequent--All individual property is an evil--Marriage
makes woman individual property--Therefore marriage is an evil--Could
there be better logic?
As for his saving clause, that marriage in these times of prejudice and
vice [I have the whole cant by rote, Fairfax.] is a necessary evil,
leave me to do that away. What! Is she not a heroine? And can I not
convince her that to act according to a bad system, when there is a
better, were to descend to the ways of the vulgar? Can I not teach her
how superior she is to the pretty misses who conform to such mistaken
laws? Shall she want the courage and the generosity to set the first
good example? How often have I seen her eyes sparkle, her bosom heave,
and her zeal break forth in virtuous resolutions to encounter any peril
to obtain a worthy purpose! And can there be a more worthy?
Curse upon these qualms of conscience! Never before did I feel any
thing so teazing, so tormenting! And, knowing what I know, remembering
what I never can forget, the slights, injuries, and insults I have
received, how I came to feel them now is to me wholly inconceivable.
She is acting it is true with what she calls the best and purest of
intentions toward me; she believes them to be such; she sometimes
almost obliges me to believe them such myself. She tortures me, by half
constraining me to revere the virtues in favour of which she harangues
so divinely. But shall I like a poor uxorious lackadaisy driveller sit
down satisfied with a divided heart?--I! she not with her own lips,
under her own hand, avowed and signed her contumelious guilt, her
audacious preference of a rival?--A mean, a base, a vulgar rival!--And
after this shall my projects suffer impediment from cheesecurd
compassion?--Shall the querulous voice of conscience arrest my avenging
arm?--No, Fairfax!--It cannot be! Though my heart in its anger could
not accuse her of a single crime beside, that alone, that damning
preference would be all-sufficient!--The furies have no stings that
equal this recollection!
I have been throwing up my sashes, striding across my room, and
construing ten lines of Seneca, and my pulse again begins to beat more
Let us argue the point with this pert, unruly, marplot conscience of
It was not at first without considerable reluctance and even pain that
I began to plot. I almost abhorred reducing her to the level of the
sex, not one of whom was ever yet her equal. But she used me ill,
Fairfax. Yes, she used me ill; and you well know that want of
resentment is want of courage. None but pitiful, contemptible,
no-souled fellows forget insults, till ample vengeance have been taken.
And shall conscience insolently pretend to contradict the decree?
Beside I could not but remember our old maxims, the Cyprian battles our
jovial corps had fought, and the myrtle wreaths each wight had won.
Should I, the leader the captain of the band, be the first to fly my
colours? Was it not our favourite axiom that he who could declare, upon
his honour, he had found a generous woman, who never had attempted once
to deceive, trifle with, or play him trick, should still be
acknowledged a companion of our order, even though he were to marry:
but that all coquetry, all tergiversation, all wrongs, however slight,
were unpardonable, and only one way to be redressed? What answer can
conscience give to that?
Your letters too are another stimulative. You detail the full, true and
particular account of your amorous malefactions, and vaunt of petty
obstacles, petty arts, and petty triumphs over Signoras and Madames who
advance, challenge you to the field, and give battle purposely to be
overcome. Their whole resistance is but to make you feel how great an
Alexander you are, and that having vanquished them you are invincible!
As you will certainly never meet with an Anna St. Ives, 'tis possible
you may die in that opinion. But, I tell you, Fairfax, if you compare
these practised Amazons to my heroine, you are in a most heterodox and
damnable error, of which if you do not timely repent your soul will
never find admission into the lover's Elysium.
Bear witness, however, to my honesty; of women I allow her to be the
most excellent, but still a woman, and not as I foolishly for a while
supposed an absolute goddess. No, no. Madam can curvet and play her
pranks, though of totally a different kind; and, being almost mortal at
present, mere mortal must become in despite of conscience and its green
At first I knew her not; and, unwilling to encounter logic in a gauze
cap, I ceased to oppose her arguments, and thought to conciliate her by
resolving to be of her creed. What could be more generous? But no,
forsooth! The veil was too thin! To pretend conviction when it was not
felt, and to be satisfied with arguments before I had heard them, were
all insufficient for her! The prize could be gained only by him who
could answer the enigmas of the Sphinx! I must enter the lists of
cavil, and run a tilt at wrangling, ere the lady would bestow the meed
of conquest! Can conscience pretend to palliate conduct like this?
I then turned my thoughts to a new project, and endeavoured to
overpower her by passion, by excess of ardour, by tenderness and
importunity. They had a temporary effect, but I found them equally
inefficacious. Nor was the art by which I had oftenest been successful
forgotten; though I confess that with her, from the beginning, it
afforded me but little hope. I tried to familiarize her to freedoms. I
began with her hands; but she soon taught me that even her hands were
sacred; they were not to be treated with familiarity, nor to be kissed
and pressed like other hands! Let conscience if it can tell me why.
In fine, while to this insolent pedagogue she has been all honeysuckle,
sweet marjoram and heart's ease, to me she has been rue, wormwood and
hellebore: him praising, me reproving: confiding in him, suspecting me:
and, as the very summit and crown of injury, proclaiming him the
possessor the master of her admiration, or in plain English of her
And now, if after this impartial, this cool, this stoic examination Mr.
Conscience should ever again be impertinent enough to open his lips, I
am determined without the least ceremony to kick him out of doors.
When this famous conference of which I told you some half an hour ago
was ended, and our president, our monarch of morals and mulberries had
quitted his chair and withdrawn, I played an aftergame of no small
moment. After pronouncing a panegyric on the gentleman, as a legislator
fit for truth and me, I read the lady a modest lecture on confidence,
informed her of almost the exact quantity which I expected she would
repose in me, and declaimed with eloquence and effect against those
suspicious beauties who always regard us honest fellows as so many
naughty goblins; who, like the Ethiopian monster, voraciously devour
every Virgin-Andromeda they meet. But as I tell you, I did it
modestly. I kept on my guard, watched the moment to press forward or to
retreat; and wielded my weapons with dexterity and success.
Poor girl! Is it not a pity that the very shield in which she confides,
her perfect honesty and sincerity, should be destined to fall upon and
overwhelm her?--Thus says counsellor Sentiment: and counseller
Sentiment is a great orator!--But what say I? Why I say so have the
Fates decreed, and therefore let the Fates look to it; 'tis no concern
of mine; I am but their willing instrument.
These however are but the preliminaries, the preparations for the
combat. Ere long I shall be armed at all points, and what is better by
her own fair hands. Nor do I know how soon I may begin the attack. I
have been casting about to send this superintendant of the cardinal
virtues, this captain of casuists and caterpillars out of the way; and
I think I have hit upon a tolerably bold and ingenious stratagem. I say
bold because I perceive it is not without danger; but I doubt I cannot
devise a better. Without naming or appearing to mean myself, I have
suggested to him, by inventing a tale of two friends of mine, what a
noble and disinterested thing it would be for him to go down into the
country and prevail on his father to remove all obstacles to our
How! Say you. Is marriage your plan? And if not is not that the way to
There is the danger I talked of; but I do not think it great. The
scoundrel gardener, I mean the father; who is heartily despised by
every body, is desirous that his son should marry Anna. I know not
whether I ever before mentioned this sublime effort of impudence. The
cunning rascal has so long been the keeper of Sir Arthur's purse, that
it is supposed two thirds of the contents have glided into his own
pocket. This is the reason of the delay on Sir Arthur's part, which at
present I do not wish to shorten. That this son of a grub catcher, a
Demosthenes though he be, should prevail on such a father, if he were
to go down as I hope he will, is but little probable. However, should
the least prognostic of such a miracle appear, I have my remedy
prepared. I will generously have a letter written to the senior
overseer of the gravel walks, which if the character I have heard of
him be not wholly false, shall revive all his hopes, and put an end to
In Italy, where amorous plotting is the national profession, I was not
easily circumvented; and here, where another gunpowder treason would as
soon be suspected as such gins and snares, at least by these very
honest and sublime simpletons, I laugh at the supposition of being
One word more. I think I observe in this knight of Gotham, this Sir
Arthur, a more cordial kind of yearning toward our young prince of
Babel land than formerly; a sort of desire to be more intimate with
him, of which by the by the youth is not very prompt to admit, and an
effort to treat him with more respect himself, by way as it were of
setting a good example to others. If my conjectures are right, the
threats of the old muckworm father have shaken the crazy nerves of the
baronet; and I half suspect there is something more of meaning at the
bottom of this. Were it so, were he to attempt to discard me, it would
indeed add another spur to the fury of revenge! An affront so deep
given by this poor being, this essence of insignificance, would make
revenge itself, hot unsatiable revenge grow more hot, madden more, and
thirst even after blood!--Patience foams at the supposition!
Thank heaven I hear the noisy postman with his warning bell, which
obliges me in good time to conclude and cool these fermenting juices of
_Frank Henley to Oliver Trenchard_
_London, Grosvenor Street_
My mind, Oliver, is harassed by a variety of doubts. I believe I shall
soon be down at Wenbourne Hill, and of course shall then not fail to
meet thee and visit thy most worthy father.
The reason of my journey originates in the doubts I mentioned. I am
angry with myself for feeling alarms at one moment which appear
impossibilities the next. If my fears have any foundation, this Clifton
is the deepest, the most hardened fiend-like hypocrite imagination can
paint!--But it cannot be!--Surely it cannot!--I am guilty, heinously
guilty for enduring such a thought!--So much folly and vice, combined
with understanding and I may say genius so uncommon, is a supposition
too extravagant, too injurious!
And yet it is strange, Oliver!--A conduct so suddenly altered, so
totally opposite to old and inveterate habits, is scarcely
reconcileable to the human character. But if dissimulation can be
productive of this, is truth less powerful? No!--Truth is omnipotent.
Yet who ever saw it hasty in its progress? My only hope in this case is
that the superiority of his mind has rendered him an exception to
But what could he propose by his hypocrisy?--I cannot tell--His
passions are violent and ungovernable; and are or very lately have been
in full vigour--Again and again 'tis strange!
But what of this?--Why these fears? Can she be spotted, tinged by the
stain of unsanctified desire?--Never!--The pure chastity of her soul is
superior to attaint!--Yet--Who can say?--Wilfully her mind can never
err: but who can affirm that even she may not be deceived, and may not
act erroneously from the most holy motives?
Perhaps, Oliver, it is my own situation, my own desires, but half
subdued, in which these doubts take birth. If so they are highly
Be it as it may, there is a duty visibly chalked out for me by
circumstances. Her present situation is surely a state of danger. To
see them married would now give me delight. It would indeed be the
delight of despair, of gloom almost approaching horror. But of that I
must not think. My father is the cause of the present delay. I fear I
cannot remove this impediment, but it becomes me to try.
Though I had before conceived the design, this conduct has even been
suggested to me by Clifton; and in a mode that proves he can be artful
if he please. Yet does it not likewise prove him to be in earnest?
We have lately had several conversations, one in particular which,
even while it seemed to place him in an amiable, sincere, and generous
light, excited some of the very doubts and terrors of which I
speak--If he be a hypocrite, he guards himself with a tenfold
mask!--It cannot--No--It cannot be!--
I mean to speak to Sir Arthur concerning my journey, but not to inform
him of its purport: it would have the face of insult to tell him I was
going to be his advocate with his servant. Not to mention that he has
lately treated me with increasing and indeed unusual kindness. If I do
make an effort, however, it shall be a strenuous one; though my hopes
that it should be effectual are very few. My decision is not yet final,
but in my next thou wilt probably learn the result. Farewell.
P.S. My brain is so busied by its fears that I forgot to caution thee
against a mistake into which it is probable this letter may lead. I
mentioned, in one of my last, the project I had conceived of leaving
England. Do not imagine I have abandoned a design on which the more I
reflect the more I am intent. The great end of life is to benefit
community. My mind in its present situation is too deeply affected
freely and without incumbrance to exert itself--This is weakness!--But
not the less true, Oliver. We are at present so imbued in prejudice,
have drunken so deeply of the cup of error, that, after having received
taints so numerous and ingrained, to wish for perfect consistency in
virtue I doubt were vain. Here or at the antipodes alike I should
remember her: but I should not alike be so often tempted and deluded by
false hopes: the current of thought would not so often meet with
impediments, to arrest, divide, and turn it aside.
I have studied to divine in what land or among what people, whether
savage or such as we call polished, the energies of mind might be most
productive of good. But this is a discovery which I have yet to make.
The reasons are so numerous on each side that I have formed a plan for
a kind of double effort. I think of sailing for America, where I may
aid the struggles of liberty, may freely publish all which the efforts
of reason can teach me, and at the same time may form a society of
savages, who seem in consequence of their very ignorance to have a
less quantity of error, and therefore to be less liable to repel truth
than those whose information is more multifarious. A merchant, with
whom by accident I became acquainted, and who is a man of no mean
understanding, approves and has engaged to promote my plan. But of this
if I come to Wenbourne Hill we will talk further. Once more, Oliver,
_Coke Clifton to Guy Fairfax_
Come to my aid, Fairfax; encourage me; feed my vanity; let hungry
ambition banquet and allow me to be a hero, lest I relent: for, were I
not or Lucifer or Coke Clifton, 'tis certain I should not persevere. By
the host of heaven, Fairfax, but she is a divine creature! She steals
upon the soul! A heart of rock could not resist her! Nor are they
wiles, nor woman's lures, nor blandishments of tricksey dimples, nor
captivating smiles, with which she forms her adamantine fetters. No;
'tis the open soul of honesty; true, sincere, and unrelentingly just,
to me, to herself, to all; 'tis that enchanting kindness, that heavenly
suavity which never forsakes her; that equanimity of smiling yet
obstinate fortitude; that hilarity of heart that knows not gloom
because it knows not evil; that inscrutable purity which rests secure
that all like itself are natively immaculate; that--Pshaw!--I can find
no words, find you imagination therefore, and think not I will labour
at impossibility. You have read of ancient vestals, of the virgins
of Paradise, and of demi-deities that tune their golden harps on
high?--Read again--And, having travelled with prophets and apostles
to the heaven of heavens, descend and view her, and invent me language
to describe her, if you can!
Curse on this Frank Henley! But for him my vengeance never would have
been roused! Never would the fatal sentence have passed my lips!--'Tis
now irrevocable--Sure as the lofty walls of Troy were doomed by gods
and destiny to smoke in ruins, so surely must the high-souled Anna
fall--'Ill starred wench!'--I, Fairfax, like other conquerors, cannot
shut pity from my bosom. While I cry havoc I could almost weep; could
look reluctant down on devastation which myself had made, and heave a
sigh, and curse my proper prowess!--In love and war alike, such,
Fairfax, is towering ambition. It must have victims: its reckless
altars ask a full and large supply; and when perchance a snowy lamb,
spotless and pure, bedecked for sacrifice, in all the artless pomp of
unsuspecting innocence is brought, bright burns the flame, the white
clouds curl and mantle up to heaven, and there ambition proudly sits,
and snuffs with glut of lusty delight the grateful odour.
I know your tricks, Fairfax; you are one of the doubtful doctors; you
love to catch credulity upon your hook. I hear fat laughter gurgling in
your throat, and out bolts your threadbare simile--'Before the battle's
won the Brentford hero sings Te Deum.'--But don't be wasteful of the
little wit you have. Do I not tell you it is decreed? When was I posted
for a vapouring Hector? What but the recollections of my reiterated
ravings, resolves, threats, and imprecations could keep me steady;
assailed as I am by gentleness, benevolence, and saint-like charity?
By the agency of subtlety, hypocrisy, and fraud, I seek to
rob her of what the world holds most precious. By candour,
philanthropy and a noble expansion of heart, she seeks to render
me all that is superlatively great and good--Why did she not seek
all this in a less offensive way? Why did she oblige me to become
a disputant with a plebeian?--Disputant!--What do I say?--Worse,
worse!--Rival!--Devil!--Myriads of virtues could not atone the
crime!--Yet in this deep guilt she perseveres and glories!--Can I
forget?--Fear me not, nor rank my defeat among things possible--Be
patient and lend an ear.
To one sole object all my efforts point: her mind must be prepared, ay
so that when the question shall be put, chaste as that mind is, it
scarcely shall receive a shock. Such is the continual tendency of my
discourse. Her own open and undisguised manners are my guide. Not a
principle she maintains but which, by my cunning questions and affected
doubts pushed to an extreme, adds links to the chain in which I mean to
lead her captive.
Perhaps, Fairfax, you will tell me this is the old artifice; and that
the minds of all women, who can be said to have any mind, must thus be
inveigled to think lightly of the thing they are about to lose.
Granted. And yet the difference is infinite. They are brought to think
thus lightly of chastity: but, should you or any one of the gallant
phalanx attempt to make Anna St. Ives so think, she would presently cry
buzz to the dull blockhead, and give him his eternal dismission.
Virtue with her is a real existence, and as such must be adored. Her
passions are her slaves; and in this and this alone the lovely tyrant
is the advocate of despotism. She soon taught me that common arts would
be treated by her, not merely with determined and irrevocable repulse,
but with direct contempt. Some very feeble essays presently satisfied
me. No encroachments of the touch, no gloting of the eye, no well
feigned tremblings and lover's palpitations would for an instant be
suffered by her. Take the following as a specimen of my mode of attack.
Among her variety of hypotheses she has one on mutability. 'Little, she
says, as we know of matter and spirit, we still know enough to perceive
they are both instantaneously, eternally, and infinitely changing. Of
what the world has been, through this series of never beginning never
ending mutation, she can form nothing more than conjecture: yet she
cannot but think that the golden age is a supposition treated at
present with ridicule it does not deserve. By the laws of necessity,
mind, unless counteracted by accidents beyond its control, is
continually progressive in improvement. With some such accidents we are
tolerably well acquainted. Such are those which have been destructive
of its progress, notwithstanding the high attainments it had made in
Greece and Rome. The ruins still existing in Egypt are wonderful proofs
of what it once was there; though Egypt is at present almost unequalled
in ignorance and depravity. Who then shall affirm changes still more
extraordinary have not happened? She has no doubt, some revolution in
the planetary system excepted, that men will attain a much higher
degree of innocence, length of life, happiness, and wisdom than have
ever yet been dreamed of, either by historian, fabulist, or poet: for
causes which formerly were equal to the effects then produced are now
rendered impotent by the glorious art of printing; which spreads,
preserves, and multiplies knowledge, in despite of ignorance, false
zeal, and despotism.'
Such was her discourse, and thus vast were her views! Nay, urged on by
my questions, by the consequences which resulted from her own
doctrines, and by the ardour of emanating benevolence, she astonished
me by her sublime visions; for she proceeded to prove, from seemingly
fair deduction, 'that men should finally render themselves immortal;
should become scarcely liable to moral mistake; should all act from
principles previously demonstrated, and therefore never contend; should
be one great family without a ruler, because in no need of being ruled;
should be incapable of bodily pain or passion; and should expend their
whole powers in tracing moral and physical cause and effect; which,
being infinite in their series, will afford them infinite employment of
the most rational and delightful kind!'
Oh! How did the sweet enthusiast glow, ay and make me glow too, while,
with a daring but consistent hand she sketched out this bold picture of
But, while the lovely zealot thus descanted on splendid and half
incomprehensible themes, what did I? Why, when I found her at the
proper pitch, when I saw benevolence and love of human kind beaming
with most ardour in her eye, and pouring raptures from her lip, I then
recalled her to her beloved golden age, her times of primitive
simplicity; made her inform me what lovers then were, and what
marriage; and what the bonds were which hearts so affectionate and
minds so honest and pure demanded of each other.
What think you could her answers to all these questions be? What but
such as I wished? Could lovers like these suspect each other? Could
they basely do the wrong to ask for bond or pledge? Or, if they wanted
the virtue to charm, could they still more basely ask rewards they did
not merit? Could they, with the wretched selfish jealousy of a modern
marriage-maker, seek to cadaverate affection and to pervert each other
into a utensil, a commodity, a thing appropriate to self and liable
with other lumber to be cast aside? No, Fairfax; she played fairly and
deeply into my hand. She created exactly such a pair of lovers as I
could have desired: for with respect to the truth and constancy with
which she endowed them, if I cannot be the thing, I can wear the garb;
ay and it shall become me too, shall sit _degage_ upon me, and be
thought my native dress.
Think not that I am a mere listener: far the reverse. I throw in
masterly touches, which, while they seem only to heighten her picture,
produce the full effect by me intended. Thus, when she described the
faith and truth and love of the innocents of her own creation, how did
I declaim against the abuse to which such doctrine, though immutably
true, was liable!
'Alas! madam,' said I, 'had the unprincipled youths with which these
times abound your powers of argument with their own principles, how
dreadful would be the effect! How many unsuspecting hearts would they
I am once more just returned from the palace of Alcina! I broke off at
the end of my last paragraph to attend my charmer; and here again am I
detesting myself for want of resolution; and detesting myself still
more for having made a resolution, for having undertaken that which I
am so eternally tempted to renounce. Your sneer and your laugh are both
ready--I know you, Fairfax--'The gentleman is sounding a retreat! The
enterprise is too difficult!'--No--tell you no, no, no,--But I am
almost afraid it is too damnable!
I pretended to be exceedingly anxious concerning the delay, and
afflicted at not hearing any thing more from Sir Arthur. If I did not
do this, it might be a clue to lead her to suspect hypocrisy,
considering how very ardent I was at the commencement. And, to say the
truth, I am weary enough of waiting; though it is not my wish to be
relieved by any expedition of Sir Arthur's, who, as I hinted to you
before, does not appear to be in the least hurry, and whose unction for
the gardener's son increases.
But had you heard her console me! Had you seen her kindness! The tear
glistening in her eye while she entreated me to consider delay as a
fortunate event, which tended to permanent and ineffable happiness; had
you I say beheld her soul, for it was both visible and audible, Fairfax
though you are, the marauder of marriage land and the sworn foe of
virginity, even you would have pardoned my tergiversation.
Did you never behold the sun burst forth from behind the riding clouds?
The scene that was gloomy, dark and dismal is suddenly illumined; what
was obscure becomes conspicuous; the bleak hills smile, the black
meadows assume a bright verdure; quaking shadows dare no longer stay,
cold damps are dispelled, and in an instant all is visible, clear, and
radiant! So vanish doubts when she begins to speak! Thus in her
presence do the feelings glow; and thus is gloom banished from the
soul, till all is genial warmth and harmony!
These being my feelings now, when I am escaped, when I am beyond the
circle of her sorceries, think, Fairfax, be just and think how
seductive, how dangerous an enemy I have to encounter--Listen and
'Oh! Clifton'--She speaks! Listen I say to her spells!--'Oh! Clifton,
daily and hourly do I bless this happy accident, this delay! I think,
with the heroic archbishop, I could have held my right hand firmly till
the flames had consumed it, could I but have brought to pass what this
blessed event has already almost accomplished! To behold your mind
what it is and to recollect what it so lately was is bliss unutterable!
I consider myself now as destined to be yours: but whether I am or am
not is perhaps a thing of little moment. Let self be forgotten, and all
its petty interests! What am I? What can I be, compared to what you may
become? The patriot, the legislator, the statesman, the reconciler of
nations, the dispenser of truth, and the instructor of the human race;
for to all these you are equal. As for me, however ardent however great
my good-will, I cannot have the same opportunities. Beside I must be
just to myself and you, and it delights me to declare I believe you
have a mind capable of conceptions more vast than mine, of plans more
daring and systems more deep, and of soaring beyond me. You have the
strong memory, the keen sensibility and the rapid imagination which
form the poet. It is my glory to repeat that your various powers, when
called forth, have as variously astonished me. To bid you persevere
were now to wrong you, for I think I dare affirm you cannot retreat.
You have at present seen too much, thought too much, known too much
ever to forget. In private you will be the honour of your family and
the delight of your wife; and in public the boast of your country and
the admiration of the virtuous and the wise.'
I fell on my knee to the speaking deity! She seemed delivering oracles!
My passions rose, my heart was full, her eulogium made it loath and
abhor its own deceit; the words--'Madam, I am a villain!'--bolted to my
lips, there they quivering lingered in excruciating suspense, and at
last slunk back like cowards, half wishing but wholly ashamed to do
By the immortal powers, Fairfax, it was past resisting! Why should I
not be all she has described? The hero, the legislator, the great
leader of this little world? Ay, why not? She seemed to prophesy. She
has raised a flame in me which, if encouraged, might fertilize or
desolate kingdoms. Body of Caesar, I know not what to say!
'Tis true she has treated me ill; nay vilely. It cannot be denied. But
ill treatment itself, from her, is superior to all the maukish kindness
which folly and caprice endeavour to lavish. Fairfax, would you did but
behold her! My heart was never so assailed before!
My resolution is shaken, I own, but it is not obliterated. No; I will
think again. My very soul is repugnant to the supposition of leaving
its envenomed tumours unassuaged, and its angered stabs unavenged. Yet,
if healed they could be, she surely possesses that healing art--Once
more I will think again.
What you tell me in the Postscript to your last concerning Count Caduke
[Consult your dictionary; or to save yourself trouble read Count Crazy,
alias Beaunoir.] is wholly unintelligible to me. But as you say the
name of the gardener's son was several times mentioned by him, I shall
take an immediate opportunity of interrogating the 'squire of shrubs,
who I am certain from principle will when asked tell me all he knows.
Apropos of poetry. The panegyric of this sylph of the sun-beams gave me
an impulse which I could not resist, and the following was the
offspring of my headlong and impetuous muse; for such the hussey is
whenever the fit is upon her. I commit it as it may happen to your
censure or applause; with this stipulation, if you do not like it
either alter it till you do, or write me another which both you and I
shall like better. If that be not fair and rational barter, I know
nothing either of trade, logic, or common sense.
When by the gently gliding stream,
On banks where purple violets spring,
I see my Delia's beauties beam,
I hear my lovely Delia sing,
When hearts combine,
And arms entwine,
When fond caresses, am'rous kisses
Yield the height of human blisses,
Entranc'd I gaze, and sighing say,
Thus let me love my life away.
Or when the jocund bowl we pass,
And joke and wit and whim abound,
When song and catch and friend and lass
In sparkling wine we toast around,
When Bull and Pun
Rude riot run,
And finding still the mirth increasing,
Pealing laughter roars sans ceasing,
I peal and roar and pant and say,
Thus let me laugh my life away.
When dreams of fame my fancy fill,
Sweet soothing dreams of verse and rhyme,
That mark the poet's happy skill,
And bid him live to latest time,
Each rising thought
With music fraught,
All full, all flowing, nothing wanting,
All harmonious, all enchanting,
Oh thus, in rapt delights I say,
Thus let me sing my life away!
Oh lovely woman, gen'rous wine,
These potent pleasures let me quaff!
Thy raptures, wit, oh make them mine!
Oh let me drink and love and laugh!
In flowing verse
Let me rehearse
How well I've used your bounteous treasure;
Then at last when full my measure,
Tho' pale my lip, I'll smile and say,
I've liv'd the best of lives away.
_Frank Henley to Oliver Trenchard_
_London, Grosvenor Street_
Within a week, Oliver, we shall once more meet. What years of
separation may afterward follow is more than I can divine. I surely
need not tell thee that this thought of separation, were it not opposed
by principle, would indeed be painful, and that it is at moments almost
too mighty for principle itself. But we are the creatures of an
omnipotent necessity; and there can be but little need to remind thee
that a compliance with the apparently best should ever be an unrepining
and cheerful act of duty.
I have had a conversation with Sir Arthur, very singular in its kind,
which has again awakened sensations in their full force that had
previously cost me many bitter struggles to allay. I began with
informing him of my intention to go down to Wenbourne-Hill; after which
I proceeded to tell him it was my design to embark for America.
He seemed surprised, and said he hoped not.
I answered I had reflected very fully on the plan, and that I believed
it was scarcely probable any reason should occur which could induce me
to change my purpose.
The thing, he replied, might perhaps not be so entirely improbable as I
supposed. His family had great obligations to me. I had even risked my
life on various occasions for them. They thought my talents very
extraordinary. In fine, Oliver, the good old gentleman endeavoured to
say all the kind and, as he deemed them, grateful things his memory
could supply; and added that, should I leave England without affording
them some opportunity to repay their obligations, they should be much
grieved. There were perhaps two or three very great difficulties in the
way; but still he was not sure they might not be overcome. Not that he
could say any thing positively, for matters were he must own in a very
doubtful state. He was himself indeed very considerably uneasy, and
undetermined: but he certainly wished me exceedingly well, and so with
equal certainty at present did all his family. His daughter, his son,
himself, were all my debtors.
The good old gentleman's heart overflowed, Oliver, and by its
ebullitions raised a tumult in mine, which required every energy it
possessed to repel. What could I answer, but that I had done no more
for his family than what it was my duty to do for the greatest
stranger; and that, if gratitude be understood to mean a remembrance of
favours received, I and my family had for years indubitably been the
He still persisted however in endeavouring to dissuade me from the
thought of quitting the kingdom. Not finding me convinced by his
arguments, he hesitated, with an evident desire to say something which
he knew not very well how to begin. All minds on such occasions are
under strong impulses. My own wish that he should be explicit was
eager, and I excited him to proceed. At last he asked if he might put a
question to me; assuring me it was far from his intention to offend,
but that he had some uneasy doubts which he could be very glad to have
I desired him to interrogate me freely; and to assure himself that I
would be guilty of no dissimulation.
He knew my sincerity, he said; but if when I heard I should think any
thing in what he asked improper, I past dispute had a right to refuse.
I answered that I suspected or rather was convinced I had no such
right, and requested him to begin.
He again stammered, and at last said--I think, Mr. Henley, I have
remarked some degree of esteem between you and my daughter--
He stopped--His desire not to wound my feelings was so evident that I
determined to relieve him, and replied--
I believe, sir, I can now divine the subject of your question. You
would be glad to know if any thing have passed between us, and what?
Perhaps you ought to have been told without asking; but I am certain
that concealment at present would be highly wrong.
I then repeated as accurately as my memory would permit, which is
tolerably tenacious on this subject, all which Anna and I had
reciprocally said and done. It was impossible, Oliver, to make this
recapitulation with apathy. My feelings were awakened, and I assure
thee the emotions of Sir Arthur were as lively as in such a mind thou
couldst well suppose. The human heart seems to be meliorated and
softened by age. He wept, a thing with him certainly not usual, at the
recital of his daughter's heroic resolves in favour of duty, and at her
respect for parental prejudices. Her dread of rendering him unhappy
made him even sob, and burst into frequent interjections of--'She is a
dear girl! She is a heavenly girl! I always loved her! She is the
delight of my life, my soul's treasure! From her infancy to this hour,
she was always an angel!'
After hearing me fully confirm him in his esteem and affection for so
superlative a daughter, he added--You tell me, Mr. Henley, that you
freely informed my daughter you thought it was even her duty to prefer
you to all mankind, even though her father and friends should
disapprove the match.
I did, sir. I spoke from conviction, and should have thought myself
culpable had I been silent.
Perhaps so. But that is very uncommon doctrine.
It was not merely that more felicity would have been secured to
ourselves, but greater good I supposed would result to society.
I have heard you explain things of that kind before. I do not very well
understand them, but give me leave to ask--Are you still of the same
I am, sir.--Not that I am so confident as I was--Mr. Clifton has a very
astonishing strength of mind: and, should it be turned to the worthy
purposes of which it is capable, I dare by no means decide positively
in my own favour: and the decision which I now make against him is the
result of the intimate acquaintance which I must necessarily have with
my own heart, added to certain dubious appearances as to his which I
know not how to reconcile. Of myself I am secure.
And of him you have some doubts?
I have: but I ought in duty to add the appearances of their being
unjust are daily strengthened.
Sir Arthur paused, ruminated, and again seemed embarrassed. At last he
owned he knew not what to say: turn which way he would the obstacles
were very considerable. His mind had really felt more distress, within
these two months, than it had ever known before. He could resolve on
nothing. Yet he could not but wish I had not been quite so determined
on going to America. There was no saying what course things might take.
Mrs. Clifton was very ill, and in all probability could not live long.
But again he knew not what to say. He certainly wished me very
well--Very well--I was an uncommon young man. I was a gentleman by
nature, which for aught he knew might be better than a gentleman by
birth. The world had its opinions; perhaps they were just, perhaps
unjust. He had been used to think with the world, but he had heard so
much lately that he was not quite so positive as he had been--[This,
Oliver, reminded me of the power of truth; how it saps the strong holds
of error and winds into the heart, and how incessantly its advocates
ought to propagate it on every occasion.] He was not quite so well
pleased as he had been with my father, but that was no fault of mine;
he knew I had a very different manner of thinking. Still he must say it
was what he very little expected. He hoped however that things would
one way or other go more smoothly; and he concluded with taking my
hand, pressing it very warmly, and adding with considerable
earnestness--'If you can think of changing your American project, pray
After which he left me with something like a heavy heart.
And now, Oliver, how ought I to act? The opposing causes of these
doubts and difficulties in his mind are evident. The circumstances
which have occurred in my favour, being aided by the obstinate
selfishness of my father, by his acquired wealth, and as I suppose by
the embroiled state of Sir Arthur's affairs, have produced an unhoped
for revolution in the sentiments of Sir Arthur. But is it not too late?
Are not even the most tragical consequences to be feared from an
opposition to Clifton? Nay, if his mind be what his words and behaviour
speak, would not opposition be unjust? Were it not better with severe
but virtuous resolution to repel these flattering and probably
deceitful hopes, than by encouraging them to feed the canker-worm of
peace, and add new force to the enemy within, who rather stunned than
conquered is every moment ready to revive.
Neither is Sir Arthur master of events. Nor is his mind consistent
enough to be in no danger of change.
My heart is sufficiently prone to indulge opposite sentiments, but it
must be silenced; it must listen to the voice of truth.
Did I but better understand this Clifton, I should better know how to
decide. That he looks up to her with admiration I am convinced. She
seems to have discovered the true key to his understanding as well as
to his affections. Even within this day or two, I have observed
symptoms very much in his favour. How do I know but thus influenced he
may become the first of mankind? The thought restores me to a sense of
right. Never, Oliver, shall self complacency make me guilty of what
cannot but be a crime most heinous! If such a mind may by these means
be gained which would otherwise be lost, shall it be extinguished by
me? Would not an assassination like this outweigh thousands of common
murders? Well may I shudder at such an act! Oliver, I am resolved. If
there be power in words or in reason my father shall comply.
As far as I understand the human mind, there is and even should he
persevere there always must be something to me enigmatical in this
instance of its efforts in Clifton. Persevere however I most sincerely
hope and even believe he will.--But should he not?--The supposition is
dreadful!--Anna St. Ives!--My heart sinks within me!--Can virtue like
hers be vulnerable?--Surely not!--The more pure a woman is in principle
the more secure would she be from common seducers. But, if the man can
be found who possesses the necessary though apparently incompatible
excess of folly and wisdom, there is a mode by which such a woman is
more open to the arts of deceit than any other. And is not that woman
Anna St. Ives? Nay more, if he be not a prodigy of even a still more
extraordinary kind, is not that man Coke Clifton?
He came in the heyday of youthful pride, self-satisfied,
self-convinced, rooted in prejudice but abundant in ideas. Argument
made no impression; for where he ought to have listened he laughed.
The weapons of wit never failed him; and, while he launched them at
others, they recoiled and continually lacerated himself. Of this he
was insensible: he felt them not, or felt them but little. His
haughtiness never slumbered; and to oppose him was to irritate, not
convince. For four months he continued pertinaciously the same; then,
without any cause known to me, suddenly changed. It was indeed too
sudden not to be alarming!
And yet my firm and cool answer to all this is that hypocrisy so
foolish as well as atrocious is all but impossible--
Indeed, Oliver, I do not seek to wrong him: I do not hunt after
unfavourable conjectures, they force themselves upon me: or if I do it
is unconsciously. The passions are strangely perverse: and if I am
deceived, as I hope I am, it is they that misguide me.
Clifton has just been with me. Some correspondent from Paris has
mentioned the visit paid to me instead of him by the Count de Beaunoir,
but in a dark and unintelligible manner, and he came to enquire. I
confess, Oliver, while I was answering his interrogatories, I seemed to
feel that both you and I had drawn a false conclusion relative to
secrecy; and that by concealment to render myself the subject of
suspicion was an unworthy procedure. However as my motives were not
indirect, whatever my silence might be, I answered without reserve and
told him all that had passed; frankly owning my fears of his
irritability as the reason why I did not mention the affair
He laughted at the Count's rhodomontade, acknowledged himself obliged
to me, and allowed that at that time my fears were not wholly
causeless. He behaved with ease and good humour, and left me without
appearing to have taken any offence. I shall be with thee on Tuesday.
I know it will be a day of feasting to the family, and I will do my
best endeavour not to cast a damp on the hilarity of benevolence and
_Anna Wenbourne St. Ives to Louisa Clifton_
_London, Grosvenor Street_
Alas! Louisa, what are we?--What are our affections, what our resolves?
Taken at unguarded moments, agitated, hurried away by passion, how
seldom have we for a day together reason to be satisfied with our
Not pleased with myself, I doubt I have given cause of displeasure
to your brother. My father was in part the occasion: for a moment he
made me forget myself--Louisa!--Frank Henley is going to America!
He does not lightly resolve, and his resolution seems fixed!--Good
God!--I--Louisa!--I am afraid I am a guilty creature!--Weak!--Very
weak!--And is not weakness guilt?--But why should he leave us?--Where
will he find hearts more alive to his worth?
Sir Arthur came to inform me of it: he had been conversing with him,
and had endeavoured but without effect to dissuade him from his
purpose. He came and begged me to try. I perhaps might be more
There was a marked significance in his manner, and I asked him why?
Nay, my dear child, said he, and his heart seemed full, you know why.
Mr. Henley has told me why.
What, sir, has he told? Nothing, child--[Sir Arthur took my
hand]--Nothing, but what is honourable to you--I questioned him,
and you know he is never guilty of falsehood.
No, sir; he is incapable of it.
Well, Anna, try then to persuade him not to leave us. Though he is a
very excellent young man, I am afraid he has not the best of fathers. I
begin to feel I have not been so prudent as I might have been; and, if
Mr. Henley were to leave England, the father might attribute it to us,
and--[Sir Arthur hesitated]--I have received some extraordinary letters
from Abimelech, of which I did not at first see the full drift; but it
is now clear; every thing corresponds, and my conversation with young
Mr. Henley has confirmed all I had supposed. However he is a very good
a very extraordinary young gentleman, and I could wish he would not go.
I don't know what may happen.
Your brother came in and Sir Arthur left me, desiring me as he went to
remember what he had said. Clifton after an apology asked--Does it
relate to me? At that moment Frank entered. No, said I; it relates to
one who I did not think would have been so ready to forsake his
A thousand thoughts had crowded to my mind; a dread of having used him
ungenerously, unjustly; a recollection of all he had done and all he
had suffered; his enquiring, penetrating, and unbounded genius; his
superlative virtues; a horror of his being banished his native country
by me; of his wandering among strangers, exposed to poverty, perils,
and death, with the conviction in his heart that I had done him
wrong!--My tumultuous feelings rushed upon me, overpowered me, and in a
moment of enthusiasm I ran to him, snatched his hand, fell on my knee
and exclaimed--'For the love of God, Mr. Henley, do not think of
Clifton like myself could not conquer the first assault of passion: he
pronounced the word madam! in a tone mingled with surprise and severe
energy, which recalled me to myself--
You see, said I, turning to him, what an unworthy weak creature I
am!--But Mr. Henley has taken the strangest resolution--!
What, madam, said your brother, recovering himself, and with some
pleasantry, is he for a voyage to the moon? Or does he wait the arrival
of the next comet, to make the tour of the universe?
Nay, answered I, you must join me, and not treat my poor petition with
ridicule--You must not go, Mr. Henley; indeed you must not! I, Mr.
Clifton, my father, my brother, we will none of us hear of it! We are
all your debtors, and it would be unjust in you to deprive us of every
opportunity of testifying our friendship.
Your brother, Louisa, made an effort worthy of himself, repressed the
error of his first feelings, assumed the gentle aspect of entreaty, and
kindly joined me.
We are indeed your debtors, said he to Mr. Henley. But I hope it is not
true. I hope there is no danger that you should forsake us. Where would
you go? Where can you be so happy? I mean first, replied Frank, to go
to Wenbourne Hill; and after that my intentions are for America.
This, Louisa, brought on a long discussion. I and your brother both
endeavoured to convince him it was his duty to remain in England; that
he could be more serviceable here, and would find better opportunities
for effecting that good which he had so warmly at heart than in any
He answered that, though he was not convinced by our arguments, he
should think it his duty seriously to consider them. But we could not
make him promise any thing further. Previous to his return from
Wenbourne Hill he would determine.
Indeed, Louisa, this affair lies very heavily upon my mind. I am
incessantly accusing myself as the cause of his exile. And am I not? By
the manner of Sir Arthur I am sure he must have said something very
highly in my praise. I have gone too far with your brother to recede:
that is now impossible. It would be more flagrant injustice than even
the wrong to Frank, if a wrong it be, and indeed, Louisa, I dread it
is!--Indeed I do!--I dread it even with a kind of horror!
I thought reason would have appeased these doubts ere this; but every
occasion I find calls them forth with unabated vigour. Surely this
mental blindness must be the result of neglect. Had we but the will,
the determination, it might be removed. Oh how reprehensible is my
The rapid decline of Mrs. Clifton grieves me deeply. Your brother too
has frequently mentioned it with feelings honourable to his heart. He
is now more than ever sensible of her worth. He has been with me since
I began to write this letter, and there is not the least appearance of
remaining umbrage on his mind. It was indeed but of short duration,
though too strong and sudden not to be apparent.
All kindness, peace, and felicity be with you.
A. W. ST. IVES
_Coke Clifton to Guy Fairfax_
_London, Dover Street_
I will curse no more, Fairfax. Or, if curse I do, it shall be at my own
fatuity. I will not be the dilatory, languid, ranting, moralizing
Hamlet of the drama; that has the vengeance of hell upon his lips and
the charity of heaven in his heart. I will use not speak daggers--
Fairfax, I am mad!--Raging!--The smothered and pent-up mania must
have vent--What! Was not the page sufficiently black before?--I am
amazed at my own infatuation! My very soul spurns at it!--But 'tis
past--Deceitful, damned sex!--Idiot that I was, I began to fancy myself
beloved!--I!--Blind, deaf, insensate driveler!--Torpid, blockish,
brainless mammet!--Most sublime ass!--Oh for a bib and barley sugar,
with the label _Meacock_ pinned before and behind!--
Fairfax, I never can forgive my own absurd and despicable
stupidity!--Marriage?--What, with a woman in whose eye the perfect
impression and hated form of a mean rival is depicted?--In colours
glowing hot!--Who lives, revels, triumphs in her heart!--I marry
such a woman?--I?--
'I had rather be a toad,
And live upon the vapour of a dungeon,
Than keep a corner in the thing I love
For other's use.'
I am too full of phrensy, Fairfax, to tell thee what I mean: but she
has given me another proof, more damning even than all the former, of
the gluttony with which her soul gorges. Her gloating eye devours him;
ay, I being present. Nay, were I this moment in her arms, her arms
would be clasping him, not me: with him she would carouse, nor would
any thing like me exist--Contagion!--Poison and boiling oil!--
Never before was patience so put to the proof--My danger was extreme.
With rage flaming in my heart, I was obliged to wear complacency,
satisfaction and smiles on my countenance.
The fellow has determined to ship himself for America--Would it were
for the bottomless pit!--And had you beheld her panic?--St. Luke's
collected maniacs at the full of the moon could not have equalled
her!--'Twas well indeed her frantic outrage was so violent, or I had
been detected and all had been lost--As it was I half betrayed
myself--the fellow's eye glanced at me. However it gave me my cue; and,
all things considered, I afterward performed to a miracle. Her own
enthusiastic torrent swept all before it, and gave me time. She was in
an ecstasy; reasoning, supplicating, conjuring, panting. I, her
friends, the whole world must join her: and join her I did. It was the
very relief of which hypocrisy stood in need. I entreated this
straight-backed youth, stiff in determination, to condescend to lend a
pitying ear to our petitions; to suffer us to permeate his bowels of
compassion, and avert this fatal and impending cloud, fraught with
evils, misery, and mischief--
But marry no!--It could not be!--Sentence was passed--He had been at
the trouble to make a pair of scales, and knew the weight to a scruple
of every link in the whole chain of cause and effect--Teach him,
truly!--Advise him!--Move him!--When? Who? How?--At last compliance,
willing to be royally gracious, said, Well it would consider--Though
there was but little hope--Nothing it had heard had any cogency of
perscrutation--But, in fine, it would be clement, and consider.
Do you not see this fellow, Fairfax? Is he not now before your eyes? Is
he not the most consummate--? But why do I trouble myself a moment
about him?--It is her!--Her!--
Nor is this all. Did that devil that most delights in mischief direct
every concurring circumstance, they could not all and each be more
uniform, more coercive to the one great end. This poor dotterel, Sir
Arthur, is playing fast and loose with me. He has been at his
soundings--He!--Imbecile animal!--Could wish there were not so many
difficulties--Is afraid they cannot be all removed--Has his doubts and
his fears--Twenty thousand pounds is a large sum, and Mrs. Clifton is
very positive--His own affairs much less promising than he
supposed--Then by a declension of hems, hums, and has, he descended
to young Mr. Henley--A very extraordinary young gentleman!--A very
surprising youth!--One made on purpose as it were for plum-cake days,
high festivals, and raree show!--A prodigy!--Not begotten, born or bred
in the dull blind-man's-buff way of simple procreation; but sent us on
a Sunday morning down Jacob's ladder!--Then for obligations to him,
count them who could!--He must first study more arithmetic!--And as
for affection it was a very wayward thing--Not always in people's
power--There was no knowing what was best--The hand might be given and
the heart be wanting--And with respect to whether the opinions of the
world ought to be regarded, good truth he knew not. Marry! The world
was much more ready to blame others than to amend itself: and he had
been almost lately persuaded not to care a fico for the world. But for
his part he was a godly Christian, and wished all for the best. He had
faith, hope, and charity, which were enough for one.
Do not imagine, Fairfax, the poor dotard would have dared to betray
himself thus far, had not I presently perceived his drift and wormed
him of these dismal cogitations of the spirit. He beat about, and
hovered, and fluttered, and chirped mournfully, like the poor
infatuated bird that beholds the serpent's mouth open, into which it is
immediately to drop and be devoured. However, having begun, I was
determined to make him unburden his whole heart. If hereafter he can
possibly find courage to face me, in order to reproach, I have my
lesson ready. 'Out of thy own mouth will I judge thee, sinner.'
Gangrened as my heart is, I still find a satisfaction in this self
convalescence. The lady of mellifluous speech shall suborn no more; no
more shall lull me into beatific slumbers. I have recovered from my
trance, and what I dreamed was celestial I will demonstrate to be mere
From his own lips I learn that this insolent scoundrel received a visit
from the Count de Beaunoir, which was intended for me: and, out of
tender pity to my body, lest, God 'ild us, it should get a drilling, he
did bestow some trifle of that wit and reason of which he has so great
a superflux upon the Count, thereby to turn aside his wrathful ire.
I heard the gentleman tell his tale, and tickle his imagination with
the remembrance of his own doctiloquy, with infinite composure; and,
whenever I put a question, took care first to prepare a smile. Every
thing was well, better could not be.
With respect to _Monsieur le Comte_, I'll take some opportunity to
whisper a word in his ear. It is not impossible, Fairfax, but that I
may visit Paris even within this fortnight. Not that I can pretend to
predict. They shall not think I fly them, should any soul among them
dare to dream of vengeance. I know the Count to be as vain of his
skill in the sword as he is of his pair of watch strings, his
Paris-Birmingham snuff-box, or the bauble that glitters on his finger.
I think I can give him a lesson: at least I mean to try.
My mother's health declines apace. I know not whether it may not
shortly be necessary for me to visit her. The loss of her will afflict
me, but in all appearance it is inevitable, and I fear not far distant.
Once more, Fairfax, should you again fall in company with the Count,
and he should give himself the most trifling airs, assure him that I
will do myself the honour to embrace him within a month at farthest
from that date, be it when it will.
_Anna Wenbourne St. Ives to Louisa Clifton_
He is gone, Louisa; has left us; his purpose unchanged, his heart
oppressed, and his mind intent on promoting the happiness of those by
whom he is exiled. And what am I, or who, that I should do him this
violence? What validity have these arguments of rank, relationship, and
the world's opprobrium? Are they just? He refuted them: so he thought,
and so _persists_ to think. And who was ever less partial, or more
severe to himself?
Louisa, my mind is greatly disturbed. His high virtues, the exertion of
them for the peculiar protection of me and my family, and the dread of
committing an act of unpardonable injustice, if unjust it be, are
images that haunt and tantalize me incessantly.
If my conclusions have been false, and if his asserted claims be true,
how shall I answer those which I have brought upon myself? The claims
of your brother, which he urges without remission, are still stronger.
They have been countenanced, admitted, and encouraged. I cannot recede.
What can I do but hope, ardently hope, Frank Henley is in an error, and
that he himself may make the discovery? Yet how long and fruitless have
these hopes been! My dilemma is extreme; for, if I have been mistaken,
act how I will, extreme must be the wrong I commit!
Little did I imagine a moment so full of bitter doubt and distrust as
this could come. Were I but satisfied of the rectitude of my decision,
there are no sensations which I could not stifle, no affections which I
could not calm, nor any wandering wishes but what I could reprove to
silence. But the dread of a flagrant, an odious injustice distracts me,
and I know not where or of whom to seek consolation. Even my Louisa,
the warm friend of my heart, cannot determine in my favour.
Your brother has been with me. He found me in tears, enquired the
cause, and truth demanded a full and unequivocal confidence. I shewed
him what I had been writing. You may well imagine, Louisa, he did not
read it with total apathy. But he suppressed his own feelings with
endeavours to give relief to mine. He argued to shew me my motives had
been highly virtuous. He would not say--[His candour delighted me,
Louisa.]--He would not say there was no ground for my fears: he was
interested and might be partial. He believed indeed I had acted in
strict conformity to the purest principles; but, had I even been
mistaken, the origin of my mistake was so dignified as totally to
deprive the act of all possible turpitude.
He was soothing and kind, gave high encomiums to Frank, took blame to
himself for the error of his former opinions, and, reminding me of the
motives which first induced me to think of him, tenderly asked if I had
any new or recent cause to be weary of my task.
What could I answer? What, but that I was delighted with the rapid
change perceptible in his sentiments, and with the ardour with which
his enquiries were continued?
Frank Henley is by this time at Wenbourne Hill. You will see him. Plead
our cause, Louisa: urge him to remain among us. Condescend even to
enforce my selfish motive, that he would not leave me under the
torturing supposition of having banished him from a country which he
was born to enlighten, reform, and bless!
There is indeed another argument; but I know not whether it ought to be
mentioned. Sir Arthur owns he is in the power of the avaricious
Abimelech, and I believe is in dread of foreclosures that might even
eject him from Wenbourne Hill. This man must have been an early and a
deep adventurer in the trade of usury, or he never could have gained
wealth so great as he appears to have amassed.
Past incidents, with all of which you are acquainted, have given Sir
Arthur a high opinion of Frank: and this added to his own fears, I am
persuaded, would lead him to consider a union between us at present
with complacency, were not such an inclination opposed by other
circumstances. The open encouragement that he himself has given to
Clifton is one, and it is strengthened by all the interest of the other
branches of our family. Your brother is highly in favour with Lord Fitz
Allen. My aunt Wenbourne equally approves the match, and Clifton and my
brother Edward are become intimate. As to me, reason, consistency, and
my own forward conduct, oblige me to be the enemy of Frank.
Louisa, I scarcely know what I write! Think not I have abandoned myself
to the capricious gusts of passion; or that my love of uncontaminated
and rigorous virtue is lessened. No, it is indecision, it is an
abhorrence of injustice which shake and disquiet me.
Write to me; let me know your sentiments; and particularly how far your
application to Frank, when you have made it, is successful. I am
anxious to receive your letter, for I know it will inspire fortitude,
of which I am in great, great need.
A. W. ST. IVES
_Louisa Clifton to Anna Wenbourne St. Ives_
Oh my dearest and ever dear Anna, what shall I say, how shall I assuage
doubts that take birth in principles so pure and a heart so void of
guile? I know not. I have before acknowledged the mist is too thick for
me to penetrate.
The worthy the noble-minded Frank has been with us, and I could devise
no better way than to shew him your letter. He was greatly moved, and
collecting all the firmness of his soul resolutely declared that, since
your peace was so deeply concerned, be his own sensations what they
might, he would conquer them and remain in England. The heart-felt
applause he bestowed upon you was almost insupportably affecting. He
has indeed a deep sense of your uncommon worth; and he alone I fear on
earth is capable of doing it justice.
But things have taken a different turn; and what can the best of us do,
when involved as we continually are in doubt and difficulty, but act as
you do, with impartial self denial, and the most rigid regard to truth
Alas, dear Anna, I too am in need of support, and in search of
fortitude!--My mother!--She will not be long among us!--A heart more
benevolent, a mind more exalted--! She calls!--I hear her feeble
voice!--Not even my Anna must rob her of my company, for those few
remaining moments she has yet to come. I am her last consolation.
I expect you will this post receive a letter from Frank, that will
speak more effectually to your heart than I have either the time to do
or the power.
_Frank Henley to Anna Wenbourne St. Ives_
Your generous and zealous friend has thought proper to shew me your
letter. I will not attempt to describe the sensations it excited; but,
as your peace of mind is precious to me, and more precious still
perhaps to the interests of society, and since my departure would
occasion alarms and doubts so strong, I am determined to stay. My
motives for going I thought too forcible and well founded to be
overpowered; nor could they perhaps have been vanquished by any less
cause. If one of us must suffer the warfare of contending sentiments
and principles, let it be me. It was to fly from and if possible forget
or subdue them that I projected such a voyage. Our duties to society
must not cede to any effeminate compassion for ourselves. We are both
enough acquainted with those duties to render us more than commonly
culpable, should we be guilty of neglect.
To describe my weakness, and the contention to which my passions have
been lately subject, might tend to awaken emotions in you which ought
to be estranged from your mind. Our lot is cast: let us seek support in
those principles which first taught us reciprocal esteem, nor palliate
our desertion of them by that self pity which would become our
reproach. We have dared to make high claims, form high enterprises, and
assert high truths; let us shew ourselves worthy of the pretensions we
have made, and not by our proper weakness betray the cause of which we
You will not--no, you are too just--I am sure, madam, you will not
attribute resolutions like these, which are more (infinitely more)
painful to the heart than they ought to be, to any light or unworthy
change of sentiment. Superior gifts, superior attainments, and superior
virtues inevitably beget admiration, in those who discover them, for
their possessors. Admiration is the parent of esteem, and the
continuance and increase of this esteem is affection, or, in its purest
and best sense, love. To say I would not esteem and would not love
virtue, and especially high and unusual virtue, would be both folly and
But you have taught me how pure and self-denying this love may be. Oh
that the man of your choice may but become all you hope, and all of
which his uncommon powers are capable! Oh that I may but see you as
happy as you deserve to be, and I think I shall then not bestow much
pity upon myself.
I have forborne, madam, to intrude the petty disquiets of another kind,
from which as you will readily imagine I cannot have been wholly free.
Need I say how much I disapprove my father's views, and the mode by
which he would have them accomplished? There is no effort I will not
make to conquer and remove this obstacle. It wounds me to the heart
that you, the daughter of his benefactor, should for a moment be
dependant on his avarice. The injury and iniquity are equally
revolting, and there are moments when my prejudices falsely accuse me
of being a participator in the guilt.
I have had two conversations with my father: they both were animated;
but, though he was very determined, his resolution begins to fail; and,
as I have justice on my side and am still more determined than he, I
have no doubt that in a few days every thing which Sir Arthur has
required of him he will be willing to undertake.
However as in a certain sense all is doubtful which is yet to be done,
perhaps strict prudence would demand that Sir Arthur should not be led
to hope till success is ascertained; of which I will not delay a moment
to send you information.
I am, &c.
_Coke Clifton to Guy Fairfax_
_London, Dover Street_
The moment, Fairfax, the trying, the great, the glorious moment
approaches. Every possible contributing cause calls aloud for
expedition, and reprobates delay. This gardening fellow is gone. For
his absence I thank him, but not for the resolute spirit with which he
intends to attack his father and make him yield. He has a tongue that
would silence the congregated clamours of the Sorbonne, and dumb-found
Belial himself in the hall of Pandemonium. 'Tis certain he has a tough
morsel to encounter, and yet I fear he will succeed.
This would destroy all--Marry her?--No!--By heaven, no! If the hopes of
Abimelech be not stubborn enough to persevere, they must and shall be
strengthened. His refusal is indispensably necessary in every view,
unless the view of marriage, which I once more tell you, Fairfax, I now
detest. I should have no plea with her, were that of delay removed.
What is still worse, this delay may be removed by another and more
painful cause. My mother it appears declines rapidly: her death is even
feared, and should it happen, I cannot pretend to insist on the
obstacles which her maternal cares and provisionary fears have raised.
I can think of no certain expedient, for this Abimelech, but that of an
anonymous letter. Neither the writing nor the style must appear to be
mine; nor must the hand that writes it understand its purport. Tyros
and ignorant as my opponents are, in the tricks and intrigues of
amorous stratagem, still they have too much understanding not to be
Those old necromancers Subtlety and Falsehood must forge the magic
armour, and the enchanted shield, under which I fight. Like wizards of
yore, they must render me invisible; and the fair form of the foolish
Clifton they have imagined must only be seen.
Honest Aby, or I mistake him, is too worthy a fellow to desert so good
a cause. And this cloud-capt lady, whose proud turrets I have sworn to
level with the dust, will not descend to plead the approaching death of
my mother, when I shall urge the injustice of delay--Ay, Fairfax, the
injustice! I mean to command, to dare, to overawe; that is the only
oratory which can put her to the rout. She loves to be astonished, and
astonished she shall be. If I do not shrink from myself her fall is
My heart exults in the coming joy! Never more will the milky pulp of
compassion rise to mar the luxurious meal! She has been writing to the
fellow, Fairfax; ay and has shewn me her letter! For, let her but
imagine that truth, or virtue, or principle, or any other abortive
being of her own creation, requires her to follow the whims of her
disjointed fancy, and what frantic folly is there of which she is
'Tis maddening to recollect, but she doats on the fellow; absolutely
doats! I am the tormenting demon that has appeared to interrupt her
happiness; she the devoted victim, sacrificed to shield me from harm!
The thought of separation from him is distracting, and every power must
be conjured up to avert the horrid woe!
Never before did my feelings support such various and continual
attacks; never did I endure infidelity so open or insult so unblushing.
But, patience; the day of vengeance is at hand, or rather is here! This
moment will I fly and take it! Expect to hear 'of battles, sieges,
disastrous chances, and of moving accidents; but not of hair breadth
'scapes!'--Escape she cannot! I go! She falls!
_Frank Henley to Anna Wenbourne St. Ives_
It is now a week since I wrote to you, madam, at which time I took some
pleasure in acquainting you with my hopes of success. These hopes
continued to increase, and my father had almost promised to agree to
the just proposals I made, when two days ago he suddenly and
pertinaciously changed his opinion.
I am sorry to add that he now appears to be much more determined than
ever, and that I am wholly astonished at and wholly unable to account
for this alteration of sentiment. I delayed sending you the
intelligence by yesterday's post, hoping it was only a temporary return
of former projects, which I could again reason away. But I find him so
positive, so passionate, and so inaccessible to reason, that I am
persuaded some secret cause has arisen of which I am ignorant. Yet do
not be dejected, dear madam, nor imagine I will lightly give it up as a
lost cause--No--My mind is too much affected and too earnestly bent on
its object not to accomplish it, if possible.
I received your letter, but have no thanks that can equal the
favour. I hope the emotions to which it gave birth were worthy such a
correspondent. I can truly and I believe innocently say my heart
sympathises in all your joys, hopes, and apprehensions; and that my
pleasure, at the progress of Mr. Clifton in the discovery of truth and
the practice of virtue, is but little less than your own.
[Footnote 1: It contained the state of her feelings, with which the
reader is already acquainted, but no new incidents; for which reason it
I am glad you thought proper to be cautious of giving Sir Arthur any
unconfirmed expectations; and I promise you to exert every effort to
effect a propitious change in the present temper and resolutions of my
I am, dear madam, &c.
_Coke Clifton to Guy Fairfax_
_London, Dover Street_
When last I wrote my resolution was taken, and I determined on
immediate attack. But I went in a seeming unlucky moment; though I much
mistake if it were not the very reverse.
The supposed misfortune I had foreseen fell upon me. The 'squire of
preachers had fairly overcome his father's obstinacy, and induced him
to give ground! Instead of having received the news of his determined
persistency, I found her with a letter in her hand, informing her that
he had begun to relent, and that his full acquiescence was expected.
To have commenced the battle at so inauspicious a moment would have
been little worthy of a great captain. My resolution was instantly
After acting as much ecstasy as I could call up, I hastened home and
wrote my projected letter to honest Aby. I threw my hints together in
Italian, that they might not be understood by the agent whom I meant to
employ. This was my groom, an English lad whom I met with at Paris, who
spells well and writes a good hand. I pretended I had crushed my finger
and could not hold a pen; and, without letting him understand the
intent of my writing, or even that it was a letter, I dictated to him
as follows; a transcript of which I send to you, Fairfax, first that
you may sigh and see what the blessing of a ready invention is, and
next as an example which you may copy, or at least from which you may
take a hint, if ever you should have occasion.
'So you have been persuaded at last to give up your point, my old
friend! And can you swallow this tale of a tub? A fine cock and a bull
story has been dinned in your ears? Don't believe a word on't. I know
the whole affair; and, though you don't know me, be assured I mean you
well: and I tell you that if you will but hold out stoutly every thing
will soon be settled to your heart's desire. She is dying for love of
him, and he can't see it! She will never have the man they mean for
her; I can assure you of that; and what is more he will never have her.
What I tell you I know to be true. No matter who I am. If I knew
nothing of the affair how could I write to you? And if the advice I
give be good, what need you care whom it comes from? Only don't let
your son see this; if you do it will spoil all. You perceive how blind
he is to his own good, and how positive too. Keep your counsel, but be
resolute. Look around you, persist in your own plans, and the hall, the
parks, the gardens, the meadows, the lands you see are all your own! I
am sure you cannot misunderstand me. But mark my words; be close; keep
your thoughts to yourself. You know the world: You have made your own
fortune; don't mar it by your own folly. Tell no tales, I say; nor, if
you are a wise man, give the least hint that you have a friend in a
This I dictated to my amanuensis, pretending to translate it out of the
paper I held in my hand, and which I took care to place before him, so
that he should see it was really written in a foreign language. I
likewise once or twice counterfeited a laugh at what I was reading, and
ejaculated to myself--'This is a curious scrap!'
When he had finished I gave him half a crown, praised his hand-writing,
which I told him I wanted to see, for perhaps I might find him better
employment than currying of horses, and sent him about his business too
much pleased and elated, and his ideas led into too distant a train to
harbour the least suspicion.
Nor did my precautions end here. I immediately ordered my horse, and
rode without any attendant full speed to Hounslow. I there desired the
landlord of an inn at which I am personally known, though not by name,
to send one of his own lads, post, to the market town next to
Wenbourne-Hill, and there to hire a countryman, without explaining who
or what he himself was, to deliver the letter into the hands of honest
Aby. I requested the landlord to choose an intelligent messenger, and
backed my request with a present bribe and a future promise.
My plan was too well laid to miscarry, and accordingly yesterday a
mournful account arrived, from the young orator, that judgment is
reversed, and he in imminent danger of being cast in costs.
And now, Fairfax, once more I go!--Expedition, resolution, a torrent of
words, a storm of passion, and the pealing thunder that dies away in
descending rains! The word is Anna St. Ives, revenge, and victory!
_Coke Clifton to Guy Fairfax_
_London, Dover Street_
Once more, Fairfax, here am I.
Well! And how--?
Not so fast, good sir. All things in their turn. The story shall be
told just as it happened, and your galloping curiosity must be pleased
I knew my time, the hour when she would retire to her own apartment,
and the minute when I might find admission; for she is very methodical,
as all your very wise people more or less are. I had given Laura her
lesson; that is, had told her that I had something very serious to say
to her mistress that morning, and desired her to take care to be out of
the way, that she might be sure not to interrupt us. The sly jade
looked with that arch significance which her own experience had taught
her, and left me with--'Oh! Mr. Clifton!'
And here I could make a remark, but that would be anticipating my
You may think, Fairfax, that, marshalled as my hopes and fears were in
battle array, something of inward agitation would be apparent. In
reality not only some but much was visible. It caught her attention,
and luckily caught. I attempted to speak, and stammered. A false step
as it would have been most fatal so was it more probable at the moment
of onset than afterward, when the heated imagination should have
collected, arranged, and begun to pour forth its stores.
The philosophy of the passions was the theme I first chose, though at
the very moment when my spirits were all fluttering with wild disorder.
But my faultering voice, which had I wished I could not have commanded,
aided me; for the tremulous state of my frame threw hers into most
'What was it that disturbed me? What had I to communicate? She never
saw me thus before! It was quite alarming!'
Madam--[Observe, Fairfax, I am now the speaker: but I shall remind you
of such trifles no more. If you cannot distinguish the interlocutors,
you deserve not to be present at such a dialogue.] Madam, I own my mind
is oppressed by thoughts which, however just in their purpose, however
worthy in their intent, inspire all that hesitation, that timidity,
that something like terror, which I scarcely know how to overcome. Yet
what should I fear? Am I not armed by principle and truth? Why shun a
declaration of thoughts that are founded in right; or tremble like a
coward that doubted of his cause? I am your scholar, and have learned
to subdue sensations of which the judgment disapproves. From you
likewise have I learned to avow tenets that are demonstrable; and not
to shrink from them because I may be in danger of being misconstrued,
or even suspected. Pardon me! I do you wrong. Your mind is superior to
suspicion. It is a mean an odious vice, and never could I esteem the
heart in which it found place. I forget myself, and talk to you as I
would to a being of an infinitely lower order.
Do not let your eye reprove me! I have not said what is not; and who
better knows than you how much it is beneath us to refrain from saying
Do not keep me in this suspense! I am sure there is something very
uncommon in your thoughts! Speak!
Thoughts will be sometimes our masters: the best and wisest of us
cannot always command them. That I have daily repressed them, have
struggled against rooted prejudices and confirmed propensities, and
have ardently endeavoured to rise to that proud eminence toward which
you have continually pointed, you are my witness.
Protracted desires, imagined pleasures, and racking pains [and oh how
often have they all been felt!] no longer sway me. They have been
repulsed, disdained, trodden under foot. You have taught me how
shameful it is to be the slave of passion. Truth is now my object,
justice my impulse, and virtue, high virtue my guide.
Oh, Clifton! Speak thus, be thus ever!
The moment it appeared, I knew that delay was ominous.
Hear me, madam!--Yes ominous! I see no end to it, have every thing to
fear from it, and nothing to hope--There is a thought--Ay, that verges
to madness!--I have a rival--! But I will forget it--at least will
try. Who can deny that it is excruciating?--But I am actuated at
present by another and a nobler motive. You know, madam, what you
found me; and I hope you are not quite unconscious of what you have
made me. You have taught me principles to which I mean to adhere, and
truths I intend to assert; have opened views to me of immense
magnitude! In your society I am secure. But habits are inveterate, and
easily revived; and were I torn from you, I myself know not the degree
of my own danger. Yes, madam, fain indeed would I forget there is such
a person as Frank Henley! Yet how? By what effort, what artifice? Say!
Teach me! What though my heart reproaches me with its own foibles, who
can prevent possibilities, mere possibilities, in a case like this,
from being absolute torments? My soul pants and aches after certainty!
The moment I ask myself what doubt there can be of Anna St. Ives, I
answer none, none! Yet the moment after, forgetting this question,
alarms, probabilities, past scenes and intolerable suppositions swarm
to assault me, without relaxation or mercy.
Clifton, you said you had a nobler motive.
I merit the reproach, madam. These effusions burst from me, are
unworthy of me, and I disclaim them. You have pardoned many of my
strays and mistakes, and I am sure will pardon this. [For the love of
fame, Fairfax, do not suffer the numerous master-strokes of this
dialogue to escape you. I cannot stay to point them out.] Yes, madam, I
have a nobler motive! Yet, enlarged as your mind is, I know not how to
prepare you calmly to listen to me, without alarm and without
prevention. Strange as it may seem, I dread to speak truth even to you!
If truth it be, speak, and fear nothing. Propose but any adequate and
worthy purpose, and there is no pain, no danger, no disgrace from which
if I know myself I would shrink.
No disgrace, madam?
Your words and looks both doubt me--Put me to the proof. Propose I say
an adequate and worthy purpose, and let your test be such as nature
shudders at; then despise me and my principles if I recoil.
The union of marriage demands reciprocal, unequivocal, and unbounded
confidence; for how can we pretend to love those whom we cannot trust?
The man who is unworthy this unbounded confidence is most unworthy to
be a husband; and it were even better he should shew his bad qualities,
by basely and dishonestly deserting her who had committed herself body
and soul to his honour, than that such qualities should discover
themselves after marriage. There is no disgrace can equal the torment
of such an alliance.
I grant it.
You have attained that noble courage which dares to question the most
received doctrines, and bring them to the test of truth. Who better
than you can appreciate the falsehood and the force of the prejudices
of opinion? Yet are you sure, madam, that even you are superior to them
Far otherwise. Would I were! I am much too ignorant for such high such
But is it not possible that some of the most common, and if I dared I
should say the most narrow, the most self-evident of these prejudices
may sway and terrify you from the plain path of equity? Dare you look
the world's unjust contumelies stedfastly in the face? Dare you answer
for yourself that you will not shudder at the performance of what you
cannot but acknowledge, nay have acknowledged to be an act of duty?
I confess your preparation is alarming, and makes me half suspect
myself, half desirous to retract all I have thought, all I have
asserted! Yet I think I dare do whatever justice can require.
Once more bring me to the proof. I feel a conscious [Again you make me
a braggart.] a virtuous certainty.
In opposition to the whole world, its prepossessions, reproofs,
revilings, persecutions, and contempt?
The picture is terrifying, but ought not to be, and I answer yes; in
opposition to and in defiance of them all.
Then--You are my wife!
Be firm! Start not from the truth! You are my wife! Ask yourself the
meaning of the word. Can set forms and ceremonies unite mind to mind?
And if not they, what else? What but community of sentiments,
similarity of principles, reciprocal sympathies, and an equal ardour
for and love of truth? Can it be denied?
You are my wife, and I have a right to the privileges of a husband!