Part 1 out of 7
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Memoirs of an Heiress
"Fanny's Cecilia came out last summer, and is as much liked and read,
I believe, as any book ever was," wrote Charlotte Burney in Jan.
1783. "She had 250 pounds for it from Payne and Cadell. Most people
say she ought to have had a thousand. It is now going into the third
edition, though Payne owns that they printed two thousand at the
first edition, and Lowndes told me five hundred was the common number
for a novel." [Footnote: _The Early Diary of Frances Burney, with a
selection from her correspondence, and from the journals of her
sisters Susan and Charlotte Burney._ Edited by Annie Raine Ellis.
1889. Vol. II. p. 307.]
The manuscript of _Cecilia_ was submitted to Dr Burney and Mr
Crisp during its composition, and their suggestions were in some
cases adopted, as we learn from the _Diary_. Dr Johnson was not
consulted, but a desire at once to imitate and to please him
evidently controlled the work.
Under these circumstances it is naturally less fresh and spontaneous
than _Evelina_, but it is more mature. The touch is surer and
the plot more elaborate. We cannot to-day fully appreciate the
"conflict scene between mother and son," for which, Miss Burney
tells us, the book was written; but the pictures of eighteenth
century affectations are all alive, and the story is thoroughly
absorbing, except, perhaps, in the last book.
Miss Burney often took the name of her characters from her
acquaintances, and it seems probable that some of the "types" in
_Cecilia_ are also drawn from real life. The title of Miss
Austen's _Pride and Prejudice_ was borrowed from _Cecilia_,
and some points of resemblance may be traced between
the two novels.
The present edition is reprinted from:--
CECILIA, or, Memoirs of an Heiress. By the author of Evelina. In
five volumes. London: Printed for T. Payne and Son, at the Newsgate,
and T. Cadell in the Strand. MDCCLXXXII. R. B. J.
THE RIGHT HON. EDMUND BURKE TO MISS F. BURNEY. (AFTER READING
Madam,--I should feel exceedingly to blame if I could refuse to
myself the natural satisfaction, and to you the just but poor
return, of my best thanks for the very great instruction and
entertainment I have received from the new present you have bestowed
on the public. There are few--I believe I may say fairly there are
none at all--that will not find themselves better informed
concerning human nature, and their stock of observation enriched, by
reading your "Cecilia." They certainly will, let their experience in
life and manners be what it may. The arrogance of age must submit to
be taught by youth. You have crowded into a few small volumes an
incredible variety of characters; most of them well planned, well
supported, and well contrasted with each other. If there be any
fault in this respect, it is one in which you are in no great danger
of being imitated. Justly as your characters are drawn, perhaps they
are too numerous. But I beg pardon; I fear it is quite in vain to
preach economy to those who are come young to excessive and sudden
I might trespass on your delicacy if I should fill my letter to you
with what I fill my conversation to others. I should be troublesome
to you alone if I should tell you all I feel and think on the
natural vein of humour, the tender pathetic, the comprehensive and
noble moral, and the sagacious observation, that appear quite
throughout that extraordinary performance.
In an age distinguished by producing extraordinary women, I hardly
dare to tell you where my opinion would place you amongst them. I
respect your modesty, that will not endure the commendations which
your merit forces from everybody.
I have the honour to be, with great gratitude, respect, and esteem,
madam, your most obedient and most humble servant,
WHITEHALL, _July 19, 1782_.
My best compliments and congratulations to Dr Burney on the great
honour acquired to his family.
The indulgence shewn by the Public to Evelina, which, unpatronized,
unaided, and unowned, past through Four Editions in one Year, has
encouraged its Author to risk this SECOND attempt. The animation of
success is too universally acknowledged, to make the writer of the
following sheets dread much censure of temerity; though the
precariousness of any power to give pleasure, suppresses all vanity
of confidence, and sends CECILIA into the world with scarce more
hope, though far more encouragement, than attended her highly-
honoured predecessor, Evelina.
"Peace to the spirits of my honoured parents, respected be their
remains, and immortalized their virtues! may time, while it moulders
their frail relicks to dust, commit to tradition the record of their
goodness; and Oh, may their orphan-descendant be influenced through
life by the remembrance of their purity, and be solaced in death,
that by her it was unsullied!"
Such was the secret prayer with which the only survivor of the
Beverley family quitted the abode of her youth, and residence of her
forefathers; while tears of recollecting sorrow filled her eyes, and
obstructed the last view of her native town which had excited them.
Cecilia, this fair traveller, had lately entered into the one-and-
twentieth year of her age. Her ancestors had been rich farmers in
the county of Suffolk, though her father, in whom a spirit of
elegance had supplanted the rapacity of wealth, had spent his time
as a private country gentleman, satisfied, without increasing his
store, to live upon what he inherited from the labours of his
predecessors. She had lost him in her early youth, and her mother had
not long survived him. They had bequeathed to her 10,000 pounds, and
consigned her to the care of the Dean of ------, her uncle. With this
gentleman, in whom, by various contingencies, the accumulated
possessions of a rising and prosperous family were centred, she had
passed the last four years of her life; and a few weeks only had yet
elapsed since his death, which, by depriving her of her last
relation, made her heiress to an estate of 3000 pounds per annum;
with no other restriction than that of annexing her name, if she
married, to the disposal of her hand and her riches.
But though thus largely indebted to fortune, to nature she had yet
greater obligations: her form was elegant, her heart was liberal;
her countenance announced the intelligence of her mind, her
complexion varied with every emotion of her soul, and her eyes, the
heralds of her speech, now beamed with understanding and now
glistened with sensibility.
For the short period of her minority, the management of her fortune
and the care of her person, had by the Dean been entrusted to three
guardians, among whom her own choice was to settle her residence:
but her mind, saddened by the loss of all her natural friends,
coveted to regain its serenity in the quietness of the country, and
in the bosom of an aged and maternal counsellor, whom she loved as
her mother, and to whom she had been known from her childhood.
The Deanery, indeed, she was obliged to relinquish, a long repining
expectant being eager, by entering it, to bequeath to another the
anxiety and suspense he had suffered himself; though probably
without much impatience to shorten their duration in favour of the
next successor; but the house of Mrs Charlton, her benevolent
friend, was open for her reception, and the alleviating tenderness
of her conversation took from her all wish of changing it.
Here she had dwelt since the interment of her uncle; and here, from
the affectionate gratitude of her disposition, she had perhaps been
content to dwell till her own, had not her guardians interfered to
Reluctantly she complied; she quitted her early companions, the
friend she most revered, and the spot which contained the relicks of
all she had yet lived to lament; and, accompanied by one of her
guardians, and attended by two servants, she began her journey from
Bury to London.
Mr Harrel, this gentleman, though in the prime of his life, though
gay, fashionable and splendid, had been appointed by her uncle to be
one of her trustees; a choice which had for object the peculiar
gratification of his niece, whose most favourite young friend Mr
Harrel had married, and in whose house he therefore knew she would
most wish to live.
Whatever good-nature could dictate or politeness suggest to dispel
her melancholy, Mr Harrel failed not to urge; and Cecilia, in whose
disposition sweetness was tempered with dignity, and gentleness with
fortitude, suffered not his kind offices to seem ineffectual; she
kissed her hand at the last glimpse a friendly hill afforded of her
native town, and made an effort to forget the regret with which she
lost sight of it. She revived her spirits by plans of future
happiness, dwelt upon the delight with which she should meet her
young friend, and, by accepting his consolation, amply rewarded his
Her serenity, however, had yet another, though milder trial to
undergo, since another friend was yet to be met, and another
farewell was yet to be taken.
At the distance of seven miles from Bury resided Mr Monckton, the
richest and most powerful man in that neighbourhood, at whose house
Cecilia and her guardian were invited to breakfast in their journey.
Mr Monckton, who was the younger son of a noble family, was a man of
parts, information and sagacity; to great native strength of mind he
added a penetrating knowledge of the world, and to faculties the
most skilful of investigating the character of every other, a
dissimulation the most profound in concealing his own. In the bloom
of his youth, impatient for wealth and ambitious of power, he had
tied himself to a rich dowager of quality, whose age, though sixty-
seven, was but among the smaller species of her evil properties, her
disposition being far more repulsive than her wrinkles. An
inequality of years so considerable, had led him to expect that the
fortune he had thus acquired, would speedily be released from the
burthen with which it was at present incumbered; but his
expectations proved as vain as they were mercenary, and his lady was
not more the dupe of his protestations than he was himself of his
own purposes. Ten years he had been married to her, yet her health
was good, and her faculties were unimpaired; eagerly he had watched
for her dissolution, yet his eagerness had injured no health but his
own! So short-sighted is selfish cunning, that in aiming no further
than at the gratification of the present moment, it obscures the
evils of the future, while it impedes the perception of integrity
His ardour, however, to attain the blessed period of returning
liberty, deprived him neither of spirit nor inclination for
intermediate enjoyment; he knew the world too well to incur its
censure by ill-treating the woman to whom he was indebted for the
rank he held in it; he saw her, indeed, but seldom, yet he had the
decency, alike in avoiding as in meeting her, to shew no abatement
of civility and good breeding: but, having thus sacrificed to
ambition all possibility of happiness in domestic life, he turned
his thoughts to those other methods of procuring it, which he had so
dearly purchased the power of essaying.
The resources of pleasure to the possessors of wealth are only to be
cut off by the satiety of which they are productive: a satiety which
the vigorous mind of Mr Monckton had not yet suffered him to
experience; his time, therefore, was either devoted to the expensive
amusements of the metropolis, or spent in the country among the
gayest of its diversions.
The little knowledge of fashionable manners and of the characters of
the times of which Cecilia was yet mistress, she had gathered at the
house of this gentleman, with whom the Dean her uncle had been
intimately connected: for as he preserved to the world the same
appearance of decency he supported to his wife, he was everywhere
well received, and being but partially known, was extremely
respected: the world, with its wonted facility, repaying his
circumspect attention to its laws, by silencing the voice of
censure, guarding his character from impeachment, and his name from
Cecilia had been known to him half her life; she had been caressed
in his house as a beautiful child, and her presence was now
solicited there as an amiable acquaintance. Her visits, indeed, had
by no means been frequent, as the ill-humour of Lady Margaret
Monckton had rendered them painful to her; yet the opportunities
they had afforded her of mixing with people of fashion, had served
to prepare her for the new scenes in which she was soon to be a
Mr Monckton, in return, had always been a welcome guest at the
Deanery; his conversation was to Cecilia a never-failing source of
information, as his knowledge of life and manners enabled him to
start those subjects of which she was most ignorant; and her mind,
copious for the admission and intelligent for the arrangement of
knowledge, received all new ideas with avidity.
Pleasure given in society, like money lent in usury, returns with
interest to those who dispense it: and the discourse of Mr Monckton
conferred not a greater favour upon Cecilia than her attention to it
repaid. And thus, the speaker and the hearer being mutually
gratified, they had always met with complacency, and commonly parted
This reciprocation of pleasure had, however, produced different
effects upon their minds; the ideas of Cecilia were enlarged, while
the reflections of Mr Monckton were embittered. He here saw an
object who to all the advantages of that wealth he had so highly
prized, added youth, beauty, and intelligence; though much her
senior, he was by no means of an age to render his addressing her an
impropriety, and the entertainment she received from his
conversation, persuaded him that her good opinion might with ease be
improved into a regard the most partial. He regretted the venal
rapacity with which he had sacrificed himself to a woman he
abhorred, and his wishes for her final decay became daily more
fervent. He knew that the acquaintance of Cecilia was confined to a
circle of which he was himself the principal ornament, that she had
rejected all the proposals of marriage which had hitherto been made
to her, and, as he had sedulously watched her from her earliest
years, he had reason to believe that her heart had escaped any
dangerous impression. This being her situation, he had long looked
upon her as his future property; as such he had indulged his
admiration, and as such he had already appropriated her estate,
though he had not more vigilantly inspected into her sentiments,
than he had guarded his own from a similar scrutiny.
The death of the Dean her uncle had, indeed, much alarmed him; he
grieved at her leaving Suffolk, where he considered himself the
first man, alike in parts and in consequence, and he dreaded her
residing in London, where he foresaw that numerous rivals, equal to
himself in talents and in riches, would speedily surround her;
rivals, too, youthful and sanguine, not shackled by present ties,
but at liberty to solicit her immediate acceptance. Beauty and
independence, rarely found together, would attract a crowd of
suitors at once brilliant and assiduous; and the house of Mr Harrel
was eminent for its elegance and gaiety; but yet, undaunted by
danger, and confiding in his own powers, he determined to pursue the
project he had formed, not fearing by address and perseverance to
ensure its success.
Mr Monckton had, at this time, a party of company assembled at his
house for the purpose of spending the Christmas holidays. He waited
with anxiety the arrival of Cecilia, and flew to hand her from the
chaise before Mr Harrel could alight. He observed the melancholy of
her countenance, and was much pleased to find that her London
journey had so little power to charm her. He conducted her to the
breakfast parlour, where Lady Margaret and his friends expected her.
Lady Margaret received her with a coldness that bordered upon
incivility; irascible by nature and jealous by situation, the
appearance of beauty alarmed, and of chearfulness disgusted her. She
regarded with watchful suspicion whoever was addressed by her
husband, and having marked his frequent attendance at the Deanery,
she had singled out Cecilia for the object of her peculiar
antipathy; while Cecilia, perceiving her aversion though ignorant of
its cause, took care to avoid all intercourse with her but what
ceremony exacted, and pitied in secret the unfortunate lot of her
The company now present consisted of one lady and several gentlemen.
Miss Bennet, the lady, was in every sense of the phrase, the humble
companion of Lady Margaret; she was low-born, meanly educated, and
narrow-minded; a stranger alike to innate merit or acquired
accomplishments, yet skilful in the art of flattery, and an adept in
every species of low cunning. With no other view in life than the
attainment of affluence without labour, she was not more the slave
of the mistress of the house, than the tool of its master; receiving
indignity without murmur, and submitting to contempt as a thing of
Among the gentlemen, the most conspicuous, by means of his dress,
was Mr Aresby, a captain in the militia; a young man who having
frequently heard the words red-coat and gallantry put together,
imagined the conjunction not merely customary, but honourable, and
therefore, without even pretending to think of the service of his
country, he considered a cockade as a badge of politeness, and wore
it but to mark his devotion to the ladies, whom he held himself
equipped to conquer, and bound to adore.
The next who by forwardness the most officious took care to be
noticed, was Mr Morrice, a young lawyer, who, though rising in his
profession, owed his success neither to distinguished abilities, nor
to skill-supplying industry, but to the art of uniting suppleness to
others with confidence in himself. To a reverence of rank, talents,
and fortune the most profound, he joined an assurance in his own
merit, which no superiority could depress; and with a presumption
which encouraged him to aim at all things, he blended a good-humour
that no mortification could lessen. And while by the pliability of
his disposition he avoided making enemies, by his readiness to
oblige, he learned the surest way of making friends by becoming
useful to them.
There were also some neighbouring squires; and there was one old
gentleman, who, without seeming to notice any of the company, sat
frowning in a corner.
But the principal figure in the circle was Mr Belfield, a tall, thin
young man, whose face was all animation, and whose eyes sparkled
with intelligence. He had been intended by his father for trade, but
his spirit, soaring above the occupation for which he was designed,
from repining led him to resist, and from resisting, to rebel. He
eloped from his friends, and contrived to enter the army. But, fond
of the polite arts, and eager for the acquirement of knowledge, he
found not this way of life much better adapted to his inclination
than that from which he had escaped; he soon grew weary of it, was
reconciled to his father, and entered at the Temple. But here, too
volatile for serious study, and too gay for laborious application,
he made little progress: and the same quickness of parts and vigour
of imagination which united with prudence, or accompanied by
judgment, might have raised him to the head of his profession, being
unhappily associated with fickleness and caprice, served only to
impede his improvement, and obstruct his preferment. And now, with
little business, and that little neglected, a small fortune, and
that fortune daily becoming less, the admiration of the world, but
that admiration ending simply in civility, he lived an unsettled and
unprofitable life, generally caressed, and universally sought, yet
careless of his interest and thoughtless of the future; devoting his
time to company, his income to dissipation, and his heart to the
"I bring you," said Mr Monckton, as he attended Cecilia into the
room, "a subject of sorrow in a young lady who never gave
disturbance to her friends but in quitting them."
"If sorrow," cried Mr Belfield, darting upon her his piercing eyes,
"wears in your part of the world a form such as this, who would wish
to change it for a view of joy?"
"She's divinely handsome, indeed!" cried the Captain, affecting an
Meantime, Cecilia, who was placed next to the lady of the house,
quietly began her breakfast; Mr Morrice, the young lawyer, with the
most easy freedom, seating himself at her side, while Mr Monckton
was elsewhere arranging the rest of his guests, in order to secure
that place for himself.
Mr Morrice, without ceremony, attacked his fair neighbour; he talked
of her journey, and the prospects of gaiety which it opened to her
view; but by these finding her unmoved, he changed his theme, and
expatiated upon the delights of the spot she was quitting. Studious
to recommend himself to her notice, and indifferent by what means,
one moment he flippantly extolled the entertainments of the town;
and the next, rapturously described the charms of the country. A
word, a look sufficed to mark her approbation or dissent, which he
no sooner discovered, than he slided into her opinion, with as much
facility and satisfaction as if it had originally been his own.
Mr Monckton, suppressing his chagrin, waited some time in
expectation that when this young man saw he was standing, he would
yield to him his chair: but the remark was not made, and the
resignation was not thought of. The Captain, too, regarding the lady
as his natural property for the morning, perceived with indignation
by whom he was supplanted; while the company in general, saw with
much surprize, the place they had severally foreborne to occupy from
respect to their host, thus familiarly seized upon by the man who,
in the whole room, had the least claim, either from age or rank, to
consult nothing but his own inclination.
Mr Monckton, however, when he found that delicacy and good manners
had no weight with his guest, thought it most expedient to allow
them none with himself; and therefore, disguising his displeasure
under an appearance of facetiousness, he called out, "Come, Morrice,
you that love Christmas sports, what say you to the game of move-
"I like it of all things!" answered Morrice, and starting from his
chair, he skipped to another.
"So should I too," cried Mr Monckton, instantly taking his place,
"were I to remove from any seat but this."
Morrice, though he felt himself outwitted, was the first to laugh,
and seemed as happy in the change as Mr Monckton himself.
Mr Monckton now, addressing himself to Cecilia, said, "We are going
to lose you, and you seem concerned at leaving us; yet, in a very
few months you will forget Bury, forget its inhabitants, and forget
"If you think so," answered Cecilia, "must I not thence infer that
Bury, its inhabitants, and its environs, will in a very few months
"Ay, ay, and so much the better!" said Lady Margaret, muttering
between her teeth, "so much the better!" "I am sorry you think so,
madam," cried Cecilia, colouring at her ill-breeding.
"You will find," said Mr Monckton, affecting the same ignorance of
her meaning that Cecilia really felt, "as you mix with the world,
you will find that Lady Margaret has but expressed what by almost
every body is thought: to neglect old friends, and to court new
acquaintance, though perhaps not yet avowedly delivered as a precept
from parents to children, is nevertheless so universally recommended
by example, that those who act differently, incur general censure
for affecting singularity."
"It is happy then, for me," answered Cecilia, "that neither my
actions nor myself will be sufficiently known to attract public
"You intend, then, madam," said Mr Belfield, "in defiance of these
maxims of the world, to be guided by the light of your own
"And such," returned Mr Monckton, "at first setting out in life, is
the intention of every one. The closet reasoner is always refined in
his sentiments, and always confident in his virtue; but when he
mixes with the world, when he thinks less and acts more, he soon
finds the necessity of accommodating himself to such customs as are
already received, and of pursuing quietly the track that is already
"But not," exclaimed Mr Belfield, "if he has the least grain of
spirit! the beaten track will be the last that a man of parts will
deign to tread,
For common rules were ne'er designed
Directors of a noble mind."
"A pernicious maxim! a most pernicious maxim!" cried the old
gentleman, who sat frowning in a corner of the room.
"Deviations from common rules," said Mr Monckton, without taking any
notice of this interruption, "when they proceed from genius, are not
merely pardonable, but admirable; and you, Belfield, have a peculiar
right to plead their merits; but so little genius as there is in the
world, you must surely grant that pleas of this sort are very rarely
to be urged."
"And why rarely," cried Belfield, "but because your general rules,
your appropriated customs, your settled forms, are but so many
absurd arrangements to impede not merely the progress of genius, but
the use of understanding? If man dared act for himself, if neither
worldly views, contracted prejudices, eternal precepts, nor
compulsive examples, swayed his better reason and impelled his
conduct, how noble indeed would he be! _how infinite in faculties!
in apprehension how like a God!_" [Footnote: Hamlet.]
"All this," answered Mr Monckton, "is but the doctrine of a lively
imagination, that looks upon impossibilities simply as difficulties,
and upon difficulties as mere invitations to victory. But experience
teaches another lesson; experience shows that the opposition of an
individual to a community is always dangerous in the operation, and
seldom successful in the event;--never, indeed, without a
concurrence strange as desirable, of fortunate circumstances with
"And why is this," returned Belfield, "but because the attempt is so
seldom made? The pitiful prevalence of general conformity extirpates
genius, and murders originality; the man is brought up, not as if he
were 'the noblest work of God,' but as a mere ductile machine of
human formation: he is early taught that he must neither consult his
understanding, nor pursue his inclinations, lest, unhappily for his
commerce with the world, his understanding should be averse to
fools, and provoke him to despise them; and his inclinations to the
tyranny of perpetual restraint, and give him courage to abjure it."
"I am ready enough to allow," answered Mr Monckton, "that an
eccentric genius, such, for example, as yours, may murmur at the
tediousness of complying with the customs of the world, and wish,
unconfined, and at large, to range through life without any settled
plan or prudential restriction; but would you, therefore, grant the
same licence to every one? would you wish to see the world peopled
with defiers of order, and contemners of established forms? and not
merely excuse the irregularities resulting from uncommon parts, but
encourage those, also, to lead, who without blundering cannot even
"I would have _all_ men," replied Belfield, "whether
philosophers or ideots, act for themselves. Every one would then
appear what he is; enterprize would be encouraged, and imitation
abolished; genius would feel its superiority, and folly its
insignificance; and then, and then only, should we cease to be
surfeited with that eternal sameness of manner and appearance which
at present runs through all ranks of men."
"Petrifying dull work this, _mon ami!_" said the Captain, in a
whisper to Morrice, "_de grace_, start some new game."
"With all my heart," answered he; and then, suddenly jumping up,
exclaimed, "A hare! a hare!"
"Where?--where?--which way?" and all the gentlemen arose, and ran to
different windows, except the master of the house, the object of
whose pursuit was already near him.
Morrice, with much pretended earnestness, flew from window to
window, to trace footsteps upon the turf which he knew had not
printed it: yet, never inattentive to his own interest, when he
perceived in the midst of the combustion he had raised, that Lady
Margaret was incensed at the noise it produced, he artfully gave
over his search, and seating himself in a chair next to her, eagerly
offered to assist her with cakes, chocolate, or whatever the table
He had, however, effectually broken up the conversation; and
breakfast being over, Mr Harrel ordered his chaise, and Cecilia
arose to take leave.
And now not without some difficulty could Mr Monckton disguise the
uneasy fears which her departure occasioned him. Taking her hand, "I
suppose," he said, "you will not permit an old friend to visit you
in town, lest the sight of him should prove a disagreeable memorial
of the time you will soon regret having wasted in the country?"
"Why will you say this, Mr Monckton?" cried Cecilia; "I am sure you
cannot think it."
"These profound studiers of mankind, madam," said Belfield, "are
mighty sorry champions for constancy or friendship. They wage war
with all expectations but of depravity, and grant no quarter even to
the purest designs, where they think there will be any temptation to
deviate from them."
"Temptation," said Mr Monckton, "is very easy of resistance in
theory; but if you reflect upon the great change of situation Miss
Beverley will experience, upon the new scenes she will see, the new
acquaintance she must make, and the new connections she may form,
you will not wonder at the anxiety of a friend for her welfare."
"But I presume," cried Belfield, with a laugh, "Miss Beverley does
not mean to convey her person to town, and leave her understanding
locked up, with other natural curiosities, in the country? Why,
therefore, may not the same discernment regulate her adoption of new
acquaintance, and choice of new connections, that guided her
selection of old ones? Do you suppose that because she is to take
leave of you, she is to take leave of herself?"
"Where fortune smiles upon youth and beauty," answered Mr Monckton,
"do you think it nothing that their fair possessor should make a
sudden transition of situation from the quietness of a retired life
in the country, to the gaiety of a splendid town residence?"
"Where fortune _frowns_ upon youth and beauty," returned
Belfield, "they may not irrationally excite commiseration; but where
nature and chance unite their forces to bless the same object, what
room there may be for alarm or lamentation I confess I cannot
"What!" cried Mr Monckton, with some emotion, "are there not
sharpers, fortune-hunters, sycophants, wretches of all sorts and
denominations, who watch the approach of the rich and unwary, feed
upon their inexperience, and prey upon their property?"
"Come, come," cried Mr Harrel, "it is time I should hasten my fair
ward away, if this is your method of describing the place she is
going to live in."
"Is it possible," cried the Captain, advancing to Cecilia, "that
this lady has never yet tried the town?" and then, lowering his
voice, and smiling languishingly in her face, he added, "Can
anything so divinely handsome have been immured in the country? Ah!
_quelle honte!_ do you make it a principle to be so cruel?"
Cecilia, thinking such a compliment merited not any other notice
than a slight bow, turned to Lady Margaret, and said, "Should your
ladyship be in town this winter, may I expect the honour of hearing
where I may wait upon you?"
"I don't know whether I shall go or not," answered the old lady,
with her usual ungraciousness.
Cecilia would now have hastened away, but Mr Monckton, stopping her,
again expressed his fears of the consequences of her journey; "Be
upon your guard," he cried, "with all new acquaintance; judge nobody
from appearances; form no friendship rashly; take time to look about
you, and remember you can make no alteration in your way of life,
without greater probability of faring worse, than chance of faring
better. Keep therefore as you are, and the more you see of others,
the more you will rejoice that you neither resemble nor are
connected with them."
"This from you, Mr Monckton!" cried Belfield, "what is become of
your conformity system? I thought all the world was to be alike, or
only so much the worse for any variation?"
"I spoke," said Mr Monckton, "of the world in general, not of this
lady in particular; and who that knows, who that sees her, would not
wish it were possible she might continue in every respect exactly
and unalterably what she is at present?"
"I find," said Cecilia, "you are determined that flattery at least,
should I meet with it, shall owe no pernicious effects to its
"Well, Miss Beverley," cried Mr Harrel, "will you now venture to
accompany me to town? Or has Mr Monckton frightened you from
proceeding any farther?"
"If," replied Cecilia, "I felt no more sorrow in quitting my
friends, than I feel terror in venturing to London, with how light a
heart should I make the journey!"
"Brava!" cried Belfield, "I am happy to find the discourse of Mr
Monckton has not intimidated you, nor prevailed upon you to deplore
your condition in having the accumulated misery of being young, fair
"Alas! poor thing!" exclaimed the old gentleman who sat in the
corner, fixing his eyes upon Cecilia with an expression of mingled
grief and pity.
Cecilia started, but no one else paid him any attention.
The usual ceremonies of leave-taking now followed, and the Captain,
with most obsequious reverence, advanced to conduct Cecilia to the
carriage; but in the midst of the dumb eloquence of his bows and
smiles, Mr Morrice, affecting not to perceive his design, skipped
gaily between them, and, without any previous formality, seized the
hand of Cecilia himself; failing not, however, to temper the freedom
of his action by a look of respect the most profound.
The Captain shrugged and retired. But Mr Monckton, enraged at his
assurance, and determined it should nothing avail him, exclaimed,
"Why how now, Morrice, do you take away the privilege of my house?"
"True, true;" answered Morrice, "you members of parliament have an
undoubted right to be tenacious of your privileges." Then, bowing
with a look of veneration to Cecilia, he resigned her hand with an
air of as much happiness as he had taken it.
Mr Monckton, in leading her to the chaise, again begged permission
to wait upon her in town: Mr Harrel took the hint, and entreated him
to consider his house as his own; and Cecilia, gratefully thanking
him for his solicitude in her welfare, added, "And I hope, sir, you
will honour me with your counsel and admonitions with respect to my
future conduct, whenever you have the goodness to let me see you."
This was precisely his wish. He begged, in return, that she would
treat him with confidence, and then suffered the chaise to drive
As soon as they lost sight of the house, Cecilia expressed her
surprise at the behaviour of the old gentleman who sat in the
corner, whose general silence, seclusion from the company, and
absence of mind, had strongly excited her curiosity.
Mr Harrel could give her very little satisfaction: he told her that
he had twice or thrice met him in public places, where everybody
remarked the singularity of his manners and appearance, but that he
had never discoursed with anyone to whom he seemed known; and that
he was as much surprised as herself in seeing so strange a character
at the house of Mr Monckton.
The conversation then turned upon the family they had just quitted,
and Cecilia warmly declared the good opinion she had of Mr Monckton,
the obligations she owed to him for the interest which, from her
childhood, he had always taken in her affairs; and her hopes of
reaping much instruction from the friendship of a man who had so
extensive a knowledge of the world.
Mr Harrel professed himself well satisfied that she should have such
a counsellor; for though but little acquainted with him, he knew he
was a man of fortune and fashion, and well esteemed in the world.
They mutually compassionated his unhappy situation in domestic life,
and Cecilia innocently expressed her concern at the dislike Lady
Margaret seemed to have taken to her; a dislike which Mr Harrel
naturally enough imputed to her youth and beauty, yet without
suspecting any cause more cogent than a general jealousy of
attractions of which she had herself so long outlived the
As their journey drew near to its conclusion, all the uneasy and
disagreeable sensations which in the bosom of Cecilia had
accompanied its commencement, gave way to the expectation of quick
approaching happiness in again meeting her favourite young friend.
Mrs Harrel had in childhood been her playmate, and in youth her
school-fellow; a similarity of disposition with respect to sweetness
of temper, had early rendered them dear to each other, though the
resemblance extended no farther, Mrs Harrel having no pretensions to
the wit or understanding of her friend; but she was amiable and
obliging, and therefore sufficiently deserving affection, though
neither blazing with attractions which laid claim to admiration, nor
endowed with those superior qualities which mingle respect in the
love they inspire.
From the time of her marriage, which was near three years, she had
entirely quitted Suffolk, and had had no intercourse with Cecilia
but by letter. She was now just returned from Violet Bank, the name
given by Mr Harrel to a villa about twelve miles from London, where
with a large party of company she had spent the Christmas holidays.
Their meeting was tender and affectionate; the sensibility of
Cecilia's heart flowed from her eyes, and the gladness of Mrs
Harrel's dimpled her cheeks.
As soon as their mutual salutations, expressions of kindness, and
general inquiries had been made, Mrs Harrel begged to lead her to
the drawing-room, "where," she added, "you will see some of my
friends, who are impatient to be presented to you."
"I could have wished," said Cecilia, "after so long an absence, to
have passed this first evening alone with you."
"They are all people who particularly desired to see you," she
answered, "and I had them by way of entertaining you, as I was
afraid you would be out of spirits at leaving Bury."
Cecilia, finding the kindness of her intentions, forbore any further
expostulation, and quietly followed her to the drawing-room. But as
the door was opened, she was struck with amazement upon finding that
the apartment, which was spacious, lighted with brilliancy, and
decorated with magnificence, was more than half filled with company,
every one of which was dressed with gaiety and profusion.
Cecilia, who from the word friends, expected to have seen a small
and private party, selected for the purpose of social converse,
started involuntarily at the sight before her, and had hardly
courage to proceed.
Mrs Harrel, however, took her hand and introduced her to the whole
company, who were all severally named to her; a ceremonial which
though not merely agreeable but even necessary to those who live in
the gay world, in order to obviate distressing mistakes, or
unfortunate implications in discourse, would by Cecilia have been
willingly dispensed with, since to her their names were as new as
their persons, and since knowing nothing of their histories, parties
or connections, she could to nothing allude: it therefore served but
to heighten her colour and increase her embarrassment.
A native dignity of mind, however, which had early taught her to
distinguish modesty from bashfulness, enabled her in a short time to
conquer her surprise, and recover her composure. She entreated Mrs
Harrel to apologise for her appearance, and being seated between two
young ladies, endeavoured to seem reconciled to it herself.
Nor was this very difficult; for while her dress, which she had not
changed since her journey, joined to the novelty of her face,
attracted general observation, the report of her fortune, which had
preceded her entrance, secured to her general respect. She soon
found, too, that a company was not necessarily formidable because
full dressed, that familiarity could be united with magnificence,
and that though to her, every one seemed attired to walk in a
procession, or to grace a drawing-room, no formality was assumed,
and no solemnity was affected: every one was without restraint, even
rank obtained but little distinction; ease was the general plan, and
entertainment the general pursuit.
Cecilia, though new to London, which city the ill-health of her
uncle had hitherto prevented her seeing, was yet no stranger to
company; she had passed her time in retirement, but not in
obscurity, since for some years past she had presided at the table
of the Dean, who was visited by the first people of the county in
which he lived: and notwithstanding his parties, which were frequent
though small, and elegant though private, had not prepared her for
the splendour or the diversity of a London assembly, they yet, by
initiating her in the practical rules of good breeding, had taught
her to subdue the timid fears of total inexperience, and to repress
the bashful feelings of shamefaced awkwardness; fears and feelings
which rather call for compassion than admiration, and which, except
in extreme youth, serve but to degrade the modesty they indicate.
She regarded, therefore, the two young ladies between whom she was
seated, rather with a wish of addressing, than a shyness of being
attacked by them; but the elder, Miss Larolles, was earnestly
engaged in discourse with a gentleman, and the younger, Miss Leeson,
totally discouraged her, by the invariable silence and gravity with
which from time to time she met her eyes.
Uninterrupted, therefore, except by occasional speeches from Mr and
Mrs Harrel, she spent the first part of the evening merely in
surveying the company.
Nor was the company dilatory in returning her notice, since from the
time of her entrance into the room, she had been the object of
The ladies took an exact inventory of her dress, and internally
settled how differently they would have been attired if blessed with
The men disputed among themselves whether or not she was painted;
and one of them asserting boldly that she rouged well, a debate
ensued, which ended in a bet, and the decision was mutually agreed
to depend upon the colour of her cheeks by the beginning of April,
when, if unfaded by bad hours and continual dissipation, they wore
the same bright bloom with which they were now glowing, her champion
acknowledged that his wager would be lost.
In about half an hour the gentleman with whom Miss Larolles had been
talking, left the room, and then that young lady, turning suddenly
to Cecilia, exclaimed, "How odd Mr Meadows is! Do you know, he says
he shan't be well enough to go to Lady Nyland's assembly! How
ridiculous! as if that could hurt him."
Cecilia, surprised at an attack so little ceremonious, lent her a
civil, but silent attention.
"You shall be there, shan't you?" she added.
"No, ma'am, I have not the honour of being at all known to her
"Oh, there's nothing in that," returned she, "for Mrs Harrel can
acquaint her you are here, and then, you know, she'll send you a
ticket, and then you can go."
"A ticket?" repeated Cecilia, "does Lady Nyland only admit her
company with tickets?"
"Oh, lord!" cried Miss Larolles, laughing immoderately, "don't you
know what I mean? Why, a ticket is only a visiting card, with a name
upon it; but we all call them tickets now."
Cecilia thanked her for the information, and then Miss Larolles
enquired how many miles she had travelled since morning?
"Seventy-three," answered Cecilia, "which I hope will plead my
apology for being so little dressed."
"Oh, you're vastly well," returned the other, "and for my part, I
never think about dress. But only conceive what happened to me last
year! Do you know I came to town the twentieth of March! was not
that horrid provoking?"
"Perhaps so," said Cecilia, "but I am sure I cannot tell why."
"Not tell why?" repeated Miss Larolles, "why, don't you know it was
the very night of the grand private masquerade at Lord Darien's? I
would not have missed it for the whole universe. I never travelled
in such an agony in my life: we did not get to town till monstrous
late, and then do you know I had neither a ticket nor a habit! Only
conceive what a distress! well, I sent to every creature I knew for
a ticket, but they all said there was not one to be had; so I was
just like a mad creature--but about ten or eleven o'clock, a young
lady of my particular acquaintance, by the greatest good luck in the
world happened to be taken suddenly ill; so she sent me her ticket,
--was not that delightful?"
"For _her_, extremely!" said Cecilia, laughing.
"Well," she continued, "then I was almost out of my wits with joy;
and I went about, and got one of the sweetest dresses you ever saw.
If you'll call upon me some morning, I'll shew it you."
Cecilia, not prepared for an invitation so abrupt, bowed without
speaking, and Miss Larolles, too happy in talking herself to be
offended at the silence of another, continued her narration.
"Well, but now comes the vilest part of the business; do you know,
when everything else was ready, I could not get my hair-dresser! I
sent all over the town,--he was nowhere to be found; I thought I
should have died with vexation; I assure you I cried so that if I
had not gone in a mask, I should have been ashamed to be seen. And
so, after all this monstrous fatigue, I was forced to have my hair
dressed by my own maid, quite in a common way; was not it cruelly
"Why yes," answered Cecilia, "I should think it was almost
sufficient to make you regret the illness of the young lady who sent
you her ticket."
They were now interrupted by Mrs Harrel, who advanced to them
followed by a young man of a serious aspect and modest demeanour,
and said, "I am happy to see you both so well engaged; but my
brother has been reproaching me with presenting everybody to Miss
Beverley but himself."
"I cannot hope," said Mr Arnott, "that I have any place in the
recollection of Miss Beverley, but long as I have been absent from
Suffolk, and unfortunate as I was in not seeing her during my last
visit there, I am yet sure, even at this distance of time, grown and
formed as she is, I should instantly have known her."
"Amazing!" cried an elderly gentleman, in a tone of irony, who was
standing near them, "for the face is a very common one!"
"I remember well," said Cecilia, "that when you left Suffolk I
thought I had lost my best friend."
"Is that possible?" cried Mr Arnott, with a look of much delight.
"Yes, indeed, and not without reason, for in all disputes you were
my advocate; in all plays, my companion; and in all difficulties, my
"Madam," cried the same gentleman, "if you liked him because he was
your advocate, companion, and assistant, pray like me too, for I am
ready to become all three at once."
"You are very good," said Cecilia, laughing, "but at present I find
no want of any defender."
"That's pity," he returned, "for Mr Arnott seems to me very willing
to act the same parts over again with you."
"But for that purpose he must return to the days of his childhood."
"Ah, would to heaven it were possible!" cried Mr Arnott, "for they
were the happiest of my life."
"After such a confession," said his companion, "surely you will let
him attempt to renew them? 'tis but taking a walk backwards; and
though it is very early in life for Mr Arnott to sigh for that
retrograde motion, which, in the regular course of things, we shall
all in our turns desire, yet with such a motive as recovering Miss
Beverley for a playfellow, who can wonder that he anticipates in
youth the hopeless wishes of age?"
Here Miss Larolles, who was one of that numerous tribe of young
ladies to whom all conversation is irksome in which they are not
themselves engaged, quitted her place, of which Mr Gosport,
Cecilia's new acquaintance, immediately took possession.
"Is it utterly impossible," continued this gentleman, "that I should
assist in procuring Mr Arnott such a renovation? Is there no
subaltern part I can perform to facilitate the project? for I will
either _hide_ or _seek_ with any boy in the parish; and
for a _Q in the corner_, there is none more celebrated."
"I have no doubt, sir," answered Cecilia, "of your accomplishments;
and I should be not a little entertained with the surprize of the
company if you could persuade yourself to display them." "And what,"
cried he, "could the company do half so well as to rise also, and
join in the sport? it would but interrupt some tale of scandal, or
some description of a _toupee_. Active wit, however despicable
when compared with intellectual, is yet surely better than the
insignificant click-clack of modish conversation," casting his eyes
towards Miss Larolles, "or even the pensive dullness of affected
silence," changing their direction towards Miss Leeson.
Cecilia, though surprised at an attack upon the society her friend
had selected, by one who was admitted to make a part of it, felt its
justice too strongly to be offended at its severity.
"I have often wished," he continued, "that when large parties are
collected, as here, without any possible reason why they might not
as well be separated, something could be proposed in which each
person might innocently take a share: for surely after the first
half-hour, they can find little new to observe in the dress of their
neighbours, or to display in their own; and with whatever seeming
gaiety they may contrive to fill up the middle and end of the
evening, by wire-drawing the comments afforded by the beginning,
they are yet so miserably fatigued, that if they have not four or
five places to run to every night, they suffer nearly as much from
weariness of their friends in company, as they would do from
weariness of themselves in solitude."
Here, by the general breaking up of the party, the conversation was
interrupted, and Mr Gosport was obliged to make his exit; not much
to the regret of Cecilia, who was impatient to be alone with Mrs
The rest of the evening, therefore, was spent much more to her
satisfaction; it was devoted to friendship, to mutual enquiries, to
kind congratulations, and endearing recollections; and though it was
late when she retired, she retired with reluctance.
A SKETCH OF HIGH LIFE.
Eager to renew a conversation which had afforded her so much
pleasure, Cecilia, neither sensible of fatigue from her change of
hours nor her journey, arose with the light, and as soon as she was
dressed, hastened to the breakfast apartment.
She had not, however, been more impatient to enter than she soon
became to quit it; for though not much surprized to find herself
there before her friend, her ardour for waiting her arrival was
somewhat chilled, upon finding the fire but just lighted, the room
cold, and the servants still employed in putting it in order.
At 10 o'clock she made another attempt: the room was then better
prepared for her reception, but still it was empty. Again she was
retiring, when the appearance of Mr Arnott stopped her.
He expressed his surprize at her early rising, in a manner that
marked the pleasure it gave to him; and then, returning to the
conversation of the preceding evening, he expatiated with warmth and
feeling upon the happiness of his boyish days, remembered every
circumstance belonging to the plays in which they had formerly been
companions, and dwelt upon every incident with a minuteness of
delight that shewed his unwillingness ever to have done with the
This discourse detained her till they were joined by Mrs Harrel, and
then another, more gay and more general succeeded to it.
During their breakfast, Miss Larolles was announced as a visitor to
Cecilia, to whom she immediately advanced with the intimacy of an
old acquaintance, taking her hand, and assuring her she could no
longer defer the honour of waiting upon her.
Cecilia, much amazed at this warmth of civility from one to whom she
was almost a stranger, received her compliment rather coldly; but
Miss Larolles, without consulting her looks, or attending to her
manner, proceeded to express the earnest desire she had long had to
be known to her; to hope they should meet very often; to declare
nothing could make her so happy; and to beg leave to recommend to
her notice her own milliner.
"I assure you," she continued, "she has all Paris in her disposal;
the sweetest caps! the most beautiful trimmings! and her ribbons are
quite divine! It is the most dangerous thing you can conceive to go
near her; I never trust myself in her room but I am sure to be
ruined. If you please, I'll take you to her this morning."
"If her acquaintance is so ruinous," said Cecilia, "I think I had
better avoid it."
"Oh, impossible! there's no such thing as living without her. To be
sure she's shockingly dear, that I must own; but then who can
wonder? She makes such sweet things, 'tis impossible to pay her too
much for them."
Mrs Harrel now joining in the recommendation, the party was agreed
upon, and accompanied by Mr Arnott, the ladies proceeded to the
house of the milliner.
Here the raptures of Miss Larolles were again excited: she viewed
the finery displayed with delight inexpressible, enquired who were
the intended possessors, heard their names with envy, and sighed
with all the bitterness of mortification that she was unable to
order home almost everything she looked at.
Having finished their business here, they proceeded to various other
dress manufacturers, in whose praises Miss Larolles was almost
equally eloquent, and to appropriate whose goods she was almost
equally earnest: and then, after attending this loquacious young
lady to her father's house, Mrs Harrel and Cecilia returned to their
Cecilia rejoiced at the separation, and congratulated herself that
the rest of the day might be spent alone with her friend.
"Why, no," said Mrs Harrel, "not absolutely alone, for I expect some
company at night."
"Company again to-night?"
"Nay, don't be frightened, for it will be a very small party; not
more than fifteen or twenty in all."
"Is that so small a party?" said Cecilia, smiling; "and how short a
time since would you, as well as I, have reckoned it a large one!"
"Oh, you mean when I lived in the country," returned Mrs Harrel;
"but what in the world could I know of parties or company then?"
"Not much, indeed," said Cecilia, "as my present ignorance shews."
They then parted to dress for dinner.
The company of this evening were again all strangers to Cecilia,
except Miss Leeson, who was seated next to her, and whose frigid
looks again compelled her to observe the same silence she so
resolutely practised herself. Yet not the less was her internal
surprise that a lady who seemed determined neither to give nor
receive any entertainment, should repeatedly chuse to show herself
in a company with no part of which she associated.
Mr Arnott, who contrived to occupy the seat on her other side,
suffered not the silence with which her fair neighbour had infected
her to spread any further: he talked, indeed, upon no new subject;
and upon the old one, of their former sports and amusements, he had
already exhausted all that was worth being mentioned; but not yet
had he exhausted the pleasure he received from the theme; it seemed
always fresh and always enchanting to him; it employed his thoughts,
regaled his imagination, and enlivened his discourse. Cecilia in
vain tried to change it for another; he quitted it only by
compulsion, and returned to it with redoubled eagerness.
When the company was retired, and Mr Arnott only remained with the
ladies, Cecilia, with no little surprise, inquired for Mr Harrel,
observing that she had not seen him the whole day.
"O!" cried his lady, "don't think of wondering at that, for it
happens continually. He dines at home, indeed, in general, but
otherwise I should see nothing of him at all."
"Indeed? why, how does he fill up his time?"
"That I am sure I cannot tell, for he never consults me about it;
but I suppose much in the same way that other people do."
"Ah, Priscilla!" cried Cecilia, with some earnestness, "how little
did I ever expect to see you so much a fine lady!"
"A fine lady?" repeated Mrs Harrel; "why, what is it I do? Don't I
live exactly like every body else that mixes at all with the world?"
"You, Miss Beverley," said Mr Arnott in a low voice, "will I hope
give to the world an example, not take one from it."
Soon after, they separated for the night.
The next morning, Cecilia took care to fill up her time more
advantageously, than in wandering about the house in search of a
companion she now expected not to find: she got together her books,
arranged them to her fancy, and secured to herself for the future
occupation of her leisure hours, the exhaustless fund of
entertainment which reading, that richest, highest, and noblest
source of intellectual enjoyment, perpetually affords.
While they were yet at breakfast, they were again visited by Miss
Larolles. "I am come," cried she, eagerly, "to run away with you
both to my Lord Belgrade's sale. All the world will be there; and we
shall go in with tickets, and you have no notion how it will be
"What is to be sold there?" said Cecilia.
"Oh, every thing you can conceive; house, stables, china, laces,
horses, caps, everything in the world."
"And do you intend to buy any thing?"
"Lord, no; but one likes to see the people's things."
Cecilia then begged they would excuse her attendance.
"O, by no means!" cried Miss Larolles; "you must go, I assure you;
there'll be such a monstrous crowd as you never saw in your life. I
dare say we shall be half squeezed to death."
"That," said Cecilia, "is an inducement which you must not expect
will have much weight with a poor rustic just out of the country: it
must require all the polish of a long residence in the metropolis to
make it attractive."
"O but do go, for I assure you it will be the best sale we shall
have this season. I can't imagine, Mrs Harrel, what poor Lady
Belgrade will do with herself; I hear the creditors have seized
every thing; I really believe creditors are the cruelest set of
people in the world! they have taken those beautiful buckles out of
her shoes! Poor soul! I declare it will make my heart ache to see
them put up. It's quite shocking, upon my word. I wonder who'll buy
them. I assure you they were the prettiest fancied I ever saw. But
come, if we don't go directly, there will be no getting in."
Cecilia again desired to be excused accompanying them, adding that
she wished to spend the day at home.
"At home, my dear?" cried Mrs Harrel; "why we have been engaged to
Mrs Mears this month, and she begged me to prevail with you to be of
the party. I expect she'll call, or send you a ticket, every moment"
"How unlucky for me," said Cecilia, "that you should happen to have
so many engagements just at this time! I hope, at least, there will
not be any for to-morrow."
"O yes; to-morrow we go to Mrs Elton's."
"Again to-morrow? and how long is this to last?"
"O, heaven knows; I'll shew you my catalogue."
She then produced a book which contained a list of engagements for
more than three weeks. "And as these," she said, "are struck off,
new ones are made; and so it is we go on till after the birth-day."
When this list had been examined and commented upon by Miss
Larolles, and viewed and wondered at by Cecilia, it was restored to
its place, the two ladies went together to the auction, permitting
Cecilia, at her repeated request, to return to her own apartment.
She returned, however, neither satisfied with the behaviour of her
friend, nor pleased with her own situation: the sobriety of her
education, as it had early instilled into her mind the pure dictates
of religion, and strict principles of honour, had also taught her to
regard continual dissipation as an introduction to vice, and
unbounded extravagance as the harbinger of injustice. Long
accustomed to see Mrs Harrel in the same retirement in which she had
hitherto lived herself, when books were their first amusement, and
the society of each other was their chief happiness, the change she
now perceived in her mind and manners equally concerned and
surprised her. She found her insensible to friendship, indifferent
to her husband, and negligent of all social felicity. Dress,
company, parties of pleasure, and public places, seemed not merely
to occupy all her time; but to gratify all her wishes. Cecilia, in
whose heart glowed the warmest affections and most generous virtue,
was cruelly depressed and mortified by this disappointment; yet she
had the good sense to determine against upbraiding her, well aware
that if reproach has any power over indifference, it is only that of
changing it into aversion.
Mrs Harrel, in truth, was innocent of heart, though dissipated in
life; married very young, she had made an immediate transition from
living in a private family and a country town, to becoming mistress
of one of the most elegant houses in Portman-square, at the head of
a splendid fortune, and wife to a man whose own pursuits soon showed
her the little value he himself set upon domestic happiness.
Immersed in the fashionable round of company and diversions, her
understanding, naturally weak, was easily dazzled by the brilliancy
of her situation; greedily, therefore, sucking in air impregnated
with luxury and extravagance, she had soon no pleasure but to vie
with some rival in elegance, and no ambition but to exceed some
superior in expence.
The Dean of----in naming Mr Harrel for one of the guardians of his
niece, had no other view than that of indulging her wishes by
allowing her to reside in the house of her friend: he had little
personal knowledge of him, but was satisfied with the nomination,
because acquainted with his family, fortune, and connections, all
which persuaded him to believe without further enquiry, that it was
more peculiarly proper for his niece than any other he could make.
In his choice of the other two trustees he had been more prudent;
the first of these, the honourable Mr Delvile, was a man of high
birth and character; the second, Mr Briggs, had spent his whole life
in business, in which he had already amassed an immense fortune, and
had still no greater pleasure than that of encreasing it. From the
high honour, therefore, of Mr Delvile, he expected the most
scrupulous watchfulness that his niece should in nothing be injured,
and from the experience of Mr Briggs in money matters, and his
diligence in transacting business, he hoped for the most vigilant
observance that her fortune, while under his care, should be turned
to the best account. And thus, as far as he was able, he had equally
consulted her pleasure, her security, and her pecuniary advantage.
Mrs Harrel returned home only in time to dress for the rest of the
When Cecilia was summoned to dinner, she found, besides her host and
hostess and Mr Arnott, a gentleman she had not before seen, but who
as soon as she entered the parlour, Mr Harrel presented to her,
saying at the same time he was one of the most intimate of his
This gentleman, Sir Robert Floyer, was about thirty years of age;
his face was neither remarkable for its beauty nor its ugliness, but
sufficiently distinguished by its expression of invincible
assurance; his person, too, though neither striking for its grace
nor its deformity, attracted notice from the insolence of his
deportment. His manners, haughty and supercilious, marked the high
opinion he cherished of his own importance; and his air and address,
at once bold and negligent, announced his happy perfection in the
character at which he aimed, that of an accomplished man of the
The moment Cecilia appeared, she became the object of his attention,
though neither with the look of admiration due to her beauty, nor
yet with that of curiosity excited by her novelty, but with the
scrutinizing observation of a man on the point of making a bargain,
who views with fault-seeking eyes the property he means to cheapen.
Cecilia, wholly unused to an examination so little ceremonious,
shrunk abashed from his regards: but his conversation was not less
displeasing to her than his looks; his principal subjects, which
were horse-racing, losses at play, and disputes at gaming-tables,
could afford her but little amusement, because she could not
understand them; and the episodes with which they were occasionally
interspersed, consisting chiefly of comparative strictures upon
celebrated beauties, hints of impending bankruptcies, and witticisms
upon recent divorces, were yet more disagreeable to her, because
more intelligible. Wearied, therefore, with uninteresting anecdotes,
and offended with injudicious subjects of pleasantry, she waited
with impatience for the moment of retiring; but Mrs Harrel, less
eager, because better entertained, was in no haste to remove, and
therefore she was compelled to remain quiet, till they were both
obliged to arise, in order to fulfil their engagement with Mrs
As they went together to the house of that lady, in Mrs Harrel's
vis-a-vis, Cecilia, not doubting but their opinions concerning the
Baronet would accord, instantly and openly declared her
disapprobation of every thing he had uttered; but Mrs Harrel, far
from confirming her expectations, only said, "I am sorry you don't
like him, for he is almost always with us?"
"Do you like him, then, yourself?"
"Extremely; he is very entertaining and clever, and knows the
"How judiciously do you praise him!" cried Cecilia; "and how long
might you deliberate before you could add another word to his
Mrs Harrel, satisfied to commend, without even attempting to
vindicate him, was soon content to change the subject; and Cecilia,
though much concerned that the husband of her friend had made so
disgraceful an election of a favourite, yet hoped that the lenity of
Mrs Harrel resulted from her desire to excuse his choice, not from
her own approbation.
Mrs Mears, whose character was of that common sort which renders
delineation superfluous, received them with the customary forms of
Mrs Harrel soon engaged herself at a card-table; and Cecilia, who
declined playing, was seated next to Miss Leeson, who arose to
return the courtesy she made in advancing to her, but that past, did
not again even look at her.
Cecilia, though fond of conversation and formed for society, was too
diffident to attempt speaking where so little encouraged; they both,
therefore, continued silent, till Sir Robert Floyer, Mr Harrel, and
Mr Arnott entered the room together, and all at the same time
advanced to Cecilia.
"What," cried Mr Harrel, "don't you chuse to play, Miss Beverley?"
"I flatter myself," cried Mr Arnott, "that Miss Beverley never plays
at all, for then, in one thing, I shall have the honour to resemble
"Very seldom, indeed," answered Cecilia, "and consequently very
"O, you must take a few lessons," said Mr Harrel, "Sir Robert
Floyer, I am sure, will be proud to instruct you."
Sir Robert, who had placed himself opposite to her, and was staring
full in her face, made a slight inclination of his head, and said,
"I should be a very unpromising pupil," returned Cecilia, "for I
fear I should not only want diligence to improve, but desire."
"Oh, you will learn better things," said Mr Harrel; "we have had you
yet but three days amongst us,--in three months we shall see the
"I hope not," cried Mr Arnott, "I earnestly hope there will be
Mr Harrel now joined another party; and Mr Arnott seeing no seat
vacant near that of Cecilia, moved round to the back of her chair,
where he patiently stood for the rest of the evening. But Sir Robert
still kept his post, and still, without troubling himself to speak,
kept his eyes fixed upon the same object.
Cecilia, offended by his boldness, looked a thousand ways to avoid
him; but her embarrassment, by giving greater play to her features,
served only to keep awake an attention which might otherwise have
wearied. She was almost tempted to move her chair round and face Mr
Arnott, but though she wished to shew her disapprobation of the
Baronet, she had not yet been reconciled by fashion to turning her
back upon the company at large, for the indulgence of conversing
with some particular person: a fashion which to unaccustomed
observers seems rude and repulsive, but which, when once adopted,
carries with it imperceptibly its own recommendation, in the ease,
convenience and freedom it promotes.
Thus disagreeably stationed, she found but little assistance from
the neighbourhood of Mr Arnott, since even his own desire of
conversing with her, was swallowed up by an anxious and involuntary
impulse to watch the looks and motions of Sir Robert.
At length, quite tired of sitting as if merely an object to be gazed
at, she determined to attempt entering into conversation with Miss
The difficulty, however, was not inconsiderable how to make the
attack; she was unacquainted with her friends and connections,
uninformed of her way of thinking, or her way of life, ignorant even
of the sound of her voice, and chilled by the coldness of her
aspect: yet, having no other alternative, she was more willing to
encounter the forbidding looks of this lady, than to continue
silently abashed under the scrutinizing eyes of Sir Robert.
After much deliberation with what subject to begin, she remembered
that Miss Larolles had been present the first time they had met, and
thought it probable they might be acquainted with each other; and
therefore, bending forward, she ventured to enquire if she had
lately seen that young lady?
Miss Leeson, in a voice alike inexpressive of satisfaction or
displeasure, quietly answered, "No, ma'am."
Cecilia, discouraged by this conciseness, was a few minutes silent;
but the perseverance of Sir Robert in staring at her, exciting her
own in trying to avoid his eyes, she exerted herself so far as to
add, "Does Mrs Mears expect Miss Larolles here this evening?"
Miss Leeson, without raising her head, gravely replied, "I don't
All was now to be done over again, and a new subject to be started,
for she could suggest nothing further to ask concerning Miss
Cecilia had seen, little of life, but that little she had well
marked, and her observation had taught her, that among fashionable
people, public places seemed a never-failing source of conversation
and entertainment: upon this topic, therefore, she hoped for better
success; and as to those who have spent more time in the country
than in London, no place of amusement is so interesting as a
theatre, she opened the subject she had so happily suggested, by an
enquiry whether any new play had lately come out?
Miss Leeson, with the same dryness, only answered, "Indeed, I can't
Another pause now followed, and the spirits of Cecilia were
considerably dampt; but happening accidentally to recollect the name
of Almack, she presently revived, and, congratulating herself that
she should now be able to speak of a place too fashionable for
disdain, she asked her, in a manner somewhat more assured, if she
was a subscriber to his assemblies?
"Do you go to them constantly?"
Again they were both silent. And now, tired of finding the ill-
success of each particular enquiry, she thought a more general one
might obtain an answer less laconic, and therefore begged she would
inform her what was the most fashionable place of diversion for the
This question, however, cost Miss Leeson no more trouble than any
which had preceded it, for she only replied, "Indeed I don't know."
Cecilia now began to sicken of her attempt, and for some minutes to
give it up as hopeless; but afterwards when she reflected how
frivolous were the questions she had asked, she felt more inclined
to pardon the answers she had received, and in a short time to fancy
she had mistaken contempt for stupidity, and to grow less angry with
Miss Leeson than ashamed of herself.
This supposition excited her to make yet another trial of her
talents for conversation, and therefore, summoning all the courage
in her power, she modestly apologised for the liberty she was
taking, and then begged her permission to enquire whether there was
anything new in the literary way that she thought worth
Miss Leeson now turned her eyes towards her, with a look that
implied a doubt whether she had heard right; and when the attentive
attitude of Cecilia confirmed her question, surprise for a few
instants took place of insensibility, and with rather more spirit
than she had yet shown, she answered, "Indeed, I know nothing of the
Cecilia was now utterly disconcerted; and half angry with herself,
and wholly provoked with her sullen neighbour, she resolved to let
nothing in future provoke her to a similar trial with so unpromising
She had not, however, much longer to endure the examination of Sir
Robert, who being pretty well satisfied with staring, turned upon
his heel, and was striding out of the room, when he was stopt by Mr
Gosport, who for some time had been watching him.
Mr Gosport was a man of good parts, and keen satire: minute in his
observations, and ironical in his expressions.
"So you don't play, Sir Robert?" he cried.
"What, here? No, I am going to Brookes's."
"But how do you like Harrel's ward? You have taken a pretty good
survey of her."
"Why, faith, I don't know; but not much, I think; she's a devilish
fine woman, too; but she has no spirit, no life."
"Did you try her? Have you talked to her?"
"Not I, truly!"
"Nay, then how do you mean to judge of her?"
"O, faith, that's all over, now; one never thinks of talking to the
women by way of trying them."
"What other method, then, have you adopted?"
"None? Why, then, how do you go on?"
"Why, they talk to us. The women take all that trouble upon
"And pray how long may you have commenced _fade macaroni?_ For
this is a part of your character with which I was not acquainted."
"Oh, hang it, 'tis not from _ton_; no, it's merely from
laziness. Who the d---l will fatigue himself with dancing
attendance upon the women, when keeping them at a distance makes
them dance attendance upon us?"
Then stalking from him to Mr Harrel, he took him by the arm, and
they left the room together.
Mr Gosport now advanced to Cecilia, and addressing her so as not to
be heard by Miss Leeson, said, "I have been wishing to approach you,
some time, but the fear that you are already overpowered by the
loquacity of your fair neighbour makes me cautious of attempting to
"You mean," said Cecilia, "to laugh at _my_ loquacity, and
indeed its ill success has rendered it sufficiently ridiculous."
"Are you, then, yet to learn," cried he, "that there are certain
young ladies who make it a rule never to speak but to their own
cronies? Of this class is Miss Leeson, and till you get into her
particular coterie, you must never expect to hear from her a word of
two syllables. The TON misses, as they are called, who now infest
the town, are in two divisions, the SUPERCILIOUS, and the VOLUBLE.
The SUPERCILIOUS, like Miss Leeson, are silent, scornful, languid,
and affected, and disdain all converse but with those of their own
set: the VOLUBLE, like Miss Larolles, are flirting, communicative,
restless, and familiar, and attack without the smallest ceremony,
every one they think worthy their notice. But this they have in
common, that at home they think of nothing but dress, abroad, of
nothing but admiration, and that every where they hold in supreme
contempt all but themselves."
"Probably, then," said Cecilia, "I have passed tonight, for one of
the VOLUBLES; however, all the advantage has been with the
SUPERCILIOUS, for I have suffered a total repulse."
"Are you sure, however, you have not talked too well for her?"
"O, a child of five years old ought to have been whipt for not
"But it is not capacity alone you are to consult when you talk with
misses of the TON; were their understandings only to be considered,
they would indeed be wonderfully easy of access! in order,
therefore, to render their commerce somewhat difficult, they will
only be pleased by an observance of their humours: which are ever
most various and most exuberant where the intellects are weakest and
least cultivated. I have, however, a receipt which I have found
infallible for engaging the attention of young ladies of whatsoever
character or denomination."
"O, then," cried Cecilia, "pray favour me with it, for I have here
an admirable opportunity to try its efficacy."
"I will give it you," he answered, "with full directions. When you
meet with a young lady who seems resolutely determined not to speak,
or who, if compelled by a direct question to make some answer, drily
gives a brief affirmative, or coldly a laconic negative---"
"A case in point," interrupted Cecilia.
"Well, thus circumstanced," he continued, "the remedy I have to
propose consists of three topics of discourse."
"Pray what are they?"
"Dress, public places, and love."
Cecilia, half surprised and half diverted, waited a fuller
explanation without giving any interruption.
"These three topics," he continued, "are to answer three purposes,
since there are no less than three causes from which the silence of
young ladies may proceed: sorrow, affectation, and stupidity."
"Do you, then," cried Cecilia, "give nothing at all to modesty?"
"I give much to it," he answered, "as an excuse, nay almost as an
equivalent for wit; but for that sullen silence which resists all
encouragement, modesty is a mere pretence, not a cause."
"You must, however, be somewhat more explicit, if you mean that I
should benefit from your instructions."
"Well, then," he answered, "I will briefly enumerate the three
causes, with directions for the three methods of cure. To begin with
sorrow. The taciturnity which really results from that is attended
with an incurable absence of mind, and a total unconsciousness of
the observation which it excites; upon this occasion, public places
may sometimes be tried in vain, and even dress may fail; but love--"
"Are you sure, then," said Cecilia, with a laugh, "that sorrow has
but that one source?"
"By no means," answered he, "for perhaps papa may have been angry,
or mama may have been cross; a milliner may have sent a wrong
pompoon, or a chaperon to an assembly may have been taken ill--"
"Bitter subjects of affliction, indeed! And are these all you allow
"Nay, I speak but of young ladies of fashion, and what of greater
importance can befall them? If, therefore, the grief of the fair
patient proceeds from papa, mama, or the chaperon, then the mention
of public places, those endless incentives of displeasure between
the old and the young, will draw forth her complaints, and her
complaints will bring their own cure, for those who lament find
speedy consolation: if the milliner has occasioned the calamity, the
discussion of dress will have the same effect; should both these
medicines fail, love, as I said before, will be found infallible,
for you will then have investigated every subject of uneasiness
which a youthful female in high life can experience."
"They are greatly obliged to you," cried Cecilia, bowing, "for
granting them motives of sorrow so honourable, and I thank you in
the name of the whole sex."
"You, madam," said he, returning her bow, "are I hope an exception
in the happiest way, that of having no sorrow at all. I come, now,
to the silence of affectation, which is presently discernible by the
roving of the eye round the room to see if it is heeded, by the
sedulous care to avoid an accidental smile, and by the variety of
disconsolate attitudes exhibited to the beholders. This species of
silence has almost without exception its origin in that babyish
vanity which is always gratified by exciting attention, without ever
perceiving that it provokes contempt. In these cases, as nature is
wholly out of the question, and the mind is guarded against its own
feelings, dress and public places are almost certain of failing, but
here again love is sure to vanquish; as soon as it is named,
attention becomes involuntary, and in a short time a struggling
simper discomposes the arrangement of the features, and then the
business is presently over, for the young lady is either supporting
some system, or opposing some proposition, before she is well aware
that she has been cheated out of her sad silence at all."
"So much," said Cecilia, "for sorrow and for affectation. Proceed
next to stupidity; for that, in all probability, I shall most
frequently encounter." "That always must be heavy work," returned
he, "yet the road is plain, though it is all up hill. Love, here,
may be talked of without exciting any emotion, or provoking any
reply, and dress may be dilated upon without producing any other
effect than that of attracting a vacant stare; but public places are
indubitably certain of success. Dull and heavy characters, incapable
of animating from wit or from reason, because unable to keep pace
with them, and void of all internal sources of entertainment,
require the stimulation of shew, glare, noise, and bustle, to
interest or awaken them. Talk to them of such subjects, and they
adore you; no matter whether you paint to them joy or horror, let
there but be action, and they are content; a battle has charms for
them equal to a coronation, and a funeral amuses them as much as a
"I am much obliged to you," said Cecilia, smiling, "for these
instructions; yet I must confess I know not how upon the present
occasion to make use of them: public places I have already tried,
but tried in vain; dress I dare not mention, as I have not yet
learned its technical terms--"
"Well, but," interrupted he, "be not desperate; you have yet the
third topic unessayed."
"O, that," returned she, laughing, "I leave to you."
"Pardon me," cried he; "love is a source of loquacity only with
yourselves: when it is started by men, young ladies dwindle into
mere listeners. _Simpering_ listeners, I confess; but it is
only with one another that you will discuss its merits."
At this time they were interrupted by the approach of Miss Larolles,
who, tripping towards Cecilia, exclaimed, "Lord, how glad I am to
see you! So you would not go to the auction! Well, you had a
prodigious loss, I assure you. All the wardrobe was sold, and all
Lady Belgrade's trinkets. I never saw such a collection of sweet
things in my life. I was ready to cry that I could not bid for half
a hundred of them. I declare I was kept in an agony the whole
morning. I would not but have been there for the world. Poor Lady
Belgrade! you really can't conceive how I was shocked for her. All
her beautiful things sold for almost nothing. I assure you, if you
had seen how they went, you would have lost all patience. It's a
thousand pities you were not there."
"On the contrary," said Cecilia, "I think I had a very fortunate
escape, for the loss of patience without the acquisition of the
trinkets, would have been rather mortifying."
"Yes," said Mr Gosport; "but when you have lived some time longer in
this commercial city, you will find the exchange of patience for
mortification the most common and constant traffic amongst its
"Pray, have you been here long?" cried Miss Larolles, "for I have
been to twenty places, wondering I did not meet with you before. But
whereabouts is Mrs Mears? O, I see her now; I'm sure there's no
mistaking her; I could know her by that old red gown half a mile
off. Did you ever see such a frightful thing in your life? And it's
never off her back. I believe she sleeps in it. I am sure I have
seen her in nothing else all winter. It quite tires one's eye. She's
a monstrous shocking dresser. But do you know I have met with the
most provoking thing in the world this evening? I declare it has
made me quite sick. I was never in such a passion in my life. You
can conceive nothing like it."
"Like what?" cried Cecilia, laughing; "your passion, or your
"Why, I'll tell you what it was, and then you shall judge if it was
not quite past endurance. You must know I commissioned a particular
friend of mine, Miss Moffat, to buy me a trimming when she went to
Paris; well, she sent it me over about a month ago by Mr Meadows,
and it's the sweetest thing you ever saw in your life; but I would
not make it up, because there was not a creature in town, so I
thought to bring it out quite new in about a week's time, for you
know any thing does till after Christmas. Well, to-night at Lady
Jane Dranet's, who should I meet but Miss Moffat! She had been in
town some days, but so monstrously engaged I could never find her at
home. Well, I was quite delighted to see her, for you must know
she's a prodigious favourite with me, so I ran up to her in a great
hurry to shake hands, and what do you think was the first thing that
struck my eyes? Why, just such a trimming as my own, upon a nasty,
odious gown, and half dirty! Can you conceive anything so
distressing? I could have cried with pleasure."
"Why so?" said Cecilia. "If her trimming is dirty, yours will look
the more delicate."
"O Lord! but it's making it seem quite an old thing! Half the town
will get something like it. And I quite ruined myself to buy it. I
declare, I don't think anything was ever half so mortifying. It
distressed me so, I could hardly speak to her. If she had stayed a
month or two longer, I should not have minded it, but it was the
cruellest thing in the world to come over just now. I wish the
Custom-house officers had kept all her cloaths till summer."
"The wish is tender, indeed," said Cecilia, "for a _particular
Mrs Mears now rising from the card-table, Miss Larolles tript away
to pay her compliments to her.
"Here, at least," cried Cecilia, "no receipt seems requisite for the
cure of silence! I would have Miss Larolles be the constant
companion of Miss Leeson: they could not but agree admirably, since
that SUPERCILIOUS young lady seems determined never to speak, and
the VOLUBLE Miss Larolles never to be silent. Were each to borrow
something of the other, how greatly would both be the better!"
"The composition would still be a sorry one," answered Mr Gosport,
"for I believe they are equally weak, and equally ignorant; the only
difference is, that one, though silly, is quick, the other, though
deliberate, is stupid. Upon a short acquaintance, that heaviness
which leaves to others the whole weight of discourse, and whole
search of entertainment, is the most fatiguing, but, upon a longer
intimacy, even that is less irksome and less offensive, than the
flippancy which hears nothing but itself."
Mrs Harrel arose now to depart, and Cecilia, not more tired of the
beginning of the evening than entertained with its conclusion, was
handed to the carriage by Mr Arnott.
The next morning, during breakfast, a servant acquainted Cecilia
that a young gentleman was in the hall, who begged to speak with
her. She desired he might be admitted; and Mrs Harrel, laughing,
asked if she ought not to quit the room; while Mr Arnott, with even
more than his usual gravity, directed his eye towards the door to
watch who should enter.
Neither of them, however, received any satisfaction when it was
opened, for the gentleman who made his appearance was unknown to
both: but great was the amazement of Cecilia, though little her
emotion, when she saw Mr Morrice!
He came forward with an air of the most profound respect for the
company in general, and obsequiously advancing to Cecilia, made an
earnest enquiry into her health after her journey, and hoped she had
heard good news from her friends in the country.
Mrs Harrel, naturally concluding both from his visit and behaviour,
that he was an acquaintance of some intimacy, very civilly offered
him a seat and some breakfast, which, very frankly, he accepted. But
Mr Arnott, who already felt the anxiety of a rising passion which
was too full of veneration to be sanguine, looked at him with
uneasiness, and waited his departure with impatience.
Cecilia began to imagine he had been commissioned to call upon her
with some message from Mr Monckton: for she knew not how to suppose
that merely and accidentally having spent an hour or two in the same
room with her, would authorize a visiting acquaintance. Mr Morrice,
however, had a faculty the most happy of reconciling his pretensions
to his inclination; and therefore she soon found that the pretence
she had suggested appeared to him unnecessary. To lead, however, to
the subject from which she expected his excuse, she enquired how
long he had left Suffolk?
"But yesterday noon, ma'am," he answered, "or I should certainly
have taken the liberty to wait upon you before."
Cecilia, who had only been perplexing herself to devise some reason
why he came at all, now looked at him with a grave surprize, which
would totally have abashed a man whose courage had been less, or
whose expectations had been greater; but Mr Morrice, though he had
hazarded every danger upon the slightest chance of hope, knew too
well the weakness of his claims to be confident of success, and had
been too familiar with rebuffs to be much hurt by receiving them. He
might possibly have something to gain, but he knew he had nothing to
"I had the pleasure," he continued, "to leave all our friends well,
except poor Lady Margaret, and she has had an attack of the asthma;
yet she would not have a physician, though Mr Monckton would fain
have persuaded her: however, I believe the old lady knows better
things." And he looked archly at Cecilia: but perceiving that the
insinuation gave her nothing but disgust, he changed his tone, and
added, "It is amazing how well they live together; nobody would
imagine the disparity in their years. Poor old lady! Mr Monckton
will really have a great loss of her when she dies."
"A loss of her!" repeated Mrs Harrel, "I am sure she is an exceeding
ill-natured old woman. When I lived at Bury, I was always frightened
out of my wits at the sight of her."
"Why indeed, ma'am," said Morrice, "I must own her appearance is
rather against her: I had myself a great aversion to her at first
sight. But the house is chearful,--very chearful; I like to spend a
few days there now and then of all things. Miss Bennet, too, is
agreeable enough, and----"
"Miss Bennet agreeable!" cried Mrs Harrel, "I think she's the most
odious creature I ever knew in my life; a nasty, spiteful old maid!"
"Why indeed, ma'am, as you say," answered Morrice, "she is not very
young; and as to her temper, I confess I know very little about it;
and Mr Monckton is likely enough to try it, for he is pretty
"Mr Monckton," cried Cecilia, extremely provoked at hearing him
censured by a man she thought highly honoured in being permitted to
approach him, "whenever _I_ have been his guest, has merited
from me nothing but praise and gratitude."
"O," cried Morrice, eagerly, "there is not a more worthy man in the
world! he has so much wit, so much politeness! I don't know a more
charming man anywhere than my friend Mr Monckton." Cecilia now
perceiving that the opinions of her new acquaintance were as pliant
as his bows, determined to pay him no further attention, and hoped
by sitting silent to force from him the business of his visit, if
any he had, or if, as she now suspected, he had none, to weary him
into a retreat.
But this plan, though it would have succeeded with herself, failed
with Mr Morrice, who to a stock of good humour that made him always
ready to oblige others, added an equal portion of insensibility that
hardened him against all indignity. Finding, therefore, that
Cecilia, to whom his visit was intended, seemed already satisfied
with its length, he prudently forbore to torment her; but perceiving
that the lady of the house was more accessible, he quickly made a
transfer of his attention, and addressed his discourse to her with
as much pleasure as if his only view had been to see her, and as
much ease as if he had known her all his life.
With Mrs Harrel this conduct was not injudicious; she was pleased
with his assiduity, amused with his vivacity, and sufficiently
satisfied with his understanding. They conversed, therefore, upon
pretty equal terms, and neither of them were yet tired, when they
were interrupted by Mr Harrel, who came into the room, to ask if
they had seen or heard any thing of Sir Robert Floyer?
"No," answered Mrs Harrel, "nothing at all."
"I wish he was hanged," returned he, "for he has kept me waiting
this hour. He made me promise not to ride out till he called and now
he'll stay till the morning is over."
"Pray where does he live, sir?" cried Morrice, starting from his
"In Cavendish Square, sir," answered Mr Harrel, looking at him with
Not a word more said Morrice, but scampered out of the room.
"Pray who is this Genius?" cried Mr Harrel, "and what has he run
"Upon my word I know nothing at all of him," said Mrs Harrel; "he is
a visitor of Miss Beverley's."
"And I, too," said Cecilia, "might almost equally disclaim all
knowledge of him; for though I once saw, I never was introduced to
She then began a relation of her meeting him at Mr Monckton's house,
and had hardly concluded it, before again, and quite out of breath,
he made his appearance.
"Sir Robert Floyer, sir," said he to Mr Harrel, "will be here in two
"I hope, sir," said Mr Harrel, "you have not given yourself the
trouble of going to him?"
"No, sir, it has given me nothing but pleasure; a run these cold
mornings is the thing I like best."