Part 5 out of 12
How capricious a thing is public taste! It can regale on garbage, from
which Hottentots would turn with loathing, and yet, in the frenzy of
idiotism, could reject and condemn Congreve's 'Way of the World!'
Glibly treated the piece with unceasing contempt, yet clapped
every scene; and when, on two or three occasions, some few raised
their voices and called _off! off!_ he more loudly than the rest
vociferated, _Go on! go on!_ When it was over, he left me; saying it
was the most execrable piece he had ever beheld; but he had promised
to give it a good character, in the paper with which he was connected,
and this he must immediately go and write.
_Repetition of doubts: A very old acquaintance: Another pleasing
rencontre: Perplexity and suspense created_
The adventures of the evening sent me home with no very agreeable
reflections. What a world was this! How replete with folly, hypocrisy,
and vice! What certainly had the man of virtue that his claims should
be heard? Amid the tumultuous pursuits of selfishness, where all
were eager to gratify their own passions and appease the capricious
cravings of vanity, how might truth and worth ascertain success? The
comedy I had seen had convinced me that farce, inanity, and supreme
nonsense, might not only pass current but find partisans; yet proofs
in abundance were on record that genius itself had no security against
faction, envy, and mistaken opposition. I was at present in a state of
warfare: and were judges like these to give the meed of victory? How
many creatures had the powerful and the proud obedient to their beck;
ever ready to affirm, deny, say and unsay; and, by falsehood and
defamation, involve in ruin men whose souls were the most pure, and
principles the most exalted!
For some days I remained in a state of suspense, continually
determining to seek the satisfaction which I supposed my injuries
demanded, but undecided with respect to the method.
This delay was still prolonged by another event. My man Philip, one
morning when he brought my breakfast, told me that a woman in the
house, who lived with a young lady on the second floor, had asked him
various questions concerning me; saying she was sure she knew me, that
she loved me from her soul, for that I had once saved the life of her
and her dear boy, and that she wished very much to see me.
At first this account surprised me. A woman and a boy whose lives
I had saved? Where is she, said I? Below in the kitchen, answered
Philip. I bade him desire her to come up; and in a few minutes a woman
about the age of forty entered, but of whose countenance I had no
clear recollection. 'I beg pardon, Sir,' said she, 'for my boldness,
but your name I believe is Mr. Trevor?'
'Mr. Hugh Trevor?'
'God in his mercy bless and keep you! Since the night that you saved
my life, I never went to bed without praying for you. But you were
always a kind, dear, good child; and your uncle, Mr. Elford, was the
best of men!'
The epithet, child, and the name of Elford instantly solved the
riddle: it was poor Mary; and the boy, whose life I had saved, was the
child of which she was delivered, after the adventure of the barn.
Her features suddenly became as it were familiar to me. She revived a
long train of ideas, inspiring that kind of melancholy pleasure which
mind so much delights to encourage. I kissed her with sincere good
will: and in sympathy with my feelings the poor creature, yielding
to her affections, clasped me round the neck, pressed me to her
cheek, exclaimed 'God in heaven for ever bless you!' then, suddenly
recollecting herself, with that honest simplicity which was so
constitutionally her character, dropped on her knees, and added, 'I
humbly beg pardon, Sir, for being so bold!'
After some persuasion, I prevailed on her to sit down: but I could not
conquer her timidity and imaginary inferiority so far as to induce
her to partake of my breakfast. 'She knew her duty better; I was a
gentleman, once her dear young master, and she should always adore me,
and act as was befitting a poor servant, like her.'
We talked over former affairs, and she brought many scenes of my
early youth strongly to recollection. On inquiry, she told me she
had apprenticed her son to a printer; that till this period she had
fed, clothed, and educated him by her own industry; and that he was
now likely to be no longer burthensome to her, being an apt and
industrious boy, and already capable of supplying himself with clothes
by his over-work.
I farther learnt, from her discourse, that she lived with a young
lady, whom she affectionately loved; and there was something
mysterious occasionally in her phrases, that led me to imagine her
mistress had been unfortunate. 'She had been a kind mistress to her;
she loved her in her heart. Poor young lady! she did not deserve the
mishaps she had met with; and it was a shame that some men should be
so base as they were: but, though all the world should turn their
back on her, she would not be so wicked. Poor women were born to
be misused, by false-hearted men; and, if they had no pity for one
another, what must become of them?'
I asked if she had lived with the lady long? She answered, that first
and last she had known her ever since she left Mr. Elford's service.
'What! Was she of our county?'
'Was I acquainted with her?'
Mary hesitated, and my curiosity was rouzed--'What was the lady's
'Miss Lydia Wilmot.'
'Wilmot? Wilmot? Surely, not Miss Wilmot, the niece of the bishop of
'No, no,' said Mary, ''a's not his niece, 'a has better blood in her
veins; thof mayhap 'a may have had her failings. God help us! who is
without 'em? A bishop? Lord ha' mercy on us! No Christian soul could
have believed there was so much wickedness in the world!'
My impatience increased, and I eagerly demanded--'Did she ever live
with the bishop?'
Poor Mary knew not what to answer; I perceived her confusion. 'Go,
Mary,' said I, 'and tell Miss Wilmot that Mr. Trevor presents his
compliments to her, and will be glad to speak to her the moment she is
After a little hesitation Mary went, continued up stairs some time,
and at last returned with--'Miss Wilmot's compliments: she should be
glad to see me.'
I hurried to her apartment. My conjectures were too well founded to be
false: it was the same Miss Wilmot to whom I had been introduced by
the bishop, the sister of the guide of my studies and the friend of my
youth. Her embarrassment was considerable, she sunk on the sopha as
she curtsied, pointed to a chair, and faintly requested I would sit
I exerted myself to assume the tone that should tranquilize her
feelings; and by asking and answering my own questions, and
endeavouring myself to sustain the conversation, brought her with some
little difficulty to join in it.
I was burning to interrogate her concerning the bishop, but was
restrained by the fear of wounding her sensibility. I inquired after
her brother, but him I found she had not lately seen. I forebore to be
minute, but it appeared that they knew not the place of each other's
abode. I sat with her an hour; but, notwithstanding my impatience,
perceiving she evaded the subject I wished to introduce, and turned
the discourse on the common place occurrences of the day. I was
too respectful of her delicacy to violate it, and left her with an
invitation to drink tea with me the following afternoon, which she
I saw Mary again in the interim, had some discourse with her, and, by
several phrases which she once more let fall, was involved in greater
perplexity. A person of my family had _a ruinated_ Miss Wilmot of all
hope; she never could have justice and right done her now; that was
_impossable_. But mayhap all things _was_ for the best. The base man
had shewn that he was not worth having. She was sorry, both on her
ladyship's account and mine; but there was no help for it. God send
him a good end! but she feared it! Such wickedness could never
This language was totally incomprehensible!--'A person of my family?
The base man? Sorry on my account?' What did she mean?
Mary was afraid she had said too much--'I dare not tell you, dear good
Sir,' continued she; 'only don't you be _cunsarned_; it is no blame of
yours; you will know soon enough.'
In this uncertainty she left me, impatiently hoping some farther
explanation from Miss Wilmot; of which I was not disappointed. The
afternoon came, Mary announced her mistress, we were left alone, and I
could no longer forbear expressing my desire of knowing her history.
At first she felt some reluctance, but, when I informed her how much
Mary had already told, she sighed deeply, and said, 'I find, Sir,
it is in vain to think of concealment; I will, therefore, since you
desire it, relate the few events that are remarkable in my unfortunate
life. I fear they are more blameable than extraordinary; for,
from what I hear and see in this great city, mine are no uncommon
misfortunes. I even fear I am hitherto less wretched and guilty than
thousands. God only knows for what I am reserved!'
_The story of Miss Wilmot: Family misfortunes: A father's death: A
brother's disappointment: Intelligence that astonishes me: Wakefield
characterized: The death of Miss Wilmot's mother; and the dread of
fatal consequences: Piety and compassion of a bishop: Deep designs of
Wakefield: The good faith and affection of a poor adherent_
'My father was an officer in the army, in which, though he served all
his life, he only attained the rank of major. He was twice married,
the second time to my mother at the age of thirty, by whom he had
five children, who, except my brother and myself, did not arrive at
maturity. Being reduced to the income of half-pay, they retired into
their native county, where they lived with such strict oeconomy that
they contrived to educate us better perhaps than the children of
people of much larger fortune.
'My brother was the eldest child, and I the youngest, so that there
was an interval of fifteen years between us. My father had been well
educated, loved letters, and undertook to be my brother's instructor
himself to the age of fourteen. At this period my brother was admitted
a chorister at the cathedral of ----, at which city my parents had
fixed their residence. They were respected by all the inhabitants,
whose wealth, birth, and pride, did not place them at too great a
distance; and it was a severe mortification to be unable to provide
better for their son; but there was no remedy.
'The disappointments of my father's life had given him a melancholy
cast, with an aptitude to be dissatisfied; and this propensity was
strongly communicated to my brother. The danger of a war between
England and Spain called my father up to town, in the hope of being
once more put on actual service. But in this his hopes again were
frustrated; and expence without benefit was incurred. Early, however,
in the American war, he obtained his wishes; unhappily obtained them,
for, having been long unused to the baneful severity of camps, he and
many more brave men were carried off, by the damps of the climate to
which he was sent. This happened when I was but nine years old; and my
mother was left with what little their economy had collected, and such
scanty provision as is made for officers widows.
'My brother, however, who was truly affectionate, and active in
efforts to protect us, afforded my mother some aid. From being a
chorister, he had gained admission into the grammar-school; of which,
while he remained there, he was the pride and boast. Immediately after
our father's death, from the recommendation of his own merit and the
misfortunes of the family, he was appointed a Latin usher in the same
school; in which station he remained five years. The difference of
our age made him consider himself something rather like a father than
a brother to me: he loved me tenderly, took every method to improve
and provide for me, and expected in return something like parental
obedience. The manners of my mother were of the mild and pleasing
kind, with which qualities she endeavoured to familiarize me, and the
behaviour of the whole family gained general approbation and esteem.
'My brother was deeply smitten with the love of letters: his poetical
essays were numerous, many of them were sent up to London and readily
admitted into periodical publications.
'Anxious to place his family in that rank which he had been taught to
suppose it deserved, for my father and mother were both, though not
noble, well born, he did not rest satisfied with these attempts: he
wrote a tragedy, and, by the advice of people who pretended to have a
knowledge of such affairs, determined to go to London, that he might,
if possible, get it on the stage. From this my mother would fain have
dissuaded him, but his arguments and importunity at length prevailed.
He was then but nine and twenty, and I fourteen.
'I could ill describe to you the state of anxiety and suspence in
which his various literary efforts involved him, while he remained in
London: but in about two years he returned to the country, despairing
of that pleasure, profit, and fame, which hope had delusively taught
him to consider as his due. This was the period at which he once more
became an usher of the school where you were educated. This too was
the period at which my misfortunes began.
'And now, Mr. Trevor, I am coming to events in which you, without any
knowledge or interference of your own, may be said to be a partaker.'
She paused a moment: and I, with amazement, doubt, and increasing
ardour, requested she would proceed.
'The name of Wakefield must certainly be familiar to you?'
'It is: I am sorry to say it is the name my mother at present bears.'
'If you feel sorrow, Mr. Trevor, what must my feelings be? Mine! who,
had there been truth or honour in man, ought to have borne that name
myself. Mine! who, when I first heard of your mother's marriage,
should not have felt so severe a pang had a dagger been struck to my
heart. Mine! who from that moment, or rather from the fatal and guilty
moment when I confided in an unprincipled man, have never known that
cheerfulness and peace, which once were the inmates of my bosom!'
'You astonish me, madam! Wakefield?'
'Wakefield! Him have I to thank for loss of self-respect, a brother's
love, and perhaps a parent's life! I was my mother's companion,
consolation, and pride. How can I estimate a mother's grief? She died
within a year. Have I not reason to believe her days were shortened by
her daughter's guilt?'
The pain of recollection was agonizing. She burst into a flood of
tears: nor could every effort she made keep down the deep sobs that
for some minutes impeded speech. I used every endeavour to appease
and calm her mind: she seemed sensibly touched by that sympathy which
intensely pervaded me; and, as soon as she could recover herself, thus
'The kind part you take in my affliction, Mr. Trevor, affords me
greater relief than any that perhaps I have felt for years. It is
true the faithful Mary, good creature, has almost shed tear for tear:
but she herself is the daughter of misfortune, and from her, though
grateful, it is something like expected. You are a man; you perhaps
have been accustomed to the society of those whose pleasure is the
most exquisite when they can most contribute to the miseries of woman:
that you should be virtuous enough to contemn such instruction, does
more than sooth feelings like mine: and I think we esteem benefits the
more the less we expect them.'
'But where, madam, did you first meet with Mr. Wakefield?'
'In the city of ---- where he was bred, under his father, to the
profession of the law. From what I have seen of you, and from what I
have heard of your talents and understanding, I should have expected
you to have been the child of extraordinary parents; otherwise, I do
not much wonder at your mother's conduct, superior as she was to Mr.
Wakefield in years; for, of all the men I ever saw, he is the most
deceitful, plausible, and dangerous. Neither man nor woman are safe
with him; and his arts are such as to over-reach the most cautious. He
has words at will; and his wit and invention, which are extraordinary,
are employed to entrap, humiliate, degrade and ruin all with whom he
has intercourse. His ambition is to gratify his desires, by triumphing
over the credulity of the unsuspecting, whom he contemns for their
want of his own vices. It was he that, after having seduced me, placed
me in the family of the bishop, laid the plan that I should pass for
his lordship's niece, by various falsehoods cajoled me to acquiesce
(the chief of which was, that the project was but to save appearances,
till he could make me his wife) left me in that unworthy prelate's
power, then, returning to the country, plotted the marriage with your
mother, and, by his intimate knowledge of the weakness or vice of
each character, which he seems to catch instinctively, adapted his
scheme with such cunning to the avarice of his uncle as to gain his
concurrence and aid.
'It was my clandestine departure at this period, and the rumours and
suspicions to which it gave birth, that again drove my brother from
the country. For some months neither he nor my mother knew what was
become of me.
'At length her decline, and the extreme affliction of dying and
never hearing of me more, occasioned her to prevail on my brother to
advertise me in all the papers. This he did, by inserting the initials
of my name, and such other tokens as he knew must be intelligible to
me, should I read the advertisement; informing me at the same time of
the dying state of my mother.
'His plan so far succeeded as to come to my knowledge. I read the
paper, was seized with horror at the information, and immediately
wrote in answer. It was too late! My mother was dead! and I left in
that state of distraction to which by a single moment's weakness I had
been thus fatally conducted!
'Grief, despondency, and resentment, took firm possession of my
brother's mind. He wrote me a dreadful letter of the state of his
feelings; and, though he forebore explicitly to accuse me of my
mother's death, I could perceive the thought pervaded his mind. After
her funeral, he came up to London; but refused all intercourse with
me, once excepted. A few days only after that on which the bishop
introduced you to me, he came, knocked at the door, inquired if I were
at home, and sent up his name.
'Of all the moments of my life, that was the most awful! A death-like
coldness seized me! The sound of my brother's name was horror! I know
not what I said to the servant, but the feelings of Mr. Wilmot were
too racking for delay: he was presently before me, dressed in deep
mourning; I motionless and dead; he haggard, the image of despair; so
changed in form that, but for the sharp and quick sighted suspicions
of guilt, had I met him, I should have passed him without suspecting
him to be my brother.
'I can tell you but little of what passed. His sentences were
incoherent, but half finished, and bursting with passion that was
neither grief nor rage, nor reproach nor pardon, though a mixture of
them all. The chief impression that he left upon my mind was, that he
should soon be freed from the torment of existence: not by the course
of nature; he complained, with agony, that labour, disappointment,
injustice, and contamination itself could not kill him; but die he
'From that day to this, I have never seen or heard word of him more.
The deep despair with which he uttered his last resolution has kept me
in a state of uninterrupted terror. I daily read all the papers I can
buy or borrow with the excruciating dread, every paragraph I come to,
of catching his name, and, Oh! insufferable horror! reading an account
of his death!
'My state of being seems wholly changed! I am no longer the same
creature! My faculties, which formerly compared to those of my brother
I thought slow even to stupidity, are now awakened to such keenness
of discernment that the world is multiplied upon me a million fold!
Sometimes it is all intelligence, though of a dark and terrific hue;
at other moments objects swarm so thick that they dance confusion, and
give me a foretaste of madness, to which I have now a constant fear
that I shall be driven. My own deep shame, the loss of the man whom
like an idiot I dearly loved, my mother's death, my brother's letter,
and particularly his last visit, have altogether given such an
impetuosity to my thoughts as I want the power to repel. Whither they
will hurry me God only knows. At one interval I imagine the earth
contains nothing but evil! At another, strange to tell! all is good!
all is wise! all harmonious! and I reproach my own extreme folly for
wanting happiness under so perfect a system!
'Nay, there are times in which I persuade myself I have been guilty
of no crime! that there is no such thing as crime! and that the
distinctions of men are folly, invented by selfishness and continued
'Indeed, I know not whither my thoughts do not range. At one moment, I
seem as if I were actually free to penetrate the bowels of the earth,
dive into the deep, transport myself with a wish from planet to
planet, or from sun to sun, endure all extremes, overcome them, master
all resistance, and be myself omnipotent! The very next instant,
perhaps, I doubt if I have really any existence! if waking and
dreaming be not the same thing! and whether either of them are
definable or intelligible! At this very moment, I know not whither my
thoughts are wandering! or whether I ought not to snatch up this or
the other weapon of death, and instantly strike you breathless, for
having dared to listen to my shame!'
While she spoke, her eyes sparkled, and flashed with that wildness
which her tongue with such rapid imagery pictured forth. Had it
continued, the tumult might have been dangerous; perhaps fatal; but
fortunately the firmness and intrepidity of my mind were equal to
the scene. With a cool and collected benevolence of look, and with
a determined though not severe tone of voice I said: 'My dear Miss
Wilmot, be calm; pause a moment; recollect yourself; I am your friend,
I hope you will never find another man your foe.'
The idea suggested an opposite association to her active thoughts; in
an instant the fire vanished, her eyes were suffused, her features
relaxed, and she again burst into tears and sobs. I was careful not
to interrupt the tide of passion; it gave relief; and she presently
became more calm. Desirous as I was of hearing particulars concerning
the bishop, I gladly listened when, after a sufficient pause, she thus
resumed her tale.
'You must not wonder, Mr. Trevor, that I do not tell my story in a
connected manner. Whenever I think on the subject, the incidents I
have related press upon my mind, produce sensations I cannot command,
and for a time obliterate less momentous circumstances.
'The part which the bishop acted in this tragic drama is what I have
yet to relate. Mr. Wakefield's father, who let me here remark was an
unprincipled man and died insolvent, happened professionally, as a
lawyer, to have certain temporalities, in the county where he resided,
to manage for the bishop. This brought his son acquainted with the
character of the prelate. The relationship in which I stood to him'--I
'To whom, madam?'
'I understood he was no relation of yours?'
'He is and is not.'
'He is by marriage, twice removed; not the least by blood. His late
lady, a widow when he married her, was the half-sister of my father's
first wife; so that by the courtesy of custom he is called my uncle.
He is too artful not to have a shelter for his proceedings.--' She
'An adept which as I have before said Mr. Wakefield is, in reading the
weak and vicious inclinations of the human heart, he hoped not only
to have rid himself of importunity from me, but, by rendering me
subservient to this unholy bishop's vile propensities, to have played
a deeper game. This is his delight. The pleasure he receives in making
other men's follies, passions, and vices, administer to his own, is
the greatest he knows. Were he but the cunningest man on earth, he
would think himself the greatest.
'His character sympathized with that of the bishop, who was happy to
find so artful and so active an agent. It was not till I had been
in the prelate's family some time that the whole of their design
was explained to me. The bishop frequently used strange, and to me
unintelligible expressions; disgusting from any man, but from him
inexpressively offensive and odious; yet the full import of them I did
not so much as suspect.
'Nor did he omit to make the solemnity of his supposed character an
abettor to his hypocrisy. Feelings of compassion, moral affection, and
Christian forgiveness were assumed. When I first entered his house
he gave me to understand that he was acquainted with my crime; this,
after mentioning it as a serious sin, affecting pity, he qualified
away, and, as people in all such situations must, talked an incoherent
jargon; that God hated and loved such sinners; that religion was all
powerful, but that man was frail; that Christ died to save us, and
therefore though we should fall, as perhaps the best of us were
subject to back slidings, his mercy was all sufficient.
'But on this and every occasion, he was careful to say nothing open
and direct, by which he should be detected. If ever he ventured so far
as to excite serious questions from me, he was ever ready with evasive
answers, and had something like reasoning to offer, in defence of his
own manners and in ridicule of prudery. He began with caution, but
when he had accustomed me to such discourse, and after I had heard it
repeated even in the presence of his clerical companions, of which
you, Mr. Trevor, were once a witness, my surprize wore away; the pain
it gave me was diminished, and he became less and less reserved.
'Still however he did not venture openly to declare himself; and
Mr. Wakefield was too busy, in wasting your mother's fortune and
gratifying his own desires, to attend to those of the bishop. But his
prodigality, which is excessive, after a time brought him to London;
and the bishop imagined that, with his help, my scruples would at last
'The trial was made; not by the cautious bishop, but by Mr. Wakefield.
How such a proposition, coming from the man whom I had dearly loved,
and whose wife in justice I considered myself to be, was received,
you, who have a sense of the feelings of a highly injured and justly
indignant heart, may conceive!
'Yet, impassioned determined and almost frantic as I was, it was with
difficulty he could relinquish his plan. Till that hour, I never
believed him so utterly devoid of principle; but he then laid bare his
heart, hoping to make me a convert to its baseness. He exulted in the
power we should obtain over this sensual prelate, and the sums which
by these means we might extort. He looked with transport forward, to
the opening which this would afford for projects still much deeper.
The vices of the great, with which he might thus become intimate,
afforded a field ample as his own vice could wish. Nor could all the
impatience of indignation, with which I continually interrupted him,
impede that flow which the subject inspired.
'At length, disgusted beyond sufferance, I abruptly left him, and
sought relief from the racking sensations which he had excited. He
then entered into a correspondence with me, till I threatened to shew
his letters to the bishop. This induced him to desist, and for some
time I heard from him no more. At last he wrote once again, informing
me that you, Mr. Trevor, were come to London; characterizing you
as ignorant of the world and easily deceived; telling me that you
were intimate with the bishop; and advising me to promote a plan of
marriage between us, which he had proposed to the prelate as the best
way, in his own phrase, of making all things smooth!
'I hope the deep shame I felt, when the bishop introduced you and made
the experiment, was sufficiently visible to convince you how repugnant
my feelings were to such a crime!
'The bishop finding his first purpose thus defeated, and himself
encumbered by a kind of claimant, which his acknowledging me as a
niece had brought upon him, was determined at all events to rid
himself of me. Immediately before he left town, he wrote me a letter,
telling me that my loss of character was become too public for me to
receive any further countenance, from a man under the moral and divine
obligations which every bishop of the church of Christ must be; that
he was going on a visit to his diocese; that he could not think of
taking me, it was too flagrantly improper; and that he advised and
expected I should immediately return to my relations; further hoping
that I should see the enormity of my conduct, and reform.
'Oh! Mr. Trevor, what a world is this! Had he offered me money, I
should have rejected it with disdain! but he had not even that much
charity. I instantly quitted the house with a few shillings only in my
'Mary had lived with me and my mother for some years before my
elopement: after my mother's death, my residence in the bishop's
family being known, I sent for her up to town and hired her. Her
artless affection made her my confidante; my situation required it;
and, when she heard the bishop's letter read, the kind creature with
honest anger instantly went and gave him warning.
'A quarter's wages was all her wealth; for the earnings of her labour
she had constantly expended on her boy, for whom she seems to have
more than a mother's affection. She has been my constant comforter.
Seeing the tears in my eyes, as we left the bishop's house, with a
look of mingled pity and indignation she exclaimed--"Do not grieve,
dear madam; though I work my fingers to the bone, you shall not
Miss Wilmot was proceeding with her narrative, when she was
interrupted by the hasty entrance of Mary. 'Oh madam,' said she, 'the
dear young lady and her maid are below. They were coming up stairs,
but I told them that you had a gentleman with you! Whereof at which
the young lady seemed a little in amaze; till I gave her to know that
it was only a friend of your brother's, a person from our own honest
country, and she would then a gone away, but as I said I was sure you
would be glad to see her, and would go up a purpose to your own room.
So do you go, madam, and I'll run down and tell her.'
Miss Wilmot immediately took her leave; and, though my curiosity was a
little awakened, a sense of decorum would not suffer me to endeavour
to see her visitor. I therefore shut the door, and, as soon as all was
silent on the stairs, I took my hat and walked out; that by changing
the scene I might dissipate a part of the melancholy which her story
_Anger unabated: More news of the bishop: Deliberation on the mode of
my revenge: The articles answered; and new assailing doubts: A visit
to Turl: Advice given and rejected: And former feelings revived_
The next morning, when I came to reflect on all that I had heard, I
was surprised with the degree in which, by my mother's marriage with
Wakefield, I appeared to be implicated in the history. The character
of Wakefield, his prodigality, and total want of principle, were all
of a dangerous cast. Not satisfied with beggaring my mother, he had
projected to marry me to his mistress. The recollection of him roused
resentment, and cunning and inventive as he was described to be, I
wished for an opportunity of punishing his baseness, teaching him his
own insignificance, and treating him with the contempt he deserved. If
attacked, I had not yet learned the philosophy of forbearance. Though
I have been hurried forward too fast to narrate every little incident
as it occurred, yet it cannot be imagined that I all this while
neglected to peruse the defence of the articles published in the
bishop's name. No: it was my very first employment, on my arrival in
town; and though considerable trouble had been bestowed to disfigure
the work, as written by me, yet in substance I found it to be the
same. The wrongs of Miss Wilmot quickened my feelings, and, angry as I
was with Wakefield, I felt emotions of ten fold bitterness against the
Association easily conjured up the earl, the president, the tutor,
Themistocles, and the injustice and disgrace I had suffered at Oxford.
The fermentation was so great that I was determined, immediately,
to expose them to the broad shame that should drive them from human
In this benevolent project I was confirmed by another piece of
intelligence. One of the rich sees of the kingdom had become vacant.
The king's _congè d'elire_ was issued, and God's holy vicar the Bishop
of ***** himself was translated. What could I conclude, but that the
defence which I had written had been the cause? I had been made the
stepping stone of vice! I remembered the proceeding of the despot,
Frederic of Prussia, with the immortal Voltaire: the orange had been
squeezed, and the rind thrown to rot in the highway!
My teeth gnashed with the abundance of my wrath, and the impotence
of my means. I had hitherto forborne to write from a perplexity of
different plans. At one moment I determined to address my foes in the
public papers; at another I would concentrate the story, and relate
the whole in a pamphlet. Now it should be a history; anon a satirical
novel; Asmodeus in London, in which I would draw the characters in
such perfection that, without mentioning names, the persons should be
visible to every eye. But then this would not be sufficiently serious.
Thousands might mistake that for fiction which I wished all the world
to know was fact. To give them the least shelter was cowardly to
myself, treacherous to society, and encouragement to the criminal.
At last, the pamphlet was the mode on which I determined: and it was
begun with all the enthusiasm that the accumulating circumstances
could not but inspire, in a being constituted like me. Eager after
every species of aggravation, my anger could never be hot enough; the
gall of my ink was milk to that of my heart. The bitterness of my
feelings was tormenting; words that could burn, contempt that could
kill, shame that could annihilate, these and nothing less could
satisfy me. Could the serpent revenge fly, how would it dart and
sting! Happily for man it can only crawl. That I had been treated
with great injustice was true: but of justice my notions were very
inadequate; of revenge I had more than enough for a nation.
While hot in the pursuit of this task, I was diverted from it by
the publication of an answer to the articles. The moment I saw it
advertised, not sufficiently habituated to the vice of indolence
myself to recollect that I had an idle footman below, I hurried to
the publisher's, purchased it, and returned with a greyhound speed to
devour its contents.
Disgusted as I was with the members of the church, and beginning even
to doubt of the perfect orthodoxy of the church itself, I still had
too high an opinion of my own arguments to imagine the wit of man
could overturn them.
My haste had been so great that I had not taken off the paper, in
which the pamphlet was wrapped; and in the shop I had read no more
than the title-page. What was my surprise when snatching it from my
pocket and opening it, I discovered, at the conclusion of a short
preface, the name of Turl! it's author!
My emotions were confused. At one moment an answer from him was what I
wished; the next it was something like what I feared. In all argument,
I had hitherto found him so cool, so collected, and so clear, that, to
my imagination, he perhaps was the only man on earth fit to cope with
me. But the grating question, 'Was I fit to cope with him?' would
now and then recur. I could not but feel that I had, in a certain
manner, been subdued and cowed by his greater extent of knowledge,
perspicuity, and masculine genius. By thoughts like these my anxiety,
if not my ardour, was increased, and I began to read.
My forebodings were fulfilled. The impotence of my arguments was
exposed, their absurdity and self-contradiction ridiculed, their evil
tendency demonstrated, their falsehood rendered odious, and the author
of them treated like a child. My self respect was wounded at every
line, each paragraph was a death stab, and I never before felt myself
so completely ridiculous.
As a lesson of philosophy it was the most serious, salutary, and
impressive I ever received; for though, while reading, I affirmed to
myself that every thing urged against me was weak, or ill founded,
inconclusive, or absolutely false, yet the arguments returned with
increasing and reiterated force, haunting and oppressing me like a
painful dream from which I could not awake.
The evil tendency which he proved against my doctrines was the least
to be forgotten. As far as I understood myself, I had a sincere love
of truth, and an unfeigned desire to benefit, not mislead and oppress,
mankind. As the author of the defence, the heavy charge of immorality
was brought against me; not by personal attacks on my substitute, the
bishop, but by a detail of the consequences of such doctrines.
This event made me pause and consider, though with but little
propensity to candour, concerning the pamphlet on which I was then
engaged. Consideration however did but seem to confirm me in my
purpose. Let my defence be right or wrong, and I had by no means yet
decided in the negative, still the turpitude of the bishop and my
persecutors was no less flagitious. These incidents once more turned
my thoughts toward Turl, whom I knew not whether to admire, love, or
hate. I was not so entirely overwhelmed but that I had arguments,
at least I had words, at my command. Beside, I felt a wish to
communicate to him my projected attack, and perhaps read a part of my
pamphlet, that it might, as it certainly must, meet his approbation.
I felt satisfied that what he approved could not be wrong. And how
disapprove? On former occasions indeed my hopes, in this respect, had
been deceived; but now it was impossible! The case was so clear! In
the present instance, there could be but one opinion!
Feelings which were not the most honourable to myself, for their
source was egotism, had withheld me from visiting him since my return;
but these were now subdued, by others that were more imperious. I was
not satisfied with requiring his approbation of my plan of vengeance;
my choleric vanity challenged him to the lists, and the combat was
As I was going, I recollected the shortness of the period in which his
answer had been composed and published, and this did but remind me of
the champion I had to encounter.
I found him, as before, tranquily pursuing his labours; except that
now he was writing, engaged as I imagined on the grand work he had
projected; though his copper and engraving tools lay dispersed by
his side. He received me as usual with calmness, but not without an
evident mixture of pleasure. Irritable as my feelings were, I had
always experienced something infinitely more dissatisfactory in being
angry with him than with any other person. In his countenance there
was a sedate undeviating rectitude, that, but for my impetuous disdain
of all restraint, would have inspired awe; yet, whenever his eye met
the eye of another, there was something so benevolent as almost to
disarm ill humour.
Replete with new arguments, as I supposed, but which in reality were
only a repetition of those I had already adduced, I burst upon him
with a multitude of words; defending my own defence of the articles
and attacking his answer. He made various ineffectual attempts to
arrest my career, and at last was obliged to suffer me to weary
myself; after which he calmly replied.
'The best answer I can give, to all you have urged, is to request
you will read the defence of the articles and my answer again, with
care. Either I am mistaken or you will find every thing you have said
I endeavoured to divert him from this defence by reference, but he
continued to urge that he should only weaken his cause by answering
desultory arguments in a desultory way; which in the present case
would be folly, because his answer was already given in a clear and as
he believed conclusive manner.
Finding his purpose not to be shaken, I asked him if he were aware
that I was the author of the defence of the articles? He answered
that, seeing the bishop's name to the publication, he could not but
suppose the bishop himself had been intimately concerned in the
writing of the work: but, from what I had formerly told him, he had
suspected me to be a fellow-labourer.
'If so,' said I, 'Mr. Turl, how did it happen that you felt no
aversion to the confutation, as you suppose, of a man for whom you had
professed a regard?'
He replied, 'You, Mr. Trevor, are well acquainted with my answer:
"Socrates is my friend, Plato is my friend, but truth is more my
friend." If I myself had written falsehood yesterday, and now knew it
to be such, I would answer it to day. Would not you?'
It was a home question, and I was silent.
This subject ended, he made some kind and cordial inquiries
concerning my present pursuits, and these furnished the opportunity
of unburthening my heart. I related to him, with all the indignation
which resentment inspired, my whole history; and ended with informing
him of my determination to publish the vice and infamy of all the
parties to the world. On this a dialogue began.
'Which way will you publish them?'
'In a narrative, that I am now writing.'
'A sense of duty has obliged me to tell you that, in my opinion you
have been guilty of several mistakes already: you are now intent upon
'The excess of your anger perverts your judgment, and you cannot
write such a narrative without keeping your passions in a vitiated
state. Owing to the prejudices of mankind, you will impeach your own
credibility. Moderate men will think you rash, the precise will call
you a detractor, and the partisans, who are numerous, of the persons
you will attempt to expose will raise a cry against you, that will
infinitely overpower the equivocal proofs you can produce. It will
become a question of veracity, and yours will be invalidated by the
improbability, if not of the guilt, at least of the folly of your
persecutor's conduct. You cannot reform them, will do yourself much
harm, and the world no good. You will not only misemploy your time for
the present, but impede your power for the future.'
'If such be the consequences of honestly speaking the truth, what is
the conduct that I am to pursue? Am I to be a hypocrite, and listen
with approbation while men boast of their vices, glory in their
false principles, and proclaim the destructive projects they mean to
'Is not silence approbation?'
'Yet your system will not allow me to speak!'
'You accuse my system unjustly: it is the manner of speaking to which
it attends. The precaution of speaking so as to produce good, not bad,
consequences is the doctrine I wish to inculcate. He that should sweep
the streets of pea-shells, lest old women might break their necks,
would doubtless have good intentions; yet his office would only be
that of a scavenger. Speak, but speak to the world at large, not
to insignificant individuals. Speak in the tone of a benevolent
and disinterested heart, and not of an inflamed and revengeful
imagination! otherwise you endanger yourself, and injure society.'
'What, shall any cowardly regard to my own safety induce me to
the falsehood of silence? For is it not falsehood, of the most
contemptible and atrocious kind, to forbear publishing such miscreants
to the world? It is this base this selfish prudence, that encourages
men like these to proceed from crime to crime. Had they been exposed
in their first attempt, their effrontery could never have been so
enormous. No! I am determined! Were my life to be the sacrifice, I
will hold them up a beacon, alike to the wicked and the unwary! Will
paint them in the gross and odious colours that alone can characterize
their actions, and drive them from the society of mankind!'
'Do you conceive you are now speaking in the spirit of justice, or of
He who is resolved not to be convinced does not wish to hear his last
argument answered. With this short reply, therefore, I rose, took my
hat, made some aukward apology, was sorry we were fated to differ so
continually in principle, but each man must act from his own judgment;
was obliged to him nevertheless for his sincerity and good intention,
and once more took my leave, more angry than pleased, much in the same
abrupt manner that I had formerly done. The similarity indeed forced
itself upon me as I was quitting the door, and I knew not whether to
accuse myself of pettishness, obstinacy, and want of candour; or him
of singularity, and an inflexible sternness of opposition. At all
events, my purpose of publishing my pamphlet as soon as it should be
written was fixed; and to that labour I immediately returned.
_Story of Miss Wilmot concluded: Olivia not forgotten: A gaming-table
friend characterized: Modern magicians: Suspicious principles: The
friend's absence, and return: Allegorical wit, and dangerous advice_
Various causes induced me to take the first opportunity of again
visiting Miss Wilmot; her story had inspired compassion and respect.
She might be in want, and to relieve her would give me pleasure.
Beside which I had a number of questions to ask, especially concerning
this Wakefield; and some desire to know who and what the young lady,
who was so great a favourite with Mary, might be.
In the evening I saw Miss Wilmot; and, in offering her with as much
delicacy as possible pecuniary aid, she informed me that fortunately
she had found a friend; generous, beneficent, and tender; not less
prudent than kind; and, though very young, possessed of a dignity of
understanding such as she had never before met in woman. Miss Wilmot
spoke with so much enthusiasm that I, whose imagination readily caught
fire, felt a redoubled wish to see this angel.
I hinted it to Miss Wilmot, but with apologies; and she replied that
the young lady had expressly requested her visits might be private,
and her name concealed. I inquired how they had first become
acquainted, and learned that it was in consequence of the friendly
zeal of Mary, who had a countrywoman that lived servant in the family
of this young lady, and from whom she gained intelligence of the
liberal and noble qualities of her mistress. The first retreat of Miss
Wilmot, after leaving the house of the bishop, was to a poor lodging
provided by Mary. From this she was removed by the friendly young lady
to her present asylum, till she could find the means of maintaining
herself; and had since been supplied with necessaries through the same
channel. 'The favours she confers on me,' said Miss Wilmot, 'are not
so properly characterised by delicacy, as by a much higher quality;
an open and unaffected sensibility of soul; a benevolent intention
of promoting human happiness; and an unfeigned heart felt pleasure
which accompanies her in the performance of this delightful duty.
The particulars I have now related,' continued she, 'were all that
remained to be told when I was interrupted by Mary, at our last
meeting; and you are now acquainted with my whole story.'
Every conversation that I had with Miss Wilmot confirmed the truth of
her own remark, that her intellect had been greatly awakened by the
misfortunes in which her mistakes had involved her; and particularly
by the deep despondency of her brother. He, Wakefield, and the young
lady were the continual topics of her discourse; but her brother the
most and oftenest. I was several times a witness that the papers were
daily perused by her, with all those quick emotions of dread which she
had so emphatically described. The terror of his parting resolution
was almost too much for her, and it was with difficulty she preserved
her mind from madness. I saw its tendency, and took every opportunity
to sooth and calm her troubled spirit; and my efforts were not wholly
In the mean time I did not forget that I was not possessed of the
purse of Fortunatus. On the contrary, I had a mighty task before me.
The image of Olivia incessantly haunted me. The ineffable beauty of
her form, the sweet and never to be forgotten sensibility that she
displayed when I first saw her in the presence of Andrews, at Oxford,
and the native unaffected dignity of her mind were my constant themes
of meditation. Must I behold her in the arms of another? The thought
was horror! Yet how to obtain her? If I studied the law, preliminary
forms alone would consume years. From the church I was banished. A
military life I from principle abhorred; even my half ripe philosophy
could not endure the supposition of being a hireling cut-throat.
Literature might afford me fame, but of riches gained from that source
there was scarcely an example.
From literary merit however men had obtained civil promotion; it must
not therefore be neglected. Of such neglect indeed my passionate love
of letters would not admit. With respect to law, though infinitely too
slow for the rapidity of my desires, still it was good to be prepared
for all events. I therefore entered myself of the Temple, and thus
began another snail-pace journey of term keeping.
Youth is a busy season, and, though occupations are forced upon it
of a nature too serious for its propensities, it fails not to find
time for amusement. In St. James's-street, near the palace, was
a billiard-table, to which when an inmate with Lord Idford I had
resorted. It was frequented by officers of the Guards, and other
persons who were chiefly supposed to be men of some character and
fashion. Among them I had met a young gentleman of the name of
Belmont, remarkable for the easy familiarity of his address, an
excellent billiard player, and who had in a manner attached himself to
me, by a degree of attention that was engaging. I thought indeed that
I discovered contradictory qualities in him; but the sprightliness of
his imagination, and the whimsicality of his remarks, compensated
for a looseness of principle, which was too apparent to be entirely
He frequently turned the conversation on the county of which I was a
native, having, as he informed me, and as his discourse shewed, many
acquaintance in that county. Since my return to town I had again met
him, and he had sought my company with increasing ardour.
Flattered by this preference, and often delighted with the flights
of his fancy, I returned his advances with great cordiality. His
appearance was always genteel, but from various circumstances I
collected that he was not at present rich. His expectations, according
to his own account, were great; and his familiar habits of treating
every man, be his rank or fashion what it might, seemed to signify
that he considered himself their equal.
When we first met, after my return to town, he was desirous I should
relate to him where I had been, and what had befallen me: and when he
heard that I had visited the county of--he became more pressing to
know all that had happened. To encourage me, he gave me the following
account of himself.
'For my own part, Mr. Trevor, I am at present under a cloud. I shall
sometime or another break forth, and be a gay fellow once again: nor
can I tell how soon. I love to see life, and I do not believe there
is a man in England of my age, who has seen more of it. Perhaps you
will laugh when I tell you that, since we last parted, I have been
_vagabondizing_. You do not understand the term? It offends your
delicacy? I will explain.'
He saw he had raised my curiosity, and with a loquacity that sat easy
on him, and a vivacity of imagery in which as I have said he excelled,
he thus continued.
'Perhaps you will think a gentleman degraded, by having subjected
himself to the denomination of a vagrant? Though, no; you have wit
enough to laugh at gray-beards, and their ridiculous forms and absurd
distinctions. Know then, there is a certain set or society of men,
frequently to be met in straggling parties about this kingdom, who,
by a peculiar kind of magic, will metamorphose an old barn, stable,
or out-house, in such a wonderful manner that the said barn, stable,
or out-house, shall appear, according as it suits the will or purpose
of the said magicians, at one time a prince's palace; at another a
peasant's cottage; now the noisy receptacle of drunken clubs and
wearied travellers, called an inn; anon the magnificent dome of a
Grecian temple. Nay, so vast is their art that, by pronouncing audibly
certain sentences which are penned down for them by the head or master
magician, they transport the said barn, stable, or out-house, thus
metamorphosed, over sea or land, rocks, mountains or deserts, into
whatsoever hot, cold, or temperate region the director wills, with as
much facility as my lady's squirrel can crack a nut. What is still
more wonderful, they carry all their spectators along with them,
without the witchery of broomsticks.
'These necromancers, although whenever they please they become
princes, kings, and heroes, and reign over all the empires of the vast
and peopled earth; though they bestow governments, vice-royalties,
and principalities upon their adherents, divide the spoils of nations
among their pimps, pages, and parasites, and give a kingdom for a
kiss, for they are exceedingly amorous; yet, no sooner do their
sorceries cease, though but the moment before they were reveling and
banqueting with Marc Antony, or quaffing nectar with Jupiter himself,
it is a safe wager of a pound to a penny that half of them go
supperless to bed. A set of poor but pleasant rogues! miserable but
merry wags! that weep without sorrow, stab without anger, die without
dread, and laugh, sing, and dance to inspire mirth in others while
surrounded themselves with wretchedness.
'A thing still more remarkable in these enchanters is that they
completely effect their purpose, and make those who delight in
observing the wonderful effects of their art laugh or cry, condemn or
admire, love or hate, just as they please; subjugating the heart with
every various passion: more especially when they pronounce the charms
and incantations of a certain sorcerer called Shakspeare, whose
science was so powerful that he himself thus describes it.
--'I have oft be-dimm'd
The noon-tide sun, call'd forth the mutinous winds,
And 'twixt the green sea and the azur'd vault
Set roaring war: to the dread rattling thunder
Have I given fire, and rifted Jove's stout oak
With his own bolt: the strong-bas'd promontory
Have I made shake; and by the spurs pluck'd up
The pine and cedar: graves, at my command,
Have wak'd their sleepers; op'd, and let them forth
By my so potent art.'
'I understand you,' said I; delighted with the picture he had drawn.
'Your necessities have obliged you to turn player?'
'Not altogether my necessities,' answered he: 'it was more from a
frolic, and to know the world. That is my study, Mr. Trevor. But can
you tell me why players, by following their profession, act in some
places contrary to all law, and are called strollers, vagabonds, and
vagrants, and in others are protected by the law, and dignified with
the high and mighty title of his Majesty's Servants?'--
'Indeed I cannot,' said I.
He continued: 'Mark my words; the day will come, Mr. Trevor, when you
will discover that there are greater jugglers in the world than your
players, wonderful as their art of transformation is. The world is all
a cheat; its pleasures are for him who is most expert in legerdemain
and cajolery; and he is a fool indeed who is juggled out of his share
of them. But that will not I be.'
He then turned the conversation to me, and what had happened during my
visit in the country. I was beginning my short narrative, but we were
interrupted by an acquaintance, who joined us; and we two or three
times met again in the billiard-room, before any opportunity presented
One evening however he followed me out, and required me to discharge
my promise. Accordingly I told him all that had occurred; but not
without those feelings of indignation which the subject always
awakened. He rather seemed diverted than to sympathize in my angry
sensations, and asked me 'whether I thought those men, whom the world
call swindlers, black-legs, and other hard names, were not at least as
honest as many of their neighbours?'
He paid most attention to my mother's story; and, I having
characterized Wakefield according to the traits my mother and Miss
Wilmot had given me, he observed that 'this Wakefield must certainly
be a cunning fellow, and of no mean abilities.'
'In my opinion,' I replied, 'he is an unprincipled scoundrel; and
indeed a greater fool than knave; for, with the same ingenuity that he
has exerted to make all mankind his enemies, he might have made them
all his friends.'
Belmont's answer was remarkable. 'You have this ingenuity yourself,
Mr. Trevor; talents which you have exerted, in your own way. Have you
made all men your friends?'
I was silent, and after a moment's pause he added--'Come, come! You
have spirit and generosity; I will tell you how you can serve me. I
have a relation, from whom I could draw a good supply at this moment,
if I had but a small sum for travelling expences. Lend me ten guineas:
I will be back in a week and repay you.'
The pleasantness of his humour, and the manner in which he had gained
upon me, were sufficient to insure him a compliance with this request.
I had the money in my pocket, gave it him, and we bade each other
adieu; with a promise on his part that 'he would soon be in town
again, new moulted and full of feather.'
I must not omit to notice that, having had occasion to hint at Miss
Wilmot, in the story I had told him, but without mentioning her name,
which he never indeed seemed desirous to know, he put many questions
relating to her. He inquired too concerning her brother; and, though
he gave no tokens of deep passion, was evidently interested in the
whole narrative. His queries extended even to the bishop, and the
earl; and he discovered a great desire to be minutely informed of all
that related to me. His interrogatories were answered without reserve,
for I understood them as tokens of friendship.
In less than a fortnight, I met him again, at the usual place:
for he had always been averse to visit me at my lodgings. This I
had attributed to motives of vanity; for example, his not having
apartments perhaps, such as he wished, to invite me to in return. His
appearance, the moment I saw him, spoke his success. His dress was
much improved, he sported his money freely, and being engaged at play
more than once betted ten pounds upon the hazard. He was successful
in his match, in high spirits, welcomed me heartily, and was full of
those flights in which his vigorous imagination was so happy.
'Life,' said he, 'Trevor,' putting on his coat after he had done play,
'life is a game at calculation; and he that plays the best of it is
the cleverest fellow. Or, rather, calculation and action are husband
and wife; married without a possibility of divorce. The greatest
errors of Mrs. Action proceed from a kind of headstrong feminine
propensity, which she has to be doing before her husband, Mr.
Calculation, has given her proper directions. She often pours a
spoonful of scalding soup into his worship's mouth, before the
relative heat between the liquid and the papillary nerves has been
properly determined; at which, in the aforesaid true feminine spirit,
she is apt, while he makes wry faces, to burst into a violent fit of
'Not but that Mrs. Action herself has sometimes very just cause of
complaint against her spouse; as most wives have. For example: If, in
coming down stairs, Mr. Calculation have made an occasional error but
of a unit, and told her ladyship she had only one step more to descend
when she had two, she, coming with an unexpected jerk in the increased
ratio of a falling body, is very much alarmed; and when the tip of
her rose-coloured tongue has happened, on such occasions, to project
a little beyond the boundaries prescribed by those beautiful barriers
of ivory called her teeth, it has suffered a sudden incision; nay
sometimes amputation itself: a very serious mischief; for this is
wounding a lady in a tender part.
'What is error? Defect in calculation. What is ignorance? Defect in
calculation. What is poverty, disgrace, and all the misfortunes to
which fools are subject? Defect in calculation.'
By this time we were in the street, walking arm in arm toward the
park, and he continued his jocular allegory.--
'You tell me you have a mind to turn author; and this makes me suspect
you understand but little of the algebra of authorship. Could you but
calculate the exact number of impediments, doubts, and disappointments
attending the trade, could you but find the sum of the objections
which yourself, your friends, and your employers will raise, not only
against your book but against the best book that ever was or will be
written, the remainder would be a query, the produce of which would be
a negative quantity, which would probably prevent both Sir and Madam
from reading either the nonsense or the good sense, the poetry or the
prose, the simple or the sublime, of the rhapsodical, metaphorical,
allegorical genius, Hugh Trevor: for in that case I suspect Hugh
Trevor would find a more pleasant and profitable employment than the
honourable trade of authorship. I have read books much, but men more,
and think I can bring my wit to a better market than the slow and
tedious detail of an A, B, C, manufactory.'
I laughed and listened, and he presently broke forth with another
'In what is the maker of a book better than the maker of a coat?
Needle and thread, pen and ink; cloth uncut and paper unsoiled; where
is the preference? except that the tailor's materials are the more
costly. In days of yore, the gentlemen of the thimble gave us plenty
of stay-tape and buckram; the gentlemen of the quill still give us
a _quantum sufficit_ of hard words and parenthesis. The tailor has
discovered that a new coat will sit more _degage_, and wear better,
the less it is incumbered by trimmings: but though buckram is almost
banished from Monmouth-street, it is still on sale in Paternoster-row.
'I once began to write a book myself, and began it in this very
style: Fable, said I, is the cloth, and morality the lining; a
good diction makes an excellent facing, satire ensures fashion,
and humour duration; and for an author to pretend to write without
wit and judgment were as senseless as for a tailor to endeavour to
work without materials, or shears to cut them. Periods may aptly be
compared to buttons; and button holes are like--
'I could find no simile for button holes, and thank heaven! left off
in despair and never wrote another line.
'Take my advice, Trevor; quit all thoughts of so joyless and
stupifying a trade! Every blockhead can sneer at an author; the title
itself is a sarcasm; and Job, who we are told was the most patient of
men, uttered the bitterest wish that ever fell from lips: "Oh that
mine enemy had written a book!"
'Beside you are a fellow of spirit, fashion, form, and figure; and if
you will but keep company with me may learn a little wit. How many
fools are there with full purses, which if you be not as great a fool
as any of them, you might find the means to empty? He that is bound by
rules, which the rich make purposely to rob the poor of their due, is
like crows, scared from picking up the scattered corn by rags and a
This discourse gave me no surprise; it was what I imagined to be
a free loose mode of talking, that did not correspond with his
principles of action. I deemed it a love of paradox, a desire to
shew his wit and original turn of thought, and was confirmed in
the supposition by his ironical and ludicrous replies, whenever I
attempted a serious answer. Such was the history of the beginning of
an acquaintance of which the reader will hear more.
_An important secret betrayed by Mary: Transporting intelligence: The
reverse, or rain after sunshine: The reader entrusted with a secret:
Strange behaviour of a false friend: Lover's vows_
I did not suffer a day to pass without either seeing or sending to
inquire after Miss Wilmot; so that our intercourse was continual. One
afternoon, being in my own room, after hearing as I thought footsteps
and female voices on the stairs, Mary knocked at my door, and,
entering as desired, shewed marks of eagerness on her countenance, the
meaning of which a question from me immediately caused her to explain.
'Lord! Sir,' said she, 'you cannot think what a hurry and flurry I be
in! And all about you!'
'You shall hear, Sir. My mistress is gone out to take a walk in the
park, as I _avised_ her to _divart_ her _mellicholy_; and so the dear
young lady has _bin_ here; Miss--! I had forgotten! I _munna_ tell her
name. But if ever there _wur_ an angel upon _arth_ she is one; she
says such kind things to my dear mistress, and does not blame her for
her fault; for, _thof_ she be as innocent herself as the child unborn,
she can pity the _misfortins_ of her own _sect_, when they a _bin_
betrayed by false hearted men; and all that she says is that we _mun_
take care to be more be-cautioned for the time to come: and then she
says it in so sweet, and yet so _serus_ a manner, that I am sure no
Christian soul if they'd a heard her would dare do other than as she
says. And as for a doing a good turn, I do verily believe she would
give the morsel out of her mouth afore a poor creature should be
driven to sin and shame for want--'
I interrupted her: she had raised some strong surmises, and I was
impatient--'But you forget, Mary; you mentioned something concerning
'Oh lord! yea; a mort o' questions a _bin_ asked; for she talks as
familiarity to me as if she _wur_ a poor body herself; which gives me
heart, so that I be not _afeard_ to speak. Whereof I could not help
telling her a great many things about you; as how, when little more
but a child, you saved my life; and _consarning_ your goodness and
kind offers to my dear mistress; and how soft hearted and well spoken
you _wur_ even to poor me; just for all the world as I said, like her
own dear good self. Whereupon it gladdened her heart to hear there
_wur_ another good creature, as good as herself. And so she asked
_ater_ your name; which, you know that being no secret, I told her,
and then it _wur_, if you had but a seen her! Her face _wur_ as pale
as my kerchief! and I asked what ailed her ladyship? And she replied
in a faint voice, Nothing. So that I thought there must for _sartinly_
be a _summut_ between you! for she sat down, and seemed to do so! as
if a struggling for breath. And I ran for a smelling bottle; whereupon
she _wur_ better, and said she did not need it. And so she asked how
long you had lived in the house, and whether you looked happy? And I
answered and said there _wur_ not a kinder happier creature breathing.
So she asked again if I _wur_ quite sure that you _wur_ happy? And I
said I _wur mortally sartin_ of it. So then she fetched a deep sigh
from the very bottom of her heart, and said she _wur_ glad of it, very
glad of it indeed. For, said she, my good Mary, for she often calls me
good, which I be very sure is her kindness and not my _desarts_, my
good Mary, said she, I don't wonder that you do love Mr. Trevor for
having a saved your life. He once saved my life; which, says she, I
shall remember the longest day I have to breathe: and--'
'It is she!' exclaimed I; for I could hold no longer. 'It is Olivia!
Benevolent angel! And does she deign to think of me? Does she inquire
after me? Am I still in her thoughts?'
'Anan!' said Mary. 'I hope I a betrayed no secrets? For surely, I ha'
not mentioned a word of her name.'
Just as I was continuing to question Mary farther, Miss Wilmot
returned. I earnestly requested she would come into my apartment,
related the discovery I had made, and spoke with all that enthusiasm
which the revival of hope and the ardour of passion could inspire.
Miss Wilmot sympathized with my feelings; and, with a fervour that
spoke the kindness of her heart, hoped she should one day see a pair
so worthy of each other blessed to the full accomplishment of their
wishes; but she confessed she had her fears, for she thought that the
remark, that lovers best calculated to make each other happy were
seldom united, was but too true.
I prevailed on her to take tea with me; Mary waited, and I put a
thousand questions to her; for my conversation was all on this
subject. I could think of nothing else. O how pure was the delight
of this discovery! That Olivia should quit the scenes of tumultuous
joy, and seek the forlorn and unfortunate, purposely to mitigate
their wants, and administer consolation to their woes, was knowledge
inexpressibly sweet to the soul! And that she should still remember
me! that my very name should raise such commotions in her bosom! that
she should delight to hear my praise, and recollect the fortunate
moment when I bore her from death with such affection!--It was rapture
I learned from Mary that she lived with her aunt, a few streets
distant; and Miss Wilmot informed me that she constantly visited her
twice, and sometimes oftener, each week. How did my bosom burn with
the wish that she might return that very evening, or at least the next
day! In the impatience and ecstacy of hope, I forgot all impediments.
Let me but see her; let me but know that she was in the house, and
I supposed the moment of perfect bliss would then be come. Happy
evening! Never did seductive fancy paint more delicious dreams, or
raise up phantoms more flattering to the heart.
Pains and pleasures dance an eternal round. The very next day brought
sensations of an opposite kind. My mother had found no person of whom
to purchase an annuity in the country; for, the money being her own by
my free gift, she had not thought proper to venture it with Thornby;
lest under the pretext of monies advanced, he should make she knew
not what deduction. She had therefore written to me, soon after I
came to London, to find her a purchaser; and after some delay, which
the necessity of consulting persons better informed than myself had
occasioned, I had advertised the week before and had entered into a
Terms were agreed upon, and the rough copy of a deed for that purpose
was brought me the same morning that the following letter arrived.
'In spite of my caution, your mother has played the fool once more.
She was too suspicious to trust the money in my hands, though I warned
her to beware of accidents. I must say she is a very weak woman. Her
husband, Mr. Wakefield, has made his appearance, and has trumped up
some tale or another to impose upon her, which I am sorry to find is
no difficult thing. He has got the money you gave her; so what is to
become of her I do not know. She expects he will fetch her away within
a month, and keep her like a lady, on the profits of some place at
court, which, according to his account, a friend was to procure for
him if he could but raise five hundred pounds. You may think how
likely he is to keep his promise. I told her my mind in plain terms,
and I believe she begins to be in a panic. She dare not write to you,
on which I thought it best to let you know the truth at once; for, as
I said before, what is to become of her I do not know.
I am, &c.
The train of ideas which the strange contents of this epistle excited
was painful in the extreme. The idiot conduct of my mother tempted
me to curse, not her indeed, but, according to the narrow limits of
prejudice, God and her excepted, all things else! Yet, who but she was
the chief actor in this scene of lunatic folly? Was there a woman on
earth beside herself that would have been so grossly gulled?
As for her husband, the bitterness of gall was not so choaking as the
recollection of him. The sight or sound of his name excited disgust
too intense to be dwelt upon! To suffocate him as a monster, or a
sooterkin, seemed the only punishment of which he was worthy.
And here it is necessary I should inform the reader of a secret, of
which I was myself at that time and long continued to remain utterly
ignorant. Belmont, the man who had purposely thrown himself in my way,
industriously made himself my intimate, informed me as I supposed of
his private affairs and motives of action, inquired minutely into
mine, wormed every intelligence I could give that related to myself
out of me, designedly attached me to him by intellectual efforts of
no mean or common kind (for he saw they delighted me, and they were
familiar to him) Belmont, I say, possessed of a pleasing person, a
winning aspect, and an address that, though studied with the deepest
art, appeared to be open, unpremeditated, and too daring for disguise,
this Belmont was no other than the hated Wakefield! Yes, it was
Wakefield himself, that by a stratagem which drove me half mad, while
it made every drop of blood in his body tingle with triumph, had thus
circumvented me! He it was who borrowed the ten guineas from me, by
the aid of which he robbed me of five hundred; and then returned to
observe how I endured the goad, laugh at my restive antics, and revel
in the plunder which he had purloined with so much facility from
foolish Trevor, and his still more foolish mother!
But this was not the only trick he had to play me. Secure in the
resources of an invention that might have been occupied in pursuits
worthy of his powers, his perverted philosophy taught him to employ
these resources only for the gratification of passions which he
thought it folly to control, and to exult over men whose sordid
selfishness he despised, and whose limited cunning was the subject of
his derision. He professed himself the disciple of La Rochefoucault
and Mandeville, and his practice did not belie his principles.
From the tenor of his discourse, I am persuaded that, had he found me
apt at adopting his maxims, he would have unbosomed himself freely,
have initiated me in his own arts, and, by making me the associate of
his projects, have induced me to look back on the past rather with
merriment than anger. As it was, he reserved himself to act with me as
with the rest of mankind; to watch circumstances, and turn them to his
own purposes whenever opportunity should offer.
This was the man who was the hero of the letter I had just received!
A letter that I could neither read nor recollect without being stung
almost to frenzy; yet that I could neither forget nor forbear to
During two hours I traversed my room, and chafed with something like
bursting anguish. A few weeks ago, when I had received my legacy of
the lawyer, I seemed to be encumbered with wealth. Reflection and the
expence at which I now lived, to the visible and quick consumption
of a sum I then thought so ample, had since taught me that I was in
imminent danger of being reduced to beggary. I had no profession, nor
any means of subsistence till a profession could be secured; at least
no adequate means, unless by retiring to some humble garret, and
confining myself to the society of the illiterate, the boorish, and
the brutal, between whose habits and mine there was no congeniality.
The very day before, Olivia, ecstatic vision, had risen in full view
of my delighted hopes, and, forgetting the tormenting distance which
malignant fate had placed between us, I almost thought her mine. The
recollection of her now was misery.
Restless, desponding, agonizing, when this thought occurred, I was
hastening to go and communicate the accursed news to Miss Wilmot; but
an idea started which, after a moment's reflection, induced me to
desist. If I told her, the story of Wakefield must again be revived.
Olivia too might be informed of circumstances concerning my silly
mother, which, selfishness out of the question, motives of delicacy
ought to conceal. Such were my arguments at that time: I had not then
the same moral aversion to secrecy that I now possess.
I could not however any longer endure the present scene, and to get
rid of it hurried away to the billiard table, where, as usual, I found
the then supposed Belmont. He was not himself at play, but was engaged
in betting. Impatient to unburthen my heart, for as far as my own
affairs were concerned I had now no secrets for him, I hurried him out
of the room immediately that the game was ended.
The moment we came into the park, I shewed him my letter, and desired
him to read. While he perused it, I saw he was more than once
violently tempted to laugh.
'Well!' said he, returning it and restraining his titillation, 'is
'All!' answered I. 'What more would you have? Could the maleficent
devil himself do more to drive a man mad?'
He looked in my face! I returned the inquisitive gaze! I saw emotions
the very reverse of mine struggling to get vent. His opposing efforts
were ineffectual; he could contain himself no longer, and burst into a
violent fit of laughter!
Astonished at mirth so ill placed and offensive, I asked what it
meant? The tone of my interrogatory was rouzing, and recalled his
attention. 'Pshaw! Trevor,' replied he, with a glance of half
contemptuous pity, 'you are yet young: you are but at the beginning
of your troubles. Your over weening fondness for the musty morality
of dreaming dotards, or artful knaves who only made rules that they
might profit by breaking them, will be your ruin. I tell you again and
again, if you do not prey upon the world, the world will prey upon
you. There is no alternative. What! be bubbled out of your fortune by
a whining old woman? I am ashamed of you!'
'But that woman is my mother!'
'Yes! and a set of very pretty motherly tricks she has played you! Not
that in the first instance it was so much your fault, who were but a
boy, as that of your old fool of a grandfather. It is now high time
however that you should become a man.'
'My grandfather? Say rather it was the scoundrel Wakefield!'
'You seem very angry with this Wakefield! And why? He appears to me
to be a fellow of plot, wit, and spirit. Instead of resentment, were
I you, I should be glad to become acquainted with the man who so well
perceives the stupidity and folly of the animals around him, laughs at
their apish antics, and with so much facility turns their absurd whims
to his own advantage.'
'Acquainted! Intuitive rascal! I would cut off his ears! Drag him to
the pillory with my own hands! He is unworthy a nobler revenge.'
'Pshaw! Ridiculous! What did your mother want but the gratification
of her paltry passions? which were but the dregs and lees of goatish
inclination; for with her the pervading headlong torrent of desire was
passed. Did she think of morality? She would have sacrificed the youth
and high spirits of Wakefield to her own salacious doating. Why should
not he too have his wishes? Were his the most criminal; or the least
fitted for the faculties of enjoyment?'
'You have not heard me defend my mother's conduct: but his villany to
the young lady I formerly mentioned [meaning Miss Wilmot] deserves the
execration of every man!'
'That is, as she tells the story. Women, poor simple creatures, are
always to be pitied, never blamed! But a little more experience,
Trevor, will tell you the devil himself is not half so cunning! Men
are universally their dupes; nay their slaves, though called their
tyrants. Do not men consume their lives in toils to please them? Who
are the chief instigators to what you call vice and folly? Who are the
mischief makers of the world? Who incite us to plunder, rob, and cut
each other's throats? Who but woman? And is not a little retaliation
to be expected? Poor dear souls! Cunning as serpents, Trevor; but,
though fond of cooing, not harmless as doves. Crocodiles; that only
weep to catch their prey. I once was told of one that died broken
hearted; a great beauty, and much bewept by all the maudlin moralizers
that knew her. The cause of her grief was a handsome fellow, who of
course was a cruel perjured villain. The tale had great pathos, and
would have been very tragical, had it but been true. Ages before that
in which Jove laughed at them, lover's perjuries were the common topic
of scandal, and so continue to be. I have often been reproached in the
same way myself, and I once took the trouble to write an apology; for
which, as it will suit all true lovers, all true lovers are bound to
thank me. Here it is.'
Men's vows are false, Annette, I own:
The proofs are but too flagrant grown.
To Love I vow'd eternal scorn;
I saw thee and was straight forsworn!
In jealous rage, renouncing bliss,
When Damon stole a rapturous kiss,
I took, with oaths, a long farewell;
How false they were thou best can'st tell.
By saints I vow'd, and pow'rs divine,
No love could ever equal mine!
Yet I myself, though thus I swore,
Have daily lov'd thee more and more!
To perjuries thus I hourly swerve;
Then treat them as they well deserve:
Thy own vows break, at length comply,
And be as deep in guilt as I.
'What think you; was not this a valid plea? Are not women apt to take
the advice here given them? Lovely hypocrites! They delight in being
forced to follow their own inclinations!'
There was no resisting the playfulness of his wit, and the
exhilarating whim of his manner. My ill humour soon evaporated;
and yielding to the sympathetic gaiety he had inspired, I said to
him--'You are a wicked wit, Belmont. But, though I laugh, do not
imagine I am a convert to your mandevilian system: it is false,
pernicious, and destructive of the end which it pretends to secure.'
'Do not abuse my system, or me either', replied he. 'I tell you I am
the only honest man of my acquaintance; and the first effort of my
honesty is, as it ought to be, that of being honest to myself.'
'I hear many men profess the same opinions, but I find them acting on
'You mistake. You are young, I tell you. Every man's actions are
strongly tinged by the principles he professes.'
My countenance became a little more serious--'Surely you do not avow
yourself a rascal?'
'Pshaw! Epithets are odious. I do not know the meaning of the word;
nor do you.'
Our conversation continued; it relieved me from a bitterness of
chagrin from which I was happy to escape. We dined together. His flow
of spirits and raillery were unabating; I combated his opinions, he
laughed at my arguments, rather than answered them, and, though I
even then conceived him to be a very bad moralist, I thought him a
_Revenge not forgotten: The visit delayed: Wilmot and his poetical
powers: Dreadful intelligence: An appalling picture: A fruitless
search; followed by a surprising discovery_
Stimulated by the ridicule of Belmont, though I never had a thought
of abandoning my mother to want, still I determined, according to the
proverb, to let her bite the bridle. Instead of writing, therefore, I
waited till she should write to me.
Mean time my pamphlet was the grand object of present pursuit. When I
began it, I imagined it would scarcely have been the work of a day,
certainly not of a week. I was deceived. To a man who has any sense of
justice, who fears to affirm the thing that is not, yet is determined
to be inexorable in revenge, no task is so harrassing as that which I
had undertaken. Page after page was written, re-written, corrected,
interlined, scratched, blotted and thrown in the fire. The work had
been three times finished, and three times destroyed. It was a fourth
time begun, and still the labour was no less oppressive, irritating,
It was in this state at the time that Mary brought me the joyful
intelligence relating to Olivia. I had watched with unremitting
assiduity during those hours of the day when she had been accustomed
to visit Miss Wilmot; but my watchings were fruitless; she came no
The fourth day after her last visit, she sent a note to Miss Wilmot,
informing her that her aunt was going to Bath for the recovery of her
health, to which place it was necessary that she should attend her.
The blow was violent, and would have been felt more violently even
than it was, had it not been for an event which I must now relate.
The alarms of Miss Wilmot concerning her brother had not been lightly
excited: they might rather be called prophetic. She had indeed
strongly communicated her terror to me. One morning I was meditating
on the subject, and recollecting those early days when gathering the
first fruits of genius, I was taught by him to distinguish and enjoy
the beauties of its emanations, and the sublimity of its flights. His
affection for me, though but a boy, had induced him to give me some
short poetical compositions of his own. I was reading them over, with
strong feelings, partly of sorrow and partly of indignation, at the
folly and injustice of a world that could overlook such merit. One
of them in particular, which I had always admired for the simple
yet pathetic spirit of poetry in which it was written, I was then
perusing. It was the following.
Ho! Why dost thou shiver and shake,
And why doth thy nose look so blue?
''Tis the weather that's cold;
'Tis I'm grown very old,
And my doublet is not very new,
Then line thy worn doublet with ale,
And warm thy old heart with a glass.
'Nay but credit I've none;
And my money's all gone;
Then say how may that come to pass?
Hie away to the house on the brow,
And knock at the jolly priest's door.
'The priest often preaches
Against worldly riches;
But ne'er gives a mite to the poor,
The lawyer lives under the hill,
Warmly fenc'd both in back and in front.
'He will fasten his locks,
And will threaten the stocks,
Should he ever more find me in want,
The squire has fat beeves and brown ale,
And the season will welcome you there.
'His fat beeves and his beer,
And his merry new year
Are all for the flush and the fair,
My keg is but low I confess,
What then? While it lasts man we'll live.
The poor man alone,
When he hears the poor moan,
Of his morsel a morsel will give,
In that precise state of mind which associations such as I have
described, and a poem like this could excite, when I was alike
bewailing the madness and turpitude of mankind, that could be blind to
the worth of a man such as Wilmot, while glowing I say and thrilling
with these sensations, my breakfast was brought and with it a paper--!
What shall I say?--It contained what follows! 'Yesterday a middle
aged man, of a genteel and orderly appearance, was seen to walk
despondingly beside the Serpentine river. A gentleman, who having met
him remarked the agitation of his countenance, suspected his design;
and, concealing himself behind some trees at a little distance,
watched him, and at last saw him throw himself into the water. The
gentleman, who was a good swimmer, jumped in after him; but could
not immediately find the body, which after he had brought it out was
conveyed to Mary-le-bone watch-house. A few shillings were found in
his pocket, but nothing to indicate his name, place of abode, or
other information, except a written paper, containing the following
melancholy account of himself.
'This body, if ever this body should be found, was once a thing which,
by way of reproach among men, was called an author. It moved about
the earth, despised and unnoticed; and died indigent and unlamented.
It could hear, see, feel, smell and taste with as much quickness,
delicacy, and force as other bodies. It had desires and passions like
other bodies, but was denied the use of them by such as had the power
and the will to engross the good things of this world to themselves.
The doors of the great were shut upon it; not because it was infected
with disease or contaminated with infamy, but on account of the
fashion of the garments with which it was cloathed, and the name it
derived from its fore-fathers; and because it had not the habit of
bending its knee where its heart owed no respect, nor the power of
moving its tongue to gloze the crimes or flatter the follies of men.
It was excluded the fellowship of such as heap up gold and silver;
not because it did, but for fear it might, ask a small portion of
their beloved wealth. It shrunk with pain and pity from the haunts of
ignorance which the knowledge it possessed could not enlighten, and
guilt that its sensations were obliged to abhor. There was but one
class of men with whom it was permitted to associate, and those were
such as had feelings and misfortunes like its own; among whom it was
its hard fate frequently to suffer imposition, from assumed worth
and fictitious distress. Beings of supposed benevolence, capable of
perceiving, loving, and promoting merit and virtue, have now and then
seemed to flit and glide before it. But the visions were deceitful.
Ere they were distinctly seen, the phantoms vanished. Or, if such
beings do exist, it has experienced the peculiar hardship of never
having met with any, in whom both the purpose and the power were fully
united. Therefore, with hands wearied with labour, eyes dim with
watchfulness, veins but half nourished, and a mind at length subdued
by intense study and a reiteration of unaccomplished hopes, it was
driven by irresistible impulse to end at once such a complication
of evils. The knowledge was imposed upon it that, amid all
these calamities, it had one consolation--Its miseries were not
eternal--That itself had the power to end them. This power it has
employed, because it found itself incapable of supporting any longer
the wretchedness of its own situation, and the blindness and injustice
of mankind: and as, while it lived, it lived scorned and neglected, so
it now commits itself to the waves; in expectation, after it is dead,
of being mangled, belied, and insulted.'
Oh God! what were my feelings while reading this heart appalling
story! It contained volumes; and sufficiently spoke the strength of
the mind that could thus picture its own sensations. It must be my
beloved Wilmot: it could be no one else; or even if it were, the man
who thus could feel and thus could write was no less the object of
admiration, grief, and a species of regret, of the guilt of which
every man partook! It was an act of attainder against the whole world,
in the infamy of which each man had his share!
Transfixed with horror as I was, I still had the recollection to
conceal the paper from the eye of Miss Wilmot, and that instant to go
in quest of the body. The utmost speed and diligence were necessary;
she must soon hear of the fatal event, and it was much to be dreaded
that this would not be the last act of the tragedy.
According to the indication given in the paper, I went immediately
to the watch-house; but was surprised to find that the body was not
there. They had heard something of a man throwing himself into the
Serpentine river, but could give no farther information.
I then ran to every bone-house and receptacle in the various adjoining
parishes; but without success. The only intelligence I could obtain
was that the gentleman, who leaped in after the man in order to have
saved his life, had taken the body home with him; but no one could
direct me where he lived.
The circumstance was distracting! My terrors for Miss Wilmot
increased. I knew not what course to pursue. At last I recollected
that Turl, from having lived some years in London being acquainted
with the manners of the place and possessing great sagacity, might
perhaps afford me aid. Personal knowledge of Wilmot he probably had
none, for he quitted the grammar school at *** just before Wilmot
became its head usher. But I knew not what better to do, and to this,
as a kind of last hope, I resorted, and hastened away to his lodgings.
It may well be supposed my tone of mind was gloomy. For a man like
Wilmot, with virtues so eminent, sensations so acute, and a mind so
elevated, to be thus impelled to seek a refuge in death was a thought
that almost made me hate existence myself, and doubt whether I might
not hereafter be driven to the same desperate expedient, to escape the
odious injustice of mankind. The distraction too which would seize
on Miss Wilmot haunted my thoughts; for I was convinced that the
intelligence, whenever it should reach her, would prove fatal.
Full of these dismal reflections, I arrived at the door of Turl,
knocked, and was desired to come in. Turl rose as I entered, and with
him a stranger, who had been seated by his side. A stranger, and yet
with features that were not wholly unknown to me. He seemed surprised
at the sight of me, examined me, fixed his eyes on me! Memory was very
busy! Associating ideas poured upon me! I gazed! I remembered! Heavens
and earth! What was my astonishment, what were my transports, when
in this very stranger I discovered Mr. Wilmot? Living! Pale, meagre,
dejected, and much altered; but living!
Turl was the gentleman in the park, who had observed the deep
melancholy visible in his countenance; had fortunately suspected
his intention; had brought him out of the water; had discovered
favourable symptoms; and, instead of either taking him home or to
the watch-house, had conveyed him to St. George's hospital; where he
immediately obtained medical aid, that had preserved his life! Turl
was the person whose courage, humanity, and wisdom, had prolonged
the existence of a man of genius; and who was now exerting all his
faculties to render that existence happy to the possessor, and
beneficial to the human race! Oh moment of inconceivable rapture! Why
are not sensations so exquisite eternal?
_I secure Miss Wilmot against the danger of false alarm, and return to
hear the history of her brother_
Eager as I was to contribute all in my power to tranquilize the mind
of Mr. Wilmot, to renew my friendship with him, and to learn his
history from himself, I yet made but a short stay, and hastened home
to his sister. Fortunately the tragic tale had not reached her; and,
without relating circumstances that if abruptly told might have
excited alarm, I informed her that I had that moment parted from him,
and that now I had found him I should use my utmost endeavour to
reconcile him to her once more.
To hear that he was still in being gave an undescribable relief to her
mind. It beamed in her countenance, and called up thoughts that soon
made her burst into tears.
Having by this information, secured her against the ill effects which
might otherwise have followed, I escaped further question from her for
the present, by truly telling her I was impatient to return to her
I found the two friends still conversing for friends and sincere ones
they were become. The account given by Wilmot of himself had been
taken and sent to the newspaper, without the knowledge of Turl; but he
had read it, and it was a sufficient index of the mind of the writer:
and the behaviour of Turl through the whole affair, as well as the
sentiments he uttered in every breath, were enough to convince Mr.
Wilmot of his uncommon worth.
On my return, the latter was defending the right of man to commit
suicide; which Turl denied; not on the false and untenable ground of
superstition, but from the only true argument, the immoral tendency of
the act. He was delicate though decisive in his opposition; and only
requested Mr. Wilmot to consider, whether to effect the good of the
whole be not the true purpose of virtue? Ought not the good of the
whole therefore to be its only rule and guide? If so, can the man,
who possesses that degree of activity without which he cannot commit
suicide, be incapable of being farther useful to society?
Depressed and gloomy as his state of mind was, Mr. Wilmot testified
great satisfaction at our rencontre; and the interest which I
unfeignedly took in his welfare soon revived all his former affection
for me. My veneration for his virtues, love for his genius, and pity
for his misfortunes, tended to calm his still fluttering and agitated
spirits. Unfortunate as he himself had been, or at least had thought
himself, in his love of literature and poetry, it yet gave him
pleasure to find that the same passion was far from having abated
in me. He called it a bewitching illusion; Turl affirmed it was a
beneficial and noble propensity of soul.
We none of us had a wish to separate, for the imagination of each was
teeming with that sedate yet full flow of sentiment which, as Milton
has so beautifully described, melancholy can give. Mr. Wilmot had
supposed his sister was guilty with the bishop; and when I told her
story, with the addition of such probable circumstances as I myself
had collected, it afforded him very considerable relief to find that
the suspicions to which appearances gave birth had been false.
I did not conceal the desire I had to know by what train of accidents
he had been led into a state of such deep despondency; and he thus
kindly gratified my wish.
HISTORY OF MR. WILMOT
'The narrative given by my sister, which you, Mr. Trevor, have already
repeated, precludes the necessity of any detail concerning my origin.
Nor is origin in my opinion of the least moment, except as it displays
the habits and growth of mind, and shews how the man became such
as we find him to be. At what period of my existence that activity
of inquiry, and those energetic aspirings began, which to me were
afterward the source of the extremes of joy and sorrow, I cannot tell;
but I believe the quality of ardour, though probably not born with us,
is either awakened in early infancy or seldom if ever attains strength
and maturity. I could not only read with uncommon accuracy and ease,
while very young, but can remember I made efforts to reason with my
father, the major, on what I read, when I was little more than six
'He, though a man rather of irritable feelings than profound research,
was not destitute of literature; and encouraged a propensity in me
that was flattering to himself, as the father of a boy remarked
for his promising talents; which talents he supposed might lead to
distinctions that he had been unsuccessfully ambitious to obtain.
'He considered himself as one of the most unfortunate of men.
Imagining personal bravery to be the essence of the military
character, he had eagerly cherished that quality; and, having given
incontestible proofs that he possessed it in an eminent degree, to be
afterward overlooked was, in his judgment, too flagrant an instance of
public as well as private ingratitude to be ever pardoned. It was the
daily subject of his thoughts, and theme of his discourse; and I have
great reason to conjecture that the habitual discontent that preyed
upon his mind, and embittered his life, especially the latter part of
it, communicated itself to me. I was educated in the belief that the
world is blind to merit, continually suffers superior virtue to linger
in indigence and neglect, and is therefore an odious, unjust, and
'I own I have at some few intervals doubted of this doctrine; and
supposed in conformity to your opinion, Mr. Turl, that failure is
rather the consequence of our own mistakes, impatience, and efforts
ill directed, than of society: but the ill success of my own efforts,
aided perhaps by the prejudices which I received from my father,
have preponderated; and made me it may be too frequently incline to
melancholy, and misanthropy. What can be said? Are not the rich and
powerful continually oppressing talents, genius, and virtue? Is the
general sense of mankind just in its decisions?
'Beside, an appeal to the general sense of mankind is not always
in our power; and that the proceedings of individuals are often
flagrantly unjust cannot be denied. In the school where I was educated
I was a frequent and painful witness of honours partially bestowed;
and prizes and applause awarded to others, that were indubitably due
to me. When the rich and the powerful visited the seminary, the sons
of the rich and the powerful gained all their attention. Conscious as
I could not but be of my own superior claims, I was overlooked!
'Perhaps I felt the repetition of these and similar acts of injustice
too severely. Yet, are they not odious? I own the remembrance of them
ever has been, and is, intensely painful; and the pain is almost
unremittingly prolonged by what every man, who is not wilfully blind,
must daily see passing in the world. [Mr. Wilmot sighed deeply] Well
well! Would I could forget it!
'After many a bitter struggle in my boyish years to rise into notice,
few, very few indeed, of which were effectual, I still continued the
combat. In due time, as I was told, my efforts were amply rewarded!
But how? Instead of being forwarded in those more noble and beneficial
pursuits for which I think I had proved myself fitted, the effusions
of genius though known were never once remembered. Oh, no! I obtained,
with great difficulty and as an unmerited favour a charitable
condescension of power that knew not very well if it ought to be so
kind to a being so unprotected, yes, I obtained--the office of usher!
The honour of mechanically hearing declensions, conjugations, and
rules of syntax and prosody, repeated by beings who detested the
labour to which they were compelled, was conferred upon me! beings who
looked on me, not as a benefactor, but as a tyrant! And tyrants all
teachers indubitably are, under our present modes of education.
'Humbled and cowed as my genius was, by the drudgery and obscurity
to which it was consigned, I yet had the courage to continue those
labours by which alone mind is brought to maturity. Alive as I was to
a sense of injustice, I recollected that, even if my powers were equal
to all that I myself had fondly hoped from them, there were examples
of men with at least equal powers, who had been equally ill treated.
Equally did I say? Oh Otway! Oh Chatterton! What understandings, what
hearts, had those men who without an effort, without moving a finger
(not to do you justice, of that they were incapable, but) to preserve
you from famine, could suffer you to perish? It was needless to
repine! I consoled and reconciled myself to my fate as well as I was
able. I pursued my studies, read the poets of ancient and modern times
with unabating avidity, observed the actions and inquired into the
motives of men, and made unceasing attempts to develope the human
'Excluded as it were by the pride, luxury, and caprice of the world
from expanding my sensations, and wedding my soul to society, I was