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casions to do it: insomuch that when, for the life of me, I could not think of any thing done by thee that deserved praise, I have taken pains to applaud the not ungraceful manner in which thou hast performed actions that merited the gallows.
Now thou art so near, I will dispatch my servant to thee, if occasion requires. But, I fear, I shall soon give thee the news thou art apprehensive of. For I am just now sent for by Mrs. Smith; who has ordered the messenger to tell me, that she knew not if the lady will be alive when I come.
Friday, Sept. 1, Two o'clock, at Smith's.
I COULD not close my letter in such an uncertainty as must have added to your impatience. For you have, on several occasions, convinced me, that the suspense you love to give would be the greatest torment to you that you could receive. A common case with all aggressive and violent spirits, I believe. I will just mention then (your servant waiting here till I have written) that the lady has had two very severe fits: in the last of which whilst she lay, they sent to the doctor and Mr. Goddard, who both advised that a messenger should be dispatched for me, as her executor; being doubtful whether, if she had a third, it would not carry her off.
She was tolerably recovered by the time I came; and the doctor made her promise before me, that, while she was so weak, she would not attempt any more to go abroad; for, by Mrs. Lovick's description, who attended her, the shortness of her breath, her extreme weakness, and the fervour of her devotions when at church, were con traries, which, pulling different ways (the soul aspiring, the body sinking) tore her tender frame in pieces.
So much for the present. I shall detain Will. no longer than just to beg that you will send me back this packet and the last. Your memory is so good, that once reading is all you ever give, or need to give, to any thing. And who but ourselves can make out our characters, were you inclined to let any body see what passes between us? If I cannot be obliged, I shall be tempted to withhold what I write, till I have time to take a copy of it*.
A letter from Miss Howe is just now brought by a particular messenger, who says he must carry back a few lines in return. But, as the lady is just retired to lie down, the man is to call again by-and-by.
MR. LOVELACE, TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.
Uxbridge, Sept. 1. Twelve o'clock at Night.
I SEND you the papers with this. You must account to me honestly and fairly, when I see you, for (the earnestness with which you write for them. And then also will we talk about the contents of your last dispatch, and about some of your severe and unfriendly reflections.
Mean time, whatever thou dost, don't let the wonderful creature leave us! Set before her the sin of her prepaparation, as if she thought she could depart when she pleased. She'll persuade herself, at this rate, that she
* It may not be amiss to observe, that Mr Belford's solicitude to get back his letters was owing to his desire of fulfilling the lady's wishes that he would furnish Miss Howe with materials to vindicate her memory.
has nothing to do, when all is ready, but to lie down, and go to sleep and such a lively fancy as her's will make a reality of a jest at any time.
A jest I call all that has passed between her and me; a mere jest to die for-For has not her triumph over me, from first to last, been infinitely greater than her sufferings from me?
Would the sacred regard I have for her purity, even for her personal as well as intellectual purity, permit, I could prove this as clear as the sun. Tell, therefore, the dear creature that she must not be wicked in her piety. There is a too much, as well as too little, even in righteousness. Perhaps she does not think of that.-Oh! that she would have permitted my attendance, as obligingly as she does of thine! The dear soul used to love humour. I remember the time that she knew how to smile at a piece of apropos humour. And, let me tell thee, a smile upon the lips, or a sparkling in the eye, must have had its correspondent cheerfulness in a heart so sincere as her's.
Tell the doctor I will make over all my possessions, and all my reversions, to him, if he will but prolong her life for one twelvemonth to come. But for one twelvemonth, Jack-He will lose all his reputation with me, and I shall treat him as Belton did his doctor, if he cannot do this for me, on so young a subject. But nineteen, Belford!-nineteen cannot so soon die of grief, if the doctor deserve that title; and so blooming and so fine a constitution as she had but three or four months ago!
But what need the doctor to ask her leave to write to her friends? Could he not have done it without letting her know any thing of the matter? That was one of the likeliest means that could be thought of to bring some of them about her, since she is so desirous to see them. At
least it would have induced them to send up her favourite Norton. But these plaguy solemn fellows are great traders in parade. They'll cram down your throat their poisonous drugs by wholesale, without asking you a question ; and have the assurance to own it to be prescribing : but, when they are to do good, they are to require your consent.
How the dear creature's character rises in every line of thy letters! But it is owing to the uncommon occasions she has met with that she blazes out upon us with such a meridian lustre. How, but for those occasions, could her noble sentiments, her prudent consideration, her forgiving spirit, her exalted benevolence, and her equanimity in view of the most shocking prospects (which set her in a light so superior to all her sex, and even to the philosophers of antiquity) have been manifested?
I know thou wilt think I am going to claim some merit to myself, for having given her such opportunities of signalizing her virtues. But I am not; for, if I did, I must share that merit with her implacable relations, who would justly be entitled to two-thirds of it, at least: and my soul disdains a partnership in any thing with such a family.
But this I mention as an answer to thy reproaches, that I could be so little edified by perfections, to which, thou supposest, I was for so long together daily and hourly a personal witness--when, admirable as she was in all she said, and in all she did, occasion had not at that time ripened, and called forth, those amazing perfections which now astonish and confound me.
Hence it is that I admire her more than ever; and that my love for her is less personal, as I may say, more intellectual, than ever I thought it could be to woman.
Hence also it is that I am confident (would it please the Fates to spare her, and make her mine) I could love her
with a purity that would draw on my own FUTURE, as well as ensure her TEMPORAL, happiness.—And hence, by necessary consequence, shall I be the most miserable of all men, if I am deprived of her.
Thou severely reflectest upon me for my levity: the Abbey instance in thine eye, I suppose. And I will be ingenuous enough to own, that as thou seest not my heart, there may be passages, in every one of my letters, which (the melancholy occasion considered) deserve thy most pointed rebukes. But faith, Jack, thou art such a tragicomical mortal, with thy leaden aspirations at one time, and thy flying hour-glasses and dreaming terrors at another, that, as Prior says, What serious is, thou turn'st to farce; and it is impossible to keep within the bounds of decorum or gravity when one reads what thou writest.
But to restrain myself (for my constitutional gayety was ready to run away with me again) I will repeat, I must ever repeat, that I am most egregiously affected with the circumstances of the case: and, were this paragon actually to quit the world, should never enjoy myself one hour together, though I were to live to the age of Methusalem.
Indeed it is to this deep concern, that my levity is owing: for I struggle and struggle, and try to buffet down my cruel reflections as they rise; and when I cannot, I' am forced, as I have often said, to try to make myself laugh, that I may not cry; for one or other I must do : and is it not philosophy carried to the highest pitch, for a man to conquer such tumults of soul as I am sometimes agitated by, and, in the very height of the storm, to be able to quaver out an horse-laugh?
Your Seneca's, your Epictetus's, and the rest of your stoical tribe, with all their apathy nonsense, could not come up to this. They could forbear wry faces: bodily