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LETTER I. Madam,
March 1, 1705.. I SEND you the book of rudiments of Drawing, which you were pleased to command, and think myself obliged to inform you at the same time of one of the many excellencies you possess without knowing of them. You are but too good a Painter already; and no picture of Raphael's was ever so beautiful, as that which you have formed in a certain heart of my acquaintance. Indeed it was but just that the finest lines in nature should be drawn upon the most durable ground, and none could ever be me met with, that will
. Most of these were printed without the Author's consent, and no doubt are the same upon which the censure is passed in the Preface, “ That they have too much of a juvenile ambition of wit, and affectation of gaiety.” And it is pleaded in excuse, “ that they were written very young, and the folly was soon over.” P.
After this candid censure, passed by our author himself, on the succeeding Thirty-three Letters to several Ladies, it would be invidious to say any thing more of their being very unworthy of him; always excepting the last, to Mrs. Arabella Fermor, on her marriage, which is full of gallantry and elegance.
so readily receive, or so faithfully retain them, as this Heart. I may boldly say of it, that you will not find its fellow in all the parts of the body in this book. But I must complain to you of my hand, which is an arrant traitor to my heart: for having been copying your picture from thence and from Kneller these three days, it has done all possible injury to the finest face that ever was made, and to the liveliest image that ever was drawn. I have imagination enough in your absence, to trace some resemblance of you; but I have been so long used to lose my judgment at the sight of you that it is past my power to correct it by the life. Your picture seems least like when placed before your eyes; and, contrary to all other pictures, receives a manifest disadvantage by being set on the fairest light in the world. The Painters are a very vain generation, and have a long time pretended to rival nature; but to own the truth to you, she made such a finished piece about three and twenty years ago, (I beg your pardon, Madam; I protest, I meant but two and twenty,) that 'tis in vain for them any longer to contend with her. I know you indeed made one something like it, betwixt five and six years past: 'twas a little, done with abundance of spirit and life, and wants nothing but time to be an admirable piece: but, not to flatter your work, I don't think it will ever come up to what your father made. However I would not discourage you; 'tis certain you have a strange happiness, of making fine things of a sudden and at a stroke, with incredible ease and pleasure.
I am, etc.
It is too much a rules in this town, that when a lady has once done a man a favour, he is to be rude to her ever after. It becomes our sex to take upon us twice as much as yours allow us; by this method I may write to you most impudently, because you once answered me modestly; and if you should never do me that honour for the future, I am to think (like a true coxcomb) that your silence gives consent. Perhaps you wonder why this is addressed to you rather than to Mrs. M—-, with whom I have a right of an old acquaintance, whereas you are a fine lady, have bright eyes, etc. First, Madam, I make choice of you rather than of your mother, because you are younger than your mother. Secondly, because I fancy you spell better, as having been at school later. Thirdly, because you have nothing to do but write if you please, and possibly it may keep you from employing yourself worse: it may save some honest neighbouring gentleman from three or four of your pestilent glances. Cast your eyes upon paper, Madam, there you may look innocently; men are seducing, books are dangerous, the amorous ones soften you, and the godly ones give you spleen: if you look upon trees, they clasp in embraces; birds and beasts make love: the sun is too warm for your blood; the moon melts you into yielding and melancholy. There
• We canņot but regret the want of a date and address to all these letters.
fore I say once more, cast your eyes upon paper, and read only such letters as I write, which convey no darts, no flames, but proceed from innocence of soul and simplicity of heart. Thank God, I am an hundred miles off from those eyes! I would sooner trust your hand than them for doing me mischief; and though I doubt not some part of the rancour and iniquity of your heart will drop into your pen, yet since it will not attack me on a sudden and unprepared, since I may have time while I break open your letter to cross myself and say a Pater-noster, I hope Providence will protect me from all you can attempt at this distance. I am told you are at this hour as handsome as an angel; for my part, I have forgot your face since two winters. You may be grown to a giantess for all I know. I can't tell in any respect what sort of creature you are, only that you are a very mischievous one, whom I shall ever pray to be defended from. But when your Minister sends me word you have the small-pox, a good many freckles, or are very pale, I will desire him to give thanks for it in your parish church; which as soon as he shall inform me he has done, I will make you a visit without armour: I will eat any thing you give me without suspicion of poison, take you by the hand without gloves, nay venture to follow you into an harbour without calling the company. This, Madam, is the top of my wishes, but how differently are our desires inclined! You sigh out in the ardour of your heart, O play-houses, parks, operas, assemblies, London! I cry with rapture, 0 woods, gardens, rookeries, fish-ponds, arbours ! Mrs. M
TO A LADY.
FWritten on one column of a letter, while Lady M. wrote to the
Lady's Husband on the other.]
THE wits would say, that this must needs be a dull letter because it is a married one. I am afraid indeed you will find, what spirit there is, must be on the side of the wife, and the husband's part, as usual, will prove the dullest. What an unequal pair are put together in this sheet? in which, though we sin, it is you must do penance. When you look on both sides of this paper, you may fancy that our words (according to a Scripture expression) are as a two-edged sword, whereof Lady M. is the shining blade, and I only the handle. But I can't proceed without so far mortifying Sir Robert as to tell him, that she writes this purely in obedience to me, and that it is but one of those honours a husband receives for the sake of his wife.
It is making court but ill to one fine woman to shew her the regard we have for another; and yet I must own there is not a period of this epistle but squints towards another over-against it. It will be in vain to dissemble: your penetrating eyes cannot but discover, how all the letters that compose these words lean forward after Lady M.'s letters, which seem to bend as much from mine, and fly from them as fast as they are able. Ungrateful letters that they are! which give themselves to another man, in the very presence