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laws against harbouring Papists,) and gave me a dinner, with something I liked better, an opportunity of conversation with Mrs. H *. We all agreed that the life of a Maid of Honour was of all things the most miserable: and wished that every woman who envied it, had a specimen of it. • To eat Westphalia ham in a morning, ride over hedges1 and ditches on borrowed hacks, come home in the heat of the day with a fever, and (what is worse a hundred times) with a red mark in the forehead from an uneasy hat; all this may qualify them to make excellent wives for fox-hunters, and bear abundance of ruddy complexioned children. As soon as they can wipe off the sweat of the day, they must simper an hour and catch cold in the Princess's apartment: from thence (as Shakespear has it) to dinner, with what appetite
they may and after that, till midnight, walk, work,
or think, which they please. I can easily believe, no lone-house in Wales, with a mountain and a rookery, is more contemplative than this Court; and as a proof of it I need only tell you, Mrs. L * walked with me three or four hours by moonlight, and we met no creature of any quality but the King, who gave audience to the vice-chamberlain, all alone, under the garden-wall.
In short, I heard of no ball, assembly, basset-table, or any place where two or three were gathered together, except Madam Kilmansegg's, to which I had the honour to be invited, and the grace to stay away. I was heartily tired, and posted to park:
1 At this time it was the fashion for ladies of distinction to ride a hunting in Windsor forest: as it is at present to drive ponies.
there we had an excellent discourse of quackery;
Dr. S. was mentioned with honour. Lady
walked a whole hour abroad without dying after it, at least in the time I stayed, though she seemed to be fainting, and had convulsive motions several times in her head.
I arrived in the forest by Tuesday noon, having fled from the face (I wish I could say the horned face) of Moses, who dined in the midway thither. I passed the rest of the day in those woods where I have so often enjoyed a book and a friend; I made a Hymn as I passed through, which ended with a sigh, that I will not tell you the meaning of.
Your Doctor is gone the way of all his patients, and was hard put to it how to dispose of an estate miserably unwieldy, and splendidly unuseful to him. Sir Samuel Garth says, that for Ratcliffe to leave2 a library, was as if a Eunuch should found a Seraglio.
Dr. S lately told a Lady, he wondered she could
be alive after him: she made answer, she wondered at it for two reasons, because Dr. Ratcliffe was dead,
and because Dr. S was living. I am
1 Because it was notorious that he had little learning; but he possessed what was better, wonderful sagacity and penetration in judging of diseases. Dr. Young has the same simile in his second satire:
Unlearned men of Books assume the care,
Nothing could have more of that melancholy which once used to please me, than my last day's journey; for after having passed through my favourite woods in the forest, with a thousand reveries of past pleasures, I rid over hanging hills, whose tops were edged with groves, and whose feet watered with winding rivers, listening to the falls of cataracts below, and the murmuring of the winds above: the gloomy verdure of Stonor succeeded to these; and then the shades of the evening overtook me. The moon rose in the clearest sky I ever saw, by whose solemn light I paced on slowly, without company, or any interruption to the range of my thoughts. About a mile before I reached Oxford, all the bells tolled in different notes; the clocks of every college answered one another, and sounded forth (some in a deeper, some a softer tone) that it was eleven at night. All this was no ill preparation to the life I have led since, among those old walls, venerable galleries, stone porticos, studious walks, and solitary scenes of the university. I wanted nothing but a black gown and a salary, to be as mere a book-worm as any there. I conformed myself to the college hours, was rolled up in books, lay in one of the most ancient dusky parts of the University, and was as dead to the world as any hermit of the desart. If any thing was alive or awake in me, it was a little vanity, such as even those good men used to entertain, when the monks of their own order extolled their piety and abstraction. For I found myself received with a sort of respect, which this idle part of mankind, the learned, pay to their own species; who are as considerable here, as the busy, the gay, and the ambitious, are in your world.
Indeed I was treated in such a manner, that I could not but sometimes ask myself in my mind, what college I was founder of, or what library I had built? Methinks, I do very ill to return to the world again, to leave the only place where I make a figure, and, from seeing myself seated with dignity on the most conspicuous shelves of a library, put myself into the abject posture of lying at a lady's feet in St. James's-square.
I will not deny, but that like Alexander, in the midst of my glory I am wounded, and find myself a mere man. To tell you from whence the dart comes, is to no purpose, since neither of you will take the tender care to draw it out of my heart, and suck the poison with your lips.
Here, at my Lord H 's, I see a creature nearer
an angel than a woman (though a woman be very near as good as an angel); I think you have formerly
heard me mention Mrs. T • as a credit to the
Maker of angels: she is a relation of his lordship's, and he gravely proposed her to me for a wife; being tender of her interests, and knowing (what is a shame to Providence) that she is less indebted to fortune than I. I told him, 'twas what he never could have thought of, if it had not been his misfortune to be blind; and what I never could think of while I had eyes to see both her and myself.
I must not conclude without telling you, that I will do the utmost in the affair you desire. It would be an inexpressible joy to me if I could serve you, and I will always do all I can to give myself pleasure. I wish as well for you as for myself; I am in love with you both, as much as I am with myself, for I find myself most so with either, when I least suspect it.
The chief cause I have to repent my leaving the town, is the uncertainty I am in every day of your sister's state of health. I really expected by every post to have heard of her recovery, but on the contrary each letter has been a new awakening to my apprehensions, and I have ever since suffered alarms upon alarms on her account. No one can be more sensibly touched at this than I; nor any danger of any I love could affect me with more uneasiness. I have felt some weaknesses of a tender kind, which I would not be free from; and I am glad to find my value for people so rightly placed, as to perceive them on this occasion.
I cannot be so good a Christian as to be willing to resign my own happiness here, for hers in another life. I do more than wish for her safety, for every •wish I make I find immediately changed into a