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volumes contain, will enliven as well as instruct: the rather, as the principal correspondents are young ladies of polite education, and of lively spirits.
The nature of familiar letters, written, as it were, to the moment, while the heart is agitated by hopes and fears, on events undecided, must plead an excuse for the bulk of a collection of this kind. Mere facts and characters might be comprised in a much smaller compass; but, would they be equally interesting? It happens fortunately, that an account of the juvenile years of the principal person is narratively given in some of the letters. As many, however, as could be spared, have been omitted. There is not one episode in the whole, nor, after SIR CHARLES GRANDISON is introduced, one letter inserted but what tends to illustrate the principal design. Those which precede his introduction, will not, it is hoped, be judged unnecessary on the whole, as they tend to make the reader acquainted with the persons, the history of most of whom is closely interwoven with that of Sir Charles.
SIR CHARLES GRANDISON, BART.
MISS LUCY SELBY TO MISS HARRIET BYRON.
Ashby-Cannons, Jan. 10. YOUR resolution to accompany Mrs Reeves to London, has greatly alarmed your three lovers: and two of them, at least, will let you know that it has. Such a lovely girl as my Harriet, must expect to be more accountable for her steps than one less excellent and less attractive. Mr Greville, in his usual resolute way, threatens to follow you to London; and there, he says, he will watch the motions of every man who approaches you; and, if he find reason for it, will early let such man know his pretensions, and the danger he may run into if he pretend to be his competitor. But let me not do him injustice: though he talks of a rival thus harshly, he speaks of you more highly than man ever spoke of woman. Angel and goddess are phrases you have been used to from him; and though spoken in his humorous way, yet I am sure he most sincerely admires you.
Mr Fenwick, in a less determined manner, declares, that he will follow you to town, if you stay there above one fortnight.
The gentle Orme sighs his apprehensions, and wishes you would change your purpose. Though hopeless, he says, it is some pleasure to him that he can think himself in the same county with you; and much more, that he can tread in your footsteps to and from church every Sunday, and behold you there. He wonders how your grandmamma, your aunt, your uncle, can spare you. Your cousins Reeves surely, he says, are very happy in their influences over us
Each of the gentlemen is afraid, that, by increasing the number of your admirers, you will increase his difficulties: but what is that to them, I asked, when they already know, that you are not inclined to favour any of the three? If you hold your resolution, and my cousins Reeves their time of setting out, pray let me know, and I will attend you at my uncle Selby's, to wish you a good journey, much pleasure in town, and a return with a safe and sound heart. My sister, who, poor dear girl, continues extremely weak and low, will spare me for a purpose so indispensable. I will not have you come to us. I know it would grieve you to see her in the way she is in. You too much take to heart the infirmities of your friends which you cannot cure; and as your grandmamma lives upon your smiles, and you rejoice all your friends by your cheerfulness, it would be cruel to make you sad.
MR GREVILLE has just left us. He dropt in upon us as we were going to dinner. My grandmother Selby, you know, is always pleased with his rattling. She prevailed on him to alight, and sit down with us. All his talk was of you. He repeated his former threatenings (as I called them to him) on your going to town. After dinner, he read us a letter from Lady Frampton relating to you. He read us also some passages from the copy of his answer, with design, I believe, that I should ask him to leave it behind him. He is a vain creature, you know, and seemed fond of what he had written. I did ask him. He pretended to make a scruple of your seeing; but it was a faint one. However, he called for pen and ink; and when it was brought him, scratched over two passages, and that with so many little flourishes, (as you will
see,) that he thought they could not be read. But the ink I furnished him with happening to be paler than his, you will find he was not cunning enough. I promised to return it. Send me a line by the bearer, to tell me if your resolution holds as to the day.
Adieu, my dearest Harriet. May angels protect and guide you, whithersoever you go! LUCY SELBY.
MR GREVILLE TO LADY FRAMPTON.
[Enclosed in the preceding.]
Northampton, Jan. 6. YOUR ladyship demands a description of the person of the celebrated Miss Byron in our neighbourhood; and to know, whether, as report tells you, love has listed me in the number of her particular admirers.-Particular admirers you well distinguish, since every one who beholds her admires her.
Your ladyship confines your inquiries to her person, you tell me; and you own that women are much more solicitous about the beauties of that, than of the mind. Perhaps it may be so; and that their envy is much sooner excited by the one than by the other. But who, madam, can describe the person of Miss Harriet Byron, and her person only; animated as every feature is by a mind that bespeaks all human excellence, and dignifies her in every air, in every look, in every motion?
No man living has a greater passion for beauty than I have. Till I knew Miss Byron, I was one of those who regarded nothing else in the sex. Indeed, I considered all intellectual attainments as either useless or impertinent in women. Your ladyship knows what were my free notions on this head, and has rebuked me for them. A wise, a learned lady, I considered as a very unnatural character. I wanted women to be all love, and nothing else. A very little prudence allowed I to enter into their composition; just enough to distinguish the man of sense from the fool; and that for my own sake. You know I have vanity, madam; but, lovely as Miss Byron's person is, I defy the greatest sensualist on earth not to admire her mind more than her person. What a triumph would the devil have, as I have often thought, when I have stood contemplating her perfections, especially at church, were he able to raise up a man that could lower this angel into woman!—Pardon me! Your ladyship knows my mad way of saying everything that rises to my thoughts.
Sweetness of temper must make plain features glow: what an effect must it then have upon fine ones! Never was there a sweetertempered woman. Indeed, from sixteen to twenty, all the sex (kept in humour by their hopes, and by their attractions) are said to be good-tempered; but she is remarkably so. She is just turned of twenty, but looks not more than seventeen. Her beauty, hardly yet in its full blow, will last longer, I imagine, than in earlier blossom. Yet the prudence visible in her whole aspect, gave her a distinction, even at twelve, that promised what she would be at a riper age.
Yet, with all this reigning good-nature visible in her face and manner, there is such a native dignity in all she says, in all she does, (though mingled with a frankness that shews her mind's superiority to the minds of almost all other women,) that it damps and suppresses, in the most audacious, all imaginations of bold familiarity.
I know not, by my soul, how she does this neither; yet so it is. She jests, she rallies; but I cannot rally her again. Love, it is said, dignifies the adored object. Perhaps it is that which awes me.
And now will your ladyship doubt of an affirmative answer to your second question, Whether love has listed me in the number of her particular admirers?
He has and the devil take me if I can help myself; and yet I have no encouragement-nor anybody else; that's my consolation. wick is deeper in, if possible, than I. We had at our first acquaintance, as you have heard, a tilting-bout on the occasion; but we are sworn friends now; each having agreed to try his fortune by patience and perseverance; and being assured that the one has no more of her favour to boast of, than the other. "We have indeed blustered away between us half a score more of her admirers. Poor whining Orme, however, perseveres. But of him we make no account: he has a watery head; and though he finds a way, by his sister, who visits at Mr Selby's, and is much esteemed there, to let Miss Byron know his passion for her, notwithstanding the negative he has received; yet doubt we not that she is safe from a flame that he will quench with his tears, before it can rise to a head to disturb
"You ladies love men should whine after you; but never yet did I find, that where a blustering fellow was a competitor, the lady married the milksop."
But let me in this particular do Miss Byron justice: how she manages it, I can't tell ; but she is courteous to all; nor could ever any man
The passages in this letter thus marked (“), are those which in the preceding one are said to be scratch. ed out; but yet were legible by holding up the letter to the light.
charge her either with pride or cruelty. All I fear is, that she has such an equality in her temper, that she can hardly find room in her heart for a particular love; nor will, till she meets with one whose mind is near as faultless as her own; and the general tenor of whose life and actions calls upon her discretion to give her leave to love. "This apprehension I owe to a conversation I had with her grandmother Shirley, a lady that is an ornament to old age; and who hinted to me, that her grand-daughter had exceptions both to Fenwick and me, on the score of a few indulgences that perhaps have been too public; but which all men of fashion and spirit give themselves, and all women, but this, allow of, or hate not men the worse for. But then what is her objection to Orme? He is a sober dog."
She was but eight years old when her mother died. She also was an excellent woman. Her death was brought on by grief for that of her husband; which happened but six months before-a rare instance!
The grandmother and aunt, to whom the girl is dutiful to a proverb, will not interfere with her choice. If they are applied to for their interest, the answer is constantly this: The approbation of their Harriet must first be gained, and then their consent is ready.
There is a Mr Deane, a man of an excellent character for a lawyer; but indeed he left off practice on coming into possession of a handsome estate. He was the girl's godfather. He is allowed to have great influence over them all. Harriet calls him papa. To him I have applied; but his answer is the very same: his daughter Harriet must choose for herself: all motions of this kind must come first from her.
And ought I to despair of succeeding with the girl herself? I, her Greville; not contemptible in person; an air-free and easy, at least; having a good estate in possession; fine expectances besides; dressing well, singing well, dancing well, and blest with a moderate share of confidence; which makes other women think me a clever fellow: she a girl of twenty; her fortune between ten and fifteen thousand pounds only; for her father's considerable estate, on his demise, for want of male heirs, went with the name; her grandmother's jointure not more than five hundred pounds a-year?-And what though her uncle Selby has no children, and loves her, yet has he nephews and nieces of his own, whom he also loves; for this Harriet is his wife's niece.
I will not despair. If resolution, if perseverance, will do, and if she be a woman, she shall be mine-and so I have told her aunt Selby, and her uncle too; and so I have told Miss Lucy Selby, her cousin, as she calls her, who is highly and deservedly in her favour; and so indeed have I more than once told the girl her
But now to the description of her personLet me die, if I know where to begin. She is all over loveliness. Does not everybody else who has seen her tell you so? Her statureshall I begin with her stature? She cannot be said to be tall; but yet is something above the middling. Her shape-but what care I for her shape? I, who hope to love her still more, though possession may make me admire her less, when she has not that to boast of? We young fellows, who have been abroad, are above regarding English shapes, and prefer to them the French negligence. By the way, I think the foreign ladies in the right, that they aim not at what they cannot attain. Whether we are so much in the right to come into their taste, is another thing. But be this as it will, there is so much ease and dignity in the person, in the dress, and in every air and motion, of Miss Harriet Byron, that fine shapes will ever be in fashion where she is, be either native or foreigner the judge.
Her complexion is admirably fair and clear. I have sat admiring her complexion, till I have imagined I have seen the life-blood flowing with equal course through her translucent veins.
Her forehead, so nobly free and open, shews dignity and modesty, and strikes into one a kind of awe, singly contemplated, that (from the delight which accompanies the awe) I know not how to describe. Every single feature, in short, will bear the nicest examination; and her whole face, and her neck, so admirably set on her finely-proportioned shoulders-let me perish, if, taking her altogether, I do not hold her to be the most unexceptionable beauty I ever beheld. But what, still, is her particular excellence, and distinguishes her from all other English women, (for it must be acknowledged to be a characte ristic of the French women of quality,) is, the grace which that people call physiognomy, and we may call expression; had not her features and her complexion been so fine as they are, that grace alone, that soul shining out in her lovely aspect, joined with the ease and gracefulness of her motion, would have made her as many admirers as beholders.
After this, shall I descend to a more particular description?—I will.
Her cheek-I never saw a cheek so beautifully turned; illustrated as it is by a charming carmine flush, which denotes sound health. A most bewitching dimple takes place in each when she smiles; and she has so much reason to be pleased with herself, and with all about her, (for she is the idol of her relations,) that I believe from infancy she never frowned; nor can a frown, it is my opinion, sit upon her face for a minute. Would to Heaven I were considerable enough with her to prove the contrary!
Her mouth-there never was so lovely a mouth. But no wonder; since such rosy lips,
and such ivory and even teeth, must give beauty to a mouth less charming than hers.
Her nose adds dignity to her other features. Her chin is sweetly turned, and almost imperceptibly dimpled.
Her eyes;-ay, madam, her eyes!-Good Heaven! what a lustre ! yet not a fierce, but a mild lustre. How have I despised the romancing poets for their unnatural descriptions of the eyes of their heroines! But I have thought those descriptions, though absurd enough in conscience, less absurd, (allowing something for poetical licence,) ever since I beheld those of Miss Harriet Byron.
Her hair is a real and unlaboured ornament to her. All natural its curls; art has no share in the lustre it gives to her other beauties.
I mentioned her neck-here I dare not trust myself-Inimitable creature! All-attracting loveliness!
Her arm-your ladyship knows my passion for a delicate arm-by my soul, madam, your own does not exceed it.
Her hands are extremely fine. Such fingers! and they accustomed to the pen, to the needle, to the harpsichord; excelling in all-O madam! women have souls. I now am convinced they have. I dare own to your ladyship, that once I doubted it, on a supposition that they were given us for temporary purposes only. And have I not seen her dance! have I not heard her sing!-But indeed, mind and person, she is all harmony.
Then for reading, for acquired knowledge, what lady so young-but you know the character of her grandfather Shirley. He was a man of universal learning, and, from his public employments abroad, as polite as learned. This girl, from seven years of age, when he came to settle in England, to fourteen, when she lost him, was his delight; and her education and instruction the amusement of his vacant hours. This is the period, he used to say, in which the foundations of all female goodness are to be laid, since so soon after fourteen they leap into women. The dead languages he aimed not to teach her, lest he should overload the young mind; but in the Italian and French he made her an adept.
Nor were the advantages common ones which she received from his lady, her grandmother, and from her aunt Selby, her father's sister, a woman of equal worthiness. Her grandmother, particularly, is one of the most pious, yet most cheerful, of women. She will not permit her daughter Byron, she says, to live with her, for both their sakes-for the girl's sake, because there is a greater resort of company at Mr Selby's, than at Shirley Manor; and she is afraid, as her grandchild has a serious turn, that her own contemplative life may make her more grave than she wishes so young a woman to be. Youth, she says, is the season for cheerfulness
-For her own sake, because she looks upon her Harriet's company as a cordial too rich to be always at hand; and when she has a mind to regale, she will either send for her, fetch her, or visit her at Mr Selby's. One of her letters to Mrs Selby I once saw. . It ran thus:-" You must spare me, my Harriet. I am in pain. My spirits are not high. I would not have the undecayed mind yield, for want of using the means, to the decaying body. One happy day with our child, the true child of the united minds of her late excellent parents, will, I hope, effect the cure: If it do not, you must spare her to me two."
Did I not tell you, madam, that it was very difficult to describe the person only of this admirable young lady-But I stop here. A horrid apprehension comes across me!-How do I know but I am praising another man's future wife, and not my own? Here is a cousin of hers, a Mrs Reeves, a fine lady from London, come down under the cursed influence of my evil stars, to carry this Harriet away with her into the gay world. Woman! woman!-I beg your ladyship's pardon; but what angel of twenty is proof against vanity? The first hour she appears, she will be a toast; stars and titles will crowd about her; and who knows how far a paltry coronet may dazzle her who deserves an imperial crown? But woe to the man, whoever he be, whose pretensions dare to interfere (and have any assurance of success) with those of