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SIR CHARLES GRANDISON.
the education and opportunities that these two have had, would give themselves liberties of speech on purpose to affront us?
I hope I shall find the London gentlemen more polite than these our neighbours of the fox-chase; and yet hitherto I have seen no great cause to prefer them to the others. But about the court, and at the fashionable public places, I expect wonders. Pray Heaven, I may not be disappointed!
Thank Miss Orme, in my name, for the kind wishes she sends me. Tell her, that her doubts of my affection for her are not just; and that I do really and indeed love her. Nor should she want the most explicit declarations of my love, were I no more afraid of her in the character of a sister to a truly respectable man, than doubtful of her in that of a friend to me; in which latter light, I even joy to consider her. But she is a little naughty, tell her, because she is always leading to one subject. And yet, how can I be angry with her for it, if her good opinion of me induces her to think it in my power to make the brother happy, whom she so dearly and so deservedly loves? I cannot but esteem her for the part she takes. And this it is that makes me afraid of the artlessly-artful Miss Orme.
It would look as if I thought my duty, and love, and respects, were questionable, if in every letter I repeated them to my equally honoured and beloved benefactors, friends, and favourers. Suppose them, therefore, always included in my subscription to you, my Lucy, when I tell you that I am, and will be,
MR SELBY TO MISS BYRON.
Selby-House, Jan. 30. WELL! and now there wants but a London lover or two to enter upon the stage, and VanityFair will be proclaimed and directly opened. Greville everywhere magnifying you, in order to justify his flame for you; Fenwick exalting you above all women; Orme adoring you, and by his humble silence saying more than any of them; proposals, besides, from this man; let ters from that! What scenes of flattery and nonsense have I been witness to for these past three years and a half, that young Mr Elford began the dance! Single! Well may you have remain ed single till this your twentieth year, when you have such choice of admirers, that you don't know which to have. So in a mercer's shop, the tradesman has fine time with you women; when variety of his rich wares distract you; and fifty to one at last, but, as well in men as in silks, you choose the worst, especially if the best is offer
ed at first, and refused. For women know bet-
Well, said I, to your aunt Selby, to your
Why, I must own, that no father ever loved
Here one exalts you for your good sense ; because you have a knack, by help of a happy methat you like, your own, you, mory, of making everything you read, and everything that is told (your grandfather's precepts particularly); and because, I think, you pass upon us as your own what you have borrowed, if not stolen.
Another praises you for your good-nature.— The deuce is in it, if a girl who has crowds of admirers after her, and a new lover wherever she shews her bewitching face, who is blessed
with health and spirits, and has everybody for her friend, let her deserve it or not, can be illnatured. Who can such a one have to quarrel with, trow?
Another extols you for your cheerful wit, even when displayed, bold girl as you are, upon your uncle; in which, indeed, you are upheld by the wife of my bosom, whenever I take upon me to tell you what ye all, even the best of ye, are.
Yet sometimes they praise your modesty; and why your modesty?-Because you have a skin in a manner transparent; and because you can blush-I was going to say, whenever you please. At other times, they will find out, that you have features equally delicate and regular; when I think, and I have examined them jointly and separately, that all your takingness is owing to that open and cheerful countenance, which gives them a gloss, (or what shall I call it?) that we men are apt to be pleased with at first sight-a gloss that takes one, as it were, by surprise. But give me the beauty that grows upon us every time we see it; that leaves room for something to be found out to its advantage, as we are more and more acquainted with it.
"Your correcting uncle," you call me. And so I will be. But what hope have I of your amendment, when every living soul, man, woman, and child, that knows you, puffs you up? There goes Mr Selby, I have heard strangers say-And who is Mr Selby? another stranger has asked-Why, Mr Selby is uncle to the celebrated Miss Byron.-Yet I, who have lived fifty years in this county, should think I might be known on my own account; and not as the uncle of a girl of twenty.
"Am I not a saucy creature?" in another place you ask. And you answer, "I know I am." I am glad you do. Now may I call you so by your own authority, I hope. But, with your aunt, it is only the effect of your agreeable vivacity. What abominable partiality! E'en do what you will, Harriet, you'll never be in fault. I could almost wish-but I won't tell you what I wish neither. But something must betide you that you little think of, depend upon that. All your days cannot be halcyon ones. I would give a thousand pounds with all my soul, to see you heartily in love; ay, up to the very ears, and unable to help yourself! You are not thirty yet, child; and, indeed, you seem to think the time of danger is not over. I am glad of your consciousness, my dear. Shall I tell Greville of your doubts, and of your difficulties, Harriet? As to the ten coming years, I mean? And shall I tell him of your prayer to pass them safely?-But is not this wish of yours, that ten years of bloom were over-past, and that you were arrived at the thirtieth year of your age, a very singular one? -A flight! A mere flight! Ask ninety-nine of your sex out of a hundred, if they would adopt it.
In another letter you ask Lucy," If Mr Greville has not said, that flattery is dearer to a woman than her food?" Well, niece, and what would you be at? Is it not so?—I do aver that Mr Greville is a sensible man, and makes good observations.
"Men's chief strength," you say, "lies in the weakness of women." Why, so it does. Where else should it lie? And this from their immeasurable love of admiration and flattery, as here you seem to acknowledge of your own accord, though it has been so often perversely disputed with me. Give you women but rope enough, you'll do your own business.
However, in many places you have pleased me; but nowhere more than when you recollect my averment, (without contradicting it, which is a rarity !) that a woman out of wedlock is half useless to the end of her being.' Good girl! That was an assertion of mine, and I will abide by it. Lucy simpered when we came to this place, and looked at me. She expected, I saw, my notice upon it; so did your aunt; but the confession was so frank, that I was generous, and only said,-True as the gospel.
I have written a long letter ; yet have not said one quarter of what I intended to when I say began. You will allow, that you have given your correcting uncle ample subject. But you fare something the better for saying, "you unbespeak not your monitor."
You own, that you have some vanity. Be more free in your acknowledgments of this nature, (you may; for are you not a woman?) and you'll fare something the better for your ingenuousness; and the rather, as your acknowledgment will help me up with your aunt and Lucy, and your grandmamma, in an argument I will not give up.
I have had fresh applications made to mebut I will not say from whom; since we have agreed long ago, not to prescribe to so discreet a girl, as, in the main, we all think you, in the articles of love and marriage.
With all your faults, I must love you. I am half ashamed to say how much I miss you already. We are all naturally cheerful folks ; yet, I don't know how it is, your absence has made a strange chasm at our table. Let us hear from you every post; that will be something. Your doting aunt tells the hours on the day she expects a letter. Your grandmother is at present with us, and in heart, I am sure, regrets your absence; but, as your tenderness to her has kept you from going to London for so many years, she thinks she ought to be easy. Her example goes a great way with us all, you know; and particularly with
Your truly affectionate
MISS BYRON TO MISS SELBY.
Tuesday, Jan. 31.
I AM already, my dear Lucy, quite contrary to my own expectation, enabled to obey the third general injunction laid upon me, at parting, by you, and all my dear friends; since a gentle man, not inconsiderable in his family or fortune, has already beheld your Harriet with partiality.
Not to heighten your impatience by unnecessary parade, his name is Fowler. He is a young gentleman of a handsome independent fortune, and still larger expectations from a Welsh uncle now in town, Sir Rowland Meredith, knighted in his sheriffalty, on occasion of an address which he brought up to the king from his county.
Sir Rowland, it seems, requires from his nephew, on pain of forfeiting his favour for ever, that he marry not without his approbation; which, he declares, he never will give, except the woman be of a good family; has a gentlewoman's fortune; has had the benefit of a religious education; which he considers as the best security that can be given for her good behaviour as a wife, and as a mother; so forward does the good knight look! Her character unsullied; acquainted with the theory of the domestic duties, and not ashamed, occasionally, to enter into the direction of the practice. Her fortune, however, as his nephew will have a good one, he declares to be the least thing he stands upon; only that he would have her possessed of from six to ten thousand pounds, that it may not appear to be a match of mere love, and as if his nephew were taken in, as he calls it, rather by the eyes than the understanding. Where a woman can have such a fortune given her by her family, though no greater, it will be an earnest, he says, that the family she is of have worth, as he calls it, and want not to owe obligations to that of the man she marries.
Something particular, something that has the look of forecast and prudence, you'll say, in the old knight.
O! but I had like to have forgot; his future niece must also be handsome. He values himself, it seems, upon the breed of his horses and dogs, and makes polite comparisons between the more noble and the less noble animals.
Sir Rowland himself, as you will guess by his particularity, is an old bachelor, and one who wants to have a woman made on purpose for his nephew and he positively insists upon qualities, before he knows her, not one of which, perhaps, his future niece will have.
Don't you remember Mr Tolson of Derbyshire? He was determined never to marry a widow. If he did, it should be one who had a vast
fortune, and who never had a child; and he had still a more particular exception, and that was to a woman who had red hair. He held his exceptions till he was forty; and then being looked upon as a determined bachelor, no family thought it worth their while to make proposals to him; no woman to throw out a net for him, (to express myself in the style of the gay Mr Greville); and he at last fell in with, and married, the laughing Mrs Turner; a widow, who had little or no fortune, had one child, a daughter, living, and that child an absolute idiot; and, to complete the perverseness of his fate, her hair not only red, but the most disagreeable of reds. The honest man was grown splenetic; disregarded by every body, he was become disregardful of himself. He hoped for a cure for his gloominess, from her cheerful vein; and seemed to think himself under obligation to one who had taken notice of him, when nobody else would. Bachelors' wives! Maids' children! These old saws always mean something.
Mr Fowler saw me at my cousin Reeves's the first time. I cannot say he is disagreeable in his person; but he seems to want the mind I would have a man blessed with to whom I am to vow love and honour. I purpose, whenever I marry, to make a very good, and even a dutiful wife: [Must I not vow obedience? and shall I break my marriage vow? I would not, therefore, on any consideration, marry a man, whose want of knowledge might make me stagger in the performance of my duty to him; and who would perhaps command, from caprice or want of understanding, what I should think unreasonable to be complied with. There is a pleasure and credit in yielding up even one's judgment, in things indifferent, to a man who is older and wiser than one's self; but we are apt to doubt in one of a contrary character, what in the other we should have no doubt about: and doubt, you know, of a person's merit, is the first step to disrespect; and what, but disobedience, which lets in every evil, is the next?
I saw instantly that Mr Fowler beheld me with a distinguished regard. We women, you know, (let me for once be aforehand with my uncle,) are very quick in making discoveries of this nature. But every body at table saw it. He came again next day, and besought Mr Reeves to give him his interest with me, without asking any questions about my fortune; though he was even generously particular as to his own. He might, since he has an unexceptionable one. Who is it, in these cases, that forgets to set foremost the advantages by which he is distinguished? While fortune is the last thing talked of by him, who has little or none; and then love, love, love, is all his cry.
Mr Reeves, who has a good opinion of Mr Fowler, in answer to his inquiries, told him, that he believed I was disengaged in my affec
'tions. Mr Fowler rejoiced at that. That I had no questions to ask, but those of duty; which, indeed, he said, was a stronger tie with me than interest. He praised my temper, and my frankness of heart; the latter at the expense of my sex; for which I least thanked him, when he told me what he had said. In short, he acquainted him with everything that was necessary, and more than was necessary, for him to know, of the favour of my family, and of my good Mr Deane, in referring all proposals of this kind to myself; mingling the detail with commendations, which only could be excused by the goodness of his own heart, and accounted for by his partiality to his cousin.
Mr Fowler expressed great apprehensions on my cousin's talking of these references of my grandmother, aunt, and Mr Deane, to myself, on occasions of this nature; which, he said, he presumed had been too frequent for his hopes. If you have any hope, Mr Fowler, said Mr Reeves, it must be in your good character; and that much preferably to your clear estate and great expectations. Although she takes no pride in the number of her admirers, yet it is natural to suppose that it has made her more difficult; and difficulties are enhanced, in proportion to the generous confidence which all her friends have in her discretion. And when I told him, proceeded Mr Reeves, that your fortune exceeded greatly what Sir Rowland required in a wife for him; and that you had, as well from inclination, as education, a serious turn; Too much, too much, in one person, cried he out. As to fortune, he wished you had not a shilling; and if he could obtain your favour, he should be the happiest man in the world.
O my good Mr Reeves, said I, how have you over-rated my merits! Surely you have not given Mr Fowler your interest? If you have, should you not, for his sake, have known something of my mind before you had set me out thus, had I even deserved your high opinion? -Mr Fowler might have reason to repent the double well-meant kindness of his friend, if men in these days were used to break their hearts for love.
It is the language I do and must talk of you in to everybody, returned Mr Reeves: Is it not the language that those most talk who know you best?
Where the world is inclined to favour, replied I, it is apt to over-rate, as much as it will under-rate where it disfavours. In this case, you should not have proceeded so far as to engage a gentleman's hopes. What may be the end of all this, but to make a compassionate nature, as mine has been thought to be, if Mr Fowler should be greatly in earnest, uneasy to itself, in being obliged to shew pity, where she cannot return love?
What I have said, I have said, replied Mr
Reeves. Pity is but one remove from love. Mrs Reeves (there she sits) was first brought to pity me; for never was man more madly in love than I; and then I thought myself sure of her. And so it proved. I can tell you I am no enemy to Mr Fowler.
And so, my dear, Mr Fowler seems to think he has met with a woman who would make a fit wife for him; but your Harriet, I doubt, has not in Mr Fowler met with a man whom she can think a fit husband for her.
The very next morning, Sir Rowland himself
But now, my Lucy, if I proceed to tell you all the fine things that are said of me, and to me, what will my uncle Selby say? Will he not attribute all I shall repeat of this sort, to that fondness of admiration, which he, as well as Mr Greville, is continually charging upon all our sex?
Yet he expects that I shall give a minute account of everything that passes, and of every conversation in which I have any part. How shall I do to please him? And yet I know I shall best please him, if I give him room to find fault with me. But then, should he for my faults blame the whole sex? Is that just?
You will tell me, I know, that if I give speeches and conversations, I ought to give them justly that the humours and characters of persons cannot be known, unless I repeat what they say, and their manner of saying: that I must leave it to the speakers, and complimenters to answer for the likeness of the pictures they draw that I know best my own heart, and whether I am puffed up by the praises given me: that if I am, I shall discover it by my superciliousness; and be enough punished on the discovery, by incurring, from those I love, deserved blame, if not contempt, instead of preserving their wished-for esteem.-Let me add to all this, that there is an author (I forget who) who says, "It is lawful to repeat those things, though spoken in our praise, that are necessary to be known, and cannot otherwise be come at.' And now let me ask, Will this preamble do, once for all?
It will. And so says my aunt Selby. And so says every one but my uncle. Well, then, I will proceed, and repeat all that shall be said, and that as well to my disadvantage as advantage; only resolving not to be exalted with the one, and to do my endeavour to amend by the other. And here, pray tell my uncle, that I do not desire he will spare me; since the faults he shall find in his Harriet shall always put her upon her guard-Not, however, to conceal them from his discerning eye; but to amend them.
And now, having, as I said, once for all, pre pared you to guard against a surfeit of selfpraise, though delivered at second or third hand, I will go on with my narrative-But hold—my
paper reminds me that I have written a monstrous letter-I will therefore, with a new sheet, begin a new one. Only adding this, that I am, and ever will be,
P. S. Well, but what shall I do now?-I have just received my uncle's letter. And, after his charge upon me of vanity and pride, will my parade, as above, stand me in any stead? I must trust to it. Only one word to my dear and ever-honoured uncle-Don't you, sir, impute to me a belief of the truth of those extravagant compliments made by men professing love to me; and I will not wish you to think me one bit the wiser, the handsomer, the better, for them, than I was before.
Thursday, Feb. 2. THE very next morning Sir Rowland himself paid his respects to Mr Reeves.
The knight, before he would open himself very freely as to the business he came upon, desired that he might have an opportunity to see me. I knew nothing of him, nor of his business. We were just going to breakfast. Miss Allestree, Miss Bramber, and Miss Dolyns, a young lady of merit, were with us.
Just as we had taken our seats, Mr Reeves introduced Sir Rowland, but let him not know which was Miss Byron. He did nothing, at first sitting down, but peer in our faces by turns ; and fixing his eye upon Miss Allestree, he jogged Mr Reeves with his elbow-Hey, sir? audibly whispered he.
Mr Reeves was silent. Sir Rowland, who is short-sighted, then looked under his bent brows, at Miss Bramber; then at Miss Dolyns; and then at me-Hey, sir? whispered he again.
He sat out the first dish of tea with an impatience equal, as it seemed, to his uncertainty. And at last taking Mr Reeves by one of his buttons, desired a word with him. They withdrew together; and the knight not quitting hold of Mr Reeves's button, Ad's-my-life, sir, said he, I hope I am right. I love my nephew as I love myself. I live but for him. He was ever dutiful to me, his uncle. If that be Miss Byron who sits on the right hand of your lady, with the countenance of an angel, her eyes sparkling with good humour, and blooming as a May morning, the business is done. I give my consent. Although I heard not a word pass from her lips, I am sure she is all intelligence. My boy shall have her. The other
The lady you describe, Sir Rowland, is Miss Byron.
And then Mr Reeves, in his usual partial manner, let his heart overflow at his lips in my favour.
Thank God! thank God! said the knight. Let us return. Let us go in again. I will say something to her to make her speak: but not a word to dash her. I expect her voice to be music, if it be as harmonious as the rest of her. By the softness or harshness of the voice, let me tell you, Mr Reeves, I form a judgment of the heart, and soul, and manners, of a lady. 'Tis a criterion, as they call it, of my own; and I am hardly ever mistaken. Let us go in again, I pray ye.
They returned, and took their seats; the knight making an awkward apology for taking my cousin out.
Sir Rowland, his forehead smoothed, and his face shining, sat swelling, as big with meaning, yet not knowing how to begin. Mrs Reeves and Miss Allestree were talking at the re-entrance of the gentlemen. Sir Rowland thought he must say something, however distant from his main purpose. Breaking silence, therefore; You, ladies, seemed to be deep in discourse when we came in. Whatever were your subject, I beg you will resume it.
They had finished, they assured him, what they had to say.
Sir Rowland seemed still at a loss. He hemmed three times, and looked at me with particular kindness. Mr Reeves then, in pity to his fulness, asked him, how long he proposed to stay in town?
He had thought, he said, to have set out in a week; but something had happened, which he believed could not be completed under a fortnight. Yet I want to be down, said he; for I had just finished, as I came up, the new-built house I design to present to my nephew when he marries. I pretend, plain man as I am, to be a judge, both of taste and elegance. (Sir Rowland was now set a going.) All I wish for, is to see him happily settled. Ah, ladies! that I need not go farther than this table for a wife for my boy!
We all smiled, and looked upon each other. You young ladies, proceeded he, have great advantages in certain cases over us men; and this, (which I little thought of till it came to be my own case,) whether we speak for our kindred or for ourselves. But will you, madam, to Mrs Reeves; will you, sir, to Mr Reeves; answer my questions-as to these ladies?—I must have