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a niece among them. My nephew, though I say it, is one whom any lady may love: and as for fortune, let me alone to make him, in addition to his own, all clear as the sun, worthy of any woman's acceptance, though she were a duchess.
We were all silent, and smiled upon one another.
What I would ask then, is, which of the ladies before me-Mercy! I believe, by their smiling, and by their pretty looks, they are none of them engaged. I will begin with the young lady on your right hand. She looks so lovely, so good-natured, and so condescending!-Mercy! what an open forehead !-Hem !-Forgive me, madam; but I believe you would not disdain to answer my question yourself-Are you, madam, are you absolutely and bona fide disengaged? or are you not?
As this, Sir Rowland, answered I, is a question I can best resolve, I frankly own, that I am disengaged.
Charming! charming!-Mercy! Why, now, what a noble frankness in that answer!-No jesting matter! You may smile, ladies.—I hope, madam, you say true: I hope I may rely upon it, that your affections are not engaged.
You may, Sir Rowland. I do not love, even in jest, to be guilty of an untruth.
Admirable-But let me tell you, madam, that I hope you will not many days have this to say. Ad's-my-life! sweet soul! how I rejoice to see that charming flush in the finest cheek in the world! But Heaven forbid that I should dash so sweet a creature!-Well, but now there is no going farther. Excuse me, ladies; I mean not a slight to any of you; but now, you know, there is no going farther.-And will you, madam, permit me to introduce to you, as a lover, as a humble servant, a very proper and agreeable young man? Let me introduce him: he is my nephew. Your looks are all graciousness. Perhaps you have seen him and if you are really disengaged, you can have no objection to him; of that I am confident. And I am told, that you have nobody that either can or will control you.
The more controlable for that very reason, Sir Rowland.
Ad's-my-life, I like your answer. Why, madam, you must be full as good as you look to be. I wish I were a young man myself for your sake! But tell me, madam, will you permit a visit from my nephew this afternoon?-Come, come, dear young lady, be as gracious as you look to be. Fortune must do. Had you not a shilling, I should rejoice in such a niece; and that is more than I ever said in my life before. My nephew is a sober man, a modest man. He has a good estate of his own: a clear 20001. ayear. I will add to it in my life-time as much Be all this good company witnesses for me. I am no flincher. It is well known the word of Sir Rowland Meredith is as good as his
True, madam; but at twenty, if not before, time always stands still with women. A lady's age, once known, will be always remembered; and that more for spite than love. At twentyeight or thirty, I believe most ladies are willing to strike off half a dozen years at least-And yet, and yet (smiling, and looking arch,) I have always said, (pardon me, ladies,) that it is a sign when women are so desirous to conceal their age, that they think they shall be good for nothing when in years. Ah, ladies! shaking his head, and laughing, women don't think of that. But how I admire you, madam, for your frankness!-Would to the Lord you were twentyfour! I would have no woman marry under twenty-four; and that, let me tell you, ladies, for the following reasons-standing up, and putting the fore-finger of his right hand, extended with a flourish, upon the thumb of his left.
O, Sir Rowland! I doubt not but you can. give very good reasons. And I assure you, I intend not to marry on the wrong side, as I call it, of twenty-four.
Admirable, by mercy! but that won't do neither. The man lives not, young lady, who will stay your time, if he can have you at his. I love your noble frankness. Then such sweetness of countenance, (sitting down, and audibly whispering, and jogging my cousin with his elbow,) such dove-like eyes, daring to tell all that is in the honest heart!-I am a physiognomist, madam, (raising his voice to me.) Ads-my-life, you are a perfect paragon! Say you will encou rage my boy, or you will be worse off: for, (standing up again) I will come and court you myself. A good estate gives a man confidence; and, when I set about it-Hum!(one hand
stuck in his side; flourishing with the other) no woman yet, I do assure you,-ever won my heart as you have done.
O, Sir Rowland, I thought you were too wise to be swayed by first impressions; none but the giddy, you know, love at first sight.
Admirable! admirable, indeed! I knew you had wit at will; and I am sure you have wisdom. Know you, ladies, that wit and wisdom are two different things, and are very rarely seen together? Plain man as I appear to be, (looking on himself first on one side, then on the other, and unbuttoning his coat two buttons to let a gold braid appear upon his waistcoat,) I can tell ye, I have not lived all this time for nothing. I am considered in Wales-Hem!--But I will not praise myself. Ad's-my-life! how do this young lady's perfections run me all into tongue! But I see you all respect her as well as I ; so I need not make apology to the rest of you young ladies, for the distinction paid to her. I wish I had as many nephews as there are ladies of you disengaged; by mercy, we would be all of kin. Thank you, Sir Rowland, said each of the young ladies, smiling, and diverted at his oddity.
But as to my observation, continued the knight, that none but the giddy love at first sight; there is no general rule without exception, you know; every man must love you at first sight. Do I not love you myself? and yet never did I see you before, nor anybody like
You know not what you do, Sir Rowland, to raise thus the vanity of a poor girl. How may you make conceit and pride run away with her, till she become contemptible for both in the eye of every person whose good opinion is worth cultivating!
Ad's-my-life, that's prettily said! But let me tell you, that the she who can give this caution in the midst of her praisings, can be in no danger of being run away with by her vanity. Why, madam! you extort praises from me! I never ran on so glibly in praise of mortal woman before. You must cease to look, to smile, to speak, I can tell you, if you would have me cease to praise you!
'Tis well you are not a young man, Sir Rowland, said Miss Allestree. You seem to have the art of engaging a woman's attention. You seem to know how to turn her own artillery against her; and, as your sex generally do, to exalt her in courtship, that you may have it in your power to abase her afterwards.
Why, madam, I must own, that we men live to sixty before we know how to deal with you ladies, or with the world either; and then we are not fit to engage with the one, and are ready to quit the other. An old head upon a young pair of shoulders would make rare work among ye. But to the main point (looking very kindly on me); I ask no questions about you, madam. Fortune is not to be mentioned. I want
you not to have any. Not that the lady is the worse for having a fortune; and a man may stand a chance for as good a wife among those who have fortunes, as among those who have none. I adore you for your frankness of heart. Be all of a piece now, I beseech you. You are disengaged, you say; will you admit of a visit from my nephew? My boy may be bashful. True love is always modest and diffident. You don't look as if you would dislike a man for being modest. And I will come along with him myself.
And then the old knight looked important, as one who, if he lent his head to his nephew's shoulders, had no doubt of succeeding.
What, Sir Rowland! admit of a visit from your nephew, in order to engage him in a three years' courtship? I have told you that I intend not to marry till I am twenty-four.
Twenty-four, I must own, is the age of marriage I should choose for a lady; and for the reasons aforesaid. But now think of it, I did not tell you my reasons. These be they—
Down went his cup and saucer; up went his left hand, ready spread, and his crooked finger of his right hand, as ready to enumerate.
No doubt, Sir Rowland, you have very good
But, madam, you must hear them-and I shall prove
I am convinced, Sir Rowland, that twentyfour is an age early enough.
But I shall prove, madam, that you at twenty, or at twenty-one
Enough, enough, Sir Rowland; what need of proof when one is convinced?
But you know not, madam, what I was driving at
Well but, Sir Rowland, said Miss Bramber, will not the reasons you could give for the proper age at twenty-four, make against your wishes in this case?
Admirably said again! But men will sometimes forget, that there are ladies in company.
Very favourably put for the men, Sir Rowland. But pardon me, if I own, that I should have a mean opinion of a man, who allowed himself to talk even to men what a woman might not hear. A pure heart, whether in man or woman, will be always, in every company, on every occasion, pure.
Ad's-my-life, you have excellent notions, madam! I wanted to hear you speak just now; and now you make me, and every one else, silent. Twenty-one! why, what you say would shame sixty-one. You must have kept excellent company all your life! Mercy! if ever I heard the like from a lady so young! What a glory you reflect back upon all who had any hand in your education! Why was I not born within the past thirty years? I might then have had some hopes of you myself! And this brings me to my former subject, of my nephew. But, Mr Reeves, one word with you, Mr Reeves. I beg your pardon, ladies; but the importance of the matter will excuse me ; and I must get out of town as soon as I can. One word with you, Mr Reeves.
furnishes me with any amusing materials for my next packet, its agreeableness will be doubled Your ever affectionate HARRIET BYRON.
SOME amusement, my Lucy, the day has afforded. Indeed more than I could have wished. A large packet, however, for Selby-house.
Lady Betty received us most politely. She had company with her, to whom she introduced us, and presented me in a very advantageous character.
Shall I tell you how their first appearance struck me, and what I have since heard and observed of them?
The first I shall mention was Miss Cantillon very pretty; but visibly proud, affected, and conceited.
The second, Miss Clements; plain ; but of a fine understanding, improved by reading; and who, having no personal advantages to be vain of, has, by the cultivation of her mind, obtained a preference in every one's opinion over the fair Cantillon.
The third was Miss Barnevelt, a lady of masculine features, and whose mind belied not those features; for she has the character of being loud, bold, free, even fierce when opposed; and affects at all times such airs of contempt of her own sex, that one almost wonders at her condescending to wear petticoats.
The gentlemen's names were Walden and Singleton; the first, an Oxford scholar of family and fortune; but quaint and opinionated, despising every one who has not had the benefit of an university education.
Mr Singleton is a harmless man; who is, it seems, the object of more ridicule, even down to his very name, among all his acquaintance, than I think he by any means ought, considering the apparent inoffensiveness of the man, who did not give himself his intellects; and his constant good humour, which might entitle him to better quarter; the rather too, as he has one point of knowledge, which those who think themselves his superiors in understanding, do not always attain, the knowledge of himself; for he is humble, modest, ready to confess an inferiority to every one; and as laughing at a jest is by some taken for high applause, he is ever the first to bestow that commendation on what others say; though, it must be owned, he now and then mistakes for a jest what is none; which, however, may be generally more the fault
of the speakers than of Mr Singleton; since he takes his cue from their smiles, especially when those are seconded by the laugh of one of whom he has a good opinion.
Mr Singleton is in possession of a good estate, which makes amends for many defects. He has a turn, it is said, to the well-managing of it; and nobody understands his own interest better than he; by which knowledge, he has opportunities to lay obligations upon many of those, who behind his back think themselves entitled, by their supposed superior sense, to deride him; and he is ready enough to oblige in this way; but it is always on such securities, that he has never given cause for spendthrifts to laugh at him on that account.
It is thought that the friends of the fair Cantillon would not be averse to an alliance with this gentleman; while I, were I his sister, should rather wish, that he had so much wisdom in his weakness, as to devote himself to the worthier Pulcheria Clements, (Lady Betty's wish as well as mine) whose fortune, though not despicable, and whose humbler views, would make her think herself repaid, by his fortune, the obligation she would lay him under by her acceptance of him.
Nobody, it seems, thinks of a husband for Miss Barnevelt. She is sneeringly spoken of rather as a young fellow, than as a woman; and who will one day look out for a wife for herself. One reason, indeed, she everywhere gives, for being satisfied with being a woman; which is, that she cannot be married to a WOMAN.
An odd creature, my dear. But see what women get by going out of character. Like the bats in the fable, they are looked upon as mortals of a doubtful species, hardly owned by either, and laughed at by both.
This was the company, and all the company, besides us, that Lady Betty expected. But mutual civilities had hardly passed, when Lady Betty, having been called out, returned, introducing, as a gentleman who would be acceptable to every one, Sir Hargrave Pollexfen. He is, whispered she to me, as he saluted the rest of the company, in a very gallant manner, a young baronet of a very large estate, the greatest part of which has lately come to him by the death of a grandmother, and two uncles, all very rich.
When he was presented to me, by name, and I to him; I think myself very happy, said he, in being admitted to the presence of a young lady so celebrated for her graces of person and mind. Then addressing himself to Lady Betty, Much did I hear, when I was at the last Northampton races, of Miss Byron ; but little did I expect to find report fall so short of what I see.
Miss Cantillon bridled, played with her fan, and looked as if she thought herself slighted; a little scorn intermingled with the airs she gave herself.
Miss Clements smiled, and looked pleased, as if she enjoyed, good-naturedly, a compliment
made to one of the sex which she adorns by the goodness of her heart.
Miss Barnevelt said, she had, from the moment I first entered, beheld me with the eye of a lover. And freely taking my hand, squeezed it. Charming creature! said she, as if addressing a country innocent, and perhaps expecting me to be covered with blushes and confusion.
The baronet excusing himself to Lady Betty, assured her, that she must place this his bold intrusion to the account of Miss Byron, he having been told that she was to be there.
Whatever were his motive, Lady Betty said, he did her a favour; and she was sure the whole company would think themselves doubly obliged to Miss Byron.
The student looked as if he thought himself eclipsed by Sir Hargrave, and as if, in revenge, he was putting his fine speeches into Latin, and trying them by the rules of grammar; a broken sentence from a classic author bursting from his lips; and, at last standing up, half on tip-toe, (as if he wanted to look down upon the baronet,) he stuck one hand in his side, and passed by him, casting a contemptuous eye on his gaudy dress.
Mr Singleton smiled, and looked as if delighted with all he saw and heard. Once, indeed, he tried to speak; his mouth actually opened, to give passage to his words; as sometimes seems to be his way before the words are quite ready ; but he sat down satisfied with the effort.
It is true, people who do not make themselves contemptible by affectation should not be despised. Poor and rich, wise and unwise, we are all links of the same great chain. And you must tell me, my dear, if I, in endeavouring to give true descriptions of the persons I see, incur the censure I pass on others who despise any one for the defects they cannot help.
Will you forgive me, my dear, if I make this letter as long as my last?
Well then, I thank you for a freedom so consistent with our friendship; and conclude with assurances, that I am, and ever will be, Most affectionately yours, HARRIET BYRON.
IT was convenient to me, Lucy, to break off where I did in my last; else I should not have been so very self-denying as to suppose you had no curiosity to hear, what undoubtedly I wanted to tell. Two girls talking over a new set of company, would my uncle Selby say, are not apt to break off very abruptly; not she especially of the two, who has found out a fair excuse
Sir Hargrave Pollexfen is handsome and genteel; pretty tall, about twenty-eight or thirty. His complexion is a little of the fairest for a man, and a little of the palest. He has remarkably bold eyes; rather approaching to what we would call goggling; and he gives himself airs with them, as if he wished to have them thought rakish: perhaps as a recommendation, in his opinion, to the ladies. Lady Betty, on his back being turned, praising his person, Miss Cantillon said, Sir Hargrave had the finest 'eyes she ever saw in a man. They were manly, meaning
He is very voluble in speech; but seems to owe his volubility more to his want of doubt, than to the extraordinary merit of what he says. Yet he is thought to have sense; and if he could prevail upon himself to hear more, and speak less, he would better deserve the good opinion he thinks himself sure of. But as he can say anything without hesitating, and excites a laugh by laughing himself at all he is going to say, as well as at what he has just said, he is thought infinitely agreeable by the gay, and by those who wish to drown thought in merriment.
Sir Hargrave, it seems, has travelled; but he must have carried abroad with him a great number of follies, and a great deal of affectation, if he has left any of them behind him.
But, with all his foibles, he is said to be a man of enterprize and courage; and young women, it seems, must take care how they laugh with him; for he makes ungenerous constructions to the disadvantage of a woman whom he can bring to seem pleased with his jests.
I will tell you, hereafter, how I came to know this, and even worse, of him.
The taste of the present age seems to be dress: no wonder, therefore, that such a man as Sir Hargrave aims to excel in it. What can be misbestowed by a man on his person, who values it more than his mind? But he would, in my opinion, better become his dress, if the pains he undoubtedly takes before he ventures to come into public, were less apparent. This I judge from his solicitude to preserve all in exact order, when in company; for he forgets not to pay his respects to himself at every glass; yet does it with a seeming consciousness, as if he would hide a vanity too apparent to be concealed; breaking from it, if he finds himself observed, with a half careless, yet seemingly dissatisfied air, pretending to have discovered something amiss
in himself. This seldom fails to bring him a compliment; of which he shews himself very sensible, by affectedly disclaiming the merit of it; perhaps with this speech, bowing, with his spread hand on his breast, waving his head to and fro-By my soul, madam, (or sir,) you do me too much honour.
Such a man is Sir Hargrave Pollexfen. He placed himself next to the country girl; and laid himself out in fine speeches to her, running on in such a manner, that I had not for sometime an opportunity to convince him, that I had been in company with gay people before. He would have it, that I was a perfect beauty, and he supposed me very young-Very silly of course; and gave himself such airs, as if he were sure of my admiration.
I viewed him steadily several times; and my eye once falling under his, as I was looking at him, I dare say he that moment pitied the poor fond heart, which he supposed was in tumults about him; when, at the very time, I was considering, whether, if I were obliged to have the one or the other, as a punishment for some great fault I had committed, my choice would fall on Mr Singleton, or on him. I mean, supposing the former were not a remarkably obstinate man; since obstinacy in a weak man, I think, must be worse than tyranny in a man of sense—If, indeed, a man of sense can be a tyrant.
A summons to dinner relieved me from his more particular addresses, and placed him at a distance from me.
Sir Hargrave, the whole time of dinner, received advantage from the supercilious looks and behaviour of Mr Walden; who seemed, on every thing the baronet said, (and he was seldom silent,) half to despise him; for he made at times so many different mouths of contempt, that I thought it was impossible for the same features to express them. I have been making mouths in the glass for several minutes, to try to recover some of Mr Walden's, in order to describe them to you, Lucy; but I cannot for my life so distort my face as to enable me to give you a notion of one of them.
He might perhaps have been better justified in some of his contempts, had it not been visible, that the consequence which he took from the baronet, he gave to himself; and yet was censurable one way, as Sir Hargrave was the other.
Mirth, however insipid, will occasion smiles; though sometimes to the disadvantage of the mirthful. But gloom, severity, moroseness, will always disgust, though in a Solomon. Mr Walden had not been taught that: and indeed it might seem a little ungrateful, [Don't you think so, Lucy? if women failed to reward a man with their smiles, who scrupled not to make himself a-monkey (shall I say?) to please them.
Never before did I see the difference between the man of the town, and the man of the col