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only in the character I have given of him, but let me know that he is a very dangerous and enterprizing man. He says, that, laughing and light as he is in company, he is malicious, illnatured, and designing; and sticks at nothing to carry a point on which he has once set his heart. He has ruined, Sir John says, three young creatures already, under vows of marriage.
Sir John spoke of him as a managing man, as to his fortune: he said, that though he would, at times, be lavish in the pursuit of his pleasures, yet that he had some narrownesses which made him despised, and that most by those for whose regard a good man would principally wish -his neighbours and tenants.
Could you have thought, my Lucy, that this laughing, fine-dressing man, could have been a man of malice; of resentment; of enterprize; a cruel man? Yet Sir John told two very bad stories of him, besides what I have mentioned, which prove him to be all I have said.
But I had no need of these stories to determine me against receiving his addresses. What I saw of him was sufficient; though Sir John made no manner of doubt (on being told by Mr Reeves, in confidence, of his application to him for leave to visit me) that he was quite in earnest; and, making me a compliment, added, that he knew Sir Hargrave was inclined to marry; and the more, as one half of his estate, on failure of issue-male, would go at his death to a distant relation, whom he hated; but for no other reason, than for admonishing him, when a school-boy, on his low and mischievous pranks. His estate, Sir John told my cousin, is full as considerable as reported. And Mr Reeves, after Sir John went away, said, "What a glory will it be to you, cousin Byron, to reform such a man, and make his great fortune a blessing to multitudes; as, I am sure, would be your endeavour to do, were you Lady Pollexfen!"
But, my Lucy, were Sir Hargrave king of one half of the globe, I would not go to the altar with him.
But if he be a very troublesome man, what shall I say to him? I can deal pretty well with those who will be kept at arm's length; but I own, I should be very much perplexed with resolute wretches. The civility I think myself obliged to pay every one who professes a regard for me, might subject me to inconveniences with violent spirits, which, protected as I have been by my uncle Selby, and my good Mr Deane, I never yet have known. O my Lucy, to what evils, but for that protection, might not I, a sole, an independent young woman, have been exposed! Since men, many men, are to be looked upon as savages, as wild beasts of the desert: and a single and independent woman they hunt after as their proper prey.
To have done with Sir Hargrave for the pre
sent, and I wish I may be able to say for ever: early in the morning a billet was brought from him to Mr Reeves, excusing himself from paying him a visit that morning, (as he had intended,) by reason of the sudden and desperate illness of a relation, whose seat was near Reading, with whom he had large concerns, and who was desirous to see him before he died. As it was impossible that he could return under three days, which, he said, would appear as three years to him, and he was obliged to set out that moment; he could not dispense with himself for putting in his claim, as he called it, to Miss Byron's favour, and confirming his declaration of yesterday. In very high strains, he professed himself her admirer; and begged Mr and Mrs Reeves's interest with her. One felicity, he said, he hoped for from his absence, which was, that as Miss Byron, and Mr and Mrs Reeves, would have time to consider of his offers, he presumed to hope he should not be subjected to a repulse.
AND now, my Lucy, you have before you as good an account as I can give you of my two new lovers.
How I shall manage with them, I know not: but I begin to think, that those young women are happiest, whose friends take all the trouble of this sort upon them; only consulting their daughters' inclinations as preliminaries are adjusting.
My friends, indeed, pay a high compliment to my discretion, when they so generously allow me to judge for myself: and we young women are fond of being our own mistresses: but I must say, that to me this compliment has been, and is, a painful one; for two reasons; that I cannot but consider their goodness as a task upon me, which requires my utmost circumspection, as well as gratitude; and that they have shewn more generosity in dispensing with their authority, than I have done, whenever I have acted so as to appear, though but to appear, to accept of the dispensation: let me add, besides, that now, when I find myself likely to be addressed to by mere strangers, by men who grew not into my knowledge insensibly, as our neighbours, Greville, Fenwick, and Orme, did, I cannot but think it has the appearance of confidence, to stand out to receive, as a creature uncontrollable, the first motions to an address of this awful nature. Awful indeed might it be called, were one's heart to incline towards a particular person.
Allow me then, for the future, my revered grandmamma, and you, my beloved and equally honoured uncle and aunt Selby, allow me to refer myself to you, if any person offers to whom I may happen to have no strong objections. As to Mr Fowler, and the baronet, I must now do as well as I can with them. It is much easier for a young woman to say no, than yes. But, for the time to come, I will not have the assu
rance to act for myself. I know your partiality for your Harriet too well, to doubt the merit of your recommendation.
As Mr and Mrs Reeves require me to shew them what I write, they are fond of indulging me in the employment: you will, therefore, be the less surprised that I write so much in so little a time. Miss Byron is in her closet; Miss Byron is writing; is an excuse sufficient, they seem to think, to everybody, because they allow it to be one to them: but besides, I know they believe they oblige you all, by the opportunity they so kindly give me of shewing my duty and love where so justly due.
lity for Captain Duncan, in order to make good his assertion of the susceptibility of us all?
Why, so let him. And why should you deny, that you were susceptible of a natural passion? You must not be prudish, Lucy. If you are not, all his raillery will lose its force.
What better assurance can I give to my uncle, and to all my friends, that, if I were caught, I would own it, than by advising you not to be ashamed to confess a sensibility which is no disgrace, when duty and prudence are our guides, and the object worthy?
Your man, indeed, was not worthy, as it proved: but he was a very specious creature; and you knew not his bad character, when you suffered liking to grow into love.
But when the love fever was at the height, did you make anybody uneasy with your passion? Did you run to the woods and groves, to record it on the barks of trees?-No!-You sighed in silence, indeed: but it was but for a little while. I got your secret from you; not, however, till it betrayed itself in your pined countenance; and then the man's discovered unworthiness, and your own discretion, enabled you to conquer a passion to which you had given way, supposing it unconquerable, because you thought it would cost you pains to contend with it.
You tell me, that Mr Greville will be in London in a very few days. I can't help it. He pretends business, you say; and, since that calls him up, intends to give himself a month's pleasure in town, and to take his share of the public entertainments. Well, so let him. But I hope that I am not to be either his business or entertainment. After a civil neighbourly visit, or so, I hope I shall not be tormented with him.
What happened once betwixt Mr Fenwick and him, gave me pain enough; exposed me enough, surely! A young woman, though without her own fault, made the occasion of a ren
counter between two men of fortune, must be talked of too much for her own liking, or she must be a strange creature. What numbers of people has the unhappy rashness of those two men brought to stare at me! And with what difficulty did my uncle and Mr Deane bring them into so odd a compromise, as they at last came into, to torment me, as I may call it, by joint consent, notwithstanding all I could say to them; which was the only probable way, shocking creatures! to prevent murder!
But, Lucy, what an odd thing is it in my uncle, to take hold of what I said in one of my letters, that I had a good mind to give you a sketch of what I might suppose the company at Lady Betty's would say of your Harriet, were each to write her character to their confidants or correspondents, as she has done theirs to you!
I think there is a little concealed malice in my uncle's command: but I obey.
To begin then-Lady Betty, who owns she thinks favourably of me, I will suppose would write to her Lucy, in such terms as these: but shall I suppose every one to be so happy, as to have her Lucy?
"Miss Byron, of whom you have heard Mr Reeves talk so much, discredits not, in the main, the character he has given her. We must allow a little, you know, for the fondness of relation ship.
The girl has had a good education, and owes all her advantages to it. But it is a country and a bookish one; and that won't do everything for one of our sex, if anything. Poor thing! she never was in town before!-But she seems docile, and, for a country girl, is tolerably genteel: I think, therefore, I shall receive no discredit by introducing her into the beau monde."
Miss Clements, perhaps, agreeably to the goodness of her kind heart, would have written thus:
"Miss Byron is an agreeable girl: she has invited me to visit her; and I hope I shall like her better and better. She has, one may see, kept worthy persons company: and, I dare say, will deserve the improvement she has gained by it. She is lively and obliging: she is young; not more than twenty; yet looks rather younger, by reason of a country bloom, which, however, misbecomes her not; and gives a modesty to her first appearance, that possesses one in her favour. What a castaway would Miss Byron be, if, knowing so well, as she seems to know, what the duty of others is, she should forget her own!"
Miss Cantillon would perhaps thus write:
"There was Miss Harriet Byron of Northamptonshire; a young woman in whose favour
report has been very lavish. I can't say that I think her so very extraordinary: yet she is well enough for a country girl. But though I do not impute to her a very pert look, yet if she had not been set up for something beyond what she is, by all her friends, who, it seems, are excessively fond of her, she might have had a more humble opinion of herself than she seems to have when she is set a-talking. She may, indeed, make a figure in a country assembly: but in the London world she must not be a little awkward, having never been here before.
"I take her to have a great deal of art. But, to do her justice, she has no bad complexion: that, you know, is a striking advantage: but to me she has a babyish look, especially when she smiles; yet I suppose she has been told that her smiles become her; for she is always smilingso like a simpleton, I was going to say!
"Upon the whole, I see nothing so engaging in her, as to have made her the idol she is with everybody-and what little beauty she has, it cannot last. For my part, were I a man, the clear brunette-but you will think I am praising myself."
"Well but, my dear Bombardino, I am now to give you a description of Miss Byron. 'Tis the softest, gentlest, smiling rogue of a girl—I protest, I could five or six times have kissed her, for what she said, and for the manner she spoke in-for she has been used to prate; a favoured child in her own family, one may easily see that. Yet so prettily loath to speak till spoken to!— Such a blushing little rogue !-'Tis a dear girl! and I wished twenty times, as I sat by her, that I had been a man for her sake-Upon my honour, Bombardino, I believe, if I had, I should have caught her up, popt her under one of my arms, and run away with her."
Something like this, my Lucy, did Miss Barnevelt once say.
Having now dismissed the women, I come to Mr Singleton, Mr Walden, and Sir Hargrave.
Mr Walden (himself a Pasquin) would thus perhaps have written to his Marforio:
"The first lady, whom, as the greatest stranger, I shall take upon me to describe, is Miss Harriet Byron of Northamptonshire. In her person she is not disagreeable; and most people think her pretty. But what is prettiness? Why,
nevertheless, in a woman, prettiness is-pretty: what other word can I so fitly use of a person, who, though a little sightly, cannot be called a beauty?
"I will allow, that we men are not wrong in admiring modest women for the graces of their persons: but let them be modest; let them return the compliment; and revere us for our capaciousness of mind: and so they will, if they are brought up to know their own weakness, and that they are but domestic animals of a superior order. Even ignorance, let me tell you, my Marforio, is pretty in a woman. Humility is one of their principal graces. Women hardly ever set themselves to acquire the knowledge that is proper to men, but they neglect for it, what more indispensably belongs to women. To have them come to their husbands, to their brothers, and even to their lovers, when they have a mind to know anything out of the way, and beg to be instructed and informed, inspireth them with the becoming humility which I have touched upon, and giveth us importance with them.
"Indeed, my Marforio, there are very few topics that arise in conversation among men, upon which women ought to open their lips. Silence becomes them. Let them therefore hear, wonder, and improve, in silence. They are naturally contentious, and lovers of contradiction:" [something like this Mr Walden once threw out; and you know who, my Lucy-but I am afraid has said as much :" and shall we qualify them to be disputants against ourselves?
"These reflections, Marforio, are not foreign to my subject. This girl, this Harriet Byron, is applauded for a young woman of reading and observation. But there was another lady present, Miss Clements, who (if there be any merit to a woman in it) appeareth to me to excel her in the compass of her reading; and that upon the strength of her own diligence and abilities; which is not the case with this Miss Harriet; for she, truly, hath had some pains taken with her by her late grandfather, a man of erudition, who had his education among us. This old gentleman, I am told, took it into his head, having no grandson, to give this girl a bookish turn: but he wisely stopt at her mother-tongue; only giving her a smattering of French and Italian.
"As I saw that the eyes of every one were upon her, I was willing to hear what she had to say for herself. Poor girl! she will suffer, I doubt, for her speciousness. Yet I cannot say, all things considered, that she was very malapert: that quality is yet to come. She is young.
"I therefore trifled a little with her: and went farther than I generally choose to go with the reading species of women, in order to divert an inundation of nonsense and foppery breaking in from one of the company, Sir Hargrave Pollexfen: of whom more anon.
"You know, Marforio, that a man, when he
is provoked to fight with an overgrown boy, hath everybody against him: so hath a scholar who engageth on learned topics with a woman. The sex must be flattered at the expense of truth. Many things are thought to be pretty from the mouth of a woman, which would be egregiously weak and silly proceeding from that of a man. His very eminence in learning, on such a contention, would tend only to exalt her, and depreciate himself. As the girl was everybody's favourite, and as the baronet seemed to eye her with particular regard, I spared her. A man would not, you know, spoil a girl's fortune.”
Why, ay! That's the thing, sir !
You girls are so apt to take in earnest the compliments made you by men!
And so we are. But our credulity, my dear sir, is a greater proof of our innocence, than men's professions are of their sincerity. So, let losers speak, and winners laugh.
But let him be in jest, if he will. In jest or in earnest, Sir Hargrave must be extravagant, I ween, in love-speeches. And that I may not be thought wholly to decline this part of my task, I will suppose him professing with Hudibras, after he has praised me beyond measure, for graces of his own creation :
Why thus, perhaps, my Lucy and to his grandmother; for she is living :
"We had rare fun, at dinner, and after dinner, my grandmother.
"There was one Miss Barnevelt, a fine tall portly young lady.
"There was Miss Clements, not handsome, but very learned, and who, as was easy to perceive, could hold a good argument, on occasion.
"There was Miss Cantillon; as pretty a young lady as one would wish to behold in a summer's day.
"And there was one Miss Byron, a Northamptonshire lady, whom I never saw before in my born days.
"There was Mr Walden, a most famous scholar. I thought him very entertaining; for he talked of rning, and such-like things; which I know not so much of as I wish I did; because my want of knowing a little Latin and Greek has made my understanding look less than other men's. O my grandmother! what a wise man would the being able to talk Latin and Greek have made me!—And yet I thought that now and then Mr Walden made too great a fuss
"But there was a rich and noble baronet; richer than me, as they say, a great deal; Sir Hargrove Pollexfun, if I spell his name right. A charming man! and charmingly dressed! And so many fine things he said, and was so merry, and so facetious, that he did nothing but laugh, as a man may say! And I was as merry as him to the full. Why not?
"O my grandmother! What with the talk of the young country lady, that same Miss Byron; for they put her upon talking a great deal; what with the famous scholar, who, however, being a learned man, could not be so merry as us; what with Sir Hargrave, (I could live and die with Sir Hargrave: you never knew, my grandmother, such a bright man as Sir Hargrave,) and what with one thing, and what with another, we boxed it about, and had rare fun, as I told you so that when I got home, and went to bed, I did nothing but dream of being in the same company, and three or four times waked myself with laughing.'
There, Lucy!-Will this do for Mr Singleton? It is not much out of character, I assure you.
THIS knight, this Sir Rowland Meredith!He is below, it seems; his nephew in his hand; Sir Rowland, my Sally tells me, in his gold button and button-hole coat, and full-buckled wig; Mr Fowler as spruce as a bridegroom.-What shall I do with Sir Rowland?
Expect another letter next post: and so you will, if I did not bid you; for have I missed one yet?
Adieu, my Lucy.
I should be sorry to displease the good old man; yet how can I avoid it?
MISS BYRON TO MISS SELBY.
Monday Night-Tuesday Morning, Feb. 6-7. SIR ROWLAND and his nephew, tea being not quite ready, sat down with my cousins; and the Knight, leaving Mr Fowler little to say, expatiated so handsomely on his nephew's good qualitics, and great passion for me, and on what he himself proposed to do for him in addition to his own fortune, that my cousins, knowing I liked not the gentlemen in our neighbourhood, and thought very indifferently of Sir Hargrave, were more than half inclined to promote the addresses of Mr Fowler; and gave them both room to think so.
This favourable disposition set the two gentlemen up. They were impatient for tea, that they might see me.
By the time I had sealed up my letters, word was brought me that tea was ready; and I went down.
The Knight, it seems, as soon as they heard me coming, jogged Mr Fowler.-Nephew, said he, pointing to the door, see what you can say to the primrose of your heart! This is now the primrose season with us in Caermarthen, Mr Reeves.
Mr Fowler, by a stretch of complaisance, came to meet and introduce me to the company, though at home. The Knight nodded his head after him, smiling; as if he had said, let my nephew alone to gallant the lady to her seat.
I was a little surprised at Mr Fowler's approaching me the moment I appeared, and with his taking my hand, and conducting me to my seat, with an air; not knowing how much he had been raised by the conversation that had passed before.
He bowed. I courtesied, and looked a little sillier than ordinary, I believe.
Your servant, young lady, said the Knight. Lovelier, and lovelier, by mercy! How these blushes become that sweet face!-But, forgive me, madam, it is not my intent to dash you.
Writing, Miss Byron, all day! said Mrs Reeves. We have greatly missed you.
My cousin seemed to say this, on purpose to give me time to recover myself.
I have blotted several sheets of paper, said I, and had just concluded.
I hope, madam, said the Knight, leaning forward his whole body, and peering in my face under his bent brows, that we have not been the cause of hastening you down.