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the other event takes place. I did not hear that you were, engaged by promise to any other; and as you have heard something concerning my family, character, and circumstances, you are more able to judge whether my present proposal is for your interest. In case you have any objection to my having children, I can only say, that they will be easily answered. I have told you before, that I have only two young daughters, now at boarding school, and I have settled each of their marriage portions, and the remainder is entirely for myself; and without being any real prejudice to my children, is more than sufficient for us both. As to the common objection against being a step-mother, I think it may be easily answered, when I tell you, that my children will treat you with all manner of respect. I do not imagine you can esteem me the worse for loving my children; I have too good an opinion of you to think so; and as for the odious appellations usually thrown out against step-mothers, they can only be considered, by a lady of your sensibility, as the effect of prejudice, operating upon vulgar minds, occasioned by the conduct of some inhuman wretches, who are a disgrace to society, and who would have acted in the same manner, had they been placed in any other station in life. Your own good sense will point out to you the propriety of what I say. From what I have written, you will be able to judge, whether or not the proposals I have now made, are apparently for your real advantage. All that I desire, is to live in amity and friendship with the woman on whom I have placed my affections, as long as I am in the world. Every thing in my power will be exerted to make you happy as possible, as I think, if I am not mistaken, every part of your conduct will entitle you to deserve it. I hope you will not defer sending me an answer, as I shall wait for it with the utmost impatience.
I am, Madam,
Yours sincerely and affectionately.
The Lady's Answer. Sir,
I HAVE just received your letter, and for my own part must say, that you have acted the philosopher extremely well. I thought that love letters had not usually been extracted from Seneca or Epictetus, but why do I wonder,
when even a lady, now alive, went through the drudgery of learning the Greek language, in order to acquire the honour of being the translator of the latter. However, she has got far enough, and I have not any intention of following her, but shall consider my lover's philosophical letter.
Whilst you remained at our house, I must acknowledge that your company was agreeable ; and our assiduity to please, arose from a consciousness of your merit as a gentleman, although at that time, neither my brother
. nor myself, had the most distant thoughts of ever hearing such a proposal as your letter contains. It is our common practice to entertain strangers in the same manner we did you, which is consistent with old English hospitality, and something like the conduct of the ancient Patriarchs.
The proposal which you have sent me, is of too serious a nature to be treated lightly, it requires to be considered with the greatest attention ; especially, as a wrong step of that sort, not only destroys all hopes of temporal happiness, but, what is infinitely worse, often endangers that which is eternal. I doubt not but you have seen many fatal instances of this melancholy truth, viz. That those who were bound by the most solemn engagements to go hand in hand, through affluence and poverty, have often prevented the one, and hastened those afflictions inseparably connected with the other. The consideration of those things, presents us with a glaring proof of the corruption of human nature in general, and particularly in its most desirable state, pretended Conjugal Felicity. The causes from which unhappiness arises in families, are various; and although I never was a wife, yet I have seen many fatal instances of their pernicious effects. You yourself seem to be aware of this, in the objections stated in your letter; and although I have convincing proofs that your circumstances are consistent with your representation of them, yet the second objection is not so easily answered, nor indeed have you done it to my satisfaction. Your answers to the common objections made against stepmothers, are altogether rational; they are what reason will at all times dictate, and prudence on every occasion require; but
you will excuse me if I tell you sincerely, that even in the opinion of the thinking part of the world, the life of a step-mother is far more disagreeable than you endeavour to persuade me. All eyes are upon them, and even their virtues are often construed into faults. I acknowledge that it could never enter the mind of a rational creature, (I mean one who is really so), that a woman should tyrannise over two or three orphans, for no other reason save only that their mother was her husband's former wife. This would prove her guilty of three of the most odious crimes capable of being committed in the conjugal state. First, inhumanity to the deceased mother; secondly, cruelty to the surviving children; and, lastly, a total disrespect for her husband: for what woman would esteem the man, or what regard could she think he would have for her children, if she did not treat or cause to be treated with tenderness, those who were born of a woman equally dear to him as herself. But you know, Sir, that we live in the world, and few, I believe, would choose to have their lives rendered unhappy, if they could possibly avoid it. Your character, circumstances, and accomplishments, might entitle you to a much better wife than me; but I confess the above reasons weigh strongly in my mind against such a connection; and unless they were answered more to my satisfaction than you have yet done, I should choose 'still to remain as I am. In the mean time I shall be glad at all times to hear from you, and am,
Your sincere well-wisher.
The Gentleman's Reply. Madam,
I HAVE always thought, there is none more ready to condemn the conduct of others, than those who are inost guilty themselves, and of this your letter is a convincing proof. Do not be surprised, for Y am really in earnest. You have accused me of acting the philosopher, whilst you seem much better acquainted with those sages than myself. But pray, Madam, is it any great fault to write a love letter in à serious strain ? Or should every thing on that subject be only a jumble of incoherent nonsense ? Should the lover divest himself of the man, and because he prefers a woman to the rest of her sex, must he act the part of a fool to obtain her? I dare venture to say you will answer in the negative. Your letter contains so many prudential reasons for refusing my offers, that I should be stupid indeed if I did not consider them as the result of a well informed judgment. All the objections I have against them is, that they appear too much grounded on popular censure. I believe you are well acquainted with the world, and you know that the best actions have been misrepresented, and the most amiable characters traduced. Nor has this been confined to any one single station in life; it has diffused itself through them all; and although its baneful influence has often rendered innocence miserable, yet the prudent will despise it with that contempt it so justly merits. Virtue is its own reward ; and happiness,
Deaf to Folly's call, Attends the music of the mind. Whilst a woman of your great good sense has the answer of a good conscience in approbation of her conduct, how insignificant must the envious censures of malice appear, when compared with real peace of mind. Indeed, i think you have carried your objections against being a step-inothet rather too far, and I think I shall not be guilty of blasphemy, when I call your refinement of sentiment False Delicacy. However, as I said before, I am really in earnest; and if I have not formed an erroneous judgment, you are the only person I have yet conversed with, since I became a widower, with whom I can live happy. And will you, Madam, be so cruel as to remain obstinate in rejecting my suit: I do not think it consistent with your good nature, and although I think it is beneath a generous mind to purchase a wife, yet I shall be willing to make you a settlement equal to your wishes, besides a sufficiency for your children, if we should be blessed with any. Your answer to this is impatiently expected by
Your real admirer.
LETTER XVII. From the Young Lady in Answer. I PERUSED your letter, and begin to be afraid I have tampered with you too long, to conceal the real sentiments of my mind from one so justly entitled to know them as you are. My objections I assure you, Sir, were not the effect of levity, but arose from the most mature deliberation; nor would I, on any account, impose on the man to whom Fintended to give my hand, and consequently my lieart. This would have been a crime, attended with more aggravating circumstances than any which you have mentioned, and less entitled to an excuse. Hypocrisy is the same, under whatever character it appears; and the person who is guilty of it in the smallest matter, will be equally so in the greatest. Your answer to my objections are altogether satisfactory, and I am now convinced that I may be your wife, and at the same time at least a nominal mother to your children: I say nominal, for although I should on all occasions consider myself obliged to act with humanity to your children, as well as my own, yet I may still be named by the above appellation. However, as your person, company, and conversation were agreeable, and as your character stands unimpeached, I am almost inclined to try that life to which I have hitherto been a stranger. It is, I assure you, with diffidence, and if attended with any unfavourable circumstances, may possibly be more my fault than yours. We cannot foresee future events, and are therefore obliged to leave them to the direction of an unerring Providence. I shall therefore not detain you any longer, but only to inform you, that my brother was married yesterday to Miss B- May every happiness attend them both in time and eternity! You will receive a letter enclosed from him, and may be assured that I have not now any, objections against being connected with you for life. The time fixed for that period depends entirely on your own choice and appointment, and I think you cannot reasonably desire more. All that I expect, nay, all that I desire, is only to be treated consistently with the professions you have already made. If so, I cannot fail of being as happy as is consistent with the state of affairs in this world, and I do not look for miracles. As you will doubtless be much hurried before you set out for London, one letter will be sufficient until I see you; in the mean time (as the Jews say) may you rest content and happy.
The Brother to the Gentleman, Sir,
I KNOW not of any gentleman who ever yet honoured me with his company, for whom I have a greater regard than yourself, and the agreeable hours we have spent together cannot be equalled unless they are repeated. When I read
first letter to my sister, I considered your proposal of marriage as the highest honour that possibly could be conferred on our family, and yet, without partiality, I