by Mary Wollstonecraft
MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT GODWIN.
VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN.
IN FOUR VOLUMES.
* * * * *
* * * * *
PRINTED FOR J. JOHNSON, NO. 72, ST. PAUL'S
CHURCH-YARD; AND G. G. AND J. ROBINSON,
WRONGS OF WOMAN:
IN TWO VOLUMES.
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THE public are here presented with the last literary attempt of an
author, whose fame has been uncommonly extensive, and whose talents
have probably been most admired, by the persons by whom talents are
estimated with the greatest accuracy and discrimination. There are few,
to whom her writings could in any case have given pleasure, that would
have wished that this fragment should have been suppressed, because it
is a fragment. There is a sentiment, very dear to minds of taste and
imagination, that finds a melancholy delight in contemplating these
unfinished productions of genius, these sketches of what, if they had
been filled up in a manner adequate to the writer's conception, would
perhaps have given a new impulse to the manners of a world.
The purpose and structure of the following work, had long formed a
favourite subject of meditation with its author, and she judged them
capable of producing an important effect. The composition had been in
progress for a period of twelve months. She was anxious to do justice
to her conception, and recommenced and revised the manuscript several
different times. So much of it as is here given to the public, she was
far from considering as finished, and, in a letter to a friend directly
written on this subject, she says, I am perfectly aware that some of
the incidents ought to be transposed, and heightened by more harmonious
shading; and I wished in some degree to avail myself of criticism,
before I began to adjust my events into a story, the outline of which I
had sketched in my mind[x-A]. The only friends to whom the author
communicated her manuscript, were Mr. Dyson, the translator of the
Sorcerer, and the present editor; and it was impossible for the most
inexperienced author to display a stronger desire of profiting by the
censures and sentiments that might be suggested[x-B].
In revising these sheets for the press, it was necessary for the
editor, in some places, to connect the more finished parts with the
pages of an older copy, and a line or two in addition sometimes
appeared requisite for that purpose. Wherever such a liberty has been
taken, the additional phrases will be found inclosed in brackets; it
being the editor's most earnest desire, to intrude nothing of himself
into the work, but to give to the public the words, as well as ideas,
of the real author.
What follows in the ensuing pages, is not a preface regularly drawn
out by the author, but merely hints for a preface, which, though never
filled up in the manner the writer intended, appeared to be worth
THE Wrongs of Woman, like the wrongs of the oppressed part of
mankind, may be deemed necessary by their oppressors: but surely there
are a few, who will dare to advance before the improvement of the age,
and grant that my sketches are not the abortion of a distempered fancy,
or the strong delineations of a wounded heart.
In writing this novel, I have rather endeavoured to pourtray
passions than manners.
In many instances I could have made the incidents more dramatic,
would I have sacrificed my main object, the desire of exhibiting the
misery and oppression, peculiar to women, that arise out of the partial
laws and customs of society.
In the invention of the story, this view restrained my fancy; and
the history ought rather to be considered, as of woman, than of an
The sentiments I have embodied.
In many works of this species, the hero is allowed to be mortal, and
to become wise and virtuous as well as happy, by a train of events and
circumstances. The heroines, on the contrary, are to be born
immaculate; and to act like goddesses of wisdom, just come forth highly
finished Minervas from the head of Jove.
* * * * *
[The following is an extract of a letter from the author to a
friend, to whom she communicated her manuscript.]
* * * * *
For my part, I cannot suppose any situation more distressing, than
for a woman of sensibility, with an improving mind, to be bound to such
a man as I have described for life; obliged to renounce all the
humanizing affections, and to avoid cultivating her taste, lest her
perception of grace and refinement of sentiment, should sharpen to
agony the pangs of disappointment. Love, in which the imagination
mingles its bewitching colouring, must be fostered by delicacy. I
should despise, or rather call her an ordinary woman, who could endure
such a husband as I have sketched.
These appear to me (matrimonial despotism of heart and conduct) to
be the peculiar Wrongs of Woman, because they degrade the mind. What
are termed great misfortunes, may more forcibly impress the mind of
common readers; they have more of what may justly be termed
stage-effect; but it is the delineation of finer sensations, which,
in my opinion, constitutes the merit of our best novels. This is what I
have in view; and to show the wrongs of different classes of women,
equally oppressive, though, from the difference of education,
[x-A] A more copious extract of this letter is subjoined to the
[x-B] The part communicated consisted of the first fourteen
Page 3, line 2, dele half.
P. 81 and 118, for brackets , read inverted commas
VOL. I. AND II.
The Wrongs of Woman, or Maria; a Fragment: to which is added, the
First Book of a Series of Lessons for Children.
VOL. III. AND IV.
Letters and Miscellaneous Pieces.
WRONGS OF WOMAN.
ABODES of horror have frequently been described, and castles, filled
with spectres and chimeras, conjured up by the magic spell of genius to
harrow the soul, and absorb the wondering mind. But, formed of such
stuff as dreams are made of, what were they to the mansion of despair,
in one corner of which Maria sat, endeavouring to recal her scattered
Surprise, astonishment, that bordered on distraction, seemed to have
suspended her faculties, till, waking by degrees to a keen sense of
anguish, a whirlwind of rage and indignation roused her torpid pulse.
One recollection with frightful velocity following another, threatened
to fire her brain, and make her a fit companion for the terrific
inhabitants, whose groans and shrieks were no unsubstantial sounds of
whistling winds, or startled birds, modulated by a romantic fancy,
which amuse while they affright; but such tones of misery as carry a
dreadful certainty directly to the heart. What effect must they then
have produced on one, true to the touch of sympathy, and tortured by
Her infant's image was continually floating on Maria's sight, and
the first smile of intelligence remembered, as none but a mother, an
unhappy mother, can conceive. She heard her half speaking cooing, and
felt the little twinkling fingers on her burning bosoma bosom
bursting with the nutriment for which this cherished child might now be
pining in vain. From a stranger she could indeed receive the maternal
aliment, Maria was grieved at the thoughtbut who would watch her with
a mother's tenderness, a mother's self-denial?
The retreating shadows of former sorrows rushed back in a gloomy
train, and seemed to be pictured on the walls of her prison, magnified
by the state of mind in which they were viewedStill she mourned for
her child, lamented she was a daughter, and anticipated the aggravated
ills of life that her sex rendered almost inevitable, even while
dreading she was no more. To think that she was blotted out of
existence was agony, when the imagination had been long employed to
expand her faculties; yet to suppose her turned adrift on an unknown
sea, was scarcely less afflicting.
After being two days the prey of impetuous, varying emotions, Maria
began to reflect more calmly on her present situation, for she had
actually been rendered incapable of sober reflection, by the discovery
of the act of atrocity of which she was the victim. She could not have
imagined, that, in all the fermentation of civilized depravity, a
similar plot could have entered a human mind. She had been stunned by
an unexpected blow; yet life, however joyless, was not to be indolently
resigned, or misery endured without exertion, and proudly termed
patience. She had hitherto meditated only to point the dart of anguish,
and suppressed the heart heavings of indignant nature merely by the
force of contempt. Now she endeavoured to brace her mind to fortitude,
and to ask herself what was to be her employment in her dreary cell?
Was it not to effect her escape, to fly to the succour of her child,
and to baffle the selfish schemes of her tyranther husband?
These thoughts roused her sleeping spirit, and the self-possession
returned, that seemed to have abandoned her in the infernal solitude
into which she had been precipitated. The first emotions of
overwhelming impatience began to subside, and resentment gave place to
tenderness, and more tranquil meditation; though anger once more stopt
the calm current of reflection, when she attempted to move her manacled
arms. But this was an outrage that could only excite momentary feelings
of scorn, which evaporated in a faint smile; for Maria was far from
thinking a personal insult the most difficult to endure with
She approached the small grated window of her chamber, and for a
considerable time only regarded the blue expanse; though it commanded a
view of a desolate garden, and of part of a huge pile of buildings,
that, after having been suffered, for half a century, to fall to decay,
had undergone some clumsy repairs, merely to render it habitable. The
ivy had been torn off the turrets, and the stones not wanted to patch
up the breaches of time, and exclude the warring elements, left in
heaps in the disordered court. Maria contemplated this scene she knew
not how long; or rather gazed on the walls, and pondered on her
situation. To the master of this most horrid of prisons, she had, soon
after her entrance, raved of injustice, in accents that would have
justified his treatment, had not a malignant smile, when she appealed
to his judgment, with a dreadful conviction stifled her remonstrating
complaints. By force, or openly, what could be done? But surely some
expedient might occur to an active mind, without any other employment,
and possessed of sufficient resolution to put the risk of life into the
balance with the chance of freedom.
A woman entered in the midst of these reflections, with a firm,
deliberate step, strongly marked features, and large black eyes, which
she fixed steadily on Maria's, as if she designed to intimidate her,
saying at the same timeYou had better sit down and eat your dinner,
than look at the clouds.
I have no appetite, replied Maria, who had previously determined
to speak mildly, why then should I eat?
But, in spite of that, you must and shall eat something. I have had
many ladies under my care, who have resolved to starve themselves; but,
soon or late, they gave up their intent, as they recovered their
Do you really think me mad? asked Maria, meeting the searching
glance of her eye.
Not just now. But what does that prove?only that you must be the
more carefully watched, for appearing at times so reasonable. You have
not touched a morsel since you entered the house.Maria sighed
intelligibly.Could any thing but madness produce such a disgust for
Yes, grief; you would not ask the question if you knew what it
was. The attendant shook her head; and a ghastly smile of desperate
fortitude served as a forcible reply, and made Maria pause, before she
addedYet I will take some refreshment: I mean not to die.No; I
will preserve my senses; and convince even you, sooner than you are
aware of, that my intellects have never been disturbed, though the
exertion of them may have been suspended by some infernal drug.
Doubt gathered still thicker on the brow of her guard, as she
attempted to convict her of mistake.
Have patience! exclaimed Maria, with a solemnity that inspired
awe. My God! how have I been schooled into the practice! A
suffocation of voice betrayed the agonizing emotions she was labouring
to keep down; and conquering a qualm of disgust, she calmly endeavoured
to eat enough to prove her docility, perpetually turning to the
suspicious female, whose observation she courted, while she was making
the bed and adjusting the room.
Come to me often, said Maria, with a tone of persuasion, in
consequence of a vague plan that she had hastily adopted, when, after
surveying this woman's form and features, she felt convinced that she
had an understanding above the common standard; and believe me mad,
till you are obliged to acknowledge the contrary. The woman was no
fool, that is, she was superior to her class; nor had misery quite
petrified the life's-blood of humanity, to which reflections on our own
misfortunes only give a more orderly course. The manner, rather than
the expostulations, of Maria made a slight suspicion dart into her mind
with corresponding sympathy, which various other avocations, and the
habit of banishing compunction, prevented her, for the present, from
examining more minutely.
But when she was told that no person, excepting the physician
appointed by her family, was to be permitted to see the lady at the end
of the gallery, she opened her keen eyes still wider, and uttered
ahem! before she enquiredWhy? She was briefly told, in reply,
that the malady was hereditary, and the fits not occurring but at very
long and irregular intervals, she must be carefully watched; for the
length of these lucid periods only rendered her more mischievous, when
any vexation or caprice brought on the paroxysm of phrensy.
Had her master trusted her, it is probable that neither pity nor
curiosity would have made her swerve from the straight line of her
interest; for she had suffered too much in her intercourse with
mankind, not to determine to look for support, rather to humouring
their passions, than courting their approbation by the integrity of her
conduct. A deadly blight had met her at the very threshold of
existence; and the wretchedness of her mother seemed a heavy weight
fastened on her innocent neck, to drag her down to perdition. She could
not heroically determine to succour an unfortunate; but, offended at
the bare supposition that she could be deceived with the same ease as a
common servant, she no longer curbed her curiosity; and, though she
never seriously fathomed her own intentions, she would sit, every
moment she could steal from observation, listening to the tale, which
Maria was eager to relate with all the persuasive eloquence of grief.
It is so cheering to see a human face, even if little of the
divinity of virtue beam in it, that Maria anxiously expected the return
of the attendant, as of a gleam of light to break the gloom of
idleness. Indulged sorrow; she perceived, must blunt or sharpen the
faculties to the two opposite extremes; producing stupidity, the moping
melancholy of indolence; or the restless activity of a disturbed
imagination. She sunk into one state, after being fatigued by the
other: till the want of occupation became even more painful than the
actual pressure or apprehension of sorrow; and the confinement that
froze her into a nook of existence, with an unvaried prospect before
her, the most insupportable of evils. The lamp of life seemed to be
spending itself to chase the vapours of a dungeon which no art could
dissipate.And to what purpose did she rally all her energy?Was not
the world a vast prison, and women born slaves?
Though she failed immediately to rouse a lively sense of injustice
in the mind of her guard, because it had been sophisticated into
misanthropy, she touched her heart. Jemima (she had only a claim to a
Christian name, which had not procured her any Christian privileges)
could patiently hear of Maria's confinement on false pretences; she had
felt the crushing hand of power, hardened by the exercise of injustice,
and ceased to wonder at the perversions of the understanding, which
systematize oppression; but, when told that her child, only four months
old, had been torn from her, even while she was discharging the
tenderest maternal office, the woman awoke in a bosom long estranged
from feminine emotions, and Jemima determined to alleviate all in her
power, without hazarding the loss of her place, the sufferings of a
wretched mother, apparently injured, and certainly unhappy. A sense of
right seems to result from the simplest act of reason, and to preside
over the faculties of the mind, like the master-sense of feeling, to
rectify the rest; but (for the comparison may be carried still farther)
how often is the exquisite sensibility of both weakened or destroyed by
the vulgar occupations, and ignoble pleasures of life?
The preserving her situation was, indeed, an important object to
Jemima, who had been hunted from hole to hole, as if she had been a
beast of prey, or infected with a moral plague. The wages she received,
the greater part of which she hoarded, as her only chance for
independence, were much more considerable than she could reckon on
obtaining any where else, were it possible that she, an outcast from
society, could be permitted to earn a subsistence in a reputable
family. Hearing Maria perpetually complain of listlessness, and the not
being able to beguile grief by resuming her customary pursuits, she was
easily prevailed on, by compassion, and that involuntary respect for
abilities, which those who possess them can never eradicate, to bring
her some books and implements for writing. Maria's conversation had
amused and interested her, and the natural consequence was a desire,
scarcely observed by herself, of obtaining the esteem of a person she
admired. The remembrance of better days was rendered more lively; and
the sentiments then acquired appearing less romantic than they had for
a long period, a spark of hope roused her mind to new activity.
How grateful was her attention to Maria! Oppressed by a dead weight
of existence, or preyed on by the gnawing worm of discontent, with what
eagerness did she endeavour to shorten the long days, which left no
traces behind! She seemed to be sailing on the vast ocean of life,
without seeing any land-mark to indicate the progress of time; to find
employment was then to find variety, the animating principle of nature.
EARNESTLY as Maria endeavoured to soothe, by reading, the anguish of
her wounded mind, her thoughts would often wander from the subject she
was led to discuss, and tears of maternal tenderness obscured the
reasoning page. She descanted on the ills which flesh is heir to,
with bitterness, when the recollection of her babe was revived by a
tale of fictitious woe, that bore any resemblance to her own; and her
imagination was continually employed, to conjure up and embody the
various phantoms of misery, which folly and vice had let loose on the
world. The loss of her babe was the tender string; against other cruel
remembrances she laboured to steel her bosom; and even a ray of hope,
in the midst of her gloomy reveries, would sometimes gleam on the dark
horizon of futurity, while persuading herself that she ought to cease
to hope, since happiness was no where to be found.But of her child,
debilitated by the grief with which its mother had been assailed before
it saw the light, she could not think without an impatient struggle.
I, alone, by my active tenderness, could have saved, she would
exclaim, from an early blight, this sweet blossom; and, cherishing it,
I should have had something still to love.
In proportion as other expectations were torn from her, this tender
one had been fondly clung to, and knit into her heart.
The books she had obtained, were soon devoured, by one who had no
other resource to escape from sorrow, and the feverish dreams of ideal
wretchedness or felicity, which equally weaken the intoxicated
sensibility. Writing was then the only alternative, and she wrote some
rhapsodies descriptive of the state of her mind; but the events of her
past life pressing on her, she resolved circumstantially to relate
them, with the sentiments that experience, and more matured reason,
would naturally suggest. They might perhaps instruct her daughter, and
shield her from the misery, the tyranny, her mother knew not how to
This thought gave life to her diction, her soul flowed into it, and
she soon found the task of recollecting almost obliterated impressions
very interesting. She lived again in the revived emotions of youth, and
forgot her present in the retrospect of sorrows that had assumed an
Though this employment lightened the weight of time, yet, never
losing sight of her main object, Maria did not allow any opportunity to
slip of winning on the affections of Jemima; for she discovered in her
a strength of mind, that excited her esteem, clouded as it was by the
misanthropy of despair.
An insulated being, from the misfortune of her birth, she despised
and preyed on the society by which she had been oppressed, and loved
not her fellow-creatures, because she had never been beloved. No mother
had ever fondled her, no father or brother had protected her from
outrage; and the man who had plunged her into infamy, and deserted her
when she stood in greatest need of support, deigned not to smooth with
kindness the road to ruin. Thus degraded, was she let loose on the
world; and virtue, never nurtured by affection, assumed the stern
aspect of selfish independence.
This general view of her life, Maria gathered from her exclamations
and dry remarks. Jemima indeed displayed a strange mixture of interest
and suspicion; for she would listen to her with earnestness, and then
suddenly interrupt the conversation, as if afraid of resigning, by
giving way to her sympathy, her dear-bought knowledge of the world.
Maria alluded to the possibility of an escape, and mentioned a
compensation, or reward; but the style in which she was repulsed made
her cautious, and determine not to renew the subject, till she knew
more of the character she had to work on. Jemima's countenance, and
dark hints, seemed to say, You are an extraordinary woman; but let me
consider, this may only be one of your lucid intervals. Nay, the very
energy of Maria's character, made her suspect that the extraordinary
animation she perceived might be the effect of madness. Should her
husband then substantiate his charge, and get possession of her estate,
from whence would come the promised annuity, or more desired
protection? Besides, might not a woman, anxious to escape, conceal some
of the circumstances which made against her? Was truth to be expected
from one who had been entrapped, kidnapped, in the most fraudulent
In this train Jemima continued to argue, the moment after compassion
and respect seemed to make her swerve; and she still resolved not to be
wrought on to do more than soften the rigour of confinement, till she
could advance on surer ground.
Maria was not permitted to walk in the garden; but sometimes, from
her window, she turned her eyes from the gloomy walls, in which she
pined life away, on the poor wretches who strayed along the walks, and
contemplated the most terrific of ruinsthat of a human soul. What is
the view of the fallen column, the mouldering arch, of the most
exquisite workmanship, when compared with this living memento of the
fragility, the instability, of reason, and the wild luxuriancy of
noxious passions? Enthusiasm turned adrift, like some rich stream
overflowing its banks, rushes forward with destructive velocity,
inspiring a sublime concentration of thought. Thus thought MariaThese
are the ravages over which humanity must ever mournfully ponder, with a
degree of anguish not excited by crumbling marble, or cankering brass,
unfaithful to the trust of monumental fame. It is not over the decaying
productions of the mind, embodied with the happiest art, we grieve most
bitterly. The view of what has been done by man, produces a melancholy,
yet aggrandizing, sense of what remains to be achieved by human
intellect; but a mental convulsion, which, like the devastation of an
earthquake, throws all the elements of thought and imagination into
confusion, makes contemplation giddy, and we fearfully ask on what
ground we ourselves stand.
Melancholy and imbecility marked the features of the wretches
allowed to breathe at large; for the frantic, those who in a strong
imagination had lost a sense of woe, were closely confined. The playful
tricks and mischievous devices of their disturbed fancy, that suddenly
broke out, could not be guarded against, when they were permitted to
enjoy any portion of freedom; for, so active was their imagination,
that every new object which accidentally struck their senses, awoke to
phrenzy their restless passions; as Maria learned from the burden of
their incessant ravings.
Sometimes, with a strict injunction of silence, Jemima would allow
Maria, at the close of evening, to stray along the narrow avenues that
separated the dungeon-like apartments, leaning on her arm. What a
change of scene! Maria wished to pass the threshold of her prison, yet,
when by chance she met the eye of rage glaring on her, yet unfaithful
to its office, she shrunk back with more horror and affright, than if
she had stumbled over a mangled corpse. Her busy fancy pictured the
misery of a fond heart, watching over a friend thus estranged, absent,
though presentover a poor wretch lost to reason and the social joys
of existence; and losing all consciousness of misery in its excess.
What a task, to watch the light of reason quivering in the eye, or with
agonizing expectation to catch the beam of recollection; tantalized by
hope, only to feel despair more keenly, at finding a much loved face or
voice, suddenly remembered, or pathetically implored, only to be
immediately forgotten, or viewed with indifference or abhorrence!
The heart-rending sigh of melancholy sunk into her soul; and when
she retired to rest, the petrified figures she had encountered, the
only human forms she was doomed to observe, haunting her dreams with
tales of mysterious wrongs, made her wish to sleep to dream no more.
Day after day rolled away, and tedious as the present moment
appeared, they passed in such an unvaried tenor, Maria was surprised to
find that she had already been six weeks buried alive, and yet had such
faint hopes of effecting her enlargement. She was, earnestly as she had
sought for employment, now angry with herself for having been amused by
writing her narrative; and grieved to think that she had for an instant
thought of any thing, but contriving to escape.
Jemima had evidently pleasure in her society: still, though she
often left her with a glow of kindness, she returned with the same
chilling air; and, when her heart appeared for a moment to open, some
suggestion of reason forcibly closed it, before she could give
utterance to the confidence Maria's conversation inspired.
Discouraged by these changes, Maria relapsed into despondency, when
she was cheered by the alacrity with which Jemima brought her a fresh
parcel of books; assuring her, that she had taken some pains to obtain
them from one of the keepers, who attended a gentleman confined in the
opposite corner of the gallery.
Maria took up the books with emotion. They come, said she,
perhaps, from a wretch condemned, like me, to reason on the nature of
madness, by having wrecked minds continually under his eye; and almost
to wish himselfas I domad, to escape from the contemplation of it.
Her heart throbbed with sympathetic alarm; and she turned over the
leaves with awe, as if they had become sacred from passing through the
hands of an unfortunate being, oppressed by a similar fate.
Dryden's Fables, Milton's Paradise Lost, with several modern
productions, composed the collection. It was a mine of treasure. Some
marginal notes, in Dryden's Fables, caught her attention: they were
written with force and taste; and, in one of the modern pamphlets,
there was a fragment left, containing various observations on the
present state of society and government, with a comparative view of the
politics of Europe and America. These remarks were written with a
degree of generous warmth, when alluding to the enslaved state of the
labouring majority, perfectly in unison with Maria's mode of thinking.
She read them over and over again; and fancy, treacherous fancy,
began to sketch a character, congenial with her own, from these shadowy
outlines.Was he mad? She re-perused the marginal notes, and they
seemed the production of an animated, but not of a disturbed
imagination. Confined to this speculation, every time she re-read them,
some fresh refinement of sentiment, or acuteness of thought impressed
her, which she was astonished at herself for not having before
What a creative power has an affectionate heart! There are beings
who cannot live without loving, as poets love; and who feel the
electric spark of genius, wherever it awakens sentiment or grace. Maria
had often thought, when disciplining her wayward heart, that to charm,
was to be virtuous. They who make me wish to appear the most amiable
and good in their eyes, must possess in a degree, she would exclaim,
the graces and virtues they call into action.
She took up a book on the powers of the human mind; but, her
attention strayed from cold arguments on the nature of what she felt,
while she was feeling, and she snapt the chain of the theory to read
Dryden's Guiscard and Sigismunda.
Maria, in the course of the ensuing day, returned some of the books,
with the hope of getting othersand more marginal notes. Thus shut out
from human intercourse, and compelled to view nothing but the prison of
vexed spirits, to meet a wretch in the same situation, was more surely
to find a friend, than to imagine a countryman one, in a strange land,
where the human voice conveys no information to the eager ear.
Did you ever see the unfortunate being to whom these books belong?
asked Maria, when Jemima brought her supper. Yes. He sometimes walks
out, between five and six, before the family is stirring, in the
morning, with two keepers; but even then his hands are confined.
What! is he so unruly? enquired Maria, with an accent of
No, not that I perceive, replied Jemima; but he has an untamed
look, a vehemence of eye, that excites apprehension. Were his hands
free, he looks as if he could soon manage both his guards: yet he
If he be so strong, he must be young, observed Maria.
Three or four and thirty, I suppose; but there is no judging of a
person in his situation.
Are you sure that he is mad? interrupted Maria with eagerness.
Jemima quitted the room, without replying.
No, no, he certainly is not! exclaimed Maria, answering herself;
the man who could write those observations was not disordered in his
She sat musing, gazing at the moon, and watching its motion as it
seemed to glide under the clouds. Then, preparing for bed, she thought,
Of what use could I be to him, or he to me, if it be true that he is
unjustly confined?Could he aid me to escape, who is himself more
closely watched?Still I should like to see him. She went to bed,
dreamed of her child, yet woke exactly at half after five o'clock, and
starting up, only wrapped a gown around her, and ran to the window. The
morning was chill, it was the latter end of September; yet she did not
retire to warm herself and think in bed, till the sound of the
servants, moving about the house, convinced her that the unknown would
not walk in the garden that morning. She was ashamed at feeling
disappointed; and began to reflect, as an excuse to herself, on the
little objects which attract attention when there is nothing to divert
the mind; and how difficult it was for women to avoid growing romantic,
who have no active duties or pursuits.
At breakfast, Jemima enquired whether she understood French? for,
unless she did, the stranger's stock of books was exhausted. Maria
replied in the affirmative; but forbore to ask any more questions
respecting the person to whom they belonged. And Jemima gave her a new
subject for contemplation, by describing the person of a lovely maniac,
just brought into an adjoining chamber. She was singing the pathetic
ballad of old Rob
with the most heart-melting falls and pauses.
Jemima had half-opened the door, when she distinguished her voice, and
Maria stood close to it, scarcely daring to respire, lest a modulation
should escape her, so exquisitely sweet, so passionately wild. She
began with sympathy to pourtray to herself another victim, when the
lovely warbler flew, as it were, from the spray, and a torrent of
unconnected exclamations and questions burst from her, interrupted by
fits of laughter, so horrid, that Maria shut the door, and, turning her
eyes up to heaven, exclaimedGracious God!
Several minutes elapsed before Maria could enquire respecting the
rumour of the house (for this poor wretch was obviously not confined
without a cause); and then Jemima could only tell her, that it was
said, she had been married, against her inclination, to a rich old
man, extremely jealous (no wonder, for she was a charming creature);
and that, in consequence of his treatment, or something which hung on
her mind, she had, during her first lying-in, lost her senses.
What a subject of meditationeven to the very confines of madness.
Woman, fragile flower! why were you suffered to adorn a world
exposed to the inroad of such stormy elements? thought Maria, while
the poor maniac's strain was still breathing on her ear, and sinking
into her very soul.
Towards the evening, Jemima brought her Rousseau's Heloïse;
and she sat reading with eyes and heart, till the return of her guard
to extinguish the light. One instance of her kindness was, the
permitting Maria to have one, till her own hour of retiring to rest.
She had read this work long since; but now it seemed to open a new
world to herthe only one worth inhabiting. Sleep was not to be wooed;
yet, far from being fatigued by the restless rotation of thought, she
rose and opened her window, just as the thin watery clouds of twilight
made the long silent shadows visible. The air swept across her face
with a voluptuous freshness that thrilled to her heart, awakening
indefinable emotions; and the sound of a waving branch, or the
twittering of a startled bird, alone broke the stillness of reposing
nature. Absorbed by the sublime sensibility which renders the
consciousness of existence felicity, Maria was happy, till an autumnal
scent, wafted by the breeze of morn from the fallen leaves of the
adjacent wood, made her recollect that the season had changed since her
confinement; yet life afforded no variety to solace an afflicted heart.
She returned dispirited to her couch, and thought of her child till the
broad glare of day again invited her to the window. She looked not for
the unknown, still how great was her vexation at perceiving the back of
a man, certainly he, with his two attendants, as he turned into a
side-path which led to the house! A confused recollection of having
seen somebody who resembled him, immediately occurred, to puzzle and
torment her with endless conjectures. Five minutes sooner, and she
should have seen his face, and been out of suspensewas ever any thing
so unlucky! His steady, bold step, and the whole air of his person,
bursting as it were from a cloud, pleased her, and gave an outline to
the imagination to sketch the individual form she wished to recognize.
Feeling the disappointment more severely than she was willing to
believe, she flew to Rousseau, as her only refuge from the idea of him,
who might prove a friend, could she but find a way to interest him in
her fate; still the personification of Saint Preux, or of an ideal
lover far superior, was after this imperfect model, of which merely a
glance had been caught, even to the minutiæ of the coat and hat of the
stranger. But if she lent St. Preux, or the demi-god of her fancy, his
form, she richly repaid him by the donation of all St. Preux's
sentiments and feelings, culled to gratify her own, to which he seemed
to have an undoubted right, when she read on the margin of an
impassioned letter, written in the well-known handRousseau alone,
the true Prometheus of sentiment, possessed the fire of genius
necessary to pourtray the passion, the truth of which goes so directly
to the heart.
Maria was again true to the hour, yet had finished Rousseau, and
begun to transcribe some selected passages; unable to quit either the
author or the window, before she had a glimpse of the countenance she
daily longed to see; and, when seen, it conveyed no distinct idea to
her mind where she had seen it before. He must have been a transient
acquaintance; but to discover an acquaintance was fortunate, could she
contrive to attract his attention, and excite his sympathy.
Every glance afforded colouring for the picture she was delineating
on her heart; and once, when the window was half open, the sound of his
voice reached her. Conviction flashed on her; she had certainly, in a
moment of distress, heard the same accents. They were manly, and
characteristic of a noble mind; nay, even sweetor sweet they seemed
to her attentive ear.
She started back, trembling, alarmed at the emotion a strange
coincidence of circumstances inspired, and wondering why she thought so
much of a stranger, obliged as she had been by his timely interference;
[for she recollected, by degrees, all the circumstances of their former
meeting.] She found however that she could think of nothing else; or,
if she thought of her daughter, it was to wish that she had a father
whom her mother could respect and love.
WHEN perusing the first parcel of books, Maria had, with her pencil,
written in one of them a few exclamations, expressive of compassion and
sympathy, which she scarcely remembered, till turning over the leaves
of one of the volumes, lately brought to her, a slip of paper dropped
out, which Jemima hastily snatched up.
Let me see it, demanded Maria impatiently, You surely are not
afraid of trusting me with the effusions of a madman? I must
consider, replied Jemima; and withdrew, with the paper in her hand.
In a life of such seclusion, the passions gain undue force; Maria
therefore felt a great degree of resentment and vexation, which she had
not time to subdue, before Jemima, returning, delivered the paper.
Whoever you are, who partake of my fate, accept my sincere
commiserationI would have said protection; but the privilege
man is denied me.
My own situation forces a dreadful suspicion on my mindI may
not always languish in vain for freedomsay are youI cannot
ask the question; yet I will remember you when my remembrance
be of any use. I will enquire, why you are so
detainedand I will have an answer.
By the most pressing intreaties, Maria prevailed on Jemima to permit
her to write a reply to this note. Another and another succeeded, in
which explanations were not allowed relative to their present
situation; but Maria, with sufficient explicitness, alluded to a former
obligation; and they insensibly entered on an interchange of sentiments
on the most important subjects. To write these letters was the business
of the day, and to receive them the moment of sunshine. By some means,
Darnford having discovered Maria's window, when she next appeared at
it, he made her, behind his keepers, a profound bow of respect and
Two or three weeks glided away in this kind of intercourse, during
which period Jemima, to whom Maria had given the necessary information
respecting her family, had evidently gained some intelligence, which
increased her desire of pleasing her charge, though she could not yet
determine to liberate her. Maria took advantage of this favourable
charge, without too minutely enquiring into the cause; and such was her
eagerness to hold human converse, and to see her former protector,
still a stranger to her, that she incessantly requested her guard to
gratify her more than curiosity.
Writing to Darnford, she was led from the sad objects before her,
and frequently rendered insensible to the horrid noises around her,
which previously had continually employed her feverish fancy. Thinking
it selfish to dwell on her own sufferings, when in the midst of
wretches, who had not only lost all that endears life, but their very
selves, her imagination was occupied with melancholy earnestness to
trace the mazes of misery, through which so many wretches must have
passed to this gloomy receptacle of disjointed souls, to the grand
source of human corruption. Often at midnight was she waked by the
dismal shrieks of demoniac rage, or of excruciating despair, uttered in
such wild tones of indescribable anguish as proved the total absence of
reason, and roused phantoms of horror in her mind, far more terrific
than all that dreaming superstition ever drew. Besides, there was
frequently something so inconceivably picturesque in the varying
gestures of unrestrained passion, so irresistibly comic in their
sallies, or so heart-piercingly pathetic in the little airs they would
sing, frequently bursting out after an awful silence, as to fascinate
the attention, and amuse the fancy, while torturing the soul. It was
the uproar of the passions which she was compelled to observe; and to
mark the lucid beam of reason, like a light trembling in a socket, or
like the flash which divides the threatening clouds of angry heaven
only to display the horrors which darkness shrouded.
Jemima would labour to beguile the tedious evenings, by describing
the persons and manners of the unfortunate beings, whose figures or
voices awoke sympathetic sorrow in Maria's bosom; and the stories she
told were the more interesting, for perpetually leaving room to
conjecture something extraordinary. Still Maria, accustomed to
generalize her observations, was led to conclude from all she heard,
that it was a vulgar error to suppose that people of abilities were the
most apt to lose the command of reason. On the contrary, from most of
the instances she could investigate, she thought it resulted, that the
passions only appeared strong and disproportioned, because the judgment
was weak and unexercised; and that they gained strength by the decay of
reason, as the shadows lengthen during the sun's decline.
Maria impatiently wished to see her fellow-sufferer; but Darnford
was still more earnest to obtain an interview. Accustomed to submit to
every impulse of passion, and never taught, like women, to restrain the
most natural, and acquire, instead of the bewitching frankness of
nature, a factitious propriety of behaviour, every desire became a
torrent that bore down all opposition.
His travelling trunk, which contained the books lent to Maria, had
been sent to him, and with a part of its contents he bribed his
principal keeper; who, after receiving the most solemn promise that he
would return to his apartment without attempting to explore any part of
the house, conducted him, in the dusk of the evening, to Maria's room.
Jemima had apprized her charge of the visit, and she expected with
trembling impatience, inspired by a vague hope that he might again
prove her deliverer, to see a man who had before rescued her from
oppression. He entered with an animation of countenance, formed to
captivate an enthusiast; and, hastily turned his eyes from her to the
apartment, which he surveyed with apparent emotions of compassionate
indignation. Sympathy illuminated his eye, and, taking her hand, he
respectfully bowed on it, exclaimingThis is extraordinary!again to
meet you, and in such circumstances! Still, impressive as was the
coincidence of events which brought them once more together, their full
hearts did not overflow.[54-A]
* * * * *
[And though, after this first visit, they were permitted frequently
to repeat their interviews, they were for some time employed in] a
reserved conversation, to which all the world might have listened;
excepting, when discussing some literary subject, flashes of sentiment,
inforced by each relaxing feature, seemed to remind them that their
minds were already acquainted.
[By degrees, Darnford entered into the particulars of his story.] In
a few words, he informed her that he had been a thoughtless,
extravagant young man; yet, as he described his faults, they appeared
to be the generous luxuriancy of a noble mind. Nothing like meanness
tarnished the lustre of his youth, nor had the worm of selfishness
lurked in the unfolding bud, even while he had been the dupe of others.
Yet he tardily acquired the experience necessary to guard him against
I shall weary you, continued he, by my egotism; and did not
powerful emotions draw me to you,his eyes glistened as he spoke, and
a trembling seemed to run through his manly frame,I would not waste
these precious moments in talking of myself.
My father and mother were people of fashion; married by their
parents. He was fond of the turf, she of the card-table. I, and two or
three other children since dead, were kept at home till we became
intolerable. My father and mother had a visible dislike to each other,
continually displayed; the servants were of the depraved kind usually
found in the houses of people of fortune. My brothers and parents all
dying, I was left to the care of guardians, and sent to Eton. I never
knew the sweets of domestic affection, but I felt the want of
indulgence and frivolous respect at school. I will not disgust you with
a recital of the vices of my youth, which can scarcely be comprehended
by female delicacy. I was taught to love by a creature I am ashamed to
mention; and the other women with whom I afterwards became intimate,
were of a class of which you can have no knowledge. I formed my
acquaintance with them at the theatres; and, when vivacity danced in
their eyes, I was not easily disgusted by the vulgarity which flowed
from their lips. Having spent, a few years after I was of age, [the
whole of] a considerable patrimony, excepting a few hundreds, I had no
recourse but to purchase a commission in a new-raised regiment,
destined to subjugate America. The regret I felt to renounce a life of
pleasure, was counter-balanced by the curiosity I had to see America,
or rather to travel; [nor had any of those circumstances occurred to my
youth, which might have been calculated] to bind my country to my
heart. I shall not trouble you with the details of a military life. My
blood was still kept in motion; till, towards the close of the contest,
I was wounded and taken prisoner.
Confined to my bed, or chair, by a lingering cure, my only refuge
from the preying activity of my mind, was books, which I read with
great avidity, profiting by the conversation of my host, a man of sound
understanding. My political sentiments now underwent a total change;
and, dazzled by the hospitality of the Americans, I determined to take
up my abode with freedom. I, therefore, with my usual impetuosity, sold
my commission, and travelled into the interior parts of the country, to
lay out my money to advantage. Added to this, I did not much like the
puritanical manners of the large towns. Inequality of condition was
there most disgustingly galling. The only pleasure wealth afforded, was
to make an ostentatious display of it; for the cultivation of the fine
arts, or literature, had not introduced into the first circles that
polish of manners which renders the rich so essentially superior to the
poor in Europe. Added to this, an influx of vices had been let in by
the Revolution, and the most rigid principles of religion shaken to the
centre, before the understanding could be gradually emancipated from
the prejudices which led their ancestors undauntedly to seek an
inhospitable clime and unbroken soil. The resolution, that led them, in
pursuit of independence, to embark on rivers like seas, to search for
unknown shores, and to sleep under the hovering mists of endless
forests, whose baleful damps agued their limbs, was now turned into
commercial speculations, till the national character exhibited a
phenomenon in the history of the human minda head enthusiastically
enterprising, with cold selfishness of heart. And woman, lovely
woman!they charm every wherestill there is a degree of prudery, and
a want of taste and ease in the manners of the American women, that
renders them, in spite of their roses and lilies, far inferior to our
European charmers. In the country, they have often a bewitching
simplicity of character; but, in the cities, they have all the airs and
ignorance of the ladies who give the tone to the circles of the large
trading towns in England. They are fond of their ornaments, merely
because they are good, and not because they embellish their persons;
and are more gratified to inspire the women with jealousy of these
exterior advantages, than the men with love. All the frivolity which
often (excuse me, Madam) renders the society of modest women so stupid
in England, here seemed to throw still more leaden fetters on their
charms. Not being an adept in gallantry, I found that I could only keep
myself awake in their company by making downright love to them.
But, not to intrude on your patience, I retired to the track of
land which I had purchased in the country, and my time passed
pleasantly enough while I cut down the trees, built my house, and
planted my different crops. But winter and idleness came, and I longed
for more elegant society, to hear what was passing in the world, and to
do something better than vegetate with the animals that made a very
considerable part of my household. Consequently, I determined to
travel. Motion was a substitute for variety of objects; and, passing
over immense tracks of country, I exhausted my exuberant spirits,
without obtaining much experience. I every where saw industry the
fore-runner and not the consequence, of luxury; but this country, every
thing being on an ample scale, did not afford those picturesque views,
which a certain degree of cultivation is necessary gradually to
produce. The eye wandered without an object to fix upon over
immeasureable plains, and lakes that seemed replenished by the ocean,
whilst eternal forests of small clustering trees, obstructed the
circulation of air, and embarrassed the path, without gratifying the
eye of taste. No cottage smiling in the waste, no travellers hailed us,
to give life to silent nature; or, if perchance we saw the print of a
footstep in our path, it was a dreadful warning to turn aside; and the
head ached as if assailed by the scalping knife. The Indians who
hovered on the skirts of the European settlements had only learned of
their neighbours to plunder, and they stole their guns from them to do
it with more safety.
From the woods and back settlements, I returned to the towns, and
learned to eat and drink most valiantly; but without entering into
commerce (and I detested commerce) I found I could not live there; and,
growing heartily weary of the land of liberty and vulgar aristocracy,
seated on her bags of dollars, I resolved once more to visit Europe. I
wrote to a distant relation in England, with whom I had been educated,
mentioning the vessel in which I intended to sail. Arriving in London,
my senses were intoxicated. I ran from street to street, from theatre
to theatre, and the women of the town (again I must beg pardon for my
habitual frankness) appeared to me like angels.
A week was spent in this thoughtless manner, when, returning very
late to the hotel in which I had lodged ever since my arrival, I was
knocked down in a private street, and hurried, in a state of
insensibility, into a coach, which brought me hither, and I only
recovered my senses to be treated like one who had lost them. My
keepers are deaf to my remonstrances and enquiries, yet assure me that
my confinement shall not last long. Still I cannot guess, though I
weary myself with conjectures, why I am confined, or in what part of
England this house is situated. I imagine sometimes that I hear the sea
roar, and wished myself again on the Atlantic, till I had a glimpse of
A few moments were only allowed to Maria to comment on this
narrative, when Darnford left her to her own thoughts, to the never
ending, still beginning, task of weighing his words, recollecting his
tones of voice, and feeling them reverberate on her heart.
[54-A] The copy which had received the author's last corrections,
breaks off in this place, and the pages which follow, to the end of
Chap. IV, are printed from a copy in a less finished state.
[65-A] The introduction of Darnford as the deliverer of Maria in a
former instance, appears to have been an after-thought of the author.
This has occasioned the omission of any allusion to that circumstance
in the preceding narration.
PITY, and the forlorn seriousness of adversity, have both been
considered as dispositions favourable to love, while satirical writers
have attributed the propensity to the relaxing effect of idleness, what
chance then had Maria of escaping, when pity, sorrow, and solitude all
conspired to soften her mind, and nourish romantic wishes, and, from a
natural progress, romantic expectations?
Maria was six-and-twenty. But, such was the native soundness of her
constitution, that time had only given to her countenance the character
of her mind. Revolving thought, and exercised affections had banished
some of the playful graces of innocence, producing insensibly that
irregularity of features which the struggles of the understanding to
trace or govern the strong emotions of the heart, are wont to imprint
on the yielding mass. Grief and care had mellowed, without obscuring,
the bright tints of youth, and the thoughtfulness which resided on her
brow did not take from the feminine softness of her features; nay, such
was the sensibility which often mantled over it, that she frequently
appeared, like a large proportion of her sex, only born to feel; and
the activity of her well-proportioned, and even almost voluptuous
figure, inspired the idea of strength of mind, rather than of body.
There was a simplicity sometimes indeed in her manner, which bordered
on infantine ingenuousness, that led people of common discernment to
underrate her talents, and smile at the flights of her imagination. But
those who could not comprehend the delicacy of her sentiments, were
attached by her unfailing sympathy, so that she was very generally
beloved by characters of very different descriptions; still, she was
too much under the influence of an ardent imagination to adhere to
There are mistakes of conduct which at five-and-twenty prove the
strength of the mind, that, ten or fifteen years after, would
demonstrate its weakness, its incapacity to acquire a sane judgment.
The youths who are satisfied with the ordinary pleasures of life, and
do not sigh after ideal phantoms of love and friendship, will never
arrive at great maturity of understanding; but if these reveries are
cherished, as is too frequently the case with women, when experience
ought to have taught them in what human happiness consists, they become
as useless as they are wretched. Besides, their pains and pleasures are
so dependent on outward circumstances, on the objects of their
affections, that they seldom act from the impulse of a nerved mind,
able to choose its own pursuit.
Having had to struggle incessantly with the vices of mankind,
Maria's imagination found repose in pourtraying the possible virtues
the world might contain. Pygmalion formed an ivory maid, and longed for
an informing soul. She, on the contrary, combined all the qualities of
a hero's mind, and fate presented a statue in which she might enshrine
We mean not to trace the progress of this passion, or recount how
often Darnford and Maria were obliged to part in the midst of an
interesting conversation. Jemima ever watched on the tip-toe of fear,
and frequently separated them on a false alarm, when they would have
given worlds to remain a little longer together.
A magic lamp now seemed to be suspended in Maria's prison, and fairy
landscapes flitted round the gloomy walls, late so blank. Rushing from
the depth of despair, on the seraph wing of hope, she found herself
happy.She was beloved, and every emotion was rapturous.
To Darnford she had not shown a decided affection; the fear of
outrunning his, a sure proof of love, made her often assume a coldness
and indifference foreign from her character; and, even when giving way
to the playful emotions of a heart just loosened from the frozen bond
of grief, there was a delicacy in her manner of expressing her
sensibility, which made him doubt whether it was the effect of love.
One evening, when Jemima left them, to listen to the sound of a
distant footstep, which seemed cautiously to approach, he seized
Maria's handit was not withdrawn. They conversed with earnestness of
their situation; and, during the conversation, he once or twice gently
drew her towards him. He felt the fragrance of her breath, and longed,
yet feared, to touch the lips from which it issued; spirits of purity
seemed to guard them, while all the enchanting graces of love sported
on her cheeks, and languished in her eyes.
Jemima entering, he reflected on his diffidence with poignant
regret, and, she once more taking alarm, he ventured, as Maria stood
near his chair, to approach her lips with a declaration of love. She
drew back with solemnity, he hung down his head abashed; but lifting
his eyes timidly, they met her's; she had determined, during that
instant, and suffered their rays to mingle. He took, with more ardour,
reassured, a half-consenting, half-reluctant kiss, reluctant only from
modesty; and there was a sacredness in her dignified manner of
reclining her glowing face on his shoulder, that powerfully impressed
him. Desire was lost in more ineffable emotions, and to protect her
from insult and sorrowto make her happy, seemed not only the first
wish of his heart, but the most noble duty of his life. Such angelic
confidence demanded the fidelity of honour; but could he, feeling her
in every pulsation, could he ever change, could he be a villain? The
emotion with which she, for a moment, allowed herself to be pressed to
his bosom, the tear of rapturous sympathy, mingled with a soft
melancholy sentiment of recollected disappointment, saidmore of truth
and faithfulness, than the tongue could have given utterance to in
hours! They were silentyet discoursed, how eloquently? till, after a
moment's reflection, Maria drew her chair by the side of his, and, with
a composed sweetness of voice, and supernatural benignity of
countenance, said, I must open my whole heart to you; you must be told
who I am, why I am here, and why, telling you I am a wife, I blush not
tothe blush spoke the rest.
Jemima was again at her elbow, and the restraint of her presence did
not prevent an animated conversation, in which love, sly urchin, was
ever at bo-peep.
So much of heaven did they enjoy, that paradise bloomed around them;
or they, by a powerful spell, had been transported into Armida's
garden. Love, the grand enchanter, lapt them in Elysium, and every
sense was harmonized to joy and social extacy. So animated, indeed,
were their accents of tenderness, in discussing what, in other
circumstances, would have been common-place subjects, that Jemima felt,
with surprise, a tear of pleasure trickling down her rugged cheeks. She
wiped it away, half ashamed; and when Maria kindly enquired the cause,
with all the eager solicitude of a happy being wishing to impart to all
nature its overflowing felicity, Jemima owned that it was the first
tear that social enjoyment had ever drawn from her. She seemed indeed
to breathe more freely; the cloud of suspicion cleared away from her
brow; she felt herself, for once in her life, treated like a
Imagination! who can paint thy power; or reflect the evanescent
tints of hope fostered by thee? A despondent gloom had long obscured
Maria's horizonnow the sun broke forth, the rainbow appeared, and
every prospect was fair. Horror still reigned in the darkened cells,
suspicion lurked in the passages, and whispered along the walls. The
yells of men possessed, sometimes made them pause, and wonder that they
felt so happy, in a tomb of living death. They even chid themselves for
such apparent insensibility; still the world contained not three
happier beings. And Jemima, after again patrolling the passage, was so
softened by the air of confidence which breathed around her, that she
voluntarily began an account of herself.
MY father, said Jemima, seduced my mother, a pretty girl, with
whom he lived fellow-servant; and she no sooner perceived the natural,
the dreaded consequence, than the terrible conviction flashed on
herthat she was ruined. Honesty, and a regard for her reputation, had
been the only principles inculcated by her mother; and they had been so
forcibly impressed, that she feared shame, more than the poverty to
which it would lead. Her incessant importunities to prevail upon my
father to screen her from reproach by marrying her, as he had promised
in the fervour of seduction, estranged him from her so completely, that
her very person became distasteful to him; and he began to hate, as
well as despise me, before I was born.
My mother, grieved to the soul by his neglect, and unkind
treatment, actually resolved to famish herself; and injured her health
by the attempt; though she had not sufficient resolution to adhere to
her project, or renounce it entirely. Death came not at her call; yet
sorrow, and the methods she adopted to conceal her condition, still
doing the work of a house-maid, had such an effect on her constitution,
that she died in the wretched garret, where her virtuous mistress had
forced her to take refuge in the very pangs of labour, though my
father, after a slight reproof, was allowed to remain in his
placeallowed by the mother of six children, who, scarcely permitting
a footstep to be heard, during her month's indulgence, felt no sympathy
for the poor wretch, denied every comfort required by her situation.
The day my mother died, the ninth after my birth, I was consigned
to the care of the cheapest nurse my father could find; who suckled her
own child at the same time, and lodged as many more as she could get,
in two cellar-like apartments.
Poverty, and the habit of seeing children die off her hands, had so
hardened her heart, that the office of a mother did not awaken the
tenderness of a woman; nor were the feminine caresses which seem a part
of the rearing of a child, ever bestowed on me. The chicken has a wing
to shelter under; but I had no bosom to nestle in, no kindred warmth to
foster me. Left in dirt, to cry with cold and hunger till I was weary,
and sleep without ever being prepared by exercise, or lulled by
kindness to rest; could I be expected to become any thing but a weak
and rickety babe? Still, in spite of neglect, I continued to exist, to
learn to curse existence, her countenance grew ferocious as she spoke,
and the treatment that rendered me miserable, seemed to sharpen my
wits. Confined then in a damp hovel, to rock the cradle of the
succeeding tribe, I looked like a little old woman, or a hag
shrivelling into nothing. The furrows of reflection and care contracted
the youthful cheek, and gave a sort of supernatural wildness to the
ever watchful eye. During this period, my father had married another
fellow-servant, who loved him less, and knew better how to manage his
passion, than my mother. She likewise proving with child, they agreed
to keep a shop: my step-mother, if, being an illegitimate offspring, I
may venture thus to characterize her, having obtained a sum of a rich
relation, for that purpose.
Soon after her lying-in, she prevailed on my father to take me
home, to save the expence of maintaining me, and of hiring a girl to
assist her in the care of the child. I was young, it was true, but
appeared a knowing little thing, and might be made handy. Accordingly I
was brought to her house; but not to a homefor a home I never knew.
Of this child, a daughter, she was extravagantly fond; and it was a
part of my employment, to assist to spoil her, by humouring all her
whims, and bearing all her caprices. Feeling her own consequence,
before she could speak, she had learned the art of tormenting me, and
if I ever dared to resist, I received blows, laid on with no
compunctious hand, or was sent to bed dinnerless, as well as
supperless. I said that it was a part of my daily labour to attend this
child, with the servility of a slave; still it was but a part. I was
sent out in all seasons, and from place to place, to carry burdens far
above my strength, without being allowed to draw near the fire, or ever
being cheered by encouragement or kindness. No wonder then, treated
like a creature of another species, that I began to envy, and at length
to hate, the darling of the house. Yet, I perfectly remember, that it
was the caresses, and kind expressions of my step-mother, which first
excited my jealous discontent. Once, I cannot forget it, when she was
calling in vain her wayward child to kiss her, I ran to her, saying, 'I
will kiss you, ma'am!' and how did my heart, which was in my mouth,
sink, what was my debasement of soul, when pushed away with'I do not
want you, pert thing!' Another day, when a new gown had excited the
highest good humour, and she uttered the appropriate dear,
addressed unexpectedly to me, I thought I could never do enough to
please her; I was all alacrity, and rose proportionably in my own
As her daughter grew up, she was pampered with cakes and fruit,
while I was, literally speaking, fed with the refuse of the table, with
her leavings. A liquorish tooth is, I believe, common to children, and
I used to steal any thing sweet, that I could catch up with a chance of
concealment. When detected, she was not content to chastize me herself
at the moment, but, on my father's return in the evening (he was a
shopman), the principal discourse was to recount my faults, and
attribute them to the wicked disposition which I had brought into the
world with me, inherited from my mother. He did not fail to leave the
marks of his resentment on my body, and then solaced himself by playing
with my sister.I could have murdered her at those moments. To save
myself from these unmerciful corrections, I resorted to falshood, and
the untruths which I sturdily maintained, were brought in judgment
against me, to support my tyrant's inhuman charge of my natural
propensity to vice. Seeing me treated with contempt, and always being
fed and dressed better, my sister conceived a contemptuous opinion of
me, that proved an obstacle to all affection; and my father, hearing
continually of my faults, began to consider me as a curse entailed on
him for his sins: he was therefore easily prevailed on to bind me
apprentice to one of my step-mother's friends, who kept a slop-shop in
Wapping. I was represented (as it was said) in my true colours; but
she, 'warranted,' snapping her fingers, 'that she should break my
spirit or heart.'
My mother replied, with a whine, 'that if any body could make me
better, it was such a clever woman as herself; though, for her own
part, she had tried in vain; but good-nature was her fault.'
I shudder with horror, when I recollect the treatment I had now to
endure. Not only under the lash of my task-mistress, but the drudge of
the maid, apprentices and children, I never had a taste of human
kindness to soften the rigour of perpetual labour. I had been
introduced as an object of abhorrence into the family; as a creature of
whom my step-mother, though she had been kind enough to let me live in
the house with her own child, could make nothing. I was described as a
wretch, whose nose must be kept to the grinding stoneand it was held
there with an iron grasp. It seemed indeed the privilege of their
superior nature to kick me about, like the dog or cat. If I were
attentive, I was called fawning, if refractory, an obstinate mule, and
like a mule I received their censure on my loaded back. Often has my
mistress, for some instance of forgetfulness, thrown me from one side
of the kitchen to the other, knocked my head against the wall, spit in
my face, with various refinements on barbarity that I forbear to
enumerate, though they were all acted over again by the servant, with
additional insults, to which the appellation of bastard, was
commonly added, with taunts or sneers. But I will not attempt to give
you an adequate idea of my situation, lest you, who probably have never
been drenched with the dregs of human misery, should think I
I stole now, from absolute necessity,bread; yet whatever else was
taken, which I had it not in my power to take, was ascribed to me. I
was the filching cat, the ravenous dog, the dumb brute, who must bear
all; for if I endeavoured to exculpate myself, I was silenced, without
any enquiries being made, with 'Hold your tongue, you never tell
truth.' Even the very air I breathed was tainted with scorn; for I was
sent to the neighbouring shops with Glutton, Liar, or Thief, written on
my forehead. This was, at first, the most bitter punishment; but sullen
pride, or a kind of stupid desperation, made me, at length, almost
regardless of the contempt, which had wrung from me so many solitary
tears at the only moments when I was allowed to rest.
Thus was I the mark of cruelty till my sixteenth year; and then I
have only to point out a change of misery; for a period I never knew.
Allow me first to make one observation. Now I look back, I cannot help
attributing the greater part of my misery, to the misfortune of having
been thrown into the world without the grand support of lifea
mother's affection. I had no one to love me; or to make me respected,
to enable me to acquire respect. I was an egg dropped on the sand; a
pauper by nature, shunted from family to family, who belonged to
nobodyand nobody cared for me. I was despised from my birth, and
denied the chance of obtaining a footing for myself in society. Yes; I
had not even the chance of being considered as a fellow-creatureyet
all the people with whom I lived, brutalized as they were by the low
cunning of trade, and the despicable shifts of poverty, were not
without bowels, though they never yearned for me. I was, in fact, born
a slave, and chained by infamy to slavery during the whole of
existence, without having any companions to alleviate it by sympathy,
or teach me how to rise above it by their example. But, to resume the
thread of my tale
At sixteen, I suddenly grew tall, and something like comeliness
appeared on a Sunday, when I had time to wash my face, and put on clean
clothes. My master had once or twice caught hold of me in the passage;
but I instinctively avoided his disgusting caresses. One day however,
when the family were at a methodist meeting, he contrived to be alone
in the house with me, and by blowsyes; blows and menaces, compelled
me to submit to his ferocious desire; and, to avoid my mistress's fury,
I was obliged in future to comply, and skulk to my loft at his command,
in spite of increasing loathing.
The anguish which was now pent up in my bosom, seemed to open a new
world to me: I began to extend my thoughts beyond myself, and grieve
for human misery, till I discovered, with horrorah! what
horror!that I was with child. I know not why I felt a mixed sensation
of despair and tenderness, excepting that, ever called a bastard, a
bastard appeared to me an object of the greatest compassion in
I communicated this dreadful circumstance to my master, who was
almost equally alarmed at the intelligence; for he feared his wife, and
public censure at the meeting. After some weeks of deliberation had
elapsed, I in continual fear that my altered shape would be noticed, my
master gave me a medicine in a phial, which he desired me to take,
telling me, without any circumlocution, for what purpose it was
designed. I burst into tears, I thought it was killing myselfyet was
such a self as I worth preserving? He cursed me for a fool, and left me
to my own reflections. I could not resolve to take this infernal
potion; but I wrapped it up in an old gown, and hid it in a corner of
Nobody yet suspected me, because they had been accustomed to view
me as a creature of another species. But the threatening storm at last
broke over my devoted headnever shall I forget it! One Sunday evening
when I was left, as usual, to take care of the house, my master came
home intoxicated, and I became the prey of his brutal appetite. His
extreme intoxication made him forget his customary caution, and my
mistress entered and found us in a situation that could not have been
more hateful to her than me. Her husband was 'pot-valiant,' he feared
her not at the moment, nor had he then much reason, for she instantly
turned the whole force of her anger another way. She tore off my cap,
scratched, kicked, and buffetted me, till she had exhausted her
strength, declaring, as she rested her arm, 'that I had wheedled her
husband from her.But, could any thing better be expected from a
wretch, whom she had taken into her house out of pure charity?' What a
torrent of abuse rushed out? till, almost breathless, she concluded
with saying, 'that I was born a strumpet; it ran in my blood, and
nothing good could come to those who harboured me.'
My situation was, of course, discovered, and she declared that I
should not stay another night under the same roof with an honest
family. I was therefore pushed out of doors, and my trumpery thrown
after me, when it had been contemptuously examined in the passage, lest
I should have stolen any thing.
Behold me then in the street, utterly destitute! Whither could I
creep for shelter? To my father's roof I had no claim, when not pursued
by shamenow I shrunk back as from death, from my mother's cruel
reproaches, my father's execrations. I could not endure to hear him
curse the day I was born, though life had been a curse to me. Of death
I thought, but with a confused emotion of terror, as I stood leaning my
head on a post, and starting at every footstep, lest it should be my
mistress coming to tear my heart out. One of the boys of the shop
passing by, heard my tale, and immediately repaired to his master, to
give him a description of my situation; and he touched the right
keythe scandal it would give rise to, if I were left to repeat my
tale to every enquirer. This plea came home to his reason, who had been
sobered by his wife's rage, the fury of which fell on him when I was
out of her reach, and he sent the boy to me with half-a-guinea,
desiring him to conduct me to a house, where beggars, and other
wretches, the refuse of society, nightly lodged.
This night was spent in a state of stupefaction, or desperation. I
detested mankind, and abhorred myself.
In the morning I ventured out, to throw myself in my master's way,
at his usual hour of going abroad. I approached him, he 'damned me for
a b, declared I had disturbed the peace of the family, and that he
had sworn to his wife, never to take any more notice of me.' He left
me; but, instantly returning, he told me that he should speak to his
friend, a parish-officer, to get a nurse for the brat I laid to him;
and advised me, if I wished to keep out of the house of correction, not
to make free with his name.
I hurried back to my hole, and, rage giving place to despair,
sought for the potion that was to procure abortion, and swallowed it,
with a wish that it might destroy me, at the same time that it stopped
the sensations of new-born life, which I felt with indescribable
emotion. My head turned round, my heart grew sick, and in the horrors
of approaching dissolution, mental anguish was swallowed up. The effect
of the medicine was violent, and I was confined to my bed several days;
but, youth and a strong constitution prevailing, I once more crawled
out, to ask myself the cruel question, 'Whither I should go?' I had but
two shillings left in my pocket, the rest had been expended, by a poor
woman who slept in the same room, to pay for my lodging, and purchase
the necessaries of which she partook.
With this wretch I went into the neighbouring streets to beg, and
my disconsolate appearance drew a few pence from the idle, enabling me
still to command a bed; till, recovering from my illness, and taught to
put on my rags to the best advantage, I was accosted from different
motives, and yielded to the desire of the brutes I met, with the same
detestation that I had felt for my still more brutal master. I have
since read in novels of the blandishments of seduction, but I had not
even the pleasure of being enticed into vice.
I shall not, interrupted Jemima, lead your imagination into all
the scenes of wretchedness and depravity, which I was condemned to
view; or mark the different stages of my debasing misery. Fate dragged
me through the very kennels of society; I was still a slave, a bastard,
a common property. Become familiar with vice, for I wish to conceal
nothing from you, I picked the pockets of the drunkards who abused me;
and proved by my conduct, that I deserved the epithets, with which they
loaded me at moments when distrust ought to cease.
Detesting my nightly occupation, though valuing, if I may so use
the word, my independence, which only consisted in choosing the street
in which I should wander, or the roof, when I had money, in which I
should hide my head, I was some time before I could prevail on myself
to accept of a place in a house of ill fame, to which a girl, with whom
I had accidentally conversed in the street, had recommended me. I had
been hunted almost into a a fever, by the watchmen of the quarter of
the town I frequented; one, whom I had unwittingly offended, giving the
word to the whole pack. You can scarcely conceive the tyranny exercised
by these wretches: considering themselves as the instruments of the
very laws they violate, the pretext which steels their conscience,
hardens their heart. Not content with receiving from us, outlaws of
society (let other women talk of favours) a brutal gratification
gratuitously as a privilege of office, they extort a tithe of
prostitution, and harrass with threats the poor creatures whose
occupation affords not the means to silence the growl of avarice. To
escape from this persecution, I once more entered into servitude.
A life of comparative regularity restored my health; anddo not
startmy manners were improved, in a situation where vice sought to
render itself alluring, and taste was cultivated to fashion the person,
if not to refine the mind. Besides, the common civility of speech,
contrasted with the gross vulgarity to which I had been accustomed, was
something like the polish of civilization. I was not shut out from all
intercourse of humanity. Still I was galled by the yoke of service, and
my mistress often flying into violent fits of passion, made me dread a
sudden dismission, which I understood was always the case. I was
therefore prevailed on, though I felt a horror of men, to accept the
offer of a gentleman, rather in the decline of years, to keep his
house, pleasantly situated in a little village near Hampstead.
He was a man of great talents, and of brilliant wit; but, a
worn-out votary of voluptuousness, his desires became fastidious in
proportion as they grew weak, and the native tenderness of his heart
was undermined by a vitiated imagination. A thoughtless career of
libertinism and social enjoyment, had injured his health to such a
degree, that, whatever pleasure his conversation afforded me (and my
esteem was ensured by proofs of the generous humanity of his
disposition), the being his mistress was purchasing it at a very dear
rate. With such a keen perception of the delicacies of sentiment, with
an imagination invigorated by the exercise of genius, how could he sink
into the grossness of sensuality!
But, to pass over a subject which I recollect with pain, I must
remark to you, as an answer to your often-repeated question, 'Why my
sentiments and language were superior to my station?' that I now began
to read, to beguile the tediousness of solitude, and to gratify an
inquisitive, active mind. I had often, in my childhood, followed a
ballad-singer, to hear the sequel of a dismal story, though sure of
being severely punished for delaying to return with whatever I was sent
to purchase. I could just spell and put a sentence together, and I
listened to the various arguments, though often mingled with obscenity,
which occurred at the table where I was allowed to preside: for a
literary friend or two frequently came home with my master, to dine and
pass the night. Having lost the privileged respect of my sex, my
presence, instead of restraining, perhaps gave the reins to their
tongues; still I had the advantage of hearing discussions, from which,
in the common course of life, women are excluded.
You may easily imagine, that it was only by degrees that I could
comprehend some of the subjects they investigated, or acquire from
their reasoning what might be termed a moral sense. But my fondness of
reading increasing, and my master occasionally shutting himself up in
this retreat, for weeks together, to write, I had many opportunities of
improvement. At first, considering money I was right! (exclaimed
Jemima, altering her tone of voice) as the only means, after my loss
of reputation, of obtaining respect, or even the toleration of
humanity, I had not the least scruple to secrete a part of the sums
intrusted to me, and to screen myself from detection by a system of
falshood. But, acquiring new principles, I began to have the ambition
of returning to the respectable part of society, and was weak enough to
suppose it possible. The attention of my unassuming instructor, who,
without being ignorant of his own powers, possessed great simplicity of
manners, strengthened the illusion. Having sometimes caught up hints
for thought, from my untutored remarks, he often led me to discuss the
subjects he was treating, and would read to me his productions,
previous to their publication, wishing to profit by the criticism of
unsophisticated feeling. The aim of his writings was to touch the
simple springs of the heart; for he despised the would-be oracles, the
self-elected philosophers, who fright away fancy, while sifting each
grain of thought to prove that slowness of comprehension is wisdom.
I should have distinguished this as a moment of sunshine, a happy
period in my life, had not the repugnance the disgusting libertinism of
my protector inspired, daily become more painful.And, indeed, I soon
did recollect it as such with agony, when his sudden death (for he had
recourse to the most exhilarating cordials to keep up the convivial
tone of his spirits) again threw me into the desert of human society.
Had he had any time for reflection, I am certain he would have left the
little property in his power to me: but, attacked by the fatal apoplexy
in town, his heir, a man of rigid morals, brought his wife with him to
take possession of the house and effects, before I was even informed of
his death,'to prevent,' as she took care indirectly to tell me, 'such
a creature as she supposed me to be, from purloining any of them, had I
been apprized of the event in time.'
The grief I felt at the sudden shock the information gave me, which
at first had nothing selfish in it, was treated with contempt, and I
was ordered to pack up my clothes; and a few trinkets and books, given
me by the generous deceased, were contested, while they piously hoped,
with a reprobating shake of the head, 'that God would have mercy on his
sinful soul!' With some difficulty, I obtained my arrears of wages; but
askingsuch is the spirit-grinding consequence of poverty and
infamyfor a character for honesty and economy, which God knows I
merited, I was told by thiswhy must I call her woman?'that it would
go against her conscience to recommend a kept mistress.' Tears started
in my eyes, burning tears; for there are situations in which a wretch
is humbled by the contempt they are conscious they do not deserve.
I returned to the metropolis; but the solitude of a poor lodging
was inconceivably dreary, after the society I had enjoyed. To be cut
off from human converse, now I had been taught to relish it, was to
wander a ghost among the living. Besides, I foresaw, to aggravate the
severity of my fate, that my little pittance would soon melt away. I
endeavoured to obtain needlework; but, not having been taught early,
and my hands being rendered clumsy by hard work, I did not sufficiently
excel to be employed by the ready-made linen shops, when so many women,
better qualified, were suing for it. The want of a character prevented
my getting a place; for, irksome as servitude would have been to me, I
should have made another trial, had it been feasible. Not that I
disliked employment, but the inequality of condition to which I must
have submitted. I had acquired a taste for literature, during the five
years I had lived with a literary man, occasionally conversing with men
of the first abilities of the age; and now to descend to the lowest
vulgarity, was a degree of wretchedness not to be imagined unfelt. I
had not, it is true, tasted the charms of affection, but I had been
familiar with the graces of humanity.
One of the gentlemen, whom I had frequently dined in company with,
while I was treated like a companion, met me in the street, and
enquired after my health. I seized the occasion, and began to describe
my situation; but he was in haste to join, at dinner, a select party of
choice spirits; therefore, without waiting to hear me, he impatiently
put a guinea into my hand, saying, 'It was a pity such a sensible woman
should be in distresshe wished me well from his soul.'
To another I wrote, stating my case, and requesting advice. He was
an advocate for unequivocal sincerity; and had often, in my presence,
descanted on the evils which arise in society from the despotism of
rank and riches.
In reply, I received a long essay on the energy of the human mind,
with continual allusions to his own force of character. He added, 'That
the woman who could write such a letter as I had sent him, could never
be in want of resources, were she to look into herself, and exert her
powers; misery was the consequence of indolence, and, as to my being
shut out from society, it was the lot of man to submit to certain
How often have I heard, said Jemima, interrupting her narrative,
in conversation, and read in books, that every person willing to work
may find employment? It is the vague assertion, I believe, of
insensible indolence, when it relates to men; but, with respect to
women, I am sure of its fallacy, unless they will submit to the most
menial bodily labour; and even to be employed at hard labour is out of
the reach of many, whose reputation misfortune or folly has tainted.
How writers, professing to be friends to freedom, and the
improvement of morals, can assert that poverty is no evil, I cannot
No more can I, interrupted Maria, yet they even expatiate on the
peculiar happiness of indigence, though in what it can consist,
excepting in brutal rest, when a man can barely earn a subsistence, I
cannot imagine. The mind is necessarily imprisoned in its own little
tenement; and, fully occupied by keeping it in repair, has not time to
rove abroad for improvement. The book of knowledge is closely clasped,
against those who must fulfil their daily task of severe manual labour
or die; and curiosity, rarely excited by thought or information, seldom
moves on the stagnate lake of ignorance.
As far as I have been able to observe, replied Jemima,
prejudices, caught up by chance, are obstinately maintained by the
poor, to the exclusion of improvement; they have not time to reason or
reflect to any extent, or minds sufficiently exercised to adopt the
principles of action, which form perhaps the only basis of contentment
in every station[114-A].
* * * * *
And independence, said Darnford, they are necessarily strangers
to, even the independence of despising their persecutors. If the poor
are happy, or can be happy, things are very well as they are.
And I cannot conceive on what principle those writers contend for a
change of system, who support this opinion. The authors on the other
side of the question are much more consistent, who grant the fact; yet,
insisting that it is the lot of the majority to be oppressed in this
life, kindly turn them over to another, to rectify the false weights
and measures of this, as the only way to justify the dispensations of
Providence. I have not, continued Darnford, an opinion more firmly
fixed by observation in my mind, than that, though riches may fail to
produce proportionate happiness, poverty most commonly excludes it, by
shutting up all the avenues to improvement.
And as for the affections, added Maria, with a sigh, how gross,
and even tormenting do they become, unless regulated by an improving
mind! The culture of the heart ever, I believe, keeps pace with that of
the mind. But pray go on, addressing Jemima, though your narrative
gives rise to the most painful reflections on the present state of
Not to trouble you, continued she, with a detailed description of
all the painful feelings of unavailing exertion, I have only to tell
you, that at last I got recommended to wash in a few families, who did
me the favour to admit me into their houses, without the most strict
enquiry, to wash from one in the morning till eight at night, for
eighteen or twenty-pence a day. On the happiness to be enjoyed over a
washing-tub I need not comment; yet you will allow me to observe, that
this was a wretchedness of situation peculiar to my sex. A man with
half my industry, and, I may say, abilities, could have procured a
decent livelihood, and discharged some of the duties which knit mankind
together; whilst I, who had acquired a taste for the rational, nay, in
honest pride let me assert it, the virtuous enjoyments of life, was
cast aside as the filth of society. Condemned to labour, like a
machine, only to earn bread, and scarcely that, I became melancholy and
I have now to mention a circumstance which fills me with remorse,
and fear it will entirely deprive me of your esteem. A tradesman became
attached to me, and visited me frequently,and I at last obtained such
a power over him, that he offered to take me home to his
house.Consider, dear madam, I was famishing: wonder not that I became
a wolf!The only reason for not taking me home immediately, was the
having a girl in the house, with child by himand this girlI advised
himyes, I did! would I could forget it!to turn out of doors: and
one night he determined to follow my advice, Poor wretch! she fell upon
her knees, reminded him that he had promised to marry her, that her
parents were honest!What did it avail?She was turned out.
She approached her father's door, in the skirts of
London,listened at the shutters,but could not knock. A watchman had
observed her go and return several timesPoor wretch!The remorse
Jemima spoke of, seemed to be stinging her to the soul, as she
She left it, and, approaching a tub where horses were watered, she
sat down in it, and, with desperate resolution, remained in that
attitudetill resolution was no longer necessary!
I happened that morning to be going out to wash, anticipating the
moment when I should escape from such hard labour. I passed by, just as
some men, going to work, drew out the stiff, cold corpseLet me not
recal the horrid moment!I recognized her pale visage; I listened to
the tale told by the spectators, and my heart did not burst. I thought
of my own state, and wondered how I could be such a monster!I worked
hard; and, returning home, I was attacked by a fever. I suffered both
in body and mind. I determined not to live with the wretch. But he did
not try me; he left the neighbourhood. I once more returned to the
Still this state, miserable as it was, admitted of aggravation.
Lifting one day a heavy load, a tub fell against my shin, and gave me
great pain. I did not pay much attention to the hurt, till it became a
serious wound; being obliged to work as usual, or starve. But, finding
myself at length unable to stand for any time, I thought of getting
into an hospital. Hospitals, it should seem (for they are comfortless
abodes for the sick) were expressly endowed for the reception of the
friendless; yet I, who had on that plea a right to assistance, wanted
the recommendation of the rich and respectable, and was several weeks
languishing for admittance; fees were demanded on entering; and, what
was still more unreasonable, security for burying me, that expence not
coming into the letter of the charity. A guinea was the stipulated
sumI could as soon have raised a million; and I was afraid to apply
to the parish for an order, lest they should have passed me, I knew not
whither. The poor woman at whose house I lodged, compassionating my
state, got me into the hospital; and the family where I received the
hurt, sent me five shillings, three and six-pence of which I gave at my
admittanceI know not for what.
My leg grew quickly better; but I was dismissed before my cure was
completed, because I could not afford to have my linen washed to appear
decently, as the virago of a nurse said, when the gentlemen (the
surgeons) came. I cannot give you an adequate idea of the wretchedness
of an hospital; every thing is left to the care of people intent on
gain. The attendants seem to have lost all feeling of compassion in the
bustling discharge of their offices; death is so familiar to them, that
they are not anxious to ward it off. Every thing appeared to be
conducted for the accommodation of the medical men and their pupils,
who came to make experiments on the poor, for the benefit of the rich.
One of the physicians, I must not forget to mention, gave me
half-a-crown, and ordered me some wine, when I was at the lowest ebb. I
thought of making my case known to the lady-like matron; but her
forbidding countenance prevented me. She condescended to look on the
patients, and make general enquiries, two or three times a week; but
the nurses knew the hour when the visit of ceremony would commence, and
every thing was as it should be.
After my dismission, I was more at a loss than ever for a
subsistence, and, not to weary you with a repetition of the same
unavailing attempts, unable to stand at the washing-tub, I began to
consider the rich and poor as natural enemies, and became a thief from
principle. I could not now cease to reason, but I hated mankind. I
despised myself, yet I justified my conduct. I was taken, tried, and
condemned to six months' imprisonment in a house of correction. My soul
recoils with horror from the remembrance of the insults I had to
endure, till, branded with shame, I was turned loose in the street,
pennyless. I wandered from street to street, till, exhausted by hunger
and fatigue, I sunk down senseless at a door, where I had vainly
demanded a morsel of bread. I was sent by the inhabitant to the
work-house, to which he had surlily bid me go, saying, he 'paid enough
in conscience to the poor,' when, with parched tongue, I implored his
charity. If those well-meaning people who exclaim against beggars, were
acquainted with the treatment the poor receive in many of these
wretched asylums, they would not stifle so easily involuntary sympathy,
by saying that they have all parishes to go to, or wonder that the poor
dread to enter the gloomy walls. What are the common run of
work-houses, but prisons, in which many respectable old people, worn
out by immoderate labour, sink into the grave in sorrow, to which they
are carried like dogs!
Alarmed by some indistinct noise, Jemima rose hastily to listen, and
Maria, turning to Darnford, said, I have indeed been shocked beyond
expression when I have met a pauper's funeral. A coffin carried on the
shoulders of three or four ill-looking wretches, whom the imagination
might easily convert into a band of assassins, hastening to conceal the
corpse, and quarrelling about the prey on their way. I know it is of
little consequence how we are consigned to the earth; but I am led by
this brutal insensibility, to what even the animal creation appears
forcibly to feel, to advert to the wretched, deserted manner in which
True, rejoined Darnford, and, till the rich will give more than a
part of their wealth, till they will give time and attention to the
wants of the distressed, never let them boast of charity. Let them open
their hearts, and not their purses, and employ their minds in the
service, if they are really actuated by humanity; or charitable
institutions will always be the prey of the lowest order of knaves.
Jemima returning, seemed in haste to finish her tale. The overseer
farmed the poor of different parishes, and out of the bowels of poverty
was wrung the money with which he purchased this dwelling, as a private
receptacle for madness. He had been a keeper at a house of the same
description, and conceived that he could make money much more readily
in his old occupation. He is a shrewdshall I say it?villain. He
observed something resolute in my manner, and offered to take me with
him, and instruct me how to treat the disturbed minds he meant to
intrust to my care. The offer of forty pounds a year, and to quit a
workhouse, was not to be despised, though the condition of shutting my
eyes and hardening my heart was annexed to it.
I agreed to accompany him; and four years have I been attendant on
many wretches, andshe lowered her voice,the witness of many
enormities. In solitude my mind seemed to recover its force, and many
of the sentiments which I imbibed in the only tolerable period of my
life, returned with their full force. Still what should induce me to be
the champion for suffering humanity?Who ever risked any thing for
me?Who ever acknowledged me to be a fellow-creature?
Maria took her hand, and Jemima, more overcome by kindness than she
had ever been by cruelty, hastened out of the room to conceal her
Darnford soon after heard his summons, and, taking leave of him,
Maria promised to gratify his curiosity, with respect to herself, the
[114-A] The copy which appears to have received the author's last
corrections, ends at this place.
ACTIVE as love was in the heart of Maria, the story she had just
heard made her thoughts take a wider range. The opening buds of hope
closed, as if they had put forth too early, and the the happiest day of
her life was overcast by the most melancholy reflections. Thinking of
Jemima's peculiar fate and her own, she was led to consider the
oppressed state of women, and to lament that she had given birth to a
daughter. Sleep fled from her eyelids, while she dwelt on the
wretchedness of unprotected infancy, till sympathy with Jemima changed
to agony, when it seemed probable that her own babe might even now be
in the very state she so forcibly described.
Maria thought, and thought again. Jemima's humanity had rather been
benumbed than killed, by the keen frost she had to brave at her
entrance into life; an appeal then to her feelings, on this tender
point, surely would not be fruitless; and Maria began to anticipate the
delight it would afford her to gain intelligence of her child. This
project was now the only subject of reflection; and she watched
impatiently for the dawn of day, with that determinate purpose which
generally insures success.
At the usual hour, Jemima brought her breakfast, and a tender note
from Darnford. She ran her eye hastily over it, and her heart calmly
hoarded up the rapture a fresh assurance of affection, affection such
as she wished to inspire, gave her, without diverting her mind a moment
from its design. While Jemima waited to take away the breakfast, Maria
alluded to the reflections, that had haunted her during the night to
the exclusion of sleep. She spoke with energy of Jemima's unmerited
sufferings, and of the fate of a number of deserted females, placed
within the sweep of a whirlwind, from which it was next to impossible
to escape. Perceiving the effect her conversation produced on the
countenance of her guard, she grasped the arm of Jemima with that
irresistible warmth which defies repulse, exclaimingWith your heart,
and such dreadful experience, can you lend your aid to deprive my babe
of a mother's tenderness, a mother's care? In the name of God, assist
me to snatch her from destruction! Let me but give her an
educationlet me but prepare her body and mind to encounter the ills
which await her sex, and I will teach her to consider you as her second
mother, and herself as the prop of your age. Yes, Jemima, look at
meobserve me closely, and read my very soul; you merit a better
fate; she held out her hand with a firm gesture of assurance; and I
will procure it for you, as a testimony of my esteem, as well as of my
Jemima had not power to resist this persuasive torrent; and, owning
that the house in which she was confined, was situated on the banks of
the Thames, only a few miles from London, and not on the sea-coast, as
Darnford had supposed, she promised to invent some excuse for her
absence, and go herself to trace the situation, and enquire concerning
the health, of this abandoned daughter. Her manner implied an intention
to do something more, but she seemed unwilling to impart her design;
and Maria, glad to have obtained the main point, thought it best to
leave her to the workings of her own mind; convinced that she had the
power of interesting her still more in favour of herself and child, by
a simple recital of facts.
In the evening, Jemima informed the impatient mother, that on the
morrow she should hasten to town before the family hour of rising, and
received all the information necessary, as a clue to her search. The
Good night! Maria uttered was peculiarly solemn and affectionate.
Glad expectation sparkled in her eye; and, for the first time since her
detention, she pronounced the name of her child with pleasureable
fondness; and, with all the garrulity of a nurse, described her first
smile when she recognized her mother. Recollecting herself, a still
kinder Adieu! with a God bless you!that seemed to include a
maternal benediction, dismissed Jemima.
The dreary solitude of the ensuing day, lengthened by impatiently
dwelling on the same idea, was intolerably wearisome. She listened for
the sound of a particular clock, which some directions of the wind
allowed her to hear distinctly. She marked the shadow gaining on the
wall; and, twilight thickening into darkness, her breath seemed
oppressed while she anxiously counted nine.The last sound was a
stroke of despair on her heart; for she expected every moment, without
seeing Jemima, to have her light extinguished by the savage female who
supplied her place. She was even obliged to prepare for bed, restless
as she was, not to disoblige her new attendant. She had been cautioned
not to speak too freely to her; but the caution was needless, her
countenance would still more emphatically have made her shrink back.
Such was the ferocity of manner, conspicuous in every word and gesture
of this hag, that Maria was afraid to enquire, why Jemima, who had
faithfully promised to see her before her door was shut for the night,
came not?and, when the key turned in the lock, to consign her to a
night of suspence, she felt a degree of anguish which the circumstances
Continually on the watch, the shutting of a door, or the sound of a
footstep, made her start and tremble with apprehension, something like
what she felt, when, at her entrance, dragged along the gallery, she
began to doubt whether she were not surrounded by demons?
Fatigued by an endless rotation of thought and wild alarms, she
looked like a spectre, when Jemima entered in the morning; especially
as her eyes darted out of her head, to read in Jemima's countenance,
almost as pallid, the intelligence she dared not trust her tongue to
demand. Jemima put down the tea-things, and appeared very busy in
arranging the table. Maria took up a cup with trembling hand, then
forcibly recovering her fortitude, and restraining the convulsive
movement which agitated the muscles of her mouth, she said, Spare
yourself the pain of preparing me for your information, I adjure
you!My child is dead! Jemima solemnly answered, Yes; with a look
expressive of compassion and angry emotions. Leave me, added Maria,
making a fresh effort to govern her feelings, and hiding her face in
her handkerchief, to conceal her anguishIt is enoughI know that my
babe is no moreI will hear the particulars when I amcalmer,
she could not utter; and Jemima, without importuning her by idle
attempts to console her, left the room.
Plunged in the deepest melancholy, she would not admit Darnford's
visits; and such is the force of early associations even on strong
minds, that, for a while, she indulged the superstitious notion that
she was justly punished by the death of her child, for having for an
instant ceased to regret her loss. Two or three letters from Darnford,
full of soothing, manly tenderness, only added poignancy to these
accusing emotions; yet the passionate style in which he expressed, what
he termed the first and fondest wish of his heart, that his affection
might make her some amends for the cruelty and injustice she had
endured, inspired a sentiment of gratitude to heaven; and her eyes
filled with delicious tears, when, at the conclusion of his letter,
wishing to supply the place of her unworthy relations, whose want of
principle he execrated, he assured her, calling her his dearest girl,
that it should henceforth be the business of his life to make her
He begged, in a note sent the following morning, to be permitted to
see her, when his presence would be no intrusion on her grief; and so
earnestly intreated to be allowed, according to promise, to beguile the
tedious moments of absence, by dwelling on the events of her past life,
that she sent him the memoirs which had been written for her daughter,
promising Jemima the perusal as soon as he returned them.
ADDRESSING these memoirs to you, my child, uncertain whether I
shall ever have an opportunity of instructing you, many observations
will probably flow from my heart, which only a mothera mother
schooled in misery, could make.
The tenderness of a father who knew the world, might be great; but
could it equal that of a motherof a mother, labouring under a portion
of the misery, which the constitution of society seems to have entailed
on all her kind? It is, my child, my dearest daughter, only such a
mother, who will dare to break through all restraint to provide for
your happinesswho will voluntarily brave censure herself, to ward off
sorrow from your bosom. From my narrative, my dear girl, you may gather
the instruction, the counsel, which is meant rather to exercise than
influence your mind.Death may snatch me from you, before you can
weigh my advice, or enter into my reasoning: I would then, with fond
anxiety, lead you very early in life to form your grand principle of
action, to save you from the vain regret of having, through
irresolution, let the spring-tide of existence pass away, unimproved,
unenjoyed.Gain experienceah! gain itwhile experience is worth
having, and acquire sufficient fortitude to pursue your own happiness;
it includes your utility, by a direct path. What is wisdom too often,
but the owl of the goddess, who sits moping in a desolated heart;
around me she shrieks, but I would invite all the gay warblers of
spring to nestle in your blooming bosom.Had I not wasted years in
deliberating, after I ceased to doubt, how I ought to have actedI
might now be useful and happy.For my sake, warned by my example,
always appear what you are, and you will not pass through existence
without enjoying its genuine blessings, love and respect.
Born in one of the most romantic parts of England, an enthusiastic
fondness for the varying charms of nature is the first sentiment I
recollect; or rather it was the first consciousness of pleasure that
employed and formed my imagination.
My father had been a captain of a man of war; but, disgusted with
the service, on account of the preferment of men whose chief merit was
their family connections or borough interest, he retired into the
country; and, not knowing what to do with himselfmarried. In his
family, to regain his lost consequence, he determined to keep up the
same passive obedience, as in the vessels in which he had commanded.
His orders were not to be disputed; and the whole house was expected to
fly, at the word of command, as if to man the shrouds, or mount aloft
in an elemental strife, big with life or death. He was to be
instantaneously obeyed, especially by my mother, whom he very
benevolently married for love; but took care to remind her of the
obligation, when she dared, in the slightest instance, to question his
absolute authority. My eldest brother, it is true, as he grew up, was
treated with more respect by my father; and became in due form the
deputy-tyrant of the house. The representative of my father, a being
privileged by naturea boy, and the darling of my mother, he did not
fail to act like an heir apparent. Such indeed was my mother's
extravagant partiality, that, in comparison with her affection for him,
she might be said not to love the rest of her children. Yet none of the
children seemed to have so little affection for her. Extreme indulgence
had rendered him so selfish, that he only thought of himself; and from
tormenting insects and animals, he became the despot of his brothers,
and still more of his sisters.
It is perhaps difficult to give you an idea of the petty cares
which obscured the morning of my life; continual restraint in the most
trivial matters; unconditional submission to orders, which, as a mere
child, I soon discovered to be unreasonable, because inconsistent and
contradictory. Thus are we destined to experience a mixture of
bitterness, with the recollection of our most innocent enjoyments.
The circumstances which, during my childhood, occurred to fashion
my mind, were various; yet, as it would probably afford me more
pleasure to revive the fading remembrance of new-born delight, than
you, my child, could feel in the perusal, I will not entice you to
stray with me into the verdant meadow, to search for the flowers that
youthful hopes scatter in every path; though, as I write, I almost
scent the fresh green of springof that spring which never returns!
I had two sisters, and one brother, younger than myself; my brother
Robert was two years older, and might truly be termed the idol of his
parents, and the torment of the rest of the family. Such indeed is the
force of prejudice, that what was called spirit and wit in him, was
cruelly repressed as forwardness in me.
My mother had an indolence of character, which prevented her from
paying much attention to our education. But the healthy breeze of a
neighbouring heath, on which we bounded at pleasure, volatilized the
humours that improper food might have generated. And to enjoy open air
and freedom, was paradise, after the unnatural restraint of our
fire-side, where we were often obliged to sit three or four hours
together, without daring to utter a word, when my father was out of
humour, from want of employment, or of a variety of boisterous
amusement. I had however one advantage, an instructor, the brother of
my father, who, intended for the church, had of course received a
liberal education. But, becoming attached to a young lady of great
beauty and large fortune, and acquiring in the world some opinions not
consonant with the profession for which he was designed, he accepted,
with the most sanguine expectations of success, the offer of a nobleman
to accompany him to India, as his confidential secretary.
A correspondence was regularly kept up with the object of his
affection; and the intricacies of business, peculiarly wearisome to a
man of a romantic turn of mind, contributed, with a forced absence, to
increase his attachment. Every other passion was lost in this
master-one, and only served to swell the torrent. Her relations, such
were his waking dreams, who had despised him, would court in their turn
his alliance, and all the blandishments of taste would grace the
triumph of love.While he basked in the warm sunshine of love,
friendship also promised to shed its dewy freshness; for a friend, whom
he loved next to his mistress, was the confident, who forwarded the
letters from one to the other, to elude the observation of prying
relations. A friend false in similar circumstances, is, my dearest
girl, an old tale; yet, let not this example, or the frigid caution of
cold-blooded moralists, make you endeavour to stifle hopes, which are
the buds that naturally unfold themselves during the spring of life!
Whilst your own heart is sincere, always expect to meet one glowing
with the same sentiments; for to fly from pleasure, is not to avoid
My uncle realized, by good luck, rather than management, a handsome
fortune; and returning on the wings of love, lost in the most
enchanting reveries, to England, to share it with his mistress and his
friend, he found themunited.
There were some circumstances, not necessary for me to recite,
which aggravated the guilt of the friend beyond measure, and the
deception, that had been carried on to the last moment, was so base, it
produced the most violent effect on my uncle's health and spirits. His
native country, the world! lately a garden of blooming sweets, blasted
by treachery, seemed changed into a parched desert, the abode of
hissing serpents. Disappointment rankled in his heart; and, brooding
over his wrongs, he was attacked by a raging fever, followed by a
derangement of mind, which only gave place to habitual melancholy, as
he recovered more strength of body.
Declaring an intention never to marry, his relations were ever
clustering about him, paying the grossest adulation to a man, who,
disgusted with mankind, received them with scorn, or bitter sarcasms.
Something in my countenance pleased him, when I began to prattle. Since
his return, he appeared dead to affection; but I soon, by showing him
innocent fondness, became a favourite; and endeavouring to enlarge and
strengthen my mind, I grew dear to him in proportion as I imbibed his
sentiments. He had a forcible manner of speaking, rendered more so by a
certain impressive wildness of look and gesture, calculated to engage
the attention of a young and ardent mind. It is not then surprising
that I quickly adopted his opinions in preference, and reverenced him
as one of a superior order of beings. He inculcated, with great warmth,
self-respect, and a lofty consciousness of acting right, independent of
the censure or applause of the world; nay, he almost taught me to
brave, and even despise its censure, when convinced of the rectitude of
my own intentions.
Endeavouring to prove to me that nothing which deserved the name of
love or friendship, existed in the world, he drew such animated
pictures of his own feelings, rendered permanent by disappointment, as
imprinted the sentiments strongly on my heart, and animated my
imagination. These remarks are necessary to elucidate some
peculiarities in my character, which by the world are indefinitely
My uncle's increasing affection led him to visit me often. Still,
unable to rest in any place, he did not remain long in the country to
soften domestic tyranny; but he brought me books, for which I had a
passion, and they conspired with his conversation, to make me form an
ideal picture of life. I shall pass over the tyranny of my father, much
as I suffered from it; but it is necessary to notice, that it
undermined my mother's health; and that her temper, continually
irritated by domestic bickering, became intolerably peevish.
My eldest brother was articled to a neighbouring attorney, the
shrewdest, and, I may add, the most unprincipled man in that part of
the country. As my brother generally came home every Saturday, to
astonish my mother by exhibiting his attainments, he gradually assumed
a right of directing the whole family, not excepting my father. He
seemed to take a peculiar pleasure in tormenting and humbling me; and
if I ever ventured to complain of this treatment to either my father or
mother, I was rudely rebuffed for presuming to judge of the conduct of
my eldest brother.
About this period a merchant's family came to settle in our
neighbourhood. A mansion-house in the village, lately purchased, had
been preparing the whole spring, and the sight of the costly furniture,
sent from London, had excited my mother's envy, and roused my father's
pride. My sensations were very different, and all of a pleasurable
kind. I longed to see new characters, to break the tedious monotony of
my life; and to find a friend, such as fancy had pourtrayed. I cannot
then describe the emotion I felt, the Sunday they made their appearance
at church. My eyes were rivetted on the pillar round which I expected
first to catch a glimpse of them, and darted forth to meet a servant
who hastily preceded a group of ladies, whose white robes and waving
plumes, seemed to stream along the gloomy aisle, diffusing the light,
by which I contemplated their figures.
We visited them in form; and I quickly selected the eldest daughter
for my friend. The second son, George, paid me particular attention,
and finding his attainments and manners superior to those of the young
men of the village, I began to imagine him superior to the rest of
mankind. Had my home been more comfortable, or my previous acquaintance
more numerous, I should not probably have been so eager to open my
heart to new affections.
Mr. Venables, the merchant, had acquired a large fortune by
unremitting attention to business; but his health declining rapidly, he
was obliged to retire, before his son, George, had acquired sufficient
experience, to enable him to conduct their affairs on the same
prudential plan, his father had invariably pursued. Indeed, he had
laboured to throw off his authority, having despised his narrow plans
and cautious speculation. The eldest son could not be prevailed on to
enter the firm; and, to oblige his wife, and have peace in the house,
Mr. Venables had purchased a commission for him in the guards.
I am now alluding to circumstances which came to my knowledge long
after; but it is necessary, my dearest child, that you should know the
character of your father, to prevent your despising your mother; the
only parent inclined to discharge a parent's duty. In London, George
had acquired habits of libertinism, which he carefully concealed from
his father and his commercial connections. The mask he wore, was so
complete a covering of his real visage, that the praise his father
lavished on his conduct, and, poor mistaken man! on his principles,
contrasted with his brother's, rendered the notice he took of me
peculiarly flattering. Without any fixed design, as I am now convinced,
he continued to single me out at the dance, press my hand at parting,
and utter expressions of unmeaning passion, to which I gave a meaning
naturally suggested by the romantic turn of my thoughts. His stay in
the country was short; his manners did not entirely please me; but,
when he left us, the colouring of my picture became more vividWhither
did not my imagination lead me? In short, I fancied myself in lovein
love with the disinterestedness, fortitude, generosity, dignity, and
humanity, with which I had invested the hero I dubbed. A circumstance
which soon after occurred, rendered all these virtues palpable. [The
incident is perhaps worth relating on other accounts, and therefore I
shall describe it distinctly.]
I had a great affection for my nurse, old Mary, for whom I used
often to work, to spare her eyes. Mary had a younger sister, married to
a sailor, while she was suckling me; for my mother only suckled my
eldest brother, which might be the cause of her extraordinary
partiality. Peggy, Mary's sister, lived with her, till her husband,
becoming a mate in a West-India trader, got a little before-hand in the
world. He wrote to his wife from the first port in the Channel, after
his most successful voyage, to request her to come to London to meet
him; he even wished her to determine on living there for the future, to
save him the trouble of coming to her the moment he came on shore; and
to turn a penny by keeping a green-stall. It was too much to set out on
a journey the moment he had finished a voyage, and fifty miles by land,
was worse than a thousand leagues by sea.
She packed up her alls, and came to Londonbut did not meet honest
Daniel. A common misfortune prevented her, and the poor are bound to
suffer for the good of their countryhe was pressed in the riverand
never came on shore.
Peggy was miserable in London, not knowing, as she said, 'the face
of any living soul.' Besides, her imagination had been employed,
anticipating a month or six weeks' happiness with her husband. Daniel
was to have gone with her to Sadler's Wells, and Westminster Abbey, and
to many sights, which he knew she never heard of in the country. Peggy
too was thrifty, and how could she manage to put his plan in execution
alone? He had acquaintance; but she did not know the very name of their
places of abode. His letters were made up ofHow do you does, and God
bless yous,information was reserved for the hour of meeting.
She too had her portion of information, near at heart. Molly and
Jacky were grown such little darlings, she was almost angry that daddy
did not see their tricks. She had not half the pleasure she should have
had from their prattle, could she have recounted to him each night the
pretty speeches of the day. Some stories, however, were stored upand
Jacky could say papa with such a sweet voice, it must delight his
heart. Yet when she came, and found no Daniel to greet her, when Jacky
called papa, she wept, bidding 'God bless his innocent soul, that did
not know what sorrow was.'But more sorrow was in store for Peggy,
innocent as she was.Daniel was killed in the first engagement, and
then the papa was agony, sounding to the heart.
She had lived sparingly on his wages, while there was any hope of
his return; but, that gone, she returned with a breaking heart to the
country, to a little market town, nearly three miles from our village.
She did not like to go to service, to be snubbed about, after being her
own mistress. To put her children out to nurse was impossible: how far
would her wages go? and to send them to her husband's parish, a distant
one, was to lose her husband twice over.
I had heard all from Mary, and made my uncle furnish a little
cottage for her, to enable her to sellso sacred was poor Daniel's
advice, now he was dead and gonea little fruit, toys and cakes. The
minding of the shop did not require her whole time, nor even the
keeping her children clean, and she loved to see them clean; so she
took in washing, and altogether made a shift to earn bread for her
children, still weeping for Daniel, when Jacky's arch looks made her
think of his father.It was pleasant to work for her children.'Yes;
from morning till night, could she have had a kiss from their father,
God rest his soul! Yes; had it pleased Providence to have let him come
back without a leg or an arm, it would have been the same thing to
herfor she did not love him because he maintained themno; she had
hands of her own.'
The country people were honest, and Peggy left her linen out to dry
very late. A recruiting party, as she supposed, passing through, made
free with a large wash; for it was all swept away, including her own
and her children's little stock.
This was a dreadful blow; two dozen of shirts, stocks and
handkerchiefs. She gave the money which she had laid by for half a
year's rent, and promised to pay two shillings a week till all was
cleared; so she did not lose her employment. This two shillings a week,
and the buying a few necessaries for the children, drove her so hard,
that she had not a penny to pay her rent with, when a twelvemonth's
She was now with Mary, and had just told her tale, which Mary
instantly repeatedit was intended for my ear. Many houses in this
town, producing a borough-interest, were included in the estate
purchased by Mr. Venables, and the attorney with whom my brother lived,
was appointed his agent, to collect and raise the rents.
He demanded Peggy's, and, in spite of her intreaties, her poor
goods had been seized and sold. So that she had not, and what was worse
her children, 'for she had known sorrow enough,' a bed to lie on. She
knew that I was good-naturedright charitable, yet not liking to ask
for more than needs must, she scorned to petition while people could
any how be made to wait. But now, should she be turned out of doors,
she must expect nothing less than to lose all her customers, and then
she must beg or starveand what would become of her children?'had
Daniel not been pressedbut God knows bestall this could not have
I had two mattrasses on my bed; what did I want with two, when such
a worthy creature must lie on the ground? My mother would be angry, but
I could conceal it till my uncle came down; and then I would tell him
all the whole truth, and if he absolved me, heaven would.
I begged the house-maid to come up stairs with me (servants always
feel for the distresses of poverty, and so would the rich if they knew
what it was). She assisted me to tie up the mattrass; I discovering, at
the same time, that one blanket would serve me till winter, could I
persuade my sister, who slept with me, to keep my secret. She entering
in the midst of the package, I gave her some new feathers, to silence
her. We got the mattrass down the back stairs, unperceived, and I
helped to carry it, taking with me all the money I had, and what I
could borrow from my sister.
When I got to the cottage, Peggy declared that she would not take
what I had brought secretly; but, when, with all the eager eloquence
inspired by a decided purpose, I grasped her hand with weeping eyes,
assuring her that my uncle would screen me from blame, when he was once
more in the country, describing, at the same time, what she would
suffer in parting with her children, after keeping them so long from
being thrown on the parish, she reluctantly consented.
My project of usefulness ended not here; I determined to speak to
the attorney; he frequently paid me compliments. His character did not
intimidate me; but, imagining that Peggy must be mistaken, and that no
man could turn a deaf ear to such a tale of complicated distress, I
determined to walk to the town with Mary the next morning, and request
him to wait for the rent, and keep my secret, till my uncle's return.
My repose was sweet; and, waking with the first dawn of day, I
bounded to Mary's cottage. What charms do not a light heart spread over
nature! Every bird that twittered in a bush, every flower that
enlivened the hedge, seemed placed there to awaken me to raptureyes;
to rapture. The present moment was full fraught with happiness; and on
futurity I bestowed not a thought, excepting to anticipate my success
with the attorney.
This man of the world, with rosy face and simpering features,
received me politely, nay kindly; listened with complacency to my
remonstrances, though he scarcely heeded Mary's tears. I did not then
suspect, that my eloquence was in my complexion, the blush of
seventeen, or that, in a world where humanity to women is the
characteristic of advancing civilization, the beauty of a young girl
was so much more interesting than the distress of an old one. Pressing
my hand, he promised to let Peggy remain in the house as long as I
wished.I more than returned the pressureI was so grateful and so
happy. Emboldened by my innocent warmth, he then kissed meand I did
not draw backI took it for a kiss of charity.
Gay as a lark, I went to dine at Mr. Venables'. I had previously
obtained five shillings from my father, towards re-clothing the poor
children of my care, and prevailed on my mother to take one of the
girls into the house, whom I determined to teach to work and read.
After dinner, when the younger part of the circle retired to the
music room, I recounted with energy my tale; that is, I mentioned
Peggy's distress, without hinting at the steps I had taken to relieve
her. Miss Venables gave me half-a-crown; the heir five shillings; but
George sat unmoved. I was cruelly distressed by the disappointmentI
scarcely could remain on my chair; and, could I have got out of the
room unperceived, I should have flown home, as if to run away from
myself. After several vain attempts to rise, I leaned my head against
the marble chimney-piece, and gazing on the evergreens that filled the
fire-place, moralized on the vanity of human expectations; regardless
of the company. I was roused by a gentle tap on my shoulder from behind
Charlotte's chair. I turned my head, and George slid a guinea into my
hand, putting his finger to his mouth, to enjoin me silence.
What a revolution took place, not only in my train of thoughts, but
feelings! I trembled with emotionnow, indeed, I was in love. Such
delicacy too, to enhance his benevolence! I felt in my pocket every
five minutes, only to feel the guinea; and its magic touch invested my
hero with more than mortal beauty. My fancy had found a basis to erect
its model of perfection on; and quickly went to work, with all the
happy credulity of youth, to consider that heart as devoted to virtue,
which had only obeyed a virtuous impulse. The bitter experience was yet
to come, that has taught me how very distinct are the principles of
virtue, from the casual feelings from which they germinate.
I HAVE perhaps dwelt too long on a circumstance, which is only of
importance as it marks the progress of a deception that has been so
fatal to my peace; and introduces to your notice a poor girl, whom,
intending to serve, I led to ruin. Still it is probable that I was not
entirely the victim of mistake; and that your father, gradually
fashioned by the world, did not quickly become what I hesitate to call
himout of respect to my daughter.
But, to hasten to the more busy scenes of my life. Mr. Venables and
my mother died the same summer; and, wholly engrossed by my attention
to her, I thought of little else. The neglect of her darling, my
brother Robert, had a violent effect on her weakened mind; for, though
boys may be reckoned the pillars of the house without doors, girls are
often the only comfort within. They but too frequently waste their
health and spirits attending a dying parent, who leaves them in
comparative poverty. After closing, with filial piety, a father's eyes,
they are chased from the paternal roof, to make room for the
first-born, the son, who is to carry the empty family-name down to
posterity; though, occupied with his own pleasures, he scarcely thought
of discharging, in the decline of his parent's life, the debt
contracted in his childhood. My mother's conduct led me to make these
reflections. Great as was the fatigue I endured, and the affection my
unceasing solicitude evinced, of which my mother seemed perfectly
sensible, still, when my brother, whom I could hardly persuade to
remain a quarter of an hour in her chamber, was with her alone, a short
time before her death, she gave him a little hoard, which she had been
some years accumulating.
During my mother's illness, I was obliged to manage my father's
temper, who, from the lingering nature of her malady, began to imagine
that it was merely fancy. At this period, an artful kind of upper
servant attracted my father's attention, and the neighbours made many
remarks on the finery, not honestly got, exhibited at evening service.
But I was too much occupied with my mother to observe any change in her
dress or behaviour, or to listen to the whisper of scandal.
I shall not dwell on the death-bed scene, lively as is the
remembrance, or on the emotion produced by the last grasp of my
mother's cold hand; when blessing me, she added, 'A little patience,
and all will be over!' Ah! my child, how often have those words rung
mournfully in my earsand I have exclaimed'A little more patience,
and I too shall be at rest!'
My father was violently affected by her death, recollected
instances of his unkindness, and wept like a child.
My mother had solemnly recommended my sisters to my care, and bid
me be a mother to them. They, indeed, became more dear to me as they
became more forlorn; for, during my mother's illness, I discovered the
ruined state of my father's circumstances, and that he had only been
able to keep up appearances, by the sums which he borrowed of my uncle.
My father's grief, and consequent tenderness to his children,
quickly abated, the house grew still more gloomy or riotous; and my
refuge from care was again at Mr. Venables'; the young 'squire having
taken his father's place, and allowing, for the present, his sister to
preside at his table. George, though dissatisfied with his portion of
the fortune, which had till lately been all in trade, visited the
family as usual. He was now full of speculations in trade, and his brow
became clouded by care. He seemed to relax in his attention to me, when
the presence of my uncle gave a new turn to his behaviour. I was too
unsuspecting, too disinterested, to trace these changes to their
My home every day became more and more disagreeable to me; my
liberty was unnecessarily abridged, and my books, on the pretext that
they made me idle, taken from me. My father's mistress was with child,
and he, doating on her, allowed or overlooked her vulgar manner of
tyrannizing over us. I was indignant, especially when I saw her
endeavouring to attract, shall I say seduce? my younger brother. By
allowing women but one way of rising in the world, the fostering the
libertinism of men, society makes monsters of them, and then their
ignoble vices are brought forward as a proof of inferiority of
The wearisomeness of my situation can scarcely be described. Though
my life had not passed in the most even tenour with my mother, it was
paradise to that I was destined to endure with my father's mistress,
jealous of her illegitimate authority. My father's former occasional
tenderness, in spite of his violence of temper, had been soothing to
me; but now he only met me with reproofs or portentous frowns. The
house-keeper, as she was now termed, was the vulgar despot of the
family; and assuming the new character of a fine lady, she could never
forgive the contempt which was sometimes visible in my countenance,
when she uttered with pomposity her bad English, or affected to be well
To my uncle I ventured to open my heart; and he, with his wonted
benevolence, began to consider in what manner he could extricate me out
of my present irksome situation. In spite of his own disappointment,
or, most probably, actuated by the feelings that had been petrified,
not cooled, in all their sanguine fervour, like a boiling torrent of
lava suddenly dashing into the sea, he thought a marriage of mutual
inclination (would envious stars permit it) the only chance for
happiness in this disastrous world. George Venables had the reputation
of being attentive to business, and my father's example gave great
weight to this circumstance; for habits of order in business would, he
conceived, extend to the regulation of the affections in domestic life.
George seldom spoke in my uncle's company, except to utter a short,
judicious question, or to make a pertinent remark, with all due
deference to his superior judgment; so that my uncle seldom left his
company without observing, that the young man had more in him than
In this opinion he was not singular; yet, believe me, and I am not
swayed by resentment, these speeches so justly poized, this silent
deference, when the animal spirits of other young people were throwing
off youthful ebullitions, were not the effect of thought or humility,
but sheer barrenness of mind, and want of imagination. A colt of mettle
will curvet and shew his paces. Yes; my dear girl, these prudent young
men want all the fire necessary to ferment their faculties, and are
characterized as wise, only because they are not foolish. It is true,
that George was by no means so great a favourite of mine as during the
first year of our acquaintance; still, as he often coincided in opinion
with me, and echoed my sentiments; and having myself no other
attachment, I heard with pleasure my uncle's proposal; but thought more
of obtaining my freedom, than of my lover. But, when George, seemingly
anxious for my happiness, pressed me to quit my present painful
situation, my heart swelled with gratitudeI knew not that my uncle
had promised him five thousand pounds.
Had this truly generous man mentioned his intention to me, I should
have insisted on a thousand pounds being settled on each of my sisters;
George would have contested; I should have seen his selfish soul;
andgracious God! have been spared the misery of discovering, when too
late, that I was united to a heartless, unprincipled wretch. All my
schemes of usefulness would not then have been blasted. The tenderness
of my heart would not have heated my imagination with visions of the
ineffable delight of happy love; nor would the sweet duty of a mother
have been so cruelly interrupted.
But I must not suffer the fortitude I have so hardly acquired, to be
undermined by unavailing regret. Let me hasten forward to describe the
turbid stream in which I had to wadebut let me exultingly declare
that it is passedmy soul holds fellowship with him no more. He cut
the Gordian knot, which my principles, mistaken ones, respected; he
dissolved the tie, the fetters rather, that ate into my very
vitalsand I should rejoice, conscious that my mind is freed, though
confined in hell itself; the only place that even fancy can imagine
more dreadful than my present abode.
These varying emotions will not allow me to proceed. I heave sigh
after sigh; yet my heart is still oppressed. For what am I reserved?
Why was I not born a man, or why was I born at all?
END OF VOL. I.
MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT GODWIN.
VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN.
IN FOUR VOLUMES.
* * * * *
* * * * *
PRINTED FOR J. JOHNSON, NO. 72, ST. PAUL'S
CHURCH-YARD; AND G. G. AND J. ROBINSON,
WRONGS OF WOMAN:
IN TWO VOLUMES.
WRONGS OF WOMAN. VOL 2
I RESUME my pen to fly from thought. I was married; and we hastened
to London. I had purposed taking one of my sisters with me; for a
strong motive for marrying, was the desire of having a home at which I
could receive them, now their own grew so uncomfortable, as not to
deserve the cheering appellation. An objection was made to her
accompanying me, that appeared plausible; and I reluctantly acquiesced.
I was however willingly allowed to take with me Molly, poor Peggy's
daughter. London and preferment, are ideas commonly associated in the
country; and, as blooming as May, she bade adieu to Peggy with weeping
eyes. I did not even feel hurt at the refusal in relation to my sister,
till hearing what my uncle had done for me, I had the simplicity to
request, speaking with warmth of their situation, that he would give
them a thousand pounds a-piece, which seemed to me but justice. He
asked me, giving me a kiss, 'If I had lost my senses?' I started back,
as if I had found a wasp in a rose-bush. I expostulated. He sneered;
and the demon of discord entered our paradise, to poison with his
pestiferous breath every opening joy.
I had sometimes observed defects in my husband's understanding;
but, led astray by a prevailing opinion, that goodness of disposition
is of the first importance in the relative situations of life, in
proportion as I perceived the narrowness of his understanding, fancy
enlarged the boundary of his heart. Fatal error! How quickly is the so
much vaunted milkiness of nature turned into gall, by an intercourse
with the world, if more generous juices do not sustain the vital source
One trait in my character was extreme credulity; but, when my eyes
were once opened, I saw but too clearly all I had before overlooked. My
husband was sunk in my esteem; still there are youthful emotions,
which, for a while, fill up the chasm of love and friendship. Besides,
it required some time to enable me to see his whole character in a just
light, or rather to allow it to become fixed. While circumstances were
ripening my faculties, and cultivating my taste, commerce and gross
relaxations were shutting his against any possibility of improvement,
till, by stifling every spark of virtue in himself, he began to imagine
that it no where existed.
Do not let me lead you astray, my child, I do not mean to assert,
that any human being is entirely incapable of feeling the generous
emotions, which are the foundation of every true principle of virtue;
but they are frequently, I fear, so feeble, that, like the inflammable
quality which more or less lurks in all bodies, they often lie for ever
dormant; the circumstances never occurring, necessary to call them into
I discovered however by chance, that, in consequence of some losses
in trade, the natural effect of his gambling desire to start suddenly
into riches, the five thousand pounds given me by my uncle, had been
paid very opportunely. This discovery, strange as you may think the
assertion, gave me pleasure; my husband's embarrassments endeared him
to me. I was glad to find an excuse for his conduct to my sisters, and
my mind became calmer.
My uncle introduced me to some literary society; and the theatres
were a never-failing source of amusement to me. My delighted eye
followed Mrs. Siddons, when, with dignified delicacy, she played
Calista; and I involuntarily repeated after her, in the same tone, and
with a long-drawn sigh,
'Hearts like our's were pair'dnot match'd.'
These were, at first, spontaneous emotions, though, becoming
acquainted with men of wit and polished manners, I could not sometimes
help regretting my early marriage; and that, in my haste to escape from
a temporary dependence, and expand my newly fledged wings, in an
unknown sky, I had been caught in a trap, and caged for life. Still the
novelty of London, and the attentive fondness of my husband, for he had
some personal regard for me, made several months glide away. Yet, not
forgetting the situation of my sisters, who were still very young, I
prevailed on my uncle to settle a thousand pounds on each; and to place
them in a school near town, where I could frequently visit, as well as
have them at home with me.
I now tried to improve my husband's taste, but we had few subjects
in common; indeed he soon appeared to have little relish for my
society, unless he was hinting to me the use he could make of my
uncle's wealth. When we had company, I was disgusted by an ostentatious
display of riches, and I have often quitted the room, to avoid
listening to exaggerated tales of money obtained by lucky hits.
With all my attention and affectionate interest, I perceived that I
could not become the friend or confident of my husband. Every thing I
learned relative to his affairs I gathered up by accident; and I vainly
endeavoured to establish, at our fire-side, that social converse, which
often renders people of different characters dear to each other.
Returning from the theatre, or any amusing party, I frequently began to
relate what I had seen and highly relished; but with sullen taciturnity
he soon silenced me. I seemed therefore gradually to lose, in his
society, the soul, the energies of which had just been in action. To
such a degree, in fact, did his cold, reserved manner affect me, that,
after spending some days with him alone, I have imagined myself the
most stupid creature in the world, till the abilities of some casual
visitor convinced me that I had some dormant animation, and sentiments
above the dust in which I had been groveling. The very countenance of
my husband changed; his complexion became sallow, and all the charms of
youth were vanishing with its vivacity.
I give you one view of the subject; but these experiments and
alterations took up the space of five years; during which period, I had
most reluctantly extorted several sums from my uncle, to save my
husband, to use his own words, from destruction. At first it was to
prevent bills being noted, to the injury of his credit; then to bail
him; and afterwards to prevent an execution from entering the house. I
began at last to conclude, that he would have made more exertions of
his own to extricate himself, had he not relied on mine, cruel as was
the task he imposed on me; and I firmly determined that I would make
use of no more pretexts.
From the moment I pronounced this determination, indifference on
his part was changed into rudeness, or something worse.
He now seldom dined at home, and continually returned at a late
hour, drunk, to bed. I retired to another apartment; I was glad, I own,
to escape from his; for personal intimacy without affection, seemed, to
me the most degrading, as well as the most painful state in which a
woman of any taste, not to speak of the peculiar delicacy of fostered
sensibility, could be placed. But my husband's fondness for women was
of the grossest kind, and imagination was so wholly out of the
question, as to render his indulgences of this sort entirely
promiscuous, and of the most brutal nature. My health suffered, before
my heart was entirely estranged by the loathsome information; could I
then have returned to his sullied arms, but as a victim to the
prejudices of mankind, who have made women the property of their
husbands? I discovered even, by his conversation, when intoxicated,
that his favourites were wantons of the lowest class, who could by
their vulgar, indecent mirth, which he called nature, rouse his
sluggish spirits. Meretricious ornaments and manners were necessary to
attract his attention. He seldom looked twice at a modest woman, and
sat silent in their company; and the charms of youth and beauty had not
the slightest effect on his senses, unless the possessors were
initiated in vice. His intimacy with profligate women, and his habits
of thinking, gave him a contempt for female endowments; and he would
repeat, when wine had loosed his tongue, most of the common-place
sarcasms levelled at them, by men who do not allow them to have minds,
because mind would be an impediment to gross enjoyment. Men who are
inferior to their fellow men, are always most anxious to establish
their superiority over women. But where are these reflections leading
Women who have lost their husband's affection, are justly reproved
for neglecting their persons, and not taking the same pains to keep, as
to gain a heart; but who thinks of giving the same advice to men,
though women are continually stigmatized for being attached to fops;
and from the nature of their education, are more susceptible of
disgust? Yet why a woman should be expected to endure a sloven, with
more patience than a man, and magnanimously to govern herself, I cannot
conceive; unless it be supposed arrogant in her to look for respect as
well as a maintenance. It is not easy to be pleased, because, after
promising to love, in different circumstances, we are told that it is
our duty. I cannot, I am sure (though, when attending the sick, I never
felt disgust) forget my own sensations, when rising with health and
spirit, and after scenting the sweet morning, I have met my husband at
the breakfast table. The active attention I had been giving to domestic
regulations, which were generally settled before he rose, or a walk,
gave a glow to my countenance, that contrasted with his squallid
appearance. The squeamishness of stomach alone, produced by the last
night's intemperance, which he took no pains to conceal, destroyed my
appetite. I think I now see him lolling in an arm-chair, in a dirty
powdering gown, soiled linen, ungartered stockings, and tangled hair,
yawning and stretching himself. The newspaper was immediately called
for, if not brought in on the tea-board, from which he would scarcely
lift his eyes while I poured out the tea, excepting to ask for some
brandy to put into it, or to declare that he could not eat. In answer
to any question, in his best humour, it was a drawling 'What do you
say, child?' But if I demanded money for the house expences, which I
put off till the last moment, his customary reply, often prefaced with
an oath, was, 'Do you think me, madam, made of money?'The butcher,
the baker, must wait; and, what was worse, I was often obliged to
witness his surly dismission of tradesmen, who were in want of their
money, and whom I sometimes paid with the presents my uncle gave me for
my own use.
At this juncture my father's mistress, by terrifying his
conscience, prevailed on him to marry her; he was already become a
methodist; and my brother, who now practised for himself, had
discovered a flaw in the settlement made on my mother's children, which
set it aside, and he allowed my father, whose distress made him submit
to any thing, a tithe of his own, or rather our fortune.
My sisters had left school, but were unable to endure home, which
my father's wife rendered as disagreeable as possible, to get rid of
girls whom she regarded as spies on her conduct. They were
accomplished, yet you can (may you never be reduced to the same
destitute state!) scarcely conceive the trouble I had to place them in
the situation of governesses, the only one in which even a
well-educated woman, with more than ordinary talents, can struggle for
a subsistence; and even this is a dependence next to menial. Is it then
surprising, that so many forlorn women, with human passions and
feelings, take refuge in infamy? Alone in large mansions, I say alone,
because they had no companions with whom they could converse on equal
terms, or from whom they could expect the endearments of affection,
they grew melancholy, and the sound of joy made them sad; and the
youngest, having a more delicate frame, fell into a decline. It was
with great difficulty that I, who now almost supported the house by
loans from my uncle, could prevail on the master of it, to allow
her a room to die in. I watched her sick bed for some months, and then
closed her eyes, gentle spirit! for ever. She was pretty, with very
engaging manners; yet had never an opportunity to marry, excepting to a
very old man. She had abilities sufficient to have shone in any
profession, had there been any professions for women, though she shrunk
at the name of milliner or mantua-maker as degrading to a gentlewoman.
I would not term this feeling false pride to any one but you, my child,
whom I fondly hope to see (yes; I will indulge the hope for a moment!)
possessed of that energy of character which gives dignity to any
station; and with that clear, firm spirit that will enable you to
choose a situation for yourself, or submit to be classed in the lowest,
if it be the only one in which you can be the mistress of your own
Soon after the death of my sister, an incident occurred, to prove
to me that the heart of a libertine is dead to natural affection; and
to convince me, that the being who has appeared all tenderness, to
gratify a selfish passion, is as regardless of the innocent fruit of
it, as of the object, when the fit is over. I had casually observed an
old, mean-looking woman, who called on my husband every two or three
months to receive some money. One day entering the passage of his
little counting-house, as she was going out, I heard her say, 'The
child is very weak; she cannot live long, she will soon die out of your
way, so you need not grudge her a little physic.'
'So much the better,' he replied, 'and pray mind your own business,
I was struck by his unfeeling, inhuman tone of voice, and drew
back, determined when the woman came again, to try to speak to her, not
out of curiosity, I had heard enough, but with the hope of being useful
to a poor, outcast girl.
A month or two elapsed before I saw this woman again; and then she
had a child in her hand that tottered along, scarcely able to sustain
her own weight. They were going away, to return at the hour Mr.
Venables was expected; he was now from home. I desired the woman to
walk into the parlour. She hesitated, yet obeyed. I assured her that I
should not mention to my husband (the word seemed to weigh on my
respiration), that I had seen her, or his child. The woman stared at me
with astonishment; and I turned my eyes on the squalid object [that
accompanied her.] She could hardly support herself, her complexion was
sallow, and her eyes inflamed, with an indescribable look of cunning,
mixed with the wrinkles produced by the peevishness of pain.
'Poor child!' I exclaimed. 'Ah! you may well say poor child,'
replied the woman. 'I brought her here to see whether he would have the
heart to look at her, and not get some advice. I do not know what they
deserve who nursed her. Why, her legs bent under her like a bow when
she came to me, and she has never been well since; but, if they were no
better paid than I am, it is not to be wondered at, sure enough.'
On further enquiry I was informed, that this miserable spectacle
was the daughter of a servant, a country girl, who caught Mr. Venables'
eye, and whom he seduced. On his marriage he sent her away, her
situation being too visible. After her delivery, she was thrown on the
town; and died in an hospital within the year. The babe was sent to a
parish-nurse, and afterwards to this woman, who did not seem much
better; but what was to be expected from such a close bargain? She was
only paid three shillings a week for board and washing.
The woman begged me to give her some old clothes for the child,
assuring me, that she was almost afraid to ask master for money to buy
even a pair of shoes.
I grew sick at heart. And, fearing Mr. Venables might enter, and
oblige me to express my abhorrence, I hastily enquired where she lived,
promised to pay her two shillings a week more, and to call on her in a
day or two; putting a trifle into her hand as a proof of my good
If the state of this child affected me, what were my feelings at a
discovery I made respecting Peggy?[22-A]
[22-A] The manuscript is imperfect here. An episode seems to have
been intended, which was never committed to paper.
MY father's situation was now so distressing, that I prevailed on
my uncle to accompany me to visit him; and to lend me his assistance,
to prevent the whole property of the family from becoming the prey of
my brother's rapacity; for, to extricate himself out of present
difficulties, my father was totally regardless of futurity. I took down
with me some presents for my step-mother; it did not require an effort
for me to treat her with civility, or to forget the past.
This was the first time I had visited my native village, since my
marriage. But with what different emotions did I return from the busy
world, with a heavy weight of experience benumbing my imagination, to
scenes, that whispered recollections of joy and hope most eloquently to
my heart! The first scent of the wild flowers from the heath, thrilled
through my veins, awakening every sense to pleasure. The icy hand of
despair seemed to be removed from my bosom; andforgetting my
husbandthe nurtured visions of a romantic mind, bursting on me with
all their original wildness and gay exuberance, were again hailed as
sweet realities. I forgot, with equal facility, that I ever felt
sorrow, or knew care in the country; while a transient rainbow stole
athwart the cloudy sky of despondency. The picturesque form of several
favourite trees, and the porches of rude cottages, with their smiling
hedges, were recognized with the gladsome playfulness of childish
vivacity. I could have kissed the chickens that pecked on the common;
and longed to pat the cows, and frolic with the dogs that sported on
it. I gazed with delight on the windmill, and thought it lucky that it
should be in motion, at the moment I passed by; and entering the dear
green lane, which led directly to the village, the sound of the
well-known rookery gave that sentimental tinge to the varying
sensations of my active soul, which only served to heighten the lustre
of the luxuriant scenery. But, spying, as I advanced, the spire,
peeping over the withered tops of the aged elms that composed the
rookery, my thoughts flew immediately to the church-yard, and tears of
affection, such was the effect of my imagination, bedewed my mother's
grave! Sorrow gave place to devotional feelings. I wandered through the
church in fancy, as I used sometimes to do on a Saturday evening. I
recollected with what fervour I addressed the God of my youth: and once
more with rapturous love looked above my sorrows to the Father of
nature. I pausefeeling forcibly all the emotions I am describing; and
(reminded, as I register my sorrows, of the sublime calm I have felt,
when in some tremendous solitude, my soul rested on itself, and seemed
to fill the universe) I insensibly breathe soft, hushing every wayward
emotion, as if fearing to sully with a sigh, a contentment so extatic.
Having settled my father's affairs, and, by my exertions in his
favour, made my brother my sworn foe, I returned to London. My
husband's conduct was now changed; I had during my absence, received
several affectionate, penitential letters from him; and he seemed on my
arrival, to wish by his behaviour to prove his sincerity. I could not
then conceive why he acted thus; and, when the suspicion darted into my
head, that it might arise from observing my increasing influence with
my uncle, I almost despised myself for imagining that such a degree of
debasing selfishness could exist.
He became, unaccountable as was the change, tender and attentive;
and, attacking my weak side, made a confession of his follies, and
lamented the embarrassments in which I, who merited a far different
fate, might be involved. He besought me to aid him with my counsel,
praised my understanding, and appealed to the tenderness of my heart.
This conduct only inspired me with compassion. I wished to be his
friend; but love had spread his rosy pinions, and fled far, far away;
and had not (like some exquisite perfumes, the fine spirit of which is
continually mingling with the air) left a fragrance behind, to mark
where he had shook his wings. My husband's renewed caresses then became
hateful to me; his brutality was tolerable, compared to his distasteful
fondness. Still, compassion, and the fear of insulting his supposed
feelings, by a want of sympathy, made me dissemble, and do violence to
my delicacy. What a task!
Those who support a system of what I term false refinement, and
will not allow great part of love in the female, as well as male
breast, to spring in some respects involuntarily, may not admit that
charms are as necessary to feed the passion, as virtues to convert the
mellowing spirit into friendship. To such observers I have nothing to
say, any more than to the moralists, who insist that women ought to,
and can love their husbands, because it is their duty. To you, my
child, I may add, with a heart tremblingly alive to your future
conduct, some observations, dictated by my present feelings, on calmly
reviewing this period of my life. When novelists or moralists praise as
a virtue, a woman's coldness of constitution, and want of passion; and
make her yield to the ardour of her lover out of sheer compassion, or
to promote a frigid plan of future comfort, I am disgusted. They may be
good women, in the ordinary acceptation of the phrase, and do no harm;
but they appear to me not to have those 'finely fashioned nerves,'
which render the senses exquisite. They may possess tenderness; but
they want that fire of the imagination, which produces active
sensibility, and positive virtue. How does the woman deserve to
be characterized, who marries one man, with a heart and imagination
devoted to another? Is she not an object of pity or contempt, when thus
sacrilegiously violating the purity of her own feelings? Nay, it is as
indelicate, when she is indifferent, unless she be constitutionally
insensible; then indeed it is a mere affair of barter; and I have
nothing to do with the secrets of trade. Yes; eagerly as I wish you to
possess true rectitude of mind, and purity of affection, I must insist
that a heartless conduct is the contrary of virtuous. Truth is the only
basis of virtue; and we cannot, without depraving our minds, endeavour
to please a lover or husband, but in proportion as he pleases us. Men,
more effectually to enslave us, may inculcate this partial morality,
and lose sight of virtue in subdividing it into the duties of
particular stations; but let us not blush for nature without a cause!
After these remarks, I am ashamed to own, that I was pregnant. The
greatest sacrifice of my principles in my whole life, was the allowing
my husband again to be familiar with my person, though to this cruel
act of self-denial, when I wished the earth to open and swallow me, you
owe your birth; and I the unutterable pleasure of being a mother. There
was something of delicacy in my husband's bridal attentions; but now
his tainted breath, pimpled face, and blood-shot eyes, were not more
repugnant to my senses, than his gross manners, and loveless
familiarity to my taste.
A man would only be expected to maintain; yes, barely grant a
subsistence, to a woman rendered odious by habitual intoxication; but
who would expect him, or think it possible to love her? And unless
'youth, and genial years were flown,' it would be thought equally
unreasonable to insist, [under penalty of] forfeiting almost every
thing reckoned valuable in life, that he should not love another:
whilst woman, weak in reason, impotent in will, is required to
moralize, sentimentalize herself to stone, and pine her life away,
labouring to reform her embruted mate. He may even spend in
dissipation, and intemperance, the very intemperance which renders him
so hateful, her property, and by stinting her expences, not permit her
to beguile in society, a wearisome, joyless life; for over their mutual
fortune she has no power, it must all pass through his hand. And if she
be a mother, and in the present state of women, it is a great
misfortune to be prevented from discharging the duties, and cultivating
the affections of one, what has she not to endure?But I have suffered
the tenderness of one to lead me into reflections that I did not think
of making, to interrupt my narrativeyet the full heart will overflow.
Mr. Venables' embarrassments did not now endear him to me; still,
anxious to befriend him, I endeavoured to prevail on him to retrench
his expences; but he had always some plausible excuse to give, to
justify his not following my advice. Humanity, compassion, and the
interest produced by a habit of living together, made me try to
relieve, and sympathize with him; but, when I recollected that I was
bound to live with such a being for evermy heart died within me; my
desire of improvement became languid, and baleful, corroding melancholy
took possession of my soul. Marriage had bastilled me for life. I
discovered in myself a capacity for the enjoyment of the various
pleasures existence affords; yet, fettered by the partial laws of
society, this fair globe was to me an universal blank.
When I exhorted my husband to economy, I referred to himself. I was
obliged to practise the most rigid, or contract debts, which I had too
much reason to fear would never be paid. I despised this paltry
privilege of a wife, which can only be of use to the vicious or
inconsiderate, and determined not to increase the torrent that was
bearing him down. I was then ignorant of the extent of his fraudulent
speculations, whom I was bound to honour and obey.
A woman neglected by her husband, or whose manners form a striking
contrast with his, will always have men on the watch to soothe and
flatter her. Besides, the forlorn state of a neglected woman, not
destitute of personal charms, is particularly interesting, and rouses
that species of pity, which is so near akin, it easily slides into
love. A man of feeling thinks not of seducing, he is himself seduced by
all the noblest emotions of his soul. He figures to himself all the
sacrifices a woman of sensibility must make, and every situation in
which his imagination places her, touches his heart, and fires his
passions. Longing to take to his bosom the shorn lamb, and bid the
drooping buds of hope revive, benevolence changes into passion: and
should he then discover that he is beloved, honour binds him fast,
though foreseeing that he may afterwards be obliged to pay severe
damages to the man, who never appeared to value his wife's society,
till he found that there was a chance of his being indemnified for the
loss of it.
Such are the partial laws enacted by men; for, only to lay a stress
on the dependent state of a woman in the grand question of the comforts
arising from the possession of property, she is [even in this article]
much more injured by the loss of the husband's affection, than he by
that of his wife; yet where is she, condemned to the solitude of a
deserted home, to look for a compensation from the woman, who seduces
him from her? She cannot drive an unfaithful husband from his house,
nor separate, or tear, his children from him, however culpable he may
be; and he, still the master of his own fate, enjoys the smiles of a
world, that would brand her with infamy, did she, seeking consolation,
venture to retaliate.
These remarks are not dictated by experience; but merely by the
compassion I feel for many amiable women, the out-laws of the
world. For myself, never encouraging any of the advances that were made
to me, my lovers dropped off like the untimely shoots of spring. I did
not even coquet with them; because I found, on examining myself, I
could not coquet with a man without loving him a little; and I
perceived that I should not be able to stop at the line of what are
termed innocent freedoms, did I suffer any. My reserve was then
the consequence of delicacy. Freedom of conduct has emancipated many
women's minds; but my conduct has most rigidly been governed by my
principles, till the improvement of my understanding has enabled me to
discern the fallacy of prejudices at war with nature and reason.
Shortly after the change I have mentioned in my husband's conduct,
my uncle was compelled by his declining health, to seek the succour of
a milder climate, and embark for Lisbon. He left his will in the hands
of a friend, an eminent solicitor; he had previously questioned me
relative to my situation and state of mind, and declared very freely,
that he could place no reliance on the stability of my husband's
professions. He had been deceived in the unfolding of his character; he
now thought it fixed in a train of actions that would inevitably lead
to ruin and disgrace.
The evening before his departure, which we spent alone together, he
folded me to his heart, uttering the endearing appellation of
'child.'My more than father! why was I not permitted to perform the
last duties of one, and smooth the pillow of death? He seemed by his
manner to be convinced that he should never see me more; yet requested
me, most earnestly, to come to him, should I be obliged to leave my
husband. He had before expressed his sorrow at hearing of my pregnancy,
having determined to prevail on me to accompany him, till I informed
him of that circumstance. He expressed himself unfeignedly sorry that
any new tie should bind me to a man whom he thought so incapable of
estimating my value; such was the kind language of affection.
I must repeat his own words; they made an indelible impression on
'The marriage state is certainly that in which women, generally
speaking, can be most useful; but I am far from thinking that a woman,
once married, ought to consider the engagement as indissoluble
(especially if there be no children to reward her for sacrificing her
feelings) in case her husband merits neither her love, nor esteem.
Esteem will often supply the place of love; and prevent a woman from
being wretched, though it may not make her happy. The magnitude of a
sacrifice ought always to bear some proportion to the utility in view;
and for a woman to live with a man, for whom she can cherish neither
affection nor esteem, or even be of any use to him, excepting in the
light of a house-keeper, is an abjectness of condition, the enduring of
which no concurrence of circumstances can ever make a duty in the sight
of God or just men. If indeed she submits to it merely to be maintained
in idleness, she has no right to complain bitterly of her fate; or to
act, as a person of independent character might, as if she had a title
to disregard general rules.
'But the misfortune is, that many women only submit in appearance,
and forfeit their own respect to secure their reputation in the world.
The situation of a woman separated from her husband, is undoubtedly
very different from that of a man who has left his wife. He, with
lordly dignity, has shaken of a clog; and the allowing her food and
raiment, is thought sufficient to secure his reputation from taint.
And, should she have been inconsiderate, he will be celebrated for his
generosity and forbearance. Such is the respect paid to the master-key
of property! A woman, on the contrary, resigning what is termed her
natural protector (though he never was so, but in name) is despised and
shunned, for asserting the independence of mind distinctive of a
rational being, and spurning at slavery.'
During the remainder of the evening, my uncle's tenderness led him
frequently to revert to the subject, and utter, with increasing warmth,
sentiments to the same purport. At length it was necessary to say
'Farewell!'and we partedgracious God! to meet no more.
A GENTLEMAN of large fortune and of polished manners, had lately
visited very frequently at our house, and treated me, if possible, with
more respect than Mr. Venables paid him; my pregnancy was not yet
visible, his society was a great relief to me, as I had for some time
past, to avoid expence, confined myself very much at home. I ever
disdained unnecessary, perhaps even prudent concealments; and my
husband, with great ease, discovered the amount of my uncle's parting
present. A copy of a writ was the stale pretext to extort it from me;
and I had soon reason to believe that it was fabricated for the
purpose. I acknowledge my folly in thus suffering myself to be
continually imposed on. I had adhered to my resolution not to apply to
my uncle, on the part of my husband, any more; yet, when I had received
a sum sufficient to supply my own wants, and to enable me to pursue a
plan I had in view, to settle my younger brother in a respectable
employment, I allowed myself to be duped by Mr. Venables' shallow
pretences, and hypocritical professions.
Thus did he pillage me and my family, thus frustrate all my plans
of usefulness. Yet this was the man I was bound to respect and esteem:
as if respect and esteem depended on an arbitrary will of our own! But
a wife being as much a man's property as his horse, or his ass, she has
nothing she can call her own. He may use any means to get at what the
law considers as his, the moment his wife is in possession of it, even
to the forcing of a lock, as Mr. Venables did, to search for notes in
my writing-deskand all this is done with a show of equity, because,
forsooth, he is responsible for her maintenance.
The tender mother cannot lawfully snatch from the gripe of
the gambling spendthrift, or beastly drunkard, unmindful of his
offspring, the fortune which falls to her by chance; or (so flagrant is
the injustice) what she earns by her own exertions. No; he can rob her
with impunity, even to waste publicly on a courtezan; and the laws of
her countryif women have a countryafford her no protection or
redress from the oppressor, unless she have the plea of bodily fear;
yet how many ways are there of goading the soul almost to madness,
equally unmanly, though not so mean? When such laws were framed, should
not impartial lawgivers have first decreed, in the style of a great
assembly, who recognized the existence of an être suprême, to
fix the national belief, that the husband should always be wiser and
more virtuous than his wife, in order to entitle him, with a show of
justice, to keep this idiot, or perpetual minor, for ever in bondage.
But I must have doneon this subject, my indignation continually runs
away with me.
The company of the gentleman I have already mentioned, who had a
general acquaintance with literature and subjects of taste, was
grateful to me; my countenance brightened up as he approached, and I
unaffectedly expressed the pleasure I felt. The amusement his
conversation afforded me, made it easy to comply with my husband's
request, to endeavour to render our house agreeable to him.
His attentions became more pointed; but, as I was not of the number
of women, whose virtue, as it is termed, immediately takes alarm, I
endeavoured, rather by raillery than serious expostulation, to give a
different turn to his conversation. He assumed a new mode of attack,
and I was, for a while, the dupe of his pretended friendship.
I had, merely in the style of badinage, boasted of my
conquest, and repeated his lover-like compliments to my husband. But he
begged me, for God's sake, not to affront his friend, or I should
destroy all his projects, and be his ruin. Had I had more affection for
my husband, I should have expressed my contempt of this time-serving
politeness: now I imagined that I only felt pity; yet it would have
puzzled a casuist to point out in what the exact difference consisted.
This friend began now, in confidence, to discover to me the real
state of my husband's affairs. 'Necessity,' said Mr. S; why should
I reveal his name? for he affected to palliate the conduct he could not
excuse, 'had led him to take such steps, by accommodation bills, buying
goods on credit, to sell them for ready money, and similar
transactions, that his character in the commercial world was gone. He
was considered,' he added, lowering his voice, 'on 'Change as a
I felt at that moment the first maternal pang. Aware of the evils
my sex have to struggle with, I still wished, for my own consolation,
to be the mother of a daughter; and I could not bear to think, that the
sins of her father's entailed disgrace, should be added to the ills
to which woman is heir.
So completely was I deceived by these shows of friendship (nay, I
believe, according to his interpretation, Mr. Sreally was my friend)
that I began to consult him respecting the best mode of retrieving my
husband's character: it is the good name of a woman only that sets to
rise no more. I knew not that he had been drawn into a whirlpool, out
of which he had not the energy to attempt to escape. He seemed indeed
destitute of the power of employing his faculties in any regular
pursuit. His principles of action were so loose, and his mind so
uncultivated, that every thing like order appeared to him in the shape
of restraint; and, like men in the savage state, he required the strong
stimulus of hope or fear, produced by wild speculations, in which the
interests of others went for nothing, to keep his spirits awake. He one
time possessed patriotism, but he knew not what it was to feel honest
indignation; and pretended to be an advocate for liberty, when, with as
little affection for the human race as for individuals, he thought of
nothing but his own gratification. He was just such a citizen, as a
father. The sums he adroitly obtained by a violation of the laws of his
country, as well as those of humanity, he would allow a mistress to
squander; though she was, with the same sang froid, consigned,
as were his children, to poverty, when another proved more attractive.
On various pretences, his friend continued to visit me; and,
observing my want of money, he tried to induce me to accept of
pecuniary aid; but this offer I absolutely rejected, though it was made
with such delicacy, I could not be displeased.
One day he came, as I thought accidentally, to dinner. My husband
was very much engaged in business, and quitted the room soon after the
cloth was removed. We conversed as usual, till confidential advice led
again to love. I was extremely mortified. I had a sincere regard for
him, and hoped that he had an equal friendship for me. I therefore
began mildly to expostulate with him. This gentleness he mistook for
coy encouragement; and he would not be diverted from the subject.
Perceiving his mistake, I seriously asked him how, using such language
to me, he could profess to be my husband's friend? A significant sneer
excited my curiosity, and he, supposing this to be my only scruple,
took a letter deliberately out of his pocket, saying, 'Your husband's
honour is not inflexible. How could you, with your discernment, think
it so? Why, he left the room this very day on purpose to give me an
opportunity to explain myself; he thought me too timidtoo
I snatched the letter with indescribable emotion. The purport of it
was to invite him to dinner, and to ridicule his chivalrous respect for
me. He assured him, 'that every woman had her price, and, with gross
indecency, hinted, that he should be glad to have the duty of a husband
taken off his hands. These he termed liberal sentiments. He
advised him not to shock my romantic notions, but to attack my
credulous generosity, and weak pity; and concluded with requesting him
to lend him five hundred pounds for a month or six weeks.' I read this
letter twice over; and the firm purpose it inspired, calmed the rising
tumult of my soul. I rose deliberately, requested Mr. Sto wait a
moment, and instantly going into the counting-house, desired Mr.
Venables to return with me to the dining-parlour.
He laid down his pen, and entered with me, without observing any
change in my countenance. I shut the door, and, giving him the letter,
simply asked, 'whether he wrote it, or was it a forgery?'
Nothing could equal his confusion. His friend's eye met his, and he
muttered something about a jokeBut I interrupted him'It is
sufficientWe part for ever.'
I continued, with solemnity, 'I have borne with your tyranny and
infidelities. I disdain to utter what I have borne with. I thought you
unprincipled, but not so decidedly vicious. I formed a tie, in the
sight of heavenI have held it sacred; even when men, more conformable
to my taste, have made me feelI despise all subterfuge!that I was
not dead to love. Neglected by you, I have resolutely stifled the
enticing emotions, and respected the plighted faith you outraged. And
you dare now to insult me, by selling me to prostitution!Yesequally
lost to delicacy and principleyou dared sacrilegiously to barter the
honour of the mother of your child.'
Then, turning to Mr. S, I added, 'I call on you, Sir, to
witness,' and I lifted my hands and eyes to heaven, 'that, as solemnly
as I took his name, I now abjure it,' I pulled off my ring, and put it
on the table; 'and that I mean immediately to quit his house, never to
enter it more. I will provide for myself and child. I leave him as free
as I am determined to be myselfhe shall be answerable for no debts of
Astonishment closed their lips, till Mr. Venables, gently pushing
his friend, with a forced smile, out of the room, nature for a moment
prevailed, and, appearing like himself, he turned round, burning with
rage, to me: but there was no terror in the frown, excepting when
contrasted with the malignant smile which preceded it. He bade me
'leave the house at my peril; told me he despised my threats; I had no
resource; I could not swear the peace against him!I was not afraid of
my life!he had never struck me!'
He threw the letter in the fire, which I had incautiously left in
his hands; and, quitting the room, locked the door on me.
When left alone, I was a moment or two before I could recollect
myself. One scene had succeeded another with such rapidity, I almost
doubted whether I was reflecting on a real event. 'Was it possible? Was
I, indeed, free?'Yes; free I termed myself, when I decidedly
perceived the conduct I ought to adopt. How had I panted for
libertyliberty, that I would have purchased at any price, but that of
my own esteem! I rose, and shook myself; opened the window, and
methought the air never smelled so sweet. The face of heaven grew
fairer as I viewed it, and the clouds seemed to flit away obedient to
my wishes, to give my soul room to expand. I was all soul, and (wild as
it may appear) felt as if I could have dissolved in the soft balmy gale
that kissed my cheek, or have glided below the horizon on the glowing,
descending beams. A seraphic satisfaction animated, without agitating
my spirits; and my imagination collected, in visions sublimely
terrible, or soothingly beautiful, an immense variety of the endless
images, which nature affords, and fancy combines, of the grand and
fair. The lustre of these bright picturesque sketches faded with the
setting sun; but I was still alive to the calm delight they had
diffused through my heart.
There may be advocates for matrimonial obedience, who, making a
distinction between the duty of a wife and of a human being, may blame
my conduct.To them I write notmy feelings are not for them to
analyze; and may you, my child, never be able to ascertain, by
heart-rending experience, what your mother felt before the present
emancipation of her mind!
I began to write a letter to my father, after closing one to my
uncle; not to ask advice, but to signify my determination; when I was
interrupted by the entrance of Mr. Venables. His manner was changed.
His views on my uncle's fortune made him averse to my quitting his
house, or he would, I am convinced, have been glad to have shaken off
even the slight restraint my presence imposed on him; the restraint of
showing me some respect. So far from having an affection for me, he
really hated me, because he was convinced that I must despise him.
He told me, that, 'As I now had had time to cool and reflect, he
did not doubt but that my prudence, and nice sense of propriety, would
lead me to overlook what was passed.'
'Reflection,' I replied, 'had only confirmed my purpose, and no
power on earth could divert me from it.'
Endeavouring to assume a soothing voice and look, when he would
willingly have tortured me, to force me to feel his power, his
countenance had an infernal expression, when he desired me, 'Not to
expose myself to the servants, by obliging him to confine me in my
apartment; if then I would give my promise not to quit the house
precipitately, I should be freeand.' I declared, interrupting him,
'that I would promise nothing. I had no measures to keep with himI
was resolved, and would not condescend to subterfuge.'
He muttered, 'that I should soon repent of these preposterous
airs;' and, ordering tea to be carried into my little study, which had
a communication with my bed-chamber, he once more locked the door upon
me, and left me to my own meditations. I had passively followed him up
stairs, not wishing to fatigue myself with unavailing exertion.
Nothing calms the mind like a fixed purpose. I felt as if I had
heaved a thousand weight from my heart; the atmosphere seemed
lightened; and, if I execrated the institutions of society, which thus
enable men to tyrannize over women, it was almost a disinterested
sentiment. I disregarded present inconveniences, when my mind had done
struggling with itself,when reason and inclination had shaken hands
and were at peace. I had no longer the cruel task before me, in endless
perspective, aye, during the tedious for ever of life, of labouring to
overcome my repugnanceof labouring to extinguish the hopes, the
maybes of a lively imagination. Death I had hailed as my only chance
for deliverance; but, while existence had still so many charms, and
life promised happiness, I shrunk from the icy arms of an unknown
tyrant, though far more inviting than those of the man, to whom I
supposed myself bound without any other alternative; and was content to
linger a little longer, waiting for I knew not what, rather than leave
'the warm precincts of the cheerful day,' and all the unenjoyed
affection of my nature.
My present situation gave a new turn to my reflection; and I
wondered (now the film seemed to be withdrawn, that obscured the
piercing sight of reason) how I could, previously to the deciding
outrage, have considered myself as everlastingly united to vice and
folly? 'Had an evil genius cast a spell at my birth; or a demon stalked
out of chaos, to perplex my understanding, and enchain my will, with
I pursued this train of thinking; it led me out of myself, to
expatiate on the misery peculiar to my sex. 'Are not,' I thought, 'the
despots for ever stigmatized, who, in the wantonness of power,
commanded even the most atrocious criminals to be chained to dead
bodies? though surely those laws are much more inhuman, which forge
adamantine fetters to bind minds together, that never can mingle in
social communion! What indeed can equal the wretchedness of that state,
in which there is no alternative, but to extinguish the affections, or
TOWARDS midnight Mr. Venables entered my chamber; and, with calm
audacity preparing to go to bed, he bade me make haste, 'for that was
the best place for husbands and wives to end their differences. He had
been drinking plentifully to aid his courage.
I did not at first deign to reply. But perceiving that he affected
to take my silence for consent, I told him that, 'If he would not go to
another bed, or allow me, I should sit up in my study all night.' He
attempted to pull me into the chamber, half joking. But I resisted;
and, as he had determined not to give me any reason for saying that he
used violence, after a few more efforts, he retired, cursing my
obstinacy, to bed.
I sat musing some time longer; then, throwing my cloak around me,
prepared for sleep on a sopha. And, so fortunate seemed my deliverance,
so sacred the pleasure of being thus wrapped up in myself, that I slept
profoundly, and woke with a mind composed to encounter the struggles of
the day. Mr. Venables did not wake till some hours after; and then he
came to me half-dressed, yawning and stretching, with haggard eyes, as
if he scarcely recollected what had passed the preceding evening. He
fixed his eyes on me for a moment, then, calling me a fool, asked 'How
long I intended to continue this pretty farce? For his part, he was
devilish sick of it; but this was the plague of marrying women who
pretended to know something.'
I made no other reply to this harangue, than to say, 'That he ought
to be glad to get rid of a woman so unfit to be his companionand that
any change in my conduct would be mean dissimulation; for maturer
reflection only gave the sacred seal of reason to my first resolution.'
He looked as if he could have stamped with impatience, at being
obliged to stifle his rage; but, conquering his anger (for weak people,
whose passions seem the most ungovernable, restrain them with the
greatest ease, when they have a sufficient motive), he exclaimed, 'Very
pretty, upon my soul! very pretty, theatrical flourishes! Pray, fair
Roxana, stoop from your altitudes, and remember that you are acting a
part in real life.'
He uttered this speech with a self-satisfied air, and went down
stairs to dress.
In about an hour he came to me again; and in the same tone said,
'That he came as my gentleman-usher to hand me down to breakfast.
'Of the black rod?' asked I.
This question, and the tone in which I asked it, a little
disconcerted him. To say the truth, I now felt no resentment; my firm
resolution to free myself from my ignoble thraldom, had absorbed the
various emotions which, during six years, had racked my soul. The duty
pointed out by my principles seemed clear; and not one tender feeling
intruded to make me swerve: The dislike which my husband had inspired
was strong; but it only led me to wish to avoid, to wish to let him
drop out of my memory; there was no misery, no torture that I would not
deliberately have chosen, rather than renew my lease of servitude.
During the breakfast, he attempted to reason with me on the folly
of romantic sentiments; for this was the indiscriminate epithet he gave
to every mode of conduct or thinking superior to his own. He asserted,
'that all the world were governed by their own interest; those who
pretended to be actuated by different motives, were only deeper knaves,
or fools crazed by books, who took for gospel all the rodomantade
nonsense written by men who knew nothing of the world. For his part, he
thanked God, he was no hypocrite; and, if he stretched a point
sometimes, it was always with an intention of paying every man his
He then artfully insinuated, 'that he daily expected a vessel to
arrive, a successful speculation, that would make him easy for the
present, and that he had several other schemes actually depending, that
could not fail. He had no doubt of becoming rich in a few years, though
he had been thrown back by some unlucky adventures at the setting out.'
I mildly replied, 'That I wished he might not involve himself still
He had no notion that I was governed by a decision of judgment, not
to be compared with a mere spurt of resentment. He knew not what it was
to feel indignation against vice, and often boasted of his placable
temper, and readiness to forgive injuries. True; for he only considered
the being deceived, as an effort of skill he had not guarded against;
and then, with a cant of candour, would observe, 'that he did not know
how he might himself have been tempted to act in the same
circumstances.' And, as his heart never opened to friendship, it never
was wounded by disappointment. Every new acquaintance he protested, it
is true, was 'the cleverest fellow in the world;' and he really thought
so; till the novelty of his conversation or manners ceased to have any
effect on his sluggish spirits. His respect for rank or fortune was
more permanent, though he chanced to have no design of availing himself
of the influence of either to promote his own views.
After a prefatory conversation,my blood (I thought it had been
cooler) flushed over my whole countenance as he spokehe alluded to my
situation. He desired me to reflect'and act like a prudent woman, as
the best proof of my superior understanding; for he must own I had
sense, did I know how to use it. I was not,' he laid a stress on his
words, 'without my passions; and a husband was a convenient cloke.He
was liberal in his way of thinking; and why might not we, like many
other married people, who were above vulgar prejudices, tacitly consent
to let each other follow their own inclination?He meant nothing more,
in the letter I made the ground of complaint; and the pleasure which I
seemed to take in Mr. S.'s company, led him to conclude, that he was
not disagreeable to me.'
A clerk brought in the letters of the day, and I, as I often did,
while he was discussing subjects of business, went to the piano
forte, and began to play a favourite air to restore myself, as it
were, to nature, and drive the sophisticated sentiments I had just been
obliged to listen to, out of my soul.
They had excited sensations similar to those I have felt, in
viewing the squalid inhabitants of some of the lanes and back streets
of the metropolis, mortified at being compelled to consider them as my
fellow-creatures, as if an ape had claimed kindred with me. Or, as when
surrounded by a mephitical fog, I have wished to have a volley of
cannon fired, to clear the incumbered atmosphere, and give me room to
breathe and move.
My spirits were all in arms, and I played a kind of extemporary
prelude. The cadence was probably wild and impassioned, while, lost in
thought, I made the sounds a kind of echo to my train of thinking.
Pausing for a moment, I met Mr. Venables' eyes. He was observing me
with an air of conceited satisfaction, as much as to say'My last
insinuation has done the businessshe begins to know her own
interest.' Then gathering up his letters, he said, 'That he hoped he
should hear no more romantic stuff, well enough in a miss just come
from boarding school;' and went, as was his custom, to the
counting-house. I still continued playing; and, turning to a sprightly
lesson, I executed it with uncommon vivacity. I heard footsteps
approach the door, and was soon convinced that Mr. Venables was
listening; the consciousness only gave more animation to my fingers. He
went down into the kitchen, and the cook, probably by his desire, came
to me, to know what I would please to order for dinner. Mr. Venables
came into the parlour again, with apparent carelessness. I perceived
that the cunning man was over-reaching himself; and I gave my
directions as usual, and left the room.
While I was making some alteration in my dress, Mr. Venables peeped
in, and, begging my pardon for interrupting me, disappeared. I took up
some work (I could not read), and two or three messages were sent to
me, probably for no other purpose, but to enable Mr. Venables to
ascertain what I was about.
I listened whenever I heard the street-door open; at last I
imagined I could distinguish Mr. Venables' step, going out. I laid
aside my work; my heart palpitated; still I was afraid hastily to
enquire; and I waited a long half hour, before I ventured to ask the
boy whether his master was in the counting-house?
Being answered in the negative, I bade him call me a coach, and
collecting a few necessaries hastily together, with a little parcel of
letters and papers which I had collected the preceding evening, I
hurried into it, desiring the coachman to drive to a distant part of
I almost feared that the coach would break down before I got out of
the street; and, when I turned the corner, I seemed to breathe a freer
air. I was ready to imagine that I was rising above the thick
atmosphere of earth; or I felt, as wearied souls might be supposed to
feel on entering another state of existence.
I stopped at one or two stands of coaches to elude pursuit, and
then drove round the skirts of the town to seek for an obscure lodging,
where I wished to remain concealed, till I could avail myself of my
uncle's protection. I had resolved to assume my own name immediately,
and openly to avow my determination, without any formal vindication,
the moment I had found a home, in which I could rest free from the
daily alarm of expecting to see Mr. Venables enter.
I looked at several lodgings; but finding that I could not, without
a reference to some acquaintance, who might inform my tyrant, get
admittance into a decent apartmentmen have not all this troubleI
thought of a woman whom I had assisted to furnish a little
haberdasher's shop, and who I knew had a first floor to let.
I went to her, and though I could not persuade her, that the
quarrel between me and Mr. Venables would never be made up, still she
agreed to conceal me for the present; yet assuring me at the same time,
shaking her head, that, when a woman was once married, she must bear
every thing. Her pale face, on which appeared a thousand haggard lines
and delving wrinkles, produced by what is emphatically termed fretting,
inforced her remark; and I had afterwards an opportunity of observing
the treatment she had to endure, which grizzled her into patience. She
toiled from morning till night; yet her husband would rob the till, and
take away the money reserved for paying bills; and, returning home
drunk, he would beat her if she chanced to offend him, though she had a
child at the breast.
These scenes awoke me at night; and, in the morning, I heard her,
as usual, talk to her dear Johnnyhe, forsooth, was her master; no
slave in the West Indies had one more despotic; but fortunately she was
of the true Russian breed of wives.
My mind, during the few past days, seemed, as it were, disengaged
from my body; but, now the struggle was over, I felt very forcibly the
effect which perturbation of spirits produces on a woman in my
The apprehension of a miscarriage, obliged me to confine myself to
my apartment near a fortnight; but I wrote to my uncle's friend for
money, promising 'to call on him, and explain my situation, when I was
well enough to go out; mean time I earnestly intreated him, not to
mention my place of abode to any one, lest my husbandsuch the law
considered himshould disturb the mind he could not conquer. I
mentioned my intention of setting out for Lisbon, to claim my uncle's
protection, the moment my health would permit.'
The tranquillity however, which I was recovering, was soon
interrupted. My landlady came up to me one day, with eyes swollen with
weeping, unable to utter what she was commanded to say. She declared,
'That she was never so miserable in her life; that she must appear an
ungrateful monster; and that she would readily go down on her knees to
me, to intreat me to forgive her, as she had done to her husband to
spare her the cruel task.' Sobs prevented her from proceeding, or
answering my impatient enquiries, to know what she meant.
When she became a little more composed, she took a newspaper out of
her pocket, declaring, 'that her heart smote her, but what could she
do?she must obey her husband.' I snatched the paper from her. An
advertisement quickly met my eye, purporting, that 'Maria Venables had,
without any assignable cause, absconded from her husband; and any
person harbouring her, was menaced with the utmost severity of the
Perfectly acquainted with Mr. Venables' meanness of soul, this step
did not excite my surprise, and scarcely my contempt. Resentment in my
breast, never survived love. I bade the poor woman, in a kind tone,
wipe her eyes, and request her husband to come up, and speak to me
My manner awed him. He respected a lady, though not a woman; and
began to mutter out an apology.
'Mr. Venables was a rich gentleman; he wished to oblige me, but he
had suffered enough by the law already, to tremble at the thought;
besides, for certain, we should come together again, and then even I
should not thank him for being accessary to keeping us asunder.A
husband and wife were, God knows, just as one,and all would come
round at last.' He uttered a drawling 'Hem!' and then with an arch
look, added'Master might have had his little frolicsbutLord bless
your heart!men would be men while the world stands.'
To argue with this privileged first-born of reason, I perceived,
would be vain. I therefore only requested him to let me remain another
day at his house, while I sought for a lodging; and not to inform Mr.
Venables that I had ever been sheltered there.
He consented, because he had not the courage to refuse a person for
whom he had an habitual respect; but I heard the pent-up choler burst
forth in curses, when he met his wife, who was waiting impatiently at
the foot of the stairs, to know what effect my expostulations would
have on him.
Without wasting any time in the fruitless indulgence of vexation, I
once more set out in search of an abode in which I could hide myself
for a few weeks.
Agreeing to pay an exorbitant price, I hired an apartment, without
any reference being required relative to my character: indeed, a glance
at my shape seemed to say, that my motive for concealment was
sufficiently obvious. Thus was I obliged to shroud my head in infamy.
To avoid all danger of detectionI use the appropriate word, my
child, for I was hunted out like a felonI determined to take
possession of my new lodgings that very evening.
I did not inform my landlady where I was going. I knew that she had
a sincere affection for me, and would willingly have run any risk to
show her gratitude; yet I was fully convinced, that a few kind words
from Johnny would have found the woman in her, and her dear
benefactress, as she termed me in an agony of tears, would have been
sacrificed, to recompense her tyrant for condescending to treat her
like an equal. He could be kind-hearted, as she expressed it, when he
pleased. And this thawed sternness, contrasted with his habitual
brutality, was the more acceptable, and could not be purchased at too
dear a rate.
The sight of the advertisement made me desirous of taking refuge
with my uncle, let what would be the consequence; and I repaired in a
hackney coach (afraid of meeting some person who might chance to know
me, had I walked) to the chambers of my uncle's friend.
He received me with great politeness (my uncle had already
prepossessed him in my favour), and listened, with interest, to my
explanation of the motives which had induced me to fly from home, and
skulk in obscurity, with all the timidity of fear that ought only to be
the companion of guilt. He lamented, with rather more gallantry than,
in my situation, I thought delicate, that such a woman should be thrown
away on a man insensible to the charms of beauty or grace. He seemed at
a loss what to advise me to do, to evade my husband's search, without
hastening to my uncle, whom, he hesitating said, I might not find
alive. He uttered this intelligence with visible regret; requested me,
at least, to wait for the arrival of the next packet; offered me what
money I wanted, and promised to visit me.
He kept his word; still no letter arrived to put an end to my
painful state of suspense. I procured some books and music, to beguile
the tedious solitary days.
'Come, ever smiling Liberty,
'And with thee bring thy jocund train:'
I sungand sung till, saddened by the strain of joy, I bitterly
lamented the fate that deprived me of all social pleasure. Comparative
liberty indeed I had possessed myself of; but the jocund train lagged
BY watching my only visitor, my uncle's friend, or by some other
means, Mr. Venables discovered my residence, and came to enquire for
me. The maid-servant assured him there was no such person in the house.
A bustle ensuedI caught the alarmlisteneddistinguished his voice,
and immediately locked the door. They suddenly grew still; and I waited
near a quarter of an hour, before I heard him open the parlour door,
and mount the stairs with the mistress of the house, who obsequiously
declared that she knew nothing of me.
Finding my door locked, she requested me to 'open it, and prepare
to go home with my husband, poor gentleman! to whom I had already
occasioned sufficient vexation.' I made no reply. Mr. Venables then, in
an assumed tone of softness, intreated me, 'to consider what he
suffered, and my own reputation, and get the better of childish
resentment.' He ran on in the same strain, pretending to address me,
but evidently adapting his discourse to the capacity of the landlady;
who, at every pause, uttered an exclamation of pity; or 'Yes, to be
sureVery true, sir.'
Sick of the farce, and perceiving that I could not avoid the hated
interview, I opened the door, and he entered. Advancing with easy
assurance to take my hand, I shrunk from his touch, with an involuntary
start, as I should have done from a noisome reptile, with more disgust
than terror. His conductress was retiring, to give us, as she said, an
opportunity to accommodate matters. But I bade her come in, or I would
go out; and curiosity impelled her to obey me.
Mr. Venables began to expostulate; and this woman, proud of his
confidence, to second him. But I calmly silenced her, in the midst of a
vulgar harangue, and turning to him, asked, 'Why he vainly tormented
me? declaring that no power on earth should force me back to his
After a long altercation, the particulars of which, it would be to
no purpose to repeat, he left the room. Some time was spent in loud
conversation in the parlour below, and I discovered that he had brought
his friend, an attorney, with him.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * *
The tumult on the landing place, brought out a gentleman, who had
recently taken apartments in the house; he enquired why I was thus
assailed[91-A]? The voluble attorney instantly repeated the trite tale.
The stranger turned to me, observing, with the most soothing politeness
and manly interest, that 'my countenance told a very different story.'
He added, 'that I should not be insulted, or forced out of the house,
by any body.'
'Not by her husband?' asked the attorney.
'No, sir, not by her husband.' Mr. Venables advanced towards
himBut there was a decision in his attitude, that so well seconded
that of his voice,
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
They left the house: at the same time protesting, that any one that
should dare to protect me, should be prosecuted with the utmost rigour.
They were scarcely out of the house, when my landlady came up to me
again, and begged my pardon, in a very different tone. For, though Mr.
Venables had bid her, at her peril, harbour me, he had not attended, I
found, to her broad hints, to discharge the lodging. I instantly
promised to pay her, and make her a present to compensate for my abrupt
departure, if she would procure me another lodging, at a sufficient
distance; and she, in return, repeating Mr. Venables' plausible tale, I
raised her indignation, and excited her sympathy, by telling her
briefly the truth.
She expressed her commiseration with such honest warmth, that I
felt soothed; for I have none of that fastidious sensitiveness, which a
vulgar accent or gesture can alarm to the disregard of real kindness. I
was ever glad to perceive in others the humane feelings I delighted to
exercise; and the recollection of some ridiculous characteristic
circumstances, which have occurred in a moment of emotion, has
convulsed me with laughter, though at the instant I should have thought
it sacrilegious to have smiled. Your improvement, my dearest girl,
being ever present to me while I write, I note these feelings, because
women, more accustomed to observe manners than actions, are too much
alive to ridicule. So much so, that their boasted sensibility is often
stifled by false delicacy. True sensibility, the sensibility which is
the auxiliary of virtue, and the soul of genius, is in society so
occupied with the feelings of others, as scarcely to regard its own
sensations. With what reverence have I looked up at my uncle, the dear
parent of my mind! when I have seen the sense of his own sufferings, of
mind and body, absorbed in a desire to comfort those, whose misfortunes
were comparatively trivial. He would have been ashamed of being as
indulgent to himself, as he was to others. 'Genuine fortitude,' he
would assert, 'consisted in governing our own emotions, and making
allowance for the weaknesses in our friends, that we would not tolerate
in ourselves.' But where is my fond regret leading me!
'Women must be submissive,' said my landlady. 'Indeed what could
most women do? Who had they to maintain them, but their husbands? Every
woman, and especially a lady, could not go through rough and smooth, as
she had done, to earn a little bread.'
She was in a talking mood, and proceeded to inform me how she had
been used in the world. 'She knew what it was to have a bad husband, or
she did not know who should.' I perceived that she would be very much
mortified, were I not to attend to her tale, and I did not attempt to
interrupt her, though I wished her, as soon as possible, to go out in
search of a new abode for me, where I could once more hide my head.
She began by telling me, 'That she had saved a little money in
service; and was over-persuaded (we must all be in love once in our
lives) to marry a likely man, a footman in the family, not worth a
groat. My plan,' she continued, 'was to take a house, and let out
lodgings; and all went on well, till my husband got acquainted with an
impudent slut, who chose to live on other people's meansand then all
went to rack and ruin. He ran in debt to buy her fine clothes, such
clothes as I never thought of wearing myself, andwould you believe
it?he signed an execution on my very goods, bought with the money I
worked so hard to get; and they came and took my bed from under me,
before I heard a word of the matter. Aye, madam, these are misfortunes
that you gentlefolks know nothing of,but sorrow is sorrow, let it
come which way it will.
'I sought for a service againvery hard, after having a house of
my own!but he used to follow me, and kick up such a riot when he was
drunk, that I could not keep a place; nay, he even stole my clothes,
and pawned them; and when I went to the pawnbroker's, and offered to
take my oath that they were not bought with a farthing of his money,
they said, 'It was all as one, my husband had a right to whatever I
'At last he listed for a soldier, and I took a house, making an
agreement to pay for the furniture by degrees; and I almost starved
myself, till I once more got before-hand in the world.
'After an absence of six years (God forgive me! I thought he was
dead) my husband returned; found me out, and came with such a penitent
face, I forgave him, and clothed him from head to foot. But he had not
been a week in the house, before some of his creditors arrested him;
and, he selling my goods, I found myself once more reduced to beggary;
for I was not as well able to work, go to bed late, and rise early, as
when I quitted service; and then I thought it hard enough. He was soon
tired of me, when there was nothing more to be had, and left me again.
'I will not tell you how I was buffeted about, till, hearing for
certain that he had died in an hospital abroad, I once more returned to
my old occupation; but have not yet been able to get my head above
water: so, madam, you must not be angry if I am afraid to run any risk,
when I know so well, that women have always the worst of it, when law
is to decide.'
After uttering a few more complaints, I prevailed on my landlady to
go out in quest of a lodging; and, to be more secure, I condescended to
the mean shift of changing my name.
But why should I dwell on similar incidents!I was hunted, like an
infected beast, from three different apartments, and should not have
been allowed to rest in any, had not Mr. Venables, informed of my
uncle's dangerous state of health, been inspired with the fear of
hurrying me out of the world as I advanced in my pregnancy, by thus
tormenting and obliging me to take sudden journeys to avoid him; and
then his speculations on my uncle's fortune must prove abortive.
One day, when he had pursued me to an inn, I fainted, hurrying from
him; and, falling down, the sight of my blood alarmed him, and obtained
a respite for me. It is strange that he should have retained any hope,
after observing my unwavering determination; but, from the mildness of
my behaviour, when I found all my endeavours to change his disposition
unavailing, he formed an erroneous opinion of my character, imagining
that, were we once more together, I should part with the money he could
not legally force from me, with the same facility as formerly. My
forbearance and occasional sympathy he had mistaken for weakness of
character; and, because he perceived that I disliked resistance, he
thought my indulgence and compassion mere selfishness, and never
discovered that the fear of being unjust, or of unnecessarily wounding
the feelings of another, was much more painful to me, than any thing I
could have to endure myself. Perhaps it was pride which made me
imagine, that I could bear what I dreaded to inflict; and that it was
often easier to suffer, than to see the sufferings of others.
I forgot to mention that, during this persecution, I received a
letter from my uncle, informing me, 'that he only found relief from
continual change of air; and that he intended to return when the spring
was a little more advanced (it was now the middle of February), and
then we would plan a journey to Italy, leaving the fogs and cares of
England far behind.' He approved of my conduct, promised to adopt my
child, and seemed to have no doubt of obliging Mr. Venables to hear
reason. He wrote to his friend, by the same post, desiring him to call
on Mr. Venables in his name; and, in consequence of the remonstrances
he dictated, I was permitted to lie-in tranquilly.
The two or three weeks previous, I had been allowed to rest in
peace; but, so accustomed was I to pursuit and alarm, that I seldom
closed my eyes without being haunted by Mr. Venables' image, who seemed
to assume terrific or hateful forms to torment me, wherever I
turned.Sometimes a wild cat, a roaring bull, or hideous assassin,
whom I vainly attempted to fly; at others he was a demon, hurrying me
to the brink of a precipice, plunging me into dark waves, or horrid
gulfs; and I woke, in violent fits of trembling anxiety, to assure
myself that it was all a dream, and to endeavour to lure my waking
thoughts to wander to the delightful Italian vales, I hoped soon to
visit; or to picture some august ruins, where I reclined in fancy on a
mouldering column, and escaped, in the contemplation of the
heart-enlarging virtues of antiquity, from the turmoil of cares that
had depressed all the daring purposes of my soul. But I was not long
allowed to calm my mind by the exercise of my imagination; for the
third day after your birth, my child, I was surprised by a visit from
my elder brother; who came in the most abrupt manner, to inform me of
the death of my uncle. He had left the greater part of his fortune to
my child, appointing me its guardian; in short, every step was taken to
enable me to be mistress of his fortune, without putting any part of it
in Mr. Venables' power. My brother came to vent his rage on me, for
having, as he expressed himself, 'deprived him, my uncle's eldest
nephew, of his inheritance;' though my uncle's property, the fruit of
his own exertion, being all in the funds, or on landed securities,
there was not a shadow of justice in the charge.
As I sincerely loved my uncle, this intelligence brought on a
fever, which I struggled to conquer with all the energy of my mind;
for, in my desolate state, I had it very much at heart to suckle you,
my poor babe. You seemed my only tie to life, a cherub, to whom I
wished to be a father, as well as a mother; and the double duty
appeared to me to produce a proportionate increase of affection. But
the pleasure I felt, while sustaining you, snatched from the wreck of
hope, was cruelly damped by melancholy reflections on my widowed
statewidowed by the death of my uncle. Of Mr. Venables I thought not,
even when I thought of the felicity of loving your father, and how a
mother's pleasure might be exalted, and her care softened by a
husband's tenderness.'Ought to be!' I exclaimed; and I endeavoured to
drive away the tenderness that suffocated me; but my spirits were weak,
and the unbidden tears would flow. 'Why was I,' I would ask thee, but
thou didst not heed me,'cut off from the participation of the
sweetest pleasure of life?' I imagined with what extacy, after the
pains of child-bed, I should have presented my little stranger, whom I
had so long wished to view, to a respectable father, and with what
maternal fondness I should have pressed them both to my heart!Now I
kissed her with less delight, though with the most endearing
compassion, poor helpless one! when I perceived a slight resemblance of
him, to whom she owed her existence; or, if any gesture reminded me of
him, even in his best days, my heart heaved, and I pressed the innocent
to my bosom, as if to purify ityes, I blushed to think that its
purity had been sullied, by allowing such a man to be its father.
After my recovery, I began to think of taking a house in the
country, or of making an excursion on the continent, to avoid Mr.
Venables; and to open my heart to new pleasures and affection. The
spring was melting into summer, and you, my little companion, began to
smilethat smile made hope bud out afresh, assuring me the world was
not a desert. Your gestures were ever present to my fancy; and I dwelt
on the joy I should feel when you would begin to walk and lisp.
Watching your wakening mind, and shielding from every rude blast my
tender blossom, I recovered my spiritsI dreamed not of the
frost'the killing frost,' to which you were destined to be
exposed.But I lose all patienceand execrate the injustice of the
worldfolly! ignorance!I should rather call it; but, shut up from a
free circulation of thought, and always pondering on the same griefs, I
writhe under the torturing apprehensions, which ought to excite only
honest indignation, or active compassion; and would, could I view them
as the natural consequence of things. But, born a womanand born to
suffer, in endeavouring to repress my own emotions, I feel more acutely
the various ills my sex are fated to bearI feel that the evils they
are subject to endure, degrade them so far below their oppressors, as
almost to justify their tyranny; leading at the same time superficial
reasoners to term that weakness the cause, which is only the
consequence of short-sighted despotism.
[91-A] The introduction of Darnford as the deliverer of Maria, in an
early stage of the history, is already stated (Chap. III.) to have been
an after-thought of the author. This has probably caused the
imperfectness of the manuscript in the above passage; though, at the
same time, it must be acknowledged to be somewhat uncertain, whether
Darnford is the stranger intended in this place. It appears from Chap.
XVII. that an interference of a more decisive nature was designed to be
attributed to him.
AS my mind grew calmer, the visions of Italy again returned with
their former glow of colouring; and I resolved on quitting the kingdom
for a time, in search of the cheerfulness, that naturally results from
a change of scene, unless we carry the barbed arrow with us, and only
see what we feel.
During the period necessary to prepare for a long absence, I sent a
supply to pay my father's debts, and settled my brothers in eligible
situations; but my attention was not wholly engrossed by my family,
though I do not think it necessary to enumerate the common exertions of
humanity. The manner in which my uncle's property was settled,
prevented me from making the addition to the fortune of my surviving
sister, that I could have wished; but I had prevailed on him to
bequeath her two thousand pounds, and she determined to marry a lover,
to whom she had been some time attached. Had it not been for this
engagement, I should have invited her to accompany me in my tour; and I
might have escaped the pit, so artfully dug in my path, when I was the
least aware of danger.
I had thought of remaining in England, till I weaned my child; but
this state of freedom was too peaceful to last, and I had soon reason
to wish to hasten my departure. A friend of Mr. Venables, the same
attorney who had accompanied him in several excursions to hunt me from
my hiding places, waited on me to propose a reconciliation. On my
refusal, he indirectly advised me to make over to my husbandfor
husband he would term himthe greater part of the property I had at
command, menacing me with continual persecution unless I complied, and
that, as a last resort, he would claim the child. I did not, though
intimidated by the last insinuation, scruple to declare, that I would
not allow him to squander the money left to me for far different
purposes, but offered him five hundred pounds, if he would sign a bond
not to torment me any more. My maternal anxiety made me thus appear to
waver from my first determination, and probably suggested to him, or
his diabolical agent, the infernal plot, which has succeeded but too
The bond was executed; still I was impatient to leave England.
Mischief hung in the air when we breathed the same; I wanted seas to
divide us, and waters to roll between, till he had forgotten that I had
the means of helping him through a new scheme. Disturbed by the late
occurrences, I instantly prepared for my departure. My only delay was
waiting for a maid-servant, who spoke French fluently, and had been
warmly recommended to me. A valet I was advised to hire, when I fixed
on my place of residence for any time.
My God, with what a light heart did I set out for Dover!It was
not my country, but my cares, that I was leaving behind. My heart
seemed to bound with the wheels, or rather appeared the centre on which
they twirled. I clasped you to my bosom, exclaiming 'And you will be
safequite safewhenwe are once on board the packet.Would we were
there!' I smiled at my idle fears, as the natural effect of continual
alarm; and I scarcely owned to myself that I dreaded Mr. Venables's
cunning, or was conscious of the horrid delight he would feel, at
forming stratagem after stratagem to circumvent me. I was already in
the snareI never reached the packetI never saw thee more.I grow
breathless. I have scarcely patience to write down the details. The
maidthe plausible woman I had hiredput, doubtless, some stupifying
potion in what I ate or drank, the morning I left town. All I know is,
that she must have quitted the chaise, shameless wretch! and taken
(from my breast) my babe with her. How could a creature in a female
form see me caress thee, and steal thee from my arms! I must stop, stop
to repress a mother's anguish; left, in bitterness of soul, I imprecate
the wrath of heaven on this tiger, who tore my only comfort from me.
How long I slept I know not; certainly many hours, for I woke at
the close of day, in a strange confusion of thought. I was probably
roused to recollection by some one thundering at a huge, unwieldy gate.
Attempting to ask where I was, my voice died away, and I tried to raise
it in vain, as I have done in a dream. I looked for my babe with
affright; feared that it had fallen out of my lap, while I had so
strangely forgotten her; and, such was the vague intoxication, I can
give it no other name, in which I was plunged, I could not recollect
when or where I last saw you; but I sighed, as if my heart wanted room
to clear my head.
The gates opened heavily, and the sullen sound of many locks and
bolts drawn back, grated on my very soul, before I was appalled by the
creeking of the dismal hinges, as they closed after me. The gloomy pile
was before me, half in ruins; some of the aged trees of the avenue were
cut down, and left to rot where they fell; and as we approached some
mouldering steps, a monstrous dog darted forwards to the length of his
chain, and barked and growled infernally.
The door was opened slowly, and a murderous visage peeped out, with
a lantern. 'Hush!' he uttered, in a threatning tone, and the affrighted
animal stole back to his kennel. The door of the chaise flew back, the
stranger put down the lantern, and clasped his dreadful arms around me.
It was certainly the effect of the soporific draught, for, instead of
exerting my strength, I sunk without motion, though not without sense,
on his shoulder, my limbs refusing to obey my will. I was carried up
the steps into a close-shut hall. A candle flaring in the socket,
scarcely dispersed the darkness, though it displayed to me the
ferocious countenance of the wretch who held me.
He mounted a wide staircase. Large figures painted on the walls
seemed to start on me, and glaring eyes to meet me at every turn.
Entering a long gallery, a dismal shriek made me spring out of my
conductor's arms, with I know not what mysterious emotion of terror;
but I fell on the floor, unable to sustain myself.
A strange-looking female started out of one of the recesses, and
observed me with more curiosity than interest; till, sternly bid
retire, she flitted back like a shadow. Other faces, strongly marked,
or distorted, peeped through the half-opened doors, and I heard some
incoherent sounds. I had no distinct idea where I could beI looked on
all sides, and almost doubted whether I was alive or dead.
Thrown on a bed, I immediately sunk into insensibility again; and
next day, gradually recovering the use of reason, I began, starting
affrighted from the conviction, to discover where I was confinedI
insisted on seeing the master of the mansionI saw himand perceived
that I was buried alive.
Such, my child, are the events of thy mother's life to this
dreadful momentShould she ever escape from the fangs of her enemies,
she will add the secrets of her prison-houseand
Some lines were here crossed out, and the memoirs broke off abruptly
with the names of Jemima and Darnford.
THE performance, with a fragment of which the reader has now been
presented, was designed to consist of three parts. The preceding sheets
were considered as constituting one of those parts. Those persons who
in the perusal of the chapters, already written and in some degree
finished by the author, have felt their hearts awakened, and their
curiosity excited as to the sequel of the story, will, of course,
gladly accept even of the broken paragraphs and half-finished
sentences, which have been found committed to paper, as materials for
the remainder. The fastidious and cold-hearted critic may perhaps feel
himself repelled by the incoherent form in which they are presented.
But an inquisitive temper willingly accepts the most imperfect and
mutilated information, where better is not to be had: and readers, who
in any degree resemble the author in her quick apprehension of
sentiment, and of the pleasures and pains of imagination, will, I
believe, find gratification, in contemplating sketches, which were
designed in a short time to have received the finishing touches of her
genius; but which must now for ever remain a mark to record the
triumphs of mortality, over schemes of usefulness, and projects of
DARNFORD returned the memoirs to Maria, with a most affectionate
letter, in which he reasoned on the absurdity of the laws respecting
matrimony, which, till divorces could be more easily obtained, was, he
declared, the most insufferable bondage. Ties of this nature could not
bind minds governed by superior principles; and such beings were
privileged to act above the dictates of laws they had no voice in
framing, if they had sufficient strength of mind to endure the natural
consequence. In her case, to talk of duty, was a farce, excepting what
was due to herself. Delicacy, as well as reason, forbade her ever to
think of returning to her husband: was she then to restrain her
charming sensibility through mere prejudice? These arguments were not
absolutely impartial, for he disdained to conceal, that, when he
appealed to her reason, he felt that he had some interest in her
heart.The conviction was not more transporting, than sacreda
thousand times a day, he asked himself how he had merited such
happiness?and as often he determined to purify the heart she deigned
to inhabitHe intreated to be again admitted to her presence.
He was; and the tear which glistened in his eye, when he
respectfully pressed her to his bosom, rendered him peculiarly dear to
the unfortunate mother. Grief had stilled the transports of love, only
to render their mutual tenderness more touching. In former interviews,
Darnford had contrived, by a hundred little pretexts, to sit near her,
to take her hand, or to meet her eyesnow it was all soothing
affection, and esteem seemed to have rivalled love. He adverted to her
narrative, and spoke with warmth of the oppression she had
endured.His eyes, glowing with a lambent flame, told her how much he
wished to restore her to liberty and love; but he kissed her hand, as
if it had been that of a saint; and spoke of the loss of her child, as
if it had been his own.What could have been more flattering to
Maria?Every instance of self-denial was registered in her heart, and
she loved him, for loving her too well to give way to the transports of
They met again and again; and Darnford declared, while passion
suffused his cheeks, that he never before knew what it was to love.
One morning Jemima informed Maria, that her master intended to wait
on her, and speak to her without witnesses. He came, and brought a
letter with him, pretending that he was ignorant of its contents,
though he insisted on having it returned to him. It was from the
attorney already mentioned, who informed her of the death of her child,
and hinted, that she could not now have a legitimate heir, and that,
would she make over the half of her fortune during life, she should be
conveyed to Dover, and permitted to pursue her plan of travelling.
Maria answered with warmth, That she had no terms to make with the
murderer of her babe, nor would she purchase liberty at the price of
her own respect.
She began to expostulate with her jailor; but he sternly bade her
Be silenthe had not gone so far, not to go further.
Darnford came in the evening. Jemima was obliged to be absent, and
she, as usual, locked the door on them, to prevent interruption or
discovery.The lovers were, at first, embarrassed; but fell insensibly
into confidential discourse. Darnford represented, that they might
soon be parted, and wished her to put it out of the power of fate to
As her husband she now received him, and he solemnly pledged himself
as her protectorand eternal friend.
There was one peculiarity in Maria's mind: she was more anxious not
to deceive, than to guard against deception; and had rather trust
without sufficient reason, than be for ever the prey of doubt. Besides,
what are we, when the mind has, from reflection, a certain kind of
elevation, which exalts the contemplation above the little concerns of
prudence! We see what we wish, and make a world of our ownand, though
reality may sometimes open a door to misery, yet the moments of
happiness procured by the imagination, may, without a paradox, be
reckoned among the solid comforts of life. Maria now, imagining that
she had found a being of celestial mouldwas happy,nor was she
deceived.He was then plastic in her impassioned handand reflected
all the sentiments which animated and warmed her.
ONE morning confusion seemed to reign in the house, and Jemima came
in terror, to inform Maria, that her master had left it, with a
determination, she was assured (and too many circumstances corroborated
the opinion, to leave a doubt of its truth) of never returning. I am
prepared then, said Jemima, to accompany you in your flight.
Maria started up, her eyes darting towards the door, as if afraid
that some one should fasten it on her for ever.
Jemima continued, I have perhaps no right now to expect the
performance of your promise; but on you it depends to reconcile me with
the human race.
But Darnford!exclaimed Maria, mournfullysitting down again,
and crossing her armsI have no child to go to, and liberty has lost
I am much mistaken, if Darnford is not the cause of my master's
flighthis keepers assure me, that they have promised to confine him
two days longer, and then he will be freeyou cannot see him; but they
will give a letter to him the moment he is free.In that inform him
where he may find you in London; fix on some hotel. Give me your
clothes; I will send them out of the house with mine, and we will slip
out at the garden-gate. Write your letter while I make these
arrangements, but lose no time!
In an agitation of spirit, not to be calmed, Maria began to write to
Darnford. She called him by the sacred name of husband, and bade him
hasten to her, to share her fortune, or she would return to him.An
hotel in the Adelphi was the place of rendezvous.
The letter was sealed and given in charge; and with light footsteps,
yet terrified at the sound of them, she descended, scarcely breathing,
and with an indistinct fear that she should never get out at the garden
gate. Jemima went first.
A being, with a visage that would have suited one possessed by a
devil, crossed the path, and seized Maria by the arm. Maria had no fear
but of being detainedWho are you? what are you? for the form was
scarcely human. If you are made of flesh and blood, his ghastly eyes
glared on her, do not stop me!
Woman, interrupted a sepulchral voice, what have I to do with
thee?Still he grasped her hand, muttering a curse.
No, no; you have nothing to do with me, she exclaimed, this is a
moment of life and death!
With supernatural force she broke from him, and, throwing her arms
round Jemima, cried, Save me! The being, from whose grasp she had
loosed herself, took up a stone as they opened the door, and with a
kind of hellish sport threw it after them. They were out of his reach.
When Maria arrived in town, she drove to the hotel already fixed on.
But she could not sit stillher child was ever before her; and all
that had passed during her confinement, appeared to be a dream. She
went to the house in the suburbs, where, as she now discovered, her
babe had been sent. The moment she entered, her heart grew sick; but
she wondered not that it had proved its grave. She made the necessary
enquiries, and the church-yard was pointed out, in which it rested
under a turf. A little frock which the nurse's child wore (Maria had
made it herself) caught her eye. The nurse was glad to sell it for
half-a-guinea, and Maria hastened away with the relic, and, re-entering
the hackney-coach which waited for her, gazed on it, till she reached
She then waited on the attorney who had made her uncle's will, and
explained to him her situation. He readily advanced her some of the
money which still remained in his hands, and promised to take the whole
of the case into consideration. Maria only wished to be permitted to
remain in quietShe found that several bills, apparently with her
signature, had been presented to her agent, nor was she for a moment at
a loss to guess by whom they had been forged; yet, equally averse to
threaten or intreat, she requested her friend [the solicitor] to call
on Mr. Venables. He was not to be found at home; but at length his
agent, the attorney, offered a conditional promise to Maria, to leave
her in peace, as long as she behaved with propriety, if she would give
up the notes. Maria inconsiderately consentedDarnford was arrived,
and she wished to be only alive to love; she wished to forget the
anguish she felt whenever she thought of her child.
They took a ready furnished lodging together, for she was above
disguise; Jemima insisting on being considered as her house-keeper, and
to receive the customary stipend. On no other terms would she remain
with her friend.
Darnford was indefatigable in tracing the mysterious circumstances
of his confinement. The cause was simply, that a relation, a very
distant one, to whom he was heir, had died intestate, leaving a
considerable fortune. On the news of Darnford's arrival [in England, a
person, intrusted with the management of the property, and who had the
writings in his possession, determining, by one bold stroke, to strip
Darnford of the succession,] had planned his confinement; and [as soon
as he had taken the measures he judged most conducive to his object,
this ruffian, together with his instrument,] the keeper of the private
mad-house, left the kingdom. Darnford, who still pursued his enquiries,
at last discovered that they had fixed their place of refuge at Paris.
Maria and he determined therefore, with the faithful Jemima, to
visit that metropolis, and accordingly were preparing for the journey,
when they were informed that Mr. Venables had commenced an action
against Darnford for seduction and adultery. The indignation Maria felt
cannot be explained; she repented of the forbearance she had exercised
in giving up the notes. Darnford could not put off his journey, without
risking the loss of his property: Maria therefore furnished him with
money for his expedition; and determined to remain in London till the
termination of this affair.
She visited some ladies with whom she had formerly been intimate,
but was refused admittance; and at the opera, or Ranelagh, they could
not recollect her. Among these ladies there were some, not her most
intimate acquaintance, who were generally supposed to avail themselves
of the cloke of marriage, to conceal a mode of conduct, that would for
ever have damned their fame, had they been innocent, seduced girls.
These particularly stood aloof.Had she remained with her husband,
practising insincerity, and neglecting her child to manage an intrigue,
she would still have been visited and respected. If, instead of openly
living with her lover, she could have condescended to call into play a
thousand arts, which, degrading her own mind, might have allowed the
people who were not deceived, to pretend to be so, she would have been
caressed and treated like an honourable woman. And Brutus[138-A] is an
honourable man! said Mark-Antony with equal sincerity.
With Darnford she did not taste uninterrupted felicity; there was a
volatility in his manner which often distressed her; but love gladdened
the scene; besides, he was the most tender, sympathizing creature in
the world. A fondness for the sex often gives an appearance of humanity
to the behaviour of men, who have small pretensions to the reality; and
they seem to love others, when they are only pursuing their own
gratification. Darnford appeared ever willing to avail himself of her
taste and acquirements, while she endeavoured to profit by his decision
of character, and to eradicate some of the romantic notions, which had
taken root in her mind, while in adversity she had brooded over visions
of unattainable bliss.
The real affections of life, when they are allowed to burst forth,
are buds pregnant with joy and all the sweet emotions of the soul; yet
they branch out with wild ease, unlike the artificial forms of
felicity, sketched by an imagination painful alive. The substantial
happiness, which enlarges and civilizes the mind, may be compared to
the pleasure experienced in roving through nature at large, inhaling
the sweet gale natural to the clime; while the reveries of a feverish
imagination continually sport themselves in gardens full of aromatic
shrubs, which cloy while they delight, and weaken the sense of pleasure
they gratify. The heaven of fancy, below or beyond the stars, in this
life, or in those ever-smiling regions surrounded by the unmarked ocean
of futurity, have an insipid uniformity which palls. Poets have
imagined scenes of bliss; but, fencing out sorrow, all the extatic
emotions of the soul, and even its grandeur, seem to be equally
excluded. We dose over the unruffled lake, and long to scale the rocks
which fence the happy valley of contentment, though serpents hiss in
the pathless desert, and danger lurks in the unexplored wiles. Maria
found herself more indulgent as she was happier, and discovered
virtues, in characters she had before disregarded, while chasing the
phantoms of elegance and excellence, which sported in the meteors that
exhale in the marshes of misfortune. The heart is often shut by romance
against social pleasure; and, fostering a sickly sensibility, grows
callous to the soft touches of humanity.
To part with Darnford was indeed cruel.It was to feel most
painfully alone; but she rejoiced to think, that she should spare him
the care and perplexity of the suit, and meet him again, all his own.
Marriage, as at present constituted, she considered as leading to
immoralityyet, as the odium of society impedes usefulness, she wished
to avow her affection to Darnford, by becoming his wife according to
established rules; not to be confounded with women who act from very
different motives, though her conduct would be just the same without
the ceremony as with it, and her expectations from him not less firm.
The being summoned to defend herself from a charge which she was
determined to plead guilty to, was still galling, as it roused bitter
reflections on the situation of women in society.
[138-A] The name in the manuscript is by mistake written Cæsar.
SUCH was her state of mind when the dogs of law were let loose on
her. Maria took the task of conducting Darnford's defence upon herself.
She instructed his counsel to plead guilty to the charge of adultery;
but to deny that of seduction.
The counsel for the plaintiff opened the cause, by observing, that
his client had ever been an indulgent husband, and had borne with
several defects of temper, while he had nothing criminal to lay to the
charge of his wife. But that she left his house without assigning any
cause. He could not assert that she was then acquainted with the
defendant; yet, when he was once endeavouring to bring her back to her
home, this man put the peace-officers to flight, and took her he knew
not whither. After the birth of her child, her conduct was so strange,
and a melancholy malady having afflicted one of the family, which
delicacy forbade the dwelling on, it was necessary to confine her. By
some means the defendant enabled her to make her escape, and they had
lived together, in despite of all sense of order and decorum. The
adultery was allowed, it was not necessary to bring any witnesses to
prove it; but the seduction, though highly probable from the
circumstances which he had the honour to state, could not be so clearly
proved.It was of the most atrocious kind, as decency was set at
defiance, and respect for reputation, which shows internal compunction,
A strong sense of injustice had silenced every emotion, which a
mixture of true and false delicacy might otherwise have excited in
Maria's bosom. She only felt in earnest to insist on the privilege of
her nature. The sarcasms of society, and the condemnation of a mistaken
world, were nothing to her, compared with acting contrary to those
feelings which were the foundation of her principles. [She therefore
eagerly put herself forward, instead of desiring to be absent, on this
Convinced that the subterfuges of the law were disgraceful, she
wrote a paper, which she expressly desired might be read in court:
Married when scarcely able to distinguish the nature of the
engagement, I yet submitted to the rigid laws which enslave women, and
obeyed the man whom I could no longer love. Whether the duties of the
state are reciprocal, I mean not to discuss; but I can prove repeated
infidelities which I overlooked or pardoned. Witnesses are not wanting
to establish these facts. I at present maintain the child of a maid
servant, sworn to him, and born after our marriage. I am ready to
allow, that education and circumstances lead men to think and act with
less delicacy, than the preservation of order in society demands from
women; but surely I may without assumption declare, that, though I
could excuse the birth, I could not the desertion of this unfortunate
babe:and, while I despised the man, it was not easy to venerate the
husband. With proper restrictions however, I revere the institution
which fraternizes the world. I exclaim against the laws which throw the
whole weight of the yoke on the weaker shoulders, and force women, when
they claim protectorship as mothers, to sign a contract, which renders
them dependent on the caprice of the tyrant, whom choice or necessity
has appointed to reign over them. Various are the cases, in which a
woman ought to separate herself from her husband; and mine, I may be
allowed emphatically to insist, comes under the description of the most
I will not enlarge on those provocations which only the individual
can estimate; but will bring forward such charges only, the truth of
which is an insult upon humanity. In order to promote certain
destructive speculations, Mr. Venables prevailed on me to borrow
certain sums of a wealthy relation; and, when I refused further
compliance, he thought of bartering my person; and not only allowed
opportunities to, but urged, a friend from whom he borrowed money, to
seduce me. On the discovery of this act of atrocity, I determined to
leave him, and in the most decided manner, for ever. I consider all
obligation as made void by his conduct; and hold, that schisms which
proceed from want of principles, can never be healed.
He received a fortune with me to the amount of five thousand
pounds. On the death of my uncle, convinced that I could provide for my
child, I destroyed the settlement of that fortune. I required none of
my property to be returned to me, nor shall enumerate the sums extorted
from me during six years that we lived together.
After leaving, what the law considers as my home, I was hunted like
a criminal from place to place, though I contracted no debts, and
demanded no maintenanceyet, as the laws sanction such proceeding, and
make women the property of their husbands, I forbear to animadvert.
After the birth of my daughter, and the death of my uncle, who left a
very considerable property to myself and child, I was exposed to new
persecution; and, because I had, before arriving at what is termed
years of discretion, pledged my faith, I was treated by the world, as
bound for ever to a man whose vices were notorious. Yet what are the
vices generally known, to the various miseries that a woman may be
subject to, which, though deeply felt, eating into the soul, elude
description, and may be glossed over! A false morality is even
established, which makes all the virtue of women consist in chastity,
submission, and the forgiveness of injuries.
I pardon my oppressorbitterly as I lament the loss of my child,
torn from me in the most violent manner. But nature revolts, and my
soul sickens at the bare supposition, that it could ever be a duty to
pretend affection, when a separation is necessary to prevent my feeling
To force me to give my fortune, I was imprisonedyes; in a private
mad-house.There, in the heart of misery, I met the man charged with
seducing me. We became attachedI deemed, and ever shall deem, myself
free. The death of my babe dissolved the only tie which subsisted
between me and my, what is termed, lawful husband.
To this person, thus encountered, I voluntarily gave myself, never
considering myself as any more bound to transgress the laws of moral
purity, because the will of my husband might be pleaded in my excuse,
than to transgress those laws to which [the policy of artificial
society has] annexed [positive] punishments.While no command of a
husband can prevent a woman from suffering for certain crimes, she must
be allowed to consult her conscience, and regulate her conduct, in some
degree, by her own sense of right. The respect I owe to myself,
demanded my strict adherence to my determination of never viewing Mr.
Venables in the light of a husband, nor could it forbid me from
encouraging another. If I am unfortunately united to an unprincipled
man, am I for ever to be shut out from fulfilling the duties of a wife
and mother?I wish my country to approve of my conduct; but, if laws
exist, made by the strong to oppress the weak, I appeal to my own sense
of justice, and declare that I will not live with the individual, who
has violated every moral obligation which binds man to man.
I protest equally against any charge being brought to criminate the
man, whom I consider as my husband. I was six-and-twenty when I left
Mr. Venables' roof; if ever I am to be supposed to arrive at an age to
direct my own actions, I must by that time have arrived at it.I acted
with deliberation.Mr. Darnford found me a forlorn and oppressed
woman, and promised the protection women in the present state of
society want.But the man who now claims mewas he deprived of my
society by this conduct? The question is an insult to common sense,
considering where Mr. Darnford met me.Mr. Venables' door was indeed
open to menay, threats and intreaties were used to induce me to
return; but why? Was affection or honour the motive?I cannot, it is
true, dive into the recesses of the human heartyet I presume to
assert, [borne out as I am by a variety of circumstances,] that he was
merely influenced by the most rapacious avarice.
I claim then a divorce, and the liberty of enjoying, free from
molestation, the fortune left to me by a relation, who was well aware
of the character of the man with whom I had to contend.I appeal to
the justice and humanity of the jurya body of men, whose private
judgment must be allowed to modify laws, that must be unjust, because
definite rules can never apply to indefinite circumstancesand I
deprecate punishment upon the man of my choice, freeing him, as I
solemnly do, from the charge of seduction.]
I did not put myself into a situation to justify a charge of
adultery, till I had, from conviction, shaken off the fetters which
bound me to Mr. Venables.While I lived with him, I defy the voice of
calumny to sully what is termed the fair fame of woman.Neglected by
my husband, I never encouraged a lover; and preserved with scrupulous
care, what is termed my honour, at the expence of my peace, till he,
who should have been its guardian, laid traps to ensnare me. From that
moment I believed myself, in the sight of heaven, freeand no power on
earth shall force me to renounce my resolution.
The judge, in summing up the evidence, alluded to the fallacy of
letting women plead their feelings, as an excuse for the violation of
the marriage-vow. For his part, he had always determined to oppose all
innovation, and the new-fangled notions which incroached on the good
old rules of conduct. We did not want French principles in public or
private lifeand, if women were allowed to plead their feelings, as an
excuse or palliation of infidelity, it was opening a flood-gate for
immorality. What virtuous woman thought of her feelings?It was her
duty to love and obey the man chosen by her parents and relations, who
were qualified by their experience to judge better for her, than she
could for herself. As to the charges brought against the husband, they
were vague, supported by no witnesses, excepting that of imprisonment
in a private mad-house. The proofs of an insanity in the family, might
render that however a prudent measure; and indeed the conduct of the
lady did not appear that of a person of sane mind. Still such a mode of
proceeding could not be justified, and might perhaps entitle the lady
[in another court] to a sentence of separation from bed and board,
during the joint lives of the parties; but he hoped that no Englishman
would legalize adultery, by enabling the adulteress to enrich her
seducer. Too many restrictions could not be thrown in the way of
divorces, if we wished to maintain the sanctity of marriage; and,
though they might bear a little hard on a few, very few individuals, it
was evidently for the good of the whole.
CONCLUSION, BY THE EDITOR.
VERY few hints exist respecting the plan of the remainder of the
work. I find only two detached sentences, and some scattered heads for
the continuation of the story. I transcribe the whole.
Darnford's letters were affectionate; but circumstances occasioned
delays, and the miscarriage of some letters rendered the reception of
wished-for answers doubtful: his return was necessary to calm Maria's
As Darnford had informed her that his business was settled, his
delaying to return seemed extraordinary; but love to excess, excludes
fear or suspicion.
* * * * *
The scattered heads for the continuation of the story, are as
Trial for adulteryMaria defends herselfA separation from bed
and board is the consequenceHer fortune is thrown into
chanceryDarnford obtains a part of his propertyMaria goes into the
A prosecution for adultery commencedTrialDarnford sets out for
FranceLettersOnce more pregnantHe returnsMysterious
Sued by her husbandDamages awarded to himSeparation from bed
and boardDarnford goes abroadMaria into the countryProvides for
her fatherIs shunnedReturns to LondonExpects to see her
loverThe rack of expectationFinds herself again with
childDelightedA discoveryA visitA miscarriageConclusion.
Divorced by her husbandHer lover
* * * * *
[The following passage appears in some respects to deviate from the
preceding hints. It is superscribed]
She swallowed the laudanum; her soul was calmthe tempest had
subsidedand nothing remained but an eager longing to forget
herselfto fly from the anguish she endured to escape from
thoughtfrom this hell of disappointment.
Still her eyes closed notone remembrance with frightful velocity
followed anotherAll the incidents of her life were in arms, embodied
to assail her, and prevent her sinking into the sleep of death.Her
murdered child again appeared to her, mourning for the babe of which
she was the tomb.'And could it have a nobler?Surely it is better to
die with me, than to enter on life without a mother's care!I cannot
live!but could I have deserted my child the moment it was
born?thrown it on the troubled wave of life, without a hand to
support it?'She looked up: 'What have I not suffered!may I find a
father where I am going!'Her head turned; a stupor ensued; a
faintness'Have a little patience,' said Maria, holding her swimming
head (she thought of her mother), 'this cannot last long; and what is a
little bodily pain to the pangs I have endured?'
A new vision swam before her. Jemima seemed to enterleading a
little creature, that, with tottering footsteps, approached the bed.
The voice of Jemima sounding as at a distance, called hershe tried to
listen, to speak, to look!
'Behold your child!' exclaimed Jemima. Maria started off the bed,
and fainted.Violent vomiting followed.
When she was restored to life, Jemima addressed her with great
solemnity: 'led me to suspect, that your husband and brother had
deceived you, and secreted the child. I would not torment you with
doubtful hopes, and I left you (at a fatal moment) to search for the
child!I snatched her from miseryand (now she is alive again) would
you leave her alone in the world, to endure what I have endured?'
Maria gazed wildly at her, her whole frame was convulsed with
emotion; when the child, whom Jemima had been tutoring all the journey,
uttered the word 'Mamma!' She caught her to her bosom, and burst into a
passion of tearsthen, resting the child gently on the bed, as if
afraid of killing it,she put her hand to her eyes, to conceal as it
were the agonizing struggle of her soul. She remained silent for five
minutes, crossing her arms over her bosom, and reclining her
head,then exclaimed: 'The conflict is over!I will live for my
* * * * *
A few readers perhaps, in looking over these hints, will wonder how
it could have been practicable, without tediousness, or remitting in
any degree the interest of the story, to have filled, from these slight
sketches, a number of pages, more considerable than those which have
been already presented. But, in reality, these hints, simple as they
are, are pregnant with passion and distress. It is the refuge of barren
authors only, to crowd their fictions with so great a number of events,
as to suffer no one of them to sink into the reader's mind. It is the
province of true genius to develop events, to discover their
capabilities, to ascertain the different passions and sentiments with
which they are fraught, and to diversify them with incidents, that give
reality to the picture, and take a hold upon the mind of a reader of
taste, from which they can never be loosened. It was particularly the
design of the author, in the present instance, to make her story
subordinate to a great moral purpose, that of exhibiting the misery
and oppression, peculiar to women, that arise out of the partial laws
and customs of society.This view restrained her fancy[166-A]. It was
necessary for her, to place in a striking point of view, evils that are
too frequently overlooked, and to drag into light those details of
oppression, of which the grosser and more insensible part of mankind
make little account.
[159-A] To understand these minutes, it is necessary the reader
should consider each of them as setting out from the same point in the
story, viz. the point to which it is brought down in the
[166-A] See author's preface.
BY THE EDITOR.
THE following pages will, I believe, be judged by every reader of
taste to have been worth preserving, among the other testimonies the
author left behind her, of her genius and the soundness of her
understanding. To such readers I leave the task of comparing these
lessons, with other works of the same nature previously published. It
is obvious that the author has struck out a path of her own, and by no
means intrenched upon the plans of her predecessors.
It may however excite surprise in some persons to find these papers
annexed to the conclusion of a novel. All I have to offer on this
subject, consists in the following considerations:
First, something is to be allowed for the difficulty of arranging
the miscellaneous papers upon very different subjects, which will
frequently constitute an author's posthumous works.
* * * * *
Secondly, the small portion they occupy in the present volume, will
perhaps be accepted as an apology, by such good-natured readers (if any
such there are), to whom the perusal of them shall be a matter of
* * * * *
Thirdly, the circumstance which determined me in annexing them to
the present work, was the slight association (in default of a strong
one) between the affectionate and pathetic manner in which Maria
Venables addresses her infant, in the Wrongs of Woman; and the
agonising and painful sentiment with which the author originally
bequeathed these papers, as a legacy for the benefit of her child.
The first book of a series which I intended to have written for
my unfortunate girl[175-A].
CAT. Dog. Cow. Horse. Sheep. Pig. Bird. Fly.
Man. Boy. Girl. Child.
Head. Hair. Face. Nose. Mouth. Chin. Neck. Arms. Hand. Leg. Foot.
House. Wall. Field. Street. Stone. Grass.
Bed. Chair. Door. Pot. Spoon. Knife. Fork. Plate. Cup. Box. Boy.
Tree. Leaf. Stick. Whip. Cart. Coach.
Frock. Hat. Coat. Shoes. Shift. Cap.
Bread. Milk. Tea. Meat. Drink. Cake.
Come. Walk. Run. Go. Jump. Dance. Ride. Sit. Stand. Play. Hold.
Shake. Speak. Sing. Cry. Laugh. Call. Fall.
Day. Night. Sun. Moon. Light. Dark. Sleep. Wake.
Wash. Dress. Kiss. Comb.
Fire. Hot. Burn. Wind. Rain. Cold.
Hurt. Tear. Break. Spill.
Book. See. Look.
Sweet. Good. Clean.
Gone. Lost. Hide. Keep. Give. Take.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten.
White. Black. Red. Blue. Green. Brown.
STROKE the cat. Play with the Dog. Eat the bread. Drink the milk.
Hold the cup. Lay down the knife.
Look at the fly. See the horse. Shut the door. Bring the chair. Ring
the bell. Get your book.
Hide your face. Wipe your nose. Wash your hands. Dirty hands. Why do
you cry? A clean mouth. Shake hands. I love you. Kiss me now. Good
The bird sings. The fire burns. The cat jumps. The dog runs. The
bird flies. The cow lies down. The man laughs. The child cries.
LET me comb your head. Ask Betty to wash your face. Go and see for
some bread. Drink milk, if you are dry. Play on the floor with the
ball. Do not touch the ink; you will black your hands.
What do you want to say to me? Speak slow, not so fast. Did you
fall? You will not cry, not you; the baby cries. Will you walk in the
COME to me, my little girl. Are you tired of playing? Yes. Sit down
and rest yourself, while I talk to you.
Have you seen the baby? Poor little thing. O here it comes. Look at
him. How helpless he is. Four years ago you were as feeble as this very
See, he cannot hold up his head. He is forced to lie on his back, if
his mamma do not turn him to the right or left side, he will soon begin
to cry. He cries to tell her, that he is tired with lying on his back.
PERHAPS he is hungry. What shall we give him to eat? Poor fellow, he
cannot eat. Look in his mouth, he has no teeth.
How did you do when you were a baby like him? You cannot tell. Do
you want to know? Look then at the dog, with her pretty puppy. You
could not help yourself as well as the puppy. You could only open your
mouth, when you were lying, like William, on my knee. So I put you to
my breast, and you sucked, as the puppy sucks now, for there was milk
enough for you.
WHEN you were hungry, you began to cry, because you could not speak.
You were seven months without teeth, always sucking. But after you got
one, you began to gnaw a crust of bread. It was not long before another
came pop. At ten months you had four pretty white teeth, and you used
to bite me. Poor mamma! Still I did not cry, because I am not a child,
but you hurt me very much. So I said to papa, it is time the little
girl should eat. She is not naughty, yet she hurts me. I have given her
a crust of bread, and I must look for some other milk.
The cow has got plenty, and her jumping calf eats grass very well.
He has got more teeth than my little girl. Yes, says papa, and he
tapped you on the cheek, you are old enough to learn to eat? Come to
me, and I will teach you, my little dear, for you must not hurt poor
mamma, who has given you her milk, when you could not take any thing
YOU were then on the carpet, for you could not walk well. So when
you were in a hurry, you used to run quick, quick, quick, on your hands
and feet, like the dog.
Away you ran to papa, and putting both your arms round his leg, for
your hands were not big enough, you looked up at him, and laughed. What
did this laugh say, when you could not speak? Cannot you guess by what
you now say to papa?Ah! it was, Play with me, papa!play with me!
Papa began to smile, and you knew that the smile was alwaysYes. So
you got a ball, and papa threw it along the floorRollrollroll;
and you ran after it againand again. How pleased you were. Look at
William, he smiles; but you could laugh loudHa! ha! ha!Papa laughed
louder than the little girl, and rolled the ball still faster.
Then he put the ball on a chair, and you were forced to take hold of
the back, and stand up to reach it. At last you reached too far, and
down you fell: not indeed on your face, because you put out your hands.
You were not much hurt; but the palms of your hands smarted with the
pain, and you began to cry, like a little child.
It is only very little children who cry when they are hurt; and it
is to tell their mamma, that something is the matter with them. Now you
can come to me, and say, Mamma, I have hurt myself. Pray rub my hand:
it smarts. Put something on it, to make it well. A piece of rag, to
stop the blood. You are not afraid of a little bloodnot you. You
scratched your arm with a pin: it bled a little; but it did you no
harm. See, the skin is grown over it again.
TAKE care not to put pins in your mouth, because they will stick in
your throat, and give you pain. Oh! you cannot think what pain a pin
would give you in your throat, should it remain there: but, if you by
chance swallow it, I should be obliged to give you, every morning,
something bitter to drink. You never tasted any thing so bitter! and
you would grow very sick. I never put pins in my mouth; but I am older
than you, and know how to take care of myself.
My mamma took care of me, when I was a little girl, like you. She
bade me never put any thing in my mouth, without asking her what it
When you were a baby, with no more sense than William, you put every
thing in your mouth to gnaw, to help your teeth to cut through the
skin. Look at the puppy, how he bites that piece of wood. William
presses his gums against my finger. Poor boy! he is so young, he does
not know what he is doing. When you bite any thing, it is because you
SEE how much taller you are than William. In four years you have
learned to eat, to walk, to talk. Why do you smile? You can do much
more, you think: you can wash your hands and face. Very well. I should
never kiss a dirty face. And you can comb your head with the pretty
comb you always put by in your own drawer. To be sure, you do all this
to be ready to take a walk with me. You would be obliged to stay at
home, if you could not comb your own hair. Betty is busy getting the
dinner ready, and only brushes William's hair, because he cannot do it
Betty is making an apple-pye. You love an apple-pye; but I do not
bid you make one. Your hands are not strong enough to mix the butter
and flour together; and you must not try to pare the apples, because
you cannot manage a great knife.
Never touch the large knives: they are very sharp, and you might cut
your finger to the bone. You are a little girl, and ought to have a
little knife. When you are as tall as I am, you shall have a knife as
large as mine; and when you are as strong as I am, and have learned to
manage it, you will not hurt yourself.
You can trundle a hoop, you say; and jump over a stick. O, I
forgot!and march like the men in the red coats, when papa plays a
pretty tune on the fiddle.
WHAT, you think that you shall soon be able to dress yourself
entirely? I am glad of it: I have something else to do. You may go, and
look for your frock in the drawer; but I will tie it, till you are
stronger. Betty will tie it, when I am busy.
I button my gown myself: I do not want a maid to assist me, when I
am dressing. But you have not yet got sense enough to do it properly,
and must beg somebody to help you, till you are older.
Children grow older and wiser at the same time. William is not able
to take a piece of meat, because he has not got the sense which would
make him think that, without teeth, meat would do him harm. He cannot
tell what is good for him.
The sense of children grows with them. You know much more than
William, now you walk alone, and talk; but you do not know as much as
the boys and girls you see playing yonder, who are half as tall again
as you; and they do not know half as much as their fathers and mothers,
who are men and women grown. Papa and I were children, like you; and
men and women took care of us. I carry William, because he is too weak
to walk. I lift you over a stile, and over the gutter, when you cannot
jump over it.
You know already, that potatoes will not do you any harm: but I must
pluck the fruit for you, till you are wise enough to know the ripe
apples and pears. The hard ones would make you sick, and then you must
take physic. You do not love physic: I do not love it any more than
you. But I have more sense than you; therefore I take care not to eat
unripe fruit, or any thing else that would make my stomach ache, or
bring out ugly red spots on my face.
When I was a child, my mamma chose the fruit for me, to prevent my
making myself sick. I was just like you; I used to ask for what I saw,
without knowing whether it was good or bad. Now I have lived a long
time, I know what is good; I do not want any body to tell me.
LOOK at those two dogs. The old one brings the ball to me in a
moment; the young one does not know how. He must be taught.
I can cut your shift in a proper shape. You would not know how to
begin. You would spoil it; but you will learn.
John digs in the garden, and knows when to put the seed in the
ground. You cannot tell whether it should be in the winter or summer.
Try to find it out. When do the trees put out their leaves? In the
spring, you say, after the cold weather. Fruit would not grow ripe
without very warm weather. Now I am sure you can guess why the summer
is the season for fruit.
Papa knows that peas and beans are good for us to eat with our meat.
You are glad when you see them; but if he did not think for you, and
have the seed put in the ground, we should have no peas or beans.
POOR child, she cannot do much for herself. When I let her do any
thing for me, it is to please her: for I could do it better myself.
Oh! the poor puppy has tumbled off the stool. Run and stroak him.
Put a little milk in a saucer to comfort him. You have more sense than
he. You can pour the milk into the saucer without spilling it. He would
cry for a day with hunger, without being able to get it. You are wiser
than the dog, you must help him. The dog will love you for it, and run
after you. I feed you and take care of you: you love me and follow me
When the book fell down on your foot, it gave you great pain. The
poor dog felt the same pain just now.
Take care not to hurt him when you play with him. And every morning
leave a little milk in your bason for him. Do not forget to put the
bason in a corner, lest somebody should fall over it.
When the snow covers the ground, save the crumbs of bread for the
birds. In the summer they find feed enough, and do not want you to
think about them.
I make broth for the poor man who is sick. A sick man is like a
child, he cannot help himself.
WHEN I caught cold some time ago, I had such a pain in my head, I
could scarcely hold it up. Papa opened the door very softly, because he
loves me. You love me, yet you made a noise. You had not the sense to
know that it made my head worse, till papa told you.
Papa had a pain in the stomach, and he would not eat the fine
cherries or grapes on the table. When I brought him a cup of camomile
tea, he drank it without saying a word, or making an ugly face. He
knows that I love him, and that I would not give him any thing to drink
that has a bad taste, if it were not to do him good.
You asked me for some apples when your stomach ached; but I was not
angry with you. If you had been as wise as papa, you would have said, I
will not eat the apples to-day, I must take some camomile tea.
You say that you do not know how to think. Yes; you do a little. The
other day papa was tired; he had been walking about all the morning.
After dinner he fell asleep on the sopha. I did not bid you be quiet;
but you thought of what papa said to you, when my head ached. This made
you think that you ought not to make a noise, when papa was resting
himself. So you came to me, and said to me, very softly, Pray reach me
my ball, and I will go and play in the garden, till papa wakes.
You were going out; but thinking again, you came back to me on your
tip-toes. Whisperwhisper. Pray mama, call me, when papa wakes; for
I shall be afraid to open the door to see, lest I should disturb him.
Away you went.Creepcreepand shut the door as softly as I could
have done myself.
That was thinking. When a child does wrong at first, she does not
know any better. But, after she has been told that she must not disturb
mama, when poor mama is unwell, she thinks herself, that she must not
wake papa when he is tired.
Another day we will see if you can think about any thing else.
[175-A] This title which is indorsed on the back of the manuscript,
I conclude to have been written in a period of desperation, in the
month of October, 1795.
VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN.
IN FOUR VOLUMES.
* * * * *
* * * * *
PRINTED FOR J. JOHNSON, NO. 72, ST. PAUL'S
CHURCH-YARD; AND G. G. AND J. ROBINSON,
LETTERS AND MISCELLANEOUS PIECES.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
THE following Letters may possibly be found to contain the finest
examples of the language of sentiment and passion ever presented to the
world. They bear a striking resemblance to the celebrated romance of
Werter, though the incidents to which they relate are of a very
different cast. Probably the readers to whom Werter is incapable of
affording pleasure, will receive no delight from the present
publication. The editor apprehends that, in the judgment of those best
qualified to decide upon the comparison, these Letters will be admitted
to have the superiority over the fiction of Goethe. They are the
offspring of a glowing imagination, and a heart penetrated with the
passion it essays to describe.
To the series of letters constituting the principal article in these
two volumes, are added various pieces, none of which, it is hoped, will
be found discreditable to the talents of the author. The slight
fragment of Letters on the Management of Infants, may be thought a
trifle; but it seems to have some value, as presenting to us with
vividness the intention of the writer on this important subject. The
publication of a few select Letters to Mr. Johnson, appeared to be at
once a just monument to the sincerity of his friendship, and a valuable
and interesting specimen of the mind of the writer. The Letter on the
Present Character of the French Nation, the Extract of the Cave of
Fancy, a Tale, and the Hints for the Second Part of the Rights of
Woman, may, I believe, safely be left to speak for themselves. The
Essay on Poetry and our Relish for the Beauties of Nature, appeared in
the Monthly Magazine for April last, and is the only piece in this
collection which has previously found its way to the press.
MY dear love, after making my arrangements for our snug dinner
to-day, I have been taken by storm, and obliged to promise to dine, at
an early hour, with the Miss s, the only day they intend to
pass here. I shall however leave the key in the door, and hope to find
you at my fire-side when I return, about eight o'clock. Will you not
wait for poor Joan?whom you will find better, and till then think
very affectionately of her.
* * * *
I am sitting down to dinner; so do not send an answer.
* * * * *
Past Twelve o'Clock, Monday night.
I OBEY an emotion of my heart, which made me think of wishing thee,
my love, good-night! before I go to rest, with more tenderness than I
can to-morrow, when writing a hasty line or two under Colonel 's
eye. You can scarcely imagine with what pleasure I anticipate the day,
when we are to begin almost to live together; and you would smile to
hear how many plans of employment I have in my head, now that I am
confident my heart has found peace in your bosom.Cherish me with that
dignified tenderness, which I have only found in you; and your own dear
girl will try to keep under a quickness of feeling, that has sometimes
given you painYes, I will be good, that I may deserve to be
happy; and whilst you love me, I cannot again fall into the miserable
state, which rendered life a burthen almost too heavy to be borne.
But, good-night!God bless you! Sterne says, that is equal to a
kissyet I would rather give you the kiss into the bargain, glowing
with gratitude to Heaven, and affection to you. I like the word
affection, because it signifies something habitual; and we are soon to
meet, to try whether we have mind enough to keep our hearts warm.
* * * *
I will be at the barrier a little after ten o'clock
* * * * *
YOU have often called me, dear girl, but you would now say good, did
you know how very attentive I have been to the ever since I came to
Paris. I am not however going to trouble you with the account, because
I like to see your eyes praise me; and, Milton insinuates, that, during
such recitals, there are interruptions, not ungrateful to the heart,
when the honey that drops from the lips is not merely words.
Yet, I shall not (let me tell you before these people enter, to
force me to huddle away my letter) be content with only a kiss of
DUTYyou must be glad to see mebecause you are glador I
will make love to the shade of Mirabeau, to whom my heart
continually turned, whilst I was talking with Madame , forcibly
telling me, that it will ever have sufficient warmth to love, whether I
will or not, sentiment, though I so highly respect principle.
Not that I think Mirabeau utterly devoid of principlesFar from
itand, if I had not begun to form a new theory respecting men, I
should, in the vanity of my heart, have imagined that I
could have made something of hisit was composed of such
materialsHush! here they comeand love flies away in the twinkling
of an eye, leaving a little brush of his wing on my pale cheeks.
I hope to see Dr. this morning; I am going to Mr. 's to meet
him. , and some others, are invited to dine with us to-day; and
to-morrow I am to spend the day with .
I shall probably not be able to return to to-morrow; but it is
no matter, because I must take a carriage, I have so many books, that I
immediately want, to take with me.On Friday then I shall expect you
to dine with meand, if you come a little before dinner, it is so long
since I have seen you, you will not be scolded by yours affectionately
* * * *
* * * * *
Friday Morning [September.]
A MAN, whom a letter from Mr. previously announced, called here
yesterday for the payment of a draft; and, as he seemed disappointed at
not finding you at home, I sent him to Mr. . I have since seen him,
and he tells me that he has settled the business.
So much for business!May I venture to talk a little longer about
less weighty affairs?How are you?I have been following you all
along the road this comfortless weather; for, when I am absent from
those I love, my imagination is as lively, as if my senses had never
been gratified by their presenceI was going to say caressesand why
should I not? I have found out that I have more mind than you, in one
respect; because I can, without any violent effort of reason, find food
for love in the same object, much longer than you can.The way to my
senses is through my heart; but, forgive me! I think there is sometimes
a shorter cut to yours.
With ninety-nine men out of a hundred, a very sufficient dash of
folly is necessary to render a woman piquante, a soft word for
desirable; and, beyond these casual ebullitions of sympathy, few look
for enjoyment by fostering a passion in their hearts. One reason, in
short, why I wish my whole sex to become wiser, is, that the foolish
ones may not, by their pretty folly, rob those whose sensibility keeps
down their vanity, of the few roses that afford them some solace in the
thorny road of life.
I do not know how I fell into these reflections, excepting one
thought produced itthat these continual separations were necessary to
warm your affection.Of late, we are always
separating.Crack!crack!and away you go.This joke wears the
sallow cast of thought; for, though I began to write cheerfully, some
melancholy tears have found their way into my eyes, that linger there,
whilst a glow of tenderness at my heart whispers that you are one of
the best creatures in the world.Pardon then the vagaries of a mind,
that has been almost crazed by care, as well as crossed in hapless
love, and bear with me a little longer!When we are settled in
the country together, more duties will open before me, and my heart,
which now, trembling into peace, is agitated by every emotion that
awakens the remembrance of old griefs, will learn to rest on yours,
with that dignity your character, not to talk of my own, demands.
Take care of yourselfand write soon to your own girl (you may add
dear, if you please) who sincerely loves you, and will try to convince
you of it, by becoming happier.
* * * *
* * * * *
I HAVE just received your letter, and feel as if I could not go to
bed tranquilly without saying a few words in replymerely to tell you,
that my mind is serene, and my heart affectionate.
Ever since you last saw me inclined to faint, I have felt some
gentle twitches, which make me begin to think, that I am nourishing a
creature who will soon be sensible of my care.This thought has not
only produced an overflowing of tenderness to you, but made me very
attentive to calm my mind and take exercise, lest I should destroy an
object, in whom we are to have a mutual interest, you know.
Yesterdaydo not smile!finding that I had hurt myself by lifting
precipitately a large log of wood, I sat down in an agony, till I felt
those said twitches again.
Are you very busy?
So you may
reckon on its being finished soon, though not before you come home,
unless you are detained longer than I now allow myself to believe you
Be that as it may, write to me, my best love, and bid me be
patientkindlyand the expressions of kindness will again beguile the
time, as sweetly as they have done to-night.Tell me also over and
over again, that your happiness (and you deserve to be happy!) is
closely connected with mine, and I will try to dissipate, as they rise,
the fumes of former discontent, that have too often clouded the
sunshine, which you have endeavoured to diffuse through my mind. God
bless you! Take care of yourself, and remember with tenderness your
* * * *
I am going to rest very happy, and you have made me so.This is the
kindest good-night I can utter.
* * * * *
I AM glad to find that other people can be unreasonable, as well as
myselffor be it known to thee, that I answered thy first
letter, the very night it reached me (Sunday), though thou couldst not
receive it before Wednesday, because it was not sent off till the next
day.There is a full, true, and particular account.
Yet I am not angry with thee, my love, for I think that it is a
proof of stupidity, and likewise of a milk-and-water affection, which
comes to the same thing, when the temper is governed by a square and
compass.There is nothing picturesque in this straight-lined equality,
and the passions always give grace to the actions.
Recollection now makes my heart bound to thee; but, it is not to thy
money-getting face, though I cannot be seriously displeased with the
exertion which increases my esteem, or rather is what I should have
expected from thy character.No; I have thy honest countenance before
mePoprelaxed by tenderness; a littlelittle wounded by my whims;
and thy eyes glistening with sympathy.Thy lips then feel softer than
softand I rest my cheek on thine, forgetting all the world.I have
not left the hue of love out of the picturethe rosy glow; and fancy
has spread it over my own cheeks, I believe, for I feel them burning,
whilst a delicious tear trembles in my eye, that would be all your own,
if a grateful emotion directed to the Father of nature, who has made me
thus alive to happiness, did not give more warmth to the sentiment it
dividesI must pause a moment.
Need I tell you that I am tranquil after writing thus?I do not
know why, but I have more confidence in your affection, when absent,
than present; nay, I think that you must love me, for, in the sincerity
of my heart let me say it, I believe I deserve your tenderness, because
I am true, and have a degree of sensibility that you can see and
* * * *
* * * * *
Sunday Morning [December 29.]
YOU seem to have taken up your abode at H. Pray sir! when do you
think of coming home? or, to write very considerately, when will
business permit you? I shall expect (as the country people say in
England) that you will make a power of money to indemnify me for
Well! but, my love, to the old storyam I to see you this week, or
this month?I do not know what you are aboutfor, as you did not tell
me, I would not ask Mr. , who is generally pretty communicative.
I long to see Mrs. ; not to hear from you, so do not give
yourself airs, but to get a letter from Mr. . And I am half angry
with you for not informing me whether she had brought one with her or
not.On this score I will cork up some of the kind things that were
ready to drop from my pen, which has never been dipt in gall when
addressing you; or, will only suffer an exclamationThe creature! or
a kind look, to escape me, when I pass the slipperswhich I could not
remove from my salle door, though they are not the handsomest of
Be not too anxious to get money!for nothing worth having is to be
purchased. God bless you.
* * * *
* * * * *
Monday Night [December 30.]
MY best love, your letter to-night was particularly grateful to my
heart, depressed by the letters I received by , for he brought me
several, and the parcel of books directed to Mr. was for me. Mr.
's letter was long and very affectionate; but the account he
gives me of his own affairs, though he obviously makes the best of
them, has vexed me.
A melancholy letter from my sister has also harrassed my
mindthat from my brother would have given me sincere pleasure; but
There is a spirit of
independence in his letter, that will please you; and you shall see it,
when we are once more over the fire together.I think that you would
hail him as a brother, with one of your tender looks, when your heart
not only gives a lustre to your eye, but a dance of playfulness, that
he would meet with a glow half made up of bashfulness, and a desire to
please thewhere shall I find a word to express the relationship
which subsists between us?Shall I ask the little twitcher?But I
have dropt half the sentence that was to tell you how much he would be
inclined to love the man loved by his sister. I have been fancying
myself sitting between you, ever since I began to write, and my heart
has leaped at the thought!You see how I chat to you.
I did not receive your letter till I came home; and I did not expect
it, for the post came in much later than usual. It was a cordial to
meand I wanted one.
Mr. tells me that he has written again and again.Love him a
little!It would be a kind of separation, if you did not love those I
There was so much considerate tenderness in your epistle to-night,
that, if it has not made you dearer to me, it has made me forcibly feel
how very dear you are to me, by charming away half my cares.
* * * *
* * * * *
Tuesday Morning [December 31.]
THOUGH I have just sent a letter off, yet, as captain offers to
take one, I am not willing to let him go without a kind greeting,
because trifles of this sort, without having any effect on my mind,
damp my spirits:and you, with all your struggles to be manly, have
some of this same sensibility.Do not bid it begone, for I love to see
it striving to master your features; besides, these kind of sympathies
are the life of affection: and why, in cultivating our understandings,
should we try to dry up these springs of pleasure, which gush out to
give a freshness to days browned by care!
The books sent to me are such as we may read together; so I shall
not look into them till you return; when you shall read, whilst I mend
* * * *
* * * * *
Wednesday Night [January 1.]
AS I have been, you tell me, three days without writing, I ought not
to complain of two: yet, as I expected to receive a letter this
afternoon, I am hurt; and why should I, by concealing it, affect the
heroism I do not feel?
I hate commerce. How differently must 's head and heart be
organized from mine! You will tell me, that exertions are necessary: I
am weary of them! The face of things, public and private, vexes me. The
peace and clemency which seemed to be dawning a few days ago,
disappear again. I am fallen, as Milton said, on evil days; for I
really believe that Europe will be in a state of convulsion, during
half a century at least. Life is but a labour of patience: it is always
rolling a great stone up a hill; for, before a person can find a
resting-place, imagining it is lodged, down it comes again, and all the
work is to be done over anew!
Should I attempt to write any more, I could not change the strain.
My head aches, and my heart is heavy. The world appears an unweeded
garden, where things rank and vile flourish best.
If you do not return soonor, which is no such mighty matter, talk
of itI will throw your slippers out at window, and be offnobody
* * * *
Finding that I was observed, I told the good women, the two Mrs.
s, simply that I was with child: and let them stare! and ,
and , nay, all the world, may know it for aught I care!Yet I
wish to avoid 's coarse jokes.
Considering the care and anxiety a woman must have about a child
before it comes into the world, it seems to me, by a natural right, to belong to her. When men get immersed in the world, they seem to
lose all sensations, excepting those necessary to continue or produce
life!Are these the privileges of reason? Amongst the feathered race,
whilst the hen keeps the young warm, her mate stays by to cheer her;
but it is sufficient for man to condescend to get a child, in order to
claim it.A man is a tyrant!
You may now tell me, that, if it were not for me, you would be
laughing away with some honest fellows in Ln. The casual exercise of
social sympathy would not be sufficient for meI should not think such
an heartless life worth preserving.It is necessary to be in
good-humour with you, to be pleased with the world.
* * * * *
I WAS very low-spirited last night, ready to quarrel with your
cheerful temper, which makes absence easy to you.And, why should I
mince the the matter? I was offended at your not even mentioning it.I
do not want to be loved like a goddess; but I wish to be necessary to
you. God bless you[27-A]!
* * * * *
I HAVE just received your kind and rational letter, and would fain
hide my face, glowing with shame for my folly.I would hide it in your
bosom, if you would again open it to me, and nestle closely till you
bade my fluttering heart be still, by saying that you forgave me. With
eyes overflowing with tears, and in the humblest attitude, I intreat
you.Do not turn from me, for indeed I love you fondly, and have been
very wretched, since the night I was so cruelly hurt by thinking that
you had no confidence in me
It is time for me to grow more reasonable, a few more of these
caprices of sensibility would destroy me. I have, in fact, been very
much indisposed for a few days past, and the notion that I was
tormenting, or perhaps killing, a poor little animal, about whom I am
grown anxious and tender, now I feel it alive, made me worse. My bowels
have been dreadfully disordered, and every thing I ate or drank
disagreed with my stomach; still I feel intimations of its existence,
though they have been fainter.
Do you think that the creature goes regularly to sleep? I am ready
to ask as many questions as Voltaire's Man of Forty Crowns. Ah! do not
continue to be angry with me! You perceive that I am already smiling
through my tearsYou have lightened my heart, and my frozen spirits
are melting into playfulness.
Write the moment you receive this. I shall count the minutes. But
drop not an angry wordI cannot now bear it. Yet, if you think I
deserve a scolding (it does not admit of a question, I grant), wait
till you come backand then, if you are angry one day, I shall be sure
of seeing you the next.
did not write to you, I suppose, because he talked of going to
H. Hearing that I was ill, he called very kindly on me, not
dreaming that it was some words that he incautiously let fall, which
rendered me so.
God bless you, my love; do not shut your heart against a return of
tenderness; and, as I now in fancy cling to you, be more than ever my
support.Feel but as affectionate when you read this letter, as I did
writing it, and you will make happy, your
* * * *
* * * * *
I WILL never, if I am not entirely cured of quarrelling, begin to
encourage quick-coming fancies, when we are separated. Yesterday, my
love, I could not open your letter for some time; and, though it was
not half as severe as I merited, it threw me into such a fit of
trembling, as seriously alarmed me. I did not, as you may suppose, care
for a little pain on my own account; but all the fears which I have had
for a few days past, returned with fresh force. This morning I am
better; will you not be glad to hear it? You perceive that sorrow has
almost made a child of me, and that I want to be soothed to peace.
One thing you mistake in my character, and imagine that to be
coldness which is just the contrary. For, when I am hurt by the person
most dear to me, I must let out a whole torrent of emotions, in which
tenderness would be uppermost, or stifle them altogether; and it
appears to me almost a duty to stifle them, when I imagine that I am
treated with coldness.
I am afraid that I have vexed you, my own . I know the quickness
of your feelingsand let me, in the sincerity of my heart, assure you,
there is nothing I would not suffer to make you happy. My own happiness
wholly depends on youand, knowing you, when my reason is not clouded,
I look forward to a rational prospect of as much felicity as the earth
affordswith a little dash of rapture into the bargain, if you will
look at me, when we meet again, as you have sometimes greeted, your
humbled, yet most affectionate
* * * *
* * * * *
I HAVE been wishing the time away, my kind love, unable to rest till
I knew that my penitential letter had reached your handand this
afternoon, when your tender epistle of Tuesday gave such exquisite
pleasure to your poor sick girl, her heart smote her to think that you
were still to receive another cold one.Burn it also, my ; yet do
not forget that even those letters were full of love; and I shall ever
recollect, that you did not wait to be mollified by my penitence,
before you took me again to your heart.
I have been unwell, and would not, now I am recovering, take a
journey, because I have been seriously alarmed and angry with myself,
dreading continually the fatal consequence of my folly.But, should
you think it right to remain at H, I shall find some opportunity, in
the course of a fortnight, or less perhaps, to come to you, and before
then I shall be strong again.Yet do not be uneasy! I am really
better, and never took such care of myself, as I have done since you
restored my peace of mind. The girl is come to warm my bedso I will
tenderly say, good night! and write a line or two in the morning.
I WISH you were here to walk with me this fine morning! yet your
absence shall not prevent me. I have stayed at home too much; though,
when I was so dreadfully out of spirits, I was careless of every thing.
I will now sally forth (you will go with me in my heart) and try
whether this fine bracing air will not give the vigour to the poor
babe, it had, before I so inconsiderately gave way to the grief that
deranged my bowels, and gave a turn to my whole system.
* * * * * * * * *
* * * * *
THE two or three letters, which I have written to you lately, my
love, will serve as an answer to your explanatory one. I cannot but
respect your motives and conduct. I always respected them; and was only
hurt, by what seemed to me a want of confidence, and consequently
affection.I thought also, that if you were obliged to stay three
months at H, I might as well have been with you.Well! well, what
signifies what I brooded overLet us now be friends!
I shall probably receive a letter from you to-day, sealing my
pardonand I will be careful not to torment you with my querulous
humours, at least, till I see you again. Act as circumstances direct,
and I will not enquire when they will permit you to return, convinced
that you will hasten to your * * * *, when you have attained (or lost
sight of) the object of your journey.
What a picture have you sketched of our fire-side! Yes, my love, my
fancy was instantly at work, and I found my head on your shoulder,
whilst my eyes were fixed on the little creatures that were clinging
about your knees. I did not absolutely determine that there should be
sixif you have not set your heart on this round number.
I am going to dine with Mrs. . I have not been to visit her
since the first day she came to Paris. I wish indeed to be out in the
air as much as I can; for the exercise I have taken these two or three
days past, has been of such service to me, that I hope shortly to tell
you, that I am quite well. I have scarcely slept before last night, and
then not much.The two Mrs. s have been very anxious and tender.
* * * *
I need not desire you to give the colonel a good bottle of wine.
* * * * *
I WROTE to you yesterday, my ; but, finding that the colonel is
still detained (for his passport was forgotten at the office yesterday)
I am not willing to let so many days elapse without your hearing from
me, after having talked of illness and apprehensions.
I cannot boast of being quite recovered, yet I am (I must use my
Yorkshire phrase; for, when my heart is warm, pop come the expressions
of childhood into my head) so lightsome, that I think it will
not go badly with me.And nothing shall be wanting on my part,
I assure you; for I am urged on, not only by an enlivened affection for
you, but by a new-born tenderness that plays cheerly round my dilating
I was therefore, in defiance of cold and dirt, out in the air the
greater part of yesterday; and, if I get over this evening without a
return of the fever that has tormented me, I shall talk no more of
illness. I have promised the little creature, that its mother, who
ought to cherish it, will not again plague it, and begged it to pardon
me; and, since I could not hug either it or you to my breast, I have to
my heart.I am afraid to read over this prattlebut it is only for
I have been seriously vexed, to find that, whilst you were harrassed
by impediments in your undertakings, I was giving you additional
uneasiness.If you can make any of your plans answerit is well, I do
not think a little money inconvenient; but, should they fail, we
will struggle cheerfully togetherdrawn closer by the pinching blasts
Adieu, my love! Write often to your poor girl, and write long
letters; for I not only like them for being longer, but because more
heart steals into them; and I am happy to catch your heart whenever I
* * * *
* * * * *
I SEIZE this opportunity to inform you, that I am to set out on
Thursday with Mr. , and hope to tell you soon (on your lips) how
glad I shall be to see you. I have just got my passport, so I do not
foresee any impediment to my reaching H, to bid you good-night next
Friday in my new apartmentwhere I am to meet you and love, in spite
of care, to smile me to sleepfor I have not caught much rest since we
You have, by your tenderness and worth, twisted yourself more
artfully round my heart, than I supposed possible.Let me indulge the
thought, that I have thrown out some tendrils to cling to the elm by
which I wish to be supported.This is talking a new language for
me!But, knowing that I am not a parasite-plant, I am willing to
receive the proofs of affection, that every pulse replies to, when I
think of being once more in the same house with you.God bless you!
* * * *
* * * * *
I ONLY send this as an avant-coureur, without jack-boots, to
tell you, that I am again on the wing, and hope to be with you a few
hours after you receive it. I shall find you well, and composed, I am
sure; or, more properly speaking, cheerful.What is the reason that my
spirits are not as manageable as yours? Yet, now I think of it, I will
not allow that your temper is even, though I have promised myself, in
order to obtain my own forgiveness, that I will not ruffle it for a
long, long timeI am afraid to say never.
Farewell for a moment!Do not forget that I am driving towards you
in person! My mind, unfettered, has flown to you long since, or rather
has never left you.
I am well, and have no apprehension that I shall find the journey
too fatiguing, when I follow the lead of my heart.With my face turned
to Hmy spirits will not sinkand my mind has always hitherto enabled
my body to do whatever I wished.
* * * *
* * * * *
H, Thursday Morning, March 12.
WE are such creatures of habit, my love, that, though I cannot say I
was sorry, childishly so, for your going, when I knew that you were to
stay such a short time, and I had a plan of employment; yet I could not
sleep.I turned to your side of the bed, and tried to make the most of
the comfort of the pillow, which you used to tell me I was churlish
about; but all would not do.I took nevertheless my walk before
breakfast, though the weather was not very invitingand here I am,
wishing you a finer day, and seeing you peep over my shoulder, as I
write, with one of your kindest lookswhen your eyes glisten, and a
suffusion creeps over your relaxing features.
But I do not mean to dally with you this morningSo God bless you!
Take care of yourselfand sometimes fold to your heart your
* * * *
* * * * *
DO not call me stupid, for leaving on the table the little bit of
paper I was to inclose.This comes of being in love at the fag-end of
a letter of business.You know, you say, they will not chime
together.I had got you by the fire-side, with the gigot
smoking on the board, to lard your poor bare ribsand behold, I closed
my letter without taking the paper up, that was directly under my
eyes!What had I got in them to render me so blind?I give you leave
to answer the question, if you will not scold; for I am
Yours most affectionately
* * * *
* * * * *
Sunday, August 17.
I have promised to go with him to his country-house, where he
is now permitted to dineI, and the little darling, to be
sure[47-A]whom I cannot help kissing with more fondness, since you
left us. I think I shall enjoy the fine prospect, and that it will
rather enliven, than satiate my imagination.
I have called on Mrs. . She has the manners of a gentlewoman,
with a dash of the easy French coquetry, which renders her piquante.But Monsieur her husband, whom nature never dreamed of casting
in either the mould of a gentleman or lover, makes but an aukward
figure in the foreground of the picture.
The Hs are very ugly, without doubtand the house smelt of
commerce from top to toeso that his abortive attempt to display
taste, only proved it to be one of the things not to be bought with
gold. I was in a room a moment alone, and my attention was attracted by
the penduleA nymph was offering up her vows before a smoking
altar, to a fat-bottomed Cupid (saving your presence), who was kicking
his heels in the air.Ah! kick on, thought I; for the demon of traffic
will ever fright away the loves and graces, that streak with the rosy
beams of infant fancy the sombre day of lifewhilst the
imagination, not allowing us to see things as they are, enables us to
catch a hasty draught of the running stream of delight, the thirst for
which seems to be given only to tantalize us.
But I am philosophizing; nay, perhaps you will call me severe, and
bid me let the square-headed money-getters alone.Peace to them!
though none of the social sprites (and there are not a few of different
descriptions, who sport about the various inlets to my heart) gave me a
twitch to restrain my pen.
I have been writing on, expecting poor to come; for, when I
began, I merely thought of business; and, as this is the idea that most
naturally associates with your image, I wonder I stumbled on any other.
Yet, as common life, in my opinion, is scarcely worth having, even
with a gigot every day, and a pudding added thereunto, I will
allow you to cultivate my judgment, if you will permit me to keep alive
the sentiments in your heart, which may be termed romantic, because,
the offspring of the senses and the imagination, they resemble the
mother more than the father[50-A], when they produce the suffusion I
admire.In spite of icy age, I hope still to see it, if you have not
determined only to eat and drink, and be stupidly useful to the
* * * *
* * * * *
H, August 19, Tuesday.
I RECEIVED both your letters to-dayI had reckoned on hearing from
you yesterday, therefore was disappointed, though I imputed your
silence to the right cause. I intended answering your kind letter
immediately, that you might have felt the pleasure it gave me; but
came in, and some other things interrupted me; so that the fine
vapour has evaporatedyet, leaving a sweet scent behind, I have only
to tell you, what is sufficiently obvious, that the earnest desire I
have shown to keep my place, or gain more ground in your heart, is a
sure proof how necessary your affection is to my happiness.Still I do
not think it false delicacy, or foolish pride, to wish that your
attention to my happiness should arise as much from love, which
is always rather a selfish passion, as reasonthat is, I want you to
promote my felicity, by seeking your own.For, whatever pleasure it
may give me to discover your generosity of soul, I would not be
dependent for your affection on the very quality I most admire. No;
there are qualities in your heart, which demand my affection; but,
unless the attachment appears to me clearly mutual, I shall labour only
to esteem your character, instead of cherishing a tenderness for your
I write in a hurry, because the little one, who has been sleeping a
long time, begins to call for me. Poor thing! when I am sad, I lament
that all my affections grow on me, till they become too strong for my
peace, though they all afford me snatches of exquisite enjoymentThis
for our little girl was at first very reasonablemore the effect of
reason, a sense of duty, than feelingnow, she has got into my heart
and imagination, and when I walk out without her, her little figure is
ever dancing before me.
You too have somehow clung round my heartI found I could not eat
my dinner in the great roomand, when I took up the large knife to
carve for myself, tears rushed into my eyes.Do not however suppose
that I am melancholyfor, when you are from me, I not only wonder how
I can find fault with youbut how I can doubt your affection.
I will not mix any comments on the inclosed (it roused my
indignation) with the effusion of tenderness, with which I assure you,
that you are the friend of my bosom, and the prop of my heart.
* * * *
* * * * *
H, August 20.
I WANT to know what steps you have taken respecting . Knavery
always rouses my indignationI should be gratified to hear that the
law had chastised severely; but I do not wish you to see him,
because the business does not now admit of peaceful discussion, and I
do not exactly know how you would express your contempt.
Pray ask some questions about TallienI am still pleased with the
dignity of his conduct.The other day, in the cause of humanity, he
made use of a degree of address, which I admireand mean to point out
to you, as one of the few instances of address which do credit to the
abilities of the man, without taking away from that confidence in his
openness of heart, which is the true basis of both public and private
Do not suppose that I mean to allude to a little reserve of temper
in you, of which I have sometimes complained! You have been used to a
cunning woman, and you almost look for cunningNay, in managing
my happiness, you now and then wounded my sensibility, concealing
yourself, till honest sympathy, giving you to me without disguise, lets
me look into a heart, which my half-broken one wishes to creep into, to
be revived and cherished.You have frankness of heart, but not often
exactly that overflowing (épanchement de coeur), which becoming
almost childish, appears a weakness only to the weak.
But I have left poor Tallien. I wanted you to enquire likewise
whether, as a member declared in the convention, Robespierre really
maintained a number of mistresses.Should it prove so, I
suspect that they rather flattered his vanity than his senses.
Here is a chatting, desultory epistle! But do not suppose that I
mean to close it without mentioning the little damselwho has been
almost springing out of my armshe certainly looks very like youbut
I do not love her the less for that, whether I am angry or pleased with
* * * *
* * * * *
I HAVE just written two letters, that are going by other
conveyances, and which I reckon on your receiving long before this. I
therefore merely write, because I know I should be disappointed at
seeing any one who had left you, if you did not send a letter, were it
ever so short, to tell me why you did not write a longerand you will
want to be told, over and over again, that our little Hercules is quite
Besides looking at me, there are three other things, which delight
herto ride in a coach, to look at a scarlet waistcoat, and hear loud
musicyesterday, at the fête, she enjoyed the two latter; but,
to honour J. J. Rousseau, I intend to give her a sash, the first she
has ever had round herand why not?for I have always been half in
love with him.
Well, this you will say is triflingshall I talk about alum or
soap? There is nothing picturesque in your present pursuits; my
imagination then rather chuses to ramble back to the barrier with you,
or to see you coming to meet me, and my basket of grapes.With what
pleasure do I recollect your looks and words, when I have been sitting
on the window, regarding the waving corn!
Believe me, sage sir, you have not sufficient respect for the
imaginationI could prove to you in a trice that it is the mother of
sentiment, the great distinction of our nature, the only purifier of
the passionsanimals have a portion of reason, and equal, if not more
exquisite, senses; but no trace of imagination, or her offspring taste,
appears in any of their actions. The impulse of the senses, passions,
if you will, and the conclusions of reason, draw men together; but the
imagination is the true fire, stolen from heaven, to animate this cold
creature of clay, producing all those fine sympathies that lead to
rapture, rendering men social by expanding their hearts, instead of
leaving them leisure to calculate how many comforts society affords.
If you call these observations romantic, a phrase in this place
which would be tantamount to nonsensical, I shall be apt to retort,
that you are embruted by trade, and the vulgar enjoyments of
lifeBring me then back your barrier-face, or you shall have nothing
to say to my barrier-girl; and I shall fly from you, to cherish the
remembrances that will ever be dear to me; for I am yours truly
* * * *
* * * * *
Evening, Sept. 23.
I HAVE been playing and laughing with the little girl so long, that
I cannot take up my pen to address you without emotion. Pressing her to
my bosom, she looked so like you (entre nous, your best looks,
for I do not admire your commercial face) every nerve seemed to vibrate
to the touch, and I began to think that there was something in the
assertion of man and wife being onefor you seemed to pervade my whole
frame, quickening the beat of my heart, and lending me the sympathetic
tears you excited.
Have I any thing more to say to you? No; not for the presentthe
rest is all flown away; and, indulging tenderness for you, I cannot now
complain of some people here, who have ruffled my temper for two or
three days past.
* * * * *
YESTERDAY Bsent to me for my packet of letters. He called on me
before; and I like him better than I didthat is, I have the same
opinion of his understanding, but I think with you, he has more
tenderness and real delicacy of feeling with respect to women, than are
commonly to be met with. His manner too of speaking of his little girl,
about the age of mine, interested me. I gave him a letter for my
sister, and requested him to see her.
I have been interrupted. Mr. I suppose will write about
business. Public affairs I do not descant on, except to tell you that
they write now with great freedom and truth, and this liberty of the
press will overthrow the Jacobins, I plainly perceive.
I hope you take care of your health. I have got a habit of
restlessness at night, which arises, I believe, from activity of mind;
for, when I am alone, that is, not near one to whom I can open my
heart, I sink into reveries and trains of thinking, which agitate and
This is my third letter; when am I to hear from you? I need not tell
you, I suppose, that I am now writing with somebody in the room with
me, and is waiting to carry this to Mr. 's. I will then kiss
the girl for you, and bid you adieu.
I desired you, in one of my other letters, to bring back to me your
barrier-faceor that you should not be loved by my barrier-girl. I
know that you will love her more and more, for she is a little
affectionate, intelligent creature, with as much vivacity, I should
think, as you could wish for.
I was going to tell you of two or three things which displease me
here; but they are not of sufficient consequence to interrupt pleasing
sensations. I have received a letter from Mr. . I want you to bring
with you. Madame Sis by me, reading a German translation of
your lettersshe desires me to give her love to you, on account of
what you say of the negroes.
Yours most affectionately,
* * * *
* * * * *
Paris, Sept. 28.
I HAVE written to you three or four letters; but different causes
have prevented my sending them by the persons who promised to take or
forward them. The inclosed is one I wrote to go by B; yet, finding
that he will not arrive, before I hope, and believe, you will have set
out on your return, I inclose it to you, and shall give it in charge to
, as Mr. is detained, to whom I also gave a letter.
I cannot help being anxious to hear from you; but I shall not
harrass you with accounts of inquietudes, or of cares that arise from
peculiar circumstances.I have had so many little plagues here, that I
have almost lamented that I left H. , who is at best a most
helpless creature, is now, on account of her pregnancy, more trouble
than use to me, so that I still continue to be almost a slave to the
child.She indeed rewards me, for she is a sweet little creature; for,
setting aside a mother's fondness (which, by the bye, is growing on me,
her little intelligent smiles sinking into my heart), she has an
astonishing degree of sensibility and observation. The other day by
B's child, a fine one, she looked like a little sprite.She is all
life and motion, and her eyes are not the eyes of a foolI will swear.
I slept at St. Germain's, in the very room (if you have not forgot)
in which you pressed me very tenderly to your heart.I did not forget
to fold my darling to mine, with sensations that are almost too sacred
to be alluded to.
Adieu, my love! Take care of yourself, if you wish to be the
protector of your child, and the comfort of her mother.
I have received, for you, letters from . I want to hear how
that affair finishes, though I do not know whether I have most contempt
for his folly or knavery.
* * * *
* * * * *
IT is a heartless task to write letters, without knowing whether
they will ever reach you.I have given two to , who has been
a-going, a-going, every day, for a week past; and three others, which
were written in a low-spirited strain, a little querulous or so, I have
not been able to forward by the opportunities that were mentioned to
me. Tant mieux! you will say, and I will not say nay; for I
should be sorry that the contents of a letter, when you are so far
away, should damp the pleasure that the sight of it would
affordjudging of your feelings by my own. I just now stumbled on one
of the kind letters, which you wrote during your last absence. You are
then a dear affectionate creature, and I will not plague you. The
letter which you chance to receive, when the absence is so long, ought
to bring only tears of tenderness, without any bitter alloy, into your
After your return I hope indeed, that you will not be so immersed in
business, as during the last three or four months pastfor even money,
taking into the account all the future comforts it is to procure, may
be gained at too dear a rate, if painful impressions are left on the
mind.These impressions were much more lively, soon after you went
away, than at presentfor a thousand tender recollections efface the
melancholy traces they left on my mindand every emotion is on the
same side as my reason, which always was on yours.Separated, it would
be almost impious to dwell on real or imaginary imperfections of
character.I feel that I love you; and, if I cannot be happy with you,
I will seek it no where else.
My little darling grows every day more dear to meand she often has
a kiss, when we are alone together, which I give her for you, with all
I have been interruptedand must send off my letter. The liberty of
the press will produce a great effect herethe cry of blood will
not be vain!Some more monsters will perishand the Jacobins are
conquered.Yet I almost fear the last slap of the tail of the beast.
I have had several trifling teazing inconveniencies here, which I
shall not now trouble you with a detail of.I am sending back; her
pregnancy rendered her useless. The girl I have got has more vivacity,
which is better for the child.
I long to hear from you.Bring a copy of and with you.
is still here: he is a lost man.He really loves his wife, and
is anxious about his children; but his indiscriminate hospitality and
social feelings have given him an inveterate habit of drinking, that
destroys his health, as well as renders his person disgusting.If his
wife had more sense, or delicacy, she might restrain him: as it is,
nothing will save him.
Yours most truly and affectionately
* * * *
* * * * *
MY dear love, I began to wish so earnestly to hear from you, that
the sight of your letters occasioned such pleasurable emotions, I was
obliged to throw them aside till the little girl and I were alone
together; and this said little girl, our darling, is become a most
intelligent little creature, and as gay as a lark, and that in the
morning too, which I do not find quite so convenient. I once told you,
that the sensations before she was born, and when she is sucking, were
pleasant; but they do not deserve to be compared to the emotions I
feel, when she stops to smile upon me, or laughs outright on meeting me
unexpectedly in the street, or after a short absence. She has now the
advantage of having two good nurses, and I am at present able to
discharge my duty to her, without being the slave of it.
I have therefore employed and amused myself since I got rid of ,
and am making a progress in the language amongst other things. I have
also made some new acquaintance. I have almost charmed a judge
of the tribunal, R, who, though I should not have thought it
possible, has humanity, if not beaucoup d'esprit. But let me
tell you, if you do not make haste back, I shall be half in love with
the author of the Marseillaise, who is a handsome man, a little
too broad-faced or so, and plays sweetly on the violin.
What do you say to this threat?why, entre nous, I like to
give way to a sprightly vein, when writing to you, that is, when I am
pleased with you. The devil, you know, is proverbially said to be in
a good humour, when he is pleased. Will you not then be a good boy,
and come back quickly to play with your girls? but I shall not allow
you to love the new-comer best.
My heart longs for your return, my love, and only looks for, and
seeks happiness with you; yet do not imagine that I childishly wish you
to come back, before you have arranged things in such a manner, that it
will not be necessary for you to leave us soon again; or to make
exertions which injure your constitution.
Yours most truly and tenderly
* * * *
P.S. You would oblige me by delivering the inclosed to Mr. ,
and pray call for an answer.It is for a person uncomfortably
* * * * *
I HAVE been, my love, for some days tormented by fears, that I would
not allow to assume a formI had been expecting you dailyand I heard
that many vessels had been driven on shore during the late gale.Well,
I now see your letterand find that you are safe; I will not regret
then that your exertions have hitherto been so unavailing.
Be that as it may, return to me when you have arranged the other
matters, which has been crowding on you. I want to be sure that you
are safeand not separated from me by a sea that must be passed. For,
feeling that I am happier than I ever was, do you wonder at my
sometimes dreading that fate has not done persecuting me? Come to me,
my dearest friend, husband, father of my child!All these fond ties
glow at my heart at this moment, and dim my eyes.With you an
independence is desirable; and it is always within our reach, if
affluence escapes uswithout you the world again appears empty to me.
But I am recurring to some of the melancholy thoughts that have flitted
across my mind for some days past, and haunted my dreams.
My little darling is indeed a sweet child; and I am sorry that you
are not here, to see her little mind unfold itself. You talk of
dalliance; but certainly no lover was ever more attached to his
mistress, than she is to me. Her eyes follow me every where, and by
affection I have the most despotic power over her. She is all vivacity
or softnessyes; I love her more than I thought I should. When I have
been hurt at your stay, I have embraced her as my only comfortwhen
pleased with you, for looking and laughing like you; nay, I cannot, I
find, long be angry with you, whilst I am kissing her for resembling
you. But there would be no end to these details. Fold us both to your
heart; for I am truly and affectionately
* * * *
* * * * *
I do, my love, indeed sincerely sympathize with you in all your
disappointments.Yet, knowing that you are well, and think of me with
affection, I only lament other disappointments, because I am sorry that
you should thus exert yourself in vain, and that you are kept from me.
, I know, urges you to stay, and is continually branching out
into new projects, because he has the idle desire to amass a large
fortune, rather an immense one, merely to have the credit of having
made it. But we who are governed by other motives, ought not to be led
on by him. When we meet, we will discuss this subjectYou will listen
to reason, and it has probably occurred to you, that it will be better,
in future, to pursue some sober plan, which may demand more time, and
still enable you to arrive at the same end. It appears to me absurd to
waste life in preparing to live.
Would it not now be possible to arrange your business in such a
manner as to avoid the inquietudes, of which I have had my share since
your departure? Is it not possible to enter into business, as an
employment necessary to keep the faculties awake, and (to sink a little
in the expressions) the pot boiling, without suffering what must ever
be considered as a secondary object, to engross the mind, and drive
sentiment and affection out of the heart?
I am in a hurry to give this letter to the person who has promised
to forward it with 's. I wish then to counteract, in some
measure, what he has doubtless recommended most warmly.
Stay, my friend, whilst it is absolutely necessary.I will
give you no tenderer name, though it glows at my heart, unless you come
the moment the settling the present objects permit.I do not
consent to your taking any other journeyor the little woman and I
will be off, the Lord knows where. But, as I had rather owe every thing
to your affection, and, I may add, to your reason, (for this immoderate
desire of wealth, which makes so eager to have you remain, is
contrary to your principles of action), I will not importune you.I
will only tell you, that I long to see youand, being at peace with
you, I shall be hurt, rather than made angry, by delays.Having
suffered so much in life, do not be surprised if I sometimes, when left
to myself, grow gloomy, and suppose that it was all a dream, and that
my happiness is not to last. I say happiness, because remembrance
retrenches all the dark shades of the picture.
My little one begins to show her teeth, and use her legsShe wants
you to bear your part in the nursing business, for I am fatigued with
dancing her, and yet she is not satisfiedshe wants you to thank her
mother for taking such care of her, as you only can.
* * * *
* * * * *
THOUGH I suppose you have later intelligence, yet, as has just
informed me that he has an opportunity of sending immediately to you, I
take advantage of it to inclose you
How I hate this crooked business! This intercourse with the world,
which obliges one to see the worst side of human nature! Why cannot you
be content with the object you had first in view, when you entered into
this wearisome labyrinth?I know very well that you have imperceptibly
been drawn on; yet why does one project, successful or abortive, only
give place to two others? Is it not sufficient to avoid poverty?I am
contented to do my part; and, even here, sufficient to escape from
wretchedness is not difficult to obtain. And, let me tell you, I have
my project alsoand, if you do not soon return, the little girl and I
will take care of ourselves; we will not accept any of your cold
kindnessyour distant civilitiesno; not we.
This is but half jesting, for I am really tormented by the desire
which manifests to have you remain where you are.Yet why do I
talk to you?If he can persuade youlet him!for, if you are not
happier with me, and your own wishes do not make you throw aside these
eternal projects, I am above using any arguments, though reason as well
as affection seems to offer themif our affection be mutual, they will
occur to youand you will act accordingly.
Since my arrival here, I have found the German lady, of whom you
have heard me speak. Her first child died in the month; but she has
another, about the age of my , a fine little creature. They are
still but contriving to liveearning their daily breadyet, though
they are but just above poverty, I envy them.She is a tender,
affectionate motherfatigued even by her attention.However she has
an affectionate husband in her turn, to render her care light, and to
share her pleasure.
I will own to you that, feeling extreme tenderness for my little
girl, I grow sad very often when I am playing with her, that you are
not here, to observe with me how her mind unfolds, and her little heart
becomes attached!These appear to me to be true pleasuresand still
you suffer them to escape you, in search of what we may never
enjoy.It is your own maxim to live in the present moment.If
you dostay, for God's sake; but tell me the truthif not, tell
me when I may expect to see you, and let me not be always vainly
looking for you, till I grow sick at heart.
Adieu! I am a little hurt.I must take my darling to my bosom to
* * * *
* * * * *
SHOULD you receive three or four of the letters at once which I have
written lately, do not think of Sir John Brute, for I do not mean to
wife you. I only take advantage of every occasion, that one out of
three of my epistles may reach your hands, and inform you that I am not
of 's opinion, who talks till he makes me angry, of the necessity
of your staying two or three months longer. I do not like this life of
continual inquietudeand, entre nous, I am determined to try to
earn some money here myself, in order to convince you that, if you
chuse to run about the world to get a fortune, it is for yourselffor
the little girl and I will live without your assistance, unless you are
with us. I may be termed proudBe it sobut I will never abandon
certain principles of action.
The common run of men have such an ignoble way of thinking, that, if
they debauch their hearts, and prostitute their persons, following
perhaps a gust of inebriation, they suppose the wife, slave rather,
whom they maintain, has no right to complain, and ought to receive the
sultan, whenever he deigns to return, with open arms, though his have
been polluted by half an hundred promiscuous amours during his absence.
I consider fidelity and constancy as two distinct things; yet the
former is necessary, to give life to the otherand such a degree of
respect do I think due to myself, that, if only probity, which is a
good thing in its place, brings you back, never return!for, if a
wandering of the heart, or even a caprice of the imagination detains
youthere is an end of all my hopes of happinessI could not forgive
it, if I would.
I have gotten into a melancholy mood, you perceive. You know my
opinion of men in general; you know that I think them systematic
tyrants, and that it is the rarest thing in the world, to meet with a
man with sufficient delicacy of feeling to govern desire. When I am
thus sad, I lament that my little darling, fondly as I doat on her, is
a girl.I am sorry to have a tie to a world that for me is ever sown
You will call this an ill-humoured letter, when, in fact, it is the
strongest proof of affection I can give, to dread to lose you.
has taken such pains to convince me that you must and ought to
stay, that it has inconceivably depressed my spiritsYou have always
known my opinionI have ever declared, that two people, who mean to
live together, ought not to be long separated.If certain things are
more necessary to you than mesearch for themSay but one word, and
you shall never hear of me more.If notfor God's sake, let us
struggle with povertywith any evil, but these continual inquietudes
of business, which I have been told were to last but a few months,
though every day the end appears more distant! This is the first letter
in this strain that I have determined to forward to you; the rest lie
by, because I was unwilling to give you pain, and I should not now
write, if I did not think that there would be no conclusion to the
schemes, which demand, as I am told, your presence.
* * * *[91-A]
* * * * *
I JUST now received one of your hasty notes; for business so
entirely occupies you, that you have not time, or sufficient command of
thought, to write letters. Beware! you seem to be got into a whirl of
projects and schemes, which are drawing you into a gulph, that, if it
do not absorb your happiness, will infallibly destroy mine.
Fatigued during my youth by the most arduous struggles, not only to
obtain independence, but to render myself useful, not merely pleasure,
for which I had the most lively taste, I mean the simple pleasures that
flow from passion and affection, escaped me, but the most melancholy
views of life were impressed by a disappointed heart on my mind. Since
I knew you, I have been endeavouring to go back to my former nature,
and have allowed some time to glide away, winged with the delight which
only spontaneous enjoyment can give.Why have you so soon dissolved
I am really unable to bear the continual inquietude which your and
's never-ending plans produce. This you may term want of
firmnessbut you are mistakenI have still sufficient firmness to
pursue my principle of action. The present misery, I cannot find a
softer word to do justice to my feelings, appears to me
unnecessaryand therefore I have not firmness to support it as you may
think I ought. I should have been content, and still wish, to retire
with you to a farmMy God! any thing, but these continual
anxietiesany thing but commerce, which debases the mind, and roots
out affection from the heart.
I do not mean to complain of subordinate inconveniencesyet I
will simply observe, that, led to expect you every week, I did not make
the arrangements required by the present circumstances, to procure the
necessaries of life. In order to have them, a servant, for that purpose
only, is indispensibleThe want of wood, has made me catch the most
violent cold I ever had; and my head is so disturbed by continual
coughing, that I am unable to write without stopping frequently to
recollect myself.This however is one of the common evils which must
be borne withbodily pain does not touch the heart, though it
fatigues the spirits.
Still as you talk of your return, even in February, doubtingly, I
have determined, the moment the weather changes, to wean my child.It
is too soon for her to begin to divide sorrow!And as one has well
said, despair is a freeman, we will go and seek our fortune together.
This is not a caprice of the momentfor your absence has given new
weight to some conclusions, that I was very reluctantly forming before
you left me.I do not chuse to be a secondary object.If your
feelings were in unison with mine, you would not sacrifice so much to
visionary prospects of future advantage.
* * * *
* * * * *
I WAS just going to begin my letter with the fag end of a song,
which would only have told you, what I may as well say simply, that it
is pleasant to forgive those we love. I have received your two letters,
dated the 26th and 28th of December, and my anger died away. You can
scarcely conceive the effect some of your letters have produced on me.
After longing to hear from you during a tedious interval of suspense, I
have seen a superscription written by you.Promising myself pleasure,
and feeling emotion, I have laid it by me, till the person who brought
it, left the roomwhen, behold! on opening it, I have found only half
a dozen hasty lines, that have damped all the rising affection of my
Well, now for business
My animal is well; I have not yet taught her to eat, but nature is
doing the business. I gave her a crust to assist the cutting of her
teeth; and now she has two, she makes good use of them to gnaw a crust,
biscuit, &c. You would laugh to see her; she is just like a little
squirrel; she will guard a crust for two hours; and, after fixing her
eye on an object for some time, dart on it with an aim as sure as a
bird of preynothing can equal her life and spirits. I suffer from a
cold; but it does not affect her. Adieu! do not forget to love usand
come soon to tell us that you do.
* * * *
* * * * *
FROM the purport of your last letters, I would suppose that this
will scarcely reach you; and I have already written so many letters,
that you have either not received, or neglected to acknowledge, I do
not find it pleasant, or rather I have no inclination, to go over the
same ground again. If you have received them, and are still detained by
new projects, it is useless for me to say any more on the subject. I
have done with it for everyet I ought to remind you that your
pecuniary interest suffers by your absence.
For my part, my head is turned giddy, by only hearing of plans to
make money, and my contemptuous feelings have sometimes burst out. I
therefore was glad that a violent cold gave me a pretext to stay at
home, lest I should have uttered unseasonable truths.
My child is well, and the spring will perhaps restore me to
myself.I have endured many inconveniences this winter, which should I
be ashamed to mention, if they had been unavoidable. The secondary
pleasures of life, you say, are very necessary to my comfort: it may
be so; but I have ever considered them as secondary. If therefore you
accuse me of wanting the resolution necessary to bear the common
[100-A] evils of life; I should answer, that I have not fashioned my
mind to sustain them, because I would avoid them, cost what it
* * * *
* * * * *
THE melancholy presentiment has for some time hung on my spirits,
that we were parted for ever; and the letters I received this day, by
Mr. , convince me that it was not without foundation. You allude to
some other letters, which I suppose have miscarried; for most of those
I have got, were only a few hasty lines, calculated to wound the
tenderness the sight of the superscriptions excited.
I mean not however to complain; yet so many feelings are struggling
for utterance, and agitating a heart almost bursting with anguish, that
I find it very difficult to write with any degree of coherence.
You left me indisposed, though you have taken no notice of it; and
the most fatiguing journey I ever had, contributed to continue it.
However, I recovered my health; but a neglected cold, and continual
inquietude during the last two months, have reduced me to a state of
weakness I never before experienced. Those who did not know that the
canker-worm was at work at the core, cautioned me about suckling my
child too long.God preserve this poor child, and render her happier
than her mother!
But I am wandering from my subject: indeed my head turns giddy, when
I think that all the confidence I have had in the affection of others
is come to this.
I did not expect this blow from you. I have done my duty to you and
my child; and if I am not to have any return of affection to reward me,
I have the sad consolation of knowing that I deserved a better fate. My
soul is wearyI am sick at heart; and, but for this little darling, I
would cease to care about a life, which is now stripped of every charm.
You see how stupid I am, uttering declamation, when I meant simply
to tell you, that I consider your requesting me to come to you, as
merely dictated by honour.Indeed, I scarcely understand you.You
request me to come, and then tell me, that you have not given up all
thoughts of returning to this place.
When I determined to live with you, I was only governed by
affection.I would share poverty with you, but I turn with affright
from the sea of trouble on which you are entering.I have certain
principles of action: I know what I look for to found my happiness
on.It is not money.With you I wished for sufficient to procure the
comforts of lifeas it is, less will do.I can still exert myself to
obtain the necessaries of life for my child, and she does not want more
at present.I have two or three plans in my head to earn our
subsistence; for do not suppose that, neglected by you, I will lie
under obligations of a pecuniary kind to you!No; I would sooner
submit to menial service.I wanted the support of your affectionthat
gone, all is over!I did not think, when I complained of 's
contemptible avidity to accumulate money, that he would have dragged
you into his schemes.
I cannot write.I inclose a fragment of a letter, written soon
after your departure, and another which tenderness made me keep back
when it was written.You will see then the sentiments of a calmer,
though not a more determined, moment.Do not insult me by saying, that
our being together is paramount to every other consideration! Were
it, you would not be running after a bubble, at the expence of my peace
Perhaps this is the last letter you will ever receive from me.
* * * *
* * * * *
YOU talk of permanent views and future comfortnot for me, for I
am dead to hope. The inquietudes of the last winter have finished the
business, and my heart is not only broken, but my constitution
destroyed. I conceive myself in a galloping consumption, and the
continual anxiety I feel at the thought of leaving my child, feeds the
fever that nightly devours me. It is on her account that I again write
to you, to conjure you, by all that you hold sacred, to leave her here
with the German lady you may have heard me mention! She has a child of
the same age, and they may be brought up together, as I wish her to be
brought up. I shall write more fully on the subject. To facilitate
this, I shall give up my present lodgings, and go into the same house.
I can live much cheaper there, which is now become an object. I have
had 3000 livres from , and I shall take one more, to pay my
servant's wages, &c. and then I shall endeavour to procure what I want
by my own exertions. I shall entirely give up the acquaintance of the
and I have not been on good terms a long time. Yesterday he very
unmanlily exulted over me, on account of your determination to stay. I
had provoked it, it is true, by some asperities against commerce, which
have dropped from me, when we have argued about the propriety of your
remaining where you are; and it is no matter, I have drunk too deep of
the bitter cup to care about trifles.
When you first entered into these plans, you bounded your views to
the gaining of a thousand pounds. It was sufficient to have procured a
farm in America, which would have been an independence. You find now
that you did not know yourself, and that a certain situation in life is
more necessary to you than you imaginedmore necessary than an
uncorrupted heartFor a year or two, you may procure yourself what you
call pleasure; eating, drinking, and women; but, in the solitude of
declining life, I shall be remembered with regretI was going to say
with remorse, but checked my pen.
As I have never concealed the nature of my connection with you, your
reputation will not suffer. I shall never have a confident: I am
content with the approbation of my own mind; and, if there be a
searcher of hearts, mine will not be despised. Reading what you have
written relative to the desertion of women, I have often wondered how
theory and practice could be so different, till I recollected, that the
sentiments of passion, and the resolves of reason, are very distinct.
As to my sisters, as you are so continually hurried with business, you
need not write to themI shall, when my mind is calmer. God bless you!
* * * *
This has been such a period of barbarity and misery, I ought not to
complain of having my share. I wish one moment that I had never heard
of the cruelties that have been practised here, and the next envy the
mothers who have been killed with their children. Surely I had suffered
enough in life, not to be cursed with a fondness, that burns up the
vital stream I am imparting. You will think me mad: I would I were so,
that I could forget my miseryso that my head or heart would be
* * * * *
WHEN I first received your letter, putting off your return to an
indefinite time, I felt so hurt, that I know not what I wrote. I am now
calmer, though it was not the kind of wound over which time has the
quickest effect; on the contrary, the more I think, the sadder I grow.
Society fatigues me inexpressiblySo much so, that finding fault with
every one, I have only reason enough, to discover that the fault is in
myself. My child alone interests me, and, but for her, I should not
take any pains to recover my health.
As it is, I shall wean her, and try if by that step (to which I feel
a repugnance, for it is my only solace) I can get rid of my cough.
Physicians talk much of the danger attending any complaint on the
lungs, after a woman has suckled for some months. They lay a stress
also on the necessity of keeping the mind tranquiland, my God! how
has mine been harrassed! But whilst the caprices of other women are
gratified, the wind of heaven not suffered to visit them too rudely,
I have not found a guardian angel, in heaven or on earth, to ward off
sorrow or care from my bosom.
What sacrifices have you not made for a woman you did not
respect!But I will not go over this groundI want to tell you that I
do not understand you. You say that you have not given up all thoughts
of returning hereand I know that it will be necessarynay, is. I
cannot explain myself; but if you have not lost your memory, you will
easily divine my meaning. What! is our life then only to be made up of
separations? and am I only to return to a country, that has not merely
lost all charms for me, but for which I feel a repugnance that almost
amounts to horror, only to be left there a prey to it!
Why is it so necessary that I should return?brought up here, my
girl would be freer. Indeed, expecting you to join us, I had formed
some plans of usefulness that have now vanished with my hopes of
In the bitterness of my heart, I could complain with reason, that I
am left here dependent on a man, whose avidity to acquire a fortune has
rendered him callous to every sentiment connected with social or
affectionate emotions.With a brutal insensibility, he cannot help
displaying the pleasure your determination to stay gives him, in spite
of the effect it is visible it has had on me.
Till I can earn money, I shall endeavour to borrow some, for I want
to avoid asking him continually for the sum necessary to maintain
me.Do not mistake me, I have never been refused.Yet I have gone
half a dozen times to the house to ask for it, and come away without
speakingyou must guess whyBesides, I wish to avoid hearing of the
eternal projects to which you have sacrificed my peacenot
rememberingbut I will be silent for ever.
* * * * *
HERE I am at H, on the wing towards you, and I write now, only
to tell you, that you may expect me in the course of three or four
days; for I shall not attempt to give vent to the different emotions
which agitate my heartYou may term a feeling, which appears to me to
be a degree of delicacy that naturally arises from sensibility,
prideStill I cannot indulge the very affectionate tenderness which
glows in my bosom, without trembling, till I see, by your eyes, that it
I sit, lost in thought, looking at the seaand tears rush into my
eyes, when I find that I am cherishing any fond expectations.I have
indeed been so unhappy this winter, I find it as difficult to acquire
fresh hopes, as to regain tranquillity.Enough of thislie still,
foolish heart!But for the little girl, I could almost wish that it
should cease to beat, to be no more alive to the anguish of
Sweet little creature! I deprived myself of my only pleasure, when I
weaned her, about ten days ago.I am however glad I conquered my
repugnance.It was necessary it should be done soon, and I did not
wish to embitter the renewal of your acquaintance with her, by putting
it off till we met.It was a painful exertion to me, and I thought it
best to throw this inquietude with the rest, into the sack that I would
fain throw over my shoulder.I wished to endure it alone, in
shortYet, after sending her to sleep in the next room for three or
four nights, you cannot think with what joy I took her back again to
sleep in my bosom!
I suppose I shall find you, when I arrive, for I do not see any
necessity for your coming to me.Pray inform Mr. , that I have
his little friend with me.My wishing to oblige him, made me put
myself to some inconvenienceand delay my departure; which was
irksome to me, who have not quite as much philosophy, I would not for
the world say indifference, as you. God bless you!
* * * *
* * * * *
Brighthelmstone, Saturday, April 11.
HERE we are, my love, and mean to set out early in the morning; and,
if I can find you, I hope to dine with you to-morrow.I shall drive to
's hotel, where tells me you have beenand, if you have
left it, I hope you will take care to be there to receive us.
I have brought with me Mr. 's little friend, and a girl whom I
like to take care of our little darlingnot on the way, for that fell
to my share.But why do I write about trifles?or any thing?Are we
not to meet soon?What does your heart say!
* * * *
I have weaned my , and she is now eating away at the white
* * * * *
London, Friday, May 22.
I HAVE just received your affectionate letter, and am distressed to
think that I have added to your embarrassments at this troublesome
juncture, when the exertion of all the faculties of your mind appears
to be necessary, to extricate you out of your pecuniary difficulties. I
suppose it was something relative to the circumstance you have
mentioned, which made request to see me to-day, to converse
about a matter of great importance. Be that as it may, his letter
(such is the state of my spirits) inconceivably alarmed me, and
rendered the last night as distressing, as the two former had been.
I have laboured to calm my mind since you left meStill I find that
tranquillity is not to be obtained by exertion; it is a feeling so
different from the resignation of despair!I am however no longer
angry with younor will I ever utter another complaintthere are
arguments which convince the reason, whilst they carry death to the
heart.We have had too many cruel explanations, that not only cloud
every future prospect; but embitter the remembrances which alone give
life to affection.Let the subject never be revived!
It seems to me that I have not only lost the hope, but the power of
being happy.Every emotion is now sharpened by anguish.My soul has
been shook, and my tone of feelings destroyed.I have gone outand
sought for dissipation, if not amusement, merely to fatigue still more,
I find, my irritable nerves
My friendmy dear friendexamine yourself wellI am out of the
question; for, alas! I am nothingand discover what you wish to
dowhat will render you most comfortableor, to be more
explicitwhether you desire to live with me, or part for ever? When
you can once ascertain it, tell me frankly, I conjure you!for,
believe me, I have very involuntarily interrupted your peace.
I shall expect you to dinner on Monday, and will endeavour to assume
a cheerful face to greet youat any rate I will avoid conversations,
which only tend to harrass your feelings, because I am most
* * * *
* * * * *
I INCLOSE you the letter, which you desired me to forward, and I am
tempted very laconically to wish you a good morningnot because I am
angry, or have nothing to say; but to keep down a wounded spirit.I
shall make every effort to calm my mindyet a strong conviction seems
to whirl round in the very centre of my brain, which, like the fiat of
fate, emphatically assures me, that grief has a firm hold of my heart.
God bless you!
* * * *
* * * * *
, Wednesday, Two o'Clock.
WE arrived here about an hour ago. I am extremely fatigued with the
child, who would not rest quiet with any body but me, during the
nightand now we are here in a comfortless, damp room, in a sort of a
tomb-like house. This however I shall quickly remedy, for, when I have
finished this letter, (which I must do immediately, because the post
goes out early), I shall sally forth, and enquire about a vessel and an
I will not distress you by talking of the depression of my spirits,
or the struggle I had to keep alive my dying heart.It is even now too
full to allow me to write with composure.*****,dear *****, am I
always to be tossed about thus?shall I never find an asylum to rest
contented in? How can you love to fly about continuallydropping
down, as it were, in a new worldcold and strange!every other day?
Why do you not attach those tender emotions round the idea of home,
which even now dim my eyes?This alone is affectionevery thing else
is only humanity, electrified by sympathy.
I will write to you again to-morrow, when I know how long I am to be
detainedand hope to get a letter quickly from you, to cheer yours
sincerely and affectionately
* * * *
is playing near me in high spirits. She was so pleased with
the noise of the mail-horn, she has been continually imitating
* * * * *
A LADY has just sent to offer to take me to . I have then only
a moment to exclaim against the vague manner in which people give
But why talk of inconveniences, which are in fact trifling, when
compared with the sinking of the heart I have felt! I did not intend to
touch this painful stringGod bless you!
* * * *
* * * * *
Friday, June 12.
I HAVE just received yours dated the 9th, which I suppose was a
mistake, for it could scarcely have loitered so long on the road. The
general observations which apply to the state of your own mind, appear
to me just, as far as they go; and I shall always consider it as one of
the most serious misfortunes of my life, that I did not meet you,
before satiety had rendered your senses so fastidious, as almost to
close up every tender avenue of sentiment and affection that leads to
your sympathetic heart. You have a heart, my friend, yet, hurried away
by the impetuosity of inferior feelings, you have sought in vulgar
excesses, for that gratification which only the heart can bestow.
The common run of men, I know, with strong health and gross
appetites, must have variety to banish ennui, because the
imagination never lends its magic wand, to convert appetite into love,
cemented by according reason.Ah! my friend, you know not the
ineffable delight, the exquisite pleasure, which arises from a unison
of affection and desire, when the whole soul and senses are abandoned
to a lively imagination, that renders every emotion delicate and
rapturous. Yes; these are emotions, over which satiety has no power,
and the recollection of which, even disappointment cannot disenchant;
but they do not exist without self-denial. These emotions, more or less
strong, appear to me to be the distinctive characteristic of genius,
the foundation of taste, and of that exquisite relish for the beauties
of nature, of which the common herd of eaters and drinkers and
child-begeters, certainly have no idea. You will smile at an
observation that has just occurred to me:I consider those minds as
the most strong and original, whose imagination acts as the stimulus to
Well! you will ask, what is the result of all this reasoning? Why I
cannot help thinking that it is possible for you, having great strength
of mind, to return to nature, and regain a sanity of constitution, and
purity of feelingwhich would open your heart to me.I would fain
Yet, convinced more than ever of the sincerity and tenderness of my
attachment to you, the involuntary hopes, which a determination to live
has revived, are not sufficiently strong to dissipate the cloud, that
despair has spread over futurity. I have looked at the sea, and at my
child, hardly daring to own to myself the secret wish, that it might
become our tomb; and that the heart, still so alive to anguish, might
there be quieted by death. At this moment ten thousand complicated
sentiments press for utterance, weigh on my heart, and obscure my
Are we ever to meet again? and will you endeavour to render that
meeting happier than the last? Will you endeavour to restrain your
caprices, in order to give vigour to affection, and to give play to the
checked sentiments that nature intended should expand your heart? I
cannot indeed, without agony, think of your bosom's being continually
contaminated; and bitter are the tears which exhaust my eyes, when I
recollect why my child and I are forced to stray from the asylum, in
which, after so many storms, I had hoped to rest, smiling at angry
fate.These are not common sorrows; nor can you perhaps conceive, how
much active fortitude it requires to labour perpetually to blunt the
shafts of disappointment.
Examine now yourself, and ascertain whether you can live in
something-like a settled stile. Let our confidence in future be
unbounded; consider whether you find it necessary to sacrifice me to
what you term the zest of life; and, when you have once a clear view
of your own motives, of your own incentive to action, do not deceive
The train of thoughts which the writing of this epistle awoke, makes
me so wretched, that I must take a walk, to rouse and calm my mind. But
first, let me tell you, that, if you really wish to promote my
happiness, you will endeavour to give me as much as you can of
yourself. You have great mental energy; and your judgment seems to me
so just, that it is only the dupe of your inclination in discussing one
The post does not go out to-day. To-morrow I may write more
tranquilly. I cannot yet say when the vessel will sail in which I have
determined to depart.
* * * * *
Your second letter reached me about an hour ago. You were certainly
wrong, in supposing that I did not mention you with respect; though,
without my being conscious of it, some sparks of resentment may have
animated the gloom of despairYes; with less affection, I should have
been more respectful. However the regard which I have for you, is so
unequivocal to myself, I imagine that it must be sufficiently obvious
to every body else. Besides, the only letter I intended for the public
eye was to , and that I destroyed from delicacy before you saw
them, because it was only written (of course warmly in your praise) to
prevent any odium being thrown on you[133-A].
I am harrassed by your embarrassments, and shall certainly use all
my efforts, to make the business terminate to your satisfaction in
which I am engaged.
My friendmy dearest friendI feel my fate united to yours by the
most sacred principles of my soul, and the yearns ofyes, I will say
ita true, unsophisticated heart.
Yours most truly
* * * *
If the wind be fair, the captain talks of sailing on Monday; but I
am afraid I shall be detained some days longer. At any rate, continue
to write, (I want this support) till you are sure I am where I cannot
expect a letter; and, if any should arrive after my departure, a
gentleman (not Mr. 's friend, I promise you) from whom I have
received great civilities, will send them after me.
Do write by every occasion! I am anxious to hear how your affairs go
on; and, still more, to be convinced that you are not separating
yourself from us. For my little darling is calling papa, and adding her
parrot wordCome, Come! And will you not come, and let us exert
ourselves?I shall recover all my energy, when I am convinced that my
exertions will draw us more closely together. One more adieu!
* * * * *
Sunday, June 14.
I RATHER expected to hear from you to-dayI wish you would not fail
to write to me for a little time, because I am not quite wellWhether
I have any good sleep or not, I wake in the morning in violent fits of
tremblingand, in spite of all my efforts, the childevery
thingfatigues me, in which I seek for solace or amusement.
Mr. forced on me a letter to a physician of this place; it was
fortunate, for I should otherwise have had some difficulty to obtain
the necessary information. His wife is a pretty woman (I can admire,
you know, a pretty woman, when I am alone) and he an intelligent and
rather interesting man.They have behaved to me with great
hospitality; and poor was never so happy in her life, as amongst
their young brood.
They took me in their carriage to , and I ran over my
favourite walks, with a vivacity that would have astonished you.The
town did not please me quite so well as formerlyIt appeared so
diminutive; and, when I found that many of the inhabitants had lived in
the same houses ever since I left it, I could not help wondering how
they could thus have vegetated, whilst I was running over a world of
sorrow, snatching at pleasure, and throwing off prejudices. The place
where I at present am, is much improved; but it is astonishing what
strides aristocracy and fanaticism have made, since I resided in this
The wind does not appear inclined to change, so I am still forced to
lingerWhen do you think that you shall be able to set out for France?
I do not entirely like the aspect of your affairs, and still less your
connections on either side of the water. Often do I sigh, when I think
of your entanglements in business, and your extreme restlessness of
mind.Even now I am almost afraid to ask you, whether the pleasure of
being free, does not over-balance the pain you felt at parting with me?
Sometimes I indulge the hope that you will feel me necessary to youor
why should we meet again?but, the moment after, despair damps my
rising spirits, aggravated by the emotions of tenderness, which ought
to soften the cares of life.God bless you!
Yours sincerely and affectionately
* * * *
* * * * *
I WANT to know how you have settled with respect to . In
short, be very particular in your account of all your affairslet our
confidence, my dear, be unbounded.The last time we were separated,
was a separation indeed on your partNow you have acted more
ingenuously, let the most affectionate interchange of sentiments fill
up the aching void of disappointment. I almost dread that your plans
will prove abortiveyet should the most unlucky turn send you home to
us, convinced that a true friend is a treasure, I should not much mind
having to struggle with the world again. Accuse me not of prideyet
sometimes, when nature has opened my heart to its author, I have
wondered that you did not set a higher value on my heart.
Receive a kiss from , I was going to add, if you will not take
one from me, and believe me yours
* * * *
The wind still continues in the same quarter.
* * * * *
THE captain has just sent to inform me, that I must be on board in
the course of a few hours.I wished to have stayed till to-morrow. It
would have been a comfort to me to have received another letter from
youShould one arrive, it will be sent after me.
My spirits are agitated, I scarcely know whyThe quitting England
seems to be a fresh parting.Surely you will not forget me.A
thousand weak forebodings assault my soul, and the state of my health
renders me sensible to every thing. It is surprising that in London, in
a continual conflict of mind, I was still growing betterwhilst here,
bowed down by the despotic hand of fate, forced into resignation by
despair, I seem to be fading awayperishing beneath a cruel blight,
that withers up all my faculties.
The child is perfectly well. My hand seems unwilling to add adieu! I
know not why this inexpressible sadness has taken possession of me.It
is not a presentiment of ill. Yet, having been so perpetually the sport
of disappointment,having a heart that has been as it were a mark for
misery, I dread to meet wretchedness in some new shape.Well, let it
comeI care not!what have I to dread, who have so little to hope
for! God bless youI am most affectionately and sincerely yours
* * * *
* * * * *
I WAS hurried on board yesterday about three o'clock, the wind
having changed. But before evening it veered round to the old point;
and here we are, in the midst of mists and water, only taking advantage
of the tide to advance a few miles.
You will scarcely suppose that I left the town with reluctanceyet
it was even sofor I wished to receive another letter from you, and I
felt pain at parting, for ever perhaps, from the amiable family, who
had treated me with so much hospitality and kindness. They will
probably send me your letter, if it arrives this morning; for here we
are likely to remain, I am afraid to think how long.
The vessel is very commodious, and the captain a civil, open-hearted
kind of man. There being no other passengers, I have the cabin to
myself, which is pleasant; and I have brought a few books with me to
beguile weariness; but I seem inclined, rather to employ the dead
moments of suspence in writing some effusions, than in reading.
What are you about? How are your affairs going on? It may be a long
time before you answer these questions. My dear friend, my heart sinks
within me!Why am I forced thus to struggle continually with my
affections and feelings?Ah! why are those affections and feelings the
source of so much misery, when they seem to have been given to vivify
my heart, and extend my usefulness! But I must not dwell on this
subject.Will you not endeavour to cherish all the affection you can
for me? What am I saying?Rather forget me, if you canif other
gratifications are dearer to you.How is every remembrance of mine
embittered by disappointment? What a world is this!They only seem
happy, who never look beyond sensual or artificial enjoyments.Adieu!
begins to play with the cabin-boy, and is as gay as a lark.I
will labour to be tranquil; and am in every mood,
* * * *
* * * * *
HERE I am stilland I have just received your letter of Monday by
the pilot, who promised to bring it to me, if we were detained, as he
expected, by the wind.It is indeed wearisome to be thus tossed about
without going forward.I have a violent head-acheyet I am obliged to
take care of the child, who is a little tormented by her teeth, because
is unable to do any thing, she is rendered so sick by the motion
of the ship, as we ride at anchor.
These are however trifling inconveniences, compared with anguish of
mindcompared with the sinking of a broken heart.To tell you the
truth, I never suffered in my life so much from depression of
spiritsfrom despair.I do not sleepor, if I close my eyes, it is
to have the most terrifying dreams, in which I often meet you with
different casts of countenance.
I will not, my dear , torment you by dwelling on my
sufferingsand will use all my efforts to calm my mind, instead of
deadening itat present it is most painfully active. I find I am not
equal to these continual strugglesyet your letter this morning has
afforded me some comfortand I will try to revive hope. One thing let
me tell youwhen we meet againsurely we are to meet!it must be to
part no more. I mean not to have seas between usit is more than I can
The pilot is hurrying meGod bless you.
In spite of the commodiousness of the vessel, every thing here would
disgust my senses, had I nothing else to think ofWhen the mind's
free, the body's delicate;mine has been too much hurt to regard
Yours most truly
* * * *
* * * * *
THIS is the fifth dreary day I have been imprisoned by the wind,
with every outward object to disgust the senses, and unable to banish
the remembrances that sadden my heart.
How am I altered by disappointment!When going to , ten years
ago, the elasticity of my mind was sufficient to ward off
wearinessand the imagination still could dip her brush in the rainbow
of fancy, and sketch futurity in smiling colours. Now I am going
towards the North in search of sunbeams!Will any ever warm this
desolated heart? All nature seems to frownor rather mourn with
me.Every thing is coldcold as my expectations! Before I left the
shore, tormented, as I now am, by these North east chillers, I
could not help exclaimingGive me, gracious Heaven! at least, genial
weather, if I am never to meet the genial affection that still warms
this agitated bosomcompelling life to linger there.
I am now going on shore with the captain, though the weather be
rough, to seek for milk, &c. at a little village, and to take a
walkafter which I hope to sleepfor, confined here, surrounded by
disagreeable smells, I have lost the little appetite I had; and I lie
awake, till thinking almost drives me to the brink of madnessonly to
the brink, for I never forget, even in the feverish slumbers I
sometimes fall into, the misery I am labouring to blunt the the sense
of, by every exertion in my power.
Poor still continues sick, and grows weary when the
weather will not allow her to remain on deck.
I hope this will be the last letter I shall write from England to
youare you not tired of this lingering adieu?
* * * *
* * * * *
THE captain last night, after I had written my letter to you
intended to be left at a little village, offered to go to to pass
to-day. We had a troublesome sailand now I must hurry on board again,
for the wind has changed.
I half expected to find a letter from you here. Had you written one
haphazard, it would have been kind and considerateyou might have
known, had you thought, that the wind would not permit me to depart.
These are attentions, more grateful to the heart than offers of
serviceBut why do I foolishly continue to look for them?
Adieu! adieu! My friendyour friendship is very coldyou see I am
hurt.God bless you! I may perhaps be, some time or other, independent
in every sense of the wordAh! there is but one sense of it of
consequence. I will break or bend this weak heartyet even now it is
* * * *
The child is well; I did not leave her on board.
* * * * *
June 27, Saturday.
I ARRIVED in this afternoon, after vainly attempting to land
at . I have now but a moment, before the post goes out, to inform
you we have got here; though not without considerable difficulty, for
we were set ashore in a boat above twenty miles below.
What I suffered in the vessel I will not now descant uponnor
mention the pleasure I received from the sight of the rocky
coast.This morning however, walking to join the carriage that was to
transport us to this place, I fell, without any previous warning,
senseless on the rocksand how I escaped with life I can scarcely
guess. I was in a stupour for a quarter of an hour; the suffusion of
blood at last restored me to my sensesthe contusion is great, and my
brain confused. The child is well.
Twenty miles ride in the rain, after my accident, has sufficiently
deranged meand here I could not get a fire to warm me, or any thing
warm to eat; the inns are mere stablesI must nevertheless go to bed.
For God's sake, let me hear from you immediately, my friend! I am not
well and yet you see I cannot die.
* * * *
* * * * *
I WROTE to you by the last post, to inform you of my arrival; and I
believe I alluded to the extreme fatigue I endured on ship-board, owing
to 's illness, and the roughness of the weatherI likewise
mentioned to you my fall, the effects of which I still feel, though I
do not think it will have any serious consequences.
will go with me, if I find it necessary to go to . The
inns here are so bad, I was forced to accept of an apartment in his
house. I am overwhelmed with civilities on all sides, and fatigued with
the endeavours to amuse me, from which I cannot escape.
My friendmy friend, I am not wella deadly weight of sorrow lies
heavily on my heart. I am again tossed on the troubled billows of life;
and obliged to cope with difficulties, without being buoyed up by the
hopes that alone render them bearable. How flat, dull, and
unprofitable, appears to me all the bustle into which I see people
here so eagerly enter! I long every night to go to bed, to hide my
melancholy face in my pillow; but there is a canker-worm in my bosom
that never sleeps.
* * * *
* * * * *
I LABOUR in vain to calm my mindmy soul has been overwhelmed by
sorrow and disappointment. Every thing fatigues methis is a life that
cannot last long. It is you who must determine with respect to
futurityand, when you have, I will act accordinglyI mean, we must
either resolve to live together, or part for ever, I cannot bear these
continual strugglesBut I wish you to examine carefully your own heart
and mind; and, if you perceive the least chance of being happier
without me than with me, or if your inclination leans capriciously to
that side, do not dissemble; but tell me frankly that you will never
see me more. I will then adopt the plan I mentioned to youfor we must
either live together, or I will be entirely independent.
My heart is so oppressed, I cannot write with precisionYou know
however that what I so imperfectly express, are not the crude
sentiments of the momentYou can only contribute to my comfort (it is
the consolation I am in need of) by being with meand, if the
tenderest friendship is of any value, why will you not look to me for a
degree of satisfaction that heartless affections cannot bestow?
Tell me then, will you determine to meet me at Basle?I shall, I
should imagine, be at before the close of August; and, after you
settle your affairs at Paris, could we not meet there?
God bless you!
* * * *
Poor has suffered during the journey with her teeth.
* * * * *
THERE was a gloominess diffused through your last letter, the
impression of which still rests on my mindthough, recollecting how
quickly you throw off the forcible feelings of the moment, I flatter
myself it has long since given place to your usual cheerfulness.
Believe me (and my eyes fill with tears of tenderness as I assure
you) there is nothing I would not endure in the way of privation,
rather than disturb your tranquillity.If I am fated to be unhappy, I
will labour to hide my sorrows in my own bosom; and you shall always
find me a faithful, affectionate friend.
I grow more and more attached to my little girland I cherish this
affection without fear, because it must be a long time before it can
become bitterness of soul.She is an interesting creature.On
ship-board, how often as I gazed at the sea, have I longed to bury my
troubled bosom in the less troubled deep; asserting with Brutus, that
the virtue I had followed too far, was merely an empty name! and
nothing but the sight of herher playful smiles, which seemed to cling
and twine round my heartcould have stopped me.
What peculiar misery has fallen to my share! To act up to my
principles, I have laid the strictest restraint on my very
thoughtsyes; not to sully the delicacy of my feelings, I have reined
in my imagination; and started with affright from every sensation, (I
allude to ) that stealing with balmy sweetness into my soul, led me
to scent from afar the fragrance of reviving nature.
My friend, I have dearly paid for one conviction.Love, in some
minds, is an affair of sentiment, arising from the same delicacy of
perception (or taste) as renders them alive to the beauties of nature,
poetry, &c, alive to the charms of those evanescent graces that are, as
it were, impalpablethey must be felt, they cannot be described.
Love is a want of my heart. I have examined myself lately with more
care than formerly, and find, that to deaden is not to calm the
mindAiming at tranquillity, I have almost destroyed all the energy of
my soulalmost rooted out what renders it estimableYes, I have
damped that enthusiasm of character, which converts the grossest
materials into a fuel, that imperceptibly feeds hopes, which aspire
above common enjoyment. Despair, since the birth of my child, has
rendered me stupidsoul and body seemed to be fading away before the
withering touch of disappointment.
I am now endeavouring to recover myselfand such is the elasticity
of my constitution, and the purity of the atmosphere here, that health
unsought for, begins to reanimate my countenance.
I have the sincerest esteem and affection for youbut the desire of
regaining peace, (do you understand me?) has made me forget the respect
due to my own emotionssacred emotions, that are the sure harbingers
of the delights I was formed to enjoyand shall enjoy, for nothing can
extinguish the heavenly spark.
Still, when we meet again, I will not torment you, I promise you. I
blush when I recollect my former conductand will not in future
confound myself with the beings whom I feel to be my inferiors.I will
listen to delicacy, or pride.
* * * * *
I HOPE to hear from you by to-morrow's mail. My dearest friend! I
cannot tear my affections from youand, though every remembrance
stings me to the soul, I think of you, till I make allowance for the
very defects of character, that have given such a cruel stab to my
Still however I am more alive, than you have seen me for a long,
long time. I have a degree of vivacity, even in my grief, which is
preferable to the benumbing stupour that, for the last year, has frozen
up all my faculties.Perhaps this change is more owing to returning
health, than to the vigour of my reasonfor, in spite of sadness (and
surely I have had my share), the purity of this air, and the being
continually out in it, for I sleep in the country every night, has made
an alteration in my appearance that really surprises me.The rosy
fingers of health already streak my cheeksand I have seen a
physical life in my eyes, after I have been climbing the rocks,
that resembled the fond, credulous hopes of youth.
With what a cruel sigh have I recollected that I had forgotten to
hope!Reason, or rather experience, does not thus cruelly damp poor
's pleasures; she plays all day in the garden with 's
children, and makes friends for herself.
Do not tell me, that you are happier without usWill you not come
to us in Switzerland? Ah, why do not you love us with more
sentiment?why are you a creature of such sympathy, that the warmth of
your feelings, or rather quickness of your senses, hardens your heart?
It is my misfortune, that my imagination is perpetually shading your
defects, and lending you charms, whilst the grossness of your senses
makes you (call me not vain) overlook graces in me, that only dignity
of mind, and the sensibility of an expanded heart can give.God bless
* * * * *
I COULD not help feeling extremely mortified last post, at not
receiving a letter from you. My being at was but a chance, and
you might have hazarded it; and would a year ago.
I shall not however complainThere are misfortunes so great, as to
silence the usual expressions of sorrowBelieve me, there is such a
thing as a broken heart! There are characters whose very energy preys
upon them; and who, ever inclined to cherish by reflection some
passion, cannot rest satisfied with the common comforts of life. I have
endeavoured to fly from myself, and launched into all the dissipation
possible here, only to feel keener anguish, when alone with my child.
Still, could any thing please mehad not disappointment cut me off
from life, this romantic country, these fine evenings, would interest
me.My God! can any thing? and am I ever to feel alive only to painful
sensations?But it cannotit shall not last long.
The post is again arrived; I have sent to seek for letters, only to
be wounded to the soul by a negative.My brain seems on fire, I must
go into the air.
* * * *
* * * * *
I AM now on my journey to . I felt more at leaving my child,
than I thought I shouldand, whilst at night I imagined every instant
that I heard the half-formed sounds of her voice,I asked myself how I
could think of parting with her for ever, of leaving her thus helpless?
Poor lamb! It may run very well in a tale, that God will temper the
winds to the shorn lamb! but how can I expect that she will be
shielded, when my naked bosom has had to brave continually the pitiless
storm? Yes; I could add, with poor LearWhat is the war of elements to
the pangs of disappointed affection, and the horror arising from a
discovery of a breach of confidence, that snaps every social tie!
All is not right somewhere!When you first knew me, I was not thus
lost. I could still confidefor I opened my heart to youof this only
comfort you have deprived me, whilst my happiness, you tell me, was
your first object. Strange want of judgment!
I will not complain; but, from the soundness of your understanding,
I am convinced, if you give yourself leave to reflect, you will also
feel, that your conduct to me, so far from being generous, has not been
just.I mean not to allude to factitious principles of morality; but
to the simple basis of all rectitude.However I did not intend to
argueYour not writing is crueland my reason is perhaps disturbed by
Poor would fain have accompanied me, out of tenderness; for my
fainting, or rather convulsion, when I landed, and my sudden changes of
countenance since, have alarmed her so much, that she is perpetually
afraid of some accidentBut it would have injured the child this warm
season, as she is cutting her teeth.
I hear not of your having written to me at . Very well! Act as
you pleasethere is nothing I fear or care for! When I see whether I
can, or cannot obtain the money I am come here about, I will not
trouble you with letters to which you do not reply.
* * * * *
I AM here in , separated from my childand here I must remain a
month at least, or I might as well never have come.
I have begun which will, I hope, discharge all my
obligations of a pecuniary kind.I am lowered in my own eyes, on
account of my not having done it sooner.
I shall make no further comments on your silence. God bless you!
* * * *
* * * * *
I HAVE just received two of your letters, dated the 26th and 30th of
June; and you must have received several from me, informing you of my
detention, and how much I was hurt by your silence.
Write to me then, my friend, and write explicitly. I have suffered,
God knows, since I left you. Ah! you have never felt this kind of
sickness of heart!My mind however is at present painfully active, and
the sympathy I feel almost rises to agony. But this is not a subject of
complaint, it has afforded me pleasure,and reflected pleasure is all
I have to hope forif a spark of hope be yet alive in my forlorn
I will try to write with a degree of composure. I wish for us to
live together, because I want you to acquire an habitual tenderness for
my poor girl. I cannot bear to think of leaving her alone in the world,
or that she should only be protected by your sense of duty. Next to
preserving her, my most earnest wish is not to disturb your peace. I
have nothing to expect, and little to fear, in lifeThere are wounds
that can never be healedbut they may be allowed to fester in silence
When we meet again, you shall be convinced that I have more
resolution than you give me credit for. I will not torment you. If I am
destined always to be disappointed and unhappy, I will conceal the
anguish I cannot dissipate; and the tightened cord of life or reason
will at last snap, and set me free.
Yes; I shall be happyThis heart is worthy of the bliss its
feelings anticipateand I cannot even persuade myself, wretched as
they have made me, that my principles and sentiments are not founded in
nature and truth. But to have done with these subjects.
I have been seriously employed in this way since I came to ; yet
I never was so much in the air.I walk, I ride on horsebackrow,
bathe, and even sleep in the fields; my health is consequently
improved. The child, informs me, is well. I long to be with her.
Write to me immediatelywere I only to think of myself, I could
wish you to return to me, poor, with the simplicity of character, part
of which you seem lately to have lost, that first attached to you.
Yours most affectionately
* * * * * * * * *
I have been subscribing other lettersso I mechanically did the
same to yours.
* * * * *
EMPLOYMENT and exercise have been of great service to me; and I have
entirely recovered the strength and activity I lost during the time of
my nursing. I have seldom been in better health; and my mind, though
trembling to the touch of anguish, is calmeryet still the same.I
have, it is true, enjoyed some tranquillity, and more happiness here,
than for a longlong time past.(I say happiness, for I can give no
other appellation to the exquisite delight this wild country and fine
summer have afforded me.)Still, on examining my heart, I find that it
is so constituted, I cannot live without some particular affectionI
am afraid not without a passionand I feel the want of it more in
society, than in solitude
Writing to you, whenever an affectionate epithet occursmy eyes
fill with tears, and my trembling hand stopsyou may then depend on my
resolution, when with you. If I am doomed to be unhappy, I will confine
my anguish in my own bosomtenderness, rather than passion, has made
me sometimes overlook delicacythe same tenderness will in future
restrain me. God bless you!
* * * * *
AIR, exercise, and bathing, have restored me to health, braced my
muscles, and covered my ribs, even whilst I have recovered my former
activity.I cannot tell you that my mind is calm, though I have
snatched some moments of exquisite delight, wandering through the
woods, and resting on the rocks.
This state of suspense, my friend, is intolerable; we must determine
on somethingand soon;we must meet shortly, or part for ever. I am
sensible that I acted foolishlybut I was wretchedwhen we were
togetherExpecting too much, I let the pleasure I might have caught,
slip from me. I cannot live with youI ought notif you form another
attachment. But I promise you, mine shall not be intruded on you.
Little reason have I to expect a shadow of happiness, after the cruel
disappointments that have rent my heart; but that of my child seems to
depend on our being together. Still I do not wish you to sacrifice a
chance of enjoyment for an uncertain good. I feel a conviction, that I
can provide for her, and it shall be my objectif we are indeed to
part to meet no more. Her affection must not be divided. She must be a
comfort to meif I am to have no otherand only know me as her
support.I feel that I cannot endure the anguish of corresponding with
youif we are only to correspond.No; if you seek for happiness
elsewhere, my letters shall not interrupt your repose. I will be dead
to you. I cannot express to you what pain it gives me to write about an
eternal separation.You must determineexamine yourselfBut, for
God's sake! spare me the anxiety of uncertainty!I may sink under the
trial; but I will not complain.
Adieu! If I had any thing more to say to you, it is all flown, and
absorbed by the most tormenting apprehensions, yet I scarcely know what
new form of misery I have to dread.
I ought to beg your pardon for having sometimes written peevishly;
but you will impute it to affection, if you understand any thing of the
* * * *
* * * * *
FIVE of your letters have been sent after me from . One, dated
the 14th of July, was written in a style which I may have merited, but
did not expect from you. However this is not a time to reply to it,
except to assure you that you shall not be tormented with any more
complaints. I am disgusted with myself for having so long importuned
you with my affection.
My child is very well. We shall soon meet, to part no more, I
hopeI mean, I and my girl.I shall wait with some degree of anxiety
till I am informed how your affairs terminate.
* * * *
* * * * *
I ARRIVED here last night, and with the most exquisite delight, once
more pressed my babe to my heart. We shall part no more. You perhaps
cannot conceive the pleasure it gave me, to see her run about, and play
alone. Her increasing intelligence attaches me more and more to her. I
have promised her that I will fulfil my duty to her; and nothing in
future shall make me forget it. I will also exert myself to obtain an
independence for her; but I will not be too anxious on this head.
I have already told you, that I have recovered my health. Vigour,
and even vivacity of mind, have returned with a renovated constitution.
As for peace, we will not talk of it. I was not made, perhaps, to enjoy
the calm contentment so termed.
You tell me that my letters torture you; I will not describe the
effect yours have on me. I received three this morning, the last dated
the 7th of this month. I mean not to give vent to the emotions they
produced.Certainly you are right; our minds are not congenial. I have
lived in an ideal world, and fostered sentiments that you do not
comprehendor you would not treat me thus. I am not, I will not be,
merely an object of compassiona clog, however light, to teize you.
Forget that I exist: I will never remind you. Something emphatical
whispers me to put an end to these struggles. Be freeI will not
torment, when I cannot please. I can take care of my child; you need
not continually tell me that our fortune is inseparable, that you
will try to cherish tenderness for me. Do no violence to yourself!
When we are separated, our interest, since you give so much weight to
pecuniary considerations, will be entirely divided. I want not
protection without affection; and support I need not, whilst my
faculties are undisturbed. I had a dislike to living in England; but
painful feelings must give way to superior considerations. I may not be
able to acquire the sum necessary to maintain my child and self
elsewhere. It is too late to go to Switzerland. I shall not remain at
, living expensively. But be not alarmed! I shall not force myself
on you any more.
Adieu! I am agitatedmy whole frame is convulsedmy lips tremble,
as if shook by cold, though fire seems to be circulating in my veins.
God bless you.
* * * *
* * * * *
I RECEIVED just now your letter of the 20th. I had written you a
letter last night, into which imperceptibly slipt some of my bitterness
of soul. I will copy the part relative to business. I am not
sufficiently vain to imagine that I can, for more than a moment, cloud
your enjoyment of lifeto prevent even that, you had better never hear
from meand repose on the idea that I am happy.
Gracious God! It is impossible for me to stifle something like
resentment, when I receive fresh proofs of your indifference. What I
have suffered this last year, is not to be forgotten! I have not that
happy substitute for wisdom, insensibilityand the lively sympathies
which bind me to my fellow-creatures, are all of a painful kind.They
are the agonies of a broken heartpleasure and I have shaken hands.
I see here nothing but heaps of ruins, and only converse with people
immersed in trade and sensuality.
I am weary of travellingyet seem to have no homeno resting place
to look to.I am strangely cast off.How often, passing through the
rocks, I have thought, But for this child, I would lay my head on one
of them, and never open my eyes again! With a heart feelingly alive to
all the affections of my natureI have never met with one, softer than
the stone that I would fain take for my last pillow. I once thought I
had, but it was all a delusion. I meet with families continually, who
are bound together by affection or principleand, when I am conscious
that I have fulfilled the duties of my station, almost to a
forgetfulness of myself, I am ready to demand, in a murmuring tone, of
Heaven, Why am I thus abandoned?
You say now
I do not understand you. It is necessary for you to write more
explicitlyand determine on some mode of conduct.I cannot endure
this suspenseDecideDo you fear to strike another blow? We live
together, or eternally part!I shall not write to you again, till I
receive an answer to this. I must compose my tortured soul, before I
write on indifferent subjects.
I do not know whether I write intelligibly, for my head is
disturbed.But this you ought to pardonfor it is with difficulty
frequently that I make out what you mean to sayYou write, I suppose,
at Mr. 's after dinner, when your head is not the clearestand as
for your heart, if you have one, I see nothing like the dictates of
affection, unless a glimpse when you mention, the child.Adieu!
* * * * *
I HAVE just finished a letter, to be given in charge to captain
. In that I complained of your silence, and expressed my surprise
that three mails should have arrived without bringing a line for me.
Since I closed it, I hear of another, and still no letter.I am
labouring to write calmlythis silence is a refinement on cruelty. Had
captain remained a few days longer, I would have returned with
him to England. What have I to do here? I have repeatedly written to
you fully. Do you do the sameand quickly. Do not leave me in
suspense. I have not deserved this of you. I cannot write, my mind is
so distressed. Adieu!
* * * *
END VOL. III.
[4-A] The child is in a subsequent letter called the barrier girl,
probably from a supposition that she owed her existence to this
[7-A] This and the thirteen following letters appear to have been
written during a separation of several months; the date, Paris.
[27-A] Some further letters, written during the remainder of the
week, in a similar strain to the preceding, appear to have been
destroyed by the person to whom they were addressed.
[47-A] The child spoken of in some preceding letters, had now been
born a considerable time.
[50-A] She means, the latter more than the former.
[58-A] This is the first of a series of letters written during a
separation of many months, to which no cordial meeting ever succeeded.
They were sent from Paris, and bear the address of London.
[91-A] The person to whom the letters are addressed, was about this
time at Ramsgate, on his return, as he professed, to Paris, when he was
recalled, as it should seem, to London, by the further pressure of
business now accumulated upon him.
[100-A] This probably alludes to some expression of the person to
whom the letters are addressed, in which he treated as common evils,
things upon which the letter writer was disposed to bestow a different
[133-A] This passage refers to letters written under a purpose of
suicide, and not intended to be opened till after the catastrophe.
VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN.
IN FOUR VOLUMES.
* * * * *
* * * * *
PRINTED FOR J. JOHNSON, NO. 72, ST. PAUL'S
CHURCH-YARD; AND G. G. AND J. ROBINSON,
IN TWO VOLUMES.
* * * * *
Page Letters 1 Letter on the Present Character
of the French Nation 39 Fragment of Letters on the Management of
Infants 55 Letters to Mr. Johnson 61 Extract of the Cave of Fancy, a
Tale 99 On Poetry and our Relish for the Beauties of Nature 159 Hints
Page 10, line 8, for I write you, read I write to you.
20, 9, read bring them to . 146, 2 from the
bottom, after over, insert a comma.
* * * * *
WHEN you receive this, I shall either have landed, or be hovering on
the British coastyour letter of the 18th decided me.
By what criterion of principle or affection, you term my questions
extraordinary and unnecessary, I cannot determine.You desire me to
decideI had decided. You must have had long ago two letters of mine,
from , to the same purport, to consider.In these, God knows!
there was but too much affection, and the agonies of a distracted mind
were but too faithfully pourtrayed!What more then had I to say?The
negative was to come from you.You had perpetually recurred to your
promise of meeting me in the autumnWas it extraordinary that I should
demand a yes, or no?Your letter is written with extreme harshness,
coldness I am accustomed to, in it I find not a trace of the tenderness
of humanity, much less of friendship.I only see a desire to heave a
load off your shoulders.
I am above disputing about words.It matters not in what terms you
The tremendous power who formed this heart, must have foreseen that,
in a world in which self-interest, in various shapes, is the principal
mobile, I had little chance of escaping misery.To the fiat of fate I
submit.I am content to be wretched; but I will not be
contemptible.Of me you have no cause to complain, but for having had
too much regard for youfor having expected a degree of permanent
happiness, when you only sought for a momentary gratification.
I am strangely deficient in sagacity.Uniting myself to you, your
tenderness seemed to make me amends for all my former misfortunes.On
this tenderness and affection with what confidence did I rest!but I
leaned on a spear, that has pierced me to the heart.You have thrown
off a faithful friend, to pursue the caprices of the moment.We
certainly are differently organized; for even now, when conviction has
been stamped on my soul by sorrow, I can scarcely believe it possible.
It depends at present on you, whether you will see me or not.I shall
take no step, till I see or hear from you.
Preparing myself for the worstI have determined, if your next
letter be like the last, to write to Mr. to procure me an obscure
lodging, and not to inform any body of my arrival.There I will
endeavour in a few months to obtain the sum necessary to take me to
Francefrom you I will not receive any more.I am not yet
sufficiently humbled to depend on your beneficence.
Some people, whom my unhappiness has interested, though they know
not the extent of it, will assist me to attain the object I have in
view, the independence of my child. Should a peace take place, ready
money will go a great way in Franceand I will borrow a sum, which my
industry shall enable me to pay at my leisure, to purchase a
small estate for my girl.The assistance I shall find necessary to
complete her education, I can get at an easy rate at ParisI can
introduce her to such society as she will likeand thus, securing for
her all the chance for happiness, which depends on me, I shall die in
peace, persuaded that the felicity which has hitherto cheated my
expectation, will not always elude my grasp. No poor tempest-tossed
mariner ever more earnestly longed to arrive at his port.
* * * *
I shall not come up in the vessel all the way, because I have no
place to go to. Captain will inform you where I am. It is
needless to add, that I am not in a state of mind to bear suspenseand
that I wish to see you, though it be for the last time.
* * * * *
Sunday, October 4.
I WROTE to you by the packet, to inform you, that your letter of the
18th of last month, had determined me to set out with captain ;
but, as we sailed very quick, I take it for granted, that you have not
yet received it.
You say, I must decide for myself.I had decided, that it was most
for the interest of my little girl, and for my own comfort, little as I
expect, for us to live together; and I even thought that you would be
glad, some years hence, when the tumult of business was over, to repose
in the society of an affectionate friend, and mark the progress of our
interesting child, whilst endeavouring to be of use in the circle you
at last resolved to rest in; for you cannot run about for ever.
From the tenour of your last letter however, I am led to imagine,
that you have formed some new attachment.If it be so, let me
earnestly request you to see me once more, and immediately. This is the
only proof I require of the friendship you profess for me. I will then
decide, since you boggle about a mere form.
I am labouring to write with calmnessbut the extreme anguish I
feel, at landing without having any friend to receive me, and even to
be conscious that the friend whom I most wish to see, will feel a
disagreeable sensation at being informed of my arrival, does not come
under the description of common misery. Every emotion yields to an
overwhelming flood of sorrowand the playfulness of my child
distresses me.On her account, I wished to remain a few days here,
comfortless as is my situation.Besides, I did not wish to surprise
you. You have told me, that you would make any sacrifice to promote my
happinessand, even in your last unkind letter, you talk of the ties
which bind you to me and my child.Tell me, that you wish it, and I
will cut this Gordian knot.
I now most earnestly intreat you to write to me, without fail, by
the return of the post. Direct your letter to be left at the
post-office, and tell me whether you will come to me here, or where you
will meet me. I can receive your letter on Wednesday morning.
Do not keep me in suspense.I expect nothing from you, or any human
being: my die is cast!I have fortitude enough to determine to do my
duty; yet I cannot raise my depressed spirits, or calm my trembling
heart.That being who moulded it thus, knows that I am unable to tear
up by the roots the propensity to affection which has been the torment
of my lifebut life will have an end!
Should you come here (a few months ago I could not have doubted it)
you will find me at . If you prefer meeting me on the road, tell
* * * *
* * * * *
I WRITE you now on my knees; imploring you to send my child and the
maid with , to Paris, to be consigned to the care of Madame ,
rue , section de . Should they be removed, can give their
Let the maid have all my clothes, without distinction.
Pray pay the cook her wages, and do not mention the confession which
I forced from hera little sooner or later is of no consequence.
Nothing but my extreme stupidity could have rendered me blind so long.
Yet, whilst you assured me that you had no attachment, I thought we
might still have lived together.
I shall make no comments on your conduct; or any appeal to the
world. Let my wrongs sleep with me! Soon, very soon shall I be at
peace. When you receive this, my burning head will be cold.
I would encounter a thousand deaths, rather than a night like the
last. Your treatment has thrown my mind into a state of chaos; yet I am
serene. I go to find comfort, and my only fear is, that my poor body
will be insulted by an endeavour to recal my hated existence. But I
shall plunge into the Thames where there is the least chance of my
being snatched from the death I seek.
God bless you! May you never know by experience what you have made
me endure. Should your sensibility ever awake, remorse will find its
way to your heart; and, in the midst of business and sensual pleasure,
I shall appear before you, the victim of your deviation from rectitude.
* * * *
* * * * *
I HAVE only to lament, that, when the bitterness of death was past,
I was inhumanly brought back to life and misery. But a fixed
determination is not to be baffled by disappointment; nor will I allow
that to be a frantic attempt, which was one of the calmest acts of
reason. In this respect, I am only accountable to myself. Did I care
for what is termed reputation, it is by other circumstances that I
should be dishonoured.
You say, that you know not how to extricate ourselves out of the
wretchedness into which we have been plunged. You are extricated long
since.But I forbear to comment.If I am condemned to live longer,
it is a living death.
It appears to me, that you lay much more stress on delicacy, than on
principle; for I am unable to discover what sentiment of delicacy would
have been violated, by your visiting a wretched friendif indeed you
have any friendship for me.But since your new attachment is the only
thing sacred in your eyes, I am silentBe happy! My complaints shall
never more damp your enjoymentperhaps I am mistaken in supposing that
even my death could, for more than a moment.This is what you call
magnanimityIt is happy for yourself, that you possess this quality in
the highest degree.
Your continually asserting, that you will do all in your power to
contribute to my comfort (when you only allude to pecuniary
assistance), appears to me a flagrant breach of delicacy.I want not
such vulgar comfort, nor will I accept it. I never wanted but your
heartThat gone, you have nothing more to give. Had I only poverty to
fear, I should not shrink from life.Forgive me then, if I say, that I
shall consider any direct or indirect attempt to supply my necessities,
as an insult which I have not meritedand as rather done out of
tenderness for your own reputation, than for me. Do not mistake me; I
do not think that you value money (therefore I will not accept what you
do not care for) though I do much less, because certain privations are
not painful to me. When I am dead, respect for yourself will make you
take care of the child.
I write with difficultyprobably I shall never write to you
God bless you!
* * * *
* * * * *
I AM compelled at last to say that you treat me ungenerously. I
agree with you, that
But let the obliquity now fall on me.I fear neither poverty nor
infamy. I am unequal to the task of writingand explanations are not
necessary. My child may
have to blush for her mother's want of prudenceand may lament that
the rectitude of my heart made me above vulgar precautions; but she
shall not despise me for meanness.You are now perfectly free.God
* * * *
* * * * *
I HAVE been hurt by indirect enquiries, which appear to me not to be
dictated by any tenderness to me.You ask If I am well or
tranquil?They who think me so, must want a heart to estimate my
feelings by.I chuse then to be the organ of my own sentiments.
I must tell you, that I am very much mortified by your continually
offering me pecuniary assistanceand, considering your going to the
new house, as an open avowal that you abandon me, let me tell you that
I will sooner perish than receive any thing from youand I say this at
the moment when I am disappointed in my first attempt to obtain a
temporary supply. But this even pleases me; an accumulation of
disappointments and misfortunes seems to suit the habit of my mind.
Have but a little patience, and I will remove myself where it will
not be necessary for you to talkof course, not to think of me. But
let me see, written by yourselffor I will not receive it through any
other mediumthat the affair is finished.It is an insult to me to
suppose, that I can be reconciled, or recover my spirits; but, if you
hear nothing of me, it will be the same thing to you.
* * * *
Even your seeing me, has been to oblige other people, and not to
sooth my distracted mind.
* * * * *
MR. having forgot to desire you to send the things of mine
which were left at the house, I have to request you to let bring
them onto .
I shall go this evening to the lodging; so you need not be
restrained from coming here to transact your business.And, whatever I
may think, and feelyou need not fear that I shall publicly
complainNo! If I have any criterion to judge of right and wrong, I
have been most ungenerously treated: but, wishing now only to hide
myself, I shall be silent as the grave in which I long to forget
myself. I shall protect and provide for my child.I only mean by this
to say, that you having nothing to fear from my desperation.
* * * *
* * * * *
London, November 27.
THE letter, without an address, which you put up with the letters
you returned, did not meet my eyes till just now.I had thrown the
letters asideI did not wish to look over a register of sorrow.
My not having seen it, will account for my having written to you
with angerunder the impression your departure, without even a line
left for me, made on me, even after your late conduct, which could not
lead me to expect much attention to my sufferings.
In fact, the decided conduct, which appeared to me so unfeeling,
has almost overturned my reason; my mind is injuredI scarcely know
where I am, or what I do.The grief I cannot conquer (for some cruel
recollections never quit me, banishing almost every other) I labour to
conceal in total solitude.My life therefore is but an exercise of
fortitude, continually on the stretchand hope never gleams in this
tomb, where I am buried alive.
But I meant to reason with you, and not to complain.You tell me,
that I shall judge more coolly of your mode of acting, some time
hence. But is it not possible that passion clouds your reason,
as much as it does mine?and ought you not to doubt, whether those
principles are so exalted, as you term them, which only lead to your
own gratification? In other words, whether it be just to have no
principle of action, but that of following your inclination, trampling
on the affection you have fostered, and the expectations you have
My affection for you is rooted in my heart.I know you are not what
you now seemnor will you always act, or feel, as you now do, though I
may never be comforted by the change.Even at Paris, my image will
haunt you.You will see my pale faceand sometimes the tears of
anguish will drop on your heart, which you have forced from mine.
I cannot write. I thought I could quickly have refuted all your
ingenious arguments; but my head is confused.Right or wrong, I am
It seems to me, that my conduct has always been governed by the
strictest principles of justice and truth.Yet, how wretched have my
social feelings, and delicacy of sentiment rendered me!I have loved
with my whole soul, only to discover that I had no chance of a
returnand that existence is a burthen without it.
I do not perfectly understand you.If, by the offer of your
friendship, you still only mean pecuniary supportI must again reject
it.Trifling are the ills of poverty in the scale of my
misfortunes.God bless you!
* * * *
I have been treated ungenerouslyif I understand what is
generosity.You seem to me only to have been anxious to shake me
offregardless whether you dashed me to atoms by the fall.In truth I
have been rudely handled. Do you judge coolly, and I trust you
will not continue to call those capricious feelings the most refined,
which would undermine not only the most sacred principles, but the
affections which unite mankind.You would render mothers
unnaturaland there would be no such thing as a father!If your
theory of morals is the most exalted, it is certainly the most
easy.It does not require much magnanimity, to determine to please
ourselves for the moment, let others suffer what they will!
Excuse me for again tormenting you, my heart thirsts for justice
from youand whilst I recollect that you approved Miss 's
conductI am convinced you will not always justify your own.
Beware of the deceptions of passion! It will not always banish from
your mind, that you have acted ignoblyand condescended to subterfuge
to gloss over the conduct you could not excuse.Do truth and principle
require such sacrifices?
* * * * *
London, December 8.
HAVING just been informed that is to return immediately to
Paris, I would not miss a sure opportunity of writing, because I am not
certain that my last, by Dover has reached you.
Resentment, and even anger, are momentary emotions with meand I
wished to tell you so, that if you ever think of me, it may not be in
the light of an enemy.
That I have not been used well I must ever feel; perhaps, not
always with the keen anguish I do at presentfor I began even now to
write calmly, and I cannot restrain my tears.
I am stunned!Your late conduct still appears to me a frightful
dream.Ah! ask yourself if you have not condescended to employ a
little address, I could almost say cunning, unworthy of
you?Principles are sacred thingsand we never play with truth, with
The expectation (I have too fondly nourished it) of regaining your
affection, every day grows fainter and fainter.Indeed, it seems to
me, when I am more sad than usual, that I shall never see you
more.Yet you will not always forget me.You will feel something like
remorse, for having lived only for yourselfand sacrificed my peace to
inferior gratifications. In a comfortless old age, you will remember
that you had one disinterested friend, whose heart you wounded to the
quick. The hour of recollection will comeand you will not be
satisfied to act the part of a boy, till you fall into that of a
dotard. I know that your mind, your heart, and your principles of
action, are all superior to your present conduct. You do, you must,
respect meand you will be sorry to forfeit my esteem.
You know best whether I am still preserving the remembrance of an
imaginary being.I once thought that I knew you thoroughlybut now I
am obliged to leave some doubts that involuntarily press on me, to be
cleared up by time.
You may render me unhappy; but cannot make me contemptible in my own
eyes.I shall still be able to support my child, though I am
disappointed in some other plans of usefulness, which I once believed
would have afforded you equal pleasure.
Whilst I was with you, I restrained my natural generosity, because I
thought your property in jeopardy.When I went to , I
requested you, if you could conveniently, not to forget my
father, sisters, and some other people, whom I was interested
about.Money was lavished away, yet not only my requests were
neglected, but some trifling debts were not discharged, that now come
on me.Was this friendshipor generosity? Will you not grant you have
forgotten yourself? Still I have an affection for you.God bless you.
* * * *
* * * * *
AS the parting from you for ever is the most serious event of my
life, I will once expostulate with you, and call not the language of
truth and feeling ingenuity!
I know the soundness of your understandingand know that it is
impossible for you always to confound the caprices of every wayward
inclination with the manly dictates of principle.
You tell me that I torment you.Why do I?Because you cannot
estrange your heart entirely from meand you feel that justice is on
my side. You urge, that your conduct was unequivocal.It was
not.When your coolness has hurt me, with what tenderness have you
endeavoured to remove the impression!and even before I returned to
England, you took great pains to convince me, that all my uneasiness
was occasioned by the effect of a worn-out constitutionand you
concluded your letter with these words, Business alone has kept me
from you.Come to any port, and I will fly down to my two dear girls
with a heart all their own.
With these assurances, is it extraordinary that I should believe
what I wished? I mightand did think that you had a struggle with old
propensities; but I still thought that I and virtue should at last
prevail. I still thought that you had a magnanimity of character, which
would enable you to conquer yourself.
, believe me, it is not romance, you have acknowledged to me
feelings of this kind.You could restore me to life and hope, and the
satisfaction you would feel, would amply repay you.
In tearing myself from you, it is my own heart I pierceand the
time will come, when you will lament that you have thrown away a heart,
that, even in the moment of passion, you cannot despise.I would owe
every thing to your generositybut, for God's sake, keep me no longer
in suspense!Let me see you once more!
* * * * *
YOU must do as you please with respect to the child.I could wish
that it might be done soon, that my name may be no more mentioned to
you. It is now finished.Convinced that you have neither regard nor
friendship, I disdain to utter a reproach, though I have had reason to
think, that the forbearance talked of, has not been very
delicate.It is however of no consequence.I am glad you are
satisfied with your own conduct.
I now solemnly assure you, that this is an eternal farewel.Yet I
flinch not from the duties which tie me to life.
That there is sophistry on one side or other, is certain; but now
it matters not on which. On my part it has not been a question of
words. Yet your understanding or mine must be strangely warpedfor
what you term delicacy, appears to me to be exactly the contrary. I
have no criterion for morality, and have thought in vain, if the
sensations which lead you to follow an ancle or step, be the sacred
foundation of principle and affection. Mine has been of a very
different nature, or it would not have stood the brunt of your
The sentiment in me is still sacred. If there be any part of me that
will survive the sense of my misfortunes, it is the purity of my
affections. The impetuosity of your senses, may have led you to term
mere animal desire, the source of principle; and it may give zest to
some years to come.Whether you will always think so, I shall never
It is strange that, in spite of all you do, something like
conviction forces me to believe, that you are not what you appear to
I part with you in peace.
* * * * *
LETTER ON THE PRESENT CHARACTER OF
THE FRENCH NATION.
Introductory to a Series of Letters on the Present Character of
the French Nation.
Paris, February 15, 1793.
My dear friend,
IT is necessary perhaps for an observer of mankind, to guard as
carefully the remembrance of the first impression made by a nation, as
by a countenance; because we imperceptibly lose sight of the national
character, when we become more intimate with individuals. It is not
then useless or presumptuous to note, that, when I first entered Paris,
the striking contrast of riches and poverty, elegance and slovenliness,
urbanity and deceit, every where caught my eye, and saddened my soul;
and these impressions are still the foundation of my remarks on the
manners, which flatter the senses, more than they interest the heart,
and yet excite more interest than esteem.
The whole mode of life here tends indeed to render the people
frivolous, and, to borrow their favourite epithet, amiable. Ever on the
wing, they are always sipping the sparkling joy on the brim of the cup,
leaving satiety in the bottom for those who venture to drink deep. On
all sides they trip along, buoyed up by animal spirits, and seemingly
so void of care, that often, when I am walking on the Boulevards, it occurs to me, that they alone understand the full import of the
term leisure; and they trifle their time away with such an air of
contentment, I know not how to wish them wiser at the expence of their
gaiety. They play before me like motes in a sunbeam, enjoying the
passing ray; whilst an English head, searching for more solid
happiness, loses, in the analysis of pleasure, the volatile sweets of
the moment. Their chief enjoyment, it is true, rises from vanity: but
it is not the vanity that engenders vexation of spirit; on the
contrary, it lightens the heavy burthen of life, which reason too often
weighs, merely to shift from one shoulder to the other.
Investigating the modification of the passion, as I would analyze
the elements that give a form to dead matter, I shall attempt to trace
to their source the causes which have combined to render this nation
the most polished, in a physical sense, and probably the most
superficial in the world; and I mean to follow the windings of the
various streams that disembogue into a terrific gulf, in which all the
dignity of our nature is absorbed. For every thing has conspired to
make the French the most sensual people in the world; and what can
render the heart so hard, or so effectually stifle every moral emotion,
as the refinements of sensuality?
The frequent repetition of the word French, appears invidious; let
me then make a previous observation, which I beg you not to lose sight
of, when I speak rather harshly of a land flowing with milk and honey.
Remember that it is not the morals of a particular people that I would
decry; for are we not all of the same stock? But I wish calmly to
consider the stage of civilization in which I find the French, and,
giving a sketch of their character, and unfolding the circumstances
which have produced its identity, I shall endeavour to throw some light
on the history of man, and on the present important subjects of
I would I could first inform you that, out of the chaos of vices and
follies, prejudices and virtues, rudely jumbled together, I saw the
fair form of Liberty slowly rising, and Virtue expanding her wings to
shelter all her children! I should then hear the account of the
barbarities that have rent the bosom of France patiently, and bless the
firm hand that lopt off the rotten limbs. But, if the aristocracy of
birth is levelled with the ground, only to make room for that of
riches, I am afraid that the morals of the people will not be much
improved by the change, or the government rendered less venal. Still it
is not just to dwell on the misery produced by the present struggle,
without adverting to the standing evils of the old system. I am
grievedsorely grievedwhen I think of the blood that has stained the
cause of freedom at Paris; but I also hear the same live stream cry
aloud from the highways, through which the retreating armies passed
with famine and death in their rear, and I hide my face with awe before
the inscrutable ways of providence, sweeping in such various directions
the besom of destruction over the sons of men.
Before I came to France, I cherished, you know, an opinion, that
strong virtues might exist with the polished manners produced by the
progress of civilization; and I even anticipated the epoch, when, in
the course of improvement, men would labour to become virtuous, without
being goaded on by misery. But now, the perspective of the golden age,
fading before the attentive eye of observation, almost eludes my sight;
and, losing thus in part my theory of a more perfect state, start not,
my friend, if I bring forward an opinion, which at the first glance
seems to be levelled against the existence of God! I am not become an
Atheist, I assure you, by residing at Paris: yet I begin to fear that
vice, or, if you will, evil, is the grand mobile of action, and that,
when the passions are justly poized, we become harmless, and in the
same proportion useless.
The wants of reason are very few; and, were we to consider
dispassionately the real value of most things, we should probably rest
satisfied with the simple gratification of our physical necessities,
and be content with negative goodness: for it is frequently, only that
wanton, the Imagination, with her artful coquetry, who lures us
forward, and makes us run over a rough road, pushing aside every
obstacle merely to catch a disappointment.
The desire also of being useful to others, is continually damped by
experience; and, if the exertions of humanity were not in some measure
their own reward, who would endure misery, or struggle with care, to
make some people ungrateful, and others idle?
You will call these melancholy effusions, and guess that, fatigued
by the vivacity, which has all the bustling folly of childhood, without
the innocence which renders ignorance charming, I am too severe in my
strictures. It may be so; and I am aware that the good effects of the
revolution will be last felt at Paris; where surely the soul of
Epicurus has long been at work to root out the simple emotions of the
heart, which, being natural, are always moral. Rendered cold and
artificial by the selfish enjoyments of the senses, which the
government fostered, is it surprising that simplicity of manners, and
singleness of heart, rarely appear, to recreate me with the wild odour
of nature, so passing sweet?
Seeing how deep the fibres of mischief have shot, I sometimes ask,
with a doubting accent, Whether a nation can go back to the purity of
manners which has hitherto been maintained unsullied only by the keen
air of poverty, when, emasculated by pleasure, the luxuries of
prosperity are become the wants of nature? I cannot yet give up the
hope, that a fairer day is dawning on Europe, though I must
hesitatingly observe, that little is to be expected from the narrow
principle of commerce which seems every where to be shoving aside
the point of honour of the noblesse. I can look beyond the
evils of the moment, and do not expect muddied water to become clear
before it has had time to stand; yet, even for the moment, it is the
most terrific of all sights, to see men vicious without warmthto see
the order that should be the superscription of virtue, cultivated to
give security to crimes which only thoughtlessness could palliate.
Disorder is, in fact, the very essence of vice, though with the wild
wishes of a corrupt fancy humane emotions often kindly mix to soften
their atrocity. Thus humanity, generosity, and even self-denial,
sometimes render a character grand, and even useful, when hurried away
by lawless passions; but what can equal the turpitude of a cold
calculator who lives for himself alone, and considering his
fellow-creatures merely as machines of pleasure, never forgets that
honesty is the best policy? Keeping ever within the pale of the law, he
crushes his thousands with impunity; but it is with that degree of
management, which makes him, to borrow a significant vulgarism, a
villain in grain. The very excess of his depravation preserves
him, whilst the more respectable beast of prey, who prowls about like
the lion, and roars to announce his approach, falls into a snare.
You may think it too soon to form an opinion of the future
government, yet it is impossible to avoid hazarding some conjectures,
when every thing whispers me, that names, not principles, are changed,
and when I see that the turn of the tide has left the dregs of the old
system to corrupt the new. For the same pride of office, the same
desire of power are still visible; with this aggravation, that, fearing
to return to obscurity after having but just acquired a relish for
distinction, each hero, or philosopher, for all are dubbed with these
new titles, endeavours to make hay while the sun shines; and every
petty municipal officer, become the idol, or rather the tyrant of the
day, stalks like a cock on a dunghil.
I shall now conclude this desultory letter; which however will
enable you to foresee that I shall treat more of morals than manners.
* * * * *
LETTERS ON THE MANAGEMENT OF
LETTER II. Management of the Mother
during pregnancy: bathing.
LETTER III. Lying-in.
LETTER IV. The first month: diet:
LETTER V. The three following
LETTER VI. The remainder of the
LETTER VII. The second year, &c:
LETTERS ON THE MANAGEMENT OF
* * * * *
I OUGHT to apologize for not having written to you on the subject
you mentioned; but, to tell you the truth, it grew upon me: and,
instead of an answer, I have begun a series of letters on the
management of children in their infancy. Replying then to your
question, I have the public in my thoughts, and shall endeavour to show
what modes appear to me necessary, to render the infancy of children
more healthy and happy. I have long thought, that the cause which
renders children as hard to rear as the most fragile plant, is our
deviation from simplicity. I know that some able physicians have
recommended the method I have pursued, and I mean to point out the good
effects I have observed in practice. I am aware that many matrons will
exclaim against me, and dwell on the number of children they have
brought up, as their mothers did before them, without troubling
themselves with new-fangled notions; yet, though, in my uncle Toby's
words, they should attempt to silence me, by wishing I had seen their
large families, I must suppose, while a third part of the human
species, according to the most accurate calculation, die during their
infancy, just at the threshold of life, that there is some error in the
modes adopted by mothers and nurses, which counteracts their own
endeavours. I may be mistaken in some particulars; for general rules,
founded on the soundest reason, demand individual modification; but, if
I can persuade any of the rising generation to exercise their reason on
this head, I am content. My advice will probably be found most useful
to mothers in the middle class; and it is from them that the lower
imperceptibly gains improvement. Custom, produced by reason in one, may
safely be the effect of imitation in the other.
LETTERS TO Mr. JOHNSON,
BOOKSELLER, IN ST. PAUL'S CHURCH-YARD.
LETTERS TO Mr. JOHNSON.
* * * * *
Dublin, April 14, [1787.]
I AM still an invalidand begin to believe that I ought never to
expect to enjoy health. My mind preys on my bodyand, when I endeavour
to be useful, I grow too much interested for my own peace. Confined
almost entirely to the society of children, I am anxiously solicitous
for their future welfare, and mortified beyond measure, when
counteracted in my endeavours to improve them.I feel all a mother's
fears for the swarm of little ones which surround me, and observe
disorders, without having power to apply the proper remedies. How can I
be reconciled to life, when it is always a painful warfare, and when I
am deprived of all the pleasures I relish?I allude to rational
conversations, and domestic affections. Here, alone, a poor solitary
individual in a strange land, tied to one spot, and subject to the
caprice of another, can I be contented? I am desirous to convince you
that I have some cause for sorrowand am not without reason
detached from life. I shall hope to hear that you are well, and am
* * * * *
Henley, Thursday, Sept 13.
My dear sir,
SINCE I saw you, I have, literally speaking, enjoyed
solitude. My sister could not accompany me in my rambles; I therefore
wandered alone, by the side of the Thames, and in the neighbouring
beautiful fields and pleasure grounds: the prospects were of such a
placid kind, I caught tranquillity while I surveyed themmy
mind was still, though active. Were I to give you an account how
I have spent my time, you would smile.I found an old French bible
here, and amused myself with comparing it with our English translation;
then I would listen to the falling leaves, or observe the various tints
the autumn gave to themAt other times, the singing of a robin, or the
noise of a water-mill, engaged my attentionpartial attention, for I
was, at the same time perhaps discussing some knotty point, or straying
from this tiny world to new systems. After these excursions, I
returned to the family meals, told the children stories (they think me
vastly agreeable), and my sister was amused.Well, will you allow
me to call this way of passing my days pleasant?
I was just going to mend my pen; but I believe it will enable me to
say all I have to add to this epistle. Have you yet heard of an
habitation for me? I often think of my new plan of life; and, lest my
sister should try to prevail on me to alter it, I have avoided
mentioning it to her. I am determined!Your sex generally laugh at
female determinations; but let me tell you, I never yet resolved to do,
any thing of consequence, that I did not adhere resolutely to it, till
I had accomplished my purpose, improbable as it might have appeared to
a more timid mind. In the course of near nine-and-twenty years, I have
gathered some experience, and felt many severe
disappointmentsand what is the amount? I long for a little peace and
independence! Every obligation we receive from our fellow-creatures
is a new shackle, takes from our native freedom, and debases the mind,
makes us mere earthwormsI am not fond of grovelling!
I am, sir, yours, &c.
* * * * *
Market Harborough, Sept. 20.
My dear sir,
YOU left me with three opulent tradesmen; their conversation was not
calculated to beguile the way, when the sable curtain concealed the
beauties of nature. I listened to the tricks of tradeand shrunk away,
without wishing to grow rich; even the novelty of the subjects did not
render them pleasing; fond as I am of tracing the passions in all their
different formsI was not surprised by any glimpse of the sublime, or
beautifulthough one of them imagined I would be a useful partner in a
good firm. I was very much fatigued, and have scarcely recovered
myself. I do not expect to enjoy the same tranquil pleasures Henley
afforded: I meet with new objects to employ my mind; but many painful
emotions are complicated with the reflections they give rise to.
I do not intend to enter on the old topic, yet hope to hear
from youand am yours, &c.
* * * * *
My dear sir,
THOUGH your remarks are generally judiciousI cannot now
concur with you, I mean with respect to the preface[67-A], and have not
altered it. I hate the usual smooth way of exhibiting proud humility. A
general rule only extends to the majorityand, believe me, the
few judicious parents who may peruse my book, will not feel themselves
hurtand the weak are too vain to mind what is said in a book intended
I return you the Italian MS.but do not hastily imagine that I am
indolent. I would not spare any labour to do my dutyand, after the
most laborious day, that single thought would solace me more than any
pleasures the senses could enjoy. I find I could not translate the MS.
well. If it was not a MS, I should not be so easily intimidated; but
the hand, and errors in orthography, or abbreviations, are a
stumbling-block at the first setting out.I cannot bear to do any
thing I cannot do welland I should lose time in the vain attempt.
I had, the other day, the satisfaction of again receiving a letter
from my poor, dear Margaret[69-A].With all a mother's fondness I
could transcribe a part of itShe says, every day her affection to me,
and dependence on heaven increase, &c.I miss her innocent
caressesand sometimes indulge a pleasing hope, that she may be
allowed to cheer my childless ageif I am to live to be old.At any
rate, I may hear of the virtues I may not contemplateand my reason
may permit me to love a female.I now allude to . I have
received another letter from her, and her childish complaints vex
meindeed they doAs usual, good-night.
If parents attended to their children, I would not have written the
stories; for, what are bookscompared to conversations which affection
* * * * *
My dear sir,
REMEMBER you are to settle my account, as I want to know how
much I am in your debtbut do not suppose that I feel any uneasiness
on that score. The generality of people in trade would not be much
obliged to me for a like civility, but you were a man before you
were a booksellerso I am your sincere friend,
* * * * *
I AM sick with vexationand wish I could knock my foolish head
against the wall, that bodily pain might make me feel less anguish from
self-reproach! To say the truth, I was never more displeased with
myself, and I will tell you the cause.You may recollect that I did
not mention to you the circumstance of having a fortune left to
him; nor did a hint of it drop from me when I conversed with my sister;
because I knew he had a sufficient motive for concealing it. Last
Sunday, when his character was aspersed, as I thought, unjustly, in the
heat of vindication I informed ****** that he was now independent; but,
at the same time, desired him not to repeat my information to B;
yet, last Tuesday, he told him alland the boy at B's gave Mrs.
an account of it. As Mr. knew he had only made a confident
of me (I blush to think of it!) he guessed the channel of intelligence,
and this morning came (not to reproach me, I wish he had!) but to point
out the injury I have done him.Let what will be the consequence, I
will reimburse him, if I deny myself the necessaries of lifeand even
then my folly will sting me.Perhaps you can scarcely conceive the
misery I at this moment endurethat I, whose power of doing good is so
limited, should do harm, galls my very soul. ****** may laugh at these
qualmsbut, supposing Mr. to be unworthy, I am not the less to
blame. Surely it is hell to despise one's self!I did not want this
additional vexationat this time I have many that hang heavily on my
spirits. I shall not call on you this monthnor stir out.My stomach
has been so suddenly and violently affected, I am unable to lean over
* * * * *
AS I am become a reviewer, I think it right, in the way of business,
to consider the subject. You have alarmed the editor of the Critical,
as the advertisement prefixed to the Appendix plainly shows. The
Critical appears to me to be a timid, mean production, and its success
is a reflection on the taste and judgment of the public; but, as a
body, who ever gave it credit for much? The voice of the people is only
the voice of truth, when some man of abilities has had time to get fast
hold of the GREAT NOSE of the monster. Of course, local fame is
generally a clamour, and dies away. The Appendix to the Monthly
afforded me more amusement, though every article almost wants energy
and a cant of virtue and liberality is strewed over it; always
tame, and eager to pay court to established fame. The account of Necker
is one unvaried tone of admiration. Surely men were born only to
provide for the sustenance of the body by enfeebling the mind!
* * * * *
YOU made me very low-spirited last night, by your manner of
talking.You are my only friendthe only person I am intimate
with.I never had a father, or a brotheryou have been both to me,
ever since I knew youyet I have sometimes been very petulant.I have
been thinking of those instances of ill-humour and quickness, and they
appeared like crimes.
* * * * *
I AM a mere animal, and instinctive emotions too often silence the
suggestions of reason. Your noteI can scarcely tell why, hurt meand
produced a kind of winterly smile, which diffuses a beam of despondent
tranquillity over the features. I have been very illHeaven knows it
was more than fancyAfter some sleepless, wearisome nights, towards
the morning I have grown delirious.Last Thursday, in particular, I
imagined was thrown into great distress by his folly; and I,
unable to assist him, was in an agony. My nerves were in such a painful
state of irritationI suffered more than I can expressSociety was
necessaryand might have diverted me till I gained more strength; but
I blushed when I recollected how often I had teazed you with childish
complaints, and the reveries of a disordered imagination. I even
imagined that I intruded on you, because you never called on
methough you perceived that I was not well.I have nourished a
sickly kind of delicacy, which gives me many unnecessary pangs.I
acknowledge that life is but a jestand often a frightful dreamyet
catch myself every day searching for something seriousand feel real
misery from the disappointment. I am a strange compound of weakness and
resolution! However, if I must suffer, I will endeavour to suffer in
silence. There is certainly a great defect in my mindmy wayward heart
creates its own miseryWhy I am made thus I cannot tell; and, till I
can form some idea of the whole of my existence, I must be content to
weep and dance like a childlong for a toy, and be tired of it as soon
as I get it.
We must each of us wear a fool's cap; but mine, alas! has lost its
bells, and is grown so heavy, I find it intolerably
troublesome.Good-night! I have been pursuing a number of strange
thoughts since I began to write, and have actually both wept and
laughed immoderatelySurely I am a fool
* * * * *
I REALLY want a German grammar, as I intend to attempt to learn that
languageand I will tell you the reason why.While I live, I am
persuaded, I must exert my understanding to procure an independence,
and render myself useful. To make the task easier, I ought to store my
mind with knowledgeThe seed time is passing away. I see the necessity
of labouring nowand of that necessity I do not complain; on the
contrary, I am thankful that I have more than common incentives to
pursue knowledge, and draw my pleasures from the employments that are
within my reach. You perceive this is not a gloomy dayI feel at this
moment particularly grateful to youwithout your humane and
delicate assistance, how many obstacles should I not have had to
encountertoo often should I have been out of patience with my
fellow-creatures, whom I wish to love!Allow me to love you, my dear
sir, and call friend a being I respect.Adieu!
* * * * *
I THOUGHT you very unkind, nay, very unfeeling, last night.
My cares and vexationsI will say what I allow myself to thinkdo me
honour, as they arise from my disinterestedness and unbending
principles; nor can that mode of conduct be a reflection on my
understanding, which enables me to bear misery, rather than selfishly
live for myself alone. I am not the only character deserving of
respect, that has had to struggle with various sorrowswhile inferior
minds have enjoyed local fame and present comfort.Dr. Johnson's cares
almost drove him madbut, I suppose, you would quietly have told him,
he was a fool for not being calm, and that wise men striving against
the stream, can yet be in good humour. I have done with insensible
human wisdom,indifference cold in wisdom's guise,and turn to the
source of perfectionwho perhaps never disregarded an almost broken
heart, especially when a respect, a practical respect, for virtue,
sharpened the wounds of adversity. I am illI stayed in bed this
morning till eleven o'clock, only thinking of getting money to
extricate myself out of some of my difficultiesThe struggle is now
over. I will condescend to try to obtain some in a disagreeable way.
Mr. called on me just nowpray did you know his motive for
calling[82-A]?I think him impertinently officious.He had left the
house before it occurred to me in the strong light it does now, or I
should have told him soMy poverty makes me proudI will not be
insulted by a superficial puppy.His intimacy with Miss gave him
a privilege, which he should not have assumed with mea proposal might
be made to his cousin, a milliner's girl, which should not have been
mentioned to me. Pray tell him that I am offendedand do not wish to
see him again!When I meet him at your house, I shall leave the room,
since I cannot pull him by the nose. I can force my spirit to leave my
bodybut it shall never bend to support that bodyGod of heaven, save
thy child from this living death!I scarcely know what I write. My
hand tremblesI am very sicksick at heart.
* * * * *
WHEN you left me this morning, and I reflected a momentyour
officious message, which at first appeared to me a jokelooked so
very like an insultI cannot forget itTo prevent then the necessity
of forcing a smilewhen I chance to meet youI take the earliest
opportunity of informing you of my real sentiments.
* * * * *
Wednesday, 3 o'clock.
IT is inexpressibly disagreeable to me to be obliged to enter again
on a subject, that has already raised a tumult of indignant
emotions in my bosom, which I was labouring to suppress when I received
your letter. I shall now condescend to answer your epistle; but
let me first tell you, that, in my unprotected situation, I make
a point of never forgiving a deliberate insultand in that
light I consider your late officious conduct. It is not according to my
nature to mince mattersI will then tell you in plain terms, what I
think. I have ever considered you in the light of a civil
acquaintanceon the word friend I lay a peculiar emphasisand, as a
mere acquaintance, you were rude and cruel, to step forward to
insult a woman, whose conduct and misfortunes demand respect. If my
friend, Mr. Johnson, had made the proposalI should have been severely
hurthave thought him unkind and unfeeling, but not impertinent.The privilege of intimacy you had no claim toand should have
referred the man to myselfif you had not sufficient discernment to
quash it at once. I am, sir, poor and destitute.Yet I have a spirit
that will never bend, or take indirect methods, to obtain the
consequence I despise; nay, if to support life it was necessary to act
contrary to my principles, the struggle would soon be over. I can bear
any thing but my own contempt.
In a few words, what I call an insult, is the bare supposition that
I could for a moment think of prostituting my person for a
maintenance; for in that point of view does such a marriage appear to
me, who consider right and wrong in the abstract, and never by words
and local opinions shield myself from the reproaches of my own heart
It is needless to say moreOnly you must excuse me when I add, that
I wish never to see, but as a perfect stranger, a person who could so
grossly mistake my character. An apology is not necessaryif you were
inclined to make onenor any further expostulations.I again repeat,
I cannot overlook an affront; few indeed have sufficient delicacy to
respect poverty, even where it gives lustre to a characterand I tell
you sir, I am POORyet can live without your benevolent exertions.
* * * * *
I SEND you all the books I had to review except Dr. J's
Sermons, which I have begun. If you wish me to look over any more trash
this monthyou must send it directly. I have been so low-spirited
since I saw youI was quite glad, last night, to feel myself affected
by some passages in Dr. J's sermon on the death of his wifeI seemed
(suddenly) to find my soul againIt has been for some
time I cannot tell where. Send me the Speakerand Mary, I want
oneand I shall soon want some paperyou may as well send it at the
same timefor I am trying to brace my nerves that I may be
industrious.I am afraid reason is not a good bracerfor I have been
reasoning a long time with my untoward spiritsand yet my hand
trembles.I could finish a period very prettily now, by saying
that it ought to be steady when I add that I am yours sincerely,
If you do not like the manner in which I reviewed Dr. J's son
his wife, be it known unto youI will not do it any other
wayI felt some pleasure in paying a just tribute of respect to the
memory of a manwho, spite of his faults, I have an affection forI
say have, for I believe he is somewherewhere my soul
has been gadding perhaps;but you do not live on conjectures.
* * * * *
MY dear sir, I send you a chapter which I am pleased with, now I see
it in one point of viewand, as I have made free with the author, I
hope you will not have often to saywhat does this mean?
You forgot you were to make out my accountI am, of course, over
head and ears in debt; but I have not that kind of pride, which makes
some dislike to be obliged to those they respect.On the contrary,
when I involuntarily lament that I have not a father or brother, I
thankfully recollect that I have received unexpected kindness from you
and a few others.So reason allows, what nature impels me tofor I
cannot live without loving my fellow-creaturesnor can I love them,
without discovering some virtue.
* * * * *
Paris, December 26, 1792.
I SHOULD immediately on the receipt of your letter, my dear friend,
have thanked you for your punctuality, for it highly gratified me, had
I not wished to wait till I could tell you that this day was not
stained with blood. Indeed the prudent precautions taken by the
National Convention to prevent a tumult, made me suppose that the dogs
of faction would not dare to bark, much less to bite, however true to
their scent; and I was not mistaken; for the citizens, who were all
called out, are returning home with composed countenances, shouldering
their arms. About nine o'clock this morning, the king passed by my
window, moving silently along (excepting now and then a few strokes on
the drum, which rendered the stillness more awful) through empty
streets, surrounded by the national guards, who, clustering round the
carriage, seemed to deserve their name. The inhabitants flocked to
their windows, but the casements were all shut, not a voice was heard,
nor did I see any thing like an insulting gesture.For the first time
since I entered France, I bowed to the majesty of the people, and
respected the propriety of behaviour so perfectly in unison with my own
feelings. I can scarcely tell you why, but an association of ideas made
the tears flow insensibly from my eyes, when I saw Louis sitting, with
more dignity than I expected from his character, in a hackney coach,
going to meet death, where so many of his race have triumphed. My fancy
instantly brought Louis XIV before me, entering the capital with all
his pomp, after one of the victories most flattering to his pride, only
to see the sunshine of prosperity overshadowed by the sublime gloom of
misery. I have been alone ever since; and, though my mind is calm, I
cannot dismiss the lively images that have filled my imagination all
the day.Nay, do not smile, but pity me; for, once or twice, lifting
my eyes from the paper, I have seen eyes glare through a glass-door
opposite my chair and bloody hands shook at me. Not the distant sound
of a footstep can I hear.My apartments are remote from those of the
servants, the only persons who sleep with me in an immense hotel, one
folding door opening after another.I wish I had even kept the cat
with me!I want to see something alive; death in so many frightful
shapes has taken hold of my fancy.I am going to bedand, for the
first time in my life, I cannot put out the candle.
[67-A] To Original Stories.
[69-A] Countess Mount Cashel.
[82-A] This alludes to a foolish proposal of marriage for mercenary
considerations, which the gentleman here mentioned thought proper to
recommend to her. The two letters which immediately follow, are
addressed to the gentleman himself.
EXTRACT OF THE CAVE OF FANCY.
* * * * *
[Begun to be written in the year 1787, but never completed]
CAVE OF FANCY.
YE who expect constancy where every thing is changing, and peace in
the midst of tumult, attend to the voice of experience, and mark in
time the footsteps of disappointment, or life will be lost in desultory
wishes, and death arrive before the dawn of wisdom.
In a sequestered valley, surrounded by rocky mountains that
intercepted many of the passing clouds, though sunbeams variegated
their ample sides, lived a sage, to whom nature had unlocked her most
hidden secrets. His hollow eyes, sunk in their orbits, retired from the
view of vulgar objects, and turned inwards, overleaped the boundary
prescribed to human knowledge. Intense thinking during fourscore and
ten years, had whitened the scattered locks on his head, which, like
the summit of the distant mountain, appeared to be bound by an eternal
On the sandy waste behind the mountains, the track of ferocious
beasts might be traced, and sometimes the mangled limbs which they
left, attracted a hovering flight of birds of prey. An extensive wood
the sage had forced to rear its head in a soil by no means congenial,
and the firm trunks of the trees seemed to frown with defiance on time;
though the spoils of innumerable summers covered the roots, which
resembled fangs; so closely did they cling to the unfriendly sand,
where serpents hissed, and snakes, rolling out their vast folds,
inhaled the noxious vapours. The ravens and owls who inhabited the
solitude, gave also a thicker gloom to the everlasting twilight, and
the croaking of the former a monotony, in unison with the gloom; whilst
lions and tygers, shunning even this faint semblance of day, sought the
dark caverns, and at night, when they shook off sleep, their roaring
would make the whole valley resound, confounded with the screechings of
the bird of night.
One mountain rose sublime, towering above all, on the craggy sides
of which a few sea-weeds grew, washed by the ocean, that with
tumultuous roar rushed to assault, and even undermine, the huge barrier
that stopped its progress; and ever and anon a ponderous mass, loosened
from the cliff, to which it scarcely seemed to adhere, always
threatening to fall, fell into the flood, rebounding as it fell, and
the sound was re-echoed from rock to rock. Look where you would, all
was without form, as if nature, suddenly stopping her hand, had left
chaos a retreat.
Close to the most remote side of it was the sage's abode. It was a
rude hut, formed of stumps of trees and matted twigs, to secure him
from the inclemency of the weather; only through small apertures
crossed with rushes, the wind entered in wild murmurs, modulated by
these obstructions. A clear spring broke out of the middle of the
adjacent rock, which, dropping slowly into a cavity it had hollowed,
soon overflowed, and then ran, struggling to free itself from the
cumbrous fragments, till, become a deep, silent stream, it escaped
through reeds, and roots of trees, whose blasted tops overhung and
darkened the current.
One side of the hut was supported by the rock, and at midnight, when
the sage struck the inclosed part, it yawned wide, and admitted him
into a cavern in the very bowels of the earth, where never human foot
before had trod; and the various spirits, which inhabit the different
regions of nature, were here obedient to his potent word. The cavern
had been formed by the great inundation of waters, when the approach of
a comet forced them from their source; then, when the fountains of the
great deep were broken up, a stream rushed out of the centre of the
earth, where the spirits, who have lived on it, are confined to purify
themselves from the dross contracted in their first stage of existence;
and it flowed in black waves, for ever bubbling along the cave, the
extent of which had never been explored. From the sides and top, water
distilled, and, petrifying as it fell, took fantastic shapes, that soon
divided it into apartments, if so they might be called. In the foam, a
wearied spirit would sometimes rise, to catch the most distant glimpse
of light, or taste the vagrant breeze, which the yawning of the rock
admitted, when Sagestus, for that was the name of the hoary sage,
entered. Some, who were refined and almost cleared from vicious spots,
he would allow to leave, for a limited time, their dark prison-house;
and, flying on the winds across the bleak northern ocean, or rising in
an exhalation till they reached a sun-beam, they thus re-visited the
haunts of men. These were the guardian angels, who in soft whispers
restrain the vicious, and animate the wavering wretch who stands
suspended between virtue and vice.
Sagestus had spent a night in the cavern, as he often did, and he
left the silent vestibule of the grave, just as the sun, emerging from
the ocean, dispersed the clouds, which were not half so dense as those
he had left. All that was human in him rejoiced at the sight of
reviving life, and he viewed with pleasure the mounting sap rising to
expand the herbs, which grew spontaneously in this wildwhen, turning
his eyes towards the sea, he found that death had been at work during
his absence, and terrific marks of a furious storm still spread horror
around. Though the day was serene, and threw bright rays on eyes for
ever shut, it dawned not for the wretches who hung pendent on the
craggy rocks, or were stretched lifeless on the sand. Some, struggling,
had dug themselves a grave; others had resigned their breath before the
impetuous surge whirled them on shore. A few, in whom the vital spark
was not so soon dislodged, had clung to loose fragments; it was the
grasp of death; embracing the stone, they stiffened; and the head, no
longer erect, rested on the mass which the arms encircled. It felt not
the agonizing gripe, nor heard the sigh that broke the heart in twain.
Resting his chin on an oaken club, the sage looked on every side, to
see if he could discern any who yet breathed. He drew nearer, and
thought he saw, at the first glance, the unclosed eyes glare; but soon
perceived that they were a mere glassy substance, mute as the tongue;
the jaws were fallen, and, in some of the tangled locks, hands were
clinched; nay, even the nails had entered sharpened by despair. The
blood flew rapidly to his heart; it was flesh; he felt he was still a
man, and the big tear paced down his iron cheeks, whose muscles had not
for a long time been relaxed by such humane emotions. A moment he
breathed quick, then heaved a sigh, and his wonted calm returned with
an unaccustomed glow of tenderness; for the ways of heaven were not hid
from him; he lifted up his eyes to the common Father of nature, and all
was as still in his bosom, as the smooth deep, after having closed over
the huge vessel from which the wretches had fled.
Turning round a part of the rock that jutted out, meditating on the
ways of Providence, a weak infantine voice reached his ears; it was
lisping out the name of mother. He looked, and beheld a blooming child
leaning over, and kissing with eager fondness, lips that were
insensible to the warm pressure. Starting at the sight of the sage, she
fixed her eyes on him, Wake her, ah! wake her, she cried, or the sea
will catch us. Again he felt compassion, for he saw that the mother
slept the sleep of death. He stretched out his hand, and, smoothing his
brow, invited her to approach; but she still intreated him to wake her
mother, whom she continued to call, with an impatient tremulous voice.
To detach her from the body by persuasion would not have been very
easy. Sagestus had a quicker method to effect his purpose; he took out
a box which contained a soporific powder, and as soon as the fumes
reached her brain, the powers of life were suspended.
He carried her directly to his hut, and left her sleeping profoundly
on his rushy couch.
AGAIN Sagestus approached the dead, to view them with a more
scrutinizing eye. He was perfectly acquainted with the construction of
the human body, knew the traces that virtue or vice leaves on the whole
frame; they were now indelibly fixed by death; nay more, he knew by the
shape of the solid structure, how far the spirit could range, and saw
the barrier beyond which it could not pass: the mazes of fancy he
explored, measured the stretch of thought, and, weighing all in an even
balance, could tell whom nature had stamped an hero, a poet, or
By their appearance, at a transient glance, he knew that the vessel
must have contained many passengers, and that some of them were above
the vulgar, with respect to fortune and education; he then walked
leisurely among the dead, and narrowly observed their pallid features.
His eye first rested on a form in which proportion reigned, and,
stroking back the hair, a spacious forehead met his view; warm fancy
had revelled there, and her airy dance had left vestiges, scarcely
visible to a mortal eye. Some perpendicular lines pointed out that
melancholy had predominated in his constitution; yet the straggling
hairs of his eye-brows showed that anger had often shook his frame;
indeed, the four temperatures, like the four elements, had resided in
this little world, and produced harmony. The whole visage was bony, and
an energetic frown had knit the flexible skin of his brow; the kingdom
within had been extensive; and the wild creations of fancy had there a
local habitation and a name. So exquisite was his sensibility, so
quick his comprehension, that he perceived various combinations in an
instant; he caught truth as she darted towards him, saw all her fair
proportion at a glance, and the flash of his eye spoke the quick senses
which conveyed intelligence to his mind; the sensorium indeed was
capacious, and the sage imagined he saw the lucid beam, sparkling with
love or ambition, in characters of fire, which a graceful curve of the
upper eyelid shaded. The lips were a little deranged by contempt; and a
mixture of vanity and self-complacency formed a few irregular lines
round them. The chin had suffered from sensuality, yet there were still
great marks of vigour in it, as if advanced with stern dignity. The
hand accustomed to command, and even tyrannize, was unnerved; but its
appearance convinced Sagestus, that he had oftener wielded a thought
than a weapon; and that he had silenced, by irresistible conviction,
the superficial disputant, and the being, who doubted because he had
not strength to believe, who, wavering between different borrowed
opinions, first caught at one straw, then at another, unable to settle
into any consistency of character. After gazing a few moments, Sagestus
turned away exclaiming, How are the stately oaks torn up by a tempest,
and the bow unstrung, that could force the arrow beyond the ken of the
What a different face next met his view! The forehead was short, yet
well set together; the nose small, but a little turned up at the end;
and a draw-down at the sides of his mouth, proved that he had been a
humourist, who minded the main chance, and could joke with his
acquaintance, while he eagerly devoured a dainty which he was not to
pay for. His lips shut like a box whose hinges had often been mended;
and the muscles, which display the soft emotion of the heart on the
cheeks, were grown quite rigid, so that, the vessels that should have
moistened them not having much communication with the grand source of
passions, the fine volatile fluid had evaporated, and they became mere
dry fibres, which might be pulled by any misfortune that threatened
himself, but were not sufficiently elastic to be moved by the miseries
of others. His joints were inserted compactly, and with celerity they
had performed all the animal functions, without any of the grace which
results from the imagination mixing with the senses.
A huge form was stretched near him, that exhibited marks of
overgrown infancy; every part was relaxed; all appeared imperfect. Yet,
some undulating lines on the puffed-out cheeks, displayed signs of
timid, servile good nature; and the skin of the forehead had been so
often drawn up by wonder, that the few hairs of the eyebrows were fixed
in a sharp arch, whilst an ample chin rested in lobes of flesh on his
By his side was a body that had scarcely ever much life in
itsympathy seemed to have drawn them togetherevery feature and limb
was round and fleshy, and, if a kind of brutal cunning had not marked
the face, it might have been mistaken for an automaton, so unmixed was
the phlegmatic fluid. The vital spark was buried deep in a soft mass of
matter, resembling the pith in young elder, which, when found, is so
equivocal, that it only appears a moister part of the same body.
Another part of the beach was covered with sailors, whose bodies
exhibited marks of strength and brutal courage.Their characters were
all different, though of the same class; Sagestus did not stay to
discriminate them, satisfied with a rough sketch. He saw indolence
roused by a love of humour, or rather bodily fun; sensuality and
prodigality with a vein of generosity running through it; a contempt of
danger with gross superstition; supine senses, only to be kept alive by
noisy, tumultuous pleasures, or that kind of novelty which borders on
absurdity: this formed the common outline, and the rest were rather
dabs than shades.
Sagestus paused, and remembered it had been said by an earthly wit,
that many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness on
the desart air. How little, he exclaimed, did that poet know of the
ways of heaven! And yet, in this respect, they are direct; the hands
before me, were designed to pull a rope, knock down a sheep, or perform
the servile offices of life; no mute, inglorious poet rests amongst
them, and he who is superior to his fellow, does not rise above
mediocrity. The genius that sprouts from a dunghil soon shakes off the
heterogenous mass; those only grovel, who have not power to fly.
He turned his step towards the mother of the orphan: another female
was at some distance; and a man who, by his garb, might have been the
husband, or brother, of the former, was not far off.
Him the sage surveyed with an attentive eye, and bowed with respect
to the inanimate clay, that lately had been the dwelling of a most
benevolent spirit. The head was square, though the features were not
very prominent; but there was a great harmony in every part, and the
turn of the nostrils and lips evinced, that the soul must have had
taste, to which they had served as organs. Penetration and judgment
were seated on the brows that overhung the eye. Fixed as it was,
Sagestus quickly discerned the expression it must have had; dark and
pensive, rather from slowness of comprehension than melancholy, it
seemed to absorb the light of knowledge, to drink it in ray by ray;
nay, a new one was not allowed to enter his head till the last was
arranged: an opinion was thus cautiously received, and maturely
weighed, before it was added to the general stock. As nature led him to
mount from a part to the whole, he was most conversant with the
beautiful, and rarely comprehended the sublime; yet, said Sagestus,
with a softened tone, he was all heart, full of forbearance, and
desirous to please every fellow-creature; but from a nobler motive than
a love of admiration; the fumes of vanity never mounted to cloud his
brain, or tarnish his beneficence. The fluid in which those placid eyes
swam, is now congealed; how often has tenderness given them the finest
water! Some torn parts of the child's dress hung round his arm, which
led the sage to conclude, that he had saved the child; every line in
his face confirmed the conjecture; benevolence indeed strung the nerves
that naturally were not very firm; it was the great knot that tied
together the scattered qualities, and gave the distinct stamp to the
The female whom he next approached, and supposed to be an attendant
on the other, was below the middle size, and her legs were so
disproportionably short, that, when she moved, she must have waddled
along; her elbows were drawn in to touch her long taper, waist, and the
air of her whole body was an affectation of gentility. Death could not
alter the rigid hang of her limbs, or efface the simper that had
stretched her mouth; the lips were thin, as if nature intended she
should mince her words; her nose was small, and sharp at the end; and
the forehead, unmarked by eyebrows, was wrinkled by the discontent that
had sunk her cheeks, on which Sagestus still discerned faint traces of
tenderness; and fierce good-nature, he perceived had sometimes animated
the little spark of an eye that anger had oftener lighted. The same
thought occurred to him that the sight of the sailors had suggested,
Men and women are all in their proper placesthis female was intended
to fold up linen and nurse the sick.
Anxious to observe the mother of his charge, he turned to the lily
that had been so rudely snapped, and, carefully observing it, traced
every fine line to its source. There was a delicacy in her form, so
truly feminine, that an involuntary desire to cherish such a being,
made the sage again feel the almost forgotten sensations of his nature.
On observing her more closely, he discovered that her natural delicacy
had been increased by an improper education, to a degree that took away
all vigour from her faculties. And its baneful influence had had such
an effect on her mind, that few traces of the exertions of it appeared
on her face, though the fine finish of her features, and particularly
the form of the forehead, convinced the sage that her understanding
might have risen considerably above mediocrity, had the wheels ever
been put in motion; but, clogged by prejudices, they never turned quite
round, and, whenever she considered a subject, she stopped before she
came to a conclusion. Assuming a mask of propriety, she had banished
nature; yet its tendency was only to be diverted, not stifled. Some
lines, which took from the symmetry of the mouth, not very obvious to a
superficial observer, struck Sagestus, and they appeared to him
characters of indolent obstinacy. Not having courage to form an opinion
of her own, she adhered, with blind partiality, to those she adopted,
which she received in the lump, and, as they always remained unopened,
of course she only saw the even gloss on the outside. Vestiges of anger
were visible on her brow, and the sage concluded, that she had often
been offended with, and indeed would scarcely make any allowance for,
those who did not coincide with her in opinion, as things always appear
self-evident that have never been examined; yet her very weakness gave
a charming timidity to her countenance; goodness and tenderness
pervaded every lineament, and melted in her dark blue eyes. The
compassion that wanted activity, was sincere, though it only
embellished her face, or produced casual acts of charity when a
moderate alms could relieve present distress. Unacquainted with life,
fictitious, unnatural distress drew the tears that were not shed for
real misery. In its own shape, human wretchedness excites a little
disgust in the mind that has indulged sickly refinement. Perhaps the
sage gave way to a little conjecture in drawing the last conclusion;
but his conjectures generally arose from distinct ideas, and a dawn of
light allowed him to see a great way farther than common mortals.
He was now convinced that the orphan was not very unfortunate in
having lost such a mother. The parent that inspires fond affection
without respect, is seldom an useful one; and they only are
respectable, who consider right and wrong abstracted from local forms
and accidental modifications.
Determined to adopt the child, he named it after himself, Sagesta,
and retired to the hut where the innocent slept, to think of the best
method of educating this child, whom the angry deep had spared.
[The last branch of the education of Sagesta, consisted of a variety
of characters and stories presented to her in the Cave of Fancy, of
which the following is a specimen.]
A FORM now approached that particularly struck and interested
Sagesta. The sage, observing what passed in her mind, bade her ever
trust to the first impression. In life, he continued, try to remember
the effect the first appearance of a stranger has on your mind; and, in
proportion to your sensibility, you may decide on the character.
Intelligence glances from eyes that have the same pursuits, and a
benevolent heart soon traces the marks of benevolence on the
countenance of an unknown fellow-creature; and not only the
countenance, but the gestures, the voice, loudly speak truth to the
Whenever a stranger advances towards you with a tripping step,
receives you with broad smiles, and a profusion of compliments, and yet
you find yourself embarrassed and unable to return the salutation with
equal cordiality, be assured that such a person is affected, and
endeavours to maintain a very good character in the eyes of the world,
without really practising the social virtues which dress the face in
looks of unfeigned complacency. Kindred minds are drawn to each other
by expressions which elude description; and, like the calm breeze that
plays on a smooth lake, they are rather felt than seen. Beware of a man
who always appears in good humour; a selfish design too frequently
lurks in the smiles the heart never curved; or there is an affectation
of candour that destroys all strength of character, by blending truth
and falshood into an unmeaning mass. The mouth, in fact, seems to be
the feature where you may trace every kind of dissimulation, from the
simper of vanity, to the fixed smile of the designing villain. Perhaps,
the modulations of the voice will still more quickly give a key to the
character than even the turns of the mouth, or the words that issue
from it; often do the tones of unpractised dissemblers give the lie to
their assertions. Many people never speak in an unnatural voice, but
when they are insincere: the phrases not corresponding with the
dictates of the heart, have nothing to keep them in tune. In the course
of an argument however, you may easily discover whether vanity or
conviction stimulates the disputant, though his inflated countenance
may be turned from you, and you may not see the gestures which mark
self-sufficiency. He stopped, and the spirit began.
I have wandered through the cave; and, as soon as I have taught you
a useful lesson, I shall take my flight where my tears will cease to
flow, and where mine eyes will no more be shocked with the sight of
guilt and sorrow. Before many moons have changed, thou wilt enter, O
mortal! into that world I have lately left. Listen to my warning voice,
and trust not too much to the goodness which I perceive resides in thy
breast. Let it be reined in by principles, lest thy very virtue sharpen
the sting of remorse, which as naturally follows disorder in the moral
world, as pain attends on intemperance in the physical. But my history
will afford you more instruction than mere advice. Sagestus concurred
in opinion with her, observing that the senses of children should be
the first object of improvement; then their passions worked on; and
judgment the fruit, must be the acquirement of the being itself, when
out of leading-strings. The spirit bowed assent, and, without any
further prelude, entered on her history.
My mother was a most respectable character, but she was yoked to a
man whose follies and vices made her ever feel the weight of her
chains. The first sensation I recollect, was pity; for I have seen her
weep over me and the rest of her babes, lamenting that the extravagance
of a father would throw us destitute on the world. But, though my
father was extravagant, and seldom thought of any thing but his own
pleasures, our education was not neglected. In solitude, this
employment was my mother's only solace; and my father's pride made him
procure us masters; nay, sometimes he was so gratified by our
improvement, that he would embrace us with tenderness, and intreat my
mother to forgive him, with marks of real contrition. But the affection
his penitence gave rise to, only served to expose her to continual
disappointments, and keep hope alive merely to torment her. After a
violent debauch he would let his beard grow, and the sadness that
reigned in the house I shall never forget; he was ashamed to meet even
the eyes of his children. This is so contrary to the nature of things,
it gave me exquisite pain; I used, at those times, to show him extreme
respect. I could not bear to see my parent humble himself before me.
However neither his constitution, nor fortune could long bear the
constant waste. He had, I have observed, a childish affection for his
children, which was displayed in caresses that gratified him for the
moment, yet never restrained the headlong fury of his appetites; his
momentary repentance wrung his heart, without influencing his conduct;
and he died, leaving an encumbered wreck of a good estate.
As we had always lived in splendid poverty, rather than in
affluence, the shock was not so great; and my mother repressed her
anguish, and concealed some circumstances, that she might not shed a
destructive mildew over the gaiety of youth.
So fondly did I doat on this dear parent, that she engrossed all my
tenderness; her sorrows had knit me firmly to her, and my chief care
was to give her proofs of affection. The gallantry that afforded my
companions, the few young people my mother forced me to mix with, so
much pleasure, I despised; I wished more to be loved than admired, for
I could love. I adored virtue; and my imagination, chasing a chimerical
object, overlooked the common pleasures of life; they were not
sufficient for my happiness. A latent fire made me burn to rise
superior to my contemporaries in wisdom and virtue; and tears of joy
and emulation filled my eyes when I read an account of a great
actionI felt admiration, not astonishment.
My mother had two particular friends, who endeavoured to settle her
affairs; one was a middle-aged man, a merchant; the human breast never
enshrined a more benevolent heart. His manners were rather rough, and
he bluntly spoke his thoughts without observing the pain it gave; yet
he possessed extreme tenderness, as far as his discernment went. Men do
not make sufficient distinction, said she, digressing from her story to
address Sagestus, between tenderness and sensibility.
To give the shortest definition of sensibility, replied the sage, I
should say that it is the result of acute senses, finely fashioned
nerves, which vibrate at the slightest touch, and convey such clear
intelligence to the brain, that it does not require to be arranged by
the judgment. Such persons instantly enter into the characters of
others, and instinctively discern what will give pain to every human
being; their own feelings are so varied that they seem to contain in
themselves, not only all the passions of the species, but their various
modifications. Exquisite pain and pleasure is their portion; nature
wears for them a different aspect than is displayed to common mortals.
One moment it is a paradise; all is beautiful: a cloud arises, an
emotion receives a sudden damp; darkness invades the sky, and the world
is an unweeded garden;but go on with your narrative, said Sagestus,
She proceeded. The man I am describing was humanity itself; but
frequently he did not understand me; many of my feelings were not to be
analyzed by his common sense. His friendships, for he had many friends,
gave him pleasure unmixed with pain; his religion was coldly
reasonable, because he wanted fancy, and he did not feel the necessity
of finding, or creating, a perfect object, to answer the one engraved
on his heart: the sketch there was faint. He went with the stream, and
rather caught a character from the society he lived in, than spread one
around him. In my mind many opinions were graven with a pen of brass,
which he thought chimerical: but time could not erase them, and I now
recognize them as the seeds of eternal happiness: they will soon expand
in those realms where I shall enjoy the bliss adapted to my nature;
this is all we need ask of the Supreme Being; happiness must follow the
completion of his designs. He however could live quietly, without
giving a preponderancy to many important opinions that continually
obtruded on my mind; not having an enthusiastic affection for his
fellow creatures, he did them good, without suffering from their
follies. He was particularly attached to me, and I felt for him all the
affection of a daughter; often, when he had been interesting himself to
promote my welfare, have I lamented that he was not my father; lamented
that the vices of mine had dried up one source of pure affection.
The other friend I have already alluded to, was of a very different
character; greatness of mind, and those combinations of feeling which
are so difficult to describe, raised him above the throng, that bustle
their hour out, lie down to sleep, and are forgotten. But I shall soon
see him, she exclaimed, as much superior to his former self, as he then
rose in my eyes above his fellow creatures! As she spoke, a glow of
delight animated each feature; her countenance appeared transparent;
and she silently anticipated the happiness she should enjoy, when she
entered those mansions, where death-divided friends should meet, to
part no more; where human weakness could not damp their bliss, or
poison the cup of joy that, on earth, drops from the lips as soon as
tasted, or, if some daring mortal snatches a hasty draught, what was
sweet to the taste becomes a root of bitterness.
He was unfortunate, had many cares to struggle with, and I marked on
his cheeks traces of the same sorrows that sunk my own. He was unhappy
I say, and perhaps pity might first have awoke my tenderness; for,
early in life, an artful woman worked on his compassionate soul, and he
united his fate to a being made up of such jarring elements, that he
was still alone. The discovery did not extinguish that propensity to
love, a high sense of virtue fed. I saw him sick and unhappy, without a
friend to sooth the hours languor made heavy; often did I sit a long
winter's evening by his side, railing at the swift wings of time, and
terming my love, humanity.
Two years passed in this manner, silently rooting my affection; and
it might have continued calm, if a fever had not brought him to the
very verge of the grave. Though still deceived, I was miserable that
the customs of the world did not allow me to watch by him; when sleep
forsook his pillow, my wearied eyes were not closed, and my anxious
spirit hovered round his bed. I saw him, before he had recovered his
strength; and, when his hand touched mine, life almost retired, or flew
to meet the touch. The first look found a ready way to my heart, and
thrilled through every vein. We were left alone, and insensibly began
to talk of the immortality of the soul; I declared that I could not
live without this conviction. In the ardour of conversation he pressed
my hand to his heart; it rested there a moment, and my emotions gave
weight to my opinion, for the affection we felt was not of a perishable
nature.A silence ensued, I know not how long; he then threw my hand
from him, as if it had been a serpent; formally complained of the
weather, and adverted to twenty other uninteresting subjects. Vain
efforts! Our hearts had already spoken to each other.
Feebly did I afterwards combat an affection, which seemed twisted in
every fibre of my heart. The world stood still when I thought of him;
it moved heavily at best, with one whose very constitution seemed to
mark her out for misery. But I will not dwell on the passion I too
fondly nursed. One only refuge had I on earth; I could not resolutely
desolate the scene my fancy flew to, when worldly cares, when a
knowledge of mankind, which my circumstances forced on me, rendered
every other insipid. I was afraid of the unmarked vacuity of common
life; yet, though I supinely indulged myself in fairy-land, when I
ought to have been more actively employed, virtue was still the first
mover of my actions; she dressed my love in such enchanting colours,
and spread the net I could never break. Our corresponding feelings
confounded our very souls; and in many conversations we almost
intuitively discerned each other's sentiments; the heart opened itself,
not chilled by reserve, nor afraid of misconstruction. But, if virtue
inspired love, love gave new energy to virtue, and absorbed every
selfish passion. Never did even a wish escape me, that my lover should
not fulfil the hard duties which fate had imposed on him. I only
dissembled with him in one particular; I endeavoured to soften his
wife's too conspicuous follies, and extenuated her failings in an
indirect manner. To this I was prompted by a loftiness of spirit; I
should have broken the band of life, had I ceased to respect myself.
But I will hasten to an important change in my circumstances.
My mother, who had concealed the real state of her affairs from me,
was now impelled to make me her confident, that I might assist to
discharge her mighty debt of gratitude. The merchant, my more than
father, had privately assisted her: but a fatal civil-war reduced his
large property to a bare competency; and an inflammation in his eyes,
that arose from a cold he had caught at a wreck, which he watched
during a stormy night to keep off the lawless colliers, almost deprived
him of sight. His life had been spent in society, and he scarcely knew
how to fill the void; for his spirit would not allow him to mix with
his former equals as an humble companion; he who had been treated with
uncommon respect, could not brook their insulting pity. From the
resource of solitude, reading, the complaint in his eyes cut him off,
and he became our constant visitor.
Actuated by the sincerest affection, I used to read to him, and he
mistook my tenderness for love. How could I undeceive him, when every
circumstance frowned on him! Too soon I found that I was his only
comfort; I, who rejected his hand when fortune smiled, could not now
second her blow; and, in a moment of enthusiastic gratitude and tender
compassion, I offered him my hand.It was received with pleasure;
transport was not made for his soul; nor did he discover that nature
had separated us, by making me alive to such different sensations. My
mother was to live with us, and I dwelt on this circumstance to banish
cruel recollections, when the bent bow returned to its former state.
With a bursting heart and a firm voice, I named the day when I was
to seal my promise. It came, in spite of my regret; I had been
previously preparing myself for the awful ceremony, and answered the
solemn question with a resolute tone, that would silence the dictates
of my heart; it was a forced, unvaried one; had nature modulated it, my
secret would have escaped. My active spirit was painfully on the watch
to repress every tender emotion. The joy in my venerable parent's
countenance, the tenderness of my husband, as he conducted me home, for
I really had a sincere affection for him, the gratulations of my mind,
when I thought that this sacrifice was heroic, all tended to deceive
me; but the joy of victory over the resigned, pallid look of my lover,
haunted my imagination, and fixed itself in the centre of my
brain.Still I imagined, that his spirit was near me, that he only
felt sorrow for my loss, and without complaint resigned me to my duty.
I was left alone a moment; my two elbows rested on a table to
support my chin. Ten thousand thoughts darted with astonishing velocity
through my mind. My eyes were dry; I was on the brink of madness. At
this moment a strange association was made by my imagination; I thought
of Gallileo, who when he left the inquisition, looked upwards, and
cried out, Yet it moves. A shower of tears, like the refreshing drops
of heaven, relieved my parched sockets; they fell disregarded on the
table; and, stamping with my foot, in an agony I exclaimed, Yet I
love. My husband entered before I had calmed these tumultuous
emotions, and tenderly took my hand. I snatched it from him; grief and
surprise were marked on his countenance; I hastily stretched it out
again. My heart smote me, and I removed the transient mist by an
unfeigned endeavour to please him.
A few months after, my mind grew calmer; and, if a treacherous
imagination, if feelings many accidents revived, sometimes plunged me
into melancholy, I often repeated with steady conviction, that virtue
was not an empty name, and that, in following the dictates of duty, I
had not bidden adieu to content.
In the course of a few years, the dear object of my fondest
affection, said farewel, in dying accents. Thus left alone, my grief
became dear; and I did not feel solitary, because I thought I might,
without a crime, indulge a passion, that grew more ardent than ever
when my imagination only presented him to my view, and restored my
former activity of soul which the late calm had rendered torpid. I
seemed to find myself again, to find the eccentric warmth that gave me
identity of character. Reason had governed my conduct, but could not
change my nature; this voluptuous sorrow was superior to every
gratification of sense, and death more firmly united our hearts.
Alive to every human affection, I smoothed my mothers passage to
eternity, and so often gave my husband sincere proofs of affection, he
never supposed that I was actuated by a more fervent attachment. My
melancholy, my uneven spirits, he attributed to my extreme sensibility,
and loved me the better for possessing qualities he could not
At the close of a summer's day, some years after, I wandered with
careless steps over a pathless common; various anxieties had rendered
the hours which the sun had enlightened heavy; sober evening came on; I
wished to still my mind, and woo lone quiet in her silent walk. The
scene accorded with my feelings; it was wild and grand; and the
spreading twilight had almost confounded the distant sea with the
barren, blue hills that melted from my sight. I sat down on a rising
ground; the rays of the departing sun illumined the horizon, but so
indistinctly, that I anticipated their total extinction. The death of
Nature led me to a still more interesting subject, that came home to my
bosom, the death of him I loved. A village-bell was tolling; I
listened, and thought of the moment when I heard his interrupted
breath, and felt the agonizing fear, that the same sound would never
more reach my ears, and that the intelligence glanced from my eyes,
would no more be felt. The spoiler had seized his prey; the sun was
fled, what was this world to me! I wandered to another, where death and
darkness could not enter; I pursued the sun beyond the mountains, and
the soul escaped from this vale of tears. My reflections were tinged
with melancholy, but they were sublime.I grasped a mighty whole, and
smiled on the king of terrors; the tie which bound me to my friends he
could not break; the same mysterious knot united me to the source of
all goodness and happiness. I had seen the divinity reflected in a face
I loved; I had read immortal characters displayed on a human
countenance, and forgot myself whilst I gazed. I could not think of
immortality, without recollecting the ecstacy I felt, when my heart
first whispered to me that I was beloved; and again did I feel the
sacred tie of mutual affection; fervently I prayed to the father of
mercies; and rejoiced that he could see every turn of a heart, whose
movements I could not perfectly understand. My passion seemed a pledge
of immortality; I did not wish to hide it from the all-searching eye of
heaven. Where indeed could I go from his presence? and, whilst it was
dear to me, though darkness might reign during the night of life, joy
would come when I awoke to life everlasting.
I now turned my step towards home, when the appearance of a girl,
who stood weeping on the common, attracted my attention. I accosted
her, and soon heard her simple tale; that her father was gone to sea,
and her mother sick in bed. I followed her to their little dwelling,
and relieved the sick wretch. I then again sought my own abode; but
death did not now haunt my fancy. Contriving to give the poor creature
I had left more effectual relief, I reached my own garden-gate very
weary, and rested on it.Recollecting the turns of my mind during the
walk, I exclaimed, Surely life may thus be enlivened by active
benevolence, and the sleep of death, like that I am now disposed to
fall into, may be sweet!
My life was now unmarked by any extraordinary change, and a few days
ago I entered this cavern; for through it every mortal must pass; and
here I have discovered, that I neglected many opportunities of being
useful, whilst I fostered a devouring flame. Remorse has not reached
me, because I firmly adhered to my principles, and I have also
discovered that I saw through a false medium. Worthy as the mortal was
I adored, I should not long have loved him with the ardour I did, had
fate united us, and broken the delusion the imagination so artfully
wove. His virtues, as they now do, would have extorted my esteem; but
he who formed the human soul, only can fill it, and the chief happiness
of an immortal being must arise from the same source as its existence.
Earthly love leads to heavenly, and prepares us for a more exalted
state; if it does not change its nature, and destroy itself, by
trampling on the virtue, that constitutes its essence, and allies us to
ON POETRY, AND OUR RELISH FOR THE
BEAUTIES OF NATURE.
ON POETRY, &c.
A TASTE for rural scenes, in the present state of society, appears
to be very often an artificial sentiment, rather inspired by poetry and
romances, than a real perception of the beauties of nature. But, as it
is reckoned a proof of refined taste to praise the calm pleasures which
the country affords, the theme is never exhausted. Yet it may be made a
question, whether this romantic kind of declamation, has much effect on
the conduct of those, who leave, for a season, the crowded cities in
which they were bred.
I have been led to these reflections, by observing, when I have
resided for any length of time in the country, how few people seem to
contemplate nature with their own eyes. I have brushed the dew away
in the morning; but, pacing over the printless grass, I have wondered
that, in such delightful situations, the sun was allowed to rise in
solitary majesty, whilst my eyes alone hailed its beautifying beams.
The webs of the evening have still been spread across the hedged path,
unless some labouring man, trudging to work, disturbed the fairy
structure; yet, in spite of this supineness, when I joined the social
circle, every tongue rang changes on the pleasures of the country.
Having frequently had occasion to make the same observation, I was
led to endeavour, in one of my solitary rambles, to trace the cause,
and likewise to enquire why the poetry written in the infancy of
society, is most natural: which, strictly speaking (for natural
is a very indefinite expression) is merely to say, that it is the
transcript of immediate sensations, in all their native wildness and
simplicity, when fancy, awakened by the sight of interesting objects,
was most actively at work. At such moments, sensibility quickly
furnishes similes, and the sublimated spirits combine images, which
rising spontaneously, it is not necessary coldly to ransack the
understanding or memory, till the laborious efforts of judgment exclude
present sensations, and damp the fire of enthusiasm.
The effusions of a vigorous mind, will ever tell us how far the
understanding has been enlarged by thought, and stored with knowledge.
The richness of the soil even appears on the surface; and the result of
profound thinking, often mixing, with playful grace, in the reveries of
the poet, smoothly incorporates with the ebullitions of animal spirits,
when the finely fashioned nerve vibrates acutely with rapture, or when,
relaxed by soft melancholy, a pleasing languor prompts the long-drawn
sigh, and feeds the slowly falling tear.
The poet, the man of strong feelings, gives us only an image of his
mind, when he was actually alone, conversing with himself, and marking
the impression which nature had made on his own heart.If, at this
sacred moment, the idea of some departed friend, some tender
recollection when the soul was most alive to tenderness, intruded
unawares into his thoughts, the sorrow which it produced is artlessly,
yet poetically expressedand who can avoid sympathizing?
Love to man leads to devotiongrand and sublime images strike the
imaginationGod is seen in every floating cloud, and comes from the
misty mountain to receive the noblest homage of an intelligent
creaturepraise. How solemn is the moment, when all affections and
remembrances fade before the sublime admiration which the wisdom and
goodness of God inspires, when he is worshipped in a temple not made
with hands, and the world seems to contain only the mind that
formed, and the mind that contemplates it! These are not the weak
responses of ceremonial devotion; nor, to express them, would the poet
need another poet's aid: his heart burns within him, and he speaks the
language of truth and nature with resistless energy.
Inequalities, of course, are observable in his effusions; and a less
vigorous fancy, with more taste, would have produced more elegance and
uniformity; but, as passages are softened or expunged during the cooler
moments of reflection, the understanding is gratified at the expence of
those involuntary sensations, which, like the beauteous tints of an
evening sky, are so evanescent, that they melt into new forms before
they can be analyzed. For however eloquently we may boast of our
reason, man must often be delighted he cannot tell why, or his blunt
feelings are not made to relish the beauties which nature, poetry, or
any of the imitative arts, afford.
The imagery of the ancients seems naturally to have been borrowed
from surrounding objects and their mythology. When a hero is to be
transported from one place to another, across pathless wastes, is any
vehicle so natural, as one of the fleecy clouds on which the poet has
often gazed, scarcely conscious that he wished to make it his chariot?
Again, when nature seems to present obstacles to his progress at almost
every step, when the tangled forest and steep mountain stand as
barriers, to pass over which the mind longs for supernatural aid; an
interposing deity, who walks on the waves, and rules the storm,
severely felt in the first attempts to cultivate a country, will
receive from the impassioned fancy a local habitation and a name.
It would be a philosophical enquiry, and throw some light on the
history of the human mind, to trace, as far as our information will
allow us to trace, the spontaneous feelings and ideas which have
produced the images that now frequently appear unnatural, because they
are remote; and disgusting, because they have been servilely copied by
poets, whose habits of thinking, and views of nature must have been
different; for, though the understanding seldom disturbs the current of
our present feelings, without dissipating the gay clouds which fancy
has been embracing, yet it silently gives the colour to the whole
tenour of them, and the dream is over, when truth is grossly violated,
or images introduced, selected from books, and not from local manners
or popular prejudices.
In a more advanced state of civilization, a poet is rather the
creature of art, than of nature. The books that he reads in his youth,
become a hot-bed in which artificial fruits are produced, beautiful to
the common eye, though they want the true hue and flavour. His images
do not arise from sensations; they are copies; and, like the works of
the painters who copy ancient statues when they draw men and women of
their own times, we acknowledge that the features are fine, and the
proportions just; yet they are men of stone; insipid figures, that
never convey to the mind the idea of a portrait taken from life, where
the soul gives spirit and homogeneity to the whole. The silken wings of
fancy are shrivelled by rules; and a desire of attaining elegance of
diction, occasions an attention to words, incompatible with sublime,
A boy of abilities, who has been taught the structure of verse at
school, and been roused by emulation to compose rhymes whilst he was
reading works of genius, may, by practice, produce pretty verses, and
even become what is often termed an elegant poet: yet his readers,
without knowing what to find fault with, do not find themselves warmly
interested. In the works of the poets who fasten on their affections,
they see grosser faults, and the very images which shock their taste in
the modern; still they do not appear as puerile or extrinsic in one as
the other.Why?because they did not appear so to the author.
It may sound paradoxical, after observing that those productions
want vigour, that are merely the work of imitation, in which the
understanding has violently directed, if not extinguished, the blaze of
fancy, to assert, that, though genius be only another word for
exquisite sensibility, the first observers of nature, the true poets,
exercised their understanding much more than their imitators. But they
exercised it to discriminate things, whilst their followers were busy
to borrow sentiments and arrange words.
Boys who have received a classical education, load their memory with
words, and the correspondent ideas are perhaps never distinctly
comprehended. As a proof of this assertion, I must observe, that I have
known many young people who could write tolerably smooth verses, and
string epithets prettily together, when their prose themes showed the
barrenness of their minds, and how superficial the cultivation must
have been, which their understanding had received.
Dr. Johnson, I know, has given a definition of genius, which would
overturn my reasoning, if I were to admit it.He imagines, that a
strong mind, accidentally led to some particular study in which it
excels, is a genius.Not to stop to investigate the causes which
produced this happy strength of mind, experience seems to prove,
that those minds have appeared most vigorous, that have pursued a
study, after nature had discovered a bent; for it would be absurd to
suppose, that a slight impression made on the weak faculties of a boy,
is the fiat of fate, and not to be effaced by any succeeding
impression, or unexpected difficulty. Dr. Johnson in fact, appears
sometimes to be of the same opinion (how consistently I shall not now
enquire), especially when he observes, that Thomson looked on nature
with the eye which she only gives to a poet.
But, though it should be allowed that books may produce some poets,
I fear they will never be the poets who charm our cares to sleep, or
extort admiration. They may diffuse taste, and polish the language; but
I am inclined to conclude that they will seldom rouse the passions, or
amend the heart.
And, to return to the first subject of discussion, the reason why
most people are more interested by a scene described by a poet, than by
a view of nature, probably arises from the want of a lively
imagination. The poet contracts the prospect, and, selecting the most
picturesque part in his camera, the judgment is directed, and
the whole force of the languid faculty turned towards the objects which
excited the most forcible emotions in the poet's heart; the reader
consequently feels the enlivened description, though he was not able to
receive a first impression from the operations of his own mind.
Besides, it may be further observed, that gross minds are only to be
moved by forcible representations. To rouse the thoughtless, objects
must be presented, calculated to produce tumultuous emotions; the
unsubstantial, picturesque forms which a contemplative man gazes on,
and often follows with ardour till he is mocked by a glimpse of
unattainable excellence, appear to them the light vapours of a dreaming
enthusiast, who gives up the substance for the shadow. It is not within
that they seek amusement; their eyes are seldom turned on themselves;
consequently their emotions, though sometimes fervid, are always
transient, and the nicer perceptions which distinguish the man of
genuine taste, are not felt, or make such a slight impression as
scarcely to excite any pleasurable sensations. Is it surprising then
that they are often overlooked, even by those who are delighted by the
same images concentrated by the poet?
But even this numerous class is exceeded, by witlings, who, anxious
to appear to have wit and taste, do not allow their understandings or
feelings any liberty; for, instead of cultivating their faculties and
reflecting on their operations, they are busy collecting prejudices;
and are predetermined to admire what the suffrage of time announces as
excellent, not to store up a fund of amusement for themselves, but to
enable them to talk.
These hints will assist the reader to trace some of the causes why
the beauties of nature are not forcibly felt, when civilization, or
rather luxury, has made considerable advancesthose calm sensations
are not sufficiently lively to serve as a relaxation to the voluptuary,
or even to the moderate pursuer of artificial pleasures. In the present
state of society, the understanding must bring back the feelings to
nature, or the sensibility must have such native strength, as rather to
be whetted than destroyed by the strong exercises of passion.
That the most valuable things are liable to the greatest perversion,
is however as trite as true:for the same sensibility, or quickness of
senses, which makes a man relish the tranquil scenes of nature, when
sensation, rather than reason, imparts delight, frequently makes a
libertine of him, by leading him to prefer the sensual tumult of love a
little refined by sentiment, to the calm pleasures of affectionate
friendship, in whose sober satisfactions, reason, mixing her
tranquillizing convictions, whispers, that content, not happiness, is
the reward of virtue in this world.
[Chiefly designed to have been incorporated in the Second Part of
the Vindication of the Rights of Woman.]
INDOLENCE is the source of nervous complaints, and a whole host of
cares. This devil might say that his name was legion.
It should be one of the employments of women of fortune, to visit
hospitals, and superintend the conduct of inferiors.
It is generally supposed, that the imagination of women is
particularly active, and leads them astray. Why then do we seek by
education only to exercise their imagination and feeling, till the
understanding, grown rigid by disuse, is unable to exercise itselfand
the superfluous nourishment the imagination and feeling have received,
renders the former romantic, and the latter weak?
Few men have risen to any great eminence in learning, who have not
received something like a regular education. Why are women expected to
surmount difficulties that men are not equal to?
Nothing can be more absurd than the ridicule of the critic, that the
heroine of his mock-tragedy was in love with the very man whom she
ought least to have loved; he could not have given a better reason. How
can passion gain strength any other way? In Otaheite, love cannot be
known, where the obstacles to irritate an indiscriminate appetite, and
sublimate the simple sensations of desire till they mount to passion,
are never known. There a man or woman cannot love the very person they
ought not to have lovednor does jealousy ever fan the flame.
It has frequently been observed, that, when women have an object in
view, they pursue it with more steadiness than men, particularly love.
This is not a compliment. Passion pursues with more heat than reason,
and with most ardour during the absence of reason.
Men are more subject to the physical love than women. The confined
education of women makes them more subject to jealousy.
Simplicity seems, in general, the consequence of ignorance, as I
have observed in the characters of women and sailorsthe being
confined to one track of impressions.
I know of no other way of preserving the chastity of mankind, than
that of rendering women rather objects of love than desire. The
difference is great. Yet, while women are encouraged to ornament their
persons at the expence of their minds, while indolence renders them
helpless and lascivious (for what other name can be given to the common
intercourse between the sexes?) they will be, generally speaking, only
objects of desire; and, to such women, men cannot be constant. Men,
accustomed only to have their senses moved, merely seek for a selfish
gratification in the society of women, and their sexual instinct, being
neither supported by the understanding nor the heart, must be excited
We ought to respect old opinions; though prejudices, blindly
adopted, lead to error, and preclude all exercise of the reason.
The emulation which often makes a boy mischievous, is a generous
spur; and the old remark, that unlucky, turbulent boys, make the wisest
and best men, is true, spite of Mr. Knox's arguments. It has been
observed, that the most adventurous horses, when tamed or domesticated,
are the most mild and tractable.
The children who start up suddenly at twelve or fourteen, and fall
into decays, in consequence, as it is termed, of outgrowing their
strength, are in general, I believe, those children, who have been bred
up with mistaken tenderness, and not allowed to sport and take exercise
in the open air. This is analogous to plants: for it is found that they
run up sickly, long stalks, when confined.
Children should be taught to feel deference, not to practise
It is always a proof of false refinement, when a fastidious taste
Lust appears to be the most natural companion of wild ambition; and
love of human praise, of that dominion erected by cunning.
Genius decays as judgment increases. Of course, those who have the
least genius, have the earliest appearance of wisdom.
A knowledge of the fine arts, is seldom subservient to the promotion
of either religion or virtue. Elegance is often indecency; witness our
There does not appear to be any evil in the world, but what is
necessary. The doctrine of rewards and punishments, not considered as a
means of reformation, appears to me an infamous libel on divine
Whether virtue is founded on reason or revelation, virtue is wisdom,
and vice is folly. Why are positive punishments?
Few can walk alone. The staff of Christianity is the necessary
support of human weakness. But an acquaintance with the nature of man
and virtue, with just sentiments on the attributes, would be
sufficient, without a voice from heaven, to lead some to virtue, but
not the mob.
I only expect the natural reward of virtue, whatever it may be. I
rely not on a positive reward.
The justice of God can be vindicated by a belief in a future
statebut a continuation of being vindicates it as clearly, as the
positive system of rewards and punishmentsby evil educing good for
the individual, and not for an imaginary whole. The happiness of the
whole must arise from the happiness of the constituent parts, or this
world is not a state of trial, but a school.
The vices acquired by Augustus to retain his power, must have
tainted his soul, and prevented that increase of happiness a good man
expects in the next stage of existence. This was a natural punishment.
The lover is ever most deeply enamoured, when it is with he knows
not whatand the devotion of a mystic has a rude Gothic grandeur in
it, which the respectful adoration of a philosopher will never reach. I
may be thought fanciful; but it has continually occurred to me, that,
though, I allow, reason in this world is the mother of wisdomyet some
flights of the imagination seem to reach what wisdom cannot teachand,
while they delude us here, afford a glorious hope, if not a foretaste,
of what we may expect hereafter. He that created us, did not mean to
mark us with ideal images of grandeur, the baseless fabric of a
visionNothat perfection we follow with hopeless ardour when the
whisperings of reason are heard, may be found, when not incompatible
with our state, in the round of eternity. Perfection indeed must, even
then, be a comparative ideabut the wisdom, the happiness of a
superior state, has been supposed to be intuitive, and the happiest
effusions of human genius have seemed like inspirationthe deductions
of reason destroy sublimity.
I am more and more convinced, that poetry is the first effervescence
of the imagination, and the forerunner of civilization.
When the Arabs had no trace of literature or science, they composed
beautiful verses on the subjects of love and war. The flights of the
imagination, and the laboured deductions of reason, appear almost
Poetry certainly flourishes most in the first rude state of society.
The passions speak most eloquently, when they are not shackled by
reason. The sublime expression, which has been so often quoted,
[Genesis, ch. 1, ver. 3.] is perhaps a barbarous flight; or rather the
grand conception of an uncultivated mind; for it is contrary to nature
and experience, to suppose that this account is founded on factsIt is
doubtless a sublime allegory. But a cultivated mind would not thus have
described the creationfor, arguing from analogy, it appears that
creation must have been a comprehensive plan, and that the Supreme
Being always uses second causes, slowly and silently to fulfil his
purpose. This is, in reality, a more sublime view of that power which
wisdom supports: but it is not the sublimity that would strike the
impassioned mind, in which the imagination took place of intellect.
Tell a being, whose affections and passions have been more exercised
than his reason, that God said, Let there be light! and there was
light; and he would prostrate himself before the Being who could
thus call things out of nothing, as if they were: but a man in whom
reason had taken place of passion, would not adore, till wisdom was
conspicuous as well as power, for his admiration must be founded on
Individuality is ever conspicuous in those enthusiastic flights of
fancy, in which reason is left behind, without being lost sight of.
The mind has been too often brought to the test of enquiries which
only reach to matterput into the crucible, though the magnetic and
electric fluid escapes from the experimental philosopher.
Mr. Kant has observed, that the understanding is sublime, the
imagination beautifulyet it is evident, that poets, and men who
undoubtedly possess the liveliest imagination, are most touched by the
sublime, while men who have cold, enquiring minds, have not this
exquisite feeling in any great degree, and indeed seem to lose it as
they cultivate their reason.
The Grecian buildings are gracefulthey fill the mind with all
those pleasing emotions, which elegance and beauty never fail to excite
in a cultivated mindutility and grace strike us in unisonthe mind
is satisfiedthings appear just what they ought to be: a calm
satisfaction is felt, but the imagination has nothing to dono
obscurity darkens the gloomlike reasonable content, we can say why we
are pleasedand this kind of pleasure may be lasting, but it is never
When we say that a person is an original, it is only to say in other
words that he thinks. The less a man has cultivated his rational
faculties, the more powerful is the principle of imitation, over his
actions, and his habits of thinking. Most women, of course, are more
influenced by the behaviour, the fashions, and the opinions of those
with whom they associate, than men. (Smellie.)
When we read a book which supports our favourite opinions, how
eagerly do we suck in the doctrines, and suffer our minds placidly to
reflect the images which illustrate the tenets we have embraced? We
indolently or quietly acquiesce in the conclusion, and our spirit
animates and connects the various subjects. But, on the contrary, when
we peruse a skilful writer, who does not coincide in opinion with us,
how is the mind on the watch to detect fallacy? And this coolness often
prevents our being carried away by a stream of eloquence, which the
prejudiced mind terms declamationa pomp of words.We never allow
ourselves to be warmed; and, after contending with the writer, are more
confirmed in our own opinion, as much perhaps from a spirit of
contradiction as from reason.Such is the strength of man!
It is the individual manner of seeing and feeling, pourtrayed by a
strong imagination in bold images that have struck the senses, which
creates all the charms of poetry. A great reader is always quoting the
description of another's emotions; a strong imagination delights to
paint its own. A writer of genius makes us feel; an inferior author
Some principle prior to self-love must have existed: the feeling
which produced the pleasure, must have existed before the experience.