Caleb Williams
William Godwin

Part 7 out of 7

bring my life to that ignominious close.

"Were you so stupid and undistinguishing as not to know that the
preservation of your life was the uniform object of my exertions? Did
not I maintain you in prison? Did not I endeavour to prevent your being
sent thither? Could you mistake the bigoted and obstinate conduct of
Forester, in offering a hundred guineas for your apprehension, for mine?

"I had my eye upon you in all your wanderings. You have taken no
material step through their whole course with which I have not been
acquainted. I meditated to do you good. I have spilt no blood but that
of Tyrrel: that was in the moment of passion; and it has been the
subject of my uninterrupted and hourly remorse. I have connived at no
man's fate but that of the Hawkinses: they could no otherwise have been
saved, than by my acknowledging myself a murderer. The rest of my life
has been spent in acts of benevolence.

"I meditated to do you good. For that reason I was willing to prove you.
You pretended to act towards me with consideration and forbearance. If
you had persisted in that to the end, I would yet have found a way to
reward you. I left you to your own discretion. You might show the
impotent malignity of your own heart; but, in the circumstances in which
you were then placed, I knew you could not hurt me. Your forbearance has
proved, as I all along suspected, empty and treacherous. You have
attempted to blast my reputation. You have sought to disclose the select
and eternal secret of my soul. Because you have done that, I will never
forgive you. I will remember it to my latest breath. The memory shall
survive me, when my existence is no more. Do you think you are out of
the reach of my power, because a court of justice has acquitted you?"

While Mr. Falkland was speaking a sudden distemper came over his
countenance, his whole frame was shaken by an instantaneous convulsion,
and he staggered to a chair. In about three minutes he recovered.

"Yes," said he, "I am still alive. I shall live for days, and months,
and years; the power that made me, of whatever kind it be, can only
determine how long. I live the guardian of my reputation. That, and to
endure a misery such as man never endured, are the only ends to which I
live. But, when I am no more, my fame shall still survive. My character
shall be revered as spotless and unimpeachable by all posterity, as long
as the name of Falkland shall be repeated in the most distant regions of
the many-peopled globe."

Having said this, he returned to the discourse which more immediately
related to my future condition and happiness.

"There is one condition," said he, "upon which you may obtain some
mitigation of your future calamity. It is for that purpose that I have
sent for you. Listen to my proposal with deliberation and sobriety.
Remember, that the insanity is not less to trifle with the resolved
determination of my soul, than it would be to pull a mountain upon your
head that hung trembling upon the edge of the mighty Apennine!

"I insist then upon your signing a paper, declaring, in the most solemn
manner, that I am innocent of murder, and that the charge you alleged at
the office in Bow-street is false, malicious, and groundless. Perhaps
you may scruple out of a regard to truth. Is truth then entitled to
adoration for its own sake, and not for the sake of the happiness it is
calculated to produce? Will a reasonable man sacrifice to barren truth,
when benevolence, humanity, and every consideration that is dear to the
human heart, require that it should be superseded? It is probable that I
may never make use of this paper, but I require it, as the only
practicable reparation to the honour you have assailed. This is what I
had to propose. I expect your answer."

"Sir," answered I, "I have heard you to an end, and I stand in need of
no deliberation to enable me to answer you in the negative. You took me
up a raw and inexperienced boy, capable of being moulded to any form you
pleased. But you have communicated to me volumes of experience in a very
short period. I am no longer irresolute and pliable. What is the power
you retain over my fate I am unable to discover. You may destroy me; but
you cannot make me tremble. I am not concerned to enquire, whether what
I have suffered flowed from you by design or otherwise; whether you were
the author of my miseries, or only connived at them. This I know, that I
have suffered too exquisitely on your account, for me to feel the least
remaining claim on your part to my making any voluntary sacrifice.

"You say that benevolence and humanity require this sacrifice of me. No;
it would only be a sacrifice to your mad and misguided love of fame,--to
that passion which has been the source of all your miseries, of the most
tragical calamities to others, and of every misfortune that has happened
to me. I have no forbearance to exercise towards that passion. If you be
not yet cured of this tremendous and sanguinary folly, at least I will
do nothing to cherish it. I know not whether from my youth I was
destined for a hero; but I may thank you for having taught me a lesson
of insurmountable fortitude.

"What is it that you require of me? that I should sign away my own
reputation for the better maintaining of yours. Where is the equality of
that? What is it that casts me at such an immense distance below you, as
to make every thing that relates to me wholly unworthy of consideration?
You have been educated in the prejudice of birth. I abhor that
prejudice. You have made me desperate, and I utter what that desperation

"You will tell me perhaps that I have no reputation to lose; that, while
you are esteemed faultless and unblemished, I am universally reputed a
thief, a suborner, and a calumniator. Be it so. I will never do any
thing to countenance those imputations. The more I am destitute of the
esteem of mankind, the more careful I will be to preserve my own. I will
never from fear, or any other mistaken motive, do any thing of which I
ought to be ashamed.

"You are determined to be for ever my enemy. I have in no degree
deserved this eternal abhorrence. I have always esteemed and pitied you.
For a considerable time I rather chose to expose myself to every kind
of misfortune, than disclose the secret that was so dear to you. I was
not deterred by your menaces--(what could you make me suffer more than
I actually suffered?)--but by the humanity of my own heart; in which,
and not in means of violence, you ought to have reposed your confidence.
What is the mysterious vengeance that you can yet execute against me?
You menaced me before; you can menace no worse now. You are wearing out
the springs of terror. Do with me as you please; you teach me to hear
you with an unshrinking and desperate firmness. Recollect yourself! I
did not proceed to the step with which you reproach me, till I was
apparently urged to the very last extremity. I had suffered as much as
human nature can suffer; I had lived in the midst of eternal alarm and
unintermitted watchfulness; I had twice been driven to purposes of
suicide. I am now sorry however, that the step of which you complain was
ever adopted. But, urged to exasperation by an unintermitted rigour, I
had no time to cool or to deliberate. Even at present I cherish no
vengeance against you. All that is reasonable, all that can really
contribute to your security, I will readily concede; but I will not be
driven to an act repugnant to all reason, integrity, and justice."

Mr. Falkland listened to me with astonishment and impatience. He had
entertained no previous conception of the firmness I displayed. Several
times he was convulsed with the fury that laboured in his breast. Once
and again he betrayed an intention to interrupt; but he was restrained
by the collectedness of my manner, and perhaps by a desire to be
acquainted with the entire state of my mind. Finding that I had
concluded, he paused for a moment; his passion seemed gradually to
enlarge, till it was no longer capable of control.

"It is well!" said he, gnashing his teeth, and stamping upon the ground.
"You refuse the composition I offer! I have no power to persuade you to
compliance! You defy me! At least I have a power respecting you, and
that power I will exercise; a power that shall grind you into atoms. I
condescend to no more expostulation. I know what I am, and what I can
be. I know what you are, and what fate is reserved for you!"

Saying this he quitted the room.

Such were the particulars of this memorable scene. The impression it has
left upon my understanding is indelible. The figure and appearance of
Mr. Falkland, his death-like weakness and decay, his more than mortal
energy and rage, the words that he spoke, the motives that animated him,
produced one compounded effect upon my mind that nothing of the same
nature could ever parallel. The idea of his misery thrilled through my
frame. How weak in comparison of it is the imaginary hell, which the
great enemy of mankind is represented as carrying every where about with

From this consideration, my mind presently turned to the menaces he had
vented against myself. They were all mysterious and undefined. He had
talked of power, but had given no hint from which I could collect in
what he imagined it to consist. He had talked of misery, but had not
dropped a syllable respecting the nature of the misery to be inflicted.

I sat still for some time, ruminating on these thoughts. Neither Mr.
Falkland nor any other person appeared to disturb my meditations. I
rose, went out of the room, and from the inn into the street. No one
offered to molest me. It was strange! What was the nature of this
power, from which I was to apprehend so much, yet which seemed to leave
me at perfect liberty? I began to imagine that all I had heard from this
dreadful adversary was mere madness and extravagance, and that he was at
length deprived of the use of reason, which had long served him only as
a medium of torment. Yet was it likely in that case that he should be
able to employ Gines and his associate, who had just been his
instruments of violence upon my person?

I proceeded along the streets with considerable caution. I looked before
me and behind me, as well as the darkness would allow me to do, that I
might not again be hunted in sight by some men of stratagem and violence
without my perceiving it. I went not, as before, beyond the limits of
the town, but considered the streets, the houses, and the inhabitants,
as affording some degree of security. I was still walking with my mind
thus full of suspicion and forecast, when I discovered Thomas, that
servant of Mr. Falkland whom I have already more than once had occasion
to mention. He advanced towards me with an air so blunt and direct, as
instantly to remove from me the idea of any thing insidious in his
purpose; besides that I had always felt the character of Thomas, rustic
and uncultivated as it was, to be entitled to a more than common portion
of esteem.

"Thomas," said I, as he advanced, "I hope you are willing to give me
joy, that I am at length delivered from the dreadful danger which for
many months haunted me so unmercifully."

"No," rejoined Thomas, roughly; "I be not at all willing. I do not know
what to make of myself in this affair. While you were in prison in that
miserable fashion, I felt all at one almost as if I loved you: and now
that that is over, and you are turned out loose in the world to do your
worst, my blood rises at the very sight of you. To look at you, you are
almost that very lad Williams for whom I could with pleasure, as it
were, have laid down my life; and yet, behind that smiling face there
lie robbery, and lying, and every thing that is ungrateful and
murderous. Your last action was worse than all the rest. How could you
find in your heart to revive that cruel story about Mr. Tyrrel, which
every body had agreed, out of regard to the squire, never to mention
again, and of which I know, and you know, he is as innocent as the child
unborn? There are causes and reasons, or else I could have wished from
the bottom of my soul never to have set eyes on you again."

"And you still persist in your hard thoughts of me?"

"Worse! I think worse of you than ever! Before, I thought you as bad as
man could be. I wonder from my soul what you are to do next. But you
make good the old saying, 'Needs must go, that the devil drives.'"

"And so there is never to be an end of my misfortunes! What can Mr.
Falkland contrive for me worse than the ill opinion and enmity of all

"Mr. Falkland contrive! He is the best friend you have in the world,
though you are the basest traitor to him. Poor man! it makes one's heart
ache to look at him; he is the very image of grief. And it is not clear
to me that it is not all owing to you. At least you have given the
finishing lift to the misfortune that was already destroying him. There
have been the devil and all to pay between him and squire Forester. The
squire is right raving mad with my master, for having outwitted him in
the matter of the trial, and saved your life. He swears that you shall
be taken up and tried all over again at the next assizes; but my master
is resolute, and I believe will carry it his own way. He says indeed
that the law will not allow squire Forester to have his will in this. To
see him ordering every thing for your benefit, and taking all your
maliciousness as mild and innocent as a lamb, and to think of your vile
proceedings against him, is a sight one shall not see again, go all the
world over. For God's sake, repent of your reprobate doings, and make
what little reparation is in your power! Think of your poor soul, before
you awake, as to be sure one of these days you will, in fire and
brimstone everlasting!"

Saying this, he held out his hand and took hold of mine. The action
seemed strange; but I at first thought it the unpremeditated result of
his solemn and well-intended adjuration. I felt however that he put
something into my hand. The next moment he quitted his hold, and
hastened from me with the swiftness of an arrow. What he had thus given
me was a bank-note of twenty pounds. I had no doubt that he had been
charged to deliver it to me from Mr. Falkland.

What was I to infer? what light did it throw upon the intentions of my
inexorable persecutor? his animosity against me was as great as ever;
that I had just had confirmed to me from his own mouth. Yet his
animosity appeared to be still tempered with the remains of humanity. He
prescribed to it a line, wide enough to embrace the gratification of his
views, and within the boundaries of that line it stopped. But this
discovery carried no consolation to my mind. I knew not what portion of
calamity I was fated to endure, before his jealousy of dishonour, and
inordinate thirst of fame would deem themselves satisfied.

Another question offered itself. Was I to receive the money which had
just been put into my hands? the money of a man who had inflicted upon
me injuries, less than those which he had entailed upon himself, but the
greatest that one man can inflict upon another? who had blasted my
youth, who had destroyed my peace, who had held me up to the abhorrence
of mankind, and rendered me an outcast upon the face of the earth? who
had forced the basest and most atrocious falsehoods, and urged them with
a seriousness and perseverance which produced universal belief? who, an
hour before, had vowed against me inexorable enmity, and sworn to entail
upon me misery without end? Would not this conduct on my part betray a
base and abject spirit, that crouched under tyranny, and kissed the
hands that were imbrued in my blood?

If these reasons appeared strong, neither was the other side without
reasons in reply. I wanted the money: not for any purpose of vice or
superfluity, but for those purposes without which life cannot subsist.
Man ought to be able, wherever placed, to find for himself the means of
existence; but I was to open a new scene of life, to remove to some
distant spot, to be prepared against all the ill-will of mankind, and
the unexplored projects of hostility of a most accomplished foe. The
actual means of existence are the property of all. What should hinder me
from taking that of which I was really in want, when, in taking it, I
risked no vengeance, and perpetrated no violence? The property in
question will be beneficial to me, and the voluntary surrender of it is
accompanied with no injury to its late proprietor; what other condition
can be necessary to render the use of it on my part a duty? He that
lately possessed it has injured me; does that alter its value as a
medium of exchange? He will boast, perhaps of the imaginary obligation
he has conferred on me: surely to shrink from a thing in itself right
from any such apprehension, can be the result only of pusillanimity and


Influenced by these reasonings, I determined to retain what had thus
been put into my hands. My next care was in regard to the scene I should
choose, as the retreat of that life which I had just saved from the
grasp of the executioner. The danger to which I was exposed of forcible
interruption in my pursuits, was probably, in some respects, less now
than it had been previously to this crisis. Besides, that I was
considerably influenced in this deliberation by the strong loathing I
conceived for the situations in which I had lately been engaged. I knew
not in what mode Mr. Falkland intended to exercise his vengeance against
me; but I was seized with so unconquerable an aversion to disguise, and
the idea of spending my life in personating a fictitious character, that
I could not, for the present at least, reconcile my mind to any thing of
that nature. The same kind of disgust I had conceived for the
metropolis, where I had spent so many hours of artifice, sadness, and
terror. I therefore decided in favour of the project which had formerly
proved amusing to my imagination, of withdrawing to some distant, rural
scene, a scene of calmness and obscurity, where for a few years at
least, perhaps during the life of Mr. Falkland, I might be hidden from
the world, recover the wounds my mind had received in this fatal
connection, methodise and improve the experience which had been
accumulated, cultivate the faculties I in any degree possessed, and
employ the intervals of these occupations in simple industry, and the
intercourse of guileless, uneducated, kind-intentioned minds. The
menaces of my persecutor seemed to forebode the inevitable interruption
of this system. But I deemed it wise to put these menaces out of my
consideration I compared them to death, which must infallibly overtake
us we know not when; but the possibility of whose arrival next year,
next week, to-morrow, must be left out of the calculation of him who
would enter upon any important or well-concerted undertaking.

Such were the ideas that determined my choice. Thus did my youthful mind
delineate the system of distant years, even when the threats of instant
calamity still sounded in my ears. I was inured to the apprehension of
mischief, till at last the hoarse roarings of the beginning tempest had
lost their power of annihilating my peace. I however thought it
necessary, while I was most palpably within the sphere of the enemy, to
exert every practicable degree of vigilance. I was careful not to incur
the hazards of darkness and solitude. When I left the town it was with
the stage-coach, an obvious source of protection against glaring and
enormous violence. Meanwhile I found myself no more exposed to
molestation in my progress, than the man in the world who should have
had the least reason for apprehensions of this nature. As the distance
increased, I relaxed something in my precaution, though still awake to a
sense of danger, and constantly pursued with the image of my foe. I
fixed upon an obscure market-town in Wales as the chosen seat of my
operations. This place recommended itself to my observation as I was
wandering in quest of an abode. It was clean, cheerful, and of great
simplicity of appearance. It was at a distance from any public and
frequented road, and had nothing which could deserve the name of trade.
The face of nature around it was agreeably diversified, being partly
wild and romantic, and partly rich and abundant in production.

Here I solicited employment in two professions; the first, that of a
watchmaker, in which though the instructions I had received were few,
they were eked out and assisted by a mind fruitful in mechanical
invention; the other, that of an instructor in mathematics and its
practical application, geography, astronomy, land-surveying, and
navigation. Neither of these was a very copious source of emolument in
the obscure retreat I had chosen for myself; but, if my receipts were
slender, my disbursements were still fewer. In this little town I became
acquainted with the vicar, the apothecary, the lawyer, and the rest of
the persons who, time out of mind, had been regarded as the top gentry
of the place. Each of these centred in himself a variety of occupations.
There was little in the appearance of the vicar that reminded you of his
profession, except on the recurring Sunday. At other times he
condescended, with his evangelical hand to guide the plough, or to drive
the cows from the field to the farm-yard for the milking. The apothecary
occasionally officiated as a barber, and the lawyer was the village

By all these persons I was received with kindness and hospitality. Among
people thus remote from the bustle of human life there is an open spirit
of confidence, by means of which a stranger easily finds access to their
benevolence and good-will. My manners had never been greatly debauched
from the simplicity of rural life by the scenes through which I had
passed; and the hardships I had endured had given additional mildness to
my character. In the theatre upon which I was now placed I had no rival.
My mechanical occupation had hitherto been a non-resident; and the
schoolmaster, who did not aspire to the sublime heights of science I
professed to communicate, was willing to admit me as a partner in the
task of civilising the unpolished manners of the inhabitants. For the
parson, civilisation was no part of his trade; his business was with the
things of a better life, not with the carnal concerns of this material
scene; in truth, his thoughts were principally occupied with his oatmeal
and his cows.

These however were not the only companions which this remote retirement
afforded me. There was a family of a very different description, of
which I gradually became the chosen intimate. The father was a shrewd,
sensible, rational man, but who had turned his principal attention to
subjects of agriculture. His wife was a truly admirable and
extraordinary woman. She was the daughter of a Neapolitan nobleman, who,
after having visited, and made a considerable figure, in every country
in Europe, had at length received the blow of fate in this village. He
had been banished his country upon suspicion of religious and political
heresy, and his estates confiscated. With this only child, like Prospero
in the Tempest, he had withdrawn himself to one of the most obscure and
uncultivated regions of the world. Very soon however after his arrival
in Wales he had been seized with a malignant fever, which carried him
off in three days. He died possessed of no other property than a few
jewels, and a bill of credit, to no considerable amount, upon an English

Here then was the infant Laura, left in a foreign country, and without
a single friend. The father of her present husband was led by motives of
pure humanity to seek to mitigate the misfortunes of the dying Italian.
Though a plain uninstructed man, with no extraordinary refinement of
intellect, there was something in his countenance that determined the
stranger in his present forlorn and melancholy situation, to make him
his executor, and the guardian of his daughter. The Neapolitan
understood enough of English to explain his wishes to this friendly
attendant of his death-bed. As his circumstances were narrow, the
servants of the stranger, two Italians, a male and a female, were sent
back to their own country soon after the death of their master.

Laura was at this time eight years of age. At these tender years she had
been susceptible of little direct instruction; and, as she grew up, even
the memory of her father became, from year to year, more vague and
indistinct in her mind. But there was something she derived from her
father, whether along with the life he bestowed, or as the consequence
of his instruction and manners, which no time could efface. Every added
year of her life contributed to develop the fund of her accomplishments.
She read, she observed, she reflected. Without instructors, she taught
herself to draw, to sing, and to understand the more polite European
languages. As she had no society in this remote situation but that of
peasants, she had no idea of honour or superiority to be derived from
her acquisitions; but pursued them from a secret taste, and as the
sources of personal enjoyment.

A mutual attachment gradually arose between her and the only son of her
guardian. His father led him, from early youth, to the labours and the
sports of the field, and there was little congeniality between his
pursuits and those of Laura. But this was a defect that she was slow to
discover. She had never been accustomed to society in her chosen
amusements, and habit at that time even made her conceive, that they
were indebted to solitude for an additional relish. The youthful rustic
had great integrity, great kindness of heart, and was a lad of excellent
sense. He was florid, well-proportioned, and the goodness of his
disposition made his manners amiable. Accomplishments greater than these
she had never seen in human form, since the death of her father. In
fact, she is scarcely to be considered as a sufferer in this instance;
since, in her forlorn and destitute condition, it is little probable,
when we consider the habits and notions that now prevail, that her
accomplishments, unassisted by fortune, would have procured her an equal
alliance in marriage.

When she became a mother her heart opened to a new affection. The idea
now presented itself, which had never occurred before, that in her
children at least she might find the partners and companions of her
favourite employments. She was, at the time of my arrival, mother of
four, the eldest of which was a son. To all of them she had been a most
assiduous instructor. It was well for her perhaps that she obtained this
sphere for the exercise of her mind. It came just at the period when the
charm which human life derives from novelty is beginning to wear off. It
gave her new activity and animation. It is perhaps impossible that the
refinements of which human nature is capable should not, after a time,
subside into sluggishness, if they be not aided by the influence of
society and affection.

The son of the Welch farmer by this admirable woman was about seventeen
years of age at the time of my settlement in their neighbourhood. His
eldest sister was one year younger than himself. The whole family
composed a group, with which a lover of tranquillity and virtue would
have delighted to associate in any situation. It is easy therefore to
conceive how much I rejoiced in their friendship, in this distant
retirement, and suffering, as I felt myself, from the maltreatment and
desertion of my species. The amiable Laura had a wonderful quickness of
eye, and rapidity of apprehension; but this feature in her countenance
was subdued by a sweetness of disposition, such as I never in any other
instance saw expressed in the looks of a human being. She soon
distinguished me by her kindness and friendship; for, living as she had
done, though familiar with the written productions of a cultivated
intellect, she had never seen the thing itself realised in a living
being, except in the person of her father. She delighted to converse
with me upon subjects of literature and taste, and she eagerly invited
my assistance in the education of her children. The son, though young,
had been so happily improved and instructed by his mother, that I found
in him nearly all the most essential qualities we require in a friend.
Engagement and inclination equally led me to pass a considerable part of
every day in this agreeable society. Laura treated me as if I had been
one of the family; and I sometimes flattered myself that I might one day
become such in reality. What an enviable resting-place for me, who had
known nothing but calamity, and had scarcely dared to look for sympathy
and kindness in the countenance of a human being!

The sentiments of friendship which early disclosed themselves between me
and the member of this amiable family daily became stronger. At every
interview, the confidence reposed in me by the mother increased. While
our familiarity gained in duration, it equally gained in that subtlety
of communication by which it seemed to shoot forth its roots in every
direction. There are a thousand little evanescent touches in the
development of a growing friendship, that are neither thought of, nor
would be understood, between common acquaintances. I honoured and
esteemed the respectable Laura like a mother; for, though the difference
of our ages was by no means sufficient to authorise the sentiment, it
was irresistibly suggested to me by the fact of her always being
presented to my observation under the maternal character. Her son was a
lad of great understanding, generosity, and feeling, and of no
contemptible acquirements; while his tender years, and the uncommon
excellence of his mother, subtracted something from the independence of
his judgment, and impressed him with a sort of religious deference for
her will. In the eldest daughter I beheld the image of Laura; for that I
felt attached to her for the present; and I sometimes conceived it
probable that hereafter I might learn to love her for her own
sake--Alas, it was thus that I amused myself with the visions of distant
years, while I stood in reality on the brink of the precipice!

It will perhaps be thought strange that I never once communicated the
particulars of my story to this amiable matron, or to my young friend,
for such I may also venture to call him, her son. But in truth I
abhorred the memory of this story; I placed all my hopes of happiness in
the prospect of its being consigned to oblivion. I fondly flattered
myself that such would be the event: in the midst of my unlooked-for
happiness, I scarcely recollected, or, recollecting, was disposed to
yield but a small degree of credit to, the menaces of Mr. Falkland.

One day, that I was sitting alone with the accomplished Laura, she
repeated his all-dreadful name. I started with astonishment, amazed
that a woman like this, who knew nobody, who lived as it were alone in a
corner of the universe, who had never in a single instance entered into
any fashionable circle, this admirable and fascinating hermit, should,
by some unaccountable accident, have become acquainted with this fatal
and tremendous name. Astonishment however was not my only sensation. I
became pale with terror; I rose from my seat; I attempted to sit down
again; I reeled out of the room, and hastened to bury myself in
solitude. The unexpectedness of the incident took from me all
precaution, and overwhelmed my faculties. The penetrating Laura observed
my behaviour; but nothing further occurred to excite her attention to it
at that time; and, concluding from my manner that enquiry would be
painful to me, she humanely suppressed her curiosity.

I afterwards found that Mr. Falkland had been known to the father of
Laura; that he had been acquainted with the story of Count Malvesi, and
with a number of other transactions redounding in the highest degree to
the credit of the gallant Englishman. The Neapolitan had left letters in
which these transactions were recorded, and which spoke of Mr. Falkland
in the highest terms of panegyric. Laura had been used to regard every
little relic of her father with a sort of religious veneration; and, by
this accident, the name of Mr. Falkland was connected in her mind with
the sentiments of unbounded esteem.

The scene by which I was surrounded was perhaps more grateful to me,
than it would have been to most other persons with my degree of
intellectual cultivation. Sore with persecution and distress, and
bleeding at almost every vein, there was nothing I so much coveted as
rest and tranquillity. It seemed as if my faculties were, at least for
the time, exhausted by the late preternatural intensity of their
exertions, and that they stood indispensably in need of a period of
comparative suspension.

This was however but a temporary feeling. My mind had always been
active, and I was probably indebted to the sufferings I had endured, and
the exquisite and increased susceptibility they produced, for new
energies. I soon felt the desire of some additional and vigorous
pursuit. In this state of mind, I met by accident, in a neglected corner
of the house of one of my neighbours, with a general dictionary of four
of the northern languages. This incident gave a direction to my
thoughts. In my youth I had not been inattentive to languages. I
determined to attempt, at least for my own use, an etymological analysis
of the English language. I easily perceived, that this pursuit had one
advantage to a person in my situation, and that a small number of books,
consulted with this view, would afford employment for a considerable
time. I procured other dictionaries. In my incidental reading, I noted
the manner in which words were used, and applied these remarks to the
illustration of my general enquiry. I was unintermitted in my assiduity,
and my collections promised to accumulate. Thus I was provided with
sources both of industry and recreation, the more completely to divert
my thoughts from the recollection of my past misfortunes.

In this state, so grateful to my feelings, week after week glided away
without interruption and alarm. The situation in which I was now placed
had some resemblance to that in which I had spent my earlier years, with
the advantage of a more attractive society, and a riper judgment. I
began to look back upon the intervening period as upon a distempered and
tormenting dream; or rather perhaps my feelings were like those of a
man recovered from an interval of raging delirium, from ideas of horror,
confusion, flight, persecution, agony, and despair! When I recollected
what I had undergone, it was not without satisfaction, as the
recollection of a thing that was past; every day augmented my hope that
it was never to return. Surely the dark and terrific menaces of Mr.
Falkland were rather the perturbed suggestions of his angry mind, than
the final result of a deliberate and digested system! How happy should I
feel, beyond the ordinary lot of man, if, after the terrors I had
undergone, I should now find myself unexpectedly restored to the
immunities of a human being!

While I was thus soothing my mind with fond imaginations, it happened
that a few bricklayers and their labourers came over from a distance of
five or six miles, to work upon some additions to one of the better sort
of houses in the town, which had changed its tenant. No incident could
be more trivial than this, had it not been for a strange coincidence of
time between this circumstance, and a change which introduced itself
into my situation. This first manifested itself in a sort of shyness
with which I was treated, first by one person, and then another, of my
new-formed acquaintance. They were backward to enter into conversation
with me, and answered my enquiries with an awkward and embarrassed air.
When they met me in the street or the field, their countenances
contracted a cloud, and they endeavoured to shun me. My scholars quitted
me one after another; and I had no longer any employment in my
mechanical profession. It is impossible to describe the sensations,
which the gradual but uninterrupted progress of this revolution produced
in my mind. It seemed as if I had some contagious disease, from which
every man shrunk with alarm, and left me to perish unassisted and alone.
I asked one man and another to explain to me the meaning of these
appearances; but every one avoided the task, and answered in an evasive
and ambiguous manner. I sometimes supposed that it was all a delusion of
the imagination; till the repetition of the sensation brought the
reality too painfully home to my apprehension. There are few things that
give a greater shock to the mind, than a phenomenon in the conduct of
our fellow men, of great importance to our concerns, and for which we
are unable to assign any plausible reason. At times I was half inclined
to believe that the change was not in other men, but that some
alienation of my own understanding generated the horrid vision. I
endeavoured to awaken from my dream, and return to my former state of
enjoyment and happiness; but in vain. To the same consideration it may
be ascribed, that, unacquainted with the source of the evil, observing
its perpetual increase, and finding it, so far as I could perceive,
entirely arbitrary in its nature, I was unable to ascertain its limits,
or the degree in which it would finally overwhelm me.

In the midst however of the wonderful and seemingly inexplicable nature
of this scene, there was one idea that instantly obtruded itself, and
that I could never after banish from my mind. It is Falkland! In vain I
struggled against the seeming improbability of the supposition. In vain
I said, "Mr. Falkland, wise as he is, and pregnant in resources, acts by
human, not by supernatural means. He may overtake me by surprise, and in
a manner of which I had no previous expectation; but he cannot produce a
great and notorious effect without some visible agency, however
difficult it may be to trace that agency to its absolute author. He
cannot, like those invisible personages who are supposed from time to
time to interfere in human affairs, ride in the whirlwind, shroud
himself in clouds and impenetrable darkness, and scatter destruction
upon the earth from his secret habitation." Thus it was that I bribed my
imagination, and endeavoured to persuade myself that my present
unhappiness originated in a different source from my former. All evils
appeared trivial to me, in comparison with the recollection and
perpetuation of my parent misfortune. I felt like a man distracted, by
the incoherence of my ideas to my present situation, excluding from it
the machinations of Mr. Falkland, on the one hand; and on the other, by
the horror I conceived at the bare possibility of again encountering his
animosity, after a suspension of many weeks, a suspension as I had hoped
for ever. An interval like this was an age to a person in the calamitous
situation I had so long experienced. But, in spite of my efforts, I
could not banish from my mind the dreadful idea. My original conceptions
of the genius and perseverance of Mr. Falkland had been such, that I
could with difficulty think any thing impossible to him. I knew not how
to set up my own opinions of material causes and the powers of the human
mind, as the limits of existence. Mr. Falkland had always been to my
imagination an object of wonder, and that which excites our wonder we
scarcely suppose ourselves competent to analyse.

It may well be conceived, that one of the first persons to whom I
thought of applying for an explanation of this dreadful mystery was the
accomplished Laura. My disappointment here cut me to the heart. I was
not prepared for it. I recollected the ingenuousness of her nature, the
frankness of her manners, the partiality with which she had honoured me.
If I were mortified with the coldness, the ruggedness, and the cruel
mistake of principles with which the village inhabitants repelled my
enquiries, the mortification I suffered, only drove me more impetuously
to seek the cure of my griefs from this object of my admiration. "In
Laura," said I, "I am secure from these vulgar prejudices. I confide in
her justice. I am sure she will not cast me off unheard, nor without
strictly examining a question on all sides, in which every thing that is
valuable to a person she once esteemed, may be involved."

Thus encouraging myself, I turned my steps to the place of her
residence. As I passed along I called up all my recollection, I summoned
my faculties. "I may be made miserable," said I, "but it shall not be
for want of any exertion of mine, that promises to lead to happiness. I
will be clear, collected, simple in narrative, ingenuous in
communication. I will leave nothing unsaid that the case may require. I
will not volunteer any thing that relates to my former transactions with
Mr. Falkland; but, if I find that my present calamity is connected with
those transactions, I will not fear but that by an honest explanation I
shall remove it."

I knocked at the door. A servant appeared, and told me that her mistress
hoped I would excuse her; she must really beg to dispense with my visit.

I was thunderstruck. I was rooted to the spot. I had been carefully
preparing my mind for every thing that I supposed likely to happen, but
this event had not entered into my calculations. I roused myself in a
partial degree, and walked away without uttering a word.

I had not gone far before I perceived one of the workmen following me,
who put into my hands a billet. The contents were these:--


"Let me see you no more. I have a right at least to expect your
compliance with this requisition; and, upon that condition, I pardon the
enormous impropriety and guilt with which you have conducted yourself to
me and my family.


The sensations with which I read these few lines are indescribable. I
found in them a dreadful confirmation of the calamity that on all sides
invaded me. But what I felt most was the unmoved coldness with which
they appeared to be written. This coldness from Laura, my comforter, my
friend, my mother! To dismiss, to cast me off for ever, without one
thought of compunction!

I determined however, in spite of her requisition, and in spite of her
coldness, to have an explanation with her. I did not despair of
conquering the antipathy she harboured. I did not fear that I should
rouse her from the vulgar and unworthy conception, of condemning a man,
in points the most material to his happiness, without stating the
accusations that are urged against him, and without hearing him in

Though I had no doubt, by means of resolution, of gaining access to her
in her house, yet I preferred taking her unprepared, and not warmed
against me by any previous contention. Accordingly, the next morning, at
the time she usually devoted to half an hour's air and exercise, I
hastened to her garden, leaped the paling, and concealed myself in an
arbour. Presently I saw, from my retreat, the younger part of the family
strolling through the garden, and from thence into the fields; but it
was not my business to be seen by them. I looked after them however with
earnestness, unobserved; and I could not help asking myself, with a
deep and heartfelt sigh, whether it were possible that I saw them now
for the last time?

They had not advanced far into the fields, before their mother made her
appearance. I observed in her her usual serenity and sweetness of
countenance. I could feel my heart knocking against my ribs. My whole
frame was in a tumult. I stole out of the arbour; and, as I advanced
nearer, my pace became quickened.

"For God's sake, madam," exclaimed I, "give me a hearing! Do not avoid

She stood still. "No, sir," she replied, "I shall not avoid you. I
wished you to dispense with this meeting; but since I cannot obtain
that--I am conscious of no wrong; and therefore, though the meeting
gives me pain, it inspires me with no fear."

"Oh, madam," answered I, "my friend! the object of all my reverence!
whom I once ventured to call my mother! can you wish not to hear me? Can
yon have no anxiety for my justification, whatever may be the
unfavourable impression you may have received against me?"

"Not an atom. I have neither wish nor inclination to hear you. That tale
which, in its plain and unadorned state, is destructive of the character
of him to whom it relates, no colouring can make an honest one."

"Good God! Can you think of condemning a man when you have heard only
one side of his story?"

"Indeed I can," replied she with dignity. "The maxim of hearing both
sides may be very well in some cases; but it would be ridiculous to
suppose that there are not cases, that, at the first mention, are too
clear to admit the shadow of a doubt. By a well-concerted defence you
may give me new reasons to admire your abilities; but I am acquainted
with them already. I can admire your abilities, without tolerating your

"Madam! Amiable, exemplary Laura! whom, in the midst of all your
harshness and inflexibility, I honour! I conjure you, by every thing
that is sacred, to tell me what it is that has filled you with this
sudden aversion to me."

"No, sir; that you shall never obtain from me. I have nothing to say to
you. I stand still and hear you; because virtue disdains to appear
abashed and confounded in the presence of vice. Your conduct even at
this moment, in my opinion, condemns you. True virtue refuses the
drudgery of explanation and apology. True virtue shines by its own
light, and needs no art to set it off. You have the first principles of
morality as yet to learn."

"And can you imagine, that the most upright conduct is always superior
to the danger of ambiguity?"

"Exactly so. Virtue, sir, consists in actions, and not in words. The
good man and the bad are characters precisely opposite, not characters
distinguished from each other by imperceptible shades. The Providence
that rules us all, has not permitted us to be left without a clew in the
most important of all questions. Eloquence may seek to confound it; but
it shall be my care to avoid its deceptive influence. I do not wish to
have my understanding perverted, and all the differences of things
concealed from my apprehension."

"Madam, madam! it would be impossible for you to hold this language, if
you had not always lived in this obscure retreat, if you had ever been
conversant with the passions and institutions of men."

"It may be so. And, if that be the case, I have great reason to be
thankful to my God, who has thus enabled me to preserve the innocence of
my heart, and the integrity of my understanding."

"Can you believe then that ignorance is the only, or the safest,
preservative of integrity?"

"Sir, I told you at first, and I repeat to you again, that all your
declamation is in vain. I wish you would have saved me and yourself that
pain which is the only thing that can possibly result from it. But let
us suppose that virtue could ever be the equivocal thing you would have
me believe. Is it possible, if you had been honest, that you would not
have acquainted me with your story? Is it possible, that you would have
left me to have been informed of it by a mere accident, and with all the
shocking aggravations you well knew that accident would give it? Is it
possible you should have violated the most sacred of all trusts, and
have led me unknowingly to admit to the intercourse of my children a
character, which if, as you pretend, it is substantially honest, you
cannot deny to be blasted and branded in the face of the whole world?
Go, sir; I despise you. You are a monster and not a man. I cannot tell
whether my personal situation misleads me; but, to my thinking, this
last action of yours is worse than all the rest. Nature has constituted
me the protector of my children. I shall always remember and resent the
indelible injury you have done them. You have wounded me to the very
heart, and have taught me to what a pitch the villainy of man can

"Madam, I can be silent no longer. I see that you have by some means
come to a hearing of the story of Mr. Falkland."

"I have. I am astonished you have the effrontery to pronounce his name.
That name has been a denomination, as far back as my memory can reach,
for the most exalted of mortals, the wisest and most generous of men."

"Madam, I owe it to myself to set you right on this subject. Mr.

"Mr. Williams, I see my children returning from the fields, and coming
this way. The basest action you ever did was the obtruding yourself upon
them as an instructor. I insist that you see them no more. I command you
to be silent. I command you to withdraw. If you persist in your absurd
resolution of expostulating with me, you must take some other time."

I could continue no longer. I was in a manner heart-broken through the
whole of this dialogue. I could not think of protracting the pain of
this admirable woman, upon whom, though I was innocent of the crimes she
imputed to me, I had inflicted so much pain already. I yielded to the
imperiousness of her commands, and withdrew.

I hastened, without knowing why, from the presence of Laura to my own
habitation. Upon entering the house, an apartment of which I occupied, I
found it totally deserted of its usual inhabitants. The woman and her
children were gone to enjoy the freshness of the breeze. The husband was
engaged in his usual out-door occupations. The doors of persons of the
lower order in this part of the country are secured, in the day-time,
only with a latch. I entered, and went into the kitchen of the family.
Here, as I looked round, my eyes accidentally glanced upon a paper lying
in one corner, which, by some association I was unable to explain,
roused in me a strong sensation of suspicion and curiosity. I eagerly
went towards it, caught it up, and found it to be the very paper of the
which, towards the close of my residence in London, had produced in me
such inexpressible anguish.

This encounter at once cleared up all the mystery that hung upon my late
transactions. Abhorred and intolerable certainty succeeded to the doubts
which had haunted my mind. It struck me with the rapidity of lightning.
I felt a sudden torpor and sickness that pervaded every fibre of my

Was there no hope that remained for me? Was acquittal useless? Was there
no period, past or in prospect, that could give relief to my sufferings?
Was the odious and atrocious falsehood that had been invented against
me, to follow me wherever I went, to strip me of character, to deprive
me of the sympathy and good-will of mankind, to wrest from me the very
bread by which life must be sustained?

For the space perhaps of half an hour the agony I felt from this
termination to my tranquillity, and the expectation it excited of the
enmity which would follow me through every retreat, was such as to
bereave me of all consistent thinking, much more of the power of coming
to any resolution. As soon as this giddiness and horror of the mind
subsided, and the deadly calm that invaded my faculties was no more, one
stiff and master gale gained the ascendancy, and drove me to an instant
desertion of this late cherished retreat. I had no patience to enter
into further remonstrance and explanation with the inhabitants of my
present residence. I believed that it was in vain to hope to recover the
favourable prepossession and tranquillity I had lately enjoyed. In
encountering the prejudices that were thus armed against me, I should
have to deal with a variety of dispositions, and, though I might succeed
with some, I could not expect to succeed with all. I had seen too much
of the reign of triumphant falsehood, to have that sanguine confidence
in the effects of my innocence, which would have suggested itself to the
mind of any other person of my propensities and my age. The recent
instance which had occurred in my conversation with Laura might well
contribute to discourage me. I could not endure the thought of opposing
the venom that was thus scattered against me, in detail and through its
minuter particles. If ever it should be necessary to encounter it, if I
were pursued like a wild beast, till I could no longer avoid turning
upon my hunters, I would then turn upon the true author of this
unprincipled attack; I would encounter the calumny in its strong hold; I
would rouse myself to an exertion hitherto unessayed; and, by the
firmness, intrepidity, and unalterable constancy I should display, would
yet compel mankind to believe Mr. Falkland a suborner and a murderer!


I hasten to the conclusion of my melancholy story. I began to write soon
after the period to which I have now conducted it. This was another
resource that my mind, ever eager in inventing means to escape from my
misery, suggested. In my haste to withdraw myself from the retreat in
Wales, where first the certainty of Mr. Falkland's menaces was confirmed
to me, I left behind me the apparatus of my etymological enquiries, and
the papers I had written upon the subject. I have never been able to
persuade myself to resume this pursuit. It is always discouraging, to
begin over again a laborious task, and exert one's self to recover a
position we had already occupied. I knew not how soon or how abruptly I
might be driven from any new situation; the appendages of the study in
which I had engaged were too cumbrous for this state of dependence and
uncertainty; they only served to give new sharpness to the enmity of my
foe, and new poignancy to my hourly-renewing distress.

But what was of greatest importance, and made the deepest impression
upon my mind, was my separation from the family of Laura. Fool that I
was, to imagine that there was any room for me in the abodes of
friendship and tranquillity! It was now first, that I felt, with the
most intolerable acuteness, how completely I was cut off from the whole
human species. Other connections I had gained, comparatively without
interest; and I saw them dissolved without the consummation of agony. I
had never experienced the purest refinements of friendship, but in two
instances, that of Collins, and this of the family of Laura. Solitude,
separation, banishment! These are words often in the mouths of human
beings; but few men except myself have felt the full latitude of their
meaning. The pride of philosophy has taught us to treat man as an
individual. He is no such thing. He holds necessarily, indispensably, to
his species. He is like those twin-births, that have two heads indeed,
and four hands; but, if you attempt to detach them from each other, they
are inevitably subjected to miserable and lingering destruction.

It was this circumstance, more than all the rest, that gradually gorged
my heart with abhorrence of Mr. Falkland. I could not think of his name
but with a sickness and a loathing that seemed more than human. It was
by his means that I suffered the loss of one consolation after another,
of every thing that was happiness, or that had the resemblance of

The writing of these memoirs served me as a source of avocation for
several years. For some time I had a melancholy satisfaction in it. I
was better pleased to retrace the particulars of calamities that had
formerly afflicted me, than to look forward, as at other times I was too
apt to do, to those by which I might hereafter be overtaken. I conceived
that my story, faithfully digested, would carry in it an impression of
truth that few men would be able to resist; or, at worst, that, by
leaving it behind me when I should no longer continue to exist,
posterity might be induced to do me justice; and, seeing in my example
what sort of evils are entailed upon mankind by society as it is at
present constituted, might be inclined to turn their attention upon the
fountain from which such bitter waters have been accustomed to flow. But
these motives have diminished in their influence. I have contracted a
disgust for life and all its appendages. Writing, which was at first a
pleasure, is changed into a burthen. I shall compress into a small
compass what remains to be told.

I discovered, not long after the period of which I am speaking, the
precise cause of the reverse I had experienced in my residence in Wales,
and, included in that cause, what it was I had to look for in my future
adventures. Mr. Falkland had taken the infernal Gines into his pay, a
man critically qualified for the service in which he was now engaged, by
the unfeeling brutality of his temper, by his habits of mind at once
audacious and artful, and by the peculiar animosity and vengeance he had
conceived against me. The employment to which this man was hired, was
that of following me from place to place, blasting my reputation, and
preventing me from the chance, by continuing long in one residence, of
acquiring a character for integrity, that should give new weight to any
accusation I might at a future time be induced to prefer. Ho had come to
the seat of my residence with the bricklayers and labourers I have
mentioned; and, while he took care to keep out of sight so far as
related to me, was industrious in disseminating that which, in the eye
of the world, seemed to amount to a demonstration of the profligacy and
detestableness of my character. It was no doubt from him that the
detested scroll had been procured, which I had found in my habitation
immediately prior to my quitting it. In all this Mr. Falkland, reasoning
upon his principles, was only employing a necessary precaution. There
was something in the temper of his mind, that impressed him with
aversion to the idea of violently putting an end to my existence; at the
same time that unfortunately he could never deem himself sufficiently
secured against my recrimination, so long as I remained alive. As to the
fact of Gines being retained by him for this tremendous purpose, he by
no means desired that it should become generally known; but neither did
he look upon the possibility of its being known with terror. It was
already too notorious for his wishes, that I had advanced the most
odious charges against him. If he regarded me with abhorrence as the
adversary of his fame, those persons who had had occasion to be in any
degree acquainted with our history, did not entertain less abhorrence
against me for my own sake. If they should at any time know the pains he
exerted in causing my evil reputation to follow me, they would consider
it as an act of impartial justice, perhaps as a generous anxiety to
prevent other men from being imposed upon and injured, as he had been.

What expedient was I to employ for the purpose of counteracting the
meditated and barbarous prudence, which was thus destined, in all
changes of scene, to deprive me of the benefits and consolations of
human society? There was one expedient against which I was absolutely
determined--disguise. I had experienced so many mortifications, and such
intolerable restraint, when I formerly had recourse to it; it was
associated in my memory with sensations of such acute anguish, that my
mind was thus far entirely convinced: life was not worth purchasing at
so high a price! But, though in this respect I was wholly resolved,
there was another point that did not appear so material, and in which
therefore I was willing to accommodate myself to circumstances. I was
contented, if that would insure my peace, to submit to the otherwise
unmanly expedient of passing by a different name.

But the change of my name, the abruptness with which I removed from
place to place, the remoteness and the obscurity which I proposed to
myself in the choice of my abode, were all insufficient to elude the
sagacity of Gines, or the unrelenting constancy with which Mr. Falkland
incited my tormentor to pursue me. Whithersoever I removed myself it was
not long before I had occasion to perceive this detested adversary in my
rear. No words can enable me to do justice to the sensations which this
circumstance produced in me. It was like what has been described of the
eye of Omniscience, pursuing the guilty sinner, and darting a ray that
awakens him to new sensibility, at the very moment that, otherwise,
exhausted nature would lull him into a temporary oblivion of the
reproaches of his conscience. Sleep fled from my eyes. No walls could
hide me from the discernment of this hated foe. Every where his industry
was unwearied to create for me new distress. Rest I had none; relief I
had none: never could I count upon an instant's security; never could I
wrap myself in the shroud of oblivion. The minutes in which I did not
actually perceive him, were contaminated and blasted with the certain
expectation of his speedy interference. In my first retreat I had passed
a few weeks of delusive tranquillity, but never after was I happy enough
to attain to so much as that shadowy gratification. I spent some years
in this dreadful vicissitude of pain. My sensations at certain periods
amounted to insanity.

I pursued in every succeeding instance the conduct I had adopted at
first. I determined never to enter into a contest of accusation and
defence with the execrable Gines. If I could have submitted to it in
other respects, what purpose would it answer? I should have but an
imperfect and mutilated story to tell. This story had succeeded with
persons already prepossessed in my favour by personal intercourse; but
could it succeed with strangers? It had succeeded so long as I was able
to hide myself from my pursuers; but could it succeed now, that this
appeared impracticable, and that they proceeded by arming against me a
whole vicinity at once?

It is inconceivable the mischiefs that this kind of existence included.
Why should I insist upon such aggravations as hunger, beggary, and
external wretchedness? These were an inevitable consequence. It was by
the desertion of mankind that, in each successive instance, I was made
acquainted with my fate. Delay in such a moment served but to increase
the evil; and when I fled, meagreness and penury were the ordinary
attendants of my course. But this was a small consideration. Indignation
at one time, and unconquerable perseverance at another, sustained me,
where humanity, left to itself, would probably have sunk.

It has already appeared that I was not of a temper to endure calamity,
without endeavouring, by every means I could devise, to elude and disarm
it. Recollecting, as I was habituated to do, the various projects by
which my situation could be meliorated, the question occurred to me,
"Why should I be harassed by the pursuits of this Gines? Why, man to
man, may I not, by the powers of my mind, attain the ascendancy over
him? At present he appears to be the persecutor, and I the persecuted:
is not this difference the mere creature of the imagination? May I not
employ my ingenuity to vex him with difficulties, and laugh at the
endless labour to which he will be condemned?"

Alas, this is a speculation for a mind at ease! It is not the
persecution, but the catastrophe which is annexed to it, that makes the
difference between the tyrant and the sufferer! In mere corporal
exertion the hunter perhaps is upon a level with the miserable animal he
pursues! But could it be forgotten by either of us, that at every stage
Gines was to gratify his malignant passions, by disseminating charges of
the most infamous nature, and exciting against me the abhorrence of
every honest bosom, while I was to sustain the still-repeated
annihilation of my peace, my character, and my bread? Could I, by any
refinement of reason, convert this dreadful series into sport? I had no
philosophy that qualified me for so extraordinary an effort. If, under
other circumstances, I could even have entertained so strange an
imagination, I was restrained in the present instance by the necessity
of providing for myself the means of subsistence, and the fetters which,
through that necessity, the forms of human society imposed upon my

In one of those changes of residence, to which my miserable fate
repeatedly compelled me, I met, upon a road which I was obliged to
traverse, the friend of my youth, my earliest and best beloved friend,
the venerable Collins. It was one of those misfortunes which served to
accumulate my distress, that this man had quitted the island of Great
Britain only a very few weeks before that fatal reverse of fortune which
had ever since pursued me with unrelenting eagerness. Mr. Falkland, in
addition to the large estate he possessed in England, had a very
valuable plantation in the West Indies. This property had been greatly
mismanaged by the person who had the direction of it on the spot; and,
after various promises and evasions on his part, which, however they
might serve to beguile the patience of Mr. Falkland, had been attended
with no salutary fruits, it was resolved that Mr. Collins should go over
in person, to rectify the abuses which had so long prevailed. There had
even been some idea of his residing several years, if not settling
finally, upon the plantation. From that hour to the present I had never
received the smallest intelligence respecting him.

I had always considered the circumstance of his critical absence as one
of my severest misfortunes. Mr. Collins had been one of the first
persons, even in the period of my infancy, to conceive hopes of me, as
of something above the common standard; and had contributed more than
any other to encourage and assist my juvenile studies. He had been the
executor of the little property of my father, who had fixed upon him for
that purpose in consideration of the mutual affection that existed
between us; and I seemed, on every account, to have more claim upon his
protection than upon that of any other human being. I had always
believed that, had he been present in the crisis of my fortune, he would
have felt a conviction of my innocence; and, convinced himself, would,
by means of the venerableness and energy of his character, have
interposed so effectually, as to have saved me the greater part of my
subsequent misfortunes.

There was yet another idea in my mind relative to this subject, which
had more weight with me, than even the substantial exertions of
friendship I should have expected from him. The greatest aggravation of
my present lot was, that I was cut off from the friendship of mankind. I
can safely affirm, that poverty and hunger, that endless wanderings,
that a blasted character and the curses that clung to my name, were all
of them slight misfortunes compared to this. I endeavoured to sustain
myself by the sense of my integrity, but the voice of no man upon earth
echoed to the voice of my conscience. "I called aloud; but there was
none to answer; there was none that regarded." To me the whole world was
unhearing as the tempest, and as cold as the torpedo. Sympathy, the
magnetic virtue, the hidden essence of our life, was extinct. Nor was
this the sum of my misery. This food, so essential to an intelligent
existence, seemed perpetually renewing before me in its fairest colours,
only the more effectually to elude my grasp, and to mock my hunger. From
time to time I was prompted to unfold the affections of my soul, only to
be repelled with the greater anguish, and to be baffled in a way the
most intolerably mortifying.

No sight therefore could give me a purer delight than that which now
presented itself to my eyes. It was some time however, before either of
us recognised the person of the other. Ten years had elapsed since our
last interview. Mr. Collins looked much older than he had done at that
period; in addition to which, he was, in his present appearance, pale,
sickly, and thin. These unfavourable effects had been produced by the
change of climate, particularly trying to persons in an advanced period
of life. Add to which, I supposed him to be at that moment in the West
Indies. I was probably as much altered in the period that had elapsed as
he had been. I was the first to recollect him. He was on horseback; I on
foot. I had suffered him to pass me. In a moment the full idea of who he
was rushed upon my mind; I ran; I called with an impetuous voice; I was
unable to restrain the vehemence of my emotions.

The ardour of my feelings disguised my usual tone of speaking, which
otherwise Mr. Collins would infallibly have recognised. His sight was
already dim; he pulled up his horse till I should overtake him; and then
said, "Who are you? I do not know you."

"My father!" exclaimed I, embracing one of his knees with fervour and
delight, "I am your son; once your little Caleb, whom you a thousand
times loaded with your kindness!"

The unexpected repetition of my name gave a kind of shuddering emotion
to my friend, which was however checked by his age, and the calm and
benevolent philosophy that formed one of his most conspicuous habits.

"I did not expect to see you!" replied he: "I did not wish it!"

"My best, my oldest friend!" answered I, respect blending itself with my
impatience, "do not say so! I have not a friend any where in the whole
world but you! In you at least let me find sympathy and reciprocal
affection! If you knew how anxiously I have thought of you during the
whole period of your absence, you would not thus grievously disappoint
me in your return!"

"How is it," said Mr. Collins, gravely, "that you have been reduced to
this forlorn condition? Was it not the inevitable consequence of your
own actions?"

"The actions of others, not mine! Does not your heart tell you that I am

"No. My observation of your early character taught me that you would be
extraordinary; but, unhappily, all extraordinary men are not good men:
that seems to be a lottery, dependent on circumstances apparently the
most trivial."

"Will you hear my justification? I am as sure as I am of my existence,
that I can convince you of my purity."

"Certainly, if you require it, I will hear you. But that must not be
just now. I could have been glad to decline it wholly. At my age I am
not fit for the storm; and I am not so sanguine as you in my expectation
of the result. Of what would you convince me? That Mr. Falkland is a
suborner and murderer?"

I made no answer. My silence was an affirmative to the question.

"And what benefit will result from this conviction? I have known you a
promising boy, whose character might turn to one side or the other as
events should decide. I have known Mr. Falkland in his maturer years,
and have always admired him, as the living model of liberality and
goodness. If you could change all my ideas, and show me that there was
no criterion by which vice might be prevented from being mistaken for
virtue, what benefit would arise from that? I must part with all my
interior consolation, and all my external connections. And for what?
What is it you propose? The death of Mr. Falkland by the hands of the

"No; I will not hurt a hair of his head, unless compelled to it by a
principle of defence. But surely you owe me justice?"

"What justice? The justice of proclaiming your innocence? You know what
consequences are annexed to that. But I do not believe I shall find you
innocent. If you even succeed in perplexing my understanding, you will
not succeed in enlightening it. Such is the state of mankind, that
innocence, when involved in circumstances of suspicion, can scarcely
ever make out a demonstration of its purity; and guilt can often make us
feel an insurmountable reluctance to the pronouncing it guilt.
Meanwhile, for the purchase of this uncertainty, I must sacrifice all
the remaining comforts of my life. I believe Mr. Falkland to be
virtuous; but I know him to be prejudiced. He would never forgive me
even this accidental parley, if by any means he should come to be
acquainted with it."

"Oh, argue not the consequences that are possible to result!" answered
I, impatiently, "I have a right to your kindness; I have a right to your

"You have them. You have them to a certain degree; and it is not likely
that, by any process of examination, you can have them entire. You know
my habits of thinking. I regard you as vicious; but I do not consider
the vicious as proper objects of indignation and scorn. I consider you
as a machine; you are not constituted, I am afraid, to be greatly useful
to your fellow men: but you did not make yourself; you are just what
circumstances irresistibly compelled you to be. I am sorry for your ill
properties; but I entertain no enmity against you, nothing but
benevolence. Considering you in the light in which I at present consider
you, I am ready to contribute every thing in my power to your real
advantage, and would gladly assist you, if I knew how, in detecting and
extirpating the errors that have misled you. You have disappointed me,
but I have no reproaches to utter: it is more necessary for me to feel
compassion for you, than that I should accumulate your misfortune by my

What could I say to such a man as this? Amiable, incomparable man! Never
was my mind more painfully divided than at that moment. The more he
excited my admiration, the more imperiously did my heart command me,
whatever were the price it should cost, to extort his friendship. I was
persuaded that severe duty required of him, that he should reject all
personal considerations, that he should proceed resolutely to the
investigation of the truth, and that, if he found the result terminating
in my favour, he should resign all his advantages, and, deserted as I
was by the world, make a common cause, and endeavour to compensate the
general injustice. But was it for me to force this conduct upon him, if,
now in his declining years, his own fortitude shrank from it? Alas,
neither he nor I foresaw the dreadful catastrophe that was so closely
impending! Otherwise, I am well assured that no tenderness for his
remaining tranquillity would have withheld him from a compliance with my
wishes! On the other hand, could I pretend to know what evils might
result to him from his declaring himself my advocate? Might not his
integrity be browbeaten and defeated, as mine had been? Did the
imbecility of his grey hairs afford no advantage to my terrible
adversary in the contest? Might not Mr. Falkland reduce him to a
condition as wretched and low as mine? After all, was it not vice in me
to desire to involve another man in my sufferings? If I regarded them as
intolerable, this was still an additional reason why I should bear them

Influenced by these considerations, I assented to his views. I assented
to be thought hardly of by the man in the world whose esteem I most
ardently desired, rather than involve him in possible calamity. I
assented to the resigning what appeared to me at that moment as the last
practicable comfort of my life; a comfort, upon the thought of which,
while I surrendered it, my mind dwelt with undescribable longings. Mr.
Collins was deeply affected with the apparent ingenuousness with which I
expressed my feelings. The secret struggle of his mind was, "Can this be
hypocrisy? The individual with whom I am conferring, if virtuous, is one
of the most disinterestedly virtuous persons in the world." We tore
ourselves from each other. Mr. Collins promised, as far as he was able,
to have an eye upon my vicissitudes, and to assist me, in every respect
that was consistent with a just recollection of consequences. Thus I
parted as it were with the last expiring hope of my mind; and
voluntarily consented, thus maimed and forlorn, to encounter all the
evils that were yet in store for me.

This is the latest event which at present I think it necessary to
record. I shall doubtless hereafter have further occasion to take up the
pen. Great and unprecedented as my sufferings have been, I feel
intimately persuaded that there are worse sufferings that await me. What
mysterious cause is it that enables me to write this, and not to perish
under the horrible apprehension!


It is as I foreboded. The presage with which I was visited was
prophetic. I am now to record a new and terrible revolution of my
fortune and my mind.

Having made experiment of various situations with one uniform result, I
at length determined to remove myself, if possible, from the reach of my
persecutor, by going into voluntary banishment from my native soil. This
was my last resource for tranquillity, for honest fame, for those
privileges to which human life is indebted for the whole of its value.
"In some distant climate," said I, "surely I may find that security
which is necessary to persevering pursuit; surely I may lift my head
erect, associate with men upon the footing of a man, acquire
connections, and preserve them!" It is inconceivable with what ardent
Teachings of the soul I aspired to this termination.

This last consolation was denied me by the inexorable Falkland.

At the time the project was formed I was at no great distance from the
east coast of the island, and I resolved to take ship at Harwich, and
pass immediately into Holland. I accordingly repaired to that place, and
went, almost as soon as I arrived, to the port. But there was no vessel
perfectly ready to sail. I left the port, and withdrew to an inn, where,
after some time, I retired to a chamber. I was scarcely there before the
door of the room was opened, and the man whose countenance was the most
hateful to my eyes, Gines, entered the apartment. He shut the door as
soon as he entered.

"Youngster," said he, "I have a little private intelligence to
communicate to you. I come as a friend, and that I may save you a
labour-in-vain trouble. If you consider what I have to say in that
light, it will be the better for you. It is my business now, do you see,
for want of a better, to see that you do not break out of bounds. Not
that I much matter having one man for my employer, or dancing attendance
after another's heels; but I have special kindness for you, for some
good turns that you wot of, and therefore I do not stand upon
ceremonies! You have led me a very pretty round already; and, out of the
love I bear you, you shall lead me as much further, if you will. But
beware the salt seas! They are out of my orders. You are a prisoner at
present, and I believe all your life will remain so. Thanks to the
milk-and-water softness of your former master! If I had the ordering of
these things, it should go with you in another fashion. As long as you
think proper, you are a prisoner within the rules; and the rules with
which the soft-hearted squire indulges you, are all England, Scotland,
and Wales. But you are not to go out of these climates. The squire is
determined you shall never pass the reach of his disposal. He has
therefore given orders that, whenever you attempt so to do, you shall be
converted from a prisoner at large to a prisoner in good earnest. A
friend of mine followed you just now to the harbour; I was within call;
and, if there had been any appearance of your setting your foot from
land, we should have been with you in a trice, and laid you fast by the
heels. I would advise you, for the future, to keep at a proper distance
from the sea, for fear of the worst. You see I tell you all this for
your good. For my part, I should be better satisfied if you were in
limbo, with a rope about your neck, and a comfortable bird's eye
prospect to the gallows: but I do as I am directed; and so good night to

The intelligence thus conveyed to me occasioned an instantaneous
revolution in both my intellectual and animal system. I disdained to
answer, or take the smallest notice of the fiend by whom it was
delivered. It is now three days since I received it, and from that
moment to the present my blood has been in a perpetual ferment. My
thoughts wander from one idea of horror to another, with incredible
rapidity. I have had no sleep. I have scarcely remained in one posture
for a minute together. It has been with the utmost difficulty that I
have been able to command myself far enough to add a few pages to my
story. But, uncertain as I am of the events of each succeeding hour, I
determined to force myself to the performance of this task. All is not
right within me. How it will terminate, God knows. I sometimes fear that
I shall be wholly deserted of my reason.

What--dark, mysterious, unfeeling, unrelenting tyrant!--is it come to
this? When Nero and Caligula swayed the Roman sceptre, it was a fearful
thing to offend these bloody rulers. The empire had already spread
itself from climate to climate, and from sea to sea. If their unhappy
victim fled to the rising of the sun, where the luminary of day seems to
us first to ascend from the waves of the ocean, the power of the tyrant
was still behind him. If he withdrew to the west, to Hesperian darkness,
and the shores of barbarian Thule, still he was not safe from his
gore-drenched foe.--Falkland! art thou the offspring, in whom the
lineaments of these tyrants are faithfully preserved? Was the world,
with all its climates, made in vain for thy helpless unoffending victim?


Tyrants have trembled, surrounded with whole armies of their
Janissaries! What should make thee inaccessible to my fury? No, I will
use no daggers! I will unfold a tale!--I will show thee to the world for
what thou art; and all the men that live, shall confess my truth!--Didst
thou imagine that I was altogether passive, a mere worm, organised to
feel sensations of pain, but no emotion of resentment? Didst thou
imagine that there was no danger in inflicting on me pains however
great, miseries however dreadful? Didst thou believe me impotent,
imbecile, and idiot-like, with no understanding to contrive thy ruin,
and no energy to perpetrate it?

I will tell a tale--! The justice of the country shall hear me! The
elements of nature in universal uproar shall not interrupt me! I will
speak with a voice more fearful than thunder!--Why should I be supposed
to speak from any dishonourable motive? I am under no prosecution now! I
shall not now appear to be endeavouring to remove a criminal indictment
from myself, by throwing it back on its author!--Shall I regret the ruin
that will overwhelm thee? Too long have I been tender-hearted and
forbearing! What benefit has ever resulted from my mistaken clemency?
There is no evil thou hast scrupled to accumulate upon me! Neither will
I be more scrupulous! Thou hast shown no mercy; and thou shalt receive
none!--I must be calm! bold as a lion, yet collected!

This is a moment pregnant with fate. I know--I think I know--that I will
be triumphant, and crush my seemingly omnipotent foe. But, should it be
otherwise, at least he shall not be every way successful. His fame shall
not be immortal as he thinks. These papers shall preserve the truth;
they shall one day be published, and then the world shall do justice on
us both. Recollecting that, I shall not die wholly without consolation.
It is not to be endured that falsehood and tyranny should reign for

How impotent are the precautions of man against the eternally existing
laws of the intellectual world! This Falkland has invented against me
every species of foul accusation. He has hunted me from city to city.
He has drawn his lines of circumvallation round me that I may not
escape. He has kept his scenters of human prey for ever at my heels. He
may hunt me out of the world.--In vain! With this engine, this little
pen, I defeat all his machinations; I stab him in the very point he was
most solicitous to defend!

Collins! I now address myself to you. I have consented that you should
yield me no assistance in my present terrible situation. I am content to
die rather than do any thing injurious to your tranquillity. But
remember, you are my father still! I conjure you, by all the love you
ever bore me, by the benefits you have conferred on me, by the
forbearance and kindness towards you that now penetrates my soul, by my
innocence--for, if these be the last words I shall ever write, I die
protesting my innocence!--by all these, or whatever tie more sacred has
influence on your soul, I conjure you, listen to my last request!
Preserve these papers from destruction, and preserve them from Falkland!
It is all I ask! I have taken care to provide a safe mode of conveying
them into your possession: and I have a firm confidence, which I will
not suffer to depart from me, that they will one day find their way to
the public!

The pen lingers in my trembling fingers! Is there any thing I have left
unsaid?--The contents of the fatal trunk, from which all my misfortunes
originated, I have never been able to ascertain. I once thought it
contained some murderous instrument or relic connected with the fate of
the unhappy Tyrrel. I am now persuaded that the secret it encloses, is a
faithful narrative of that and its concomitant transactions, written by
Mr. Falkland, and reserved in case of the worst, that, if by any
unforeseen event his guilt should come to be fully disclosed, it might
contribute to redeem the wreck of his reputation. But the truth or the
falsehood of this conjecture is of little moment. If Falkland shall
never be detected to the satisfaction of the world, such a narrative
will probably never see the light. In that case this story of mine may
amply, severely perhaps, supply its place.

I know not what it is that renders me thus solemn. I have a secret
foreboding, as if I should never again be master of myself. If I succeed
in what I now meditate respecting Falkland, my precaution in the
disposal of these papers will have been unnecessary; I shall no longer
be reduced to artifice and evasion. If I fail, the precaution will
appear to have been wisely chosen.

* * * * *


All is over. I have carried into execution my meditated attempt. My
situation is totally changed; I now sit down to give an account of it.
For several weeks after the completion of this dreadful business, my
mind was in too tumultuous a state to permit me to write. I think I
shall now be able to arrange my thoughts sufficiently for that purpose.
Great God! how wondrous, how terrible are the events that have
intervened since I was last employed in a similar manner! It is no
wonder that my thoughts were solemn, and my mind filled with horrible

Having formed my resolution, I set out from Harwich, for the
metropolitan town of the county in which Mr. Falkland resided. Gines, I
well knew, was in my rear. That was of no consequence to me. He might
wonder at the direction I pursued, but he could not tell with what
purpose I pursued it. My design was a secret, carefully locked up in my
own breast. It was not without a sentiment of terror that I entered a
town which had been the scene of my long imprisonment. I proceeded to
the house of the chief magistrate the instant I arrived, that I might
give no time to my adversary to counterwork my proceeding.

I told him who I was, and that I was come from a distant part of the
kingdom, for the purpose of rendering him the medium of a charge of
murder against my former patron. My name was already familiar to him. He
answered, that he could not take cognizance of my deposition; that I was
an object of universal execration in that part of the world; and he was
determined upon no account to be the vehicle of my depravity.

I warned him to consider well what he was doing. I called upon him for
no favour; I only applied to him in the regular exercise of his
function. Would he take upon him to say that he had a right, at his
pleasure, to suppress a charge of this complicated nature? I had to
accuse Mr. Falkland of repeated murders. The perpetrator knew that I was
in possession of the truth upon the subject; and, knowing that, I went
perpetually in danger of my life from his malice and revenge. I was
resolved to go through with the business, if justice were to be obtained
from any court in England. Upon what pretence did he refuse my
deposition? I was in every respect a competent witness. I was of age to
understand the nature of an oath; I was in my perfect senses; I was
untarnished by the verdict of any jury, or the sentence of any judge.
His private opinion of my character could not alter the law of the land.
I demanded to be confronted with Mr. Falkland, and I was well assured I
should substantiate the charge to the satisfaction of the whole world.
If he did not think proper to apprehend him upon my single testimony, I
should be satisfied if he only sent him notice of the charge, and
summoned him to appear.

The magistrate, finding me thus resolute, thought proper a little to
lower his tone. He no longer absolutely refused to comply with my
requisition, but condescended to expostulate with me. He represented to
me Mr. Falkland's health, which had for some years been exceedingly
indifferent; his having been once already brought to the most solemn
examination upon this charge; the diabolical malice in which alone my
proceeding must have originated; and the ten-fold ruin it would bring
down upon my head. To all these representations my answer was short. "I
was determined to go on, and would abide the consequences." A summons
was at length granted, and notice sent to Mr. Falkland of the charge
preferred against him.

Three days elapsed before any further step could be taken in this
business. This interval in no degree contributed to tranquillise my
mind. The thought of preferring a capital accusation against, and
hastening the death of, such a man as Mr. Falkland, was by no means an
opiate to reflection. At one time I commended the action, either as just
revenge (for the benevolence of my nature was in a great degree turned
to gall), or as necessary self-defence, or as that which, in an
impartial and philanthropical estimate, included the smallest evil. At
another time I was haunted with doubts. But, in spite of these
variations of sentiment, I uniformly determined to persist! I felt as if
impelled by a tide of unconquerable impulse. The consequences were such
as might well appal the stoutest heart. Either the ignominious execution
of a man whom I had once so deeply venerated, and whom now I sometimes
suspected not to be without his claims to veneration; or a confirmation,
perhaps an increase, of the calamities I had so long endured. Yet these
I preferred to a state of uncertainty. I desired to know the worst; to
put an end to the hope, however faint, which had been so long my
torment; and, above all, to exhaust and finish the catalogue of
expedients that were at my disposition. My mind was worked up to a state
little short of frenzy. My body was in a burning fever with the
agitation of my thoughts. When I laid my hand upon my bosom or my head,
it seemed to scorch them with the fervency of its heat. I could not sit
still for a moment. I panted with incessant desire that the dreadful
crisis I had so eagerly invoked, were come, and were over.

After an interval of three days, I met Mr. Falkland in the presence of
the magistrate to whom I had applied upon the subject. I had only two
hours' notice to prepare myself; Mr. Falkland seeming as eager as I to
have the question brought to a crisis, and laid at rest for ever. I had
an opportunity, before the examination, to learn that Mr. Forester was
drawn by some business on an excursion on the continent; and that
Collins, whose health when I saw him was in a very precarious state, was
at this time confined with an alarming illness. His constitution had
been wholly broken by his West Indian expedition. The audience I met at
the house of the magistrate consisted of several gentlemen and others
selected for the purpose; the plan being, in some respects, as in the
former instance, to find a medium between the suspicious air of a
private examination, and the indelicacy, as it was styled, of an
examination exposed to the remark of every casual spectator.

I can conceive of no shock greater than that I received from the sight
of Mr. Falkland. His appearance on the last occasion on which we met
had been haggard, ghost-like, and wild, energy in his gestures, and
frenzy in his aspect. It was now the appearance of a corpse. He was
brought in in a chair, unable to stand, fatigued and almost destroyed by
the journey he had just taken. His visage was colourless; his limbs
destitute of motion, almost of life. His head reclined upon his bosom,
except that now and then he lifted it up, and opened his eyes with a
languid glance; immediately after which he sunk back into his former
apparent insensibility. He seemed not to have three hours to live. He
had kept his chamber for several weeks; but the summons of the
magistrate had been delivered to him at his bed-side, his orders
respecting letters and written papers being so peremptory that no one
dared to disobey them. Upon reading the paper he was seized with a very
dangerous fit; but, as soon as he recovered, he insisted upon being
conveyed, with all practicable expedition, to the place of appointment.
Falkland, in the most helpless state, was still Falkland, firm in
command, and capable to extort obedience from every one that approached

What a sight was this to me! Till the moment that Falkland was presented
to my view, my breast was steeled to pity. I thought that I had coolly
entered into the reason of the case (passion, in a state of solemn and
omnipotent vehemence, always appears to be coolness to him in whom it
domineers), and that I had determined impartially and justly. I believed
that, if Mr. Falkland were permitted to persist in his schemes, we must
both of us be completely wretched. I believed that it was in my power,
by the resolution I had formed, to throw my share of this wretchedness
from me, and that his could scarcely be increased. It appeared therefore
to my mind, to be a mere piece of equity and justice, such as an
impartial spectator would desire, that one person should be miserable in
preference to two; that one person rather than two should be
incapacitated from acting his part, and contributing his share to the
general welfare. I thought that in this business I had risen superior to
personal considerations, and judged with a total neglect of the
suggestions of self-regard. It is true, Mr. Falkland was mortal, but,
notwithstanding his apparent decay, he might live long. Ought I to
submit to waste the best years of my life in my present wretched
situation? He had declared that his reputation should be for ever
inviolate; this was his ruling passion, the thought that worked his soul
to madness. He would probably therefore leave a legacy of persecution to
be received by me from the hands of Gines, or some other villain equally
atrocious, when he should himself be no more. Now or never was the time
for me to redeem my future life from endless woe.

But all these fine-spun reasonings vanished before the object that was
now presented to me. "Shall I trample upon a man thus dreadfully
reduced? Shall I point my animosity against one, whom the system of
nature has brought down to the grave? Shall I poison, with sounds the
most intolerable to his ears, the last moments of a man like Falkland?
It is impossible. There must have been some dreadful mistake in the
train of argument that persuaded me to be the author of this hateful
scene. There must have been a better and more magnanimous remedy to the
evils under which I groaned."

It was too late: the mistake I had committed was now gone past all power
of recall. Here was Falkland, solemnly brought before a magistrate to
answer to a charge of murder. Here I stood, having already declared
myself the author of the charge, gravely and sacredly pledged to support
it. This was my situation; and, thus situated, I was called upon
immediately to act. My whole frame shook. I would eagerly have consented
that that moment should have been the last of my existence. I however
believed, that the conduct now most indispensably incumbent on me was to
lay the emotions of my soul naked before my hearers. I looked first at
Mr. Falkland, and then at the magistrate and attendants, and then at Mr.
Falkland again. My voice was suffocated with agony. I began:--

"Why cannot I recall the last four days of my life? How was it possible
for me to be so eager, so obstinate, in a purpose so diabolical? Oh,
that I had listened to the expostulations of the magistrate that hears
me, or submitted to the well-meant despotism of his authority! Hitherto
I have been only miserable; henceforth I shall account myself base!
Hitherto, though hardly treated by mankind, I stood acquitted at the bar
of my own conscience. I had not filled up the measure of my

"Would to God it were possible for me to retire from this scene without
uttering another word! I would brave the consequences--I would submit to
any imputation of cowardice, falsehood, and profligacy, rather than add
to the weight of misfortune with which Mr. Falkland is overwhelmed. But
the situation, and the demands of Mr. Falkland himself, forbid me. He,
in compassion for whose fallen state I would willingly forget every
interest of my own, would compel me to accuse, that he might enter upon
his justification. I will confess every sentiment of my heart.

"No penitence, no anguish, can expiate the folly and the cruelty of this
last act I have perpetrated. But Mr. Falkland well knows--I affirm it in
his presence--how unwillingly I have proceeded to this extremity. I
have reverenced him; he was worthy of reverence: I have loved him; he
was endowed with qualities that partook of divine.

"From the first moment I saw him, I conceived the most ardent
admiration. He condescended to encourage me; I attached myself to him
with the fulness of my affection. He was unhappy; I exerted myself with
youthful curiosity to discover the secret of his woe. This was the
beginning of misfortune.

"What shall I say?--He was indeed the murderer of Tyrrel; he suffered
the Hawkinses to be executed, knowing that they were innocent, and that
he alone was guilty. After successive surmises, after various
indiscretions on my part, and indications on his, he at length confided
to me at full the fatal tale!

"Mr. Falkland! I most solemnly conjure you to recollect yourself! Did I
ever prove myself unworthy of your confidence? The secret was a most
painful burthen to me; it was the extremest folly that led me
unthinkingly to gain possession of it; but I would have died a thousand
deaths rather than betray it. It was the jealousy of your own thoughts,
and the weight that hung upon your mind, that led you to watch my
motions, and to conceive alarm from every particle of my conduct.

"You began in confidence; why did you not continue in confidence? The
evil that resulted from my original imprudence would then have been
comparatively little. You threatened me: did I then betray you? A word
from my lips at that time would have freed me from your threats for
ever. I bore them for a considerable period, and at last quitted your
service, and threw myself a fugitive upon the world, in silence. Why did
you not suffer me to depart? You brought me back by stratagem and
violence, and wantonly accused me of an enormous felony! Did I then
mention a syllable of the murder, the secret of which was in my

"Where is the man that has suffered more from the injustice of society
than I have done? I was accused of a villainy that my heart abhorred. I
was sent to jail. I will not enumerate the horrors of my prison, the
lightest of which would make the heart of humanity shudder. I looked
forward to the gallows! Young, ambitious, fond of life, innocent as the
child unborn, I looked forward to the gallows! I believed that one word
of resolute accusation against my patron would deliver me; yet I was
silent, I armed myself with patience, uncertain whether it were better
to accuse or to die. Did this show me a man unworthy to be trusted?

"I determined to break out of prison. With infinite difficulty, and
repeated miscarriages, I at length effected my purpose. Instantly a
proclamation, with a hundred guineas reward, was issued for apprehending
me. I was obliged to take shelter among the refuse of mankind, in the
midst of a gang of thieves. I encountered the most imminent peril of my
life when I entered this retreat, and when I quitted it. Immediately
after, I travelled almost the whole length of the kingdom, in poverty
and distress, in hourly danger of being retaken and manacled like a
felon. I would have fled my country; I was prevented. I had recourse to
various disguises; I was innocent, and yet was compelled to as many arts
and subterfuges as could have been entailed on the worst of villains. In
London I was as much harassed and as repeatedly alarmed as I had been in
my flight through the country. Did all these persecutions persuade me to
put an end to my silence? No: I suffered them with patience and
submission; I did not make one attempt to retort them upon their author.

"I fell at last into the hands of the miscreants that are nourished with
human blood. In this terrible situation I, for the first time,
attempted, by turning informer, to throw the weight from myself. Happily
for me, the London magistrate listened to my tale with insolent

"I soon, and long, repented of my rashness, and rejoiced in my

"I acknowledge that, in various ways, Mr. Falkland showed humanity
towards me during this period. He would have prevented my going to
prison at first; he contributed towards my subsistence during my
detention; he had no share in the pursuit that had been set on foot
against me; he at length procured my discharge, when brought forward for
trial. But a great part of his forbearance was unknown to me; I supposed
him to be my unrelenting pursuer. I could not forget that, whoever
heaped calamities on me in the sequel, they all originated in his forged

"The prosecution against me for felony was now at an end. Why were not
my sufferings permitted to terminate then, and I allowed to hide my
weary head in some obscure yet tranquil retreat? Had I not sufficiently
proved my constancy and fidelity? Would not a compromise in this
situation have been most wise and most secure? But the restless and
jealous anxiety of Mr. Falkland would not permit him to repose the least
atom of confidence. The only compromise that he proposed was that, with
my own hand, I should sign myself a villain. I refused this proposal,
and have ever since been driven from place to place, deprived of peace,
of honest fame, even of bread. For a long time I persisted in the
resolution that no emergency should convert me into the assailant. In an
evil hour I at last listened to my resentment and impatience, and the
hateful mistake into which I fell has produced the present scene.

"I now see that mistake in all its enormity. I am sure that if I had
opened my heart to Mr. Falkland, if I had told to him privately the tale
that I have now been telling, he could not have resisted my reasonable
demand. After all his precautions, he must ultimately have depended upon
my forbearance. Could he be sure that, if I were at last worked up to
disclose every thing I knew, and to enforce it with all the energy I
could exert, I should obtain no credit? If he must in every case be at
my mercy, in which mode ought he to have sought his safety, in
conciliation, or in inexorable cruelty?

"Mr. Falkland is of a noble nature. Yes; in spite of the catastrophe of
Tyrrel, of the miserable end of the Hawkinses, and of all that I have
myself suffered, I affirm that he has qualities of the most admirable
kind. It is therefore impossible that he could have resisted a frank and
fervent expostulation, the frankness and the fervour in which the whole
soul is poured out. I despaired, while it was yet time to have made the
just experiment; but my despair was criminal, was treason against the
sovereignty of truth.

"I have told a plain and unadulterated tale. I came hither to curse, but
I remain to bless. I came to accuse, but am compelled to applaud. I
proclaim to all the world, that Mr. Falkland is a man worthy of
affection and kindness, and that I am myself the basest and most odious
of mankind! Never will I forgive myself the iniquity of this day. The
memory will always haunt me, and embitter every hour of my existence.
In thus acting I have been a murderer--a cool, deliberate, unfeeling
murderer.--I have said what my accursed precipitation has obliged me to
say. Do with me as you please! I ask no favour. Death would be a
kindness, compared to what I feel!"

Such were the accents dictated by my remorse. I poured them out with
uncontrollable impetuosity; for my heart was pierced, and I was
compelled to give vent to its anguish. Every one that heard me, was
petrified with astonishment. Every one that heard me, was melted into
tears. They could not resist the ardour with which I praised the great
qualities of Falkland; they manifested their sympathy in the tokens of
my penitence.

How shall I describe the feelings of this unfortunate man? Before I
began, he seemed sunk and debilitated, incapable of any strenuous
impression. When I mentioned the murder, I could perceive in him an
involuntary shuddering, though it was counteracted partly by the
feebleness of his frame, and partly by the energy of his mind. This was
an allegation he expected, and he had endeavoured to prepare himself for
it. But there was much of what I said, of which he had had no previous
conception. When I expressed the anguish of my mind, he seemed at first
startled and alarmed, lest this should be a new expedient to gain credit
to my tale. His indignation against me was great for having retained all
my resentment towards him, thus, as it might be, to the last hour of his
existence. It was increased when he discovered me, as he supposed, using
a pretence of liberality and sentiment to give new edge to my hostility.
But as I went on he could no longer resist. He saw my sincerity; he was
penetrated with my grief and compunction. He rose from his seat,
supported by the attendants, and--to my infinite astonishment--threw
himself into my arms!

"Williams," said he, "you have conquered! I see too late the greatness
and elevation of your mind. I confess that it is to my fault and not
yours, that it is to the excess of jealousy that was ever burning in my
bosom, that I owe my ruin. I could have resisted any plan of malicious
accusation you might have brought against me. But I see that the artless
and manly story you have told, has carried conviction to every hearer.
All my prospects are concluded. All that I most ardently desired, is for
ever frustrated. I have spent a life of the basest cruelty, to cover one
act of momentary vice, and to protect myself against the prejudices of
my species. I stand now completely detected. My name will be consecrated
to infamy, while your heroism, your patience, and your virtues will be
for ever admired. You have inflicted on me the most fatal of all
mischiefs; but I bless the hand that wounds me. And now,"--turning to
the magistrate--"and now, do with me as you please. I am prepared to
suffer all the vengeance of the law. You cannot inflict on me more than
I deserve. You cannot hate me, more than I hate myself. I am the most
execrable of all villains. I have for many years (I know not how long)
dragged on a miserable existence in insupportable pain. I am at last, in
recompense for all my labours and my crimes, dismissed from it with the
disappointment of my only remaining hope, the destruction of that for
the sake of which alone I consented to exist. It was worthy of such a
life, that it should continue just long enough to witness this final
overthrow. If however you wish to punish me, you must be speedy in your
justice; for, as reputation was the blood that warmed my heart, so I
feel that death and infamy must seize me together."

I record the praises bestowed on me by Falkland, not because I deserved
them, but because they serve to aggravate the baseness of my cruelty. He
survived this dreadful scene but three days. I have been his murderer.
It was fit that he should praise my patience, who has fallen a victim,
life and fame, to my precipitation! It would have been merciful in
comparison, if I had planted a dagger in his heart. He would have
thanked me for my kindness. But, atrocious, execrable wretch that I have
been! I wantonly inflicted on him an anguish a thousand times worse than
death. Meanwhile I endure the penalty of my crime. His figure is ever in
imagination before me. Waking or sleeping, I still behold him. He seems
mildly to expostulate with me for my unfeeling behaviour. I live the
devoted victim of conscious reproach. Alas! I am the same Caleb Williams
that, so short a time ago, boasted that, however great were the
calamities I endured, I was still innocent.

Such has been the result of a project I formed, for delivering myself
from the evil that had so long attended me. I thought that, if Falkland
were dead, I should return once again to all that makes life worth
possessing. I thought that, if the guilt of Falkland were established,
fortune and the world would smile upon my efforts. Both these events are
accomplished; and it is now only that I am truly miserable.

Why should my reflections perpetually centre upon myself?--self, an
overweening regard to which has been the source of my errors! Falkland,
I will think only of thee, and from that thought will draw ever-fresh
nourishment for my sorrows! One generous, one disinterested tear I will
consecrate to thy ashes! A nobler spirit lived not among the sons of
men. Thy intellectual powers were truly sublime, and thy bosom burned
with a god-like ambition. But of what use are talents and sentiments in
the corrupt wilderness of human society? It is a rank and rotten soil,
from which every finer shrub draws poison as it grows. All that, in a
happier field and a purer air, would expand into virtue and germinate
into usefulness, is thus concerted into henbane and deadly nightshade.

Falkland! thou enteredst upon thy career with the purest and most
laudable intentions. But thou imbibedst the poison of chivalry with thy
earliest youth; and the base and low-minded envy that met thee on thy
return to thy native seats, operated with this poison to hurry thee into
madness. Soon, too soon, by this fatal coincidence, were the blooming
hopes of thy youth blasted for ever. From that moment thou only
continuedst to live to the phantom of departed honour. From that moment
thy benevolence was, in a great part, turned into rankling jealousy and
inexorable precaution. Year after year didst thou spend in this
miserable project of imposture; and only at last continuedst to live,
long enough to see, by my misjudging and abhorred intervention, thy
closing hope disappointed, and thy death accompanied with the foulest

I began these memoirs with the idea of vindicating my character. I have
now no character that I wish to vindicate: but I will finish them that
thy story may be fully understood; and that, if those errors of thy life
be known which thou so ardently desiredst to conceal, the world may at
least not hear and repeat a half-told and mangled tale.



Back to Full Books