Italian Letters, Vols. I and II
William Godwin

Part 2 out of 2

I will regard it as the surest pledge of my felicity. Mountains shall
be hurled from their eternal bases, lofty cities shall be crumbled into
dust, but my Rinaldo shall never be false.

It is this consideration that can only support me. The trials I undergo
are too great for the most perfect fortitude. I quit a treasure that the
globe in its inexhausted variety never equalled. I retire to a distance,
where months may intervene ere the only intelligence that can give
pleasure to my heart, shall reach me. I shall count however with the
most unshaken security upon my future happiness. Walls of brass, and
bars of iron could not give me that assured peace.

Letter IV

_Matilda della Colonna to the Count de St. Julian_


Why is it, my friend, that you are determined to fly to so immense
a distance? You call me cruel, you charge me with unfeelingness and
inflexibility, and yet to my prayers you are deaf, to my intreaties you
are inexorable.

I have satisfied all the claims of decorum. I have fulfilled with rigid
exactness the laws of decency. One advantage you at least gain by the
distance you are so desirous to place between us. My sentiments are less
guarded. Reputation and modesty have fewer claims upon a woman, who can
have no intercourse with her lover but by letter. My feelings are less
restrained. For the anxiety, which distance inspires, awakens all the
tenderness of my nature, and raises a tempest in my soul that will not
be controled.

Oh, my St. Julian, till this late and lasting separation, I did not know
all the affection I bore you. Ever since you were parted from my aching
eyes, I have not known the serenity of a moment. The image of my friend
has been the constant companion of my waking hours, and has visited me
again in my dreams. The unknown dangers of the ocean swell in my eyes to
ten times their natural magnitude. Fickle and inconstant enemy, how
much I dread thee! Oh wast the lord of all my wishes in safety to the
destined harbour! May all the winds be still! May the tempests forget
their wonted rage! May every guardian power protect his voyage! Open
not, oh ocean, thy relentless bosom to yield him a watery grave! For
once be gentle and auspicious! Listen and grant a lover's prayer!
Restore him to my presence! May the dear sight of him once more refresh
these longing eyes! You will find this letter accompanied with a small
parcel, in which I have inclosed the miniature of myself, which I
have often heard you praise as a much better likeness than the larger
pictures. It will probably afford you some gratification during that
absence of which you so feelingly complain. It will suggest to you those
thoughts upon the subject of our love that have most in them of the calm
and soothing. It will be no unpleasant companion of your reveries, and
may sometimes amuse and cheat your deluded fancy.

Letter V

_The Answer_


I am just arrived at this place, after a tedious and disagreeable
voyage. As we passed along the coast of Barbary we came in sight of many
of the corsairs with which that part of the world is infested. One of
them in particular, of larger burden than the rest, gave us chace, and
for some time we thought ourselves in considerable danger. Our ship
however proved the faster sailer, and quickly carried us out of sight.
Having escaped this danger, and nearly reached the Baleares, we were
overtaken by a tremendous storm. For some days the ship was driven at
the mercy of the winds; and, as the coast of those islands is surrounded
with invisible rocks, our peril was considerable.

In the midst of danger however my thoughts were full of Matilda. Had the
ocean buried me in its capacious bosom, my last words would have been of
you, my last vows would have been made for your happiness. Had we been
taken by the enemy and carried into slavery, slavery would have had no
terrors, but those which consisted in the additional bars it would have
created between me and the mistress of my heart. It would have been of
little importance whether I had fallen to the lot of a despot, gentle or
severe. It would have separated us for years, perhaps for ever. Could I,
who have been so much afflicted by the separation of a few months, have
endured a punishment like this? That soft intercourse, that wafts the
thoughts of lovers to so vast a distance, that mimics so well an actual
converse, that cheats the weary heart of all its cares, would have been
dissolved for ever. Little then would have been the moment of a few
petty personal considerations; I should not long have survived.

I only wait at this place to refresh myself for a few days, from a
fatigue so perfectly new to me, and then shall set out with all speed
for Madrid. My Matilda will readily believe that that business which
detains me at so vast a distance from my happiness, will be dispatched
with as much expedition as its nature will admit. I will not sacrifice
to any selfish considerations the interest of my friend, I will not
neglect the minutest exertion by which it may be in my power to serve
his cause. But the moment I have discharged what I owe to him, no power
upon earth shall delay my return, no not for an hour.

I have seen little as yet of that people of whom I have entertained
so favourable ideas. But what I have seen has perfectly equalled my
expectation. Their carriage indeed is cold and formal, beyond what it is
possible for any man to have a conception of, who has not witnessed it.
But those persons to whom I had letters have received me with the utmost
attention and politeness. Sincerity is visible in all they do, and
constancy in all their modes of thinking. There is not a man among them,
who has once distinguished you, and whose favour it is possible for you
to forfeit without having deserved it. Will not an upright and honest
mind pardon many defects to a virtue like this?

Oh, my Matilda, shall I recommend to you to remember your St. Julian, to
carry the thoughts of him every where about with you? Shall I make to
you a thousand vows of unalterable attachment? No, best of women, I will
not thus insult the integrity of your heart. I will not thus profane
the purity of our loves. The world in all its treasure has not a second
Matilda, and if it had, my heart is fixed, all the tender sensibilities
of my soul are exhausted. Your St. Julian was not made to change with
every wind.

Letter VI

_Matilda della Colonna to the Count de St. Julian_


I begin this letter without having yet received any news from you since
you quitted the port of Naples. The time however that was requisite for
that purpose is already more than expired. Oh, my friend, if before
the commencement of this detested voyage, the dangers that attended it
appeared to me in so horrid colours, how think you that I support
them now? My imagination sickens, my poor heart is distracted at the
recollection of them. Why would you encounter so many unnecessary
perils? Why would you fly to so remote a climate? Many a friend could
have promoted equally well the interests of the marquis of Pescara, but
few lives are so valuable as thine. Many a friend could have solicited
this business in the court of Madrid, but believe me, there are few
that can boast that they possessed the heart of a Matilda. Simple and
sincere, I do not give myself away by halves. With a heart full of
tenderness and sensibility, I am affected more, much more than the
generality of my sex, with circumstances favourable or adverse. Ah
cruel, cruel St. Julian, was it for a lover to turn a deaf ear to the
intreaties of a mistress, that lived not but to honour his virtues, and
to sympathize in his felicity? Did I not for you lay aside that triple
delicacy and reserve, in which I prided myself? Were not my sighs and
tears visible and undisguised? Did not my cries pierce the lofty dome of
my paternal mansion, and move all hearts but yours?

They tell me, my St. Julian, that I am busy to torment myself, that I
invent a thousand imaginary misfortunes. And is this to torment myself
to address my friend in these poor lines? Is this to deceive myself with
unreal evils? Even while Matilda cherishes the fond idea of pouring
out her complaints before him, my St. Julian may be a lifeless corse.
Perhaps he now lies neglected and unburied in the beds of the ocean.
Perhaps he has fallen a prey to barbarous men, more deaf and merciless
than the warring elements. Distracting ideas! And does this head live to
conceive them? Is this hand dull and insensible enough to write them?

Believe me, my friend, my heart is tender and will easily break. It was
not formed to sustain a series of trials. It was not formed to encounter
a variety of distress. Oh, fly then, hasten to my arms. All those ideas
of form and decency, all the artificial decorums of society that I once
cherished, are dissolved before the darker reflections, the apprehensive
anxieties that your present situation has awakened. Yes, my St. Julian,
come to my arms. The moment you appear to claim me I am yours. Adieu to
the management of my sex. From this moment I commit all my concerns
to your direction. From this moment, your word shall be to me an
irrevocable law, which without reasoning, and without refinement, I will
implicitly obey.

* * * * *

I have received your letter. The pleasure it affords me is exquisite in
proportion to my preceding anguish. From the confession of the bravest
of men it now appears that my apprehensions were not wholly unfounded.
And yet upon reviewing what I have written, I almost blush for my
weakness. But it shall not be effaced. Disguise is little becoming
between lovers at so immense a distance. No, my friend, you shall know
all the interest you possess in my heart. I will at least afford you
that consolation amidst the pangs of absence. May heaven be propitious
in what yet remains before you! I will even weary it with my prayers.
May it return you to my arms safe and unhurt, and no other calamity
shall wring from me a murmur, or a sigh!

One thing however it is necessary I should correct. I do not mean to
accuse you for the voyage you have undertaken, however it may distress
me. In my calmer moments I feel for the motives of it the warmest
approbation. It was the act of disinterested friendship. Every prejudice
of the heart pleaded against it. Love, that passion which reigns without
a rival in your breast, forbad the compliance. It was a virtue worthy
of you. There needed but this to convince me that you were infinitely
superior to the whole race of your fellow mortals.

Letter VII

_The Answer_

_Buen Retiro_

Ten thousand thanks to the most amiable of women for the letter that has
just fallen into my hands. Yes, Matilda, if my heart were pierced on
every side with darts, and my life's blood seemed ready to follow every
one of them, your enchanting epistle would be balm to all my wounds,
would sooth all my cares. Tenderest, gentlest of dispositions, where
ever burned a love whose flame was pure as thine? Where ever was truth
that could vie with the truth of Matilda? Hereafter when the worthless
and the profligate exclaim upon the artifices of thy sex, when the lover
disappointed, wrung with anguish, imprecates curses on the kind, name
but Matilda, and every murmur shall be hushed; name but Matilda, and
the universal voice of nature shall confess that the female form is the
proper residence, the genuine temple of angelic goodness.

I had upon the whole a most agreeable journey from Alicant to Madrid. It
would be superfluous to describe to a mind so well informed as yours,
the state of the country. You know how thin is its population, and how
indolent is the character of its inhabitants. Satisfied with possessing
the inexhaustible mines of Mexico and Peru, they imagine that the world
was made for them, that the rest of mankind were destined to labour that
they might be maintained in supineness and idleness. The experience of
more than two centuries has not been able to convince them of their
error, and amidst all their poverty, they still retain as much pride
as ever. The country however is naturally luxuriant and delicious; and
there are a considerable number of prospects in the provinces through
which I have passed that will scarcely yield to any that Italy has to
boast. As soon as I arrived at the metropolis I took up my residence at
this place, which is inexpressibly crowded with the residences of the
nobility and grandees. It is indeed one of the most beautiful spots in
nature, as it concentres at once the simplest rusticity with the utmost
elegance of refinement and society. My reception has been in the highest
degree flattering, and I please myself with the idea that I have already
made some progress in the business of the marquis of Pescara.

You are not insensible that my character, at least in some of its
traits, is not uncongenial to that of a Spaniard. Whether it be owing to
this or any other cause I know not, but I believe never was any man, so
obscure as myself, distinguished in so obliging a manner by the first
personages in the kingdom. In return I derive from their society the
utmost satisfaction. Their lofty notions of honour, their gravity, their
politeness, and their sentimental way of thinking, have something in
them that affords me infinite entertainment and pleasure. Oh, Matilda,
how much more amiable is that character, that carries the principles
of honour and magnanimity to a dangerous extreme, than that which
endeavours to level all distinctions of mankind, and would remove and
confound the eternal barriers of virtue and vice!

One of the most agreeable connexions I have made is with the duke of
Aranda. The four persons of whom his family is composed, his grace, the
duchess, their son and daughter, are all of them characters extremely
interesting and amiable. The lady Isabella is esteemed the first beauty
of the court of Madrid. The young count is tall, graceful, and manly,
with a fire and expression in his fine blue eyes beyond any thing I
ever saw. He has all the vivacity and enterprize of youth, without the
smallest tincture of libertinism and dissipation. I know not how it is,
but I find myself perfectly unable to describe his character without
running into paradox. He is at once serious and chearful. His
seriousness is so full of enthusiasm and originality, that it is the
most unlike in the world to the cold dogmatism of pedantry, or the
turgid and monotonous stile of the churchman. His chearfulness is not
the gaiety of humour, is not the brilliancy of wit, it is the result of
inexhaustible fancy and invincible spirit. In a word, I never met with
a character that interested me so much at first sight, and were it not
that I am bound by insuperable ties to my native soil, it would be the
first ambition of my heart to form with him the ties of an everlasting

Once more, my Matilda, adieu. You are under the protection of the most
generous of men, and the best of friends. I owe to the marquis of
Pescara, a thousand obligations that can never be compensated. Let it be
thy care thou better half of myself to receive him with that attention
and politeness, which is due to the worth of his character, and the
immensity of his friendship. There is something too sweet and enchanting
in the mild benevolence of Matilda, not to contribute largely to
his happiness. It is in your power, best of women, by the slightest
exertions, to pay him more than I could do by a life of labour.

Letter VIII

_The Same to the Same_

_Buen Retiro_

I little thought during so distressing a period of absence, to have
written you a letter so gay and careless as my last. I confess indeed
the societies of this place afforded me so much entertainment, that in
the midst of generous friendship and unmerited kindness, I almost forgot
the anguish of a lover, and the pains of banishment.

Alas, how dearly am I destined to pay for the most short-lived
relaxation! Every pleasure is now vanished, and I can scarcely believe
that it ever existed. I enter into the same societies, I frequent the
same scenes, and I wonder what it was that once entertained me. Yes,
Matilda, the enchantment is dissolved. All the gay colours that anon
played upon the objects around me, are fled. Chaos is come again. The
world is become all dreary solitude and impenetrable darkness. I am like
the poor mariner, whose imagination was for a moment caught with the
lofty sound of the thunder, round whom the sheeted lightning gilded the
foaming waves, and who then sinks for ever in the abyss.

It is now four eternal months, and not one line from the hand of Matilda
has blessed these longing eyes, or cooled my burning brain. Opportunity
after opportunity has slipped away, one moment swelled with hope has
succeeded another, but to no purpose. The mail has not been more
constant to its place of destination than myself. But it was all
disappointment. It was in vain that I raged with unmeaning fury, and
demanded that with imprecation which was not to be found. Every calm was
misery to me. Every tempest tore my tortured heart a thousand ways. For
some time every favourable wind was balm to my soul, and nectar to my
burning frame. But it is over now--. How, how is it that I am to account
for this astonishing silence? Has nature changed her eternal laws, and
is Matilda false? Has she forgotten the poor St. Julian, upon whom she
once bestowed her tenderness with unstinted prodigality? Can that angel
form hide the foulest thoughts? Have those untasted lips abjured their
virgin vows? And has that hand been given to another? Hence green-eyed
jealousy, accursed fiend, with all thy train of black suspicions! No,
thou shall not find a moment's harbour in my breast. I will none of
thee. It were treason to the chastest of hearts, it were sacrilege to
the divinest form that ever visited this lower world, but to admit the
possibility of Matilda's infidelity.

And where, ah where, shall I take refuge from these horrid thoughts? To
entertain them were depravity were death. I fly from them, and where is
it that I find myself? Surrounded by a thousand furies. Oh, gracious and
immaculate providence, why hast thou opened so many doors to tremendous
mischief? Innumerable accidents of nature may tear her from me for ever.
All the wanton brutalities that history records, and that the minds of
unworthy men can harbour, start up in dreadful array before me.

Cruel and inflexible Matilda! thou once wert bounteous as the hand of
heaven, wert tender as the new born babe. What is it that has changed
thy disposition to the hard, the wanton, the obdurate? Behold a lover's
tears! Behold how low thou hast sunk him, whom thou once didst dignify
by the sweet and soothing name of _thy friend_! If ever the voice
of anguish found a passage to your heart, if those cheeks were ever
moistened with the drops of sacred pity, oh, hear me now! But I will
address myself to the rocks. I will invoke the knotted oaks and the
savage wolves of the forest. They will not refuse my cry, but Matilda is
deaf as the winds, inexorable as the gaping wave.

In the state of mind in which I am, you will naturally suppose that I
am full of doubt and irresolution. Twice have I resolved to quit the
kingdom of Spain without delay, and to leave the business of friendship
unfinished. But I thank God these thoughts were of no long duration. No,
Matilda, let me be set up as a mark for the finger of scorn, let me be
appointed by heaven as a victim upon which to exhaust all its arrows.
Let me be miserable, but let me never, never deserve to be so.
Affliction, thou mayest beat upon my heart in one eternal storm!
Trouble, thou mayest tear this frame like a whirlwind! But never shall
all thy terrors shake my constant mind, or teach me to swerve for a
moment from the path I have marked out to myself! All other consolation
may be taken from me, but from the bulwark of innocence and integrity I
will never be separated.

Letter IX

_The Marquis of Pescara to the Count de St. Julian_


I can never sufficiently thank you for the indefatigable friendship you
have displayed in the whole progress of my Spanish affairs. I have just
received a letter from the first minister of that court, by which I am
convinced that it cannot be long before they be terminated in the most
favourable manner. I scarcely know how, after all the obligations you
have conferred upon me, to intreat that you would complete them, by
paying a visit to Zamora before you quit the kingdom, and putting my
affairs there in some train, which from the negligence incident to a
disputed title, can scarcely fail to be in disorder.

Believe me there is nothing for which I have more ardently longed, than
to clasp you once again in my arms. The additional procrastination which
this new journey will create, cannot be more afflicting to you than it
is to me. Abridge then, I intreat you, as much as possible, those delays
which are in some degree inevitable, and let me have the agreeable
surprize of holding my St. Julian to my breast before I imagined I had
reason to expect his return.

Letter X

_The Answer_


My dear lord,

It is with the utmost pleasure that I have it now in my power to assure
you that your affair is finally closed at the court of Madrid, in a
manner the most advantageous and honourable to your name and family. You
will perceive from the date of this letter that I had no need of the
request you have made in order to remind me of my duty to my friend.
I was no sooner able to quit the capital with propriety, than I
immediately repaired hither. The derangement however of your affairs at
this place is greater than either of us could have imagined, and it
will take a considerable time to reduce them to that order, which shall
render them most beneficial to the peasant, and most productive to the

The employment which I find at this place, serves in some degree to
dissipate the anguish of my mind. It is an employment embellished
by innocence, and consecrated by friendship. It is therefore of all
pursuits that which has the greatest tendency to lull the sense of

Rinaldo, I had drawn the pangs of absence with no flattering pencil. I
had expressed them in the most harsh and aggravated colours. But dark
and gloomy as were the prognostics I had formed to myself, they, alas,
were but shadows of what was reserved for me. The event laughs to scorn
the conceptions I had entertained. Explain to me, best, most faithful of
friends, for you only can, what dark and portentous meaning is concealed
beneath the silence of Matilda. So far from your present epistle
assisting the conjectures of my madding brain, it bewilders me more
than ever. My friend dates his letter from the very place in which she
resides, and yet by not a single word does he inform me how, and what
she is.

It is now six tedious months since a single line has reached me from her
hand. I have expostulated with the voice of apprehension, with the voice
of agony, but to no purpose. Had it not been for the tenfold obligation
in which I am bound to the best of friends, I had long, very long ere
this, deserted the kingdom of Spain for ever. The concerns of no man
upon earth, but those of my Rinaldo, could have detained me. Had they
related to myself alone, I had not wasted a thought on them. And yet
here I am at a greater distance from the centre of my solicitude than

You, my friend, know not the exquisite and inexpressible anguish of a
mind, in doubt about that in which he is most interested. I have not the
most solitary and slender clue to guide me through the labyrinth. All
the events, all the calamities that may have overtaken me, are alike
probable and improbable, and there is not one of them that I can invent,
which can possibly have escaped the knowledge of that friend, into whose
hands I committed my all. Sickness, infidelity, death itself, all the
misfortunes to which humanity is heir, are alike certain and palpable.

Oh, my Rinaldo, it was a most ill-judged and mistaken indulgence, that
led you to suppress the story of my disaster. Give me to know it. It may
be distressful, it may be tremendous. But be it as it will, there is
not a misfortune in the whole catalogue of human woes, the knowledge of
which would not be elysium to what I suffer. To be told the whole is
to know the worst. Time is the medicine of every anguish. There is no
malady incident to a conscious being, which if it does not annihilate
his existence, does not, after having attained a crisis, insensibly fall
away and dissolve. But apprehension, apprehension is hell itself. It
is infinite as the range of possibility. It is immortal as the mind
in which it takes up its residence. It gains ground every moment.
Compounded as it is of hope and fear, there is not a moment in which
it does not plume the wings of expectation. It prepares for itself
incessant, eternal disappointment. It grows for ever. At first it may
be trifling and insignificant, but anon it swells its giant limbs, and
hides its head among the clouds.

Lost as I am to the fate, the character, the present dispositions of
Matilda, I have now no prop to lean upon but you. Upon you I place an
unshaken confidence. In your fidelity I can never be deceived. I owe you
greater obligations than ever man received from man before. When I was
forlorn and deserted by all the world, it was then you flew to save me.
You left the blandishments that have most power over the unsuspecting
mind of youth, you left the down of luxury, to search me out. It was you
that saved my life in the forest of Leontini. They were your generous
offers that afforded me the first specimens of that benevolence and
friendship, which restored me from the annihilation into which I was
plunged, to an existence more pleasant and happy than I had yet known.

Rinaldo, I committed to your custody a jewel more precious than all the
treasures of the east. I have lost, I am deprived of her. Where shall I
seek her? In what situation, under what character shall I discover her?
Believe me, I have not in all the paroxysms of grief, entertained a
doubt of you. I have not for a moment suffered an expression of blame to
escape my lips. But may I not at least know from you, what it is that
has effected this strange alteration, to what am I to trust, and what is
the fate that I am to expect for the remainder of an existence of which
I am already weary?

Yes, my dear marquis, life is now a burden to me. There is nothing but
the dear business of friendship, and the employment of disinterested
affection that could make it supportable. Accept at least this last
exertion of your St. Julian. His last vows shall be breathed for your
happiness. Fate, do what thou wilt me, but shower down thy choicest
blessings on my friend! Whatever thou deniest to my sincere exertions in
the cause of rectitude, bestow a double portion upon that artless and
ingenuous youth, who, however misguided for a moment, has founded even
upon the basis of error, a generous return and an heroic resolution,
which the most permanent exertions of spotless virtue scarce can equal!

Letter XI

_Signor Hippolito Borelli to the Count de St. Julian_


My dear lord,

I have often heard it repeated as an observation of sagacity and
experience, that when one friend has a piece of disagreeable
intelligence to disclose to another, it is better to describe it
directly, and in simple terms, than to introduce it with that kind of
periphrasis and circumlocution, which oftener tends to excite a vague
and impatient horror in the reader, than to prepare him to bear his
misfortune with decency and fortitude. There are however no rules of
this kind that do not admit of exceptions, and I am too apprehensive
that the subject of my present letter may be classed among those
exceptions. St. Julian, I have a tale of horror to unfold! Lay down the
fatal scrowl at this place, and collect all the dignity and resolution
of your mind. You will stand in need of it. Fertile and ingenious as
your imagination often is in tormenting itself, I will defy you to
conceive an event more big with horror, more baleful and tremendous in
all its consequences.

My friend, I have taken up my pen twenty times, and laid it down as
often again, uncertain in what manner to break my intelligence, and
where I ought to begin. I have been undetermined whether to write to you
at all, or to leave you to learn the disaster and your fate, as fortune
shall direct. It is an ungrateful and unpleasant task. Numbers would
exclaim upon it as imprudence and folly. I might at least suspend the
consummation of your affliction a little longer, and leave you a little
longer to the enjoyment of a deceitful repose.

But I am terrified at the apprehension of how this news may overtake you
at last. I have always considered the count de St. Julian as one of the
most amiable of mankind. I have looked up to him as a model of virtue,
and I have exulted that I had the honour to be of the same species with
so fair a fame, and so true a heart. I would willingly lighten to a
man so excellent the load of calamity. Why is it, that heaven in
the mysteriousness of its providence, so often visits with superior
affliction, the noblest of her sons? I should be truly sorry, that my
friend should act in a manner unworthy of the tenor of his conduct, and
the exaltation of his character. You are now, my lord at a distance. You
have time to revolve the various circumstances of your condition, and to
fix with the coolest and most mature deliberation the conduct you shall
determine to hold.

I remember in how pathetic a manner you complained, in the last letter
I received from you before you quitted Italy, of the horrors of
banishment. Little did my friend then know the additional horrors that
fate had in store for him. Two persons there were whom you loved above
all the world, in whom you placed the most unbounded confidence. My poor
friend would never have left Italy but to oblige his Rinaldo, would
never have quitted the daughter of the duke of Benevento, if he could
not have intrusted her to the custody of his Rinaldo. What then will be
his astonishment when he learns that two months have now elapsed since
the heiress of this illustrious house has assumed the title of the
marchioness of Pescara?

Since this extraordinary news first reached me, I have employed some
pains to discover the means by which an event so surprising has been
effected. I have hitherto however met with a very partial success. There
hangs over it all the darkness of mystery, and all the cowardice of
guilt. There cannot be any doubt that that friend, whom for so long a
time you cherished in your bosom, has proved the most detestable of
villains, the blot and the deformity of the human character. How far the
marchioness has been involved in his guilt, I am not able to ascertain.
Surely however the fickleness and inconstancy of her conduct cannot
be unstained with the pollution of depravity. After the most diligent
search I have learned a report, which was at that time faintly whispered
at Cosenza, that you were upon the point of marriage with the only
daughter of the duke of Aranda. Whether any inferences can be built upon
so trivial a foundation I am totally ignorant.

But might I be permitted to advise you, you ought to cast these base and
dishonourable characters from your heart for ever. The marquis is surely
unworthy of your sword. He ought not to die, but in a manner deeply
stamped with the infamy in which he has lived. I will not pretend to
alledge to a person so thoroughly master of every question of this
kind, how poor and inadequate is such a revenge: what a barbarous and
unmeaning custom it is, that thus puts the life of the innocent and
injured in the scale with that of the destroyer, and leaves the decision
of immutable differences to skill, to fortune, and a thousand trivial
and contemptible circumstances. You are not to be told how much more
there is of true heroism in refusing than in giving a challenge, in
bearing an injury with superiority and virtuous fortitude, than in
engaging in a Gothic and savage revenge.

It is not easy perhaps to find a woman, deserving enough to be united
for life to the fate of my friend. Certain I am, if I may be permitted
to deliver my sentiments, there is a levity and folly conspicuous in the
temper of her you have lost, that renders her unworthy of being lamented
by a man of discernment and sobriety. What to desert without management
and without regret, one to whom she had vowed eternal constancy, a man,
of whose amiable character, and glorious qualities she had so many
opportunities of being convinced? Oh, shame where is thy blush? If
iniquity like this, walks the world with impunity, where is the vice
that shall be branded with infamy, to deter the most daring and
profligate offender? Let us state the transaction in a light the most
favourable to the fair inconstant. What thin veil, what paltry arts
were employed by this mighty politician to confound and mislead an
understanding, clear and penetrating upon all other subjects, blind and
feeble only upon that in which the happiness of her life was involved?

My St. Julian, the exertion of that fortitude with which nature has so
richly endowed you, was never so completely called for in any other
instance. This is the crisis of your life. This is the very tide, which
accordingly as it is improved or neglected, will give a colour to all
your future story. Let not that amiable man, who has found the art of
introducing heroism into common life, and dignifying the most trivial
circumstances by the sublimity and refinedness of his sentiments, now,
in the most important affair, sink below the common level. Now is the
time to display the true greatness of your mind. Now is the time to
prove the consistency of your character.

A mind, destitute of resources, and unendowed with that elasticity which
is the badge of an immortal nature, when placed in your circumstances,
might probably sink into dereliction and despair. Here in the moral and
useful point of view would be placed the termination of their course.
What a different prospect does the future life of my St. Julian suggest
to me? I see him rising superior to misfortune. I see him refined
like silver from, the furnace. His affections and his thoughts, being
detached by calamity from all consideration of self, he lays out his
exertions in acts of benevolence. His life is one tissue of sympathy and
compassion. He is an extensive benefit to mankind. His influence, like
that of the sun, cheers the hopeless, and illuminates the desolate. How
necessary are such characters as these, to soften the rigour of the
sublunary scene, and to stamp an impression of dignity on the degeneracy
of the human character?

Letter XII [A]

_Matilda della Colonna to the Count de St. Julian_


I rise from a bed, which you have surrounded with the severest
misfortunes, to address myself to you in this billet. It is in vain,
that in conformity to the dull round of custom, I seek the couch of
repose, sleep is for ever fled from my eyes. I seek it on every side,
but on swift wings it flits far, very far, from me. It is now the
dead of night. All eyes are closed but mine. The senses of all other
creatures through the universe of God, are steeped in forgetfulness. Oh,
sweet, oblivious power, when wilt thou come to my assistance, when wilt
thou shed thy poppies upon this distracted head!

There was a time, when no human creature was so happy as the now forlorn
Matilda. My days were full of gaiety and innocence. My thoughts were
void of guile, and I imagined all around me artless as myself. I was by
nature indeed weak and timid, trembling at every leaf, shuddering with
apprehension of the lightest danger. But I had a protector generous
and brave, that spread his arms over me, like the wide branches of a
venerable oak, and round whom I clung, like ivy on the trunk. Why didst
thou come, like a cold and murderous blight, to blast all my hopes of
happiness, and to shatter my mellow hangings?

I have often told you that my heart was not tough and inflexible, to
be played upon with a thousand experiments, and encounter a thousand
trials. But you would not believe me. You could not think my frame
was so brittle and tender, and my heart so easily broken. Inexorable,
incredulous man! you shall not be long in doubt. You shall soon perceive
that I may not endure much more.

[Footnote A: This letter was written several months earlier than the
preceding, but was intercepted by the marquis of Pescara.]

How could you deceive me so entirely? I loved you with the sincerest
affection. I thought you artless as truth, as free from vice and folly
as etherial spirits. When your hypocrisy was the most consummate, your
countenance had then in my eye, most the air of innocence. Your visage
was clear and open as the day. But it was a cloak for the blackest
thoughts and the most complicated designs. You stole upon me unprepared,
you found all the avenues to my heart, and you made yourself the arbiter
of my happiness before I was aware.

You hear me, thou arch impostor! There are punishments reserved for
those, who undermine the peace of virtue, and steal away the tranquility
of innocence. This is thy day. Now thou laughest at all my calamity,
thou mockest all my anguish. But do not think that thy triumph shall be
for ever. That thought would be fond and false as mine have been. The
empire of rectitude shall one day be vindicated. Matilda shall one day
rise above thee.

But perhaps, St. Julian, it is not yet too late. The door is yet open to
thy return. My claim upon thy heart is prior, better every way than
that of donna Isabella. Leave her as you left me. It will cost you a
repentance less severe. The wounds you have inflicted may yet be healed.
The mischiefs you have caused are not yet irreparable. These fond arms
are open to receive you. To this unresentful bosom you may return in
safety. But remember, I intreat you, the opportunity will be of no long
duration. Every moment is winged with fate. A little more hesitation,
and the irrevocable knot is tied, and Spain will claim you for her own.
A little more delay, and this fond credulous heart, that yet exerts
itself in a few vain struggles, will rest in peace, will crumble into
dust, and no longer be sensible to the misery that devours it. Dear,
long expected moment, speed thy flight! To how many more calamitous days
must these eyes be witness? In how many more nights must they wander
through a material darkness, that is indeed meridian splendour, when
compared with the gloom in which my mind is involved?

Do not imagine that I have been easily persuaded of the truth of your
infidelity. I have not indulged to levity and credulity. I have heaped
evidence upon evidence. I have resisted the proofs that offered on
every side, till I have become liable to the character of stupid and
insensible. Would it were possible for me to be deceived! But no, the
delusion is vanished. I doubt, I hesitate, no longer. All without is
certainty, and all within is unmingled wretchedness.

* * * * *

St. Julian, I once again resume my pen. I was willing you should be
acquainted with all the distress and softness of my heart. I was willing
to furnish you with every motive to redeem the character of a man,
before it were too late. Do not however think me incapable of a spirited
and a steady resolution. It were easy for me to address a letter to the
family of Aranda, I might describe to them all my wrong, and prevent
that dreaded union, the thought of which distresses me. My letter might
probably arrive before the mischief were irretrievable. It is not
likely that so illustrious a house, however they may have previously
condescended to the speciousness of your qualities, would persist in
their design in the face of so cogent objections. But I am not capable
of so weak and poor spirited a revenge.

Return, my lord, yet return to her you have deserted. Let your return be
voluntary, and it shall be welcome as the light of day to these sad and
weeping eyes, and it shall be dear and precious to my soul, as the ruddy
drops that warm my heart. But I will not force an unwilling victim. Such
a prize would be unworthy of the artless and constant spirit of Matilda.
Such a husband would be the bane of my peace, and the curse of my
hapless days. That he were the once loved St. Julian, would but
aggravate the distress, and rankle the arrow. It would continually
remind me of the dear prospects, and the fond expectations I had once
formed, without having the smallest tendency to gratify them.

Letter XIII

_The Marquis of Pescara to the Marquis of San Severino_


My dear lord,

Why is it that a heart feeble and unheroic as mine, should be destined
to encounter so many temptations? I might have passed through the
world honourable and immaculate, had circumstances been a little more
propitious. As it is, I shall probably descend to the grave with a
character, at least among the scrupulous and the honest, reproachful and
scandalous. Now this I can never account for. My heart is a stranger to
all the dark and malignant passions. I am not cursed with an unbounded
ambition. I am a stranger to inexorable hate and fell revenge. I aim at
happiness and gratification. But if it were in my power I would have all
my fellow-creatures happy as myself.

Why is the fair Matilda so incomparably beautiful and so inexpressibly
attractive? Had her temper been less sweet and undesigning, had her
understanding been less delicate and refined, had not the graces dwelt
upon those pouting lips, my heart had been sound and unhurt to this
very hour. But to see her every day, to converse with her at all
opportunities, to be regarded by her as her only friend and chosen
protector, tell me, ye gods, what heart, that was not perfectly
invulnerable, that was not totally impregnated with the waters of the
Styx, could have come off victorious from trials like these?

And yet, my dear Ferdinand, to see the distress of the lovely Matilda,
to see her bosom heave with anguish, and her eyes suffused with tears,
to hear the heart-rending sighs continually bursting from her, in spite
of the fancied resolution, and the sweet pride that fill her soul, how
callous, how void of feeling and sympathy ought the man to be, in whom
objects like these can call up no relentings? Ah, my lord, when I
observe how her tender frame is shaken with misfortune, I am sometimes
ready to apprehend that it totters to its fall, that it is impossible
she should survive the struggling, tumultuous passions that rage within
her. What a glorious prize would then be lost? What would then become
of all the deep contrivances, the mighty politics, that your friendship

And yet, so wayward is my fate, those very objects which might be
expected to awaken the sincerest penitence and regret, now only serve to
give new strength to the passion that devours me, and to make my flame
surmount every obstacle that can oppose its progress. Yes, Matilda,
thou must be mine. Heaven and earth cannot now overturn the irrevocable
decree. It has been the incessant object of my attention to throw in
those artful baits which might best divert the current of her soul. I
have assiduously inflamed her resentment to the highest pitch, and I
flatter myself that I have made some progress towards the concluding

There is no situation in which we stand in greater need of sympathy and
consolation, than in those moments of forlornness and desertion to which
the poor Matilda imagines herself reduced. At these times my friendship
has been most unwearied in its exertions. I have answered sigh with
sigh, and mingled my tears with those of the lovely mourner. Believe me,
Ferdinand, this has not been entirely affectation and hypocrisy. There
is a vein of sensibility in the human heart, that will not permit us to
behold an artless and an innocent distress, at least when surrounded
with all the charms of beauty, without feeling our souls involuntarily
dilated, and our eyes unexpectedly swimming in tears.

But I have another source of disquietude which is unaccompanied with any
alleviating circumstances. A letter from the count de St. Julian to his
Matilda has just been conveyed to my hands. It is filled with the most
affecting and tender complaints of her silence that can possibly be
imagined. He has too exalted a notion of the fair charmer to attribute
this to lightness and inconstancy. His inventive fancy conjures up a
thousand horrid phantoms, and surrounds the mistress of his soul with
I know not what imaginary calamities. But that passage of the whole
epistle that overwhelms me most, is one, in which, in spite of all the
anguish of his mind, in spite of appearances, he expresses the most
unsuspecting confidence in his false and treacherous friend. He still
recommends me to his Matilda as her best protector and surest guardian.
Ah, my St. Julian, how didst thou deserve to be cursed with an
associate, hollow and deceitful as Rinaldo?

Yes, marquis, in spite of all the arguments you have alledged to me upon
the subject, I still regard my first and youthful friend, as the most
exalted and the foremost of human beings. You may talk of pride, vanity,
and stoicism, the heart that listens to the imputation feels its
sophistry. It is not vanity, for his virtuous actions are rather
studiously hid from observation, than ostentatiously displayed. Is it
pride? It is a pride that constitutes the truest dignity. It is a pride
worthy of heroes and of gods. What analogy does it bear with the pride
of avarice, and the pride of rank; how is it similar to the haughty
meanness of patronage, and the insatiable cravings of ambition?

But I must not indulge to reflexions like these. It is to no purpose for
the disinterested tenderness, the unstoical affection of my St. Julian
to start up in array before me. Hence remorse, and all her kindred
passions! I am cruel, obdurate, and unrelenting. Yes, most amiable of
men, you might as well address your cries to the senseless rocks. You
might as well hope with your eloquent and soft complainings to persuade
the crocodile that was ready to devour you. I have passed the Rubicon.
I have taken the irrevocable step. It is too late, ah, much too late to

Letter XIV

_The Marquis of San Severino to the Marquis of Pescara_


Joy, uninterrupted, immortal joy to my dear Rinaldo. May all your days
be winged with triumph, and all your nights be rapture. Believe me, I
feel the sincerest congratulation upon the desired event of your long
expected marriage. My lord, you have completed an action that deserves
to be recorded in eternal brass. Why should politics be confined to the
negotiations of ambassadors, and the cabinets of princes? I have often
revolved the question, and by all that is sacred I can see no reason for
it. Is it natural that the unanimating and phlegmatic transactions of
a court should engage a more unwearied attention, awaken a brighter
invention, or incite a more arduous pursuit than those of love? When
beauty solicits the appetite, when the most ravishing tenderness and
susceptibility attract the affections, it is then that the heart is most
distracted and regardless, and the head least fertile in artifice and

My joy is the more sincere, as I was compelled repeatedly to doubt of
your perseverance. What sense was there in that boyish remorse, and
those idle self-reproaches, in which you frequently employed yourself?
No, Rinaldo, a man ought never to enter upon an heroical and arduous
undertaking without being perfectly composed, and absolutely sure of
himself. What a pitiful figure would my friend have made, had he stopped
in the midway, and let go the angelic prize when it was already within
his grasp? If it had not been for my repeated exhortations, if I had
not watched over you like your guardian genius, would you have been now
flushed with success, and crowned with unfading laurel?

Letter XV

_The Count de St. Julian to the Marquis of Pescara_


My lord,

I hoped before this time to have presented before you the form of
that injured friend, which, if your heart is not yet callous to every
impression, must be more blasting to your sight, than all the chimeras
that can be conjured up by a terrified imagination, or a guilty
conscience. I no sooner received the accursed intelligence at Zamora,
than I flew with the speed of lightning. I permitted no consideration
upon earth to delay me till I arrived at Alicant. But the sea was less
favourable to the impatience of my spirit. I set sail in a boisterous
and unpromising season. I have been long tossed about at the mercy of
the ocean. I thank God, after having a thousand times despaired of it,
that I have at length set foot in a port of Italy. It is distant
indeed, but the ardour of my purpose were sufficient to cut short all

My lord, I trusted you as my own soul. No consideration could have moved
me to entertain a moment's suspicion of your fidelity. I placed in your
hand the most important pledge it ever was my fortune to possess. I
employed no guard. I opened to you an unsuspecting bosom, and you have
stung me to the heart. I gave you the widest opportunity, and it is
through my weak and groundless confidence that you have reached me. You
have employed without scruple all those advantages it put into your
hands. You have undermined me at your ease. I left you to protect my
life's blood, my heart of heart, from every attack, to preserve the
singleness of her affections, and the constancy of her attachment. It
was yours to have breathed into her ear the sighs of St. Julian. It was
yours ambitiously to expatiate upon his amiable qualities. You were
every day to have added fuel to the flame. You were to have presented
Matilda to my arms, more beautiful, more tender, more kind, than she had
ever appeared. From this moment then, let the name of trust be a by-word
for the profligate to scoff at! Let the epithet of friend be a mildew to
the chaste and uncorrupted ear! Let mutual confidence be banished from
the earth, and men, more savage than the brute, devour each other!

Was it possible, my lord, that you should dream, that the benefits you
had formerly conferred upon me, could deprive my resentment of all its
sting under the present provocation! If you did, believe me, you were
most egregiously mistaken. It is true I owed you much, and heaven
has not cursed me with a heart of steel. What bounds did I set to my
gratitude? I left my natal shore, I braved all the dangers of the ocean,
I fought in foreign climes the power of requital. I fondly imagined that
I could never discharge so vast obligations. But the invention of your
lordship is more fertile than mine. You have found the means to blot
them in a moment. Yes, my lord, from henceforth all contract between
us is canceled. You have set us right upon our first foundations.
Friendship, affection, pity, I give you to the winds! Come to my bosom,
unmixed malignity, black-boiling revenge! You are now the only inmates
welcome to my heart.

Oh, Rinaldo, that character once so dear to me, that youth over whose
opening inclinations I watched with so unremitting care, is it you that
are the author of so severe a misfortune? I held you to my breast. I
poured upon your head all that magazine of affection and tenderness,
with which heaven had dowered me. Never did one man so ardently love
another. Never did one man interest himself so much in another's truth
and virtue, in another's peace and happiness. I formed you for heroism.
I cultivated those features in your character which might have made
you an ornament to your country and mankind. I strewed your path with
flowers, I made the couch beneath you violets and roses. Hear me, yet
hear me! Learn to perceive all the magnitude of your crime. You have
murdered your friend. You have wounded him in the tenderest part. You
have seduced the purest innocence and the most unexampled truth. For
is it possible that Matilda, erewhile the pattern of every spotless
excellence, could have been a party in the black design?

But it is no longer time for the mildness of censure and the sobriety of
reproach. I would utter myself in the fierce and unqualified language of
invective. You have sinned beyond redemption. I would speak daggers.
I would wring blood from your heart at every word. But no; I will not
waste myself in angry words. I will not indulge to the bitterness of
opprobrium. Nothing but the anguish of my soul should have wrung from
me these solitary lines. Nothing but the fear of not surviving to my
revenge, should have prevented me from forestalling them in person.--I
will meet thee at Cerenzo.

Letter XVI

_The Marquis of San Severino to the Marchioness of Pescara_



I am truly sorry that it falls to my lot to communicate to you the
distressing tidings with which it is perfectly necessary you should be
acquainted. The marquis, your husband, and my most dear friend, has
this morning fallen in a duel at this place. I am afraid it will be no
alleviation of the unfortunate intelligence, if I add, that the hand by
which he fell, was that of the count de St. Julian.

His lordship left Cosenza, I understand, with the declared intention of
honouring me with a visit at Naples. He accordingly arrived at my palace
in the evening of the second day after he left you. He there laid before
me a letter he had received from the count, from which it appeared that
the misunderstanding was owing to a rivalship of no recent date in the
affections of your ladyship. It is not my business to enter into the
merits of the dispute. You, madam, are doubtless too well acquainted
with the laws of modern honour, pernicious in many instances, and which
have proved so fatal to the valuable life of the marquis, not to know
that the intended rencounter, circumstanced as it was, could not
possibly have been prevented.

As we were informed that the count de St. Julian was detained by
sickness at Livorno, we continued two days longer at Naples before we
set out for our place of destination at Cerenzo. We arrived there on the
evening of the twenty-third, and the count de St. Julian the next day
at noon. We were soon after waited upon in form by signor Hippolito
Borelli, who had been a fellow student with each of these young noblemen
at the university of Palermo. He requested an interview with me, and
informing me that he attended the count in quality of second, we began
to adjust those minutiae, which are usually referred to the decision of
those who exercise that character.

The count and the marquis had fixed their quarters at the two principal
hotels of this place. Of consequence there was no sort of intercourse
between them during the remainder of the day. In the evening we were
attended by the baron of St. Angelo, who had heard by chance of our
arrival. We spent the remainder of the day in much gaiety, and I
never saw the marquis of Pescara exert himself more, or display more
collectedness and humour, than upon this occasion. After we separated,
however, he appeared melancholy and exhausted. He was fatigued with the
repeated journies he had performed, and after having walked up and down
the room, for some time, in profound thought, he retired pretty early to
his chamber.

The next day at six in the morning we repaired according to appointment
to the ramparts. We found the count de St. Julian and his friend arrived
before us. As we approached, the marquis made a slight congee to the
count, which was not returned by the other. "My lord," cried the
marquis,--"Stop," replied his antagonist, in a severe and impatient
tone. "This is no time for discussions. It was not that purpose that
brought me hither." My lord of Pescara appeared somewhat hurt at so
peremptory and unceremonious a rejoinder, but presently recovered
himself. Each party then took his ground, and they fired their pistols
without any other effect, than the shoulder of the count being somewhat
grazed by one of the balls.

Signor Borelli and myself now interposed, and endeavoured to compromise
the affair. Our attempt however presently appeared perfectly fruitless.
Both parties were determined to proceed to further action. The marquis,
who at first had been perfectly calm, was now too impatient and eager to
admit of a moment's delay. The count, who had then appeared agitated and
disturbed, now assumed a collected air, a ferociousness and intrepidity,
which, though it seemed to wait an opportunity of displaying itself, was
deaf as the winds, and immoveable as the roots of Vesuvius.

They now drew their swords. The passes of both were for some time
rendered ineffectual. But at length the marquis, from the ardour of his
temper seemed to lay aside his guard, and the count de St. Julian, by
a sudden thrust, run his antagonist through the body. The marquis
immediately fell, and having uttered one groan, he expired. The sword
entered at the left breast, and proceeded immediately to the heart.

The count, instead of appearing at all disturbed at this event, or
attempting to embrace the opportunity of flight, advanced immediately
towards the body, and bending over it, seemed to survey its traits with
the profoundest attention. The surgeon who had attended, came up at
this instant, but presently perceived that his art was become totally
useless. During however this short examination, the count de St. Julian
recovered from his reverie, and addressing himself to me, "My lord,"
said he, "I shall not attempt to fly from the laws of my country. I am
indeed the challenger, but I have done nothing, but upon the matures!
deliberation, and I shall at all times be ready to answer my conduct."
Though I considered this mode of proceeding as extremely singular I did
not however think it became me, as the friend of the marquis of Pescara,
to oppose his resolution. He has accordingly entered into a recognizance
before the gonfaloniere, to appear at a proper time to take his trial at
the city of Naples.

Madam, I thought it my duty to be thus minute in relating the
particulars of this unfortunate affair. I shall not descend to any
animadversions upon the conduct and language of the count de St. Julian.
They will come to be examined and decided upon in a proper place. In the
mean time permit me to offer my sincerest condolences upon the loss you
have sustained in the death of my amiable friend. If it be in my power
to be of service to your ladyship, with respect to the funeral, or any
other incidental affairs, you may believe that I shall account it my
greatest honour to alleviate in any degree the misfortune you have
suffered. With the sincerest wishes for the welfare of yourself and your
amiable son, I have the honour to be,


Your most obedient and very faithful servant,

The marquis of San Severino.

Letter XVII

_The Answer_


My lord,

You were not mistaken when you supposed that the subject of your
letter would both afflict and surprize me in the extremest degree. The
unfortunate event to which it principally relates, is such as cannot but
affect me nearly. And separate from this, there is a veil of mystery
that hangs over the horrid tale, behind which I dare not pry, but with
the most trembling anxiety, but which will probably in a very short time
be totally removed.

Your lordship, I am afraid, is but too well acquainted with the history
of the correspondence between myself and my deceased lord. I was given
to understand that the count de St. Julian was married to the daughter
of the duke of Aranda. I thought I had but too decisive evidence of the
veracity of the story. And you, my lord, I remember, were one of the
witnesses by which it was confirmed. Yet how is this to be reconciled
with the present catastrophe? Can I suppose that the count, after being
settled in Spain, should have deserted these connexions, in order
to come over again to that country in which he had forfeited all
pretensions to character and reputation, and to commence a quarrel so
unjust and absurd, with the man to whom he was bound by so numerous

My lord, I have revolved all the circumstances that are communicated
to me in your alarming letter. The oftener I peruse it, and the more
maturely I consider them, the more does it appear that the count de St.
Julian has all the manners of conscious innocence and injured truth. It
is impossible for an impostor to have acted throughout with an air so
intrepid and superior. Your lordship's account, so far as it relates to
the marquis, is probably the account of a friend, but it is impossible
not to perceive, that his behaviour derives no advantage from being
contrasted with that of his antagonist.

You will readily believe, that it has cost me many efforts to assemble
all these thoughts, and to deliver these reasonings in so connected a
manner. At first my prejudices against the poor and unprotected stranger
were so deeply rooted, that I had no suspicion of their injustice. I
regarded the whole as a dream; I considered every circumstance as beyond
the cognizance of reason, and founded entirely in madness and frenzy.
I painted to myself the count de St. Julian, whom I had known for a
character so tender and sincere, as urged along with all the stings of
guilt, and agitated with all the furies of remorse. I at once pitied his
sufferings, and lamented their mortal and destructive consequences. I
regarded yourself and every person concerned in the melancholy affair,
as actuated by the same irrational spirit, and united to overwhelm one
poor, trembling, and defenceless woman.

But the delusion was of no long continuance. I soon perceived that it
was impossible for a maniac to be suffered to proceed to so horrid
extremities. I perceived in every thing that related to the count,
a spirit very different from that of frenzy. It is thus that I have
plunged from uncertainty to uncertainty. From adopting a solution wild
and absurd, I am thrown back upon a darkness still more fearful, and am
lost in conjectures of the most tremendous nature.

And where is it that I am obliged to refer my timid enquiries? Alas, I
have no friend upon whose bosom to support myself, I have no relation to
interest in my cause. I am forlorn, forsaken and desolate. By nature
not formed for defence, not braced to encounter the storms of calamity,
where shall I hide my unprotected head? Forgive me, my lord, if I am
mistaken; pardon the ravings of a distracted mind. It is possible I am
obliged to recur to him from whom all my misfortunes took their source,
who has guided unseen all those movements to which this poor and broken
heart is the sacrifice. Perhaps the words that now flow from my pen,
are directed to the disturber of my peace, the interceptor of all that
happiness most congenial to my heart, the murderer of my husband!

Where, in the mean time, where is this countess, this dreaded rival?
You, my lord, have perhaps ere this time seen her. Tell me, what are
those ineffable charms that seduced a heart which was once so constant?
St. Julian was never mercenary, and I have a fortune that might have
filled out his most unbounded wishes. What is that strange fascination,
what that indescribable enchantment, that sunk a character so glorious,
that libertines venerated, and the friends of virtue adored, to a depth
so low and irretrievable? I have thought much of it, I have turned it
every way in my mind, but I can never understand it. The more I reflect
the further I am bewildered.

But whither am I wandering? What strange passion is it, that I so
carefully suppressed, over which I so loudly triumphed, that now bursts
its limits? How fatal and deplorable is that train of circumstances,
that brings a name, that was once inscribed on my heart, to my
remembrance, accompanied with attendants, that awaken all my tenderness,
and breathe new life into each forgotten endearment! Is it for me, a
wife, a mother, to entertain these guilty thoughts? And can they respect
him by whose fatal hand my husband fell? How low is the once spotless
Matilda della Colonna sunk!

But I will not give way to this dereliction and despair. I think my
heart is not made of impenetrable stuff. I think I cannot long survive
afflictions thus complicated, and trials thus severe. But so long as I
remain in this world of calamity, I will endeavour to act in a manner
not unworthy of myself. I will not disgrace the race from which I
sprung. Whatever others may do, I will not dishonour the family to which
I am united. I may be miserable, but I will not be guilty. I may be a
monument of anguish, but I will not be an example of degeneracy.

Gracious heaven! if I have been deceived, what a train of artifice and
fraud rushes upon my terrified recollection? How carefully have all my
passions, in the unguarded hour of anguish and misery, been wrought and
played upon? All the feelings of a simple and undissembling mind have
been roused by turns, to excite me to a deed, from which rectitude
starts back with horror, which integrity blushes to look on! And have I
been this poor and abject tool in the hand of villains? And are there
hearts cool and obdurate enough, to watch all the trembling starts of
wretchedness, to seduce the heart that has given itself up to despair?
Can they look on with frigid insensibility, can they behold distress
with no other eye but that of interest, with no other watch but that
which discovers how it may be disgraced for ever? Oh, wretched Matilda!
whither, whither hast thou been plunged!

My memory is up in arms. I cannot now imagine how I was induced to
so decisive and adventurous a step. But I was full of the anguish of
disappointment, and the resentment of despair. How assiduously was I
comforted? What sympathy, what angelic tenderness seemed to flow from
the lips of him, in whose heart perhaps there dwelt every dishonourable
and unsated passion? It was all a chaos. My heart was tumultuous hurry,
without leisure for retrospect, without a moment for deliberation. And
do I dare to excuse myself? Was I not guilty, unpardonably guilty? Oh,
a mind that knew St. Julian should have waited for ages, should have
revolved every circumstance a thousand times, should have disbelieved
even the evidence of sense, and the demonstration of eternal truth!
Accursed precipitation! Most wicked speed! No, I have not suffered half
what I have deserved. Heap horrors on me, thou dreadful dispenser of
avenging providence! I will not complain. I will expire in the midst of
agonies without a groan!

But these thoughts must be banished from my heart for ever. Wretched as
I am, I am not permitted the consolation of penitence, I am not free to
accuse and torment myself. No, that step has been taken which can never
be repealed. The marquis of Pescara was my husband, and whatever were
his true character, I will not crush his memory and his fame. I have,
I fear, unadvisedly entered into connexions, and entailed upon myself
duties. But these connexions shall now be sacred; these duties shall be
discharged to the minutest tittle. Oh, poor and unprotected orphan, thou
art cast upon the world without a friend! But thou shalt never want the
assiduity of a mother. Thou, at least, are guileless and innocent.
Thou shalt be my only companion. To watch over thee shall be the sole
amusement that Matilda will henceforth indulge herself. That thou wilt
remind me of my errors, that I shall trace in thee gradually as thy
years advance, the features of him to whom my unfortunate life owed all
its colour, will but make thee a more proper companion, an object more
congenial to the sorrows of my soul.

Letter XVIII

_The Count de St. Julian to the Marchioness of Pescara



You may possibly before this letter comes to your hands have learned an
event that very nearly interests both you and me. If you have not, it is
not in my power at this time to collect together the circumstances, and
reduce them to the form of a narration. The design of my present letter
is of a very different kind. Shall I call that a design, which is the
consequence of an impulse urging me forward, without the consent of my
will, and without time for deliberation?

I write this letter with a hand dyed with the blood of your husband. Let
not the idea startle you. Matilda is advanced too far to be frightened
with bugbears. What, shall a mind inured to fickleness and levity,
a mind that deserted, without reason and without remorse, the most
constant of lovers, and that recked not the consequences, shall such a
mind be terrified at the sight of the purple blood, or be moved from its
horrid tranquility by all the tragedies that an universe can furnish?

Matilda, I have slain your husband, and I glory in the deed. I will
answer it in the face of day. I will defy that man to come forward,
and when he views the goary, lifeless corse, say to me with a tone of
firmness and conviction, "Thou hast done wrong."

And now I have but one business more with life. It is to arraign the
fair and traiterous author of all my misfortunes. Start not at the black
catalogue. Flinch not from the detail of infernal mischief. The mind
that knows how to perpetrate an action, should know how to hear the
story of it repeated, and to answer it in all its circumstances.

Matilda, I loved you. Alas, this is to say little! All my thoughts had
you for their centre. I was your slave. With you I could encounter
tenfold calamity, and call it happiness. Banished from you, the world
was a colourless and confused chaos. One moment of displeasure, one
interval of ambiguous silence crouded my imagination with every frantic
apprehension. One smile, one word of soft and soothing composition, fell
upon my soul like odoriferous balm, was a dulcet and harmonious sound,
that soothed my anguish into peace, that turned the tempest within me
to that still and lifeless calm, where not a breath disturbs the vast

And this is the passion you have violated. You have trampled upon a
lover, who would have sacrificed his life to save that tender and
enchanting frame from the impression of a thorn. And yet, Matilda, if
it had been only a common levity, I would have pardoned it. If you had
given your hand to the first chance comer, I would have drenched the cup
of woe in solitude and darkness. Not one complaint from me should have
reached your ear. If you could have found tranquility and contentment, I
would not have been the avenging angel to blast your prospects.

But there are provocations that the human heart cannot withstand. I did
not come from the hand of nature callous and intrepid, I was the stoic
of philosophy and reason. To lose my mistress and my friend at once. To
lose them!--Oh, ten thousand deaths would have been mercy to the loss!
Had they been tossed by tempests, had they been torn from my eyes by
whirlwinds, I would have viewed the scene with eye-balls of stiffened
horn. But to find all that upon which I had placed my confidence, upon
which I rested my weary heart, foul and false at once: to have those
bosoms, in which I fondly thought I reigned adored, combined in one
damned plot to overwhelm and ruin me--Indeed, Matilda, it was too much!

Well, well. Be at peace my soul. I have taken my revenge. But revenge is
not a passion congenial to the spirit of St. Julian. It was once soft
and tender as a babe. You might have bended and moulded it into what
form you pleased. But I know not how it is, it is now remorseless and
unfeeling as a rock. I have swam in horror, and I am not satiated.
I could hear tales of distress, and I could laugh at their fancied
miseries. I could view all the tragedies of battle, and walk up and down
amidst seas of blood with tranquility. It is well. I did not think I
could have done all this. But inexplicable and almighty providence
strengthens, indurates the heart for the scenes of detestation to which
it is destined.

And is it Rinaldo that I have slain? That friend that I held a thousand
times to my bosom, that friend over whose interests I have watched
without weariness? Many a time have I dropped the tear of oblivion over
his youthful wanderings. I exulted in the fruits of all my toil. Yes,
Matilda, I have seen the drops of sacred pity bedew his cheek. I have
seen his bosom heave with generous resentment, and heroic resolution.
Oh, there was a time, when the author of nature might have looked down
upon his work, and said, "This is a man." What benefits did not I
receive from his munificent character, and wide extended hand?

And who made me his judge and his avenger? What right had I to thrust my
sword into his heart? He now lies a lifeless corse. Upon his breast
I see the gaping and death-giving wound. The blood bursts forth in
continued streams. His hair is clotted with it. That cheek, that lately
glowed, is now pale and sallow. All his features are deformed. The fire
in his eye is extinguished for ever. Who has done this? What wanton and
sacrilegious hand has dared deface the work of God? It could not be his
preceptor, the man upon whom he heaped a thousand benefits? It could not
be his friend? Oh, Rinaldo, all thy errors lie buried in the damp and
chilly tomb, but thy blood shall for ever rise to accuse me!

Letter XIX

_The Marquis of San Severino to the Marchioness of Pescara



I have just received a letter from your ladyship which gives me the
utmost pain. I am sincerely afflicted at the unfortunate concern I have
had in the melancholy affairs that have caused you so much uneasiness. I
expected indeed that the sudden death of so accomplished and illustrious
a character as your late husband, must have produced in a breast
susceptible as yours, the extremest distress. But I did not imagine that
you would have been so overwhelmed with the event, as to have forgotten
the decorums of your station, and to have derogated from the dignity of
your character. Madam, I sincerely sympathize in the violence of
your affliction, and I earnestly wish that you may soon recover that
self-command, which rendered your behaviour upon all occasions a model
of elegance, propriety and honour.

Your ladyship proposes certain questions to me in your epistle of a very
singular nature. You will please to remember, that they will for the
most part be brought in a few days before a court of judicature. I must
therefore with all humility intreat you to excuse me from giving them a
direct answer. There would be an impropriety in a person, so illustrious
in rank, and whose voice is of considerable weight in the state,
forestalling the inferior courts upon these subjects. One thing however
I am at liberty to mention, and your ladyship may be assured, that in
any thing in my power I should place my highest felicity in gratifying
you. There was indeed some misinformation upon the subject; but I have
now the honour to inform you from authority upon which I depend, that
the count de St. Julian is now, and has always remained single. I
believe there never was any negociation of marriage between him and the
noble house of Aranda.

Madam, it gives me much uneasiness, that your ladyship should entertain
the smallest suspicion of any impropriety in my behaviour in these
affairs. I believe the conduct of no man has been more strictly
conformed, in all instances, to the laws of decorum than my own. Objects
of no small magnitude, have upon various occasions passed under my
inspection, and you will be so obliging as to believe that upon no
occasion has my veracity been questioned, or the integrity of my
character suffered the smallest imputation. The rectitude of my actions
is immaculate, and my honour has been repeatedly asserted with my sword.

Your ladyship will do me the favour to believe, that though I cannot
but regard your suspicions as equally cruel and unjust, I shall never
entertain the smallest resentment upon their account. I have the honour
to be, with all possible deference and esteem,


Your ladyship's most faithful servant,

The marquis of San Severino.

Letter XX

_The Count de St. Julian to Signor Hippolito Borelli


My dear friend,

Travelling through the various countries of Europe, and expanding your
philosophical mind to embrace the interests of mankind, you still are
so obliging as to take the same concern in the transactions of your
youthful friend as ever. I shall therefore confine myself in the letter
which I now steal the leisure to write, to the relation of those events,
of which you are probably as yet uninformed. If I were to give scope to
the feelings of my heart, with what, alas, should I present you but a
circle of repetitions, which, however important they may appear to
me, could not but be dull and tedious to any person less immediately

As I pursued with greater minuteness the enquiries I had begun before
you quitted the kingdom of the two Sicilies, I found the arguments still
increasing upon me, which tended to persuade me of the innocence of
Matilda. Oh, my friend, what a letter did I address to her in the height
of my frenzy and despair? Every word spoke daggers, and that in a moment
when the tragical event of which I was the author, must naturally have
overwhelmed her with astonishment and agony. Yes, Hippolito, this action
must remain an eternal blot upon my character. Years of penitence could
not efface it, floods of tears could not wash it away.

But before I had satisfied my curiosity in this pursuit, the time
approached in which it was necessary for me to take a public trial at
Naples. This scene was to me a solemn one. The blood of my friend sat
heavy at my heart. It is true no provocation could have been more
complicated than that I had received. Take it from me, Hippolito, as my
most mature and serious determination, that a Gothic revenge is beneath
the dignity of a man. It did not become me, who had aimed at the
character of unaccommodating virtue, to appear in defence of an action
that my heart disallowed. To stand forward before the delegated power of
my country with the stain of blood upon me, was not a scene for a man of
sensibility to act in. But the decision of my judges was more indulgent
than the verdict of my own mind.

One of the persons who was most conspicuous upon this occasion, was the
marquis of San Severino. Hippolito, it is true, I have been hurried into
many actions that have caused me the severest regret. But I would not
for ten thousand worlds have that load of guilt upon my mind, that this
man has to answer for. And yet he bore his head aloft. He was placid and
serene. He was even disengaged and gay. He talked in as round a tone,
of honour and integrity, of veracity and virtue, as if his life were
spotless, and his heart immaculate. The circumstances however that
came out in the progress of the affair, were in the highest degree
disadvantageous to him. The general indignation and hatred seemed
gradually to swell against him, like the expansive surges of the ocean.
A murmur of disapprobation was heard from every side, proceeded from
every mouth. Even this accomplished villain at length hung his head.
When the court was dissolved, he was encountered with hisses and scorn
from the very lowest of the people. It was only by the most decisive
exertions of the guards of the palace, that he was saved from being torn
to pieces by the fury of the populace.

You will be surprized to perceive that this letter is dated at the
residence of my fathers. Fourteen days ago I was summoned hither by the
particular request of my brother, who had been seized with a violent
epidemical distemper. It was extremely sudden in its operation, and
before I arrived he was no more. He had confessed however to one of the
friends of our house, before he expired, that he had forged the will of
my father, instigated by the surprize and disappointment he had felt,
when he understood that that father, whom he had employed so many
unjustifiable means to prepossess, had left his whole estate, exclusive
of a very small annuity, to his eldest son. Since I have been here, I
have been much employed in arranging the affairs of the family, which,
from the irregular and extemporary manner in which my brother lived, I
found in considerable disorder.

Letter XXI

_The Count de St. Julian to the Marchioness of Pescara_



I have waited with patience for the expiration of twelve months, that
I might not knowingly be guilty of any indecorum, or intrude upon that
sorrow, which the tragical fate of the late marquis so justly claimed.
But how shall I introduce the subject upon which I am now to address
you? Where shall I begin this letter? Or with what arguments may I best
propitiate the anger I have so justly incensed, and obtain that boon
upon which the happiness of my future life is so entirely suspended?

Among all the offences of which I have been guilty, against the simplest
and gentlest mind that ever adorned this mortal stage, there is none
which I less pardon to myself, than that unjust and precipitate letter,
which I was so inconsiderate as to address to you immediately after I
had steeped my hand in the murder of your husband. Was it for me, who
had so much reason to be convinced of the innocence and disinterested
truth of Matilda, to harbour suspicions so black, or rather to affront
her with charges, the most hideous and infamous? What crime is
there more inexcusable, than that of attributing to virtue all the
concomitants of vice, of casting all those bitter taunts, all that
aggravated and triumphant opprobrium in the face of rectitude, that
ought to be reserved only for the most profligate of villains? Yes,
Matilda, I trampled at once upon the exemptions of your sex, upon
the sanctity of virtue, upon the most inoffensive and undesigning of
characters. And yet all this were little.

What a time was it that I chose for an injury so atrocious! A beautiful
and most amiable woman had just been deprived, by an unforeseen event,
of that husband, with whom but a little before she had entered into the
most sacred engagements. The state of a widow is always an afflictive
and unprotected one. Rank does not soften, frequently aggravates the
calamity. A tragedy had just been acted, that rendered the name of
Matilda the butt of common fame, the subject of universal discussion.
How painful and humiliating must this situation have been to that
anxious and trembling mind; a mind whose highest ambition coveted only
the tranquility that reigns in the shade of retreat, the silence and
obscurity that the wisest of philosophers have asserted to be the most
valuable reputation of her sex? Such was the affliction, in which I
might then have known that the mistress of my heart was involved.

But I have since learned a circumstance before which all other
aggravations of my inhumanity fade away. The moment that I chose for
wanton insult and groundless arraignment, was the very moment in which
Matilda discovered all the horrid train of hypocrisy and falsehood by
which she had been betrayed. What a shock must it have given to her
gentle and benevolent mind, that had never been conscious to one
vicious temptation, that had never indulged the most distant thought of
malignity, to have found herself surprized into a conduct, to the nature
of which she had been a stranger, and which her heart disavowed? Of all
the objects of compassion that the universe can furnish, there is none
more truly affecting, than that of an artless and unsuspecting mind
insnared by involuntary guilt. The astonishment with which it is
overwhelmed, is vast and unqualified. The remorse with which it
is tortured, are totally unprepared and unexpected, and have been
introduced by no previous gradation. It is true, the involuntarily
culpable may in some sense be pronounced wholly innocent. The guilty
mind is full of prompt excuses, and ready evasions, but the untainted
spirit, not inured to the sophistry of vice, cannot accommodate itself
with these subterfuges. If such be the state of vulgar minds involved
in this unfortunate situation, what must have been that of so soft and
inoffensive a spirit?

Oh, Matilda, if tears could expiate such a crime, ere this I had been
clear as the guileless infant. If incessant and bitter reproaches could
overweigh a guilt of the first magnitude, mine had been obliterated. But
no; the words I wrote were words of blood. Each of them was a barbed
arrow pointed at the heart. There was no management, there was no
qualification. And when we add to this the object against which all my
injuries were directed, what punishment can be discovered sufficiently
severe? The mind that invented it, must have been callous beyond all
common hardness. The hand that wrote it must be accursed for ever.

And yet, Matilda, it is not merely pardon that I seek. Even that would
be balm to my troubled spirit. It would somewhat soften the harsh
outlines, and the aggravated features of a crime, which I shall never,
never forgive to my own heart. But no, think, most amiable of women, of
the height of felicity I once had full in view, and excuse my present
presumption. While indeed my mind was guiltless, and my hand unstained
with blood, while I had not yet insulted the woman to whose affections I
aspired, nor awakened the anger of the gentlest nature, of a heart made
up of goodness, and tenderness and sympathy, I might have aspired with
somewhat less of arrogance. Neither your heart nor mine, Matilda, were
ever very susceptible to the capricious distinctions of fortune.

But, alas, how hard is it for a mind naturally ambitious to mould and to
level itself to a state of degradation. Believe me, I have put forth an
hundred efforts, I have endeavoured to blot your memory from a soul, in
which it yet does, and ever will reign unrivalled. No, it is to fight
with impassive air, it is to lash the foaming tempest into a calm. Time,
which effaces all other impressions, increases that which is indelibly
written upon my heart. A man whose countenance is pale and wan, and who
every day approaches with hasty and unremitted strides to the tomb, may
forget his situation, may call up a sickly smile upon his countenance,
and lull his mind to lethargy and insensibility. Such, Matilda, is all
the peace reserved for me, if yet I have no power in influencing the
determinations of your mind. Stupidity, thou must be my happiness!
Torpor, I will bestow upon thee all the endearing names, that common
mortals give to rapture!

And yet, Matilda, if I retain any of that acute sensibility to virtue
and to truth, in which I once prided myself, there can be no conduct
more proper to the heir of the illustrious house of Colonna, than that
which my heart demands. You have been misguided into folly. What is more
natural to an ingenuous heart, than to cast back the following scandal
upon the foul and detested authors, with whom the wrong originated. You
have done that, which if all your passions had been hushed into silence,
and the whole merits of the cause had lain before you, you would never
have done. What reparation, Matilda, does a clear and generous spirit
dictate, but that of honestly and fearlessly acknowledging the mistake,
treading back with readiness and haste the fatal path, and embracing
that line of conduct which a deliberate judgment, and an informed
understanding would always have dictated?

Is it not true,--tell me, thou mistress of my soul,--that upon your
determination in this one instance all your future reputation is
suspended? Accept the hand of him that adores you, and the truth will
shine forth in all its native splendour, and none but the blind can
mistake it. Refuse him, and vulgar souls will for ever confound you
with the unfortunate Rinaldo, and his detested seducer. Fame, beloved
charmer, is not an object that virtuous souls despise. To brave the
tongue of slander cannot be natural to the gentle and timid spirit of

But, oh, I dare not depend upon the precision of logic, and the
frigidity of argumentation. Let me endeavour to awaken the compassion
and humanity of your temper. Recollect all the innocent and ecstatic
endearments with which erewhile our hours were winged. Never was
sublunary happiness so pure and unmingled. It was tempered with the
mildest and most unbounded sympathy, it was refined and elevated with
all the sublimity of virtue. These happy, thrice happy days, you, and
only you, can recall. Speak but the word, and time shall reverse his
course, and a new order of things shall commence. Think how much virtue
depends upon your fiat. Satisfied with felicity ourselves, our hearts
will overflow with benevolence for the world. Never will misery pass us
unrelieved, never shall we remit the delightful task of seeking out the
modest and the oppressed in their obscure retreat. We will set mankind
an example of integrity and goodness. We will retrieve the original
honours of the wedded state. Methinks, I could rouze the most lethargic
and unanimated with my warning voice! Methinks, I could breathe a spirit
into the dead! Oh, Matilda, let me inspire ambition into your breast!
Let me teach that tender and right gentle heart, to glow with a mutual

Letter XXII

_The Answer_


My lord, It is now three weeks since I received that letter, in which
you renew the generous offer of your hand. Believe me, I am truly
sensible of the obligation, and it shall for ever live in my grateful
heart. I am not now the same Matilda you originally addressed. I have
acted towards you in an inexcusable manner. I have forfeited that
spotless character which was once my own. All this you knew, and all
this did not deter you. My lord, for this generosity and oblivion, once
again, and from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

But it is not only in these respects, that the marchioness of Pescara
differs from the daughter of the duke of Benevento. Those poor charms,
my lord, which were once ascribed to me, have long been no more. The
hand of grief is much more speedy and operative in its progress than the
icy hand of age. Its wrinkles are already visible in my brow. The floods
of tears I have shed have already furrowed my cheeks. But oh, my lord,
it is not grief; that is not the appellation it claims. They are the
pangs of remorse, they are the cries of never dying reproach with
which I am agitated. Think how this tarnishes the heart and blunts the
imagination. Think how this subdues all the aspirations of innocence,
and unnerves all the exertions of virtue. Perhaps I was, flattery and
friendship had at least taught me to think myself, something above the
common level. But indeed, my lord, I am now a gross and a vulgar soul.
All the nicer touches are fretted and worn away. All those little
distinctions, those minuter delicacies I might once possess are
obliterated. My heart is coarse and callous. Others, of the same
standard that I am now, may have the same confidence in themselves, the
same unconsciousness of a superior, as nature's most favoured children.
But I am continually humbled by the sense of what I was.

These things, my lord, I mention as considerations that have some
weight with me, and ought perfectly to reconcile you to my unalterable
determination. But these, I will ingenuously confess, are not the
considerations that absolutely decide me. You cannot but sufficiently
recollect the title I bear, and the situation in which I am placed. The
duties of the marchioness of Pescara are very different from those by
which I was formerly bound. Does it become a woman of rank and condition
to fling dishonour upon the memory of him to whom she gave her hand, or,
as you have expressed it, to cast back the scandal to which she may be
exposed upon the author with whom it originated? No, my lord: I must
remember the family into which I have entered, and I will never give
them cause to curse the day upon which Matilda della Colonna was
numbered among them. What, a wife, a widow, to proclaim with her own
mouth her husband for a villain? You cannot think it. It were almost
enough to call forth the mouldering ashes from the cincture of the tomb.

My lord, it would not become me to cast upon a name so virtuous and
venerable as yours, the whisper of a blame. I will not pretend to argue
with you the impropriety and offence of a Gothic revenge. But it is
necessary upon a subject so important as that which now employs my pen,
to be honest and explicit. It is not a time for compliment, it is not
a moment for disguise and fluctuation. Whatever were the merits of the
contest, I cannot forget that your hand is deformed with the blood of my
husband. My lord, you have my sincerest good wishes. I bear you none
of that ill will and covert revenge, that are equally the disgrace of
reason and Christianity. But you have placed an unsuperable barrier
between us. You have sunk a gulph, fathomless and immeasurable. For us
to meet, would not be more contrary to the factitious dignity of rank,
than shocking to the simple and unadulterated feelings of our nature.
The world, the general voice would cry shame upon it. Propriety,
decency, unchanged and eternal truth forbid it.

Yet once more. I have a son. He is all the consolation and comfort that
is left me. To watch over his infancy is my most delightful, and most
virtuous task. I have filled the character, neither of a mistress, nor a
wife, in the manner my ambition aimed at. I have yet one part left, and
that perhaps the most venerable of all, the part of a mother. Excellent,
and exalted name! thee I will never disgrace! Not for one moment will I
forget thee, not in one iota shalt thou be betrayed!

My lord, I write this letter in my favourite haunt, where indeed I pass
hour after hour in the only pleasure that is left me, the nursery of my
child. At this moment I cast my eyes upon him, and he answers me with
the most artless and unapprehensive smile in the world. No, beloved
infant! I will never injure thee! I will never be the author of thy
future anguish! He seems, St. Julian, to solicit, that I would love him
always, and behold him with an unaltered tenderness. Yes, my child, I
will be always thy mother. From that character I will never derogate.
That name shall never be lost in another, however splendid, or however
attractive. Were I to hear you, my lord, they would tear him from my
arms, and I should commend their justice. I should see him no more.
These eyes would no longer be refreshed with that artless and adorable
visage. I should no longer please myself with pouring the accents of
my sorrow into his unconscious ear. Obdurate, unfeeling, relentless,
unnatural mother! These would be the epithets by which I should best be
known. These would be the sentiments of every heart. This would be the
unbought voice, even of those vulgar souls, in which penury had most
narrowed the conceptions, and repressed the enthusiasm of virtue. It is
true, my lord, Matilda is sunk very low. The finger of scorn has pointed
at her, and the whisper of unfeeling curiosity respecting her, has run
from man to man. But yet it shall have its limits. My resolution is
unalterable. To this I will never come.

My lord, among those arguments which you so well know how to urge, you
have told me, that the cause you plead, is the cause of benevolence
and charity. You say, that felicity would open our hearts, and teach our
bosoms to overflow. But surely this is not the general progress of the
human character. I had been taught to believe, and I hope I have found
it true, that misfortune softens the disposition, and bids compassion
take a deeper root. It shall be ever my aim, to make this improvement of
those wasting sorrows, with which heaven has seen fit to visit me. For
you, I am not to learn what is your generous and god like disposition.
My lord, I will confess a circumstance, for which I know not whether
I ought to blush. Animated by that sympathetic concern, which I once
innocently took in all that related to you, I have made the most minute
enquiries respecting your retreat at Leontini. I shall never be afraid,
that the man, whose name dwells in the sweetest accents upon the lips of
the distressed, and is the consolation and the solace of the helpless
and the orphan, will degenerate into hardness. Go on, my lord! You are
in the path of virtue. You are in the line that heaven chalked out for
you. You will be the ornament of humanity, and your country's boast to
the latest posterity.



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